DeMon update

Almost all the currency demonetised in November found its way back into the banking system, seemingly belying the contention that it would help eradicate black money. It had been thought that income tax evaders wouldn't deposit any unaccounted wealth in banks for fear of prosecution, indirectly swelling the government's coffers.

On the other hand, the cost of withdrawing the old Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes is showing up on the books of the Reserve Bank of India. Its cost of printing currency notes has more than doubled, the central bank said in its annual report for FY17 that was issued on Wednesday.

“Subject to future corrections based on verification process when completed, the estimated value of SBNs (specified bank notes) received as on June 30, 2017, is Rs.15.28 lakh crore,“ RBI said. “Till such time these notes are processed by the Reserve Bank for their numerical accuracy and authenticity, only an estimation of SBNs received back is possible.“

PM Narendra Modi last year took the historic step of demonetising two high-value currency notes with the aim of quelling black money, counterfeits and terror funding. The move led to long queues at banks and cash machines amid currency rationing as RBI struggled to print enough new notes, leading to loss of income and economic disruption.

Mukul Rohatgi, A-G at the time, had told SC in November that out of the total estimated money in circulation of Rs.15-16 lakh crore, the government expected people to deposit Rs.10-11 lakh crore in banks. “The rest, Rs.4-5 lakh crore, were being used in northeast and Jammu and Kashmir to fuel trouble in India. That will be neutralised,“ he had said.

The economists believed this would benefit the government since RBI could write off that liability of Rs.4 lakh crore and transfer the same to the government for welfare activities and to build infrastructure.

The annual report details the cost of the exercise. Expenditure on printing of notes in RBI's last fiscal, which ran from July to June, was Rs.7,950 crore, up from Rs.3,421 crore a year earlier. Supply of notes during the year at 29,043 million pieces was 37% higher than the total supply in the year before's 21,195 million pieces.

While the return of banned notes may have thrown out calculations, it has thrown up benefits such as depositor details which I-T and other departments can use to pursue evaders. 

IRNSS-1H launch

The launch of India's eighth navigation satellite, IRNSS-1H, on Thursday will open a new chapter in the country's history of space exploration as, for the first time, the private sector has been actively involved in assembling and testing of a satellite. Earlier, the private sector's role was limited only to supplying components. The 1,425-kg satellite is all set to start its voyage from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, riding the Isro's trusted launch vehicle PSLV-XL.
A consortium led by Bengaluru-based Alpha Design Technologies successfully completed 25% of the development work of IRNSS-1H, under the guidance of Isro scientists.

Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said, “For the first time, a private company has been involved in the integration of a satellite. Progressively, we will involve more and more companies in satellite assembly activities.“

Alpha Design CMD, HS Shankar said the consortium had bagged the orders to build IRNSS-1I and work had already begun. The launch of IRNSS-1I is scheduled for April 2018.

On the private sector's role in the development of other spacecraft components, Kumar said, “Subsystems of the l payload and launch vehicle are already being developed in colf laboration with the industry .“

Incidentally, in another first, a crucial part of the development of IRNSS-1H happened at the newly-developed Isro space park in Whitefield. Isro felt the urgent need to launch IRNSS-1H after three atomic clocks of its first navigational satellite IRNSS-1A, launched in 2013, stopped functioning. These rubidium atomic clocks are meant to provide accurate locational data.

Tapan Misra, director of Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre, said, “We need to know the position of a satellite in order to find the position of an object on earth. And to find a satellite's position, we have to measure it with the help of time. To find the satellite's position with an accuracy of 0.5 metre, atomic clocks are therefore used for precise timing.“ When the time signal is missing, getting true positional accuracy becomes a problem. “Poor the accuracy of the atomic clocks, less the accuracy of distance calculated.“

Isro had imported 27 sophisticated timekeepers for the nine satellites of the Rs.1,420 crore Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (operational name NaVIC -Navigation with Indian Constellation). Out of which, seven of the satellites are in the orbit and two of them are standby. NaVIC, which has become operational but is yet to be commercialised, has several significant applications.

The Isro chairman had earlier said, “The stopping of these atomic clocks has not affected the overall performance of our navigation system.“

Atomic clocks in Glonass, Russia's navigation satellite system and Galileo, the European Union's navigation satellite system, too, had failed.

The satellite will be launched into a sub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (subGTO) with a 284 km perigee (nearest point to Earth) and 20,650 km apogee (farthest point to Earth).

Maharashtra tops in GST earning

Maharashtra has topped in GST collections, mopping up more than Rs.13,400 crore in July -the first month after the new tax came into force.

The state collected Central GST of Rs.3,467 crore, with Rs.4,809 crore coming to its kitty as State GST. The state has also collected cess of Rs.846 crore, which will be used to plug the shortfall on account of shifting to the new taxation regime.

The GST constitutes CGST and SGST, which are the centre and state's share respectively. Apart from this, there is IGST, which is the tax collected by a state in which good or services are supplied. For example, if Maharashtra supplies an item to Gujarat, the latter will gets its share in the form of Integrated Goods and Services Tax.

In the first month of GST implementation, the government has collected Rs.92,283 crore as overall GST. This includes all three types of levies. Maharashtra's share in IGST stands at Rs.4,341 crore. IGST is shared between the Centre and states where goods or services have been supplied from Maharashtra. Even Maharashtra will get its share of IGST for imports from other states and overseas which will be further added to the total collection of Rs.13,400 crore.

Karnataka stands second in terms of total GST at Rs.6,904 crore. As for CGST, Tamil Nadu immediately follows Maharashtra. Maharashtra also tops in GST returns filed, in absolute numbers. Of 8.64 lakh who were to file returns, over 6 lakh have done in the state. It is nearly 70% of total assessees.


Maximum City gets marooned

Twelve years after Mumbai suffered its worst ever deluge, the nightmare returned to haunt its citizens as heavy rain pounded the city, crippling rail services, stranding motorists and inundating low-lying areas. The downpour claimed four lives--one in Vikhroli in Mumbai and three in Thane district. The rain, which started early morning, had by afternoon developed unusual ferocity, causing panic and triggering memories of the floods of July 26, 2005. The city received 315.8 mm rainfall in the 12 hours ending 8.30 pm, higher than any 24-hour rainfall in August in a decade.

Though Mumbai had got 944mm rain on 26/7, Tuesday's intensity can be gauged from the fact that many areas received over 200 mm rain in seven hours from 8 am to 3 pm, which is considered “extremely heavy“ by meteorologists.The highest was in Worli, which recorded over 300 mm (12 inches) in less than 12 hours.

Mumbai's lifeline, the suburban railway network, was paralyzed. By 12.20 pm, with many stations waterlogged, Central Railway suspended services on both Harbour and Main lines, and Western Railway suspended services twice in the afternoon. CR services were not resumed later in the day .

There were major traffic snarls with the Eastern and Western Express Highways severely congested and motorists taking 2.5 hours to commute from Kandivli to Andheri. Heavy traffic was reported on Santacruz-Chembur Link Road, approach roads to Eastern Freeway , JVLR and Bandra-Worli sealink. Heavy rain caused traffic jams throughout Mumbai, and subways at Andheri, Santacruz and Khar were shut. And while many Mumbaikars were stranded in their offices, thousands on the roads were forced to walk in waist-high water in parts such as Khar, Linking Road and SV Road in Bandra, Lalbaug, Kalina, Hindmata (Dadar) and Sion. Five places not known to flood normally were also waterlogged: Kemps Corner, Worli (towards sealink), Bhandup (W), Andheri market and parts of Saki Naka.

While BEST buses ploughed through and traffic police tried to clear jams, commuters complained of unavailability of kaali-peelis, autos and aggregator cabs (and of overcharging by the few available). Mumbai police warned motorists that if water reached the level of the tyres, they should abandon the car. “Being on your 2 feet may be uncomfortable but safer,“ they posted on their Twitter handle which also put out various helpline numbers. There was a flurry of messages, warnings, advisories and help offered by Samaritans on social media.

Deputy municipal commissioner Sudhir Naik said, “This is an exceptional situation. The high tide coupled with gusty winds affected the water-receding capacity .“ The BMC late Tuesday evening cancelled all leave and asked its personnel on leave to return to work.

PM Narendra Modi tweeted, assuring the Centre would support the state in “mitigating the situation due to heavy rains in parts of the state.“ “Urge the people of Mumbai and surrounding areas to stay safe and take all essential precautions in the wake of the heavy rain,“ the PM said. CM Devendra Fadnavis declared a holiday at 4 pm and state government employees were told to leave early.

Flight operations were hit because of poor visibility , with 10 flights cancelled, seven diverted and 13 that were on approach to land forced to abort the descend and to do a go-around.Flights into and out of airport were delayed by 30-60 minutes.

Rain flooded hospitals too.Water entered the ground floor wards of KEM Hospital in Parel, forcing the hospital administration to shift around 50 patients to higher floors. Dean Dr Avinash Supe however said medical services did not suffer.

Along with the rain came power cuts. A citizen of the western suburbs, Taherreh Jalali Dashti, said lights had been disconnected in Khar-Danda, Pali Hill, Carter Road, Bandra (E) and parts of Santacruz (W) since 4pm. Consumers in the eastern suburbs of Ghatkopar, Bhandup and Mulund too went without electricity for hours.Power utility firms said the outage was a “preventive measure“ to prevent mishaps. Most school and college students escaped the rain fury owing to the ongoing mid-term Ganpati break, and those that were open sent back their students early .

Ten NDRF teams were despatched by the Centre, and the Navy , whose team was on standby , put up four rain shelters for stranded Mumbaikars.

A two-year-old from Vikhroli, Kalyani Jangam, died in a house collapse caused by rain in the Parksite area. Two persons drowned and one went missing after they were swept away in nallahs in Thane district. Thane received 289mm rain, and Navi Mumbai saw rainfall of over 121mm in 11hours.

Dadar-Parel were one of the worst affected areas in the city, recording 230 mm rainfall in 5 hours. The geo graphically low-lying area of Hindmata and Dadar TT junction were flooded as commuters tried to wade through waist deep water to reach Dadar station. Harried commuters were seen standing on the roads, asking for lifts to reach their destinations after the suburban network on Central, Western lines was suspended.Cars were abandoned on roads leading to Dadar station, resulting in bottlenecks and causing a massive jam. Snarls were nearly 3-4 km long, with BEST buses taking over 2 hours to cover a few metres.

Matunga-Sion recorded 253 mm rainfall in five hours. Waist-high water was seen at Matunga circle, Sion circle, Jain society, Gandhi Market.Water entered many shops in Gandhi market. Kurla-Santacruz-Vile Parle record ed 208-212 mm rainfall in five hours.

Kurla station was submerged with in a few hours of rainfall. Trains came to a halt between Kurla and Sion on Tuesday morning and water levels continued to rise by afternoon. Increased intensity of rain led to poor visibility in the area.

Residents complained water entered their houses in the morning. Some residents in Kalina had to drill holes in their walls to allow water to flow out. Power supply was cut off in most areas of Kalina since afternoon.


Somewhere in Rajasthan....

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Udaipur at 1 pm for dedicating and laying foundation stones of various National Highway projects worth Rs.15,000 crore in the state. There are 11 completed projects covering a length of about 873 kilometre. Besides, there are six highway projects to be newly laid.

Ahead of the PMs visit, chief minister Vasundhara Raje arrived in Udaipur on Monday afternoon and headed straight to the function venue at Maharana Pratap Khelgaon near Chitrakoot Nagar. She was accompanied by home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, PWD minister Yunus Khan, DGP Ajit Singh and several other higher officials. Governor Kalyan Singh too arrived in the afternoon.

Modi would be addressing a massive gathering of over 1 lakh people. BJP men are hailing Modi's visit to Udaipur as an enormous booster dose to prospects of the party in the 2018 state elections. Modi would also visit the Pratap Gaurav Kendra soon after the rally. Three helipads have been made to facilitate PMs visit and an IAF chopper made rehearsals of landings at the helipads to test the ground hardness.

New Chief Justice takes charge

The Union government is in a piquant situation as its near five-month silence on the Supreme Court collegium's recommendation to appoint six advocates as judges of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh high court has virtually stalled the selection process for appointment of judges to the SC and HCs.
By the end of this month, the SC will have six vacancies and HCs are reeling under near 40% vacancy, with 407 of 1,079 judges' posts vacant as of August 1.

Unless a solution is found quickly, new Chief Justice Dipak Misra will find the going tough as the most senior judge in the SC, Justice J Chelameswar, has taken a non-negotiable stand that unless the Centre takes a decision on the recommendation for six appointments to the Telangana and AP HC, he will not take part in collegium meetings.

There has been no collegium meeting since July 20, when former CJI J S Khehar had circulated an agenda for filling up four vacancies in the SC among members -Justices Misra, Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur.

The six advocates recommended for appointment to the Telangana & AP HC are DVSS Somyajulu, K Vijaya Lakshmi, P Keshava Rao, Manthoj Ganga Rao, A K Shavili and T Amarnath Goud. The HC has a sanctioned strength of 61 judges, but 34 posts are vacant.

Mutual Disengagement @ Doklam

India and China have agreed to “expeditiously disengage“ from the standoff in Doklam on Bhutanese territory after 72 days, with China agreeing to New Delhi's insistence on simultaneous withdrawal for a resolution.

After almost 10 weeks of negotiations between top-level Indian and Chinese officials, the foreign ministry announced that “expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site in Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing“. By the end of the day, as Indian troops withdrew to their post at Doka La, Chinese troops and their road-building equipment, too, were removed from the face-off site.

In a second statement at the end of the day , the MEA confirmed that “this process has almost been completed under verification“.

The Doklam standoff has been on since June 16 when Indian troops physically stopped PLA from building a road on Doklam plateau heading towards the Jampheri ridge. China's plan spelt security worry for India as the road will have exposed the Siliguri corridor--narrow strip which links the mainland to the northeast--to Chinese aggression. Post-disengagement, China will continue to patrol the region as it had done earlier, but there will be no road construction activity. The resolution comes on the eve of PM Narendra Modi's visit to China for the BRICS summit. It also comes before the crucial 19th party congress in China where President Xi Jinping expects to be “cleared“ for another five years and he will choose the core group of leaders, who will rule China for the next five years.

A confrontation on the border would have been bad optics for Xi, who is keen to consolidate his position as the undisputed leader. The negotiations were conducted at various levels -first, during the visit by NSA Ajit Doval to China in July, where he held discussions with his counterpart Yang Jiechi. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar led the diplomatic talks with the Chinese side, helped by India's ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale, who worked ceaselessly with the Chinese government over the last couple of months to achieve an outcome acceptable to both sides.

The MEA spokesperson said that in numerous meetings between Indian and Chinese officials in the past couple of months, India was successful in conveying its “concerns and interests“. “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect to the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests,“ the MEA spokesperson said.

The Indians went in with some demands -that China should not change ground realities unilaterally; that China should respect the 2012 understanding on trijunctions.

This was detailed by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in Parliament, where she said, “Point 13 of the common understanding states that `the trijunction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries'. Since 2012, we have not held any discussion on the trijunction with Bhutan. The Chinese action in the Doklam area is, therefore, of concern.“

The government did not seek to match China's public belligerence, terming India as the aggressor and demanding that it call its troops back to avoid a fiery retaliation. China was breathing fire in the public domain. However, in the negotiations, sources said, India firmly held the line that bilateral relations would be affected if China did not ensure “peace and tranquillity“ on the border. This could happen only if both sides reverted to the status quo by pulling their troops back.


Of India - ASEAN trade ties....

A parliamentary committee has suggested 69 ways to improve India's trade with the Association of South East Asian Nations. The committee comprising 31 MPs, including former ministers Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal, headed by BJP MP Bhupendra Yadav submitted its report last week. The report stated that India should “engage Asean for giving better market access to Indian goods where we have an edge over them like leather goods, pharmaceuticals, etc so that trade balance may be improved“.

The committee has made 69 recommendations, including early ratification of India-Asean trade agreements, better market access in Asean countries and safeguarding textile and pharmaceutical exports. The committee had met the representatives of 15 ministers for this issue.

The panel notes that Asean countries are not making much investment in India's manufacturing sector. Hence, it has recommended that CEO forums should interact regularly. The panel has recommended that the government should be vigilant against the safeguard measures being imposed by Asean on textile exports. It has also taken note of the non-tariff barriers coming in the way of exports of pharmaceutical products to Asean and recommends that the department of commerce should come out with appropriate remedial measures. It has also asked that steps be taken to improve Indian banking facilities in these countries.

Yadav said “trade with Asean countries is of strategic importance to India and it will also boost investments in the northeastern states of the country“.

Recently, commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that if India and Asean countries were to recognise their full business potential, then they need to fast track the `corridors of connectivity' and `corridors of trade'.


Global Firepower 2017 rankings

Taj is a tomb, not a temple

For the first time, the Archaeological Survey of India has stated in a court hearing that the Taj Mahal is a tomb and not a temple. According to officials, a 1920 notification to protect Taj Mahal has been made the basis for the affidavit filed by the body here.

The Union culture ministry in November 2015 had clarified in the Lok Sabha that there was no evidence of any temple at Taj. In April 2015, the Agra district court had admitted a suit filed by six lawyers that the Taj Mahal was a Shiva temple (Tejo Mahalaya) and Hindu devotees should be allowed access inside the premises.

Haryana govt surrendered to mob: HC

A day after Dera Sacha Sauda followers ran riot in Panchkula following the conviction of the organisation's chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by a special CBI court for the rape of his sadhvis, the Punjab and Haryana high court has indicted the M L Khattar government in Haryana for “surrendering“ its administrative authority to a mob just to keep its vote bank happy. While 31 Dera followers were killed in firing by paramilitary forces on Friday, the toll rose to 36 on Saturday. Gurmeet faces a minimum of seven years in jail and a maximum of life imprisonment.
“It was a political surrender just to allure the vote bank,“ a full HC bench comprising Justices S S Saron, Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan said during a special hearing. Holding the state's political interference in policing responsible for the ma yhem, the judges added, “There is a sea of difference between administrative and political decisions; administrative decisions were paralysed because of political considerations.“

A number of lawyers in the courtroom said the government had “accommodated“ the Dera chief because he had supported the BJP during elections.The bench then said the CM and the PM represent the state and the country, not a political party. The judges were visibly upset over the violence and deaths in Panchkula. They also expressed surprise over Haryana CM Khattar's statement to reporters on Friday that some anti-social elements had mingled with Dera followers and were behind the violence. “It appears to be an intelligent way to say that Dera had not done anything,“ the bench observed, telling state advocate general Baldev Raj Mahajan, “Your CM is also the home minister of the state. If he could find out that some anti-social elements were involved in the violence, why could he not prevent such a large gathering from entering Panchkula? You allowed them to occupy and damage public property. Those responsible for such losses should be answerable.“

Dera counsel S K Garg Narwana also submitted that some anti-social elements had created Friday's violence. The bench then observed, “Followers hold entire Panchkula town as well as the country to ransom. Despite assurance of maintaining peace, you shattered the peace, vandalised property and then you claim innocence. Don't try to fool the court.“

The HC also asked all the deputy commissioners in Punjab and Haryana to identify Dera's assets and submit a list in court for their attachment. No Dera property should be sold, transferred, alienated or encumbered in any manner, the court directed. The list should include incomes, bank accounts and properties.

Of the five deaths on Saturday, two were reported from a hospital in Chandigarh and three from Sirsa. On Friday, the government gave orders to fire at the Dera rioters after Panchkula deputy commissioner Gauri Prashar found herself surrounded by an angry mob. Dera followers in Punjab's Malwa region also went on the rampage after the conviction. Curfew was imposed in Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Fazilka and Ferozepur districts in Malwa where the Dera has a huge following. The followers targeted government service centres in many Bathinda villages. A railway station near Bathinda was torched.


Dera Chaos

At least 30 people were killed and many more injured as the followers of Sirsa Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim went on a rampage in several parts of North India after the self-styled godman was convicted in a rape case.

A CBI special court that held the 50-year-old guilty is scheduled to pronounce the quantum of sentence on Monday. He was taken into custody immediately and was shifted to the Police Training Centre rest house in Haryana's Rohtak district in a helicopter.

The mayhem on the roads of Panchkula, close to Chandigarh, was a grim reminder of the Jat agitation and when another self-styled godman, Ashutosh Maharaj from Karnal, was taken into custody. On Friday, the police had to resort to firing and lathi charge in several places to disperse violent mobs.

According to police sources, casualties in the latest incidents could increase as more injured were rushed to the district hospital in Panchkula. Curfew was imposed in Haryana's Panchkula, Sirsa and Punjab's Patiala, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Mansa, Faridkot and Bathinda.

Army had be called in around 4.30 pm as the situation deteriorated just before the court order. About 1.5 lakh Dera followers had been camping in Panchkula and Sirsa, two strongholds of the leader. Authorities had closed government offices, and educational institutions in Panchkula and Chandigarh.

Immediately after the verdict was pronounced by the CBI court, power supply in the residential areas of Panchkula was cut down as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, the Punjab and Haryana High court slammed the Haryana police for allowing thousands of Dera followers to assemble in Panchkula despite having clamped prohibitory orders there. The high court said it doesn't want a repeat of the Jat agitation where the police and state government had badly failed to deal with violent protestors.

The high court asked the Haryana police to use whatever force it needs to deal with the violence. It also told the police to register FIRs if any politician flares up sentiment.

Earlier, the dera chief, who enjoys Z-plus security, arrived at the CBI court in a cavalcade of 182 SUVs from Sirsa. Dera Sirsa is estimated to have a following of some 20 lakh people in Punjab and Haryana. Dera wields considerable political influence and its followers vote as a cult.


Of Pune’s inner ring road....

The City Improvement Committee of the Pune Municipal Corporation has given its nod for the high capacity mass transit route, also known as the inner ring road, at a projected cost of ₹6,646 crore.
The civic body will soon appoint a consultant for this project.

The HCMTR will pass through Bopodi, Pune University chowk, Senapati Bapat Road, Paud Road, Karve Road, Dattawadi, Sarasbaug, Swargate, Nehru Road, Lullanagar, Wanowrie, Ramwadi. Mundhwa, Vadagaon sheri, Vimannagar and Vishrantwadi.

CIC president Mahesh Ladkat said that while HCMTR had been pending for years, the PMC has modified the plan and it will now be a completely elevated road. This 35.96-km road will have six lanes, of which two lanes will be reserved for the Bus Rapid Transit System.

Of the estimated cost of the project of ₹6,646 crore, ₹1,550 crore is land acquisition cost.
The PMC had formed a special cell to speed up the HCMTR works. The route was first proposed in the Development Plan of 1987.

Nilekani back at Infosys

Nandan Nilekani has returned to Infosys to restore the lustre of the country's second-largest software services firm, replacing R Seshasayee, who resigned as chairman of the board. Nilekani's return, one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent corporate history, marks the second instance of a retired co-founder being handed the reins to steer the marquee corporation out of trouble. In 2013, iconic founder NR Narayana Murthy had returned to stem the tide of faltering growth at the company.

On Thursday -the embattled board of Infosys, which has been the target of extreme ire from Murthy for what he termed as grievous lapses in corporate governance -gathered for a three-hour-long huddle via video conference before announcing the appointment of Nilekani and the exit of two more board members -Professor Jeffrey Lehman and Professor John Echtemendy with immediate effect. Co-chairman Ravi Venkatesan will return to his role as independent director.

Former CEO Vishal Sikka, who was to have stayed on as executive vice chairman until March 2018, will resign with immediate effect, according to the company statement. Sikka had resigned as CEO just last Friday .

Nilekani, 62, who helped found the company once regarded as the bell wether for India's $150-billion technology outsourcing industry, will take charge as Infosys' non-executive non-independent chairman at a time when the company faces a raft of internal challenges in addition to the threat of slowing growth for Indian IT services companies. His return to Infosys, say people in the know, was led in a large part due to the vociferous demand from investors, employees, cofounders and top advisors after Sikka's shock exit led to a precipitous drop in Infosys stock and a loss in market capitalisation by nearly Rs.20,000 crore, dragging down indices on two consecutive trading days.

Nilekani's first challenge will be to manage the transition as the company rebuilds its top management team.

Nilekani faces a tough road ahead. He will have to calm clients who were already spooked by the prospect of Sikka's departure in March. Their concerns will likely be exacerbated by his immediate exit. He also has to smooth the feathers of Infosys' foreign institutional investors, who were vocally displeased by the preferential treatment being offered to the company's founders -who own just under 13% of the company .

Nilekani and family together own 2.2% of Infosys shares, while Murthy and his family own about 3.44 %.

Nilekani's return brings to fruition months of effort by Murthy to change the board. Murthy, 71, has been demanding clarity on a series of issues including severance pay to former CFO Rajiv Bansal and the terms of the acquisition of Israeli software company Panaya. Following complaints by whistle blowers in February, Infosys tasked law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher with investigating the charges and was exonerated of any wrongdoing, Murthy has since been demanding that the findings of the investigation be made public.

On Thursday, over 80 ex-Infosys executives also sent a letter to the board asking it to withdraw the letter it sent to the stock exchange attacking Murthy.

India, Nepal ink eight pacts

India and Nepal set the stage for closer defence and security cooperation with the two countries signing eight agreements, including one for cooperation against drug trafficking and another for post-earthquake reconstruction. On his first visit to India after taking over as PM, Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba assured his counterpart Narendra Modi that his government wasn't going to allow anyone to conduct anti-India activities from Nepalese soil.

An MoU was signed for utilisation of India's housing grant to support reconstruction of 50,000 houses. Both sides insisted that Nepal did not go into the specifics of its own boundary dispute with India at the Nepal-China-India tri-junction in the light of the Sino-Indian Doklam dispute.

According to a joint statement issued after Modi's meeting with Deuba, the two leaders committed to further enhancing close cooperation bet ween the Indian Army and the Nepal army. Deuba thanked India for continued assistance in training and capacity building of the security forces of Nepal.

The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the “excellent cooperation on security-related matters'' and expressed commitment to ensure that the open border, a unique feature of India-Nepal bilateral relations that has facilitated unhindered movement of people on both sides of the border, is not misused by unscrupulous elements. “The two sides reiterated their commitment that their territories would not be allowed to be used for any activities inimical to the other,'' said the statement. “Defence ties and assistance in security is an important aspect of our partnership. Our defence interests are also connected to each other,“ Modi said at a joint press briefing. “As you (Modi) mentioned that Nepal has an open border...I would like to assure you that Nepal will never allow any activity against friendly neighbour India and there will be support, help and cooperation from our side,“ Deuba said.

Thane Public Bicycle Sharing facility

Travelling short distances in Thane without leaving a carbon footprint is now possible. The Thane Municipal Corporation, in a public-private partnership, flagged off the Thane Public Bicycle Sharing facility.

Under the scheme, which will be operational from next week, TMC will offer 500 cycles on rent for Rs.10/hour at 50 designated stands. The bikes, each costing Rs.5,500, will be tracked via GPS installed by the contractor, said a civic official, adding that any damage to the bike or the user would be recovered through group insurance.

To avail the facility, citizens will have to get a smart card with a minimum recharge of Rs.250. To rent a bicycle, the user will have to to flash the card in front of the reader installed at the stand to unlock a bicycle and the rent amount will be deducted. The process to return the bicycle is the same. Bicycles for rent can also be booked through a mobile app, Ilovecycling, that will give updates on routes travelled each day and calories burnt in one trip.

While TMC will provide space for the cycle stands, the contractor will handle the operations for 10 years and then hand it over to the civic body.

Privacy: A Fundamental Right

Propelling India into the ranks of progressive societies that ensure privacy of their citizens, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled that privacy is a fundamental right, protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In a historic judgment, the bench headed by CJI J S Khehar--which included Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, R F Nariman, A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay K Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer --upturned a 63-year-old ruling of an eight-judge bench that had refused to recognise privacy as a fundamental right.The 547-page ruling set up many landmarks to outline what constitutes a dignified life and the obligation of the state to help its citizens lead one.

It emphasised the value of dissent and tolerance, besides the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities, clearing the way for the possible voiding of the SC's controversial order to reverse the decriminalisation of consensual gay sex by the Delhi high court. It also boldly delineated the limits to the state's intervention in the lives of citizens.

However, the bench was alive to the challenges thrown up by technology and recognised that a balance needs to be maintained between the right to privacy and the right of the state to impose reasonable restrictions on it for legitimate aims such as national security, prevention and investigation of crimes and distribution of welfare resources.

What stood out was privacy being declared intrinsic to right to life and that it formed part of the sacrosanct chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution, which has been regarded since 1973 as part of the basic structure, immune from Parliament's interference. The unanimous verdict was, “Right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III.“

The bench added, “Like the right to life and liberty, privacy is not absolute. The limitations which operate on the right to life and personal liberty would operate on the right to privacy. Any curtailment or deprivation of that right would have to take place under a regime of law. The procedure established by law must be fair, just and reason able. The law which provides for the curtailment of the right must also be subject to constitutional safeguards.“

With this ruling, the Constitution bench set the stage for a three-judge bench to decide the validity of Aadhaar, challenged by 21petitions led by retired HC judge K S Puttaswamy, by scrutinising whether collection of biometric data and linking it with various activities of citizens violated their right to privacy.

But equally significant were two ingrained sub-rulings --one, it said a two-judge SC bench in 2014 had wrongly curtailed the sexual preferences of the LGBT community and, two, it attempted to erase the Emergency-era judgment in the ADM Jabalpur case by overruling its logic that the government could suspend right to life in critical situations.

It was Justice Chandrachud's 265-page illustrative, analytical and incisive judgment that formed the core of the nine-judge bench's decision. Justice Chandrachud wrote the judgment for himself and for Justices Khehar, Agrawal and Nazeer. The other judges --Justices Chelameswar, Bobde, Nariman, Sapre and Kaul -agreed through separate judgments.

Referring to as many as 300 judgments from India and abroad, Justice Chandrachud demolished the Centre's argument that privacy was a common law right that was a sub-species of many rights, and hence, incapable of being termed as a standalone homogeneous fundamental right.

“Once privacy is held to be an incident of the protection of life, personal liberty and of the liberties guaranteed by the provisions of Part III of the Constitution, the submission that privacy is only a right at common law misses the wood for the trees,“ he said.

Defining the nature and character of privacy, he said, “Privacy postulates the reservation of a private space for the individual, described as the right to be let alone. The concept is founded on the autonomy of the individual.The ability of an individual to make choices lies at the core of the human personality .“ Elaborating on the concept and attempting to define the limitless footprints of privacy in an individual's activities, Justice Chandrachud said, “The body and the mind are inseparable elements of the personality. The integrity of the body and the sanctity of the mind can exist on the foundation that each individual possesses an inalienable ability and right to preserve a private space in which the human personality can develop. Without the ability to make choices, the inviolability of the personality would be in doubt. Recognising a zone of privacy is but an acknowledgement that each individual must be entitled to chart and pursue the course of development of personality . Hence, privacy is a postulate of human dignity .“ “Dignity cannot exist without privacy. Both reside within the inalienable values of life, liberty and freedom which the Constitution has recognised. Privacy is the ultimate expression of the sanctity of the individual. It is a constitutional value which straddles across the spectrum of fundamental rights and protects the individual a zone of choice and self-determination,“ the judgment said. “The ability of the individual to protect a zone of privacy enables the realisation of the full value of life and liberty. Liberty has a broader meaning of which privacy is a subset. All liberties may not be exercised in privacy. Yet others can be fulfilled only within a private space. Privacy enables the individual to retain the autonomy of the body and mind. The autonomy of the individual is the ability to make decisions on vital matters of concern to life,“ the verdict said.


Petrol & Diesel On the Rise

State oil companies have raised prices of petrol and diesel by Rs.5.64 per litre and Rs.3.72 per litre respectively since July 1 through daily revisions that have largely gone unnoticed.

In Delhi, petrol was being sold for Rs.68.73 a litre and diesel for Rs.57.05 on Wednesday, according to the website of IOC. On July 1, the prices of petrol and diesel were Rs.63.09 and Rs.53.33 a litre.

Prices in other states would vary due to local levies. Petrol, diesel as well as jet fuel, crude oil and natural gas are not in the ambit of GST and covers most goods and services, including petroleum products such as cooking gas and lubricants.

Prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene have historically been politically sensitive as these directly impact households' budget and have the potential to induce inflation. This is why prices of cooking gas and kerosene are still controlled.

Until June 15, state oil companies used to fortnightly revise prices to align them with international rates and factor in currency fluctuation though price hikes were skipped or delayed in some fortnights to avoid political controversy, especially during polls.

From June 16, companies switched to daily revision. This meant the price changes would be so small that it would skip the attention of most consumers or opposition parties.

Brand IPL Gets Stronger

There's no stopping the Indian Premier League. As it continues to attract viewers and advertisers, the brand value of the 20-over format league has soared to $5.3 billion, as per global valuation and corporate finance advisory firm Duff & Phelps.

A controversy-free edition with highly competitive matches and an astronomical jump in the title rights value (Rs.2,199 crore for next five years) thanks to Vivo, has resulted in a 26% boost in the valuation. As per Duff & Phelps' last year's report, the value of IPL was at $4.2 billion.

Incidentally, IPL has protected its brand value, which has always remained more than its franchises, unlike clubs of English Premier League, where clubs' value is far bigger. But what's more important is that on an average, all the franchises have seen their valuation grow by 34%.

While MI's valuation has increased 36% to $106 million from $78 million in 2015, Shah Rukh Khanowned Kolkata Knight Riders' valuation grew 29% to $99 million from $77 million in 2016.

Virat Kohli-captained Royal Challengers Bangalore, despite not having a good season, remained at number three and saw a 31% jump in its valuation to $88 million. The report, in its 4th year, has not valued Rising Pune Supergiants, Gujarat Lions, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.

The report has reiterated on how IPL has been a money spinner in season 10, which clocked advertising revenue of about Rs.1,300 crore.

AFS Arjan Singh

The Indian Air Force has without any fanfare added more teeth to its capabilities in the east by commissioning Air Force Station Arjan Singh in Panagarh, about 150 km northwest of Kolkata, in the middle of the stand-off with China in Doklam.

AFS Arjan Singh became fully operational, with its full complement of six C-130J Super Hercules strategic aircraft, in the last week of July.The Doklam stand-off with China started a month earlier.

Panagarh is the second location in the country, after Hindan in Ghaziabad, to have a base for the C-130J aircraft.Technicians and engineers from Lockheed Martin have been building hangars and other facilities for these aircraft at Panagarh for over two years. An Ilyushin Il-78 mid-air refueller has also been based at Panagarh to extend the endurance of Eastern Air Command's fighter fleet, particularly the Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs.

The hangars and other facilities at the bases at Hindan and Panagarh are hush-hush affairs not without reason. Entire Special Forces units with equipment bunk in air-conditioned quarters below the hangars.This enables them to mobilise within minutes and board the aircraft that are kept ready for takeoff at any point of time. When not in actual operation, Special Forces personnel train both with and without the aircraft.

The IAF believes commissioning of AFS Arjan Singh will raise eyebrows across the LAC but officers maintain that it is all part of a schedule that has nothing to do with the present situation. However, assets like Il-78 refuellers are deployed for better preparedness during contingencies. With squadrons of the Mig-21s and Mig-27s being gradually phased out, the Su-30 MKI has become the mainstay of the EAC. These air-superiority aircraft have a range of 3,000 km that can be more than doubled by mid-air refuelling, thereby increasing their potency manifold and enabling them to launch strategic weapons.

Punjab moots Chandigarh-Amritsar corridor

The Punjab government under Capt Amarinder Singh is finalizing plans for the Chandigarh-Amritsar corridor in its draft industrial policy. It envisages new industrial parks and townships along the stretch.

The state will help identify and transfer chunks of village common land and un-utilised government land by framing land pooling schemes. For the border belt, Chandigarh-Hoshiarpur-Gurdaspur industrial corridor has also been planned.

As part of the Chandigarh-Amritsar urban industrial corridor plan, existing industrial clusters on this stretch will be strengthened. In all, four major industrial parks and 10 industrial estates are on the anvil and one new IT hub each has been planned in Amritsar and Mohali.

This planned growth is also aimed at decongesting cities as industries located in crowded areas or non-conforming zones (where master plan stipulates their shifting after certain period) will be moved to new areas being developed and allow the inner areas for more value added city use. The state will separately formulate a scheme for promotion and development of Industrial Parks in private sector. To promote the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises, the state government will set up `MSME Punjab' ­ an organization focused to addressing challenges being faced by the MSMEs. The state has a strong base of close to 1.6 lakh MSME units. The organisation will have dedicated divisions and requisite competencies to provide necessary assistance to the MSME units in access to finance/credit, technology market, skills and other needs To incentivize the industry, the state would reduce stamp duty from 4% to 1% for industrial units on registered mortgages. IT Industry will be given exemption from Punjab Pollution Control Board clearance.

A joint inspection cell is also on the cards with a move to standardize the process of inspection system and establish a dedicated Joint Inspection Cell, which will provide inputs for granting construction development permissions in all the urban local bodies.

There is also a plan to identify `old city' areas in major cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana Jalandhar, and Patiala, where area for vehicle parking is not available. The hotels constructed 20 years ago or earlier would be given parking place exemptions. The state would provide dedicated alternative parking and park and ride system from hotel to the parking place. A congestion charge could be levied on all such hotels The industries department has invited objections to the draft policy and it is likely to be notified shortly .



Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged young CEOs to partner with the government on a continuous basis and help make its development agenda a mass movement. “I want #ChampionsOfChange to become soldiers of a prosperous & developed India. You are my team to take India forward,“ the NITI Aayog tweeted, quoting the Prime Minister.

Modi addressed 200 young CEOs who attended a NITI Aayog organised programme where they were divided into six groups to deliberate on how to take the country forward on six identified areas. They brainstormed through the day and interacted with secretaries of various ministries and departments besides ministers to chart out a policy blueprint, which was then presented before the PM.

The six groups can be attached permanently to the concerned ministries, Modi said, suggesting also that they meet every month to discuss new ideas and take the development agenda forward. “Create a digital platform where you can invite new people and interact with them,“ he said.

The key decision-making team of the government has listened to the presentations made by the CEOs and the 360-degree view of issues that have been presented before them will surely help in policy-making, he said. “You are my team, and we need to work together to take India forward,“ the PM said.

Development must become a mass movement and a spirit should be created whereby all set their targets for the contribution to the country , Modi added. Giving the example of value addition in agriculture, the PM said a multipronged approach is essential for achieving desired objectives such as doubling of agriculture income. Emphasising the importance of food processing, Modi said lack of infrastructure is leading to huge losses in the agriculture sector. The government has taken anumber of decisions that have bro ught about a fundamental transformation in the sector, he said, while listing steps such as those to ensure the availability and production of urea. This led to an additional production of 20 lakh tonnes of urea.

He said the government wants to move towards making India a less cash society . He asked the CEOs to partner with the government to build momentum in this regard.

On occasions such as festivals, khadi could be promoted through gifting, etc. This would greatly help the poor, he said, adding that an atmosphere must be created to take the poor along in every sphere of life.

The PM gave the example of Government e-Marketplace to show how small traders are competing successfully in provision of supplies to the government. Goods worth Rs.1,000 crore have been transacted through GeM so far and 28,000 suppliers have contributed to this platform, he said.

Giving the example of “waste to wealth“ entrepreneurs, Modi said this can help achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat and clean environment. He said the aim of entrepreneurs and business should be to provide products which solve simple problems faced by the people of the country.

The NITI Aayog, the government's policy think tank that pioneered the Champions of Change initiative, had divided the CEOs into groups, each dealing with an issue: doubling of farmers' incomes, creating cities of tomorrow, Make in India, reforming the financial sector, world class infrastructure and New India--2022.

This is the second part of the initiative. Another set of young entrepreneurs had met last week to discuss similar issue the country faces. The CEOs group included Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto, Nikhil Nanda of Escorts, Avni Biyani of Future Retail, Sangeeta Reddy of Apollo Hospitals, Bunty Bohra of Goldman Sachs, Sanjay Nayar of KKR, Priya Nair of Hindustan Unilever, Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Naukri.com and Sumant Sinha of ReNew Power.

The suggested action points by the CEOs could reportedly be incorporated in Niti Aayog's 15-year vision document.

The event saw participation from over 200 top CEOs and leading entrepreneurs, including Mu Sigma's Dhiraj Rajaram, MakeMyTrip's Deep Kalra, BankBazaar's Adhil Shetty and Capital Float's Sashank Rishyasringa.

All the CEOs were divided into six main groups and sub groups and the general aura was that of feeling elated at the sight of the country's top bureaucrats engaging head on with the entrepreneurs.Abhishek Sinha, CEO, Eko India Financial Services, who was part of the Fixing Finance Group, said, “The PM indicated that he may institutionalise this sort of a dialogue with entrepreneurs and have it every six months or once a year.That could be a great thing.“

Among the suggestions made by his group, top ones included making financial literacy a mission across India, digitising property titles in rural areas and how technology can aid distribution of micro financial products.

Sinha, who also volunteers for industry thinktank iSpirt said, Niti Aayog may likely take in all their suggestions and put across the same to various ministries and government departments.

“Multiple groups suggested improving the country's tourism infrastructure to create 30 to 40 million jobs in India,“ said Dev Khare, managing director at Lightspeed India Partners Advisors.“

Everyone was enthusiastic to have the government listening and taking notes.

Some of the important points put forward by fintech CEOs included the need to create 100 new “NoFrills“ banks with only license for deposit and credit, enabling complete paperless, presence-less and cashless delivery of financial products to all Indians, and active support from the government for fintech platforms engaged in financial inclusion to facilitate scaling up.

IGI set to expand

Come November, IGI Airport will enter the second phase of a development plan that will see Terminal 1 double its capacity and a brand new facility, Terminal 4.

DIAL made public IGIA 's revised master plan; it is to be implemented when the three low-cost carriers-IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir -shift one-third of their flights to T2 by October-end, creating space to begin expansion work at T1.

DIAL CEO I Prabhakara Rao said the airport would be developed in three phases over the next decade, which would see IGIA reach its peak capacity of handling over 11 crore passengers annually .Its four runways will cater to 110 aircraft every hour. DIAL did not disclose the cost of the plan nor how it would be funded. Flyers pay user development fees to partially fund capital expenditure.

PM Modi hails SC verdict

PM Narendra Modi hailed the SC verdict on triple talaq as “historic“ and said it grants equality to Muslim women. He said the judgement will serve as a powerful measure for women empowerment.
The SC by a majority verdict set aside the practice of divorce through triple talaq among Muslims, saying the practice was void, illegal and unconstitutional. “Judgment of the Honble SC on Triple Talaq is historic. It grants equality to Muslim women and is a powerful measure for women empowerment,“ the Modi tweeted.

The PM has been raising the issue of triple talaq as an evil practice and has also been talking of doing away with it at various platforms. The PM was one of the first ones to tweet after the judgment.

Trump spells out his South Asia policy

The US, under President Trump, implicitly recognised India's historic ties, stakes, and engagement in Afghanistan, while serving notice on Pakistan for fomenting terrorism in the region under nuclear cover.

Trump also reversed his earlier view calling for a total US withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying although his “original instinct was to pull out... a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists“, largely backed by Pakistan. “We will fight to win,“ he said at the army base of Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, indicating that the US would expand its presence in Afghanistan but offering few specific details. In a significant recasting of US policy for south Asia after a review with his generals and strategists, Trump invited India to “help us more“ in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump, while seeking India's help in Afghanistan, warned Pakistan against harbouring terrorist outfits and sheltering terrorists and criminals. In fact, Pakistan got hammered, as Trump just stopped short of directly calling it a terrorist sponsor. “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict,“ Trump said, outlining the latest US policy for the region. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations that pose a threat to the region and beyond,“ he added.

While lashing out at Pakistan, Trump highlighted India's role, including his future expectations from India. “We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially for economic assistance and development,“ Trump said, suggesting greater Indian inputs into Afghanistan without direct mention of military contribution.

Significantly, Trump's speech also made no mention of Pakistan's patron China, which has been trying to make inroads into Afghanistan, or of Russia, Washington's erstwhile rival. Hours after Trump's speech, administration announced sanctions against Chinese and Russian entities and individuals for fostering North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile efforts, that were also supported by Pakistan.

While some US analysts said Trump's speech on Afghanistan and South Asia policy was muscular but vague on specific details, American officials indicated the President would direct some 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to add to 8,500 already in the region. The big question in New Delhi though is whether India will be asked to commit troops, something Trump addressed only indirectly.

Ahead of Trump's policy turnaround, US officials phoned leaders of Afghanistan, India (external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj), and Pakistan (foreign minister K M Asif) to brief them.


SC terms triple talaq unconstitutional

The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court has passed a landmark verdict holding the practice of Triple Talaq as unconstitutional.

After reading separate judgments, the five-judge bench ruled in 3:2 majority triple talaq is void and illegal.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar gave its verdict, after a six-day marathon hearing during the summer vacation.  "Triple talaq will not be in operation for six months. If law doesn't come into force in six months, then SC's injunction on triple talaq will continue," said the top court.

The top court also expressed hope the Centre's legislation will take into account concerns of Muslim bodies and Sharia law. The Supreme Court also asked political parties to keep their differences aside and help Centre in bringing out law on triple talaq. The court also referred to the abolition of triple talalq in Islamic countries and asks why can't independent India get rid of it. "Talaq-e-biddat is not in violation of articles 14,15,21 and 25 of the constitution," said CJI J S Khehar.

Besides CJI Khehar, the bench also included Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and S Abdul Nazeer. The bench, made up of judges from different religious communities -- Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Hindu and Muslim, had heard seven pleas, including five separate petitions filed by Muslim women challenging the prevalent practice of 'triple talaq' in the community.

The Muslim women, who had filed the petitions, have challenged the practice of 'triple talaq' in which the husband pronounces 'talaq' thrice in one go, sometimes even by phone or a text message, to get a divorce.

The apex court had on its own taken cognizance of the question whether Muslim women faced gender discrimination in the event of divorce or due to other marriages of their husbands.

Rosneft, Partners Roll Out Big India Plans

Russia's energy giant Rosneft and its partners have completed the $12.9-billion acquisition of Essar Oil, making a grand entry into the world's most sought-after energy market with plans of grabbing a larger share of the fuel retail market in India and significantly better financial performance.

The new owners, which include Trafigura, a global commodity trading and logistics giant, and UCP Investment Group, will acquire India's largest network of private petrol pumps, the country's second-largest refinery, a 1,000-MW power plant along with the Vadinar port and oil terminal.

After the acquisition of 49.13% stake by Rosneft and another 49.13% by Trafigura and UCP Investment Group, the new owners of Essar Oil aim to scale up the company's petrol pump network to 6,000 outlets in India from 3,500 now. This will rev up fuel retailing market which already has Shell and Reliance Industries posing a challenge to the dominant state firms in the business, and BP ready to enter the arena with a licence for 3,500 pumps.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said the deal was a remarkable achievement as the Russian firm had entered the “high-potential and fast-growing“ market and the new owners will make a significant difference to the company they acquired.

The acquirers plan to continue using the `Essar' brand name for the business for the time being and will take on most of the debt and working capital liabilities. Debt and liabilities worth $ 5.4 billion would be transferred to the new entity and is a part of the $12.9 billion valuation.

The deal was signed in October last year in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the BRICS Summit but faced delays as Essar's lenders had reservations and reported concerns of India's intelligence agencies.

Rival AIADMK factions merge

After days of drama and despair, the two rival AIADMK factions headed by chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam shook hands, called themselves Amma's children and declared their merger at the party headquarters in Chennai.

An hour later, Panneerselvam was sworn in as deputy chief minister by governor C Vidyasagar Rao. Panneerselvam got the portfolios of finance and housing, while his supporter, K Pandiarajan got Tamil official language, culture and archeology.

There was much bonhomie, handshaking and smiles as Palaniswami and Panneerselvam met after six months of bitter and acrimonious rivalry and formally announced that their factions had merged. While EPS will continue to be CM, OPS has been appointed coordinator of a steering committee that will run the party till a formal organisational election is conducted.

T T V Dhinakaran camp called EPS and OPS traitors and sought an appointment with the governor on Tuesday morning. At least 18 legislators visited TTV's residence in the morning to express solidarity.

The two leaders will share a dais in Ariyalur on Wednesday for the MGR centenary celebrations.

Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence Index rankings

Poor job prospects and cautious spending have brought down India's consumer confidence in the June quarter of 2017 to a year-ago level, pushing the country to the second spot in Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence Index rankings.

With a CCI score of 128, India has been overtaken by Philippines which scored 130. At the current level, India has slipped eight points below its Dec quarter 2016 score of 136.

Prasun Basu said major events in the past three quarters towards creating a larger formal economy that will lead to re-defining of jobs and re-skilling as businesses and processes restructure themselves is a likely cause of a short-term anxiety. Besides, perceptions on prices due to the new tax regime could result in consumers exercising caution around spending.

Yet, according to the report, India continues to reflect high confidence that it has held for the past three years among 63 countries that Nielsen covers in its CCI, built on an online survey every quarter since 2005. Consumer confidence levels above and below a baseline of 100 indicate degrees of optimism and pessimism, respectively. Global consumer confidence showed signs of continued improvement in the second quarter of 2017, with an index score of 104, which was up three points from Q4 2016.

Congress, CPM call for change in `first past the post' poll system

Congress has told a parliamentary panel that a mix of “proportional representation“ and “first past the post“ would best reflect the people's mandate in the composition of the legislature, batting for a major overhaul of the way people's representatives are elected.

CPM too is learnt to have plumped for a change in system of election with addition of a share of “proportional representation“. The view of the two opposition parties marks a big step in pushing the debate for a “correction“ in how to elect the legislatures. The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice has sought the views of political parties as well as the Election Commission on the possibility of alternatives to “first past the post“ system.

The query, which would form part of a report to be submitted to Parliament, comes in the backdrop of BJP wins in state assemblies especially the recent one in Uttar Pradesh besides its victory in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In its oral submission, Congress is learnt to have argued that elections in recent times have presented a skewed picture of people's mandate which has raised the need for a debate on how the system can be reformed.


Global Innovation Index 2017

4 cities set to ride the Metro soon

In a major fillip to urban transport, the Union government is all set to double the metro rail network over the next 18 months, adding four new cities to the metro map. The biggest gainers would be cities in BJP-ruled states, viz. Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Nagpur. Lucknow Metro would be the first off the block as it has received safety clearance and would be inaugurated within this month. Election-bound Gujarat would get its first 6.3 km stretch in the capital city Ahmedabad next month. These two stretches would be followed by 28.4 km stretch in Delhi and 28 km in Hyderabad in September.

By March 2019, just two months ahead of parliamentary elections, 19 new sections in nine cities would be commissioned, adding 313 kms to the 370 kms metro network. This translates to 313 kms made operational in 19 months as compared to 370 kms made operational over 33 years in eight cities since the first metro service began in Kolkata in 1984.

This is expected to be a major election pitch in urban centres. As per statistics provided by ministry of housing and urban affairs, there has been a 158% hike in budgetary provision for metro projects during the last three years over the previous three years under Congress-led UPA government.The budgetary provision between 2012 and 2015 for metro projects was Rs.16,565 cr, which has been increased to Rs.42,696 crore during 2015-18.

At present, metro services are available in Delhi (217 kms), Bengaluru (42.3 kms), Kolkata (27.39 kms), Chennai (27.36 kms), Jaipur (9 kms), Kochi (13.3 kms), Mumbai Metro Line 1 (11.4 kms), Mumbai Mono Rail Phase 1 (9 kms) and Gurugram Rapid Metro (11.60 kms).


Air Traffic Grows 12.4% in July

Indian carriers flew 12.4% more passengers during July, proving airline body International Airline Transport Association wrong that had predicted the Indian aviation market's double-digit growth to end in June.

During July , which is traditionally a lean month for airlines in India, Indian carriers together carried about 9.6 million passengers, registering about 12.4% growth over 8.5 million passengers carried during the same month last year. IATA had said that the slowdown in the country's aviation growth started post demonetisation and passenger growth will fall to single digit from July.

Among load factors, SpiceJet continued its dominant position for 28 months in a row by flying 94.4% of its flights full, followed by AirAsia India that flew planes with 88.4% of its seats full. These two lowfare carriers were followed by a full-service carrier Vistara that operates in three-class configurations and flew its planes with 84.6% seats full.

IndiGo maintained its lead in the market share and on the one-time performance front. The market leader, which carried 38.7% of the total passengers during the month, also flew the highest number 84.6% of its flights on time.

IndiGo was followed by GoAir that operated 78.2% of its flights on time followed by Vistara that operated 74.5% of its flight on time.

Like IndiGo, Jet Airways also maintained its position as the second largest carrier in terms of market share by carrying 18.2% of the total passengers followed by SpiceJet that carried 14.2% of the total passengers during July .

JD(U) decides to join NDA

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar dared rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to break the party and threatened him that his Rajya Sabha membership would be terminated in case he did not have enough numbers to split the party.

Without taking Yadav's name, Nitish said at the open session of the party's national council: “Do you have enough strength to break JD(U)? Do you have two-thirds of MPs and MLAs? If you can't break the party, remember, your membership (of Rajya Sabha) will be terminated.“ At a meeting of its national executive, which was attended by all JD(U) MLAs ­ including those from the Seemanchal region which Yadav loves to describe as his stronghold ­ the party decided to formally join the BJP-led NDA. Yadav represented Madhepura Lok Sabha seat in the Seemanchal region four times before becoming the JD(U) Rajya Sabha member in 2014.

Contrary to Yadav's claim that he had the support of 14 state units, all the 71 JD(U) MLAs and 30 MLCs in Bihar, two Lok Sabha members, seven Rajya Sabha members and a majority of national office bearers attended the national executive meeting which was chaired by Nitish. Nitish's warning to Yadav came on the day he organised his `jan adalat' programme in Patna against the JD(U)-BJP tie-up.

Modi cracks the whip

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cautioned his ministers against staying in five-star hotels and availing of any benefit from public sector undertakings attached to their ministries, including using their cars.

Shortly after a Cabinet meeting, Modi asked the ministers to stay back and then read the riot act to them. He made it clear to the ministers that they should stick to government accommodation while on official duty.

The cracking of the whip prompted many ministers to ask their staff to ensure no PSU cars were made available for personal use.


Somewhere in Rajasthan....

Mobile Subscriber additions forecast

Irom Sharmila weds in low-key ceremony

Iron Lady' Irom Chanu Sharmila got married to her partner Desmond Coutinho in a low-key ceremony in Kodaikanal, the southern hill station. While a happy Desmond was dressed in a kurta and pair of pants, a shawl draped around his neck along with a floral garland, Sharmila was in a traditional pink and black striped phanek and top, sans a garland, with her hair kept as always, hanging loose over her face. The two came walking holding hands to the sub-registrar's office, and it was found the groom had left his passport at home and went back for it. Registrar M Radhakrishnan registered the marriage.

Many locals had gathered outside the registrar's office along with a few human rights activists from Madurai and Dindigul.

US shale oil is cheaper than West Asian crude

When Saudi Arabia raised the price of crude shipments to Asia and the US on June 4, it unwittingly provided the spark for India's maiden drive towards the US for supplies and help it undercut Opec's sway over the world's third largest oil consumer.

The opportunity to change things came when PM Narendra Modi met Donald Trump in the White House on June 27. Modi said India had one of the world's fastest growing energy demands, in response to Trump's line about reviving American energy exports. Modi responded that India would consider if the price was right.

The price, as it has turned out, is more than just right even after the long shipping distance, as the first US ship sails with shale oil bound for Indian markets. Indian officials say that even after facto ring in the distance, US oil is working out to be cheaper than Middle East oil. India now wants to leverage its status as a major energy buyer to get a better price, but also more importantly , to make a political point to its suppliers.

Saudi Aramco raised July prices for its Arab Light crude by 60 cents per barrel for Asian and US buyers on rising demand but reduced prices of shipment for Europe to stave off competition from Russia.

India's largest state-run refiner-marketer IndianOil immediately put its bet on US Eagle Ford and Mars crudes, buying consignments from trading house Trafigura for $100 million.

The ship sailed from the US for the company's latest refinery at Paradip in oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan's home state, Odisha, where it will dock next month.

With the advent of US-origin crude into its oil mix, India is making three points -first, diversifying its sources of oil (India's top suppliers are Iraq and Saudi Arabia); second, compel them to offer better prices (IOC officials observed that soon after India had secured its first US buy, Iraq decided to lower its prices); most importantly, it would help reduce the trade surplus India holds with the US, a sore point for the Trump administration. Indian officials say this could become a longer term affair, giving India greater room for manoeuvre with other tougher partners like Iran.


2016-17 grain output at record 276 million tons

India's foodgrain production for the 2016-17 crop year is estimated at a record 275.7 million tons, a number which is expected to bring cheer to policymakers and bolster claim of efficient rollout of policies for the farm sector.

The government revised its previous figures upward by 2.3 million tons and the new figure is 4% higher than the previous record production achieved in 2013-14. The production in 2016-17 is significantly higher by 24.1 million tons (9.59%) than the output of 2015-16 which was a drought year.

India had recorded its previous best in the year 2013-14 when it produced 265.04 million tons of foodgrain, backed by good and well-distributed Monsoon rainfall. The ministry attributed the all-time record of foodgrain production in 2016-17 to good rainfall in 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by it. Record output has been achieved in all major crops of foodgrain basket like rice (110.15 MT), wheat (98.38 MT) and pulses (22.95 MT). The current crop year (2017-18) may , however, not be as good despite normal Monsoon in many parts of the country .

Road from Ennore to Mahabs gets Centre's nod

Chennai's long wait for the 133-km Peripheral Ring Road linking Mamallapuram with Ennore, entirely skirting the city, is finally over. The Centre has now cleared Tamil Nadu's proposal for external funding of the ambitious Rs.12,301 crore project.

The department of economic affairs under the union finance ministry has sent its concurrence on August 10 stating that the project has been included in Japan International Co-operation Agency's annual plan.

About 50% of the project cost has been earmarked for construction and maintenance of roads, and the entire project has been divided into five sections. In order to improve Ennore Port's connectivity and make freight movement easy, the first phase of construction has been planned along North Access Road (section-I) which connects the port to Thatchur on National Highway 5.

According to sources, of the five sections, traffic density is the highest along section III connecting the industrial corridor in Sriperumbudur and Singaperumalkoil, located 25 km from Tambaram. Results of the recent cost benefit analysis report suggest the Annual Average Daily Traffic on the 24.85-km stretch was 28,297.As per the revised detailed project report, North Access Road and the stretch linking Mamallapuram and Singaperumalkoil will have two lanes of traffic in each direction, while the remaining sections will be 6-lane thoroughways.

All the stretches would have two-way service roads on both sides besides 2-3 metre footpaths or utility corridors (with drains). The initial plan proposed 22-metre-wide medians throughout the link road, but width was reduced to 4 metres in the final stage. Government reports suggest traffic is expected to increase by 13% to 19% on these roads in the next 10 years and more than 4 lakh vehicles, mostly multi-axle trucks, could be using the stretch daily by 2027.

Considering this, the state highways department reserved 60m-100m of space on either side of the roads so that they can be expanded if the demand shot up as estimated.

The state had earlier sought aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency for the project which would facilitate container movement from southern districts to Ennore Port. The Tamil Nadu Road Infrastructure Development Corporation has begun construction along the stretch, said a senior official from the state highways and minor ports department. “They were assigned the task of widening the connecting road to six lanes and only patch works are pending,“ the official said.