The Dragon's point of view

China is not convinced that India's entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime would contribute to nuclear non-proliferation. At the same time, its official media complained that India was getting “smug“ in the face of its “golden boy“ treatment by the West. “We've noted that some of the multilateral export control regimes have changed in one way or another,“ the Chinese foreign ministry said, adding, “With that in mind, China is assessing the effectiveness of MTCR in safeguarding the international nonproliferation regime.“
China recently blocked India's entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, saying it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.And, although Beijing is an important member of the NSG, it has not been admitted into the MTCR despite its efforts since 2004. China's official English language daily Global Times acknowledged that MTCR for India was a setback for China.
“The Chinese have become more mature in dealing with these setbacks caused by international relations,“ it editorialised on India's entry into MTCR. It blamed the US for promoting India's case saying India has become “spoiled“ and “a bit smug“ owing to the “golden boy“ treatment by the West.
“The US is not the whole world. Its endorsement does not mean India has won the backing of the world,“ China's official English language daily commented, while complaining that this amounted to a “thumbs down“ for China. “Recent years have seen the Western world giving too many thumbs up to India, but thumbs down to China. India is spoiled. Although the South Asian country's GDP is only 20% of China, it's still a golden boy in the eyes of the West, having competitive edge and more potential compared to China. The international `adulation' of India makes it a bit smug in international affairs,“ it said.
At the same time, Beijing reiterated its resolve to enhance relationship with India, saying it sent out a message of friendship along the lines of the sentiment voiced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The Chinese side will work with the Indian side to steer the bilateral relations, and deepen cooperation in different fields,“ the statement added, and promised to “stay in communication and dialogue“ with India to resolve differences in a “fair, sensible and mutually acceptable solution“.

Maharashtra goes for farm-to-mkt to curb veg prices

Amid a surge in vegetable prices, the state government has decided to curb the role of middlemen and enable farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers. The cabinet on Tuesday took an in-principle decision to adopt the farm-to-market approach which will allow cultivators to sell their produce to malls, retailers and even consumers.
As of now, farmers have to rely solely on the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), which runs marketyards where farm produce is sold through auctions. But payments to farmers often get delayed by this route.
State minister for cooperation and marketing Chandrakant Patil said the decision was taken keeping farmers' welfare in mind. “Farmers will have now two options, either they can sell their produce through APMC or go to the open market for a competitive price,“ said Patil. In the process, retail prices are also set to moderate as the 12-15% commission earned on transportation and storage by labourers, traders, middlemen will stay with farmers or be passed on to the buyer.
Some municipal administrations like Thane have already taken a proactive approach to the plan by identifying locations where farmer outlets can sell fresh produce at a cheaper rate.
As part of the plan to empower farmers, the state had approached the Centre six months ago with a proposal to include the 30 APMCs in various parts of the state to be empanelled in the `e-mandi', an online marketing mechanism under the national agriculture market portal. As the state had not amended the relevant law, the proposal could not be taken up. “Now since we have decided to amend the law to allow farmers to sell produce in the open market, they would be able to get a competitive price at the national level through online participation,“ said Patil.
Those allowed to buy directly from the farmer will have to register themselves “to ensure protection to farmers who can lodge complaints...if buyer does not pay“.

Highway building hits a record

A little more than two years after assuming office, the NDA government is on course to set a new record of highway development in a month with the road transport and highways ministry estimating that construction will touch 27-28 km a day in June.
The pace of highway construction in June is likely to be two-and-half times more than what the UPA had achieved when it went out of power. During UPA-II, the average rate of highway construction was about 10-11 km.Though highways minister Nitin Gadkari had set a target of constructing 30 km a day by May-end, the target achieved was around 17 km. The ministry had recorded the highest-ever construction of highways, at 6,029 km, during the last financial year.
Sources said highway construction has accelerated because of a series of measures to revive held up projects and as well as regular monitoring of ongoing works by the road transport secretary and NHAI chairman.“Hundreds of projects have been reviewed individually in the past three months. Regular monitoring will push construction.At present work is on or is going to start on about 40,000 km.Works awarded in the past two years will begin showing results,“ said the official.
The pace of construction is higher during April, May and June ­ considered as favourable months for civil construction ­ahead of the monsoon. The current trend points to an increase in the pace of construction this year. Typically , construction again picks up post rains.
The rate of construction has been boosted as several ongoing projects involve widening of roads from seven metres (two-lane) to 10 metres (two-lanes with shoulder). Most of these projects are government funded.Highway widening besides new roads is also part of construction work and this has been a feature even in the past.
Unlike in the West where highways are greenfield projects, in India district and state roads have been upgraded to National Highways and this involves widening of existing stretches.


Somewhere in Bhubaneshwar....

Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway snippets

The ministry of forest and environment and climate change has granted final clearance to the Vadodara-Mumbai expressway.
The 380-km project which will be taken up in three phases is now facing the hurdle of land acquisition as land owners of in Gujarat and Maharashtra have registered their protest.
National Highway Authority of India officials, said: “Land acquisition process is underway but is facing stiff opposition from land owners in Navsari and Valsad in Gujarat and Thane and Pahalgar in Maharashtra.
According to senior officials of NHAI, the project was given the environment clearance recently and the project may see some ground-work by the end of this year, after the land acquisition problems are sorted out.
The project once commissioned will ensure that a person reaches Mumbai within six hours by road. The union government has already taken up the Rs.97,000 crore 508 km Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project which will reduce the travel time to just 2.30 hours between the two cities.
NHAI officials said that the expressway starts from Ghorbandar near Creek Bridge in Thane district and traverses through the districts of Silvasa, Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara. It will connect to the already existing Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway.
“Once commissioned, a person heading to Mumbai will be able to drive down to Mumbai from Ahmedabad in around six hours, the time equal to the time taken by a Shatabdi train,“ said a senior official.
Officials however added that at present land acquisition process is getting delayed due to opposition of land owners in Gujarat especially in Navasari, Valsad districts and also in Palghar & Thane districts in Maharashtra. The official said that due to problems in land acquisition they are not in a position to decide on the time for starting the project.In the phase I, from Vadodara to Talasari, a total of 3,205 hectares of land will have to be acquired.

India joins elite missile tech club

Days after India failed to join the NSG, the government signed itself into a more exclusive non-proliferation regime, Missile Technology Control Regime, joining a select club of countries controlling export of missile technology . China is not a member of this group.
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar signed the instrument of accession to MTCR, which is aimed at preventing unchecked proliferation of missiles and their delivery systems.

Gay celebs move SC against Sec 377

In what could lend more heft to the fight for their rights, leading lights of the LGBT community have moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of Section 377 of IPC to protect their sexual preferences, saying these are part and parcel of the right to life.
The petition by dancer N S Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur will come up for hearing before a bench of Justices S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan on June 29, when the SC resumes business after a 45 day vacation. Leading lawyers Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar will argue for the petitioners.
Their writ plea will give fresh impetus to the pending petitions filed by Naz Foundation and gay rights sympathizers like film-maker Shyam Benegal. After refusing to entertain petitions against Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality , twice, the SC had on February 2 referred the issue to a five-judge bench, saying “important constitutional issues“ have been raised in the curative petitions.
The present petition changes the contours of a decade-and-a-half-old legal fight on two counts. One, well known LGBT personalities who have till now lived in fear of social persecution have overcome the fear of public humiliation to assert their sexual preference. Second, this is the first time people who are directly aggrieved by Section 377 have challenged its constitutional validity.
Their petition's first paragraph is a bold declaration--“The petitioners are lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) citizens of India whose rights to sexuality , sexual autonomy , choice of sexual partner, life, privacy , dignity and equality , along with the other fundamental rights guaranteed under Part-III of Constitution are violated by Section 377. “Despite our achievements and contributions to India in various fields, we are being denied the right to sexuality, the most basic and inherent of fundamental rights. Section 377 renders them criminals in their own country .“ the plea said, adding, “Section 377 criminalizes the very existence of LGBT people by criminalizing their sexuality, an attribute which is as inherent and intrinsic to a person as their race or gender.Sexuality lies at the core of a human being's persona. Sexual expression, in whatever form, between consenting adults in the privacy of a home ought to receive protection of fundamental rights.“ Their 716-page petition, including annexures, was drafted by a team of lawyers, including Saurabha Kripal, Arundhati Katju, Himanshu Suman and Menaka Guruswamy .


Modi launches Smart City projects

Making a strong pitch to consider urbanisation as an opportunity to mitigate poverty and not as a problem, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said cities have to be strengthened through comprehensive and inter-connected approach combined with increased public participation.
Addressing a gathering here after the launch of projects under government's flagship Smart City mission in 20 cities across the country , he said, “There was a time in our country when urbanisation was considered a big problem. But, I feel differently. We should not consider urbanisation as a problem, but consider it as an opportunity.“ “People in the economic field consider cities as a growth centre.... If anything has the potential to mitigate poverty it is our cities. That is why people from poor places migrate to cities, as they find opportunities there.
“It is now our responsibility to provide strength to cities so that it can mitigate the maxi mum poverty , in the shortest time, and adds new avenues for development. It is possible as it is not a difficult task,“ he said.
As the Prime Minister launched 14 smart city projects in Pune, and initiated 69 other works in other smart cities in the country , he made a plea for working in a comprehensive, inter-connected and vision-oriented manner and not in piecemeal.
“There cannot be a transformation as long as we take things in bits and pieces. We need to adopt a comprehensive, interconnected and vision-oriented approach,“ he said.
Modi added that every city has a distinct identity and the country's people “who are the smartest“ should decide on how to develop urban spaces.
Stressing that the spirit of participative governance is vital, he said people of the cities have to decide about the development of their urban spaces as these decisions cannot be taken by people sitting in Delhi.
He stressed on increased public participation in deciding the course of development of smart cities and called for intense competition among cities to develop them as modern centres of growth.
“If we consider it as a problem, our approach to address it would be the same, but if we consider it an an opportunity we would start thinking differently,“ he said.

Mehbooba wins Anantnag bypoll

Jammu-Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on her family bastion of Anantnag by more votes than her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed did in the 2014 assembly election. But her by-election win, required to keep her office, was dimmed by the fact that fewer people turned out to vote compared to the last few elections.
Mehbooba trounced her nearest rival, Congress's Hilal Shah, by a margin of 12,085 votes. Sayeed, whose death in January had necessitated the by-election, had defeated Shah in 2014 by 6,000 votes. Mehbooba secured 17,701 votes followed by Shah 5,616.National Conference's Iftikhar Misger (NC) stood a distant third with 2,811 votes. Mehbooba's victory margin is significant amid anger in the Valley over ruling Peoples Democratic Party's alliance with BJP and accusations against her government of promoting the Hindutva agenda.
The success was marred by low turnout of 34%, which was down by 5% compared to 2014 amid a separatist poll boycott call. The NC congratulated Mehbooba, but raised doubts over her victory citing alleged electronic voting machine (EVM) tampering. 

Japanese tech to turn garbage into compost in 2 hours

In the next four days, Koramangala's garbage will be turned into compost that can be used in the locality .Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and a private company have installed a machine at the Koramangala garbage segregation unit near Jyoti Nivas College. The machine, worth Rs.3.5 crore, can convert four tonnes of organic waste into compost in one-and-a-half hours.
On Friday , the Japanese bio-engineering compost machine was fermenting 200 kg of organic waste. It works as an aerobic digester and has zero discharge, which means there's no smell or effluents from the process.
Vijay Kumar, technical support operator from JERS Environment Technologies, the company that brought the machine to Bengaluru, said: “It can convert four tonnes of waste into fertiliser in 10 cycles, treating 200 kg of waste at a time. About 70% of the waste is converted into fertiliser and the rest can be further treated to extract more fertiliser or be used as refuse derived fuel (RFD). This RFD, when used as fuel, would contain fewer toxins and emit lesser pollutants.“
The machine needs 210 KW of power to process four tonnes of waste and about 10 litres of water to process 200 kg. About 35 kg of compost is generated from 200 kg of waste.
The aerobic chamber works in two phases -fermentation and drying. The time taken to compost waste depends on the moisture content of the garbage.While the machine is capable of treating waste with 80% moisture content, it retains 18% to 20% of moisture content in the output.
“Similar machines have been already set up in Singapore, Philippines and Canada. This is the first one we are setting up in India and hope to install more across the country after a successful trial in Bengaluru,“ Vijay Kumar said.
Anil Chinniah, secretary of the Residents' Welfare Association in Koramangala 3rd Block, said: “We have a waste composting site in our locality put up by the residents of Koramangala 3rd Block. Garbage turns to compost naturally over three months but this machine does it in a few hours. We have to keep in mind the power and water consumption of the machine, transportation cost for carrying garbage to the segregation unit, labour charges and so on. If everything is feasible, the machine can be used across the state.“

BrahMos soars on the back of Sukhoi

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL) Nashik division created history when it conducted a test flight of a 2,500-kg supersonic BrahMos missile integrated with a Sukhoi SU-30 MKI aircraft at its airport here.
The first carriage flight of Su-30 MKI aircraft with BrahMos missile went up at 2.30 pm and was in the air for 45 minutes.
The successful integration of BrahMos on Su-30 MKI aircraft has become “a lethal weapon delivery platform“ for the Indian Air Force. Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the CEO and MD of BAPL, which has developed the missile, claimed this was the first time anywhere in the world that such a heavyweight supersonic cruise missile has been integrated with a fighter aircraft. “The world did not believe we could do it. Thanks to the vision of late President APJ Abdul Kalam that we could achieve this today . History has been made,“ he added.


Chinese Dragon bares fangs again

India's high energy , high profile campaign to get into the NSG ran aground Friday morning, as China remained adamantly opposed to even considering the issue. After a plenary meeting in Seoul, which saw Chinese diplomats attempt to block even a discussion, the 48 member nuclear cartel could not take a decision on India's membership.
A last minute diplomatic outreach by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese president Xi Jinping after the two leaders met in Tashkent also failed to cut any ice.
A big outcome of the NSG failure is India may not ratify the Paris Agreement, a key element of US president Brack Obama's legacy , anytime soon.The Indian statement on the NSG plenary says, “ An early positive decision by the NSG wo uld have allowed us to move forward on the Paris Agreement.“
This will be a big blow to the Obama administration that wanted India to ratify the pact to help it enter into force. It was understood that an NSG membership would encourage India to clear the Paris Agreement.
In the end, diplomats said 38 countries declared outright support for India's accession, while nine others held out on questions of procedure. China however maintained its line against India which helped to sway fence-sitters like Ireland, New Zealand and Austria, who pushed for a process and criteria to determine entry of non-NPT countries.
Others like Switzerland raised concerns about rules of entry but supported India, said sources in the room.China's closest ally was Turkey , they said, but whether it was “process“ that was used as fig leaf or not, it helped China claim support of about a dozen countries for its position.

The NSG non-decision on India's membership will have implications for India's bilateral relations with China.While no one was willing to go public, China's open hostility to India's global aspirations is now out in the open, coming as it does after China's block on a UN sanction of terror leader Masood Azhar, will make progress difficult.

Chinese diplomats exercised a filibuster for the better part of Thursday to block a discussion on India. They only relented to a three-hour discussion on “Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG“ on condition that there would be no decision.
Ultimately , it took the joint efforts of western countries UK, Germany , France, Australia and US to build in an escape clause for India in the NSG plenary statement. This helps India revisit the NSG membership question later this year or the next NSG plenary in Switzerland.
A dejected MEA pointedly referred to “procedural hurdles persistently raised by one country“ behind the impasse.

UK bids adiEU

In a stunning referendum, UK voted 52%-48% to leave the 28-nation European Union after 43 years, sending global markets into a tailspin and business leaders into crisis meetings, and triggering David Cameron's decision to exit as British PM. With far right-wing politicians across the continent demanding their countries break away too, the rising tide of strident nationalism, economic angst, anti-immigrant hostility and protectionism portends an uncertain future for liberalism and globalization.
The market turmoil reflected both the uncertainty among investors everywhere about the impact of he UK leaving the EU and the fact that the outcome of he referendum had caught them by surprise. Despite the vote, the UK will remain a member of the EU or possibly two more years while the long process of negotiating the terms of the exit are worked out with he EU. In his statement shortly after the results were announced, Cameron said he would leave it to his successor, to be chosen at the Conservative Party conference in early October, to initiate that process. The EU has rules for a country exiting the union under Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, but they had never been put to test till now. (When Greenland left what was then the European Economic Community in 1985 following a referendum, there was no Article 50.) While the campaign in Britain on remaining or leaving in the EU has not strictly followed party lines --with members of Cameron's own Cabinet opposing him--the move to exit the Union was fuelled largely by the right-wing and depended on two central pillars: anxiety about the possibility of immigrants from or through the continent--particularly war torn Syria--inundating the UK, and a perception that `bureaucrats in Brussels' were dictating terms and curtailing British sovereignty . (EU rules allow unfettered movement of citizens of member-nations within the Union, including for employment.) Over 72% of the electorate turned out to vote in the historic referendum, higher than in any general election in the UK since 1992 --and an indication of how much the issue agitated people on either side of the Brexit divide.
The Brexit vote also highlighted divisions within the UK, with Scotland and Northern Ireland voting decisively in favour of remaining in the EU, and England and Wales approving the exit. The sharply different voting patterns have triggered demands for a fresh referendum on Scotland's continuation in the UK and another on Ireland's unification.
Right-wing parties in France, Italy, Holland and elsewhere were also quick to demand that similar referendums be held in their countries, con firming apprehensions that Brexit could provide a fillip to parties riding a rising tide of ultra nationalism across Europe. The rising tide of ultra nationalism represents an anti-globalising tendency in a world in which many have been `victims' of globalisation -caused by free trade and movement of labour -even if many more have benefited.
The anti-immigrant underpinnings of the Brexit vote, seen alongside the growth of right-wing parties in several European nations, could lead to a renewed debate on whether Europe's experiments with multiculturalism have failed or are failing -and could raise the rhetoric against Islam.
Some of England's biggest cities, like London, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol voted by big margins in favour of staying on in the EU, but that was not enough to offset the pro-exit vote in other parts of the island nation. The months-long debate within the UK on whether to stay on in the EU or break free had become nasty , with each side accusing the other of scaremongering.
The `Remain' camp charged those wanting Brexit with fuelling fears about uncontrolled entry of immigrants into the UK while those in favour of `Leave' said the pro-EU campaigners were overstating the economic perils of an exit in an attempt to scare voters into maintaining the status quo.
The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last week, apparently over the Brexit vote, was seen by many as having jolted some in the `Leave' camp into reconsidering their position, but the final outcome suggests it wasn't enough to swing the vote.


Tigers roar back to Manas

Tigers have made a roaring comeback in the Manas landscape which straddles both Assam's Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) and Bhutan.
The second survey to monitor big cats across the Trans-boundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA), which covers Manas National Park (MNP) on the Indian side and the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in Bhutan, has thrown up 21 tigers -a heart-warming increase of 50% over the first survey in 2011-12 that had counted just 14 big cats in the Manas landscape.

Akashvani Maitree

In a unique initiative, public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) will launch a first-of-its-kind service called Akashvani Maitree, which can be heard both in India and Bangladesh. Mainly in Bengali, the service will provide a platform for content creation and sharing of cultural heritage between the two countries.
The service will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on June 28 with renowned Indian and Bangladeshi artistes as part of the inaugural programme. Singer Usha Uthup is expected to sing the opening song while Soumitra Chatterjee will recite and Bangladeshi artistes Rezwana Chaudhary Bannya and Shama Rahman are likely to participate in the event.
While earlier programmes of this service were produced solely by AIR, the new `Maitree Service' will invite Bangladeshi artistes and personalities.“There would also be Bangladesh-oriented programmes for greater awareness about our neighbour and India's views on it,'' Jawhar Sircar, Prasar Bharati CEO said.
The channel comes following PM Narendra Modi's initiative to strengthen ties with Dhaka. The Special Bangla Service, was the precursor to Akashvani Maitree, and was launched in the wake of the Bangladesh Liberation Movement in 1971 and played a historic role during the movement.

China lone holdout as 47 back India's NSG bid

China remained the last major obstacle in the way of India's membership bid in the Nuclear Suppliers Group as 47 of 48 members supported Delhi's application at the group's special plenary session in Seoul on Thursday.
The session debated until midnight but failed to come to a conclusion after hours of discussions, with China adamant in its opposition. Questions and doubts by other fence-sitting countries dissolved in the course of the evening, leaving China as the last man standing against India. Officials in Seoul said the meeting would restart on Friday. After Thursday's meeting, delegations were asked to revert to their HQs for fresh instructions. China raised a procedural block early in the day, refusing to admit the India membership issue for discussion at the meeting.This, diplomats in the room said, caused a delay of over five hours as the members wrestled with an agenda item. Finally, it was decided to discuss a heavily worded agenda on “political, legal and technical issues of non-NPT countries' membership“.The discussions began at 9 pm and ended around midnight, but remained deadlocked. Indian officials will be lobbying hard with the members before the meeting begins on Friday morning. The US is also expected to be working the phones on India's behalf.
Earlier on Thursday afternoon, PM Narendra Modi delivered a candid message to Chinese President Xi Jinping who he met for a bilateral on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Tashkent. Sources said Modi conveyed to Xi New Delhi's expectation that China would support India in the NSG, a position which suggests that continued opposition will impact ties. The 45-minute Modi-Xi meeting was almost entirely devoted to the NSG issue and China's opposition. A readout of the meeting was given by official spokesperson Vikas Swarup, who said, “PM Modi urged China to make a fair and objective assessment of India's application and judge it on its own merit. He said China should contribute to the emerging consensus in Seoul.“
Until late Thursday evening, however, Chinese diplomats in Seoul held on to their stand against India. Brazil and South Africa, two other BRICS members, backed India, as did Russia. The consensus emerged through the evening's discussions, with Ireland, Switzerland and Austria, even Brazil raising questions on process ­but these whittled down to supporting India. Turkey stuck to supporting both India and Pakistan. Pakistan's NSG bid was not discussed at length, though the presence of the application was the reason for a lot of discussion on non-NPT countries.

Mumbai's Coastal Road snippets

The BMC has released its “final design“ for half he stretch of its ambitious coastal road project. Initially planned from Nariman Point, it will now stretch from Marine Lines to Kandivli.
The released plan is for the section between Marine Lines and Bandra. The plan for the remaining section may get deayed as there's uncertainty over the proposed road's alignment along Juhu Chowpatty .Also, the cost estimate of the entire project has been revised own from Rs.13,000 crore to Rs.11,000 crore. This is because the proposed road's length has been shortened from 33.2 km to 29.2 km. The drop in cost is mainly due to the shortening of the tunnel planned from Priyadarshini Park till the road's southern end.
For Juhu beach, four options are being explored: an underground tunnel, an undersea tunnel, a sea link, and a sea wall on the beach (after extending it artificially; the Juhu section of the coastal road will be laid on the wall; the wall will have gates to allow the movement of people on either side of the beach).
The state government wants to complete the project within a “time-bound manner“ and has assured all clearances to the BMC. But the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) wants the possibility of a tram line explored along the route before giving permission to the coastal road project.
The BMC is not keen on a tramway , officials said. A senior official said a tramway will need tracks, overhead equipment, and power substations, which the BMC doesn't want. The MCZMA has also suggested the planting of five times the number of mangroves that are to be hacked to make way for the road instead of the stipulated three times. BMC officials are negotiating the point. Additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee, who is looking after the project, had a meeting with representatives of 12 companies on Thursday on the matter of `expression of interest'. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta asked his officials to put the final route and engineering design for Marine Lines-Bandra in the public domain, including the BMC's website.
Activist Darryl D'Monte, who is opposed to the plan, said that while the BMC is claiming that the project's cost has reduced, by the time all permissions are in place it will increase.“The BMC is changing the alignments of the road's sections every now and then. The city's coast is one of its most precious assets and deserves to stay clear. As for Juhu beach, all four options are unacceptable.“
As per the released plan, the coastal road will start as a tunnel ahead of the Princess Street flyover at Marine Lines which will pass under Girgaum Chowpatty and Hanging Garden, and emerge near Priyadarshini Park. Then it will run through reclaimed land and silts. There will be three alignment interchanges till Bandra: after Priyadarashani Park, at Mahalaxmi and at Worli.
The BMC wants to undertake the work in phases. It has released the south Mumbai-Bandra plan first as in this section it hasn't faced much opposition from residents. A BMC official said the civic body will invite tenders after getting the MCZMA 's clearance. “We are keen to take all those citizens who are raising objections to the project into confidence.Therefore we plan to start work from the South Mumbai end, where resistance has been insignificant. This work will convince those living in the suburbs to understand the importance of the coastal road,“ said a senior civic official.
The project will be executed by the BMC (the coastal road's planning and executive authority), though earlier the state government wanted to carry it out. The government had formed a joint technical committee (JTC) to study the feasibility of the road. The panel suggested that it be constructed.


Towering Tricolours

Lucknow - Kanpur RRTS planned

The 2.5-hour train journey between Lucknow and Kanpur would be cut down to just 45 minutes with the Metroman, E. Sreedharan, planning to propose a Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) between the two cities. Sreedharan is presently monitoring Lucknow Metro project as principal advisor to Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC). He said, “There are many who travel on a daily basis between the two cities. RRTS is an effective medium to make travel hassle-free for short-distance rail commuters. It will help them save time and money .“
The fare of RRTS is about one-fourth that of a MEMU (commuter rail system) train.At present, one ends up paying around Rs.20-25 in a MEMU which would decrease to just about Rs.5 for a one-way ticket.This would be even less than travelling between two localities of Lucknow in an auto.
RRTS is like a mono-rail system which primarily runs on ground. If it has to pass through a highway or a road, it has to take elevated or underground route just like a metro train. Sreedharan said that RRTS in Lucknow can either be run on an existing railway track or a new track can be constructed upto Kanpur.
The concept is relatively new in India and is being planned only around two cities at present -Delhi and Vijayawada. Both projects have been approved by the union ministry of urban development.
Sreedharan said, “In South, the project is being funded by Andhra Pradesh government, so we can ask UP government too to take up this initiative. We already have an expert LMRC team to take care of it.“
The average speed of an RRTS is about 100 kmph while that of a Metro is 85 kmph.

Building the nation through tourism

Smart Cities Mission launch

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is feeling the pressure to perform since Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to launch his ambitious Smart Cities Mission from Pune.
Modi will be in the city on Saturday to inaugurate 14 different projects to be taken up by the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSDCL).
The other 19 cities would kick start their projects simultaneously . In January this year, the government announced the names of the first 20 cities to be developed as smart cities, with Bhubaneswar topping the list followed by Pune and Jaipur.
Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu recently termed Pune's plan as a “lighthouse“. “If there is a lighthouse, everybody would look at that. If some smart cities are developed, there will be competition among others also...municipalities will increase their revenue and things will improve,“ Naidu had said during his recent visit to Pune.
Municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar termed the Centre's faith in Pune as an honour and a challenge. “The government wants to showcase Pune at the all India level. This increases our responsibility manifold. We are not saying we have become a Smart City already , but we have started a journey and will definitely reach the destination,“ said Kumar.
When asked why he thinks Pune was chosen to launch the Mission, Kumar said, “The government surveyed other cities which are part of the Mission. But Pune is far ahead when it comes to planning with 15 projects already at the launching stage. We have ensured sustainability , mobility and community participation which stands on all aspects of the Mission. We have also created an ecosystem and support structure to implement the projects.“
Puneites are hopeful that Modi's launching of the Mission here will help improve quality of life.
“It is participatory process of development and we will ensure to address all concerns raised by every stakeholder. It is city's Mission and we will be able to take along all citizens,“ said municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar.

Pune Airport update

The proposal for an international airport for Pune is set to get a boost with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announcing that the government would finalize its location within four weeks.
“The director of Airports Authority of India will visit the three locations around Pune listed for the proposed international airport in the next one week. Following the inspections, one location will be finalized within three weeks,“ Fadnavis said at a round table conference at Chakan, in which the representatives of US-based companies and top officials from the state administration were present.
A source in the administration said three locations were under consideration and would require clearance from technical teams. The new airport proposal has been under consideration for a long time but has not moved forward because of various reasons. A strong opposition from local farmers to land acquisition for the project has been a prime reason for the delay .
Fadnavis has been assuring that the government was positive about implementing the project at the earliest. He said there was also a plan to increase the strength of the existing one at Lohegaon.
The chief minister said the government was initiating various steps to ensure hassle free permission to investors and provide good infrastructure facilities. He said the number of permissions required to set up industrial units had been brought down considerably . Besides, the government had set up a single-window system to avoid delays, he said, appealing to companies from the US to invest in the state.
Fadnavis said Maharashtra was on the fast track of development. He claimed that many international industrial houses had expressed willingness to start units here and that the state had decided to follow industry-centric policy.
He said the state had skilled manpower and better infrastructure. He promised the industries would not face any delay in allotment of land.
Fadnavis said the local police had been instructed to act tough against those creating nuisance in industrial areas.

Biggest-ever spectrum sale gets cabinet nod

The stage is set for a mega spectrum sale with the Union Cabinet giving a go-ahead to auctions across seven bands. The sale will see the government put around 2,300 MHz of spectrum on sale -the highest-ever in a single auction -which is likely to fetch the exchequer at least Rs.5.5 lakh crore if all the mobile airwaves are sold at the reserve price.
There could be a minor delay in the auctions as the Cabinet decided to seek telecom regulator Trai's opinion on the contentious issue of spectrum usage charge (SUC). The move could result in a delay in the issuance of the notice inviting applications for the auctions as Trai is expected to take some time in finalizing its views on the matter.
While the Telecom Commission -the inter-ministerial panel that is the supreme body on decisions on telecom matters -had suggested a flat 4.5% rate for spectrum acquired across bands at various points in time, a development that would have seen a hike in Mukesh Ambani's soon-to-be-launched Reliance Jio's charge (against the existing 1% in the 2,300 MHz band), the decision was not supported by the Attorney General.
Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Cabinet had decided to take the opinion of Trai on the matter. It must be noted here that the regulator had in 2013 recommended a flat 3% SUC rate on all kinds of spectrum, but this was never accepted.
On the other hand, the telecom commission had earlier this month recommended a 3% SUC rate for the upcoming auctions, while suggesting a weighted average formula for the airwaves bought previously at other rates.

Of 12,000 `dead' water springs....

A staggering 12,000 natural springs in Uttarakhand have dried up. In order to work towards their revival, several NGOs and other organisations have prepared a proposal to be forwarded through the state government to the union ministry of drinking water and sanitation asking for a Rs.500 crore grant to revive the water bodies. The proposal was readied after two-day deliberations on the topic `Reviving springs in Uttarakhand' at a workshop by Dehradun-based NGO People's Science Institute which concluded on Wednesday.Chief secretary Shatrughan Singh, who was present at the event, added that water crisis was one of the major reasons for migration from villages in the hills.

Isro propels record 20 satellites at one go

India on Wednesday launched a record 20 satellites, the most ever in a single mission in its space programme and the third highest after Russia and NASA. The payload on Isro's workhorse PSLV-C34 included the Cartosat-2 series satellite which will provide regular remote sensing services and multiple-use imagery, 13 American satellites, two from Canada and one each from Germany and Indonesia. Two academic satellites are from Sathyabama University in Chennai and College of Engineering in Pune.


Swasth Bharat

Of Internet connectivity in India

FDI rankings

Jews in Maharashtra to Get Minority Status

Maharashtra government on Tuesday approved a proposal to grant minority status to Jews in the state. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet, chaired by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “Maharashtra Cabinet approves minority status to Jew community. This decision will benefit students from these communities to avail scholarships from the ARINDAM state government and setting up of educational institutions,“ Fadnavis said. The move, which was announced by then Maharashtra minority affairs minister Eknath Khadse, is expected to make life easier for members of the community in the state.

Get real on interest rates: RRR

A day after media reports presented the Centre's view that RBI chief Raghuram Rajan may have been “behind the curve“ on interest rates, the outgoing central banker launched his strongest attack ever on proponents of softer rates and warned that experimenting with macroeconomic policies would hit the poor hard.
Although Rajan has less than two and a half months left in his term, he chose a speech at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research to launch a feisty defence of the RBI's commitment to lower inflation and to lay out the course for his successor. This was his first public address after announcing his intent to return to academia after September 4. “We had gotten used to decades of moderate to high inflation, with industrialists and governments paying negative real interest rates and the burden of the hidden inflation tax falling on the middle class saver and the poor,“ he said. The RBI governor also defended his `deep surgery' in the banking system, saying the problem with public sector banks had come to a head much before his move to clean up balance sheets and he would come up with lending numbers to back this statement. Besides calling out industrialists and the government, Rajan attacked economic advisors who were pushing RBI to cut rates on the grounds that India needs unique monetary policy solutions. “Decades of studying macroeconomic policy tells me to be very wary of economists who say you can have it all if only you try something out of the box. Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela tried unorthodox policies with depressingly orthodox consequences,“ he said.
According to the governor, rather than lobby for rate cuts, industry could bring down borrowing costs by improving the loan recovery process.
Rajan warned that hyperinflation destroys middle class savings in bonds and fixed income and causes people to lose faith in money.“ As people lose faith in money , barter of goods for goods or services becomes the norm; How much of a physics lecture would you have to pay a taxi driver to drive you to Bandra; more over would the taxi driver accept a physics lecture in payment; perhaps you would have to lecture a student, and get the student to sing to the taxi driver...“ said Rajan.
According to Rajan, rather than experiment with macro policy , which brings risks that the unprotected poor can ill afford, he has chosen to innovate on micro economic policy such as those that define the business and banking environment.“Not only do we have less chance of doing damage if we go wrong, but innovative policy may open new paths around old bottlenecks,“ the governor said. Rajan pointed out that for two decades the interest rate has consistently been seen as a painless pathway .“Flipping through a book of cartoons by that great economist, RK Laxman, I found one that indicated the solution for every ill in 1997 when the cartoon was published, as now, is for the RBI to cut interest rates by a hundred basis points. Arguments change, but clever solutions do not,“ said Rajan.

The governor who has been under attack from industry for his clean-up of bank balance said lending by PSU banks was constrained much earlier as banks struggled with stressed borrowers. He said the slowdown in credit could be seen as far back as early 2014 and it has been particularly acute in respect of bank lending to industry.
Speaking on the impact of the referendum in UK going in favour of Brexit, Rajan said it would be bad for UK's economic growth and could cause some of the periphery members of European Union to consider dropping out. “Some people have even gone to the extent of arguing that the decision which British make may be an advance call on US elections. As you know US elections are also fraught with potential risk based on who may win,“ said Rajan. The governor had earlier commented on how the Brexit vote and the political discourse in the US was due to loss of middle-class jobs.

Sayonara SoftBank

Nikesh Arora, who was tipped for the top job at Japan's SoftBank, has resigned abruptly, leaving questions about what prompted his decision as well as the future of the big-spending conglomerate's plans for India.
Arora, 48, who is the president of SoftBank Group Corporation, has sold the stake he bought last year for $483 million to Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son at a “small loss“ and he did not disclose his next moves. “Helping Masa begin the transformation of SoftBank and sowing the early seeds has been a great experience,“ Arora said in a statement.
Son, 58, who chose Arora as his heir and saw in him the same risk-taking ability that he possessed but was rare in tradition bound Japan, heaped encomiums on the former Google executive. In a statement, he praised Arora's “unparalleled skills around strategy and execution“, and took responsibility for changing his mind about handing over the reins to Arora when he turned 60 in August 2017. A statement from the Japanese company acknowledged that this played a role in Arora's departure. “The difference of expected timelines between the two leads to Arora's resignation from the position of representative director and director of SBG with the expiration of the term of office and his next steps.“ Son, however, was enigmatic about what led to the reversal in his position. “I feel my work is not done. I want to cement SoftBank 2.0, develop Sprint (the US telecom company majority-owned by SoftBank) to its true potential and work on a few more crazy ideas. This will require me to be CEO for at least another five to ten years. This is not a time frame for me to keep Nikesh waiting for the top job,“ a statement quoted Son as saying.
Later, in a series of tweets, Arora said, “Masa 2 continue 2 be CEO for 5-10 years, respect that.Learnt a lot. Clean chit from board after thorough review. Time for me to move on (sic).“
In another tweet, Arora said he didn't want to be CEO-in-waiting “past my sell by date“. He did not comment on his next move.
Arora, a former chief business officer at Google, is part of a crop of Indian-origin executives occupying corner-room jobs in the world's biggest corporations. Some, such as Google's Sundar Pichai, Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Pepsi's Indra Nooyi, have gone the full distance but in recent months there have been some high-profile stumbles. Anshu Jain, a friend of Arora, resigned as co-CEO last year from Germany's Deutsche Bank after being perceived as a shoo-in for the top job. And now Arora too has stepped down. “Nikesh was the rock star of India's startup ecosystem. He changed the landscape by taking big bets,“ said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm, a mobile marketplace and payments company which is backed by China's Alibaba, in which SoftBank is an investor. “India's late-stage investments won't be the same again.“
Just on Monday , Arora was exonerated by an internal panel of SoftBank which was inquiring into allegations of conflict of interest made by an anonymous group of shareholders in the conglome rate, which has interests in telecommunications, media and Internet firms. According to SoftBank, his decision to leave is not connected with the inquiry.

Arora, one of the world's highest paid executives with a $73-million package last fiscal, will move to an advisory role and his severance package will be in “accordance with global standards“.
His exit is being watched closely in India, where Arora led SoftBank's investment of a total of over $1 billion in companies including online retailer Snapdeal, ride-hailing app Ola, budget hotel aggregator Oyo, on-demand grocery delivery firm Grofers and realty portal Housing. SoftBank has cut large cheques for stakes of over 30%, quickly establishing itself as a significant player in India's startup sector. It has promised to invest $10 billion in technology companies and a further $20 billion in solar energy projects. Although Son did not comment on India in particular, investors and entrepreneurs believe that SoftBank will continue to stay committed to India although there may be some short-term distraction.
Kunal Bahl, the founder of Snapdeal, described Arora as a “great supporter and mentor“ to his company and said he expects business as usual. “SoftBank will continue to provide financial and strategic support to our company and the transition will have no impact on our business,“ he said.
Arora's decision to quit, said to be a “joint one“, came barely 24 hours after a special committee comprising independent board members gave him a clean chit related to allegations of questionable transactions, poor investment performance and conflict of interest.The charges were made by a group of anonymous investors through a New York-based law firm. Arora's pay package, and his anointment as successor to Son, also resulted in grumblings in the senior ranks of SoftBank.

Modi Sarkar Doles Out FDI Tonic

The government announced sweeping changes in India's foreign direct investment policy , opening up the airline business to 100% ownership, relaxing rules for single brand retail and defence and putting most sectors on the automatic approval route, continuing with the reforms programme that was kicked off after state polls ended last month.
The announcement also acted as a tonic for markets that were jittery over Raghuram Rajan's surprise weekend announcement that he would return to academics after his term as central bank governor ends in September.
“India is now the most open economy in the world for foreign direct investment,“ Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, hailing the new rules.“Now most of the sectors would be under automatic approval route, except a small negative list.“
Apple could be a high-profile beneficiary of the changes. Local sourcing conditions have been relaxed for single-brand retailers, helping companies such as Apple to set up its own stores in India. With its previous application having been denied, officials said the company will need to reapply.
Barring the sectors on the negative list, FDI up to 49% will be allowed automatically , marking an important shift in the way the policy is administered.
The decision to further liberalise the FDI regime with the objective of “providing major impetus to employment and job creation in India“, was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Modi on Monday, the government said in a release.
“These initiatives have been in the works for some time,“ said Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “These will ensure greater clarity in the processes.“
Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) Secretary Ramesh Abhishek said the FDI changes were in no way linked to the Rajan announcement. Sitharaman, who has previously criticised the governor for some of his comments, said the government respected Rajan's tenure. The government's move comes as FDI inflows rose to $55.46 billion in FY16 from $36.04 billion in FY14, reflecting India's growing attractiveness as an investment destination and status as the world's fastest growing major economy amid global uncertainty.
In the defence sector, the government has dropped the `state-of-the-art' clause for FDI over the 49% limit. Instead, under the new policy, FDI up to 100% will be allowed through the approval route where the country gets access to `modern technology', substantially easing the condition.
The FDI limit for the defence sector has also been made applicable to small arms and ammunition manufacturing.
In single-brand retail, the government has eased local sourcing norms for up to three years and another five years for `state-of-the-art' and `cutting-edge' technology.
Under the current rules, such sourcing had to start from April 1 of the year of commencement of business or opening of the first store.
The government also allowed foreign companies to own up to 74% in brownfield pharmaceutical projects without prior government approval. India already allows 100% ownership of greenfield pharma businesses. The government had put acquisitions in the pharma space on the approval route following large value purchases of Indian companies by overseas ones, triggering fears that essential drugs could become too expensive.
The government has allowed 100% FDI in airlines compared with 49% now. Up to 49% FDI will be allowed under the automatic route and more than that after government permission. However, the 49% limit on holdings by foreign airlines continues.The FDI limit for brownfield airports has been raised to 100% from 74%, opening up the possibility of overseas acquisitions of existing facilities for development.
This latest measure comes less than a week after the unveiling of the National Civil Aviation Policy and persistent concerns over ownership and control at local carriers in which foreign entities have a substantial stake.
The FDI policy on broadcasting carriage services has been amended to enable 100% FDI in teleports, direct-to-home (DTH), cable networks, mobile TVs and headend-in-the sky broadcasting services (HITS).
The government has permitted 100% FDI under the government approval route for trading, including through ecommerce, of food products made in India. Similarly, private security agencies can bring in 49% FDI through the automatic route. Beyond 49% and up to 74% would require government approval.
The government has decided to do away with the requirement of separate security clearance or Reserve Bank approval for setting up branches or liaison offices by foreign companies dealing in defence, telecom, private security or information and broadcasting if the requisite approval of the FIPB or the ministry or regulator concerned is in place.

SW Monsoon darts into North India

The monsoon galloped through central India and entered the north on Tuesday , reaching the doorstep of west UP , while almost covering Uttarakhand, Himachal and J&K. The winds have now weakened and further advance in the next few days is unlikely , met officials said.
Many parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Lucknow, were lashed by light to heavy showers, killing at least 13 persons in rain-related accidents at different places.
The monsoon now covers more than two-thirds of the country , with only Gujarat and parts of the northern plains -Rajasthan, west UP , Delhi, Haryana and Punjab -out of its ambit.
The current surge, the third since monsoon hit Kerala, carried the rain system into more than half of India in five days, moving from north Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh into Maharashtra, MP , Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Bihar, east UP and the northwestern hill states. “ The system has weakened and the monsoon is unlikely to progress further in the next few days,“ said B P Yadav, director, IMD.


E-auctioning starts for 266 FM channels

The government on Monday initiated the process for e-auctioning 266 FM radio channels in 92 cities, including strategically important areas like border towns of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.
The information and broadcasting (I-B) ministry issued the notice inviting applications with a deadline for August 1. The much-anticipated move is expected to bring radio services to small towns and cities. The Modi government has been instrumental in popularising radio through his monthly talk show `Mann Ki Baat'.
Of 69 new cities taken up for auction in the second batch, 20 with 111 channels have a population of 3-10 lakhs and 38 with 117 channels cater to a population of 1-3 lakhs. About 11 cities in border areas of Jammu-Kashmir and the northeast with population of up to 1 lakh with 33 channels have also been included.
The notice comprises eligibility criteria, application procedures, reserve prices of channels, frequencies available for selection, auction rules, and is aimed at inviting applications from interested companies for participation in the auction, an official statement said.
Hyderabad is the only metro city that is part of the auction with one frequency up for sale while tier II cities Asansol (West Bengal) and Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) will see auction of two frequencies each.
In category C, cities with population of 3-10 lakh cities like Akola, Bellary , Bhavnagar, Mysuru, Kurnool, Muzaffarnagar, Puducherry , Vellore, Salem, Saharanpur and Tirupati are included among others. In category D, towns with population of 1-3 lakhs like Godhra, Itarsi, Itanagar, Mandsaur, Rewa, Neemuch, Shivpuri, Warda and Yavatmal are included.
In J&K strategic towns, including Kargil, Leh, Kathua, Pooch and Bhaderwah, are part of the phase III auction. The towns in the Northeast included in this phase are Dhubri and Haflong in Assam, Jowai in Meghalaya, Lung-Lei in Mizoram, Mokukchung in Nagaland and Belonia in Tripura.