Somewhere in Maharashtra....

Kochi Metro : Snapshot

Of Inflation in the past two years....

The PM's Residence : Snapshot

The Power situation in UP

Fiscal deficit narrows to 4.5%

A sharp fall in plan expendiure has helped pull India's fiscal deficit for last financial year below the government's estimate, but the cut in spending on productive activities has left an impact on the economy.
The deficit, or the shortfall in the government's revenue to meet expenses, narrowed to 4.5% of gross domestic product in the year ended on March 31, compared with 4.9% initially estimated in the 2013-14 budget and the revised 4.6% given out with the interim budget for 2014-15 in February.
Private analysts have called for a more sustainable plan to cut the budget gap, even as they cited curtailment of plan expenditure as the main factor that helped keep the deficit down in spite of the lower-than-targeted tax revenues.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had pegged fiscal deficit for 2014-15 at 4.1% of GDP in the interim budget, in line with the fiscal consolidation plan unveiled in 2012-13 after he took charge of the finance ministry.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said a road map for adhering to the fiscal deficit target should be drawn up and announced in the Budget, expected to be presented in July.

Somewhere in Kolkata....

Kolkata Municipal Corporation has decided to invite tenders for water meters to be installed in households. It's also going for bulk purchase of LED lights to replace halogen streetlights across the city.
These are some of the measures KMC needs to undertake on a war footing to be able to avail of a Rs.2500 crore loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Trinamool Congress-run civic board cannot afford to lose the funds as it faces elections in May next year. Apart from modernizing the sewerage and drainage systems, ADB funds will be utilized to revamp water supply and in beautification projects.
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee's focus is on revamping water supply . With less than a year left for the civic polls, he has told his mayoral council that all loopholes in the distribution system need to be plugged.
KMC will overhaul the water distribution system in the city core areas.
Next, it needs to know how much water gets wasted due to pipeline leaks and faulty taps. KMC has decided to install water meters in all households but slums are exempt.
In the first phase, more than 50,000 houses will be covered in Dum Dum, Cossipore, Shyambazar, APC Road and Chittaranjan Avenue. After surveying water consumption pattern in these areas, KMC will finalize the water fees to be levied. KMC sent two senior officials to Manila and Bangkok recently to study how civic corporations in these two cities collect water tax from highrises. Water supply department officials said KMC spends around Rs.200 crore in producing water but earns only Rs.45 crore, mostly from commercial establishments and a few high-rises.
KMC will have to opt for LED lights on the streets. ADB has asked the civic body to prepare an energy efficiency audit report and submit it to its headquarters at Manila. A KMC finance department official on Friday said that LED lights would slash energy bill by 50%. KMC spends Rs.36 crore as electricity bill per month.

Severe Dust Storm hits the Capital

The Met office put down the massive thunder squall to a 14 km-tall cumulonimbus cloud that settled over the capital, splitting it in half, causing south, southwest and west Delhi to face its lashing tail. IGI Airport reported a windspeed of 114.8 kmph which resulted in massive disruption of air traffic. A loader was crushed to death by a heavy luggage pile while three aircraft were damaged as stray step ladders rammed into them.
Dr R K Jenamani, director in-charge, IGI Met, said Friday’s was the most severe dust storm recorded at the airport in terms of wind speed after eight years. “The storm was strongest in the tail end area of a cumulonimbus cloud. The 14 km high cloud cell had come from Chandigarh and was moving at a speed of 10-15 kmph across Delhi. While this brought extremely strong winds, it did not cause much rain,” he said.
At Safdarjung, which fell in the front of the massive cloud cell, the wind speed was 92 kmph and 0.6 mm rain was recorded. Among the nine people killed, two were in their cars at ITO and Chandni Chowk as trees came crashing on them while elsewhere, the wind and rain led weak walls to collapse. 

GDP grows @4.7% in FY14

The country's economy expanded by 4.7% in 2013-14, the second successive year of sub 5% growth hurt by policy delays, high inflation and the global slowdown but the election of a new government has triggered hopes of a revival in growth and sentiment in the months ahead.
Data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed the economy grew by 4.7% in 2013-14, shade below the original estimate of 4.9% but slightly above the 4.5% growth in 2012-13.
The economy expanded by 4.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013-14 compared with a similar growth in the previous quarter. The economy posting two consecutive years of below 5% growth is the worst performance of Asia's third-largest economy in over two decades.
Growth in 2013-14 was helped by a smart rebound in the farm sector which grew an annual 4.7% compared with a 4.5% expansion in the year earlier period. The electricity sector also posted a healthy growth rising an annual 5.9% in 2013-14 compared with a 2.3% growth in 2012-13.
The manufacturing sector continued to remain under stress, declining 0.7% year-on year in 2013-14 compared with 1.1% growth in 2012-13. The mining sector, which has borne the brunt of policy delays, fell 1.4% year-on-year in 2013-14 compared with a decline of an annual 2.2% in the year earlier period.
Economists said they expect the economy to rebound due to the optimism generated by the Narendra Modi government and the approvals to stalled projects. “In 2014-15, under the assumption of normal monsoon, we expect GDP growth to rise to 6%,“ ratings agency Crisil said “But if monsoons fail -the Indian Meteorological Department has assigned 60% chance of El Nino phenomenon occurring this year -GDP growth could be lower, at 5.2%,“ the agency said in a statement.

The fiscal deficit in 2013-14 stood at 4.5% of GDP, lower than 4.6% projected in the revised estimate, mainly on account of curbs on government expenditure. The fiscal deficit, the gap between government's expenditure and revenue, in actual terms was Rs 5.08 lakh crore as against 5.24 lakh crore projected in the revised estimate.

Akali Dal cautions NaMo on 370

NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has asked the newly-formed Narendra Modi government not to take any decision on Article 370 in haste. SAD patron and Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal said that abrogation of the article was a sensitive issue and needed restraint.
Cautioning against a unilateral decision on the issue Badal said, “The Union government must take all political parties into confidence before taking any action on such issues. Modi will take a final call on the issue in consultation with the senior leadership of all political parties.“
The chief minister insisted on an amicable solution on whether to continue with Article 370, giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir or to scrap it.
The issue was raked up by Union minister of state in the PMO, Jitendra Singh when he said that the process of abrogating Article 370 had already begun. Immediately after taking charge on Tuesday , Singh had said that the government was already discussing the issue with leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, which attracted angry reactions from chief minister Omar Abdullah and others.

Ajit Doval - NaMo's NSA

Ajit Doval, a highly accomplished intelligence officer and an acknowledged security expert, will be PM Narendra Modi's national security adviser, highlighting Modi's emphasis on internal security .
The appointment was announced on Friday evening having been delayed on procedural issues, said sources.
Doval's appointment is a reorientation of the national security apparatus to focus on internal security issues. Sources said there is a feeling in the Modi government that in the past decade, the over emphasis of external security issues and foreign policy had negative implications for internal security .
However, Doval is not likely to confine himself only to internal security matters. In fact, his belief has been that security threats from the neighbourhood, whether from Pakistan or Chinese funding of northeast insurgents, threats originating in Myanmar or Bangladesh, or even the growth of radical Islam in Sri Lanka and Maldives, are all aspects of internal security .
The government is expected to appoint a foreign policy adviser, someone of Doval's choice. However, with a strong foreign minister like Sushma Swaraj and a foreign secretary , the adviser's job might verge on the cosmetic. More so because Modi showed quite plainly on his first day in office that he could hold his own in a foreign affairs set-up, and only needed the MEA on his side.

Doval will preside over the entire national security apparatus. The IB (though technically supposed to report to the home minister), will, along with RAW report to him. He will head the cyber security structure which is divided between the NTRO and CERT-IN.
Most important, Doval, as head of the executive council of the Nuclear Command Authority , will be the custodian of the nuclear codes.
The Modi government is expected to take bold initiatives in setting up stronger counter-terrorism structures. Doval has been a strong votary of both Natgrid and the National Counter Terrorism Centre. These two structures are expected to be pushed through. States had objected to the policing functions of NCTC but Doval himself has proposed several solutions to this logjam. What seems clear is the focus on a strong, centralized national security apparatus, which will not only be defensive in its orientation.
The current deputy national security adviser Nehchal Sandhu is also, like Doval, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau. It is not known whether he will continue in the Modi government, but at the moment the foreign policy component is weakly represented.
Therefore, a successor to Sandhu would probably be from the MEA establishment.
The foreign policy establishment has pushed for one of their own to head the national security structure. Of the past five NSAs, three have come from the foreign policy quarter.
Both M K Narayanan and Shivshankar Menon devoted greater attention to external issues.
Certainly , a great part of Narayanan's job was to complete the nuclear deal. Menon was believed to have great strategic clarity, but not much experience in internal security .
Security experts feel that gaps in India's internal security architecture have only deepened. Doval will have to beef up the cyber security structure which has been Menon's baby for some time. It remains to be seen whether the government appoints a full-time cyber security czar which the Manmohan Singh government could not, due to internal dissension.

Priyanka acts pre-emptively

Priyanka Gandhi has urged the government to withdraw her family's security exemptions at airports, a day after reports that the government may take her husband Robert Vadra off the no-frisk protocol that he enjoys as part of the Gandhi family .
In a letter to the chief of Special Protection Group, Priyanka said, “Since the government is now reportedly considering the removal of his (Vadra) name, I would like to inform you that I do not feel it will be correct for my children and me to avail of the facility of exemption of these checks while entering or exiting the airport when we are all travelling together.“ The issue pertains to Vadra being exempt from frisking because of his association with the Gandhi family , which is a SPG protectee. However, the privilege is only when he is travelling with the family and has to undergo normal checks when he travels alone.
Priyanka's letter suggests that she has sought withdrawal of exemption when the family is travelling together. “It is only right for us to go through the normal channel at the airport and be frisked etc... as you will appreciate that it makes no sense for a family travelling together to fall under different categories of exemption,“ she said. Priyanka wanted to underline that the exemption to her husband was not part of any privilege but imposed on them on security grounds.


About Article 370

India Power statz

Congress tattle

Senior Congress leader T.H.Mustafa, who called Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi a "joker" and demanded he quit party posts, has been suspended from the party. Addressing reporters, after the marathon 10 hours discussion of the executive of the state party unit to analyse the results of the Lok Sabha elections, Congress' Kerala unit president V.M. Sudheeran said the decision was unanimous.
"He made this remark openly, yesterday (Wednesday), when he was invited to take part in today's executive. The term he used 'joker' on Gandhi was extremely unbecoming on Mustafa's part and we decided to suspend him with immediate effect," said Sudheeran.
The 72-year-old Mustafa, a former minister and a five time legislator, was unfazed.
"I welcome the decision to suspend me. Look where the Congress party is now and Rahul Gandhi was the person who was spearheading the campaign and hence he has the responsibility. I did also mention that Priyanka Gandhi should take over as the new president," he said.

Former I&B minister Manish Tewari has said that two major factors--industry and the middle class--contributed to the Congress's loss in the Lok Sabha polls.
The two turned against the party as the UPA government continued with populist steps despite a nose-diving economy , allowing Narendra Modi to corner the two critical blocs and rise to the PM's post, Tewari said. He added that while issues like inflation, delays in environmental nod for projects and mining alienated the government further, the CAG's “damning“ 2G scam report landed a “deathblow from which we never recovered“.

TN Power snapshot

Meanwhile in Karnataka....

Reliance to control Network18

Reliance Industries (RIL) has agreed to provide funding of up to Rs.4,000 crore to the Independent Media Trust (IMT) for acquisition of Network-18 Media and Investments, one of the country’s biggest media companies, RIL said in a statement on Thursday. RIL, India’s largest private sector company by revenue and market capitalisation, is the sole beneficiary of IMT and will act as a person in the statutory open offers resulting from the acquisition.
“IMT would use the funds to acquire control over Network 18 and TV 18… IMT would be making open offers to public shareholders for acquisition of equity shares in Network 18, TV 18 and Infomedia Press. IMT would be simultaneously making the Public Announcement under Takeover Regulations. RIL would be a Person Acting in Concert to the open offers,” according to a statement issued by RIL. TV18 and Infomedia Press are subsidiary companies of Network 18.
This transition is likely to result in Raghav Bahl, the promoter of the Network18 Group, exiting the media empire he founded two decades ago. Essentially, the transaction announced on Thursday amounts to a conversion of loans given by RIL in 2012 into shares in Network18 group companies.
The press release by RIL said the acquisition would results in synergies with its upcoming 4G plans because of the digital, e-commerce and broadcast content of the Network 18 Group. Apparently as a precursor to the impending announcement, in the last 48 hours, Network 18 had seen a spate of top level-resignations.
Post conversion IMT will end up as the single largest shareholder in both the companies. IMT will directly own 78% in Network 18 and 9% in its subsidiary in TV18, the press statement said.
Flagship Network 18 and its broadcasting arm TV18 operate over 30 channels along with its JV partners like Viacom, AETN Networks and subsidiaries. The bouquet includes both news properties like CNN IBN, CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz and general entertainment channels like Colors, MTV, Nick and History TV18.
While the takeover by IMT had been anticipated for a while the resignation of the top 3 Network 18 executives in the last 48 hours had compounded the speculation. 

Pune set to be Maharashtra's largest Municipal Corporation

The final process for including 34 fringe villages within the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) limits has started with the state government issuing an official merger notification on Thursday .
If the merger plan is approved as per the notification, then the PMC will become the largest municipal corporation in the state.
Its geographical area will increase from the existing 243.84 sq km to over 500 sq km, more than that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation which is the largest civic body in the state covering an area of 480.24 sq km.
According to the notification, issued by the state urban development department, 34 villages located along the fringe areas of Pune will be brought under the municipal folds.
However, the merger plan will be effected only after giving another opportunity to citizens who wish to object to or recommend suggestions for the move.
The state has advised citizens to submit in writing their suggestions or objections to the Principal secretary, UD department, Madam Cama Road, Hutatma Rajguru Chowk, Mantralaya, Mumbai 400032, within a month. The final announcement about the merger will be made only after giving a hearing to these citizens.
The villages slated for merger are Mhalunge, Sus, Bavdhan, Kirkitwadi, Pisoli, remaining parts of Lohegaon, Kondhwe-Dhawade, Kopre, Nanded, Khadakwasla, Shivane, remaining parts of Hadapsar, Mundhwa (remaining parts of Keshavnagar), Manjari, Narhe, Shivane, Ambegaon (Budruk), Undri, Dhayari, Ambegaon (Khurd), Urali Devachi, Mantarwadi, Holkarwadi, Handewadi, Wadachiwadi, Shewalewadi, Phursungi, Yewalewadi, Nandoshi, Mangdewadi, Bhilarewadi, Gujar Nimbalkarwadi, Jambhulwadi and Kolewadi.
Parts of some of these villages are already in the PMC limits.

NaMo vacates Vadodara seat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vacated the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat. Modi, who was also elected from Varanasi, has decided to keep it, in a move that may help BJP build upon the foundation laid down by his trusted political aide, Amit Shah, for BJP’s political recovery in the state. Announcing his decision on Twitter, the PM said he was looking forward to the opportunity of serving “Ganga Maa” and working for the holy city’s development.
In his tweet, Modi expressed gratitude to the people of Vadodara for giving him victory by a “historic” margin and said he would ensure its development.
“Resigned from Vadodara LS seat. Due to people’s affection got elected by a historic margin. Will always remain grateful to people of Vadodara,” Modi tweeted.
“I assure people of Vadodara I will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that Vadodara’s development scales newer heights in the years to come,” the PM said.
“I will represent Varanasi in Lok Sabha and I look forward to this wonderful opportunity to serve Ganga Maa and work for Varanasi’s development.”

Jaipur Metro update

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $176 million (Rs.969 crore) loan to construct Jaipur Metro's phase-I (B) project proposed from Badi Chaupar to Chandpole area and an agreement was signed by the state government along with the Centre and Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRC) with the bank on Thursday in New Delhi.
JMRC chief managing director NC Goel said, “It's a very positive sign for the state. The project cost of the proposed underground metro corridor (phase-1, B) is Rs.1,126 crore. The deal will give financial backing to the project and work can be done at rapid pace.“
An official said the JMRC had earlier approached the ADB for phase-I corridor between Mansarovar and Chandpole.
However, the bank had refused to provide loan for the project as the work has already started. As per norms, it does not fund any project half way . “After negotiations, the bank agreed to fund the phase-I (B) corridor,“ added the official.
A new 9.7 km-long elevated Line 1 of the metro from Mansarovar in the western part of the city to Chandpole on the western edge of the central business district will open by July-August, 2014. The ADB’s loan will help finance an additional 2.3 km underground stretch from Chandpole to Badi Chaupar, along with two stations, that should be ready to provide access to the central business district by March 2018.
The metro will provide connections to the entire central business district.
The extended line is expected to carry 126,000 passengers every day during its first year of operation. The stations along the Line 1 will connect existing and planned bus routes to help travel to other parts of the city much faster.
The official said the ADB's loan will also help finance studies into the planned 23-km long north-south line-2. This study will be completed towards the end of 2015.
The loan has a 23-year term including a grace prepaid of eight years with commitment charges of 0.15% maturity premium of 0.10% (as straight line repayment method) and interest rate to be determined in accordance with the ADB's Libor-based lending facility .

AirAsia India set to take off on June 12th!

The Tata Sons JV airline with Malaysian low-cost carrier (LCC) AirAsia set to fly in Indian skies from June 12, giving budget flyers more choices at possibly lower fares. AirAsia India Pvt Ltd (AAIPL) will start operations with two daily flights on Chennai-Bangalore-Chennai route and a daily flight on Bangalore-Goa-Bangalore sector.
AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes announced on Twitter that ticket sales for these flights will begin on Friday (May 30).
Incidentally, AAIPL’s announcement of launching flights came on the day when TDP leader Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati took over as aviation minister and did not rule out a relook at the decisions taken by UPA. After taking over, Raju said he will examine why certain people like BJP's Subramanian Swamy were opposing startup airlines formed the JV way with foreign airlines.
The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) had given AAIPL licence to fly on May 7 and cleared its schedule (timetable) on Thursday afternoon. The budget carrier's CEO Mittu Chandilya had promised to offer 35% lower fares than current levels. LCC IndiGo is the market leader in India in terms of domestic passenger carriage.
The other LCCs are: SpiceJet, JetKonnect, GoAir and Air India Express.

NaMo's 10 Commandments

PM Narendra Modi has accorded top priority to removing hurdles to growth and containing inflation while seeking swift policy roll outs, pro-people governance and an accountable bureaucracy . Outlining his political and economic objectives, Modi has set out reviving growth and checking price rise -areas of weakness that are seen to have cost Congress-led UPA dearly -as most urgent.
At his second Cabinet meeting on Thursday , Modi focused on the governance mantra, asking ministers to prepare 100-day agenda that zero in on improving delivery and accountability . Briefing the media, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “Ministers apprised the PM about work in their ministries. After listening to them, the PM said the most important issue is governance. He asked ministers to concentrate on this.“
At the meeting Modi told ministers that he would appreciate if they did not pay too much attention to their constituencies at the cost of other claimants, indicating that he feels nurturing VIP constituencies causes more harm than good. It was the list of 10 “dos and don'ts“ circulated among ministers after the Cabinet meeting that really holds the key to Modi's priorities. It clearly indicates the criteria by which he is likely to evaluate his team.
The ready reckoner given to ministers makes it clear that Modi intends to set a cracking pace and is likely to take a dim view of ministers who slack on the job and lose sight of their responsibilities. Keen to drive home the point that the NDA must not repeat the UPA's mistakes, Modi has asked ministers to pay heed to timelines and project implementation to avoid policy paralysis.
“BJP has often criticized UPA for policy paralysis and economic stagnation,“ the note reminded ministers. It also noted that Modi has ticked off education, manufacturing and energy as important areas. On governance, ministers were told that “...mere good governance is not enough. It has to be pro-people and proactive. Good governance is putting people at the centre of the development process.“
Infrastructure reforms, consistent policy , e-auctions for transparency , inter-ministerial cooperation, a focus on education, power and water supply , rallying investor confidence and manufacturing are key areas. During the Cabinet meeting, Modi urged ministers to focus on addressing issues raised by states and demands from public as well as lawmakers.
Better project implementation is high on Modi's agenda and long and often laborious processes were seen to have seriously damaged Congress's political prospects while providing fodder for Modi's campaign.
Reflecting his approach when he was Gujarat chief minister, Modi's 10 points speak of the need to empower the bureaucracy while also aligning it with the need for pro-active and people-oriented governance.

A Sulking Shiv Sena

The Shiv Sena exhibited it was still in a sulk about having been given the heavy industries portfolio by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with its chief Uddhav Thackeray saying the party was keen to handle a ministry directly linked with public welfare.
Talking to mediapersons, Thackeray put on a brave front, denying the Shiv Sena was upset with the portfolio allocation.
He said Anant Geete had accepted the heavy industries ministry as a “challenge“. Thackeray said the Shiv Sena decided to accept the ministry after his telephonic talk with Modi.
“I told Narendrabhai that we would have been happy if we had been given a portfolio which is directly linked with the people of India and their problems,“ he said.
The Shiv Sena is hopeful that it will get at least one more cabinet portfolio and two minister of state berths when Modi undertakes the expansion of his council of ministers, said sources.
The Shiv Sena had thrown a fit after it became clear early this week that Geete would be the lone minister from the party.
Geete's heavy industries portfolio came as yet another blow to the Shiv Sena, which prides itself as the long-time ally of the BJP. An upset Thackeray had at the time asked Geete to stay away from the ministry , which may have heavy in its name but is considered a featherweight portfolio.
Thackeray on Thursday said the Shiv Sena accorded precedence to the demands of the state over those of his party. “The question is not what the Sena got in the allocation of portfolios, the crucial question is what will Maharashtra get,“ he said.

Somewhere in Pune....

Mumbai gets ready for the A380

On Thursday, the Mumbai airport was abuzz with preparations to handle Airbus 380 flights, the largest passenger aircraft in the world that can seat a maximum of 853 flyers, on in full swing.
From Friday , Singapore Airlines will commence daily A380 flights into Mumbai and Delhi. The double-decker A380's date with the city has been long overdue as the first super jumbo passenger flight was operated way back by Singapore Airlines in 2007.
The Singapore-Mumbai flight is scheduled to land at 9.55 pm and will take off on its return leg at 12.25 am. The carrier will operate 14 flights per week to both Mumbai and New Delhi with an Airbus A380 aircraft that has a total capacity of 471 seats across suites, business class and economy class. From July 21, Dubai-based Emirates, which has placed an order for 140 A380s, will launch daily super jumbo flights into the city.
At present, about 10 airlines operate the A380 and over 50 million passengers have flown the super jumbo as it operates to 35-odd airports across the world. The double-decker A380 is serviced by a two-tier aerobridge. The Mumbai airport currently has one special two-tier aerobridge and will soon add three more, said an airport official. “Three senior personnel who handle aerobridge operations have been sent to Singapore to train to use these two-tier bridges so that there are no glitches when the A380 lands in the city ,“ the official added.
As Terminal 2 has 10 conveyor belts, the airport operator does not expect the super jumbo to hamper airport functioning. “We have also informed taxi unions to be prepared to handle the increased passenger load,“ the official said.


Ahmedabad Airport statz

Of Jet Airways & Air India....

With Jet Airways reporting its highest-ever annual loss of Rs.4,129 crore in 2013-14, Air India today said its financial parameters had improved significantly in comparison to its major private competitor, with its fourth quarter revenues higher and losses much lower.
While Jet had yesterday reported a Q4 revenue of Rs.4,566 crore, the national carrier’s unaudited estimation of earnings stood at Rs.5,842 crore.
Similarly, Air India’s net operating loss in the same quarter was Rs.961 crore, compared to Rs.2,153 crore of Jet, the figures showed.
Air India’s overall annual operating loss stood at Rs.2,123 crore compared to Jet’s Rs.2,360 crore, the unaudited projections showed.
When contacted, senior Air India officials also claimed gains of about eight per cent in the business class revenue.
Jet Airways has posted its highest-ever annual loss of Rs.4,129 crore, forcing it to adopt tough measures to lower costs and achieve profitability with a three-year business plan.
However, Air India officials made it clear that the major reasons for its losses were high fuel costs, primarily due to increase in its domestic and global operations, and the higher number of employees — around 24,000. As of March 2013, Jet’s employee strength stood at about 12,000.
The national carrier also has large cost of depreciation because it owns a large number of aircraft, while Jet’s fleet was almost entirely on sale and leaseback (SLB), they said.
SLB is a financial transaction where one sells an asset and leases it back for the long-term, thereby allowing one to continue using the asset but no longer owning it.
Jet, which would be headed by Australian national Cramer Ball (formerly with Etihad) as its new CEO, posted a net loss of Rs 2,153 crore for the quarter ended March 31, while its consolidated loss for the full fiscal widened to Rs 4,129 crore. This was the fifth straight quarterly loss for the airline.

Of Tesco & Trent....

British retail major Tesco’s purchase of a 50% stake in Tata Group firm Trent Hypermarket, the first foreign direct investment (FDI) transaction in multi brand retail since the sector was opened up in 2012, has got the approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
The watchdog’s order comes at a time when a government led by the BJP, which has a stated policy of opposing FDI in retail stores selling multiple brands, has just taken over. According to the new commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman, multi-brand retail is best not opened up now for FDI as small and medium-size traders and small farmers have not been adequately empowered.
“...if you open up the floodgates of FDI in multi-brand retail, it may affect them,” she said on Tuesday, while responding to a question on whether the new government would rescind the current policy allowing foreign investment in the sector. But she didn’t say how the BJP-led government would deal with the policy or the approval already given when a Congress-led coalition was in power.
The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in December 2013, approved the UK retailer’s about Rs.680-crore investment proposal. In September 2012, the UPA government had allowed up to 51% FDI in the sector.
In its order, the competition body said that it doesn’t expect the proposed combination “to have appreciable adverse effect on competition in India”. Trent Hypermarket currently operates just 16 retail stores. Its total revenue, as per the annual report of Trent, during the financial year 2012-13 was only around .Rs.785 crore, which is insignificant as compared to the size of the overall retail market and the organised retail market in India, the commission said.

NaMo's new Legal Team

Mukul Rohatgi, one of India's top lawyers, will be the new Attorney General while senior advocate Ranjit Kumar will be the Solicitor General. While Rohatgi has been formally appointed as Attorney General, a formal notification naming Kumar as Solicitor General has not been issued. The remaining members of the Modi government's legal team will be appointed in a few days, said government officials.
An Additional Solicitor General under the earlier NDA regime, Rohatgi is one of the top corporate lawyers in the country . The pugnacious, aggressive lawyer is known for his amazing success rate in winning cases for his clients.
The AG's post, a constitutional position, bars him from private practice.
He can only represent the state and its entities. He can also attend Parliamentary discussions but has no right to vote.

The tall and imposing lawyer, with a booming voice, is a favourite with clients for his quick grasp of briefs. Rohatgi, son of a very popular Delhi High Court lawyer and later judge AB Rohatgi, started off as a junior to former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal.
Rohatgi, who is said to be close to a section of the BJP leadership, was appointed ASG in 1999 during the Vajpayee regime. Lawyers said there was no doubting his stature or ability.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar comes from a family with no legal connections. Known for his thundering voice, a notch higher than even Rohtagi's, Kumar is a very “solid“, “effective“ counsel, said a senior lawyer. 

CDMA Spectrum sale snippets

In what could come as a setback to the government's proposed CDMA spectrum auctions, Sistema Shyam (SSTL) has indicated that it will not participate in the 800 MHz mobile airwaves sale if the telecom ministry does not lower the prices that have been recommended by regulator Trai.
The company , a subsidiary of Russian conglomerate Sistema that offers mobile services under the MTS brand, said that reserve price for the CDMA band sale should be lower than what Trai has recommended.
SSTL reported a narrowing of March-ended quarterly loss at Rs 316 crore against Rs 644 crore during the same period last year. Revenue for the company declined 9% to Rs 319 crore (Rs 352 crore).

While Trai had gone in for significant cuts in reserve prices for auctions in the GSM bands of 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz, it opted for higher prices when giving recommendations for the 800 MHz band. The regulator fixed the reserve price at Rs.2,685 crore per megahertz, around 50% higher than the previous pan-India base price.

GoAir in expansion mode

Private low-cost airline GoAir plans to concentrate on Pune to make available greater connectivity and higher standards of service.
The airline is expecting to get a night parking spot at the Pune airport and such a facility will enable it to offer more early morning flight options, chief executive officer Giorgio De Roni told reporters. About 70 per cent of GoAir’s seat capacity serves to connect metros and non-metros and the airline will stick to this pattern, De Roni said.
De Roni said the airline is on a major capacity expansion route and has ordered 72 new A 320 aircraft which will join its fleet by the year 2020. “These will be aircraft built on new, more fuel efficient technology and will help the airline widen its reach and reduce costs,” he said. Global aviation business studies have indicated that India will be the third biggest civil aviation market and the airline is bracing up to partake of the opportunity, he added.
Pune will figure in a major way in the airline’s expansion plans as there is a marked demand for flights connecting Pune and metros, he said, adding that the flights from Pune to Kolkata (via Nagpur) and Bangalore which GoAir recently started have been receiving strong response from air travelers from Pune.
“About 10 per cent of the airline’s seat capacity and 15 per cent of its revenue will come from business generating in Pune,” he said.
He said GoAir grew more than 20 per cent in 2013-14 as against the Indian aviation business which grew about 6 per cent. The airline currently has 19 aircraft and is expecting delivery of one more later this year, he added.


SIT on Black Money

The Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to form a SIT by 28th May

The SIT on black money, notified on Wednesday by the finance ministry , will have its own investigating unit with officials drawn from agencies like the CBI, I-T, ED, IB, and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office.
This `separate infrastructure' of the SIT will conduct and coordinate a multi-agen cy probe on all cases of black money , said a top finance ministry official. This is a departure from the UPA regime where then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had constituted Directorate of Criminal Investigation within the I-T and had mandated it to probe all black money cases.
The SIT is to be headed by Justice M B Shah, a retired judge of the SC.

MiG-21 crashes in Kashmir

The pilot of a fighter aircraft died on the spot when it crashed in an open field at Simthan near Bijbehara in Anantnag district of South Kashmir. According to sources, the aircraft was on a routine flight. The lone pilot on board was identified as squadron leader Raghu Bansi.
The aircraft, MiG 21 Bison of Indian Air Force, has been notorious for mishaps and has earned nicknames such as “flying coffin“ and “widow-maker“.
Defence official issued a statement saying, “The pilot, airborne from Srinagar, was on a routine training sortie. A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident.“
“The pilot's body was recovered from the crash site and was later airlifted to IAF field station. Teams of army, IAF and state police have reached the site. The IAF personnel are removing the aircraft debris,“ the IAF said in a press release.
Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said a police team and the security forces had cordoned off the area within minutes of the crash. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said he was “sorry“ and that it was “a matter of grave concern“. “My heart goes out to the pilot who lost his life,“ he said .J&K CM Omar Abdullah tweeted, “My condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the pilot. The new government needs to sort out defence procurement issues for Navy, Air Force and the Army ASAP.“

Chennai-Vizag Industrial Corridor

The Asian Development Bank has shown readiness to back an industrial corridor along the coast of Andhra Pradesh, giving a confidence boost to the southern state as it prepares for a new life without Telangana and Hyderabad.
ADB, headquartered in Manila, has started work on studying the feasibility of an industrial corridor from Chennai to Visakhapatnam. If the multi-lateral agency decides to fund the project directly, it will be its first such initiative in the country.
A truncated Andhra Pradesh without Telangana comes into being on June 2, with Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party as the chief minister as Hyderabad as the joint capital for 10 years. Naidu has said the economic development is his topmost priority and has invited domestic and foreign investors to set up businesses in his state.
The Chennai-Visakhapatnam corridor, if it materialises, will modernise ports, airports, roads and the rail network along the 800-km coastline. It will also create additional gas pipelines and power transmission lines to feed fuel to existing and new industrial clusters and Special Economic Zones in the region. The project will be developed along the lines of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor where Japan is the partner nation.
A delegation led by Teresa Kho, country director for ADB in India, recently met state government officials and made a presentation on the proposed project which could cost around Rs.20,000 crore for the infrastructure.
Confirming the development, the principal secretary of the Andhra Pradesh industries department, K.Pradeep Chandra said that ADB will be preparing the detailed project report. Once that is done, the other aspects like the roles of the state government and ADB will be decided.
The project report is expected to be submitted by October this year and the corridor is likely to be developed as a public-private partnership.

The proposed corridor was a promise made by the UPA-II government to as part of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into two states.
Y Harish Chandra Prasad, the chief coordinator of CoastaRayala Development Forum that lobbies to attract investment in the state, said the project could attract up to Rs.10 lakh crore of investment over several years. “It will be stimulus for the growth in this region.“

Pune limits may expand

Pune’s boundaries are all set to expand further with the state government granting an in-principle approval to merge 34 fringe villages with the municipal limits.
The state has finalized a draft notification spelling out the merger plan, but it has been put on hold for clearance from the state election commission.
Sources said the election commission’s nod has been sought in view of the code of conduct for the graduate constituency elections. “If we get the approval from the election commission, the proposal will be tabled before the state cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The cabinet is already in favour of the merger plan and hence we feel that the notification will come into effect very soon,” said a senior UD officer.
A top civic official too confirmed the development asserting that the merger will be effected as soon as the notification is approved by the cabinet.
The state government had, in October 2012, issued a notification asking the PMC to initiate the process to merge 28 fringe villages with the city.
After much debate and discussions, the general body had in November 2012, approved the merger. However, many elected members had then demanded that six more villages should be merged with the PMC. Hence, a separate proposal for merger of additional six villages was initiated by the general body in 2013.
Those in favour of the merger had argued that the move would ensure planned development of these fringe areas and will restrict the growth of illegal structures.
However, many experts had opined that the civic body must restrict its growth as it was putting additional burden on the civic infrastructure. They pointed out that the PMC’s geographical area will increase from the existing 243.84 sq km to over 500 sq km if these 234 villages are merged with it.
The expanded city will be bigger than the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which, as the largest civic body in the state, covers an area of 480.24 sq km. Mumbai opted for smaller corporations around it for better infrastructure management while the PMC is doing just the opposite, a town planning expert had said. Some of the villages had objected to the move. However, notwithstanding these objections, the civic body had approved the merger plan and had sent it to the state government for ratification.

Vizhinjam Port gets Green approval

The Chennai Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has allowed Vizhinjam port authorities to go ahead with the tendering process, including calling for Requests for Qualification (RFQ), to build the port superstructure and operate the proposed deep-water container transhipment port.
The NGT passed the order while hearing a petition filed by Vizhinjam residents, Marydas and Wilfred, against the environmental clearance given to the project by the ministry of environment and forest.
The ministry of environment and forest, while clearing the project, had stipulated 29 specific and 14 general conditions that were to be abided by the port authorities.
The Vizhinjam port had submitted the environment impact assessment report to the ministry in August last.
The Rs 5,000-crore seaport would be the first green port in the country and the master plan has several environment-friendly parameters such as solar power for the port building complex and asking vessels anchored to plug into electric power provided by the port to reduce fuel and oil pollution along the coast.
Five major port operators have bid for the global tender floated by Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited for the RFQ. They are Gammon Infrastructure Projects, Hyundai-Concast, Essar Ports, Adani Ports and a consortium of SREI and OHL.

Kejriwal opts for bail

After spending six days in Tihar Jail for refusing to furnish a personal bond in a defamation case filed by BJP MP Nitin Gadkari, former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday furnished the bond, acting on Delhi high court’s advice to his lawyers.
The courtroom action to secure Kejriwal’s release started before the high court bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta around 11 am, and ended in the court of metropolitan magistrate Gomati Manocha at 5.15 pm when his counsel told her that the AAP leader had signed the personal bond and was ready to file it. Kejriwal walked out of Tihar Jail around 7.30 pm.
During the high court hearing held in a jam-packed courtroom, the bench advised senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for Kejriwal, to ask him to furnish a bond and raise other legal issues after coming out.

Of Agusta Westland copters....

The defence ministry has scored a major legal victory against AgustaWestland in Italy and will be able to recover Rs.1,927 crore of the Rs.2,380 crore it had paid the Italian firm for supply of 12 VVIP helicopters.
After scrapping the deal, the ministry on January 1 decided to cash the three bank guarantees given by AgustaWestland through Deutsche Bank to recover its payments — around 45% of the total contract value of 556 million euros. Within days of the decision to cash the bank guarantees, AgustaWestland approached two former chief justices of India asking whether India would be legally entitled to cash the guarantees since it had part performed the contract by supplying three of the 12 helicopters.
Armed with these opinions, AgustaWestland moved an Italian court, which on March 17 restrained India from recovering the money from the firm, the UK-based subsidiary of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica.
MoD appealed against this in a higher court in Italy which struck down the order restraining India from cashing the bank guarantees except the logical correction – the cost of the three helicopters to be deducted from the money to be recovered.
A three-judge bench headed by Laura Cosentini said in its order, “Considering that none of the guarantees was connected to a specific contractual obligation, that each was enforceable for any breach claimed by the ministry of defence, and that to support the enforcement evidence was brought of criminally relevant facts, we believe that the enforcement (cashing of bank guarantee) was fully legitimate.”

Uma Bharti gets NaMo's dream project

The water resources ministry, which was largely off the radar under UPA, will be a key ministry under the new government which has tasked BJP veteran Uma Bharati to work on PM Narendra Modi's dream project to clean the Ganga.
Bharati, MP from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, will assume charge of her ministry on Wednesday .
Though the water resources ministry is mandated to clean the Ganga and other rivers, the new nomenclature of the ministry -water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation -signals the Modi government's priority .
Other than Ganga cleaning, inter-linking of rivers will also be a major focus area of the ministry . Although the UPA government prepared detailed project reports on linking Ken and Betwa rivers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the implementation did not take off.
Besides being revered by Hindus, Ganga also affects nearly 43% of India's population in one way or the other ­ making it both socio-economically and politically important.
However, after 30 years and two phases of the ambitious Ganga Action Plan (GAP), costing Rs.2,747.52 crore, the longest river in the country continues to remain polluted.

Somewhere in New Delhi....

PM Narendra Modi calls on Manmohan Singh and his wife at their new home.

On Nehru's 50th death anniversary....

Narendra Modi called for a “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India) all through his high-pitched election campaign. But that was as the BJP’s candidate for the top job. A day after his government was sworn in, Modi on Tuesday paid tribute to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on his 50th death anniversary.
In the midst of his packed schedule meeting SSARC leaders, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Modi posted the tribute on twitter. “I pay my tributes to our 1st Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his Punya Tithi,“ said the tweet. Nehru died on May 27, 1964.

Of RSS on Section 377....

Criminalization of homosexuality is debatable, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said on Tuesday. Coming from BJP’s parent organization, the remark revives hopes of the new government revisiting its stand on Section 377 of the IPC which outlaws gays. Ahead of elections, BJP president Rajnath Singh had said he supported Section 377 and called homosexuality an unnatural act.

PMO Twitter controversy resolved

The @PMOIndia controversy on Twitter finally comes to rest.
Changed to @PMOIndiaArchive earlier this month, the official handle of the prime minister’s office is back in its original form once again.
On Tuesday evening, the verified account, @PMOIndia, bore the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the follower count of 1.27 million, up from 1.24 million of Manmohan Singh.
Modi had posted five tweets from the new account at the time of writing, which included a photograph of him paying his respects before a picture of Mahatma Gandhi in the PMO, and directing followers to the revamped website of the PM, pmindia.gov.in.
Clicking on the handle @PMOIndiaArchive now returns a page saying “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” A senior official from the office of the former PM claimed that passing on the same account was the intention all along. When the change was first noticed on May 20th, it was seen by many as “improper”. The tweets of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are available on pmindia.gov.in.