Economy turns around ?!

The Indian economy expanded at its fastest pace in two-and-a-half years in the quarter ending June on the back of a turnaround in manufacturing as sentiment was boosted by the Narendra Modi government’s measures to help recover from the longest slump in a quarter of a century. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a better-than-expected 5.7% in April-June, sharply higher than 4.6% in the previous quarter, signalling a revival in the economy.
Asia’s third-largest economy expanded by less than 5% for two straight years, because of policy logjams, project delays and a string of corruption scandals. But the government said the economy had turned the corner. “With improvement witnessed in some important sectors including manufacturing as well as in the performance of exports, along with the measures taken by the government, the economy can be expected to show further improvement in the remaining part of the year,” a finance ministry statement said.
A slew of other data also pointed to better times for the country’s financial health.
Domestic passenger vehicles sales grew for the third month in a row in July, signalling a revival in demand that began when excise duties were lowered during the interim budget last February.
The National Council for Applied Economic Research’s (NCAER’s) quarterly business confidence Index (BCI) — a measure to gauge economic sentiment — rose by 13% in June 2014 from April 2014.
Data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that the manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 15% of the economy, grew by 3.5% in April-June — the fastest in nine quarters — compared with a contraction of 1.4% in the previous quarter and a decline of 1.2% in the year-ago period.
Farm output grew 3.8% compared with 4% in the same quarter last year, but patchy monsoon rains could affect agricultural income, hurting sales of consumer goods such as refrigerators and vehicles.

Somewhere in Maharashtra....

Auto major Mahindra & Mahindra will invest Rs.4,000 crore over a 7-year period to double the production capacity of its facility at Chakan in Maharashtra to 7.5 lakh units annually. The company, which had earlier put on hold the expansion at the plant and considered other options citing lack of support from the Maharashtra government, said the fresh infusion would take its total investment in Chakan to Rs.8,000 crore.
A joint declaration was signed between the company and Maharashtra Government, in the presence of state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra said Maharashtra government’s visionary industrial policies and efficient governance practices have prompted the company to to take the decision to scale up the Chakan plant.
Tata Motors Ltd and German carmaker Volkswagen AG are among other carmakers that have agreed to invest a total of Rs.11,500 crore ($1.9 billion) to expand their manufacturing capacity in Maharashtra.
The investments would be made under the state government’s industrial project policy, which was initiated in 2005 to boost investment in the manufacturing sector. Bajaj Auto Ltd said it plans to invest Rs.2,000 crore, while Volkswagen agreed to invest Rs.1,500 crore.


A Desi Hachiko?!

A dog in Chennai, Tamil Nadu has displayed endearing loyalty to its owner.
The late Bhaskar's brown mongrel sat at the teenager's grave for more than a fortnight....The 18-year-old boy died in a road accident and the dog he had adopted sat by his grave, refusing to eat and braving the sun and rain.
Blue Cross of India volunteers spotted the dog at the open burial ground near Avadi Bridge.
When they tried to take the dog away, it refused to budge, pawing the grave and whining.
After some inquiries, the volunteers found out about Bhaskar, and later managed to locate his mother, Sundhari.
The 50-year-old construction worker said the dog, Tommy, was her son's pet for five years. "It disappeared after Bhaskar died," she said.
Sundhari, a widow, said life became meaningless after the death of her only son. "However, Tommy's undying affection for Bhaskar gave me the impetus to move on."


AP to have `Green Corridor'

Andhra Pradesh government, with an eye on the carbon credit market, has decided to go for `green power' on a massive scale. The state plans to produce 9,000 MW solar and wind power in the next five years to earn clean development mechanism (CDM) benefits from carbon credit exchanges. It will establish a `Green Corridor' with several `clean energy' power projects. “We have planned to produce 5,000 MW solar power and 4,000 MW wind power in joint ventures with major companies in this sector in the coming five years,“ Ajay Jain, principal secretary , energy , Andhra Pradesh said. Major governmentowned companies are also planning to set up largescale solar power projects. NTPC Limited and NVVN Limited have plans to build solar power projects with a capacity of 1,000 MW .
The Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited had signed an agreement to set up 1,000 MW solar power project in Mahbubnagar district during the Kiran Kumar Reddy regime. Now, AP government is trying to rope in the company to set up the project in either Chittoor or Anantapur.
The government has decided to allot 500 acres of land in Anantapur for setting up a 100 MW solar farm, and accorded permission to establish a mega 1,000 MW solar park in the same district and another 300 MW solar park in Guntur district. “A new solar power policy to develop solar hubs will be in place very soon,“ Ajay Jain said.
The state also has significant wind energy potential.According to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology , the state has a wind power potential of about 14,500 MW at 80 metre hub height. AP at present has an installed wind energy capacity of less than 800 MW with majority of units located at Ramagiri hills in Anantapur district.
By opting for green power, the AP government is looking at two benefits. First, to enter into CDM market to exploit the carbon credit benefits and secondly , to tap renewable energy sources in the state with central financial assistance. AP was chosen to implement 24x7 power supply programme along with Delhi and Rajasthan and it is expected that more than Rs.5,000 crore investment will be made available by the Centre for renewable energy generation projects.
AP government has sought Rs.15,718 crore central funding for `Power-for-All' programme for next financial year. A total expenditure of Rs.54,332 crore is estimated to be incurred by the Centre to implement the 24x7 power supply project in three states over a period of five years.


Tiger statz

Sea Plane Service set to start

Akash snapshot

From 1947 to now

Foodgrain Production statz

RBI Report Card

INS Kamorta

The first indigenously built stealth anti-submarine warfare corvette ‘INS Kamorta’ was commissioned by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley at the Naval dockyard, Vishakapatnam on Saturday. Kamorta, a frontline warship with an array of anti-submarine warfare, anti-air and anti-surface weapons and sensors, is the first of four ASW stealth corvettes designed by Indian Navy’s in-house organisation, Directorate of Naval Design (DND). It would carry short-range Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM) and Active Towed Array Decoy System (ATDS). It can also carry an integral ASW helicopter.

Irom Sharmila arrested again

A screaming and struggling Irom Sharmila was dragged on Friday morning by seven to eight policewomen from her makeshift tin shack outside the Government Hospital in Imphal to a police vehicle parked 50 mts away, even as hundreds of people, including the media, looked on. Barely 48 hours earlier, the nation had applauded a local court order releasing Sharmila ­ who's been on a fast for the past 14 years protesting AFSPA ­ saying her method of protest didn’t amount to attempt to commit suicide.
Sharmila, 42, began her fast in 2000 against AFSPA (the Armed Forces Special Powers Act), which gives the army sweeping powers to arrest people without warrants and even shoot to kill in certain situations.She had launched the hunger strike after 10 civilians were killed, allegedly by the para-military officers. Sharmila was arrested soon after and held in judicial custody in a hospital where she was force-fed through a pipe in her nose.
Around 9 am Friday, teams of cops, including female officers and constables, forcibly carried Sharmila to the police station saying they were “taking her for a medical check up”. Around an hour later, Manipur Additional Director General Santosh Macherla announced, “Irom Sharmila has been rearrested on charges of attempt to commit suicide.”

PACL under Sebi lens

In the biggest-ever crackdown on large-scale illicit money pooling schemes and a case that dwarfs the clampdown on Sahara, market regulator Sebi has asked PACL (formerly Pearls Agrotech Corporation) to refund Rs.49,100 crore to investors within three months. Sebi has also ordered the immediate closure of unauthorized collective investment schemes (CIS) run by the company . “The total amount mobilized comes to Rs.49,100 crore.This figure could have been even more if PACL had provided the details of the funds mobilized during the period of April 1, 2012 to February 25, 2013,“ Sebi said in its 92-page order.PACL was quoted in agency reports saying it would approach the Securities Appellate Tribunal against the directive of the capital markets regulator.“The collection of such huge funds suggests that PACL has many more customers than the stated 1.22 crore,“ the market regulator said. Referring to the proposal of PACL and its directors forwarded through their advocates, SEBI said that about 4.6 crore customers had not been allotted land. “Thus, a quick calculation of the total number of the customers of PACL comes to around 5.85 crore which includes the customers who (are) said to have been allotted land and who are yet to be allotted the land,“ Sebi said.
This is the biggest ever amount, as also the largest number of investors, involved in a case so far that has been dubbed unauthorized `collective investment schemes' by Sebi. In contrast, Sahara had raised about Rs.25,000 crore through optionally fully convertible debentures, which has been ruled as illegal. More than 2.3 crore investors were involved in the Sahara case.
The capital markets regulator also said it is initiating further proceedings against the company and its nine promoters and directors for fraudulent and unfair trade practices and for violating Sebi's CIS Regulations, among others, according to directions from the Supreme Court.
“PACL, in its submission to the Sebi bench, had said that it is not running a CIS...The company has sufficient asset holdings vis-a-vis the money raised for its real estate business...the company would also like to remind its customers that it has always kept their interest paramount and would continue to do so,“ PACL was quoted as saying in agency reports.
The case has been under the scanner of Sebi for more than 16 years. In a letter in March 1998, the market regulator had intimated PACL that it could neither launch any new schemes nor continue raising funds under its existing schemes. The company has however maintained that it was not running any illicit scheme and was in fact engaged in the business of sale and purchase of land.

SC questions Government on LOp

The NDA government had to face tough moments in the Supreme Court over the denial of leader of opposition status to the Congress in the Lok Sabha, with a bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha emphasizing the importance of appreciating dissent in a democracy . “Does it not convey the voice of those not representing the government? It is an important voice,“ said the bench as it stressed the importance of LoP in parliamentary dem ocracy and pressed the government to recast the rules for the selection of Lokpal to ensure the opposition gets a say in choosing the federal ombudsman, saying the task should be competed in two weeks.“You will appreciate the urgency. Think of giving importance to the voice of LoP . If you are not changing the view, then we will interpret and give a ruling,“ said the bench.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said that a review of the rules concerning Lokpal selection was already underway , even as he indicated that providing for the presence of the leader of the largest party in opposition on the selection committee could be one of the ways to ensure that the opposition was involved in the exercise. We are reviewing certain provisions of the Act and the rules. It is receiving attention at the highest level,“ Rohatgi said. The court's remark on LoP came when the bench was hearing a plea challenging deficiencies in the Lokpal selection process.
Coming just two days after it was denied the LoP post, the Congress celebrated it as a validation of its demand for the position. But the bench indicated that its real worry was about the participation of the largest opposition in the selection of Lokpal. It added that its concern would be met if the government considered including the leader of the largest group in Opposition in the Lokpal panel.
The court seemed to share the apprehension about the fairness of selection of the head of an important anti-corruption body , Lokpal, when the LoP post has not been assigned to anyone.“The LoP has special significance. When the LoP is not there, can the committee be termed effective? LoP is a very, very important component because it gives objectivity to the selection process,“ the bench said.


Inbound Tourists

View from the North Block

Amit Shah's A-Team

Amma Everywhere!

Monsoon Tracker

Of Indirect Taxes....

The Badaun Tangle

Initially, it seemed an open and shut case ­ the two sisters were raped and murdered. But over the 85-day probe, the case turned murkier as twists like honour killing and property dispute kept emerging. Now that rape has been ruled out and needle of suspicion is on the victims' family....

Kerala heads for prohibition

God's own country could be alcohol-free in 10 years, according to the excise policy of the United Democratic Front government, finalized at a meeting of its high-power committee at the chief minister's residence on Thursday. Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in India at 8.3 litres.
As a first step, 418 bars, closed since April 1 as they failed to upgrade to two-star facilities, won't have their licences renewed. Similarly , licences of 312 functioning bars won't be renewed after March 31, 2015. The government will explore the legal possibility of terminating their licences immediately.
From April 1, 2015, only five-star hotels -there are 23 in the state -will be granted bar licences. The excise policy draft is mum on the status of 111 beer/wine parlours in the state, but UDF sources said they would be allowed to function. The government also decided to phase out Beverages Corporation (Bevco) outlets in the state, which retail liquor. The 334 outlets in 14 districts will be phased out by winding up 10% every year. Bevco outlets won't sell liquor on Sundays, in addition to the first day of every month, already observed as dry days. “The UDF has come out with a unanimous decision for a liquor ban in the state to achieve total prohibition,'' CM Oommen Chandy said decision. after the meeting here on Thursday .
The UDF's recommendation to move towards prohibition in Kerala will be shortly ratified by the state cabinet, following which it would be conveyed to the Kerala high court as a policy Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country at 8.3 litres. Punjab comes second with 7.9 litres, while the national per capita consumption of capita consumption of liquor is four litres.
Apart from the doubtful efficacy of total prohibition, Chandy risks putting more pressure on an already sluggish economy . The state would incur Rs.8,000 crore loss due to the ban, that is more than one-third of the state government's annual plan outlay.

Revised Speed Limits

Now it's official.Cars can drive at a maximum speed of 100 kmph and motorcycles at 80 kmph. The road transport ministry has notified the revised speed limits. However, civic bodies and local and state police have the power to notify specific speed limits for municipal and local roads taking into account safety aspects. It may sound strange, earlier there was no speed limit for cars at national level. Only the local police had set the norms.
Government officials said local authorities would fix the speed limit for vehicles within their areas as per the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. “Obviously , a car or bike cannot be allowed at high speed in crowded or residential areas. So, local authorities including deputy commissioners, collectors and police will decide the speed limit for all categories of vehicles in every locality,“ a ministry official said.
The revision of speed limit comes after 25 years.

National War Memorial

The long-pending National War Memorial (NWM) will come up at the India Gate complex on the Central Vista, with its museum located in the adjoining Princess Park, to honour the soldiers who laid down their lives guarding India. This was finalized at a meeting held by defence minister Arun Jaitley with top military officials. “The Cabinet will, of course, have to give the final nod for the Rs.400 crore project,“ said a source.
The defence ministry will issue a global tender for construction of the NWM, which involves a landscape-type memorial around the `chhatri' (canopy) near India Gate and “retaining walls“ with the names of martyrs. The NWM will be largely underground.

Maha Poll-itics

The foundation stone ceremony for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro is likely to be held on Sunday, days before the election code is expected to kick in. Work on the 32.5 km Mumbai Metro Line 3 (ML3 or Metro III), though, is not likely to commence anytime before December. The Democratic Front government, in which the Congress and the NCP are in coalition, is keen to be seen as having set the project rolling before the assembly election this year. Metro 3 is a fully under ground corridor with 26 stations from Cuffe Parade to the Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone (Seepz) through Worli, Bandra and the airport. The project implementation period is seven years. The depot site is in Aarey Colony, north of the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road. The tenders for the depot are to be finalized soon but the pre-qualifications bids may get clearance later. The MMRCL will execute the Rs.23,136 crore project on a cash contract basis.
The corridor will provide connectivity to several areas not served by the suburban railway network or other mass transit systems, such as Kalbadevi, Girgaon, Worli, Bandra-Kurla Complex, the airport, Andheri MIDC and Seepz. Metro III will also connect the major central business districts of Nariman Point, BKC, Andheri MIDC and Seepz. It will have interchanges with all major public transport modes, namely Central and Western railways, Metro I, Monorail Phase 2 and bus terminals.

Maharashtra's Nutrition Mission

Maharashtra's `Nutrition Mission', a programme aiming to curb malnutrition in young children particularly under the age of two, has garnered lavish applause on the international stage for the major gains it has made.
The scheme has reduced chronic malnutrition (stunting) across income groups in children aged under two from 39% in 2005-06 to 23% in 2012. Because of it, severe chronic malnutrition has declined from 15% in 2005-06 to 8% in 2012.
“Unicef has acknowledged the programme as by far the best model across countries and the best in India,“ chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said. Aside from the Unicef report, which was vetted by the England-based Institute of Development Studies, the programme came in for praise from the world's leading medical journal Lancet.The publication mentioned it as a case study on how leadership, governance and coordination can contribute to reducing malnutrition.
State public health minister Suresh Shetty was recently invited by the Harvard School of Medicine to make a presentation on the state government's successful `Nutrition Mission'. The scheme has helped the Maharashtra improve child survival by focusing on management of low birth weight babies and by spreading awareness about the right feeding practices for infants, their hygiene and better maternal care. Chavan said the success is illustrated by the 30% decline in infant mortality rate, which dropped from 36 deaths per 1,000 in 2005 to 25 deaths per 1,000 in 2011.
The Unicef report states, “This (malnutrition decline) is faster than any recent country level trend… The decline is even more remarkable given that the state’s performance in reducing chronic malnutrition between 1992 and 2006 was lower than the all-India average. To put the recent decline in a national context, if India posted a ten percentage point decline in chronic malnutrition over the same period, the number of stunted children aged under five would decline from 60 million to 45 million.” The change has occurred, it adds, not due to rises in budgetary spend but because of systemic changes in tackling malnutrition.
Rajlaxmi Nair, a nutrition specialist with Unicef (which partnered in the mission), said many states are approaching Maharashtra to understand how it improved the nutrition level of its children and mothers. Maharashtra has already achieved its Millennium Development Goal for maternal mortality rate, which now stands at 87 deaths per 1 lakh.
The Unicef report says that access to water and sanitation are still a challenge. “The state’s public expenditure on health is one of the lowest in India: 18th out of 19 states at 0.55% of GSDP… The health environment appears to be the weak link in the nutrition chain.”


Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren became the third non-BJP CM to be booed by BJP workers in the presence of PM Narendra Modi at a function in Ranchi to inaugurate a couple of power-related projects and an oil terminal. The crowd jeered the JMM leader as soon as he rose to address the gathering and started chants of “Modi, Modi“. The PM himself raised his hands to urge the people to calm down. Local BJP leaders tried to pacify them, but were ignored. “What happened today was the rape of the federal structure of the country ,“ Soren said. “But this appears to have become a trend at Modi's programmes in non-BJP ruled states now.“
Prior to this, Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda were heckled by BJP supporters when they shared dais with Modi at official functions. On Thursday , Chavan stayed away from a function at Nagpur which he was scheduled to attend along with the PM. Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren became the third non-BJP chief minister to be heckled by BJP supporters when he shared the dais with PM Narendra Modi on Thursday.
Fearing the possibility of a repeat of what had happened to Hooda and Chavan, Soren had on Wednesday made an informal request to the PMO, urging it to ensure that such incidents didn’t recur in Ranchi.
JMM central general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said: “This is unacceptable and the party will henceforth greet all central ministers with black flags and boycott their functions.” The opposition parties, too, condemned the action of the BJP workers.
“The BJP has publicly humiliated the chief ministers of Jharkhand and other pollbound states — Haryana and Maharashtra — in a conspiracy to create a poor image of the chief ministers,” JPCC chief Sukhdeo Bhagat said.

The BJP reminded the Congress chief ministers not to breach constitutional propriety and desist from playing politics as it termed the decision of Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and others to boycott PM Narendra Modi's functions as `unfortunate'. Taking potshots at the opposition party , BJP said its CMs should not suffer from `complex' due to the Modi's `popularity' among the masses. The BJP said the PM cannot stop people from speaking out their mind publicly and asked the Congress not to play politics on the issue. “They (CMs in poll-bound states) should take care not to breach constitutional propriety,“ BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said.
BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “This kind of negative politics will not help the Congress.“


Somewhere in Bihar....

Of Sales of Petrol & Diesel Vehicles....

BKS Iyengar: 1918-2014

Digital India Programme

The Union Cabinet approved the ambitious Digital India programme that aims to connect all gram panchayats by broadband internet, promote e-governance and transform India into a connected knowledge economy. The Programme, which would be implemented in a phased manner by 2019, is estimated to cost about Rs.113,000 crore, including ongoing schemes being run by the telecom department and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), as well as on new schemes “Digital India is a program to prepare India for a knowledge future,“ says a presentation on the program to the cabinet by DeitY.
“The focus is on making technology central to enabling change“. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had listed Digital India as among the top priorities for the new BJP-led central government, while delivering his maiden Independence Day speech on August 15.
The vision of the programme is centred on three key areas: digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen ­ digital identity, mobile phone and bank account, safe & secure cyber space; governance & services on demand ­ services available in real time on online and mobile platform, making financial transactions electronic and cashless, & digital empowerment of citizens ­ all documents, certificates available on cloud.
Digital India envisages connecting 2.5 lakh villages by broadband and phones, reduce import of telecom imports to zero, wi-fi in 2.5 lakh schools, all universities, public wi-fi hotspots for citizens and creating 1.7 crore direct and 8.5 crore indirect jobs. Other impact points include training 1.7 crore citizens for IT, telecom and electronics jobs, and delivering e-governance and e-services.
A monitoring committee on execution of the Digital India program, to be headed by the Prime Minister as chairman of the panel, will be set up. Other members of the panel will include ministers of finance, communications & IT, research & development, human resources development, and health. Special invitees to the panel will include principal secretary to the PM, Cabinet secretary, secretaries of expenditure, planning, DoT and Posts. The DeitY secretary will be the convenor of the panel. The government however needs to tackle issues such as revamping of the National Informatics Centre which is “not equipped for a fraction of this task“, the presentation pointed out. It also said that the DeitY needs at least four more senior officers to act as program managers.

NaMu Airport snippets

Cidco, the nodal body overseeing the Navi Mumbai airport project, has once again extended the final date to respond to initial call for bids for the airport. The last date has now been postponed to October 30, from September 2 earlier. Earlier, the deadline had been postponed to that date from June 18. Sources said six companies, including Spain's Ferrovial, Munich Airport, Tata Realty and Infrastructure, IL&FS and Essel Infrastructure, wrote to Cidco for an extension of the last date, citing a variety of reasons.
For instance, Ferrovial said while its negotiations with a local partner had progressed, it wasn't feasible enough to reach an agreement with them before the due date of application in September, according to a person close to the matter. Ferrovial has been in talks with Tata Realty for the project. Munich Airports said this was the first time it was planning to bid outside a project in Germany and that the board approval would take time, said the person. He added that Munich had asked for three months of extension, but Cidco finally decided two months would be enough. The extension has automatically pushed back the date of announcing the pre-qualified bidders by two months to the end of December.
In all, 20 companies, including GMR, Mumbai International Airport, Tata Realty and Infrastructure Projects and Spanish airport operator Ferrovial, were part of the pre-bid meeting which happened on April 2.
The Navi Mumbai airport has already been delayed for several years first because of environmental clearances and then later due to troubles in acquiring land, an issue that has still not been completely resolved. The government had given an initial nod to set up the airport in 2007. It was supposed to be completed by 2015, but is now aimed to be finished by December 2018. Planned as an alternative to the clogging Mumbai airport, the Rs.14,573crore Navi Mumbai airport project is likely to be completed in four phases. The airport will spread across 2,867 acres, with a terminal building covering 5,23,000 square metres and two parallel runways.

Hinjewadi set to be part of PCMC

The residents of Hinjewadi village and thousands of people who work in the Rajiv Gandhi IT park can expect better roads and civic amenities as the village gram panchayat has decided to merge with the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. The villagers came around after opposing the merger for several years.Hinjewadi, which is located to the south of Pimpri Chinchwad, is known as a major IT Park with over 50 companies and other establishments based here.
Sagar Sakhare, sarpanch of Hinjewadi gram panchayat, said a gram sabha was called on August 15 to decide on the matter. Vasant Sakhare announced the proposal which was supported by a majority of people. The sarpanch said that the panchayat members would meet PCMC municipal commissioner Rajiv Jadhav very soon. Deputy sarpanch Shyamrao Hulawale said, “There were two groups -one that favoured an immediate merger while the other wanted the PCMC to approach the villagers. The resolution for immediate merger was passed with a majority.'' Hulawale said, “The population of the village is 11,488 as per 2011 census. But it increases to around 40,000 if one considers the employees, contractual workers and others working in the IT park. A number of new housing schemes too are coming up. This puts a tremendous pressure on the gram panchayat to provide water, garbage clearance, drainage and other civic amenities. Earlier the requirement of drinking water was five lakh litre which has now rose to 20 lakh litres per day. The increased population has put a strain on the existing drainage network.“
Hulawale said the villagers expect better civic amenities once the merger materialises. The gram panchayat gets taxes from the IT park occupants for providing amenities. Now, the PCMC will collect these taxes, said Hulawale. Sakhare said the villagers want good roads, ade quate water, streetlights and better drainage facilities.“The gram panchayat is also unable to take effective action to curb unauthorized constructions which we expect the PCMC will be able to check. We are hoping for a planned development in the village,“ Sakhare said.
D D Bhojane, rural development officer, Hinjewadi, said, “The state rural development department and urban development department will take a final decision about the merger.“

Violence in the North East

Two persons were killed and at least seven injured in Golaghat town in Assam after police fired to stop an armed mob of thousands from attacking a police station. The administration clamped an indefinite curfew in Golaghat district and called out the Army to help restore peace and normalcy.
The mob beat up an assistant sub-inspector and a constable before attempting to storm the Sadar police station in retaliation to Tuesday’s police lathi charge to clear the economic blockade imposed by different groups on NH-39 against Nagaland. The mob also torched at least eight police vehicles on the highway, besides a few goods carrying trucks stranded since August 14 due to the economic blockade.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the government would institute an inquiry by a retired high court judge into the police firing. On August 12 and 13, Naga miscreants, aided by NSCN(IM) cadre, raided several border villages in Assam, killing 14 and setting hundreds of houses on fire.
Tripathi said Gogoi and Nagaland chief minister T R Zeliang will meet in Guwahati on Thursday. MoS for home Kiren Rijiju is also scheduled to be present at the meeting along with DONER minister Lt Gen (retd) V K Singh, who arrived in the city on Wednesday. The border dispute between the two states is awaiting a solution from the Supreme Court after Assam filed a petition in 1988, seeking a settlement. While the Assam government wants no change in the current border demarcation, which is a constitutional boundary, Nagaland refuses to accept this and instead wants to follow the historical boundary that was demarcated before colonial rule.
Since 1979, the Centre has brought the Disputed Area Border under its control and posted Assam Rifles as a neutral force to maintain law and order. The force was later replaced by the CRPF. Gogoi said the state government had no control on the border and the CRPF had failed to do its duty.

Didi in Singapore

It was a fruitful day for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Singapore as five MoUs were signed in her target sectors -food processing, IT, entertainment, training and home furnishing. One of the big gains of Wednesday was that Scomi Engineering -the monorail operator in Sao Paulo, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai -announced its intention to have a footprint in the City of Joy, particularly when the government wants such a project in Rajarhat New Town.
The global monorail operator has already submitted an expression of interest to commerce and industries minister Amit Mitra, said company CEO K Veluppillai, adding that they are keen to develop the New Town project if the Bengal government gives it to them. The company isn't averse to participating in a global tender for monorail.“Whatever way the government wants, we will participate,“ he said.
Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had conceived the monorail project in 2004.A global tender was floated and top companies like Siemens, TGV and L&T responded but the plan had to be scrapped because of land problems. The Scomi CEO who participated in the investors' summit in Singapore pegged the Kolkata monorail project cost at Rs.2,000-Rs.2,500 crore. “The total investment in the Mumbai monorail was Rs.2,500 crore. This project could have a similar cost,“ said Veluppillai. Scomi has a joint venture with L&T for the Mumbai monorail. The CEO indicated that it might have a local partner for the Kolkata one as well.
In more good news, Keventer Agro Ltd and InfraCo Asia, Singapore, signed an MoU for the Food Park at Dankuni. The total investment will be Rs.1,000 crore with an FDI component of Rs.300 crore.INFRACO is an infrastructure development com pany headquartered in Singapore and seeks to create viable infrastructure investment opportunities in low-income developing countries of South and South East Asia.
INFRACO directly contributes development capital and arranges project debt and equity capital from third parties, as well as other INFRACO affiliate programmes, Keventer MD Mayank Jalan said.
The Sarda Group signed an MoU with IT firm Axsys Technologies Ltd. and Compass Energy Pte Ltd., Singapore, for collaboration on solutions in ship building and oil and gas exploration. “The Axsys-Compass combine is expected to generate combine is expected to generate additional employment of about 200 persons in the Sector-V area immediately and another additional 500-600 persons over the next two years,“ Ghanshyam Sarda, the chairman of Sarda Group said.
Obeetee, a Luxmi Group subsidiary that recently acquired Mokaibari Tea signed an MoU with Williams Sonoma Inc. to identify and promote textiles and crafts with a goal of achieving revenue of $10 m per year.
The initiative involves manufacturing of home furnishings products in Bengal and retailing them internationally through Williams Sonoma stores (pottery, Barn, West Elm, etc). “West Bengal has a unique heritage in textiles and home furnishing and William Sonoma and Obeetee designers and management can partner and ensure that these products are made highly acclaimed globally,” Obetee MD Rudra Chatterjee said.
Mamata also wanted an agreement between Ravi Auto group and Sanderson Group for an amusement park at an estimated investment of Rs.125 crore. It will create direct and indirect employment for about 800 people. Some of their well known projects include Warner Bros. Movie World (Australia), Sea World (Australia), Universal Studio (Sentosa Island, Singapore), Disney Sea (Tokyo) and Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon.
The last MOU was signed between Bengal Aerotropolis and Changi Airports International to explore the opportunity for setting up an aviation training academy in the state.

Andhra plans Mega Water Grid

The Andhra Pradesh government has  announced that it would form a mega water grid on the lines of Gujarat with a cost of Rs.30,000 crore to ensure drinking and irrigation water supply in rural areas and for industrial needs in the state. Panchayat raj minister Ch Ayyana Patrudu said about 154 tmc of water would be drawn from Godavari, Krishna, Penna and other sub-rivers in the states by reserving river water which flows into the ocean. “The government will also appoint an expert committee to fix the modalities and guidelines to build the grid. Since AP has more water resources than Gujarat, we will develop a system where each zone, like north coastal Andhra, coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema will have separate grids,“ the minister said.
The huge budget required for this will be sought from external aid agencies like World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The government will also form a water corporation to take care of drinking water supply and industrial needs in the state. “We are expecting the grid to be operational within four years,“ Ayyanna Patrudu said. The government is planning to launch the works from Chittoor.
On the other hand, the NTR Sujala Sravanti scheme that provides 20 litres of safe packaged drinking water to rural areas will be operated by self help groups.The scheme to be implemented from October 2 from Anantapur district will cover 5,000 gram panchayats initially. Officials have identified 1,185 villages in these panchayats as fluoride-hit, hence the scheme will provide relief to them. According to the minister, 20 industries have come forward to set up the water purifying units. The government has agreed to exempt these units from value added tax and provide power on subsidy.

GST update

State finance ministers have pressed for lowering the threshold limit to Rs.10 lakh for imposing goods and service tax (GST) on entities and asked the Centre to specify GST compensation structure for five years in the Constitutional Amendment Bill. The Empowered Committee of state finance ministers, which met to deliberate on various issues connected with GST rollout, regretted that it has yet to hear the response of Centre on the structure of the new tax regime proposed by it. “So far as shape of GST is concerned, we have made recommendation to Central government after the last meeting. Government has not responded yet,“ Empowered Committee chairman Abdul Rahim Rather told reporters.
The state FMs had proposed to keep products such as petroleum, tobacco and alcohol out of GST ambit and had demanded that the exemption list be included in the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

India's ambitious plans to reform the indirect tax regime through a goods and services tax (GST) took a few significant steps forward with the Centre and states agreeing on the details of its structure. GST seeks to replace a multitude of indirect taxes with one, removing barriers to movement of goods and services across state boundaries and turning the country into a single market. This would improve efficiency, reduce delays and bump up the GDP by 1-2%.The tax, which was to have been rolled out from FY11, is stuck because the Centre has not been able to convince states that they'll be adequately compensated for revenue they lose as levies imposed are scrapped. On Wednesday, the empowered committee of state finance ministers decided the threshold for the levy of the tax. “It was decided that Rs.10 lakh in respect of general category of states and Rs.5 lakh for special category and north` eastern states,“ Jammu and Kashmir finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather, who heads the empowered committee on GST, told reporters after a meeting of the panel on Wednesday.
This means GST will be levied on all retailers and service providers with a turnover of more than Rs.10 lakh in general category states and Rs.5 lakh in special category states. This removes a key stumbling block in the finalisation of the GST structure and is expected to speed up the talks on implementation of the tax reform, though significant differences still persist. GST will replace service tax, excise, state value added tax and a number of other local levies. The new government has already signaled its intent to take GST forward and has said it will address all concerns of the states.
The levy will have two components -central GST and state GST. There are differences between the Centre and states over control of central GST.States want to have legal control of central GST up to a limit of Rs.1.5 crore. But the Centre is only willing to give up administrative control. Above the Rs.1.5crore limit, dual control is prescribed, on which there are no differences.
“The discussions on letting the state governments take administrative responsibility for those having turnover up to Rs 1.5 crore would provide relief to millions of small businesses that were concerned about having to deal with multiple authorities under GST,“ Jain said. Both sides are expected to finalise these issues soon. A panel appointed by the empowered committee with representation from the Centre and states has been tasked to iron out these issues.
The empowered committee also decided on harmonisation of exempted items under current tax regimes at the Centre and states. As many as 245 items have excise exemption, while only 96 are exempted from state VAT.
Rather said it may be difficult to immediately harmonise the list but both sides have to work in that direction.There was still no consensus on petroleum, which states want to keep out of the GST. The Centre wants petroleum to be included within the GST framework. It has suggested that states can levy additional state VAT besides GST but states are not keen.On the constitutional amendment required for GST, Rather said he was hopeful that it would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. The amendment will give rights to the Centre to tax goods at retail level and states to tax services. States, however, want compensation for any revenue loss that they may incur to be incorporated in the bill. Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa had written to the Centre recently saying that the existing bill was unacceptable to the state.Rather said Tamil Nadu's concerns are likely to be met through an effective compensation mechanism.
This was the first meeting of the empowered committee after the presentation of the budget by the new Narendra Modi-led government and was being keenly watched for positive signals.“The debate whether to introduce GST must now come to an end. We have discussed the issue for the past many years,“ Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had said in his July 10 budget speech.The opposition to the tax stemmed largely from BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. As a precursor to GST, the Centre and states had agreed to phase out central sales tax (CST) -collected by the Centre and distributed among states -from April 2007 over three years. Consequently, the CST rate was reduced to 3% and then to 2%. Rather said states are expecting to hear from the Centre on compensation for the phasing out of CST. He said the compensation due to states for 2010-11 is pegged at Rs.13,000 crore while it is yet to be calculated for 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The government is set to start a major initiative to get states on board to launch the good & services tax (GST) with finance minister Arun Jaitley expected to initiate a dialogue to iron out issues blocking the country’s most ambitious indirect tax reform. The move comes as the finance ministry is readying details of the compensation formula. Government officials said there are three key areas where states and the Centre have divergent views.
The states are keen to retain entry taxes while the finance ministry opposes it. Similarly, the Centre wants alcohol and petroleum products within the ambit of GST. The third area of disagreement is the demand from states that the Constitutional amendment should clearly spell out the compensation mechanism. The officials said apart from discussions at the empowered committee level, revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das has also met officials from some of the states to look at ways to narrow the differences.
Jaitley is expected to hold political-level consultations as the Centre is keen to launch GST since it doesn’t want to postpone the decision to 2016 when the pay commission’s recommendations are expected to be ready, making it difficult to find the resources. Discussions are on to find the resources from within the tax measures to fund compensation to states, without putting a burden on the Union government. “The compensation mechanism will be worked out soon. The finance ministry is working on the funding sources, method of compensation and the governance structure,” said a state government official, familiar with the discussion.
The empowered committee of state finance ministers, which met on Wednesday in the Capital, had managed to evolve consensus on a handful of issues but differences remain on a number of areas. On Wednesday, the empowered committee agreed to lower the threshold for imposing the tax to Rs.10 lakh from the earlier Rs. 25 lakh and wants the Union government to spell out the compensation details in the Constitution Amendment Bill. Differences exist on the states’ demand to collect taxes on businesses with a turnover of Rs. 1.5 crore.
“On most issues we are confident of a consensus,” said a government official, signaling the government’s intention to move ahead with the crucial reform. The finance ministry is also holding dialogue with state government officials to narrow the differences. States want petroleum products and alcohol to be kept out of the GST mechanism.

Somewhere in Kerala....

In a quiet start that has the potential to revolutionize the way kids are taught, a school run by a Muslim educational organization in Kerala's Palakkad district has completely replaced textbooks with tablets for Class 8-12 students from this academic year. Other schools in the state may soon follow the example set by Muslim Educational Society International School, Pattambi. “We have given 552 tablets to students from classes VIII to XII and students have been asked not to carry textbooks to school. This has improved the teachinglearning process as everything can be visually explained,“ said school principal Asha Byju. To reduce possibility of misuse, the school has also developed a programme by which teachers can monitor the content students are viewing. They now plan to introduce tablets from classes IV to VII from the next academic year.
Various school principals take pains to point out that tablets are not another cool toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with multiple educational applications.“Tablets are set to change the way we teach, as students can have easy access to extra in formation. Also this will reduce the school bag load,“ said Sunitha Sateesh, principal, The Choice School, Kochi. Her school will introduce tablets from next year.

Hyundai's Elite i20

Telecom tattle

Highways in the times of UPA 2

Of Coins & Notes....

Data on notes and coins issued by the RBI in the past 13 years shows interesting changes. In 2000-01, the bank issued 10.8 billion 100-rupee notes. This category had the highest value for all notes and coins issued in that year. It was followed by 500-rupee notes, valued at 529 billion. In 2012-13, the total value of all 500-rupee notes issued was 5,360 billion, nearly four times the value of 100-rupee notes issued in the year.The note category which saw the greatest increase in this period is the 1000-rupee note, which had a value of 37 billion in 2000-01 and 4,299 billion 13 years later.


Nirmal Mumbai Abhiyan

Irom Sharmila freed after 14 years

A local court on Tuesday ordered the release of human rights campaigner Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for the last 14 years, saying there was not enough ground to prove she was trying to kill herself.
Sharmila, 42, has been demanding the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that gives military sweeping powers to search and detain anyone suspected to be involved in an armed revolt in the remote north-eastern state of Manipur.
She was kept under arrest in a state-run hospital and force-fed by tubes. On Tuesday, a court in the state capital, Imphal, ordered that the charge of attempting suicide be dropped and Sharmila be freed.
Joshy Joseph, a filmmaker whose 2009 documentary `While gods took to dancing' was based on Sharmila, described Tuesday's verdict as a “moral victory“. He also expressed concern about the “erosion of support base“ for Sharmila's struggle in Imphal.
Sharmila was 28 when she launched a hunger strike against the draconian act. She was arrested in November 2000 and charged with attempt to commit suicide.

AAI suffers losses on 93 airports

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been incurring losses on 93 of its airports, even as the state-owned agency plans to build and operate 50 low-cost airports in the country in the next few years. The overall plan, according to the latest Economy Survey of the newly-elected BJP government, is to build 200 budget airports in the next 20 years. It runs a total of 125 airports in the country. For 2012-13, AAI's loss stood at Rs.1,547 crore on airports such as Amritsar, Aurangabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Varanasi and Bhopal apart from many small ones, according to the latest government figures. The loss was up 41% over the previous year.
Overall, AAI made a net profit of Rs.738 crore for the financial year ` 2012-13, but that was because of . 935 crore worth of shared revenue from privatised airports such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The figures for FY14 weren't available, but sources said AAI would have incurred a loss last year as well. Some of these 93 airports are on AAI's account even though no airline operates flights to them.Others have suffered a loss in traffic due to capacity cuts by the carriers. Growing losses have forced India's airlines to decrease flights and even drop cities from their network. Their financial condition has also left little room for them to experiment with new air routes and destinations.

Varishta Pension Bima Yojana 2.0

Plan Panel 2.0

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought suggestions from the public for the new entity that will replace the 64-year-old Nehru-era Planning Commission, days after he scrapped the body that charts out five-year growth plans. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the PM has invited ideas from the people on what shape the new institution can take to replace the Planning Commission. A special open forum has been created on the website mygov.nic.in for suggestions on the new institution. “We envision the proposed institution as one that caters to the aspirations of 21st century India and strengthens participation of the states….Let the ideas flow,” the PM said.
The government had finalized the name of the mega financial inclusion package, Jan Dhan, which Modi unveiled on August 15 through a contest on the MyGov portal. It has emerged as a crucial platform for interacting with the PM and sharing innovative ideas on various issues. The PM has so far used social media to communicate with the people.
Sources said the contours of the new entity were still being worked out and the PM had only announced the scrapping of the plan panel. Modi, in his maiden Independence Day speech, had said the Planning Commission, a Soviet era relic, would be replaced by a new entity, which would have representation from states. “So, I am saying from the rampart of the Red Fort that it is a very old system and it will have to be rejuvenated, it will have to be changed a lot. Sometimes it costs more to repair the old house, but, it gives us no satisfaction.“Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the Planning Commission with a new institution ....,“ the PM had said, adding that the it would be a “new body with a new soul and new thinking.“
The announcement marked the end of the Five year Plans that was a key feature of governance in India since 1950 when the Planning Commission was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first Prime Minister. The current FiveYear Plan (2012-2017) would be implemented and the new entity would chalk out the future direction. Some of the functions and responsibilities of the commission are expected to be handed over to the finance ministry. More than 1,500 employees of the plan panel are anxious about their status.
The Planning Commission, headed by a deputy chairman, and reporting to the PM, played a crucial role in the distribution of resources but has faced stinging criticism in recent years for losing its relevance. Critics have said it was a “parking lot for cronies” and had limited impact in a market economy.
Former Power minister Suresh Prabhu has emerged as the front-runner to be the deputy chairman of the revamped Planning Commission. Sources have said the BJP may opt for the Shiv Sena politician and the architect of electricity sector reforms to be the deputy chairman of the commission, although there are other contenders. Prabhu is currently heading an advisory body in the power ministry. Congress on Tuesday slammed PM Narendra Modi's announcement to wind up the Planning Commission as “knee-jerk and half baked decision“, saying he had dealt a blow to federalism.AICC spokesman Anand Sharma said the fact that Modi has now called for suggestions on an alternative to the Plan panel shows he has no plan. “The PM should have taken on board the views of chief ministers before taking such a decision. He should have called a meeting of the National Development Council to discuss it,“ he said.
Meanwhile, criticizing the move, CPM said this is an “arbitrary and ad hoc move that will only facilitate the further private capital profit maximization at the expense of curtailing even the existing meagre resource allocation for peoples' welfare programmes.“

Goregaon-Mulund Link Road snippets

The BMC is about to start work on tendering for the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road (GMLR), the last and the longest of the city's three planned east-west links. The 16 km GMLR will comprise a 9 km elevated road from Saki Vihar to beyond LBS Road in Mulund, and the 7 km Aarey road from Western Express Highway to Saki Vihar, which will be widened and re-laid with cement concrete. The other two eastwest connectors, JogeshwariVikroli and Santacruz-Chembur Link Roads, are 10.8 and 6.45 km long and were opened in March. GMLR is expected to give much-needed relief to the congested WEH.
Tenders will be invited in three months and work is expected to start in six months.The planned alignment is such that BMC officials hope the project to be implemented without hiccups: there will not be any issues of land acquisition, re-settlement, green cover destruction or socio-political intervention. As per an earlier plan, the road was proposed to pass through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and thus got stuck in clearances. Also, the work would have been costly and time-consuming as a portion of the route would have required the construction of a tunnel. “The land for the proposed route is owned by the BMC and so there will be no hurdles. We have changed the plan in such a way that 300-400 trees would be saved and a few would be replanted. Thus there will be no green-cover destruction,” said additional municipal commissioner (roads) SVR Srinivas.
At present, Aarey road is riddled with potholes, which the BMC plans to start filling soon. “I have instructed the local ward to repair the road. After civic takeover of the road, toll collection has been stopped and the toll post demolished. In the first phase, we will turn it into a four-lane road and later widen it to six lanes,” Srinivas said.
Till Monday, the road was with the dairy development department and maintained by the public works department. 

Congress denied LOp

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected the Congress' demand for the post of leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. “I have gone by rules and tradition,“ Mahajan told reporters. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had sought LoP status for Mallikarjun Kharge. The Congress is the second largest LS group with 44 MPs after the BJP's 282, but doesn't have a 10th of the total strength.


India Inc Queues up to Invest in Toilets

The prime minister's Independence Day speech exhorted India Inc to adopt the mission of providing modern sanitation facilities nationwide. Just as the IDay weekend got over, India Inc promised to spend big money to clean up India. TCS, Bharti, HUL, Aditya Birla Group, ITC, Adani and Dabur are among major companies that announced big CSR spends or promised to upgrade existing programmes for building sanitation facilities, especially for girl students and women in rural India.
These announcements and promises look substantial. TCS, India's largest software services firm, said it will spend Rs.100 crore building sanitation facilities for girl students in 10,000 schools.
Bharti promised a Rs.100-crore budget, too, but kept the focus on Ludhiana. The Punjab district of Ludhiana is the home base for Bharti's founders, the Mittals. The company has named its CSR initiative, which will be run by the Bharti Foundation, `Satya Bharti Abhiyan'.
Gujarat-headquartered Adani Group said its already existing CSR project on sanitation in Gujarat will be extended to states where the group is present -Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. It also said Adani Foundation will look at new states for this CSR project.
The Aditya Birla Group's CSR arm -Aditya Birla Centre -plans to build 10,000 facilities this year, the centre's head Rajashree Birla said. States in focus are MP, UP, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
FMCG major HUL plans to construct 24,000 facilities by 2015, the company said. This is a branded CSR activity -the initiative is being powered by the Domex Toilet Academy launched nine months ago; Domex is HUL's toilet cleaner brand.
ITC also plans to build 10,000 facilities, hoping to hit this target by next year. It is strengthening its current CSR activity in this area, ITC said, adding 800-plus facilities for low-income households had been built in the last financial year in areas adjoining ITC factories in several states.
Dabur's CSR arm Subdesh, the company said, already has rural sanitation as one of its priorities.The focus will be stronger. Fifty facilities in five villages have been made the first target. Dabur said its goal is to build 80-100 facilities a year.
India's record in providing proper sanitation is abysmal. According to census data, almost 70%-plus rural households lack any facility. Even in India's cities, one out of five households does not have in-house sanitation facility. Narendra Modi, as the Gujarat chief minister, had launched Nirmal Gujarat, a sanitation provision campaign that had received good response from the state's companies.
The PM's stress on clean public spaces is well known. His `toilets before temples' remark as chief minister had made headlines and his speeches frequently make equate prosperity and progress with clean public spaces.

Trade snippets: July 2014

Exports rose for the fourth straight month in July , benefiting from a stronger global economy , and non-oil, non-gold imports gathered pace, offering another sign that the economy is looking up. Exports during the month increased 7.3% to $27.73 billion and imports went up 4.25% to $40 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $12.2 billion, the highest since July last year. Trade deficit was $11.76 billion in June and $12.5 billion in July last year.
Rise in exports was largely driven by key manufacturing exports--engineering (23.9%), leather (17.23%), pharma (10.78%), textiles (13.3%)--and petroleum exports (28.1%). However, exports of gems and jewellery fell 17.42% despite easing of gold import norms. July saw higher order flows into India mainly on account of an improvement in the US economy , which accounts for about 10% of India's exports.
The government is expected to announce a five-year foreign trade policy (2014-19) by end of month that will not only focus on enhancing exports, but also boosting domestic manufacturing. The first four months of the fiscal saw an 8.6% cumulative growth in exports.
Higher import of petroleum and electronic goods added to the $40 billion import bill, widening the trade gap. India imported $1.9 billion of gold in July, down 26% from the year-ago month. In June, gold import had touched $3.3 billion.
India's current account deficit, which had touched a historic high of 4.7% of GDP in 2012-13, narrowed sharply to 1.7% of the GDP in 2013-14 after the UPA government raised customs duty on gold from 2% to 10% in stages, and the RBI brought in the stringent 80:20 rule for imports.
Non-oil non-gold imports were up 4.5%, suggesting a pickup in domestic economy as suggested by higher industrial production growth of 3.9% in the first quarter.

The Monsoons in Maharashtra

After almost two months of the monsoon, Maharashtra has reported a total water stock at 61% of the capacity , mainly because of the delayed rains. Information shared by state authorities show that the Konkan and Pune divisions have comparatively better water stock in the dams compared to the rest of Maharashtra. The situation in Marathwada remains critical, with the region's current water stock at merely 19%. The region is known for frequent drought-like situations and severe water scarcity .Maharashtra generally receives its first monsoon showers on June 7 and within the next few weeks, rains cover the entire state. This year, the monsoons arrived in Maharashtra only in the latter half of June and early showers were not intense, said officials in the state water resources department.
Divisions like Pune and Konkan are divided by the Sahyadri mountain ranges, starting from the Dang district in Gujarat till Kolhapur in Maharashtra. The ranges further go on till Kerala to form the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are one of the primary reasons for heavy downpour in the Konkan and Pune divisions. The Konkan division has received good showers this year, taking the current storage to 89% of the total capacity of 58.50 TMC. Dams in the Konkan region are not used for agricultural purposes, but they are mostly used for drinking water and hydroelectric power generation.
The Pune division has 368 small, medium and large dams, with total storage capacity of 362.5 TMC. The current water stock in these dams is 276.84 TMC, which is 76% of the total storage capacity . Dams like Koyna and Ujani are the largest ones.Koyna dam has a capacity of 105 TMC, while Ujani's storage capacity is 115 TMC. The other major dams are Varasgaon, Panshet and Warna.
Officials in the state agriculture commissionerate said, “The situation is worrisome for parts of Pune division, in many parts of Nashik division and the entire Marathwada region, because the cultivated area is currently facing an acute water shortage. Aurangabad, Nanded, Parbhani, Nashik, Ahmednagar and Solapur are key districts in these regions with a lot of agricultural land of high yield. The rainfall in the region is still inadequate and dams too do not have enough water that can be help irrigation.“
The Bhimashankar range in Pune and Nashik and another range in Ahmednagar district have not received good rains. The biggest river of the state Godavari does not have sufficient water for Ahmednagar and several districts in Marathwada.
The state government has already declared 123 tehsils in the state as water scarcity-hit areas and offered some relief in revenue and electricity bills. But farmers need rains and water now for the survival of crops grown in the field.

Of the Congress' Debacle....

Putting the blame for Congress's defeat on the Manmohan Singh government, an in-house inquiry is learnt to have found inflation as the reason for the party's worst ever performance in Lok Sabha elections. The A K Antony committee is also learnt to have listed indiscipline, corruption and media as the factors that contributed to the collapse of Congress government.
Price rise, which dogged the entire tenure of UPA-2, drove voters away from Congress, the panel is learnt to have said. Almost every leader from states that the probe panel interacted with is learnt to have told the Antony panel that persistently high food prices neutralized the effect that Congress campaign was supposed to have on its supporters and middle class. The picking on inflation, a direct indictment of the government, comes alongside the panel calling the defeat a collective failure and absolving key party campaigners of responsibility.
According to sources, there is also stress on how the perception of corruption against the UPA killed its chances with voters. The three-year-long NDA campaign over various scams, especially 2G, dented the credibility of the Congress regime beyond repair. While inflation and corruption are known reasons for the rout that blew away the ruling party, sources said the Antony panel has also pointed out that indiscipline cost the Congress dearly.The split between chief ministers and party presidents and general factionalism in state units prevented the party from pulling in one direction. Infighting was a feature of UPA government in the form of turf wars among central ministers that virtually jammed policymaking and presented UPA-2 as a divided house.
Also, the refusal of various leaders to contest elections, like party biggie and UPA’s finance minister P Chidambaram, hurt the party’s prospects. The Antony panel also listed media as a reason for the Congress debacle. The focus on one man, Narendra Modi, squeezed Congress out of the game of projection, feel Congressmen.