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Cabinet approves Policy for providing preference to domestically manufactured iron & steel products in government procurement
May 04,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the policy for providing preference to domestically manufactured iron & steel products on Government procurement

This policy seeks to accomplish the PMs vision of Make in India with objective of nation building and encourage domestic manufacturing.

The policy mandates to provide preference to Domestically Manufactured Iron & Steel Products (DM1&SP), in Government Procurement. The policy is applicable on all government tenders where price bid is yet to be opened,

DMI&SP policy provides a minimum value addition of 15% in notified steel products which are covered under preferential procurement. In order to provide flexibility, Ministry of Steel may review specified steel products and the minimum value addition criterion.

While implementing who shall provide the policy, it poses trust on each domestic manufacturer who shall provide self-certification to the procuring Government agency declaring that the iron & steel products are domestically manufactured in terms of the domestic value addition prescribed. It shall not normally be the responsibility of procuring agency to verify the correctness of the claim. In few cases, the onus of demonstrating the correctness-of the same shall be on the bidder when asked to do so.

In case any manufacturer is aggrieved, a grievance redressal committee set up under the Ministry op Steel shall dispose of the complaint in a time bound manner, in four weeks

There are provisions in the policy for waivers to all such procurements, where specific grades of steel are not manufactured in the country, or the quantities as per the demand of the project cannot be met through domestic sources.

The policy is envisaged to promote growth and development of domestic steel Industry and reduce the inclination to use, low quality low cost imported steel in Government funded projects. It shall be the responsibility of every Government Agency to ensure implementation of the policy.

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Cabinet approves modifications in the 7th CPC recommendations on pay and pensionary benefits
May 04,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved important proposals relating to modifications in the 7th CPC (Central Pay Commission) recommendations on pay and pensionary benefits in the course of their implementation. Earlier, in June, 2016, the Cabinet had approved implementation of the recommendations with an additional financial outgo of Rs 84,933 crore for 2016-17 (including arrears for 2 months of 2015-16).

The benefit of the proposed modifications will be available with effect from 1st January, 2016, i.e., the date of implementation of 7th CPC recommendations. With the increase approved by the Cabinet, the annual pension bill alone of the Central Government is likely to be Rs.1,76,071 crore. Some of the important decisions of the Cabinet are mentioned below:

1. Revision of pension of pre - 2016 pensioners and family pensioners

The Cabinet approved modifications in the recommendations of the 7th CPC relating to the method of revision of pension of pre-2016 pensioners and family pensioners based on suggestions made by the Committee chaired by Secretary (Pensions) constituted with the approval of the Cabinet. The modified formulation of pension revision approved by the Cabinet will entail an additional benefit to the pensioners and an additional expenditure of approximately Rs.5031 crore for 2016-17 over and above the expenditure already incurred in revision of pension as per the second formulation based on fitment factor. It will benefit over 55 lakh pre-2016 civil and defence pensioners and family pensioners.

While approving the implementation of the 7th CPC recommendations on 29th June, 2016, the Cabinet had approved the changed method of pension revision recommended by the 7th CPC for pre-2016 pensioners, comprising of two alternative formulations, subject to the feasibility of the first formulation which was to be examined by the Committee.

In terms of the Cabinet decision, pensions of pre-2016 pensioners were revised as per the second formulation multiplying existing pension by a fitment factor of 2.57, though the pensioners were to be given the option of choosing the more beneficial of the two formulations as per the 7th CPC recommendations.

In order to provide the more beneficial option to the pensioners, Cabinet has accepted the recommendations of the Committee, which has suggested revision of pension based on information contained in the Pension Payment Order (PPO) issued to every pensioner. The revised procedure of fixation of notional pay is more scientific, rational and implementable in all the cases. The Committee reached its findings based on an analysis of hundreds of live pension cases. The modified formulation will be beneficial to more pensioners than the first formulation recommended by the 7th CPC, which was not found to be feasible to implement on account of non-availability of records in a large number of cases and was also found to be prone to several anomalies.

2. Disability Pension for Defence Pensioners

The Cabinet also approved the retention of percentage-based regime of disability pension implemented post 6th CPC, which the 7th CPC had recommended to be replaced by a slab-based system.

The issue of disability pension was referred to the National Anomaly Committee by the Ministry of Defence on account of the representation received from the Defence Forces to retain the slab-based system, as it would have resulted in reduction in the amount of disability pension for existing pensioners and a reduction in the amount of disability pension for future retirees when compared to percentage-based disability pension.

The decision which will benefit existing and future Defence pensioners would entail an additional expenditure of approximately Rs. 130 crore per annum.

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Cabinet approves cooperation between Indian and Japan on Railway Safety
May 04,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval to the signing the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with Japan on Railway Safety. The MoC has already been signed in February, 2017.

The signing of MoC will enable cooperation in the following areas:

i. Track Safety (e.g. rail welding, rail inspection, track circuit etc.) ii. Latest technology related to railway track safety (automatic inspection technology etc.)

ii. Rolling stock safety (e.g. maintenance etc.)

iii. Any other relevant railway safety matter jointly determined by both the sides within the scope of this MoC with consideration for major railway accident preventions based on the analysis of accident causes.

The MoC would provide a platform for Indian Railways to interact and share the latest development and knowledge in the railway sector. The cooperation under this MoC will involve:

a. Dispatch of experts

b. Training of core staff in Japan

c. Sharing of information and best practices

d. Facilitating the participation of other institutions, organization and ministries, including contribution of National Traffic Safety and Environmental Laboratory of Japan to Research Design and Standards Organisation, Ministry of Railway, Government of India (RDSO), subject to their respective national laws and regulations where appropriate and possible.

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Cabinet approves MoU on Urea manufacturing Plant in Malaysia
May 04,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval to the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia on development of a Urea and Ammonia manufacturing plant in Malaysia with off take to India and/or off take of existing surplus Urea from Malaysia to India.

The project is expected to cost US$ 2.1 billion with capacity to produce 2.4 million tonnes of Urea and 1.35 million tonnes of Ammonia per annum and dedicated supplying to Indian market.

The signing of MoU will ensure consistent supply of Urea and Ammonia to cater the need of the country at a lower price, if agreed to by both the participants.

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Global air freight demand increases 14% in March 2017: IATA
May 03,2017

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released March 2017 demand growth results for global air freight markets showing a 14% expansion measured in freight tonne kilometers (FTKs) compared to the same period last year. This was the fastest pace of growth recorded since October 2010. Freight capacity, measured in available freight tonne kilometers (AFTKs), grew by 4.2% year-on-year in March 2017.

March performance contributed to very strong first quarter (Q1) growth in freight volumes. After adjusting for the impact of the leap year in 2016, freight demand in Q1 2017 increased by nearly 11%. Capacity increased by 3.7% over the same period (leap year adjusted).

The strengthening of air freight demand in March is consistent with an uptick in world trade and a six-year high in new export orders. An increase in the shipment of silicon materials typically used in high-value consumer electronics shipped by air, is also likely underpinning a portion of the strong performance.

March capped a robust first quarter with the strongest year-on-year air freight growth in six-and-a-half years. Optimism is returning to the industry as the business stabilizes after many years in the doldrums. There is, however, still much lost ground to recover while facing the dual headwinds of rising fuel and labor costs. It remains critical to use the improvement in the industrys fortunes as an opportunity to enhance the value offering by implementing modern customer-centric initiatives that streamline processes and reduce costs, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA s Director General and CEO.

Regional Performance

All regions, with the exception of Latin America, reported year-on-year increases in demand in March 2017. Airlines in Europe and Asia-Pacific posted the strongest growth accounting for two-thirds of the industry-wide increase in demand. The remaining growth was split between North American and Middle Eastern carriers, with African airlines making a modest contribution.

Asia-Pacific airlines freight volumes expanded 13.6% in March 2017 compared to the same period a year earlier and capacity increased by 4.8%. The increase in volumes reflects the strength of the order books reported by exporters across the region. Seasonally-adjusted volumes increased in March and are now back to levels reached in 2010 during the post-global financial crisis bounce-back. Demand has strengthened considerably on all key routes to and from Asia over the last six months with the exception of Pacific routes (Asia to North America).

North American carriers posted an increase in freight volumes of 9.5% in March 2017, and a capacity increase of 2.8%. International freight volumes increased 14.2% over the same period - the fastest pace since the boost to air freight from the consequences of congestion at US West Coast seaports in 2015. Seasonally-adjusted volumes have slowed to a near standstill alongside a weakening in demand in Pacific routes. The further strengthening of the US dollar continues to boost the inbound freight market but is keeping the export market under pressure.

European airlines posted an 18.2% increase in freight volumes in March 2017 and a capacity increase of 6.7%. International freight volumes grew by 18.1% year-on-year, the fastest pace in six years. Seasonally-adjusted freight volumes continue to trend upwards. The ongoing weakness of the Euro persists in boosting the performance of the European freight market which has benefitted from strong export orders over the last few months.

Middle Eastern carriers year-on-year freight volumes increased 16.3% in March 2017 and capacity increased 2.7%. International freight volumes increased 16.4% year-on-year in March - the fastest pace since June 2015. Seasonally-adjusted freight volumes maintained their upward trend. The year-on-year growth rate has recovered after having moderated in late-2015 and is now back in line with the long-run average. Demand remains strong between the Middle East and Europe but traffic to Asia has weakened.

Latin American airlines experienced a contraction in demand of 4.2% in March 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Capacity decreased by 1.9% over the same period. Freight volumes have now been in contractionary territory in 26 out of the last 28 months. Recovery in seasonally-adjusted volumes also stalled with demand in March reaching its lowest level since October 2010. Demand is now 18% lower than at the peak in 2014. The regions carriers have managed to adjust capacity, which has limited the negative impact on the load factor.

African carriers posted the largest year-on-year increase in demand of all regions in March 2017 with freight volumes growing 33.5%. Capacity increased by 6.3% over the same time. Demand has been boosted by very strong growth on the trade lanes to and from Asia following an increase in direct services between the continents. The increase in demand has helped the regions load factor rise by 6 percentage points compared to March 2016.

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Gramin Bank Employees Contribute 29.85 Lakh to Army Battle Casualties Welfare Fund
May 03,2017

The Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of the Punjab National Bank Ms Usha Ananthasubramanian presented a cheque of Rs. 29.85 lakh to Defence Minister Shri Arun Jaitley as donation towards the Army Battle Casualties Welfare Fund, here today. Financial assistance will be provided to the families of the Army Battle Casualties out of this fund. The amount was contributed by the employees of the Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank, which is sponsored by the Punjab National Bank.

While accepting the cheque, Shri Jaitley appreciated the concern shown by the employees of the Bank towards the families of the defence personnel who have sacrificed their lives for the country and expressed his confidence that such efforts will be continued by them towards this noble cause.

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Domestic Manufacturing to be Given Preference in Public Procurement
May 03,2017

Visa restrictions need not be detrimental to India, said Cabinet Secretary, Mr Pradeep K Sinha.

A constructive engagement where both the Central and the State government work in tandem and engage with industry to take the reform agenda forward is critical to reduce Cost of Doing Business and take the economy to the higher growth trajectory. Mr Sinha dispelled apprehensions about the globalisation process turning restrictive due to inward looking policies of the advanced countries. While visa restrictions and curbs on people movement is a worry, this cannot be construed as a reversal of globalisation as the trade of goods is not impacted. He felt that as far as visa restrictions are concerned, our domestic economy has the absorptive capacity to tackle the situation.

Mr Sinha mentioned the reforms process being undertaken to develop a conducive ecosystem for attracting business. These include creating a simplified business climate especially in terms of starting, operating and exiting a business, ease of doing business reforms, operation of Single Window through portals such as SWIFT, direct delivery through ports, simplification of construction permits and electricity connection, among others. The implementation of the landmark GST reform and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code would help business operations. A focus on infrastructure development is another area of priority for the government. The keen participation of States Government in taking the reforms agenda forward is crucial for success, maintained Mr Sinha.

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Moodys Liquidity-Stress Index down again in April; liquidity checks defaults among spec-grade companies
May 03,2017

Moodys Liquidity-Stress Index (LSI) dipped to its lowest level since July 2015 last month, the rating agency says in its most recent edition of SGL Monitor Flash. The index declined to 4.9% in April from 5.3% in March, with liquidity conditions remaining fundamentally supportive for issuers across the speculative-grade rating spectrum.

Moodys Liquidity-Stress Index falls when corporate liquidity appears to improve and rises when it appears to weaken.

Speculative-grade liquidity continues to keep defaults in check, with a growing economy boosting profits and a lack of meaningful maturity and covenant concerns over the next year, said Senior Vice President John Puchalla. Speculative-grade bond and loan issuance slowed in April, but remained at levels healthy enough to give most companies the flexibility to resolve liquidity issues.

Last month, upgrades of Moodys speculative-grade liquidity (SGL) ratings continued to outnumber downgrades by nine to four, Puchalla says. SGL rating movements were dispersed across industries, with just one energy firm upgraded: Exploration and production company SM Energy Co.s liquidity rating was raised to SGL-1 following asset sales and a shift in spending that should lower its break-even costs.

Also in April, the SGL rating of Hospital operator Quorum Health Corp. was upgraded on the back of a covenant amendment and planned divestitures, while electronic component supplier KEMET Corp. saw its rating raised upon issuance of a new term loan and the refinancing of senior notes due 2018. Conversely, the SGL rating of apparel company Vince LLC was downgraded to SGL-4 on weak operating performance that will pressure its covenant compliance over the next 12 to 18 months.

Moodys forecasts that the US speculative-grade default rate will decline to 3.0% in March 2018 from a 4.7% level today that matches the long-term average.

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Banks Governance Standards to Strengthen on RBIs NPL Guidelines
May 03,2017

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to make disclosures pertaining to divergence in the asset classification and provisioning a step towards improving governance and smoothening transition to IFRS9 (IND AS 109) says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). The additional disclosure requirements for banks would compel banks to tighten their internal non-performing loans (NPLs) recognition and provisioning norms, thereby improving the overall quality of disclosures and provide a platform for more uniform recognition of stressed assets as non-performing across different banks.

Ind-Ra believes the journey towards enhanced governance structure started last year with the clean-up exercise by the RBI in the form of the Asset Quality Review (AQR), where a significant proportion of the unrecognized stressed assets in the system got reclassified which led to a sharp jump in NPLs. Also, in some way, the quantum of divergence would highlight the level of banks proactive governance initiatives and effectively enhances the importance of RBIs assessment from being descriptive to prescriptive. The disclosure norms for divergences enhances the accountability on the banks part to be compliant with the norms. Any sharp divergence is likely to be questioned by the stakeholders.

The requirement for boards of banks to proactively assess risks across sectors and make provisions above the minimum regulatory standards, starting with the telecom sector are intended to strengthen the banks balance sheet for possible shocks on account of deterioration in asset quality. These provisions are also in-line with the migration to IFRS -9 (IND AS 109). This migration is slated to take place from the next year, but the proforma numbers will be released from June 2017 quarter onwards. The new accounting standards would require provisioning based on expected loss replacing the current incurred loss provision.

The blanket higher provisioning however generally seems to have been prescribed for meeting a larger objective and is not necessarily limited to credit risk. The RBI has prescribed higher risk weights for telecom, real estate lending, unhedged foreign exposure, capital market exposure among others. The provisioning enhancement on sectoral exposures in anticipation of credit losses may bring in subjectivity and may achieve the objective only partially. However, Ind-Ra notes that the notification is more in the nature of an advisory for the board and put the onus on them to be cautious and pro-active in terms of identifying the risk that could be building up in specific sectors, especially considering that there may be few large exposures residing and any slippage can impact the banks buffer materially.

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Department of Telecom (DoT) Launches Tarang Sanchar, a web Portal for Information sharing on Mobile Towers and EMF Emission Compliance
May 03,2017

The Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha launched Tarang Sanchar, a web portal for Information sharing on Mobile Towers and EMF Emission Compliances and said that it will go a long way in clearing the myths and misconceptions of public on mobile towers and emissions from them. He expressed the hope that the portal will empower common man to know at the convenience of a mouse click, about towers working in a particular locality and whether they are compliant to the EMF emission norms defined by the Government.

Shri Sinha said that the portal will allow users to get a tower or base station checked for radiation emission, for a fee of Rs 4,000. He said that mobile phone today has become an essential requirement for all including the poor in the remotest corner of the country and no one will be allowed to spread misconception about the harmful radiation from the towers to impede the growth of the country. Shri Sinha reiterated that there are over 25,000 studies by WHO in the last 30 years on the subject and there is no proof that EMF radiation has any harmful effect on human health. Brushing aside growing concerns over the emanating electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiations from mobile towers, the Telecom Minister once again reminded that Indian norms had prescribed 10 times stricter limits for radiation emission in comparison to global standards. He said that more measures are being taken to penalise the erring entities.

Shri Sinha said that to realize the Prime Ministers vision of Digital India, it is necessary to have more and more mobile towers in every nook and corner of the country and the Ministry has already approved installation of towers over government buildings, 16 places in post offices and soon a decision will be taken to install the same in Cantonment Boards, which will not only help in spreading digital connectivity, but will also solve the problem of call drops significantly. Describing the launch of the portal a historic step, the Minister said that in future it will help in identifying the blind spots and added that it is also environment friendly as no paper work is required for this. He said that it has the complete collated technical details of over 14.5 lakh base stations (BTSs) spread across the country of all technologies (2G, 3G, 4G etc.) and of all Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary, DoT Shri P K Pujari said that the portal will make information available to all concerned and he underlined that the focus of the government in the last three years has been transparency, disclosures and citizen-centric measures, which are the hall marks of good governance. He said, though there is no scientific evidence of any health concerns from low power mobile BTSs, a need was felt to educate the citizens about EMF emissions from mobile towers and status of their compliances. Shri Pujari said that the portal has three elements of providing information, EMF compliance process and interface between different departments, besides ease of doing business.

In his address, the Chairman, TRAI Shri R S Sharma said that the portal will be a mile stone for transparency, fair play, citizen empowerment and will finally lead to a knowledge economy. He said that digital empowerment in India is only possible when there is adequate digital infrastructure. Shri Sharma said that mobile phone in India today is not only a talking tool, but it has become an instrument for various transactions including cashless transaction and he lauded the collaborative effort between the government and the industry for this.

Shri G K Upadhyaya, Member (Technology) said that the EMF Portal is designed to provide a public interface where an easy map-based search feature has been provided for viewing the mobile towers in vicinity of any locality. He said the that any person can request for EMF emission measurement at a location by paying a nominal fee of Rs 4000/- online. The tests will be conducted by the local Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) filed unit of DoT and the test report will be provided to the requestor. The portal also has EMF Overview and Learn Sections, which provide numerous articles, booklets and videos, to further educate the citizens about EMF and coverage of telecom services. Shri R K Misra Member (Services) in Telecom Commission in his thanks giving address said that in addition to Government to Citizen (G2C) services, portal also facilitates Government to Business (G2B) service delivery in a transparent and eco-friendly manner.

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Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI rises for fourth straight month in April 2017
May 02,2017

Manufacturing conditions in India improved for the fourth straight month in April. The upturn was signalled by the headline Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers IndexTM (PMITM) - a diffusion index designed to measure the performance of the sector - matching Marchs reading of 52.5. Slower increases in output, stocks of purchases and employment were offset by stronger growth of new orders and lengthening delivery times.

Survey participants attributed new business wins to improving demand conditions and greater advertising. Overall, the upturn in order books was the most pronounced since last October. New export orders rose for the third month in a row, but the rate of expansion eased from March and was slight overall. Concurrently, output grew solidly, though growth softened slightly since the preceding survey period.

Manufacturing jobs rose for the second consecutive month in April, which panellists related to a combination of greater production needs and expectations of a pick up in demand. Nonetheless, the pace of employment growth remained slight overall.

Goods producers signalled a further accumulation of outstanding business, the eleventh in as many months. That said, the rate of expansion eased to the weakest in this sequence and was only slight. Where backlogs increased, survey members reported pending client payments.

Stocks of finished goods dropped for the twenty-second month running during April. However, the rate of depletion slowed to the weakest in the year-to-date. According to panel members, orders were sometimes met from stocks.

The amount of raw materials and semi-finished goods purchased by Indian manufacturers rose in April, in line with the trend recorded throughout the past four months. The rate of expansion was, however, modest and weakened from that seen in March. Stocks of purchases continued to rise, albeit growth eased from the preceding survey period.

Suppliers delivery times lengthened in April, amid reports of lorry strikes. The deterioration in vendor performance was only marginal, but reversed the improvement recorded in March.

Purchasing costs increased for the nineteenth consecutive month in April, with panellists reporting higher prices paid for metals, chemicals and plastics. The rate of cost inflation gathered pace since March and was above the average recorded over the current sequence of rises.

Less than 5% of manufacturers raised their output prices in April, while almost 93% signalled no change. Where selling prices were raised, there were reports of the passing on of higher cost burdens to clients. Firms that reduced charges mentioned attempts to win new customers.

Finally, goods producers were at their most optimistic since last November, with capacity expansion plans, new product developments, greater advertising and favourable market conditions expected to underpin output growth in the year ahead.

Commenting on the Indian Manufacturing PMI survey data, Pollyanna De Lima, Economist at IHS Markit and author of the report, said: Buoyant domestic demand coupled with sustained growth of new orders from abroad boosted the upturn in total new business received by Indian manufacturers in April. Having recovered at the beginning of the year from Decembers demonetisation-related contraction, growth of order books has gathered pace in each month since.

Job seekers in the sector were presented with further employment opportunities, while firms also continued to engage in purchasing activity and scaled up production again.

Scratching beneath the surface we can see that consumers were the key drivers of growth as consumer goods producers registered by far the steepest expansions in both production and new orders.

n++The outlook appears encouraging too, with output expected to remain on an upward trajectory amid reports of planned capacity expansions, new product launches, aggressive marketing campaigns and an improving economic scenario.

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Eight Core infrastructure sector output up 5% in March 2017
May 02,2017

The Eight core infrastructure industries, comprising nearly 38% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), showing healthy 5% increase in production for March 2017. Its production has moved up 4.5% in FY2017 over FY2016.

Coal production (weight: 4.38%) increased by 10.0% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 increased 3.6% over corresponding period of previous year.

Crude Oil production (weight: 5.22%) increased by 0.9% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 declined 2.5% over the corresponding period of previous year.

The Natural Gas production (weight: 1.71%) increased by 8.3% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 declined 1.1% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Petroleum Refinery production (weight: 5.94%) declined by 0.3% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 increased 5.4% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Fertilizer production (weight: 1.25%) declined by 0.8% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 increased 1.8% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Steel production (weight: 6.68%) increased by 11.0% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 increased 9.3% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Cement production (weight: 2.41%) declined by 6.8% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 declined 1.3% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Electricity generation (weight: 10.32%) increased by 5.9% in March 2017 over March 2016. Its cumulative index during April to March 2016-17 increased 5.1% over the corresponding period of previous year.

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Maharajas Express , operated by Railways PSU, IRCTC, to begin its Two new tour circuits focussing especially on Domestic Travellers from June 2017
May 02,2017

The Indian Railway PSU, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) has decided to start two new circuits of their flagship luxury train Maharajas Express, this year. These two new trips have been named as n++Southern Sojournn++ and n++Southern Jewelsn++ which will cover prominent destinations in West and South India. The Southern Sojourn will cover Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Ernakulam, Kumarakom and Trivandrum. The Southern Jewels will cover Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa.

Maharajas Express is known for recreating the royal journeys of yesteryears. Though the regular trip of these two new journeys will take place in September 2017 for this year, however two new tour circuits with a view to cater especially to domestic travellers are being planned during monsoon period of June/July 2017.

Tariff in Indian Rupees has been introduced for the Monsoon Special itineraries. Lucrative offers to attract domestic travellers have also been planned. On the booking of first adult on twin sharing at full cost, the second adult sharing the same cabin will be on Complimentary Basis. Moreover, a guest booking a Deluxe Cabin gets a chance to upgrade to a Junior Suite by paying only 50 % of the difference in tariff between Junior Suite and Deluxe Cabin.

For the very first time part journey has been introduced in the Monsoon Special itineraries of Maharajas Express. Passengers are allowed to avail part of the total journey on a fixed price of USD 500 / ₹ 33250.00 per day per person on twin sharing basis. On single occupancy basis the charges would be USD 800 / ₹ 53200.00. The prices are exclusive of taxes and limited to a maximum of 2 nights 3 days

The Southern Sojourn - Monsoon Special shall start from Mumbai on 24th June 2017 & stop at Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Cochin, Alleppey before terminating at Trivandrum. The Southern Jewels - Monsoon Special shall depart from Trivandrum on 1st July 2017 and terminate at Mumbai covering Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa. Each journey shall be of 8 Days/7 Nights duration.

The regular trip of Southern Sojourn will start from Mumbai on 9 Sep 2017 and Southern Jewels will start from Trivandrum on 16 Sep 2017.

In addition to visits to monuments and sight-seeing at each destination under these trips, the guests shall have an opportunity to enjoy traditional cultural performances at Cochin, visit a Coir Factory and enjoy a cruise with lunch at Alleppey, savour traditional Chettinad Cuisine demo and much more on these fabulous journeys.

For Guests booking online or directly through phone, a special facility is being offered free of cost in the form of redeemable voucher of USD 250 (approx Rs. 16000/-) for each individual guest. Although the vouchers cannot be encashed they can be redeemed against all off-board optionals, liquor bills, on-board boutique purchases and laundry bills.

Maharajas Express commenced its operations in 2010, and since then the train has become the Leading Luxury Train of the World with comparisons to the Royal Scotsman and the Eastern and Oriental Express. The train is the recipient of the coveted Leading Luxury Train of the World Award for the last five years in a row since 2012.

The 23 coach long Maharajas Express, with a capacity of 88 guests, is a cut above other luxury trains in each aspect - the cabin experience, onboard dining, the excursions and events organized for guests. The train has state of the art features with on-board water filtration plant, spacious cabin sizes with no bunk beds, two bars cum lounges, two restaurants and of course a well trained on-board team to cater to global expectations.

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Successful auction of one limestone block in Raipur District concludes; estimated cumulative revenue of Rs 11,894 Cr to State
May 02,2017

The State Government of Chattisgarh has successfully auctioned one block of Limestone (Kesla II) in Raipur District with reserves of 215 million tonnes as on today. The preferred bidder for this block is M/s Dalmia (Bharat) Cement. This block has an estimated value of mineral resource of Rs 10,367 crores. With a reserve price of 5%, the block received a highest bid of 96.15% which translates into estimated cumulative revenue of Rs 11,894 crores to State Government over the lease period. The additionality to States exchequer through auctions only, works out to be Rs.9,968 Crores over the lease period whereas Royalty, District Mineral Foundation (DMF) and National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) would contribute Rs 1,720 Crore, Rs 172 Crore and Rs 34.4 Crore respectively.

With this successful auction of one limestone block in Raipur District, a total of twenty two blocks with estimated value of resources over 1 lakh Crore has been disposed of in a transparent manner till date. The total estimated revenue accrued to the State Governments over the lease period stands at Rs 85,253 Crores with Rs 67,502 Crore as additionality to the States exchequer through auctions. Out of this the cumulative Royalty, District Mineral Fund (DMF) and National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) contributions work out to be Rs. 17,752 Crores (Rs. 15,850 Crores, Rs.1,590 Crores and Rs.317 Crores, respectively).

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Cyprus seeks Indian investments to enhance ties: Nicos Anastasiades
May 02,2017

H.E. Mr Nicos Anastasiades, Honble President of the Republic of Cyprus urged Indian industry to invest in the countrys key areas including banking and finance, shipping and transportation, education, science and technology, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and tourism in order to stimulate trade and investments between the two countries said at `India -Cyprus Business Session` jointly organized by ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI.

He said, Cyprus`s shipping industry has been one of the most successful export services of our country, as Cyprus enjoys the privilege of being one of the most influential global hubs for ship owning and ship management services, and home to some of the world`s most prominent names in shipping; offering competitive ship registration costs and favourable tax regime for ship management and other international business enterprises.

The education sector also has the capacity of becoming another significant area of collaboration between Cyprus and India. The three state Universities, and the five highly esteemed private universities offer a wide range of courses and degree programmes, attracting foreign students from all over the world, rendering the island a major educational centre in the region.

Another field of great prospect relates to science and technology, on which India possesses much-needed and much-welcomed experience and expertise, which could greatly benefit Cyprus. Attracting talent is very important for boosting our entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystem. For this reason, we have very recently introduced an attractive n++Start-up Visa Schemen++, under which startups from India can easily locate in Cyprus and have easy access to the EU market.

Other areas of co-operation which could be actively explored are those of renewable energy on which Cyprus has a long-standing expertise, and Tourism, Mr Nicos Anastasiades added.

In this respect, the Protocol on Air Services Agreement to be signed on Friday in New Delhi can pave the way for establishing direct connectivity between our two countries; thus increasing the so far very modest number of tourism exchanges if one considers the potential that this sector holds. A new strategy recently completed aims to diversify and enrich the tourist product. With the first luxury casino resort, the marinas and other major projects this is a space to watch out for new investments, said the Cyprus President.

n++Cyprus is now emerging stronger than ever from an unprecedented crisis and our journey along the road to recovery has been faster than anyone could predict, enjoying one of the fastest growing economies of the EU; currently just short of 3% of the GDPn++.

n++We recognise the importance of maintaining sound public finances. We are committed to maintain a stable and competitive tax regime. We shall continue to invest in our human capital, supporting higher education and researchn++.

In particular, the Government has developed a new legal framework, which establishes the procedure of direct licensing of large investments, and it applies on pilot cases a fast track licensing mechanism for investment projects. I would encourage foreign investors, including Indian investors, to invest in projects in Cyprus, which the Presidency can promote through its fast track mechanism for receiving the relevant licenses within short and specific timeframes.

Mr Sandeep Jajodia, President, ASSOCHAM said, n++Cyprus is not only an attractive investment destination but could be used as a gateway to EU for Indian businesses. The other area where India can contribute is imparting and providing host of digital skills and services. Besides, India can provide world class healthcare facilities which will complement your booming tourism sectorn++.

Mr. Deep Kapuria, Chairman, CII Central Europe Committee, and Chairman, Hi-Tech Group said that Cyprus location in the Eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of three continents gives it easy access to the markets of West Asia, North Africa, Russia and Southern Europe. It can act as a gateway to these regions for Indian companies, particularly the EU of which it is a member state.

Mr. Rakesh Bakshi, Sr. FICCI Executive Committee Member and Chairman & Managing Director, RRB Energy Ltd added, enriching and broad-basing our economic relations would hold us good and role of tourism and hospitality sector can play an integral role in catapulting our relations to next level. Information technology & information technology enabled services, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and R&D, to mention a few will certainly and needed verve to our economic engagements.

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