Causis E-Mobility Plans to Enter Electric Public Transport Market

The multi-billion dollar Causis Impact Investment fund wants to participate in India’s push towards cleaner last-mile mobility by entering the country’s fast-transitioning market for electrifying public transportation.

Causis E-Mobility, an India-registered company backed by the US fund, is planning to set up factories for electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers and buses. The aim is to get into the entire value chain of electric vehicles, right from setting up an 8-gigawatt-hour lithium ion cell factory, four manufacturing plants and charging stations which will use power from renewal sources.

This will call for an investment of $6-8 billion (₹45,000-60,000 crore) in India with 30% of it coming from equity funding and the rest through debt raised locally, Ravikumar Panga, director & MD of Causis E-Mobility said.

The fund is looking to raise $10 billion from investors and has so far raised a few hundred million dollars, they said.

Causis investors include Alex Lao, a Canadian carbon neutral investor; Owen Van Natta, former chief operating officer of Facebook; and former NYSE chief operating officer Lary Leibowitz. The group is chaired by Peter Knez, a former chief investment officer at BlackRock.

“It’s a pure impact fund. We look at RoI differently than typical investors would. How we are planning to invest has a lot to do with long-term strategy for us and not quick moneymaking scenarios,” Ram Tumuluri, the founder and CEO of Causis Group said.

“It’s a 10-year programme and all of our investors are ESG (environment, social and governance) focused. They understand ESG, they understand emerging markets,” he said.

The Causis Group has acquired Germany-based Eurabus for its electric bus technology, which it now intends to bring to India. The company will invest a billion dollars in India towards infrastructure —these include around $200 million in its four planned manufacturing sites, $625 million in a gigafactory and funds to generate renewable energy.

However, a bulk of the funds will go towards funding the financing of electric vehicles, first buses and then three and two-wheelers. The vehicles will not be sold upfront unlike other automakers. Rather, the Causis Fund will bear the upfront cost and the vehicles would be leased out for public transportation or for generating self-employment — scoring on the social count of ESG.

The company has already invested around ₹300 crore in India towards the acquisition of a bus body manufacturer in Jaipur and a 75-acre plot near Pune for its second plant, top executives said.

It signed a MoU with the Maharashtra government in October last year to invest ₹2,800 crore in the state. It signed a similar MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government this month for its third plant. The location of the fourth manufacturing site is yet to be finalised.

The company also won a tender for 700 double-decker electric buses from Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, for which it bid an amount of ₹56 per kilometre of use. Rival bids were ₹62, ₹117 and ₹173, as per reports. It plans to deliver the first bus by November this year.

UP Elections Phase 5: Sluggish turnout again

A turnout of nearly 56% in Round 5 of the UP elections on Sunday maintained the trend of declining voter presence compared to 2017, when the same 61 assembly seats straddling 12 districts of Purvanchal and parts of Bundelkhand had clocked 58.4%. Barabanki spared the poll belt the blushes with 66.9% while Chitrakoot, once the dacoit-infested badlands of Bundelkhand, reported a voting figure of 61.3%.

Hindutva nerve centre Ayodhya was the other outlier among the 12 districts with 61%. Sangam City, in comparison, reflected voter inertia with 53.7%,marginally lower than the 2017 figure of 54%. Of the other districts, Shrawasti recorded 57%, Sultanpur 56%, Pratapgarh 52%, Rae Bareli 56%, Kaushambi 59%, Amethi 55%, Bahraich 56% and Gonda 56%.

Barring an alleged attack on the convoy of Pratapgarh’s SP candidate Gulshan Yadav in Kunda, there were no law-and-order blemishes anywhere, officials said.

The 693 candidates in the fray in this round of polls included deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, cabinet minister Siddarth Nath Singh and six-time MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiya.

The 61 constituencies that went to polls together have more than 2. 5 crore registered voters, 14,030 polling centres and 25,995 booths. With the fifth phase completed, UP has now voted for 292 of the 403 seats in the assembly. The last two phases are scheduled for March 3 and 7, respectively.

PM Modi on Sunday offered prayers at Kashi Vishwanath and drew poll strategies with booth-level cadre in Varanasi, ahead of his plan to camp in his constituency for three days from March 3. 

Scientist who pushed the Pokhran-I trigger dies

The man who pushed the trigger on India’s first nuclear weapon test at Pokhran on May 18,1974 (code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’), Pranab Dastidar, passed away on February 11 in California.

Dastidar had recalled the thrilling and exciting moments at Pokhran, just before he had pulled the trigger. How Dastidar was chosen for the critical task is explained by physicist Raja Ramanna, a key figure behind the nuclear test, in his autobiography, ‘Years Of Pilgrimage’.

Ramanna recalled that on the day of the detonation, there was some argument about who would press the button. “I put an end to it by suggesting that the person who had been responsible for fabricating the trigger should, in a manner of speaking, pull it. Dastidar was chosen to press the button……’’ Ramanna wrote.

Padma Shri Dastidar was group director at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, as well as director at the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. He had also played a role in the development of the reactor for India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant.


Intensity of cyclones in Arabian Sea up 20-40% in recent decades: IITM study

The intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea has increased by 20–40% in the recent decades, a review study of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, has revealed.

The study stated that during the past four decades, the maximum intensity of cyclones has increased by 40% (from 100 km per hour to 140 km per hour) in the Arabian Sea, during the pre-monsoon season (April–May).

“During the post-monsoon season (October–December), the Arabian Sea has witnessed a 20% increase in the cyclones’ intensity (from 100 km per hour to 120 km per hour). In the north Indian Ocean, every 4th cyclone in the pre-monsoon season intensifies to a severe cyclone of category 3 or more (wind speed over 175 km per hour) and every 7th cyclone in post-monsoon season intensifies to a severe cyclone of category 3 or more,” IITM scientist Roxy Mathew Koll said.

Koll said that the sea surface temperatures leading to cyclogenesis (the development or strengthening of an area of low pressure in the atmosphere, resulting in the formation of a cyclone) in the Arabian Sea were 1. 2–1. 4°C higher in the recent decades, compared to the SSTs four decades ago.

“Rapid warming in the north Indian Ocean, associated with global warming, tends to enhance the heat flux from the ocean to the atmosphere and favour the rapid intensification of cyclones. For example, Cyclone Amphan intensified from a category 1 cyclone (about 100 km per hour) to a category 5 cyclone (about 250 km per hour) in less than 24 hours,” Koll said.

Quick intensification means that it does not provide sufficient time for evacuation and disaster management on the ground.

Scientists involved in the study said changes in the ocean-cyclone interactions were emerging in recent decades in response to the Indian Ocean warming.

“These should be closely monitored with improved observations since future climate projections demonstrate continued warming of the Indian Ocean at a rapid pace, along with an increase in the intensity of cyclones in this basin,” he said.

As per authors Koll and Vineet Kumar Singh, the north Indian Ocean is rapidly warming and has contributed to more than a quarter of the total increase in the ocean heat content globally in the last two decades.

In a global warming scenario, an increase in the ocean temperatures at a faster rate in the Arabian Sea as compared to the Bay of Bengal is one of the major parameters. As a result, the models are projecting an increase in the frequency of the cyclones in the Arabian Sea.

Desi jugaad for mobile range brings network to entire village

An innovation (desi jugaad) by a farmer in remote Pipri (Awagan) village in Mangrulpir tehsil of Washim district in Vidarbha has become viral in many other villages in the district.

Sandip Awagan, a farmer, connected a cable TV wire to stainless steel plates and fixed it on a bamboo pole at his house to create a makeshift mobile tower. As soon as Awagan connected the cable wire to his mobile phone, connectivity improved dramatically. Since then, Awagan’s daughter has been attending her online classes without any network issues. Following in Awagan’s footsetps, at least 40 households in Pipri (Awagan) have installed steel plate towers on their rooftops.

“I got this idea during the second wave of Covid when we were sitting idle at home. However, I worked on it during the third wave when cases started increasing and we anticipated another lockdown,” Awagan said. “Forget the internet, we can’t even make proper calls from our village. However, after this invention, we are watching YouTube, movies, and even using WhatsApp,” says Awagan, who has seen the same kind of plates in WiFi routers.

“In the earlier days, we used to connect a TV antenna in the same way. When we used to adjIn the earlier days, we used to connect a TV antenna in the same way. When we used to adjust it, signals used to improve. I decided to try using the same method for mobile signals and it worked,” Awagan says. 


Namibia ready to send 35-40 cheetahs to India

The ambitious project to reintroduce cheetahs into the Indian wilderness took another step forward with Namibia agreeing in principle to give 35-40 animals for translocation to India, officials who have just returned from the south African country said.

A five-member delegation from the Union environment ministry, MP — where the first cheetahs are scheduled to be relocated — and Wildlife Institute of India visited Namibia from February 18 to 22.

“During talks with Namibian officials, we asked for 35-40 cheetahs over a period of five years. They’ve agreed,” said Yadvendradev Jhala, dean of WII, who was part of the delegation. The next step, Jhala said, would be the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the environment ministries of the two countries on the transfer of cheetahs to India.

The Asiatic cheetah was wiped out in India and was formally declared extinct by the government in 1952. The project aims to reintroduce the predator in the Indian wilderness by bringing in African cheetahs from Namibia in batches.

“The number of animals to be transported in the first batch is not yet decided,” Jhala said. The first lot of cheetahs will be settled in MP’s Kuno National Park.

Now, experts said, the timeline of the cheetah’s arrival in India will depend on how fast the governments of the two countries move in signing the MoU and taking the subsequent steps for the translocation, which will probably to be the world first inter-continental transfer of a large predator for release in the wild.


PMO nudges 5G launch

The Department of Telecommunications has asked the telecom regulator to speed up its recommendations on pricing of 5G spectrum, possibly before March, nudged by the wishes of the Prime Minister’s Office for an ‘initial launch’ of the next generation services by August 15 in the country. “PMO has requested DoT to work towards the initial launch of 5G by 15th August 2022, and also explore the possibility of obtaining requisite recommendations from Trai before March 2022,” DoT has said in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India dated February 22. “In view of the above, Trai is requested to expedite the matter and provide the recommendations at the earliest. ” The DoT’s nudge to the telecom regulator on 5G pricing comes within weeks of the telecom regulator holding a marathon open house consultation where Trai chairman PD Vaghela had told stakeholders about the complexity of pricing the spectrum, which required a considerable amount of time to study.

In the letter to Trai, DoT has also communicated availability of extra spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and the 1800 MHz bands.


Hasura is Unicorn No 10

Hasura, a software company which helps developers with tools, has raised $100 million in a fresh funding round led by Greenoaks Capital.

Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Vertex Ventures also participated in the round.

Hasura is valued at $1 billion, making it the 10th startup to enter India’s ‘unicorn’ club this year. It has joined the likes of edtech platform Lead School, direct-to-consumer brand Mamaearth, analytics platform Fractal, social commerce platform Dealshare, HR tech player Darwinbox and others who have also entered India’s unicorn league — or those with valuations of $1 billion or more.

According to the firm, it plans to use the funding to accelerate research and development and expand go-to-market activities globally for flagship GraphQL Engine. Including the current fundraise, the San Francisco and Bengaluru-based company has raised $136. 5 million so far.

Tanmai Gopal, chief executive of Hasura said funding enables it to greatly increase its innovation velocity, “which in turn allows our rapidly-expanding user base to deliver software even faster.”

India sends 1st batch of wheat aid to Afghanistan via Pakistan

India’s efforts for a toehold in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan got a boost with the government despatching the first of what will be many consignments of wheat to the country via Pakistan.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla travelled to Amritsar, along with Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay, to flag off 50 trucks carrying 2,500MT of wheat aid to Afghanistan.

India proposes to send 50,000MT of wheat to Afghanistan through the land route with Pakistan. The exercise is expected to be completed over several weeks.

The government said in a statement that supply will be effected by the Food Corporation of India and transported from Attari (India) to Jalalabad (Afghanistan) by Afghan transporters. UN World Food Programme will handle the distribution. The wheat will be delivered in 50-kg jute bags. According to sources, each bag is stamped with a text in English, Pashto and Dari saying — ‘Gift from the people of India to the people of Afghanistan’.

Shringla said the decision to transport wheat to Afghanistan was taken keeping in mind strong people-to-people contact with Afghanistan. India has be- en encouraged by the fact that the Taliban didn’t just welcome the proposal but also sought early approval from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The shelf life of the wheat is minimum one year from the date of dispatch and necessary information would be clearly mentioned on bag. Fumigation of the consignment has been undertaken before handing over for transportation in order to cater for long passage time,” said a source, adding the government is also getting the wheat quality tested by World Food Programme approved laboratory.

The government’s supply of wheat at a critical juncture is expected to help India remain relevant in Afghanistan, if not act also as a template for cooperation in a region marred by conflict. “India remains committed to its special relationship with the people of Afghanistan. In this endeavour, India has already supplied 500,000 doses of Covaxin, 13 tonnes of essential lifesaving medicines and 500 units of winter clothing. These consignments were handed over to the World Health Organisation and the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul,” said the government in its announcement.

Ukraine crisis to give India crude jolt

Fuel prices are poised to go up by Rs 7-8 per litre as Brent, the global benchmark crude, raced towards the $100 per barrel mark as the Ukraine crisis spooked the oil market already struggling to meet rising demand.

As Brent hit $98/barrel, the mix of crude bought by India, otherwise known as the Indian Basket, too rose to $93. 6, marking a $10 increase since November 4 when the Centre cut excise duty by Rs 10 on a litre of diesel and Rs 5 on petrol to give relief from high oil prices ahead of the state elections.

Pump prices have remained unchanged since then under an informal government diktat. The sharp increase has widened the gap between the actual cost and retail prices of petrol and diesel, leading to under-recovery for retailers. According to ballpark, every $1 increase in crude price impacts retail rate by 70-80 paise. The freeze on price revision, as seen after previous polls, is expected to be lifted once the last ballot is cast on March 7 and the retailers will start raising the prices. They, however, may not get to recoup the past under-recovery fully, which will impede profit of companies such as IndianOil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum. But on the flip side, high oil prices will buoy the bottom lines of domestic producers such as ONGC and Oil India Ltd. The Ukraine crisis will keep oil on the boil in the coming months to keep fuel prices in focus, unless a breakthrough in the US-Iran talks brings Iranian oil to the market. But there will be no hiccup on supplies since India barely imports oil from Russia through the western route. But the Ukraine crisis will pinch India in gas prices too. India meets half its gas needs through imports by way of LNG, or liquefied natural gas. Though India hardly imports LNG from Russia, the crisis has pushed up the fuel’s prices.

This will raise the cost for industry.

Rising fuel costs will jack up inflation and may prompt hardening of monetary policy by the RBI, raising the cost of living.


Trade Pact with UAE to Lift Exports

The government said India’s automobile exports to the UAE are projected to increase by $160 million in the next five years while engineering exports are seen growing 10% in the first two years and 15% in the next three years at $7 billion, $8 billion and $9. 2 billion in FY25, FY26 and FY27, respectively, due to the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that the two sides have inked.

India and the UAE on Friday signed the CEPA or an FTA that covers goods, services, investment, digital trade, government procurement and rules of origin, among others. “After India gets the FTA benefit, the average per unit price for India manufactured vehicles will reduce to $12,218 from $12,829, which should benefit us,” the commerce and industry ministry said in a statement.

Exports of plain gold jewellery and gold-studded jewellery would increase to $10 billion in 2023 and the tariff concessions offered to the UAE by India in products like gold will reduce the import cost of inputs, according to the ministry.

“The expected growth (CAGR of 26-28%) of pharma and medical devices in the next five years can touch over $1 billion,” it said. 

Pune: ‘City’s first lotus lake’ to come up at Khatpewadi

The Ramnadi Restoration Mission, which is working to revive the 19km-long Ramnadi, that flows through the western fringes of the city, has announced that it is setting up Pune’s first lotus lake at the Khatpewadi lake, near the source of the river.

The organisers of the mission said that lotus plantation is being carried out in three methods -using seeds, saplings as well as lotus tubers. The lotus plantation, and the creation of the lake, the RRM said, will help to improve the vitals of the water using the qualities of lotus flower and plant.

The lotus plantation drive is being led by Sanjay Gurav, a fine arts teacher from Khamgaon in Vidarbha. “I wanted to use lotus ponds to enhance the health of the water near the source of the river. The lotuses will bloom in the lake over the next six to seven months,” Gurav said.

Covid-19: 3rd vaccine available for 12-17 age group

The nation’s drug regulator has authorised vaccine-maker Biological E’s Corbevax for emergency use among children aged 12-17, making a third shot available in the Covid inoculation drive for youngsters. The Centre has already placed a purchase order for 5 crore doses of Corbevax, likely to be available in states by February-end.

This is the third vaccine to be given emergency use nod for 12-17 after Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Zydus Cadila’s ZyCov-D. Currently, only Covaxin is given to children aged 15-17.

The Serum Institute of India—makers of Covishield —has also sought regulatory nod for emergency use of Covovax in those aged 12-17. Once SII gets the permission for Covovax, it will further improve the availability of jabs for kids and may prompt the government to lower the age limit for Covid vaccination to 12.


Set up dedicated green body on lines of GST council: States

With experts demanding a separate body to deal with issues linked climate change for long, states have proposed setting up a dedicated ‘environmental council’ like GST council to implement India’s climate action at all levels.

Although the Centre has an apex committee, comprising members from 13 key ministries, to coordinate actions for achieving India’s climate goal under the Paris Agreement, the idea to have a separate council came up during the World Sustainable Development Summit where state representatives, including ministers, proposed having such an independent body for more focused action.

They pointed out that the implementation aspects of climate action, be it mitigation, adaptation and resilience, often falls on the state governments and therefore there should be a dedicated body composed of representatives from the Centre and all the states/Union Territories.

“On the lines of the GST Council, if we have the environment and forest ministers of all states along with the Union minister of environment in a council, I think that is where we can set targets and policies at the national level and implement at the state level,” said Aaditya Thackeray, environment minister of Maharashtra. Participating in a ‘ministerial session on sub-national leadership for inclusive green growth’ at WSDS, organised by The Energy and Resources Institute, Thackeray suggested putting out an annual environment report. “We can think of an ‘ease of living’ report that lists out environmental steps and targets, and what can be done in terms of climate action such as mitigation, adaptation and resilience,” he said.

At the session, moderated by TERI director general, Vibha Dhawan, the ministers highlighted the need for newer measures and yardsticks to assess and tackle climate change related impacts. Emphasising the crucial role of sub-national governance to tackle climate change, James K Sangma, environment and forest minister of Meghalaya, said, “The need of the hour is to have a concerted effort where all the states come together, put aside their differences and work collectively. ”

Pointing out that Meghalaya along with Arunachal form the biggest carbon sinks crucial for India to honour the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, Sangma also put forth the need for the north-eastern region to be a unique green laboratory. “Meghalaya aspires to be a leader to create a green bloc coalition to find solutions to fast depleting natural assets,” he said.

Echoing Thackeray’s suggestion, Palanivel Thiagarajan, finance minister of Tamil Nadu, said, “While policies are framed at the national level, bulk of the work is to be done at these levels. ”


IndiGo Co-founder Rakesh Gangwal ‘Deboards’

IndiGo co-founder Rakesh Gangwal has stepped down from the board of InterGlobe Aviation and will sell his holdings in the airline operator over about five years, he said on Friday.

Gangwal’s letter to the board came barely two weeks after his partner, Rahul Bhatia, with whom he has sparred for long, assumed the position of managing director. That came a month after a change in the articles of association, allowing one partner to leave without the other exercising the right of first refusal.

In a filing with stock exchanges, the company said Gangwal tendered his resignation from the board on Friday with immediate effect. “I have been a long-term shareholder in the company for more than 15 years and it’s only natural to someday think about diversifying one's holdings,” Gangwal said.

“However, I am concerned about the optics of reducing my holdings even though such transactions would only be undertaken when I do not have any unpublished price sensitive information,” he said.

Gangwal and his family-owned 36.61% as of December in the company that operates India's biggest airline by market share. Based on InterGlobe’s closing share price of ₹ 2,120. 30 on the BSE Friday, the stake is worth ₹29,900 crore. On February 4, the other cofounder, Bhatia, assumed the position of the company’s managing director. It never had an MD before. Ronojoy Dutta is the CEO of the airline. 

The previous month, shareholders approved a resolution seeking an amendment to the articles of association, which earlier gave one founder the first right to purchase the other’s shares if the latter decided to sell. The terms were changed after years of the feud between Bhatia and Gangwal, who had stopped participating in the airline's operational and financial decisions.

A legal battle between the promoters began on July 8, 2019, when Gangwal wrote to the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Prime Minister’s Office and the finance ministry, seeking intervention on various corporate governance issues and the Bhatia Group’s control of the airline.

Gangwal had sought amendments to the AoA to remove rights of Bhatia’s IGE Group on the airline and raised past allegedly related-party transactions and refusal to hold an extraordinary general meeting when he had requested, among other issues. Several cases were filed in India, the US and London, culminating in the extraordinary general meeting this year when the articles were amended, smoothening the way for Gangwal’s exit.

India, UAE Sign Comprehensive Trade Agreement

India and the United Arab Emirates signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement covering goods, services and digital trade, among others, that will allow 90% of the country’s exports a duty-free access to the Emirates.

The CEPA is likely to benefit about $26 billion worth of Indian products that are currently subjected to 5% import duty by the UAE, India’s third-biggest trading partner behind the US and China.

The bilateral trade pact is India’s first in the region and the first comprehensive trade agreement with any country in a decade.

“It is expected that the CEPA will lead to increase in bilateral trade from the current $60 bn to $100 bn in the next 5 years,” the government said in a statement after the India-UAE Virtual Summit attended prime minister Narendra Modi and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“HH @MohamedBinZayed and I believe that the India-UAE CEPA signed today will be a game-changer in our economic ties,” PM Modi tweeted after the virtual summit.

Through the pact, Indian exporters will also get access to the much larger Arab and African markets


India Announces Plans to Produce 5 mt of Green Hydrogen by 2030

India announced plans to produce five million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030 and unveiled a policy that will enable manufacturers to source renewable energy to produce hydrogen or ammonia without paying transmission charges for 25 years.

Reliance Industries, Larsen & Toubro, JSW Steel, Jindal Steel, NTPC, BPCL and Indian Oil Corp among others have announced plans to set up green hydrogen units. The renewable energy industry is expected to get a lift from the policy as its cost will fall for those producing green hydrogen or ammonia, thereby increasing demand. Industry insiders say despite the incentives green hydrogen would cost substantially more than that made from natural gas and the price would need to fall more for its greater adoption. RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani had last year announced a target to produce green hydrogen at $1 per kilogram by the turn of this decade.

The policy allows priority transmission, banking with distribution companies, quick open access, and single-window clearance for renewable energy used for green hydrogen or ammonia. Producers will be given land for storage of such green hydrogen  at ports. “The policy covers several strategic enablers for growing India’s Green Hydrogen output, including waiver of inter-state transmission charges, allotment of land in RE parks and credit towards renewable RPO compliance,” said Mahesh Palashikar, president, GE South Asia. ReNew Power chief commercial officer Mayank Bansal said the policy is a good step though clarity is needed on cross-subsidy surcharge and additional cross-subsidy surcharge. ACME group chairman Manoj K Upadhyay said the policy is the first concrete step in the direction of creating a favourable regulatory environment. Most domestic oil refiners have announced big plans to produce green hydrogen and some of them have already begun the process to set up small facilities based on captive renewable power plants. Green Hydrogen and ammonia are envisaged to be the future fuels to replace fossil fuels and the production of these fuels is one of the major requirements towards sustainable energy security of the nation, an official statement said.

The cost of green hydrogen is expected to be ₹350-400/kg against an average ₹140-180/kg from natural gas reformation. “Waiver of interstate transmission charges will bring down the cost of power, a key element in the production of green hydro gen. The provision for bank The provision for banking of unconsumed renewable power would also be very helpful,” Hindustan Petroleum Corp chairman MK Surana said.


Will expand AI’s reach: Chandra

Punctual. Comfortable. Hospitable. Modern fleet. Wide global network. Technologically most advanced and financially strong. Air India could be all these and more in the not so distant future.

Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran for the first time outlined the group’s vision for the Maharaja in his address to employees. Terming AI the “flagship”, Chandra (as he is known) urged everyone to work with the passion of J R D Tata. “We want to ensure that every Indian is able to fly directly to as many destinations as possible,” he said.

“If you go back in history, AI is one of the original symbols of Indian excellence on the global stage. At a time when the world was full of many similar airlines with similar services, AI stood out with its peerless model of customer experience… AI defined Indian hospitality to the world,” Chandra said.

Consumer-facing “iconic” Tata brands like Taj Hotels, Tanishq, Tata Salt and Jaguar Land Rover touch the lives of 60 crore Indians, he said. “Now with AI, we have an opportunity to become the brand that represents the aspirations of 130 crore Indians. ” He outlined the vision for the airline.

“We are totally committed to making AI the world class airline it deserves to be… areas where we want to be absolutely best in class: Customer service, technology, fleet, network and hospitality. ”

Customer service experience will start with “on time, every time”. “…complement that with a terrific experience in terms of seamless boo- king, airport, boarding, lounge experience,” Chandra said, while emphasising on consumer grievance redressal and keeping safety paramount.

Tatas want to make AI the world’s most advanced technological airline in every aspect. Digital reach will ensure that passengers are “totally connected (in) real time”. About fleet and network, Chandra admitted there is “work to do”. “…with utmost urgency, we will upgrade our fleet…. We will expand our outreach (both domestic and international). increase number of (planes). ”

He spoke about bringing back the Maharaja hospitality both in flight, in the lounges and at every customer touch point. However, Chandra kept strict financial discipline foremost, while speaking of all these objectives


OIC has only harmed its own reputation: MEA

We have noted yet another motivated and misleading statement from the general secretariat of the OIC on matters pertaining to India. Issues in India are considered and resolved in accordance with our constitutional framework and mechanisms. . . democratic ethos and polity,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

The communal mindset of the OIC secretariat does not allow for a proper appreciation of these realities. The OIC continues to be hijacked by vested interests to further their nefarious propaganda against India. As a result, it has only harmed its own reputation,” he added.

After remarks earlier by Pakistan and the US ambassador for religious freedom on the Karnataka issue, the government had said last week that motivated comments on India’s internal issues are not welcome.

The OIC general secretariat had expressed deep concern over “recent public calls for genocide of Muslims by the ‘Hindutva’ proponents in Haridwar in Uttarakhand and reported incidents of harassment of Muslim women on social media sites as well as banning of Muslim girl students from wearing hijab in the state of Karnataka”.

“The continued attacks targeting Muslims and their places of worship, the recent trend of anti-Muslim legislations in different states and rising incidents of violence against Muslims on flimsy pretexts by ‘Hindutva’ groups with impunity, are indicative of the growing trend of Islamophobia,” it had said.

In September last, on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly, the OIC had asked India to reverse its decision of scrapping Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

In response, India had asked OIC to refrain from commenting on the country’s internal matters.

Plan to link two NCR airports: 72km Metro line

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has proposed a 72km high-speed corridor between the upcoming Noida airport in Jewar and Delhi’s IGI airport. The metro connectivity will be built in two phases and will have 13 stations in total between Jewar and New Delhi railway station. The corridor will then connect with Delhi’s Airport Express line to reach IGI.

In a presentation to officials of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority on Tuesday, a DMRC team said the first phase — 35km long — will have both underground and elevated portions and will connect Knowledge Park 2 on the Aqua Line with the Noida airport. This independent corridor will have an interchange at Knowledge Park 2 and there will be seven stations between them. DMRC is likely to submit the detailed project report by March 31 and follow it up with a feasibility study of the second phase of the metro link. The second phase, sources said, was likely to be around 37 and would span from Knowledge Park 2 to New Delhi railway station. The route is likely to run parallel to the Noida expressway and will have stations at New Ashok Nagar and Yamuna Bank.

“On Tuesday, DMRC gave a presentation of their proposal to connect Noida airport with Delhi’s IGI.The entire corridor will be 72km long. The first phase will be built from Jewar to Knowledge Park 2 and the second from Knowledge Park 2 to New Delhi railway station. The DPR for the first phase is likely to be ready by March 31,” said Arun Vir Singh, the YEIDA CEO. “There will be seven stations in the first phase. The tentative ones could be Techzone, Salarpur Underpass, and sectors 18 and 20 of the YamunaExpressway apart from Noida airport and Knowledge Park 2. The final numbers will be known only when the DPR is ready,” a source said.


Auto Incentive Scheme to Create Incremental Output of ₹2,31,500 cr

The production linked incentive scheme for the automobile and auto component sectors will create incremental output of ₹2,31,500 crore over the next five years and enable India to increase its share in global trade of environment-friendly advanced automotive products, said senior government officials.

“The incentives on approved products will be disbursed annually based on actual sales. Manufacturers can gain more incentives by producing more, be it for the local market or for exports. The scheme is estimated to result in incremental production of ₹231,500 crore over the next five years,” Arun Goel, secretary, ministry of heavy industries said. PLI will also encourage auto and auto parts makers to invest in setting up a local base for advanced auto products.

The government has already received investment proposals to the tune of ₹45,016 crore from the 20 approved applicants of PLI auto scheme. They include Hyundai Motor India, Suzuki Motor Gujarat, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto and Ola Electric Technologies. The investment proposals received from OEMs alone have surpassed the overall investment of ₹42,500 crore the government had envisaged from auto and auto component makers.

The list of approved candidates from the component sector will be announced in a month.

Goel added, “World over, the share of advanced auto technologies in overall auto business currently stand at 18%. This will increase to 30% by 2030. In India, this share is a mere 3%. The PLI scheme has been designed to help us keep pace with the technological advancements taking place and move up the value chain. ”

The 50% value-addition criteria additionally is expected to deepen localisation levels of tier-2/3 suppliers and thereby generate employment in the MSME sector.

The PLI scheme for the automobile sector proposes financial incentives of up to 18% to boost domestic manufacturing of advanced automotive technology products.

Jio Platforms, SES Form JV to Offer Satcom-based Broadband Services

Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio Platforms and Luxembourg’s SES, a global satellite communications company, have formed a 51:49 joint venture to deliver broadband services in India through satellites, entering a space where the likes of Sunil Mittal-led OneWeb, Elon Musk’s Starlink, Amazon and the Tatashave already announced forays.

The JPL-SES joint venture — Jio Space Technology — will develop extensive gateway infrastructure in India to provide satcom services within the country. It will use multi-orbit space networks using a combination of geostationary and medium earth orbit satellite constellations capable of delivering multi-gigabit links and capacity to enterprises, mobile backhaul and retail customers across India and neighbouring regions.

“Reliance Jio will be an anchor customer of the joint venture, and has signed a multi-year capacity purchase agreement, based on certain milestones along with gateways and equipment purchase with a total contract value of circa $100 million,” Jio Platforms said in a joint statement Monday. JPL, which is the parent of Reliance Jio, is the digital unit of Reliance Industries.

Jio will also offer managed services and gateway infrastructure operations services to the new joint venture. The joint venture company will be able to access up to 100 Gbps capacity from SES and leverage Jio’s position and sales reach in India to unlock the satellite services market opportunity. “This new joint venture with SES will further accelerate the growth of multi-gigabit broadband. . . with additional coverage and capacity offered by satellite communications services, Jio will be able to connect the remotest towns and villages, enterprises, government establishments, and consumers to the new Digital India,” Jio director Akash Ambani said in the statement.

PSLV-C52 places 3 satellites in orbit

The Indian Space Research Organisation marked the first mission of the year 2022 with the successful launch of PSLV-C52 which placed radar imaging satellite EOS-04 and two other satellites – INS-2TD and Inspiresat-1 – early on Monday morning.

PSLV, which lifted off on its 54th flight from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota at 5. 59am, placed EOS-04 into a sun synchronous orbit of 529km altitude at 6. 17am. Nearly a minute later, the rocket injected Inspiresat-1, a student satellite with a one-year mission life, and INS-2TD, an Isro technology demonstrator with a mission life of six months.

Isro chairman S Somanath, post his first launch as the chief of the space agency, congratulated the Isro team. The launch comes nearly six months after the failed GSLV-F10/EOS-03 mission. According to Isro, the cryogenic upper stage ignition did not happen due to technical anomaly during the mission on August 12, 2021.

Vedanta ropes in Foxconn for chip plant

Taiwan’s Foxconn and Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta will form a joint venture to manufacture semiconductors in India, a move that could help ease the global chip shortage that has rattled automobile and electronics manufacturers.

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and a major Apple supplier, will invest $119 million (Rs 899 crore) in the JV, which will be majority owned by Vedanta and will be chaired by Agarwal. Foxconn will own 40% in the JV, which would be domestic manufacturing of electronics in India”, Foxconn said. 

Discussions are currently ongoing with a few state governments to finalise the location of the plant in India, Vedanta said. This is the first major JV announcement after India announced a special incentive scheme to boost investment, production and jobs. India does not have a chip manufacturing ecosystem, despite being a large consumption market for semiconductor-led industries, and depends solely on expensive imports.

Under the special incentive scheme, India will extend fiscal support of up to 50% of the project cost to eligible applicants. Several global companies — including US chipset giant Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and United Microelectronics Corporation — are exploring setting up a semiconductor facility in India.

Last December, Agarwal said Vedanta would invest Rs 60,000 crore to establish a chip and manufacturing ecosystem over a three-year period.

In 2017, it had acquired AvanStrate, a Tokyo-based maker of the special glass used in LCD panels, from Carlyle. It had recently won the bid to acquire the bankrupt consumer electronics maker Videocon Industries but this has hit a regulatory roadblock.

Retail inflation at 7-month high

Retail inflation accelerated above the 6% mark to a seven-month high in January on the back of higher food and beverages prices, while wholesale price inflation eased marginally during the month but remained in double digits for 10th month in a row.

RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said 6% retail inflation should not surprise or create any alarm as the central had taken it into consideration. He said RBI had taken into consideration all possible scenarios of oil prices, while finalising inflation numbers. The hardening of global crude oil prices due to the situation in Ukraine has added an element of uncertainty to price pressures.

“So, at this point of time our inflation projections are quite robust and we stand by it. We have said the upside risk to these projections are the crude prices,” Das said at a press briefing after the central bank board meeting. “Price stability is definitely uppermost in mind and price stability basically means adhering to the inflation target,” the RBI governor said, and added that the deputy governor had explained that the character and content of inflation in advanced economies is different from character, content and drivers of inflation in India. Das said as far India is concerned, inflation momentum is on adownward slope and it is primarily the base effect, which has resulted in higher inflation.

The data released by the National Statistical Office showed inflation as measured by the consumer price index rose an annual 6%, higher than 5. 7% in previous month. The food price index rose 5. 4% in January, higher than 4. 1% in the previous month. Rural inflation was higher at 6. 1%, while urban inflation was at 5. 9%.

The gap between the two has narrowed as rural inflation has picked up. Retail inflation has marginally breached the upper band of the central bank’s tolerance level and it is the fourth consecutive month of increase in retail inflation.

Separate data showed, inflation measured by the wholesale price index eased to 13% in January from 13.6% in the previous month, largely driven by the low base effect and increase in food and nonfood items. Experts said the divergence between WPI and CPI remains significant, despite a moderation in wholesale WPI.

Experts expect the RBI to support growth, despite hardening price pressures and an increase in interest rate is not seen immediately. 


Election Day: Goa, Uttarakhand, UP....


LIC: India's Biggest IPO yet

Life Insurance Corp of India, the country’s largest insurer, on Sunday filed papers with markets regulator Sebi for going public through an initial public offer, set to be the biggest in India.

Through this IPO, its promoter, the government, is selling 31. 6 crore shares, translating to 5% equity of the insurer. LIC is keeping aside 35% of the offering, or nearly 11. 1 crore shares, for retail investors, the draft prospectus showed.

Earlier, the insurer had also said that it would reserve a portion of the IPO for its policyholders, but the exact number under this category was yet to be finalised and hence not disclosed in the prospectus. LIC has not disclosed the discount it will give to policyholders, LIC employees and retail investors in the IPO.

In the Budget speech this year, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the LIC IPO would be completed before the end of the fiscal. It means one of the world’s largest insurers by net premium earned will be listed before March 31 this year. Once listed, LIC is expected to become one of the most-valued companies in India.

In the run-up to filing of the prospectus, government sources had said it was looking at a market valuation of around Rs 15 lakh crore for LIC. To get that valuation, the IPO will need to be priced at around Rs 2,370 per share while for a valuation of Rs 16 lakh crore the offer price should be around Rs 2,530. And, for a valuation of Rs 13 lakh crore it should be around Rs 2,060 per share, calculations showed. 

Currently, Reliance Industries, with a market capitalisation of Rs 16. 1 lakh crore, is India’s most valued company, while TCS is at number two with a market value of Rs 13. 7 lakh crore, BSE data showed

Set up in 1956, for the government per-share cost of acquisition of LIC shares was 16 paise, the prospectus showed. The life insurer has an embedded value of  Rs 5.4 lakh crore as of September 30, 2021, calculated by international actuarial firm Milliman Advisors. For insurers, the embedded value is one of the most relevant valuation parameters that takes into consideration the company’s present value of future profit and its free surplus, among others.

“The DRHP of LIC IPO has been filed today (Sunday) with the Sebi,” Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management tweeted in the evening. “LIC has 66% market share in new business premiums with 283 million policies and 1.35 million agents as of March 31, 2021.”

Divestment of LIC is crucial for the government to meet its fiscal 2022 divestment target of Rs 78,000-crore. In recent months, the sale of Air India and Neelachal Ispat have been the major ones, both bought by the Tata Group.

The government has appointed 10 merchant bankers for the IPO with Kotak Mahindra Capital leading the pack. Other merchant bankers include Goldman Sachs (India) Securities, Citigroup Global Markets India and Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities (India).


Rahul Bajaj dies

Rahul Bajaj, chairman emeritus of Bajaj Auto, who died in Pune on Saturday of cardiac and respiratory ailments at age 83, wasn’t known to mince words, or give up easily without a fight.

In 1970-71, when licences and production capacities were tightly controlled, he vigorously argued his company’s case for producing more scooters. Some 20 years later, he became one of the most vocal members of the ‘Bombay Club’ seeking a “level-playing field” for Indian businesses after the 1991 reforms. And, more recently, in 2019, in the presence of Union ministers, he spoke about the need to create an environment where businessmen could openly criticise policies and still be appreciated.

After returning from Harvard Business School with an MBA in the 1960s, he built Bajaj Auto into the country’s preeminent two-wheeler company with households willing to wait for a decade to own a Bajaj Chetak or Bajaj Super scooter. Its iconic ‘Hamara Bajaj’ campaign became synonymous with middleclass dreams.

He was widely known as the fearless voice of India Inc. At the post-Budget meet of industry associations with government representatives, Bajaj would ‘open the innings’, making sharp comments, often to the displeasure or discomfiture of mantris and babus. He was candid with just about everyone and everything —including his son Rajiv’s decision to discontinue manufacturing scooters.

It is very difficult for me to praise anybody, I was not born that way… I was born anti-establishment,” he had said a few years ago, where he mentioned that he was named by Jawaharlal Nehru. “Rahul Bajaj was one of a kind. He had a personality that matched his towering height. The grandson of a freedom-fighter, and born into a family that believed it had a responsibility towards society, Rahul Bajaj believed in the idea of India. His scooters became a symbol of a young nation on the move. He was one of the first to become a world-beater in his industry and to take an Indian brand global. But he was more than a business titan – he was a man of strong beliefs who didn’t shy away from speaking his mind. His two sons are living up to the famed Bajaj name and will doubtless take their businesses to great new heights. What India will miss is a voice that came straight from the heart,” said Samir Jain.

“Rahul Bajaj strode across the Indian industrial landscape like a colossus. He was a pioneer who established a culture of quality and technology. He stood for high integrity in business and stuck to his principles,” said Venu Srinivasan, chairman, TVS Motor Company.

Much before Brand India or ‘atmanirbharta’ came into the lexicon, the Bajaj Group was part of the ‘swadeshi’ movement, which saw Bajaj Auto going into scooters in collaboration with Piaggio.

The group played a very big role in turning Pune into one of India’s biggest business hubs. He relocated from Bombay to Akurdi, which was then a village on the outskirts of Pune. Bajaj took pride in creating a company that saw only one labour strike and a culture where his children went to the same school as his managers’.

He was a tough negotiator and held firm during talks with Honda when it was looking to enter India in 1980s, refusing to offer any equity to the Japanese company, and insisting only on a technology tie-up. During this period, Indian preference changed from scooters to motorcycles, especially those with four-stroke engines, something that Bajaj didn’t manufacture, resulting in Hero Honda emerging as market leader some 15 years ago. By this time, Bajaj had put Rajiv in driver’s seat. “You’re a great manager. You’re doing well on costs and quality. All I know is, I was number one, you’re number two!” Bajaj would tease his son.

While focusing on business, which later diversified into financial services, Bajaj also built strong relationships around the world. He was among the early visitors to Davos, the alpine resort where global industry leaders converge for an annual summit that goes beyond business. First introduced to the European Management Forum by Baba Kalyani’s father Neelkanth Kalyani, Bajaj was instrumental in getting the World Economic Forum to India in the 1980s. Until a few years ago, he remained a keen participant at the jamboree.

Bajaj may have been seen as a voice against liberalisation but those who know him maintain that he was misunderstood and that all he asked for was a level playing field.

In keeping with the family tradition he was born into, Bajaj had a deep social conscience and believed that businesses were meant to serve people and communities. Besides making substantial financial commitments towards health, education and livelihoods, Bajaj took personal interest in the group's philanthropic activities.


Delhi: Areas Of Redeveloped Riverfront To Be Opened For Various Events

For the last couple of years, Delhi Development Authority has been meticulously working on rejuvenating and ecologically restoring the Yamuna riverfront as part of its ambitious project “Asita”. Ina series of nature-based events over a two-week-long programme, DDA now plans to connect and bring people closer to the river.

From nature walks to cycle rallies, sand art and cleaning of ghats, DDA has planned the nature-oriented activities between February 19 and March 6 on the theme of “Rejuvenation of River Yamuna Floodplain”.

Asita, which is another name of the river, is divided into four phases. The area under the first phase has largely been developed and partially opened to the public. As part of Phase-I of the project, DDA had taken over 494 acres on the western riverbank between Old Yamuna Bridge and ITO Bridge. The area open to the public has parks, recreational areas, green walkways,cycle tracks, wetlands and a green buffer area.

As the country is celebrating “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” to commemorate 75 years of Independence, DDA is also participating in the event under Union ministry of housing and urban affairs and as a part of “Smart Cities,Smart Urbanisation”. An official said the nature-based activities along the Yamuna floodplain would involv e people of all age groups to connect them to the river. The events that have been planned will be held in the ‘greenways’ of DDA’s ongoing project of restoration and rejuvenation of the floodplains of the river. The first event that has been planned involves sand art and play on the theme of ‘A zaadi Darshan’ and would be held at the Amrit Biodiversity Park, which too is being developed to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence.

A nature walk and bird watching would be held along the eco-trail to replicate the Dandi March. A cycle rally, “Avartan Rally”, would be organised from the northern parts of the western bank of the river to Kalindi Kunj in the south, along structures of national importance.

Other events include a “Jagrukta Abhiyaan” at Yamuna Biodiversity Park to create awareness regarding revival of the ecosystem and a “Swacchta Abhiyaan” to clear Qudsia Ghat of litter. Yoga activities would also be organised by DDA through the event “Yog abhyas” on the western bank.

Last year, DDA’s efforts to restore and rejuvenate the floodplain were chosen to be showcased at the prestigious London Design Biennale 2021, a global gathering of designers, curators and design institutes. The authority has been trying to ensure that Delhiites ar e able to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the riverfront from close quarters, but without disturbing the flora and fauna of this ecologically sensitive zone.

Get health ID via Aarogya Setu

Now one can generate 14-digit unique health ID — Ayushman Bharat Health Account number — from Aarogya Setu app. In a move to expand the user base for its flagship Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, the government has decided to integrate it with the Aarogya Setu app, which already has 21. 4 crore users.

The ABHA number can be used to link existing and new medical records including doctor prescriptions, lab reports, hospital records and also share these records with registered health professionals and health service providers and also access other digital health services while maintaining a common pool of medical history. “As vaccination helps us fight this pandemic, it was essential to repurpose this widely used digital public good. With the integration of Aarogya Setu with ABDM, we will now be able to make the benefits of ABDM available to the users of Aarogya Setu and enable them to join the digital health ecosystem with their due consent. Creation of ABHA is the start. We would soon roll out the functionality to view your digital health records as well,” National Health Authority chief executive R S Sharma said.

Aarogya Setu app has a huge active user base and is already being used for Covid-19 related contact tracing to check risk factors, vaccine booking, certificate download and status check, among other things. This integration with ABDM will add another feature of generating ABHA numbers for the app users.

The budget allocation for the national digital health mission has been proposed at Rs 200 crore for 2022-23, up from merely Rs 75 crore in the revised estimate of the current fiscal.

India is a country of plural cultures, religions and languages: Karnataka HC

The Karnataka high court has restrained students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab and any religious flag within the classroom. The court also made it clear the order was confined to such of the institutions wherein the College Development Committees have prescribed the student dress code or uniform.

The three-judge bench has said it was pained by ongoing agitations and closure of educational institutions over the past few days, especially when the court is seized of the matter and issues of constitutional significance and personal law are being debated.

“Ours is a country of plural cultures, religions and languages,” the bench said. “Being a secular state, it does not identify itself with any religion as its own.

Every citizen has the right to profess and practise any faith of choice. However, such a right, not being absolute, is susceptible to reasonable restrictions as provided by the Constitution. Whether wearing of hijab in the classroom is a part of essential religious practice of Islam in the light of constitutional guarantees, needs a deeper examination. ”

The court said that in a civilized society like India, no person can be permitted to disturb public peace and tranquillity in the name of religion, culture or the like.

“The interest of students would be better served by their returning to classes than by the continuation of agitations and consequent closure of institutions. The academic year is coming to an end. We hope and trust that all stakeholders and the public at large shall maintain peace and tranquillity,” the bench observed. During a hearing that spanned two hours on Thursday, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who appeared for the petitioner-students from a Udupi college, argued that the Karnataka Education Act,1983, does not have any provision which permits educational institutions to prescribe a uniform forstudents.

He said the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Classification, Regulation & Prescription of Curricula, etc. ) Rules, 1995, apart from being incompetent, are not applicable to pre-university institutions since they were promulgated basically for primary and secondary schools.

He contended that the rules do not provide for the imposition of a penalty if one violates the dress code and expulsion of students for violating the dress code would be grossly disproportionate to the alleged infraction.

Hegde told the court that all stakeholders should show tolerance and catholicity so that girl students professing and practising the Islamic faith can attend classes with hijab and institutions should not insist upon the removal of hijab as a condition for gaining entry to classrooms.

In his submissions, senior advocate Devadatta Kamat, who appeared for two students from a Kundapur college, contended that the decisions of the Kerala, Madras and Bombay high courts have been wrongly construed by the government while structuring the February 5 circular relating to the dress code. He said the government’s stand that hijab is not a part of essential religious practice of the Islamic faith shows gross non-application of mind.

He said the government has no authority or competence to issue such an order or circular mandating college development committees to prescribe a uniform for students. Kamat said dress and attire are a part of speech and expression and the right to wear hijab is a matter of personal privacy; institutions cannot compel anyone to remove it.

In his brief response, advocate-general Prabhuling K Navadgi submitted that no prima facie case has been made out for the grant of interim relief.

He said there were several counter-agitations and students wanted to gain entry to institutions with saffron and blue shawls and other such symbolic clothes and religious flags. Consequently, he said, the government had to clamp prohibitory orders around educational institutions.

Navadgi said the order under challenge per se does not prescribe any uniform, since uniforms are the domain of institutions. “The agitation should end immediately and peace and tranquillity should be restored,” he said.

Auto PLI Scheme: 20 Applicants Get Nod for ₹45,000-cr Investments

The government said that 20 applicants who proposed investment of ₹45,016 crore have been approved under ‘Champion OEM Incentive Scheme’ of the Production Linked Incentive scheme for automobile and auto component industry in India.

Those shortlisted include Hyundai Motor India Limited, Kia India Private Limited, Mahindra & Mahindra, Suzuki Motor Gujarat Private Limited and Tata Motors Limited.

“The scheme has been a huge success in terms of overwhelming response received with a proposed investment of ₹45,016 cr from approved applicants,” the heavy industries ministry said in a statement, noting that the PLI scheme for automobile and auto component industry has been a huge success in terms of the applications received from local as well as overseas firms engaged in or proposing to manufacture advanced automotive technology vehicles or products.

“The overwhelming response shows that Industry has reposed its faith in India’s stellar progress as aworld class manufacturing destination which resonates strongly with Hon’ble Prime Minister’s clarion call of Atma Nirbhar Bharat a self-reliant India,” said the statement. the statement.

The PLI scheme proposes financial incentives to boost domestic manufacturing of advanced automotive technology products and attract investments in the automotive manufacturing value chain. “Apart from Indian business groups, approved applicants for Champion OEM (original equipment manufacturer) Incentive scheme include groups from countries such as Republic of Korea, USA, Japan, France, Italy, UK and Netherlands", said the ministry.

Tata Sons retains Chandra as chairman for 5 more years

Tata Sons has reappointed N Chandrasekaran as its executive chairman for another five years, ensuring leadership continuity even as the owner of one of India’s oldest conglomerates syncs itself with the new business environment. Its board, which met on Friday, reviewed the last five years’ performance of the $103 billion conglomerate and decided to renew his term, which ends on February 20.

In a statement, Tata Sons said that chairman emeritus Ratan Tata, who was a special invitee to the board meeting, expressed his satisfaction on the “progress and performance” of the conglomerate under Chandrasekaran’s leadership and “recommended his term be renewed for a further five-year period”. Since the Tata Sons chairman is also the chairman of companies promoted by it, many of them being publicly listed, the development reassures investors of leadership stability and continuation of Chandrasekaran’s business strategy.

The reappointment will be effective after a majority of Tata Sons shareholders support the ordinary resolution enabling Chandrasekaran’s chairmanship continuation and his revised remuneration at its annual general meeting expected to beheld in August. Chandrasekaran is one of the country’s highly paid professional CEOs with an annual compensation package exceeding Rs 60 crore. Since Tata Sons is majorly owned (66%) by Tata Trusts, which is chaired by Ratan Tata, the resolution is expected to be passed.

A Tata lifer, Chandrasekaran was appointed chairman after Tata Sons removed Cyrus Mistry from the top post following his differences with Ratan Tata.

It inducted Chandrasekaran, now 58, as an additional director on October 25, 2016 and subsequently, designated him as chairman on January 12, 2017. He officially took charge as chairman on February 21, 2017.


Cryptos have no underlying asset, not even a tulip: Das

RBI governor Shaktikanta Das came out with strong words of caution for users of cryptocurrency, pointing out that there was no underlying value and not even a tulip flower. He was referring to the 17th-century Tulip mania which has since become a byword for speculative bubbles. “Our position is very clear: Private cryptocurrency, or whatever you may call it, is a big risk to financial stability and macroeconomic stability. Private cryptocurrencies will undermine RBI’s ability to deal with issues relatingto finance,” Das said in his post policy interaction with the media. “The investors in cryptocurrency need to keep in mind that whatever they are investing is at their own risk. There is no underlying to cryptocurrency, not even a tulip,” Das added.

RBI’s super dovish policy

Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das on Thursday surprised markets with a super dovish monetary policy that not only left rates unchanged but also retained the accommodative stance. Thepost-policy commentary too was supportive of growth with the governor saying that the next year’s borrowing programme would not be as big a burden as it appeared to be.

The status quo means that the cost of home loans and other borrowings that are linked to the repo rate will not go up for now. Deposits too may not rise sharply. With the repo and reverse repo rate maintained at 4% and 3.35% for the 10th successive policy, the focus shifted to reforms in the financial markets. Repo is the rate at which RBI lends to banks, while reverse repo is at which it borrows from them.

In his post-policy interaction, the governor indicated that next year’s borrowing programme would not be as big as projected in the Budget and said that the RBI had given foreigners headroom to invest Rs 1 lakh crore in Indian bonds, which will take some pressure off the oversized borrowing. The RBI also liberalised rules on interest rate derivatives, providing banks more headroom to extend hedging products to borrowers.

“The government will be borrowing Rs 65,000 crore to pass on to the National Highways Authority of India. This money would have otherwise been raised by NHAI,” said Das. He added that the government has also indicated that collections under small savings would be higher than expected, resulting in lower need for borrowing. Many had expected the central bank to hike the reverse repo rate to reduce surplus funds.

RBI officials also pointed out that the central bank is not taking a contrarian position, but it was that the circumstances on the ground were different. 


Bengaluru Peripheral Ring Road project gets cabinet nod

The Karnataka cabinet pitchforked the 15-year-old Peripheral Ring Road plan on to the list of priority infrastructure projects by approving tender documents for the Rs 21,000-crore project.

The decision was taken after securing the Supreme Court’s green signal last year for land acquisition for the project that seeks to provide connectivity between Tumakuru Road and Hosur Road. 

The project planned in 2006 was delayed due to land acquisition and funding problems. The cost of the project has jumped seven times from Rs 3,500 crore when it was conceived. According to officials of Bangalore Development Authority, about 65% of the project cost is towards acquisition of 2,500 acres of land.

The 73km eight-lane road, which is 100 metres wide, will be built under the public-private partnership model wherein the entire project cost will be funded by the concessionaire and the latter would be allowed to collect toll for 50 years.

The BDA will soon float global tenders inviting bidders to implement the project,” said law and parliamentary affairs minister JC Madhuswamy. “The project was delayed mainly because of a legal battle over compensation for land owners. Now the Supreme Court has asked the government to pay compensation as per the old Act,” he added.

“After a lot of deliberation and consideration of huge funding required for the project, we’ve decided to extend the concession period to 50 years from the 30 years planned earlier,” an official said.

Mumbai & Bengaluru among top 10 most congested cities in world

Despite Covid-induced lockdowns keeping a large number of vehicles off the roads in 2021, Mumbai and Bengaluru have been ranked 5th and 10th in the global ranking of urban congestion during the period while Delhi and Pune occupied the 11th and 21st spots among 404 cities across 58 countries, according to a report by a global location technology company.

However, the congestion level in Delhi during 2021 was 14% less than 2019 while in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, the level dropped by 18%, 32% and 29% respectively, said the report. The four cities featured in TomTom Traffic Index’s global top 25 list. Istanbul topped the list, followed by Moscow.

The report said India’s congestion level in 2021 was 23% lower than pre-Covid times, with a decrease of 31% specifically during peak hours. In 2020, the traffic congestion in three big Indian cities — Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi — made it to the top 10 list in the last edition of the traffic index report. While Mumbai was ranked second, Bengaluru was at sixth position and Delhi eighth among 416 cities across 56countries. According to the report, congestion level in Delhi came down to 48 points in 2021 from 53 points in 2019 and the peak traffic congestion also reduced by 17% in 2021. The city saw its worst traffic day on August 21, when it recorded the worst rainfall in a day. The waterlogged pockets caused widespread traffic logjams and increase in congestion levels.

Sachin Tyagi, strategic automotive business development manager of TomTom said, “Globally, peak hours shifted in almost 40% of the cities and that’s due to the changes in our working habits with work from home becoming predominant and online conferences replacing physical meetings.” He said this could be one of the reasons why Bengaluru, which has a high number of IT firms, saw a sharp decline in congestion level during 2021.

India’s $5tn push: Gujarat gets taskforce

The Gujarat government has formed a high-level taskforce under former Union finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia to enhance Gujarat’s contribution to achieve PM Narendra Modi’s aim of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024.

The taskforce has also been mandated to prepare a blueprint to achieve GSDP (gross state domestic product) of Rs 27. 5 lakh crore by 2024. Currently, Gujarat’s GSDP is Rs 16. 5 lakh crore.

A resolution of the state finance department reads, “The matter of formation of a taskforce under the chairmanship of Hasmukh Adhia for working out a strategy of Government of Gujarat for making India a five trillion dollar economy as per the vision of the PM was under consideration. ” The resolution further says: “The taskforce formed by the GR will give recommendations in the next three months about the possible action for maximizing Gujarat’s contribution for the $5 trillion GDP size by 2024. ”

Other members of the taskforce will be Manoj Das, additional chief secretary, ports & transport; Mamta Verma, principal secretary, energy & petrochemicals; Millind Torwane, secretary (economic affairs),finance department; and Rakesh Shankar, secretary, planning and general administration department.

A key officer aware of the developments said: “The taskforce has been formed very late to assess Gujarat’s contribution to achieve the PM’s vision of a $5 trillion economy by 2024. ” The officeradded: “The committee will give its report after three months, while our budget will be decided for 2022-23 in March. ” The officer went on to say: “Effectively, all suggestions of the taskforce will be considered for the 2023-24 budget. Two years is a short span to achieve such a drastic rise in the GSDP. ”

Another source said: “Gujarat’s share in the GDP is 8%. To help the country become a $5 trillion economy, Gujarat’s GSDP will have to be Rs 27. 5 lakh crore from Rs 16. 5 lakh crore in two years.” This will be very challenging, the source said.

Sources said Gujarat will have to register close to 25% annual growth rate to meet the GSDP target.

The projected growth rate for 2020-21 was only 0. 6% over the 2019-20 growth rate. “The budget estimate for 2021-22 is Rs 18. 7 lakh crore; for 202223, it is Rs 21. 3 lakh crore; and for 2023-24, it is Rs 24. 1 lakh crore,” the source said. “To incorporate the Adhia committee’s suggestions for the GSDP quantum jump, the Gujarat government will have to revise all the budgetary projections first,which is a major challenge due to several factors. ” The source added: “The Gujarat government does not have any major extra resources to fund economic stimuli. ” Many officials are not very bullish about the effectiveness of the new taskforce, as the Gujarat government has overlooked key suggestions in a report given by a committee chaired by Adhia for the post-pandemic economic revival.

Xpressbees: 8th Indian unicorn in 2022

Logistics firm Xpressbees has raised $300 million in a funding round led by Blackstone, TPG, and ChrysCapital. The funding values the company at over $1 billion, making it the 8th Indian unicorn this year. The company has raised over $500 million to date.

Founded in 2015, Xpressbees operates across 3,000 cities, serving over 20,000 pincodes, and delivers more than 1. 5 million packages per day. It has over 100 hubs across India, and has nearly 10 lakh sqft of warehouse capacity. The funding will be used to morph Xpressbees into a full-service logistics company. It will also be used for product development, and hiring talent.

Amitava Saha, founder & CEO, said, “With their (investors) vast network and operational expertise, we believe that they will further fuel our efforts in pursuing newer opportunities and will help expand our footprint. ”

Mukesh Mehta, senior MD in Blackstone Private Equity, said, “Xpressbees is playing an important role in India’s booming e-commerce sector, which is still at an early stage and has a long runway of development. We look forward to leveraging Blackstone’s deep expertise and global network in logistics and e-commerce to accelerate Xpressbees’s growth. ”

Government slams Pakistan & China

The government hit out at China and Pakistan or referring to Jammu and Kashmir, and also the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, in a joint statement earlier this week, saying India expected the “parties concerned” not to interfere in matters that are internal affairs of India. It also called upon the two countries to stop all activities on CPEC projects saying they were located on Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan. “We have noted references to Jammu & Kashmir and the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the joint statement between China and Pakistan issued on February 6, 2022,” the spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs said. “We have always rejected such references and our position is well known to China and Pakistan. In this instance too, we reject reference to Jammu and Kashmir in the joint statement. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh have been, are and will always remain integral and inalienable parts of India,” he added. As regards the reference to the “so-called CPEC”, said the official, India had consistently conveyed its concerns to China and Pakistan on the projects. in India’s territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan. “We resolutely oppose any attempts to change the status quo by other countries, as also by Pakistan, in the areas under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. We call upon the parties conserned to cease such activities," he said. 


Nagaland: Entire state ‘moderate drought hit’

The Nagaland government has declared the entire state as hit by drought of moderate nature.

The Nagaland state disaster management authority made the declaration after taking into account conditions arising from rainfall deficiency and poor crop conditions. It also considered the distress situation in almost the entire farming area affected by these conditions through field verifications and poor harv ests during 2021. This was also done on the basis of reports available from the deputy commissioners and chairmen of district disaster management authorities concerned, an official release said on Tuesday. Based on scanty rainfall observed from March to November 2021 in the state, the declaration of drought would come into effect from September 15, 2021 (retrospectively) and will continue to be in effect for six months till further orders, it said.


Accept security : Shah tells Owaisi

Home minister Amit Shah on Monday urged All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi to accept ‘Z category’ security offered by the Centre after gun shots were fired at his car last week.

Making a statement in Rajya Sabha on the attack on Owaisi’s convoy in Thana Pilkhuwa in Hapur, Shah said the Centre reviewed threat perception after the incident and found the Hyderabad MP still faces a security threat. However, Owaisi has refused to take Z category security, which includes bullet-proof vehicle in Delhi and CRPF protection.

“As per the verbal information sent by Owaisi to us, he has refused to take security. I request Shri Owaisi through this House to take the security immediately and address our concern (about his safety),” Shah said.

Shah said the Centre has on several occasions directed central agencies to provide security cover to Owaisi but he had declined. “The central government has issued directions to provide security to Owaisi many times earlier also. Telangana Police and Delhi Police remained unsuccessful in providing security to Owaisi due to his unwillingness for that,” Shah said.

Providing details about the incident near a toll plaza on February 3 at 5:20 pm, he said two persons had opened fire but Owaisi had escaped unhurt and returned to Delhi safely. He was returning after attending a public contact programme at Kithor in Meerut district.

During examination, it was found that three bullets had hit his vehicle and there were three witnesses to the incident, Shah said.

Shah also informed the House that the AIMIM leader did not have a scheduled programme in Hapur and no prior information was sent regarding his visit to the district control room. 

IGIA: New Arrival Terminal 1

The new arrival terminal at Indira Gandhi International Airport is ready and will become operational soon. Officials said the 8,000 sq metre facility at Terminal 1 would offer a distinctive experience to flyers and the current domestic arrival operations will move to the new arrival terminal.

The new arrival facility is equipped with four additional baggage carousels. The pickup lanes outside the terminal have been realigned and expanded by three to a total of 11 lanes. This will ease traffic congestion and significantly boost convenience for passengers.

Among other features at the new facility are modern toilets, huge space between baggage belts, greenery inside the terminal with ample natural light, lavish ceremonial and VIP lounge, state-of-the-art meet and greet gallery, modern food court and ample parking space for taxis, cabs, private vehicles and shuttle buses.

As part of IGIA’s Phase 3A expansion project, the integrated Terminal 1, where work is under way, will have the arrival and departure terminals under one roof. The upgraded T1 will double its passenger handling capacity from 20 million to 40 million passengers per annum. After completion, the new Terminal 1 will have integrated arrival and departure terminals, a new node housing retail and F&B outlets and a pier building comprising 22 contact stands.

An airport official said T1’s arrival terminal will become operational soon, but the integrated T1 will take some time to become functional. Expansion projects under Phase 3A will help IGIA to become future-ready, as the airport’s three terminals will enhance passenger capacity to 100 million passengers per annum, while the airside capacity will rise to 140 million passengers annually.

As part of the overall development plan under Phase 3A, DIAL has constructed the new and expanded T1 apron, IGIA’s fourth runway, the dual elevated eastern cross taxiways to connect the northern and southern airfields, landside developments for circulation and connectivity improvements and T3 modification works.

January 2022: Motown musings

Retail of automobiles sales continued on a downward clip as semiconductor shortage and poor rural sentiment impacted demand, but vehicle retailers remain hopeful of an improvement in the coming months.

Registration of vehicles with regional transport offices, which is a good proxy for retail sales, declined by 11% year-on-year in January. Registrations were down 18% compared to the pre-Covid month of January 2020, as per data from the road transport and highways ministry's VAHAN platform.

Two-wheelers remained the category under maximum pressure with the rural economy being in disarray. Meanwhile, passenger vehicle or car sales took a hit due to poor availability of semiconductor chips despite robust consumer demand. Commercial vehicle and three-wheeler registrations grew year-on-year, however, on an exceptionally low base. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, both categories remained in the red.

Data were compiled by the Federation of Automobile Dealers’ Associations, a lobby of vehicle retailers. The data is incomplete as only 1,379 out of 1,590 RTOs in the country are on the VAHAN platform. But they paint an accurate picture in terms of trends.

The budget announcement by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to construct 25,000 kilometres of highways in FY23 and other infrastructure spending augurs well for CV sales. Meanwhile, the government’s plan for increasing rural spending may help two-wheeler, tractor and entry-level car sales.

The average inventory with car dealers was about 8-10 days’ worth at the end of January compared to the industry norm of holding a month of inventory. Two-wheeler dealers had 25-30 days of inventory on average, a FADA survey found.

‘Quantum Tech can Add $310b to Economy by 2030

The adoption of quantum technologies across industries can potentially add $280–$310 billion of value to the Indian economy by 2030, IT industry body Nasscom said in a report.

The uptake by enterprises is also expected to go up by 45% and in India, sectors such as manufacturing, hightech, banking, and defence will likely lead the charge of adopting quantum technologies for critical and largescale use cases.

The quantum ecosystem in India is growing at an accelerated pace with 10-15 government agencies, 20-30 service providers, 1520 startups and 4050 academic institutions active in this domain, said senior industry officials.

A number of government agencies, academic institutions as well as startups have built commercially viable quantum computing use cases, Achyuta Ghosh, research head, Nasscom said.

“We see companies like Tata Consultancy Services, HCL Technologies, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, Zensar, Mphasis, Coforge among others creating use cases for quantum technologies and proof of concept for clients,” Ghosh said. There is likely to be acceptance from service providers also very soon, he added.

Of around 100 projects initiated in quantum in India, about 92% are government sponsored.

During the 2020 budget, an outlay of ₹8,000 crore ($1 billion) was announced for the next five years to advance progress in quantum information and meteorology, quantum applications and materials, and quantum communications.

“Today, we have less than 200 people in this industry across startups, academia and government but there is a massive need to scale it up to 25,000 as envisioned by the government in order to tap the $310 billion opportunity it offers over the next decade,” Ghosh said.

The actual growth will, however, come from enterprise adoption, said Akshay Khanna, managing partner, Avasant, a technology advisory firm that partnered with Nasscom on the report.

“The growth of cloud hyperscalers is also making quantum technology more accessible on the cloud. In India, enterprise adoption of quantum computing technology stands at around 1-2%. We see this going up to 35-45% over a decade,” Khanna said

GAY : ‘Offensive’ code for Gaya airport

A parliamentary panel has found GAY — the International Air Transport Association code for Gaya airport — “inappropriate, unsuitable, offensive/ embarrassing”, and has asked the government to get it changed to YAG or some other suitable alternative.

IATA, which assigns airport codes that can be seen while booking tickets, represents about 290 airlines in 120 countries carrying 83% of the world’s air traffic. Member airline Air India had flagged the agency about the “inappropriate” code for the holy city in Bihar, but the international agency “expressed its inability to change” it.

Last January, the Committee on Public Undertakings in its first report tabled in Parliament recommended a change because “locals might find it offensive or embarrassing” that their city is “recognised in the international community with the code name GAY”. It also found it “inappropriate”.


Khwaja gave message of humanity: PM

On the occasion of the 810th Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, PM Narendra Modi greeted his followers and paid homage saying the “great Sufi saint gave the message of humanity to the entire world”.

In his written message, the PM said “unity in diversity is the identity of India” and “harmonious co-existence of various sects, communities and beliefs in the country is our strength”.

Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi offered a‘chadar’ at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah on behalf of the PM and read out his message conveying his greetings on the occasion. “Congratulations and warm wishes to followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti across the world on his 810th Urs. By offering ‘chadar’ to Ajmer Sharif, I pay homage to the great Sufi saint, who gave the message of humanity to the entire world,” the PM said.

Modi further stated that “the great saints, mahatmas, pirs and fakirs have played a pivotal role in strengthening the socio-cultural fabric of the country in different periods. In this glorious tradition, the name of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, who gave the message of love and harmony to the society, is taken with full respect and reverence”.

“The philosophy and principles of Garib Nawaz will continue to inspire the generations to come. Urs, the symbol of harmony and brotherhood, will further strengthen the faith of the devotees. With this belief, on the occasion of annual Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Dargah Ajmer Sharif, I pray for the country’s happiness and prosperity,” the PM said.

Naqvi said that the life of Gharib Nawaz inspires us to strengthen the commitment to communal and social harmony. “This unity can defeat the forces, who are engaged in the conspiracy to create divide and conflict in society,” he added.

India’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar cremated with full state honours

The nation was mourning, social media was brimming with emotions and a sea of teary fans bid adieu to Lata Mangeshkar. Her funeral pyre was lit by Hridaynath Mangeshkar. The legend breathed her last at the age of 92 at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on February 6. She was cremated at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, in the presence of fans, family, celebrities and politicians. She was cremated with full state honours. The Government of India also announced two days of State morning as a mark of respect. During State mourning, the National Flag will be flown at half-mast from Feb 6 to 7 throughout India.

PM Narendra Modi arrived from Delhi to attend Lata Mangeshkar’s funeral. Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Ranbir Kapoor, Shankar Mahadevan, Javed Akhtar and several others paid their last respects to the legend at Shivaji Park. Lata Mangeshkar was diagnosed with Covid-19 and pneumonia in January. Her health briefly improved but on February 5, her condition deteriorated. Dr Pratit Samdani shared the sad news of Lata Mangeshkar’s demise and said, “It is with profound grief that we announce the demise of Lata Mangeshkar at 8:12am. She has died because of multi-organ failure after more than 28 days of hospitalisation post #COVID19.”

In a glorious career spanning seven decades, Lata Mangeshkar sang over 30,000 songs in different languages. She was the oldest of the siblings, Meena Khadikar, Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar.



What is a central bank digital currency?

Digital currency may seem like a new concept, but if you use cards, netbanking or payment apps like Paytm and Google Pay, you are already part of the movement towards cashless transactions that it is designed to strengthen. CBDCs, though, are about more than just cashless transactions and could end up transforming the banking system.

The biggest nudge to governments’ digital currency push has come from the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether that have prompted speculation about the future of fiat currency – that is, currency backed by governments – as they claim to do most of the work of the modern banking system more swiftly and at a fraction of the cost.

How is CBDC different from cryptocurrency?

Although they are called ‘cryptocurrency’, Bitcoin, etc, are not currency but digital assets. They are privately issued and are not backed by any sort of authority, government or otherwise. But a fiat currency, such as the US dollar or the Indian rupee, is backed by a central bank, which guarantees its value. 

CBDCs would be the electronic version of the physical currency and not a new currency altogether. According to RBI deputy governor T Rabi Sankar, it would represent “legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form”.

Where cryptocurrencies and CBDCs could overlap would be in the technology on which they are based, with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying in her Budget 2022 speech that the RBI CBDC would use “blockchain and other technologies”.

Blockchain is a kind of distributed ledger where the record of every transaction involving the cryptocurrency is maintained by every single device on which it is stored. It does away with the need for a central authority to validate each and every transaction.

Advantages of CBDCs

At present, cash is the only money issued by the central bank that citizens use directly. Non-cash transactions are mediated by commercial banks (SBI, ICICI Bank, etc).

Commercial banks open an account on the condition that you maintain a minimum balance. This puts banking beyond the reach of poor people. However, CBDCs – because they are digital and issued by the central bank – could make banking possible for everyone.

In the years since demonetisation we have already seen the speed and other benefits of digital payments, but CBDCs could do the same for international transactions, at a lower cost. Commercial banks sometimes fail, and depositors lose a big chunk of their money despite the deposit guarantee scheme, but when your money is parked with the central bank there is no risk of default.

Disadvantages of CBDCs

CBDCs could spell the end of privacy as wherever you go – even with your phone turned off – you will leave a digital trail paying for food, fare and lodging.

State-backed digital money could also be bad news for volatile private cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin), possibly making their values crash.

If CBDCs make it possible for the common man to bank with the central bank, people might choose to park their money with it, eliminating the risk of bank failure and losing money. That could leave commercial banks with less money to loan to industry and for other uses, increase interest rates and possibly hurt economic growth. This could also destabilise commercial banks in times of crises when depositors seeking safety might pull out their money and park it with the central bank.

9 countries already use digital currencies

Among the nine countries with active CBDCs, eight are small island nations in the Caribbean. Currently, at least 87 countries are researching or developing CBDCs, including 14 who are running pilot programmes.

In October 2021, Nigeria became the latest country to introduce a digital currency, eNaira. For now, only those with bank accounts and digital wallets can access it but the long-term plan is to allow any citizen to use e-Naira even if they don’t have a smartphone.

Among major economies, China is the closest to fully launching its digital yuan, which it had begun developing in 2014. It’s undergoing its last pilot programmes ahead of a trial during the Winter Olympics in Beijing this week, followed by a full launch shortly after.