Indian Railways

Maggi: Welcome Back

Q2 GDP statz

Climate Change Numbers

Global Solar Alliance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande will launch a global solar alliance on Monday to kick off the two-week long UN-sponsored climate change negotiations in Paris. India has been the key force working to bring together 120 odd countries for International Agency for Solar Technologies & Applications (INSTA), marking its commitment to both collaborative action and adopting a cleaner development path.
Described as potentially a “true game changer“ by host France's ambassador for climate change Laurence Tubiana, the solar alliance indicates India is interested in moving away from traditional fossil fuel energy systems. To this end, it is looking at collaborations, and not handouts or aid, to make the transition. “The solar alliance brings together countries that have high solar resource, which have been relatively underexploited, and represents a large market for solar technology ,“ said Ajay Mathur, senior negotiator and India's principal spokesperson for the Paris summit. “The idea is that larger markets and bigger volumes will lead to lower costs making it possible to spur demand,“ he said.
The alliance will bring countries located within the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn on a single platform. These typically have high solar resource, some with as many as 300 days of sunshine. At the same time, many of these countries have high levels of energy poverty .The alliance proposes to bridge this gap. In doing so, it endeavours to address the lack of energy access, and create economic opportunities in a manner that is clean and sustainable. It will include countries from the African continent, China, Australia, United States, and host of the 2015 UN-sponsored climate change talks, France.The United Nations has keen interest to join the alliance as a founding member. India will organise a two-hour meeting in Paris on Tuesday to take the alliance forward.
INSTA will work to increase investments in solar technologies and applications that focus on income generation for the poor, particularly in rural areas. It will in partnership with member countries and other institutions develop projects and programmes to promote solar applications. Another important focus will be to develop innovative financial mechanism to access low cost, long tenure financial resources.
As part of its effort to drive down costs and increase the adoption of solar technologies, the alliance will focus on harmonisation of action, such as developing standards for products and processes, and procurement methods.
Lauding the alliance, a spokesperson of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organisation focused on transitioning to a sustainable energy future, said, “IRENA commends PM Modi and India for this initiative which further demonstrates a strong commitment to renewable energy . The agency looks forward to collaborating as the alliance takes further shape.“
New Delhi has already indicated it will commit about $90 million to set up the alliance headquarters in the country and to meet recurring costs for the first five years. The government is also working to build a corpus of about $400 million, drawn from membership fees, contributions from bilateral and multilateral agencies. It is reaching out to financial institutions like the LIC, SBI, as well as corporations like NTPC, ONGC, and Coal India to contribute to the corpus. The interest on the corpus will be used to meet the recurring cost.
“This alliance is a delivery institution, it doesn't propose to replicate existing institutions, but to supplement and complement them,“ said Upendra Tripathy , secretary at the ministry of new and renewable energy .
Experts say that such a collaborative effort will not only help curb emissions, but also help avoid future emissions. It is argued that increased access to energy through solar deployment will help countries by creating direct and indirect employment opportunities. It will be possible for micro, small, and medium enterprises that form the manufacturing backbone of the economy to augment its productivity in a manner that is clean and sustainable. The potential for gains are immense.
The idea is to create collaborative platforms for increased deployment of solar technologies to improve access to energy and create opportunities for better livelihoods, especially in rural and remote areas. The effort is to improve the standards of living in clean and sustainable manner. “The alliance will have innovative delivery and financial mechanism. It will run with projects and programmes in partnership with member countries and organisations,“ Tripathy said.
The alliance will work with partner countries to identify national opportunities to accelerate development and deployment of existing solar technologies. As partners, countries will choose the activities they want to pursue together.

Somewhere in Gujarat....


The vision document for the smart city project in Pune has been made available for citizens. People can give their suggestions and objections about the document.
The administration will submit the report to the government in the second week of December. The document has been uploaded on the website http:www.punesmartcity .in The report will be available on social media platforms both Twitter and Facebook. The work to draft this document started 90 days ago. People can share their views via WhatsApp on 9689900003. The option to give a missed call on 9767300111 is also available.
“People will be able to get the gist of this document on the website. Their suggestions and objections will be considered before a final draft is sent to the Union government,“ municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar told reporters. Kumar said the civic administration has planned initiative likes `urban innova tion lab' to find answers to key problems. The final 20 cities may receive funds by the end of this year.
The government will give them Rs.200 crore in the first year followed by Rs.100 crore each year for the next four years. Other cities that do not make it to the final list will be asked to show improvement in the identified areas before they can participate in the next two rounds of the competition.
Pune has been listed among 98 cities selected by the Union government for development under the Smart Cities Mission. As a pre-condition, Pune will have to prepare a city-level plan of its own, which will be evaluated in the second stage of the competition based on a broad set of criteria. At the end, the Union government will select 20 cities that will receive funds for this financial year.
Poor traffic and transport facilities have emerged as the biggest hurdles. Garbage disposal, water and sewage were other key issues that the administration has to solve.


Madhya Pradesh: Dynamic Growth

Of Jaitley & Chidu on Sec.377

Two top functionaries of BJP and Congress came out in support of gay rights, saying that the Supreme Court must reconsider its decision upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Speaking at the Times LitFest, finance minister Arun Jaitley and his predecessor P Chidambaram said the SC should not have reversed the Delhi high court order decriminalising consensual sex among gay adults. Jaitley said the SC's view was not in sync with the jurisprudential development on gay rights world over and added that the SC must review its 2013 judgment to do away with the penal provision in Section 377 as far as gay relationships are concerned.
“When millions of people world over are having alternative sexual preferences, it is too late in the day to propound a view that they should be jailed. The Delhi HC's view appears more acceptable,“ said Jaitley , the first leader from the government to have supported de-criminalisation of consensual sex among gay adults. Finance minister Arun Jaitley's comment on Saturday suggesting that the Supreme Court reconsider its decision upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, although made in his individual capacity , may revive the debate on an issue which many right wingers consider to be a taboo.
Speaking just afterwards, former finance minister P Chidambaram, who was also speaking in his personal capacity, said that the Delhi high court verdict decriminalising gay sex was a wonderful one and the Supreme Court should have stayed with it.
The finance minister was also critical of the SC's judgment scrapping the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). He said this judgment too needed to be reconsidered.
The Delhi high court's 2009 judgment decriminalising Section 377 to stop police harassment of adults of same sex having consensual sexual relationship in private was challenged in the SC by religious bodies. Shutting the small window for gay rights opened by the HC, the SC had in 2013 held that Section 377 providing punishment for gay sex was constitutionally valid.
The SC had in 2014 rejected petitions seeking review of its 2013 judgment. However, there still is a last theoretical chance or the SC to reconsider its 2013 judgment when it takes up curative petitions pointing out glaring legal infirmities in the verdict.
Jaitley said the 2013 judgment criminalising gay sex was reflection of the society's archaic view. “The court was not dealing with any personal aw and was on the issue of order of nature and the Delhi high court has held that it was not an offence. The SC took a very conservative approach on he issue and the judgment needs to be reconsidered,“ he said.


The Gateway @Hinjewadi

Of Soil Health Cards....

GST pe charcha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh on Friday evening -intended to resolve the imbroglio over the goods & services tax (GST) Bill -yielded no immediate outcome but may have broken the ice, giving some hope to the government that a deal could be reached soon. Both sides parted with the understanding that they would meet again. “With regard to the GST Bill, the subject was discussed. Congress leaders explained their position on the three issues while the history and background of the issue was explained to them (by the government). Congress will discuss the issue within the party and get back,“ Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after the meeting. Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu were present at the meeting.
Jaitley said the two sides may establish “fresh contact“ soon after Congress has discussed the matter internally . Sources said the government did put forward some proposals. The government is keeping its fingers crossed as there was no clear indication from Congress during the meeting on supporting the Bill as it sought time for internal discussions.
A government official familiar with the discussions said one more meeting may be required at the level of the prime minister on the issue. He also said the government was willing to consider two of the three Congress demands -scrapping the 1% inter-state tax and setting up an independent dispute-settlement mechanism.
Soon after the meeting at 7, Race Course Road, Sonia is learnt to have informed Congress floor leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mallikarjun Kharge on what transpired.
“During the talks with the PM and other ministers, Soniaji and Manmohanji have told them (about) the three demands Congress has on the GST Bill -the need to fix 18% cap, scrapping the 1% inter-state tax and the need for an independent dispute-settling mechanism in GST Council. These are not bargaining points or attempt to score political points,“ Sharma said. “Congress truly thinks these changes have to be made in the Bill in order to make GST more inclusive in line with international standards,“ Sharma said. “During the meeting, the first of its kind in 18 months, both sides have explained their respective views and, as the government side said, there would be more deliberations both inside our party and with the government side. Congress is for GST, but we should not rush into it,“ he added.
In their first structured meeting since the May 2014 elections, Modi and Sonia Gandhi discussed the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill during which the latter -accompanied by Manmohan Singh -reiterated the three Congress objections. The meeting also appeared to have been held to assuage the wider concern expressed by Congress that the government was not engaging in discussions on the GST Bill.
Earlier remarks by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi appear to cast doubt on the outcome of the meeting. “The move by the PM is due to public pressure and does not reflect this government's intent,“ Rahul said.
On being asked if Congress would support the Bill if the government agreed to its conditions, he said, “Probably“. “We have our differences, but we want GST to be passed. We want to put a cap on tax. We want to ensure he poor don't suffer. We (Congress) are the ones who brought GST and are in favour of it,“ he said.
Earlier this week, the Congress eader had said at a public meeting in Bengaluru that his party “strongly believes in GST“.
While Jaitley had been holding alks with Leader of the Opposition n Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to reach a consensus on the GST Bill, this was the first time PM Modi has reached out o the Grand Old Party.
The meeting between PM and Sonia Gandhi holds significance because his is first high-level dialogue be ween the government and the principal opposition party in the 18 months the National Democratic Alliance government has been in power.

Odisha: New Opportunities

India successfully test-fires Agni-I

India has successfully test-fired indigenously built nuclear-capable Agni-I missile, capable of hitting a target at a distance of 700 kms, from a test range off the Odisha coast as part of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) training exercise.
The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 10.02 am from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island).
The trial was “part of the training exercise by SFC of Indian Army“, defence sources said, noting it was a “perfect launch“. “The exercise was conducted in a perfect manner and the trial was successful,“ they said. 

Barak-8 System

The next-generation Barak surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, jointly developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries, Rafael and DRDO, was successfully tested for the first time from an Israeli warship against a jet-powered drone on Thursday .
The supersonic Barak-8 missile system, whose interception range has been increased from the earlier 70-km to around 100-km, will be now tested from Indian destroyer INS Kolkata “within a month“, said sources. Once the long range SAM system is fully operational in around two years, all Indian frontline warships will be equipped with this all weather “defence shield“ against incoming enemy fighters, drones, helicopters, missiles and other munitions.
“It will be the standard LRSAM or area defence weapon for our warships, much like the 290-km BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles (developed jointly with Russia) have become the standard precision strike weapon on them. PSU Bharat Dynamics is already gearing up for producing LR-SAM systems in bulk,“ said an official.
The Rs.2,606-crore LR-SAM development project was sanctioned for Indian warships in December 2005 but was hit by several delays. The reasons ranged from mid-way upward revision of performance requirements and development of some new technologies to the technological challenge of “combustion instability of rocket motors“ that took a long time to resolve.
The delays led to commissioning of the new 7,000-tonne destroyers INS Kolkata and INS Kochi over the last one year without effective missile defence shields. Even the country's largest and most powerful warship, the 45,400-tonne aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya acquired from Russia for $2.33 billion, faced the same fate. The Navy then cannibalized an Israeli Barak-I anti-missile system for the carrier from the retiring frigate INS Godavari. Fourteen Indian warships, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, are currently equipped with the Barak-I system, “a point defence weapon“ with an interception range of just 9-km, acquired from Israel after the 1999 Kargil conflict.The new LR-SAM system with Barak-8 interceptor missiles, which have “active seekers“ for terminal guidance, is a much more advanced version with extended interception range.
“INS Kolkata is already equipped with the missile launchers, weapon control systems with data links and MF-STAR (multi-function surveillance and threat alert radar) of the LR-SAM,“ said the official. All frontline operational as well as under-construction warships, like the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, five destroyers and seven stealth frigates, will progressively be fitted with the Barak-8 systems.
Similarly , the ground-based version of Barak-8, which was sanctioned in February 2009 for Rs 10,076 crore, will be utilized by the IAF to plug existing gaps in air defence coverage of India.


Rupee @ 11-Week Low

Bihar to do a Gujarat

Alcohol will be banned in Bihar from April 1 next year, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced on Thursday fulfilling a promise he made to women before the assembly elections in the state. “I had made a promise that if my government returned to power we would impose prohibition. The government is committed to fulfil its promise,“ Kumar said at a function on Excise Day.
The erstwhile ruling NDA in Bihar had implemented a liberal excise policy under the earlier government, headed by Kumar himself. This had led to a large number of liquor shops coming up across Bihar and turned into a big issue in the recently concluded assembly elections.
The revenue collection of excise department registered a more than 10-fold jump, from Rs.319 crore in 200506 to Rs.3,650 crore in 2014-15.
The CM said the decision has been taken in the interest of women and poor. Kumar directed to bureaucrats from excise department to implement the decision.
Women had requested Kumar at a function ahead of the October-November assembly polls to stop sale of liquor saying it was ruining their homes and Kumar had promised to do so if he returned to power.
The promise was believed to have paid rich dividends to Kumar in the elections as women voters outnumbered men by nearly five per cent in all five phases of voting.
Announcing prohibition, Kumar said it is seen that a poor family is destroyed due to alcohol addiction of its male member. “We wish to return happiness on the face of such families by imposing the ban.“
He also stressed the role of NGOs in spreading awareness among the people and said those who excelled in it would be awarded.
Gujarat, Nagaland, Manipur (in some parts), and Union Territory of Lakshadweep have banned liquor while Kerala has since August 2014 been implementing the ban in a phased manner.

Indian aviation to be 3rd largest in world

In a decade, India will be the third largest air travel market in the world.The country , currently among the five fastest-growing markets in the world with 275 million new passengers every year, will replace the UK to become the third largest market in 2026.
The IATA report projected that global passenger numbers are expected to reach 7 billion by 2034. That is more than double the 3.3 billion who flew in 2014 and exactly twice as many as the 3.5 billion expected in 2015. The five fastest-increasing markets in terms of additional passengers per year over the 20-year forecast period will be China (758 million new passengers added to a total of 1.196 billion), the US (523 million new passengers added to a total of 1.156 billion), India (275 million new passengers added to a total of 378 million), Indonesia (132 million new passengers for a to tal of 219 million) and Brazil (104 million new passengers for a total of 202 million). Routes to, from and within Asia-Pacific will see an extra 1.8 billion annual passengers by 2034, for an overall market size of 2.9 billion, said the forecast by IATA, which represents some 260 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic. China and India are growing fast with annual growth this year-to-date of 12.5% and 16.5% respectively.


Consumer Confidence

Waste Plastic for Road Construction

The government has made it mandatory for road developers to use waste plastic along with bituminous mixes for road construction to overcome the growing problem of disposal of plastic waste in India's urban centres.
Road developers will now have to use waste plastic along with hot mixes for constructing bitumen roads within 50 km of periphery of any city that has a population of over five lakh. In recently released guidelines for developers, the government said that in case of non-availability of waste plastic, the developer has to seek the road transport & highways ministry's approval for constructing only bitumen roads.
“Urban local bodies, which are usually short of financial resources, can make money by selling the plastic waste generated by cities to road developers. They can signs memorandums of understanding with the road construction companies,“ a senior government official said.
India generates 56 lakh tonne of plastic waste annually . As per a study by the Central Pollution Control Board, 60 large cities in India generate over 15,000 tonne of plas tic waste every day . Delhi generates close to 7,000 tonne of waste every day , of which over 10% is pure plastic but cannot be disposed even by waste-to-energy plants be cause of environmental reasons. In an observation earlier this year, the Supreme Court had said that the country was sitting on a plastic time bomb. Plastic will add to the longevity of roads by making them water resistant and also increasing the resistance of roads to change in weather. The government expects this measure to bring down the cost as well for road developers, from about Rs.10 crore for one km of road length at present.
“The cost factor is yet to be analysed, but it will be slightly less than 100% bitumen,“ the official said. The ministry will also encourage state governments and rural development ministry to make use of plastic waste mandatory in construction of roads. “The same technology can also be used for construction of rural roads as it will enhance their quality as well as longevity,“ the official said.

Constitution Day, National Milk Day, 26/11


Wistron to Set Up Shop in India

Taiwan's Wistron, the world's No. 2 contract manufacturer, has formed a joint venture with Optiemus Infracom that will invest around $200 million (Rs.1,320 crore) over five years to make smartphones, tablets and smart devices in India.
This will make Wistron the second global contract manufacturing major after Foxconn to set up shop in the world's fastest-growing smartphone market.
Wistron is a global manufacturing partner for HTC and BlackBerry, while Optiemus is a smartphone distribution firm and counts Apple among its major global clients.
Initial investment of the JV -80% owned by Optiemus and the rest by Wistron -will be towards a smartphone assembling unit under construction in Noida that will be operational by March 2016, Optiemus managing director Ravinder Zutshi said. The plant, which will have an initial annual capacity of 18 million devices, will start by assembling HTC's devices. “We plan to provide services to all our clients out of this plant,“ Robert Hwang, president at Wistron, said. “We are talking to all our global partners. India as a market is very important for us.“ “The announcement of the JV is just the first step.
He indicated that the Taiwanese company may look at establishing more plants in the country.
By 2017, India is expected to over take the US as the second-largest smartphone market globally , according to research firm IDC. The market is expected to grow in double digits over the next few years as more and more people switch to smartphones and gradually upgrade to 4G-enabled phones.
Wistron is currently talking to a few more global handset players that would be visiting the upcoming facility, Zutshi said, adding the JV has already got into agreements with some global handset players.

Idea to Buy Gujarat, UP(W) Spectrum from Videocon

Idea Cellular will buy Videocon Telecom's spectrum in the Uttar Pradesh (West) and Gujarat circles for Rs.3,310 crore (about $500 million) in the country's first such trading deal as the No. 3 carrier gears up to launch 4G services and take on rivals such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.
The Aditya Birla Group company said it in tends to use the total 10 MHz of airwaves in the 1800 MHz band acquired from Videocon for 4G in the two regions. Videocon's permits for the spectrum expire in 2032. As the first officially announced spectrum trading deal in India, this could mark the beginning of a long-awaited consolidation in the market. It also sets a benchmark for 1800 MHz spectrum price. Reliance Jio and Reliance Communications have officially confirmed sharing and trading talks.
The (Idea-Videocon) deal will go through on completion of due diligence and written confirmation from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on the transfer of rights to use the frequencies, Idea said in a statement.
The company, about a fifth owned by Malaysia's Axiata, and Videocon will shortly inform DoT on “trading the right to use these spectrum blocks“ in step with recently announced guidelines following completion of certain aspects of due diligence.
Idea has 4G airwaves in seven circles. The telecom arm of the Venugopal Dhoot-led Videocon Group holds liberalised and contiguous airwaves in the 1800 MHz band in UP (East), UP (West), Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. The country's top GSM telcos -Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular -are bracing for a battle over higher-paying data subscribers with Reliance Jio, which is set to launch 4G services in December. Reliance Jio is in advanced talks with Reliance Communications to trade and share airwaves for its high-speed services. Given the plateauing of voice revenue and spurt in mobile data, the success of telecom operators in the 3G and 4G space will be decisive.
The Idea-Videocon deal is the first off the mark since trading deals were notified in mid-October. Idea said it would also be taking over Videocon Telecom's liabilities with respect to the airwaves.
With this deal, Idea's 4G spectrum footprint will expand to 12 circles covering more than 75% of its current revenue and over 72% of existing 170 million subscrib ers on the voice location register, or VLR.These 12 circles contribute 60% of the telecom industry's mobility revenue.
Bharti Airtel has already rolled out 4G highspeed broadband services in over 300 towns and cities while Reliance Jio is expected to launch in late December, as is Vodafone. Idea, which was forced to advance plans for its 4G launch, said it is on track to begin services in 750 towns in 10 circles by the first half of calendar 2016. After completion of the transaction, it plans to introduce 4G services next year in Gujarat and UP (West).
Videocon Telecom, among the smallest of India's phone companies, has been trying to exit the spectrum-dependent business for a while and has been exploring the sale of airwaves through the trading route.
Videocon entered the telecom business in 2008 but was one of those which lost their licences in 2012 in the 2G spectrum scam. It subsequently bid and won back airwaves in six circles. The airwaves it bought were sufficient for 4G technology on the 1800 MHz band, which at the time few mobile operators had.


Somewhere in Singapore....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a "happy guest" on his maiden visit to Singapore where he had a vegetarian dinner with his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong and his wife at an Indian restaurant in Little India.
"Diwali lights & delicious Indian food. Thank you @leehsienloong," PMO India tweeted along with photos showing the two leaders having food together ahead of their bilateral talks tomorrow.
"The hospitable host & the happy guest...PM @narendramodi at Little India. Chai Pe Charcha with @leehsienloong," said another tweet.

Of Equity & Gold returns....


After filing several complaints against e-tail giants such as Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon over alleged FDI violations in e-commerce, the country's apex traders' body Confederation of All India Traders has finally decided to fight fire with fire by launching its own hyperlocal e-commerce venture called e-lala. Supported by around 5.5 crore small traders with brick-and-mortar stores, who have been wary of big etailers eating into their revenues, e-lala aims to be a disruptor in e-commerce space.


Aviation: October 2015

The Indian aviation market continued its double-digit growth in passenger numbers last month, helped by lower fares as fuel prices remained low. Domestic airlines flew more than 7 million passengers in October, about 20% more than the same month last year, according to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). In September, airlines had flown 6.67 million passengers.
Airlines are expected to report stronger numbers this month as many people took off to celebrate Diwali festival season. IndiGo maintained its pole position in the market by flying about 36.8% of the total passengers in October, followed by the Jet Group (Jet Airways and JetLite) that flew 21.2% passengers. National carrier Air India flew 15.5% and SpiceJet flew 12.8%.
AirAsia and Vistara registered increase in their market shares at 2.1% and 1.7%, respectively. SpiceJet took the lead in terms of load factors as it flew its planes with 92.1% of seats occupied, followed by IndiGo at 82.4% and GoAir at 81.2%.
In terms of on-time performance, Tata Group-promoted Vistara led the pack by flying about 93.7% of its flight on time, followed by market leader IndiGo that flew 89.6% of its flights on time.
Air India could fly only 75% of its flights on time in October, the lowest in the Industry.

Of India & ASEAN....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for enhancing cooperation with Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to tackle terrorism, and underlined the need for settling territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful means.
On a day when the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2249 against IS, Modi sought to extend international cooperation against terrorism with Asean. “Terrorism has emerged as a major global challenge that affects us all here.We have excellent bilateral cooperation with Asean members. We should see how we can enhance our cooperation at the regional and international level, including through support for the adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism,“ Modi said in his opening remarks at the Asean-India Summit in Kuala Lumpur. In one of its rare moves, UNSC said in its resolution on Friday evening that IS constituted an “unprecedented“ threat to international peace and security , calling upon member states with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures“ to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.
Taking care to flag India's position on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Modi said, “India shares with Asean a commitment to freedom of navigation, over flight and unimpeded commerce, in accordance with accepted principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means.“
Modi said India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and redouble efforts for early adoption of a `code of conduct' on the basis of consensus. He suggested evolving specific plans for cooperation with the 10-member Asean in key areas of maritime security, counter-piracy and humanitarian and disaster relief.
India will soon extend electronic-visa facility to all Asean countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), Modi said. For the first time, the PM acknowledged the delay in completing the India-Myanmar-Thailand transnational highway , with the deadline moving from 2016 to 2018, just another example of poor Indian delivery of declared targets.
India is also willing to let Asean take the lead in developing regional architecture.By the end of this year, Asean will become a single “community“, a concept borrowed from Europe. “As our rapidly transforming region navigates its way through uncertain times to a peaceful and prosperous future, we look forward to Asean leading the way in defining the regional architecture,“ PM said.
India intends to set up an Asean-India Innovation Platform to facilitate commercialisation of low-cost technologies, technology transfer and collaborative research and development projects, he said.“We also propose to commit a Line of Credit of $1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India and Asean,“ the PM said.
“We can also draw confidence from the progress in our framework of cooperation.The entry into force of our Trade in Services and Investment Agreements in July 2015 is a major step forward,“ he added. Modi said Asean-India looked forward to progress in negotiations for a balanced and ambitious `Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement' that covers goods and services as well as investments.
India is the sixth largest trade partner for Asean. Trade between India and Asean stood at $76.52 billion in 201415. India's exports to Asean were $31.81 billion and its imports from the grouping were $44.71 billion. India-Asean's cooperative space project to be located in Vietnam, he said, is making concrete progress. “ I assure you of its early completion,“ he added.


Seventh Pay Commission

The Seventh Central Pay Commission has recommended a 23.55% increase in the pay and pensions of nearly 47 lakh government employees and 52 lakh retirees that could result in a demand-led economic boost but significantly challenge India's ongoing fiscal consolidation plan.
The award will be applicable from January 1, 2016. “An implementation secretariat headed by expenditure secretary is being created to look at implementation of seventh pay commission recommendations,“ Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said soon after the panel headed by Justice AK Mathur submitted the report.
Breaking down the headline number, the commission has proposed an increase of 16% in pay , 63% in allowances and 24% in pensions, adding up to a total Rs.1.02 lakh crore in FY16. The financial impact on the Budget will be Rs.73,650 crore and Rs.28,450 crore on the railways, Jaitley said.

Trade Gap Shrinks

India's exports declined for the eleventh month running in October, highlighting the stiff competition faced by the country in a weak global economy , but a sharper fall in imports helped keep the country's trade deficit in check. Exports fell 17.5% year on year in October at $21.35 billion, indicating that tepid global demand continues to be a drag on economic recovery .
Imports declined 21.15% to $31.12 billion, yielding a trade deficit of $9.7 billion, an eight-month low and down from $10.47 billion in September and $13.35 billion in the year ago period.
“The decline in exports is worse than even that during the global slowdown. With this, reaching even $300 billion of exports this year looks difficult,“ said Ajay Sahai, director-general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations. “One can't shift to domestic markets overnight and the benefits of the export incentive schemes are yet to trickle down,“ he said. Outward shipments declined in 20 out of the 30 industries, led by iron ore, the data showed. Sluggish global demand, an overvalued rupee, declining imports from China and devaluation of the Chinese currency have deterred India's exports from growing despite the commerce department expanding export incentive schemes for various products and markets.
Exports in the first seven months of the year were about $154.2 billion. In 2014-15, India's exports had totalled $310.5 billion. Drugs and pharma, tea, cereal preparations, ceramic, minerals, electronics, textiles, carpets, jute, and plastics were the only sectors that posted a growth in exports last month.
Non-oil imports fell to $24.2 billion and were 9.93% lower on year.Non-oil, non-gold imports, seen as a measure of domestic demand, fell 0.57% to $22.75 billion.
The free fall in imports was led by a 60% decline in the imports of gold, 55% in cotton and 45% in oil.This narrowed the trade deficit which was compared with Declining gold imports indicate a combination of rural stress and lower investment demand because of the possibility lower returns going ahead.
Gold imports are expected to reduce due to three gold related schemes launched earlier this month. The Gold Monetization Scheme, Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme, and India Gold Coins are seen as a way to put the gold available with the country to productive use and thereby reduce imports and control the current account deficit.
In ICRA's view, the current account deficit would narrow modestly to $8.5-9.0 billion in the second quarter of the current fiscal from $10 billion a year earlier with much of the savings on the oil account lost to lower non-oil exports and higher gold imports.

Billions in Change


Petrol, Diesel prices upped

State-fuel retailers have raised the price of petrol by 36 paise a litre and diesel by 87 paise a litre following their fortnightly review to align local prices with international ones and adjust for foreign exchange rates. In the last review, oil companies had cut petrol prices by 50 paise but left diesel unchanged.


IPL's New Teams

Messi is TaMo's Brand Ambassador

Nehru: 125 years

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh marked former PM Jawaharlal Nehru's 126th birth anniversary with glowing tributes to his role in India's freedom struggle.
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's life was spent in giving India freedom & leading India as the 1st PM. Tributes to him on his birth anniversary,“ tweeted Modi, who is in London on an official visit.
Singh, on the other hand, said ideological differences notwithstanding, BJP had never questioned his intention to work for the people of the country .“There are many issues on which we have differences with Nehru. We have differences over his policies, but we can't doubt his intention to work for the welfare of people and nation-building,“ he said in his address at a function to commemorate Nehru's birth anniversary .
He added that India today has a vibrant Parliament, an efficient bureaucracy , independent judiciary and fearless press, “all because of the immense contributions of leaders like Nehru“. The home minister said “it was because of the contributions of leaders like Nehru, India has become the largest democracy in the world, India is now celebrating the success of democracy .“ It was under Nehru's stewardship that the country had set up large industries in Bhilai, Rourkela, top institutions like IITs and IIM and nuclear plants, Singh said.
“Even though Nehru had emphasised on industrialisation, he knew that agriculture was the key for the country . He had said 'I am all for industry and I am all for steel plants. But agriculture is far more important than industry',“ he said quoting Nehru.

UK touch to Pune's development plan

The UK government will help Pune city turn worldclass with an excellent urban plan for efficient water management, development of open spaces and smart traffic solutions.
The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced UK-India city partnership with Pune and other towns to support the urban development goals through technical assistance, expertise sharing and business engagement. The UK government has released basic fund of Rs.1.5 cr to open an account to support the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
A joint statement on the United Kingdom-India Summit 2015 issued by the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated, “The two prime ministers announced three UK-India city partnerships with Indore, Pune and Amaravati to support India's ambitious urban development goals through technical assistance, expertise sharing and business engagement.“
The statement added that the two prime ministers welcomed the development of technical assistance partnership between the UK department of international development and the Indian ministry of urban development for national and state-led support for the development of smart and sustainable cities that are drivers of inclusive growth and job creation.
Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar said that the process to get the UK's support for developing Pune as a Smart City was going on for several days. “Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis played a major role in this process and had a meeting with the British high commissioner. I had three meetings with the high commissioner and we received a letter of support from the British government 20 days ago,“ said Kumar.
The Centre is facilitating help from foreign countries and prominent cities to build Indian cities under the Smart City Mission. “We had received indications that the UK was interested in building Pune as a Smart City . The final announcement was made on Thursday and now they want us to have a financial and technical plan in place to take forward the collaboration. The programme management unit of UK will help monitor and implement the schemes,“ said Kumar. “London is a well-established model of urban planning.We are lucky to have UK as a partner in our mission to build Pune as a Smart City . Now, sky is the limit. The PMC is preparing a detailed plan for the UK-Pune partnership. A team of UK experts will be either stationed in Pune or will be travelling to the city regularly to monitor and assist the implementation of the plan.“
City MP Anil Shirole welcomed the British government's decision and thanked Modi on behalf of the citizens.“I will put maximum efforts so that the Smart City program me becomes more participatory, inclusive and less expensive,“ Shirole said in a statement issued on Friday .
Citizens are a tad skeptical because of their bitter experience in the past and want this announcement to be executed.
The centre government sources said Pune was among one of the top contenders to win a place in the final list of the Smart City Mission. All city-wise Smart City plans are being evaluated in the second stage of the City Challenge competition for identifying the top 20 cities for financing during the current financial year.
According to the Centre's plan, a Smart City would ensure core infrastructure needed for decent living in urban areas. The government is not aiming at making urban landscape look fanciful and flashy .The prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life by addressing deficiencies in core infrastructure. Expectations in various quarters may be high but the mission is very practical and realistic in its intentions and objectives.


Retail inflation up

Retail inflation inched up for the third successive month in October on the back of creeping prices of some food items, while industrial output growth slowed in September posing fresh challenges for policy makers trying to revive growth.
Data released showed the consumer price index rose an annual 5% in October compared to 4.41% in September. In rural areas retail inflation was 5.54% in October, while in urban segments it was 4.28%.
Prices of some food items such as pulses soared. The overall consumer food price index rose 5.25% in October compared with 3.88% in September. Price of pulses rose 42.2% in October, underscoring the need to tackle the problem through a medium-term strategy . The government has taken several steps, including a crackdown on hoarders, to ensure that the popular protein is available for the masses at affordable rates.
Economists said RBI is expected to keep a close watch on the inflation trajectory and may prefer to wait and watch for its next move on easing interest rates.
Separate data released by the CSO showed the index of industrial production rose an annual 3.6% in September, slower than 6.3% recorded in August but slightly higher than 2.6% in September last year.Slower than expected growth in manufacturing and a sluggish mining sector weighed on growth, while electricity powered ahead with an expansion of 11.4% in September compared to 3.9% rise in the same month last year. Overall industrial output growth during April-September was at 4% compared to 2.9% during the same period in 2014.
The manufacturing sector grew 2.6% compared to an expansion of 2.7% in September 2014. The capital goods sector, which is a gauge of industrial activity, continued to remain robust, rising 10.5% in September compared to a growth of 12.5% in year earlier month.
The consumer segment, which had displayed signs of a revival in August, posted sluggish numbers. Consumer durables led the pack with a robust expansion of 8.4% in September compared to a contraction of 11.1% in September 2014. Consumer non-durables fell 4.9% in September compared to 1.3% growth in the year earlier month, while consumer goods remained sluggish, rising 0.6% year-on-year in September compared to a contraction of 4% in September 2014. The faster-than-expected growth in August had triggered hopes a sharp rebound in the industrial sector.India Inc said it expects growth to gather momentum in the third quarter.

Zero bag fares

Aviation regulator Directorate General Of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has now allowed domestic carriers to roll out “zero bag“ fares and charge penalty against check-in baggage for tickets booked under such an offer.
At present all domestic private airlines except national carrier Air India allow a flyer to carry up to 15 kgs of check-in baggage without any cost. Air India allows its passengers to carry up to 23 kgs of check-in baggage free of cost.
“Airlines are allowed to offer no check-in baggage / hand baggage only fare scheme subject to the condition that the penalty to be imposed on a passenger, who avails such schemes but turns up with baggage for check-in at airline counter, cannot exceed the amount of incentive offered compared to lowest fare,“ DGCA said in its updated Air Transport Circular for unbundling of services.
Reacting to the development, budget carrier Spice Jet, which had first rolled out such a scheme in June this year, said regulator's move is in line with the changing trends in the industry.
“We welcome this customer and environment friendly move, which is in line with the changing trends in the industry ,“ SpiceJet's head of administration and accountable manager G P Gupta said.In June this year, SpiceJet had rolled out a scheme, offering a discount of Rs.200 to every passenger who books a flight with only one handbag and no check-in baggage.
Three domestic carriers -IndiGo, SpiceJet and AirAsia India -had earlier approached the regulator with the “zero bag fare“, offering discount on no checkin luggage. 

Somewhere in Delhi....

Bangladesh hands over Ulfa founder

Bangladesh has extradited Ulfa's founding general secretary Golap Baruah alias Anup Chetia to India, making way for him to join the ongoing peace talks between the pro talks faction of the outfit, Centre and Assam government.
Born in 1957, Chetia, who facilitated the formation of Ulfa single-handedly in 1979, is still known as the outfit's main strategist. He had led Ulfa's first-ever peace talks in 1991 with then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. The dialogue, however, did not take off and Chetia disappeared ill. He was arrested in Bangladesh in 1997 along with his two accomplices -Laxmiprasad Goswami and Babul Sharma -for illegally entering that country and possessing foreign currency and a satellite phone. Goswami and Sharma have also been extradited. Chetia, whose wife Monica, son Juman and daughter Bulbuli returned from Dhaka three years ago, will be brought to Assam where he faces trial in several cases.However, like other militant leaders, all legal hurdles will be cleared to help him join the peace process. “This is the happiest day of my life. My two children have long been deprived of their father's love,“ said Monica.
The peace process with the pro-talks faction, led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, is all set to enter the final stages and Chetia's coming on board is seen as a major victory for the government in its efforts to find a solution to the over four-decades-old militancy problem in Assam. The parent outfit suffered a vertical split after the Sheikh Hasina government clamped down on the outfit's base in 2009 leading to the arrest and deportation of the outfit's top leaders -all except Paresh Baruah, who, along with its new chairman Abhizeet Asom and a handful of leaders and cadres, is still outside the peace process. Chetia is the second top fugitive after Chhota Rajan to have been brought under Indian custody this month. The Ulfa founder had an Interpol Red Corner notice issued against him by the CBI. He was released from his `protective custody' in Kasimpur Jail on the outskirts of Dhaka at 2 am on Wednesday and was taken by CBI officials to the Indian embassy there. He was flown to New Delhi by a private airline later in the day.
While PM Narendra Modi tweeted thanking his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said handing over of Chetia reflected Bangladesh's commitment and maturity to cooperate on issues such as terror. “Handing over of Anup Chetia by Bangladesh shows its commitment and maturity to cooperate with India on issues like terror and organized crime,“ Singh said in a statement.

From one Samvat to another....

FDI reforms

The government on Tuesday announced a raft of changes in the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for 15 sectors--including retail, defence, construction, banking and electronic media--signalling that BJP's election defeat in Bihar has not deterred it from the path of economic reforms.
The decisions come days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for the UK and Turkey , where he will interact with investors and global leaders. They are also seen as an effort to change the narrative following the BJP's embarrassing defeat in Bihar.
Although these measures have been discussed for the past few months, the decisions were cleared by the Prime Minister himself and the announcements were made before being approved by the Union Cabinet.
Sources said that some of the decisions, such as allowing 100% FDI in coffee, rubber, cardamom, palm oil and olive oil plantations, were taken at Modi's behest.
The Prime Minister also was keen to ensure that the rules provide a boost to those manufacturing locally , with sources pointing to the decision to allow “Indian manufacturers“ to retail their goods, including on e-commerce platforms, a move that will benefit the likes of Fabindia and Hidesign. Other “manufacturers“ too have been allowed to enter the retail arena without the government's approval. Apple and other “high technology“ retailers will no longer be required to mandatorily source 30% of their goods from India to comply with conditions related to single-brand retail, according to the changes in the FDI rules announced by the government. “Today's FDI related reforms will touch 15 sectors & benefit youth. Govt's commitment to development & reforms is unequivocal & unwavering... Today's reforms are another example of emphasis on minimum government, maximum governance. They will ease, rationalise & simplify processes,“ Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
The decision, coming two days after BJP's Bihar poll defeat, is seen as an attempt by the government to show its commitment to reforms and its willingness to open up the economy despite political challenges and hurdles. With its legislative agenda blocked by the Opposition in Parliament the government is seen to be moving ahead with executive decisions to boost growth and sustain the momentum that was ushered in by the massive Lok Sabha victory in May 2014.
“Reform is always an ongoing process, there is no finishing line as far as reforms are concerned,“ finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters.
While the rules have been eased and investment limit raised for several sectors, a lot of attention has been paid to making it easier to get clearances. For instance, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board has now been allowed to clear FDI proposals of up to Rs.5,000 crore, compared to Rs.3,000 crore earlier. “The crux of these reforms is to further ease, rationalise and simplify the process of foreign investments in the country and to put more and more FDI proposals on automatic route instead of government route where time and energy of the investors is wasted,“ an official statement said. Similarly , in several cases in the so-called sensitive sectors such as defence and segments of media and e-commerce, which have traditionally viewed as sensitive, the government has done away with the need to seek its approval.


Somewhere in London....

GE Bags its Biggest Ever Order in India

General Electric has won a $2.6 billion order, the biggest in its over 100-year history in India, to supply Indian Railways 1,000 diesel locomotives over 11 years. Under this, the US based conglomerate will invest $200 million to build local manufacturing and service facilities.
After winning the long-awaited order following competitive bidding, the company said it would build a diesel locomotive manufacturing facility in Marhowra, Bihar, as well as maintenance sheds in Bhatinda in Punjab and Gandhidham in Gujarat.
“This infrastructure project is further evidence of India's position as a growth engine for Asia,“ GE Chairman and Chief Executive Jef Immelt said. “It is a major advancement and milestone for India and for GE, and a symbol of our commitment and support of the `Make in India' initiative.“
In a news release, the company said the project would provide skill development opportunities for local talent.
The Marhowra diesel locomotive project marks one of the first major instances of foreign direct investment in enhancing India's rail locomotive capacity. It comes after the government last year allowed 100% FDI in the railway sector.
“This project combines GE's deep infrastructure and manufacturing expertise with India's growth priorities. This is an exciting and integral part of our localisation strategy in India,“ said Jamie Miller, chief executive at GE Transportation “We are excited about working with Indian Railways and continuing to invest in the region.“
GE has operated in India since 1902. The company has doubled its investment in India in the past five years and is bullish on the country's long-term prospects. It recently said India may soon become a global centre of excellence for certain components, and local sourcing has increased by 20% for locomotives, 30% for power equipment and 15% for aviation. The company is also participating in public-private partnerships with states in sectors such as healthcare.
CEO Immelt was in India recently and had said India's railway modernisation plans, for which tenders had been opened, illustrated the change in the way things happened in the country. He said while the project had been on the horizon for many years, this was the first time that it was actually happening This, he said, was a “giant symbol“ for the world.

Maggi Noodles make a comeback

Agni-IV successfully test-fired

In some pre-Diwali fireworks over the Bay of Bengal, India successfully tested the nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile, which has a strike range of 4,000-km, from the A P J Abdul Kalam (formerly Wheeler) Island off Odisha coast on Monday morning.
The user trial by the triService Strategic Forces Command (SFC), which saw the two-stage missile being fired from a mobile launcher at 9.45 am, met all mission parameters, said officials.
The country's most formidable missile, the over 5,000-km Agni-V, in turn, is slated to be tested in January-February. While the Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) missile and Agni-III (3,000-km) missile have already been inducted by SFC, the Agni-IV and Agni-V missiles are currently undergoing developmental and user trials before their induction can take place in another two to three years.
Before Monday, the 20 metre-long Agni-IV missile had undergone one failed and four successful tests over the last five years, with the last one being conducted in December 2014.
The Agni-V missile , in turn, has been tested three times till now.

Jet Airways places a big order with Boeing

Signalling ambitious growth plans, Naresh Goyal's Jet Air ways has placed a confirmed order for 75 Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft. At $110 million apiece list price this year according to the Boeing website, Jet's confirmed order is worth $8.25 billion. The order includes conversions of 25 next-generation 737s to 737 MAX-8s, as well as options and purchase rights for an additional 50 aircraft.
This is the biggest order by Jet ever and also the biggest order for Boeing aircraft by an Indian carrier in years. The 737 MAX is Boeing's answer to Airbus' highly successful A-320 NEO. Jet placed the order at the ongoing Dubai Air Show.
The transaction will be completely financed and managed through a sale and leaseback arrangement when Jet takes delivery of the aircraft from 2018. It will support Jet's replacement strategy and ensure it maintains a modern fleet.

The Bihar Tally

International media presented the Bihar results as a referendum on Prime Minister and a setback to his government's reforms Many also mentioned the BJP's divisive campaign and the perception of deepening religious tension.
Pakistan actually played a role in the election, as the BJP's favourite rhetorical device -and Pakistani newspapers made sure to rub the loss in. Dawn headlined its front-page lead `Bihar steals Modi's firecrackers', with a prominent picture of Nitish and Lalu. The Daily Times said `Bihar voters put Modi out to pasture' commenting that it was a “resounding verdict against “cow politics“ and that it would “set the agenda for the opposition to regroup against his narrow nationalism“. Siasat Daily also said the Bihar election proved that the “cow gives milk not votes“. The News International's headline said `Modi's BJP bites the dust for its extremism'.
The BBC report minced no words and observed how the PM's lustre has diminished and how the BJP campaign had “ramped up the rhetoric, asking voters... if they wanted `a (Bihar) government... that protects terrorists'.“
The Telegraph wrote of how this second successive defeat in a major provincial election dampened the mood ahead of Modi's UK visit. The Economist blog declared that `Modi's honeymoon is over', and spoke of a possible bust-up in the BJP following this defeat.
The Guardian suggested that BJP's strategy of “simultaneously stressing both development at a national level and using more sectarian rhetoric at a local level may be becoming less effective“. It also spoke of BJP's Rajya Sabha minority , which would enable the opposition to block Modi's reforms. The Washington Post also underscored his challenges in Parliament.The LA Times flagged this “rebuke of BJP's often divisive rhetoric and of Modi's year-and-a-half in power, which critics say has failed to bring the economic reforms he promised“.
The New York Times reported Bihar's “overwhelming rejection“ of BJP and detailed the backdrop, a “raging national debate over whether Mr Modi's India is becoming increasingly intolerant of secularists, Muslims and political dissent in general“. The Wall Street Journal pondered the way forward for BJP -whether it would push economic measures at the state level to get around an energised opposition, and whether it would curb the influence of Hindu nationalist organisations.