Treated water to infuse a fresh lease of life into three east Delhi ponds

East Delhi Municipal Corporation has intensified the development work of waterbodies at Ghazipur (Highway Apartments), Shahdara Jheel and Mandawali and they are expected to be completed by April-end. Revival work on a fourth waterbody in Ghazipur Village (next to the vegetable mandi) has been completed through CSR funds.

A proposal has been made for installing sewer treatment plants at all four ponds for regular supply of treated water. For other beautification work, EDMC has approached the elected representatives and the Centre to raise funds.

While Rs 3 crore has been approved from MPLAD funds for Mandawali and Ghazipur (Highway Apartments) waterbodies, development of Shahdara Jheel is being done through the AMRUT scheme of the central government. “The initiative is being taken up on the directions of National Green Tribunal. As we have four major ponds in our jurisdiction, we have chalked out a plan to dig and revive them,”’ said EDMC horticulture director Raghwendra Singh.

Shahdara Jheel has been rejuvenated and a phytorid technology based STP with a capacity of 30 lakh litres water per day has been installed there in the first phase. “The STP plant fills the 6. 8 acre lake, with an average depth of 2. 5 metres, with treated water on a regular basis. At present, work on phase-II of the project is in full swing. This includes tasks related to horticulture, electrical and engineering departments,” said the official. The pond is expected to be inaugurated on Tuesday.

At Ghazipur Village, the horticulture department has filled the pond with rainwater. “The waterbody is spread across around one acre of the three-acre park. Last year, we revived the pond during monsoon with the help of an NGO. We dug the area and cleaned the site properly before filling it with rainwater,” Singh said.

For the 10-feet deep waterbody next to Highway Apartments, the corporation is expecting Rs 1. 94 crore from MPLAD funds. “We have received the nod from MP Gautam Gambhir and prepared a detailed project report, which includes installation of an STP of 50 KLD, construction of a boundary wall, footpath and grilles. At least four high-mast lights, eight types of children’s playing apparatus, gym equipment, etc will be installed,” said an official.

At Dr Hedgewar Talab Park in Mandawali, work is on for developing a recreational space-cum-sports facility on seven acres of land located in the middle of the congested colony. The place will be thrown open to the public on February 28. “We started work after receiving Rs 1. 05 crore from Gautam Gambhir’s MPLAD funds. Work on developing badminton and basketball courts, green lawn and separate playing area for children will be started later,” said Singh.

75% of adults in India are now fully vaxxed

Over 75% of adults in the country are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with two doses of the jabs, heralding a major milestone in the mass immunisation drive that played a crucial role in keeping disease severity, hospitalisation and deaths low during the present surge powered by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2. 

PM Modi: Love for nature, animals is Indian culture

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his radio programme — Mann Ki Baat — on Sunday, highlighted the love of Indians for nature and animals.

He cited examples how people gave a heartfelt farewell to a tigress, known as ‘Collar Wali Baghin’, who died recently at the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and how people in Assam launched a huge campaign against poaching to save rhinoceros.

He also mentioned about a horse, Virat, who led this year’s Republic Day parade as Commandant Charger for the last time and was given a grand farewell on the occasion. Noting that “love for nature and compassion for every living being” is Indian culture, Modi said, “A glimpse of these ‘sanskaras (culture)’ of ours was seen recently when a tigress left the world in Pench Tiger Reserve. The death of this tigress made people so emotional as if someone of their own had left the world. People performed her last rites, bid her farewell with respect and affection. . . This love of Indians for nature and living beings was greatly appreciated the world over. ”


Mumbai: Metro 2 A and 7 train sets get nod from safety authorities

In a major development, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has received approval from the Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety for the rolling stock (train sets) that will be used to run services on Metro 2A and 7 in the western suburbs.

Trials for phase I of Metro 2A (Dahisar West-Dahanukarwadi) and 7 (Dahisar East-Aarey along Western Express Highway) were flagged off by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on May 31, 2021. There are two components of the Metro project which require approvals by CRMS one for rolling stock and another for systems, which includes track signalling, traction power and civil works.

Metropolitan commissioner SVR Srinivas confirmed, "We have received approval for rolling stock and as soon as clearance for system arrives, we can introduce commercial operations. "

The first phase spanning20km is between Dahanukarwadi of Line 2A to Aarey of Line 7 (18 stations). Both these Metro lines are expected to reduce vehicular traffic by 25%.

During this dynamic trial run period, the prototype train set of six cars were run at various speeds. Various sub-systems and equipment were tested under dynamic conditions. Performance proving tests besides integration with signalling, platform screen doors, telecom were also tested.

Similarly, emergency brake distance trials were carried out to test braking potential. 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 totheir hometowns, which brought work to a standstill.

Commercial operations were later targeted to commence from October 2021 between Dahanukarwadi; and Aarey via Dahisar on both the lines. The commissioning deadline for the entire stretch of lines 2A and 7 was set for January 1, 2022. 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.

India and Israel have ‘gehri dosti’

With the world witnessing significant changes, India’s ties with Israel have become even more significant, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. Speaking on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Modi said it was the best possible time now to set new goals in the relationship.

“This day holds importance in our relationship as full diplomatic ties were established between the two countries 30 years ago. A new chapter between the two countries had begun. It was a new chapter but history between us is age-old,” said the PM. “For centuries, the Jew community has stayed in India in a harmonious environment without any discrimination and has grown. It has made an important contribution in our development journey,” he added.

In a special video message on the occasion, Modi said people of India and Israel have always shared a special relationship. “There cannot be a better opportunity than now for setting new goals for mutual cooperation,” Modi said.

Israel and India have a “gehri dosti” (deep friendship), Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Saturday and thanked PM Modi for his “deep commitment” to the “strong and robust friendship” as the two nations celebrated 30 years of establishment of diplomatic relations.


India to See a Decade of Capex Mahotsav: Birla

The twin-balance sheet problem of stressed loans and overleveraged corporates is well behind and the coming decade will see an upsurge in capital expenditure across many sectors, wrote Kumar Mangalam Birla.

“I believe, we have upon us a forthcoming decade of Capex Mahotsav in India,” Birla wrote on a note on LinkedIn that was titled “My Reflection 2021-2022”

Birlas aid that in India, a generation of entrepreneurs are now taking advantage of economic reforms as profound as those in 1991.

1991 is the year when some of the important policy initiatives were introduced in the budget for correcting the fiscal imbalance, like reduction in fertiliser subsidy, abolition of subsidy on sugar, disinvestment of a part of the government's equity holdings in select public sector undertakings.

“The private sector is also firing on two-engines, the conventional and the new economy. I call it the double-engine growth,” Birla s aid.

Investors are excited about growth prospects in core sectors as well as sunrise sectors… the word sunrise sector applies to the entire landscape in India, which includes both conventional sectors like cement, steel, power and auto and emerging areas like digital and renewables, Birla said.

Whiplash effects have come into force, with shortages in humble $1 semiconductors in Taiwan, and a fire in a lithography factory in Berlin, lengthening the queues for eager buyers of new cars in India, he said.

“In messages reminiscent of the licence era, hopeful car aspirants are now being put in long waiting lists as companies scramble to crank up production,” Birla said, adding that these whiplash effects have called into question a decades long shift towards increasing efficiency and finely tuned precision operations that optimised operating costs but took away room for margins of error.

Birla said that the world is filled with capital and is the best time to be an entrepreneur.

SC revokes 1-year suspension of 12 BJP MLAs in Maharashtra

Holding that suspension of a member from any assembly beyond one session of the House is grossly violative of “basic democratic values” and worse than expulsion, the Supreme Court held the resolution passed by the Maharashtra assembly to suspend 12 BJP MLAs to be “unconstitutional, grossly illegal and irrational” as the period of suspension extended beyond the remainder of the session concerned.

In a judgment running into 90 pages, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar said legislatures should use suspension as a measure to discipline unruly members in a graded way: starting with barring the member from participation for remainder of the day and, in case of repeat offence, eviction for the rest of the session.

Drone show: IIT alumni startup raced against time

The Indian start-up, which is set to mesmerise the audience at the Beating Retreat ceremony on Saturday with a drone light show by a swarm of 1,000 drones, came up with the challenge to develop the technology in just six months after getting financial support from the government.

Botlab Dynamics, led by IIT alumni, was given an initial seed fund of Rs 1 crore for R&D and subsequently Rs 2. 5 crore for scale-up and commercialisation by the science & technology ministry’s technology development board to develop the first-of-its-kind technological project in the country.

Union S&T Minister Jitendra Singh, who met the engineers and team members of Botlab at his Delhi residence on Friday, said India will become the fourth country after China, Russia and the UK to carry out such a largescale show with 1,000 drones. He felt proud the technology was developed within the country and comprised indigenous development of all necessary components, including both hardware and software such as the flight controller (brain of the drone), precision GPS, motor controller and ground control station algorithms.

Maharashtra: MSEDCL to install 10 lakh smart meters across state

The MSEDCL has floated tenders for installation of 10 lakh smart meters for electricity consumers across Maharashtra and has also sent a proposal to the government for setting up of 1.66 crore smart meters in 3-4 years, announced MSEDCL managing director Vijay Singhal on Friday.

“The installation of 10 lakh new smart meters will be finalised in a fortnight and this will be a game changer in 2022,” Singhal said, adding that the smart meters will ensure accurate readings, reduce cases of inflated billings, bring in savings for consumers who can keep a check on consumption every hour and also reduce annual power distribution losses. The power distribution losses of MSEDCL, with a consumer base of 2.8 crore, is the highest in the state at over 10%.

The smart meters can also prevent power theft. For example, if there is any tampering of the meter by a third party, there is an inbuilt alert which goes off. An alert message will be sent to the server of MSEDCL and the customer is also informed of any kind of meter rigging.

Experts said these meters will immensely benefit power utility firms to reduce the peak power consumption and control average cost of supply. “It will help us in load planning and load forecasting at any given time of the day or night as we can check the patterns of consumption across various pockets/power distribution areas remotely,” Singhal said.

MSEDCL can switch off the smart meter remotely, and can also take meter readings without actually going to the site. This will be of great advantage during a lockdown.


Chennai: Elevated metro line on OMR to run parallel to proposed IT expressway

In a few years, when you take a metro train to your office on OMR chances are you will see your boss or a colleague zipping along in their car on a road alongside. Chennai Metro Rail Limited has redesigned the elevated metro rail line to run parallel to the proposed elevated IT Expressway to reduce construction and operational cost and build the line faster.

The metro rail line will run 20km from Nehru Nagar to Siruseri Sipcot with 19 stations. The redesign, approved by the government, is expected to reduce construction cost by approximately ₹250 crore in addition to the operational cost. Work on the 118. 9km phase-2 is expected to be completed around 2025.

“Our work on OMR will commence soon. But we do not know when the elevated expressway will become operational. If we are going to be on level two, future operational cost which includes elevators and escalators will be very high. So, we have redesigned metro corridor,” a top CMRL official said.

While the 10km stretch from Nehru Nagar to Sholinganallur is expected to be ready along with most elevated stretches of phase-2 in 2025, the line from Sholinganallur to Siruseri Sipcot may be ready within a gap of a few months depending on the contractor’s efficiency.

The new line will still be a roller coaster ride for commuters as it would start at 15m from the road level, reaching a maximum height of 25m. The redesigned metro line will be in the centre of OMR with a minimum height of 12m to 15m starting from Nehru Park. The Expressway will run either side of this corridor. “The columns will be around 1. 2m diameter. So, the width of the service road on OMR will not be affected by the elevated expressway. ”

When phase-2 was initiated, CMRL designed an elevated corridor on OMR that was to run on level two above the planned vehicular expressway on level one. The plan was to leave some provisions for the Expressway to be built later. “With the new design, we can complete our corridor and Expressway can be built any time,” the official said.

Experts say the Expressway may still bring more vehicles on the road. “But if CMRL provides good first mile and last mile connectivity on the entire stretch, it will encourage car and bike users to park vehicles at metro stations and take trains to work,” said Sivasubramaniam Jayaraman of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Madhya Pradesh to get 2 more tiger reserves

Here’s some good news for those ‘wild’ at heart. The Centre has given in-principle approval to develop Madhav National Park in Shivpuri district as a tiger reserve. And chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has asked officers to consider notification of Ratapani as a tiger reserve, if locals are willing.

When these two sites are notified, Madhya Pradesh will become the state with the maximum number of tiger reserves. There are six tiger reserves and 10 national parks as of today. Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had met environment minister Bhupender Yadav a few months ago and submitted a proposal for reintroduction of tigers in Madhav National Park. “Madhav National Park has sustained a tiger population for over 200 years. This area used to be the Reserve Park of the erstwhile Gwalior royal family and boasted of a robust tiger population,” Scindia had written in his proposal.

Air India back with the Tata's

The Tata Group took over Air India on Thursday, which returned to the fold after being run as a government entity for 69 years.

"Formalities have been completed. Shares have been transferred… payment has been received. As we speak, they (Tatas) are the new owners," Department of Investment and Public Asset Management secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey told reporters on Thursday.

The new owners have a 100-day plan that will be put into action to improve operational and service standards of the loss-making, debt-laden national carrier that includes on-time performance, as well as is- sues related to passenger complaints and call centres.

“We are delighted that the disbursement is completed," Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said. "We are excited to have Air India back in the Tata Group and are committed to making this a world-class airline. I warmly welcome all the employees of Air India to our group, and look forward to working together. ”

The Tata Group was the winner of the Air India privatisation exercise last year.

The government had nationalised Air India by acquiring a majority stake in the carrier from Tata Group in 1953, although founder JRD Tata continued as chairman until 1977.After the government takeover, the company was renamed Air India International Ltd and domestic services were transferred to Indian Airlines as a part of a restructuring programme. Indian Airlines and AI were merged in 2007.

"Ratan N Tata joined N Chandrasekaran in expressing his thankful recognition to the government of India and its various departments for the successful completion of this important transaction," the Tata Group said.(They) " philosophically agree with the Prime Minister's vision for the aviation sector, of making it affordable and ensuring it contributes to boosting Ease of Living for citizens".

The immediate focus will be on two key areas—a vastly improved meal service and the interface with crew and ground staff. Under the new management, the airline is said to have firmed up plans to address passengers as guests and play recorded messages by Ratan Tata, to help convey the message that change is in the air, said people with knowledge of the matter. Cabin crew members have been asked to keep a check on their body mass index (BMI) as part of efforts to spruce up the air line, they said. Experts said that the main challenge will be to change the culture at Air India.

"There is no current institutional memory within Air India of how the airline used to operate under the Tata management of yesteryears. Bridging the cultures of the two organisations will therefore present a major challenge in the short-term and will require patience and extraordinary tact," said Mukund Rajan, former brand custodian of the Tata Group.

Maharashtra: Supermarkets, stores of 100+ sq m can sell wine

In a move that is aimed at providing a larger domestic market for wine producers and grape farmers, the Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday allowed walk-in stores and supermarkets of over 100 square metres in the state to sell wine stored on their shelves. The shops will need a wine sale licence and will only be able to sell to customers with a liquor permit.

Until now, supermarkets with a liquor licence had been allowed to sell wine and beer in the state. However, these had to be displayed inside a separate enclosure. Several large supermarket sold wine in this manner for several years.

The latest decision of the state cabinet will allow smaller shops to also sell wine without requiring a separate enclosure. “This will help smaller vineyards and brands that cannot market their product to have access to a larger market. It will boost the wine industry in the state,” said a senior government official.

State skill development minister Nawab Malik said, “This will help grape farmers in the state to widen their market and get a better price for their produce. ”

Although Maharashtra is the leading wine producer in the country, domestic wine sales are poor and are dominated by a few brands. The state produces roughly 1. 7 crore litres of wine per year, of which only 70 lakh is sold domestically, officials said. Wine in the state is produced through fruits, flowers, bananas and honey.

The opposition has slammed the move. “We won’t allow Maharashtra to become Madya-Rashtra (a liquor state),” said leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis.

The cabinet decision specifies that the shops selling wine will have to be located at a distance from educational and religious institutions. This decision will not be implemented in districts which have a liquor ban. The shops will need to have a cupboard measuring 2.5 cubic metres, with a lock. The licence for the sale of wine in walk-in stores and supermarkets will be worth Rs 5,000. The shops will also have to have a license under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act, 2017.

Wine producers have welcomed the move. “This will improve wine production and sales by 20%-30%,” said Jagdish Holkar, president of the All India Wine Producers Association. He said the state has 70 wineries and around10,000 people involved in the trade.

Several small stores said they were uncomfortable with the idea of selling liquor. Some said it went against the idea of what kirana stores typically sell and their owners would not permit it.


Lanka Seeks to Integrate Economy with India

Sri Lanka has initiated a country strategy for India with an eye on integrating its ‘fragile’ economy with the Indian economy with focus on eight sectors to boost fortunes.

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government has identified energy, refineries, electricity grid, ports, real estate, tourism and information and communications technology for attracting investments from India, the island nation’s envoy to India Milinda Moragoda said in an interview.

“India is the biggest economy in the region and Lanka wants to benefit from the Indian growth story,” he said. “Lanka can be a springboard for the Indian investors in the region. Our idea is to integrate our economy into the Indian economy for a win-win situation. ”

Trincomalee oil firm project is one of the concrete initiative that could lead to integration with the Indian energy sector, Moragoda said. Lanka also has a requirement for oil refineries and looks forward to Indian refiners’ participation in that sector. Cross-border electricity grid is another area where Lanka is seeking to integrate into the Indian grid, given its limited requirements compared to India. “Few of India’s other neighbours have benefitted from this model,” the envoy said.

Tourism sector is the lowest hanging fruit and Indian tourists are biggest in number and contributing to Lankan economy’s recovery after the pandemic, he said. ITC is setting up its biggest luxury hotel abroad in Colombo. “But it is not just the high-end tourism, Lanka has provision for every type of tourists. We are inviting Indian investments in the tourism sector like real estate and port sectors,” said Moragoda who in the past has served as Lanka’s tourism minister.

The information technology sector is yet another sector which provides opportunity for a win-win situation, he noted. The goal is to facilitate digital connectivity between Sri Lanka and India. It would also help increase sea and air connectivity between the neighbours. The strategy document calls for increasing Indian investments and facilitate ongoing large-scale economic development and investment-driven projects in Lanka. It also calls for increasing exports from Sri Lanka and expand Sri Lanka’s market share in India. Lankan textile sector is also keen on developing its partnership with Indian players.

Colombo also plans to expand collaboration in the fields of strategic cooperation, defence and Indian Ocean security between Sri Lanka and India, according to the country’s strategy document. This would include expanding bilateral joint military exercises, study tours, and increased high-level military exchanges. The goal is also to secure relevant training berths offered by India’s defence ministry and establish and maintain contacts with India’s paramilitary and police forces, with a view to securing additional training opportunities for Sri Lankan forces.

Republic Day Parade: 1971Operation to Liberate Bangladesh gets Centre Stage

The 1971 operations to liberate Bangladesh found centre stage at the Republic Day parade on Wednesday, where a first of its kind flying display to denote the 75th anniversary of Independence was also there.

The ceremony was marked by several firsts, which commenced with Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the National War Memorial at India Gate. The pandemic limited the audience but there were new elements like cockpit videos during the flypast and equipment to reflect past operations.

Soldiers of the J&K Light Regiment donned uniforms worn during 1971 and carried the 7. 62mm self-loading rifle. The flypast included a vintage Dakota aircraft used in the Tangail airdrop in 1971that led to the fall of Dhaka, the turning point of the war.

Another first for the parade was a ‘past to present’ theme to the marching contingents that showcased evolution of uniforms and equipment of the Indian Army in the past 75 years. This included a contingent of the Rajput Regiment donning the 1947 uniform and carrying vintage . 303 rifle. The Assam Regiment was in its 1962 uniform while the Sikh Light Regiment and the Army Ordnance Corps were in present day uniform. The Parachute Regiment donned the new combat uniform of Indian Ar my unveiled earlierthis month.

The march past included the erstwhile Gwalior Lancers (now 61 Cavalry), the only active serving horse cavalry regiment in the world. Vintage equipment like the P 76 and Centurion tanks, Tiger Cat missile system and BMP 1 armoured fighting vehicle were on display too. The Naval contingent was led by a woman officer and its tableau depicted the uprising of 1946, Make in India initiatives since1983 and models of the new Vikrant aircraft carrier and the Naval version of the light combat aircraft.

The air force had models of the light combat helicopter and the Rafale fighter jets but the highlight was a large flypast that consisted of 75 aircraft, including a formation of the Jaguar land attack fighters that symbolised the number 75 with a tight formation. The parade also saw for the first time visuals from the cockpits of participating aircraft that gave a birds eye view of Rajpath and central Delhi.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation displayed its indigenously developed ‘Air Independent Propulsion System’ made for submarines, an advanced electronically scanned array radar and five different aerial launched weapons among other systems.

Isro to launch 5 sats in 3 months

Indian Space Research Organisation under its newly-appointed chairman S Somanath is gearing up to accelerate space activities, which were till now paralysed for several months due to Covid-triggered restrictions.

In the next three months, Isro is targeting to launch five satellite missions involving three rocket launches, which also include the maiden launch of India’s first newly-developed small satellite launch vehicle targeted at scaling up small-sized commercial satellite launches. While giving the timelines of the new launches to space minister Jitendra Singh in Delhi on Tuesday, the Isro chairman mentioned a RISAT-1A satellite launch with PSLV C5-2 rocket scheduled for February, OCEANSAT-3, INS 2B and ANAND satellite launches by PSLV C-53 in March and SSLV-D1 launching a micro SAT in April. This year, Isro also has the distinction of launching Gsat-21, the first fully-funded satellite of New Space India Ltd that will be owned and operated by the public sector undertaking.

This communication satellite will meet direct to home application needs of the country.

Somanath also updated Jitendra Singh about the status of the Gaganyaan programme and said there had been a delay in timeline be- cause of Covid and other constraints “but now things have again fallen back on track and all the systems needed for the first unmanned mission are getting realised”, a statement from the Department of Space said.

Before the final manned mission in 2023, Isro is planning to launch two unmanned missions, the second one will carry a ‘vyommitra (humanoid)’, before the final mission involving two or three astronauts to space for seven days. The minister was also informed that astronauts have successfully undergone generic space flight training in Russia and now a dedicated ad-hoc centre has also been established at Bengaluru for a specific training for the mission.


IMF lowers GDP forecast for FY22 to 9%

India’s economy is estimated to grow by 9% in the current fiscal year, a tad slower than the International Monetary Fund’s earlier forecast of 9. 5% due to the impact of the third Covid wave.

The IMF, which released its World Economic Outlook, raised India’s GDP growth estimate to 9% for 2022-23 from its earlier estimate of 8. 5% in October and for 2023-24 it forecast the economy to grow by 7. 1%. On a calendar year basis, the IMF said India’s growth is projected at 8. 7% in 2022 and 6. 6% in 2023. China is estimated to grow by 8. 1% in 2021 and 4. 8% in 2022.

India will retain its tag as the fastest growing major global economy. IMF’s forecast for 2021-22 is slightly lower than the 9. 2% growth projected by the National Statistical Office. The Reserve Bank of India has estimated the economy to grow by 9. 5% in 2021-22.

The economy has been on a recovery path after the impact of the world’s strictest lockdown, which led to a 7. 3% contraction. The spread of the Omicron variant has prompted states to impose curbs, which has hurt several sectors of the economy particularly the contact-intensive services sectors. But most experts acknowledge that the impact of the third wave on the economy would be muted.


Electronics Push

India is planning to make changes to its labour regulations in order to facilitate global value chains to set up large manufacturing units that would employ between 40,000 and 100,000 employees.

The government is also likely to make changes to the production-linked incentives scheme for IT hardware in the next three months to attract more investments. This is part of concerted moves to ramp up domestic electronics manufacturing by over four times to $300 billion by 2025-26, including a 10-foldjump in exports.

“I discussed the issue of setting up manufacturing units, with a footprint of over 40,000 and up till 1 lakh, with the labour minister (Bhupendra Yadav) ,” communications & IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.

The discussions have revolved around resolving labour, regulatory, housing and industrial zone issues. For example, such a large labour force cannot travel to work daily. It needs to be housed on campus, with the requisite facilities. Vaishnaw pointed out that campus housing as desired by the industry is not permitted under current laws.

In China, which is the hub of global electronics manufacturing, there are factories with as many as 400,000 living on the premises.

Vaishnaw said the labour ministry’s response was very positive. “The labour minister feels this is a highly doable thing and doesn’t require any major change in the legal framework or in rules,” he said.

Vaishnaw said he has received a commitment from Yadav that changes will be made to rules and regulations, or even the law, if required.

The industry has sought a housing/dormitory policy for such industrial units.

Also, the government needs to be mindful of potential law and order issues related to such a large gathering of workers, besides providing basic infrastructure such as hospitals. All this is required if India wants to scale up local electronics manufacturing to $300 billion worth of goods, from $67. 3 billion in FY20-21, says the industry.

Swiggy: 5th Startup To Turn Decacorn

Food delivery giant Swiggy is the fifth startup in India to become a decacorn after it raised $700 million in a round led by Atlanta-based investment company — Invesco.

A decacorn is a startup with a valuation of over $10 billion. The current round, which has valued Swiggy at around $10. 7 billion, witnessed participation from a slew of new investors, including Baron Capital Group, Sumeru Venture, IIFL AMC Late Stage Tech Fund, Kotak and Axis Growth Avenues.

Other decacorns from India are Byju’s (current valuation is $21 billion), Flipkart ($11 billion in 2014-15), Oyo ($10 billion in 2019) and Paytm ($16 billion in 2019).

The development comes close on the heels of the Bengaluru-headquartered startup committing close to $700 million to its quick-commerce grocery business (Instamart), which has seen increased traction due to the pandemic-led shift in consumer habits. It may soon overtake its food delivery service, said people familiar with the company’s operations. “The gross merchandise value our food delivery business achieved in 40 months, took Instamart just 17 months, demonstrating the platform benefits of Swiggy. We will double down on this to build more categories in line with our mission of offering unparalleled convenience to Indian consumers,” said Sriharsha Majety, co-founder and CEO at Swiggy.

With India’s quick-commerce market set to grow to $5 billion by 2025 from $0. 3 billion currently, according to data from RedSeer, the potential has lured a host of companies, including new kid on the block — Zepto, Zomato-backed Blinkit (formerly Grofers), Reliance-backed Dunzo and veterans such as Tata-backed Big Basket, which plans to open 800 brick-and-mortar stores.

This fund-raise will enable Swiggy to accelerate growth on its core platform and grow Instamart, which is set to reach an annualised GMV run rate of $1 billion in the next three quarters, according to the company.

Quick commerce is a new sub-vertical that allows for delivery of small quantities of goods within an hour. Ecommerce companies manage such fast deliveries through a network of dark stores, small warehouses that stock inventory, in close proximity to a consumer’s home.


Tower density to rise from 0.4 to 1/1,000 people by 2024

The pandemic has shown how digital has become the backbone of our economy, aiding businesses and offices, education and entertainment from home. The government wants adequate enablers to be in place to support the growth of digital infrastructure as internet becomes central to a variety of tasks,” sources said.

The push to towers — often at the receiving end of resident welfare associations over radiation concerns — will see their density go up from 0. 4/1,000 population to 1/1,000 population by the end of March 2024.

“At present, 6. 8 lakh towers have been installed across the country. More than 15 lakh towers are to be installed by FY24. Consultations will be held with stakeholders to plan a strategy for faster fiberisation,” a source said. Currently, around 34% of the towers have been fiberised in India. The plan is to take this up to 70% by end of March 2024.

Experts believe that as spectrum holdings of telecom companies get stronger through regular auctions, the next set of efforts is needed in infrastructure development.

“With a robust 5G infrastructure, India will empower innovators to help create new businesses, services and experiences to benefit sectors across domains,” Avishkar Misra, who heads data science at TracFone Wireless, a Verizon subsidiary, said.

The government also wants to set up a National Fibre Authority on the lines of other regulatory authorities.

Omicron Strain in Community Transmission Stage in India: Insacog

Omicron is in community transmission in India and has become the dominant variant in multiple metros, Insacog, the genomic consortium has said.

In its latest weekly newsletter, Insacog cautioned that the threat level remains “unchanged” asserting that most Omicron cases so far have been asymptomatic or mild though hospitalisations and ICU cases have been increasing in the current wave.

In the fourth week of December, Omicron was found in 50% of the samples sent for genomic sequencing. In the second and third week of January, it is around 90-95%.

The Insacog genomic surveillance data showed that Omicron has been found in 100% of cases in Rajasthan, followed by 90% in Delhi, 80% in Maharashtra. Insacog expects that the spread of Omicron in India is through internal transmission and not on account of those who have travelled overseas. Insacog said that a revised sampling and sequencing strategy is being worked out to address genomic surveillance objectives in the wake of a dynamic changing scenario.

Experts say that the situation requires constant vigil. “Since initial detection has primarily been in vaccinated travellers, this should not be taken to mean that Omicron infection will also be mild in high-risk unvaccinated subjects.

The threat level remains high and requires constant vigil as the situation rapidly evolves with community spread. Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination are the main shields against all mutations of SARSCoV-2 virus,” it said.

According to experts, BA. 2 lineage is a substantial fraction in India and S-gene dropout-based screening is thus likely to give high false negatives. This means that in some cases the RTPCR test may show false negatives.

Pune Airport: New terminal building to be ready by next January

The under-construction new terminal building of the Pune airport will be ready by January next year.

The new proposed date of completion is a delay of almost five months from the earlier proposed deadline of August 2022.

Without mentioning reasons for the delay, an airport official shared on condition of anonymity, “More than 68% of the work for this structure has been completed. We should see the new terminal building becoming operational by January of next year. ”

However, sources also said that once the building gets ready, it would need the necessary permissions and approvals of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and other aviation bosses like the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. “The work on the Rs.415 crore project is on in full swing at present. With regards to the multi-level parking project, it should be ready for initial operations by April 2022, even as the work on the skywalk connecting the parking to the exit terminal building is on. It should take another month or so for the entire project worth Rs.120 crore to be completed,” the official said.


Mumbai Metro 3's cost has shot up by ₹10,000cr

There is growing uneasiness amongst bureaucrats over the inordinate delay in sanctioning the increased cost to be incurred for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ underground Metro-3 project. Officials say this has the potential to derail work, besides consequences like loss of jobs for those involved in executing the work.

The cost of the underground Metro-3 project has escalated by over Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 33,406 crore from the original estimate of Rs 23,136 crore in 2011. However, there has been no urgency shown by the state government to approve the increased cost. The deadlock over finalising a location for a car shed for the line has compounded the financial mess.

A senior Mantralaya officer said, “The inaction on sanctioning the approved cost will not only affect timelines but also render thousands of workers and professionals jobless as contractors will have no option but to sack them and stop work if payments are not released to them on time. ”

An employee of one of the contractors said, “About 15,000-16000 workers are deployed on the project. In addition, there are engineers and other staff working for contractors, consultants, sub-contractors and ancillary units in addition to these workers. The extent of job losses and loss to businesses will be glaring. A source close to one of the consultants said, “Those in power should understand that once the contractors let go of employees, it will become very difficult to put these men and machinery back. Employees lose trust and machinery rots. It is as good as starting everything from scratch. ”

Apart from the woes of contractors, there are major implications for other aspects of the project. The source said, “There are temporary deckings in use across various congested station sites for traffic movement and traffic management. These deckings are temporary steel structures and require regular maintenance. If civil contractors stop working, this regular maintenance of temporary steel bridges will not happen while the traffic will continue to ply. This will lead to unsafe situations. ”

Another official from a contractor’s firm said, “New equipment that are being installed will rot for an indefinite period of time and may become junk by the time they are about to be put to use again. Their warranties will also lapse without being used even a day. Moreover, two trains are ready and one more is under manufacturing. Delivered trains need space (car shed). Lack of which will rot the stock. ”

Another Mantralaya official said, “International and domestic contractors will claim monies for losses and contractual defaults. All this may also lead to loss of faith by international lending agencies on the work environment and capability of the state to take up large infrastructure projects in the state. There will be difficulties in seeking further funding from JICA. ”

India to send 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan in early February

India and Pakistan have finally arrived at an agreement to transport 50,000 MT of Indian wheat to Afghanistan through the land route that passes through the Attari-Wagah border. The gigantic exercise involving thousands of trucks is expected to roll out early February.

India and Pakistan had been engaged in finalising the modalities for transporting wheat to drought-stricken Afghanistan since two months. The government is learnt to have conveyed to Pakistan that it will be ready to despatch the first consignment by the second week of next month.

India recently sent its third batch of assistance to Kabul, mostly life-saving medicines, by air. Its offer of delivering wheat to Afghanistan through the border with Pakistan though, despite unceasing hostility in ties with Islamabad, is still the most significant initiative in its outreach to the Taliban who returned in August last year to take control of the strategically important country. Pakistan has rarely, if ever, allowed transit facilities for Indian aid to Afghanistan in the past several decades and in 2002 had rejected the same proposal by India when Afghanistan was faced with a similar humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban have not just welcomed India’s proposal to ship wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan at this “critical time” but had also sought an early approval from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. It had been  reported on October 19 that India had contacted Pakistan for transporting 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan.

As per the understanding, the two sides have reached, Afghan trucks operating under UN’s World Food Programme will ferry Indian wheat from the India-Pakisan border to Afghanistan via Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.


Giant leap for bullet train project

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited has entered into an agreement for the supply of material and laying of tracks and track-related works and for a high-speed double line between Vadodara and Vapi.

The NHSRCL is executing the high-speed rail corridor for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train. The agreement was signed with IRCON International. The ballast-less slab track system of the Japanese bullet train, Shinkansen, will be used for India’s first high-speed rail project. Japan Railway Track Consultant has provided the detailed design and drawings of major high-speed rail track components such as RC track bed, track slab arrangement, and continuous welded rail.

Satish Agnihotri, the managing director of the NHSRCL, said: “We have received support from our Japanese partners in a very effective manner. ” He added: “I appreciate the technical support extended by JICC, JARTS, and JRTC for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project.

” Minister of economy and development, the embassy of Japan in India, Miyamoto Shingo, said on the occasion: “Under this agreement, Indian contractors will receive the transfer of Japanese Shinkansen technology which will give a big boost to the Make in India initiative. ”

The new contract for the tracks is a giant step for the project. The contract for the construction of the elevated corridor and bridges and stations has already been awarded.


Meghalaya: 50 years


SC extends women’s right to parents’ property prior to ’56

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court conferred daughters with equal right to father’s property even prior to codification of Hindu personal laws and enactment of the Hindu Succession Act in 1956 and said that the law of inheritance would apply to partition of properties even if the father had died intestate before 1956.

A bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari gave the judgment and said self-acquired properties of a person, who died intestate in 1949, would devolve on his sole daughter, despite the man admittedly living in a joint family, and could not have passed on to the deceased person’s brother on the basis of the survivorship law in force prior to 1956 and upon his death to his children.

Writing the judgment, Justice Murari said, “Since the property in question was admittedly the self-acquired property of Marappa Gounder, despite the family being in state of jointness upon his death intestate, his sole surviving daughter Kupayee Ammal will inherit the same by inheritance and the property shall not devolve by survivorship."

The SC had in August 2020 ruled that daughters will have inheritance rights equal to those of sons in the properties of fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers right from the codification of the Hindu laws in 1956. But Thursday’s ruling took daughters’ rights to the pre-1956 period, when male-primacy was in vogue with regard to inheritance of properties.

Referring to the ancient texts and Smritis, Justice Murari said, “It is clear that ancient texts as also the Smritis, the commentaries written by various renowned learned persons and even judicial pronouncements have recognised the rights of several female heirs, wives and daughters being foremost of them. ” This could potentially open up disputes over properties partitioned prior to 1956 in which daughters were not given any share and could result in their heirs seeking to reclaim their rights over such assets.

Accepting arguments of advocate P V Yogeswaran, counsel for the woman petitioner, the bench said succession of properties prior to 1956 would also include the daughter’s right. “If a property of a male Hindu dying intestate is a self-acquired property or obtained in partition of a coparcenary or a family property, the same would devolve by inheritance and not by survivorship, and a daughter of such a male Hindu would be entitled to inherit such property in preference to other collaterals. ”

It said, “The rights of women in the family to maintenance were in every case very substantial rights and on the whole, it would seem that some of the commentators erred in drawing adverse inferences from the vague references to women’s succession in the earlier Smritis. The views of the Mitakshara on the matter are unmistakable. ”

Under the 1956 Act, the bench said, “If a female Hindu dies intestate without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother would go to the heirs of her father whereas the property inherited from her husband or father-in-law would go to the heirs of the husband. ”

“In case a female Hindu dies leaving behind her husband or any issue, then Section 15(1)(a) comes into operation and the properties left behind, including the properties which she inherited from her parents, would devolve simultaneously upon her husband and her issues,” it said.

No place for discrimination in India : PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that today we are creating a system in which there is no place for discrimination and building a society that stands firmly on the foundation of equality and social justice. Prime Minister Modi was delivering the keynote address at the national launch ceremony of ‘Azadi Ke Amrit Mahotsav se Swarnim Bharat Ke Ore’. He also flagged off seven initiatives of Brahma Kumaris.

The Prime Minister stressed that our progress lies in the progress of the nation. “The nation exists from us, and we exist through the nation. This realisation is becoming the biggest strength of us Indians in the making of a new India,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister regretted the tendency to tarnish the image of India, even at the international level.

India test-fires BrahMos missile with increased indigenous tech

India successfully test-fired the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, with an “increased indigenous content and improved performance”, from the Chandipur integrated test range off the Odisha coast on Thursday morning.

“The missile, with a strike range of 290 km, is equipped with advanced indigenous technologies and followed a modified optimal trajectory for enhanced efficiency and improved performance,” a DRDO official said. “The flight test is a major milestone in the way forward for the BrahMos programme. The highly-manouverable missile, with a modified control system, cruised at supersonic speed for its maximum range and all mission objectives were met,” he added.

BrahMos Aerospace, the joint venture between India and Russia, has been upgrading the missile, which flies almost three times the speed of sound to increase its effectiveness against sea and land targets. On January 11, the naval BrahMos variant, with a range of 350km to 400km, was tested from INS Visakhapatnam.


NSE top in derivatives globally

For the third consecutive year, India’s leading exchange NSE has been ranked as the world’s top derivatives trading platform, ahead of global giants like Chicago, Nasdaq and B3 of Brazil.

Data from Futures Industry Association, a global derivatives trade body showed that the NSE was ranked the largest exchange in the equity as well as the currency derivatives segments by number of contracts traded in 2021.

Under a different league table, in terms of the number of trades in the cash equities segment, the NSE was the fourth largest bourse in the world, data for 2021 by World Federation of Exchanges showed.

During 2021, 1,726 crore contracts were traded on the NSE, compared to 876 crore on B3 (of Brazil) and 494 crore on Chicago Mercantile Exchange group’s bourses, 329 crore on Nasdaq group’s exchanges and 310 crore on Chicago Board of Exchange, FIA data showed.

In 10 years, average daily turnover in the equity derivatives segment of the NSE increased 4.2 times, from Rs 33,305 crore in 2011 to Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2021, the exchange said. In the same period, cash market average daily turnover increased 6.2 times, from Rs 11,187 crore in 2011 to Rs 69,644 crore in 2021.


Apple, Samsung give $5 bn to boost local manufacturing

As India renews its thrust on local manufacturing of electronics under the production-linked incentive scheme with Union Budget 2022-23 around the corner, Apple and Samsung alone are expected to manufacture/assemble smartphones worth around $5 billion (nearly Rs 37,000 crore) in the financial year 2021-22.

The two giants are set to surpass the PLI targets set by the government by over 50 per cent, according to industry experts.

“The leading global value chains firms have got off to a blazing start. Besides Pegatron and Bharat FIH which are now gearing up, the big three -Wistron, Pegatron and Samsung — will achieve significant production of $5 billion in 2022,” Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman of the India Association said.

Apple’s contract manufacturers in India — Foxconn and Wistron — will avail the PLI incentives for the first time this year.

The iPhone maker’s second biggest global manufacturer Pegatron is likely to commence operations in India this year.

Samsung, which has the world’s largest mobile handset manufacturing factory in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, will avail the incentives under the scheme for the second year.

According to Mohindroo, Indian players like Lava, Padget Electronics (Dixon) and UTL also appear to be cracking the thresholds while “Opteimus and Bhagwati are gearing up”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last year extended the PLI scheme for large-scale electronics manufacturing with a focus on mobile phones by a year until 2025-26, though the base year of the scheme 2019-20 remains the same.

The PLI scheme provides an incentive of 4 per cent to 6 per cent on incremental sales of goods under target segments that are manufactured in India, for five years.

Apple and Samsung are also exporting locally-produced smartphones to the world like never before.

In 2021, the top countries that ‘Make in India’ iPhones were exported to include the UK (27 per cent), Japan (24 per cent), the Netherlands (23 per cent), Germany (7 per cent), Italy (4 per cent), Turkey (4 per cent) and the UAE (2 per cent).


Punjab polls on Feb 20

The Election Commission shifted the single-phase Punjab assembly election date to February 20 from February 14, in view of requests received from several political parties and the state government to defer polling by a few days in view of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 16.

As per the new schedule, January 25 will be the date for poll notification, February 1last date of filing nominations, February 2 date of scrutiny of nominations, February 2 last date for withdrawal, and February 20 date of poll. The counting date remains unchanged on March 10. The deferment is being seen as a concession in view of the sentiments of the Ravidasiya community .

Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, BSP and subsequently BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal and Punjab Lok Congress had approached the EC seeking postponement of the February 14 polling date in Punjab, citing the expected movement of many electors who are Guru Ravidas’s followers and travel from Punjab to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh during the week coinciding with Gurupurab.

India may add over 50 fresh unicorns in 2022

More than 50 startups in India show the potential to enter the unicorn club in 2022, says a new total India tally to well beyond 100 startup unicorns (those that are valued at over $1 billion each).

Amit Nawka, partner (deals & startups leader) in PwC India, which conducted the study, said, “We can see that the base of the companies in growth-stage and late-stage deals have improved significantly in calendar year 2021, depicting a stronger base of companies having the potential to reach unicorn status. With market sentiments favourably inclined towards startups, and the large base of scaled startup companies at the end of CY21, we expect the startups’ unicorn tally to go well beyond 100 by the end of 2022. ”

India is home to 81 unicorns as of now, with a total valuation of $274 billion. Of these, 44 unicorns with a total valuation of $89 billion were born last year, shows the national investment promotion agency. Indian startups had a blockbuster 2021 with approximately $35 billion raised across 1,000 rounds. The PwC report said that in the fourth quarter, startup funding crossed the $10-billion mark.

Fintech startups raised nearly four times more funds last year compared to the previous year. Edtech startups followed, with almost 100 companies raising about $3. 9 billion last year — a growth of 86% compared to $2. 2 billion raised in 2020. Growth and late-stage deals comprised around 85% of the total funding. Sequoia Capital, Accel, and Tiger Global were the most active investors in CY21, followed by Matrix Partners, and Blume Ventures.

Globally, 510 new unicorns emerged in the last calendar year, which was about 30% more than all five previous years combined. Almost 55% of all new unicorns are based in the US.

In 2021, close to 250 M&A transactions happened in the startup ecosystem, which is a big jump from earlier years. M&As were fuelled by new business models, with large startups acquiring capabilities and market presence, and large corporabets — notably the Tata and Reliance groups.

This is best time to invest in India: PM Modi

A fortnight before the Budget, PM Narendra Modi made a bold pitch for foreign investment, assuring all support to investors, while positioning India as an attractive and robust investment destination.

“The spirit of entrepreneurship in the country can provide new energy to every global partner. This is the best time to invest in India,” the PM said at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which is being held virtually due to the surge in Covid-19 cases internationally.

He listed out a host of measures and reform initiatives, ranging from a cut in corporate tax rates, to sorting out retrospective taxation issues, the PLI scheme and easing of rules. He also highlighted a large talent pool of engineers and other professionals and a jump in the number of startups in what was seen as an indication that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present an investor-friendly budget on February 1.

The government is looking for a major boost to investment in the coming months to ensure that the growth process stays its course and more jobs are created in the country.

“There was a time when India was recognised for ‘Licence Raj’, the government had control over most things. We are trying to remove these challenges. We are trying to promote ‘ease of doing’ business and reduce government intervention,” he said, while pointing to developing technologies and platforms such as CoWin to deal with the pandemic, the pharma industry’s contribution and sought to position India as a “trusted partner” for global supply chains.

He suggested that the proposed free trade agreements with the UK, European Union, UAE and Australia would help and pushed for investment in semiconductors and other businesses, while listing out the large asset monetisation and infrastructure investment plans lined up by the government.

“Today, India is making policies for the present and the next 25 years, it is decisive. During this period, India has set itself a goal of high growth and saturation of welfare and wellness. This era of growth will also be green, clean, sustainable and reliable,” Modi said.

While mentioning that India was way ahead of its target on the Paris goals, the PM said: “While making large commitments on global goals and the tradition of sticking to them, we have set ourselves a target of net zero. With 17% global population, India may be making only 5% contributions to global carbon emissions, but it is 100% committed to dealing with the global climate challenge. ”


National Startup Day

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing to celebrate January 16 as the National Startup Day, the meteoric rise of desi entrepreneurs in the past couple of years, which made global headlines, has received a tremendous boost.

Fresh data reveals that India produced 46 unicorns (companies with over $1 billion valuation) in 2021 alone, which raised a whopping $42 billion, up from $11. 5 billion in 2020.

According to a latest report by Orios Venture Partners, the country now has 90 unicorns — from ShareChat to Cred and from Meesho to upGrad — with new ones across the spectrum joining the coveted unicorn club faster than ever. India also emerged as the third largest startup ecosystem in the world in 2021, after the US and China, according to Hurun Research Institute.

India’s unicorns are currently worth more than $170 billion, and counting.

Modi said that like small businesses, which are the spine of India’s economy, startups are turning out to be the game changers. According to Satish Shukla, co-founder of automation and robotics firm Addverb Technologies, the Indian startup ecosystem has come a very long way and has matured a lot.

“We can see startups getting listed on the Indian bourses amid a slew of accessible VC/PE funds for the Indian startups. Several talented people are coming back to India to start on their own or work with startups, thereby reversing the brain drain process,” Shukla said.

Right from the inception of ‘Startup India’ in 2016, a slew of measures has been taken by the government like pushing for digital mode of payments, 100 per cent tax rebate on profit for a period of 3 years for eligible startups, waiver of norms for PSUs to promote procurement by startups and also encouraging PSUs to fund and nurture relevant startups.

India has seen four ‘decacorns’ to date -Flipkart, Paytm, Byju’s and OYO. Currently, India has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, with nearly 60,000 startups.

States invite Tesla

Even as negotiations between Tesla, the US electric car manufacturer, and the Central government seems to be stretching, a Maharashtra minister has extended the company an invite to start operations in the state and has assured all possible help. Two other states, Telangana and West Bengal, have also expressed interest in getting the car maker to invest within their jurisdiction.

State water resources minister Jayant Patil wrote to Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter on Sunday, inviting him to establish the company’s plant in Maharashtra.

A few days back, Musk was replying to a query on when Tesla will launch in India. "Still working through a lot of challenges with the government,” said his message. Patil replied to Musk saying, "Maharashtra is one of the most progressive states in India. We will provide you all the necessary help from Maharashtra for you to get established in India. We invite you to establish your manufacturing plant in Maharashtra. ”

Since Musk’s tweet, Telangana and West Bengal too have extended similar invitations. Telangana was the first to woo Musk. Industry and commerce minister of Telangana KT Rama Ra o wrote on Twitter, “Hey Elon, I am the Industry & Commerce Minister of Telangana state in India. Will be happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges to set shop in India/ Telangana. Our state is a champion in sustainability initiatives & a top notch business destination in India. ” West Bengal minister Md Ghulam Rabbani tweeted, "Drop here, we in West Bengal have best infra & our leader @MamataOfficial has got the vision. Bengal means Business".

Maharashtra has reached out to Tesla in the past as well. In October 2020, cabinet ministers Aaditya Thackeray and Subhash Desai had interacted with a Tesla team and invited them to the state. Maharashtra is one of the few states which has rolled out an electric vehicle policy which gives concessions to manufacturers as well as consumers. The state government has also taken a policy decision to purchase only electric vehicles for its use from now on.

Musk had said in 2021 that Tesla plans to start manufacturing in India from 2022 but since then he has repeatedly complained about high import duties in the country. “I'm told import duties are extremely high (up to 100%), even for electric cars. This would make our cars unaffordable,” he said.


Pune River Rejuvenation Project

The agonising wait is over. The “Pune River Rejuvenation Project” ball is set to roll in around two months’ time.

Five bidders have come forward to work on the Sangam Bridge to Bundgarden stretch of the 44km-long project, five years after its declaration. The Pune Municipal Corporation plans to spend around Rs.360 crore on reviving the riverfront in the heart of the city, designed on the lines of Sabarmati riverfront development project in Ahmedabad.

The tenders for the first phase work, stretching about 4km, were floated in October last year. The pre-bid meeting was conducted on January 10. “The five bidders would be judged based on their documents and experience. Even the financial capacity and other factors would be checked before awarding the work,” said Yuvraj Deshmukh, a senior PMC official coordinating the project, adding that the work was expected to start on the ground-level by February-end or March.

According to the tenders, the first phase of the river rejuvenation project entails beautification of the riverbanks from Sangam Ghat to Bundgarden, laying cycle tracks along the river and facelift of Naik Island. A boating activity has been proposed in this phase, besides developing greenery along the cycle tracks to maintain the temperature.

The 44km Mula-Mutha river rejuvenation project has been divided into 11 phases. Over 32km of it would be developed in the first four stages on public-private partnership. The tenders for the Rs.650 crore second phase of the project between Bundgarden and Mundhwa would be opened in February.

The river rejuvenation project, if executed in letter and spirit, could be a befitting response to Puneites’ repeated petitions for neat and clean riverbanks.

According to the PMC officials, the rejuvenation project proposes to protect low-lying areas along the river from flooding by building a variety of well-modulated embankments along the banks. “The project promises to reduce the impact of indiscriminately built obstructions such as bridges, causeways, weirs and check dams on the flow of water by removing, streamlining, remodelling or rebuilding them. It will help reduce urban areas’ flooding,” said a civic official.

A senior PMC official said one of the objectives of the river rejuvenation project was to stop the sewage from flowing directly into the rivers. Interceptor sewers would divert the sewage to the nearest sewage treatment plant, he said.

He said a network of gardens, open spaces and public promenades would preserve the natural environment along the rivers. “Embankments will create a continuous public realm. They will make movement of people easier along the riverbanks,” he said.


River linking: Godavari-Krishna-Penna-Cauvery

Putting the plans for linking of Godavari-Krishna-Penna-Cauvery rivers on fast track, the National Water Development Agency has decided to hold talks with all key stakeholders to iron out the differences.

After clearing the action plan for linking of Ken-Betwa rivers in UP and Madhya Pradesh, the NWDA has now decided to ready the blueprint for linking of Godavari, Krishna, Penna and Cauvery.

The NWMA is holding an online conference with senior officials of irrigation department from nine states including AP, Telangana and Tamil Nadu to discuss the draft report on the proposal on January 19. Although, the taskforce on river linking concept had already come out with some designs, lack of consensus between Telugu states is delaying the project.

The Union Jal Shakti ministry is keen to take the river linking ahead to make good of additional flood flows into the rivers due to the severe floods in the recent past. The Centre is expected to take the entire financial burden of the river linkage project once cleared by the states. The first phase of Godavari-Krishna-Penna-Cauvery (Inchamaplli-Nagarjuna Sagar-Somasila-Grand Anicut) project is expected to cost around Rs 85,000 crore.

The Centre had already readied detailed project reports of three links namely Godavari-Krishna (Nagarjunasagar) link, Krishna (Nagarjunasagar)Penna (Somasila) link and Penna (Somasila)–Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link under Godavari–Krishna-Cauvery alternative link scheme. The Centre had circulated the draft DPRs to the respective states almost two years ago.

Goa’s forest quality is third-best in country

After Kerala and Uttarakhand, Goa has the third highest per hectare growing stock in forest in the country, as per the India State of the Forest Report 2021 of the Forest Survey of India.

Growing stock refers to the volume of all living trees in a particular forested area, and higher per hectare growing stock indicates a highly sustainable and productive forest.

Higher per hectare growing stock also shows the forest is providing good ecosystem service in acting as a carbon sink.

It is also a forest of higher economic value. The volume of living trees in Goa’s forests per hectare is almost double the national figure.

“It is observed that the growing stock at the national level has been estimated as 56. 6 cubic m per hectare,” the ISFR 2021report states. 

Haryana to spend ₹341cr on dam to revive Saraswati

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that an amount of Rs 341 crore will be spent on dam and barrage to be developed at Adi Badri to rejuvenate Saraswati river. Following his visit in Jagadhri earlier in the day, Haryana CM Manohar Lal visited Adi Badri, which is considered as the origin place of Saraswati river as per Hindu texts.

On coming January 21, the chief ministers of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh states would be signing a memorandum of understanding, giving approval to development of dam at Adi Badri on the channel of Som Nadi, a contributing tributary of Yamuna river.

CM Manohar is chairman of Haryana Sarasvati Heritage Development Board, and he was accompanied by HSHDB vice-chairman Dhuman Singh, Haryana education minister Kanwar Pal, Ambala MP Rattan Lal Kataria, Yamunanagar MLA Ghanshyam Dass Arora and Yamunanagar deputy commissioner Parth Gupta. During his visit, the CM discussed the development of dam and barrage with the concerned officials and gave necessary instructions.

“The dam will be developed on the panchayat lands of Rampur Hediyan, Rampur Kamboyan and Chhalour villages. The government is every possible efforts to provide water to the farmers of Haryana. The Haryana government is working to preserve the ancient heritage of Adi Badri region. This project will play important role in water conservation, irrigation, providing drinking water and tourism,” said Haryana CM Manohar.

HSHDB vice-chairman Dhuman Singh said the CMs of Haryana and HP will sign MoU to develop dam at Adi Badri on January 21, 2022.

Yamunanagar superintendent of polic Kamaldeep Goyal, Bilaspur sub-division magistrate Jaspal Singh Gill and senior officials of Haryana irrigation and water resources department were also present on this occasion.

Delhi: Major terror strike foiled

Just over a week before Republic Day, Delhi police and sleuths of National Security Guard averted a major terror strike by defusing an RDX-based improvised explosive device through a controlled explosion at the Ghazipur flower market in east Delhi on Friday afternoon. Around 2kg of RDX explosive was packed in an iron casing, equipped with a commercial charge timer, and kept in a black bag. Traces of ammonium nitrate were found on the surface of the device.

What has alarmed the intelligence agencies is that explosives were discovered in Srinagar and Amritsar too, indicating that a coordinated strike may have been attempted, potentially by ISI.

6 airbags must in all cars from October

The road transport ministry has proposed mandatory installation of six airbags in all cars with seating capacity of up to eight people from October this year.

The move, irrespective of cost and variant, was announced by Union minister Nitin Gadkari. Aimed at improving the safety of passengers in the rear seats, it will push up the cost by Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 per vehicle.

“To minimise the impact of frontal and lateral collisions to the occupants seated in both front and rear compartments, it has been decided that four additional airbags be mandated in the M1 (cars) vehicle category: two side/ side torso airbags and two side curtain/ tube airbags covering all outboard passengers,” Gadkari tweeted.

The auto industry wasn’t pleased with the plan.

India set to sign BrahMos deal with Philippines

India has finally bagged a $375 million (Rs 2,770 crore) deal to export BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to Philippines, which has had several bitter tiffs with China over territorial claims in South China Sea in recent months.

The Philippines’ Department of National Defence has issued the “notice of award” to the BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd, under which the actual contract is likely to be inked next week, sources said.

This first-ever contract to export the 290-km range BrahMos missiles, which India has developed jointly with Russia, will pave the way for more such deals with the Philippines as well as other Asean countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. “It is also strategically significant in the backdrop of China’s expansionism and strong-arm tactics with its neighbours in the South China Sea,” a source said.

The Philippines will get at least three missile batteries of the shore-based anti-ship systems of the BrahMos, a deadly conventional ( non-nuclear) weapon that flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2. 8, apart from the training for operators and the necessary integrated logistics support package.


Gujarat: RIL to invest ₹5.95 lakh crore in green energy

Reliance Industries Limited signed an MoU with the Gujarat government for a total investment of Rs 5. 95 lakh crore as part of investment promotion activity for Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2022.

These projects will create 10 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities in the state, the company said in a media statement.

“To make Gujarat net-zero and carbon-free, RIL proposes to invest Rs 5 lakh crore in the state over the span of 10 to 15 years to set up 100GW renewable energy power plant and green hydrogen eco-system development,” the company said in a media statement.

The country’s largest private sector company will develop an eco-system for assisting Small and Medium Enterprises and encourage entrepreneurs to embrace new technologies and innovations leading to captive use of renewable energy and green hydrogen.

In consultation with government of Gujarat, RIL has started the process of scouting land for 100GW renewable energy power project in Kutch, Banaskantha and Dholera. The company has requested for 4. 5 lakh acres of land in Kutch.

RIL will invest another Rs 60,000 crore in setting up ‘new energy manufacturing-integrated renewable facilities’ including solar PV module (for manufacture of polysilicon, wafer, cell & module), electrolyzer, energy-storage battery and fuel cells.

An additional investment of Rs 25,000 crore investments will be made by RIL in existing projects and new ventures over next 3 to 5 years, it said.

RIL has also proposed to invest Rs 7,500 crore over 3 to 5 years for Jio Network upgradation to 5G and another Rs 3,000 crore over 5 years in Reliance Retail.

The MoUs were signed by additional chief secretary to industries department of Gujarat Government Rajiv Kumar Gupta and Reliance Industries group president Parimal Nathwani in the presence of Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel.

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani had at the AGM held in June 2021announced plans to invest Rs 75,000 crore over the next few years for its new energy business vertical. The company announced that it plans to construct four “Giga factories” to make integrated solar PV modules, electrolyzers, fuel cells and batteries to store energy from the grid.

The site of these plants will be located at the new 5,000 acres Green Energy Giga Complex in Jamnagar. The company is planning to enter the solar manufacturing and generation with a target of 100GW of solar energy by 2030.

Guwahati-Bound Bikaner Express Derails In Bengal

The railways reported the first incident of passenger deaths in an accident after a gap of nearly 34 months. At least five passengers on board were left dead and another 20 were injured as 12 bogies of the Guwahati-bound Bikaner Express derailed in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district.

The last time passenger deaths were reported in an accident were in March 22, 2019. The news came as a shock to the rail ministry headquarters and shortly after the railway board ordered a high level investigation by the commissioner of railway safety. Railway board chairman V K Tripathi and the director general (safety) rushed to the spot. Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw also left for the site to take stock of the situation.

Vaishnaw announced enhanced ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for death, Rs 1 lakh for the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for simply injured persons. Officials said the reason for the derailment was unclear and detailed investigation will reveal the exact cause of the fatal accident.

In February last year, then Union railways minister Piyush Goyal had informed the Rajya Sabha that not a single passenger death had occurred due to train accidents a fter March 22, 2019.

Vaishnaw had also informed the Rajya Sabha on July 30 last year that there was no railway passenger death during 2019-20 and 2020-21. Prior to that in 2018-19, railways had recorded 16 deaths, 28 deaths in 2017-18 and 195 deaths during 2016-17, according to the written reply by the minister.

The achievement of zero passenger death in 2019-20 was hailed as the first such achievement by the national transporter in its 166-year long history.

The railway s keep a record of all the deaths that occur on its premises under three separate heads consequential accidents, trespassing and untoward incidents – and the passenger death due to derailment, collision or any other fault are recorded as fatalities in consequential accidents. Incidents like people run over after coming on the tracks or deaths caused because of people standing on the footboard of trains or hanging out of trains are recorded as trespassing and untoward incidents.

PM Stresses on Localised Measures to Beat 3rd Wave

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that state governments should adopt the mantra of “pre-emptive, pro-active and collective approach” to beat the third wave of the pandemic, even as he emphasised that vaccination is the most potent way to deal with the pandemic.

In a virtual meeting with chief ministers and lieutenant governors on the Covid situation, Modi also stressed that the momentum of the economy should be maintained and that local containment is the way to ensure this, effectively ruling out plans of a lockdown.

Home minister Amit Shah and health secretary Rajesh Bhushan briefed the prime minister and chief ministers about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the vaccination drive. The PM heard the views and concerns of the CMs, with some of them enumerating their state-specific problems at length.

Addressing the CMs, Modi said: “The way the central and state governments had adopted a pre-emptive, proactive and collective approach (during the last two waves), the same is the mantra of victory this time as well. The more we can limit the corona infection, the less the problem will be. "

India’s green cover rises

India’s green cover has touched nearly one-fourth of its geographical area with “forests” and “trees outside recorded forest areas” put together seeing an increase of 2,261 sq km (0. 3%) in 2021 compared to the previous assessment in 2019, shows the latest India State of Forest Report.

The total green (forests and trees) cover has now reached 8,09,537 sq km (24. 6% of geographical area), which includes 7,13,789 sq km of forest cover—21. 7% of the area. Overall, forest cover has recorded an increase of 1,540 sq km (0. 2%) while tree cover increased by 721 sq km (0. 8%) in the past two years.

Maharashtra has the fifth largest forest cover in the country, which has increased by 20 sq km. Among cities, Mumbai has 111 sq km under forest cover, the second highest after Delhi. Mumbai has seen a 9% increase in forestcover in the last decade: from 102 sq km, it has gone up to 111 sq km. Maharashtra has shown a 4% increase in mangrove cover, second after Odisha, where the increase is 8%. The increase in mangrove cover in Maharashtra is mainly due to natural regeneration, states the report. Significantly, mangrove cover in Mumbai’s suburbs has gone down by 1sq km, as also in Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Thane, but has gone up by 6 sq km in Raigad. The state has 324 sq km of mangrove cover (but no dense mangrove cover), around 90 sq km of moderately dense forest cover and 234 sq km of open mangroves.

The state has 26,866 sq km of tree cover outside the Reserved Forest Area, the highest in the country, followed by Odisha (24,474 sq km) and Karnataka (23,676 sq km). In Trees Outside Forest the spread measured in 2021 was 12,108 sq km. This has in- creased by 1,302 sq km as compared to that in 2019. Maharashtra has the maximum growing stock followed by Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The maximum number is that of neem and mango in rural areas and coconut and mango in urban areas. These are the most common species of planted trees outside forests.

The bamboo cover in the state has reduced by 1,882 sq km, the second highest reduction after Madhya Pradesh. Hacked bamboo clumps were found across 1,475 sq km. The total area under bamboo in the state is 1. 35 million hectares.

The total forest cover in tiger habitats has decreased. But the good news is that the Kanha to Navegaon-NagziraTadoba-Indravati tiger corridor, which passes through Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra, has the largest forest cover (2,012 sq km), followed by Pench-Satpura-Melghat in MP and Maharashtra (1,196 sq km). The Kanha to Navegaoon-Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati tiger corridor has very dense forests, spread over 858 sq km, which is 43% of its total forest cover. It also has the highest area under Moderately Dense Forest, which is 883 sq km, or 44% of its total forest cover. On the other hand, Pench-Satpura-Melghat has the highest area under open forest, spread over 392 sq km, which is 33% of its forest cover.

The study shows that parts of western Maharashtra show patches that are extremely or highly prone fire zones. In Maharashtra, large, continuous and repeated fires were reported from Gadchiroli district between November 2020 and June 2021. The number of reported fire incidents were 10,577.


Sukwa dam in Bundelkhand bags global heritage honour

The over 100-yearold Sukwa Dukwan dam, 50 km off Jhansi, has been recognised as a World Heritage Irrigation Structure by International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage.

The honour was accorded to the British-era engineering marvel for being “an innovative structure that helped boost agriculture and economic development in the water-stressed Bundelkhand region for over 100 years”.

Jal Shakti minister Mahendra Singh said, the weir or dam, often referred to as the ‘Niagra Falls of Bundelkhand’, had been serving irrigation and drinking water needs of UP for generations.

CID, a non-profit international organisation which works on irrigation, drainage and flood management, had started a project to identify heritage irrigation structures across the world. To qualify for inclusion in its list, a structure had to more than 100 years old with its features unchanged and still serving the purpose for which it was constructed.

Umesh Kumar, executive engineer, Betwa Canal, Jhansi division, said the dam, built across the Betwa river, was constructed in 1906 and has remained unchanged over the years. “With a capacity of 57 million cubic metre, the weir irrigates an area of more than 2 lakh hectares every year. The weir serves irrigation and drinking water needs of Jalaun, Jhansi and some parts of Hamirpur districts in the state. It also provides water supply to the Datia district in Madhya Pradesh,” Kumar said.

A government spokesperson said, ICID annually recognises irrigation structures of international significance on lines of World Heritage Sites recognised by UNESCO.

Nigam Chunav Delhi

From checking voter registration to knowing about the candidates in the fray or locating a polling station on an inbuilt map, Delhiites will be able to do all this and more during the upcoming municipal elections thanks to the “Nigam Chunav Delhi” mobile app. This is a part of one of the many digital steps being taken by the State Election Commission.

SEC is responsible for the preparation of electoral rolls and conducting municipal elections. Located at Nigam Bhavan in Kashmere Gate, it has started the process of setting up a computer cell for the polls. It will also develop a new and improved website.

The commission is going to engage a reputed firm to set up the cell, provide help with preparation of electoral rolls, develop a web-based software, provide software training to electoral officers, and assist SEC even after the process is closed. The firm would also help in launching the poll app for voters, apart from a separate app for election officers.

The voters’ app would have modules like search, voter slip, locating polling station, information about candidates, nominations, rejections, withdrawal and final list of those in the fray. Voters would also be able to submit complaints and get other details, like contact numbers and regular updates from SEC.

The election officers would be able to download or upload observer reports and expenditure observer reports, address complaints of voters and returning officers, upload polling data, capture incidents, etc.

The first responsibility of the firm would be preparation of ward-wise electoral rolls, apart from draft and final list of polling stations and generation of voter slips in PDF format. It would also develop the web-based software and implement all election-related works.

Software training would be provided to all electoral officers, including returning officers, observers, sector officers, presiding officer, BLO, etc. The training would be regarding software applications for polling stations, parties, electoral roll, forms, voter complaint, expenses, online nominations, voter slip distribution, polling day data upload, etc. There would also be web-based management of per missions.

The EVM inventory would be available on a web portal. The entire process from receiving EVMs to disbursal to returning officers after randomisation, transfer to the strong room and receiving it back would become even more efficient. The reports of the election with all details would be prepared and the firm would assist SEC even after polls are over for extracting information from the system.


The Centre has begun work on a blueprint for India@2047— a vision plan for a ‘future ready India’ that befits the 100th year of Indian Independence.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet secretary last month assigned the 10 Sectoral Group of Secretaries with drawing up a road map for the plan and rounds of meetings have been held across ministries on the same.

The aim is to finalise the 2047 plan by May this year.

The groups are expected to involve individuals and institutional experts, from both within and outside the government, to draw up the template.

The Centre also wants to start right away on the 25-year targets. It has asked the SGoS to identify targets achievable within this decade and to set out specific timelines and milestones for the same as these will act as ‘foundations for future growth’.

The key areas identified so far include agriculture, commerce & industry, infrastructure and urban landscape, security & defence, technology and governance.

The first set of suggestions on the table is : Freeing up India’s defence acquisitions from foreign reliance and a road map for ‘India’s place in the world in 2047’.

On the industry side, restructuring and merger of public sector banks and creation of 3 or 4 big banks is being looked at.

Similarly, developing 3 or 4 global champions in each sector, including oil and gas sector by merger or restructuring of companies, developing semi-conductor complexes and making India a hub and leader in green technology and skilling are ideas under discussion.

To effect the same, a governance overhaul is needed which will involve ‘re-engineering government processes’, bringing institutional expertise in government besides ‘eliminating unnecessary interference by the government in the lives of citizens’.

On the social sector side, it is proposed that India aggressively partner with foreign R&D organisations to build up top 10 labs in the country, develop India into a skill capital and bring at least 10 Indian institutions among the top 100 in the world.

A ‘new age agriculture’ plan proposes micro irrigation and organic farming, a flagship scheme for hilly regions, positioning India as a top exporter in identified streams.

Development of urban infrastructure and ‘future ready’ urban spaces is a major area of focus alongside ensuring access to best of facilities in rural areas as well. Niti Aayog is learnt to have pointed out in meetings that India has to do so along with decarbonisation to be ready for the new era.

The Terms of Reference laid out for the Sector Groups Of Secretaries ask them to first conduct a ‘gap analysis’ of domestic capabilities — both in the government and private sector —vis a vis the most advanced international capabilities across sectors and identify strategic areas where India could aim to become the world leader in a defined time frame.