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Huge central assistance of Rs.1.13 lakh cr committed to improve basic urban infrastructure till 2019 to enable urban revival
Sep 15,2016

Minister of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today said that the political class of the country is now more sensitised than ever before to the challenges in urban sector and the need to fix them at the earliest in the interest of rapid economic growth besides enabling a decent quality of life. He said so while inaugurating the three day conference on Urban Transition in BRICS at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Shri Naidu stated that this much desired awareness is a result of the initiatives taken by the central government to enable urban revival during the last two years. He said that after detailed consultations with all stakeholders including citizens, urban local bodies, State Governments and others, the central government has set in motion a 10-point strategy for urban renaissance and this paradigm shift has begun to yield results.

Stating that resources are key to addressing huge infrastructure deficit in urban areas, Shri Naidu said that the central government is taking measures to enable increased flow of resources to urban local bodies and States which includes enhanced central assistance. He informed that under Smart City Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), central government has committed to provide an assistance of Rs.1.13 lakh crores to improve basic urban infrastructure, till 2018-19. n++This is a quantum jump from central assistance of Rs.33,902 cr committed during 2004-14 under JNNURM for basic infrastructuren++ said Shri Naidu.

The Minister further said n++The pace and scale of project and investment approvals have increased manifold since 2015 with the central government approving an assistance of Rs.1.84 lakh crore. This includes Rs.78,292 cr under smart city plans of 33 mission cities, Rs.45,293 cr under Atal Mission and another Rs.56,231 cr for building affordable houses for urban poor. These are the early gains of urban renaissance in the countryn++.

Shri Naidu stated that the central government led by Shri Narendra Modi has ended the ambiguity in governments approach to urban development since Independence as planned and well guided urbanisation is central to economic growth. He said that urban revival is being sought to be realised based on citizens participation, autonomy to urban local bodies and States in project formulation and their appraisal and approval, promotion of a healthy spirit of competition among urban local bodies, area based development, capacity building and enhanced resource flows to urban local bodies and States.

Giving an illustration of increased investments and scale of central assistance, Shri Venkaiah Naidu informed that an investment of Rs.15,827 cr has been approved over the last one year with central assistance of Rs.4,571 cr for Andhra Pradesh. This includes Rs.10,579 cr for constructing affordable houses for urban poor, Rs.3,595 cr for developing Visakhapatnam and Kakinada as smart cities and another Rs.1,540 cr for improving water supply and sewerage systems in AMRUT cities.

Stating that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), with a population of over 3 billion account for over 53% of worlds population and about one fourth of global GDP, Shri Naidu urged them to step up cooperation in addressing the challenges associated with urban transition based on sharing of experiences and knowledge. He further said that given the size of the economies of BRICS countries and the potential still to be realised, member countries need to collectively address urban challenges so that they could drive global economic recovery.

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196.6% Growth in Tourists Arrival on e-Tourist Visa in August 2016 over the Same Period in 2015
Sep 15,2016

A total of 66,097 tourists arrived in August 2016 on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 22, 286 during the month of August 2015 registering a growth of 196.6%

Commencing from 27th November 2014 e-Tourist Visa facility was available until 25th February 2016 for citizens of 113 countries arriving at 16 Airports in India. The Government of India has extended this scheme for citizens of 37 more countries w.e.f 26th February 2016 taking the tally to 150 countries. Status of achievements in respect of e-Tourist Visa availed by International tourists visiting India last year in 2015 has been surpassed in the first 06 months of the current calendar year 2016.

The following are the important highlights of e-Tourist Visa during August, 2016:-

(i) During the month of August, 2016 a total of 66,097 tourist arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 22,286 during the month of August, 2015 registering a growth of 196.6%.

(ii) During January- August 2016, a total of 6,06,493 tourist arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 1,69,976 during January-August 2015, registering a growth of 256.8% .

(iii) This high growth may be attributed to introduction of e-Tourist Visa for 150 countries as against the earlier coverage of 113 countries.

(iv) The percentage shares of top 10 source countries availing e-Tourist Visa facilities during August, 2016 were as follows:

UK (19.4%), USA (13.2%), China (6.7%), France (6.4%), Spain (6.1%), UAE (5.5%), Germany (4.6%), Australia (3.7%), Canada (3.5%) and Korea Republic of (2.4%).

(v) The percentage shares of top 10 ports in tourist arrivals on e-Tourist Visa during August, 2016 were as follows:

New Delhi Airport (45.30%), Mumbai Airport (21.53%), Chennai Airport (8.82%), Bengaluru Airport (7.58%), Kochi Airport (4.60%), Hyderabad Airport (3.52%), Kolkata Airport (2.07%), Amritsar Airport (2.01%), Ahmadabad Airport (1.44%) and Trivandrum Airport (1.36%).

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FM launches the Web Responsive Pensioners Service portal to provide better services to the pensioners
Sep 15,2016

The Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Shri Arun Jaitley commended the new initiatives undertaken by the Office of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) to serve the pensioners better through the newly launched Web Responsive Pensioners Service portal among others. The Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley was addressing the gathering after inaugurating the new office premises of the Office of the CGA in the national capital here today. The Finance Minister lauded the role of CGA in handling the growing volume of Government revenue and expenditure through IT initiatives like the PFMS (Public Financial management System) and NTRP (Non Tax Receipt Portal). He also highlighted the importance of data analytics in assessing the quality of Government expenditure and revenue. Further Shri Jaitley appreciated the role of PFMS in ensuring that the funds reach the intended beneficiaries and are essentially used for the purpose they were intended for. The function was co-presided by the Minister of State for Expenditure, Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal and was attended among others the by several Secretaries of different Ministries/Departments and other senior functionaries of the Government of India.

On the occasion, the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley launched a new Digital India initiative taken up by the O/o the Controller General of Accounts, namely, a Web Responsive Pensioners Service. This portal developed by the Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO) provides a one-stop solution for pensioners to access information relating to status of pension cases, and pension payments processed by Central Ministries/Departments and Banks. This service will also help in speedy redressal of pensioners grievances.

Later, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also signed between the O/o Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), India aimed at strengthening the Internal Audit function in line Ministries and Departments of the Government of India.

The new building is designed and constructed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and conforms to new norms of a Green building and for energy conservation. A grid integrated solar panel system is also planned to be installed for harnessing solar energy.

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DoNER released over Rs 100 cr for Manipur in about 5 months
Sep 15,2016

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) & MoS PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh has said that an amount of over Rs. 100 crore has been released by the DoNER Ministry in the first five months of the current financial year for various development projects in Manipur. He said that an amount of Rs.28.47 crore was released for different projects under NLCPR (Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources) and approximately Rs. 75 crore was released for the NEC (North Eastern Council) projects. This is in addition to the various other fundings and budget releases coming to the State from other Ministries in the Government of India, he added.

Presiding over a meeting of the Ministry of DoNER here today, Dr Jitendra Singh said that among the North-Eastern States, Manipur is the major beneficiary of liberal funding and assistance from various Central Ministries. In this context, he also referred to the Jiribam-Silchar rail link and the broadgauge rail track project from Jiribam to Tupul.

Similarly, Dr Jitendra Singh said that four-laning of the road from Imphal to Moreh and Senapati to Imphal has also been undertaken. In the Power sector, he said, with the active support from the Ministry of DoNER, the State Government and other related agencies have succeeded in providing uninterrupted power supply in the capital city of Imphal. Elaborating on the other new innovative plans for various North Eastern States, Dr Jitendra Singh said, all the 103 district headquarters in the Northeast are planned to be connected to the nearest highway through a minimum two-lane road. At the same time, four-laning of several of the roads is in progress at a fast track, he added.

Dr Jitendra Singh said that considering the exclusive athletic talent among the youth of Northeast, a Sports University for Manipur has been announced by the Central Government, but because of certain issues related to land acquisition, the project has been delayed. The DoNER Ministry is, however, actively pursuing it with the State Government in Imphal, he said.

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India Declares itself Free from Avian Influenza (H5N1)
Sep 14,2016

The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare has declared India free from Avian Influenza (H5N1) from 5th September, 2016.

India had notified outbreak of Avian Influenza (H5N1) on 09 May 2016 at Humnabad, Bidar district, Karnataka. There has been no further outbreak reported in the country thereafter.

The control measures adopted in the radius of one Km around outbreak location included following:

1- Stamping out of entire poultry population including destruction of eggs, feed, litter and other infected materials, restriction on movement of poultry and poultry products to and from the area of outbreak, disinfection and cleaning up of infected premises and the Post Operation Surveillance Plan (POSP) from 6th June, 2016

2- Surveillance was carried out throughout the country. Surveillance around the areas of the outbreaks since completion of the operation (including culling, disinfection and clean -up)

Post the surveillance the state has shown no evidence of presence of Avian Influenza. India has declared itself free from Avian Influenza (H5N1) from 5th September, 2016 and notified the same to OIE.

In a letter to the State Chief Secretaries the Center has emphasized the need for continued surveillance especially in the vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds.

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Fitch: Indias First Offshore Basel III AT1 Issue A Positive
Sep 14,2016

A successful cross-border Additional Tier 1 (AT1) issue by State Bank of India (SBI, BBB-/Stable), Indias largest bank by assets, would be a positive development for Indias banking system, Fitch Ratings says.

The first cross-border deal in the dollar AT1 market from an Indian bank would open up a new source of much-needed regulatory capital and provide a pricing benchmark for other banks keen to access the dollar AT1 market. AT1 issuance by Indian banks has thus far been limited to the domestic market, where both market depth and investor appetite has been lacking.

Fitch estimates that Indian banks will require around USD90bn in new capital by the end of the fiscal year to March 2019 (FYE19) to meet Basel III standards, of which around 30% will be required in AT1. Indian banks have struggled to raise AT1 capital from the local market with issuances since January 2016 raising just USD1.5bn in new AT1 capital.

Fitch would apply its consistent approach of using the banks Viability Ratings (VRs) as the anchor for notching purposes when assigning ratings to Indian AT1 instruments. Under Fitchs current criteria, these instruments would be rated five notches from the VR. The five notches factor in the risks of both non-performance and loss severity while the use of the VR as the anchor rating confirms that Fitch does not factor in extraordinary state support into the ratings of instruments with going-concern loss-absorption features. This is consistent with the Reserve Bank of Indias framework, which requires the permanent write-off of AT1 securities before any extraordinary public-sector injection of funds takes place. (For more details, see Indian Banks: Applying Fitchs Criteria on Basel III Capital Instruments), dated 23 August 2013).

Basel III AT1 instruments are loss-absorbing in nature and will be either converted or written-down once AT1 capital triggers are breached. These are hard triggers requiring banks to maintain minimum Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio of 5.5% until FYE19 and 6.125% thereafter. These instruments feature fully discretionary coupons and an issuers total capital adequacy ratio, CET1 ratio and Tier 1 ratio need to be above regulatory minimums for it to continue servicing the coupon on its Basel III AT1 instruments.

Fitch believes that the risk of non-performance is highest under fully discretionary coupons as it is the most easily activated form of loss absorption.

Deteriorating financial profiles over the last few years have raised the standalone credit risks of Indian banks adding to capital pressures at a time when progressively higher minimum Basel III capital requirements are being phased in. This was recently highlighted by the coupon skip of Dhanlaxmi Banks legacy Upper Tier 2 capital instrument.

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Negative Growth of IIP worrying: PHD Chamber
Sep 14,2016

The negative growth of IIP at (-) 2.4 for the month of July 2016 is a major cause of concern as growth of Capital goods has decelerated significantly by (-) 29% which is indicative of subdued pace of investments in the economy, said Dr. Mahesh Gupta, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, the growth of consumer durables at 5.9% is encouraging in anticipation of bumper kharif crops vis-n++-vis good monsoon scenario. We believe there is a need to push domestic demand particularly the rural demand in the economy, said Dr. Gupta.

We look forward to calibrated policy measures from the RBI in terms of reduction in the policy rates.

We also look forward to increase in public investments by the Government to help domestic demand to revive in the coming times, said Dr. Gupta.

The revival in the domestic demand would be crucial for the steady growth trajectory going forward as world economic environment is still in its lacklustre growth trajectory, said Dr. Mahesh Gupta.

These measures would go a long way to boost consumer demand and growth of manufacturing sector in the economy, said Dr. Gupta.

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Increases in wage rates significantly higher than Inflation rate: PHD Chamber
Sep 14,2016

Minimum wage for unskilled workforce has witnessed a significantly increasing trend as compared to increase in inflation rate (CPI Inflation) in majority of the states in India, said Dr. Mahesh Gupta, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

At the all India level, the minimum wage rate increase for unskilled workforce during the years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 was at an average of 11.17%, while the average CPI Inflation rate was at 6.13% during the same period. Thereby the increase in wage rate was of 5.04 percentage points higher as compared to increase in CPI inflation.

The states of Kerala, Assam, Odisha and Maharashtra witnessed more than 20% higher increase in minimum wage rate for unskilled workforce as compared with CPI inflation.

In the state of Kerala the minimum wage rate increased from Rs. 85.20 per day in 2012-13 to Rs. 150 per day for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15 and further reaching to Rs. 275.46 per day for 2015-16, thus the average increase in wage rate for the three consecutive years was 53.23%. While the CPI inflation for the same period (2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16) was 9.01%, 5.98% and 3.84% with an average inflation rate of 6.28%. Thereby, the increase in wage rate was of 46.95 percentage points higher than the increase in CPI inflation.

Certain states like Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat witnessed a moderate increase in wage rate, varying in the range of 10.77 to 18 percentage points as compared to CPI inflation.

The state of Tamil Nadu had minimum wages for unskilled workforce constant at Rs. 85 per day for the years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 while for the 2015-16 the minimum wages increased to Rs. 146 per day, the average wage rate for the three years stands at 23.92%. The CPI inflation rate in the state was 6.40% in 2013-14, 6.15% in 2014-15 and 5.22% in 2015-16 and the average for the three years stands at 5.92%. Thus, the increase in wage rate was of 18 percentage points higher as compared to increase in CPI inflation.

On the other hand states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana witnessed a marginal increase in wage rate with a more or less consistent increase CPI inflation rate ranging from 1.1 to 8.98 percentage points.

The state of West Bengal had minimum wages fixed at Rs. 112.50 per day for 2012-13, Rs. 131.40 per day for 2013-14, Rs. 150.24 per day in 2014-15 and Rs. 171 per day in 2015-16. The average wage rate increase for the three years stands at 14.99%. The CPI inflation rate in the state for the same years was 10.10% in 2013-14, 2.75% in 2014-15 and 5.19% in 2015-16 and the average for the three years stands at 6.01%. Thus the increase in wage rate was of 8.98 percentage points higher than the increase in CPI inflation.

In the state of Delhi the wage rate for 2012-13 was Rs. 279 per day, further being constant at Rs. 311 per day for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15, while for 2015-16 the minimum wages increased to Rs. 316 per day. The average increase in wage rate stands at 4.36% for the three years. The CPI inflation rate in the state for the same years was 8.28% in 2013-14, 4.91% in 2014-15 and 4.09% in 2015-16 and the average CPI inflation for the three years was 5.76%. Thus, the increase in wage rate was of (-) 1.40 percentage points lesser than the increase in CPI inflation.

The state of Rajasthan had a wage rate of Rs. 147 per day in 2012-13 reaching to a constant rate of Rs. 166 per day for 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16, the average wage rate increase for the three years was at 4.31%. The CPI inflation rate in the state for the same years was 7.92% in 2013-14, 6.85% in 2014-15 and 4.61% in 2015-16 and the average for the three years stands at 6.46%. Thus, the increase in wage rate was of (-) 2.15 percentage points lesser than the increase in CPI inflation.

With the advent of Make in India policy we suggest a calibrated approach to be followed in order to set the wage rates for the workforce and to create an efficient and conducive economic environment to expand production possibility frontiers and to generate employment opportunities.

We believe a greater synchronisation of the policy environment would go a long way to provide fruitful outcomes of various dynamic reforms announced by the Government during the recent years.

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Moderating Retail Inflation Raises Monetary Easing Hopes; Poor IIP Reflects Sluggish Investment
Sep 14,2016

The sharp fall in retail inflation in August 2016 has accentuated the rate cut proposition in the next quarter itself. However, it should be taken with a pinch of salt as a large part of food inflation is structural in nature, says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). The retail inflation for August 2016 at 5.05%, came in lower than Ind-Ras expectation of 5.30%, primarily driven by a sharp decline in food prices.

This has made the central banks target of bringing retail price inflation down to 5.0% by March 2017 achievable; however, it may be early to rejoice given the baffling behaviour of retail inflation in the past. The cyclical components either aggravate or soften it as is evident from the movement in wholesale prices. Wholesale food price inflation was 5.3% during FY96-FY05 but increased to 9.2% during FY06-FY16. Clearly, the fight on the inflation front, particularly food inflation, is far from over.

Ind-Ra further opines the industrial growth will not return to a sustained and high growth path so long as excess capacity in the manufacturing sector remains and private sector investment cycle does not revive. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) contracted 2.4% in July 2016 as against the growth of 2.0%yoy in June and was much lower than Ind-Ras expectation of 1.2%.

The agency believes scope for the Reserve Bank of Indias (RBI) action on rate front appears skewed towards December policy review than October 2016, although the sharp fall in inflation from 6.1% in July 2016 is likely to accentuate the expectation of rate cut in the October policy review itself. The maturity of large FCNR B (foreign currency non-resident) deposits worth USD26bn, which is coming due in the next two months, is likely to be the litmus test for the currency as well as for the RBI. Moreover, the RBI would have better clarity on the retail inflation trajectory for the last quarter of the fiscal, US electoral outcomes and Federal Reserve rate trajectory by December 2016.

The IIP data for July has further reinforced the volatility in factory output. The IIP growth had turned positive in February and March 2016 but turned negative in April 2016. IIP witnessed a broad-based weakness in July 2016 with sharp growth moderation in mining and electricity, while manufacturing output (75.5% weight in IIP) contracted 3.4% in July 2016 (June: 0.7% yoy). The disconnect between IIP and industrial gross value added (GVA) data is making it increasingly difficult to discern the sectoral as well as overall industrial and manufacturing output growth trend.

Manufacturing growth according to IIP data was negative 0.8% while GVA in manufacturing was 9.1% in 1QFY17. It is true that the two are strictly not comparable as the former measures output while the latter measures value added. Nevertheless, such a divergence is inexplicable and, increasingly, IIP is failing to measure the manufacturing or industrial growth in the economy. The base year used for IIP calculation is 2004-05, while industrial GVA is based on 2011-12 prices. The use of 2004-05 means a lot of data relating to industrial/manufacturing output is not captured by the IIP.

At the use-base level, capital goods output continued its negative trend. Capital goods output contracted 29.6% yoy in July 2016 against a contraction of 16.3% yoy in June 2016. This reinforces the lacklustre investment demand in the economy. Basic and intermediate goods continued with the positive trend but growth rates moderated to 2.0% (June: 5.8%) and 3.4% (June: 5.7%) in July 2016. Consumer durables maintained the positive growth trend. Consumer non-durables contracted 1.7% yoy in July 2016 after the modest growth of 0.9% in the previous month. The positive growth in June 2016 was a deviation from the seven months of consecutive negative growth in consumer non-durables. This is reflective of the volatility evident in the overall IIP.

Retail food price inflation moderated to 5.9% in August 2016 from 8.4% in July 2016 led by a sharp-to-moderate fall in the prices of vegetables and pulses. Food prices in the previous months (April-July 2016) had remained above 6% primarily due to high inflation in fruits, vegetables and pulses. Vegetable prices moderated to 1.0% in August from 14.0% in July 2016. Prices of pulses moderated to 22.0% in August 2016 from 27.5% in the previous month. Sugar and fruits prices, however, increased to 24.8% (July: 21.9%) and 4.5% (July: 3.5%). Services inflation showed a slight uptick to 4.2% from 4.0% in July 2016 led by higher inflation in the personal care category (August: 8.3%; July: 7.3%).

The agency believes that last weeks unidirectional rally appears to have priced in benign inflation data, thus limiting scope for an incremental rally. Moreover, the spread between policy rate and overall yield curves have narrowed down sharply to 25bp-75bp from 75bp-125bp, owing to the INR1trn open market operation purchase, thus limiting scope for a sharp fall in yield. On the other hand, an uptick in global bond yields will likely keep the domestic market more submissive.

Amid global volatility in capital markets, the domestic currency has been anchored strongly on the back of a surge in investment flows in recent months and a benign current account balance. The low inflation would further solidify the fundamental state of the rupee. So, on a fundamental basis, the rupee is poised to benefit from the improved macroeconomic condition, but transitory volatility will emanate from a potential action by central banks in the developed economies.

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Bengaluru image among Fortune 500 firms sullied by Cauvery related agitation; losses up to Rs 25,000 cr-ASSOCHAM
Sep 14,2016

With widespread damage to the vital urban infrastructure, interruption in the transport including, roads, rail and air and inability of the workforce to safely move to and from offices and factories, Karnataka , particularly Bengaluru city, is estimated to have suffered a loss between Rs 22,000-25,000 crore due to Cauvery dispute related violence, apex industry body ASSOCHAM said today.

n++Violence in the state capital and other parts of Karnataka has severely dented the image of Bengaluru as Silicon Valley of India, home to almost all the Fortune 500 companies,n++ said ASSOCHAM while making a fervent appeal for peace in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

n++The way the violent incidents had spread is demoralizing the business and industrial community, particularly in the capital city of Karnataka. The image that India built around Bengaluru as its Silicon Valley is being sullied,n++ said ASSOCHAM secretary general, Mr D S Rawat.

n++The authorities in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu should not allow under any circumstances the law and order to be compromised. While the water is a basic requirement and an emotional issue, the situation is being exploited by miscreants, scaring away the peace loving workforce which has settled in both Bengaluru and Chennai from all over the country and even abroad,n++ said Mr Rawat.

According to ASSOCHAM, widespread loss would accrue to IT and ITES facilities due to poor attendance for the last several days. Besides, the inter-state tourism, particularly involving pilgrims, domestic travellers, has been affected. Cancellation of air tickets have also been reported to and from Bengaluru.

Likewise, industrial production, movement of cargo and retail trade including malls, cinema halls, restaurants, have been halted. n++All these losses would run between Rs 22,000 crore and Rs 25,000 crore, besides of course immense damage to the goodwill of the state as an attractive investment destination.n++

ASSOCHAM has also urged the Centre to effectively monitor the situation and ensure that peace is restored in the two states. n++A lot of damage has already been done to the trade and factory output with movement of the vehicles hit by the agitation which is taking violent shape. There is a huge stake for the countrys showpiece information technology in both Bengaluru and Chennai.n++

The strikes and bandhs should not be allowed to take violent shape and the law and order machinery should be geared up well in advance, with good amount of intelligence gathering, it said.

n++While we are selling ourselves to be the fastest growing economy of the world, we cannot afford the incidents which are taking place in the metropolitan cities. After all, the two states had built with a lot of hard work image of progressive areas, which should not be compromised at any cost.n++

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Dental doctors seek enhancement in the age of superannuation
Sep 14,2016

Senior Dental Doctors and Specialists working in Government of India approached the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh and sought his intervention against alleged discrimination towards them in the matter of age of superannuation.

A delegation led by Dr H. P. Singh, President, Central Government Dental Doctors Association handed over a memorandum to Dr Jitendra Singh in which it has been pointed out that whereas the Central Government, vide its order dated 31.05.2016, raised the superannuation age of Non-teaching Specialists sub-cadre, public health sub-cadre, GDMO sub-cadre of CHS to 65 years, the same rule somehow, did not become applicable to Dental Doctors working in Central Government. This has led to feeling of discrimination and grievance among the Central Government Dental Doctors, they said.

The memorandum also sought to note that out of 34 sanctioned posts of Dental Doctors all over India under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, at present only 24 posts are filled and occupied. In other words, this means that the grievance pertaining to the enhancement of retirement age to 65 years in order to make at par with the other doctors of Central Health Services is confined only to 24 doctors who happen to be from Dental Specialty working under the Central Government.

The delegation underlined that they had represented their grievance to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and were now approaching Dr Jitendra Singh.

Dr Jitendra Singh gave a patient hearing to the members of delegation and said that he would take up their grievance with the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

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CWC to draw up a new protocol of online collection of data
Sep 13,2016

The sixth meeting of Cauvery Supervisory Committee was held under the chairmanship of Secretary Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Shri Shashi Shekhar. The committee took a detailed presentation from the Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry and the representative from Kerala. The committee tried to reach to a conclusion but Tamil Nadu and Karnataka did not agree to a particular figure of release of water which was based on scientific facts. In the meanwhile Supreme Court passed another interim order today while the meeting of committee was on. During the discussion it was found that certain information that were required were not available. Those information were related to unauthorized withdrawal of water at a time when it is not permitted. The committee did not wish to pass an order which is not backed by supportive data.

It has also been decided that Central Water Commission will draw up a new protocol of online collection of data related to rainfall and flow of water on real time basis which may be shared simultaneously with all the concerned states. The next meeting of the supervisory committee will be held on 19th September 2016. All the three states and Union Territory of Puducherry have been requested the submitt the relevant information and data by 15th September 2016.

Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu Dr P Rama Mohana Rao, Chief Secretary of Karnataka Shri Arvind Jadhav, Chief Secretary of Puducherry Shri Manoj Parida and senior officials from Kerala, Central Water Commission and Union Water Resources Ministry attended the meeting.

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LNG soon to be the fuel for barges : Haldia Dock earmarks land for LNG storage facilities
Sep 13,2016

The Haldia Dock Complex under Kolkata Port Trust has recently earmarked about 10 acres of land in the vicinity of Haldia Oil Jetty No. 1 for a period of 30 years for setting up of LNG storage facilities, with permission to lay pipelines and install unloading arms through tender cum auction. The project will be undertaken on land lease model by granting lease of land by middle of December, 2016. LNG facilities are expected to be developed within 24 months from date of allotment of land.

This is an important development in context of the recent efforts of the Ministry of Shipping to reduce logistics cost and achieve the COP21 targets on cutting down pollution by introducing the use of LNG as fuel for barges. Use of LNG is expected to save around 20 percent on fuel. Carbon Dioxide emissions are likely to get reduced by 20-25 percent and nitrogen/sulphur oxide emissions by 90 per cent. The government is therefore taking measures to facilitate the movement of LNG and its storage at places situated along the inland waterways. Only a few advanced countries are using LNG powered barges at present. Therefore in that sense, the development at Haldia Dock Complex can be seen as a very positive one.

The efforts to introduce LNG as barge fuel is part of the overall efforts to promote transport on inland waterways and coastal shipping. Inland Water Transport (IWT) is a cost effective and environment friendly system and a lot of importance is being accorded to it since the last two years. Work is already on for construction of terminals and other activities to facilitate navigation on river Ganga under the Jal Marg Vikas.

The Ministry of Shipping has been regularly holding discussions with Petronet LNG (PLL) and Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). PLL is in the process of preparing a Detailed Feasibility Report for setting up LNG facilities at Haldia, Sahibganj, Patna and Ghazipur on NW-I (Ganga) as per an MoU signed by them with IWAI during the Maritime India Summit in Mumbai in April this year. In the last follow up meeting earlier this month, IWAI was requested to share the details of projections on the cargo and pattern of traffic on NW-1 as per a study conducted for the Jal Marg Vikas Project so as to enable PLL to estimate the demand for LNG. As a long term market for transportation of coal on LNG barges from the Eastern Coal Fields to various thermal power houses on Ganga, IWAI agreed to share with PLL the information they had gathered. The construction of LNG barges at Indian shipyards would be entitled to the 20 per cent subsidy through the ship building subsidy scheme whose guidelines have already been released by the Shipping Ministry.

PLL was also requested to list out in detail the infrastructure support needed for moving to LNG as fuel for barges and specify the milestone for achieving the activities required to be accomplished. The LNG storage hubs may be built along the river Ganga which would facilitate potential gas consumers in the hinterland also as LNG has the potential to replace LPG, Naphtha, and HFO fuel. It would serve a variety of industries such as metal, ceramic and glass, food processing, refractorys etc. as well as heavy mining machineries. LNG could even fuel the road transport sector.

Goa and Maharashtra also have a tremendous potential for introduction of LNG barges on their waterways. PLL was requested to explore the introduction of LNG barges for that region also. Similarly the option of LNG based vessels on NH-5 was also discussed in the meeting this month.

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Postal complaints in the country will be solved within 24 hours- Sinha
Sep 13,2016

Ministry of Communications launched India Post Help Centre and a Toll Free Number 1924 to address the grievances of people in the Country related to Department of Posts. Inaugurating the Help Centre here, Minister of Communications, Shri Manoj Sinha said that the move comes in the wake of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modis PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) review meetings, where he exhorts the Union Ministers to actively address the grievances of the common man by setting up and strengthening Public Redressal Grievances Mechanism.

Shri Sinha said that the Help Centre has been launched in three languages -Hindi, English and Malayalam and gradually all regional languages will be included which are mentioned in the Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

He said, the Help Centre will be functioning from 8 A.M to 8 P.M on all working days except holidays. Shri Sinha said that soon, in every circle a nodal officer will be appointed to bring efficiency in redressal mechanism.

The Minister stressed that except in the case of policy decisions, all complaints related to postal services will be addressed within 24 Hours. Shri Sinha recalled that last month he had launched n++Twitter Sewan++ for addressing the complaints and concerns of common man and other stake-holders in the telecom and postal sectors, where on an average 100 complaints are received daily related to postal services. He said, the Department of Posts is one of the 8th largest Department/Ministry in terms of numbers of complaints received. A toll free helpline number 1924 would be available for customers from all over India from landline/mobile phone of service providers namely AirTel, Idea, Vodaphone, Telenor, Aircel, MTS, Reliance etc.

The complaints received from the complainant on toll free number 1924 would be registered in Computerized Customer Centre (CCC) Portal by the operators at the Dak Bhawan and the 11 digits ticket number would be provided to the complainants. If the complaint already registered, the complainant would be informed the status as viewed in CCC Portal. As soon as the complaint is generated on CCC Portal, the concerned post office will take immediate necessary action to resolve it and would upload the status.

All the Postal Circles will have a Control Room for monitoring and redressal of complaints. The Nodal Officer in each Circle will open the CCC Portal every day and check all the complaints beginning with n++100030 - n++n++ the Toll Free Complaintsn++ and will examine for quick disposal. The Circle Heads would direct to all the Post Offices concerned to ensure that they log in CCC Portal at the beginning of day and at the end of the day compulsorily.

The case disposal time is one working day subject to policy matters. The complainant would be informed, if it involves policy matter. A reasonable reply should be uploaded in the CCC Portal. The Circle will update the status of each such cases every 24 hrs. through email on The name of Officers with email address and mobile number in each Circle who will be Nodal Officer, should be sent on email .CPMG should review the 1924 pending cases every day and in case of pendency going beyond 24 hours would give full details and convey his/her observation to PG Cell of Directorate which will provide weekly report to the Office of Secretary (Posts). The Circles would provide utmost priority and quick disposal of the complaints received through Toll Free Centre. All the Circles would propagate and give wide publicity of n++Toll Free Number 1924n++ within their jurisdiction through appropriate medium within budgetary limit.

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Enhancing Buffer Stock of Pulses to 20 LMT
Sep 13,2016

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution today here brief the media about the initiatives taken by the Government to check the price rise of pulses.

The Minister said that the main reason for unprecedented price rise in pulses has been two years of deficit rainfall and consequently drought-like situation in the entire country. Due to this, the production of pulses was less as compared to that in previous years, as a result of which there was huge demand-supply gap. This provided an opportunity for middlemen and hoarders to stock and speculate the price of pulses.

Highlighting the statistics, the Minister said that the production of pulses sharply declined from 192.5 LMT in the year 2013-14 to 171.4 LMT in 2014-15 and to around 165 LMT in 2015-16. Though the import figures increased to 45 LMT in 2014-15 and 58 LMT in 2015-16, there was a net deficit in supplies.

Shri Paswan said that fortunately, this year, there has been good rainfall and the acreage of pulses has gone up. It is expected that the production of pulses will exceed 200 LMT in the year 2016-17.

The Minister said that Government took various steps to check rising prices of pulses by banning export and allowing import of pulses at zero duty. In the last two years MSP of pulses has been increased considerably by providing bonus. The MSP for Arhar was increased from Rs. 4350 per qtl. in the year 2014-15 to Rs. 4625 per qtl. in the year 2015-16. This year, the MSP of Arhar has been increased by Rs. 425 per qtl. and now it is Rs. 5050 per qtl. Similarly, in case of Urad the MSP now is Rs. 5000 per qtl., an increase of Rs. 650 per qtl. in two years. The MSP for Moong is Rs. 5225 per qtl., an increase of Rs. 625 per qtl. in the last two years.

Buffer Stock

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan said that Government took a decision to create buffer stock of 1.5 LMT pulses. However, looking at the trend of prices and demand-supply gap, it was increased to 5 LMT and then to 8 LMT. Now as per the decision of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs today, the buffer stock has been increased to 20 LMT. The salient features of buffer stock are as follows:

10 LMT will be created through domestic procurement operations to be undertaken by FCI, NAFED and SFAC.

10 LMT will be created through import of pulses which will be through G2G contract and/or spot purchase from the global market.

The stock position of buffer stock at present is 3 LMT, out of which 1.81 LMT is imported pulses and 1.19 LMT is domestic procurement.

The allocation of pulses from buffer stock would be made to States and Central Agencies.

Pulses would be released through Open Market Sales as well.

Professional agency for management of buffer stock may be engaged.

Shri Paswan said that all this has been possible due to personal intervention of Prime Minister who took the issue of price rise on high priority and formed a High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Finance Minister. Enhancing the buffer stock to 20 LMT was one of the recommendations of this Committee, which the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved.

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