Pakistani Hindus find little refuge in India

Seventy years after partition unleashed the largest mass migration in human history, Hindus are still moving from Pakistan to India, where tens of thousands languish in makeshift camps near the border with no legal right to work.

Many have no choice but to toil illegally in the stone quarries near where they live because their movements are strictly controlled by the authorities, suspicious of anyone from across the border.

It is not the welcome most of them expected in Hindu-majority India.

“No job, no house, no money, no food. There, we were working in the fields, we were farmers. But here people like us are forced to break rocks to earn a living,” said 81-year-old Jogdas, who goes by just one name.

“For us the partition is still not over. Hindus are still trying to come back to their country. And when they come here, they have nothing,” he said from the camp on the outskirts of the western city of Jodhpur where he lives.

More than 15 million people were uprooted following India’s independence from Britain in 1947, which triggered months of violence in which at least a million people were killed for their faith.

Amid the bloody chaos, Hindus and Sikhs fled the newly formed Pakistan, as Muslims moved in the opposite direction.

Despite the exodus, Hindus remain one of Pakistan’s largest religious minorities. Estimates vary, but they are believed to account for around 1.6% of the population of roughly 200 million.

Many say they face discrimination and even risk abduction, rape and forced marriage.

“Soon after partition, the harassment started,” said Jogdas, whose family had only moved to what is now Pakistan a few months before partition to escape a devastating drought.

“There was not even a single day when we could live in peace. I wanted to come back to live with my Hindu brothers.”

‘We are alone’

Most of the migrants to India come from Pakistan’s Sindh province, taking a four-hour train journey through the Thar desert to Jodhpur in the arid western state of Rajasthan.

That they share the culture, food and language of Rajasthan should make it easy for them to assimilate in their adopted homeland.

In reality, they live in isolated camps, far from local communities and are treated with suspicion by authorities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said it wants to make it easier for persecuted adherents of the faith to find refuge in India.

Last year the government changed the rules to allow immigrants to apply for citizenship in the state where they live, rather than having to go through the central government.

Hindus from Pakistan qualify for a fast track to citizenship after seven years in the country.

But bureaucratic delays have meant the process of getting it can take longer to complete.

Khanaramji, 64, became an Indian citizen in 2005 after fleeing Pakistan in 1997.

He said many others had given up and returned to Pakistan, disillusioned by life in India.

“There is no assistance from the government. We are just like cattle with no owners. We are just surviving on our own,” he said.

‘Life becomes hell’

Worse even than the poverty is the suspicion from authorities.

“Those who do not have citizenship are harassed by (intelligence) agencies. They are always treated like suspects and agents of Pakistan,” said Khanaramji, who goes by only one name.

“They spend most of what they earn on going to police stations and agency offices.”

Hindu Singh Sodha, who runs a charity in Jodhpur for Pakistani Hindus seeking to settle in India, said they had high hopes of Modi when he came to office in 2014, but had been disappointed.

The migrants still come under increased scrutiny whenever tensions flare between India and Pakistan -- a frequent occurrence under the Modi government.

“Their life becomes hell,” he said.

“Because everything is affected. Their shelter, healthcare, access to education, their livelihood.”

But some feel even that is worth tolerating.

Horoji fled to India with his two adult sons two years ago after receiving death threats from the family’s Muslim neighbours in Pakistan.

“To save our lives, we had to run to India,” said 65-year-old Horoji, whose grandparents were originally from present-day India but found themselves on the wrong side of the border at partition.

“My grandfather had gone to the other side for work. But he had told us to move to India when the right time comes as he had sensed times would not be safe for Hindus in future.”

Rs.1L crores rail projects to be implemented in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government and the Railways are to jointly invest over Rs. one lakh crore to boost rail infrastructure in the state in the next few years. The investments are to be carried out in three regions -North Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada. The biggest investment of over Rs.22,000 crore is in North Maharashtra in the districts of Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon and Nandurbar. In Vidarbha the investment will be Rs.21,000 crore and in Marathwada the investment will be Rs.19,000 crore.

Announcing this at a function at Lasalgaon, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said, “Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is the first CM to agree to share 50% of the cost of the railway projects in the state to provide better infrastructure and rail network for the development of the state.“ Fadnavis was also present at the function. “Both the Railways and the Maharashtra government are working together to implement the railway projects,“ Prabhu stated. He cited the example of the proposed Manmad-Indore railway line project where the state government will also contribute funds.
Fadnavis said this is the first time in two years that so many railway projects have been approved of.

“Prabhu has given a proposal to the state government to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle to complete the railway projects jointly. Accordingly, both the Railways and the state government are developing the railway projects to get better infrastructure and strengthen the railway network across the state to ensure development of the state and help farmers send their produce to other parts of the country to get better rates,“ he added.

Make communalism, casteism quit India by 2022: PM

Invoking the spirit of `Quit India Movement' ahead of the 75th anniversary of this historical event of India's freedom struggle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urged people to expel corruption, terrorism, casteism, communalism, poverty and filth from the country by 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of independence.

In his monthly radio programme `Mann Ki Baat', he said, “We have to come together and resolve to let filth quit India, poverty quit India, corruption quit India, terrorism quit India, casteism quit India and communalism quit India.“ Referring to the call of `do or die' given by Mahatma Gandhi during a different scenario and heightened sense of intensity in 1942, Modi said, “The need for today is not `do or die', instead it is to resolve, to come together, persevere, and work relentlessly with our utmost strength towards the making of a new India.“

“Just like five years between 1942 and 1947 became the decisive period, I can see another five-year period from 2017 to 2022 to make a resolve to end the problems of our nation,“ he said. Recalling that the slogan `Quit India' was coined by Yusuf Meher Ali, the PM said, “But very few people know the fact... Our young generation must know what had happened on the 9th of August 1942.“

NIA unearths Geelani's `protest calendar'

A detailed protest calendar, issued and signed by Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and recovered by the NIA, points to the role of separatists in organising events in coordination with handlers in Pakistan that led to widespread violence in Kashmir.

The NIA has found documents that list dates when protests and activities related to civil unrest was to be carried out in the Valley following the shooting of Hizb leader Burhan Wani. The `protest calendar', recovered from Geelani's son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah `Funtoosh', establishes how Hurriyat has systematically stoked the violence that resulted in several deaths in clashes between stone pelters and security forces.

The protests, intended to fan radicalism, involved local clerics and separatist cadres as well as activists of opposi tion parties, and were funded by Hurriyat in concert with Pakistani agencies, the NIA probe indicates. For example, on August 6, 2016, Geelani called for occupying chowks and centres in the vicinity of mohallas, villages and localities, and the playing of Islamic and azadi songs in masjids.

The calendar marked the activities for August 2016, when J&K saw the maximum number of protests and stone pelting incidents. On August 8, the activity mentioned was to block all roads towards the civil secretariat in Srinagar and tehsil offices and to ensure no employee was able to join duty.

Geelani `directed' that “deputy commissioners have to desist from calling employees over phone and pressurising them to resume duty“. The calendar also asked for special prayers on August 14, Pakistan's independence day , and the playing of Islamic and freedom songs, while observing black day on August 15.

NIA sources said it was proof that J&K shutdowns were ordered and managed by separatists and stone-pelters were sheltered by them. Officials said Geelani would soon be questioned in the matter.

Xi Jinping's dream envisages restoring China to its imperial glory

China's hardening stand over the standoff with India in Doklam appears to be of a piece with President Xi Jinping's stated aspirations of turning his country into the world's leading superpower. Xi has been vocal about his objectives ever since he came to power in 2013 and he clearly does not want to be seen as failing in his endeavour. Especially so since he is seeking re-election as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China ahead of its 19th National Congress scheduled to be held in late October and early November. He would also like to pack the party's politburo and standing committee with his supporters. Therefore, he is unlikely to end the standoff in Doklam in the near future at any expense to his image.

Xi's “Chinese dream“ envisages restoring China to its imperial glory. According to San Hongnian, a researcher with the Research Centre of China's Borderland History and Geography under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan had been vassal states of the Qing Empire (1644-1911). The British Empire took over control of these countries to expand its influence in Tibet, and India wanted to inherit these assets.

China appears upset over India's decision not to join its One Belt One Road initiative and skip the two day OBOR summit in May. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship of OBOR, which is now known as the Belt Road Initiative is not progressing as smoothly as China would have wanted.

Sections of Pakistan's civil society and media have claimed that Pakistan is destined to be mortgaged to China following OBOR . While Myanmar appears unsure about the initiative, Sri Lanka is reportedly rethinking about it, even as it is already caught in China's “debt trap“. Besides, BRI has not made any progress in Bangladesh. 


Nagpur-Mumbai expressway snippets

The Nashik district administration began the process of buying land from farmers for the state government's ambitious 700 km-long Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway, known as Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg, being constructed at a cost of over Rs.46,000 crore.

Over 10 hectares of land from 13 farmers -one in Igtapuri taluka and the rest in Sinnar taluka -have been acquired under the direct purchase scheme, where farmers willingly sold their land for an attractive compensation package. An amount of over Rs.12 crore has already been transferred by the district administration to the 13 farmers through RTGS.

The quantum of compensation each farmer gets depends on the size of the land as well as property (if any) like houses, wells and so on. The compensation package ranges from Rs.40.99 lakh to 84.71 lakh for one hectare of rain-fed land. The rate for semi-irrigated land is 1.5 times higher than rain-fed land and two times more for fully irrigated land.The farmers also get 2.5 times the value of the property .

Nashik is one of the districts where a section of the farmers are refusing to part with their land for the project.

Nashik divisional commissioner Mahesh Zagade initiated the land purchase process in Igatpuri taluka on Saturday morning. Zagade signed the documents to purchase land from the farmers after which registration of the land at the office of the sub-registrar was carried out. Thereafter, similar exercises were undertaken in Sinnar taluka.

Both Zagade and Radhakrishnan praised the farmers who volunteered to sell their land. “It's a very attractive compensation the farmers are getting for direct sale of land to the local administration,“ said Zagade. “More importantly, the compensation has been transferred within 20 minutes after completion of formalities,“ he added.

He appealed to the farmers not to squander the money they got as compensation.

GST nets a million more taxpayers

New registrations under the GST crossed the 10 lakh mark on Saturday, a milestone that brings cheer to policymakers who have been hoping for an increase in the tax base after the roll-out of the new tax measure.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said recently that if tax base expands, the government could consider lowering tax rates.

The GSTN, the IT backbone of the new tax system, has also registered 86 lakh existing business and service providers.

The GSTN network operations have been smooth and adjusted well to the flow of applications. Several businesses which are below the threshold turnover of Rs.20 lakh are also registering to ensure that the input tax credit chain is maintained. GST registration is compulsory for businesses with over Rs.20 lakh annual turnover.

The government expects that it will be able to significantly expand the tax base after the implementation of GST, with some estimates forecasting a 20-25% increase in indirect tax collections.

Tax experts said they would prefer to wait and watch to assess the increase in revenue collections as some businesses might have opted for multiple registrations.


Mumbai suburban railway's re-development proposal

Eighteen suburban railway stations across Mumbai are set to get a new lease of life as soon as the Railway Board gives the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation's proposal a green signal. “The most valuable real estate anywhere is a railway station where there is a captive audience. Stations have a huge commercial value because so many people use them. The challenge is how to monetize this invaluable asset and generate money for Railways and provide amenities for passengers,“ said a senior railway officer involved in the project.

Hence to monetise on these valuable assets, the MRVC has come with the proposal wherein phase-wise stations will be chosen for redevelopment and the contractors will be awarded FSI to operate on spaces on the platforms. According to sources, MRVC's proposal will include relocation of stalls, improving the crowd circulating area, better aesthetics, top-quality waiting rooms, digital signage, escalators, elevators, self help ticketing counters, executive lounges, luggage screening machines, and free Wi-Fi. “Stations will also have a food plaza, a commercial complex, clinics in the concourse,“ the officer said. The proposal has seamless commuter experience at heart, he added.

As per the proposal, railways have chosen six stations on the Western line which include Grant Road, Lower Parel, Elphinstone, Khar, Mira Road and Bhayandar; nine on the Central line including Byculla, Sion , Parel, Kalwa, Kanjur Marg among others; and three on the Harbour line ­ Chembur, Sewri and Wadala. “Safety booths will be provided near all ladies' coaches on the platforms,“ said a senior officer. Once the Board approves the proposal, the MRVC will prepare a Detailed Project Report based on each station.

The proposal will be undertaken through the PPP model.

LS passes bill to give IIMs autonomy

The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, giving statutory powers to the B-schools in their running, including appointment of directors, faculty members, and enabling them to award degrees instead of postgraduate diplomas.

The bill seeks to declare the IIMs as institutes of national importance and abolish the post of `Visitor'. Currently, the President is the `Visitor' of the IIMs. By ushering in functional autonomy in the IIMs by restricting the government's role, the legislation also has provisions for appointment of members of the board of governors in each of the 20 institutes through a transparent process, while limiting even the role of the ministry of human resource development.The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing.

Moving the bill on Friday , Prakash Javadekar said its aim is to remove government interference in IIMs. He said the proposed legislation will usher in a new era of freedom in the IIMs which will not be required to go to the government for various permissions and clearances.

Praising the bill, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said it was a “remarkable moment when a minister surrenders (his) powers“. He said other ministers in the government should draw inspiration from Javadekar in doing so.


Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind

Former Hizbul Mujahideen leader Zakir Musa, who had endorsed jihad and rule of shariah in Kashmir and declared his respect for al-Qaida, will now head a new outfit in Kashmir named Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind.

In a statement titled `Foundation of New Movement of Jihad in Kashmir' released by an al-Qaida-linked information network, Ansar-Ghazwat-ul-Hind declared that after the martyrdom of “heroic mujahid Burhan Wani, the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening as the Muslim nation of Kashmir has committed to carry the flag of jihad to repel the aggression of tyrant Indian invaders, and through jihad, and with the aid of Allah only, we will liberate our homeland Kashmir“.

Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba lost no time in slamming the new jihad-leaning outfit. HM supreme command er Syed Salahuddin alleged the new outfit was part of a “conspiracy by the Indian establishment to create a division among the mujahideen in Kashmir and set the stage for bloodshed in Kashmir on the lines of what had happened in al-Qaeda and Islamic State-influenced theatres like Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey etc“.

LeT issued a statement on Thursday saying that “Indian conspiracies are being foiled ever since the locals and Hurriyat leaders forged unity among themselves...groups like al-Qaida and IS are being brought up to label the legitimate freedom struggle (in Kashmir) as terrorism“.

Modi unveils Kalam memorial

Inaugurating the Dr A P J Abdul Kalam National Memorial at Pei Karumbu on Pamban Island in Ramanathapuram district, less than 5 km from the former President's hometown of Rameswaram, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a deep sea-fishing scheme to help fishermen from this region of Tamil Nadu.

Under the Centre's Blue Revolution scheme, fishermen from the southern edge of the state's coastline will be able to venture far from land and overcome the difficulties of fishing in the Palk Strait, where the Sri Lankan navy has repeatedly detained them and confiscated their boats.

Modi said the Centre will extend loans and subsidies from an allocation of Rs.1,500 crore to allow these fishermen to convert their vessels into deep sea liners and acquire the gear required for expeditions far from the coastline. He also distributed letters of sanction to five select beneficiaries under the scheme.

Addressing a large crowd that had converged on Rameswaram from districts in sout hern Tamil Nadu on the second death anniversary of the former President, Modi said “the sacred land of Rameswaram had given Abdul Kalam“ to the country . To honour the legacy of Kalam, the country “will have developed in all walks of life“ when it celebrates its 75th Independence Day in 2022, he said, calling on the youth of the nation -so beloved to the scientist-turned-statesman -to “take an oath“ to achieve this.


Pranab's adieu to Parliament

Outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee said the governments should avoid taking the ordinance route to promulgate a law it wants, and stressed that this option should be used only in “compelling circumstances.

The President, who demitted office on July 25, underlined that the Ordinance route should also not be taken in matters which have been introduced in Parliament or are being considered by a house committee.

The Narendra Modi government promulgated the Enemy Property Ordinance at least five times as the opposition was against some provisions of the law.

Mukherjee also remembered his “mentor“, former prime minister Indira Gandhi as a “towering personality“ in his last speech as the President of India.

Eighty one-year-old Mukherjee was received by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan and parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar at Parliament for the farewell ceremony.

Prof UR Rao: 1932-2017

Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space programme, was heading PRL, and Rao was working as a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Sarabhai was looking to give shape to the Indian space programme and wanted the right person to head it. He pursuaded Rao to return to India, who joined the Physical Research Laboratory as professor. It was around that time that the Rohini Technology Payload was launched onboard the SLV-3.

During his stint in the US, Rao had carried out investigations as a prime experimenter on Pioneer and Explorer spacecrafts and Sarabhai entrusted the entire task of building and developing the necessary infrastructure to launch the Aryabhata spacecraft, which was India's first satellite.

Rao was in charge of everything as far as this mission was concerned, which was launched with the help of the then Soviet Union.

Rao was instrumental in establishing the ISAC in Bengaluru which is the lead centre of ISRO for the design, development, fabrication and testing of all Indian made satellites. The ISAC did not come up on a sprawling building as Rao did not believe in spending on buildings as it would take a lot of time. ISAC worked from modest industrial sheds in Peenya.

As director he saw the development of a number of communication, remote sensing and other satellites. After Prof Satish Dhawan stepped down as ISRO chairman, Rao took charge in 1984. He oversaw the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which is now one of the most reliable launchers in the world. Though the first flight of the PSLV could not place the satellite in orbit, it met 99 per cent of its objectives.

Rao was also instrumental in the development of the geostationary launch vehicle and the development of cryogenic technology.

He stepped down as chairman in 1994. Even after stepping down, he was actively involved in the Indian space programme as member of the Space Commission and was chairman of the PRL's governing council.

He became the first Indian space scientist to be inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame. He remained active till the end. 

Foreign Direct Investments Up 23% in April-May

FDI inflows into the country increased 23% in the first two months of the current fiscal from a year ago. The cumulative foreign direct investment in April-May was investment in April-May was $10.02 billion, or about Rs.64,524 crore, compared with $8.12 billion, or about Rs.52,289 crore, a year earlier.

The government has put in place an investor friendly policy for FDI and except for a small negative list most sectors are open for 100% FDI.

In 2016-17, the foreign fund inflows aggregated at $60.08 billion, or about Rs.3,86,885 crore.

Ths food processing sector attracted FDI of $182 million during April-May 2017.

Round 2 of DeMo Crackdown

After targeting individuals who made large cash deposits in banks during or after demonetisation, the income-tax department is now going after businesses that deposited lots of cash in corporate accounts in the second round of demonetisation tax notices.

Since Monday last week, the department has been sending notices to entrepreneurs, including some prominent jewellers, diamond traders, textile merchants and real estate developers, who have deposited money in their corporate bank accounts. This round of tax notices is focused on “big fish“. Anyone who may have deposited unexplained cash in bank accounts after demonetisation has received notices. The tax notices were-sent through emails of the taxpayers.The number of tax notices sent since last week could be in lakhs.

At the time of deposits, most companies had claimed it was cash on hand from their business activities. The main source cited was from sale proceeds. Along with the notices, the tax department has sent bank statements of such transactions and asked these businesses to disclose details of the source of income through a questionnaire consisting four questions.

Tax department is seeking the information of the customers to whom the cash sales are made. Assessees are asked to give the bifurcation of the customers as to whether they are identified or unidentified and as to whether they hold PAN number or not.

The first set of demonetisation tax notices was sent to individuals around January this year. About 5,000 tax notices were sent to those who had deposited Rs.1 crore or more in their bank accounts. While the second wave of tax notices has begun, the tax department is continuing with those who were sent notices in January.

Many jewellers, real estate developers, and diamond and textile traders had deposited huge money, claiming this was cash on hand.Tax sleuths suspect that some of these companies and individuals may have passed off black money as cash on hand.

Many jewellers are also under the scrutiny of tax sleuths. Many jewellers are said to have split up one invoice into multiple ones as PAN details of buyers aren't needed if a sale is below Rs.2 lakhs. The government has identified around 18 lakh bank accounts where more than Rs. 2 lakh cash deposits were made after demonetisation was announced.

The second round of notices were sent after the government's data analytics software raised red flags.
So, if a corporate account never had more than Rs.40 lakh at any time in the last two years, but suddenly saw a deposit of  Rs.5 crore in December 2016, that's a red flag. Scope of big data analysis would increase after fresh data of tax returns is received in coming month.

Heartbreak @ Lord's: Women in Blue

With 29 runs to go and 33 balls and five wickets in hand, history beckoned the Indian women's cricket team. Already, comparisons were being drawn with the famous triumph of the men's team in 1983 at the same historic ground of Lord's. That win had not only changed Indian cricket but also catalysed a complete shift in the game's balance of power.

Unfortunately, England, and Anya Shrubsole in particular, had other ideas. Shrubsole ran through the Indian line-up, finishing with the best ever figures in a Women's World Cup final--6 for 46--and the player of the match award, as the inexperienced lower order imploded. Indian supporters were left heartbroken, musing forlornly on what might have been.

Later, skipper Mithali Raj said she was proud of the team. PM Narendra Modi took to Twitter to praise the squad's “remarkable skill and tenacity“. A generation of Indian fans has become aware of women's cricket. The team may not have won the title, but they have won a billion hearts, and that could make a huge difference to the future of the sport.

The final had begun in overcast conditions but that did not dampen the spirit of the Indian fans, draped in the tricolour, who danced and sang right from the outset.

Some protected monuments have disappeared

Enroachments and rapid urbanisation have led to the `disappearance' of 24 protected monuments in India over the years. The sites and structures remain untraceable.

Minister Mahesh Sharma said UP tops the list of most missing monuments with 11 structures or sites that have disappeared. He also said the ruins of the Copper Temple in Arunachal Pradesh, the guns of Emperor Sher Shah in Assam's Tinsukia district, Bara Khamba Cemetery in Delhi, and the ruins of Fort Bamanpukur in West Bengal's Nadia district are among some of the monuments that have disappeared and that could not be traced following their disappearance. The minister listed a total of eight centrally protected monuments that had been encroached upon, and which were cleared in part over the last five years.

Sharma's list included the Asafi Imambara in Lucknow, a mosque at Sakhakheda in Maharashtra, Mahadev Temple, Chaiturgarh Fort, Dantenshwari Devi Temple at Chattisgarh, D'Eremao Cemetery in Delhi, Mosque of Sarai Alavardi Khan in Haryana and Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, Karnataka.

According to the list of untraceable monuments prepared by Archaeological Survey of India, while UP tops the charts, Haryana, Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are each home to two missing monuments.

Accenture sets up big innovation hub in Bengaluru

Accenture launched a first-of-its-kind innovation hub in Bengaluru. The facility, in many ways, reflects the confidence of a company that has become the most successful in the IT services business today, having transitioned to the requirements of the new digital technologies that have buffeted the industry in recent times.

In the 10-floor, 4.4 lakh sqft facility, there are wall-sized panoramic, interactive digital screens; large, open work areas; walls with vibrant colours; casual seating spaces -the kind that one sees in large technology product companies.

The facility is populated with talent (about 4,000 people) and tools in the most happening digital areas, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, security , automation, cloud, as also in a variety of industry areas, such as banking, telecom and healthcare. All of this makes for a great innovation environment. But the key to the facility, say Accenture executives, is its ability to showcase the best of technologies to a customer, and conceptualize, develop and deliver mature solutions to their problems in a matter of days, instead of the weeks and months traditionally required.

The facility is the first such for the $33-billion IT consulting and outsourcing company. Over 140,000, or about a third, of Accenture's 411,000 employees are in India.

Accenture has re-skilled a large proportion of its employees, and made 37 acquisitions since the beginning of 2016 to strengthen its capabilities in the new digital areas. Today, about 50% of its revenues comes from the new digital, cloud, and security services spaces, and this space is growing at strong double digits. Many of its peers, including the big Indian IT services companies, are seen to be making the transition far more slowly, and their overall growth rates are slowing.

Mount Abu gets 110 inches in four days

Incessant rain since July 21 night has created a history of sorts in Mount Abu with the hill station plundered by as much as 110 inches rainfall in just four days. This is the highest rainfall received in Mount Abu in the last several decades.

Heavy rain sent rocks hurtling down near Aana Hanuman, 6 km from the entry toll booth. But local authorities cleared the hurdles in few hours. Officials also scotched rumours about Abu Road-Mount Abu being closed for vehicles and said they have only asked the drivers to exercise caution, especially after 6 pm due to possibilities of rocks falling from the height.

While there has been no major casualty in Abu, internet broadband connectivity of BSNL and other private telecom operators has been badly hit. Vodafone and Airtel have managed to partially restore services but services of BSNL remain hampered.

Supply of essentials including vegetables too has been hit due to flood-like situation in adjoining places like Pali, Jhalore and other parts of Sirohi district.

All schools and colleges have been closed as per the collector's orders as a precautionary measure.

Somewhere in Pune....

It started off as an attempt to clean up the unkempt surroundings of Baner. Today, Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan is nurturing 23,000 trees on the Baner-Pashan hills and is adding more every year.
“While cleaning up the area, we noticed that a 2-km stretch of Baner-Pashan hills was barren. Apart from the 25% area that was covered with plantation, the rest of the hills was barren. That is when the idea of restoring the hills struck us,“ said Deepak Shrote, a founder-member of Vasundhara Swachata Abhiyan.

The group has worked extensively to make the hills green. Today, 70% of the Baner-Pashan hills have green cover.

Back in 2006 when VSA was established, global warming was the talk of the town. The need to do something and not be mere spectators, encouraged the six-member group.

“We started by planting saplings and protecting them. Making plants survive is a much more complicated task than planting them. The number of people who joined our initiative increased every year. Today, we have a record of almost 2 lakh people who have contributed to this initiative, directly or indirectly ,“ said Shrote, a 40-year-old software professional.

The initiative is widely popular and many volunteered to help in preserving the nature. It is not just the residents and the neighbouring business corporates but even PMC and forest department have been encouraging this movement. “PMC helps us by providing water tankers to water the plants. At the top of the hills we have made 25 storage tanks, in summers these need to be filled to ensure water availability for the plants.These tanks are filled by water tankers,“ he added.

The group has a fixed agenda for the year, the plantation of saplings happens in the time period between June to August, while the rest of the months are spent taking various measures to nurture them. They also do mulching and practise Zero Budget Natural farming for the sustainable development of the plants.

“We have almost 160 hours in a week. I feel that every person should dedicate at least one hour in a week to this selfless service,“ he appealed.

The group is also involved in initiatives for the prevention of farmers' suicides and promote toxin-free food and water conservation.

Another Vyapam Death!

A 35-year-old Vyapam accused, Praveen Yadav, was found dead at his home in MP's Morena, a day before he was to appear before a CBI special court in Jabalpur. He was found hanging in his house around 7 pm. No suicide note was found.

About 44 people related to the MP board scam have either purportedly committed suicide or died in mysterious circumstances over the last decade. Many of them are from Morena. Yadav, who lived in Morena's Maharajapur area, was a student of the 2008 batch at Jabalpur Medical College. His admission was scrapped after his name surfaced in the scam. Yadav was booked by the MP STF in 2012. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Family members said he was under depression for the past five years. Yadav, who once dreamed of being a doctor, was earning his livelihood at an oil mill. Sources said he was worried about his court hearing in Jabalpur on Thursday. CBI has expedited investigations into the scam after the SC ordered on Friday that the chargesheet be filed by October in the trial court, along with the CFSL report on electronic evidence collected during the Vyapam investigation.

The intelligence wing of MP police had conducted a parallel investigation into 40 Vyapam-related deaths before the case was handed over to CBI. CBI has not found anything different so far.

Nitish junks Lalu, Congress

Nitish Kumar resigned as Bihar chief minister after splitting with Lalu Prasad over corruption charges against the latter's son but will regain the post in less than 24 hours, this time with BJP's support.
The saffron party came to the JD(U) boss's assistance as part of a script which he and PM Modi had prepared well in advance. West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who also holds charge of Bihar, had been stationed in Patna to facilitate Nitish's swearing-in as CM for the fifth time. BJP's parliamentary board, which happened to be in session around the same time to finalise nominees for the RS polls, came in handy and promptly endorsed the move to support steps to “avoid mid-term polls in Bihar“.

Nitish reached Raj Bhavan at 11.55 pm, with MLAs from BJP , RLSP, LJP and HAM(S), to stake claim to form the government.

BJP joining a Nitish-led government will revive the coalition that worked till 2013 when it split over Nitish's resistance to the projection of Modi as BJP's PM pick for the 2014 polls. The realignment can create complications for Congress and others, and strengthen an effort to reinforce the “secular“ alliance by bringing in new players like SP and BSP. Modi, said to be behind the rapprochement, hailed Nitish for his stand against corruption.

Modi's praise for Nitish was seen as an indication of BJP's gameplan to turn the 2019 polls into a referendum on corruption.

Ties between Nitish and Lalu, which got strained over the CM's insistence that the RJD boss's son and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav came clean on corruption charges against him, snapped on Wednesday when Lalu got the entire RJD flock to endorse his stand that Tejashwi, his putative successor, need not heed Nitish's demand for a rejoinder to each specific charge of corruption.

The CBI and Enforcement Directorate have accused Tejashwi of acquiring assets worth several crores despite having no known source of income.

Lalu's rebuff turned out to be the catalyst for dramatic developments to unfold at a dizzying pace. JD(U) promptly backed the CM who announced his resignation, playing the victim card and taking the moral high ground.

However, the resignation did not herald a walk towards opposition benches. If Nitish's return to NDA within a space of hours looked surreal, efforts for it had been on for since early this year when Lalu's emissaries offered a deal to a senior Union minister where they promised to bring down Nitish in exchange for the Centre's help with court cases facing the RJD boss.

Suspicions of a possible effort to poach Nitish's MLAs deepened the distrust, creating an opening for Modi to build upon the first step the CM had taken by breaking ranks with the opposition to support demonetisation.


Japan bets on Modi

The land of Abenomics is betting on Modinomics. The demand is so strong that assets of Nomura Holdings Inc.’s India equity fund quadrupled to almost 400 billion yen ($3.6 billion) in just the past year. Japanese investors owned $13 billion of Indian stocks and bonds at the end of June, the most in data going back to 2012..

Investors are looking at where the growth will be in the medium to long term, without having to worry about shortterm swings in the market. India’s economy is expanding at about seven times the pace of Japan’s, buoyed by a burgeoning middle class and more one than million young people joining the labour force every month. Indian shares have hit multiple records this year amid optimism about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies.

India is what money managers have begun to call a “consensus trade”, meaning almost every fund is bullish. Global and local funds have pumped about $16 billion into its stock market this year alone, making the S&P BSE Sensex one of the world’s top performers in 2017 and sending the rupee up 5.6% against the dollar.

The combined assets of three India funds run by Nissay Asset Management Corp. have topped 100 billion yen since their launch 2015. Nissay is a unit of Nippon Life.

And it’s not just Japanese individuals who have the India bug. For Franklin Templeton’s Michael Hasenstab, “unprecedented” structural reforms by Modi and relatively high yields make India a “sweet spot” among emerging markets. On 1 July, India introduced a goods and services levy designed to unify the nation into a common market and widen the tax net.

Bryan Goh, Singapore-based chief investment officer for Bordier and Cie, said India today reminds him of Japan in 2013, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to power with widespread support for his plans to spur growth.

Modi has burnished India’s appeal through policy changes aimed at boosting growth, curbing corruption and improving public finances. The country’s 10-year bond yields 6.43%, the highest level among major Asian economies, versus just 0.07% in Japan.


India kick-starts sub project

India has finally kick-started its `mother of all underwater defence deals' after a 10-year delay . France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Japan are also joining in to build six advanced stealth submarines for an estimated Rs.70,000 crore in collaboration with an Indian shipyard.

This conventional submarine programme, Project-75 (India), languishing in politico-bureaucratic apathy since in November 2007, is likely to be the first mega project under the new `strategic partnership' policy of the defence ministry.

But it's early days yet. The six shipbuilders have to first respond to RFI (request for information), issued last week, by September 15.

The Navy will then formulate NSQRs (naval staff qualitative requirements) before the formal RFP (request for proposal) is issued to the six for submitting their technical and commercial bids. The Indian shipyard for the strategic partnership will be chosen in a parallel process.

It may take around two years for the original equipment manufacturer - Indian shipyard combine to be down-selected. Moreover, the first new submarine will be rolled out only seven to eight years after the final contract is inked.

The Navy wants the six new diesel-electric submarines to have land-attack cruise missiles, air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance, and the capability to integrate indigenous weapons and sensors as and when they are developed.

As per approved plans, the Navy should have 18 diesel-electric submarines as well as six nuclear-powered attack submarines (called SSNs) and four nuclear-powered submarines with long-range nuclear-tipped missiles (SSBNs) for effective deterrence against China and Pakistan.

The force is grappling with 13 conventional submarines, at least 10 of them are over 25 years old, apart from two nuclear-powered submarines, INS Arihant (SSBN) and INS Chakra (SSN).

The six French Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being built in Mazagon Docks under the Rs.23,652 crore Project-75 will all be delivered by 2021. But by then, many of the 13 existing submarines will be up for retirement.


Domestic air traffic soars 20% in June

Domestic air passenger traffic grew 20% in June from a year earlier, continuing the growth trajectory.

Airlines flew 95.8 million passengers in June compared with 79.7 million the year before. The April-June period is considered the peak season for airlines along with the October-December quarter as schools are shut for summer vacations, boosting leisure travel.

Among the major carriers, IndiGo retained the largest market share of 40%, followed by Jet Airways at 17.5%, SpiceJet's 13.3%, Air India’s 13.1%, and GoAir’s 8.4%. AirAsia clocked 3.7% and Vistara 3.6%.

IndiGo also had the highest cancellation rate of 3.34% followed by Air India’s 1.62%, SpiceJet’s 0.28%, GoAir’s 0.27% and Jet Airways 0.15%.

SpiceJet had the highest passenger load factor of 94.5%, followed by 89.4% for GoAir, IndiGo at 87.8% and Vistara at 86.4%.

IndiGo clocked the highest 86.1% on-time performance at the four metro airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Vistara took the second spot reporting an on-time performance of 80.8% followed by SpiceJet at 79.8% and Go Air at 75.9%.

Maharashtra all set to launch 9 airports

In one year, nine airports in small cities across Maharashtra could start operations. The new airports will make travel to smaller cities easier and affordable. The Maharashtra government is planning to get the nine airports working under the Centre’s regional connectivity scheme. The state has tied up with aircraft carriers for airports at Nanded, Solapur, Kolhapur and Jalgaon, and has started operation of one route at Nanded airport. It is also planning to connect Nashik, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Gondia and Amravati under the scheme, and is offering a host of incentives to make services to these airports viable.

TruJet, which is operating services at Nanded airport, has started a Nanded-Hyderabad flight, and plans to start a Mumbai sector by September. For the Jalgaon, Solapur and Kolhapur airports, the state has tied up with Air Deccan, which won the bid the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation floated to operate services from these airports.

The state will also provide security and fire services to the airports free of charge, give a concession on water charges and provide any land required for expansion free of charge. As it cannot directly underwrite seats for airlines, the state is in talks with industry bodies such as the Confederation of Indian Industries, to give aircraft carriers a kind of a guarantee their executives will fly these sectors.
The Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation owns and operates Amravati and Solapur airports; Gondia and Jalgaon airports are under Airports Authority of India; Indian Coast Guard and HAL own and operate Ratnagiri and Nashik airports. MIDC owns Nanded, Kolhapur, and Sindhudurg. These are operated by Reliance, AAI and IRB.


Reliance launches JioPhone

Reliance Industries Ltd's stock surged to its highest in almost a decade on a day India's largest company by market capitalisation announced a one-for-one bonus share issue and unveiled a 4G feature phone aimed at attracting millions of low-spending users, raising the prospect of greater disruption in an already stressed telecom market.

Named JioPhone, the device is technically free but the subscriber will have to pay a deposit of  Rs.1,500 that's refundable after three years if the handset is returned. Its target is the 500 million Indians who are still on feature, or basic, phones using primarily voice services and haven't moved to a smartphone for reasons of affordability or because they don't really feel they need one. The company has signed up 125 million subscribers but there's been a slowdown of late in the pace of user additions.  With voice free for life, a JioPhone user will also get unlimited SMS services and half a GB of data a day for Rs.153 a month. Subscribers can watch videos and listen to music through Jio's own preloaded apps besides accessing popular apps such as Facebook and YouTube, apart from regular Internet browsing on a 2.4-inch screen.

A government source said the phone will also have the Narendra Modi app pre-embedded, so that the “poorest of the poor can directly connect with PM Modi. In case users want more data to watch content on TV through a specially developed cable that they need to buy, they can also avail Jio's Dhan Dhana Dhan plan .Since Jio has focused on building a 4G network, the JioPhone will allow the company to extend its reach to the lower end of the market.

Besides the feature phone -launched by Ambani scions Isha and Akash Ambani -RIL marked 40 years since its listing by surprising investors with a 1:1 bonus offer and a dividend of Rs.13 a share. This is the company's first bonus issue since 2009; Ambani called it the country's largest.

Ambani expects the Jio team to ensure most 2G feature phone users migrate to JioPhone, thereby making the “2G feature phone obsolete“.

The JioPhone will work on the company's in-house operating system known as Kai and will come with preloaded apps. It supports all 22 major Indian languages, and comes with a voice command feature that will allow users to make voice calls and send messages. JioPhone users can press #5 to send a distress signal along with location information to a de signated list of numbers. The device hardware is ready for secure payments, allowing customers to make digital payments.

Later this year, Jio plans to introduce NFC technology, which will be enabled via a software upgrade.

NFC, or near-field communication, is a form of contactless communication between devices like smartphones or tablets. The technology allows a user to wave the smartphone over a NFC compatible device to send information or even make payments.

The phones will be available for beta testing from August 15, and for pre-booking to the general public from August 24. Deliveries will start in September on a first come, first-served basis. Jio aims to make 5 million JioPhones available every week.

All JioPhones will be made in India from the last quarter of 2017.

Jio said its 125 million-plus customers make 2.50 billion minutes of voice and video calls every day.

The company said it will have over 10,000 Jio offices across the country, servicing sales channel partners and more than 1 million retail outlets.

The parent company, which has invested more than Rs.2 lakh crore in its telecom venture, plans to cover 99% of the country with Jio's services in one year.

The 40th AGM of Reliance Industries was a noisy and emotional affair with an excited group of shareholders cheering the Ambani family, chanting their names and giving them multiple standing ovations. There was immense excitement when Isha and Akash Ambani showed off some of the features of the JioPhone and rousing applause when Mukesh Ambani thanked his wife for being with the group for 30 years of its 40-year journey.

The matriarch of the family Kokilaben got emotional when the chairman dedicated the past 40 years of the group's success to his father and Reliance founder, the late Dhirubhai Ambani.

US labels Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists

The US listed Pakistan among countries and regions providing “safe haven“ to terrorists, saying groups like the LeT and JeM continued to operate, train, organise and raise funds in the country in 2016.

Official sources in Delhi said segments on South and Central Asia in the state department's Country Reports on Terrorism, 2016, vindicated India's long-held position on cross-border terror. It said, “Pakistan forces held operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.“ India, the state department said, continued to experience attacks, “including by Maoist insurgents and Pakistan-based terrorists“.

Indo-Japan Civil N-deal comes into force

India completed the process of its civil nuclear agreements, as the landmark India-Japan civil nuclear agreement entered into force on Thursday.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and Japanese ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu exchanged diplomatic notes, marking operationalisation of the pact.

The civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed last November during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tokyo after over six years of negotiations.

The entry into force comes a few months before Shinzo Abe's scheduled visit to India in September this year. Prime Minister Modi and Abe had a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8, where they reviewed the state of bilateral relations. Abe is expected to formally begin the ground breaking for the high-speed train project to run from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.

“This agreement is a reflection of the strategic partnership between India and Japan and will pave the way for enhanced cooperation in energy security and clean energy.

The deal allows Japan to export nuclear technology to India, making it the first non-NPT signatory to have such a deal with Tokyo.

Chennai Open shifts to Pune

Come January 1, 2018, the sport of tennis in Pune will witness a new dawn.The ATP World Tour event that has been held in Chennai for the last 21 years will be held in the city from next year under a five-year deal signed between the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association and event's right holders IMG-Reliance.

The 'Maharashtra Open', as the event will be rechristened, will replace the Chennai tournament on the ATP calendar after Aircel pulled out as the title sponsor.

The tournament has the full financial backing of the state government which has formed a high-level committee headed by the Chief Minister, through a Government Resolution issued last week, to oversee the event.

“We welcome the world class ATP tournament to our state,“ Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a press statement.

Kovind is Prez

Former Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind will become India's 14th President and the first RSS man to hold the constitutional post, winning a contest marked by cross-voting in his favour in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa as well as among Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha members.
Kovind, who will be sworn in as President on July 25, defeated the opposition candidate, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, in a one-sided contest by garnering close to 66% of the vote. BJP managers estimated that Kovind received around 115 additional MLA votes beyond the NDA kitty in states.

BJP succeeded in pulling in votes from the opposition camp in four states as well as in Parliament. BJP managers said they had gained 10 excess votes in Bengal even as the Trinamool Congress and the Congress traded claims of cross-voting from each other's camps.

BJP read the results as a vindication of its efforts to build pan-India support for Kovind and saw the gains as an indicator of the party's ability to build coalitions.

The 71-year-old Kovind will be only the second Dalit President of India after K R Narayanan. He will also be the first BJP leader to be elected to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

China's state media call Sushma a liar

Chinese state media's attack on India grew shriller as it accused foreign minister Sushma Swaraj of “lying“ in Parliament about the Doklam standoff and the international support India was receiving in the dispute.

“She was lying to Parliament,“ Beijing-based `Global Times', a newspaper published in English as well as Chinese, said in an editorial. The Chinese version of the paper described Swaraj as a “female foreign minister“ to suggest this would make India less strong-willed in case of a military conflict. The description was changed in the online English version.

Writing on a day the Chinese foreign ministry did not hold its regular briefing, the paper said, “If Indian troops continue trespassing into China's territory , what Beijing may do next is to get prepared for a military confrontation against New Delhi and resolve the conflict through non diplomatic means.“

The paper added that China would not accept Swaraj's suggestion that both countries withdraw troops--as against Beijing's demand that only India do so -before talks to resolve the dispute.

“Doklam is Chinese territory. The withdrawal of Indian troops must be a precondition for talks, and China will not compromise on this stance,“ it said.

Beijing's official claim that China is a victim of India's aggression has not gone down well with Communist Party hardliners, who are pressuring the government to push out the “invaders“. “China cannot afford to lose an inch of territory . This is the sacred wish and request of the Chinese people,“ the `Global Times' said.

Nagpur Expressway game changer: CM Fadnavis

Even as farmers' protests over land acquisition for the Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Highway continues, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has come out in its defense and said that the project is a game changer.

Fadnavis said the highway will connect 24 districts and will also provide scope for setting up agro-processing plants alongside. As per the project, 26 nodes are being set up and agro-processing units will be set up here.

The highway , nearly 700-km long, and will be built at a cost of Rs.46,000 crore. Nearly 60-70% of the land required for the project is fertile agriculture land.


World Bank to Draw Up Railways' Makeover Plan

The World Bank will help draw up a granular makeover blueprint for the Indian Railways, which is investing Rs.5 lakh crore to transform itself from a colonial-era mass transporter into a strategic platform underpinning growth in Asia's third-biggest economy.

The multilateral lending agency would partner the 164-year-old railroad network, the world's fourth longest, to help the state transporter with investment and planning, digitisation and technology development, besides establishing a Railway University and the Rail Tariff Authority .

The bank, which has earlier worked with the Railways for financing the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor Project, will provide advisory services and programme management consultancy for this transformation exercise for 2-3 years.

Rail minister Suresh Prabhu has drawn up an ambitious plan to transform Railways with an investment of  Rs.5 lakh crore in the next four years. For this year, the Railways would spend Rs.1.31 lakh crore to augment capacity.

On the planning front, the World Bank has proposed to set up an organisation for creating detailed forecasting models, traffic optimization and planning.

“Further, an infrastructure plan for the next 10-15 years, after a detailed analysis on freight and passenger growth expected in India, is also envisaged to be created. The bank would be drawing that up as well,“ the official said.

In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India programme, the Railways wants to roll out a `digital enterprise' for which the bank will help integrate architecture and database management across its IT applications.

PM takes on Gau Rakshaks

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the central government has sent a strong advisory to all states to ensure strict action against communal violence in the name of cow protection and sought the support of all political parties on this issue.

In an unusually lengthy intervention at a meeting of all political parties ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, the PM also sought their support for measures to combat corruption and said the issue must not be viewed in political terms.

Opposition leaders were struck by Modi's outreach as he spoke for close to 25 minutes, a departure from his usual practice of making a few brief comments.

Even after the meeting concluded, the PM went around the back benches and greeted party leaders.

The PM has condemned cow vigilantism in the past too, most recently on June 29 at a speech in Ahmedabad where he invoked Mahatma Gandhi in opposing violence, but on Sunday he further sharpened his reference by referring to “communal violence“ in the name of gau raksha.

“PM urged all parties to extend support to the government in fighting corruption and the issue of communal violence in the name of cow protection. The PM said state governments must ensure maintenance of law and order and strict action must be taken against those who break the law,“ said an official release.

His remarks reflect the top BJP leadership's concern over extreme and fringe right-wing elements reading the emphasis of various BJP state governments on cow protection as a carte blanche to indulge in private policing and violence against cow traffickers.

The targets of these attacks have often been Muslims and on occasion Dalits, leading to cases of mob lynching. Most recently a Muslim BJP worker was beaten up for carrying beef in Nagpur.

The PM's categorical condemnation of violence in the name of cow protection makes it clear that he is keen to draw a firm line on the issue, despite some saffron organisations seeing cow protection in the light of cattle-smuggling and as a religious taboo. The action against cow vigilantism is, however, not likely to imply any dilution of efforts to ban illegal slaughter that was a major BJP plank in the UP polls. Modi also asserted that all political parties should stand united to ensure national security in the light of concerns raised by opposition leaders with regard to China's intrusion on Bhutanese territory near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction and the attack on Amarnath pilgrims that resulted in the death of eight persons.

Prez poll sees over 99% voting

Over 99% of elected representatives -MPs and MLAs -across the country cast their votes on Monday to elect the next President in a direct contest between NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and the opposition's Meira Kumar. Counting of votes will take place on Thursday.

Voting was held in 32 polling stations, including one in Parliament House (Room No.62) and one each in every state assembly. Ballot boxes from the states will be brought to Delhi for counting.

Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Puducherry recorded 100% voting while in Parliament House, the voting percentage was 99%.

The voting percentage for MPs was 99.61% while it was 99.37% for MLAs.

While the sanctioned strength of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was 776, a total of 771 MPs were eligible to cast their votes. There are two vacancies each in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, while BJP MP Chedi Paswan does not have voting rights as there is a petition on his disqualification pending in Supreme Court.

Naidu files VP nomination

Leaving the BJP as becoming the next vice-president will require is not an easy task for Naidu who has been an ideologically committed warrior in the saffron cause. The leader stressed as much when at the meeting of the BJP parliamentary board, he turned emotional and could not continue after a point.

The meeting, however, ended on a lighter and celebratory note as Naidu's colleagues gently ribbed him on his penchant for alliterative speeches and how this might have to give way for more gravitas. Modi noted that Naidu would become chairperson of Rajya Sabha after four unbroken terms.

Naidu received more advice from RSS chief Mohan Bhag wat who pointed out that the VP nominee would look to a new innings in public life and work for national good along with BJP's President pick Ram Nath Kovind. The underlying message was clear enough: for the first time, two Sangh nominees were set to occupy the highest constitutional posts.

Mumbai Metro I sets highest ridership record

Mumbai Metro I broke new ground on Monday as 3.8 lakh commuters travelled on the 11.4 km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor--the highest ever weekday ridership since it began operations in 2014. The average weekday ridership is 3.6 lakh.

“The previous highest weekday ridership was recorded on June 28 when it carried 3.7 lakh commuters,“ said a spokesperson. The stations that witnessed the highest footfall were Chakala JB Nagar and Western Express Highway with 10% increase followed by Azad Nagar station with 8% rise and Airport road station with 6% increase.

Officials said the maximum surge of commuters was observed during evening peak hours.“Between 6 pm and 8 pm, over one lakh commuters used the Metro,“ said the spokesperson.

Metro One operates 370 daily trips on weekdays with a train frequency of around 3.5 minutes during peak hours.

On July 4, Mumbai Metro One crossed the landmark of carrying 300 million commuters in around three years.


BKC- IFSC snippets

The MMRDA board  has formally approved 50.31 hectares of land at Bandra Kurla Complex, to set up the International Financial Services Centre. By next month, the planning agency will table a master plan for the entire 50 hectares to Union minister Jayant Sinha-led IFSC Taskforce for a go-ahead.

The master plan will include a layout, land reservations and land use and all urban design guidelines for the proposed financial hub. It is expected to be a car-free zone.

The 50 hectare land has been earmarked to meet the requirements of a finance Special Economic Zone within the parameters laid down by the Centre. Getting a finance SEZ tag is essential for BKC if it has to get the tax sops and other benefits offered to an IFSC. Currently, Gujarat International Finance Tech city is the only approved IFSC in the country.

The land approved for IFSC is an irregular U-shaped plot that includes the entire G Tech block of BKC of around 30 hectares and the entire recreation ground of around 20 hectares close to it, adjoining the Mithi river.

Last year, the Centre had sent back the state’s proposal to consider 20 hectares plot in BKC and the rest in built-up area to meet the requirement of 50 hectares given the land crunch in the city. Following the Centre’s refusal to consider Mumbai a special case, the state government had sent a proposal to earmark 50 hectares of land in BKC for the project.

Lavasa: A `city for all'

In a bid to change the `gated city' status of Lavasa to a `city for all', the PMRDA will now allow easy access to the general public, so as to develop tourism in the area. Earlier, entry was restricted to invitees, as the entire control of the city rested with Lavasa Corporation; visitors were also levied parking and entry fees in areas that didn't belong to Lavasa.

In a meeting on Thursday, PMRDA officially took over Lavasa affairs. The state urban development department had earlier in July issued an order to give PMRDA the status of special planning authority ,after which all permissions and sanctions issued from December 4, 2015, onwards would have to be reviewed by this body, not by Lavasa.

PMRDA commissioner Kiran Gitte said, “We took the charge from senior vicepresident of Lavasa, David Amalraj. PMRDA will develop the hill station and make sure there is access for all. We will develop land in 18 villages that come under Lavasa Corporation, but exclude the land owned by Lavasa.“ Gitte added, “We hope that the new status of Lavasa city will invite more people to visit it. We also plan to try and set up a permanent local government body for long-term management.“

Of the 23,000 acres of land in question, 10,500 acres belong to Lavasa Corporation. PMRDA plans to develop the rest of 12,500 acres for tourists; as per the government order, the environment clearances, permissions and sanctions for this purpose will be checked by PMRDA.

The Lavasa Hill City Project currently faces restrictions from the Union environment ministry.

In 2008, the plan to create Lavasa Corporation had been finalised by then chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, as per instructions by Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar at a special Cabinet meeting. The township, planned on the lines of Portofino in Italy, is near Varasgaon dam.

Google acquires AI start-up Halli Labs

In a fresh impetus to its artificial intelligence dreams, Google has acquired Bangalore-based start-up Halli Labs. Halli, which means “village“ in Kannada, announced the news in a blog post, which was later confirmed by Google. “Welcome Pankaj and the team at Halli Labs to Google. Looking forward to building some cool stuff together,“ tweeted Google's vice president of product management, Caesar Sengupta.

Founded by Pankaj Gupta, the start-up is focused on building deep learning and machine learning systems. “We are thrilled to share the news that the Halli Labs team is joining Google,“ the firm said in a blog post. “Halli Labs was founded with the goal of applying modern artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to old problems and domains in order to help technology enable people to do whatever it is that they want to do, easier and better,“ the post added.

According to TechCrunch, Gupta is a data scientist with an interesting history that includes running recommendation and personalisation at Twitter, and a role as CTO at now-defunct Indian Airbnb rival Stayzilla, among other entrepreneurial ventures. “Well, what better place than Google to help us achieve this goal. We will be joining Google's `Next Billion Users' team to help get more technology and information into more people's hands around the world. We couldn't be more excited,“ wrote the Halli Labs team.

“We are excited that the Halli Labs team is joining Google. They'll be joining our team that is focused on building products that are designed for the next billion users coming online, particularly in India,“ Google said.

NGT bans waste dumping near Ganga

The National Green Tribunal passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate River Ganga, declaring as `No-Development Zone' an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao and prohibiting dumping of waste within 500 metres from the river.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also declared that an environment compensation of Rs.50,000 will be imposed on anyone who dumps waste in the river.

The apex environment watchdog directed all authorities concerned to complete various projects including setting up of a sewage treatment plant and cleaning drains within two years. “A huge amount of money had been spent on cleaning the river but desired results were not visible.“
It also said the Uttar Pradesh government should be “duty-bound“ to shift tanneries within six weeks, from Jajmau in Kanpur to leather parks in Unnao or any other place it considers appropriate.

The NGT also directed the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to formulate guidelines for religious activities on the ghats of Ganga or its tributaries. The tribunal appointed a supervisory committee, comprising IIT professors and officials from UP government to oversee implementation of the directions passed in its 543-page verdict.

The NGT had in April directed 13 polluting industries situated along the tributary or major drain of the Ganga river to be shut down.

Delhi-Mumbai electric bus corridor planned

The government is looking to revamp public transport through introduction of double decker luxury buses run on alternative fuels, with an aim to curb private vehicle use, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said. He added the government is also planning to construct a separate lane for running electric trucks and buses on Delhi-Mumbai corridor, which can also run on diesel in city areas. “Plans are on to introduce fleet of double decker luxury buses to link cities like Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Ludhiana. I assure you charges will be more economic,“ he said.

On Centre's plans for a Delhi to Mumbai electric transport line, he said the emphasis is to introduce technologies based on cost effective alternative fuel.“Public transport on electric is our dream,“ he added.He added it has been the government's priority to promote clean fuel and cut on the huge Rs.7 lakh crore import bills that India incurs per annum.

All Party Meeting on J-K, Doklam crisis

Home minister Rajnath Singh and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will brief leaders of 28 parties on the security situation in J-K as well as the ongoing standoff in Doklam. The all-party meeting is an effort on part of the government to reach out to the opposition for smooth functioning of the Parliament session starting on Monday.

The ministers will detail the measures taken by the government to tackle unrest, terrorism and infiltration in J-K and also explain the dynamics of the Sino-Indian border standoff. The opposition will get a chance to raise queries and also offer suggestions and solutions. The government is expected to highlight how security forces have been mounting pressure on terrorists with effective counter-operations which may have frustrated them into hitting “soft“ targets such as Amarnath yatris.

As many as 100 terrorists have been neutralised in J-K so far this year, against 150 in the whole of 2016. Another 200 terrorists, of which foreign terrorists constitute over 50%, are believed to be holed up in the Valley .

Singh is expected to explain the possible security gaps that may have led to the Amarnath attack. He will also apprise opposition leaders of the steps being taken to ensure security for private vehicles travelling late on the J-K highway .

Sensex crosses 32,000

The sensex rose 232.6 points or 0.7% to close above the 32,000 milestone for the first time ever while the broader Nifty ended at 9,892 points, a 0.8% increase. The indices hit record highs on hopes of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India on the back of low inflation.Global stock markets also provided some tailwind after a US Fed statement easing fears of higher rates. The BSE sensex capped its run of five successive highs in six trading sessions as a wave of liquidity lifted its constituent heavyweights like ITC, Reliance, Larsen and Toubro and ICICI Bank. The market capitalisation of BSE stocks rose to Rs.130 trillion. But the fact that the rally is being driven by a bunch of large cap stocks was evident.

Interestingly , the mid-cap and small-caps stocks, which had a stellar run on the bourses, have fallen behind their large-cap peers over the past few months. The BSE mid-cap index as well as the small-cap index have gained at a slower pace than the sensex in the three-month time frame.


Maharashtra first state to have law against social boycott

With the President of India giving assent to the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to bring a law making social boycott a crime.

The movement, initiated by late Narendra Dabholkar, gained momentum after he was shot dead and the Maharashtra legislature passed the law unanimously in 2016. It was pending with the central government for the President's nod. The President gave the assent on June 20, 2017.

The new law proposes action against extra-judicial bodies like jat (caste) and community panchayats, and prescribes a maximum punishment of three years in jail. As per the law, the offence of imposing social boycott will attract maximum punishment of 3 years in prison or a fine up to Rs.1 lakh or both.The abetment of the offence also attracts the same punishment and fine.

Economy: Mixed Signals

Retail inflation dipped to a record low in June on the back of sliding food prices, while industrial output growth slowed in May as manufacturing remained sluggish, mounting pressure on the RBI to cut interest rates when it reviews monetary policy on August 2.

Data showed retail inflation, as measured by the CPI, rose an annual 1.5% in June, slower than previous month's 2.2%. This was the slowest pace of increase since the government unveiled the new retail inflation series in 2012. The previous lows were in 1999 and in 1978 under a different series. Retail inflation has remained well below the central bank's target of 4% and triggered calls for a cut in interest rates. The RBI has not obliged with a rate cut but preferred to take a cautious view of the price situation.

Separate data released showed industrial output growth slowed to an annual 1.7% in May compared with 8% expansion in the same month last year. The manufacturing sector grew 1.2% against 8.6% in May 2016, while the mining sector contracted 0.9% compared to a growth of 5.7% in the year ago period.

Several economists backed calls for a cut in interest rates. India Inc stepped up their demand for a rate cut.

Complete all pending projects by Twenty22

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a five-year deadline for completing all pending projects. He told all secretaries at Centre and chief secretaries in states that “yesteryears' speed of implementation won't be acceptable“. PM made these remarks while chairing Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation-PRAGATI, a monthly web-based interaction with bureaucrats, when the decades' old Howrah-Amta-Champadanga new broad gauge line project came up for review. The railway project was sanctioned in 1974-75, but land acquisition started only in 2009. “PM said the country will not forgive all of us for such delays and exorbitant increase in project cost. He said we will be celebrating 75 years of India's independence in 2022. All departments must strive to ensure all pending projects are completed by then,“ a source said.

Modi also asked railways to follow “grand challenge mode“ for undertaking railway projects something that road transport ministry will start. Under this model, central agencies take up work on priority in states which offer land quickly .“The PM urged all chief secretaries to work expeditiously towards ensuring that all traders register under the GST regime, and this task is completed before August 15,“ a statement issued by PMO said.


UP aims to grow faster than India

Targeting 10% growth over the next five years, the Aditya Nath Yogi government's maiden budget, focused on farmers and the rural population. The targeted growth is well above India's projected growth -7.2% for 2017-18, according to the IMF.

The Rs.3.84 lakh crore budget -10.9% bigger than the previous one -provides Rs.36,000 crore for the farm loan waiver scheme announced by the CM just after taking charge. The government claimed it could arrange for funds for the scheme by checking extravagance and without compromising fiscal discipline. The fiscal deficit of Rs.42,967.86 crore, which is 2.97% of the gross state domestic product, is well below the target of 3% set under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. Delivering the budget speech in the presence of Yogi, state finance minister Rajesh Agarwal said the CM had a long-term vision for the development of the state with an eye on the welfare of the poor, women, weaker sections, farmers, and overall progress of the state. “Our budget represents the aspiration of the 22 crore people of UP,“ Yogi later said.

While it has gone into overdrive to make provisions for farmers and the rural sector, the pressure to fund the loan waiver scheme has forced the government to drop many welfare schemes of the previous government. So, Agarwal's budget is mum on the laptop scheme, Kanya Vidyadhan and pension scheme.

Besides, there is no mention of the Purvanchal Expressway though the BJP government has endorsed the project through a Cabinet decision. The government had also promised to link Bundelkhand with Delhi but has made no provision for it; it expects the Centre to chip in to make it happen. The government has claimed that it has introduced new schemes worth Rs.55,000 crore in the budget, but as much as Rs.36,000 crore out of this amount is earmarked for farmers' debt redemption; that leaves the government with Rs 19,000 crore for new schemes. The state government has focused on cultural activities, making an e-secretariat and free distribution of schoolbags, a pair of shoes and a sweater to students, besides giving a big push to the urban housing schemes funded by the Central government.

Agarwal also said the government proposed to recruit 1.50 lakh policemen and allocate Rs.791.83 crore for scholarships for boys and girls from the minority community. Besides, Rs.100 crore was proposed for distribution of schoolbags, uniforms and books for schoolchildren, Rs.19,444 crore for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rs.2,054 crore is to be spent on midday meals, Rs.551 crore on secondary education, Rs.191 crore on higher education, Rs.52 crore on hostels meant for Other Backward Classes students, and Rs.394 crore on modernisation of recognised madrasas.

Opposition names Gopal Gandhi VP candidate

Keen to avoid the delay that was seen to be a factor in dividing the opposition over the presidential poll, the opposition named former Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi -the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi -as its candidate for vice-president, with JD (U) also approving the choice.

JD(U)'s approval was important as the party backed Gandhi despite mounting troubles with partner RJD and its chief Lalu Prasad over corruption charges and probes into Lalu and his family members. In the case of the presidential poll, delay in finalising a candidate was seen to have led to JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar endorsing NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, who as Bihar governor enjoyed a good rapport with the Bihar chief minister. JD(U) and some other opposition parties later blamed Congress for delaying a decision on the nominee for President.

A retired IAS officer and diplomat, Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, the last governor general of India. His name was discussed as the opposition candidate for President too before former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was chosen to counter Kovind's Dalit credentials.

Salim Shaikh played saviour

Manoeuvring a 56-seater bus in the dark in mountainous terrain is daunting enough. But Salim Shaikh, 37, drove at full tilt for more than 2 km, with a flat tyre and bullets whizzing by, and saved the lives of over 50 Amarnath pilgrims.The terror attack killed seven and injured 21.

Shaikh said he realised it was a terrorist attack the moment a bullet pierced through the glass. “I slid down my seat and kept driving. I would see the road for a second or so and duck,“ he said. Applauding his courage, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said Shaikh would be nominated for the annual bravery award.

Pallavi Abhyankar, 55, a lucky survivor from Maharashtra, said, “Had it not been for the driver, the toll would have been higher.“

Shaikh, who earns Rs.12,000 per month with Om Travels and takes trip-based assignments for other private bus operators, is being showered with cash rewards.

The Jammu-Kashmir government and Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board announced rewards totalling Rs.5 lakh. The government will give him Rs.3 lakh while governor N N Vohra, as chairman of Sri Amarnathji Shrine Board, announced a special reward of Rs.2 lakh.

Shaikh has four brothers and two sisters. His brothers Babu and Iqbal are also drivers and the former has been going to Amarnath for the past 15 years.

India's Urban Population

Somewhere in Maharashtra....


India's Export Potential

India has the potential to increase its exports by around $209.9 billion, according to an export potential mapping tool developed by International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the UN and the WTO. And the top three markets with the greatest potential for Indian products are the US, the United Arab Emirates and China...