That's All Folks !

I have tried to follow the India story for the last 14 years.....the best is yet to come. This effort comes to an end as India is 75! Thanks for reading......Jai Hind!

Courtesy ET Now

Happy Independence Day!


Telecom: Snapshot


Centre prepares blueprint in major push for high-speed transport infra

As the government puts focus on developing high speed transportation networks for passengers and goods, the railway ministry is considering the laying of greenfield railway lines along existing tracks between Secunderabad and Bengaluru for running semi-high speed trains at 200 kmph. Meanwhile, the road transport and highways ministry has also prepared the blueprint to increase the length of expressways and access-controlled highways to 20,000 km in the next two decades.

Sources said the initial estimated cost of the semi-high speed track connecting the two IT cities in Telangana and Karnataka is around Rs 30,000 crore and this project may be taken up under the Gati-Shakti initiative. They added since the new tracks would have to be segregated from the existing tracks for faster train movement, the railways would need to build side walls of 1.5 meter along the new tracks.

Railway ministry officials said the rollout of more Vande Bharat-type trains, which can run at a maximum speed of 160-200 kmph will get priority in the next two-three decades as the national transporter steps up efforts to increase the speed of trains by augmenting track infrastructure. “Going for Vande Bharat coaches is the natural progression and this is going to happen soon. Decades after the introduction of conventional passenger coaches or ICF, we went for modern and safer coaches or LHB. The next step is to go for Vande Bharat train-sets. These will eventually have a major share of our passenger rolling stock,” said a railway ministry official.

Officials said the roadmap for the road and rail infrastructure for the next 25 years will be on reducing the logistics cost and integrating the transport network, known as multi-modal transport system.

The highways ministry has prepared the blueprint to increase the length of expressways and access-controlled highways by more than 15 times in the next two decades in its bid to provide seamless networks for faster movement of freight. These high speed highway networks will connect the 770 economic nodes which have been identified. “The future planning and implementation of the infrastructure projects will be complete integration of airports with railways, Metro Rail and highway network. The transit has to be seamless. Another thrust area will be reduction of construction cost and time,” said a senior government official.

Similarly, in the case of city transport, the focus will be on developing a mechanism where the state transport department or a transport corporation would have an online platform to allow people to buy tickets that can be used for different modes of transport.

A senior official in the road transport ministry also said all the future and existing major national highway stretches will get charging stations for electric vehicles. “It’s a foregone conclusion that in future we will have more electric vehicles and the ones running on other green fuels. The planning has to start now so that we are ready to meet the emerging requirements,” he added.

PMR: 32km of ring road work set to start after this monsoon

The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority will commence work on the 32km stretch of the ring road from Chakan to Nagar Road after the monsoon, PMRDA officials said. The work of the ring road will be carried out in phases. The ring road proposes to connect six national highways — Mumbai-Pune (NH-48), Pune-Nashik (NH-60), Pune-Ahmednagar (NH-753F), Pune-Solapur (NH-65), Pune-Saswad-Palkhi Marg (NH-965) and Pune-Bengaluru (NH-48), which pass through the Pune Metropolitan Region.

The Pune district authorities had proposed two ring roads to enable commuters to reach the national highways faster. A round 173km ring road is being implemented by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation and the other by the PMRDA. The previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government had decided to prioritise the MSRDC ring road.

The PMRDA officials said that the tenders for carrying out work on the first 32km stretch from Chakan to Ahmednagar Road and Nagar Road to Solapur have been issued and will be carried out in the Public Private Partnership mode. The revised detailed project report stated that the width of the ring road has been reduced from 110m to 65m. The officials said they had received proposals from seven consultants.

The inner ring road in the metropolitan region was increased to 110m to match the proposed outer ring road to be developed by the MSRDC, with equal common stretch of 40km. Accordingly, PMRDA undertook the work of preparing the DPR for the 110m wide inner ring road.

However, it was later decided to reduce the width to 65m for which a new agency will be appointed. The 40km common stretch has been handed over to the MSRDC for development, while the work on the 6.19km stretch from Wagholi to Lohegaon has already been undertaken. Thus, the new DPR will only be for the remaining 81.89km and the agency is expected to prepare a detailed plan based on the need of citizens. Last year, the state government had decided to reduce the width of the ring road of the PMRDA to 65m.

The decision taken by the state government will boost the work on the ring road, which has been stalled for the last few years, said officials

Big Bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala dies

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala believed deeply in India. He was always willing to talk passionately about how its economy and financial markets would soon join the ranks of global superpowers. He put his money where his mouth was — investing billions on the basis of his unflagging belief in the country. On the eve of its 76th Independence Day, India lost one of its biggest supporters. Jhunjhunwala, billionaire investor, stock trader, qualified chartered accountant and philanthropist, who recently became the co-owner of India’s newest airline, passed away after fighting several health-related issues for the last few years. He was 62. His family found him unconscious early Sunday morning and rushed him to Breach Candy hospital where he was pronounced dead

Only Indian tech will power BSNL’s 4G, 5G upgrade

The government has decided to restrict foreign telecom vendors from the mega 4G and 5G modernisation projects at BSNL and MTNL – which have been handed out a Rs 1.64 lakh crore revival package – and instructions have been given to award contracts primarily to Indian companies.

The ambitious localisation move – being initiated for the first time ever – is being undertaken with an eye to develop core technologies and equipment within the country without much dependence on international players.

The government also wants that intellectual property rights related to the new technologies should stay within India, especially at a time when concerns around cyber security and data espionage are growing across the world.

The localisation move has also been pushed at the highest levels within the government, with Union communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw asking the top management at BSNL and MTNL to follow the diktat, or risk facing action. “It’s clear that BSNL will only and only use technology that is Made in India. That’s absolutely clear. Just forget all the loyalties you had in the past, and move ahead. If you want to maintain the past loyalties, go back with them (foreign vendors). I am being very blunt,” Vaishnaw told top officials of BSNL and MTNL.

The minister emphasised that “only and only the technology which is ‘Made in India’ has to be used” in all network upgrades to 4G and 5G. “We are infusing so much money (through the revival package) because BSNL is a strategic company in a strategic sector. In a strategic PSU, we will use only trusted inputs and technologies which are ‘Made in India’ under the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme. You should forget the rest, and take it out of your mind that there is any other technology or any other company. ”

BSNL and MTNL have previously deployed equipment provided by Chinese and European suppliers, though now local companies such as Shyam VNL, HFCL, and TCS-Tejas combine are providing new products and indigenously-developed equipment.

Vaishnaw also said that while the Indian technologies may not be superior in the beginning, they are expected to get better with time. “May be there are some teething problems which need improvement. How many of you here are engineers? I guess the majority. Is there anything perfect in the beginning? There are improvements, versions, new features etc… that’s the way of life, that’s the way we studied, that’s the way we trained, that’s the way we have practiced in the field. ”

Local companies are confident of the government’s indigenisation push. “We have field-proven, secure and sustainable 4G/LTE communication solutions… With the introduction of 5G, we are hopeful that our innovations will also help in bridging standardisation gaps,” Rajiv Mehrotra, chairman of VNL, said.

Mahendra Nahata, MD of HFCL, also sees BSNL’s 5G push as an enabler for local technologies and homegrown companies. “We are excited about the 5G rollout becoming a reality soon and the vast opportunity that will unfold for Indian enterprises and consumers… 5G will allow enterprises to embark on the Industry 4.0 journey, and it will help accelerate digital transformation across industries,” Nahata said, adding that he sees tremendous opportunities for the company’s telecom equipment and optical fibre cables businesses.

The consortium of TCS-Tejas as well as the government’s C-DoT will most likely take up a major portion of BSNL’s 4G, and 5G, deployment. “C-DoT’s core will be used for the network, while Tejas will make the equipment and TCS will carry out system integration,” an official said.

System needs a complete tune-up, says CJI-designate

CJI-designate UU Lalit pointed out that justice eludes victims of triple talaq years after a law was brought in against the practice. “Take for example today’s news item saying even after five years, the victims are not getting justice. There has to be a throbbing system. ”

“Look at the civil side. Fruits of decree, got after years of litigation, eludes the decree-holder. There the system needs complete tuneup or complete revamp. We may lay down law. But, in the actual dispensation, what happens is there are many misses between the cup and the lip . On the positive side, the law which is getting laid down by the S C is of the highest order,” he said.

Asked why the SC repeatedly rules and espouses the right to equality for women and giving them their due, yet not facilitating appointment of adequate number of them as judges of the constitutional courts, the CJI-designate said the scenario would undergo a complete change in the next 10-15 years. “The number of women judges in the trial courts has risen substantially. For example, in Rajasthan, of the 190 candidates who underwent an induction programme as trial court judges recently, 129 were women. Similar is the story in Odisha and other states. These women judges would surely rise and become eligible for high court judgeship in 10-15 years,” he said.

Of the few women judges appointed to the SC, Justice Lalit said if one looks at the talent pool available for selection to the SC, say the 100 most senior HC judges, there are only few women among them. “So it would not be possible to select them, without their acquiring requisite seniority. But I’m very sure the scenario will undergo fast paced change in the next decade or half,” he said. There has been a lot of talk in the courtroom, especially when a SC judge retires, that given the rise in life expectancy level and the fitness of judges, their retirement age should be increased to 70 years. Attorney general K K Venugopal is a votary of increase in the S C judges’ retirement age. CJI-designate Lalit said whatever is the retirement age for judges, it should be identical for the SC and HC. At present, SC judges retire at 65 and HC judges at 62.

“Personally speaking, 65 is the appropriate age for retirement of a judge. We work under so much pressure. ”

“It is true life expectancy has increased and there is logic behind using the tried and tested pool of talent that ha s served the country well. But, if you increase the age limit, then it will block the chances of youngsters. That is equally good talent. So, if you increase the age of judges, then the sanctioned strength of the courts should also increase,” he said.

Dam wall collapses in MP

A portion of Karam dam in MP’s Dhar collapsed on Sunday evening as a channel dug to drain water from the reservoir widened under pressure of the surging water. Thankfully, there were no casualties as around 10,000 people from 18 downstream villages had been evacuated. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan issued a video statement to say that all is well and the danger has been averted. “You can return home in coordination with the administration and celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in your villages,” he told the thousands living in relief camps.

Barely a couple of hours before this, the CM had tweeted a video urging villagers, with folded hands, not to return to the villages. The administration and villagers were on edge all evening as no one could predict which way the dam water would surge.

The administration sought to portray that everything that happened was part of the plan. Divisional commissioner Pawan Sharma said that water hadn’t even entered the evacuated villages whereas there are videos and eyewitness accounts of water entering villages and temples submerged.

“For a while we were shaken,” the CM acknowledged, adding: “Now, there is no danger. ” Around 10pm, the water reached the last affected village of Jalkota in Khargone district and started merging with the Narmada river after which the administration breathed a sigh of relief. The CM spoke with villagers of Jal Kota over phone. 

Water resources minister Tulsiram Silawat has set up a five-member committee to probe the construction. A Delhi-based firm was building the Rs 304-crore dam. The breach in the dam was noticed on Thursday afternoon, sparking panic in nearby areas and alarm in the administration. After government engineers failed to plug the leak, the Army was called in and around 200 soldiers began working in the wee hours of Saturday to prevent collateral damage. On Saturday, Chouhan spoke with PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah and requested to have two IAF choppers on standby.

A channel was dug to release water into Namcha river and on to the Narmada.

It’s this channel that widened around 6pm on Sunday evening, sending torrents of water surging downstream.

Eyewitnesses said that floodwaters touched the brim of a four-lane bridge on Agra-Mumbai national highway barely 30 minutes later. For a while it seemed as if the bridge would be overwhelmed but the water stayed just below it.

Traffic was stopped on the highway across a 30km stretch and an alert sounded in riverside villages near the temple town of Maheshwar, 50km away, where the dam water flowed into the Narmada.

There was no report of loss of life till this report was filed. Ravi Solanki, an eyewitness of the submergence of Kothira, Imlipura and Dugni villages, said that all three hamlets and standing crops all around went under water. An alert was sounded in villages in Khargone and near Maheshwar.

Gadkari speak on toll booths

Going ahead with plans to do away with toll plazas in the country, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said all old vehicles too would be fitted with new number plates that can be directly monitored through satellite using GPS and a sophisticated system. “The use of tamper-proof high security registration plates for new vehicles was started from 2019, where government agencies can get information about vehicles. Now, we have decided to provide the plates to old vehicles too. Currently, you need to pay full charges at toll plazas even 60km away from each other. Now, if you use the highway for only 30km, you will be charged half the price, with the help of new technology. ”

Stressing that this new initiative was still in the planning stages, the transportation minister said the Centre was sure of making the country free of toll plazas soon. “There will be no stoppages for vehicles and therefore, there will be less pollution, and it would also save time. With new technology, the money could be directly deducted from bank accounts. About 97% vehicles in India are on Fast-tag. The Indian road infrastructure would be at par with that in the United States before 2024 Lok Sabha polls. ”

On plans to launch liquid hydrogen as an alternative fuel, Gadkari said they had envisaged a Rs.17,000 crore project to generate green, black and brown hydrogen. “The green hydrogen would be generated from water and biomass. In municipal corporations, organic waste is generated in the form of sewage. If we treat this wastewater by using solar power, to generate hydrogen, it will benefit all. We can produce ethanol from organic waste by segregating it, which could be used to run generators. I am using a generator purely on ethanol, and its cost is only Rs.60 per litre against Rs.110 per litre of diesel. ”

Explaining new aluminum air technology, he said, it has been developed at Faridabad. “We are developing lithium ion, zinc ion and aluminium ion to make cost-effective batteries. This will lead to many changes in electric vehicles. We are starting buses and trucks running on methanol in Assam shortly. CNG and LNG costs are higher due to the Russia-Ukraine war, but these will reduce. We need to develop technologies which can substitute import, and are cheaper and pollution free. ”


‘India Could be 2nd Most Important Driver of Global Growth after China’

India is likely to be the second most important driver of global growth in 2022 after China despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and the war in Europe, Reserve Bank of India’s deputy governor, Michael D Patra, said.

The world’s third-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity is going to contribute about 14% of global growth this year, he said, even while the country faces the risk of rising deficit due to higher import bills on the back of global commodity prices. Patra said India can sustain a current account deficit of 2. 5-3% without getting into an external sector crisis. “A striking feature in India is that our growth is home financed – investment is financed primarily by domestic savings, with foreign savings playing only a supplemental role,” Patra said Saturday.

Even though the savings rate slowed since 2007-08 after the global financial crisis, eventually pulling down the investment rate which has exhibited deceleration since 2012-13. “Reversing this trend is critical to achieve higher growth,” Patra said in an event to celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav organised by RBI's Bhubaneswar office.

India at present is the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity with a share of 7% of global GDP, after China's 18% and the US's 16%. India’s GDP in market exchange rates is expected to reach $5 trillion by 2027. By that year, India’s GDP in purchasing power parity terms will exceed $16 trillion, up from $10 trillion in 2021. He said India can achieve a double digit growth in the next decade if the economy can overcome challenges and capitalises on the world’s youngest workforce it has, along with manufacturing and export promotion, This would make India the second largest economy in the world by 2031, he said.

“It’s possible to imagine India striking out into the next decade with a growth rate of 11%. If this is achieved, India will be the second largest economy in the world not by 2048 as shown earlier, but by 2031,” Patra said. “Even if it does not sustain this pace and slows to 4-5% in 2040-50, it will become the largest economy of the world by 2060,” he said.

11 more wetlands get global tag of importance

India’s 11 more wetlands got a tag of international importance under the Ramsar Convention — an inter-governmental global treaty to preserve the ecological character of selected wetlands across the globe — bringing the total number of such sites in the country to 75. The new addition has put India at the top in terms of having the highest number of Ramsar sites among Asian countries, surpassing China’s 64. The new sites, covering an area of 76,316 hectares, include four in Tamil Nadu (Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary, Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex, Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary and Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary); three in Odisha (Hirakud Reservoir, Tampara Lake and Ansupa Lake); two in Jammu & Kashmir (Shallbugh Wetland and Hygam Wetland; and one each in Madhya Pradesh (Yashwant Sagar) and Maharashtra (Thane Creek).

Hirakud Reservoir with 65,400 hectares is the biggest in the list of 11. Among states, Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of Ramsar sites (14), followed by Uttar Pradesh (10), in the list of 75. “We became a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention in 1982. From 1982-2013, only 26 sites were added to the list of Ramsar sites. From 2014-2022, we added 49 new wetlands to the list,” tweeted environment minister

Bhupender Yadav on Saturday just two days ahead of completion of 75 years of independence.

The wetlands — land areas covered by water, either seasonally or permanently — play a key role in flood control and as sources of water, food, fibre and raw materials. Besides, such land areas also support mangroves that protect coastlines and filter pollutants.

Punjab OKs ‘One MLA, One Pension’

Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit gave his assent to the “One MLA, One Pension” bill, following which a gazette notification was issued by the Bhagwant Mann government.

“I am very happy to inform Punjabis that the Hon’ble Governor has approved the ‘One MLA One Pension’ Bill… Govt has issued a notification. This will save a lot of tax for the public,” chief minister Bhagwant Mann tweeted on Saturday.

Finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema added, “No more ‘Free ki Revdi’ to Netas! When Punjab was reeling from extreme financial distress, MLAs under the previous govts (enjoyed) multiple pensions. Under the leadership of CM Bhagwant Mann, this (ends). One MLA one pension will save approx Rs 19.53 crore (sic). ”

Mann added in a statement that Punjab expects to save around Rs 100 crore during its five-year tenure. “During the last 75 years, these elected representatives have turned into political executives by drawing extravagant salaries and pensions from the state exchequer. The entire burden of this facility extended to these leaders was met by taxpayers. Their money was misused to fill the pockets of these leaders instead of being used for public welfare,” he said.

The notification was issued on August 11 by the department of legal and legislative affairs. “This Act may be called the Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Act, 2022. It shall come into force on and with effect from the date of its publication in the official gazette,” it read. As per the amendment, a former MLA will get a pension for only one term.


Passenger Vehicle Sales Surge as Chip Woes Ease

Passenger vehicle sales last month increased in double digits, as easing constraints on component supplies allowed manufacturers to step up production of cars and utility vehicles even as their order backlog continued to swell.

As per data available with industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, 293,865 passenger vehicles were sold last month, marking an increase of 11% compared with a year earlier. The growth would be even higher at 16% (341,370 units) if the volume of Tata Motors too is included. The manufacturer of the Tata Harrier SUV, which dispatched 47,505 units in July, has stopped reporting monthly numbers to SIAM. PV sales had previously peaked at 334,000 units, including of Tata Motors, in October 2020.

Automakers in India mostly report wholesale dispatches from factories to dealers and not retail sales to customers.

Senior industry executives are upbeat about the growth prospects in the passenger vehicle segment in the upcoming festive period and are working overtime to build inventory to hasten deliveries.

In the two-wheeler segment, sales rose 10% to 1,381,303 units, albeit on a low base. While sales of motorcycles increased 4% to 870,028 units, those of scooters went up 28% to 479,159 units. Weak consumer sentiment at the lower end of the market, however, kept the industry worries.

Three-wheeler sales grew 73% to 31,324 units in the past month from a year earlier. Sales of two-wheelers last month were below the July 2016 numbers, and those of three-wheelers less than the volume in July 2006, said SIAM.

The country’s largest two-wheeler maker, Hero MotoCorp, expects normal monsoon in most parts of the country, the consequent agricultural harvest along with the upcoming festive season to keep the sentiment positive and help build the momentum going ahead. Ravi Bhatia, president at automotive consultancy firm Jato Dynamics, said while improved supplies of semiconductors, restocking of dealers, large order backlog and resilient customer spending would boost growth in the passenger vehicle segment, risks remained due to macroeconomic challenges.

Sales across the various categories (passenger vehicles, two-wheelers and three-wheelers) rose as much as 11% to about 1,706,545 units in July.

Terrorists increasingly targeting migrant workers in Kashmir

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar condoled the death of a 19-year-old worker from the state in J&K and said an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh will be given to the bereaved family. Mohammad Amrej was shot dead at Bandipora in north Kashmir early on Friday.

Terrorists have been increasingly carrying out targeted strikes on non-Kashmiri workers. A labourer from Bihar was killed in a grenade explosion at his shared tent in Gadoora village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on August 4. The deceased was identified as Mohammad Mumtaz, while two more men from Bihar were wounded. A bank manager from Rajasthan and a labourer from Bihar working in a brick kiln were killed in Kulgam and Budgam districts on June 2.

On March 19, carpenter Mohammad Akram, 40, from Bijnor in UP was shot and wounded in Pulwama. A truck driver from Punjab and his helper were shot at by terrorists when they were sleeping in their vehicle in Pulwama on the night of April 3. The next day, a CRPF man died and two workers from Bihar and a Kashmiri Pandit were wounded in three attacks in Srinagar and Pulwama.

On April 5, terrorists wounded two labourers from Bihar in Pulwama district, while a non-Kashmiri truck driver was shot at in the same district two days later.

July 2022: Retail inflation moderates to 6.7%

Retail inflation moderated to a five-month low in July on the back of easing of food prices, bringing relief for policymakers who are battling price pressures. But the overall number still remains above the RBI’s upper tolerance level for the seventh consecutive month.

Retail inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, rose an annual 6.7% in July, lower than the 7% in June. The food price index eased to 6.6% during the month from 7.6% in June as supplies improved and measures undertaken by the Centre and the RBI fed through the system.

Rural inflation was higher at 6.8%, while urban was at 6.5%. Among 23 states and Union Territories, 15 had inflation above 6%, while eight recorded below 6%. Soaring inflationary pressure had prompted the RBI to raise interest rates and in its recent review it hiked interest rates by 50 basis points (100bps = 1 percentage point).

The retail inflation data showed vegetable price rose an annual 10.9%, while fuel and light prices rose 11.8% due to increase in crude oil prices. Easing of global commodity prices due to fears of recession in the developed world may have a cooling effect on domestic prices. “Though July print is above RBI’s target for the seventh straight month, we firmly believe that the downward trajectory of inflation has started in India (and possibly in the US also). Core CPI (minus food and fuel) also moderated to 10-month low of 5.79% in July,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic adviser at SBI.

Economists said they still expect the central bank to raise interest rates in the months ahead to bring inflation closer to its target range. “Given the MPC’s focus on anchoring inflation expectations and the governor’s statement on inflation moving closer to the target of 4% over the medium term, we expect another rate hike of about 10-35bps in the September 2022 policy meeting,” said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ratings agency ICRA. 

Separate data showed factory growth at a robust 12.3% in June, lower than the 19.6% in May. Manufacturing sector grew at 12.5% during the month compared to a growth of 13.2% in June 2021. “Manufacturing output showed healthy growth in June and supported overall IIP (Index of Industrial Production) activity. This reflects improving demand conditions and easing of supply-side challenges,” said D K Joshi, chief economist at ratings agency Crisil.

CCI approves HDFC’s merger with HDFC Bank

The Competition Commission of India approved the scheme of merger of HDFC with HDFC Bank in its meeting held on Friday.

In a letter to exchanges, HDFC Bank said that the CCI considered and approved the combination, which involves the merger of HDFC Holdings and HDFC Investment with HDFC in the first stage and subsequently the merger of HDFC with the bank. The scheme has already been approved by stock exchanges, the RBI and Sebi. It will now need to be approved by the NCLT, and respective shareholders and creditors.

Rui : The silk route to prosperity

Rui. Tucked away in drought-prone Beed district near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, this village has nothing to do with its name, but everything to do with silk. 

All of Rui’s 6,000 strong population has been through never-ending cycles of acute water scarcity: fi elds of wheat, tur and cotton yielding next to nothing, keeping the farmers in poverty. In Hindi, cotton is called rui.

It fell upon their 37-yearold sarpanch, Kalidas Navle, to lead a young brigade to find better livelihood. He got the village to grow mulberry and turn to sericulture, and Rui took the road to spin a story in silk. The village with 800 acres of mulberry cultivation today has the largest area under sericulture in India, selling cocoons or raw silk to generate a collective revenue of Rs 2.2 crore each month.

Navle said the village rewrote its agrarian makeover in just four years. The switch to sericulture came out of sheer desperation when extreme water scarcity forced many villagers to move out. Eight years ago, he and seven other farmers initially started growing mulberry after some training. At present, 300 people, most of them marginal farmers with one to two and a half acres, are sericulturists.

Navle read about sericulture in an agricultural magazine and his group also found a few farmers from a nearby village practising it. He, his brother and three friends saw their project and they decided to bring it to Rui.

Every acre of mulberry needs an investment of Rs 3 lakh of which the state government gives a subsidy of Rs 2.2 lakh. Each acre yields 10 quintal of cocoons a year. They earn between Rs 55,000 and Rs 85,000 per quintal.

Silk traders and exporters from all over the country want a slice of Rui’s raw silk. Aman Khan, a Bengaluru-based trader who processes cocoons, extracts silk thread and sells it, said Rui's cocoons are the best. “We get one kilo of thread from six kilos of cocoons. But if they are from Rui, we get as much thread from just 5kg of cocoons,” he added.

Ramnagara in Karnataka has a state-run department that sets the price for cocoons. An ecosystem that provides subsidiary work for many more has come up in Rui after its sericulture debut. Besides cultivation, the villagers work in segregation of cocoons, transporting and ferrying them to places all over India.

Along the way, there were quite some mistakes and lessons learned in time. For instance, farmers would buy silkworm eggs from the state agriculture department, but because they lacked expertise, 50% would be useless.

Farmer Sudam Pawar then went to Bengaluru to learn more about hatching and he started a centre. “We have a 90% success rate and employ over 20 workers for Rs 500 per day,” Pawar said. He charges Rs 3,000 for 1 lakh hatchings and makes a profit of about Rs 1.2 lakh per month.

The Chenab Link

In yet another milestone in the construction of the world’s highest railway bridge, the overarch deck of the iconic bridge over Chenab will be completed with a ‘golden joint’ on Saturday. With this, the project to provide rail connectivity to the Kashmir valley will be 98% complete. The railway ministry had set the target to complete the rail link to the Valley by 2023. Northern Railway officials said the ‘golden joint’ is the last part of the bridge deck, which will make the deck one continuous segment. ‘Launching of the 785-metre deck over the arch bridge is in progress from both the ends, which will be joined together by the golden joint near the crown. This joint will be closed by means of high strength friction grip bolts,’ said one official. The Chenab Bridge is part of the rail link project in Reasi district of J&K. The bridge has a length of 1.31 km and is at a height of 359 metres from the river bed, making it the world’s highest railway bridge. At present, the highest rail bridge is located in Guizhou province of China and is 275 metres above the water level.

The Chenab Bridge is being constructed at a cost of Rs 28,000 crore.

J&K set for new show

Kashmir’s long and rich cinematic history went dark and blank 32 years ago as sweeping diktats from terrorists and fundamentalists shut down cinemas and banned movies, calling any such audio-visual entertainment “haram”—or against the tenets of Islam. But Kashmir is making a jump cut in time, as plans are spooling to open Srinagar’s first multiplex this September.

“It’s a three-screen multiplex designed by INOX. It can seat at least 520 patrons, and will have the most advanced Dolby sound system, food courts selling local fare, and other entertainment options,” said Vikas Dhar, the owner. Fries and popcorn may meld with the wazwan, the delectable Kashmiri multi-cuisine, and modern acoustic sidings will blend with a papiermâché and khatamband ceiling, with wooden chips arranged geometrically into a motif.

The idea is to give the young the entertainment their peers enjoy outside Kashmir, said Vijay Dhar, Vikas’s father. “This is for everybody. Our youth should be happy. They can watch 3D movies. They need to scream and shout. Except sports and food, there is no place now where one can get a dose of entertainment,” he said, and thanked the Centre and the J&K government for their help. This is a far cry from that fateful day when 19 cinemas in Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore, Handwara and Kupwara were shut down “by order” from the banned JKLF and Hizbul Mujahedeen terrorists on January 1, 1990.

Some relics of the past still exist, but not in the form they are intended to be. The iconic Palladium Cinema’s burnt-out skeleton stands still in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk as a grim reminder of the theatre of the absurd unleashed three decades ago. Many abandoned movie halls became “camps” for security forces. Some were converted into private nursing homes and shopping malls.

Attempts were made earlier too to revive cinemas in Kashmir—a picture-postcard place that has been a muse of filmmakers for long. In 1999, then CM Farooq Abdullah tried to reopen cinemas, announcing a cash subsidy for theatre owners. A few cinemas like Neelam, Regal and Broadway opened, but the attempt failed. Terrorists set off grenades inside Regal and Neelam, shutting down all those who dared.

Another attempt was nipped in the bud too. Then CM Mehbooba Mufti, who was helming a PDP-BJP coalition government, welcomed Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s decision to reopen movie theatres in his kingdom. But Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani shot it down with a strong statement against Saudi Arabia’s decision

Har Ghar Tiranga



3 soldiers dead in attack on Army camp

A junior commissioned officer was among three soldiers killed foiling a suspected fidayeen attack on an Army camp in Rajouri district of J&K early Thursday. Two of the attackers were shot and killed in the four hour gunfight that also left three soldiers critically wounded, officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many terrorists were involved in the infiltration attempt.

The suicide mission targeting security forces was the second one in Jammu division in less than four months. On April 22, the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed had mounted a similar attack on a CISF post near the Sunjawan Army camp, resulting in a gunfight in which an assistant sub-inspector of the paramilitary force and two of the terrorists were killed.

Two AK series rifles, am- munition, nine magazines and a grenade were found on the slain attackers

China Backs Pak Terrorist at UNSC Sanctions Committee

China has yet again put a technical hold on an Indo-US initiative to list a Pakistan-based proscribed terror mastermind who has been behind several terrorist attacks in India. A proposal was moved recently by India, and co-sponsored by the US, to list Abdul Rauf Asghar in the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee. Asghar, deputy chief of the proscribed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed and younger brother of founder Masood Azhar, is said to have been involved in the planning and execution of numerous terrorist attacks, including hijacking of Indian Airlines aircraft IC814 (1999), attack on Parliament (2001) and attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot (2016). All other 14 member states of the UN Security Council were supportive of the listing proposal but China nixed it and put a technical hold on the initiative, said people aware of the matter.

In June, China had similarly placed on hold a joint proposal by India and the US to list the deputy chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abdul Rehman Makki, who has been involved in raising funds, recruiting and radicalising youths to resort to violence and planning attacks in India, including the Mumbai terrorist attacks (2008). While Makki was holding leadership positions in LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, LeT was also responsible for and had involvement in prominent attacks in India such as the 2000 Red Fort attack, Rampur Central Reserve Police Force camp attack in January 2008, Karan Nagar (Srinagar) attack in February 2018, Khanpora (Baramulla) attack in May 2018, Srinagar attack in June 2018 and Gurez and Bandipora attack in August 2018.

Mumbai Metro 3: Phase I to run in 16 months

Commercial operations for Metro 3’s Phase I stretch (Aarey-BKC) is scheduled to commence in December next year. Before that, the Aarey car shed will be ready in April 2023. The entire corridor (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) is expected to open by June 2024. “We are going to begin Phase I operations with nine rakes, for which facilities will be made ready by April 2023. In July, the Aarey depot will be able to handle operations for the entire corridor, even though some other works may continue,” said Ashwini Bhide, managing director, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited. The corporation claims that 29% of work on the depot stands completed, and the remaining work is expected to go smoothly now that political hurdles have been cleared.

Bhide said that for Phase I, almost all facilities will be ready except the operational control centre at the Aarey car shed site. She said this will not be a hurdle as there is a provision to have a back-up control centre at the BKC Metro station. Expressing confidence that almost all project-related work for the Phase I segment of the corridor will be completed by June 2023, she said, “We will invite the commissioner of metro rail safety three months before December 2023, which is the deadline for commissioning commercial services. ” Defending the increase in cost for the Metro 3 project from Rs 23,136 crore to Rs 33,405 crore, MMRCL’s MD said, “The original estimate was based on the project cost for Phase III of Delhi Metro, with 10% escalation accounted for Mumbai. The cost has increased because of various reasons, including soil strata being different in Delhi and Mumbai. Also Delhi has six-car rakes, while Mumbai will have eight-car rakes. ”

She said 30 hectares of land was allotted to MMRCL at Aarey in 2014, of which 25 hectares will be used for the depot and the balance left untouched. Even though 31 rakes have been planned for this project, the depot will have a capacity to handle 42 rakes. It is also projected that there will be a need to accommodate 55 rakes in the future, but work towards this increase will be done in phases till 2050.

Activists had alleged that the Aarey car shed site would need to be expanded in the future to accommodate more coaches


Mumbai: New cabinet approves ₹10k cr escalation in cost for Metro 3

The expanded state cabinet of the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government approved the escalated cost for the 33.5km underground Metro Line 3 project (Colaba to Seepz, Andheri). The original cost was estimated at Rs 23,136 crore which has now been revised to Rs 33,405 crore.

A presentation on the reasons for the cost escalation was made before the cabinet by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation MD Ashwini Bhide.

Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the proposal to approve the escalated cost was placed before the cabinet by CM Shinde. Satisfied with the explanation, the cabinet sanctioned the additional Rs 10, 269 crore.


IGI’s Fourth Runway To Be Operational By Early 2023

IGI Airport’s fourth runway will be operational by the early next year. Airports Authority of India chairman Sanjeev Kumar said that instrument landing system installation and other work like painting runway markings and calibration will be completed by this December. “The fourth runway should get operational by early 2023,” he said.

IGIA will be the only Indian airport to have four runways. Delhi International Airport Ltd recently got a capacity study conducted by the UK-based air traffic management firm, NATS, that showed its four runways can fly in and out as many as 14 crore passengers annually — more than double of the 6. 9 crore international-cum-domestic (both arrival and departure) numbers in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.

However, reaching the 14-crore figure will require air traffic management techniques to safely handle more planes by reducing their separation and many other technical methods.

While many airports are getting privatised, the state-owned AAI provides air navigation services at all airports and manages traffic in the Indian airspace. With an increase in air traffic and new airports across the country, there is a shortage of air traffic controllers. “Given the kind of traffic IGIA — India’s busiest airport — handles, we need experienced ATCOs. We are seeing many of them getting transferred to other places from Delhi and that could have its impact on operations here,” said senior ATCOs.

Kumar said there were concrete plans to have more ATCOs and upgrade the air traffic control systems across India. “We have drawn up a 10-year plan to increase ATC capacity by replacing old equipment and upgrading them across India. As of now, AAI spends Rs 600-700 crore annually on air navigation systems. This will be upped to Rs 1,000 crore,” he said.

Kumar said AAI had issued an ad to recruit 400 ATCOs this year, and 300 who joined last year would be in the system in 2022 after completing the training. An additional 320 will be hired in 2023. “Cumulatively, about 1,000 ATCOs would have come onboard in three years. We have also sent a proposal to create posts for 452 more to the aviation ministry. Our focus is on increasing ATCOs and modernising systems to handle more flights safely,” he said.

Post-Omicron, the air traffic between non-metro and non-metros/metros has picked up better than the traffic between metros, said Kumar. “We have seen very strong recovery in places like Jammu, Leh and Srinagar. ”

India @ 75 : Ruchir Sharma

Courtesy NDTV / YouTube

Bihar Breakup

After submitting his resignation as chief minister to governor Phagu Chauhan on Tuesday, Nitish Kumar returned to the Raj Bhavan, this time with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, to stake claim to form a new government.

Both the leaders sat in one car to reach the Raj Bhavan. Besides them, JD-U leaders Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Shrawan Kumar and other leaders were also present.

Earlier, Nitish Kumar met the governor to submit his resignation and then straight away, went to Rabri Devi’s residence at 10 Circular Road to meet Tejashwi Yadav and other leaders of the Mahagathbandhan.

Nitish Kumar then returned to his official residence at 1 Anne Marg along with Tejashwi Yadav, Congress state incharge Bhakta Charan Das and other leaders of the Mahagathbandhan. A meeting of the leaders of Mahagathbandhan was held in 1 Anne Marg where the gathering elected Nitish Kumar as a leader in the Assembly, paving way for his return as chief minister.

Nitish Kumar, who went to Raj Bhavan alone, announced his resignation to the waiting media after coming out. “I was the chief minister of Bihar. Now, I have given my resignation from the post of chief minister,” he said.

When asked about the dispute between him and BJP, he left the question unanswered.

Earlier, addressing a meeting of lawmakers of his Janata Dal-United, Nitish Kumar, sources said, levelled allegations against the BJP, saying it was conspiring against him and trying to influence JD-U MLAs to rebel against him.

Sources said that Nitish Kumar accused the BJP of ‘horse trading’ and giving some party leaders lucrative offers to make them ministers. He said that he has proof of this. Meanwhile, JD-U MLAs have been asked to stay inside CM’s residence. 

JD(U) sources have said that the top leadership of the party has prepared a plan to expose the BJP as it has more than six audio recordings where its MLAs and a minister were given lucrative offers to rebel against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. 


William Penn Buys Iconic American Brand Sheaffer

William Penn, an Indian premium writing instruments and lifestyle accessories company, has acquired Sheaffer, the 110-year-old iconic American manufacturer of writing instruments, particularly known for its luxury fountain pens.

William Penn will fund the deal through a mix of internal accruals and debt. It did not disclose the financial terms. “At William Penn, we see the current acquisition as a remarkable opportunity to further build on the preferences and tastes of Indian customers. The American brand enjoys a 15% market share in the premium writing instruments (pens above $10) segment in India,” William Penn managing director Nikhil Ranjan said.

William Penn will be taking over Sheaffer’s manufacturing, marketing and retailing in 75 countries including the US, UK, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Japan and India. The acquisition of Sheaffer from AT Cross Company comprises the brand’s complete product portfolio and licences, including premium pens, journals and gift sets. The company is expecting 30% growth in year-on-year revenue after this acquisition.

“The writing instrument market is pegged around ₹4,000 crore with the premium and luxury segment having only 10% market share,” said Ranjan. “We may look at setting up a manufacturing unit in the country for Sheaffer too in the coming years. We hope to double this market share and plan to make India the No. 1 market for Sheaffer in the next three years,” said Ranjan.

In 2016, the company acquired the British brand Lapis Bard and expanded its product range from fine writing instruments to leather bags, wallets, cufflinks, watch chests and pen cases. 

The Bengaluru-based company has been instrumental in bringing international brands such as Montblanc, Cross, Sheaffer, Pelikan and Sailor to India.

William Penn has 25 stores in India, including retail outlets at key airports, and has plans to double the number over the next three years.

5G excitement

As India gears up to usher in the 5G era, 89 per cent of consumers wish to upgrade to 5G network in India while 48 per cent would upgrade to 5G even if it calls for switching service providers, a new report said. 5G adoption would boost video content streaming, gaming, and social messaging on smartphones.

According to the report by network intelligence and connectivity insights provider Ookla, 20 per cent of the Indian respondents would wait for their service providers to upgrade to the 5G network. While 14 per cent of respondents intend to avail the services after upgrading to a 5G enabled handset, 7 per cent would wait for their current contract period to end.

Those that aren’t sure about the new technology will likely wait to see how attractive it is once others start using it. Only 2 per cent stated that they don’t intend to upgrade to 5G.

“While mobile users in India are among the most data-intensive users in the world, India’s 4G/LTE networks have become a bottleneck for demand,” said Sylwia Kechiche, principal analyst, enterprise at Ookla. “Now, that operators have acquired 5G spectrum, they start their race to become the first operators to go to market with 5G, with some already hinting that 5G deployments will begin in the next few months,” Kechiche added.

The findings showed that if mobile Internet connections were better, 70 per cent of respondents would increase their use of video streaming, while 68 per cent stated they would boost their mobile gaming. 

Operators acquired a total of 44,960 MHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz spectrum band (mmWave), which due to its high throughput, is particularly useful for streaming and gaming. Nearly 42 per cent of respondents believe that faster speeds would most improve service currently being provided to them. The good news is that the operators’ spectrum holdings in the C-band will help them do just that, said the report.

HDFC hikes rate, 6th time in 2 months

HDFC, the country’s largest housing finance company, has increased its retail prime lending rate (PLR) on home loans by 25 basis points (100bps =1 percentage point). This is the sixth rate hike by the corporation in two months. The lender has increased its benchmark rates by 140bps this year in line with the hike in repo rates.

In a filing with the stock exchanges, the corporation said that it has increased its retail PLR by 25bps with effect from August 9. The increase in PLR would mean that current borrowers will see their rates rise. The rates for new customers is likely to be announced soon. A 25bps increase will increase the EMI on a Rs 1-crore home loan by Rs 1,539. In the banking sector, ICICI Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank have already raised floating rates by 50bps.

Retail investors back equity funds with ₹8.9k cr in July

A surge in the stock market in July after five consecutive months of volatility saw retail investors put in nearly Rs 8,900 crore net in equity mutual fund schemes last month. July also saw total assets under management of the MF industry that came through the systematic investment plan route cross the Rs 6-lakh crore mark for the first time, data released by industry trade body Amfi showed.

According to Amfi chief executive N S Venkatesh, it’s the retail participation that took the SIP AUM to an all-time high mark. That also helped monthly SIP flows remain above the Rs 12,000-crore level. In four of the last five months, gross inflows through the SIP route have remained above the Rs 12,000-crore mark, official data showed.

A release from Amfi also pointed out that July was the 17th consecutive month (since March 2021) that net flows from retail investors were in positive territory. The corresponding figure for the last month was Rs 3,847 crore, it said.

The net flows into equity schemes, however, saw a dip in July on a monthly basis to about Rs 8,900 crore, down from about Rs 15,500 crore in June. But for the strong SIP flows, the monthly numbers would have fallen into the red, said Motilal Oswal AMC chief business officer Akhil Chaturvedi.

Amfi data also pointed out that the number of retail folios at end-July was at an all-time high at about 10.8 crore, up 24% on the year. In the last 12 months, the MF industry has added about 2.1 crore retail folios, it said.


NCR: First RRTS train makes maiden run

The first train-set made its maiden run on the RRTS corridor on Saturday, marking a milestone for the NCR transport corporation. The train set was fed by the recently charged 25kV traction system. NCRTC officials, including its managing director, were on board when the train moved out of the Duhai depot and travelled for half a kilometre. The officials said the train had met the prescribed standards.

The transport corporation now is gearing up for a trial on the 17km priority section between Sahibabad and Duhai, which is likely to be ready by March next year. “In July this year, NCRTC energised the overhead equipment on the 82km corridor at its Duhai depot with 25,000 volts. On Saturday, we achieved another milestone. Our first train set made its maiden run for about half a kilometre along the Duhai line. Senior officials of NCRTC, including managing director Vinay Kumar Singh, travelled on the train,” said Puneet Vats, the chief public relations officer at NCRTC.

“The test run met all the parameters and it was a success. We are confident that by October, we can start trials on the 17km priority section,” he added. During the trial run on Saturday, the newly commissioned long-term evolution communication was also tested.

It was in June this year that the first RRTS train set was brought from the manufacturing plant in Gujarat’s Savli to the Duhai depot, where it was assembled and made to go through static commissioning testing before the maiden run was initiated. Officials said that in the days to come, more such trial runs would be conducted in a calibrated manner.

The 82km RRTS corridor from Sarai Kale Khan to Meerut is being developed at an estimated cost of Rs 30,724 crore, of which the government’s share has been pegged at Rs 6,500 crore.  Of the total stretch, about 70km will be on elevated platforms while 12km will be underground. The stations in Delhi are Sarai Kale Khan Depot, Sarai Kale Khan, New Ashok Nagar and Anand Vihar. In Ghaziabad, they are Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Guldhar, Duhai, Duhai Depot, Muradnagar, Modinagar (South) and Modinagar (North). Meerut (South), Shatabdi Nagar, Begulpul, Modipuram and Modipuram Depot will be in Meerut.

Maruti Sourcing Local Li Battery Packs for Export

Even as it takes a measured approach toward entering the emerging electric vehicle space in the country, India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki has started localisation of cells and will be exporting lithium-ion batteries worth ₹1,500 crore a year to Europe in the next three years. A resolution on related party transactions in the FY22 annual report shows Maruti will export battery packs to Suzuki’s European subsidiary Magyar Suzuki and the amount will not exceed ₹1,500 crore in a financial year for the period beginning from FY23 to FY25. The peak value of export will be realised in the third year as the production progresses.

Rahul Bharti, the head of investor relations at Maruti Suzuki, said Maruti Suzuki is the first company in India to export lithium-ion batteries from cells made in India. “We will be purchasing these batteries from fellow subsidiary TDSG, Suzuki’s JV with Denso and Toshiba in Gujarat, for both in-house use and export to Europe,” he said. “Since both the purchase and the export come under the ambit of related party transactions, under the Sebi rules we have moved a resolution to seek minority shareholder approval. ”

This allows strong backward integration for Maruti Suzuki and enables it to keep the cost low and price accessible for its EVs when it enters the market in 2025. Immediately, these batteries will be used in hybrid vehicles that will hit the roads this fiscal year.

Maruti Suzuki has become the first company in India to produce made-in-India battery cells and is receiving encouraging orders for its export of battery packs. The batteries will be shipped mainly to Magyar Suzuki — the Hungary-based unit of Suzuki Motor, according to the company's disclosure on related party transactions.

To be sure, Maruti has already been exporting battery packs for the export market for the previous few months. The exported Li-Ion battery would be installed in e-hybrid vehicles produced by Magyar Suzuki. In 2021, Magyar Suzuki produced 107,874 units, of which two-thirds were hybrids, according to Magyar Suzuki’s website. 

Isro’s maiden mission to launch small satellites fails

The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off on its maiden flight from Sriharikota spaceport to place two satellites, EOS-2 and Azaadisat, into orbit on Sunday, but hours later Isro said the satellites are no longer usable as the rocket failed to inject them into the right orbit. A team of experts will conduct a detailed evaluation.

The rocket was the smallest commercial vehicle in Isro’s stable, built to provide low-cost launch-on-demand services. In a four-minute video, posted on Sunday evening, Isro chairman S Somanath said in place of a circular orbit, the satellites were placed in an elliptical orbit. “The 356km circular orbit was our intended orbit but the vehicle could place the satellite into an orbit of 356kmX76km, 76km being the point closest to the surface of the earth. When you place satellites in such an orbit … due to the atmospheric drag the satellites will come down … They are no longer usable,” he said.

“It is primarily due to one of logic that exists in the rocket to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage option. That means the system has a deficiency which we need to look at very carefully and correct it with regard to a sensor isolation principle,” he added. The Isro chief said the performance of SSLV, which is a new generation rocket built for launching small satellites, was very good in the mission. The satellites separated after the rocket reached the 356km orbit before Isro officials noticed an anomaly in the placement of the satellites in the orbit. “But for that problem, we couldn’t see any other anomaly. Every other new element that has been incorporated in this rocket performed very well including the propulsion stages, overall hardware, its aerodynamic designs, new generation and low-cost control electronics, electronics, control systems, new separation systems, the entire architecture of the rocket, everything has been proven very first time in the rocket and we are very happy about that part,” he said.

Mumbai: BEST starts offline system for payment

BEST celebrated its Foundation Day with the launch of a unique Chalo Pay service for daily commuters. Now, users need not purchase a mobile ticket to board a bus.

They can simply board any bus and pay with their mobile, and their mobile ticket will be generated on payment. “It is India’s first public transport focused payment system. Chalo Pay is available on the BEST Chalo App. It is an offline wallet and does not need Internet, which solves issue of connectivity in buses,” said BEST general manager Lokesh Chandra.

Users can recharge the mobile wallet using UPI, net banking, debit and credit cards, and other online payments, and then use the wallet balance for instant payments for their bus tickets. They simply have to inform the conductor that they wish to pay using mobile, and hold their phone next to the conductor’s ticketing machine, or scan the QR code, to pay for their ticket. “This eliminates the problems of loose change for passengers and conductors alike,” Chandra said.

Once the payment is successful, the mobile ticket will appear on your app within a few minutes.

Akasa Air’s maiden flight takes off from Mumbai to Ahmedabad

While Covid saw the death of a number of airlines worldwide, the Indian airline industry not only survived the pandemic but marked the birth of a new carrier as billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's Akasa Air debuted on Sunday with a maiden flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.

The one hour and fifteen minute long Mumbai-Ahmedabad route has now emerged as the most popular debut route for domestic carriers. Prior to this, GoAir had launched its flights on this route in November 2005 and before that in May 1993 Jet Airways flew its first flight as an air taxi operator on the same route. Goa and Ahmedabad are the top two non-metro routes out of Mumbai.

Akasa Air will offer 28 weekly flights between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. From August 13, the airline will operate an additional 28 weekly flights between Bengaluru and Kochi. With this, the airline will be operating 56 weekly flights within ten day of launch of operations, the airline had said in an earlier statement. With a fleet induction plan of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft each month, the airline said it was looking to focus on routes from metro to tier 2 and 3 destinations.

“The fleet size will be raised to 18 aircrafts by the end of March 2023. Over the next four year, the airline will add 54 aircrafts,” said the airline in a press statement


Lanka Asks China to Defer Spy Ship Visit Until Further Talks

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry has asked the Chinese embassy in Colombo to defer the planned visit of Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 to a Lankan port until further consultations, close on the heels of India raising concerns over the potential presence of a Chinese military vessel so close.

The military vessel was to dock at Hambantota for what China says is “replenishment and refuelling” from August 11-17. The permission to dock was given by former Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa before he fled the country amid the economic crisis.

“The ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter,” the Lankan foreign ministry said in a letter to the Chinese embassy. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of People's Republic of China in Colombo, the assurances of its highest consideration. ”

India sees the docking of a Chinese military vessel at the Sri Lankan port as a security threat to strategic installations in the southern Indian states.

Earlier, the Lankan MoD had tried to assuage India’s concerns over the matter after New Delhi raised it at various levels, including with the new President, the defence ministry and military officers at Hambantota.

The military and strategic implications of having ‘Yuan Wang 5’ in the Indian Ocean Region are manifold. The ship has a distinct role in missile and satellite tracking and is more lethal in its capabilities compared with the Chinese submarine that was docked at Colombo port in 2014.

The aerial reach of the ship is more than 750 km, which would bring the nuclear plants at Kalpakkam and Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu within snooping distance.

As many as six ports across the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will come under tracking reach of the vessel if it docks at Hambantota. The ship can also gather information about vital installations along southern India.

NDA’s Jagdeep Dhankhar elected 14th VP

NDA nominee Jagdeep Dhankhar was elected the 14th Vice President of India, defeating joint opposition candidate Margaret Alva after securing 528 votes against his rival’s tally of 182. Though the outcome of the vice-presidential contest was a foregone conclusion, Dhankhar’s victory was rich in symbolism as it signalled the continued dominance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP, with all key constitutional posts—President, Vice President (who is also ex-officio Rajya Sabha Chairman) and Lok Sabha Speaker—held by the party.

It also dealt a body blow to the anti-BJP camp, which had pitched the VP polls as a battle of ideologies between “Constitution keepers and those who undermine it”, and whose claim to a grand opposition unity came apart in the run-up to the contest when Mamata Banerjee’s TMC broke ranks and decided to abstain from the vote. Dhankar, 71, swept the polls with 72.8% of the 725 valid votes cast, his wining margin of 346 votes being the highest in the last six vice-presidential polls since 1997.


100% land acquisition work for Jewar airport complete

In a leg-up to the work on Noida International Airport, coming up in Jewar, 100% land acquisition for the project has been completed. The airport will come up over a sprawling 1,334 hectares of land.

UP's minister for industries and infrastructure development, Nand Gopal Gupta Nandi, confirmed that the land acquisition work is complete and the testing of the airport would begin in March 2024 while it would be ready for use by October 2024.

“The runway and the main building of the airport are being constructed. In all probability, we hope that the airport will be ready for use by October 2024,” said Nandi, after a review meeting of Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority.

He said that all the necessary no objection certificates and clearances from the Union government have been obtained for the project.

Additional chief secretary, industries, Arvind Kumar, said that the land acquired has been handed over to Zurich Airport International AG, the company developing the airport. “Besides handing over the land to the developer, necessary changes in the master plan and development plan have been made and approved,” Kumar said.

He said the best part about land acquisition was that it was done seamlessly within the deadline. “Land acquisitions have traditionally been a bumpy ride for projects but in this case, it was hassle-free. We have also taken feedback from the people about the rehabilitation and settlement package and people are happy about it,” Kumar said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project in November last year.

According to officials, the airport is expected to connect cities like Agra, Mathura, Gautam Budh Nagar, Aligarh and Ghaziabad to the world. The proposed airport will also help in decongestion of IGI Airport in Delhi.

“This will accelerate industrialization in the region as it will integrate the industries in the hinterland to the global value chains. Improvement in air connectivity may also provide a boost to the tourism sector by increasing traffic inflow at the existing tourist sites and create more avenues for the development of new tourist centres,” officials said.

‘Semicon plant in India to create next Silicon Valley’ : Anil Agarwal

Excerpts form his interview: 

My biggest priority is that India must reduce its imports. India imports 94% of electronics. The basic raw material for this is semiconductor and display glass. Both we import, spending about $16 billion. We (Vedanta) are in the glass business, we make optical fibre. We also make display glass in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, we are the fourth largest in the world. So, it was natural that everybody wanted to be our partner in semiconductor manufacturing. We chose Foxconn because it’s a$200-billion company. We are on a very fast track – first is to identify the location. We have an independent committee that is going to all the states. We need to be in close proximity to universities, infra, water. This is like creating yet another Silicon Valley – it will be a cluster. A lot of companies will come up around the plant that will use our semiconductor and glass, because they will be so much cheaper than importing. So, states must have the vision that it won’t be just a chip plant, that it will be a 20-year plan. The project is about $20 billion, but we will start with $10 billion to make the display glass and the semiconductor, both in the same location. At the end of the month, we will pin down the location. We’re just waiting for the report to come.

Around 60% (of total cost). Some are coming from the Centre and some from the state. Taiwan provided 90% subsidy, today everybody – US, China – wants to take over Taiwan only because they have semiconductors. I have no doubt India will be in position to get there. But everybody has to be together, focus on one thing, get the right people in place. It’s also very important to be in proximity to universities. Because so much research is required in this business.