Tata, Adani allowed to sell power on bourses

The government has allowed the Tata and Adani groups to sell electricity from idle capacity at their imported coal-based plants in Gujarat on energy exchanges for a month to check the spike in power prices triggered by coal shortage in 73 generation stations.

But even as the government is grappling with the crisis at power plants, aluminium manufacturers have joined the chorus on fuel shortage at their captive generation units. In letters to pertinent officials, the Aluminium Association of India has alleged “drastic curtailment” of the contracted supplies by Coal India Ltd — perhaps because they were being diverted to mainline generation stations.

In the meantime, officials said orders under provisions of the Electricity Act will be issued, asking Tata Power and Adani Power to fire up 4,400 MW capacity at their Mundra plants idling because the buyer states refused to compensate for the increased cost of imported coal. The permission to sell power on the bourses could be extended for another month if coal stocks at domestic coalbased plants do not improve.

The two plants have a combined capacity of 8,000 MW but were running at lower capacity in spite of ample imported coal stock.

Tata Power had backed down 3,200 MW and Adani 1,200 MW over compensatory tariff issues.

Switching on this capacity will allow base load stations to ease off so that inventories at other plants can be built up. It will also calm prices on the exchanges, which are averaging Rs 8 per unit against about Rs 3 a month ago. The prices have risen because of demand from states, who are forced to buy from exchanges as coal shortage hit power houses.

Central Electricity Authority documents show fuel stock at 73 coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 92,417 MW are critical or super critical. Six have ‘zero’ stock and running on daily supply, 13 have a day’s buffer, 17 have inventories for two days and13 plants for four days. The remaining have stocks for less than eight days.

Elephant carcass found in tiger reserve with tusk missing

The forest department has formed a special team to nab poachers who chopped off a tusk from an elephant carcass, which was found in Sadayamparai reserve forest near Kattupatti tribal settlement at Udumalpet forest range of Anamalai Tiger Reserve, on Sunday.

Frontline staff of the Udumalpet forest range had found the carcass on Sunday evening. Bullet injuries were not found on the carcass, forest veterinary officer A Sukumar said.

“The poachers used an axe to remove the left tusk. Only experienced poachers can remove tusks like this,” he said. “The male elephant was about 35 years old and had died about five days ago. There were no external injuries on the carcass. We have collected samples for laboratory test and are waiting for the test result to ascertain the cause of death.”

In Less Than Hour From IGI, Catch A Transit Flight At Jewar

A 95-km ride between transit flights can be daunting. But in a few years, transit flyers from Indira Gandhi International Airport could board a rapid train to Sarai Kale Khan, then change to the Varanasi bullet train. A mere 21 minutes later, they could reach Noida International Airport to take their connecting flights. This is among the five connectivity plans the central government is drawing up for the upcoming airport at Greater Noida’s Jewar, 95km from IGI.

Arun Vir Singh, CEO of Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority and NIA Limited said, “We will have an interchange from Eastern Peripheral Expressway for Yamuna Expressway, which is close to NIA. One segment of the Eastern Expressway goes to Uttarakhand, the other towards Manesar. IGI Airport will be connected to NIA via this link.”

He added, “We will also have an elevated road from the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, of which 24km will be in Haryana and 10km in Uttar Pradesh. The two state governments are holding discussions on sharing the land acquisition cost. NHAI will carry out the construction. We will give road connectivity to Jewar from Delhi via Ballabhgarh.”

Apart from these two surface connections, three rail links are also planned. “The IGI Airport Express runs via Shivaji Stadium Delhi Metro station and this corridor will link the two airports. A metro train line will link NIA with Shivaji Stadium with 4-5 stations en route,” revealed Singh.

The proposed Delhi-Varanasi bullet train will be another link. According to Singh, the preliminary detailed project report has a bullet train station at the NIA terminal itself. The final DPR is being worked out. Additionally, the regional rapid transit system is planned between Sarai Kale Khan and IGI, opening up another connectivity between the two airports.

While no timeline has been set for the proposed Delhi-Varanasi bullet train, Rail Board sources said the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited has conducted a Lidar survey, or light detection and ranging, on the proposed route to examine the surface of the earth. “A straight-line route is necessary for trains travelling at 300kmph, so the scanning was done while preparing the detailed project report,” confirmed a source.

Depending on the Covid situation, the Noida airport is expected to become operational in around three years. The surface and metro links are likely to be ready by then. “Work has already started on the Noida airport site. Earth levelling is going on and a site office will come up shortly,” claimed Singh.

The biggest emerging concern as the National Capital Region gears up to be among the first cluster of cities in India to get a second civilian airport is the daunting 95-km gap between IGI and NIA for transit travellers, especially given Delhi’s choked roads.

This is a far cry from what Delhi has witnessed decades ago when commercial flights shifted from Safdarjung Airport to Palam in 1962. The approach road to IGI’s Terminal, when it opened in 1986, made driving a breeze in the congestion-free good old days.

Yogi orders special teams to study viral fever that’s killed 70

With a viral disease spreading in UP — the western districts appear to be the epicentre — CM Yogi Adityanath in a meeting on Monday formed special teams to study the virus and come up with a plan to control its spread in the three worst-hit districts of Firozabad, Mathura and Mainpuri. This came after the Times Of India did a series of reports on the “intense” viral fever, which claimed 70 by Monday, according to sources — 50 in Firozabad, 12 in Mathura and eight in Mainpuri. Earlier in the day, the CM had confirmed the death of 32 children and seven adults in Firozabad owing to a “suspicious dengue-like fever in the district”.

The disease is marked by high fever, a sudden drop in platelet count and severe dehydration. “We will examine the disease and take time-bound action. Special teams have been set up,” Yogi said.

New expressway in Andhra from Vijaywada-Bengaluru likely to spur growth

Andhra Pradesh has bagged a big-ticket infrastructure project as the Centre has given the green signal for development of a greenfield expressway between Bengaluru-Vijayawada via Pulivendula, home town of chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The Centre, which initially wanted to launch the works under Bharatmala Phase-II in 2023, has also agreed to start the work during the current fiscal.

The prestigious road infrastructure project has been cleared following a special request made by the chief minister.

The proposed green field expressway is expected to reduce travel time by over three hours as about 65 per cent of the route will get four-lane new highway.

National Highways Authority of India is readying a Detailed Project Report. Sources said that the state government has cleared the route-map after studying alternative routes to improve connectivity between the two cities.

According to the plans approved by the state government, a four-lane express way would be constructed for about 360km of the total distance of 570km. Remaining 110km will be covered by connecting the new expressway with the existing National Highways. This move will not only reduce the travel time but also save huge costs on the exchequer.


PM Modi praises Indore’s ‘Water Plus’ achievement

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday lauded Indore for becoming the first city in the country to get ‘Water Plus’ certification under the Swachh Survekshan 2020-21.

“People of Indore are not going to sit with the top Swachh Bharat ranking. They have dedicated themselves and decided to maintain the ‘water plus’ tag for their city. And that means, no sewer or wastewater would go into any public waterbody,” Modi said in ‘Mann Ki Baat.’ Modi specifically mentioned about how people of Indore contributed to the campaign to help the city get ‘Water Plus’ certification. “People of Indore came forward and connected their household wastewater lines with sewer networks while organising cleanliness drives. Due to this, mixing of wastewater into waterbodies such as Saraswati and Kanh has come down, and the change visible,” he said.

Modi, during his address said, “At a time when the country is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (to mark 75th year of India’s Independence), we must ensure that the pledge of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ does not get weak.”

“As more cities become ‘water plus’ in our country, the standards of cleanliness will improve, our waterbodies will be cleaned up, and it will become part of our culture and we will fulfil the human responsibility of saving water”, Modi added.

Around 84 cities had applied for ‘Water Plus’ certification under the Swachh Survekshan 2021, and 33 of them qualified for direct observation. On August 11, Indore was declared as the first ‘Water Plus’ city.

To bag the certification, Indore Municipal Corporation had constructed 10 sewerage treatment plants in different areas of the city for treatment of wastewater. Also, 1,746 community and public toilets and 5,624 individual sewer lines were connected with a dedicated drainage line to prevent mixing of wastewater into waterbodies.

Maharashtra: ‘Wet deserts’ in Shirol taluka becoming lush again

In the 1990s, Mahadev Magdum’s family had to stop farming on their own land in Shedshal village in Shirol taluka as the fields had turned saline and barren due to intensive irrigation. The adults in the family had to find jobs in other farms and the youngsters had to give up education to take up daily wage work. Today, 44-year-old Mahadev expects around 100 tonne of sugar cane produce from his own two-acre farm following a community land reclamation effort he took part in three years ago.

“I had seen my parents working on the farm and growing crops when I was a teenager. Then the land turned barren due to increased salinity. We had to go through many hardships and give up our studies. Now, after almost three decades, my farm is totally reclaimed and I can dream of educating my children,” said Mahadev.

Mahadev is just one of several hundred farmers in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur district to benefit from saline land reclamation projects undertaken by the farmers themselves by setting up cooperatives. Some of the farms here in the taluka had been barren for up to 50 years, but gradually they are being reclaimed and made fit for cultivation.

The farmers are guided by Ganpatrao Patil, the chairman of the Shree Datta cooperative sugar factory. He got the farmers to take loans from cooperative credit societies at lower rates. The money was used to lay sub-surface drainage pipes in the “wet deserts” — a term used to describe land that has become barren due to intensive irrigation. On such land, the water stagnates and does not percolate. As a result, insoluble salts get deposited on the land, turring it barren over time.

D S Bundela, the head of the division of irrigation and drainage engineering at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research’s Central Soil Salinity Research Institute at Karnal in Haryana,said: “Sub-surface drainage projects implemented by the Shirol farmers, who have formed cooperatives, is the only such successful example we have in India. The farmers just need some monetary help from the government. It takes about Rs 2-2.25 lakh to implement the project in each hectare.”

Bundela added: “The government’s own projects have limitations. Often, there is low or no farmer participation. As a result, such projects do not attain the desired results. However, in the cooperative set-up, the farmers can monitor the execution and maintenance of the projects as their share of money is also involved.”

In India, more than 67 lakh hectare of land has turned barren mostly due to intensive irrigation. India is a signatory to the Bonn Challenge 2015, an international effort to reclaim the degraded land. India has pledged to reclaim 21 lakh hectare of degraded land. Though the target is ambitious, it can be met by implementing the models adopted by the Shirol farmers, said Bundela.

Recently, Union minister of state for agriculture Shobha Karandlaje called Ganpatrao Patil to Bengaluru to discuss the cooperative model adopted by the Shirol farmers.

She has decided to try out the model on a pilot basis in Karnataka and other places in Maharashtra.

“We changed the minds of people who were reluctant to return to the farming. Earlier, the banks did not give loans as the land was branded “uncultivable”. We provided loans to the farmers to adopt the technology. To increase participation in the project, we set up land reclamation cooperative societies for one to two villages. Now, three years down the line, more than 4,000 hectare of farmland has been reclaimed. The farmers have started returning the loans and living with dignity. Most importantly, they have reclaimed their lifelong assets — their farmlands,” said Patil.

Several renowned agricultural activists, experts, officials, and politicians have paid visits to the cooperative land reclamation projects in Shirol taluka. The experts say that the land can get restored to its original state within three to four years.

A ‘Super’ app for all vehicle ownership, licence-related services

Soon you won’t need to visit different websites of state transport departments or download several mobile apps for availing vehicle ownership and driving licence-related services. The government is gearing to launch a ‘Super’ app, which will provide a “one-stop” solution for all such needs across states with vehicle owners just needing to sign in once to avail all the facilities.

The “Super” app is being developed by the National Informatics Centre. Services that the users can avail through this app include tax payment, duplicate RC/ fitness/ permit, transfer of ownership, change of address, hypothecation and issue of NOC. Similarly, one can avail online learner’s licence, new driving licence and renewal, duplicate licence, change of address and international driving permit through the app. The users will also be able to make payment of challan online and verify the payment as well.

Director general of NIC, Neeta Verma, said, “This will require one-time registration. We will have a provision for generating alerts for the users to update them about the renewal of documents and for payments that are due. The app will be available in different languages. To begin with we will have it in English and Hindi,” she said.

The app will also have a provision to store all documents related to the vehicle and driver. A legal provision will be made to treat all such stored documents as valid by enforcement agencies.

International flight suspension extended till Sept-end

The suspension of scheduled international flights has been extended till September 30 by the Centre. However, Vande Bharat Mission and other flights under air bubbles will continue and those eligible under government norms can fly to and from India on them.

Scheduled international flights were suspended on March 23 last year and the severity of the pandemic meant that there is no sign of flights resuming anytime in a hurry, even after a year-and-a-half. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued an order on Sunday, extending the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India till 11.59 pm (India time) of September 30. “This restriction shall not apply to international all cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA,” the order said.


Jan Dhan accounts hit 43cr in 7 years

The Centre said it had communicated to banks about the plan to ensure coverage of Jan Dhan account holders under various micro insurance schemes while PM Narendra Modi said the government’s financial inclusion initiative had transformed the country’s development trajectory and helped deepen transparency. A finance ministry statement said eligible Jan Dhan account holders will be sought to be covered under PMJJBY (Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana) and PMSBY (Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana) and banks have already been informed about this plan.

It also said there are extensive plans to promote digital payments, including RuPay debit card usage, among these account holders by creating acceptance infrastructure.

Improving access of PMJDY account holders to micro-credit and micro investment such as flexi-recurring deposit is also being planned, the statement said, while referring to future plans for the Jan Dhan account holders.

The PM lauded those who had worked to make the Jan Dhan scheme a success, saying their efforts have ensured that people lead a better quality of life.“On Saturday we mark seven years of #PMJanDhan, an initiative that has forever transformed India’s development trajectory. It has ensured financial inclusion and a life of dignity as well as empowerment for countless Indians. Jan Dhan Yojana has also helped further transparency,” he tweeted.

There has been a sharp increase in Jan Dhan accounts since the scheme was started. As on August 18, the number of total PMJDY accounts were 43 crore and 55.5% (23.9 crore) Jan Dhan account holders are women and 66.7% (28.7 crore) are in rural and semi-urban areas. “The journey of PMJDY led interventions undertaken over a short span of 7 years has in effect, produced both transformational as well as directional change thereby making the emerging financial inclusion ecosystem capable of delivering financial services to the last person of the society-the poorest of the poor,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

New ‘BH’ vehicle series from September 15

Come September 15, the government will allow registration of personal vehicles under a new “BH” series which will ensure seamless transfer across states and do away with the need for re-registration when the owner shifts from one state to another. To begin with, such registration will be allowed for people in transferable jobs such as in defence, central and state governments, PSUs and also in private sector companies which have offices in four or more states and UTs.

The new regime of “Bharat” (BH) series of vehicles, notified by the road transport ministry, will be a voluntary scheme for the specific categories of vehicle owners. In the long run, the government aims to bring all vehicles under this series for uniformity and hassle-free transfer from one state to another while ensuring that no state loses its revenue. The registration number of such vehicles will mention the year of registration, BH mark, numerical numbers and alphabets, for example 21BH1234A and 21BH9999AB.

Currently, a person is allowed to keep a vehicle for a maximum of 12 months in any state other than the state where it is registered. The owner has to get such vehicles re-registered within this deadline. The vehicle owners who opt for this scheme will have to pay road tax for two years or in multiples of two. “After completion of the fourteenth year, the motor vehicle tax or road tax shall be levied annually and it will be half of the amount which was charged earlier for that vehicle,” a ministry official said.

The entire process will be made online to ensure there is no need to go to the RTOs. The ministry has fixed the road tax at 8% for vehicles costing up to Rs 10 lakh, 10% for those costing between Rs 10-20 lakh and 12% for vehicles costing over Rs 20 lakh.

There will be 2% extra charge for diesel vehicles and electric vehicles shall be charged 2% less tax.


Govt Sets the Ball Rolling for Mega Listing of LIC

The government has selected leading global and Indian merchant bankers among 10 that will manage the initial public offer of Life Insurance Corporation of India, which is being pegged as the largest public listing for the Indian markets.

The government has selected Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Nomura, Bank of America Securities, JM Financial, SBI Caps, Kotak Mahindra Capital, ICICI Securities and Axis Capital, according to a source aware of the development.

“Merchant bankers have been selected, the IPO is on track,” the source said, asking not to be named.

The government had said in its request for proposal issued last month that it will appoint 10 book running lead managers which will form a syndicate.

The selected bankers will submit book building of investors with likely volume and likely price based on latest interaction and response of the fund managers and will advise the department of investment and public asset management on the proper and optimum timing and best floor price for the IPO.

The merchant bankers will also structure the IPO, undertake due diligence activities and prepare the DRHP, conduct pre-market survey, road shows to generate interest amongst prospective investors and ensure optimum return.

While the roadshows are expected to begin as early as next month, the government is aiming to bring LIC’s IPO to the markets latest by March 2022. The proceeds from what is expected to be the largest public offer ever for the Indian markets, will be critical for the government to reach its disinvestment target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore set for the ongoing financial year.

Besides merchant bankers, the government has sought bids for appointing a legal adviser, advertising agency and registrar and share transfer agent for LIC’s public offer.

The department has said previously that the percentage of paid-up equity to be issued or divested as part of the IPO will be determined based on the post issue capital of LICI calculated in consonance with the clause 19 (2) of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Rules, 1957.

“A part of the public offering may be reserved for employees and policyholders of LICI,” it had added.

Assam: Militants gun down 5 truckers

At least five truckers were shot dead and two others were injured when suspected militants of Dimasa National Liberation Army waylaid a convoy of seven trucks, fired indiscriminately at them and later set them on fire in Assam’s Dima Hasao district on Thursday night.

The trucks were carrying industrial raw materials Dalmia Cement and were coming from Umrangsu in Meghalaya.

The company, in a statement, said the incident happened around 8pm in the Ranger Bill area under Diyangmukh police station on the Umrangshu-Lanka road.

“Some of our partner vehicles carrying company materials were targeted by an extremist group. We are saddened to inform you that five drivers who were attacked lost their lives and two were injured. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and extend necessary support to our partners and associates. We are in touch with the government of Assam and they have assured us of taking necessary steps to avoid any such untoward incident in the future,” the company stated.

Police believe it could have been a retaliatory attack by the group after six of its cadres were killed in an encounter in May last in the neighbouring Karbi Anglong district. “We have learnt that five suspected militants first fired from automatic weapons and later set the trucks ablaze. We suspect it to be the handiwork of DNLA,” SP (Dima Hasao) Jayant Singh said. The DNLA announced its formation in April 2019 and established bases active in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts with the objective of creating a sovereign, independent “Dimasa Nation”. The outfit is headed by Naisodao Dimasa.

Govt to Seek Proposals from Cos to Set Up Semiconductor Plants

The government will soon put out a request for proposal document seeking formal applications from companies to set up semiconductor plants, senior officials said. The officials said several companies showed interest earlier this year to set up such fabs (fabrication units) and that the government would decide on the quantum of subsidy only after it receives specific proposals.

Setting up fabs is expensive and the subsidy is huge, so the government will be “careful” before giving approvals, the official added. 

Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekharan also recently spoke about the salt-to-software conglomerate’s plans to enter the semiconductor space, to reduce dependence on Chinese imports. A global shortage of chips - which has crippled several industries such as automobiles and electronics — due to the Covid-19 pandemic — has spurred many companies to diversify operations to newer locations.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT has not divulged the quantum of incentive it would provide companies. However, the government is believed to set aside $1 billion for a fab, which entails a total investment commitment of $2-$5 billion, or more. The official said 5G, data centres and semiconductors were the next areas of focus for the government, which has been successful in attracting companies to set up mobile phone manufacturing plants through incentive schemes over the past few years.

The government is open to setting up both traditional fabs as well as new-age ones like the Gallium Nitride semiconductor fabs, which are relatively cheaper to build.


Pune: Metro-Neo feasibility study for elevated mass transit corridor

The Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MahaMetro) will prepare a detailed project report on introducing Metro-Neo service on the proposed High Capacity Mass Transit Route in the city.

The HCMTR is planned as a 36km-long elevated route with dedicated lanes for Bus Rapid Transit System and private vehicles in the city. Metro-Neo will be a part of the HCMTR; the feasibility report will give the authorities a better idea of how to implement it.

The HCMTR project, first mentioned in the 1987 development plan, remains on paper. It is currently stuck in the approval and administrative stages. Recently, some changes were proposed in the alignment of the route. The project will also require an environmental impact assessment report.

MahaMetro said it has held preliminary discussions with Pune Municipal Corporation and mayor Murlidhar Mohol on Metro-Neo’s feasibility.

The proposal has found support from deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and former CM Devendra Fadnavis.

MahaMetro’s managing director Brijesh Dixit said, “We had discussions with mayor Mohol and PMC authorities about the DPR for Metro-Neo. We have also received a letter from the mayor. Metro-Neo is a cost-effective solution, which is also being implemented in Nashik. The feasibility study is expected to take one year.”

Congress leader Aba Bagul, who has been following the HCMTR project for many years, said it was needed to strengthen the city’s public transport infrastructure. “The city needs HCMTR. It has dragging for many years. We recently gave it a push. Now, the Metro-Neo proposal is being studied,” Bagul said.

During a recent visit, Fadnavis said the Union government would provide funds for the Metro-Neo project, as it can be classified as a fresh proposal separate from the ongoing Pune Metro rail work. Civic standing committee chairman Hemant Rasane said they will identify a suitable option.

Activists are concerned the project will have ramifications for the environment. Some said HCMTR will encourage the use of private vehicles and eventually defeat the purpose of strengthening public transport. The Pimpri Chinchwad civic body too has proposed Metro-Neo in its jurisdiction. MahaMetro’s study will also focus on how the two can be seamlessly integrated.

Government unveils liberal rules for drones

India notified a new set of liberal drone rules that could pave the way for these unmanned aircraft systems soon carrying both goods for e-commerce and transporting people on air taxis.

Following the intervention of the PMO, the aviation ministry junked the rules it had put in place just this March that had shackled drones in a plethora of clearances and went against ease of doing business. “This (new) policy has been put in place under careful monitoring directly by the PM with trust (in users) as its basis and (to ensure) economic welfare of people,” K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the government said.

India will have three airspace zones for drones — green, where they can be flown; yellow, where permission needed and red like airports where their use is barred unless specifically allowed. This map is expected within 30 days on the Digital Sky single window drone platform.

“Approvals, compliance requirements and entry barriers have been significantly reduced… will tremendously help start-ups and our youth working in this sector (and) help leverage India’s strengths in innovation, technology and engineering to make India a drone hub,” Modi Tweeted on Thursday.

Compared to the previous rules, the liberalised Drone Rules, 2021, abolished several approvals and reduces the number of forms to be filled by users from 25 to five. The maximum penalty for violations has been reduced to Rs 1 lakh. Fee amounts have also been reduced with the charge for a remote pilot license cut from Rs 3,000 (for a large drone) to Rs 100 for all categories and valid for 10 years. No remote pilot licence will be required for micro drones for non-commercial use and nano drones.

More than 30% Indians suffer from hypertension

A Lancet study, published on Wednesday, says more than 30% of Indians suffer from hypertension. The report, an international collaboration, including experts from ICMR, also says that the number of adults living with hypertension worldwide has doubled in the last 30 years.

Half of them, says the study, did not even know they had hypertension.

“The ‘rule of halves’ for hypertension,” says Dr V Mohan, director of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, who was one of the collaborators on the research. “Half the people with high blood pressure are not known; half of those known are not treated, and half of those treated are not controlled.”

The Lancet study, which used data from 100 million people between 30-79 years in 184 countries, is considered one of the most comprehensive reviews of global trends in hypertension to date.

“In India, 30% of those above 20 years have hypertension, but because the condition is age-related, in the population above 40 years, around 50% will have high blood pressure,” says Dr Mohan.

Half of India’s adults have now got at least one dose of vaccine

Half of the country’s adult population eligible for Covid vaccines has received at least one dose, which includes 99% coverage among healthcare workers and 100% frontline workers for the first dose. A little more than 60% of the over-60 population has also been covered by at least a first dose of the vaccine.

The average daily vaccinations during August so far also increased to 52.16 lakh doses from 43.41 lakh and 39.38 lakh in July and June, respectively. The government said supply situation of vaccines appears satisfactory as in the past few weeks there have been no reports from any state relating to vaccine shortages.

Vaccine supplies are also likely to improve further from October as Zydus Cadila has indicated to the government that its DNAbased anti-Covid jab, ZyCoV-D, will be available from the first week of October. The government is still negotiating with the company on terms and price of procurement, Bhushan said.

While ZyCoV-D has been given emergency use authorisation for use in all above 12 years, the final decision regarding starting vaccination of children of 12-18 years will be based on National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s recommendations.


70-yr-old Kalahandi man ends life on wife’s pyre

Brooding over his wife’s death as her funeral pyre burned, a 70-year-old man suddenly broke away from the huddle of mourners and jumped into the flames to end his life in a remote tribal-dominated village of Odisha’s Kalahandi on Tuesday. The horrifying act of former panchayat member Nilamani Sabar choosing to die on his 65-year-old wife Raibari's pyre came days before what will be the 34th anniversary of the controversial Roop Kanwar sati case in Rajasthan.

Kalahandi SP Sharvana Vivek said the incident took place at Sialjudi village in front of family members and relatives, including Nilamani and Raibari’s four sons. The couple had been married for several decades and known to be active in community welfare, he as an ex-panchayat samiti representative and she as a sitting village ward committee member.

“After the pyre was lit, some of the villagers escorted Nilamani’s four sons to a nearby pond for a bath. Nilamani suddenly got up and jumped onto the pyre. By the time the villagers realised what had happened, he was severely burnt. They tried to get him out but the raging fire made it difficult,” the SP said.

Raibari had died in her sleep earlier in the day. The police said since nobody came forward to report the incident, they took suo motu cognisance of it and registered a case of unnatural death under Section 174 of the CrPC. “We have since recorded the statements of the villagers, including the sons of the deceased. They have all corroborated what we know – that the man jumped onto his wife’s pyre on his own,” Vivek said.

PMO clears 9 names for appointment as SC judges

The Prime Minister’s Office is learnt to have cleared the nine names recommended by the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana for appointment as judges of the apex court.

Law ministry sources said that the PMO cleared the appointments of Karnataka HC Chief Justice A S Oka, Gujarat HC CJ Vikram Nath, Sikkim CJ J K Maheshwari, Telangana HC CJ Hima Kohli, Karnataka HC judge B V Nagarathna, Kerala HC judge C T Ravikumar, Madras HC judge M M Sundresh, Gujarat HC judge Bela M Trivedi and senior advocate P S Narasimha.

The nine have been advised by the law ministry to undergo customary medical tests prior to issuance of warrants of appointment by the President.

This is the largest number of names recommended by the collegium at one go for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court and the quickest, within a week, clearance by the PMO.

Importantly, the names include three woman judges — Justices Hima Kohli, B V Nagarathna and Bela Trivedi — and one among whom, Justice Nagarathna, will go on to become the first woman CJI in the year 2027, albeit for a little over a month. These appointments will also create another milestone in the country’s judicial history as Narasimha would be the first appointee directly from the bar to become CJI. Earlier, eight had been directly appointed from the bar directly to the SC as judges — SM Sikri, SC Roy, Kuldip Singh, N Santosh Hegde, RF Nariman, UU Lalit, LN Rao and Indu Malhotra.

With the warrants of appointment to be issued soon after the recommended persons successfully complete their medical tests, the apex court will function almost at full strength. When the nine take oath, the working strength will increase to 33, leaving just one vacancy. The Supreme Court at present is functioning with 24 judges, mainly because CJI N V Ramana’s predecessor SA Bobde could not recommend a single name for appointment as Supreme Court judge due to a lack of consensus among the collegium.


Desis richest ethnic group in US

Indians in America, dubbed the “model minority”, continue their march to greater learning and prosperity, with the latest US Census showing them surpassing national metrics in college graduation and wealth by a wide margin.

The median household income of US Indians is now $123,700, almost double the national figure of $63,922. A massive 79% of Indians are graduates, compared to national figure of 34%, attesting to the emphasis on education in Indian families.

Indians comfortably outstrip even other Asian cohorts in the US in median household income with the next best communities, Taiwanese and Filipinos, coming in at $97,000 and $95,000, respectively.

Median household income of Chinese in the US is $85,229 and that of Japanese is $84,068.

Indians also have the least poor with only 14% reporting median family income below $40,000 compared to 33% nationally. A healthy 25% of Indian households reported an income of over $200,000 compared to the national figure of 8%.

The census data shows that Indian immigrants on visas and US-born citizens of Indian origin have nearly the same median family income of about $115,000. Naturalised US citizens from India have a higher median income, $140,000. Of the nearly four million Indians in the US, roughly 1.6 million are visa holders, 1.4 million are naturalised US citizens, and one million are US-born citizens.

This gap is wider among other Asian groups, suggesting that India sends its best and brightest to America, or that India’s so-called creamy layer is decamping or emigrating to the US, compared to less educated immigrants from other countries.

“People of Indian descent hold a significant share of jobs in several high-paying fields, including computer science, financial management and medicine. Nine percent of doctors in the US are of Indian descent, and more than half of them are immigrants,” a New York Times analysis of the data noted.

The report said the number of people who identify as Asian in the US has nearly tripled in the past three decades, and Asians are now the fastest growing of the nation’s four largest racial and ethnic groups. The number of counties where people of Asian descent represent more than 5% of the population has risen from 39 in 1990 to 176 in 2020. A Pew Research Center analysis of the data said the Asian population in the US, which currently stands at 23 million, is projected to reach 46 million by 2060.

Infosys becomes 4th Indian firm to touch $100bn market cap

Infosys has joined the elite club of Indian companies with $100 billion or more in market capitalisation. The only others are Reliance Industries, TCS and HDFC Bank, with m-caps of $186 billion, $180 billion and $116 billion, respectively.

The milestone was achieved in morning trade on Tuesday when Infosys shares touched a year high of Rs 1,755 on the BSE. This took the mcap to $100.7 billion. The stock closed at Rs 1,720, down 1%. On the New York Stock Exchange too, Infosys’s m-cap was close to $100 billion in morning trade.

While Infosys took 20 years to reach $50 billion in m-cap, the next $50 billion took just over a year, an astonishing growth rate under its CEO Salil Parekh. IT companies are seeing a smart recovery from the pandemic, thanks to their clients’ desire for digital transformation through cloud and increased focus on data and analytics.

Former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai said, “In 1994, Infosys had a valuation of $100 million. In 27 years, it has crossed $100 billion, and it’s a great story. Infosys’s rise reflects the rise of India after liberalisation and the rise of the global IT services industry. It should have come earlier, except for the disruption caused in the firm.”

Marti G Subrahmanyam, who is the Charles E Merrill professor of finance, economics and international business in the Stern School of Business at New York University, and who was on the board of Infosys from 1998 to 2001, recollects that when he joined the company, it had revenue of $47 million and 1,500 employees. “They raised the bar for corporate-governance ethics in India. The board wasn’t merely an adornment to be seen. My views were respected and I had several heated debates with the management. The secret sauce is good governance, values and ethics, hard work and NRN’s vision,” he said.

It has been a fabled journey for the Bengaluru company that was started by NR Narayana Murthy along with six others in 1981. It was listed on the Indian stock market in 1993 and became the first Indian registered company to list on a US stock exchange, Nasdaq, in 1999. Infosys has long been considered the gold standard for corporate governance among Indian corporates. “When in doubt, always disclose,” was Murthy’s mantra. In a webinar last year, Murthy said, “The good thing about Infosys founders is that they were high in aspiration, they were confident, they were hardworking and had good values, but we had very little money. For the first 13 years or so, none of us had a car, all of us lived in rented houses… Therefore, there was a little bit of dissatisfaction among some of the spouses.”

Vallabh Bhanshali, cofounder and chairman of Enam Group and who helped launch Infosys’s IPO, said, “To me, Infosys’s value lies not so much in its market cap as much as in what it has done to arouse aspirations among Bhartiya to create enterprises that will earn the admiration of all. How that can happen only with better governance has contributed hugely to the gradual transformation of the corporate world. $100 billion is only an intermediate milestone for a company that is still young and hungry,” he said. When Enam concluded the Infosys IPO, the issue had been “barely subscribed”.

Karnataka becomes first state to implement NEP

Karnataka became the first state in the country to implement the National Education Policy 2020 with Union minister for education Dharmendra Pradhan and chief minister Basavaraja Bommai virtually launching the university and college admission module as per the new policy on Monday Pradhan said that the state has set an ideal example to other states in implementation of the NEP-2020 and has become a laboratory in implementation of the policy. “India has a huge number of about 310 million who belong to the student community and with 25 million being newly added every year, the real challenge lies in reaching the benefits of NEP to all these. The success of NEP will enable creating a new global order,” said Pradhan.

To mark this occasion, Bommai, who launched the admission module, announced that a new digitalisation and research and development policy focusing on students will be rolled out and a primary and secondary education council will be established with the objective of transforming and empowering the knowledge landscape of Karnataka. Saying that these policies and programs will be given due preference in the coming budget amidst constraints, he advised to introduce career guidance and personality development in the secondary education level to realise the goal of creating an equitable society.

ReNew Power lists in US via SPAC

ReNew Power, India’s biggest renewable energy company, on Tuesday listed on the Nasdaq in the US through the special purpose acquisition company route and achieved a market capitalisation of nearly $4.5 billion (about Rs 33,500 crore). This is the biggest listing of an Indian entity through SPAC, the vehicle through which an Indian company could list in the US. At present, an Indian company cannot directly list on a foreign bourse.

On Tuesday, ReNew Energy, the UK-domiciled holding company for ReNew Power, started trading on the US exchange under the ticker symbol ‘RNW’. In early trades, the stock was quoted at $8.6.

Since under current rules an Indian company can’t directly list on a foreign bourse, the UK-domiciled ReNew Energy has been structured as the holding company for ReNew Power, the India-domiciled company that owns all the renewable energy assets in the country.

Although it’s a circuitous route to listing in the US, it is allowed under current laws.


Kalyan Singh devoted his life to ‘Jan Kalyan’: Modi

“He was named Kalyan Singh and he devoted his entire life for ‘Jan Kalyan’. He was synonymous with faith and commitment in politics and spent largest part of his life working for the welfare of people.”

With these solemn words, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to former chief minister Kalyan Singh.

The Prime Minister, accompanied by BJP president JP Nadda, flew to Lucknow on Sunday and drove straight to the veteran leader’s residence in Mall Avenue where he paid floral tributes and spent about 25 minutes talking to family members of the late leader.

The Prime Minister later drove back to the airport and returned to Delhi.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath and governor Anandiben Patel had received the Prime Minister at the airport.

Earlier in the morning, Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati also reached the former chief minister’s residence and paid floral tributes to the departed soul.

Kalyan Singh’s body was taken to the Vidhan Bhawan for two hours where legislators and ministers paid their tributes to him.

Thereafter, the body was taken to the BJP state headquarters where party workers offered their tributes to the late leader.

Later in the afternoon, Kalyan Singh’s mortal remains were flown to Aligarh where his body was kept in the stadium to allow people to pay their respects.

The cremation will take place at Narora Ghat in Bulandshahr on Monday.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath will accompany the body to Aligarh.

A Five-Year Plan To Restore About 1.4k Acres Of Aravalis

The forest department is planning a conservation programme to restore the natural habitat of the Gurgaon Aravalis. Around 1,400 acres of forest land between Naurangpur and Gairatpur Bas will be restored over five years.

Under the programme, the department will first carry out an assessment of the local vegetation and wildlife. Saplings of native species will be planted accordingly and the area will be fenced. Teams will carry out regular maintenance and inspections to protect and reinstate the forest cover, officials said. Water bodies will also be restored or developed for wildlife, which will also give a boost to groundwater recharge.

The project is in the planning stage at present, officials said. “The proposal has been sent to the Haryana principal chief conservator of forests for approval. After it is approved, we will invite expressions of interest for the preparation of a detailed project report,” Gurgaon divisional forest officer Rajeev Tajyan said.

This project is vital for Delhi-NCR because since the 1990s, the Aravalis have been shrinking due to their proximity to the densely populated urban clusters of Gurgaon and neighbouring areas, which has led to rampant illegal construction, deforestation and mining.

Due to the fragmentation of the natural habitat by roads and an increase in traffic, the number of wildlife roadkills has gone up during the past decade, as well as leopard-human conflict incidents. Moreover, the forest area is declining due to pressure from fuelwood collection and cattle grazing.

Forest officials said the habitat restoration plan will provide safety to the wealth of wildlife found in the Aravalis. A survey carried out over 2019 and 2020 by wildlife researchers supported by Centre for Ecology, Development and Research and WWF-India had found that the unprotected forest tracts in the Gurgaon and Faridabad Aravalis harbour a rich variety of mammals, more than Asola Bhatti, the contiguous tract in Delhi that enjoys the status of a wildlife sanctuary.

During the survey, striped hyenas, leopards, black-naped hares, Indian crested porcupines, small Indian mongooses and golden jackals were found to have healthy populations in Gurgaon. The encounter rate of leopards is 2.7 per km in the Gurgaon Aravalis compared to1.4 in the Asola sanctuary, it had revealed.

The area also includes numerous hills and cliffs covered by large-scale forests, apart from several patches of natural dry deciduous and scrub forests.

Delhi: Metro stations to get brighter feel

To save energy and provide a better lighting experience, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has undertaken a massive drive to replace the existing conventional lights with LED ones at 155 locations covering stations, depots, parking lots, etc.

The incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lamps, CFL lamps, etc were installed under DMRC’s Phase-I project in 2005 and Phase-II in 2010. “Around 75% of the drive has been covered by installing around one lakh LED lights. The remaining part will be completed by the end of October wherein around 35,000 LED lights will be installed,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), DMRC.

The operational life of conventional lights was around 10 years. “DMRC decided to replace these lights, which are well past their effective age, with new age LED lights that are both cost effective as well as energy efficient. LEDbased lighting solutions have been implemented at all Phase-III stations and a similar system will be adopted for the upcoming Phase-IV stations too,” said Dayal.

“The LED-based light system will help DMRC save around half of the energy expenditure. As a result, the cost of installing these lights will be recovered in around two years,” he added.

The lifespan of LEDs is long compared with conventional lights with a much reduced maintenance cost. “The average LED lasts 50,000 operating hours. It is more than 40 times the lifespan of an incandescent bulb. In addition, LED lights have an energy efficiency component that makes them consume a very low amount of power,” Dayal said.

Undertaking the drive at operational stations was a challenging task as the work had to be executed at night time for safety reasons, which increased installation time. “Even at night, the work can be carried out for around two hours only since the time window available from the close of last and commencement of first passenger service is very limited. Other important operational preparedness and routine maintenance activities are also undertaken during this period only,” said the official.

DMRC had to arrange for special scaffolding and cranes to cover the spaces at twice or thrice the normal height of a building, which is a time-consuming exercise.

Somewhere in Delhi....


Delhi’s entry points are set for makeover

The Delhi government’s plan to beautify entry points of the capital to make them aesthetically pleasing is finally set to take off from the Tikri Kalan border.

The government had announced in early 2019 a project for beautification of all the entry points of the city. However, the proposal for the project prepared by Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation didn’t get the nod at that time from Delhi Urban Art Commission, which wanted some modifications.

“DUAC has now given the green signal for the Tikri Kalan Delhi-Haryana border entry project on NH-9,” a Delhi government official said. Sources said that DTTDC had to make modifications in its proposal quite a few times to finally receive the nod from DUAC, which reportedly didn’t want any permanent construction at the entry point. The Delhi-Haryana border at Tikri Kalan is located on National Highway-9.

“The viaduct of Delhi Metro’s Green Line (Inderlok-Brigadier Hoshiyar Singh) is located right in the middle of the national highway and is also proposed to be beautified along with the entry point stretch,” the official said. “After Tikri Kalan border, Delhi Tourism plans to take up entry gate beautification projects at the Apsara border and Kapashera border next, following approvals.”

According to sources, the project will see not only an aesthetically pleasing entry gate to welcome those visiting the capital but also beautification of a 200-metre stretch with sculptures and other installations. “Large LCD screens will display audio-visuals encapsulating Delhi’s heritage and culture, apart from pollution level, temperature, etc.,” they said.

In the annual budget announcement of 2019-20, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had allocated Rs 25 crore for the beautification drive and the creation of entry gates. Sources said Rs 11 crore would be spent on the beautification of the entry point at Tikri Kalan border.

“Entry points to Delhi will be given an aesthetic look. In Phase-I, five entry points will be beautified, including the borders at Gurgaon, Tikri Kalan, Ghazipur, Apsara and Anand Vihar near Kaushambi,” Sisodia had said, adding that seven others will be identified for beautification in Phase-II in the next fiscal.

Historical monuments like India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan and events such as Dandi March will be showcased through sculptures along the stretch at the border points.

Indian-origin SA people go into panic mode

As uneasy calm settled over the troubled KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, worst affected in the July violence following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, cracks are beginning to show.

Their prime targets — Indian-origin South Africans in Durban and Johannesburg — say they have been receiving WhatsApp messages threatening renewed or ‘Part-II’ of the violence, asking “Indians to go back from where they came”.

Kimeshan Raman, a 33-year-old resident of Durban and social activist, who has recently applied for an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card, said, “It’s a panic reaction. Messages and videos are being circulated targeting Indians. We want to protect our families.”

At least 330 people, many of them Indians, were killed in the riots that ravaged parts of South Africa for about two weeks, from July 9. It was four days after deadly arson and looting before President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the army to quell the violence.

Indian-origin South African citizens have gone into panic mode, desperate for a “back-up” plan. Several of them admitted they have applied for the OCI cards or were in the process of doing so.

Potential applicants blame poor upkeep of documents, including the ship list of indentured labourers brought from India nearly 150 years ago, and the lackluster response of the Indian Embassy to their plight. “We are scared of another round of violence. I will be applying for an OCI card,” said Krishna Jagarnath, 35, a Durban resident, whose ancestors hail from Bihar.

Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi, who resides in Durban, said, “We are trying to unite people across racial lines and build peace and goodwill.” But there’s a lot of uncertainty and insecurity because of threats from certain sections. “We don’t know where they are going to attack and when they are going to attack,” she said.


More Chirag Dilli-Like Model Stretches May Have To Wait

The Public Works Department’s much delayed project to redesign key city streets and bring them at par with European standards looks set to face another hurdle. After examining the new proposals on interventions like additional bicycle lanes and walkways, the traffic police have asked PWD to submit detailed plans of the changes specific to high traffic corridors.

PWD recently inaugurated a 700-metre pilot stretch near Chirag Dilli, an exercise that will be replicated across 540km of PWD roads with street space wider than 100 ft. A PWD official disclosed that work on some more segments had also been initiated. “The work on streetscaping a 4-km portion between Moolchand and Nehru Nagar has been started and footpaths, cycle tracks and greenery will be developed there,” the official said. “At some of the sites, traffic police have their reservations and have sought details of the site-plans and drawings to study them.”

Traffic police officers have objected to the width of new lanes being developed, apprehending traffic jams because of them. “We don't have any issue with PWD wanting to develop and beautify the roads. Our concern is with the road width and its possible reduction,” said an officer. “The volume of traffic on the roads is increasing by the day and if the size of the roads is reduced, it will only add to more problems and impede smooth movement. We have asked PWD to let us have a look at their plans to check if any structural change is being made….

Some traffic police officers stated that in the preliminary discussions, they had informed PWD that while it shouldn’t alter the width of the road when carrying out its revamp.

PWD plans to carry beauty11 key corridors. In the first phase, work on this is taken up on the 3-km stretch on Vikas Marg between Laxmi Nagar and Karkardooma, 2.1km Mother Dairy-Narwana Road, 4km of Ring Road from Moolchand to Nehru Nagar, 6km of Rithala Road from Wazirpur to Rithala, 8.5km of Ring Road from Moti Bagh to Mayapuri and the 4.8km section from Moti Nagar to Pusa Road.

“Each beautification segment requires specific interventions and features, with some common elements such as bicycle tracks, pedestrian friendly infrastructure, street furniture, designer benches and statues. A three-level greening is also being attempted with shrubs and trees,” official said, adding that the agency had also put the completion of the repairs near the Lajpat Nagar flyover on a priority.”

₹1,100 toll for one-way trip on Mumbai-Nagpur eway

The toll for a light vehicle (car) for a one-way trip down the Rs 55,000-crore Samruddhi corridor connecting Nagpur and Mumbai will be around Rs1,100, said Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation joint managing director Anilkumar Gaikwad, on Friday.

Public works minister Eknath Shinde also announced that the revised deadline for the stretch from Nagpur to Shirdi is now December 2021, and for up to Thane it is December 2022. He ruled out cost escalation due to delay in completion of the eight-lane project.

Gaikwad said, “Toll will be as per guidelines issued by central government in 2008. Light vehicles will be charged Rs1.65 per km. Toll will be for exact km used on expressway. Toll for heavy vehicles will be thrice the rate for light vehicles.”

Gaikwad said 40% labourers left work due to Covid-19. “Now, everything has been streamlined; 35,000 are working and 5,500 machines are engaged,” he said.

Shinde said work of three-four of 20 nodes (townships) has been started. “The project is very important and will be a game-changer for the state. It will encourage industries and other sectors to come to Vidarbha and Marathwada. Sectors like textile, tourism, IT and agriculture will be boosted by developing 20 nodes,” he said.

Shinde said there will be no comprise on quality. “We are developing the project so that vehicles will operate at a speed of 150km per hour. Travel timing from Nagpur to Mumbai will be reduced from15 hours to 6-7 hours.


TN, MP, Gujarat: Smart-city toppers

In the six years since the Smart Cities Mission was launched to redevelop 100 cities across the country, just about 47% of projects have been completed, a new study by the thinktank Observer Research Foundation said.

“The progress of the Mission has been best in the states of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat,” the report said. “Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, and Surat and Rajkot in Gujarat figure repeatedly among the best performers on different criteria.”

Delhi and Nagaland have completed over 70% of their projects while seven other states have finished 50-60% — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, MP, Goa, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.

Among cities, New Delhi has the highest percentage of completed projects, followed by Chennai, Indore, Surat and Coimbatore. Rajkot utilised its funds best, followed by Indore, Ujjain, Bhopal and New Town Kolkata. At the bottom of the list project completion, among cities, are Puducherry, Amaravati, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Shillong. Not one project has been completed in these. Among states, Meghalaya has not completed a single project.

Why the disparity? “No doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has impeded progress, but there are also various administrative and financial reasons for the underperformance,” the report said. “In some cities, the SPVs (special purpose vehicles) set up to implement the Mission are not functioning well due to inadequate managerial, technical, and financial capabilities. Deficiencies were observed in data handling and its analysis, levels of digitalisation, fund mobilisation, release, and utilisation.”

What works, the researcher for the study said, are involvement of private partners and effective implementation. “The slow pace of work in most cities is due to gaps in resource mobilisation. While the Centre and state governments are funding these projects, private investment plays a key role in developing such expensive projects. There is a great need to make sure private partners get on board,” said Rumi Aijaz, senior fellow at ORF who put the study together.

Namma Metro: India, ADB sign $500m loan

The Union government and Asian Development Bank signed a $500 million loan for the 56km Outer Ring Road-Kempegowda International Airport corridor.

“An additional $2 million technical assistance grant from ADB will help the state government formulate urban development plans and their implementing frameworks, focusing on transit oriented development and multimodal integration. The grant will also be used to strengthen capacity of BMRCL and other state agencies to implement these initiatives,” ADB said in a note.

The new Metro lines (Central Silk Board-KR Puram-KIA) will strengthen safe, affordable and green mobility, and improve quality of life, said Rajat Kumar Mishra, additional secretary, department of economic affairs, who signed for India. BMRCL officials said they have completed financial arrangement for the ORR-KIA project. 


India’s 7-day avg of Covid cases falls below 35,000

Despite spikes in infections in some pockets of the country, daily cases of Covid-19 in India have gradually but steadily declined through August so far.

The seven-day rolling average of daily cases in the country fell below 35,000 on Wednesday for the first time in nearly five months. The seven-day average stood at 34,965 on Wednesday, down from 40,832 on August 1. The last time the average was below the 35,000 mark was on March 20 this year (34,284). India recorded 36,500 fresh cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, a rise from 35,134 reported the previous day but significantly below last Wednesday's count of 41,649.

For the second straight day, Kerala's daily tally remained over 21,000. The state reported 21,427 new cases, accounting for 59% of all cases detected in the country on Wednesday. The test positivity rate in Kerala was higher than 15% for the second day running.

In Maharashtra too daily case detections and deaths showed an upward tick on Wednesday. After reporting under-4,500 cases for the last two days, the state listed 5,132 cases and 158 deaths, including five in Mumbai. The city added 285 patients testing positive for Covid as against 196 on Tuesday.

India reported 524 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, the highest daily toll in six days as Maharashtra and Kerala (179) recorded more fatalities than in the last few days. Odisha reported 65 deaths, Tamil Nadu 31, Karnataka 22, and Andhra Pradesh and Assam 15 each.

Chennai: Work begins on 1.5km ECR-OMR link road

The Tamil Nadu highways department has finally started construction of the much-awaited road linking Old Mahabalipuram Road and East Coast Road  at Thoraipakkam junction. The project with an estimated cost of ₹204 crore was sanctioned in 2014.

The 1.45-km stretch is aimed at reducing traffic congestion along the IT corridor. It will connect Neelankarai directly with Thoraipakkam.

Existing link roads are at least 10km apart. Vehicles travelling along OMR primarily use Lattice Bridge Road to reach ECR via Thiruvanmiyur. Since this is a narrow stretch, traffic snarls are inevitable, particularly during peak hours. The other option is at Sholinganallur junction. Interior roads don’t support twoway vehicular traffic. However, bikers use them to avoid traffic jams along the main roads. This led to frequent roadblocks even in residential areas along these interior roads.

So, ECR-bound vehicles, particularly four-wheelers, are forced to take a detour along OMR, wait for longer hours at traffic signals in Thoraipakkam and Sholinganallur junctions to move towards ECR. More importantly, motorists must pay a toll at the existing link road near Sholinganallur. Each car has to pay ₹30 for crossing the toll, which is maintained by IT Expressway Limited.  On average, 30,000 vehicles cross this toll every day. It was over a lakh during pre-Covid times.

The new link-road, adjacent to Okkiyam-Thoraipakkam Panchayat Union School, is equidistant between Sholinganallur and Thiruvanmiyur. “We have taken up construction works in two phases,” said a highways department official. Work is ongoing at the 760m-stretch from Thoraipakkam to Buckingham Canal now. In the second phase, a road on the other side of the canal near Neelankarai and a bridge (over the canal) will be constructed. At Thoraipakkam junction, Tamil Nadu Road Development Corporation has proposed to construct a rotary-type flyover. One arm of this flyover will connect the new link road with Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam Radial Road. This allows vehicles to travel between Neelankarai and Airport (via Radial Road and GST Road) in less than 30-45 minutes, the official added.

G Satish, a resident-activist from OMR, said the new link road project will improve traffic conditions. “We have been requesting for a similar link road between Sholinganallur and Kelambakkam along OMR. We hope the government sanctions funds for that too,” he said.

Traffic e-challans will be sent to offenders within 15 days

Traffic enforcement agencies across the states will have to send the challans to offenders within 15 days of recording any offence electronically. Moreover, the state government and agencies concerned must ensure notifying the commuters about the installation of CCTV cameras, speed detection cameras or any such device for recording traffic norm violations, according to the new set of rules notified by the road transport ministry under the amended Motor Vehicle Act. The rules specify that the agencies concerned must ensure that appropriate warning signs are conspicuously placed before the stretches that are monitored by electronic enforcement devices and they must ensure that physical markings, physical stop lines and pedestrian crossings are clearly marked on the road. Missing signage and physical markings are common across cities in India. These are pre-requisite for enforcement of traffic rules.

Ministry officials said one of the main objectives of the improved MV Act was to bring transparency in enforcement of traffic rules by using IT and CCTV camera recording.

To ensure that there is proper evidence to prove the offence, the rules have specified that the enforcement agency must store the footage till the disposal of challan and till the conclusion of proceedings initiated, including appeals.

The states have been encouraged to introduce body wearable cameras for enforcement personnel while managing the traffic or carrying out any enforcement drive. They will also have to notify the offenders that the entire episode is being recorded for use as evidence.

Speeding train kills elephant & calf in Uttarakhand

Two elephants – an adult female and its calf – were killed on the spot after being hit by the speeding Agra Fort Express, which was heading from Lalkuan to Ramnagar in Uttarakhand, on Wednesday. The incident took place in the Peepal Padav forest range of Terai East forest division about half a kilometre from Sidcul Halt railway station. Train services were disrupted for over two hours after other elephants of the herd came on the tracks. Two trains running from Kashipur to Bareilly and Kashipur to Kasganj were cancelled. Later in the afternoon, the forest and security personnel drove the herd back into the dense forest. Divisional forest officer of the Terai Central range, Abhilasha Singh, said the bodies of both the pachyderm were taken away and postmortem will be conducted. “The carcasses will be disposed of as per the norms,” Singh added.


SRA to embark on Mumbai slum survey

The Slum Rehabilitation Authority has been authorised by the state government to conduct a survey of all slums in Mumbai and Thane. As per a gazette notification issued last Thursday, the SRA will now appoint officers for various zones across the city to carry out the survey and issue eligibility certificates to slum dwellers for free housing.

A slum survey will be carried out afresh in Dharavi too, where the Dharavi Redevelopment Project has failed to take off in 17 years despite it being declared as a vital infrastructure project.

Satish Lokhande, chief executive officer, SRA, said bringing the survey of all slums under the ambit of the SRA will reduce delay. A comprehensive data map that will be available online will ensure there is no manipulation, he said. The SRA has written to electricity distribution companies to provide bills issued to hutment dwellers.

“We carried out GIS mapping of slum clusters in 2015. Now we have appointed four agencies that will go door-to-door, record every hut, every inhabitant of the hut, collect details of Aadhaar and voter ID cards. We shall link all these details for every hutment dweller — the location will be mapped through GIS, photographs of the dwellers, along with their various proofs, will all be put together and this will help us put data in one place, making it easy to issue annexure II,” he said.

Annexure II is an important document that lists the names of slum dwellers who are eligible for free housing. This is normally prepared by the collector’s office or the local BMC ward after a slum redevelopment scheme is announced. There have been allegations of massive corruption and manipulation in the preparation of the list.

Lokhande said that to avoid these conflicts, now on only the SRA will prepare annexure II for all slums and the data will be uploaded on an auto annexure for anyone to download. “Once the data is ready, we shall invite objections/suggestions from the public to correct any anomalies,” he said. The exercise will begin across the island city and suburbs simultaneously next month.

Shweta Tambe, director, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association, said GIS mapping was faulty to start with and door-to-door survey in Jogeshwari did not follow protocol. “The data collected is not retrievable and cannot be used. Slum dwellers cannot access the data. And what happens to already announced projects?” she asked.

As per the last survey, the habitable area of Greater Mumbai totals 34,000 acres. The habitable area excludes land under rivers, nullahs, mangroves, forests, parks, grounds and so on, according to a senior SRA official. Urban planners say the area under slums has not spread over the years since slums have seen a vertical growth.

Rising Concern: Sea levels

Indian coastal areas will face a sea level rise of 0.1 metre to 0.3 metre in the next two to three decades due to global warming, with Bhavnagar in Gujarat facing a rise of 0.22 metres that may submerge vast low-lying areas, a projection by Nasa has said.

The sea-level rise and its impact will be experienced in varying degrees in other coastal cities and ports such as Kochi, Mormugao, Mumbai, Mangaluru, Chennai, Vizag and Paradip during the period, shows an online visualisation tool of the US space agency using projections from the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It features 12 Indian cities, with Bhavnagar hit by 2040 followed by Kochi (0.15 m), Mormugao, Kandla and Okha (0.13m at each location) and Mumbai (0.12m) among coastal cities and towns in the present global greenhouse gas emission cut scenario from the current (1995-2014 baseline) level.

Bhavnagar, in fact, shows a higher rise than the global average, which points at a sea-level rise of 0.14 metre by 2040 and 0.2 metre by 2050 from the current level in the present emission cut scenario.

Interestingly, the tool shows a decline (0.05m) in sea level at Kidderpore (near Kolkata) by 2040 and this minor fall can be attributed to a shift in ocean water circulation and other climatological factors due to warming.

Even in the best-case scenario (net-zero emission by mid-2050), the extent and order of sea-level change remains more or less the same in these cities with a minor change in the level of rise by 2050 compared to 2040. The rise is higher in the long-term (by 2100) but it can be balanced if the world takes deep emission cuts beyond mid-century.

Information through Nasa’s online tool that assessed location-based projections can be used by policymakers in taking critical decisions about economic and public policy to protect local communities from the potentially devastating effects of sea-level rise in coastal areas. It will help in taking different adaptation measures, including setting up disaster-resilient infrastructure in coastal cities, taking in view the future sea-level rise scenarios. Nasa’s tool provides data till 2150 using different emission-cut scenarios on the map


Country’s First 5-Star Co-operative Resort

In a milestone for the over-a-century-old cooperative movement in Kerala, the country’s first five-star resort in the sector will start functioning near Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad on Tuesday. The formal inauguration is scheduled in January.

The soft launch of ₹100-crore Saptha Resort and Spa — spread across four acres and situated close to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary — will mark the foray of Kerala Land Reforms and Development Cooperative Society (Ladder) into the luxury hospitality sector.

It has 63 rooms, including four suite rooms, apart from facilities like a convention hall that can accommodate 500 guests, specialty restaurants, infinity pool, mini movie theatre and a gaming area. The three floor resort also has a business centre and two board rooms. “We forayed into the sector as tourism is the only dependable industry that Kerala can look forward to in the future. It offers the potential of marketing our nature, climate and destinations. We also want to give a message that nothing is impossible for the cooperative sector,” said C N Vijayakrishnan, its founder chairman. The resort also has a locational advantage of being close to the tri-junction of three states, with just 92km from Ooty and 115km from Mysore, he added.


Ola Electric Scooters Arrive

Ola Electric has marked its entry into the high-profile electric vehicle market with two models of scooters that the company said will be priced below that of rivals but offer higher range and better performance when it becomes available to consumers in October.

The company, which will compete with the likes of EV scooter maker Ather Energy as well as Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors, aims to boost production capacity at its manufacturing plant in the state of Tamil Nadu to one million scooters very soon. The company claims to have received over one lakh pre-bookings in the first 24 hours of it being made open to the public.

Bhavish Aggarwal, founder and CEO at ANI Technologies, the parent company of both ride hailing firm Ola and EV maker Ola Electric, said the company is seeing “demand for this vehicle from everywhere, and obviously from the bigger cities as well, as scooters are an urban mobility product.” “The S1 and S1 Pro are industry leading products with best-in-class range, speed and cost,” he added.

With a starting price of ₹99,999 — including subsidies under the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicle scheme but omits state-level subsidies — the scooter will also be available in a pro version priced at ₹1,29,999. It will be open for purchase from September across1,000 cities and towns. Ola has said its scooters will also be more affordable than even its petrol powered rivals in some places after accounting for state subsidies for EVs.

Ola’s top offering — S1 Pro — will have a 3.97 kilowatt-hour battery pack that is rated to last for a range of 181 kilometres with a top speed of 115 kilometres per hour.

Aggarwal said buyers can expect 85% of that range in real-world conditions, while claiming that this was still twice as much as what competitors in the market were offering today.

The lower-priced S1 gets a smaller 2.98 KwH battery pack, which is still larger than that offered in the Ather 450X, Bajaj Chetak or TVS iQube scooters. It provides a range of 121 kilometres, while its top speed will be restricted to 90 km/h.

Both models are powered by a 8.5 kilowatts peak power that can propel the scooters from 0-40 km/h in about 3.6 seconds.

Ola will also roll out an at-home service network in every city where it sells its EVs. It claims riders can expect a 40% lower total cost of ownership for its EVs over a period of five years, when compared to the cost of owning a petrol-powered scooter, with an average daily travel of 20 kilometres.

Ola has also been aggressive in its stance that there should be no reduction in import duties for EVs — a demand being made by global EV giant Tesla and Korean auto major Hyundai — as it will hurt the development of India’s own EV manufacturing plans.

Aggarwal said that India should plan to switch to 100% electric two wheelers by 2025. “The market is ready, the consumer is ready, it’s just that the companies are not ready” when it comes to offering EVs, he added.

Economy at $5tn will double our per capita income: Puri

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the per capita income of Indians will double when the economy grows to $5 trillion. The Narendra Modi government has set the 2025 target to achieve this goal. Speaking at the Times Now “Freedom Summit”, Puri said, “You know we were a $2.9 trillion economy pre-Covid, but our per capita incomes are low. When you move to a $5 trillion economy, per capita income will double, if not go higher.”

He added that the economic policies that the Modi government has unleashed will make India a $5 trillion economy in the next four years and a $10 trillion economy by 2030.

On the government’s focus on Atmanirbhar Bharat, Puri said the young generation did not go through the earlier developmental pangs. “But today Atmanirbharta is not something that should be looked at as inward looking. There is one thing that we learnt in the last two years, and may be even in the period earlier, that in order to be able to stand on your own feet, you must have your own entrepreneurial spirits unleashed. You must have your own production processes operational.

Gati Shakti

The Centre will soon unveil a Rs 100 lakh crore PM Gati Shakti, a national master plan to develop infrastructure in the country and create new jobs for the youth and help make the country’s manufacturing sector globally competitive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day speech on Sunday.

“Along with modern infrastructure, there is a great need for adopting a holistic and integrated approach in infrastructure construction. Gati Shakti will be a National Infrastructure Master Plan for our country which will lay the foundation of holistic infrastructure and will lead to an integrated and holistic pathway to our economy,” the prime minister said.

He said right now, there is no coordination between various means of transport and Gati Shakti will break the silos, and will remove all these obstacles.

“This will reduce the travel time for the common man and the productivity of our industry will also increase. Gati Shakti will also go a long way in making our local manufacturers globally competitive and this will also develop new possibilities for the creation of future economic zones. In this decade, the power of speed will form the basis of India’s transformation.” said Modi.

The government has been focussing on developing manufacturing in the country and has worked out several plans to improve logistics and make products produced in India competitive. “India will have to increase both its manufacturing and exports while moving ahead on the path of development. Treading ahead on the path of development, India will have to augment both its manufacturing and exports,” said the PM He cited the example of the launch of the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant for trial in the sea. “Today India is making its own indigenous fighter aircraft, its own submarine. Gaganyaan is also slated to hoist India’s flag in space. This itself is evidence of our immense capabilities in indigenous manufacturing,” said Modi.


August 14 to be Partition Horrors Remembrance Day :PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said August 14 will henceforth be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, in memory of the “struggles and sacrifices” of thousands of people who had lost their lives during the country’s partition in 1947.

The eve of India’s Independence Day should remind Indians of the need to remove disharmony and social divisions, Modi said.

In a series of tweets, the Prime Minister said, “Partition’s pains can never be forgotten. Millions of our sisters and brothers were displaced and many lost their lives due to mindless hate and violence. In memory of the struggles and sacrifices of our people, 14th August will be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.”

The bitter partition had resulted in killings on both sides, prompted by communal clashes.

“May the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day keep reminding us of the need to remove the poison of social divisions, disharmony and further strengthen the spirit of oneness, social harmony and human empowerment,” he said.

China most distrusted nation : Indian Youth Survey

Covid-19 pandemic, terrorism, cyber-security and the Ladakh stand-off with China are the top foreign policy concerns of the Indian youth, shows a new survey.

The survey of the urban Indian youth by Observer Research Foundation finds that while the government’s decision on the Quad, China and Pakistan find huge support, there is a big thumbs down for the decision to walk away from RCEP.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla is expected to release the report on Independence Day. India may be a predominantly young country, and a rising international power, but has rarely captured the views of its youth on foreign policy issues. By and large, the respondents agreed with the Modi government’s foreign policy actions. But an overwhelming 80% believe the top foreign policy priority for India should be to strengthen its economy.

Other priorities are to fight against terrorism, build ties with the US, resolve disputes with India’s neighbours (not China or Pakistan).

Interestingly, nearly half of the youth surveyed are concerned about tackling climate change, something that would have been nothing more than a nerdy interest about a decade ago. Border conflicts with China occupy greater mind space (52%) than border conflicts with Pakistan (49%), an indicator of changing security perceptions.

Curiously, the respondents consider Sri Lanka as India’s most “trusted” neighbour (68%) — counter-intuitive, since Chinese challenge in the neighbourhood came via Sri Lanka besides also the Tamil question which has marked Indo-Lanka ties. Bhutan, India’s staunchest ally, came a lowly third, even lower than Nepal, which is surprising. Pakistan comes at the bottom with 10 per cent trust ratings.

The government’s decision to ban Chinese mobile Apps received an 86 per cent endorsement, Balakot air strike about 68 percent, almost the same as the Quad (64%).

Right up at the top after the Chinese Apps is “control illegal immigration”. It’s clearly an issue close to the hearts of young Indians, and could influence political choices.

Over 77 per cent of the respondents rated the US as the most trusted leading global power. The US was followed by Australia, Russia, Japan, France, UK and the European Union. The country that the respondents distrusted the most (77 percent) is China. Who will partner India in the years ahead? They said Quad, Russia and Europe, in that order.

China is causing as much concern among the young Indians as among governments. The survey said that it found 62 percent of respondents were of the view that India should abandon non-alignment in case of rising US-China tensions and ally with the US. The respondents expressed concern not only about China interfering in India’s neighbourhood, but also about its military and economic superiority. They also expressed fears of a breakout of war.

While those surveyed had definite views about India’s permanent membership of the UNSC, and were familiar with the World Trade Organisation, a surprising two-thirds had not heard of the Non Aligned Movement. India was one of the founders of this movement in the 20th century.

The study observes, “There is low awareness about more recent platforms and forums, such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Group of 20 (G20) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).”