GDP figures revised

South Asian Games

Foreign Tourists' statz

Motown Marketshare

Wealthy 50

Export statz

Railway Stations' revamp

Pragati Maidan Makeover snippets

Pragati Maidan, a Delhi icon since 1972 and venue of the annual trade fair and exhibitions through the year, is finally set to get a Rs.2,000-crore makeover in keeping with the changed profile of the city and the nation.
In the next few months, many buildings in the 115-acre exhibition ground are likely to be razed to make way for new structures such as a convention hall five times larger than Vigyan Bhawan, underground parking, new access roads and exhibition halls.
During phase I of the re-construction project, scheduled to be finished within 36 months, the trade fair will be held in temporary hangar-like structures.
The redevelopment plan was conceptualised in 2006 but work will finally begin in 2016.“Lack of space doesn't allow us to host international fairs at present. After the redevelopment, Pragati Maidan will be come a dream destination for global events,“ said L C Goyal, CMD of India Trade Promotion Organisation. Located in the heart of the city, Pragati Maidan was designed by architect Raj Rewal, who has expressed anger at the decision to bring down all old buildings. Rewal wants a few structures, such as the Hall of Nations, to be conserved.
Goyal said the Rs 2,000 crore work had been divided into two phases, the first of which will be implemented over the next three to four years. “The plan is to redevelop the entire complex for which all existing halls and pavilions have to be dismantled.We do not want to affect our sources of revenue and so we will will stagger the demolition work,“ he said.
PSU National Buildings Construction Corporation has been appointed the project management consultant and will work on designing new structures, inviting bids and supervising the project.“We have issued them the letter and they are going ahead with preparatory work. We will go for international bidding. An independent third party will be appointed to ensure quality of construction.While ITPO will provide Rs.1,000 crore from internal funds, the rest will be raised through institutional financing,“ said Goyal.
He said the convention centre will be a massive structure capable of seating 7,000 people. It will have a plenary hall with a capacity of 3,000 and a functional hall for 4,000 people. When the need arises, both halls could be merged. Goyal said the combined convention centre would be five times the size of Vigyan Bhawan and would be used for big government functions and business events.
“The present convention centres, spread over 3-4 venues, have a capacity of 700-800.The new centre will propel Pragati Maidan into becoming an international venue for exhibitions and events,“ said Goyal.
In the first phase, an existing built-up area of 25,000 sq m will be razed and replaced with a built up area of 1.2 lakh sq m. In phase two, an additional capacity of 88,000 sq m will be built. Each new structure will be two floors high, each floor with an area of 10,000 sq m.
The ITPO board of directors has cleared the project and it is now with the ministry of commerce and industry for final approval. Goyal expects the ministry's nod in the next four to six weeks.

Dharavi RFQ issued again

The Maharashtra state government agency implementing the Dharavi Redevelopment Project has invited international competitive bids for the Rs.25,000-crore project. The largest slum pocket in the country , spread across 240 hectares, has been divided into five sectors.
“Sectors 1 to 4 are now proposed to be developed through private builders. Selected developers will have to construct free housing for the eligible slumdwellers and occupants, including amenities and infrastructure as per the terms and conditions,“ the bid documents said.
In lieu of free housing, the developer will be entitled to construct free sale area in the open market and FSI of 4 will be given for the project.All four sectors will be redeveloped separately .
The slum cut-off date for the project is January 1, 2000, which means those who have bought a slum home between 1995 and 2000 will also be beneficiaries of the project.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on January 6 gave in-principle approval for the proposed land use plan for Dharavi in line with the development plan. While talking to the media, housing minister Prakash Mehta said the work will start in the next three to four months.
A senior official said it could not be said when work would finally begin as it all depended on the response the project received.
“This will only be known after the project bids are opened,“ said the official. He said the project would not be a public-private partnership but a fully contractual one.

SC to take call on Sec 377

More than two years after the Supreme Court turned down a plea to decriminalize gay sex in India, there is still hope for the LGBT community as the apex court has agreed to examine on February 2 whether it had erred in passing the judgment.
In a blow to gay rights, the Supreme Court had overturned a Delhi high court verdict decriminalizing gay sex among consenting adults in private. The apex court in 2013 revived the penal provision of Section 377 of IPC which was declared unconstitutional by the HC in 2009. The court had refused to review its order and dismissed the plea of gay rights activists. It, however, agreed to hear their curative petition, which is the last judicial resort for a litigant to get his grievances heard.
Although most of the curative petitions get dismissed during in-chamber proceedings, the SC has agreed to give an open court hearing on the issue. While reviving the controversial Section 377, the SC had, however, put the ball in the government's court, saying that it was free to amend the law by scrapping or reading down Section 377 of IPC through legislation. In 2009, the HC had ruled that Section 377, which criminalizes sex between adult homosexual men, was unconstitutional.
It would be interesting to see what stand the NDA government takes on the issue.Although finance minister Arun Jaitley openly criticized the SC verdict on gay sex terming it as one of the worst judgments delivered by the top court, other leaders within the ruling party are not comfortable with decriminalizing gay sex.
Jaitley said penal provision criminalizing gay sex should be done away with and the SC erred in upholding the constitutional validity of Section 377.

Navi Mumbai Corporate Park

The Cidco board, led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has approved a project to set up a financial, corporate and technology hub in Navi Mumbai's Kharghar node.Consultants are to be appointed soon to prepare a detailed project report.
It will act as a magnet and will help decongest the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), which is witnessing abnormally high rates for commercial and residential properties.
The Navi Mumbai Corporate Park (NMCP), along the Central Park area, will have an international finance centre, a technology hub and a corporate park. “Rooftop helipads will be allowed, for which a floor space index (FSI) of 3 is being sought.Plots will be defined by landscapes and hardscapes, and it will not have compound walls. Parking will be managed digitally . Centrally airconditioned buildings, pedestrian linkages, conveyance, night-life, exhibition centres and five-star hotels, and super-specialty hospitals will be part of the area,“ said Cidco MD Sanjay Bhatia.
The Metro, under construction, will pass through this proposed area, which is 5 km from Kharghar railway station. The land is close to the Pune Expressway , Goa highway , Thane-Belapur road and Nashik highway via Kalyan-Dombivli.
A senior Cidco official said BKC had an FSI of 2, which was recently increased to 4, but it could not be used effectively. “BKC has congested surroundings, a limited commercial area of 63 hectares, air and river pollution, a comparatively longer distance to the airport, and exorbitantly high rates of realty . Compared to this, our hub looks promising,“ he added.

Sensex snapshot

Global Corruption Index


International Fleet Review

Somewhere in Maharashtra....

Smart City League

The Smart City list released on Thursday saw Bhubaneswar emerge on top with a Rs.4,500 crore plan to retrofit and redevelop 985 acres around the railway station with modern amenities.
The race for inclusion in the Smart City league--a concept centred on provision of basic amenities such as 24X7 power and drinking water supply as well as contemporary attributes like e-governance and IT infrastructure--saw Madhya Pradesh bagging the maximum three spots, while populous states such as UP , Bengal and Bihar failed to make it in the first round. Varanasi, the PM's own Lok Sabha constituency , failed to make the grade, finishing with the second most disappointing score among 97 contenders.
All the 4 entries from Mumbai--Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivli--could not make the cut either. New Kolkata, Gandhinagar and Vadodara also missed out.
For the national capital, initially, the scheme will be focused on “retrofitting“ 550 acres in and around Connaught Place in what will mark a big push to the historical shopping district which has just overcome decades of decay to re-emerge as a hot spot. In all, 23 states failed to find a place, something which does not address the concern about urbanization deficit and led Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu to give them a second shot by April.Each state will submit the improved proposal of their highest ranking cities for this round of selection. By 2017, the Centre intends to identify 100 cities to be taken up for the programme.
The 20 cities which feature in the first list are expected to spend almost Rs.51,000 crore to upgrade the quality of life--a generous step-up of allocation of funds for upgradation of a significant urban swathe even if some of the projects would have possibly been taken up in normal course.
The concept of Smart City marks a big departure from the traditional municipal body-led model of urban development to one marked by corporate features such as a CEO who can even be drafted from the private sector and will have job security , a special purpose vehicle route for raising funds and execution of the development plan.
Unlike in the past, when the burden of development was on the states and the Centre, this time over 60% of the resources are proposed to be generated by the cities concerned. The selection of cities has been influenced by their capacity to deliver as determined on the basis of their past performance and financial strength.
Importantly , only one of the 20, Kochi, will focus on taking up a green project. This might mean the revival of the localities which are groaning under burgeoning population and are hamstrung by woefully inadequate infrastructure for current and future requirements.
The selected cities will get Central funding of Rs.500 crore each in the next five years and states will put up an equal amount to kick-start the project roll-out. Almost 60% of the investment will come in the form of private investment and innovative mechanism that the cities will adopt.
To begin with only selected areas in the cities proposed by the municipal bodies will be developed or redeveloped within two to five years. “These will work as catalysts and will become lighthouse to expand similar projects or work to make cities better,“ Naidu said.
Congratulating the winners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “I wish the cities the very best as they move forward with implementation and transform urban India.“
Sources said since this is one of major flagship projects announced by the PM, cabinet secretary P K Sinha will interact with all the chief secretaries and Smart City mission heads besides the 97 municipal commissioners on Friday for effective roll-out of the mission.
The cities have been selected through a transparent mechanism of scoring and through an open challenge, the first of its kind in India and possibly in the world. “It is also the first time that the government is investing funds in urban development on the basis of a competitive selection,“ an urban development ministry spokesperson said.

High-speed CST-Panvel rail line snippets

Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) will revise its detail project report (DPR) for the CST-Panvel high-speed rail corridor, planning the route along Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai, right up to the proposed airport. Originally, the corridor was proposed to run parallel to the Harbour Line tracks between Reay Road and Panvel.
MRVC's chairman and managing director Prabhat Sahai said, “There is a shortage of space after construction of the Seawoods station building. Hence, the rail corridor can be smoothly executed if it runs along Palm Beach Road.“ MRVC also plans to connect the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport with the high-speed corridor, which will have fully air conditioned coaches. The 25 km-long Metro corridor along Palm Beach Road, between Vashi and Panvel, planned by the City Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco), may have to be scrapped in the wake of the air-conditioned high-speed rail corridor from CST proposed along the same route. Cidco had planned the Metro corridor on the recommendation of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. An official from Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is planning the high-speed rail corridor, said, “Cidco will now have to drop their proposed Metro corridor as the suburban highspeed corridor will cater to areas near Palm Beach Road. After a detailed study we will know if the corridor will come up on the median or west side of the road.“
The alignment may change at CST too if the MMRDA plans to extend the Eastern Freeway up to the GPO. If this succeeds, the high-speed AC corridor will have to be built through Mumbai Port Trust land between CST and Reay Road. The project is easier to execute because private land does not have to be acquired at all on the entire 49 km long stretch. The corridor will be elevated up to Kurla and will run at ground level from Mankhurd onwards. Later, from Sea woods, an 8.5 km loop line would fork out in the direction of the proposed airport.
The project is crucial to reducing the burden on the Harbour Line, which is saturated Moreover, the growth of Navi Mumbai, the proposed international airport and special economic zones are all expected to bring in a large number of commuters.
The new system is expected to have 21,000 peak hour-peak di rection trips by 2019 and 39,000 by 2031. The official said, “We expect a 30% shift from the suburban line and 20% shift from road traffic once operations begin on the corridor.“ The official said “Due to the continuous automatic train control, headway can be improved to 1.5 minutes without compromising on safety .“


SBI Composite Index

Manufacturing activity in the country dipped to a one-year low in January , suggesting moderation in growth. The yearly SBI Composite Index fell below the 50 mark to 47.3 in January -its lowest level in the past one year, indicating “moderation in economic activity going forward“.
According to SBI, construction, steel and textile “are some of the sectors that are clear headwinds and thus need to be addressed head-on“. Observing that 42% of the tenders floated during the last 12 months are yet to be awarded, SBI has called for “a concerted and faster execution going forward in the construction sector“.
As per the report, construction activity in real estate segment was low in January , with players focused on stabilising their finances and adjusting to the new market situation. Regarding the textile sector, the report said the government should think afresh to skew its existing TUF (Technology Upgradation Fund) allocation in favour of technical textiles to promote exports and bolster the Make in India campaign.

IAF jet targets `balloon-like' flying object in Rajasthan

The IAF scrambled a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet to intercept an “unidentifiable flying object“ over the border district of Barmer in Rajasthan after radars directed towards Pakistan picked it up around 10.30 am.
The incident came amid heightened security around the country for Republic Day after the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase as well as the arrest of over a dozen suspected Islamic State sympathisers.
The IAF said the Sukhoi-30MKI used its 30mm auto-cannon to shoot down the “suspicious huge balloonlike object“. “Further investigations are in progress,“ said an officer. There was panic in a few villages, with explosions being reported and metal pieces falling from the sky.
“People in Kishor Ki Dhani at Gugai village in Balotara sub-division and Panwada in Baytu, both in Barmer, heard a loud blast and rumours then spread of a bomb being dropped,“ Barmer superintendent of police P Deshmukh said.
“A police team was sent to the spot at 1 pm. Four-five cone-shaped shells were spotted and collected. We shall seek clarifications from IAF in this regard though these things don't seem like bomb parts,“ the officer added. While there was no loss of life or damage to property, four to five houses were said to have developed cracks in their walls due to the explosion in Kishor Ki Dhani, which could be heard over a 10-km distance.
Defence officials said the “shells“ could be the 30mm rounds fired by the Sukhoi-30MKI or debris from the “meteorological balloonlike object“, which was oval shaped with a five-metre diameter. The IAF also dispatched its teams, which included Garud commandos and a bomb disposal squad, to the spot to get to the bottom of the incident. “The debris and other material recovered is being examined,“ said an official, adding that it could be a big advertising balloon with an internal metal mesh.
The Sukhoi-30MKI was scrambled from the Jodhpur airbase, which is one of the frontline airbases facing Pakistan, after the 33 Signal Unit deployed there detected the “air intrusion“. All airbases usually maintain an ORP (operational readiness platform) round-the-clock.This includes two to three fighters being kept combat ready in blast pens adjoining the runway at an airbase for immediate take-off whenever an alarm is sounded.
“The pilots, by rotation, are kept on duty for the ORP.They just have to zip-up their G-suits and run to the fighters with their helmets.It is supposed to take just three-four minutes from the time the hooter goes off to the actual taxiing out of the fighters. The pilots are given their instructions once they are airborne,“ said an officer.


Maharashtra Unveils New Port Policy

The Devendra Fadnavis government unveiled a comprehensive policy for development of the port sector in the state. The policy strengthens the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) which will be now become the sole authority for taking decisions on development of ports and give clearances to such projects. The state will also establish a Maharashtra Port Connectivity Corporation (MPCC) for providing rail connectivity to ports and for the development of ship-building `parks' and captive and multi-purpose jetties.
The state government has brought the new policy under its `Make in Maharashtra' initiative. The Maharashtra Maritime Board will create a development plan for areas under ports and also for allied industries. While the state will provide land to MMB at nominal rates, the latter will also have a land acquisition cell to buy private land. State government officials said the move to make MMB the nodal authority is aimed at cutting red tape as earlier such projects involved taking clearances from multiple authorities.
The policy entails creating more greenfield ports, jetties, coastal shipping and interways, shipyard, coastal economic zone.
Importantly, the state has acknowledged that earlier initiatives in the sector failed to get desired results and has laid precise conditions for private players to exit from projects.Interestingly, in a bid to ensure that the private developers follow the agreement with the MMB, the state has decided that henceforth MMB would appoint `independent engineer' to survey the work for the projects.
The Maharashtra Port Connectivity Corporation (MPCC), to be established on the lines of the Konkan Railway Corporation, will provide connectivity through roads, railways and other inland water transport.MPCC will float a special purpose vehicle for executing these projects.

Padma Awards

Republic Day Greetings

Of growing Retail Participation in Mutual Funds....

Growing retail participation for the fifth straight quarter helped mutual funds (MFs) close 2015 with their highest ever folios, or the number of investor accounts, of 4.6 crore. The year saw an addition of 55.8 lakh folios, a 13.8% year-on-year (y-oy) increase. Retail folios stood at 4.4 crore, a 13% y-o-y growth or addition of 50.7 lakh investor accounts. Despite market volatility , equity-oriented funds got a lion's share of retail investor accounts. Retail folios in the segment went up 13.3% y-o-y , or an increase of 39.5 lakh folios, to 3.4 crore, data with the Association of Mutual Funds in India showed. In comparison, the Nifty 50 index was down 4% in 2015.
The MF industry added about 14.1 lakh investor accounts for the quarter ended December, up 3.2% on a quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) basis.Of this, retail accounted for 12.9 lakh folios. This was lower than the 15.1 lakh accounts added in the quarter ended September.
High net worth individuals (HNIs), or those investing Rs.5 lakh or more, preferred MFs. The HNI segment recorded an absolute rise of nearly 4 lakh folios in 2015, pushing its total base to 17.2 lakh. Equity, balanced and debt MF categories attracted HNIs the most on both yearly and quarterly basis, data compiled by ratings agency Crisil showed.
The penchant for equity investments also benefited balanced funds as the category added 4.6 lakh folios, up 24.1% y-o-y. Folios in balanced funds improved 5.7% q-o-q or by 1.3 lakh to end 2015 at 23.5 lakh.
The share of debt funds in MF folios improved a notch to 16.4% for the quarter ended December from 16.1% at the end of September. The category logged the fourth consecutive quarterly rise, adding nearly 4 lakh folios to take the tally to 75.3 lakh. This included addition of 3.7 lakh retail folios.
Folio closures in gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) continued for the fourth consecutive quarter as subdued performance by the underlying asset put investors off. Gold ETFs had 4.5 investor accounts at the end of December.Tenure-wise analysis of assets under management (AUM) across investor types and categories showed that 54.6% of retail AUM stayed in equity MFs for more than two years.

Fresh CRZ nod for Mumbai trans-harbour link

The Centre has re-issued the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance for the 22-km-long Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link project. This is the third CRZ nod granted to the project--the first was in 2005 and the second in 2013.
The CRZ clearance has been re-issued following a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order in October 2015 that suspended the 2013 clearance for six months on the grounds that the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority did not follow procedures properly , discrepancy in the marine areas likely to be affected by the project and its impact on the Karnala Bird Sanctuary not being studied properly .
In a letter to the MMRDA, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) said, “In compliance with the NGT directions, the proposed transharbour link was considered by the ministry's expert appraisal committee. Based on its recommendations, the environment ministry accords CRZ clearance to the project.“
MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan said the clearance will allow construction of the bridge in CRZ I, III and IV areas.
The NGT said the letter is subject to compliance of specific and general conditions.Among the specific conditions, the MoEF has asked the MMRDA to obtain the requisite forest clearance (FC) for diversion of 47.41 hectare forest land.“The project may be executed in the entire non-forest land, and while making application for forest clearance, the execution of work on non-forest land shall not be cited as a reason for grant of FC. In case, FC is declined, the forest land shall be maintained in its existing condition,“ said the ministry , and asked the MMRDA to submit an undertaking to this effect at the earliest.
With the MoEF , on Saturday , finalizing the eco-sensitive zo ne for Karnala Bird Sanctuary to up to 8 km from the boundary obtaining clearance from the NGT would not be difficult now.
Meanwhile, the MMRDA plans to begin geo-technical investigations in February , the loan agreement with JAICA will be signed by March and thereafter the finalization of bids would take four to five months Work is expected to start in November, said officials.
According to the conditions laid down by the forest advisory committee, the work must be completed within three years and six months from the date of commencement. CM Devendra Fadnavis has said the work will be completed by 2019.

Of India & France....

Even as they signed 14 agreements and MoUs in areas as diverse as space, railway upgradation and science and technology , India and France could only partly conclude an Inter Governmental Agreement for acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets. Differences over pricing meant that both nations could only sign an MoU for the purchase of jets after a meeting between PM Narendra Modi and President Francois Hollande.
The government said the technical aspects of the IGA had been sorted out and only the pricing had to be resolved. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar said the MoU reflected an “element of desire“ on the part of both parties to conclude the deal soon and considerable progress had been made in negotiations.
Unlike an IGA, though, the MoU doesn't have much legal sanctity and, as sources said, the agreement couldn't be seen as done until the two countries agreed on the amount of money India needed to shell out for the 36 aircraft.
Addressing the media after the delegation level talks with Hollande, Modi described France as one of India's oldest and most reliable strategic partners.
On another crucial issue between the two countries nuclear energy -both leaders called for speeding up the techno-commercial negotiations which has delayed implementation of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries. According to the joint statement, the two leaders “encouraged“ their industrial companies to conclude techno-commercial negotiations by the end of 2016 for construction of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur, with due consideration to cost viability of the project, economical financing from the French side, collaboration on transfer of technology and cost-effective localization of manufacturing in India for large and critical components in accord with the government's `Make in India' initiative.
France acknowledged the need for India to have lifetime guarantee of fuel supply and renewed its commitment to reliable, uninterrupted and continued access to nuclear fuel supply throughout the entire lifetime of the plants.France reaffirmed its support for India's candidature for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council.


Amit Shah re-elected as BJP Chief

Amit Shah, who was serving the remainder of Rajnath Singh's term as BJP president, got elected formally to the top post for a full three-year term on Sunday , but the fissures within the party were visible as veterans like LK Advani and MM Joshi kept away from the felicitation ceremony .
BJP V-P AR Khanna, who was the returning officer for the election, declared Shah elected unopposed on Sunday . He will be in the saddle till January 2019. Shah had taken over as BJP chief on July 9, 2014, replacing Singh who quit the post after becoming the home minister.
The party went through the process -which were a mere formality -of electing its president, with 20 BJP state units submitting 17 nominations in favour of Shah .Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Manohar Parrikar, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, as well as chief ministers of BJP-ruled states were among those who signed the nomination papers supporting Shah.
BJP Parliamentary Board will meet on January 28 to formally endorse Shah as the party chief. At 51, he is one of the youngest leaders to have taken over as a full-term party president. Modi had prevailed over the RSS to give Shah a full term. In lieu of this, Shah will have to make changes in his team of office-bearers and accommodate RSS choices, sources said. Since his term will expire in January 2019, Shah is likely to continue till the Lok Sabha polls and hence will have an important role in Modi's re-election test.

100 Files on Netaji Subhash Bose Declassified

A hundred secret files, which could throw some light on the controversy over the disappearance or death of Subhash Chandra Bose, were made public by prime minister Narendra Modi on Netaji's 119th birth anniversary. The files comprise over 16,600 pages of historic documents, ranging from those of the British Raj to as late as 2007, an official said, after the ceremony at the National Archives of India (NAI) in which the PM declassified the secret papers.
Also present were members of the Bose family and Union ministers Mahesh Sharma and Babul Supriyo. In addition to the 100 files, the NAI plans to release digital copies of a set of 25 declassified files on Bose in the public domain every month. NAI also opened a dedicated website to store all the declassified files.
While two commissions of inquiry had concluded that Netaji had died in a plane crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945, a third probe panel, headed by Justice MK Mukherjee, had contested it and suggested that Bose was alive after that. The controversy has also split members of the Bose family. The first lot of 33 files were declassified by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and handed over to the NAI on December 4 last year.
Chandra Kumar Bose, spokesperson of the Bose family said, “We feel that certain important files were destroyed during the Congress regime in order to hide the truth. Government should take steps to ensure the release of files lying in Russia, Germany, UK, the US.“
Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, who lives in Germany, believes that her father had died in the Taipei plane crash.

Somewhere in Gurgaon....

Pay online for your LPG refill

Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the online payment facility for consumers at the time of booking their LPG refill cylinder. “This facility would bring great relief to working couples as well as senior citizens as they can now make the payment online,“ said an HPCL official. “This will also eliminate the hassles of tendering exact change for payment.“

Obama gets tough with Pakistan

Calling the Pathankot terror strike “another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long“, US President Barack Obama on Sunday demanded that Pakistan “delegitimise, disrupt and dismantle“ terrorist networks that operate from its territory.
In a tough message, Obama said Pakistan “can and must“ take more effective action against terrorist groups. “Pakistan has an opportunity to show it is serious about delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling terror networks,“ he said.
Referring to the Pathankot attack in which Jaish-e-Muhammed terrorists stormed an air force station, the US President said, “We join India in condemning the attack, saluting the Indians who fought to prevent more loss of life and extending our condolences to the victims and their families.Tragedies like this also underscore why the US and India continue to be such close partners in fighting terrorism.“
Obama added, “In the region and around the world, there must be zero tolerance for safe havens and terrorists must be brought to justice.“
Alongside, Obama gave credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after the Pathankot attack. “Both leaders are advancing a dialogue on how to confront violent extremism and terrorism across the region.“
Voicing his belief that the Indo-US relationship can be one of the defining partnerships of the century, Obama said Modi shared his enthusiasm for a strong partnership and “we have developed a friendship and close working relationship, including our conversations on the new secure lines between our offices“.
Asked if the relationship has achieved its full potential, the President replied, “Absolutely not“.

Somewhere in Delhi....

Wanda Industrial New City

Billionaire Wang Jianlin's Dalian Wanda Group agreed to spear head a $10-billion project to build an industrial park in India, in what could become one of the biggest development projects in the country
Wanda Group, China's biggest commercial property developer, signed a preliminary agreement with the state of Haryana to build an industrial zone, the company said. The first phase of `Wanda Industrial New City', the construction of which may begin this year, will span 13 sq km and house companies in industries ranging from software to cars and healthcare, it said.
Should the project be completed, it would mark as a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to bring in foreign capital. The investment's scale suggests it would be the largest foreign investment into India.
The Wanda agreement is the result of talks between Wang, Modi and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar that began in June of 2015. A `Wanda Cultural Tourism City' and a residential district may also be developed as part of the project.


Debt Monitor

Aadhaar statz

Around 92% of India's adult population has acquired valid Aadhaar numbers as on Wednesday , the significant landmark enhancing the case for linking the unique identity scheme to disbursal of benefits under welfare programmes run by the Centre and states. The Unique Identification Authority of India's achievement means that a very large majority of India's adult population is in a position to access benefits through Aadhaar-linked bank accounts that should significantly reduce leakages by way of ghost and duplicate identities.
Government estimates show most social sector schemes suffer from suspect beneficiaries who amount to 10-15% of the recipients. With subsidies offered by the Centre adding up to around Rs.3.5 lakh crore a year, Aadhaar -that significantly reduces the risk of impersonation -could mean savings in the region of Rs.35,000-60,000 crore annually .
Banks are increasingly preferring Aadhaar identities for quick verification. It also allows them to identify accounts that will receive government assistance to better assess a loan seeker's financial status.While the government has spent Rs.7,100 crore since 2009 in rolling out the ambitious scheme to provide every resident with a unique identification number, the possible benefits could far outstrip these costs, sources said. The World Bank recently applauded the initiative and estimated that use of the scheme was saving the government about Rs.650 crore annually by curbing corruption.

National Herald to be relaunched

The National Herald will be relaunched along with two other newspapers -Navjeevan and Qaumi Awaz. The decision to relaunch the newspapers was taken at National Herald publisher Associated Journals Limited (AJL)'s board meeting on Thursday .A resolution to change the company's name and turn it into a not-for-profit organization was taken as well.
Congress treasurer and AJL chairman Motilal Vora said that the resolutionto convert AJL into a not-for-profit company was in pursuance of the company's revival plan of 2010. He said the proposal to change the company's name has been sent to the registrar of companies.“The company's new name is subject to approval of the agency concerned,“ he said, not specifying when the newspapers would be relaunched.
Jawaharlal Nehru had founded AJL in November 1937. In 2012, BJP functionary Subramanian Swamy filed a case before the Delhi HC alleging Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi had “taken over“ the defunct company's assets worth over Rs.2,000 crore in a “malicious“ manner. Swamy has named Vora, Congress general secretary Oscar Fernandes, journalist Suman Dubey and technocrat Sam Pitroda in the case besides the Gandhis.


National Conference on eGovernance

Of INS Viraat's last journey....

India’s oldest warhorse may now be creaking at all her numerous joints but she is still game for a show of strength, a wee bit of power projection on the high seas for the last time. The 56-year-old aircraft carrier INS Viraat has now set sail for what will be her last operational deployment.
The 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, which embarked six Sea Harrier jump-jets as well as six Sea King and four Chetak helicopters from Goa on Wednesday, is headed for Visakhapatnam to take part in the International Fleet Review (IFR) from February 5 to 8.
“This will be INS Viraat’s last journey, a cross-coast deployment signalling the end of her yeoman service for India before she is retired later this year. On her way back to Mumbai, she will call on all major Indian ports as a final salute,” said a senior officer on Wednesday.
Originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in November 1959, the 13-storey high carrier was inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Viraat on May 12, 1987.
“Mother”, as she is still affectionately called, packed quite a punch in her days of glory. She represented two acres of sovereign Indian territory cruising on the high seas, ready to unleash her fighters and other weapons against enemies in a jiffy.
With age and high maintenance costs, the world’s oldest operational aircraft carrier has lost most of its teeth. But the Navy has managed to cannibalise together six Sea Harrier jump-jets, which are always a sight to watch since they land vertically on the warship deck after taking off from its angled ski-jump.
Commanded by Captain Puneet Chadha, INS Viraat will be joined by the country’s other carrier, the 44,570-tonne INS Vikramaditya with her integral MiG-29K fighters, for the IFR. But INS Vikramaditya, or the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov acquired from Russia in late 2013 after a $2.33 billion refit, will have to soldier alone as the country’s solitary carrier after that.
The 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier or INS Vikrant being built at Cochin Shipyard will be ready for induction only by 2018-2019 at the earliest. India will then achieve its longstanding aim to have two fully-operational “carrier battle or strike groups'' (CBGs), with their accompanying fighters, patrol aircraft, destroyers, submarines frigates and tankers.
CBGs project raw combat power like nothing else.
The US has 11 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered “supercarriers”, each over 94,000 tonne and capable of carrying 80-90 fighters, deployed around the globe. China, too, is fast building new carriers after inducting the 65,000-tonne Liaoning in September 201, even as it is develops “long legs” with naval deployments spreading to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
The defence ministry has sought a response from all nine maritime states if any one of them has “a workable proposal” to convert INS Viraat into a docked museum. The Navy is even willing to handover a few old aircraft for display on its deck to make it a first-class museum.
The Navy does not want INS Viraat to go the way of INS Vikrant, the country’s first aircraft carrier that was acquired from the UK in 1961 and later decommissioned in 1997.