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Agriculture: Doubling Farmers Incomes by 2022-NITI Aayog
Apr 26,2017

In May 2016, the Prime Ministers Office advised the NITI Aayog, its premier, independent think tank, to prepare a Fifteen Year Vision, Seven Year Strategy and Three Year Action Agenda. The Fifteen Year Vision and Seven Year Strategy document spanning 2017-18 to 2031-32 is in progress. The Action Agenda covers the period from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the last years of the Fourteenth Finance Commission.

How does the Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda exercise differ from the Five Year Plan process?

The 12th Five Year Plan was the last of the Five Year Plans. With an increasingly open and liberalized economy and given the new realities of the global economy, we needed to rethink the tools and approaches to conceptualizing the development process. The Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda framework will allow us to better align the development strategy with the changed reality of India.

An Overview of the Three Year Action Agenda

In preparing the Agenda, the NITI Aayog sought and received inputs from State Governments, Union Territories and Ministries of the Central Government. Extensive consultations were held with groups of scientists, economists, journalists, voluntary organizations, industry associations and experts in education, health, culture, transport and other fields. Numerous experts and institutions provided useful written inputs.

The Draft Agenda was circulated to NITI Aayogs Governing Council Members on April 23, 2016. It contains ambitious yet achievable proposals to achieve far-reaching changes in Indias economy. Where relevant, we have included possible actions by the states to complement the Centres efforts. The document has 7 parts with 24 chapters.

Selected Key Action Agenda Items

Three Year Revenue and Expenditure Framework:

n++ A tentative medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) for the Centre is proposed. Based on forecasts of revenue, it proposes sector-wise expenditure allocation for three years.

n++ Proposes reduction of the fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP by 2018-19, and the revenue deficit to 0.9% of the GDP by 2019-20.

n++ The roadmap consisting of shifting additional revenues towards high priority sectors: health, education, agriculture, rural development, defence, railways, roads and other categories of capital expenditure.

Agriculture: Doubling Farmers Incomes by 2022

n++ Reform the Agricultural Produce Marketing to ensure that farmers receive remunerative prices.

n++ Raise productivity through enhanced irrigation, faster seed replacement and precision agriculture.

n++ Shift to high value commodities: horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries.

n++ A separate detailed roadmap issued by Member, Professor Ramesh Chand

Industry and Services: Job Creation n++ Overarching Action Points

n++ Create Coastal Employment Zones to boost exports and generate high-productivity jobs.

n++ Enhance labour-market flexibility through reforming key laws

n++ Address the high and rising share of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in Indias banks through supporting the auction of larger assets to private asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), and strengthening the State Bank of India-led ARC.

n++ Action points for specific sectors

n++ Apparel

n++ Leather and footwear

n++ Electronics

n++ Food processing

n++ Gems and jewelry

n++ Tourism

n++ Finance

n++ Real estate.

Urban Development

n++ Need to bring down land prices to make housing affordable through increased supply of urban land

1. More flexible conversion rules from one use to another

2. Release of land held by sick units

3. Release of other urban land potentially available

4. More generous Floor Space Index.

n++ Reform the Rent Control Act along the lines of Model Tenancy Act;

n++ Initiate titles of urban property

n++ Promote dormitory housing

n++ Address issues related to city transportation infrastructure and waste management.

Regional strategies

n++ Actions targeted aimed at improving development outcomes in the (i) North Eastern Region, (ii) Coastal Areas & Islands, (iii) North Himalayan states and (iv) Desert and Drought prone states.

Transport and Digital Connectivity

n++ Strengthen infrastructure in roadways, railways, shipping & ports, inland waterways and civil aviation.

n++ Ensure last-mile digital connectivity, particularly for e-governance and financial inclusion, through developing infrastructure, simplifying the payments structure and improving literacy.

n++ Facilitate Public-Private reorienting the role of the India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd. (IIFCL), introducing low cost debt instruments and operationalizing the National Investment Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).


n++ Adopt consumer friendly measures such as provision of electricity to all households by 2022, LPG connection to all BPL households, elimination of black carbon by 2022, and extension of the city gas distribution programme to 100 smart cities.

n++ Reduce the cross-subsidy in the power sector to ensure competitive supply of electricity to industry.

n++ Reform the coal sector by setting up a regulator, encouraging commercial mining and improving labour productivity.

Science & Technology

n++ Create comprehensive database of all government schemes and evaluate them for desirable changes

n++ Develop guidelines for PPPs in S&T to improve education and industry-academia linkages for demand-driven research

n++ Channel S&T to address development challenges such as access to education, improving agricultural productivity and wastewater management.

n++ Create a n++National Science, Technology & Innovation Foundationn++ to identify and deliberate national issues, recommend priority interventions in S&T and prepare frameworks for their implementation

n++ Streamline the administration of the patent regime


n++ Re-calibrate the role of the government by shrinking its involvement in activities that do not serve a public purpose and expanding its role in areas that necessarily require public provision

n++ Implement the roadmap on closing select loss-making PSEs and strategic disinvestment of 20 identified CPSEs.

n++ Expand the governments role in public health and quality education.

n++ Strengthen the civil services through better human resource management, e-governance, addressing anomalies in tenures of secretaries and increasing specialization and lateral entry.

Taxation and Regulation

n++ Tackle tax evasion, expand the tax base and simplify the tax system through reforms. For example, consolidate existing custom duty rates to a unified rate.

n++ Create an institutional mechanism for promoting competition through comprehensive review and reform of government regulations across all sectors.

n++ Strengthen public procurement

The Rule of Law

n++ Undertake significant judicial system reforms including increased ICT use, structured performance evaluation and reduced judicial workload.

n++ Legislative, administrative and operational reforms of police are suggested to the states.

Education and Skill Development

n++ Shift the emphasis on the quality of school education paying particular attention to foundational learning

n++ Move away from input-based to outcome-based assessments

n++ Rank outcomes across jurisdictions

n++ Use ICT judiciously to align teaching to the students level and pace

n++ Revisit the policy of automatic promotion up to eighth grade


Online Statement Of Transaction (e-SOT) and the e-PRAN card launched for Atal Pension Yojana (APY) subscribers
Apr 26,2017

With a view to digitally empower the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) subscribers and improve the quality of service, the facility of online viewing of the statement of transaction(e-SOT) and also the e-PRAN card have been launched. More than 45 lacs APY subscribers are likely to be benefitted. The APY subscribers can visit the website: or under the Atal Pension Yojana Section to avail these value added facilities. By providing the APY/PRAN Acct details and Savings Bank Account number details, the APY subscriber can view ones APY Account Statement. Even for the APY subscriber who does not have his APY PRAN number readily available can also avail these facilities by providing ones Date of Birth and Savings Bank Account number details. This online tool enables the Subscribers to view his complete details of APY account like transaction details, pension amount, pension commencement date, nominee name, associated bank name etc. Even though the feature is a self-servicing tool but the service providers can also access the feature on behalf of their customer to improve the quality of customer service. APY Subscribers can print their e PRAN card and get it laminated for their future reference if needed. In case of any changes in the demographic details in the APY account, the subscribers can re-print their e-PRAN which shows the updated subscriber records.

The Atal Pension Yojana (APY) Scheme is being implemented through 235 APY-Service Providers all over the country consisting of 27 Public Sector Banks (PSBs), 19 private banks, 1 foreign bank, 56 Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), 109 District Cooperative Banks (DCBs), 16 State Cooperative Banks(SCBs), 6 Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs) and the Department of Posts. All the APY-SPs are partners in achieving the APY outreach through-out the length and breadth of the country. Presently, there are more than 45 lacs subscribers registered in the Scheme. About 10000-15000 APY subscribers are getting enrolled into the Scheme every day.

The Atal Pension Yojana (APY) was launched by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi on 09th May, 2015 and became operational from 1st June, 2015. APY is available for all citizens of India in the age group of 18-40 years. Under the APY, the subscribers would receive a minimum guaranteed pension of Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 per month from the age of 60 years, depending on their contributions, which depends on the age of the subscriber at the time of joining the APY. The Same amount of pension is paid to the spouse in case of subscribers demise. After the demise of both i.e. Subscriber & Spouse, the nominee would be paid with the pension corpus. There is option for Spouse to continue to contribute for balance period on premature death of subscriber before 60 years, so as to avail pension by Spouse. There are tax benefits at entry, accumulation and pension payment phases. If the actual returns on the pension contributions during the accumulation phase are higher than the assumed returns for the minimum guaranteed pension, such excess returns are passed on to the subscriber, resulting in enhanced scheme benefits.

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PFRDA smoothens the Process of Registration of Retirement Advisers
Apr 26,2017

In order to smoothen the process of registration of Retirement Advisers, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has transformed the process of submitting application from physical mode to online mode.

The applicants can now submit their application online and upload scanned images of all the required documents. This will reduce the application processing time. PFRDA is registering Retirement Advisers for widening the coverage of NPS by facilitating on boarding of the subscribers and also providing advisory services to them for allocating assets under NPS and choosing Pension Fund Managers.

n++Retirement Advisern++ can be any individual, registered partnership firm, body corporate, or any registered trust or society, which desires to engage in the activity of providing advice on National Pension System or other pension schemes regulated by PFRDA to prospects / existing subscribers or other persons or group of persons and is registered as such under the PFRDA (Retirement Advisers) Regulations.

NISM and FPSB India are providing necessary certification in order to become eligible for registration as Retirement Adviser. However, Investment Advisers registered with SEBI are exempted from the requirement of such certifications and they can directly submit their application to PFRDA for registration.

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World Bank Board Approves US$ 116.20 Million Project to Strengthen Capacity of Urban Bodies in Madhya Pradesh, India
Apr 25,2017

The World Bank Board approved a US$116.20 million loan for the Madhya Pradesh Urban Development Project to strengthen the financial and administrative capacity of the Madhya Pradesh Urban Development Company (MPUDC). MPUDC will serve as a nodal implementing agency for the state and support Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to implement citywide infrastructure improvement projects.

Based on the World Banks previous engagement with similar state municipal finance agencies in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, as well as its international experience in developing and strengthening similar institutions, the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) has now sought World Bank support for the institutional development of the MPUDC to help improve key urban services provided by ULBs, mainly in the areas of water and sanitation. MPUDC will also support GoMP prepare a plan for developing the Bhopal Indore Super Corridor (BISCO) region.

The project will support urban policy reforms in the state as identified under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), a mission aimed at transforming 500 cities and towns into efficient urban living spaces. At least 51 ULBs have been selected to implement these reforms.

Over 850,000 urban residents, of which at least 45 percent will be women, are expected to benefit directly through access to improved urban services across a range of urban sectors, mostly water and sanitation. With the consolidation of MPUDC as a nodal implementing agency of the state, many more residents are expected to be benefited through a series of investments undertaken by other development agencies and central government schemes.

Over the years Madhya Pradesh has undertaken some key reform actions in the urban sector like the enactment of the Madhya Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act to ensure timely delivery of essential municipal services from a single window; establishment of citizen facilitation centers; introduction of common tendering and integrated computerized standard schedule of rates; design of a municipal e-governance system for all ULBs in the state (e-Nagar Palika); and development of automated building plan permission systems among others.

However, the state continues to face relatively low levels of access to basic services such as water, sewerage, street lighting, refuse disposal, and lighting. Three in ten poor people in urban MP have no access to piped water; and over half have no sanitation.

The project will support six areas of urban policy reforms for 51 ULBs. They include reforms related to property tax, user charges, advertisement tax, accounting, budgeting, and credit improvement. It will help improve the efficiency in property tax collection, develop a state-level policy for user charges, monitor reforms to ensure that all ULBs migrate completely to double entry accrual systems as part of its e-Nagar Palika initiative, and revamp the budgeting process in certain ULBs to enable them to clearly forecast their increased financial obligations to manage investments, among others. These reform areas have been selected from the list of reforms identified by the national AMRUT program.

Climate change co-benefits

Madhya Pradesh is considered to be vulnerable to climate change. It is highly susceptible to variations in distribution and patterns of rainfall, which, in turn, affects access to drinking water currently sourced largely (almost 95 percent) from underground sources. The 2014 MP State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) has identified water pollution as a critical area of concern, and treatment of municipal wastewater is a stated priority of the government. This project will address some of the climate vulnerabilities through its infrastructure investments. It is estimated that US$36.5 million or 31.4 percent of the loan will result in climate change co-benefits through investments in water supply and sewerage.

n++The objective of this project is to develop institutions to ensure that good-quality urban infrastructure projects are made sustainable at the local level. The focus of this project is to support the Government of Madhya Pradesh develop the right rules, procedures, human capital and technical capacity of the MPUDC so that it can strengthen the ULBs to perform efficiently,n++ said Uri Raich and Abhijit Ray, World Banks Senior Urban Specialists and co-Task Team Leaders for the project.

The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period and a final maturity of 35 years.

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Centre Takes Ten New Swachh Iconic Places under Swachh Bharat Mission
Apr 25,2017

The second quarterly review meeting on the Swachh Iconic Places (SIP), an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission, in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir. Ten Swachh Iconic Places are already implementing action plans in phase 1.

Shri Narendra Singh Tomar announced ten new Iconic places to be taken under the Phase II of Swachh Iconic Places initiative. These ten new iconic places which are to be brought to a higher standard of swachhta and visitors amenities are : 1. Gangotri, 2. Yamunotri. 3. Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain, 4. Char Minar, Hyderabad, 5. Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assissi, Goa, 6. Adi Shankaracharyas abode Kaladi in Ernakulam, 7. Gomateshwar in Shravanbelgola, 8. Baijnath Dham, Devghar, 9. Gaya Tirth in Bihar and 10. Somnath temple in Gujarat.

The ten Iconic places already in Phase I are: 1. Ajmer Sharif Dargah 2. CST Mumbai 3. Golden Temple, Amritsar 4. Kamakhya Temple, Assam 5. Maikarnika Ghat, Varanasi 6. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai 7. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Katra, J&K 8. Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri 9. The Taj Mahal, Agra 10. Tirupati Temple, Tirumala.

Shri Tomar highlighted the progress made under Swachh Bharat Mission. He told the meeting that the country has made fast and remarkable progress with sanitation coverage increasing to 64% with 1.92 lakh villages becoming ODF.

J&K Governor, Shri NN Vohra, released the compendium of SIP Action Plans and in his address; he highlighted the achievements of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) and pointed out the crucial need of waste management, especially management as the next step. He said that the state needs special technical support from the SIP initiative.

The State government declared Reasi Open Defecation Free (ODF) block of J&K. Union MoS, Dr. Jitendra Singh and MoS, J&K, Shri Ajay Nanda felicitated District and block officials of Reasi. Dr. Jitendra Singh highlighted the importance of mass awareness and behaviour change for achieving the goal of Swachh Bharat.

Two Water ATMs in Katra town were inaugurated by the Union Minister, Shri Tomar on the occasion.

Secretary, MDWS presented the SIP status report of first two quarters and highlighted the key initiatives launched by Phase I sites towards improving the cleanliness, sanitation and accessibility facilities at these sites.

Earlier, Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, Shri NN Vohra reviewed the progress made by SMVDB in the two quarters and the detailed action plan for the ongoing and planned projects under SIP.

The central delegation led by the Secretary, MDWS visited various sanitation infrastructure and facilities on the way and at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Temple Shrine. He also inaugurated a reverse vending machine installed at the shrine. Shri Iyer assured of all the support and resources to the shrine board under SIP.

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GST is a win-win situation for the entire country
Apr 25,2017

GST is a win-win situation for the entire country. It brings benefits to all the stakeholders of industry, government and the consumer. It will lower the cost of goods and services, give a boost to the economy and make the products and services globally competitive. GST aims to make India a common market with common tax rates and procedures and remove the economic barriers thus paving the way for an integrated economy at the national level. By subsuming most of the Central and State taxes into a single tax and by allowing a set-off of prior-stage taxes for the transactions across the entire value chain, it would mitigate the ill effects of cascading, improve competitiveness and improve liquidity of the businesses. GST is a destination based tax. It follows a multi-stage collection mechanism. In this, tax is collected at every stage and the credit of tax paid at the previous stage is available as a set off at the next stage of transaction. This shifts the tax incidence near to the consumer and benefits the industry through better cash flows and better working capital management.

2.GST is largely technology driven. It will reduce the human interface to a great extent and this would lead to speedy decisions.

3.GST will give a major boost to the Make in India initiative of the Government of India by making goods and services produced in India competitive in the National as well as International market. Also all imported goods will be charged integrated tax (IGST) which is equivalent to Central GST + State GST. This will bring equality with taxation on local products.

4.Under the GST regime, exports will be zero-rated in entirety unlike the present system where refund of some taxes may not take place due to fragmented nature of indirect taxes between the Centre and the States. This will boost Indian exports in the international market thus improving the balance of payments position. Exporters with clean track record will be rewarded by getting immediate refund of 90% of their claims arising on account of exports, within seven days.

5.GST is expected to bring buoyancy to the Government Revenue by widening the tax base and improving the taxpayer compliance. GST is likely improve Indias ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index and is estimated to increase the GDP growth by 1.5 to 2%.

6.GST will bring more transparency to indirect tax laws. Since the whole supply chain will be taxed at every stage with credit of taxes paid at the previous stage being available for set off at the next stage of supply, the economics and tax value of supplies will be easily distinguishable. This will help the industry to take credit and the government to verify the correctness of taxes paid and the consumer to know the exact amount of taxes paid.

7.The taxpayers would not be required to maintain records and show compliance with a myriad of indirect tax laws of the Central Government and the State Governments like Central Excise, Service Tax, VAT, Central Sales Tax, Octroi, Entry Tax, Luxury Tax, Entertainment Tax, etc. They would only need to maintain records and show compliance in respect of Central Goods and Services Tax Act and State (or Union Territory) Goods and Services Tax Act for all intra-State supplies (which are almost identical laws) and with Integrated Goods and Services Tax for all inter-State supplies (which also has most of its basic features derived from the CGST and the SGST Act).

2. Salient Features of GST

The salient features of GST are as under:

(i) The GST would be applicable on the supply of goods or services as against the present concept of tax on the manufacture or sale of goods or provision of services. It would be a destination based consumption tax. This means that tax would accrue to the State or the Union Territory where the consumption takes place. It would be a dual GST with the Centre and States simultaneously levying tax on a common tax base. The GST to be levied by the Centre on intra-State supply of goods or services would be called the Central tax (CGST) and that to be levied by the States including Union territories with legislature/Union Territories without legislature would be called the State tax (SGST)/ Union territory tax (UTGST) respectively.

(ii) The GST would apply to all goods other than alcoholic liquor for human consumption and five petroleum products, viz. petroleum crude, motor spirit (petrol), high speed diesel, natural gas and aviation turbine fuel. It would apply to all services barring a few to be specified. The GST would replace the following taxes currently levied and collected by the Centre:

a. Central Excise Duty

b. Duties of Excise (Medicinal and Toilet Preparations)

c. Additional Duties of Excise (Goods of Special Importance)

d. Additional Duties of Excise (Textiles and Textile Products)

e. Additional Duties of Customs (commonly known as CVD)

f. Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD)

g. Service Tax

h. Central Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

(iii) State taxes that would be subsumed under the GST are:

a. State VAT

b. Central Sales Tax

c. Luxury Tax

d. Entry Tax (all forms)

e. Entertainment and Amusement Tax (except when levied by the local bodies)

f. Taxes on advertisements

g. Purchase Tax

h. Taxes on lotteries, betting and gambling

i. State Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

(iv) The list of exempted goods and services would be common for the Centre and the States.

(v) Threshold Exemption: Taxpayers with an aggregate turnover in a financial year up to Rs.20 lakhs would be exempt from tax. Aggregate turnover shall be computed on all India basis. For eleven Special Category States, like those in the North-East and the hilly States, the exemption threshold shall be Rest. 10 lakhs. All taxpayers eligible for threshold exemption will have the option of paying tax with input tax credit (ITC) benefits. Taxpayers making inter-State supplies or paying tax on reverse charge basis shall not be eligible for threshold exemption.

(vi) Composition levy: Small taxpayers with an aggregate turnover in a financial year up to Rest. 50 lakhs shall be eligible for composition levy. Under the scheme, a taxpayer shall pay tax as a percentage of his turnover during the year without the benefit of ITC. The rate of tax for CGST and SGST/UTGST each shall not exceed -

n++ 2.5% in case of restaurants etc

n++ 1% of the turnover in a state/ UT in case of a manufacturer

n++ 0.5% of the turnover in state/UT in case of other suppliers.

A taxpayer opting for composition levy shall not collect any tax from his customers nor shall he be entitled to claim any input tax credit. The composition scheme is optional. Taxpayers making inter-State supplies shall not be eligible for composition scheme. The government, may, on the recommendation of GST Council, increase the threshold for the scheme to up to rupees one crore.

(vii) An Integrated tax (IGST) would be levied and collected by the Centre on inter-State supply of goods and services. Accounts would be settled periodically between the Centre and the States to ensure that the SGST/UTGST portion of IGST is transferred to the destination State where the goods or services are eventually consumed.

(viii) Use of Input Tax Credit: Taxpayers shall be allowed to take credit of taxes paid on inputs (input tax credit) and utilize the same for payment of output tax. However, no input tax credit on account

Indias natural gas production up 8.3% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias natural gas production increased 8.3% to 2.75 billion cubic meters (bcm) in March 2017 over a year ago. Natural gas output of ONGC jumped 20.1% to 1.97 bcm, but that of private and JV companies dipped 18.1% to 0.53 bcm. Meanwhile, the natural gas production of Oil India fell 1.0% to 0.25 bcm in March 2017. Natural gas output declined 1.1% to 31.90 bcm in April-March 2017 over April-March 2016.

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Indias crude oil refinery output rises 1.8% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias crude oil refinery output increased 1.8% to 21.45 mt in March 2017 over March 2016. The output of public sector refineries rose 0.2% to 11.68 mt, while the output of private refineries moved up 7.7% to 8.45 mt. However, the refinery output of public-private JV refiners dipped 14.9% to 1.33 mt in March 2017.

Among public refineries, the output of Indian Oil Corporation increased 9.8% to 6.08 mt, while the output of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation rose 0.9% to 1.56 mt in March 2017 over March 2016. However, the output of Mangalore Refineries declined 6.4% to 1.30 mt, Numaligarh Refineries 13.1% to 0.22 mt, Bharat Petroleum Corporation 14.0% to 1.75 mt and Chennai Petroleum Corporation 14.5% to 0.77 mt in March 2017.

Among private refiners, the output of Reliance Petroleum moved up 9.0% to 6.65 mt, while that of Essar Oil also improved 3.0% to 1.80 mt in March 2017 over March 2016.

Among JV refineries, the output of Bharat Oman fell 17.2% to 0.53 mt, while the output of HPCL Mittal also dipped 13.3% to 0.80 mt in March 2016.

The cumulative refinery output increased 4.8% to 238.96 mt in April-March 2017. The output of public refineries increased 7.5% to 129.21 mt, while that of private refineries moved up 2.5% to 94.02 mt. The refinery output of JV refineries fell 1.4% to 15.73 mt in April-March 2017. Among public refineries, the output of Indian Oil Corporation improved 10.7%, Bharat Petroleum Corporation 5.4%, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation 3.4%, Chennai Petroleum Corporation 6.9%, Numaligarh Refineries 5.3% and Mangalore Refineries 3.3%.

The overall capacity utilization was lower at 109.1% in March 2017 compared with 117.4% in March 2016, while it was also lower at 106.7% in April-March 2017 compared with 108.3% in April-March 2016.

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Indias crude oil production rises 0.9% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias crude oil production rose 0.9% to 3.09 million tonnes (mt) in March 2017 over March 2016. Crude oil output of ONGC increased 3.3% to 1.93 mt, while that of Oil India also improved 9.1% to 0.29 mt. ONGCs offshore output moved up 3.6% to 1.41 mt, while onshore production rose 2.6% to 0.52 mt. However, the crude oil production of private and joint venture (JV) companies dipped 6.2% to 0.87 mt in March 2017.

Crude oil output fell 2.5% to 36.01 mt in April-March FY2017, in addition to 1.4% fall recorded in FY2016. Output of ONGC declined 0.6% to 22.22 mt, while private companies fell -7.3% to 10.53 mt. the crude oil output of Oil India rose 1.0% to 3.26 mt in FY2017 over FY2016.

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World Bank Approves $375 Million to Help India Develop its First Modern Waterway
Apr 25,2017

The World Bank will support India as it sustainably develops its first modern inland water transport fairway on a 1,360 km-stretch of the Ganga river between Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia, bringing thousands of jobs in cargo logistics and transportation to one of the most populous regions in the country.

The World Banks Board approved a $375 million loan to help the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) put in place the state-of-the-art infrastructure and navigation services needed to develop the waterway -- known as National Waterway 1 -- as an efficient logistics artery for northern India, while adopting the least intrusive methods of making the river navigable. The Capacity Augmentation of National Waterway 1 (Jal Marg Vikas) Project will help save more than 150,000 tons of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions annually by moving cargo away from fossil fuel-consuming road and rail networks.

Experience from other countries shows that carrying bulk cargo by water is cheaper and less polluting that transporting it by road and rail. Goods in India, however, mostly travel by congested road and rail networks, slowing cargo movement and increasing the costs of trade logistics, which are estimated to account for as much as 18 % of the countrys GDP. The current logistics network is also insufficient to accommodate the threefold increase in freight movement expected over the coming decade.

n++Harnessing the mighty rivers of South Asia to build an effective multi-modal transport strategy will give the region a competitive edge on the global scene,n++ says Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director for India. n++This project will allow India to move goods seamlessly between road, rail and water, and bring down logistics costs. Importantly, this Project will help IWAI put in place environmentally-sustainable strategies for inland navigation that can be replicated on other waterways in India and other countries.n++

Multi-modal transport solutions

NW1 passes through one of Indias most densely populated areas, and a sizeable 40 percent of the countrys traded goods either originate from this resource-rich region or are destined for its teeming markets. While the region generates about 370 million tonnes of freight annually, only about 5 million tonnes currently travels by water.

Once operational, NW1 will form part of the larger multi-modal transport network being planned along the Ganga. It will link with the Eastern Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor, as well as with the areas existing network of highways, allowing the regions manufacturers and agricultural producers to use different modes of transport to reach markets in India and abroad.

State-of-the-art infrastructure and services

The Project will help build the infrastructure needed to develop water transportation in the area. It will finance the construction of six multi-modal terminals, 10 RORO jetties, ship-repair facilities as well as passenger jetties along the river. It will also help modernize the ageing Farakka lock and add a new lock to allow for smoother passage of boats. The Project will also help IWAI acquire a state-of-the-art River Information System as well as navigation aids to make travel on the river safer and more reliable.

n++The Government of India has an ambitious plan to develop more than a 100 waterways that criss-cross the country,n++ says Arnab Bandyopadhyay, Lead Transport specialist and the World Bank task team leader for the Project. n++This Project will also help IWAI strengthen its institutional capacities to steer the development of the sector in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner.n++

Environment sustainability key

All project interventions have been planned keeping in mind the need to ensure the environmental sustainability of the river. There will be no abstraction or storage of water under the Project, nor will the navigation services planned affect the flow of the river. Cognizant of the impacts of dredging to establish a deep channel, IWAI has decided to accept the currently available natural depths of the river - ranging from 3 meters in the lower stretches to 2 meters further upstream - for its proposed navigation channel, thus minimizing the need for dredging.

Environment protocol for operations

n++ Zero discharge standards for all terminals and vessels; waste from vessels to be emptied only at designated barge-maintenance stations for treatment.

n++ All vessels to use cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas.

n++ Vessels travelling through operating in critical aquatic habitats will restrict speed to 5km per hour; noise mufflers and propeller guards to be fitted; no dredging in protected habitat.

The Project will also support the design and development of a new fleet of low-draft barges capable of carrying up to 2000 tonnes of cargo in these shallower depths. Where needed, temporary structures (bandals) made of natural materials such as bamboo will be erected to provide additional sailing depth. In addition, the Project has introduced an innovative assured depth contract framework to incentivize minimal dredging by agencies responsible for keeping the fairway open for navigation. These strategies have helped reduce the need for dredging in the navigation channel to only about 1.5 percent of the rivers annual silt load. Even this limited dredging will only be done using modern, less intrusive technologies such as the water injection method which has the additional advantage of ensuring that sediments remain within the rivers ecosystem.

The US$375 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 7-year grace period, and a maturity of 17 years.

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World Bank To Provide US$ 600 million (approx. Rs 3,870 crore) Across Four New Projects in Jharkhand
Apr 25,2017

The World Bank extended its support to the Government of Jharkhand with a proposed assistance program of about US$ 600 million (approx. Rs 3,870 crore1]) for four new state-level projects over the next 2-3 years*. This was announced by the World Bank Country Director, Junaid Ahmad, following his meetings with the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das. This is the first state visit by the Country Director of the World Bank since taking over office.

The new state-level projects will help improve infrastructure and provide sustainable urban and rural services in the areas of water supply and sanitation for the people of Jharkhand; increase the power transmission capacity; and diversify household income through select farm and non-farm sectors.

n++Jharkhand is a key state in Indias growth trajectory and in its fight against poverty. The Chief Minister has identified a series of important reforms to hasten the pace of development in the state and the World Bank has committed its full support to these efforts,n++ said Junaid Ahmad World Bank Country Director in India, following his meeting with the Chief Minister. n++Our projects over the next few years will help the state strengthen the delivery of public services through investments in rural and urban infrastructure - enabling its people to gain access to better jobs and services,n++ he added.

Among the upcoming projects, the US$ 300 million (approx. Rs 1,935 crore) Jharkhand Municipal Development Project aims to provide citizens with sustainable basic services such as water supply and sanitation by enhancing the capacity of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to undertake policy reforms and set up systems that will help them better manage their resources and increase accountability.

The US$ 150 million (approx. Rs 967.50 crore) World Bank financing for Jharkhand Power System Improvement Project will support the state in increasing the transmission of power from Jharkhand to other states of the country; increase the power transmission capacity; streamline procurement and contract management practices in the transmission company, Jharkhand Urja Sancharan Nigam (JUSNL); and help the distribution company, Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam, (JBVNL) reduce its Aggregate Transmission and Commercial (AT&C) losses.

The US$ 100 million (approx. Rs 645 crore) World Bank financing for Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth Project (JOHAR) will enhance and diversify household income in select farm and non-farm sectors. The project will promote market access and private sector participation, foster skill development relevant to the value chains, and facilitate the development of a pro-poor agricultural system.

The Jharkhand Service Delivery Improvement Project, for which the World Bank is expected to provide US$ 50 million (approx. Rs 322.50 crore) will help the government provide services to its citizens through the Pragya Kendras. The project aims to increase the number of beneficiaries accessing real time gross settlement of funds (RTGS) services, especially in rural areas; improve the timelines and quality of services and increase the number of beneficiaries receiving direct benefit transfers through Integrated Financial Management Services (IFMIS) platform.

In addition to the existing pipeline of proposed projects, the World Bank will support the Government of Jharkhands reform initiatives through technical and analytical work, and bring experience from other states and countries to address state specific challenges.

The World Bank Country Director travelled to villages in Block Angara in Ranchi district and interacted with rural households. He saw how women self-help groups had mobilized themselves to help increase their family income by undertaking farm and non-farm livelihood activities like animal husbandry, handicrafts and minor forestry activities.

World Bank in Jharkhand

Several World Bank supported national development programs, amounting to Rs 2,393 crores, are currently active in Jharkhand - covering irrigation, health, roads, livelihoods, rural water, sanitation and education sectors.

Recently, a US$ 63 million (approx. Rs 406.35 crore) Tejaswini Socioeconomic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Jharkhand was signed with the state on February 23, 2017. The aim of the project is to help improve market-driven skills training and secondary education for adolescent girls and young women in select districts of Jharkhand.

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Government and World Bank Sign New Agreement for Better Water Planning and Management Across India
Apr 25,2017

The Government of India and the World Bank signed the US$ 175 million loan agreement for the National Hydrology Project. The project will strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess the water situation in their regions and reduce their vulnerability to recurring flood and droughts, saving hundreds of lives and livelihoods.

With rainfall in India being highly seasonal and 50 percent of precipitation falling in just 15 days and over 90 percent of river flows in just four months, the country continues to be water-stressed and is faced with the challenge of managing its water needs amidst recurring floods and drought.

The project is expected to help forge an integrated approach to developing, managing, and regulating both surface and groundwater resources jointly at the basin and aquifer scale. It would also strengthen the institutional capacity for integrated water resources management at the center and in the states,n++ said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

The National Hydrology Project, will build on the success of the Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II, under which, for the first time, real-time flood forecast systems were integrated with weather forecasts in two large river systems (Krishna and Satluj-Beas), giving reservoir managers an accurate picture of the water situation in their region. As a result, the time available for early warnings on flood and preparation for flood management improved from hours to days, which led to saving hundreds of lives and avoided flood damages ranging from US$17 million to US$65 million in a year.

This project will now scale up the successes achieved under HP-I and HP-II to cover the entire country, including the states in the Ganga, and Brahmaputra-Barak basins. Apart from helping states that have already benefited from the earlier two projects to further upgrade and complete their monitoring networks, it will help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs. Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) have already been signed between the central government and the states to integrate and establish the National Water Informatics Center. National Flood Forecasting Systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins will be included under the project.

n++In the context of climate change, advanced flood management and enhanced river basin planning are essential for building livelihoods and sustaining economic growth,n++ said Genevieve Connors, Program Leader and Acting Country Director, World Bank in India. n++This project has the potential to help communities plan in advance to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.n++

It will also help the states monitor all the important aspects of the hydro-meteorological cycle and adopt the procedures laid out in the earlier projects such as how much rain or snow has fallen right in the catchments of rivers, how rapidly the snow will melt, the speed with which the water is flowing, how much silt has built up, how much water will reach the reservoir, and how soon it will do so. Sensors in the field will instantly transmit this information to data centers through satellite or mobile phone technology, enabling managers to form a clear picture of the water situation unfolding in their region.

n++Based on our experience over the last 20 years in establishing Hydrological Information Systems in southern India and in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, both national and state governments are now committed to an integrated river basin planning and management. This project responds to this demand by extending its reach to cover the entire country,n++ said Anju Gaur, Senior Water Resources Specialist and World Banks Task Team Leader for the project.

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99 Percent Telecom-related complaints get resolved on Twitter
Apr 25,2017

After the launch of Twitter Sewa by the Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha in August last Year for registration and resolution of complaints, about 99 percent of the complaints have been resolved through the social media. As per data released by BSNL, as on April 15, 2017, it has received a total number of 27,988 complaints and has resolved 27,965 grievances with a resolution rate of 99.91%. The Telecom Minister having twitter account @manojsinhabjp has been calling for daily status reports on resolution of telecom and postal related complaints received through this platform. Similarly, India Post has handled 27,000 tweets and resolved them promptly.

In case of Telecom, consumer complaints relate mainly to telephone bills, broadband connectivity, faulty connections, shifting of landline phones and wi-fi hotspots, while in the case of postal services complaints are mainly in the nature of slow delivery of their articles containing PAN Cards, Roll numbers, parcels, money orders and medicines etc. Issues relating to repairs of Post Office buildings, technical issues with saving banks accounts are also sorted out quickly.

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FICCI urges the Government to finalise and announce the Tourism Policy this year itself
Apr 25,2017

FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) has recommended to the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the announcement of National Tourism Policy in the year 2017. It is to be recalled that the draft of the policy had already been prepared in 2015 and had been distributed to the stakeholders for their inputs.

The report states that the draft policy reflects the evolving paradigm of the industry and has also suggested several developmental initiatives. FICCI has urged that the draft be finalized as a time-bound mission so that the policy can be released this year itself. The Policy will provide right impetus and direction to the state tourism policies as well. Furthermore, it will also ensure fast pace implementation of several key initiatives and institutional reforms proposed in the Draft Tourism Policy.

The other recommendations in the report relating to policy and regulatory interventions pertain to setting up of a National Tourism Authority, increasing budget allocation to tourism industry, suggesting lower GST slabs for tourism sector and increasing application window for e-visa from 1 month to 6 months. It also urges for promoting hassle free travel by increasing e-visas to more countries.

Snapshot of key statistics indicate that there is a rising trend of Tourism in India. India has also jumped 12 positions and stands at the 40th rank in Tourism & Travel competitive index, 2017 now. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) research forecasts that between 2016 and 2026, the 10 fastest growing destinations for leisure-travel spending will be India. The shifts suggest that developing and emerging countries are catching up by providing better conditions to develop their Travel and Tourism competitiveness and, therefore, becoming better prepared to attract and welcome the millions of new tourists who will travel for the first time in the coming decade.

Tourisms contribution to capital investment is projected to grow 6.3 % p.a. during 2016-26, higher than the global average of 4.5%.

Contribution of visitor exports to total exports is estimated to increase 7.2 % p.a. during 2016-2026 compared to the world average of 4.3% pa. By 2025, Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India are expected to reach 15.3 million, according to the WTO.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) during the period January- February 2017 were Rs 31,357 crore with a growth of 14.9%, as compared to the foreign exchange earnings of Rs 27,296 crore with a growth of 15.0% in January-February 2016 over January-February 2015.

India ranked 3rd among 184 countries in terms of travel and tourisms total contribution to GDP in 2016. The sectors direct contribution to GDP is expected to grow by 8.6% p.a. during 2016-20.

Employment Generation within Indian tourism sector estimated to support 38.4 million jobs by 2016 which have been further forecasted to reach approx 46 million jobs by 2026.

Domestic travel spending generated 82.5% of direct Travel & Tourism GDP in 2015 compared with 17.5% for visitor exports. Domestic travel spending is expected to rise by 7.8% pa to Rs 13,305.5bn in 2026 while visitor exports are expected to rise by 7.2% pa to Rs 2,625.6 bn in 2026.

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ADB Lending Hits Record High in its 50th Year as Infrastructure Demand Rises
Apr 25,2017

The Asian Development Banks (ADB) annual operations exceeded the $30 billion mark for the first time in its 50-year history last year as regional demand for development finance and knowledge n++ particularly on infrastructure n++ continues to grow, according to the banks 2016 Annual Report (AR) released today.

ADBs total lending in 2016, including co-financing, reached $31.70 billion n++ an 18% increase from 2015, according to the annual report. The total include $17.47 billion in approvals for loans and grants, $169 million for technical assistance, and $14.06 billion for co-financing, which increased by a record 31% over 2015. Disbursements, a key indicator for successful project implementation, also reached a new high of $12.26 billion in 2016.

Private sector operations reached $2.5 billion for only the second time in ADBs history n++ a result reflecting ADBs long-term strategy to significantly boost support for private enterprise to create more high quality jobs and increase living standards across Asia and the Pacific. Apart from its own funds, ADBs private sector operations also generated a record $5.84 billion in co-financing n++ a $1.2 billion increase from 2015 n++ which included $238 million in official co-financing to support non-sovereign operations.

These figures update the provisional operations numbers released by ADB in January.

n++The increase in our development financing to Asia and the Pacific reflects our strong commitment to improving the lives of the people in the region,n++ said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. n++As ADB celebrates 50 years of providing development assistance, we will strive even harder to meet the changing needs of our developing member countries.n++

The 2016 AR reviews the significant economic transformation in Asia and the Pacific over the past 50 years, and the role played by ADB to support the regions development to improve peoples lives. The report notes that while the regions economic growth and success in reducing poverty have exceeded the most optimistic forecasts, there remain significant challenges to be addressed.

n++We cannot be complacent,n++ said President Nakao. n++The fact remains there are still 330 million people living in absolute poverty across Asia and the Pacific. A lack of infrastructure continues to limit economic growth, inhibit poverty reduction, and restrict improvements to quality of life.n++

ADB estimates that the region requires $1.7 trillion a year to meet its infrastructure financing needs. There are other pressing challenges such as climate change, health, education, and gender equality. To help address these development needs, ADB has scaled up its operations and expanded its financing capacity through the merger of its Asian Development Fund (ADF) lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR) balance sheet, which became effective on 1 January this year. OCR equity almost tripled, from $17.3 billion to $48.1 billion, as $30.8 billion of ADF loans and other assets were transferred from the ADF. The merger is expected to increase ADBs annual loan and grant approvals by over 50% to more than $20 billion by 2020.

ADB will also increase grant support to its poorest countries by 70% over the next 4 years, following the successful $3.3 billion replenishment of the ADF in May 2016. Contributions from 32 donors, including an increase in pledges from emerging Asian economies, will allow ADB to double the minimum allocation for small countries, provide strengthened support for disaster risk management, and offer greater assistance for regional health security.

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