DRDO’s supersonic missile ready for IAF fighters

India’s first indigenous beyond visual range air-to-air missile for fighters, Astra, is now ready for induction after 15 tortuous years of development, with the DRDO expecting the IAF to initially order at least 200 missiles for its Sukhoi-30MKI jets.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation is also already working to increase Astra’s strike range from the existing 110-km to over 160-km. “Astra is one of the best BVRAAMs in the world today. We have the capability to develop it for longer ranges,” said DRDO chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy said.

India has joined a handful of countries like US, Russia, France and Israel in developing such advanced air combat missiles that can destroy highly-agile enemy supersonic fighters packed with “counter-measures’’ at long ranges, say officials. The sleek 3.57-metre long Astra, with a mass weight of 154-kg, flies over four times the speed of sound at Mach 4.5.

To be produced by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for about Rs.7-8 crore per unit, Astra will be a much cheaper alternative to some of the expensive BVRAAMs currently being imported to arm IAF fighters. Astra was first sanctioned in March 2004 at an initial cost of Rs.955 crore.

Modi's blunt message to Turkey

In a blunt message to Turkey, which has endorsed Pakistan’s aggressive stand on J&K, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met leaders of its rivals — Greece, Cyprus and Armenia — before starting for home from the United States.

Soon after his address to UN General Assembly, Modi met Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and wrested the latter’s northern part which was proclaimed to be an independent entity, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

During his meeting with Anastasiades, Modi “reiterated India’s consistent support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Republic of Cyprus”, a position which is certain to infuriate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has sided with Pakistan.

Modi also met Kyriakos Mitsotakis, PM of Greece which is locked in a bitter dispute with Turkey over who should control islets in Aegean Sea. Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, which holds Turkey responsible for genocide of lakhs of its nationals, was another leader who met Modi.

Senior sources in the government made it clear that the three meetings were designed to send a message to Erdogan about India’s resentment and its determination not to brook any opposition to the stand about J&K being an “internal matter”. The stern message was amplified when India attacked China, another ally of Pakistan, over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The twin retaliations also make it clear that Modi’s decision not to mention J&K or Pakistan in his UNGA address has to do with a tactical calculation not to engage in a verbal fracas with Imran Khan. It reflected the confidence of a leader who has emerged stronger after the Lok Sabha polls, the second consecutive win fortifying his conviction about a groundswell for his “no compromise-on -national security” plank.

The Prime Minister highlighted his improved numbers at the “Howdy Modi” event at Houston, where he also emphasised the two-thirds parliamentary support for his decisions on J&K, and at UNGA-the purpose clearly being to convey unequivocally that the changes in the border state were “offlimits” for the international community. Instead of scuffling with Khan, Modi chose to take the higher diplomatic ground focusing on contemporary global concerns like climate change, terrorism and public health.

The “when they go low, we go high” playbook saw the Prime Minister invoking Gandhi and Buddha and helped his efforts to stay away from the fray personally.

Rajnath launches INS Khanderi

Defence minister Rajnath Singh commissioned the second Scorpene submarine, INS Khanderi, at the Naval Dock at Ballard Pier in Mumbai. Later, Singh hit out at Pakistan in a tweet: “Pakistan should understand that today with strong resolve of our government and advancement in Naval capacity with additions like INS Khanderi, we are capable of giving much bigger blow to it.”

Singh congratulated the Indian Navy and the Western Naval Command on induction of this combatant, and also for achieving operational preparedness prior to commissioning.

He said: “This is indeed a proud moment for the nation, the Indian Navy and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders... The name Khanderi is inspired by the dreaded ‘Sword Tooth Fish’ a deadly fish known to hunt whilst swimming close to the bottom of the ocean,” he said.

Singh tweeted: “...Our Navy will not pose any threat to any peace loving nation. In fact the Indian Navy wants to build a sense of confidence and mutual trust with all big small nations in the Indian Ocean Region”. He further tweeted: “While our progressive steps in Jammu and Kashmir are receiving global support, Pakistani PM have been running around door to door and creating content for cartoon makers.”

On the speculation of the possibility of another 26/11 type attack on India’s west coast, he said: “Such plans will not succeed here... We have to be on the guard.”

5-judge SC bench to hear Article 370 pleas

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has constituted another five-judge bench, headed by Justice N V Ramana, to hear petitions challenging the validity of the Centre’s decision on Article 370, leading to abrogation of special status to J&K.

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Surya Kant, is scheduled to hear from October 1 over two dozen petitions, including those by Sitaram Yechury and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Among the petitions to be taken up are those filed by National Conference leader Mohd Akbar Lone, People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone, journalist Anuradha Bhasin, retired district judge Muzzafar Iqbal Khan and several advocates, including M L Sharma (known to file PILs).

A five-judge bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi is currently engaged in adjudication of ‘the Ayodhya land dispute’. Given the sheer number of top politician petitioners and their capability to engage the best of the renowned constitutional lawyers to put across their grievances against abrogation of special status to J&K and scrapping of Article 35A that gave exclusive rights to Kashmiris, the length of arguments could well match the period taken by the Ayodhya dispute, which completed 33 hearing days and still continuing.

The CJI has also decided to set up three more special benches. One three-judge bench will exclusively hear pending appeals challenging death penalties imposed on persons convicted in heinous crimes. All these cases, in which the SC stayed HC orders either upholding or awarding death penalties to the accused, have been pending.

CJI Gogoi also earmarked two 2-judge benches to exclusively deal with the tax matters from October 1. CBITC informed the SC that it has “initiated several steps to reduce litigation, most notable of which is by increasing the monetary limit of filing appeals in the SC to Rs two crore, with effect from August 22, 2019”.

Setting up two Constitution benches of five judges each is rare in the SC, which for years has been struggling with spiralling cases, mostly mundane appeals, that had made it difficult for it to give priority to adjudication of cases involving important constitutional questions and interpretation of law.


CBDT Retires 15 Sr Officers Over Graft Charges

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has compulsorily retired yet another 15 senior officers across ranks on charges of corruption and malpractices, adding to 49 high ranking tax officers including a dozen from the CBDT who were compulsorily retired earlier this year under Fundamental Rule 56(J) in the public interest as the government made it clear it would not tolerate such behaviour.

This is the fourth set of taxmen who have been sacked in the past few months. In June, 12 senior Indian Revenue Service officers from the Income Tax department and 15 from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs were given the marching orders, and in August 22 more CBIC officers were shown the door.

The move is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement to the nation that the government would come down seriously on corrupt officials.


Etailing: Festival Days

‘One Nation One Tag’

In a bid to end the use of multiple smart tags to travel on tolled roads and to pay entry tax in different cities, a ‘One Nation One Tag’ is set to be rolled out in the next couple of months.

Currently, FasTag, the RFID-based smart tag, can be used to pay toll on the national highway network and a few state roads and it’s mandatory for commercial vehicles to have a separate tag to enter Delhi, which is issued by the municipal corporation.

Sources said if more municipalities follow the Delhi model of issuing separate tags for paying entry tax, commercial vehicles with all India permits may end up having several tags on their windscreens.

There is already a discussion to bring both the municipal toll tag and the FasTag on one platform.

Road transport ministry officials said to bring all state governments on board for “One Nation One Tag”, it has called a meeting of transport ministers and top officials in the second week of October, which will be chaired by Union highways minister Nitin Gadkari. “There have been complaints from many commuters that they can’t pay the user fee on state roads through the FasTag. Until the same tag is allowed across all roads, this will not be that popular,” said an official. The transport ministry has set December 1 as deadline for vehicles to have FasTags.


ADB cuts India’s growth estimate to 6.5%

The Asian Development Bank revised its outlook for India’s economy. Growth is now expected at 6.5% in fiscal 2019-20, following weaker expansion in the first quarter of the year, with slower growth in consumption and investment affecting the manufacturing and service sectors.

In an update of the Asian Development Outlook 2019, the Manila-based ADB said proactive policy interventions, along with a recovery in domestic demand and investments, will likely see the economy pick up in fiscal 2020-21, growing by 7.2%.

In July, ADB had forecast 7% growth for 2019-20 and 7.3% in 2020-21. Growth slowed to an over six-year low of 5% in the April-June quarter, triggering calls for measures to accelerate expansion. The government has unveiled a string of measures, including a Rs.1.45-lakh-crore corporate tax rate cut, which is expected to revive sentiment and growth in Asia’s third largest economy.

“India will remain as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world this year and next year as the government continues to implement policy reforms and interventions to strengthen economic fundamentals,” said ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada.

Significant corporate tax cuts, announced by the government, will uplift private investment, including FDI, and enhance India’s global competitiveness. Bank recapitalisation, support measures for NBFCs, and cuts in monetary policy rates should improve the health of the financial sector, while increasing the credit flow to industry and infrastructure projects.

National Population Register

The National Population Register updation exercise, to be undertaken alongside Census 2021, will for the first time collect several particulars such as Aadhaar, mobile number, PAN, driving licence and voter ID details and Indian passport numbers from all usual residents of India.

A usual resident is defined, for the purposes of NPR, as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or someone who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more. The NPR, with the stated objective to create a comprehensive identity database of such residents, was first prepared in 2011 followed by an updation in 2015 when Aadhaar, mobile numbers and ration card details were collected. For the first time now, NPR database will additionally have PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport information.

While a passport can be issued at any age, the minimum age for issuance of Aadhaar number, which records biometric details, is 5 years. All other documents whose details are to be collected for NPR are issued to those aged 18 years or above.

Sharing of Aadhaar number will be voluntary in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling in this regard.

Other details being sought such as PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport number are all part of various government-held databases and sharing with the census authorities will not involve privacy concerns, official sources said.

According to an official, NPR data would not be put in public domain but would remain a secure database accessible to the relevant user through password-protected protocols. It will be used by the government to enhance targeting of beneficiary-oriented schemes and will have implications on improving internal security.

Identification of particulars such as Aadhaar number, mobile number, PAN, driving licence, voter ID and passport can be uploaded on the Census Management & Monitoring Portal by residents themselves, using the mobile number furnished by them as part of the house-listing process.

The mobile number will be good to enter details for members of the entire household. The options being discussed include allowing residents to self-upload details, say a month before the NPR process begins, for which they will be allotted a unique file number. This file number can be quoted to the enumerator, who will refrain from collecting specified identification particulars.

Passport details of only Indian passport holders will be collected. While Citizenship Act and rules relating to NPR provide for exercise to be followed by preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens, sources said no decision has been taken by government.

But, should an NRIC exercise be undertaken, people who furnished details of Indian passports during National Population Register process will automatically be counted as citizens.

Among details to be collected during National Population Register exercise are name, sex, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name (if married), date of birth, occupation, qualifications, present and permanent address.

Partnering India a Golden Opportunity : PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  invited foreign investors from sectors such as real estate, defence, infrastructure and food to embrace the “golden opportunity to partner India”, as he enumerated measures to liberalise the economy.

Speaking on ‘Restoring Global Stability’ at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, Modi said the Indian economy had added $1 trillion over the past five years, and aims to become a $5-trillion giant. “We are determined to reach $5 trillion. We have the capability and conditions with us.”

Modi said last week’s cut in corporate tax rates was “revolutionary for investment”, and promised more reforms.

“This is just the beginning, there’s more to come. It’s a golden opportunity to partner India … The government of India respects wealth creation,” Modi told an audience that included former US President Bill Clinton, former IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the CEOs of several Fortune 500 companies.

PM Modi said India was the apt destination for real estate investors. “In the coming years, we will spend around $1.3 trillion on modernising infrastructure .”

“Our people are moving up the economic ladder. Our middle class is a huge segment that has a global outlook,” PM said.

Modi also extended an invitation to defence manufacturers. “We have opened our defence sector like never before. If you want to make in India, for India and the world, come to India. No Indian government has invested in infrastructure as we have.”

Beckoning food companies, Modi said, “India can become the world’s food basket. We want to move towards organic farming.”

Listing India’s giant strides in IT, the PM said, “Our youth are the largest users of the app economy. From food to movies to transport, startups are acing everything. Our infrastructure is expanding at a fast pace. Our optical fiber network is reaching 600,000 villages.”

He listed “democracy, political stability, predictable policy and an independent judiciary” as India’s strengths.

Owing to reforms, he said, India is climbing every global ranking. “We have focused on simplifying rules. At a time when FDI is shrinking all over the world, it is growing in India.”

Modi said his government had “scrapped 50 old laws that were creating hindrances in the path of development” soon after coming to power during the first stint in 2014.

“Your technology and our talent can change the world. Your scale and our skills can speed up global economic growth … And if there is any gap anywhere, I will personally act as a bridge,” Modi told global investors.

EAC-PM Revamp

The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister by inducting Sajjid Chinoy and dropping Rathin Roy and Shamika Ravi.

Chinoy, an India economist at JP Morgan, has been appointed as a part-time member.

“Bibek Debroy and Ratan P Watal will continue to be the chairman and member-secretary, respectively, of the reconstituted EAC-PM,” an official statement said.

Roy had recently raised questions over government’s decision on overseas sovereign borrowing. He also demanded a white paper from the government on its medium-term fiscal framework, arguing that it would will be difficult to meet the budgetary targets. Ravi, too, had remarked that the government could have done much more on the economic reforms, especially on liberalisation. She said that she had little faith in the government to run business.

Ashima Goel continues to be one of the part-time members, the statement said. The revamped Council will have a term of two years effective from September 26.

The EAC-PM is an independent body to advise the government, especially the prime minister, on economic and policy-related matters. It was set up in September 2017 with a term of two years, replacing the erstwhile PMEAC, which was headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan during the terms of former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The Council was tasked to analyse any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the PM, according to its terms of reference. It could also take up issues suo moto.

It has submitted three-four papers to the PMO on issues like employment, fiscal situation, economic growth, manufacturing and infrastructure but none of these has been made public. The Council’s latest work, which is ongoing, is a taskforce on employment. It has submitted a brief to the PMO on what to do to alleviate the slowdown and create jobs. A more detailed report is expected to be submitted. The taskforce included Debroy, Roy, former EAC-PM member Surjit Bhalla, Watal, former chief statistician Pronab Sen, Virmani and economist Charan Singh.


Seven Major Banks to be Part of JPMorgan Blockchain Initiative

JPMorgan has given a big boost to its global transactions business by bringing in seven top Indian lenders such as ICICI Bank and Axis Bank to its blockchain platform that enables payments to reach beneficiaries faster with fewer steps in cross-border payments.

Named Interbank Information Network, the platform is the first live blockchain service by JPMorgan and represents the largest number of banks joining a live application of blockchain technology.

The seven banks include Yes Bank, Union Bank of India, Federal Bank of India and Canara Bank.

INN is aimed at providing secure exchange information to banks associated with cross-border payments. It reduces costs and mitigates risks involved in those cross-border transactions.

Banks frequently seek information from other banks for proper compliance decisions before executing cross-border payments.

Such type of information encompasses beneficiary name, address, and date of birth. Those inquires can take up to 2-16 days to complete, triggering delays in payments.

The platform, officially launched last year, got a fillip this year in India with several banks joining the network. The initial application on IIN caters to infrastructure for banks enabling them to exchange data related to compliance sanctions and AML inquiries. IIN’s vision is to eliminate unnecessary friction points in cross-border payments and define new models, services, and products in thee long-term, the bank said.

The bank aims to grow IIN with additional participants and services focused on allowing payments with speed, cost effectiveness and transparency.

Globally, over 330 banks including Deutsche Bank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group have signed up for INN.

JP Morgan is global corporate and investment bank with $25 trillion of assets under custody and $458 billion in deposits.


Howdy, Modi!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at Pakistan for its support to terrorism and said India’s decision to nullify Article 370 has caused trouble to those who cannot handle their country as he called for a decisive battle against terrorism. Making a strong pitch against terrorism at the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in the presence of US President Donald Trump, who joined the mega event in a rare gesture of friendship, Modi asked crowd to give Trump a standing ovation, as he targeted Pakistan and its Prime Minister Imran Khan, without directly naming them.

“Article 370 encouraged terrorism and separatism in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, asserting that its nullification will allow development and prosperity in the region and end discrimination against women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

“Where do you find conspirators of 9/11and 26/11terror attacks,” Modi said, referring to terror attacks in the US and Mumbai and called for a “decisive battle” against terrorism.

Earlier, Trump said border security is vital to both America and India as he emphasised on bolstering further the Indo-US security relationship, vowing to protect innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and Trump said the two countries will soon sign several defence deals to bolster their relationship.

“We are committed to protect innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” the US president said.

“India and US also understand that to keep our community safe, we must protect our borders. Border security is vital to the United States. Border Security is vital to India. And we understand that,” Trump said as Prime Minister Modi was seen clapping.


Maharashtra, Haryana Go to Polls on October 21

Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra would be held on October 21 and the results will be declared on October 24, the Election Commission said. Polls in both the states will be held in a single phase.

By-elections for 64 seats in 17 states and Union Territories will also be held on October 21.

The elections will test the pre-poll alliances forged in Maharashtra between ruling BJP and Shiv Sena, and opposition NCP and Congress. In Haryana, the Congress is up against a well-placed BJP government being run by Manohar Lal Khattar. The Congress’ state unit had only recently settled its leadership issues. The by-elections on October 21 will test the slim majority of the new BJP government in Karnataka, with 15 assembly seats in the state going to the polls. The seats fell vacant after the speaker disqualified 15 rebel Congress MLAs. The MLAs have challenged their disqualification in the Supreme Court, which is set to hear the case next week.

The Election Commision said the decision to hold by-elections in Karnataka was taken after it took legal advice on the matter. Polls for two other vacant seats in the state are yet to be announced due to pending election petitions.

By-elections for one Lok Sabha seat in Bihar and 64 Assembly constituencies were also announced by the Election Commission. Polls would be held in Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Meghalaya, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh on October 21. Bypolls will also be held at the Samastipur Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. The seat fell vacant after the death of Lok Janshakti Party MP Ramchandra Paswan.

While announcing the poll dates, the chief election commissioner said special expenditure observers have been appointed to check circulation of illegal money to influence voters ahead of the elections. The Election Commission has asked political parties to desist from using plastic material during campaigning. The model code of conduct has now come into effect across all poll-bound constituencies. 


Corporate tax cut to 25.2%

In the biggest reduction in 28 years, the government slashed corporate tax by almost 10 percentage points as it looked to pull the economy out of a six-year low growth and a 45-year high unemployment rate by reviving private investments with a Rs.1.45-lakh crore tax break.

Two-and-a-half-months after presenting her maiden Budget that was hailed as “development-friendly” and “future-oriented”, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced cutting corporate tax rate to 25.2 per cent to bring them at par with other Asian countries such as China and South Korea but at the expense of potentially breaching the 3.3 per cent fiscal deficit target.

Markets cheered the announcement with the BSE Sensex jumping by the most in a decade while the rupee also climbed against the US dollar.

In the fourth tranche of post-budget economic stimulus measures, she cut base corporate tax for existing companies to 22 per cent from current 30 per cent; and for new manufacturing firms, incorporated after October 1, 2019 and starting operations before March 31, 2023, to 15 per cent from current 25 per cent.

This will be subject to the condition that these companies will not avail any other incentive or concession such as tax holiday enjoyed by units in Special Economic Zones and accelerated depreciation.

The effective tax rate for existing units, after considering surcharges and cess such as Swachh Bharat cess and education cess — which are levied on top of the income and corporate tax rates, will be 25.2 per cent as compared to 34.94 per cent now. For new units, it will be 17.01 per cent as against 29.12 per cent now.

The new tax structure, which will lead to government losing Rs.1.45 lakh crore in revenue annually, is effective from April 1, 2019, and will bring Indian corporate tax rate at par with Asian peers in a bid to attract investments.

Praising Sitharaman’s announcement of rationalisation of corporate tax for domestic companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that the step would help attract private investments from across the globe besides creating jobs.

Describing the decision as “historic”, the Prime Minister tweeted, “The step to cut corporate tax is historic. It will give a great stimulus to #MakeInIndia, attract private investment from across the globe, improve competitiveness of our private sector, create more jobs and result in a win-win for 130 crore Indians.”

In another tweet, Modi said that the recent announcements show the government’s efforts to ease the business environment in India.

“The announcements in the last few weeks clearly demonstrate that our government is leaving no stone unturned to make India a better place to do business, improve opportunities for all sections of society and increase prosperity to make India a $5 trillion economy,” he said.

In her first budget presentation in July, Sitharaman announced the government’s target of making India a $5 trillion economy by the year 2024-25.

MahaMumbai rising in shadow of second airport gets DP

The Devendra Fadnavis government earlier this week issued a notification granting sanction to the development plan for NAINA, now better known as MahaMumbai, a city in the making in the expanding Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

Spread over 371.37 sq km, the new city is designed to serve a population of 20 lakh. The city is in the proximity of the upcoming international airport — NAINA stands for Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area — and has been envisioned on land holding 175 villages.

Of these 175 villages, 23 already have a sanctioned plan by way of an interim DP covering around 37 sq km.

Issued on September 18, the latest government notification granted sanction for the DP for the remaining 152 villages that cover more than 334 sq km.

As 23 villages interim development plan was sanctioned earlier for , the total NAINA city is 175 villages and an area of over 371 sq km.

“The new city will be developed as a model city with best public transport system,” Cidco MD Lokesh Chandra said. “It is near the new airport and will help decongest the growing and expanding Mumbai. The FSI is 2.5 and it will be a planned city.”

NAINA was planned to harness the advantage of having the Rs.16,000 crore international airport in the vicinity by facilitating warehousing and production centres. A multi-modal corridor to link Virar on the western fringe is also planned.

The city was planned under the land pooling system and was not the result of acquisition, as in the case of Navi Mumbai. The model was worked out around what was called the 60:40 formula, wherein landholders received net 40% of their original plot size in the scheme area. As a result, landowners need not provide further open space, amenities or EWS (economically weaker section) housing on their plots.

Cidco makes use of 60% of the scheme area to create infrastructure, which inlcudes growth centre, roads, recreational open spaces and other facilities.

“The sanction of the plan means it can now be implemented .... “ chief planner V Venugopal said.


Foreign investors have sold $4.5 bn of stocks since June

The flailing Indian economy — repercussions of which have been witnessed for five quarters — is now showing signs of global repercussions. The aftermath has been building for the last six years, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival to power, when $45 billion were poured into the stock market looking at the economic potential. Now, the situation circling the drain with the international money managers pulling out at a never-before-seen pace. According to a Bloomberg report, they have sold $4.5 billion of Indian shares since June — the “biggest quarterly exodus since at least 1999”.

At present, car sale and capital investments have nosedived. The unemployment rate is the highest almost 50 years and the banking sector is marred with bad loan ratio. These factors have invited scathing critiques from economists all over the world. For instance, Bloomberg recorded a statement from Salman Ahmed, a London-based chief investment strategist, which pointed at Modi’s “fading euphoria”.

Investors have been claiming that Modi has been slow to act on much needed reforms around labour laws and selling of state-owned companies. However, if the pace continues, growth plans for international firms might take a hit, directly affecting jobs. Furthermore, his decisions of demonetisation and introduction of goods and service tax have been criticised. The recent efforts in escalating the growth are focussed on short-term goals as the US-China trade war weighs on emerging markets globally.

However, this fiscal ammunition is hampered by budget deficits and indebted state-owned companies. This has caused his own advisors to issue cautionary and shift his focus on major reforms.

This, however, has not stopped from loyal supporters to issue generalised statements on how the government is harnessing every bit to promote economic growth. An example of this can be seen in Niti Aagoy CEO Amitabh Kant’s statement on September 18.

“If you look at the last five years, India’s growth on an average was of about 7.5 per cent. The growth story has dipped to five per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-20. Both, the RBI and the government are active on this,” Kant said while delivering keynote address on Fostering a Culture of Innovation’ at an All India Management Association event.

Whereas RBI has brought down the repo rate by 110 basis points, the government took a series of measures and gave three economic boosters, he said, adding it will continue to do so.

“The government is active, the fundamentals of Indian economy are intact and we will continue to do whatever it required to take India back to high trajectory growth rate,” Kant said.

This has left room for investors, who want to see certain kinds of change. Their desires include privatisation of more state-run companies, easier hiring and firing of workers, loose restrictions on land purchases and so on. 

We’ve to hug every Kashmiri : PM

PM Modi called for the building of a “new Kashmir” even as he took a dig at NCP chief Sharad Pawar for his recent comments on Article 370 and Pakistan.

“So far Hindustanis would say ‘Kashmir hamara hai’ (Kashmir is ours). But from now on, every Indian will say, ‘Hame naya Kashmir banana hai, wahan phir se ek baar swarg banana hai, har Kashmiri ko gale lagana hain’ (We have to make a new Kashmir, we have to make it paradise again, we have to hug every Kashmiri),” Modi said.

Mazagon Docks gives Navy its second Scorpene submarine

India's second Scorpene-class submarine, INS Khanderi, built for superior stealth and launching crippling attacks on the enemy using precision-guided weapons, was delivered to the Navy. Made by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, it will be commissioned at Naval Dockyard by defence minister Rajnath Singh on September 28.

The submarine inherits its name from a predecessor that served in the Navy during 1968-89 and was christened after Chhatrapati Shivaji’s island fort of Khanderi. An inspiration is also the wide-snouted saw fish, a deadly predator of the Indian Ocean which bears the same name.

INS Khanderi is among MDL’s six such submarines. The first, INS Kalvari, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2017. “Scorpeneclass submarines can undertake multifarious tasks, including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare,” a MDL spokesperson said.

A contract with French company Naval Group (earlier called DCNS) was signed in 2005 for the supply of six submarines. The French-designed subs are being built by MDL as part of Indian Navy’s Project-75, which has witnessed significant delays and cost escalation.

The third of the submarines, Karanj, was launched in January 2018 and is undergoing rigorous sea trials. The fourth, Vela, was launched in May this year and is being prepared for sea trials. The remaining two, Vagir and Vagsheer, are in various stages of outfitting.

On September 28, the defence minister will also launch INS Nilgiri, the first ship of the P17A frigates.

Mumbai gets state-of-the-art dry dock

The country’s first state-of-the-art dry dock, which was successfully tested yesterday with the warship INS Kolkata, will be commissioned on September 28.

Naval officers said the dock will be dedicated to the Indian naval command and has the capacity to dock the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, for repair and maintenance, not to speak of nuclear submarines. With a length of 281 metres, width of 45 metres and depth of close to 17 metres—almost equivalent to a five-storey building—the dry dock is nothing short of a construction marvel.

“It will not only reduce vessel maintenance expenses that the Navy incurs at private shipyards, but will also enhance defense capability to load advanced arms and ammunition onto out premiere warships,” said an officer.

The dock, equipped with robotic machinery, can overhaul ships in quick succession. It has a facility to enable container trucks carrying ship spare parts to station themselves along repair bays, so that engineers don’t have to waste time procuring the parts from a distance.

The nine-year construction of the dock was preceded by a major operation to remove sunken ships and barges from the site, as well as the removal of bedrock to accommodate the massive structure, which comprises fit-out berths, caisson (a type of lock gate that is opened for a ship's entry into the dock) and a cofferdam.

Unlike the country’s other dry docks, the new one is built out into the sea and is surrounded with saline water on three sides. The other docks are landwards and only open into the sea.


Drone-based digital mapping of country begins with Karnataka, Maharashtra

An ambitious drone-based digital mapping project is under way to create a more accurate and realistic view of every nook and corner of the country.

Work on the project began in Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra and the Ganga basin a few months ago. The project is being undertaken by Survey of India, with the support of department of science and technology and inputs from several government agencies like Archaeological Survey of India and Forest Survey of India.

According to Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST, the map will have a higher resolution than that of Google Maps. Such a project is being executed on such a large scale for the first time after almost two centuries when British surveyors Colonel Sir George Everest and his predecessor William Lambton first scientifically mapped the country in 1767.

“Digital mapping has never been done. This comprehensive map will show the exact state, district and country boundaries,” Sharma told mediapersons at Indian Institute of Science.

He said five years ago, the gargantuan project would have cost the government Rs.10,000 crore but is now expected to be completed at Rs.1,000 crore with deployment of far more advanced technology.

“We have picked the states based on their enthusiasm for the project. For instance, Haryana will fund it completely and for the Ganga basin, Namami Gange agency will share the cost. Several agencies have come forward with contributions for the project,” Sharma explained.

The map will be available in the public forum with features highlighting hospitals, canals and other minute details. Survey of India has set reference points called Continuously Operated Reference Stations networks at intervals of 20 km across the country, which increase the accuracy by 10 times as well as provide instant online 3D positioning, Sharma said.

With several organisations involved in the mapping endeavour, extensive groundwork will be done to match the aerial findings of drones, he added.

“Citizens will be able to make informed choices while buying properties. The map will help them understand where the property is located and its accessibility, among several other key details,” he said.

Trump to join ‘Howdy, Modi’

The White House has formally confirmed that US President Donald Trump will participate in the ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally in Houston, Texas, on September 22 leading up to PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week. The joint appearance at such a large rally will be unprecedented in the annals of US-India relations, and indeed in the chronicles of US ties with any country.

“The event, ‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people. It will be a great opportunity to emphasize the strong ties between the people of the United States and India, to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, and to discuss ways to deepen their energy and trade relationship,” the White House said in an announcement affirming Trump’s decision to attend the event.

Modi has also expressed delight over Trump joining the event. “A special gesture by @POTUS, signifying the special friendship between India and USA! Delighted that President @realDonald-Tru- mp will join the community programme in Houston on the 22nd. Looking forward to joining the Indian origin community in welcoming him at the programme,” he tweeted on Monday. “The special gesture of President @realDonaldTrump to join us in Houston highlights the strength of the relationship and recognition of the contribution of the Indian community to American society and economy.”

The Houston rally, the third such event by PM Modi in the US after breakthrough public meetings in New York at the Madison Square Gardens in 2014 and in Silicon Valley in 2017, is expected to surpass anything hosted for or by a foreign leader on American soil. Texas India Forum that is hosting the event, said over 50,000 attendees have registered in three weeks for the sold-out event. In fact, it is hard to recall an instance of such a large political rally in US, not even for Trump or his predecessor Barack Obama at the peak of their popularity. Crowds of this size are only seen at major sporting events such as the Superbowl.

Beyond Trump’s fondness for crowds and spectacle, his decision to attend the rally also has three elements to it.

The primary purpose, as underscored by the White House, is to showcase the close ties between the two nations, a significant signal given tensions in the subcontinent. But there are also domestic reasons for Trump’s decision. Aside from being the fourth-largest US city, Houston is also its energy capital. And India is a large energy guzzler that is buying significant amounts of oil and gas from the US, a supply that is expected to go up given the disruption in the Gulf. A third reason for Trump’s decision to attend has to do with domestic politics. Texas could be up for grabs in 2020 and the over 2.5 lakh Indian-American votes would matter. Although it has been Republican since 1976, it is said to be turning purple, and Democrats are hoping for an upset.


Not just Uttar Pradesh, the state exchequer has been bearing the burden of income tax of serving chief ministers and their council of ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh too for several years.

The UP treasury had been paying the I-T of all CMs and ministers since 1981, when the UP Ministers’ Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981 was passed during the tenure of V P Singh on the grounds that the ministers were “poor” and “cannot pay income tax from their own meagre earnings”.

Hours after the TOI published the report, UP CM Yogi Adityanath announced that he would repeal the controversial provision in the Act. Of the five states where CMs and their ministers are exempt from paying I-T, the treasury has been bearing their tax burden in Haryana and HP since 1966, when the two states were carved out of Punjab.

In Punjab, the state treasury had been paying taxes on salaries, allowances and various perks of its CMs and ministers till March 18, 2018, when Captain Amarinder Singh stopped the practice by amending The East Punjab Ministers’ Salaries Act, 1947.

In Uttarakhand, the treasury has been bearing the tax burden of its CM, ministers, assembly speaker, deputy speaker and leader of the opposition ever since the Himalayan state was carved out of UP on November 9, 2000. Since then, the state has seen eight CMs and scores of others whose taxes were paid by the state exchequer. However, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat indicated that he would follow his UP counterpart in repealing the controversial provision of the Act.

In MP, the state treasury started bearing the tax burden of ministers of all ranks as well as the parliamentary secretary with retrospective effect from April 1, 1994.

This was done during then CM Digvijaya Singh’s regime when The Madhya Pradesh Mantri (Vetan Tatha Bhatta) Adhiniyam, 1972 was amended in June 1997.

As per the amendment, “All allowances payable and furnished residence without payment of rent and other perquisites admissible to a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister and a parliamentary secretary under this Act shall be exclusive of income tax which shall be payable by the state government at the maximum rate payable by a minister, a minister of state, a deputy minister or a parliamentary secretary, as the case may be.”

Desi diaspora stays world’s largest

At 17.5 million, India’s diaspora continues to be the largest in the world constituting 6.4% of the total world migrant population of 272 million in mid-2019. After India, the largest number of migrants are from Mexico (11.8 million), China (10.7 million), and Russia (10.5 million).

While India’s diaspora in absolute numbers has increased 10% from 15.9 million in 2015, as a share of total world migrant population, it’s remained largely static, according to the UN’s International Migrant Stock. And it trails the 12% rise in total migrant population, which was 243 million in 2015.

The UAE, the US and Saudi Arabia—with 3.4 million, 2.6 million and 2.4 million respectively—were the top three destinations for Indians. While the Gulf countries continue to have a high concentration of Indians, they have lost some of their drawing power, going by foreign ministry figures which show a decline in the flow to this region.

Another report also released by the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development, a bloc of 36 advanced nations including the US, shows Indians moving up one position to No. 3 in 2017 with an inflow of 3.04 lakh—behind China and Romania.

The number of Indians who got US citizenship in 2017 rose 10% to more than 50,000 over the previous year.

UN figures pegging international migrants worldwide at 272 million reflects a rise of 23% over 2010 data, where the migrant population was 221 million. UN’s data set is based largely on collated census figures. UN defines international migrants as anyone who changes their country of usual residence, irrespective of their motive — be it for work or as a refugee.

“Although migration is global, most journeys are taking place within a set of countries, with the US, Germany, and Saudi Arabia making up the top three,” said a UN press release. The US hosted the largest number of international migrants (close to 51million), followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia, with nearly 13 million each.

The UN’s press release quoted John Wilmoth, director, UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs as saying: “The link between migration and development is very well established. As a general observation, the contribution of migrants both in host countries and countries of origin, includes sending valuable remittances back to countries of origin, and a major social contribution through transmission of ideas.”

Another report, released on Wednesday in Paris, by the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development, shows that migration flows to OECD countries rose slightly by 2% in 2018, with around 5.3 million new ‘permanent’ migrants.

Country-wise data for the year 2017 shows that ‘total’ inflow of new migrants to OECD countries in 2017 was 6.8 million, a miniscule decline of 1% over the previous year’s figure.

The top three countries of origin of new immigrants were China, Romania and India.

With 3.04 lakh new immigrants from India, the country occupied third place and accounted for 4.5% of total inflows (as opposed to 3.8% in the previous year).

London beats Mumbai in ₹ trading

London has overtaken India’s financial capital Mumbai to become the top centre for trading the rupee. That’s adding to a sense of urgency among local authorities to deepen the onshore market.

Average daily volumes for rupee in the UK soared to $46.8 billion in April, a more than five-fold jump from $8.8 billion in 2016, according to the latest survey from the Bank for International Settlements released this week. That exceeded the $34.5 billion recorded in India.

Trading in dollar-rupee offshore non-deliverable forwards increased threefold over the three-year period, the BIS report showed. Alive to the growing size of the offshore rupee market, the government and the RBI have been looking at ways to improve access for overseas investors and offer them more products to ramp up volumes at home.

Rupee trading — including spot, outright forwards, foreign-exchange swaps, and other products — also jumped in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US over the three-year period, according to BIS.

A panel appointed by the RBI last month proposed extending onshore currency trading hours, allowing banks to offer pricing to non-residents at all times and allow trading of non-deliverable forwards in the rupee among steps to deepen trading onshore. Data released by the BIS “now makes an even more compelling case for policy makers to focus on increasing the wallet share of the onshore market”, said Arora. 

Invest Punjab

Air Force to Get SCALP, Meteor Missiles

The Indian Air Force is set to get the ‘game changer’ SCALP and Meteor missiles for its Rafale fighter jets next year, which will outrange all known weapon systems in the region and will give India a definitive combat edge.

The SCALP stand off missile, manufactured at the highly protected facility here, has a range of over 300 km and is designed to hit high value, strongly protected targets deep inside enemy territory. The Rafale jets—the first of which is likely to arrive in India in May 2020—can carry two of the missiles that will enable them to hit virtually any target within Pakistan. The first Rafale jets are set to be handed over to India on October 8 but will be flown in France for several months before being ferried to the home base at Ambala.

“The SCALP is highly combat proven. It can carry out high destruction against high value assets, bridges, railroads, power plants, airfields, buried bunkers and command and control centres. It can evade enemy air defence units with its ground hugging trajectory,” said a senior MBDA executive, which is the manufacturer of the system.While India already has the Brahmos cruise missile in service, air force officers say the SCALP is in a different category, given its pinpoint accuracy to take down targets in all weather conditions and ability to evade air defence systems.

While the SCALP gives India the ability to hit ground targets in virtually all parts, the S 400 anti air system being procured from Russia will give it the option to take down air borne targets over the entire Pakistani airspace, if the need be.

India will have Jurisdiction Over PoK One Day: Jaishankar

India made it clear that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is a part of the country and New Delhi would have “physical jurisdiction over it” one day. “Our position on PoK has always been and will always be very clear. PoK is a part of India and we expect one day that we will have physical jurisdiction over it,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar asserted while addressing a press meet on the occasion of 100 days of the Modi government.

New Delhi has maintained that henceforth talks with Pakistan would be only about PoK and not on Kashmir. Defence minister Rajnath Singh and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu have made statements in this regard in the recent past after Pakistan sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue.

The foreign minister made it clear that any meeting between Indian and Pakistani PMs on the sidelines of UNGA is not possible in the current climate.

This was Jaishankar’s maiden press meet after being appointed as the external affairs minister. In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Jaishankar said: “We have a unique challenge from one neighbour and that would remain a challenge until that neighbour becomes a normal neighbour and acts against cross-border terrorism.”

The minister claimed India’s narrative on issues like cross-border terror, Article 370 has been articulated to a global audience and India’s voice is now heard much more on the global stage. “Our ability, appetite to shape the foreign agenda today is much more than before.”

Alexa Can Say Namaste Now

Users in India can now speak to Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa in Hindi to carry out tasks like checking cricket scores, requesting for songs and even asking how she's doing. Launched in India in 2017, Alexa was able to understand and pronounce names of popular places, names and songs in regional languages but supported commands only in English. With the latest update, Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi and Hinglish. Alexa, which competes with digital assistants is available across Amazon's Echo range of devices as well as products from brands like Bose, MyBox, iBall and Syska

Ayodhya Hearing may be Over by 18th October

The Supreme Court allowed mediation to continue in the Ayodhya title suit parallel to the court hearing.

Any settlement arrived at by a high level court-mandated committee headed by former judge FMI Kalifullah will be submitted to the top court for vetting. The Nirvani Akhara and a Waqf Board member had sought court nod to continue talking in-camera to arrive at a solution.

Meanwhile, the hearing in the case will continue, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said. Arguments will be wrapped up by October 18, brightening the possibility of a ruling by November 17, the day the CJI demits office. If need be, the court would devote extra time to the case, the CJI said.

Any further delay will imply a de novo hearing on the issue pending in the top court since 2010.

In the first hint of things to come, the CJI-led five-judge bench began exploring ways and means to mould relief in the case. “We also have to mould relief,” CJI Gogoi said.

Towards the end of the proceedings, Justice DY Chandrachud sought to know the distance between the Ram Chabutra and the dome of the now demolished Babri Masjid structure from the lead lawyer for the Waqf Board, Rajeev Dhavan.

Dhavan said it was about 150-120 feet, indicating the proximity at which the two communities prayed at the site.

Justice Chandrachud then wanted to know why Hindus still prayed at the railing which divides the dome area from the Ram Chabutra. “Is it because they are still offering prayers where the deity earlier stood?”

Dhavan contested Justice Chandrachud’s inference vehemently as pure “conjecture”. “Where is the contemporaneous evidence to back this?” He instead blamed it on “curiosity”. He also cited the backdrop, in which the area had been divided by a railing to separate the areas in which the Hindus and Muslims prayed.

Till 1855, both sides prayed inside the structure. But in the backdrop of a bitter fight over control over the area where a walled structure of a mosque already stood, the British put a railing which would ensure that the Hindus would pray outside the inner courtyard near the Ram Chabutra and the Muslims inside, he contended.

The Board has claimed that the Hindus have historically worshipped the Ram Chabutra as the birthplace of Lord Ram, a fact contested by the other side. It has conceded the ‘Hindu right’ to pray at the Chabutra provided the title of the land went to it.

India Stubs Out E-cigarettes

India has announced a complete ban on electronic cigarettes, joining Australia, Brazil and Singapore among others to take a decisive step against vaping that is blamed for multiple deaths, including in western countries.

The Cabinet cleared an ordinance to ban the production, import, export, distribution, sale, storage and advertisements of electronic nicotine delivery system, or e-cigarettes.

The ban is expected to benefit traditional cigarette companies such as ITC and Godfrey Phillips that were facing competition from e-cigarettes.

The government decision will adversely impact plans of vaping products companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International that were looking to invest in India.

Those violating provisions of the law face imprisonment of up to three years, along with monetary penalty.

All e-cigarette devices and consumable stocks must be deposited with the police once the law comes into force.

The move comes just a week after US President Donald Trump proposed a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.

On Tuesday, New York became the second US state after Michigan to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, following several vaping-linked deaths that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking.

The Association of Vapers India, an organisation representing e-cigarette users, called the decision draconian and a black day for smokers.

IAF reopens remote airstrip

With an eye firmly on China, the IAF reopened the Vijaynagar ALG (advance landing ground) in Arunachal Pradesh for military aircraft, even as the Army wrapped up an operational alert exercise in Ladakh near the Line of Actual Control.

The IAF landed an AN-32 aircraft at the Vijaynagar ALG, which is not connected with any motorable road, to re-establish military transport aircraft connectivity at this easternmost hamlet of India. Apart from the three ALGs in Eastern Ladakh, IAF has activated six of them in Arunachal —Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Along, Ziro and Tuting — over the last few years for fast mobility of troops and supplies to remote border areas.

Officials said the resurfaced runway at Vijaynagar, which was jointly inaugurated by Eastern Air Command chief Air Marshal R D Mathur and Eastern Army Command chief Lt-General Anil Chauhan, will also assist in effective management of the border with Myanmar and facilitate launch of joint operations for “the defence of the Vijaynagar salient”. “The movement of large transport aircraft will also act as a catalyst for the development of the area,” said an official.

The “all-arms integrated” exercise near Chushul in eastern Ladakh was called “Changthang Prahar (assault)”. Changthang is a plateau in Tibet that extends into southeastern Ladakh.

The Army’s top officer in J&K Lt General Ranbir Singh expressed “full confidence” that the Northern Command, which looks after the LAC and Line of Control, “will continue its legacy of excelling in combat, should a conflict be forced upon the nation.”

SC attains full strength

President Ram Nath Kovind signed the warrants for appointment of Justices V Ramasubramanian, Krishna Murari, S Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy as judges of the SC, which will attain its full strength of 34 judges when these judges take oath.

This is the second time in CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure that the SC will function at full strength. Before Parliament increased the SC’s sanctioned strength from 31, the collegium had achieved the rare distinction in almost a decade to get the SC functioning at full strength. The increase of sanctioned strength to 34 materialised after CJI Gogoi wrote to PM Modi citing heavy workload due to increase in litigation.

Shortly after the sanctioned strength was increased to 34 judges, an SC collegium recommended appointment of Himachal Pradesh HC Chief Justice Ramasubramanian, Punjab and Haryana HC CJ Murari, Rajasthan HC CJ Bhat and Kerala HC CJ Roy as judges of the SC.


Maharashtra: BJP gets Shivaji’s descendant

Welcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji’s direct descendant, Udayan Raje Bhosale of Satara, into the BJP, BJP president Amit Shah said the Devendra Fadnavis government has worked for the state’s all-round development and “restored” its pride in its five-year rule. Shah said the BJP and its alliance would receive even bigger support in the assembly polls after it had decimated the Congress-NCP alliance in the Lok Sabha polls in May this year.

Prior to joining the BJP on Saturday, Bhosale resigned from the Lok Sabha to which he was elected from Satara. A by-election will have to be held for the Satara Lok Sabha constituency. Bhosale has been insisting that the by-election be held along with the assembly elections in October. However, the Shiv Sena may pose a hurdle before the BJP as the seat is with them.

Bhosale joined the BJP in New Delhi at an event organised at the residence of Union home minister Amit Shah, who is also BJP national president. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Chandrakant Patil were the other senior leaders present at the function.

“I was not feeling comfortable in the NCP. I was highly impressed because of the Modi government’s decision on Jammu and Kashmir,” Udayan Raje told the media after the event. He was referring to the nullification on August 5 of Article 370 which had granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Patil said that Bhosale’s entry would strengthen the BJP in Maharashtra. “Bhosale was always mentally with the BJP even though he was in the NCP,” Patil noted.

BJP working president J.P. Nadda and general secretary Bhupender Yadav, who is his party's in-charge for the state polls, were also present on the occasion.

Bhosale updated all the developments of the day through his social media accounts, including his departure for the national capital along with CM Fadnavis. Bhosale has appealed to all residents of Satara to welcome Fadnavis’s ‘Maha Janadesh yatra’ on Sunday. Udayan Raje is expected to accompany Fadnavis on his yatra in Satara district.

Speaking at an event in Ahmednagar later on Saturday evening, Fadnavis said all descendants of Shivaji Maharaj are now with their party. Udayan Raje and cousin Shivendra Raje Bhosale, who are political rivals, are now with the BJP. Shivendra Raje too switched from the NCP to BJP recently. Reacting to the development, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged Udayan Raje had joined BJP in order to sell off the inherited “historical” lands of Shivaji Maharaj.

Meanwhile, former Satara district Congress president Anandrao Patil held a meeting of his supporters in Karad on Friday. He is expected to join the BJP in Karad during the CM’s yatra. Satyajit Deshmukh, son of senior Congress leader, the late Shivajirao Deshmukh, has also called a meeting of his supporters in Sangli on Sunday.

Uniform Civil Code not practical : Muslim bodies

A day after Supreme Court’s strong observations on the Uniform Civil Code, members of prominent Muslim minority organisations said that a Uniform Civil Code was “neither practical, nor possible to implement” in a country with so much diversity.

Cutting across organisations they questioned the idea of UCC citing different personal laws and diverse cultural backgrounds of communities even within one religion.

Prominent members of the Minority organisations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also cited the Law Commission’s consultation paper on family laws released last year on August 31. AIMPLB had then welcomed the Law Commission’s assertion that a Uniform Civil Code is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. The AIMPLB had reiterated its position that it was not open to changes in the personal law and reform as suggested by the commission will happen only through the “social framework”.

“Even the law Commission in its consultative paper concedes that the UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. I am of the view that enforcing a UCC in India is impractical,” AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Sayyid Wali Remhami said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board had welcomed the Law Commission’s assertion on August 31 that a UCC is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage. The AIMPLB had reiterated its position that it was not open to changes in the personal law and reform as suggested by the commission will happen only through the “social framework”.

Over a year later, the debate on UCC is once again in the limelight. The SC on Friday frowned on the failure of governments to heed Article 44 of the Constitution to promulgate a UCC for the entire country despite the lag of 63 years since codification of Hindu law in 1956.

“We have so much diversity in personal laws. How can one UCC apply to all. If the government at some stage does manage to bring in a UCC using its majority power in Parliament it will open a Pandora’s box of troubles in terms of on-ground implementation,” member of the AIMPLB Kamal Faruqui added. Jamiat Ulama -i- Hind’s senior functionary Niaz Ahmed Farooqui too said that the UCC was impossible to implement.

Finance minister unveils Rs.10,000-crore window for affordable housing

The government announced a Rs.10,000 crore special window to provide last-mile funding for completion of ongoing housing projects which are not NPAs or facing bankruptcy proceedings under NCLT.

Announcing the measure, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will contribute Rs.10,000 crore for the special window and roughly the same amount is expected from outside investors.

This window will help in completion of affordable and middle income housing projects. The fund will be managed by professionals, the minister added.

Sitharaman also said the interest rate on housing building advance will be lowered and linked to the 10-year G-sec yields. “Government servants contribute to a major component of demand for houses. This will encourage more government servants to buy new houses,” she said.

External commercial borrowing guidelines will also be relaxed to help housing developers obtain overseas funds.ECB guidelines will be relaxed to facilitate financing of homebuyers who are eligible under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, in consultation with the central bank.

The fresh set of measures to boost the economy has come in the wake of sinking business sentiment across the industry.

With most engines of growth stuttering, the Reserve Bank of India recently lowered its GDP forecast and pegged it at 6.9 per cent in 2019-20. Several rating agencies and research firms expect the growth to be in the range of 6.5-7 per cent.

Besides domestic consumption slowdown, the external factors remain adverse threatening to pull down the economy. A lingering US-China trade war and fears of a global recession could make things worse.


MMR: Key metro projects in a nutshell

Mumbai Metro Line 1 (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro Project)

Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor is 11.40 km elevated corridor.

It provided connectivity of Eastern and Western suburbs to Western and Central Railway.

Facilitates smooth and efficient interchange between suburban rail system and MRT System at Andheri and Ghatkopar Stations.

Reduced the Journey time from 71 minutes to 21 minutes, between Versova and Ghatkopar.

Provide rail based access to the MIDC, SEEPZ and commercial developments.

Mumbai Metro Line 2A (DAHISAR - D.N. NAGAR)

Metro Line 2A from Dahisar to D N Nagar is 18.589 km. long elevated corridor with 17 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova), the ongoing Metro Lines 2B (D N Nagar to Mandale) and 7 (Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E)) and the proposed Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli).

It shall facilitate smooth and efficient interchange with the suburban rail system and MRT system at Dahisar and D N Nagar.

It shall provide connectivity between the Western, Central Mumbai and the Northern suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Mumbai Metro Line 2B (D.N. NAGAR - MANDALE)

Metro Line 2B from D N Nagar to Mandale is 23.643 km. long elevated corridor with 22 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, Western Railway, Central Railway, Mono Rail, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova) and Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar), Metro Line 4 (Wadala to Kasarvadavali) and Metro Line 3 (Colaba to SEEPZ) under implementation.

It shall provide connectivity between the Eastern and Western Suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Dedicated Depot is planned at Mandale in up to an extent of 22 Ha. land area.

Mumbai Metro Line 4 (WADALA - KASARVADAVALI)

Metro Line 4 from Wadala to Kasarvadavali is 32.32 km. long elevated corridor with 32 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Eastern Express Roadway, Central Railway, Mono Rail, the ongoing Metro Line 2B (D N Nagar to Mandale), and the proposed Metro Line 5 (Thane to Kalyan), Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli) and Metro Line 8 (Wadala to General Post Office).

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Dedicated Depots are planned in Owale land in up to an extent of 20 Ha. and in Godrej Land in up to 15.50 Ha. Area.

Metro Line - 5 (Thane - Bhiwandi - Kalyan)

Considering the rapid growth in Thane - Bhiwandi - Kalyan area and to connect the unconnected Bhiwandi city to Kalyan and Thane city through appropriate efficient mass transport system, the consultant was appointed for preparation of DPR for said corridor. Consultant has submitted final Detailed Project Report to MMRDA.


Metro Line 7 from Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E) is 16.475 km. long elevated corridor with 13 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, Metro Line 1 (Ghatkopar to Versova), the ongoing Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar) and the proposed Metro Line 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli).

It shall facilitate smooth and efficient interchange with the suburban rail system and MRT system at Andheri, JVLR and Dahisar.

It shall provide connectivity between the Central Mumbai and the Northern suburban Mumbai.

It shall provide rail based access to the Mumbai International Airport, SEEPZ, National Park and other commercial and geographical landmarks.

Dedicated Depot is planned at Dahisar in an extent of 15 Ha.

Mumbai Metro Line 9 (Line 7 Extension)

Metro Line 9 is extension of Line 7 form Andheri to CSIA and Dahisar to Mira Bhayander and is 13.581 km long (11.386 km elevated and 2.195 km underground) with 11 stations.

It shall provide inter-connectivity among the existing Western Express Highway, Western Railway, ongoing Metro Line 2A (Dahisar to D N Nagar) and Metro Line 7(Andheri (E) to Dahisar (E)).

It shall provide rail based access to the commercial, Govt. bodies and geographical landmarks in Mumbai.

Maintenance Depot has been proposed at Mira-Bhayander (main depot for entire line-7). Total land area proposed for maintenance facilities is 20.0 Ha.

Mumbai Trans Harbor Link  — Metro Link

With the view to connect the mainland to Mumbai through rail based mass transport MMRDA has planned a metro corridor from Prabhadevi to Sewri and further to the Mainland through Navi Mumbai to a suitable Location on the Panvel-Pen section having interchange stations and facilities with the existing and proposed rail system. Following are the advantages of the proposed MTHL-Metro Link.

MTHL Metro Corridor will induce and accelerate the development on the main land.

MTHL Metro will encourage mass transport and cater to the future travel demand of main land area.

MTHL Metro will facilitate decongestion on other passenger time transport systems and fuel consumption saving.

Chennai: Techie run over by tanker after hoarding falls on her

A 23-year old woman techie riding a two-wheeler lost balance and fell down after an illegal hoarding put up by an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionary crashed on her. She was then run over by a water tanker that came just behind her, police said.

The hoarding was put up without obtaining permission from corporation authorities by a local AIADMK functionary for his son’s wedding at a hall near Pallikaranai in Chennai.

“There is zero respect for lives in this country. It is a bureaucratic apathy. Sorry, we have lost faith in the government,” Justice Seshasayee was quoted as saying. The court added that it was tired of passing multiple orders against illegal flex boards, as it asked officials to report to it after lunch.

The ruling AIADMK and main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, meanwhile, asked their respective party cadres to not erect hoardings inconveniencing the public.

When she was proceeding on the arterial Pallavaram Thoraipakkam radial road after completing her shift at a software firm at Kandanchavadi on Thursday, the woman identified later as R Subashri fell on the road after the hoarding put up on the median crashed on her.

A water tanker, which came behind the woman’s vehicle ran over her and she was pronounced brought dead at a local hospital. The tanker driver was arrested for rash and negligent driving and a case has been registered against him.

The young woman’s death has led to an outrage on illegal hoardings being put by political parties despite them causing inconvenience and posing a threat to people’s safety.

Following its complaint, police have filed an FIR against the AIADMK functionary and action will be taken as per law, the Chennai corporation said, adding the printing unit which printed the hoarding that fell on Subashri has been sealed.

According to the TN Urban Local Bodies (Permission for Erection of Digital Banners and Placards) Rules of 2011, the printer’s licence will be cancelled and unit sealed if permission was not taken for erecting hoardings or banners.

“The tanker driver was over speeding and he could not slow down and stop. No one should meet a fate similar to that of my daughter who was my only child,” her father told reporters. Subashri completed her B Tech last year and had a proposal to go to Canada next month and was working for a technology firm, he told reporters. 

August 2019: Trade deficit narrows to $13.45 b

India’s imports shrank by 36-month low of 13.4% on year in August, led by non-oil and non-gold sectors, indicating weak domestic demand in a slowing economy. Exports, too, declined for the second time in three months as global trade tensions and sluggish demand brought down shipments by 6.05%.

Exports slipped to $26.13 billion last month, pulled down by a decline in shipment of traditional, labour intensive sectors including cotton yarn, gems & jewellery, petroleum products, carpets, and handicrafts.

A sharper decline of imports to $39.58 helped the country lower the trade deficit to $13.45 billion in August from $17.92 billion a year ago. However, the trade gap widened marginally from $13.43 billion in July.

This was the worst decline in imports since August 2016 when imports fell 13.8% on year.

India’s economic growth had plunged to a 25-quarter low of 5% in the June quarter. Private consumption growth plunged to 3.1% in the quarter from 7.2% in the trailing quarter.

Non-oil and non-gold imports fell 9.33% to $27.3 billion in August. Oil imports declined 8.9% to $10.9 billion while gold imports fell 62.5% to $1.37 billion from the year earlier.

The increase in customs duty on gold and the recent spike in prices dampened imports.

Imports of electronics goods, a major import item, declined 4.12% in August.

According to official data, 22 out of the 30 export sectors registered a decline year on year in August.

Experts partly attributed the decline in exports to the US terminating preferential tariffs to India under the Generalised System of Preferences effective June 5.

US-China trade war, Brexit and developments in Iran further aggravated the problem of the world economy, the organisation said.

The World Trade Organisation had in April cut the global trade growth forecast for 2019 to 2.6% from 3% in 2018 on account of rising trade tensions and increased economic uncertainty.

In first five months of the fiscal, India’s exports fell 1.53% to $133.54 billion while imports declined 5.68% to $206.39 billion.

However, electronics exports increased 46% to $1.01 billion in August. FIEO said the uncertainty attached has also affected the flow of investment and added to currency volatility.


CM flags off test run of Navi Mumbai Metro

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis flagged off the test run of Navi Mumbai Metro Line-1.

The first phase of the Metro project has an elevated corridor of over 11 km between Belapur and Pendhar with 11 stations, besides a depot-cum-workshop at Taloja-Pachnand. Fadnavis also released e-allotment letters of winners of Cidco’s mass housing scheme-2018 on its website. Cidco will construct 95,000 houses.

The e-allotment letters of a total of 9,475 winners were declared in the presence of Cidco authorities, state minister Ravindra Chavan, MLAs Prashant Thakur, Manda Mhatre, Mayors Jaywant Sutar and Dr Kavita Choutmal and other dignitaries.

Funding for Metro Rail Line-1 (Belapur to Pendhar), which costs around Rs.3,064 crore, is being incurred by Cidco through surplus internal accruals. The three-car Metro train with a stainless steel coach body has a capacity to ferry 1,125 passengers and will have 150 seats and 975 standing passengers. While, the maximum operating speed shall be 85 kmph, the scheduled speed is 32 kmph.

According to Cidco, the Navi Mumbai Metro will enhance the commercial potential of the region and bolster economic progress. The Metro Line-1 is expected to be operational by mid-2020.

Indian universities out of top 300 in global rankings

The new world university rankings came as a mixed bag for India with no university featuring in the top 300 for the first time since 2012, though the total number of entries from the country went up from 49 in 2018 to 56 this year.

The high point for India was Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar making it to the top 350 on debut in the list. It now is the joint Indian topper with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In total, there are six Indian universities in the top 500 in this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 as against five in the 2019 rankings. Overall, University of Oxford continues to lead the pack for the fourth consecutive year.

With the increase in the number of Indian universities in the overall 1,300-university list from 92 countries, India is the fifth most-represented nation in the rankings, with 56 institutions. In all, 10 Indian universities which participated for the first time, made it to the global ranking list of 1,300 universities.

The fall of IISc from the 251-300 to 301-350 cohort this year is attributed to a significant dip in its citation impact score offsetting improvements in research environment, teaching environment and industry income. With IISc’s slide, it is for the first time India has failed to make the top 300 in the last seven years. However, the Bengaluru-based institute still ranks highest among all others in India and shares its position with IIT Ropar in the THE list.

THE rankings editor Ellie Bothwell said: “India has a huge amount of potential in global higher education, given its rapidly growing youth population and economy and use of English-language instruction. However, it is disappointing to see the country fall out of the top 300 of the rankings this year, with only a small number of institutions registering progress. The Indian government has strong ambitions to boost the global standing of its top universities and attract foreign students, academics and research collaboration. It now needs to back up these aspirations with high levels of investment or risk declining further amid increasing global competition, especially from other parts of Asia.”

According to THE, the best Indian institutions are generally characterised by relatively strong scores for teaching environment and industry income, but perform poorly when it comes to international outlook in comparison to both regional and international counterparts.

Globally, the United States once again has 60 universities in the top 200.

PMO gets new principal secy & principal adviser

The new Prime Minister’s Office hierarchy was formalised with P K Mishra, additional principal secretary to PM, appointed principal secretary in place of Nripendra Misra, who recently resigned from the post. Along with Mishra, former cabinet secretary P K Sinha was appointed principal adviser to PM.

The changes were expected since Misra’s resignation was made available and it was stated that he will continue for two weeks pending formalisation of arrangements. Misra’s resignation had come as a surprise as he had been recently re-appointed along with an elevation to minister of state rank.

Sinha’s designation is at variance to expectations that he will replace P K Mishra as additional principal secretary. Mishra has been overseeing senior appointments and is expected to continue to do so. Sinha could look after some of the policy briefs given his familiarity with Modi government’s initiatives as cabinet secretary.

P K Mishra has worked with Prime Minister Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He has varied work experience in performance management relating to agriculture, disaster management, power sector, infrastructure financing and regulatory issues.

“He has an outstanding career profile comprising research, publications, policy formulations and project management,” said a backgrounder.

P K Mishra has been agriculture secretary and worked in the area of disaster management. He was actively involved in initiatives like national agriculture development programme and the national food security mission along with “innovative and transformative” changes in human resource management, particularly appointments to senior positions.

He has worked with Institute of Development Studies, UK, negotiation and execution of ADB and World Bank projects and the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics. In the previous Modi government, he paid particular attention to disaster response and preparedness. He is a PhD in economic-development studies from the University of Sussex, where he also did an MA. He also has an MA from the Delhi School of Economics.