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Power Purchase Agreement for Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Power Project signed
Apr 17,2017

Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, Shri Piyush Goyal, presided over the signing of Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) between Delhi Metro Railways Corporation (DMRC) & Madhya Pradesh Power Management Company (MPPMC) with Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited, the implementing agency for the worlds largest singlen++site solar power project, the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Power Project (UMSPP, 750MW) in Bhopal today. Other dignitaries present on the occasion were Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu and Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.

Addressing the gathering, Shri Naidu said that Madhya Pradesh is a special state having huge resource base that is being harnessed under Shri Chouhans leadership. Taking a huge step towards realizing Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modis vision of 24x7 Affordable, Quality Power for All, Madhya Pradesh has successfully brought down the rate of solar power to Rs. 3.30/ unit, which is a huge revolution in its own right, Shri Naidu noted. The Minister said that seven cities in the State qualified as smart cities in the first round comprising a total of 20 cities. This has been made possible only through peoples active participation and the dynamic leadership in the State, Shri Naidu said.

In his address, Shri Chouhan said that the Madhya Pradesh government has set 3 guiding principles of its performance - equitable growth, social empowerment and sustainable development. The Chief Minister noted that a decade ago even water, electricity and roads used to be challenges in the State but now due to the dynamic development model being implemented, the year on year agricultural growth will touch 25% this year and milestones like the cheapest solar power in the country are being achieved in Rewa. Madhya Pradesh has become the leading state in renewable energy sector in India, the Chief Minister said.

Congratulating Shri Chouhan on his unrelenting efforts in the direction of achieving the unprecedented scaling up of the renewable energy sector in the State, Shri Piyush Goyal informed that the Rewa UMSPP had achieved historic results with a record low first year tariff of Rs 2.97 per unit of electricity and a levelised tariff of Rs 3.30 over the term of 25 years, in the marathon online auction, which lasted 33 hours between biggest of the Global solar companies. The Rewa UMSPP becomes the first power project to conduct interstate sale of solar power to Delhi Metro. There would be huge savings to the Delhi Metro because of per unit cost of power reducing from over Rs. 4.50 to Rs. 3.30, Shri Goyal informed.

Shri Goyal also mentioned that with Prime Minister Narendra Modis leadership and cooperation of all Chief Ministers of various States, in the last 3 years, renewable energy has seen a growth of over 370 %. As compared to 2,600 MW of installed solar power capacity in 2014, today in India there is a total of 12,200 MW of installed solar power capacity and the country would achieve the 20,000MW solar power capacity target 5 years ahead of schedule by the end of 2017, the Minister noted.

Shri Goyal appreciated the proactive way in which the Madhya Pradesh Government provided financial guarantees to make the Rewa PPAs viable. The Minister further informed that the Rewa PPA has been accepted by the central government as a standard model for all other state governments to emulate and achieve lowest electricity tariff rates through competitive bidding.

Listing out the factors responsible for the success of the Rewa UMSPP, Shri Goyal included partnership of all stakeholders; outcome-oriented decisive leadership; root cause analysis of causes of failure on previous bids; time-bound execution; innovative financial model like partnering with International Finance Corporation (IFC); focus on transparency and technology including green energy corridor for evacuation of solar power; assigning responsibility and fixing accountability of implementation at each step.

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Nation-wide training programme launched for Elected Women representatives (EWRs) of Panchayats
Apr 17,2017

A comprehensive module for capacity building of Elected Women Representatives (EWRs) of Panchayats and a training program for Trainers of women panchayat leaders across the country was launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. The training program seeks to empower EWRs of panchayats by enhancing their capacity, capability and skill in governance and administration of villages.

Addressing the select women trainers/women sarpanches of Jharkhand at the video conference today, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said that inspite of 33% reservation for women in the panchayat bodies, the EWRs continue to remain ineffective since they do not have appropriate knowledge and skill to administer the village, and the show continues to be run by their husbands.

These women representatives will have to be trained in order to ensure that they take up the responsibility of all the tasks entrusted upon them on being elected, Smt Maneka Gandhi said. The Minister explained that it is due to this reason, the WCD Ministry has initiated this countrywide program of training the women sarpanches and other women representatives at the grassroots level in various areas like engineering (building of roads, drains, latrines etc.), finance, social development, education, health, and environment among others. Similarly, several new schemes have been launched by the Prime Minister , Shri Narendra Modi which bring benefit to the common man especially those in distress and the under privileged. The women sarpanches can be helpful in taking these schemes to the people at the grassroots level, the Minister said. These schemes include Fasal Beema Yojana, Pradhanmantri Awas Yojana, Suraksha Bima Yojana, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, maternity benefits schemes among others. Apart from this, the training programme will help to raise these women to the next level of leadership , said Smt Maneka Gandhi.

The WCD Minister said that safety of women, education of the girl child, health of women, creation of assets under MGNREGA, immunization and ensuring nutrition through lakhs of Anganwadis of the country have become important issues at the grassroots level in which the women sarpanches can play a pivotal role in effective delivery. The Minster suggested that the women sarpanches should form a whatsapp group and share their good practices as well as assist one another in finding solutions to common problems.

Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar said that under the 14th Finance Commission, the Panchayats will get Rs 2 Lakh crore in 5 years as against the earlier amount of Rs 30,000 crore for the overall development of the villages. He underlined the need for greater accountability, honesty and transparency in the execution of the developmental projects like building of roads, drainage system, toilets, farm ponds and dwelling units which he hoped will be ensured by the newly trained women representatives.

Shri Tomar laid stress on advance planning by the Gram Panchayats to free their villages from scourges of poverty and malnutrition. He said that women Sarpanches can form groups in the villages to spread social awareness on schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Immunisation, school enrolment, various insurance schemes for farmers and common man, benefits for pregnant women and BHIM App for cashless transaction. The training programme will lead to the empowerment of Women Sarpanches for the overall development of their villages and the country, explained the Panchayati Raj Minister.

The Chairperson, National Commission for Women, Smt Lalitha Kumaramangalam said that the training program will be closely monitored to ensure proper learning by the sarpanches and EWRs. Smt Lalitha Kumaramangalam also expressed hope that the EWRs will emerge as future leaders of the country.

In the first phase, 40 master trainers of Jharkhand will be trained at the State institute of Rural Development, Ranchi. In the second phase, approximately 3000 EWRs will be trained by these master trainers in the three districts of Simdega, Pakur and Chatra of Jharkhand.

Starting with Jharkhand, similar training programs will be organised in different states throughout the country with the help of National Institute of Rural Development, State Institutes of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Departments of the States to train EWRs throughout the county. There are currently around 13 lakhs EWRs in panchayats across the nation.

The module has been prepared by the National Commission for Women of the WCD Ministry in collaboration with TISS. The module contains training guidelines, timeline, implementation guidelines, training schedules and monitoring and evaluation. The training will be participatory with group discussions, brainstorming lectures, demonstrations, field visits, case studies, games, exercise, role play, small workshops and individual assignments. The module discusses various topics like What is an ideal Panchayat, composition of the Gram Panchayat, development schemes and programmes, resources of panchayats and their utilization, laws for protection of the vulnerable sections among others.

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E-commerce term may be misinterpreted in GST; fear commodity exchanges may be brought in: ASSOCHAM
Apr 17,2017

The scope of the e-commerce definition as given in the Goods and Services dispensation has been left so wide that it could go well beyond Amazon or Flipkart marketplace platforms and may even cover the commodity exchanges, the ASSOCHAM has said, seeking a clarity from the government so as to remove uncertainty among businesses, as the GST is set for a roll out.

n++The scope of the terms electronic commerce is very wide and does not restrict itself to cover electronic marketplace service providers like Amazon, Flipkart. It covers all businesses where the supply of goods / services is through a digital or electronic network,n++ the ASSOCHAM said in communications to different concerned ministries.

It said since the term e-commerce covers all businesses where the supply of goods / services is through a digital or electronic network, there is a possibility of n++unwarranted interpretationsn++ which may lead to Future and Commodity Exchanges being treated as an electronic commerce operator in respect of commodity derivatives which result in actual delivery of the goods.

n++In our opinion such an interpretation will not be in consonance with the object and intent of special provisions for the electronic commerce business n++There are distinguishing legal and operational factors between ecommerce operators and commodity exchanges. The commodities exchanges cannot be treated as electronic commerce operator in their legal capacity as well as in common parlancen++, the chamber pointed out.

As the GST is set for a roll out either in July or latest by September this year, the ASSOCHAM has also sought clarity with regard to the implementation of the most important tax reforms. A great amount of clarity has been sought with regard to treatment of GST relating to banking, telecom, banking services, exports, gems and jewellery and MSME sectors, among others.

n++The ASSOCHAM would like a seamless and flawless roll out of the GST to infuse a sense of confidence among the consumers, trade and industry. Eventually, the GST should become a showpiece of our reforms,n++ said chamber Secretary General Mr D S Rawat.

Mr Rawat said the chamber, is doing its bit to reach out to the stakeholders and holding a large number of workshops and training seminars for the industry and trade in different parts of the country.

The chamber said the Central GST is silent on the exemptions which are currently provided for interest on loans. The exemption under services tax which exempts interest should be replicated under GST

From a macro perspective GST is unification of multiple indirect taxes into single law. Hence, it is presumed current exemption would be continued for banking and other financial institution including nonbanking financial company (NBFC) as these exemptions creates the basic foundation for taxing services provided by them.

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Sharp rise in ACs, power back up devices this summer: ASSOCHAM
Apr 17,2017

Onset of early summer with sudden rise of temperature in most parts of India has given a big boost to Air conditioner (ACs), inverters, generators and air coolers with demand estimated to be going up between 35-45 per cent this season as compared to last year, an ASSOCHAM survey has indicated.

In all the major cities, the demand for AC has seen a sharp pick up in the last three weeks with the trend growing up by the day, as heat and dust goes up, particularly in northern, western and eastern parts of the country. According to the market survey based on feedback from the retailers and distribution chain, the ACs market is expected to increase by 40-45% this year. The apprehensions of deficient rains because of possible El Nino would add to the demand for the electric gadgets including the power back up devices like generators and inverters, reveals the ASSOCHAM latest paper.

Seizing the opportunity, the consumer finance companies are offering tempting offers claiming zero interest options, adding to the demand surge, the survey noted.

In bigger markets and well off areas, the demand for split air conditioners is witnessing a sharp rise , though the base remains low. As the window space is an issue in growing cities, the split ACs are preferred. Besides, the segment has caught the imagination of the better off and upper middle class people, though the price differential between the window and split is upward of 30 per cent, ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr D S Rawat remarked.

The survey noted that the customer is lot more conscious about energy saving devices thanks to high cost of electricity. The awareness about the star ratings for the electric devices is on the rise , which is a good sign, said Mr. Rawat.

With the increase in demand for electricity and peak hour shortages still seen in several states like UP, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, among others, the demand for the power back up devices like invertors and generators is expected to rise by 20-25 per cent this summer over the same period last year. Such devices are in more in demand in tier-II and tier-III cities.

Though air coolers are giving way to air conditioners, the product design for the former has really seen quite an improvement. Some of the high end air coolers are coming in compact design and shape. However, the key lies in their difference in pricing and power consumption as compared to ACs.

While people sweat it out, the business opportunities in the ongoing summer are there for asking, the ASSOCHAM survey said.

AC maintenance companies reported a 100 per cent jump in demand over the past week alone while residents grappled with stifling conditions in homes and offices, reveals the survey.

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Government extends the time line for availing TRQ benefit (duty free) of 5 Lakh MT of raw sugar import from 12th June to 30th June, 2017
Apr 17,2017

Based on representations received from sugar mills/trade associations, Government has extended the time line for availing TRQ benefit (duty free) of 5 Lakh MT of raw sugar import from 12th June to 30th June, 2017. This would mean that prospective mill/refiner can complete the import of raw sugar on or before 30th June, 2017. Further, to facilitate the imports from logistic point of view, Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Gangavaram (Andhra Pradesh) and Karaikal (Puducherry) ports in the South Zone have been added. However, the zone-wise import quantity restrictions shall remain unchanged. In order to ensure timely availability of sugar in the country and to maintain domestic price at reasonable level, the importing mills/refineries have been given a time line of two months from the date of bill of entry or the date of entry inwards, whichever is later, to convert raw sugar into white/refined sugar in their respective mills/refineries.

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Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) crosses the target of Rs. 1.8 lakh crore for 2016-17
Apr 17,2017

Loans extended under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) during 2016-17 have crossed the target of Rs. 1,80,000 crore for 2016-17. Sanctions currently stand at Rs. 1,80,087 crore with final data still awaited from some of the smaller non-banking lenders. Of this amount, Rs. 1,23,000 crore was lent by banks while non-banking institutions lent about Rs. 57,000 crore. Data compiled so far indicates that the number of borrowers this year were over 4 crore, of which over 70% were women borrowers. About 20% of the borrowers were from the Scheduled Caste Category, 5% from the Scheduled Tribe Category, while Other Backward Classes accounted for almost 35% of the borrowers.

The achievements of both public sector banks and private banks have been extremely encouraging. The robust growth in bank loans to unfunded and underfunded segments is an indication of the emergence of this category of borrowers as a key driver of demand for credit.

The Union Budget has announced a target of Rs. 2.44 lakh crore for Mudra Loans during 2017-18. There would be a special focus within the Mudra Scheme on convergence with other government schemes, deepening connect with borrowers and meeting credit requirements of trainees completing skilling course.

Mudra Loans are available for non-agricultural activities upto Rs. 10 lakh and activities allied to agriculture such as Dairy, Poultry, Bee Keeping etc, are also covered. Mudras unique features include a Mudra Card which permits access to Working Capital through ATMs and Card Machines. Evaluation studies show that banks have been proactive in identifying and disbursing loans to first time borrowers thereby weaning them away from money lenders. Borrowers particularly value three attributes of Mudra Loans viz, non-insistence on guarantor or collateral, simple documentation and quick processing.

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Business Reform Action Plan 2017 released
Apr 17,2017

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with the World Bank Group, released the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) 2017 for implementation by States/UTs on 13.04.2017.

The BRAP includes 405 recommendations for reforms on regulatory processes, policies, practices and procedures spread across 12 reform areas, that is, labour regulation enablers; contract enforcement; registering property; inspection reform enablers; single window system; land availability and allotment; construction permit enablers; environmental registration enablers; obtaining utility permits; paying taxes; access to information and transparency enablers and sector specific reforms spanning the lifecycle of a typical business.

This year there are 103 new set of reforms (out of 405) focusing on central inspection system, online land allotment system, online single window system for granting construction permits, registration under Inter State Migrant Workmen (RE&CS) Act, 1979, approval for boiler manufacturer and boiler erector etc. BRAP 2017 also includes two new sectors i.e. Healthcare and Hospitality. The last date to implement the reform is 31.10.2017.

DIPP will carry out a comprehensive business-to-government (B2G) feedback exercise this year whereby feedback will be taken from businesses on the quality of implementation of the reforms claimed by the States and UTs. For each State/UT, the scores will be aggregated over all the surveys conducted to yield an overall score for the State/UT.

The feedback scores will be used to generate a ranking of States/UTs in terms of reform implementation. Such a ranking will be different from the last years ranking, which was a ranking of de jure reforms (or reforms based on evidence submitted by States).

The online portal shall soon be enabled to allow States/UTs to upload the reforms implemented along with the evidence.

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PPLC policy is to encourage suppliers and service providers to progressively adopt Make in India practices and add value to their goods and services
Apr 17,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved signing of Framework of Understanding (FoU) on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector with Bangladesh, setting up of Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE) at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh as an Institute of National Importance through an Act of Parliament and also approved the Policy to provide Purchase Preference (linked with Local Content PP-LC) in all Public Sector Undertakings under Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas on 12th April, 2017.

The Secretary for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Shri K D Tripathi said that the Make in India initiative was launched by Prime Minister in September, 2014 as part of a wider set of nation-building initiatives devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub. In tune with the campaign, the Government has decided to incentivize the growth in local content in goods and services while implementing oil and gas projects in India through a policy for providing Purchase Preference to the manufactures/services providers who meet the local targets in oil and gas business activities.

Under the policy, progressively increasing targets of Local Content are being stipulated for procurement of goods, services and EPC contracts for oil and gas business activities. The manufacturers/service provider who meet the local content targets and whose quoted price is within 10% of lowest valid price bid, would be eligible for 10% purchase preference for a stipulated portion of the purchase order, on matching such price. For example, Drilling/Workover Rigs/WSS units construction in the onshore sector the local content would be pegged at 50% in the first year and progressively increased to 60% in the next two years and they to 70% in last two years. Similarly, for premium bids as wells as specialized drilling and completion services the local content stipulated is 10% in the first year and progressively increased to 15% in the next two years and then to 20% in the last 2 years.

He added that the policy is expected to encourage suppliers and service providers to progressively adopt Make in India practices and add value to their goods and services within the country. It will facilitate growth of activities related to manufacturing, services and EPC in the Indian economy. This will boost productivity and help in growth of employment at all levels in the oil and gas sector.

Shri Tripathi said that this policy is applicable to all the Public Sector Enterprises and their wholly owned subsidiaries under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas; Joint Venture that have 51% or more equity by one or more Public Sector Enterprises under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas; attached and subordinate offices of MoPNG.

The Cabinet had approved a Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Hydrocarbons. This was first discussed during the visit of Petroleum Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan to Dhaka in April 2016 with the objective to work as an umbrella framework to initiate, monitor and pursue activities of mutual interest in the oil and gas sector. It will give an institutional mechanism for our engagement with Bangladesh in the Hydrocarbon sector.

Salient Features of the proposed Framework document include -

n++ Promotes the energy trade and integration of oil and gas grids of the two countries

n++ Promotes investments in each others countries as well as in third countries, technology transfer, R&D, conducting joint studies and capacity building of human resources.

n++ Provides increased trans-border economic cooperation and connectivity.

n++ Promotes bilateral cooperation at the sub-regional and regional levels

n++ Exchange of information to energy policy formulation in the region.

n++ This Framework of Understanding shall remain in force for a period of five years, and shall be automatically renewed thereafter for a period of every five year.

The visit of PM Sheikh Hasina which took place on April 8-10 has given a further impetus to the Indo Bangladesh relations, as 22 documents were signed, including many in the field of oil and gas. Minister of State (I/C) for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan had visited Bangladesh during 18-19 April, 2016 and in the last two years there have been at least 7 meetings between him and his counterpart in Bangladesh. There is an institutionalised Energy Dialogue at the level of Secretary which met last month in Dhaka.

The comprehensiveness of the relationship between India and Bangladesh comes from the fact that we are already engaged in Supply of HSD from Siliguri to Parbatipur, Setting up LNG Terminal at Kutubdi island, Setting up LPG Terminal in Chittagong / Kutubdi island, Providing gas for the Khulna Power plant in Bangladesh, Working of gas grid connectivity, Refurbishment of refineries, Building of pipelines and Upstream activity in Bangladesh by Indian companies etc.

India and Bangladesh have signed three Documents: Sale Purchase Agreement between Numaligarh Refineries Ltd (NRL) and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation for supply of High Speed Diesel to Bangladesh; Setting up of an LNG terminal in Kutubdia Island by Petronet LNG Ltd and Setting up of an LPG Terminal by IOCL in partnership with Petrobangla. In addition to these Honble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi along with Prime Minister of Bangladesh flagged off the Rail Rake carrying 2200 MT of HSD from Radhikapur in India to Parbatipur in Bangladesh. The rail rake travelled on the newly constructed rail route. The length of the new route is around 260 kms, almost half of the old route.

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Water level of 91 major reservoirs of the country goes down by one per cent
Apr 17,2017

The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on April 13, 2017 was 48.42 BCM, which is 31% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This percentage was at 32 for the week ending on April 06, 2017. The level of April 13, 2017 was 132% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 106% of storage of average of last ten years.

The total storage capacity of these 91 reservoirs is 157.799 BCM which is about 62% of the total storage capacity of 253.388 BCM which is estimated to have been created in the country. 37 Reservoirs out of these 91 have hydropower benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW.

REGION WISE STORAGE STATUS:-

NORTHERN REGION

The northern region includes States of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. There are six reservoirs under Central Water Commission (CWC) monitoring having total live storage capacity of 18.01 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 4.23 BCM which is 23% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 23% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 30% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is equal to the corresponding period of last year and is less than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

EASTERN REGION

The Eastern region includes States of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura. There are 15 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 18.83 BCM.

The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 9.21 BCM which is 49% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 34% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 35% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the corresponding period of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

WESTERN REGION

The Western region includes States of Gujarat and Maharashtra. There are 27 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 27.07 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 10.59 BCM which is 39% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 20% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 38% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the storage of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

CENTRAL REGION

The Central region includes States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. There are 12 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 42.30 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 18.16 BCM which is 43% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 31% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 27% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the storage of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

SOUTHERN REGION

The Southern region includes States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, AP&TG( Two combined projects in both states) Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There are 31 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 51.59 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 6.23 BCM which is 12% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 15% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 23% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is less than the corresponding period of last year and is also less than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

States having better storage than last year for corresponding period are Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states) and Telangana. States having lesser storage than last year for corresponding period are Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

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Agencies to continue with domestic procurement of pulses till 22nd April 2017: Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister
Apr 17,2017

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that in view of the bumper production and arrivals, all procuring agencies have been directed continue with domestic procurement of pulses till 22nd April 2017 instead of 15th April 2017. Shri Ram Vilas Paswan said that all procuring government agencies will buy the pulses direct from the farmers on MSP rate. Shri Paswan informed that the government has procured around 18.10 lakh tonnes of pulses including 4 lakh tonnes of imports towards building the buffer stock of pulses of up to 20 lakh tonnes.

Shri Paswan further said that considering the quantity of sugar available with the carry over stock of 77 lakh tonnes and estimated current seasons production of 203 lakh tonnes is sufficient to meet the domestic consumption requirement at reasonable prices. The domestic demand of sugar consumption is 240-250 lakh tonnes. Shri Paswan said that in order to address regional production gaps and also to maintain domestic prices at reasonable levels, Government decided to allow import of a restricted quantity of only 5 lakh tonnes of raw sugar at zero duty through open general license. Government also extended the time line for availing TRQ benefit (duty free) of 5 lakh tonnes of raw sugar import from 12th June to 30th June, 2017.

Consumer Affairs Minister said that there cannot be two MRPs except in accordance with the law. NCDRC is taking necessary action on the complaint of dual MRP. Shri Paswan said that the Department of Consumer Affairs has directed state governments and union territories to stop the practice of dual MRP on packaged water. Shri Paswan informed that the BCCI has complied with the directions and issued an advisory to all state cricket associations/stadiums to sale packaged mineral water on single MRP (all brands) during cricket match with immediate effect.

The Minister reiterated that the hotels and restaurants are following the practice of charging service charge is an unfair trade practice. The service chargesn++ are discretionary/ voluntarily and a consumer dissatisfied with the services can have it waived off. Shri Paswan further stated that the Department of Consumer Affairs has framed an advisory on the issue of service charge, which is in the final stage.

Shri Paswan said the government does not want to fix the quantum of food that needs to be served by hotels and restaurants. There is no plan to impose any advisory, act or law, the Union Minister added.

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Indian Academy of Highway Engineers signs MoU with UNSW for establishing Centre of Excellence in Smart Transportation
Apr 17,2017

In line with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways vision to influence and adopt global innovation into the transportation sector, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry through the Indian Academy of Highway Engineers and University of New South Wales (UNSW) to set up a Centre for Advanced Transportation Technology and Systems (CATTS). The MoU was exchanged between the Director of IAHE Mr. V L Patankar and Vice Chancellor of UNSW Prof. Ian Jacobs on April 10th, 2017 in the presence of Simon Birmingham, Australian Minister for Education. The vision for CATTS is to:

n++ Accelerate the evaluation and adoption of new transportation technologies and explore market opportunities for them in India and Australia.

n++ Conduct research, development and training in the areas of transport system modelling and data for smart cities.

This would be the worlds first transportation centre involving two countries committed to seeing technological innovation for economic development through improved safety and reduced congestion.

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Over 60,000 persons, including 1300 high risk persons, identified for investigation into claims of excessive cash sales under CBDTs OCM
Apr 17,2017

Under the Operation Clean Money (OCM), more than 60,000 persons, including 1,300 high risk persons, have been identified for investigation into claims of excessive cash sales during the demonetisation period. More than 6,000 transactions of high value property purchase and 6,600 cases of outward remittances shall be subjected to detailed investigations under OCM. All the cases where no response is received shall also be subjected to detailed enquiries.

Extensive enforcement action has been taken by the Government including search and seizure and surveys largely based on the information received during the demonetisation period. More than 2,362 search, seizure and survey actions have been conducted by the Income Tax Department (ITD) during 9th November 2016 to 28th February 2017, leading to seizure of valuables worth more than Rs. 818 crore, which includes cash of Rs. 622 crore, and detection of un-disclosed income of more than Rs. 9,334 crore. More than 400 cases have been referred by ITD to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Surveys have been conducted in more than 3400 cases by Assessment Units.

The impact of Government action is already visible in the increase of 21.7 % in the returns of Income received in FY 2016-17, 16% growth in Gross Collection (the highest in the last five years), 14% Growth in Net Collection (the highest in last three years) and above 18%, 25% and 22% growth in Personal Income Tax, Regular Assessment Tax and Self-assessment Tax respectively.

The Income Tax Department (ITD) launched Operation Clean Money (OCM) on 31st January 2017 to leverage technology for e-verification of cash deposits made during the demonetization period i.e. 9th November to 30th December 2016. It is a unique operation being conducted by the Income-tax Department (ITD) through use of advanced data analytics allowing for optimization of government resources and causing minimum inconvenience to the taxpayers.

The First Phase of Operation Clean Money involved e-verification of cash deposits made in the banks. The entire phase was conducted online, wherein 17.92 lakh persons, who entered into cash transactions that did not appear to be in line with their tax profile, were identified and requested for on-line responses on such transactions. 9.46 Lakh persons responded on pre-defined parameters of sources of the cash deposits. Online queries were raised in 35,000 cases and on-line verification was completed in more than 7,800 cases. It has been decided to close the verification in cases where explanation of source of cash was found to be justified. In cases where the cash deposit has been declared under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY), the verifications would also be closed.

The operation has now moved into the Second Phase with identification of high risk persons for detailed investigations by the Income Tax Department. The identification has been done through use of advanced data analytics, including integration of data sources, relationship clustering and fund tracking. The high risk categories identified include businesses claiming cash sales as the source of cash deposits which is found to be excessive compared to their past profile or industry norms; large cash deposits made by government or Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) employees; persons who have undertaken high value purchases; persons who have used shell entities for layering of funds; and where no responses were received.

One of the stated objectives of demonetisation was elimination of Black Money that casts a long shadow of parallel economy on our real economy. The OCM and the subsequent enforcement actions being undertaken by the ITD shall continue to achieve the goal set out by the Government. The opportunities created by demonetization is being used by the ITD for widening and deepening of the tax base and create deterrence, not seen before, and to curb generation of black money in the Indian economy. The complete exercise of examining all the doubtful and non-tax compliant accounts may take more than one year but with the help of technology and continuous enforcement action all the liable accounts will be brought to tax.

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(MoU) Signed Between NSFDC & Development Commissioner (Handlooms)
Apr 17,2017

The CMD, National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Development Commissioner (Handlooms) under Ministry of Textiles signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The objective of signing this MoU is to help Scheduled Caste weavers and their families by promoting production and marketing of high value quality Handlooms products at Block level Cluster in various States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha etc.

Handlooms Sector is a part of Textile Industry, the second largest economic activity after agriculture. There are around 44 lakh Handloom weavers in the country out of which 3.90 lakh are Scheduled Caste Weavers. Under the cluster approach, new strategy for promoting production and marketing of high value quality handloom products shall be adopted to ensure more earnings of the Scheduled Caste Handloom Weavers.

In this endeavor, both the MoU signing parties shall popularize the schemes of DC (Handlooms) amongst the SC weavers through Awareness Programmes and advertisements in electronic/print media in SC weavers concentrated areas and collaborate for capacity building including skill upgradation and economic development of SC weavers and their families for achieving the desired outcome. Exhibitions/Fairs shall be organized by both the parties for providing marketing assistance to SC weavers for enhancing their earnings.

Both the parties shall also organize relevant skill development programmes for up-gradation of skills of the scheduled caste weavers in clusters and also for sharing knowledge and experience. This endeavour shall enable scheduled caste weavers to sharpen their skills for production and marketing of high value quality handloom products and better marketing linkages and therefore to have more income.

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3.54 Crore SCS & OBCS Students Covered Under Digital Payment of 14 Scholarship Schemes
Apr 17,2017

14 scholarship schemes for Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) / Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes (DNTs) students covering 3.54 crore students are under digital payment. All Scholarship amount are released to students bank account and there is 60% Aadhaar seeding in SC student bank account. Educational Empowerment for SCs is through scholarships, hostels for students, coaching facilities, capital for creation/upgradation of premises, institution etc.

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment implements seven different types of scholarships, which include: Post and Pre-Matric Scholarships; Top Class Scholarship; National Overseas Scholarships; National Fellowship for Scheduled Castes administered by the UGC; Pre-Matric Scholarship for Children of those engaged in unclean occupations; Free Coaching for Scheduled Castes and OBCs (70: 30 ratio); and Upgradation of merit. The Government of India believes that Education for all is the key to empowerment. Nearly 54 % of Budget of the M/o SJ&E is incurred on scholarships for Scheduled castes.

Each branch of public sector banks has been assigned responsibility by the Finance Ministry to handhold at least one SC/ST youth, as an entrepreneur, to generate more employment among them.

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Rs.236.66 Crores Loans Sanctioned To 65 SC Entrepreneurs Under Venture Capital Fund Scheme FOR SCS Till Date
Apr 17,2017

The scheme of Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes was launched in 2014-15 with unique feature of higher level of loans from Rs.50 lakhs to Rs.15 crores for SC entrepreneurs. Till date Loans amounting to Rs.236.66 crores to 65 Scheduled Caste entrepreneurs has been sanctioned in different areas including Solar Energy, Water treatment plants, Food processing and Beverages, Hotel etc. In 9 projects, beneficiaries have started repayment and the Scheme is also having multiplying effect on other SC entrepreneurs.

So far as the Skill Development is concerned, Training is undertaken by all State Governments under the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and by National Scheduled Caste Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC), National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) and National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) given to 1.5 lakh beneficiaries from 2014-15 to 2016-17. 48.42% got wage/self-employment.

Under Entrepreneurship, over 17 lakh people have benefitted from subsidy given for loan taken for economic activities in the last three years under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan. Over 8.12 lakh beneficiaries have been given loans by the Corporations for entrepreneurships in the last three years.

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