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Promote separate hill farming policy: ASSOCHAM plea to Ukhand govt.
Dec 07,2016

Uttarakhand needs to promote a separate hill farming policy as the state has a meagre 14 per cent net sown area, more so as 3/5th of the states total working population is engaged in agriculture, noted a recent ASSOCHAM-RNCOS joint study.

n++The performance of Uttarakhand in agriculture and allied activities has not been up to the mark as its share in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) had declined sharply from over 22 per cent in 2004-05 to just over nine per cent in 2014-15,n++ highlighted the study titled Agri business outlook in Uttarakhand, conducted by ASSOCHAM jointly with research firm RNCOS.

In terms of issues being faced by farm sector in Uttarakhand, the ASSOCHAM-RNCOS study highlighted that low level of land holdings is a key challenge as over 70 per cent of states farmers hold less than one hectare of land.

Considering that topography of Uttarakhand is characterised by sandy soils that do not retain water and due to unavailability of moisture in the soil, state has recorded poor crop productivity has so much so that agriculture sector clocked just about three per cent CAGR between 2004-05 and 2014-15.

In terms of year-on-year growth rate, Uttarakhands agriculture and allied sector has registered over five per cent growth in 2014-15 which is better than negative growth of 2.5 per cent recorded in the previous year.

n++Priority must be given to further developing irrigation infrastructure in Uttarakhand including the canal network and also lift canals, tube-well, pump sets and others,n++ said Mr Rawat.

n++Together with promotion of local and traditional hill crops, farmers must also be given adequate cover in terms of welfare schemes, besides adequate technical and financial support for water conservation should also be extended by the state administration,n++ he added.

n++Apart from this, steps should be taken to encourage improved agronomic practices for higher farm productivity, improved soil treatment, increased water holding capacity, judicious use of chemicals and enhanced soil carbon storage,n++ further said Mr Rawat.

Uttarakhand food and agro based sector has attracted investments worth over Rs 1,600 crore as of financial year (FY) 2015-16 increasing from about Rs 450 crore as of FY 2010-11 thereby clocking a CAGR of over 29 per cent, according to analysis of ASSOCHAM Economic Research Bureau (AERB).

The share of food and agro based industries has also increased from 0.4 per cent in total investments worth over Rs 98,960 crore attracted by Uttarakhand in FY 2010-11 to 1.1 per cent in total investments worth Rs 1.4 lakh crore attracted by the state in FY 2015-16, noted the chambers analysis.

The ASSOCHAM-RNCOS study has suggested the state to focus on strengthening rural economy by focusing more on dairy sector by imparting technical assistance for dairy development in Uttarakhand, more so as milk production in the state grew by just about one per cent between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Strengthening of dairy farms, genetic up-gradation of cattle through induction of genetic variability in female germ plasma and establishment of goat units are some of the key initiatives that can help boost dairy production in the state, it suggested.

The state should promote poultry, fisheries, food processing, horticulture, agro-based, medicinal and aromatic herbs as thrust industries by offering a wide range of incentives and subsidies.

Besides, the state government in tandem with private sector should set up strong infrastructure backed by efficient supply chains in food and agro processing sector to increase farmers income and promote employment opportunities in rural areas.

Holistic development to achieve the goal of reducing yield gaps in important crops through focussed interventions and good productive practices is imperative for the state to improve its performance in agriculture and allied activities sector.

The state should aim to make agriculture more productive, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient by promoting location specific, integrated/composite farming systems.

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Several policy initiatives as well as administrative measures taken to enhance production of oil and gas for meeting domestic demand
Dec 06,2016

Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for each financial year, sign MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Oil & Gas CPSEs (Central Public Sector Enterprises). Under this agreement, the CPSEs undertake to achieve the targets set in the agreement at the beginning of the year.

Government of India has taken several policy initiatives as well as administrative measures to enhance production of oil and gas in the country for meeting domestic demand. The policy initiatives can be mentioned as:

i. Policy for Relaxations, Extensions and clarifications under Production Sharing Contract (PSC) regime for early monetization of hydrocarbon Discoveries.

ii. Policy on Testing Requirements.

iii. Discovered Small Field Policy.

iv. Policy for marketing freedom for gas production from difficult areas.

v. Policy for exploration in Mining Lease Area.

vi. Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy.

vii. Policy for Extension of Production Sharing Contracts.

viii. Shale Gas Policy etc.

Some of the administrative steps taken by the Government are:

i. Setting up of National Data Repository.

ii. Appraisal of Unappraised area in Sedimentary Basin.

iii. Streamlining of functioning of Management Committee for timely approval of Work Program and Budget in PSC regime.

iv. Re-assessment of Hydrocarbon Resources.

The Government has decided that Oil PSUs may formulate policies for import of crude oil in their best commercial interest and in accordance with the extant guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission etc. Therefore Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) procure crude oil as per Crude Import Policy. Crude Oil is procured on term and spot basis from NOCs and other registered parties with OMCs. There is no restriction on import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Under Pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (Pre-NELP)/NELP, exploration blocks were awarded through Competitive Bidding Process for carrying out Exploration & Production activities. In various rounds of biddings held under Pre-NELP/NELP, Private/JV companies had also participated alongwith the National Oil Companies (NOCs).

Based on the experiences of implementation of NELP and to simplify contractual regimes, Government has recently announced Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP) with the objective to enhance domestic oil and gas production.

In addition to above, to enhance oil & gas production in the country and inviting private investment, a policy named as Discovered Small Field Policy has been approved by the government, envisaging auctioning of 67 small/marginal fields of ONGC and OIL through International Competitive Bidding.

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Payment above Rs 5000 to Suppliers, contractors, grantee/loanee institutions etc by Government Departments to be now made through e-Payment
Dec 06,2016

In order to attain the goal of complete digitization of Government payments, the Ministry of Finance, Government of India has again reviewed the existing limit of Rs. 10,000/-(Rs. Ten Thousand only) prescribed regarding e-payment to Suppliers etc. It has now been decided to lower this threshold limit from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5,000 (Rupees Five Thousand only).The last review in this regard was made only in August, 2016.

Accordingly, all the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India have been now directed by the Ministry of Finance to ensure with immediate effect that all payments above Rs. 5000 (Rupees Five Thousand only) to suppliers, contractors, grantee/loanee institutions etc. are made by issue of payment advises only.

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Export of Oilmeals down by 27% in April - November 2016
Dec 06,2016

The Solvent Extractors Association of India has compiled the export data for export of oilmeals for the month of November 2016. The export of oilmeals during November 2016 is reported at 108,342 tons compared to 120,059 tons. The overall export of oilmeals during April to November 2016 is reported at 662,489 tons compared to 903,624 tons during the same period of last year i.e. down by 27% due to lesser availability of oilseeds for crushing and continuous disparity in exporting soybean meal in International Market.

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Government of India takes policy decisions to encourage cashless/electronic transactions
Dec 06,2016

In the recent years, advancements in banking technology, progress in mobile banking and innovative technologies to facilitate digital payments have enabled large number of small denomination transactions to be handled smoothly in electronic mode. The Government of India has taken policy decisions encouraging cashless/electronic transactions.

In its endeavour on moving towards the electronic payments, the Central Government Ministries/Departments have been crediting the salary and other payments for the majority of its employees electronically, direct into the designated bank accounts of the employees. Given the progress made in banking technology, it is assumed that each employee would be in possession of a Debit/ATM card linked to his/her bank account. Ensuring and encouraging Government Employees to maximise the usage of Debit cards for personal related transactions instead of cash would go a long way serving with the employees serving as ambassadors for the digital push and also motivate, encourage the general public in taking-up the cause.

All Ministries/Departments are requested to encourage their employees to make use of Debit Cards for personal related transactions instead of cash. Ministries/Departments should liaise with their accredited banks and set-up special camps to facilitate obtaining of and ensure that all its employees are in possession of Debit Cards. Ministries/Departments may also issue similar advisories to their attached/subordinate offices, PSUs, Autonomous Bodies etc.

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Nikkei India Services PMI dips in November 2016
Dec 05,2016

The performance of Indias service sector weakened in November as a result of cash shortages. New business declined for the first time since June 2015, leading to a solid reduction in activity. Correspondingly, backlogs of work rose, while employment increased only marginally. In spite of the falls in output and new orders, optimism regarding future activity improved. Input costs were broadly unchanged, whereas prices charged decreased slightly.

Dropping from 54.5 to 46.7 in November, the seasonally adjusted headline Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index registered in contraction territory for the first time since June 2015 and pointed to the sharpest reduction in output for almost three years. Anecdotal evidence highlighted a lack of cash in the economy. Activity decreased in three of the six monitored sub-sectors, namely Financial Intermediation, Hotels & Restaurants and Renting & Business Activities.

Factory production rose further during the month, but the rate of growth eased. Concurrently, the seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index dipped from Octobers 45-month high of 55.4 to 49.1 in November, thereby pointing to a slight contraction in private sector activity overall.

As was the case for activity, new business inflows at services firms declined during November. The fall in new work was the first in 17 months and the steepest in over three years. Panellists indicated that cash shortages restricted client bookings. Although the scarcity of rupee notes also weighed on manufacturing performance, new order growth was sustained. The rise was, however, insufficient to offset the downturn in services and new business across the private sector as a whole decreased slightly.

Service providers recorded higher levels of outstanding business in November, which they commonly associated with delayed payments from clients. Backlogs rose for the sixth straight month, but at the slowest rate since July. Similarly, unfinished work at manufacturers increased at a softer pace.

Ongoing capacity pressures translated into job creation across the service sector in November. However, the pace of increase in staffing levels was only marginal. By comparison, manufacturing jobs were little-changed as indicated by the respective index posting only fractionally above 50.0.

Indian service providers expect activity to rise over the next 12 months, with the degree of optimism signalled in November being the highest since August. The anticipated replacement of high-value rupee notes, improved advertising campaigns, favourable government policies and the withdrawal of unregulated companies from the market all boosted sentiment during the latest survey period.

Input costs in the Indian service sector were broadly unchanged in November as falling prices for petrol and raw materials acted to offset higher staff salaries. The respective index dropped to a three-month low and was close to the crucial threshold of 50.0. Purchase prices in the manufacturing industry rose again, albeit the rate of inflation eased from Octobers 26-month high. Across the private sector as a whole, input cost inflation softened to the weakest since August.

Efforts to secure new work and relatively stable costs encouraged services companies to lower their selling prices in November. That said, output charges fell only slightly. Average selling prices across the private sector were broadly unchanged.

Commenting on the Indian Services PMI survey data, Pollyanna De Lima, economist at IHS Markit, and author of the report, said: The latest set of gloomy PMI figures for the Indian service sector shows that companies were heavily impacted by the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes ban. Cash shortages resulted in fewer new business intakes, which in turn caused a fall in activity and ended a 16-month sequence of expansion.

The disruption is expected to be short-lived, however, with many panellists anticipating a pick-up in activity as these high-value banknotes are replaced and black-market firms end their operations. In fact, business confidence improved to a three-month high.

On a positive note, the reduction in money supply curbed inflation in November. Input costs facing service providers were broadly unchanged, which encouraged firms to lower their selling prices. In light of these numbers, further cuts to the benchmark rate are expected.

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Sugar output up 17% to 27.41 lakh tonnes in Oct-Nov 2016
Dec 05,2016

Sugar production stood at 27.41 lakh tonnes till 30 November 2016 in the current 2016-17 sugar season (SS), which is 4.06 lakh tonnes more than the production in the last season upto the same corresponding period when 23.35 lakh tonnes of sugar was produced. As compared to 340 sugar factories which were crushing sugarcane last year on 30 November 2015, 365 sugar mills were crushing sugarcane on 30 November 2016 this year.

Most of the sugar mills in Maharashtra have started their crushing operation and 136 sugar mills were crushing sugarcane as on 30 November 2016 as compared to 161 last year. They have produced 9.50 lakh tonnes of sugar upto 30 November 2016 as compared to 12.90 lakh tonnes produced in the corresponding period last year. This is mainly because mills in Maharashtra started their crushing late this year.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, 101 sugar mills were crushing sugarcane on 30 November 2016 who have produced 8.51 lakh tonnes. At the end of November 2015 last year, 61 sugar mills were crushing in Uttar Pradesh who had produced 1.74 lakh tonnes, which is about 6.77 lakh tons less than what they have already produced this year.

In the State of Karnataka, 58 sugar mills were crushing on 30 November 2016 and 7 lakh tonnes of sugar was produced. As compared to this, last year as on 30 November 2015, 60 sugar mills were crushing sugarcane who had produced 5.61 lakh tonnes of sugar.

In Gujarat, 18 sugar mills have started crushing on 30 November 2016 and they have produced 1.37 lakh tonnes of sugar. Last year on 30 November 2015, 18 mills were in operation and they produced 2.25 lakh tonnes of sugar.

Crushing operation in all the other States have also begun and slowly and slowly the pace of crushing is picking up. The other States have produced 1.03 lakh tonnes in this season upto 30 November 2016, which in the previous season upto 30 November 2015 was 0.85 lakh tonnes.

The sugar despatched from sugar mills in first month of current season i.e. October 2016, was 20.64 lakh tonnes, 2.35 lakh tonnes lower as compared to 22.99 lakh tonnes depatched in October 2015, last year. However, in the month of September 2016 the sugar despatched was 20.31 lakh tonnes, slightly higher than 19.19 lakh tonnes sugar despatched last year, in the month of September 2015. The lifting of sugar from mill has slowed down significantly, which has also resulted in a further fall in ex-mill sugar prices across the country.

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Debt Servicing Intact for 70% Toll Roads in Ind-Ras Portfolio, Despite Toll Suspension
Dec 02,2016

The suspension of tolling on all national highways in the country since 9 November 2016 is unlikely to impair the debt servicing of 70% of the operational toll projects in India Ratings and Researchs (Ind-Ras) portfolio. The anticipated shortfall for all these projects in interest servicing is likely to be INR854m, against which their cash debt service reserve account (DSRA) balance is INR3.88bn along with cash balance of INR884mn, which will provide a sufficient buffer.

Timely servicing of debt will be ensured by the surplus cash balances that some of these projects have. In certain cases where the sponsor has been supporting regular debt service, the agency assumes that such support will continue even for the period for which the road is not tolled. The management and the sponsors have also confirmed for majority of the projects, the support will continue. However, if the embargo on tolling continues beyond 2 December 2016, some projects debt serviceability can be impaired.

Ind-Ra believes that as per the provisions of the concession agreement, the non-collection of toll which is a directive of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways could be construed as a Force Majeure event. Ind-Ra believes that on account of suspension of tolling, the concession period could be extended for a period equal to the length of the period for which toll could not be collected. Further, according to the concession agreement, Force Majeure costs shall include interest on debt, operations and maintenance costs and all other costs directly attributable to the Force Majeure event but shall not include any debt repayments payable by the SPV. The details of quantum and timelines for the possible reimbursement from National Highways Authority of India (NHAI, IND AAA/Stable) are awaited.

Ind-Ra has analysed the toll road projects under its coverage and the agency believes that majority of the projects will be able to service their debt timely, thanks to the sponsors implicit commitments. In some cases the DSRA is unlikely to even be tapped and support from the sponsor / surplus cash balance are the most likely options. While some of the projects debt service is already depending on sponsors support, Ind-Ra will monitor the events and take necessary action in the event the sponsors fail to infuse funds to maintain the timely debt serviceability of the projects.

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No Curtailment of Funds for ICMR
Dec 02,2016

The allocation of funds to ICMR is as per approved budgetary provisions, against the demands projected by ICMR for various research activities. The allocation (BE) during last years is as follows: (Rs. in cr.)YearPlanNon Plan Total 2014-15531.00281.67812.672015-16568.17295.00863.172016-17610.00284.00894.00

There was no reduction in funding of ICMR for the last fiscal year, as compared to allocation for 2014-15. Allocation of Rs. 863.17 crore in 2015-16 was increased to Rs. 893.74 crore at RE stage.

The matter was taken up with Ministry of Finance and an additional allocation of Rs. 200.00 crore has been agreed for ICMR in 2016-17 for funding critical and important research projects, including extra-mural projects.  

The Government has constituted an Expert  Committee for Peer Review of functioning of ICMR, inter alia, to examine the intra-mural and extra-mural research programmes viz-a-viz availability of resources and their optimal utilisation, review of manpower component, scope of maximizing the internal resource generation, etc.

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Tractor Volumes to Rebound by 17% yoy in FY17
Dec 02,2016

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) expects tractor volumes to grow by around 17% yoy in FY17 (FY16: negative 8.9% yoy), driven by the improved growth prospects of the agriculture sector as well as a low base effect. Ind-Ra expects agriculture gross value added (GVA) to grow 2.9% yoy in FY17 (FY16: 1.2%; FY15: negative 0.2%).

Ind-Ra expects overall volume growth to be lower in 2HFY17 (around 14%). The currency demonetisation would have a negative impact on the tractor sales in the next couple of months, post which demand is likely to normalize aided by the government focus to boost liquidity in the rural areas on a priority basis. However, Ind-Ra observes that the industry growth in 1HFY17 has not been uniform across the country, with southern and western India seeing high double-digit growth, while growth in the northern and central India was muted. Thus, a strong uptick in growth in the northern and central markets could lead to a higher growth rate for the year.

Ind-Ra observes that currency demonetisation has impacted farmers seeds and fertiliser purchases. If the cash crunch prevails for a longer time, it may lead to lower agriculture GVA and may have a more pronounced impact on tractor sales volumes in FY17.

Overall the Southwest monsoon situation in 2016 was much better than the previous two years and is likely to aid volume growth for the industry. The other indicators such as area sown under kharif crops as well as advance estimates of food grain production have also seen an improvement, indicating improved agricultural production this year.

The improved agricultural output should aid the loan asset quality in the tractor segment where delinquency levels have shot up. While the normalisation of asset quality is likely to be a prolonged affair, given the severity of the problem, the trends should be encouraging. The improved prospects should persuade larger participation from banks and non-banking finance companies, increasing the finance penetration and thereby aiding sales.

The long-term drivers of the sector demand such as gradual increase in farm mechanisation, increasing penetration of tractors, government impetus on increasing farm productivity and increasing usage of tractors for non-farm activities remain intact. Increasing affordability of small and marginal farmers for tractors through government initiatives as well as innovative approaches such as tractor on rentals could also significantly increase tractor demand.

Sector companies are likely to see a margin expansion of up to 300bp due to operating leverage benefits. Sector companies have around 20% of the costs fixed in their cost structure and thus volume growth could lead to a margin expansion. However, around 75% of the raw materials consumed are derived from steel and iron, and thus profitability could be impacted by volatility in these commodities.

Most sector companies have adequate capacities to grow over the next two to three years, resulting in low capex requirements primarily for new product launches as well as maintenance capex. Thus, the credit profile is likely to remain strong and further improve in FY17. Improvements in revenue and operating margins would result in higher cash flows for sector companies in FY17.

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Portal E-Box launched by WCD Ministry to register online complaints of child sexual abuse
Dec 02,2016

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is providing support for an outreach service under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) for children in distress including children requiring assistance for protection from abuse . This service is available through a dedicated toll free number, 1098 and can be accessed by children in crisis or by adults on their behalf. In addition, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has launched a portal E-BOX in August 2016 to register online, complaints of child sexual abuse.

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Expansion of Aircraft-Passenger Handling Capacity of IGI Airport
Dec 02,2016

The revised Master Plan, 2016 for IGI Airport Delhi has been finalized in May, 2016. The Master Plan 2016 proposes further development of landside, terminals and airside facilities to correspond to the projected traffic growth in next 20 years. It also proposes expansion of passenger handling capacity of IGI Airport from existing 62 MPPA to 109.3 MPPA in a phased manner.

As per Schedule 1 of Operation Management and Development Agreement signed between Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Delhi International Airport (DIAL), the airport operator have to follow IATA Airport Development Reference Manual with regard to design of airport facilities.

DIAL has recently engaged NATS, a UK firm which is a global provider of air traffic management consulting services. As part of their engagement, NATS will collaborate with the Airports Authority of India (AA), Air Navigation staff to identify procedures and air space enhancements to maximize the aircraft handling capacity of IGI Airport. This engagement has recently commenced and is a multi-phased project which will be completed over the next twelve months.

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No limit on holding of gold jewellery or ornaments by anybody provided it is acquired from explained sources of income including inheritance
Dec 02,2016

In order to remove any doubt about the current position of Income Tax Law with respect to gold jewellery and ornaments, the following points are hereby categorically clarified:

(a) There is no limit on holding of gold jewellery or ornaments by anybody provided it is acquired from explained sources of income including inheritance

(b) Vide circular dated 11 May 1994, instructions have been issued in the matter of search and seizure of gold jewellery.

(c) Jewellery and ornaments to the extent of 500 gms for married lady, 250 gms. for unmarried lady and 100 gm for male member will not be seized, even if prima facie, it does not seem to be matching with the income record of the assesse.

(e) Officer conducting search has discretion not to seize even higher quantity of gold jewellery based on factors including family customs and traditions.

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5791.54 MU Electricity generated by Cumulative Solar Installations till September 2016
Dec 01,2016

As per information received from Central Electricity Authority (CEA), 5791.54 MU electricity is produced by cumulative solar installations in the country from April 2016 to September 2016.

Quantum of electricity produced by cumulative solar installations in the country is given below

YearEnergy generation (MU)2015-167447.922016-17 *5791.54

* from April-2016 to September, 2016.

Also, comparative percentage of solar energy produced during the last three years and the current year of all renewable energy generation during the period is given below:-

YearSolar Energy generation (MU)Total Renewable Energy generation (MU)% of Solar energy produced2013-143353.8053224.506.3%2014-154599.0261784.937.4%2015-167447.9265780.8511.3%2016-17*5791.5447627.2912.2%

* from April-2016 to September, 2016. (Tentative data received from CEA)

The grid connected solar power  installation capacity during the last three years is given below:

YearSolar Capacity Installed in MW2013-14947.462014-151112.072015-163018.882016-171965

(as on 31.10.2016)

The infrastructure for power evacuation and transmission is taken by state and Centre Transmission Utilities. Government has taken up project for development of Green Energy Corridors in 8 States dedicated for Renewable Energy including Solar energy. The Indian solar market is growing in size, he added.

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With effect from midnight of 2 December 2016, old Rs 500 bank notes will not be accepted at petrol, diesel & gas outlets & for purchase of Air Tickets
Dec 01,2016

After the cancellation of legal tender character of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 denomination bank notes, the Government had exempted certain categories of transactions wherein the old high denomination bank notes were accepted. The Government had extended the exemption period for these categories from time to time. At present, exemptions are allowed on certain types of transactions wherein payment of old Rs. 500 bank notes are permitted up to a specified date.

The processes of production, dispatch and distribution of currency notes have been continuing and more cash is flowing into the system steadily. The digital transactions have also made an impressive progress and are expected to significantly improve during the coming days. Now, therefore, as digital transaction options have been increasing across different sections of the economy, it has been observed that the outlets of the oil and gas marketing companies are better equipped to accept payments through digital means. Hence, it has been decided that with effect from the midnight of 2nd December, 2016, petrol, diesel and gas outlets of Public Sector oil and gas marketing companies will be removed from the exempted category for receipt of old Rs. 500 bank notes. It may be noted that supply of LPG continues to be in the exempted category for payment through old Rs. 500 bank notes.

Similarly, purchase of air tickets at the airports was included initially in the exempted category. It is observed that air ticketing counters have facilities to accept non cash/digital payments. Further, enough time has been allowed for travelers to be prepared with legal tender and/or non cash modes of payment. It has, therefore, been decided that with effect from midnight of 2nd December, 2016, the exemption allowed for purchase of air tickets at airports through old Rs. 500 notes will be removed from the exempted category.

The other exempted categories that have earlier been notified will continue to accept old Rs. 500 notes as per the said notifications.

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