Congress will end up making Modi very powerful: Mamata

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be very powerful because of the Congress’ inability to decide on aligning with regional parties, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, adding that apart from Tripura, Goa and Meghalaya, contesting in Uttar Pradesh was also on the party’s radar.

“Modiji is going to be so powerful because of Congress. If one cannot take a decision why will the country suffer for that? They have got enough opportunities. Instead of BJP they contested against me in my state.

“How they expect that they will contest me and we will only give flowers to them? And sweets to them? I want to see that all regional parties are strong. We are a union of states and the federal structure should be strong. If the state is strong the centre is strong. Delhi’s dadagiri will not do,” she said.

Banerjee said that she would not like the opposition votes to be divided, but added wherever political opportunity arose, she would grab hold of it.

“In UP also we are there (former UP Congress vice president Lalitesh Pati Tripathi) and his son and grandson have also joined the party and (from) Punjab they have sent me a letter, but wherever possible, Tripura we have started, northeast in a few parts. Uttar Pradesh also we have the target, Meghalaya also. And Goa,” Banerjee said.

Commenting on the footprint of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in various states other than Delhi, Banerjee said: “What do you think that only Arvind Kejriwal will contest everywhere in this country and no other political party. I love him, I have no problem for that.Asked about her intention of being projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2024 polls, Banerjee said: “There are some politicians in this country who are proud to say that they are VIP (very important person) and I would like to say I am LIP, less important person. Let us continue as a street fighter.”


Bullet train snippets

National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd has not been able to begin work for the underground terminal station for Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train project as it has not been able to get the possession of the land in Bandra-Kurla Complex even though more than three years have passed since state government approved the site for the project.

The land pocket of 4.2 Ha at BKC was allotted by state government on February 26, 2018 to NHSRCL, with the condition that the feasibility of International Finance and Service Centre should not be compromised. The state government also insisted that the cost of land shall be adjusted against the equity contribution of Maharashtra state government.

A source said, “NHSRCL has requested MMRDA to hand over the BKC land since September 2020 but there is no progress.” A railway board official said “NHSRCL designed the BKC station as integrated structure (Underground Station with IFSC structure above it) to take load of 60 m high building above it. The tender for BKC station was proposed to be floated in November 2018. Later on, MMRDA informed to raise the height of IFSC building to 95 M(AMSL), which required change in design.” The tender of the BKC station was finally issued on November 20, 2019 with the date of submission as 1 March 19, 2020. Due to pandemic and non-availability of revised design the date of opening was extended on several occasion between May 12, 2020 to August 31, 2020.

A senior official said, “NHSRCL couldn’t open the tender since the land is not handed over by MMRDA. NHSRCL has not choice but to repeatedly reschedule the opening date of tender The next date of opening of tender is now on December 7, 2021.” Also, there is a petrol pump belonging to BPCL, which also needs to be shifted for construction of this terminal. A meeting was held on April 24, 2018 with MMRDA and the matter regarding shifting of Existing BPCL’s Retail outlet from BKC and also arrangement of Alternate land to BPCL has discussed. After joint inspection on alternate land was allotted to BPCL on July 12, 2019.

An official said, “We deposited the money too on the basis of the estimates provided by BPCL for relocation on October 4,2019. However, the petrol pump could not be shifted, as MMRDA has built temporary Covid-19 hospital in the allotted land.

The National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited has finally invited bids for the 21km long tunnelling work including 7km undersea tunnel. This is the second such tender in Maharashtra after Bandra Kurla station. Only Indian and Japanese companies can participate in the bidding process. The tunnel will be single-tube twin track tunnel with a 13.1m diameter. Total length of the tunnel is 20.37km including 7km under sea. The tunnel will cross Thane Creek and the survey works under the creek was done by underwater static refraction technique, said railways officials, who added that the depth of the tunnel will vary from 25m to 40m.

The NHSRCL is yet to acquire 22.32% of the total 1,396 hectares to be acquired for the project. Railways officials said that while the process for pillar work was already issued in Gujarat, this was the first tender in Maharashtra for the corridor and would facilitate the train operation. “We have invited the bids for tunnelling work of 21km underground including 7km undersea tunnel using Tunnel Boring Machine and New Austrian Tunnelling Method. The tunnel will be between Mumbai underground station at Bandra-Kurla Complex and Shilphata in the State of Maharashtra. said an official.

He added that land acquisition was 97% over in Gujarat while it was stuck at just 33% in Maharashtra. However, talks are on with the Maharashtra government to ensure that the work was completed in time.

The senior railways official said that work for the elevated corridor has begun and all tenders including those for the construction of stations have also been issued.

Of the 20.37km, 15.42km of tunnelling will be carried out with three tunnel boring machines and the remaining 4.96 km will be carried out using the NATM method.

September: Core Sector Industries’ Output Grows at 7-Month Low

India’s infrastructure industries grew at a seven-month low as growth in most industries eased with economists expecting semiconductor shortages to impact industrial growth.

Core sector rose 4.4% in September against 11.5% in August and 0.6% in the year-ago period. It contracted 5% month-on-month against a decline of 1% in August.

Growth slowed in five of the eight infrastructure sectors.

The Index of Core Industries measures the output of eight infrastructure sectors: coal, steel, cement, fertiliser, electricity, natural gas, refinery products and crude oil. Six of these sectors — coal (8.1%), refinery products (6%), steel (3%), cement (10.8%) and electricity (0.3%) — posted lower growth in September, while output in natural gas (27.5%) and fertiliser (0.02%%) rose. Crude oil output shrank at a lower pace of 1.7% from a year earlier.

As per Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE Ratings, the surprise factor here is coal, which registered high growth of 8.1% on top of 21% last year, which means that the shortage that was witnessed in October was more due to inventory management rather than production.

Six month growth rate has been 11.7% for coal. “Power growth was just 0.3% reflecting the inventory management on coal. This would also mean that there was relatively less industrial activity,” he said.

Maharashtra: Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2019

From next week, bikers not wearing helmets and those in car without wearing seatbelt are likely to be fined Rs 1,000. Such errant bikers may also face the risk of losing their licence for three months.

The state government cleared the decks for a hefty increase in fines for traffic offences as per the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2019. It will be notified by Monday, an official said.

For drink driving, the penalty will be decided by court after prosecution, sources said. The new MV Act provides for maximum 6 months in jail and/or Rs 10,000 fine for first offence, while it is maximum 2 years jail and /or Rs 15,000 fine for a second offence.

We decided to reduce fines under certain sections that we felt were hefty,” transport minister Anil Parab said. He added that the state government decided to implement revised fines to bring in road discipline and reduce accidents.

The state government had deferred implementation of the MV Act 2019. The transport department, headed by Shiv Sena and even in the previous Sena-BJP government was not keen on implementing the new fines, and had called them ‘steep’ and demanded the Centre review them. Senior officials said the issue was under discussion and the state government reduced the amount under certain offences.

Sources said some fines proposed could be Rs.1,000 for fancy number plates, for vehicles with no reflector/tail lamps, for riding two-wheeler without helmet, for not wearing seatbelt, for speeding bikes and for driving without permits, and Rs.2,000 for speeding cars and for overloading.

An official said, “The final notification is likely on Monday when actual fines and punishment will be made public.” A senior transport official said, “Hefty fines will act as a major deterrent for offenders and will reduce crashes in the state.” The state has witnessed 12,000-13,000 fatalities on an average every year and the transport department wants to reduce this with Mission Zero Fatality.

A member of Mumbai Mobility Forum said several bike riders need to be disciplined and there was an urgent need for stringent enforcement against those not wearing helmets, riding triple seat, speeding and lane-cutting.

In January, state transport minister Anil Parab had said the state will procure 75 interceptor vehicles with speed guns that will be used by the RTO or police flying squads to nab speedsters in the Act.

RBI guv Das gets 2nd term

The Centre has reappointed Shaktikanta Das, Reserve Bank of India’s governor since December 2018, for another three-year term to ensure continuity in policy direction as Asia’s third-biggest economy seeks to consolidate a fledgling recovery from pandemic-induced shrinkage.

The decision to reappoint Das, 64, was announced late Thursday after the proposal was approved by the appointments committee of the Cabinet.

Das now has the task of acclimatising the broader economy with normal liquidity flows after it had become used to surplus funds spawned by an accommodative monetary policy. Under Das, RBI prioritised economic growth over immediate inflation management in the aftermath of the pandemic by slashing interest rates and unveiling a generous bond-buying programme — measures in lockstep with those taken by central banks in major industrial economies.

“Under Governor Das, the central bank has done the heavy lifting to support the economy through the Covid crisis, with fiscal policy playing a supportive role,” Barclays said in a note. “We also view the governor’s reappointment as a vote of confidence in the RBI’s policy stance.”

Das’ policy-making will be tested again when central banks in the developed economies, including the US Federal Reserve, start raising rates, putting the rupee under pressure. The rise in global commodity prices, including that of crude oil, would also have an inflationary impact in India, raising the difficulty quotient in policymaking. Das would also have to take a call on the longevity of the current accommodative stance in such a commodity pricing environment, said a senior economist who worked with the RBI. To be sure, India's retail inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) eased to a five-month low of 4.35% in September from 5.3% in August as food inflation declined sharply. The index of industrial production for August surged 11.9%.

“We are reaching the shore after sailing through a very turbulent journey, and we cannot afford to rock the boat at this crucial stage. We must ensure that we reach safely to begin the journey beyond the shore,” Das had said at the last monetary policy committee meeting. “In parallel, we remain laser focused to bring back the CPI inflation to 4% over a period of time in a non-disruptive manner.” The central bank believes the Indian economy would expand at 9.5% in FY22—the highest among major economies—after contracting 7.3% last year. Mint Road would now need to check the potential rise in prices as the pace of economic expansion quickens.

“It is felt that continued monetary support is necessary as the economic recovery process—even now—is delicately poised and growth is yet to take firmer roots,” Das had said. Das was economic affairs secretary when Prime Minister Modi had announced the currency-swap programme in November 2016. He took charge as the 25th RBI governor on December 12, 2018, barely a day after his predecessor Patel exited amid a debate over central bank autonomy.

Indigenous long-range bomb’s test successful

An indigenously developed long-range bomb was successfully flight-tested from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet by DRDO and IAF on Friday. While DRDO did not specify the LRB’s exact range, this class of weapon is designed to hit targets around 100 km away.

“The LRB, after release from the fighter, was guided to a land-based target at a long range with accuracy within specified limits. All the mission objectives were successfully met,” said a DRDO official. “The flight of the bomb and the performance was monitored by a number of range sensors including electro-optical tracking systems, telemetry and radar deployed by the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha,” he added.

The LRB has been designed and developed by the Research Centre Imarat, a DRDO laboratory at Hyderabad in coordination with other laboratories.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO, IAF and other teams associated with LRB’s successful flight trial, stating that it will prove to be a force-multiplier for the Indian armed forces. DRDO chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy said the flight-test marked an important milestone in indigenous development of this class of systems.


MMR: Public transport will need ₹5L cr upgrade over 20 years

The Comprehensive Transport Study -2 for the period up to 2041 has envisaged investments worth Rs 5.01lakh crore over a period of 20 years to upgrade infrastructure and transportation network in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

MMR is spread across 6,355 sq km of area. It includes Mumbai and partial districts of Thane, Palghar and Raigadh having a population of 2.5 crore.

The final report on “CTS-2 for Mumbai Metropolitan Region” which was released by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday will guide all Municipal Corporations, Councils, CIDCO, MRVC, JNPT and MBPT, among others, for the next 20 years on infrastructure development, institutional growth and resource mobilisation.

Metropolitan commissioner SVR Srinivas said, “MMR will require Rs 5.01 lakh crore over a period of 20 years for various infrastructure projects like Metros, dedicated bus lanes and cycling lanes, etc. The purpose of this study is to give push to public tranport.”

It is estimated that the money will be raised by levying development charges to residential, commercial and industrial units, besides monetising the land. The money needed for operations and maintenance of assets can be raised by taxes, cess advertising, etc.

The updation of CTS for the MMR outlines the transportation strategies and guidance necessary to attain the vision under long-term (2041), medium-term (2031) and short-term (2026) scenarios.

“The future transportation envisages a seamless, integrated system that would facilitate commuters to travel across the region without major inconvenience using various modes of transport. The use of public transit has been emphasised to enhance mobility, accessibility and reduction of the carbon footprint,” said Srinivas.

The plan aims to improve share of those using public transport to 75.4 percent from 65.3 percent recorded in 2017.

While releasing the report, Thackeray said, “Today, the percentage of people taking public transport has reduced. One reason could be Covid-19 related lockdown. But it will increase only when we give a clean and neat public transport system to the people. However, we should not kill environment while going for development.”

Urban development minister Eknath Shinde said, “Every year, MMR experiences changes in our region’s dynamics with increase in the population. The CTS-2 highlights how transport system for the next 20 years will evolve.”


Centre Appoints KV Kamath as NaBFID Chairman

The Centre appointed veteran banker KV Kamath as chairperson of the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development, a development financial institution that’s being set up.

In his last role, Kamath served as president of the Shanghai-based New Development Bank founded by the BRICS nations in 2014. He’s been chairman of ICICI Bank and Infosys and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan.

“The central government has appointed KV Kamath to the post of chairperson, National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development, a newly set up DFI in India,” the Department of Financial Services, part of the finance ministry, said in a tweet on Wednesday.

NaBFID will be set up with a corpus of ₹20,000 crore and an initial grant of ₹5,000 crore from the government. Earlier this year, Parliament approved its establishment to support the development of long-term non-recourse infrastructure financing in India, including development of the bonds and derivatives markets necessary for infrastructure financing. The government’s stake will not go below 26% in the proposed state-owned entity, which will be headquartered in Mumbai.

The institution seeks to address market failures that stem from the long-term, low-margin and risky nature of infrastructure financing, the government has stated. Longterm infrastructure financing has been a fundamental source of asset-liability mismatch on the balance sheets of the banks, raising systemic concerns.

This DFI will help fund about 7,000 infrastructure projects in the National Infrastructure Pipeline, which envisages an investment of ₹111 lakh crore by 2024-25. The DFI will enjoy a 10-year tax concession so that it can provide long-term funds at affordable cost to the infrastructure sector.

Modi calls for free and open Indo-Pacific

Participating in the 16th East Asia Summit, which saw discussions on Indo-Pacific, South China Sea, UNCLOS and terrorism, PM Narendra Modi underlined the significance of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

While reiterating the principle of Asean centrality in the region in his virtual address, Modi said India remained committed to strengthening “respect for shared values of multilateralism, rules-based international order, international law and sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations”.

The summit saw participation by a US President for the first time since 2017 with President Joe Biden reiterating the US commitment to the international rules-based order and expressing concern over threats to that order. Japanese PM Fumio Kishida expressed reservations over China's conduct in East and South China Sea and also raised issues related to human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Both leaders were also said to have expressed concerns over the situation in Taiwan Strait because of China's “coercive action”.

According to sources, Modi emphasised on the importance of a resilient global value chain and also reiterated India's commitment to deliver Quad-sponsored vaccines to Indo-Pacific countries. “PM recalled India’s support of $1 million to Asean Covid-19 Recovery Fund and raised the idea of developing global standards on cyber security,” said a source.

The 16th East Asia Summit was hosted by Brunei as Chair. It saw the participation of leaders from Asean countries and other EAS countries including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, USA and India. This was Prime Minister’s 7th East Asia Summit, recalled the government in a statement.

“In his remarks at the Summit, Prime Minister reaffirmed the importance of EAS as the premier leaders-led forum in Indo-Pacific, bringing together nations to discuss important strategic issues. Prime Minister highlighted India’s efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic through vaccines and medical supplies. Prime Minister also spoke about “Atmanirbhar Bharat” campaign for post-pandemic recovery and in ensuring resilient global value chains,” said the government.

Modi also called for a better balance between economy and ecology and climate sustainable lifestyle.

Pune: PMC floats riverfront work tenders

The civic body floated tenders worth Rs360 crore for the first phase of the riverfront development project that was opposed by environmentalists and civic activists on the grounds of cost escalataion and prossible environmental hazards.

The Pune Municipal Corporation’s initiative is designed on the lines of the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project. The activists had claimed that the project might increase the chances of environmental hazards. They had also claimed that the civic body increased the project cost from Rs.2,300 crore to Rs.4,200 crore without proper public consultation.

As per the tenders, the first phase will be carried out from Sangam Ghat to Bund Garden. Works in the first phase of the project will include beautification of the banks of the river, Naik island and the cycle tracks.

A total of 44km stretch of Mula and Mutha rivers will be developed as part of the initiative. Out of that, over 32km will be developed in the first four stretches and the rest will be a part of the subsequent seven stages of the project.

“The collection of tenders will start from October 29 (Friday). The civic body has given time till November 13 for submitting the bids,” said Yuvraj Deshmukh, superintending engineer (projects) of the PMC.

The standing committee of the PMC had earlier this month given its nod to start the project. The general body had also unanimously approved the proposal.

“The politicians have approved the project in a hurry. The problems of flooding and the issues related to blue and red lines have been ignored. This will affect the citizens, particularly those living near the river banks,” said Vivek Velankar of the Sajag Nagrik Manch.

As per the data of the designers, 62 hectares of free land will be available for the development of the project which will be used for developing public amenities. Gardens and playgrounds are planned in these areas. Of the total areas to be developed, 79% will be a part of the green initiative and 21% will be related to engineering works.

Acko : 34th Indian unicorn in 2021

New age insurer Acko has become the 34th unicorn (valued at over $1 billion) this year following the close of its series-D round of $255 million, which values the company at $1.1 billion. The current round was led by General Atlantic and also included participation from Canada’s largest pension fund CPPIB and Lightspeed Growth as well as existing investors Intact Ventures and Munich Re Ventures.

Acko’s total funds raised till now stand at $450 million. Previously, the insurer had raised capital from Amazon, Accel, Elevation, Ascent Capital, Intact Ventures, Munich Re Ventures and Flipkart’s co-founder Binny Bansal, among others.

“We were keen on investors who run regulated businesses or are partners to companies that run regulated businesses. Both General Atlantic and Canada Pension have investment in regulated financial services,” said Acko founder & CEO Varun Dua. “A big part of this investment will go into scaling our health insurance vertical. Almost half of the capital might end up focusing on the health insurance side.”

Acko has the largest market share in embedded insurance products like mobility & gadget insurance across large digital consumer platforms like Amazon, MakeMyTrip, Ola, Urban Company and Bajaj Finance.

India tests Agni-V

In a strong strategic signal to China amidst the continuing 17-month military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, India tested its most formidable missile, the over 5,000-km range Agni-V.

The “successful test” of the Agni-V, which brings even the northernmost part of China within its strike envelope, is in line with India’s stated policy to have “credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no first-use”, said the defence ministry.

“The missile, which uses a three-stage solid fuelled engine, is capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 km with a very high degree of accuracy. It was tested for its entire range. The launch went off very well,” said an official. The test was significant on two counts. One, it was the first “user-launch” of the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile by the tri-Services Strategic Forces Command after its induction into the armed forces. Two, this is the first time the missile, which has been tested seven times earlier, was launched during night.

On Wednesday, the missile with a 1.5-tonne warhead was launched from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island, off the Odisha coast, at about 7.50 pm. Flying at 24 times the speed of sound, the missile’s trajectory and flight parameters were constantly monitored by radars, electrooptical tracking systems, telemetry stations and ships before it splashed down in the Bay of Bengal, said the official.

DRDO is also working to develop `multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles' for the Agni missiles but it will take at least another two years for the multiple-warhead capability to be tested.

An MIRV payload basically involves a single missile carrying four to six nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit a separate target.

The existing single-warhead Agni-V in itself adds teeth to the deterrence posture against China, which has missiles like the Dong Feng-41 (12,000-15,000-km) that can hit any Indian city. China has also recently gone in for a huge expansion in new missile silo fields for launching nuclear-tipped ICBMs. As per the latest assessment of the Stockholm International Peace Institute, China now possesses 350 nuclear warheads and Pakistan 165, as compared to 156 of India.


Government, Tatas ink share purchase pact for AI sale

The government has signed the share purchase agreement with Tata Group for Air India’s divestment, sticking to the timelines that aim at transferring the airline to its new owner by the end of this fiscal. The Rs 18,000-crore deal, which will require Tatas paying Rs 2,700 crore upfront and taking over a debt of Rs 15,300 crore, will now enter its most crucial phase of meeting vital “conditions precedent”. The government will retain Rs 44,679 crore of AI’s debt in an SPV which will be paid off gradually by monetising its non-aviation assets like land and buildings.

In the CP phase, clearances will be sought from regulatory agencies, including Competition Commission of India, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, lessors, lenders and other third-party vendors. “The tricky part usually is CCI but with Tata Group’s four airlines’ combined domestic or international share being nowhere near 50%, that will not be an issue in this case. Similarly, there are doubts that the substantial ownership and effect control of AI-Tata is with Indians,” say people in the know.

Once CP requirements are met, the closing balance sheet on date of CP completion will be prepared. A transition management will be put in place with representatives from Bombay House. Unless there is difference of views between the outgoing and incoming owners, the Tatas will then pay Rs 2,700 crore consideration and take over control.

The new owner currently has Vistara with Boeing 787s, B737s and A320s in its fleet and AirAsia India with A320s. AI and AI Express will soon join the group. “Till the Tatas decide on what model they adopt — one mega airline by merging all four or a low-cost arm by merging AI Express and AirAsia India and a full service one with AI plus Vistara — they can continue operating aircraft on the existing air operator permit (AOP - the licence) of the different types. Once they decide the model, one airline or two, they will need another AOP/s accordingly that is issued after due diligence,” said senior officials.

Will talk to Kashmiris not Pakistan: Shah

Union home minister Amit Shah said that for peace he will talk to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and not to Pakistan. Addressing a youth rally at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Amit Shah lashed out at former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.

“Dr Farooq Sahib has suggested that we should talk to Pakistan. Let me clarify, if we will talk, we will talk to people of Jammu and Kashmir and its youth only, no one else. Today, I am speaking my heart. I was posed a series of questions. Today, I am speaking without a bullet proof shield,” Shah told the gathering wearing a traditional Kashmiri tweed over-garment called ‘Pheran’.

He said no one will be allowed to disrupt the development and peace journey of the Valley.

“Why Dr Farooq and Mehbooba failed to do what BJP did in just two years. I am often asked by some people why curfew was imposed in Kashmir and why the Internet was snapped. Let me answer today. This was done to protect and save the lives of our youth. We didn’t want vested interests and anti-peace elements to exploit the situation and push our youth on roads to face bullets,” he said. “This step was taken to save the lives of Kashmiri youth.”

He said so far 40,000 people, including security forces personnel, militants and civilians in J&K have been killed in violence.

“It is time to come out of this bloodshed and march towards a new journey of peace, development and prosperity. I promise, J&K will get what it deserves by 2024,” he said.

Lashing out at the NC and PDP, Shah said that the leaders of these two parties never condemned those who killed civilians.

“Time has gone when militants would exploit the situation. No one will be allowed to kill civilians and we assure you that peace will remain intact in J&K,” he said.

Shah said there was a rumour mongering in J&K post-Article 370 abrogation that land and jobs of people would be snatched.

“Give me one example of any village where land of any villager has been snatched.

“Under the leadership of J&K Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha, 20,000 jobs have been provided and 6,000 more are in offing.”

He, however, said that unlike previous regimes, especially two families who ruled for 70 years, jobs will now be given to only those who deserve these. 

IPL in the global spotlight

A private equity and investment advisory firm with market commitments in excess of US$100 billion across Europe and Asian equity, credit and growth funds, CVC Capital is one of the biggest global players in the sports industry.

In August this year, Spain’s top football league La Liga agreed, in principle, to sell 10% of its commercial business to CVC Capital for around US$3bn. Their arrival into the IPL puts the Indian T20 league in global spotlight and is a shot in the arm for the Indian cricket administration. In 2006, and in one of the riskiest sports investments ever, CVC had paid a boggling US$2bn to buy Formula One.

It was a time when a number of racing teams were entangled in pay disputes and at a time when F1 founder Bernie Ecclestone dominated the league. A year later, Formula One turned into one of CVC’s most profitable investments and is estimated to have made close to US$4.5bn on its initial US$1bn stake, marking a 450% return. “They’ve been phenomenal the way they’ve gone about with their sports businesses. They own the rugby league, they’re into MotoGP,” says BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal. This is not the first time CVC has eyed an IPL franchise. Some years ago, the PE firm was in discussions, first with Rajasthan Royals and then with Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals), for a buyout – deals that did not work out.

The company, based out of Mumbai, has been eyeing investments in India’s fast-growing sports industry for a while now and those tracking developments say, “they were gearing up for something like this”.

The IPL is the pie in India’s sporting landscape that everyone wants a piece of. “However, the thing is – most investments have been either family owned or backed by individuals who have their own unique brand value. The third kind have been consortiums that have blown hot and cold.

An investment like this one (from CVC) is a first of its kind. Yes, Rajasthan Royals recently did a deal with US-based investors Redbird Capital. But nothing comes close to this,” say sources tracking this space.

In 2008, when the Indian Premier League was a fledgling venture and investing in it was something of a leap of faith, eight victorious bidders collectively pumped in around Rs 3,000 crore to bag eight franchises. Thirteen years on, with the IPL firmly enthroned as one of the premier sports properties in the world, one company, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, bid Rs 7,090 crore—more than double the collective figure raised in 2008—to walk away with the Lucknow franchise.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners was the other winner, bagging Ahmedabad for Rs 5,625 crore.

BCCI began the bid process at 12.30pm IST in Dubai (11am local time) and spent the first six hours technically evaluating all bids to see if they met the eligibility criteria. It’s only from 6.30pm IST onwards that the board began to look at the financial bids.

Adani Sportsline, considered a frontrunner for the Ahmedabad franchise, submitted a bid of Rs 5,100 crore for Ahmedabad as well as Lucknow. CVC bid Rs 5,625 crore for Ahmedabad and Rs 5,166 crore for Lucknow.

RPSG Group bid the same amount (Rs 7,090) for both Ahmedabad and Lucknow. BCCI gave RPSG the choice of picking a city first, by virtue of being the top bidder, and the group settled for Lucknow. The Ahmedabad franchise thus automatically went to CVC.

As one of the world’s largest private equity players, CVC comes with a deep knowledge of sports franchises and businesses. The PE player has been a very successful partner and business-builder for global sports platforms such as La Liga, Formula One, the rugby league and Moto-GP.

A world leader in private equity and credit with $117.8 billion of assets under management, CVC will not just put the IPL under a global spotlight but is also expected to add serious value to the T20 league.

PM launches ₹64k cr project to boost India’s health infra

Aiming to give a major push to healthcare capacities in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched the PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission from his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi with an outlay of about Rs 64,000 crore.

Touted as the country’s largest pan India health infrastructure scheme, the Mission is aimed at ensuring robust public health systems in both urban and rural areas, along with strengthening of surveillance and research so that states are capable of effectively responding to any public health emergency in the future and also combat disease outbreaks like Covid-19.

The scheme is in addition to the existing National Health Mission that addresses the health needs in rural and urban areas. Addressing a gathering at Mehdiganj here on Monday after launching the mission and inaugurating 28 projects worth Rs 5,189 crore for Varanasi, PM Modi said, “Projects like PMABHIM, which are being rolled out as India’s major step towards holistic healthcare while keeping health and wellness a priority, should have been done after independence. But, the previous governments kept the people deprived of facilities by not developing the health infrastructure.”

“Most of the areas had no hospitals. If hospitals existed, they lacked the facilities for accurate diagnostic tests, surgery and critical care. This led to crowding at big hospitals ,” he added.


All-weather tunnel to connect Tawang with Kameng

It’s an engineering marvel under way at an altitude of over 13,000-feet in icy cold weather to bolster all-weather connectivity and swifter military deployments to the critical Tawang and Kameng regions of Arunachal Pradesh along the China frontier. The Border Roads Organisation is feverishly working to complete the over Rs 700 crore Sela Tunnel project, which consists of two tunnels and approach roads, before the deadline of August next year.

Announced in the 2018-2019 budget, the longer of the two bi-lane tunnels is 1,555-metre, while the other is 980-metre. The longer tunnel has two tubes, the main one and an “escape” one for emergency use. “We hope to complete the project by June next year. The Sela Tunnel will then become the world’s longest bi-lane road tunnel above the height of 13,000 feet,” said project director Colonel Parikshit Mehra, an M.Tech from IIT Delhi who worked for five years in the construction of the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang.

The existing 317-km long Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road meanders its way through the Sela Pass at an altitude of 13,800-feet on way to Tawang. “The current Sela Pass is visible to the Chinese from the Line of Actual Control. That is militarily disadvantageous for us. The new tunnel will pass under the Sela Pass,” said a senior officer of the Army’s 4 Corps.

Moreover, the BCT road frequently gets blocked at the Sela Pass for both military and civilian traffic during three months in the winters due to heavy snowfall. “It becomes a logistical nightmare and requires massive snow clearance work,” said Col Mehra.

Being constructed using the “latest Austrian tunnelling method”, the Sela Tunnel is much below the snow line, which will allow all weather travel without the challenges of snow clearance.

The tunnel’s overhead clearance is also high enough to allow all military vehicles to pass through it. This will ensure troops and heavy weaponry like artillery guns can be swiftly rushed to Tawang from the 4 Corps headquarters in the plains of Assam to meet any contingency. “The tunnel will cut the travelling distance by only 6-km. But it will ensure all-weather connectivity and cut travelling time by an hour,” said Col Mehra.

Presiding over the “breakthrough blast” of the main tube of the tunnel to mark the end of its excavation through video-conferencing last week, defence minister Rajnath Singh said the Sela Tunnel “will play a crucial role in bolstering national security ” of the region.

Railways’ first pod hotel at Mumbai Central

Railways’ first pod hotel — which features a large number of small, bed-sized rooms known as ‘capsules’ that boast of modern amenities but come at affordable rates — is set to open by month-end at Mumbai Central. Pod hotels provide affordable and basic overnight accommodation for guests who do not require or who cannot afford larger, more expensive rooms offered by conventional hotels.

Western Railways chief public relations officer Sumit Thakur said, “This unique facility will be a game changer in the way passengers travel in India by rail, especially those on business trips. The pod concept is more suitable for frequent travellers, backpackers, single travellers, corporate executives and study groups.”

The pod hotel at Mumbai Central is located on the first floor of Station Building and the rooms will be spread over an area of approximately 3,000 sq ft. The hotel facility will have an inventory of 48 capsules divided in 4 categories — 30 classic pods, 10 private pods, 7 for women, and one for the differently-abled. While both classic and women-only pods can accommodate only one guest each, the private pod will have additional private space within the room. The room for the differently-abled, on the other hand, can comfortably accommodate 2 guests with space for free movement of wheelchair.

The pods are compact 6ft x 8ft rooms but offer all the comforts of a conventional hotel room. The pod hotel will provide free Wi-Fi, a luggage room, toiletries, shower room and washrooms in the common area. Moreover, inside each capsule, the guests will have TV, locker facility, mirror, airconditioner and air filter vents, reading lights in addition to interior light, mobile charging point, smoke detectors and DND indicators.

The IRCTC had awarded the contract to Urban Pod Pvt Ltd to set-up, operate and manage the Pod Hotel for nine years. Work on the project began in February.

Jabs: India 2nd to China

After China, that leads the field by a long margin, having administered more than 200 crore doses, India now comes second with 100 crore jabs, 58 crore more than the US.

Significantly, while the vaccination graphs of countries with significant populations like the US, Brazil and Indonesia remain flattish, India’s has been rising steeply.

In cumulative numbers, India again ranks second to China in fully vaccinating over 28 crore of its population, at least 10 crore more than the US and equal to the fully immunised population of Japan, Germany, Russia, France and UK put together.

China has fully vaccinated 75% of its population with two jabs while in India it is 21%, the US has covered 57%, Japan 67%, Germany 65%, Russia 33%, France and the UK 67% each. World over, 36% of the population have been fully inoculated.

India’s doses per 100 population has also gone up to 71, with countries like Cuba and the UAE leading with counts of 207 and 219. As vaccine-tracking websites like ourworldindata.com count doses, including boosters, individually, the same person may receive more than one dose leading to doses per 100 people to be higher than 100.

100Cr Shots In The Arm

India achieved a major milestone in its battle against Covid-19 as cumulative vaccinations in the country crossed the 100 crore mark on Thursday. After China, which has administered over 200 crore doses, India is only the second country to have reached the landmark of 100 crore jabs.

After a slow start, which saw it take 85 days to administer the first 10 crore (100 million) doses, India almost halved the time taken to reach the next 10 crore to 46 days. The drive picked up pace thereafter, taking 28 days for the next 10 crore. The shortest time taken to10 crore was just 11 days (from 70 crore to 80 crore).

While it took India a total of 202 days to reach the 50 crore landmark after it began giving shots, it took the country just 76 days more to reach the 100 crore milestone. A record 2.5 crore doses were administered on September 17, 2021.

In cumulative numbers too, India ranks second to China in fully vaccinating over 28 crore of its population, at least 10 crore more than the US and equal to the fully immunised population of Japan, Germany, Russia, France and the UK put together.

Almost 75% of the eligible population has taken at least the first dose, with eight states and UTs achieving 100% coverage of the first dose. Four more states and UTs have more than 90% coverage of the first dose, according to government data.

The ASI lit up 100 monuments in tricolour to mark the milestone as a tribute to health workers, frontline workers, scientists, vaccine manufacturers and citizens who bravely fought the pandemic.

Commemorating the achievement, banners were put up at some central government hospitals and refreshments were distributed among the hospital staff and beneficiaries who had come for vaccination. Besides that, some mobile networks caller tunes mentioning completion of 100 crore doses was also introduced.

Calling the achievement historic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed doctors, nurses and all those who had worked tirelessly to enable this moment. “India scripts history. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians. Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations. Gratitude to our doctors, nurses and all those who worked to achieve this feat. #VaccineCentury”,” the PM said in a tweet.

“To counter the largest pandemic in 100 years, the country now has a strong protective shield of 100 crore vaccine doses. This achievement belongs to India and its citizens,” said the PM as he inaugurated the Infosys Foundation Vishram Sadan at the National Cancer Institute in the Jhajjar campus of AIIMS via video conferencing.

In a statement on Twitter, home minister Amit Shah highlighted that “the milestone has re-acquainted the whole world with the immense capabilities of New India.” He thanked all scientists, researchers and health workers who have contributed in this task by overcoming many challenges.

During the course of the day many cabinet ministers joined in as they issued congratulatory messages and thanked the scientists and medical fraternity for enabling the one billion milestone.


Himalayan tragedy

The murderous rain hammering the lower Himalayas in Uttarakhand and north Bengal claimed more lives on Wednesday, taking the number of deaths caused by landslides and rising river levels in Uttarakhand to 52. Five people remain missing, according to officials.

Road connectivity to Nainital was restored after two days. The hill town had been cut off after landslide debris blocked all three routes to Nainital.

“In the last three days, rescue personnel have evacuated and rescued approximately 8,000 people,” Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar said.

In Haridwar, the Ganga was flowing near the danger mark and its strong current had damaged an embankment.

Five lives have been lost in north Bengal since Monday and two girls swept away in the raging Torsha river in Jaigaon, Alipurduar, on Wednesday. Their bodies remain unrecovered. The downpour in north Bengal came after a low pressure area over Bihar intensified into a cyclonic circulation. At least a couple of bridges were damaged and several roads caved in.

A Met office red alert warned of extremely heavy rainfall in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar on Thursday. Several parts of Kalimpong remained cut off for most of Wednesday due to multiple landslides.

Kalimpong DM R Vimala said 46 landslides had occurred between Monday and Wednesday as Kalimpong had received 335 mm of rainfall in this period. In Himachal Pradesh, two national highways and 15 link roads are still closed. BRO officials said avalanches have occurred in Patseo-Baralacha region and the snow is being removed. Though traffic was restored on the Spiti road, the Manali-Leh highway is still closed.


UP Polls: Congress to give 40% tickets to women

In a major decision that could prove to be a game-changer for the Congress, in particular and, Indian politics, in general, Congress General Secretar y Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on Tuesday, announced that her party would give 40 per cent tickets to women in the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

She said that all women who want to bring about a change in the system, are welcome to come forward and contest elections. “Any woman who wants to contest can give an application till October 15,” she announced at a press conference.

Priyanka said the decision was for the woman named Paro, who had held her hand in Prayagraj and had said that she wanted to join politics.

“This decision is for Vaishnavi in Chandauli and the sisters-in-law of two rape victims of Hathras and Unnao, who are fighting for justice and against the system.

“This is for every woman who wants to be heard -- whether it is Laxmi Valmiki of Lucknow who wants to be a doctor, the daughter of journalist Raman Kashyap who was killed in Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

“This is also for two women constables -- Madhu and Pooja, who arrested me in Sitapur and were with me till 4 am. Power today amounts to trampling over the weaker sections of society, primarily women,” Priyanka said. She said that women were not only stronger but more compassionate and sensitive and could bring a change in the political system.

Asked whether the same formula of 40 per cent reservation for women would be extended to the Congressruled states, including Punjab, Priyanka said, “I am in charge of UP and we have taken this decision here. If they (Punjab), they are welcome to implement the formula.”

Priyanka, when asked whether wives and daughters of leaders would not take advantage of this reservation, said, “What is wrong with that if it leads to empowerment. In Amethi, a village pradhan’s wife contested and won elections. After some months, he met me and said that his wife has started making decisions in the house as well. This is empowerment.

Modi to open UP’s ninth airport in Kushinagar today

Uttar Pradesh will get its ninth airport handling scheduled passenger flights when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the Kushinagar International Airport. A senior UP government official said in 2017 only four airports in the state had regular flights — Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Agra. While Prayagraj, Kanpur, Bareilly and Hindon have since been added that list, Kushinagar will get onboard Wednesday — indicating a more than doubling of operational airports in the recent past.

The state’s biggest airport — in Greater Noida’s Jewar — is going to become operational by mid-2024 and serve as Delhi-NCR’s second hub. Ayodhya is going to get Maryada Puroshottam Shri Ram Airport.

Once these two are ready, the number of international airports in UP will rise to five — up from the three that include Lucknow, Varanasi and Kushinagar.

Bareilly Airport, which opened a few months back, now has direct connectivity with Mumbai and Bengaluru and the jhumka city is now the aerial gateway to nearby industrial areas and the Kumaon hills. A senior UP government official said work is currently on at airports in 10 more cities — Aligarh, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shravasti, Chitrakoot, Sonbhadra, Agra, Saharanpur, Noida and Ayodhya.

Of these, 95% work has been completed at Aligarh, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shravasti and Chitrakoot, he said.

The state is developing an airstrip in Lalitpur, Bundelkhand, as an airport now. While as of now mostly smaller cities get flights to bigger cities or metros, the next round of aviation growth will come from smaller cities getting linked to each other.

“In 2017, the then four airports getting regular flights were connected to 25 cities (in India and abroad): Lucknow to 15, Varanasi to eight and Gorakhpur and Agra to one each. As of now, the eight airports are connected to 74 cities: Lucknow 21, Varanasi 20, Prayagraj 11; Gorakhpur eight; Agra five; Kanpur four; Bareilly three and Hindon two,” the official said.

The Central government’s regional connectivity scheme UDAN has led to improved connectivity by big airlines to smaller towns. The track record of smaller players in UDAN, however, remains patchy in terms of being able to start routes given to them or being able to operate them for too long. One of the most famous UDAN routes was Hindon-Pithoragarh that started in October 2019. However, the small player that got the route was not able to operate for too long.

Thanks to the big airlines’ better record of UDAN, UP, like other states, is developing both greenfield airports as well as developing old airstrips into airports.

Kushinagar, for instance used to have a 1.6-km-long and 23-metre-wide airstrip in an area of 101 acres. In 2011, the state government acquired 488 acres to expand this airport and along with the existing infra made available 589 acres. This airport has now been developed as an international airport with a terminal that can handle 300 passengers per hour and the runway expanded to 3.2 km in length and widened to 45 metres at a cost of Rs 260 crore.

Under UDAN, SpiceJet and Truejet have been awarded flights to connect Kushinagar with Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Gaya, Bareilly, Saharanpur and Hindon (near Delhi). SpiceJet is likely to have a Delhi-Kushinagar flight, say sources. Being an integral part of the Buddhist pilgrim circuit, Kushinagar is looking at direct flights from several countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan and Cambodia.

Quad-2 shapes up

India, Israel, the UAE and the US sat down for their first “quadrilateral” meeting on Monday night, opening the way to a whole new geopolitical equation with closer cooperation on trade, technology, Big Data and maritime security in a region that has been volatile and riven with deep fault lines.

“A fruitful first meeting with Israeli APM and FM@YairLapid, UAE FM@ABZayed and US Secretary of State @SecBlinken this evening,” foreign minister Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting. The new grouping is described as an international forum for economic cooperation. The focus areas, according to official readouts of the participating countries, will be trade, technology cooperation, Big Data and maritime security, with the objective to generate synergies that go beyond government-level cooperation.

Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid and Jaishankar joined the meeting from Jerusalem, while the others attended virtually from their countries. Lapid was quoted saying later, “Around this virtual table, there is a unique set of capabilities, knowledge and experience that can be used to create the network that we all want to see created.”

“I think the word we’re looking for here is synergy, because this is what we’re going to try and create starting with this meeting. Synergy that will help us work together on infrastructure, digital infrastructure, transport, maritime security and other things that preoccupy us all... The key to success is how quickly can we move from ‘government-to-government’ to ‘business-to-business’. How quickly can we turn this into a working process that will put boots on the ground, changing infrastructure around the world,” he added.

Jaishankar said, “Discussed working together more closely on economic growth and global issues. Agreed on expeditious follow-up.” In his brief comment, he said, “The three of you are among the closest relationships we have, if not the closest.”

He added, “I think it is very clear that on the big issues of our times we all think very similarly and what would be helpful would be if we could agree on some practical things to work upon.” The group discussed the possibility of working together on joint infrastructure projects. The meeting also deliberated on each country appointing a senior level bureaucrat to be part of a joint working group to materialise these decisions.

All four ministers promised to meet in person during the Dubai Expo in the coming months. US state department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement said Blinken and his three counterparts discussed expanding economic and political cooperation in the Middle East and Asia. “

Record rains lash Uttarakhand

As unprecedented rainfall battered Uttarakhand, drowning houses and people, precipitating floods and washing away bridges, the official death toll climbed to 34 on Tuesday, with the worst-hit district of Nainital recording at least18 casualties.

Several people have been reported missing, sparking concerns that the actual toll is likely to be higher. In fact, information gathered from local officials in each district suggested at least 40 deaths in the state in the past two days.

Nainital additional district magistrate Ashok Joshi said the toll in the district could be as high as 27. “We have received information of many people trapped at multiple locations. Our teams have been sent to all these areas but due to the weather conditions, rescue operations have been very difficult,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to take stock of the situation. The Centre has assured Uttarakhand of all required assistance to handle the situation. Later in the day, the chief minister announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of the victims.

Till now we have information about 34 deaths and five people are missing. We will give Rs 4 lakh ex-gratia to the next of kin of the deceased people. A compensation of Rs 1 lakh will be given to owners whose houses have suffered damage,” chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, adding that compensation for loss of cattle would also be doled out.

Several tourists were stranded at various locations around Nainital on Monday, including 100 that were stuck at a resort in Ramnagar. The premises of the resort and its parking lot were flooded after water from the swollen Kosi river entered the property. Many others who had travelled to hotels and homestays in Bhowali, Mukteshwar and Ramgarh for the long weekend were stranded with no power supply or network connectivity.

A tourist stuck in Bhowali along with five others said the area had no electricity for hours. “People are hoarding rations and we are not sure when we will be able to move out. The roads are closed and there is no information on who should be contacted for supply of essentials,” he said.

Electricity supply throughout the Kumaon region was affected with Uttarakhand Power Corporation Limited confirming that six of its sub-stations were submerged. “Our engineers are working but it is difficult. In Champawat as well, power supply has been affected,” said UPCL managing director Deepak Rawat.


Indian startups raise record $11bn in 3 months

Indian startups haven’t had it so good in a long time. They raised nearly $11 billion in the July-September quarter, twice the money that they got during the same period last year, with fintech, edtech and SaaS (software-as-a-service) firms cornering nearly 50% of the funding. This is the first time ever that total startup funding has crossed $10 billion in a quarter.

Around 16 startups emerged as unicorns (valued at over $1 billion) across the three sectors this year, including BrowserStack, Cred, BhartPe, Vedantu, Eruditus and Upgrad. Over 30 startups have turned unicorns this year so far, including two decacorns (valued at over $10 billion) — Byju’s and Paytm. According to a PwC India Startup Perspectives report, the number of deals closed in the September quarter increased by 83%, and the value of those increased by 41% compared to the June quarter.

About 84% of the funding activity was driven by growth-stage and late-stage deals. However, these represented 39% of the total deal activity. Around 61% of the total deal activity consisted of early-stage funding rounds for $1.6 billion. The average ticket size per round was $4 million.

PwC India partner (deals & startups leader) Amit Nawka said, “Startups have leveraged the accelerated digital adoption seen among businesses and individuals alike to create newer business models and this is driving investor interest in a big way. We are seeing the average deal size increase, and quicker funding rounds have led to a surge in deal activity across sectors, since early this year.”

The fintech space has seen the maximum adoption and action across insurtech, wealthtech, neobanks and financial technology enablers. A nearly fourfold increase in funds raised to $4.6 billion worth of investments was witnessed in the first three quarters of the 2021 calendar year when compared to the same period last year. Six fintechs turned unicorns.

The Indian SaaS industry has more than 1,000 companies, with over 150 generating an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of over $1 million. A Nasscom report said pure-play SaaS firms have the potential to grow to $13-15 billion in revenue collectively by 2025. India has many SaaS unicorns, including Chargebee, Innovaccer, Postman, Druva, and Icertis.

Bengaluru and NCR continue to be the key startup cities in India, together contributing 76-78% of the total funding activity in the first three quarters of both the 2021 and 2020 calendar years, followed by Mumbai and Pune. The increase in funding activity in Bengaluru in CY21 (Q1, Q2 and Q3) is driven by existing startups such as Byju’s, Swiggy, Meesho, Unacademy, and Cred. The funding activity in NCR is led by Zomato, Pine Labs, BharatPe, OfBusiness and Delhivery. Mumbai attracted investments in the edtech and healthtech segments (Eruditus and PharmEasy raised significant capital, followed by Dream11, Gupshup and Infra.Market).

Research firm CB Insights estimates that in the first three quarters of the current calendar year, 371 new unicorns were added globally, as compared to 114 new unicorns in the previous year.

Non-locals flee Kashmir

Panic has gripped non-local workers in Kashmir after a series of attacks against them and many have now started fleeing the Valley.

A group of non-local workers gathered at the Srinagar railway station to go back to their native states. Dinesh Mandal, 60, from Bihar’s Bhagalpur has decided to leave. He had been coming to Kashmir regularly for the past 40 years to sell ice creams.

“The situation is bad. Non-locals are being targeted. Vendors and labourers are being targeted. We cannot stay back in Kashmir in these conditions,” he said.

“Everybody is scared. Earlier vendors were targeted on the roads, but now people are being attacked in their rooms. We decided to leave after two non-local persons were killed in Kulgam on Saturday,” Satish Kumar, another ice cream seller, said.

“Local people tell us to stay back, but how can we stay back in Kashmir when there is a threat of getting killed even in our rooms. If this thorn is taken out and there is peace, we will think of returning to Kashmir,” said Kumar.

Less than an hour after media picked up an emergency advisory on Sunday seeking non-locals be taken to the nearest security forces camps in the Kashmir Valley, in wake of killing of two more labourers from Bihar, authorities said they did not issue any such advisory.

Although there were reports of non-locals being asked to come to the police stations, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir region, Vijay Kumar, said: “No such order has been issued, it is fake.”


India’s robust export growth

As India’s half-yearly export figure is published, it can be safely forecast that GoI’s ambitious target of $400 bn merchandise exports for the year is likely to be met without a hitch. With the Covid pandemic seemingly on the wane, Indian exporters have been riding the momentum of global economic recovery and a surge in commodity prices worldwide.

Between April and September 2021, India clocked merchandise exports worth $197 billion, 57% more than the same period last year and a decent 24% rise over the corresponding period in the pre-pandemic 2019-20. The sectors that are leading the pack include engineering goods, gems and jewellery, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals — in that order, according to data available with the ministry of commerce and industry.

An internal assessment of the ministry that analysed data till the end of September suggests that several commodities surpassed 50% export target in the first six months, according to an officer privy to the document. These include engineering goods (51%), petroleum products (52%) and chemicals (57%), giving hope that India will be able to meet the $400 bn target — which was reckoned as far too ambitious when minister Piyush Goyal announced it three and a half months ago.

The target, after all, was much more than the $313 bn in 2019-20. In 2020-21, total exports slipped to $292 bn. India achieved the highest ever merchandise exports — $330 bn — in 2018-19.

While robust exports have been a silver lining, the impact on India’s gross domestic product growth could only be marginal. The positives from an enormous export growth would be offset if consumption and investment — two bigger determinants for calculating output — remain fragile. The rising imports in April-September — 11% more than the corresponding period in 2019-20 — will also have an adverse impact on the GDP.

The GDP is calculated by adding the expenditures by three broad groups — households, business and the government. If one adds up consumption, investments, government spending and net export, the total output can be arrived at.

Pronab Sen who, as the chief statistician of India in 2007-10, got a first-hand experience of calculating the GDP, says exports contribute only about 14% of India’s output, far too low compared with other two drivers — domestic consumption, which powers about 62% of GDP, and investment, which contributes about 28%. The amount spent on imports is deducted from the total output.

So, while healthy export is a good sign for the economy, the government must immediately bring in policy interventions to boost consumption and investments, which in turn will power a faster GDP growth.

Virmani argues that states and the Centre must no longer be obsessed with short-term revenue maximisation via rate increases.

There is no ready data available to measure private consumption mid-year but most economists seem to be on the same page that the level of consumption in the country is still pretty low. Also, the private sector is reluctant to pump in money for building new projects. 

While the economic survey in January predicted an 11% GDP growth for FY2022, RBI forecasts 9.5%. Ahluwalia says 9.5% is also unrealistic.

All these arguments make it clear that exports alone can’t power a robust GDP growth and sustain it in the coming years. Yet, the story of an upsurge in exports bodes well for the economy, particularly when the pandemic is not yet over and the likelihood of a third wave is hanging like a sword of Damocles. The question is whether $400 bn-plus exports can be sustained.

NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar says the upswing will continue as many countries are shifting their sourcing bases from China as they want to reduce their dependence on one country. Also, the global trade as a whole is increasing, and so is the share of trade in global GDP, he says. He also says that the government’s recent Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, which incentivises companies to undertake incremental sales of products manufactured in India, will be helpful in this regard.

Former commerce secretary, Anup Wadhawan, says there is enough elbowroom for Indian exporters to explore. 

Clearly, India needs to promote export diversification to accrue long-term dividends. But in the short run, the focus should remain on boosting domestic consumption and investments — the key engines to drive economic growth on a sustained basis, which exports alone will fail to accomplish.

5 killed as heavy rain triggers landslides & floods in Kerala

Five people were killed and 20 were listed missing on Saturday as heavy rain pounded south and central Kerala causing flash floods and landslides in many parts, prompting the state government to seek the assistance of the Army and Air Force for rescue operations.

Weather experts attributed the intense spell, which saw many places recording more than 5 cm of rainfall within a span of two hours, to a ‘mini-cloud burst event’. Peermade recorded the highest rainfall in the state with 24 cm followed by Cheruthoni, Chalakudy and Poonjar at 14 cm. Six districts were put on red alert on Saturday. According to IMD’s daily monsoon report, Kerala received 74% excess rainfall on Saturday. Between Oct 7 and October 13, the state has received 166% excess rainfall averaging about 19 cm rain.

Several people were injured and displaced in rain related incidents. Dams in many districts are nearing their full capacity and small towns and villages in hilly areas are cut off from the outside world. Kottayam and Pathanamthitta are the most affected districts as of now. “The situation is grievous,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

Air Force and Army have deployed their assets in Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta. Army personnel from Pangode Military Station have been rushed to flood-affected areas. Mi-17 and Sarang helicopters are on standby to meet the requirements at Sulur air base. However, due to bad weather, they could not be operated till late evening. All bases under Southern Air Command have been put on high alert in view of the prevalent weather situation, said a defence spokesperson.

Kashmir: Two Workers from Bihar & UP Killed

The bodies of two soldiers were found in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, the sixth day of anti-militancy operations in the region.

The soldiers--identified as Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh--were part of the army’s anti-militancy operation with J&K Police in the densely forested area of Mendhar sub-division of Poonch. The two had been missing since October 14. So far nine soldiers have been killed by militants in the latest standoff.

“After a fierce fire fight with terrorists on October 14, the communication with Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh was disrupted. Relentless operations continued to neutralise the terrorists and to re-establish communication with the soldiers,” a defence spokesperson based in Jammu said. He said the anti-militancy operation is still on in the area.

No infiltrator has been caught or killed in the operation so far. The operation, which started in Thana Mandi of Poonch area on October 11, has now spread over a wide forest range falling in the two neighbouring districts of Poonch and Rajouri in the Jammu division.

This is one of the biggest operations this year in the Jammu division, where at least eight encounters have taken place since July. So far, 12 army men--including three junior commissioned officers-and 10 militants have been killed.

The authorities have closed one of the main roads connecting Poonch and Rajouri for public transport and army convoys near the forest where the encounter is on. Officials claim to have opened an alternative route for vehicles.

“Inputs regarding the presence of this group in the area have been coming for over two months now. We were following the leads and this operation is in continuity with that,” a senior police officer told ET.

Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen shot dead two vendors within a span of 30 minutes on Saturday evening, in two separate incidents in Srinagar and Pulwama districts. One of the vendors killed in the Eidgah area of Srinagar was identified as Arvind Kumar of Bihar, while the other was identified as Sagir Ahmad of Uttar Pradesh.


IPL Finals: Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings Knock Off Kolkata Knight Riders

 An adoring Chennai Super Kings fan brigade cheered MS Dhoni on from all corners of the world, his family waved from the stands, as Captain Cool did it one more time. Maybe, for the last time!

When CSK returned from a two-year exile in 2017, Dhoni decided that he would build a Dad’s Army because he believed there’s no alternative for experience on the IPL stage.

The ‘daddies’ justified the captain’s theory time and again over the next four years and Dubai on Friday, became their platform to sign off with a bang. Probably playing together for the last time together before a new auction next season, the super seniors of CSK played a match straight out of the dreams to beat Kolkata Knight Riders and give the skipper his fourth IPL title.

The 37-year-old South Africa reject Faf du Plessis, a 35-year-old semi-retired Robin Uthappa and a 34-year-old RCB reject Moeen Ali showed what it means to have experience as CSK ran away with a score of 192-3 against a decent KKR attack. Even when KKR were batting, with Venkatesh Iyer and Subhman Gill having given them a rollicking start, it was 38-year-old Dwayne Bravo who with his two overs gave away only eight runs and stemmed the flow. Then it was over to the likes of midlevel seniors Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur who have done it time and time again to use the slowness of the wicket and run away with the 27-run victory.

Before that, it was the game-sense of Faf that set CSK on course after KKR captain Eoin Morgan won the toss and put them in. It was expected that the spin troika of Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan would make a difference before the dew set in.

But Faf, aided by a missed stumping by Dinesh Karthik off Shakib when on two, had other ideas. He looked to initially play with a sense of caution as Orange Cap winner Ruturaj Gaikwad (32 off 27 balls) took the early initiative to unsettle Shakib. The beauty of the Faf ’s 86 off 59 balls was that there was absolutely no sense of rush. He decided to take on the pacers Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson while the heavy lifting against spinners was left to Uthappa and Moeen.

4 IT cos add 1L to staff strength in H1

India’s four top IT firms – TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL – have seen their combined employee strength rise by over 1 lakh in the first six months of the fiscal year. That’s 13 times more than in the corresponding period last year, when the pandemic struck. It’s also almost twice that in the corresponding period of the pre-pandemic 2019-20.

It’s an indication of how much demand has picked up in IT services. Enterprises around the world are trying to digitalise their operations, with the pandemic underscoring how important that is for sustainability. There’s a big movement to cloud because of its ability to scale IT requirements up and down very quickly. That movement to cloud is also opening new opportunities in analytics, AI & in internet of things. Digitalisation has proved a fertile ground for cyber criminals, and that has, in turn, led to massive demand for cyber security.

TCS, which has 5.2 lakh employees, led the hiring momentum, adding 40,000 employees in the past six months. Infosys added around 20,000 employees, Wipro 23,650, and HCL Technologies 18,657.

TCS has said it plans to make offers to 75,000 freshers this year, a record for the company. TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan said, “The conviction in technology and the momentum in this is increasing.” He said the cloudbased transformation represents an architecture change in IT. “It’s resulting in a bottom-up rethink as to what is the new architecture and what are the new things that we can do,” he said. Cloud, he said, is also enabling capex to be replaced by opex, allowing enterprises to do a lot more experiments. On the hiring momentum, Gopinathan said the last time TCS saw this was in 2011-12, coming out of the financial crisis.

Last week, Infosys raised its revenue guidance for the year for the second time, an indication of how quickly demand is picking up. The company has increased its fresher hiring target for this year to 45,000, from 35,000 that it had planned three months ago.

Wipro CEO Thierry Delaporte said the demand environment is very strong “and the pipeline, which is the highest in recent quarters, is a reflection of that.”

HCL Technologies CEO C Vijayakumar said, “We witnessed the highest net hiring numbers in the previous quarter, 11,153. Net hiring over the past three quarters has been at about 28,000 in our employee workforce and there’s another 3,500 in terms of third-party contractors. So, the total is pretty much near 32,000 over the past three quarters itself,” he said.

Some of the hiring by companies is to deal with high attrition rates. Infosys’s attrition past quarter rose to 20.1%, from 13.9% in the June quarter. Other companies have also seen attrition rates soar.

Gopinathan said TCS had, some years ago, anticipated the need for massive hiring, and so had redesigned the fresher hiring system. The traditional system involved a lot of campus visits. Now, the company conducts a national test that anyone can take. Hiring is based almost entirely on the performance in the test. Not only is this easier, it allows access to a much wider pool of talent.

Goal is to make India world’s biggest military force : PM

The seven defence public units carved out of the mammoth Ordnance Factory Board will become a strong base for India’s military strength in the years ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, urging the new entities to make research and innovation an integral part of their work culture.

Under the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” campaign, the goal is to make India “the world’s biggest military power on its own” and develop a modern defence industrial base, said the PM, in a video address at an event to dedicate the seven new defence companies to the nation on the occasion of Vijayadashami. Defence minister Rajnath Singh, national security adviser Ajit Doval and the military brass, among others, attended the event.

“Today, there is more transparency, trust and a technology-driven approach in the country’s defence sector than ever before. For the first time after Independence, so many major reforms are taking place in our defence sector and instead of stagnant policies, a single-window system has been arranged,” the PM said, noting that the OFB reform was pending for the last 15-20 years.

The OFB was dissolved on October 1, with its 41 factories, assets, employees and management being transferred to the seven new 100% government-owned companies in accordance with the Cabinet decision to corporatise the entity.

The restructuring is designed to make the seven PSUs functionally autonomous, more productive and cost-efficient as the main suppliers of arms, ammunition and clothing to the 15-lakh strong armed forces.

“You (the seven companies) not only have to match the world’s biggest companies, but also take the lead in future technology… become global brands. Competitive costs are our strength, quality and reliability should also become our identity,” said Modi.

The new companies, with an order book of over Rs 65,000 crore, will also play an important role in import substitution. “I will also tell start-ups that they should also be part of this new beginning that the country has started today through these seven companies,” the PM said.

Citing the various reforms undertaken by the government, including the two defence industrial corridors set up in UP and Tamil Nadu, the PM said various Indian companies were now also exploring possibilities in the defence production arena.

“The private sector and the government, together, are moving ahead in the mission to ensure defence of the nation. This is also creating new opportunities for the youth in the country, and opening up new possibilities for many MSMEs in the form of supply chains. As a result of the policy changes in the last five years, our defence exports have increased by more than 325%,” he added.

The world had seen the strength of India’s ordnance factories at the time of World War-I and II. “After Independence, we needed to upgrade these factories, adopt new-age technology. But it was not given much attention. Over time, India became dependent on foreign countries for its strategic and defence needs. These new seven defence companies will play a big role in bringing change in this situation,” the PM said.

Modi & Johnson to launch global solar power grid

India and the United Kingdom will jointly launch the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid -- a trans-national grid to transport solar power to different countries – during world leaders’ summit at the beginning of the 26th session of the UN climate change conference in Glasgow, UK in the first week of November.

The initiative, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi three years ago, will be endorsed in the form of a political declaration by the fourth general assembly of the International Solar Alliance during October 18-21.

Sources said Modi would attend the world leaders’ summit on November 1-2 at COP26 and launch it with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in presence of other heads of state/government. An official confirmation to this effect would be conveyed to the UK soon, they added.

US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and other leaders will also attend the summit during the first half of the COP26 which would see countries finalise rules of carbon market mechanism (Article 6) under the Paris Agreement. The Article 6 rules are the last piece of the Agreement which are yet to be finalised.

Implementation of the OSOWOG will revolve around the concept that the ‘Sun Never Sets’ and is, therefore, a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time. The ISA, which was jointly launched by India and France on the side-lines of the COP21 in Paris in 2015, will be the implementing body of the global grid.

The ISA fourth general assembly next week will be an occasion where 80-member countries of this intergovernmental body see how to go about the OSOWOG in a manner which may help the world reach its collective mitigation goal of limiting global warming at 1.5 degree C by 2050 from the pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels.

The assembly will deliberate on the strategic plan of the ISA for the next five years. It will cover different issues including strategy for private sector engagement. Besides updates on ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ initiative, the ‘Trillion Dollars Solar Investment Roadmap for 2030’ will also be the focus of the ISA meet. According to the ISA’s concept note on OSOWOG, the global solar grid will be implemented in three phases.


Telecom Department Okays 31 Proposals worth ₹3,345-cr Under PLI

The Department of Telecommunications approved 31 proposals, garnering an investment of ₹3,345 crore over four-and-a-half years under the production-linked incentive scheme for telecom gear.

“The investment of ₹3,345 crore in the next 4.5 years is just a beginning…the government is helping you (industry players) as a catalyst,” said Devusinh Chauhan, minister of state for communications, announcing selected candidates eligible for ₹12,195 crore of incentives spread over the next five years.

The DoT, in an official statement on Thursday, said “a total of 31 companies, comprising 16 MSMEs, 15 non-MSMEs, (8 domestic and 7 global companies) have been given approval,”. The scheme, it said, is effective from April, 2021.

“Investment made by successful applicants in India from April, 2021 onwards and up to FY 2024-25 shall be eligible, subject to qualifying incremental annual thresholds,” the statement added.

Welcoming the PLI announcement, the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association said, “this will boost R&D, innovations and help in domestic manufacturing of 4G and 5G”.

Coral Telecom, Ehoome IoT, Frog Cellsat and STL Networks are among the companies selected under the MSME category. Domestic companies under the non-MSME category include HFCL Technologies, Akashastha Technologies, Tejas Networks and VVDN Technologies.

Ericsson’s subsidiary, Jabil Circuit India, Foxconn, Sanmina, Flextronics and Nokia India are among the selected global applicants.

“Investments are likely to generate incremental employment of more than 40,000 people with expected incremental production of around ₹1.82 lakh-crore over the scheme period,” the DoT statement added.

Core transmission equipment, 4G/5G next generation radio access network and wireless equipment, access and customer premises equipment, Internet of things access devices, other wireless equipment and enterprise equipment like switches, routers are some of the products covered under the scheme.

The incentives will be offered over five years subject to the minimum threshold of cumulative incremental investment and incremental sales of manufactured goods. They will range between 4% and 7% for different categories over years.

For MSMEs, 1% higher incentive has been offered in the first, second and third years. The scheme is expected to boost domestic Research & Development of new products on which 15% of the committed investment could be invested.

Financial year 2019-20 will be treated as the base year for calculation of cumulative incremental sales of manufactured goods net of taxes. The fiscal 2021 has not been taken as a base year as pandemic halted overall production in the country.

Sensex goes past 61,000

The sensex rose for the sixth straight session and crossed the 61,000-point mark for the first time on Thursday, surging 569 points (nearly 1%) to close at 61,306. The sensex has recorded a new high every day of the holiday-shortened week, gaining over 1,200 points in four sessions. The broader Nifty, which crossed the 18k milestone on Monday, also hit a new closing high at 18,339, gaining 177 points (1%) on Thursday.

IT stocks joined the rally, which was led by auto, energy, metals and financial sectors this week, bolstered by betterthan-expected Q2 results for Wipro and Infosys. Depreciation of the rupee, which fell below 75 against the dollar this week, too supported the rally in IT stocks, according to market players. A combination of macroeconomic factors, global cues and strong earnings has supported the bullish momentum on Dalal Street, market analysts said. Investors are also expecting strong sales for carmakers in the festive season, which has led to the auto sector being the top gainer, rising nearly 7%, this week.

Of the 30 sensex stocks, 22 closed in the green on Thursday, with ITC, HDFC Bank and PowerGrid being the top gainers. The HDFC twins and ICICI Bank alone contributed 364 points to the sensex’s 569-point sprint on Thursday. Foreign investors were net buyers with Rs 1,596 crore inflows on Thursday, according to NSDL data. 

The market capitalisation of the BSE too hit a fresh high at Rs 275 lakh crore.

RBI: India on verge of shift to capital a/c convertibility

India is on the cusp of a fundamental shift toward capital account convertibility by increasing integration of offshore and onshore markets and allowing non-residents freer access to debt markets, RBI deputy governor T Rabi Sankar has said. According to him, there is a need to review the limits under the liberalised remittance scheme that allows Indians to send up to $250,000 abroad annually, keeping in mind the needs of higher education and startups.

The deputy governor’s statement on moving ahead on convertibility comes at a time when the country is seeing huge capital inflows through foreign portfolio investments and foreign direct investments, including private equity funding of startups. Statements in support of convertibility are seen as signs of confidence on the external front as, typically, the RBI has eased capital restrictions so that overseas investments can counterbalance inflows.

“There is an effort to liberalise FPI debt flows further with the introduction of the fully accessible route, which places no limit on nonresident investment in specified benchmark securities. Since over time, virtually all securities will fall under the FAR category, the move is unambiguously towards eventual unfettered access for non-residents into government securities,” said Sankar, speaking at the 5th annual day of the Foreign Exchange Dealers’ Association of India.

Sankar said that debt flows to government securities are likely to increase after limits are raised. “Efforts to get India included under global bond indexes and the complementary move towards placing G-secs under global custodians, once implemented, will encourage debt flows in future,” he said.

According to Sankar, foreigners holding substantial debt holdings might make India vulnerable to the risk of sudden reversals. However, this risk is reduced if India is part of global indices.

The deputy governor said that banks should prepare themselves to manage the business process changes and the global risks associated with capital convertibility. He said that the job of the regulator was limited. “The job of a regulator is like the gas regulator in the kitchen — it cannot ensure the quality of the dish, but it can prevent the kitchen from blowing up,” he said.