Business Resumption Touches New High

India’s business resumption raced ahead, touching a new high on the back of continued moderation in Covid cases and mobility returning to pre-pandemic levels, a private tracker showed.

Global financial services group Nomura said despite the uncertainty triggered by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, high frequency data suggested that the economy remained on a recovery path and inflationary pressures were building up.

The Nomura India Business Resumption Index rose to yet another high of 114.5 for the week ended November 28 from a downwardly revised 113.4 in the previous week.

The NIBRI is about 4-15pp above pre-pandemic levels, pegged at 100.

“With domestic infection cases continuing to moderate, mobility is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and this is boosting services,” Nomura said.

However, border reopening will likely be slow, as the discovery of the Omicron variant globally has prompted the government to review and tighten its international travel guidelines, and several states are on alert, it added. Axis Bank Monday projected Q2 FY22 GDP growth at 8.3%, while keeping its full year forecast at 9.5%, but “with increasing downside risks”.

India, SL, Maldives hold joint military exercise

A two-day trilateral maritime drill conducted by the coast guards of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to bolster security in the Indian Ocean, enhance mutual operational capability and exercise interoperability between these three countries culminated in the Maldives on Sunday, the Indian High Commission said.

The 15th edition of the trilateral engagement termed “Dosti” is conducted biennially, and 2021 marks 30 years since these maritime drills were first introduced.

However, it began primarily as a bilateral engagement, involving only Indian and Maldives Coast Guards. Sri Lanka joined in 2012 to make it a trilateral exercise.

“The two-day exercise under the aegis of Colombo Security Conclave is a pioneering effort to collaborate efforts towards the Pillar of Maritime Security”, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.

The CSC Focused Operations are aimed at streamlining Standard Operating Procedures and enhanced interoperability amongst the three navies.

The Indian Navy was represented by INS Subhadra Offshore Patrol Vessel and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft. 

India-born Parag Agrawal Takes Over as Twitter CEO

India-born Parag Agrawal took over as the chief executive officer of Twitter as its cofounder Jack Dorsey stepped down after 16 years at the helm of the San Francisco-headquartered microblogging platform.

Agrawal, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, was the chief technology officer of Twitter before the elevation that caught investors by surprise.

Twitter stock went up by as much as 10% with the news in opening trade.

The two most powerful people at Twitter will now be India born – the other being Vijaya Gadde, its policy and safety lead director.

Agrawal will join the league of several India-born executives such as IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella to lead large US technology companies that have a presence globally.

Dorsey said the Twitter board of directors ran a rigorous process to look for a successor and "unanimously" appointed Agrawal who will also be appointed to the Twitter’s board. In a letter to Twitter employees that he shared on the platform, Dorsey said Agrawal has "been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around".

"He's (Agrawal) curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep," Dorsey wrote.

Agrawal, who has a PhD in computer science from Stanford University, began his career at Microsoft Research with stints in R&D units of Yahoo and AT&T Labs before joining Twitter as a software engineer in October 2011.

"I joined this company 10 years ago when there were fewer than 1,000 employees," he wrote to Twitter employees in a letter that was shared on his handle.

BJP clean sweeps Tripura civic polls

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party secured a clean sweep while the Trinamool Congress emerged as a strong political force in the Tripura civic elections for which polling was held on November 25.

Amid allegations of pre-poll violence by the opposition parties, the ruling BJP had earlier won 112 (34 per cent) seats uncontested in seven urban local bodies in Jirania, Ranir Bazar, Mohanpur, Bishalgarh in western Tripura, Santir Bazar and Udaipur in southern Tripura and Kamalpur in northern Tripura.

Elections were held on Thursday in the 51-member Agartala Municipal Corporation and 171 seats in seven Municipal Councils and six Nagar Panchayats. The BJP candidates won in all the 51 seats in the AMC and 165 seats in the seven Municipal Councils and six Nagar Panchayats.

According to state election commission officials, the main opposition party CPI-M won three seats in three municipal bodies in Kailashahar, Ambassa and Panisagar while the Trinamool Congress won one seat in Ambassa Municipal council. The Trinamool Congress secured over 20 per cent votes and second position in 27 of the 51 seats in the politically important AMC which has put up a big challenge to both the ruling BJP and the key opposition CPI-M led Left parties.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on a plea seeking independent SIT probe into the communal violence in Tripura.

The plea, filed by advocate Ehtesham Hashmi through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has arrayed Centre, DGP Tripura, and the Tripura government as respondents. A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud permitted the counsel for the petitioner to serve the copy of the petition to the central agency and to the standing counsel of Tripura.


Credit card co Slice 41st unicorn in 2021

Fintech startup Slice, which targets millennials with credit cards, has become India’s 41st unicorn in 2021.

Slice has raised $220 million in a series-B round valuing the company at over $1 billion. The round was led by Tiger Global and Insight Partners. Other investors include Advent International’s Sunley House Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures and angel investor Binny Bansal.

Sources said that the startup received strong interest from global investors in this oversubscribed round, and is still evaluating some investments. Earlier in June, Slice had raised a $20-million series-A round that had valued it at around $200 million.

Slice, which started as a ‘buy now, pay later’ payments product, pivoted to offer credit cards in 2019 to address what it saw as a large market gap. Users can sign up, get a slice ‘super card’ (a prepaid visa card with a credit line) virtually, and also get the physical card delivered to their home. Slice, which is shipping around 200,000 cards each month, lets users slice the bill into 3 monthly instalments at zero cost and enjoy up to 2% cashback on each transaction.

“Our burn is very low compared to other consumer startups and we are going to use the funds to hire more product and design talent and focus on making more products that are best-in-class in terms of user experience,” Rajan Bajaj, founder and CEO, Slice, said. “Our superior product experience has made us the most popular alternative to existing credit cards. We have a net promoter score of over 75 today — much higher than most banks,” he added.


MVA 2 years : A mixed bag for infrastructure

The two years of Maha Vikas Aghadi government have been a mixed bag for infrastructure projects as Metro projects lagged behind targets, while the other big-ticket Mumbai Coastal Road project executed by BMC has witnessed steady progress.

The first Metro line was opened in Mumbai in June 2014 but it has been almost seven years and Mumbaikars are still awaiting the opening of the second one. A senior state government official said, “Pandemic played a major role in disrupting timelines as labour had rushed to their home states, and supply lines got disrupted because of the global nature of the crisis.”

Metro 2A (DN Nagar-Dahisar) and 7 (Dahisar-Andheri via Western Express Highway), which were in advanced stages of completion a year ago, could be opened for commercial operations even though trials commenced on May 31. There has been no solution in sight for the depot for Metro 3 corridor and trials are slated to begin outside the depot in January 2022.

But the pet project of Sena has witnessed decent progress. Despite protests by fishermen in Worli, and some residents in South Mumbai and allegations of corruption by BJP, BMC’s coastal road is making steady progress.

BMC is targeting completion of the 10km coastal road project between Nariman Point and Worli by December 2022 despite a five-month disruption last year. The Rs12,721-crore project was to be completed in four years since commencement of work in October 2018. But BJP MLA Ashish Shelar recently alleged irregularities of Rs 1,600 crore in project. BMC refuted the allegations.

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link too witnessed steady progress as around 70% work on the crucial 22km link is completed.

A senior official said, “In this term, there is also strong push for Sewri-Worli connector as Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray is taking keen interest in this project.” The 17km Versova-Bandra-Sea Link is lagging behind and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation imposed a penalty on the contractor. The Rs55,000 crore Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway will be fully completed in December 2022.

Mumbai: Metro 2A & 7 updates

Mumbai Metro lines 2A and 7, which promise respite to commuters from the Western suburbs, are expected to become partially operational before February and the entire corridor is expected to be open by July 2022. Metro 7 line will run from Dahisar to Western Express Highway, Andheri, and 2A from Dahisar to D N Nagar. A senior Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority official said, “Nearly 95% of the work on Phase I is completed and we are confident of opening the lines in two to three months.”

The first phase spanning 20km is between Dahanukarwadi to Aarey (18 stations). Both these Metro lines are expected to reduce vehicular traffic by 25%. In September, MMRDA had served showcause notices to four contractors—J Kumar Infraprojects, NCC, Godrej and Capacite Infraprojects—for delay in completing Metro station works. MMRDA sources said the cumulative penalty amounting to more than Rs 2 crore will be recovered if they fail to complete the work within the set deadline. The official said, “The showcauses notices have acted as a deterrent and contractors are now able to meet the timetable as they have managed to mobilise manpower and machinery to complete the balance station works. We have not imposed any penalty yet but the show cause notices too have not been withdrawn.”

MMRDA had hoped to open these lines by October 2019. Later, this deadline was revised to December 2020. The pandemic in early 2020 led to a lockdown and fleeing of labourers to their native place due to which work had come to a standstill. The commercial operations were later targeted to commence from October 2021 between Kamraj Nagar and Aarey via Dahisar on both the lines. The commissioning deadline for the entire stretch of lines 2A and 7 was earlier set on January 1, 2022.

A senior state government official said, “The initial deadlines were extremely ambitious.”

MMRDA plans to run services with 11 rakes at a frequency of 15 to 20 minutes initially. As and when rakes get added, the frequency will come down to 5 minutes per train. Both these Metro lines were sanctioned by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government on October 6, 2015. The Bhoomipujan was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October11, 2015.

Multi-dimensional Poverty Index

Bihar, with its dismal scores across key development indicators such as nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, maternal health, years of schooling, sanitation and electricity, has topped the list of states with the largest share of population who are poor, according to think tank Niti Aayog’s report, which has identified 25.01% of the country’s population as “multi-dimensionally poor”.

More than 50% of Bihar’s population has been classified as poor under the national Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, followed by Jharkhand (42.2%), Uttar Pradesh (37.8%), Madhya Pradesh (36.7%) and Meghalaya (32.7%). Kerala has the least number of poor with only 0.7% of its population classified as such. Among the Union territories, 27.4% of Dadra and Nagar Haveli’s population is poor, according to the MPI parameters.

“The headcount ratio answers the question: ‘How many are poor?’ India’s national MPI identifies 25.01% of the population as multi-dimensionally poor,” the report. The headcount ratio measures the multi-dimensionally poor in the total population.

The data showed 51.9% of the population in Bihar is deprived of nutrition, followed by Jharkhand (47.8%), MP (45.5%) and Uttar Pradesh (44.5%). Sikkim has the lowest percentage of population deprived of nutrition at 13.3%.

According to the report, a household is considered deprived if any child between the ages of 0 to 59 months, or woman between the ages of 15 to 49 years or man between the ages of 15 to 54 years — for whom nutritional information is available — is found to be undernourished.

The national MPI baseline report based on the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) has been developed by Niti Aayog in consultation with 12 ministries and in partnership with state governments and the index publishing agencies — Oxford University’s Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and United Nations Development Programme.

Uttar Pradesh is on top of the list with a population of nearly 5% categorised as deprived under child and adolescent mortality, followed by Bihar (4.6%), Madhya Pradesh (3.6%), Chattisgrah ( 3.3%) and Jharkhand (3.3%). Under maternal health, Bihar tops the chart with 45.6% categorised as deprived, followed by UP (35.5%), Jharkhand (33.1%) and Nagaland (33.1%).

Among UTs, Delhi has a share of 15.2% of the population categorised as deprived under maternal health. A household is deprived if any woman in the family, who has given birth in the five years preceding the survey, has not received at least four ante-natal care visits for the most recent birth, or has not received aid rom medical personnel during the most recent childbirth.

Maharashtra makes full vaccination a must for all public transport, gatherings, services

The Maharashtra government issued new rules making full vaccination—14 days since the second dose—mandatory to board any mode of public transport, not just trains, and for entry into most public places such as malls, shops, gatherings, ticketed or nonticketed events and any establishment where the public has the right to services. It is already mandatory for staffers of these establishments to be fully vaccinated.

The government has also stressed on adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour and decided on penalties for drivers and conductors of public transport and office management in case any person is found violating norms such as wearing of masks. The defaulting individual will be fined too. The full vaccine mandate was earlier restricted to train travel and in some public places such as malls and certain government offices.

Senior officials said the new curbs have been added to push people to get fully vaccinated. Nearly 70% of the eligible population has been covered with the first dose and 40% is fully vaccinated. There are nearly 97 lakh people, though, who are due for their second dose and are yet to take it. BMC chief I S Chahal said the municipal body and the police should take stern action against those who do not wear proper masks. Handkerchief is not a mask and will invite a fine.

Several districts have already put such restrictions in place to increase their vaccination uptake. With the wedding season approaching, the state government has kept the 50% capacity rule for enclosed spaces such as theatres and marriage halls, but they have allowed open to sky venues, including grounds for political rallies and stadiums, to open at 25% capacity. The state also plans to monitor gatherings, which have more than 1,000 people.

Open air lawns which were earlier allowed at a 50% capacity for weddings will halve numbers to 25%. In case total attendance exceeds 1,000, organisers must inform the district disaster management authority which will send its officials to ensure compliance to Covid norms, and in case of violation may order closure of part or the full venue, said the notification. “This notification aims to caution everyone that Covid-19 is still around and people need to be careful. The marriage season is on. Four lakh weddings are expected in Maharashtra alone and 25 lakh in the country. Caution is necessary,” chief secretary Sitaram KunteI said.


The ‘S’ behind LeT’s 26/11 Mumbai attack

Some analysts have pointed to the existence of a specific, formally organised wing of ISI, namely the ‘S’ or security wing, which is directly responsible for the relationship with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jerusalem Post reported.

While the support and direction offered LeT by serving officers of the ISI appears confirmed in the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, debate remains as to the extent to which ISI as a whole, and therefore the Pakistani state itself, should be seen as backing the group, or whether the situation depicted by George Headley and Zabiuddin Ansari shows the existence of an element within ISI supportive of the terror group. There is not necessarily a simple dividing line in this regard, the report said.

The line taken by the Pakistani authorities, when pressured by the US to investigate the issue and presented with clear evidence of ISI operatives’ involvement, has been that “rogue operatives” within ISI were responsible, it added.

Ultimately, the issue of whether elements within the ISI, or the ISI itself planned, assisted and directed the Mumbai attacks remains an unresolved one, with coherent points made on both sides of the debate.

“But either way, the picture is grave. If the latter is the case, then Pakistan is a state sponsor of terror. If the former, then the Pakistani state is unable to account for terror supporting activities which led to the deaths of hundreds of people, undertaken by serving officers in a premier state institution,” the report said.

But while the direct responsibility of LeT terrorists is not in doubt, solid evidence has emerged that this organisation did not act alone. Rather, a close relationship between the group and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence organisation, or elements within that organisation was maintained before, during and subsequent to the attacks. The ISI is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the report said.

“According to Steve Coll, a US journalist specialising in Pakistan’s links with terror groups, the digital trail suggested that the individuals directing the attacks from Mumbai were serving operatives of the ISI. Coll notes in his book Directorate S that western officials confronted Pakistan with the relevant intercepts. No systematic investigation followed,” the report said. 

New Coronavirus variant spooks Dalal Street

India's stock indices tanked 3%, tracking the slump in Asian markets as the detection of a new coronavirus strain sparked worry that it will scuttle global economic recovery.

While the likely impact of the new variant isn’t clear, investors are concerned about its spread and the prospect of renewed lockdowns across the globe. Many countries are tightening travel after the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant in South Africa earlier this week. Reports suggested that the new variant could be more transmissible.

The Sensex declined 1,688 points or 2.9% to close at 57,107.15, having briefly slipped below the 57,000 mark during the day. The Nifty also briefly got knocked below the 17,000 mark before ending at 17,014.80, down 521.45 points or 3% from the previous close. Elsewhere in Asia, indices fell 0.6-2.7%. The carnage extended to Europe and the US. Markets in France, the UK and Germany crashed 3.6-4.8% while Dow slumped over 1,000 points in early trade .

In India, too, investors are cautious because wholesale inflation is now hovering in the double-digit region for the seventh consecutive month. The rise in crude prices to multi-year-high levels till a week ago was also bothering investors.

The day’s slide in the market came on the back of strong selling by foreign funds with the net outflow for the day at Rs 2,300 crore, which took the week’s net figure to nearly Rs 17,300 crore. The selloff also left investors poorer by Rs 4.7 lakh crore with BSE’s market capitalisation at Rs 261.3 lakh crore. Since sensex’s all-time intraday high at over 62k on October 19 this year, investors have lost about Rs 16 lakh crore.

The sell-off also triggered fears among investors which was reflected in a 25% spike in India VIX, the volatility index that’s also called a measure of fear on the street. The spike in VIX to above its multi-month-high level signals the dominance of bears in the market, said Siddhartha Khemka, head, retail research, Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

Indian investors turned to less risky assets like government bonds. As a result, the 10-year gilt yield softened to 6.33% from 6.37% on Thursday.

The global selloff in risky assets, also called risk-off trades, led to a 2.5% slide in Nikkei in Japan on Friday morning while in the evening FTSE in the UK and Dax in Germany were down around 3.5%. And in early trades, the leading US indices were down by about 2% each. Riskoff trades also led to a 7% slide in Bitcoin. On the other hand, investors’ rush to less risky assets led to a nearly 1% rally in gold prices while US 10-bond yields were down 9% to below the 1.5% mark.

While the price of WTI crude fell over 11%, Brent crude was 10% down.

RBI keeps big business houses out of banking

Reserve Bank of India has not accepted a proposal to consider large corporates or industrial houses for a banking licence. It has however allowed promoters of banks to hold up to 26% in their banks which is a positive for many lenders including Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank, Bandhan Bank and CSB Bank. The new norms allow those who have already diluted stakes to hike their shareholding.

RBI said it had accepted 21 of the 33 recommendations made last year by an internal working group to review extant ownership and corporate structure for Indian private sector banks. A key proposal that was accepted was to increase the capital requirement for new applicants to Rs.1,000 crore instead of Rs 500 crore. 

In November 2020, the Internal Working Group to Review Extant Ownership Guidelines and Corporate Structure for Indian Private Sector Banks had said that corporates may be allowed as promoters of banks only after necessary amendments to the Banking Regulations Act, 1949. This would enable RBI to have the power to do consolidated supervision of conglomerates.

It had also said that well-run NBFCs including those owned by corporate houses should be considered for bank licences. Industry insiders speculate that Bajaj Finserv, L&T Finance and Piramal might be the corporate houses still interested in pursuing bank licences. While Bajaj is active in most banking activities, Piramal has acquired DHFL as part of its goal to increase retail business and has bought in a former banker to head its financial services. L&T Finance had earlier declared its intent to pursue a bank licence.

The recommendation had faced criticism from several quarters and RBI too has been uncomfortable to allow business houses into banking. The regulator remained mum on this specific proposal but said that the proposals not accepted are under examination.

One of the proposals not accepted in full was that payments banks be allowed to convert into small finance banks after three years.

Current rules require promoters’ stake in private banks to be diluted to 15% after 15 years. According to sources, RBI agreed to this as the ceiling on the voting rights which a shareholder in a banking company may exercise has been raised by RBI in July 2016 to 26%, which is the level permitted in Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and the new limit aligns with the legislative intent. This is also consistent with the foreign direct investment policy.

Bankers said that a higher limit was required as it will enable promoters to infuse higher funds/capital which is critical for the growth of banks and function as a cushion during distress or a cyclical downturn.

Ashok Hinduja, chairman of IIHL, Mauritius, promoter entity of IndusInd Bank, said the increased promoter holding of 26% will benefit all stakeholders, particularly at this time when Indian economy is poised for exponential growth. 

ED: ₹4,000cr laundered via crypto

Virtual crypto currency exchanges have emerged as the new tax havens laundering large amount of illegal cash with anonymity as more than Rs 4,000 crore of such transactions have been unearthed by the Enforcement Directorate in the past one year alone.

In June this year, ED issued a show cause notice to one leading exchange in India after the agency failed to track the real beneficiary who had laundered more than Rs 2,800 crore using crypto currency. In two related transactions, the agency found receipt of Rs 880 crore and transfer of Rs 1,400 crore worth of crypto currencies, but none of the transactions had details of beneficiaries.

In this particular case, criminals converted ‘proceeds of crime’ stashed in Indian rupee into crypto currency ‘Tether’ and then transferred the same to ‘Binance Wallets’, a crypto wallet service registered in Cayman Island where the illegal money was converted into dollars with the ease of being laundered back into the legal banking system using shell companies.

This Indian virtual crypto currency exchange, according to the ED, provided all services of conversion of Indian rupee into virtual currency and end-to-end transactions in complete secrecy, including person-to-person transactions in foreign locations.

“None of these transactions are available on the blockchain for any audit/investigation. It was found that the clients could transfer valuable crypto currencies to any person irrespective of its location and nationality without any proper documentation whatsoever, making it a safe haven for users looking for money laundering/other illegitimate activities,” the ED said in its recent show cause notice to one of the crypto exchanges in India.

The government listed a bill in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament to ban all private crypto currencies not only to curb increasing instances of money laundering in the country using the virtual currency but also to meet the standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris-based intergovernmental watchdog.

In a paper released on crypto currencies, the intergovernmental body had noted that many of these exchanges are “designed to avoid regulatory law enforcement scrutiny and help criminals distribute, store and launder the proceeds of credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, narcotics trafficking and child pornography by enabling them to conduct anonymous and untraceable financial transactions”.

In one such case mentioned by the FATF in its study, an entity Liberty Reserve, having its own crypto currency called Liberty Dollars, was busted by the US enforcement agencies. The money transmitter operated on a massive scale with more than a million users worldwide and over 55 million transactions, all found to be illegal. In December, the ED had arrested one person from Bhavnagar, Gujarat who was found to be transferring a large amount of ‘proceeds of crime’ from illegal online betting to Chinese nationals out of the country converting Indian rupee into crypto currency.

Putin to meet Modi at Dec 6 summit in India

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit India on December 6 when he and PM Modi will hold their first in-person India-Russia summit in two years. “They will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations and discuss ways to strengthen the strategic partnership between the countries,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The highlight of the visit will be the delivery of S-400 Triumf missile systems, whose components have started arriving in India. Delivery of the first squadron is scheduled to be completed by December. The US could impose sanctions against India for engaging in transactions with the Russian sectors.

The last India-Russia annual summit was held in September 2019 when Modi visited Vladivostok.

The summit will coincide with the first meeting of the 2+2 dialogue between defence minister Rajnath Singh and foreign minister S Jaishankar with their respective counterparts, Sergey Shoigu and Sergey Lavrov. The dialogue was agreed after a phone conversation between Modi and Putin on April 28, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The Russian embassy tweeted, “Ministers are expected to have in-depth discussions of the key regional and international topics, including the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and developments on #Afghanistan and #Syria, as well as exchange views on interaction within #SCO and# RIC.”

The summit could not happen in 2020. Bagchi said this would be the first time the two leaders would meet in person “after their meeting on sidelines of the Brics summit in Brasilia in November, 2019.”

Afghanistan was a big topic of discussion also among the RIC that held a virtual foreign ministerial meeting on Friday. Jaishankar tweeted after the Russia-India-China trilateral, that the benchmarks for Afghanistan were set down in UNSC resolution 2593.

“Afghan territory must not be used for terror activities... RIC countries should coordinate respective approaches on threats of terrorism, radicalisation, drug trafficking etc.”

With the threat of sanctions still hanging over India, the joint statement at the end of the RIC foreign ministers’ meeting said, “Imposition of unilateral sanctions beyond those adopted by the UNSC as well as “long-arm jurisdiction” were inconsistent with the principles of international law, have reduced the effectiveness of the UNSC sanction regime, and had a negative impact on third states and international economic and trade relations.” In a tweet thread, Jaishankar said he had stressed the importance of supply chains, specially in health sector, an indirect swipe at China which had resorted to choking medical supplies and price gouging on pharma components during the second wave. He asked RIC countries to “recognise vaccination certificates issued by each other. The world should avoid unreasonable travel restrictions.”

Jaishankar told Russia and China, “UN reform is being blocked using a smokescreen of consensus as only way forward. As a result, international community is being denied democratic rights.”

For the first time, the RIC countries discussed Myanmar’s fate “India supports upholding the rule of law, release of political detainees and cessation of violence in Myanmar. We will respond to the pandemic situation.” Jaishankar said.

Surat: Tapi riverfront development

The Gujarat state government announced that a special purpose vehicle will be formed to develop the Tapi riverfront in Surat city. The Surat municipal commissioner will be the chairman of the SPV, the government said.

A government statement said the SPV — Tapi Riverfront Development Corporation — will take up the Tapi riverfront and rejuvenation project, which has already been sanctioned.

The statement quoted chief minister Bhupendra Patel as saying that the state government has granted in-principle approval for setting up of the SPV with authorized paid-up capital of Rs 10 crore.

The Surat municipal commissioner will be the chairman and a state government nominee will be on the board of directors of TRDCL. In addition, three officers of the state government will be among the nine shareholders of TRDCL. The CEO of Surat Urban Development Authority will be a director of the SPV, the government release said.

The Rs 10 crore paid up capital of TRDCL will be split equally by the Surat Municipal Corporation and the state government.

The central government has already sanctioned a proposal to seek a World Bank loan for the first phase of the Tapi riverfront development project, which is pegged to cost Rs 1,991 crore.

Tamil Nadu: 3 elephants run over by express train

Three elephants aged between 12 and 25 years, were killed after being hit by an express train (Mangaluru-Chennai) at Mahendramedu near Navakkarai in Coimbatore district around 9.05 pm on Friday. The train has been stopped and Palakkad railway division officials said that it will move towards Chennai after getting clearance from the forest department. As many as 28 elephants have been killed from Palakkad – Madukkarai stretch since 1978.

Two elephants were thrown off from the track and they were found on the ground near the track. However, one of the elephants was found on the track in front of the locomotive. 


National Family Health Survey data

The latest National Family Health Survey data indicates that India has more females than males with its overall sex ratio having risen to 1,020 after seeing a dip from 1,000 in 2005-06 to 991 in 2015-16.

The sex ratio at birth, however, was still worryingly low at 929, indicating continued sex selection at birth, despite an improvement from the previous survey.

The increase in overall sex ratio is a combination of increased life expectancy of women and improvement in the sex ratio at birth or the number of female births for every 1,000 male births. India’s poor sex ratio at birth has been a source of national shame and concern as it indicates a general preference for a male child and also that lakhs of female foetuses are being killed.

The sex ratio data of the NFHS seems to be at variance with that of the census. For instance, according to the 2001 census, India’s overall sex ratio was 933, but NFHS-3 conducted in 2005-06 pegged it at 1,000. Again, the 2011 census found the sex ratio to be 940, but according to NFHS-4 (20015-16) it was 991. Being a sample survey, NFHS data could be less accurate and only the next census would reveal whether there actually are more females than males in India, though both sources show a steady improvement in overall sex ratio.

Sex ratio at birth of just 929 for the five years preceding the latest survey is still well below the mark of 952 that the World Health Organisation estimates as the natural sex ratio at birth.

The practice of sex selection at birth continues to be prevalent in most parts of India with the practice spreading to even parts that traditionally had better sex ratio such as tribal states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. However, some of the states with the worst sex ratio at birth, such as Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, showed significant improvement.

SRB of 929 is a definite improvement over 914 in 2005-06 and 919 in 2015-16, but several bigger states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar and Maharashtra saw a worsening the ratio since the last survey. These were offset by significant improvement in SRB in a much higher number of large states including Karnataka, Haryana, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In most states, the sex ratio at birth is lower in urban areas where there is greater access to sex selection technologies. The latest survey, while showing an improvement in both rural and urban SRB, also shows a narrowing of the gap between the two as urban areas have shown higher improvement than rural areas.

Railways plans to speed up

Train travel from Bengaluru to Chennai and Hyderabad is likely to get faster as the railways is planning to increase speed on the routes to 160 kmph. This means travel time between Bengaluru and Hyderabad (632km) is expected to come down to 5-7 hours from the current 10-12 hours. Similarly, travel time to Chennai (362km) may reduce to 3-4 hours from 5-6 hours.

The railways is planning to prepare a detailed project report to up the speed on these two routes. “The DPR will be prepared and then assessed. The idea is to upgrade these corridors to semi-high speed corridors (160 kmph),” said Aneesh Hegde, an official with the South Western Railway.

The DPR will determine the techno-economic feasibility of enhancing the speed to 160 kmph and provide technical inputs required for achieving it on each route. Sources said the actual speed will be lower even if the tracks are upgraded to 160 kmph as no train will continuously run at the top speed.

A senior railway official said it would be too early to determine the average speed of trains after enhancing the speed (up to 160 kmph), but the aim is to reduce travel time and ensure that all long distance routes can be covered in around 12 hours.

The zones through which the routes pass will have to prepare the report in two months, says a letter from the railway board dated November 3. While Southern Railway will be the nodal entity for work on the Chennai-Bengaluru route, South Central Railway will be responsible for Bengaluru-Hyderabad route. The report will assess the number of level-crossing gates, permanent speed restrictions, turnouts, conditions of track and fittings, bridge strength and requirement of fencing. It will also assess the existing signalling system, train protection and warning system for safety.

The DPR will look at existing facilities for maintenance of coaches and suggest an automated system to detect maintenance issues, auto washing plants and water recycling plants.

Hyderabad startup test-fires cryogenic rocket engine

The technology that has so far been mastered by only a handful of space agencies of the US, Russia, China, Europe and Japan, has now been demonstrated by homegrown space-tech startup, Skyroot Aerospace.

The Hyderabad-based company said it has tested ‘Dhawan-1’, which is touted to be the country’s first privately developed fully cryogenic rocket engine running on two rocket propellants -- liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen. The engine was test fired for about 20 seconds as part of the demonstration.

A team of around 20 rocket engineers worked on this project for nearly two years.

Now, after successfully demonstrating the technology, the startup will work on scaling it up to build a bigger engine that will be flying to space in its Vikram-2 launch vehicle in 2023.

“Traditionally liquid Hydrogen has been used, but now space agencies as well as space companies are working on LNG because it is not only a greener fuel but also more cost effective as compared to liquid Hydrogen. Even ISRO is working on it,” Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder & CEO, Skyroot Aerospace, explained.

Skyroot has named its cryogenic engine ‘Dhawan-1’ after former ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan, who played a key role in the development of the Indian space programme.

Cryogenic engines are rocket propulsion systems that use propellants at cryogenic temperatures, which is less than -150° Celsius. This test is crucial because it is the first time a private space tech player has used LNG, which is a greener fuel.

The test was carried out at the Nagpur test facility of Solar Industries India Ltd, which is one of Skyroot’s investors. Elaborating on the test firing of the engine, V Gnanagandhi, who heads the cryogenic propulsion team at Skyroot, said, “The complex engine start and shut-off transients were perfectly smooth, combustion was very stable, and pressure was rock steady. This is a phenomenal achievement by our team and we’ve mastered handling two cryogenic fuels.” Naga Bharath Daka, co-founder & COO at Skyroot Aerospace said that with this milestone, the company has successfully demonstrated all the three propulsion technologies – solid, liquid and cryogenic -- in its Vikram series of space launch vehicles in the first attempt itself.

“This is a completely ‘Made-in-India' cryogenic engine developed using 3D printing with a superalloy, reducing manufacturing time by more than 95%,” said Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder & CEO, Skyroot Aerospace.

NCR Sets 2-Airport Course

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid the foundation stone for Noida International Airport, paving the way for Delhi-NCR to become the first megapolis in India to have two civilian airports for commercial flights by October 2024.

The airport at Jewar will begin its journey with one runway and a terminal to handle 1.2 crore passengers annually at an investment of Rs 5,730 crore. It will, in subsequent phases, also have a multi-modal transit hub at its “ground transportation centre” – the first for any Indian airport – for seamless connectivity with metro, rapid rail and high-speed rail stations, taxi and bus services and private parking in a multi-level structure.

Modi said NIA will be a “logistics gateway” to north India with a hub for multimodal transport. “Crores of people will benefit from this airport that was first thought of by a BJP government two decades back. After that, this project was almost shelved by subsequent governments both in Lucknow and Delhi. If the airport is delayed now, there is a provision for stiff fines (for the developer),” the PM said at the launch event for the project at the airport site.

Depending on how traffic grows, three subsequent phases of expansion by winning bidder Zurich Airport International over a 40-year lease period will see NIA get two runways and as many terminals that will be able to handle 7 crore passengers annually, which is equivalent to Delhi’s IGI Airport’s pre-Covid (2019) capacity. IGIA, that began as Palam Airport in 1962, is still growing and will reach its peak capacity of 10-12 crore passengers annually before 2030.

The UP government eventually wants six runways at the Noida airport. Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said NIA could eventually be bigger than Delhi’s IGI Airport (which will soon have four runways) and become India’s biggest aviation hub.

“The airport will be ready in three years and change the lives of everyone in the region. It will be a massive boost to the economy in all spheres like agriculture, manufacturing, services and for all walks of society from small farmers to industries here,” the PM said.

For seamless connectivity to other states and IGIA, Noida airport will be linked by various expressways, including the upcoming Delhi-Mumbai expressway. “For a landlocked state like UP, this airport will play the role of a port and ensure farmers and manufacturers of unique items in the region — like brassware of Moradabad, petha and footwear of Agra, furniture of Saharanpur… — get quick access to world markets for their products,” Modi said.

NIA will have a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility spread over 40 acres. “Today, almost 85% of aircraft with Indian carriers go abroad for MRO service, spending about Rs 15,000 crore annually. This Rs 30,000-crore project will change that,” the PM said.

Christoph Schnellmann, CEO of Yamuna International Airport Pvt Ltd, the concessionaire for NIA, said, “NIA will connect western UP to other cities in India and the world. This world-class airport will set a benchmark in aviation infrastructure and development of multiple-airport systems in India.”

Madhya Pradesh: CM launches three solar power projects worth ₹5,250 crore

Aiming to meet 50% power demand of Madhya Pradesh through renewable energy, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan laid foundation stones for setting up three solar power plants of 1500-megawatt capacity in Shajapur, Agar and Neemuch at a cost of Rs 5,250 crore.

Chouhan signed a purchase-contract with Union minister for power, new and renewable energy R K Singh for the three plants and said MP is moving fast towards fulfilling PM Narendra Modi’s target of meeting 50% of the country’s energy requirements with solar energy by 2030.

Union minister Singh said Madhya Pradesh has emerged as the leading state in renewable power generation.

MP produces more than 5300MW solar power daily, Chouhan said. This is nearly a quarter of the state’s generating capacity of 22,000MW — hydel, thermal, solar and wind taken together.

He said the state will reduce carbon emission by increasing production of solar energy. “The Madhya Pradesh government is providing electricity to the poor at Rs 100 per month, and giving a grant of Rs 21,000 crore on electricity bills each year,” Chouhan said.

The chief minister launched ‘USHA’ — Urja Saksharta Abhiyan — to generate public awareness on power. He urged people to save electricity, plant trees and protect themselves from Covid by taking the vaccine.

Chouhan expressed happiness on the improving sex ratio in Madhya Pradesh, which has risen from 905/1000 to 956/1000 in the last five years, and mentioned the schemes run by the state government for the welfare of girls as well as women.

Singh, who also signed contracts with private investors for the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kusum-A Yojana’, said work is being done at a fast pace to provide clean and cheap electricity through solar energy in the country.

Adani Readies up to ₹15k-crore SBI Funding for Navi Mumbai Airport

The construction of the second airport in India’s commercial capital is finally taking shape with the Adani Airport Holdings readying funding of up to ₹15,000 crore from the State Bank of India for the proposed airport in Navi Mumbai.

The group is said to have lined up one of the largest project financing loans from India's largest lender, State Bank of India, signalling the return of capex loans for infrastructure projects.

Sources in the know said that the estimated project cost has further increased by ₹4,000 crore to ₹20,000 crore. “Of the total cost, ₹5,000 crore will be put by the Adani Group and the rest will come through borrowings,” the source added.

The bank is said to have completed the project appraisal. It is now finalising contours of the loan, which is likely to be long term, possibly of 15-year tenor. “It makes sense for a bank like SBI to go for such a long-term project loan as the lender is also seeking prudential credit opportunity,” said an executive familiar with the matter.

Sources said, SBI would initially extend the proposed credit line but is likely to down-sell it to other interested lenders Some foreign lenders appear interested in possible syndication; the source added.

The Adani group obtained management control of the Mumbai airport from the GVK group in July and owns 74% stake in Mumbai International Airport Limited, which holds 74% stake in the Navi Mumbai airport. The rest is owned by the Maharashtra government. MIAL is the company that operates Mumbai airport.

After the acquisition of GVK’s Mumbai International Airport, India’s second busiest, and six other airports of AAI, Adani Airport Holdings Ltd accounts for 25% of all passenger traffic and 33% of air cargo.

With air passenger numbers estimated to grow as the industry comes out of the impact of the covid pandemic, airport infrastructure is set to see billions of dollars of investments as India races to fulfil its airport infrastructure needs.

While the Adani group capital investments are going to be in Navi Mumbai airport and AAI airports like Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Guwahati, Trivandrum and Mangalore. 

Jewar Will Have Airport, Be Business Hub, Jobs Centre: PM

Just weeks before the announcement of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Noida International Airport even as the Yogi Adityanath government turned the event virtually into a political rally to woo the voters from the western part of UP.

In his address, the Prime Minister asserted that the airport project will usher in an economic transformation of west UP and benefit crores of people of the region. He said it will lead to creation of one lakh jobs, encourage exports, boost tourism, and improve connectivity through road, rail and metro to other places.

The international airport project was envisaged several years ago but did not see the light of day due to various reasons. The Modi government aims to complete the first phase of the project by 2024 with two functioning runways. This phase of the greenfield airport will be built at a cost of ₹30,000 crore. Later, the airport will have five more runways along with several modern facilities and hubs. Over 20 lakh passengers are expected to use it initially.

UP has three international airports — Lucknow, Varanasi and Kushinagar — and two more — Ayodhya and Jewar— will come up in the next few years.

Modi took digs at the Samajwadi Party and previous governments of Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre, saying airport project was delayed for years on flimsy pretexts. The previous regime had even written to the Centre to scrap it, he added.

Modi also hit out at critics who have maintained that the project was hanging for the last four and a half years and is being initiated only before the polls. “We could have laid the foundation stone of the airport in 2017 itself. People would also have felt there is nothing amiss in doing so. During earlier governments, infra projects were announced without any plan for funds and roadmap for implementation...,” Modi said.

Maharashtra: Imported liquor MRP down by 36%

After Maharashtra government halved excise duty on imported liquor few days back, actual price reduction on bottles of some brands was 31-36%.

This, explained excise officials, was because of a compounded (or tax on tax) tax structure wherein excise duty is calculated on the Centre’s Customs duty and on the derived price, a VAT is loaded.

Though initially only four brands received approval to their MRP, few more major brands are yet to come up with applications with a final price list for their products, said excise commissioner Kantilal Umap.

Slashing excise duty on this premium AlcoBev segment by a steep 50% — from 300% to 150% — in an attempt to crack down on smuggling and bootlegging has made 750 ml bottled-in-origin (BIO) spirits cheaper. “A Johnny Walker Black Label would cost Rs5,760; now it will be Rs3,750 for a bottle of 750ml. This is a reduction of about 35%. In the case of Red Label the reduction is 36%. For the other two brands the reduction is around 31%,” excise officials explained.

International Spirits and Wine Association of India has hailed the tax cut decision by Maharashtra government, saying that it was nothing but a recognition for the emerging bottled-in-origin spirits of premium quality.

ISWAI said the decision will significantly curtail illicit and spurious liquor and smuggling of AlcoBev (e.g scotch whisky) products, besides bringing in price rationalisation and price parity with other states. ISWAI CEO Nita Kapoor said these industry-friendly progressive policy change would improve tax compliance, eliminate grey market and interstate smuggling, increasing state revenue collection.

Pune Metro 3: Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar Metro work officially begins

The Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority has announced the appointed date — actual work commencement — of the elevated 23km Hinjewadi to Shivajinagar Metro corridor on Thursday.

The project, coming up on the public-private partnership model, will have to be completed by the concessionaire, Tata-Siemens, in the next three years and four months.

PMRDA commissioner Suhas Diwase said that the appointed date was announced on Thursday and the letter was submitted to deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and the urban development department secretary.

“The work will begin and be completed in three years and four months from this commencement date. The commencement date was announced as PMRDA has completed all the required land acquisition process and handed the land over to the concessionaire,” he said.

Now that the commencement date is announced, work will begin simultaneously at eight locations along the 23.3km route. An official close to the development said pre-engineering work and geotechnical investigation have been completed, while 70% of the work sites have been barricaded; soil testing, structural design, and work at the casting yard have also begun The corridor will connect Maan, near the Hinjewadi IT park, to the Civil Court in Shivajinagar. Officials said it would take 40 minutes to complete the end-to-end commute on the route, which will comprise 23 stations. The concessionaire will execute the project on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis for an initial concession period of 35 years. The route will have 23 elevated stations and the project is estimated to cost a little over Rs 8,000 crore.

The Metro project is coming up according to the norms of the Centre’s new Metro policy, through the PPP model.

A few days ago, the Centre had pledged Rs.1,230 crore as part of the viability gap funding. About 98% of the land was acquired, paving way for the announcement of the date of commencement, said officials.

The double-decker flyover at the University chowk, which is coming up in place of the older University flyover, too got the green signal; the transport authority had suggested changes for traffic movement to make way for construction work.

The barricading work is in progress in Hinjewadi Phase-3 and on Ganeshkhind Road, and the traffic department will be issuing orders for traffic management.

This is the third Metro corridor coming up in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. The other two routes — the fully elevated 14km-long Vanaz Ramwadi corridor and the 16km Pimpri-Swargate corridor, which will be elevated from Pimpri to Range Hills and underground thereafter — are being developed by the MahaMetro.

The 4.5km extension of the Metro route from Pimpri to Nigdi is pending final approval from the Union government.

The Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MahaMetro) said work can get under way if all approvals are received in the next few months.

Three stations are proposed on the extension to Nigdi. The proposal sent to the Union government was sent back to the state government for some clarifications. A revised proposal was resent to the Centre. Officials from MahaMetro said, “Since it is a natural extension, we are looking to take up the work in the first phase. The entire route will be elevated. We will draw up a plan to float tenders and finalize other details once the final nod is received.”

Officials said that they were in communication with the state government and PCMC in this regard. The extension will cost Rs.947 crore. The expenses will be shared by the Union government, the state and PCMC.

Monsoon & Arctic ice melt have direct ties

If we thought the Arctic sea ice melt would only lead to sea surges and increased sea-level change affecting our coasts, it is time to think again. “Climate change in Arctic circle is worrisome even for our region as it impacts Indian summer monsoon rainfall. Some studies indicate that the extreme heat and rainfall events are also leading to ice melting in that region,” M Ravichandran, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said on Thursday.

In recent years, whenever there has been an increased rainfall over northwestern India and Pakistan, the heat released during such events has been transported through a pathway to the Canadian Arctic region. “A huge amount of heat is released in the atmosphere due to these extreme (rainfall) events. This heat reaches the Canadian Arctic, where it causes rapid sea ice melting,” he said while delivering a plenary talk on ‘Teleconnection between the Arctic and Indian monsoon extreme rainfall’.

Yet another cause of concern has been the influence of Greenland Sea ice on the Indian summer monsoon rainfall. “The autumn sea ice area in the Greenland Sea is related to the central Pacific sea surface temperature. Reduction in Greenland Sea ice area warms the central Pacific Ocean which, in turn, causes reduced rainfall during our monsoon season,” Ravichandran said.

New Covid variant puts India on alert

Scientists in South Africa said they had detected a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers. The number of daily infections in Africa’s hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month. “Unfortunately we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a hastily-called news conference. The variant, which goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529, “has a very high number of mutations,” he said, expressing hope that the World Health Organization will give it a Greek name on Friday. “It’s unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections,” he said. The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa, he added.

“The new variant has a constellation of new mutations,” said Tulio de Oliveira, from the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, who has tracked the spread of the delta variant in the country. “This new variant has many, many more mutations, including more than 30 to the spike protein that affects transmissibility,” he said. “We can see that the variant is potentially spreading very fast. We do expect to start seeing pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks.” De Oliveira said that a team of scientists from seven South African universities is studying the variant. They have100 whole genomes of it and expect to have many more in the next few days, he said.

The WHO said it is “closely monitoring” the reported variant and is expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to determine if it should be designated a variant of “interest” or of “concern”. “Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study,” the WHO added. South African health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”. The country’s daily number of infections hit 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month. Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around the middle of December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.

In the wake of multiple cases of new Covid-19 variant B.1.1529 reported in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Centre has asked states to conduct “rigorous screening and testing” of all international travellers coming from and transiting through these countries.

The new variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus has serious public health implications for the country, the health ministry said, especially at a time when visa restrictions have been relaxed and international travel is opening up.

The Centre has also asked states and UTs to closely track and test the contacts of international travellers from these countries. Botswana has so far reported three cases, South Africa six and Hong Kong one case.

“lt is therefore imperative that all international travellers travelling from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the “at risk” country category of international travellers coming to lndia) and also including all other “at risk” countries indicated in the revised guidelines for international arrivals issued by this ministry dated 11.11.2021, are subjected to rigorous screening and testing, as per health ministry guidelines,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to all states on Thursday. Bhushan urged states to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to INSACOG genome sequencing laboratories promptly as per the ministry guidelines.

The state surveillance officers have also been asked to establish close coordination with their designated or tagged genome sequencing labs for expediting results of genomic analysis, to ensure necessary public health measures may be undertaken by the states and UTs in case presence of variants of concern is reported.


Union minister Gadkari clears road widening works on Pune-Nashik highway

Heavy traffic congestion in Chakan chowk will soon be a matter of past. Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari gave clearance for six laning of the Pune-Nashik highway. The decision has brought joy for Chakan area residents as the road widening will help ease out the chaotic traffic situation on busy chowk.

Announcing the decision on his Twitter handle, the minister said that the draft notification has been sanctioned for the entrustment of Nashik Phata to Khed section on new NH-60 (old NH-50) under section 11 of NHAI Act, 1988 after withdrawing the same from the public works department.

Over the years, the stretch in question on the Pune-Nashik highway has become a hotspot for traffic snarls and accidents. Members of industries’ associations and commuters who spent nearly 30 to 45 minutes daily in the traffic jam on Chakan Chowk expressed happiness over the move.

In 2020, the National Highways Authority of India, had floated tenders for widening and expansion of NH 60 stretch between Indrayani river and Khed taluka. The estimated cost is pegged at Rs 650 crore. The 17.8 km road will see the widening of it to six lanes, with a 2.25-km long flyover at Chakan junction. The proposal also features seven underpasses, two overpasses and two elevated structures proposed to be developed on the highway as per the tender.

The ambitious project is very crucial as it addresses traffic congestion issues in the Chakan, Khed and Ranjangaon MIDC areas.

Union Cabinet approves bill to repeal farm laws

The union cabinet cleared ‘The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021’ that will repeal the three contentious farm laws, as announced by prime minister Narendra Modi on November 19.

The Bill will be introduced to repeal the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The Lok Sabha Bulletin on Tuesday had already listed ‘The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021’. The Parliament had cleared the three farm bills last year but the Supreme Court had stayed them this January.

Spinny in Unicorn Club

Online used car marketplace Spinny has raised $285 million in its Series E funding round, led by Abu Dhabi-based ADQ and New York-based investment firm Tiger Global.

The round marks its entry to the unicorn club, or those startups valued at $1 billion or more. “ADQ and Tiger Global have invested $100 million each in the company, while $50 million has come from Avenir Growth and $25 million from Feroz Dewan’s Arena Holdings,” a person familiar with the development said.

Sources said Spinny’s post-money valuation stood at $1.75 billion, more than doubling from its previous round when it was valued at $740 million after the used car platform raised $108 million from Tiger Global and others in July. The latest fundraise includes a $35 million secondary sale component where some existing investors have partially or fully cashed out.

Spinny is expected to use the capital to invest in developing tech and product capabilities, for branding and to expand geographical reach, sources said.

Entrackr was first to report a bout the fundraising move on Wednesday.


Jan Dhan 3.0 to Focus on Digital, Doorstep Banking

The government is working out a roadmap for the third round of financial inclusion, Jan Dhan 3.0, which will focus on doorstep banking, digital financial products and convergence with its flagship pension and insurance schemes.

The government also aims to ensure availability of a banking touch point from any habitat within 5 km. “We are working with banks to develop a broad structure that will improve access, simplify digital loan applications, and ensure quicker response for retail, MSME and agricultural loans,” said a government official aware of the plan.

The government wants banks to also find linkages and converge Jan Dhan accounts with schemes such as the Atal Pension Yojana, PM SVANidhi, Stand Up India scheme and the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana. “Based on Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and mobile framework, banks can look to offer customers new analytics-based offers and expand their coverage,” the official said, adding that banks are further expected to leverage their business correspondent channels for distribution of small credit and other financial products.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address at the ‘Creating Synergies for Seamless Credit Flow and Economic Growth’ conference, said banks need to adopt a partnership model and shed the culture of being an approver and the customer being an applicant. 

NoBroker Turns Unicorn

Real estate platform No-Broker.com has raised $210 million in a funding round led by General Atlantic, Tiger Global Management and Moore Strategic Ventures.

The capital raising was at a postmoney valuation of $1.01 billion, making NoBroker India’s first property tech (proptech) unicorn, or those startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more.

NoBroker’s latest valuation is a 2.5x jump from last year, when it raised $30 million at a valuation of $400 million. It has raised a total of $361 million till date from investors including Elevation Capital and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma. The Bengaluru-based startup has become the 36th unicorn this year, in what has been a record year from risk capital inflow into the Indian startup ecosystem.

The significant uptick in valuation comes on the back of an increase in the purchase and sale of real estate, the company’s offerings that went beyond its listing services, and a drop in interest rates post-Covid-19. “In the past couple of years, we have transformed ourselves from just a real estate transaction platform to a one-stop-shop.

And this has given us a huge boost because clearly the number of transactions is increasing and customers are finding a lot more value in our services,” said cofounder Saurabh Garg.

The startup was founded by Garg, Akhil Gupta and Amit Kumar Agarwal in 2013. It will use the funds to build its product and technology team, go deeper into existing markets and enter more markets, for marketing, and to build NoBrokerhood, its “gated-community” app and marketplace. The startup also saw a boost in demand for homebuying during Covid-19. The company’s revenue from operations in FY20 stood at ₹63.34 crore. It said its revenue has been tripling every year.

Shimla tops Niti’s urban SDG index

Shimla has topped Niti Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goal index that ranks 56 urban areas according to their progress in meeting SDG goals linked to ending poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education and gender equality, among others.

Coimbatore and Chandigarh were ranked second and third respectively among the top 10 urban centres, while Dhanbad was the laggard and placed among the bottom 10 centres.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly had set the target of meeting 17 SDG goals by 2030. The latest index measures urban centres in India on 15 out of the 17 goals. Out of the 56 urban areas ranked in the index, 44 are with a population of more one million. The remaining 12 are state capitals with a population of less than a million.

For each SDG, the urban areas are ranked on a scale of 0-100. A score of 100 implies that the urban area has achieved the targets set for 2030; a score of 0 implies that it is the farthest from achieving the targets among the selected urban areas, according to a statement issued by the government think tank.

Among the top 10 performers, eight centres scored between 70% to 75.5%, indicating good progress, while the score for the bottom 10 ranged from 52.4% to 58.6%.

Government lists bill to ban all private cryptocurrency

The government listed the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill for introduction during the winter session of Parliament, which will seek to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies” but provide for certain exceptions “to promote the underlying technology” and “its uses”.

The proposed bill—which will also put in place a framework for Reserve Bank of India  to create an official digital currency—comes amid a raging debate over whether the government should ban private cryptocash or regulate them like shares and bonds.

A very vocal lobby led by unregulated exchanges has been campaigning for their inclusion under a regulatory system, as opposed to an outright ban the government had earlier proposed. RBI has been backing a ban on cryptocurrency, arguing it can be used for illegal purposes apart from limiting the central bank’s ability to manage inflation, foreign exchange and the overall economy. It, however, sees no problems with the use of technology for managing logistic chains or land records and is only opposed to its use as a financial instrument.

It cannot be called a currency since the sovereign only enjoys that right,” the apex bank has pointed out. The Centre, however, seems inclined to ban bitcoins, making it clear that dabbling in them carries a clear risk.

While there were observations that a ban will be tough to enforce, or that it will only drive the entire growing trade underground, those supporting a prohibition have argued that even gambling or drug trafficking are illegal and those found violating the law face strict action.

The divergent views had prompted PM Modi to recently hold consultations and call for global cooperation on the issue. While China recently banned all cryptocurrencies, El Salvador is the sole country to permit them for official use.

Government sources said the bill has not been finalised yet and is unlikely to be introduced during the first week of the winter session that starts on Monday. But all eyes are on how the government defines the “uses” of cryptocurrency. In case it allows it to be treated as an asset or a commodity, as a section within the government has argued, it will pave the way for their trading on exchanges. The fear is that trading would allow the instrument to be used as a store of value, although officially it will not be a medium of exchange.

There are concerns that the moment trading is permitted, people may use cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, for making part payment to buy property or for overseas transfer.

While RBI had banned investments in cryptocurrencies, the SC had held the circular illegal. In the meantime, the government-appointed panel, headed by SC Garg, the then economic affairs secretary, submitted its recommendations seeking a ban and the government had planned to introduce a legislation during the Budget session. But with the session cut short, the bill could not be introduced, resulting in a fresh round of consultations.


A Bullet Train From Delhi-Agra ?

The Delhi-Varanasi High Speed Rail or bullet train project would be 958 km long, including a 123km spur connecting Lucknow with Ayodhya, according to the detailed project report. And if all goes as per the government plan, there would be one bullet train running at top speed of 300 kmph every hour from Delhi to Agra and Agra to Delhi by 2029-30.

The entire corridor will be a mix of elevated stretches and tunnels considering the corridor safety requirement. It would have 12 stations and would link all major religious places including Mathura, Ayodhya, Prayagraj and Varanasi. There would be an underground station at Jewar airport as well. The total project cost is estimated at Rs 2.28 lakh crore and getting finance would be crucial for execution of the mammoth project.

According to the DPR prepared by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd, which is implementing the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, the bullet trains would make 63 trips in a day between Delhi and Agra; 43 trips per day between Delhi and Lucknow; 18 trips daily between Delhi and Varanasi. In the case of Ayodhya, the DPR has estimated 11 trips per day.

Currently, it takes around 11-12 hours to reach Varanasi from Delhi by train. The proposed bullet train would reduce this journey time to barely three hours. The high speed rail connectivity to Varanasi, the heart of eastern Uttar Pradesh, is crucial considering that the current regime has is focusing on changing the profile of Purvanchal by creating world class infrastructure.

This move also gains importance as the government makes efforts to place Ayodhya on the world tourism map and high speed connectivity will be a catalyst to bring tourists to the holy city.

AIMPLB opposes uniform civil code

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has sought a new legislation against blasphemy and has expressed concerns over “increasing instances of insult to holy figures.”

Maulana Saifullah Rahmani, general secretary of the AIMPLB, said the board, at a meeting in Kanpur, suggested that the law should cover all religions in the country to protect revered figures, religions and religious beliefs from malicious attempts.

The board also said that the Uniform Civil Code was neither suitable nor useful for a vast multi-religious country like India, adding that it was antithetical to the fundamental right to practice religion as enshrined in the Constitution.

“India is a multi-faith country, and every citizen is guaranteed to practice and profess his faith and religious beliefs, and to act on and preach the same,” the AIMPLB said in a statement.

The board has also asked the government and judiciary to refrain from interpreting holy scriptures, saying only religious authorities were eligible to do that.

“This amounts to encroachment upon the religious rights of the citizens,” it said.

With Jewar, UP to have most international airports

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Noida International Airport in Jewar on Thursday, UP with five international airports will have the highest number of such terminals in the country.

This comes days after the PM inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport to put east UP on a global tourist map.

The Yogi Adityanath government also seeks to fast track the Ayodhya international airport even as the state gears up for the assembly elections in the next few months.

Earlier, only Lucknow and Varanasi were categorized as international airports in UP.

Chief Minister Yogi, who is scheduled to visit the inauguration ceremony site in Ruhi village on Tuesday, will hold a meeting to oversee the preparations. Touted as one of the flagship projects in the National Capital Region, the Jewar airport is projected to come up as a big civil aviation hub with four helipads and five runways. Constructed over an area of more than 3,000 acres, the airport will be built and operated by the Switzerland-based Zurich Airport International AG.

In the first phase, which is scheduled to be completed by 2024, the airport will have the capacity to handle 12 million passengers per annum.

The airport is also projected to ease out air traffic congestion at the IGI international airport in Delhi.

Projected as India’s largest airport after its completion, the NIA is located about 72 km from the existing IGI airport in New Delhi, 40 km from Noida and about 40 km from the multi-modal logistics hub at Dadri. It will have multi-modal connectivity.

Pakistan allows India to provide wheat to Afghanistan via its territory

Following intense speculation over the past several weeks on how Islamabad would respond to India’s proposal to deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan PM Imran Khan announced that his government will allow India to transport 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan via the land route “as soon as modalities are finalised with the Indian side’’.

India wanted to send 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan, where the impending winter threatens to exacerbate an acute food crisis, and was in touch with Pakistan over the issue. The announcement by Khan and his office followed a meeting of Pakistan’s Afghanistan inter-ministerial coordination cell which was chaired by Khan and in which Pakistan also announced its own humanitarian assistance package that included 50,000 tons of wheat and medical supplies.

“This is a welcome development. If India and Pakistan can find pragmatic ways to smoothen their interface on Afghanistan it will be a step forward for both, for Afghanistan and for regional cooperation,’’ said TCA Raghavan, veteran diplomat and former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. Khan also announced Pakistan will also facilitate the return of Afghan patients who had gone to India for medical treatment and are stuck there.

While there was no immediate response by India to the development, sources said India will wait for an official communication. Pakistan’s announcement came a little over six weeks after India proposed delivery of wheat via the Attari-Wagah border.

If Pakistan does indeed allow land transport of wheat to Afghanistan, it will be quite a change from 2002 when it rejected the same proposal by India in similar circumstances even though then Afghan President Hamid Karzai had repeatedly taken up the issue with Islamabad. There had been little indication so far of India and Pakistan working together to deal with the emerging situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf had refused to participate in India’s Afghanistan conference and, on Sunday, he was quoted by the Pakistani media as describing PM Narendra Modi as the “most fascist leader’’ since Hitler.

The Taliban had discussed the wheat proposal with Khan during the recent visit of foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to Pakistan. Khan had said after the meeting that Pakistan will favourably consider the proposed delivery.

Abhi awarded Vir Chakra

Group Captain Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the dogfight after Balakot air strikes in 2019, was conferred the Vir Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind at an investiture ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday.

Kirti Chakras to Sapper Prakash Jadhav (posthumously) and CRPF deputy commandant Harshpal Singh, and 23 Shaurya Chakras, among other awards announced earlier, were also presented during the ceremony.

The Shaurya Chakra awarded posthumously to Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal for an operation in which five terrorists were killed and 200 kg explosives seized in J&K in 2019, was received by his wife Lieutenant Nitika Kaul and mother Saroj Dhoundiyal.

India’s pre-dawn air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed facility at Balakot on February 26 in 2019 had led to the aerial skirmish a day later after the Pakistani Air Force launched a counter-attack with a strike package of advanced fourth-generation F-16 and JF-17 fighters, among others, to bomb Indian military targets across the Line of Control.

Varthaman, then a Wing Commander, was among the fighter pilots who scrambled from the Srinagar airbase to intercept the incoming jets. The attempt was thwarted by IAF but Varthaman’s MiG-21 was shot down after he had downed the F-16. He was held captive in Pakistan for three days before being repatriated. “Varthaman showed conspicuous courage, demonstrated gallantry in the face of the enemy while disregarding personal safety and displayed exceptional sense of duty,” said his Vir Chakra citation. Vir Chakra is India’s third highest wartime gallantry medal.


India to launch ‘desi’ stealth fighter project

India is now finally getting set to launch its most ambitious indigenous military aviation project to build a fifth-generation fighter or the advanced medium combat aircraft with advanced stealth features as well as ‘supercruise’ capabilities.

The case for the full-scale engineering development of the twin-engine AMCA prototypes has been finalised and will be sent for approval to the Cabinet Committee on Security by early next year after consultations between the defence and finance ministries, top sources said on Sunday.

Production of fifth-generation jets is an extremely complex and expensive affair, with the American F/ A-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning-II Joint Strike Fighter, the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and Russian Sukhoi-57 being the only operational ones around the globe at present. Experts, however, contend the J-20 and Sukhoi-57 fighters are still somewhat short of being true blue fifth-generation fighters. The 36 Rafales being inducted by IAF, under the Rs 59,000-crore deal inked with France in September 2016, are 4.5-generation jets.

As of now, the development cost of the 25-tonne AMCA is estimated to be around Rs 15,000 crore, with the first prototype’s “rollout” by 2025-26 and production of the Mark-1 jets slated to begin in 2030-31 under the “aggressive timelines” set by DRDO and its Aeronautical Development Agency. A more realistic time-frame for the AMCA induction to kick off, however, would be around 2035.

The project is critical for IAF, which is grappling with just 30-32 fighter squadrons and will not reach its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons even with “planned inductions” over the next 10-15 years.


Modi repeals farm laws

A little more than a year after they were passed followed by widespread agitation by farmers declining to accept them, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre has decided to repeal the three farm laws.

Coinciding with the auspicious occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Modi also announced that the constitutional process to repeal the laws would be taken up in the winter session of Parliament that begins on November 29 and appealed to the agitating farmers to withdraw their agitation and go back to their homes.

“It seems some of the farmers are still not convinced by our sincere efforts. We have decided to repeal the three farm laws. The constitutional process to repeal these laws would be completed during the Parliament Session that would start at the end of this month,” Modi said, adding an apology in his address to the nation.

Modi also announced to form a committee comprising representatives of the Centre, state governments, farmers, agriculture scientists and agriculture economists to discuss how Minimum Support Price can be made more effective, how zero budget farming can be promoted and how crop patterns can be changed in a scientific manner.

After they were passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, the President had given his assent to the three Farm Bills on September 27, 2020. The three Bills were Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Reacting on the decision, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said Centre arrived at the decision because it had understood that they would face reverses in the upcoming polls. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called the day ‘historic and victory of not just Indian farmers, but also democracy.’ Former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh taking to twitter said, “Great news! Thankful to PM @narendramodi ji for acceding to the demands of every Punjabi & repealing the 3 black laws on the pious occasion of #GuruNanakJayanti.”

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee wrote, “My heartfelt congratulations to every single farmer who fought relentlessly and were not fazed by the cruelty with which @BJP4India treated you,.” 


PM’s council sees 7-7.5% FY23 growth

The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister estimated economic growth to be 7-7.5% in 2022-23 and was confident that once capacity utilisation improves, private investments should also recover.

But it cautioned that this should not mean that the Union Budget for 2022-23 projects unrealistically high tax revenue or tax buoyancy. The members of the EAC-PM were of the view that the Union Budget for 2021-22 was applauded because of the reform measures, as well as the realism in the numbers.

“EAC-PM members were of the view that these dimensions should be carried forward into the 2022-23 Budget too, signalling use of the extra revenue in the form of capital expenditure and human capital expenditure, since Covid has led to a human capital deficit,” according to a statement, adding that, members were optimistic about real and nominal growth prospects in 2022-23. Other than an element of the base effect, the contact intensive sectors and construction should recover in 2022-23.

The members were also of the view that there should be a clear road-map for privatisation and the growth orientation of last year’s Budget should also be maintained.

Mull forming panel to bring in Uniform Civil Code: HC

Dealing with a batch of 17 petitions pertaining to interfaith marriage contracted by the petitioners and seeking protection from the court, the Allahabad high court called upon the Central government to consider setting up a panel for implementing the mandate of Article 44, which says that the “State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”.

The court also directed marriage registrar/officer of petitioners’ districts to forthwith register the marriage of the petitioners without insisting/awaiting nod of the competent district authority with regard to conversion of faith.

Justice Suneet Kumar, who passed the order while allowing the petitions filed by one Mayra alias Vaishnavi and 16 others pertaining to interfaith marriage contracted by the petitioners, further called upon the Union government to initiate the process as the stage has been reached.

“The Uniform Civil Code is a necessity and mandatorily required today. It cannot be made purely voluntary as was observed by Dr BR Ambedkar 75 years back, in view of the apprehension and fear expressed by the members of the minority community. The stage has reached that Parliament should intervene and examine as to whether the country requires multiplicity of marriage and registration laws or the parties to a marriage should be brought under the umbrella of single Family Code,” the court observed.“Marriage is just an association of two persons, recognized by law,” the court added.

The court, in an attempt to envisage the possible effect of Uniform Civil Court on the Indian population if implemented, referred to the Hindu Family Code, which in the court’s opinion, acted as uniform civil code and integrated the citizens into an integrated and united Indian citizenry.

Kashmir Hyderpora Encounter: LG Orders Magisterial Probe

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ordered a magisterial probe into Monday’s controversial encounter in Hyderpora area of Srinagar. Four persons, including a Pakistani militant, were killed in the incident.

Lieutenant governor Sinha said in Srinagar that an additional district magistrate level officer would head the inquiry and the administration would take suitable action as soon as the report is submitted in a time-bound manner.

“J&K administration reiterates its commitment of protecting lives of innocent civilians and it will ensure that there is no injustice,” the office of the J&K LG tweeted. Later in the evening, the administration exhumed bodies of Altaf Ahmed Bhat and Mudasir Gul from a graveyard in Handwara area of northern Kashmir. The bodies would be handed over to the families. The officials have asked the families to conduct the funeral in the presence of a restricted gathering. Restrictions were imposed and contingents of police and paramilitary forces have been deployed around the residences of the two victims to ensure there is no mass protest.

Factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, under house arrest, and Masrat Alam Bhat, in jail, in emailed statements have called for a strike on Friday. The J&K High Court Bar Association protested in the court premises on Thursday and called for a strike on Friday across Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Political parties across the spectrum took out protest marches demanding justice and return of the bodies of civilians killed in the encounter. Former CM Omar Abdullah sat on a protest march in a government park near his residence. Another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, was put under house arrest. The J&K People’s Conference also took out a protest.

The encounter took place at a shopping complex owned by Bhat, in Hyderpora area on the highway in Srinagar. The family members of Bhat, Gul and Aamir Magray have alleged that they were civilians and used as “human shields and killed in cold blood.”

Bhat ran a hardware store on the ground floor, Gul was his tenant on first floor running a construction business office. Aamir was Gul’s office assistant. The police claim that four persons killed in the operation included two militants — a Pakistani, Haider and Aamir — while accusing Gul of being a top militant associate who provided logistical support to them.

2025: Infusing Life Back Into Yamuna

Determined to clean the Yamuna before February 2025, Delhi government has started work on a war-footing to ensure that the river gets its life back. Various measures being taken up include enhancing the sewage treatment capacity, monitoring creation and treatment of industrial waste and ensuring processing of domestic sewage before the treated water flows in the Yamuna.

Four new sewage treatment plants are being built — Okhla facility with a capacity of 124 million gallons a day, Coronation Pillar site 70MGD, Rithala 40MGDs and Kondli plant, 45MGDs. The existing 19 STPs are being upgraded to boost their treating capacity.

The government is also going for in-situ treating of sewage in the Najafgarh drain, Supplementary drain, Barapullah drain and Shahdara drain. “The running water is being cleaned inside the drain itself instead of in an STP,” explained a government official.

Waste generation in 33 industrial clusters is under watch. “In 17 industrial clusters, wastewater flows to 13 common effluent treatment plant. Wastewater from locations not linked with a treatment plan will be tapped in the sewer line and sent for cleaning,” the official said.

The government has directed the industries department to act against units that do not channel their waste through a pipeline going to a treatment plant. “If they do not put the wastewater in treatment plant drains, the units will be shut down,” warned the government. Industrial units that discharge water into the sewers without treatment will also be closed down. There are many manufacturers, such as of plastic pellets, that dump waste into sewer lines. Improper disposal of waste in this manner will also attract strict punishment, the government stated.

The community toilet complexes in JJ clusters across the capital are connected to stormwater drains and not to the sewage network. All wastewater in such clusters flows into the the stormwater drains too. On Thursday, Delhi government stated, “It has been decided that even the smallest drain coming out of JJ clusters will be connected to the nearby sewer line so that wastewater can be treated at the STP. The target is to get sewer lines for 1,799 unauthorised colonies in Delhi by 2024.”

The plan also wants to prevent household toilet waste from going into sewage drains. “East Delhi now has provision for connecting all households to a sewage network. Yet, there are many small and big waste-carrying drains, whose contents are dumped into the stormwater drains. After this, that water then flows into the Yamuna through the bigger drains,” noted the government statement.

This filthy water flows down the big drains spreading a foul smell across large areas, creating a breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes and contaminating the groundwater before eventually polluting the Yamuna.

Delhi has a sewer network that is 9,225km long, and Delhi has started the process to unclog all of them. “Wastewater from households contains silt which continually builds up inside the sewer line,” said a government official. “If the pipeline gets choked anywhere along its length, the dirty water flowing in it is blocked and overflows onto the roads and again eventually reaches the river through the stormwater and drains.

The target before the government in the next six months is to clear the sewer lines of accumulated silt. “Any area in which the sewer line is found to be clogged from 10% to 50% will be cleaned and desilted. After this, the wastewater is more likely to reach the STPs for treatment,” the government stated.