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For India, Strong Growth Persists Despite New Challenges
Feb 24,2017

Indias overall outlook remains positive, although growth will slow temporarily as a result of disruptions to consumption and business activity from the recent withdrawal of high-denomination banknotes from circulation.

But the nations expansion will pick up again as economic reforms kick in, said the IMF in its latest assessment. Growth is expected at 6.6 percent in this fiscal year and at 7.2 percent in the following year.

IMF mission chief for India Paul Cashin said, The Indian economy is growing strongly and remains a bright spot in the global landscape. The halving of global oil prices that began in late 2014 boosted economic activity in India, further improved the external current account and fiscal positions, and helped lower inflation. In addition, continued fiscal consolidation, by reducing government deficits and debt accumulation, and an anti-inflationary monetary policy stance have helped cement macroeconomic stability.

The government has made significant progress on important economic reforms, which will support strong and sustainable growth going forward. In particular, the upcoming implementation of the goods and services tax, which has been in the making for over a decade, will help raise Indias medium-term growth to above 8 percent, as it will enhance the efficiency of production and movement of goods and services across Indian states.

Challenges remain, however, and there is little scope for complacency. A key concern for us is the health of the banking system, which is still dealing with a large amount of bad loans, and also heightened corporate vulnerabilities in several key sectors of the economy.

And, over the past few months, the economy has been hit by cash shortages, and accordingly we reduced our growth forecasts to 6.6 percent for fiscal year 2016/17 and to 7.2 percent in 2017/18.

Paul further said,The initiative affected notes with a total value of about 15 trillion rupees, which amounted to 86 percent of all cash in circulation. Because payment transactions in India are primarily cash-based and electronic payments infrastructure is limited, the shortage of cash has disrupted economic activity, with smaller businesses and rural regions being particularly badly affected.

Fortunately, these effects are expected to gradually dissipate by March 2017 as cash shortages ease. It also appears that measures taken to alleviate payment disruptions, such as temporarily allowing use of old banknotes for purchases of fuel and agricultural inputs, have helped mitigate the negative impact. So we expect the slowdown to be limited and relatively short-lived and the financial system to come through unscathed. Of course, potential loan repayment risks should be monitored carefully, particularly given an already elevated level of non-performing loans.

The demonetization initiative presents an opportunity to increase the size of the formal economy and broaden financial intermediation in the longer term. It can also support a widening of the tax base, help reduce the fiscal deficit, enhance bank liquidity, and give a fillip to the governments efforts to promote greater financial inclusion.

Sound economic policymaking underpinned by strong institutions is critical for sustainable growth. A recent example of a positive change in India is the implementation of flexible inflation targeting and creation of the Monetary Policy Committee, which have strengthened the credibility of monetary policy and helped maintain price stability in an increasingly complex economy.

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NDMA prepares States to deal with Heat Wave 2017
Feb 24,2017

The two-day national workshop on Preparation of Heat Wave Action Plan in Hyderabad ended on a high note today with all stakeholders resolving to work towards mitigating the adverse impact of the imminent heat wave this year. The workshop was organised by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Government of Telangana.

Addressing the workshop, Shri R.K. Jain, Member, NDMA said the focus of all our efforts should be on reducing the number of deaths. We should work towards translating available data and research into specific actions to reduce the impact of heat waves, he added.

At the technical session on Effective Governance Tools for Increased Resilience to Heat Wave, the need to bring about some fundamental changes in our built environment to augment heat wave preparedness was underlined.

The session on Monitoring, Review and Updation of Heat Action Plan was chaired by Shri Kamal Kishore, Member, NDMA. The session discussed the importance of coordination amongst all agencies and regular monitoring of the heat wave situation. It highlighted the significance of reviewing and updating Heat Action Plans to suit the changes in an environment.

Discussing the need for spreading awareness on heat wave, its ill effects, symptoms and simple mitigation measures, Shri Jain emphasised on the need to extensively use IEC (Information, Education and Communication) campaigns to reach out to the masses, especially to weaker sections of society as they form the most vulnerable segment of population. He reiterated that efforts towards heat wave preparedness would mean something only if our collaborative efforts are able to save lives.

Dr. D.N. Sharma, Member, NDMA, underlined the need to fine-tune Heat Action Plans right up to the village level so that traditional knowledge and indigenous practices are integrated in their plans to enhance the efficacy of their mitigation measures.

Heat waves often lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, stress and even a fatal heat stroke. With advance planning and preparedness, heat wave induced deaths and illnesses can be brought down. In 2016, with NDMAs Guidelines for Preparation of Action Plan - Prevention and Management of Heat-Wave and the pro-active approach of some of the most vulnerable States, the number of deaths in the country came down significantly.

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BEL Issue got over-subscribed by 367 % in Retail Category and 234% in Non-retail Category
Feb 23,2017

The Government of India proposed to disinvest 5% of paid-up equity capital-out of its shareholding of 74.41% in BEL through Offer for Sale (OFS) mechanism. BEL is a Navratna Company under the administrative control of Ministry of Defence and is engaged in manufacturing of the state of the art equipments in the field such as communication, radars, naval systems etc.

The floor price was fixed at Rs 1,498 per shares for the OFS Issue. Issue was opened at the BSE and NSE Stock Exchanges for two days i.e. on 22nd February, 2017 for Institutional Investors and 23rd February, 2017 for Retail Investors.

On 22nd February, 2017, the Issue opened for non-retail investors against the offer size of 89.34 lakh shares. The OFS got an enthusiastic participation from the non-retail investors, which included domestic institutional investors, foreign institutional investors and the Issue was over-subscribed 234% as per data given below (at cut-off price of Rs 1499):-

Client CategoryQuantityValue (in crore)Percentage to Qty. on Offer


Insurance*n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++n++ 1,08,63,6131,628.10122%Banks18,22,275273.1020%Mutual Funds34,14,773513.4938%FII32,80,622492.4337%Others (Clients)15,18,905174.0717%Total2,09,00,1883,081.18234%



(In crore)

%Private147.8810.86PublicLIC1435111GIC11.23New India Insurance16.98Agriculture Insurance9.50

Today, i.e. 23rd February, 2017, the Issue was opened for retail investors for 20% of the overall offer size, i.e. 22.34 lakh shares with a discount of 5% on the cut-off price. There has been overwhelming response from the retail investors as well, with the Issue being subscribed 367% in the Retail category.

Likely Clearing Price of Retail Investor will be at more than Rs 1565. On this price retail investors shall be entitled to discount of 5% on the cut off price (Rs 1499 which is more than the Institutional Floor Price).

This is one of the highest instances of interest and participation shown by the investors including domestic institutional investors, foreign institutional investors and retail investors in any Issue. The Issue has been over-subscribed by 260%.

The likely receipt to the Government of India from BEL OFS is Rs. 1670 crore (approx.).

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The Government simplifies maintenance of registers under various Labour Laws
Feb 23,2017

The Government has simplified the maintenance of Labour registers of about 5.85 crore establishments in agriculture and non- agriculture sectors. These registers are related to details of employees, their salaries, loans/recoveries, attendance etc. This exercise will drastically reduce the number of registers being maintained by these establishments from 56 to only 5 by doing away with overlapping/redundant fields. This will help these establishments to save cost and efforts and ensure better compliance of Labour Laws.

Under various Central Labour Acts, there is a requirement of maintenance of registers depending upon the threshold of the number of employees by the establishments in agriculture and non-agriculture sectors. As per the Sixth Economic Census of Central Statistical Office conducted during 2013-2014, India has about 5.85 Crore establishments in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors combined. Out of this, 4.54 Crore establishments are in non-agricultural sector. While reviewing the requirement of filing various returns / registers/forms provided under 9 Central Acts, there were several overlapping/ redundant fields that could be rationalized.

An intention notification was issued on 4th November, 2016 for reducing the number of registers/data fields and the same was widely circulated to concerned Ministries / Departments, State Govts., other stakeholders besides placing the same in public domain. In effect, all previous registers envisaged under various Acts / Rules have been omitted and replaced with only 5 common Registers. Such an exercise has reduced number of data fields in 5 registers to only 144 from the then existing 933 fields in 56 registers.

Ministry of Labour & Employment has also simultaneously undertaken to develop a software for these 5 common Registers. After development of the software, the same will be put on the Shram Suvidha Portal of the Ministry of Labour and Employment for free download with an aim to facilitate maintenance of those registers in a digitized form.

The Labour Laws under which these registers are maintained include:

(i) The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996

(ii) The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970

(iii) The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

(iv) The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979

(v) The Mines Act, 1952

(vi) The Minimum Wages Act, 1948

(vii) The Payment of Wages Act, 1936

(viii) The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976

(ix) The Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1955

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CBEC launches a Mobile Application for GST to inform the taxpayers of the latest updates on GST among others
Feb 23,2017

In step with the Governments Digital India initiative, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has launched a mobile application for Goods and Services Tax.

Taxpayers can readily access a host of GST information such as:

n++ Migration to GST-Approach and guidelines for migration

n++ Draft Law-Model GST Law, IGST Law and GST Compensation Law

n++ Draft Rules-Rules related to Registration, Returns, Payment, Refund and Invoice

n++ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on GST

n++ Various resources on GST such a videos, articles etc.

n++ Related Website Links

n++ Helpdesk/Email Contact

The Mobile Application enables taxpayers to be well informed of the latest updates on GST. Taxpayers can also provide feedback and contact CBECs 24x7 helpdesk n++CBEC Mitran++ through a toll-free number or email, at the touch of a button.

The mobile application can be downloaded free of cost on Android platforms. The iOS version will be made available shortly.

With its elegant and easy-to-use interface, the GST Mobile Application is a yet another initiative by CBEC towards improving ease of doing business and providing outstanding taxpayer services.

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6 km long Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat to be developed at a cost of Rs.16.27 cr under HRIDAY
Feb 23,2017

Ministry of Urban Development today approved development of 6 km long Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat at a cost of Rs.16.27 cr under the Central Scheme Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY).

HRIDAY National Empowered Committee chaired by Shri Rajiv Gauba, Secretary (UD) has approved the circuit connecting the famous Dwarkadish Haveli and Hanuman Dandi, the only temple housing Hanumanji and his son Makardhwaj, in Dwarka district of Gujarat. There are two important water bodies along the circuit viz., Ranchod Talav and Shankhudhar Lake.

Darshan Circuit works to be taken up include development of streets and pedestrian pathways, laying of cycle tracks along beach side, plantation, provision of benches, resting spaces, changing rooms, drinking water and toilet facilities, craft and food bazar, signages, LED lighting, plazas for vending spaces etc.

Under HRIDAY launched on January 21, 2015, heritage related infrastructure development is being taken up in 12 identified cities including Dwarka-Bet Dwarka at a total cost of Rs.500 cr. so far, projects with an investment of Rs.420 cr have been approved for all 12 mission cities.

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Moodys: Indian bank Q3FY17 earnings show effects of demonetization; NPL trends mixed
Feb 23,2017

Moodys Investors Service says that the earnings of Indian banks for Q3 FY2017 show that the governments decision to remove a high proportion of notes from circulation (demonetization) has led to a slowdown in economic activity that weighed on demand for credit among companies and retail borrowers during Q3 FY2017.

Overall, demonetization has significantly impacted credit demand and deposit growth, but the effect on asset quality has been mixed, while retail payment systems -- such as card transactions and mobile wallets -- have benefitted, says Srikanth Vadlamani, a Moodys Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.

Moodys conclusions were contained in its just-released report on its 15 rated banks in India, Banks -- India: Q3 Earnings Highlight Pressures from Demonetization; NPL trends mixed. The Indian government announced its demonetization program on 8 November 2016.

Looking ahead, while commentary from the banks points to a rise in activity in January, it is still below the levels seen in October, and we expect the quarter ending 31 March 2017 to show more adverse trends; but the impact on asset quality from demonetization should be manageable for the banking sector, adds Vadlamani.

For example, while the banks retail segment has seen some weakness, its biggest part -- home loans -- has shown a stable performance. More importantly, economic growth seems to be recovering from demonetization, although gradually, which should cushion the impact on the banks overall asset quality.

While deposit growth has been strong this quarter, driven by the demonetization inflows, it should moderate going forward as cash availability increases and restrictions on cash withdrawals expire, a moderation will occur in deposit growth over the next 12-18 months. Overall, banks deposit base should see a sustainable increase of 1-2% on account of demonetization.

Retail payment systems such as a cards and mobile wallets have seen a significant increase in transactions, and should continue to see healthy growth. At the same time, given the low base, cash will remain the dominant source of retail transactions for the foreseeable future.

Outside of the impact of demonetization, asset quality trends were mixed.

Both of Axis Bank (Baa3 positive, baa3) and ICICI Banks (ICICI, Baa3 positive, baa3) have seen significant additions to their NPLs from outside of their already announced watchlist accounts. While we have been expecting asset quality to deteriorate for both, we had expected the deterioration to come predominantly from their watchlist accounts. A continuation of the increasing non-watchlist NPL trend would put negative pressure on the banks credit profiles.

Asset quality for private sector banks will likely deteriorate. Increased non-performing loans (NPLs) from outside the watchlists of Axis Bank (Baa3 positive, baa3) and ICICI Banks (ICICI, Baa3 positive, baa3) are pressuring their credit profiles.

Meanwhile, asset quality trends for public sector banks have been more benign, and the pace of deterioration has slowed in the past two quarters from the levels seen in FY2016.

However, IDBI Bank Ltd (Baa3 stable, b1) has been a negative exception, with the bank seeing significant additions to its NPLs during Q3 FY2017.

Net interest margins will also come under pressure as banks gradually adopt the marginal cost of funds lending rate to price their loans So far, less than 20% of the banks variable-rate loans have been repriced to MCLR as opposed to their base rate. Because the MCLR is around 85 basis points (bps) lower than base rate, we expect the downward trend in net interest margins to persist.

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Government to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds 2016 -17 - Series IV; Applications for the bond to be accepted from February 27, 2017 to March 03, 2017
Feb 23,2017

Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India(RBI), has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds 2016-17-Series IV. Applications for the bond will be accepted from February 27, 2017 to March 03, 2017. The Bonds will be issued on March 17, 2017. The Bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL), designated post offices and recognised stock exchanges viz., National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange.

The features of the Bond are given below:

Sl. No.ItemDetails1Product nameSovereign Gold Bond 2016-17 - Series IV2IssuanceTo be issued by Reserve Bank India on behalf of the Government of India.3EligibilityThe Bonds will be restricted for sale to resident Indian entities including individuals, HUFs, Trusts, Universities and Charitable Institutions. 4DenominationThe Bonds will be denominated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of 1 gram.5TenorThe tenor of the Bond will be for a period of 8 years with exit option from 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.6Minimum sizeMinimum permissible investment will be 1 grams of gold.7Maximum limitThe maximum amount subscribed by an entity will not be more than 500 grams per person per fiscal year (April-March). A self-declaration to this effect will be obtained.8Joint holderIn case of joint holding, the investment limit of 500 grams will be applied to the first applicant only.9Issue pricePrice of Bond will be fixed in Indian Rupees on the basis of simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association Limited for the week (Monday to Friday) preceding the subscription period.The issue price of the Gold Bonds will be ` 50 per gram less than the nominal value.10Payment optionPayment for the Bonds will be through cash payment (upto a maximum of Rs. 20,000) or demand draft or cheque or electronic banking.11Issuance formThe Gold Bonds will be issued as Government of India Stocks under GS Act, 2006. The investors will be issued a Holding Certificate for the same. The Bonds are eligible for conversion into demat form.12Redemption priceThe redemption price will be in Indian Rupees based on previous weeks (Monday-Friday) simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity published by IBJA.13Sales channelBonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL), designated post offices as may be notified and recognised stock exchanges viz., National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange, either directly or through agents. 14Interest rateThe investors will be compensated at a fixed rate of 2.50 per cent per annum payable semi-annually on the nominal value.15CollateralBonds can be used as collateral for loans. The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is to be set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by the Reserve Bank from time to time.16KYC DocumentationKnow-your-customer (KYC) norms will be the same as that for purchase of physical gold. KYC documents such as Voter ID, Aadhaar card/PAN or TAN /Passport will be required.17Tax treatmentThe interest on Gold Bonds shall be taxable as per the provision of Income Tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961). The capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB to an individual has been exempted. The indexation benefits will be provided to long term capital gains arising to any person on transfer of bond18TradabilityBonds will be tradable on stock exchanges within a fortnight of the issuance on a date as notified by the RBI. 19SLR eligibilityThe Bonds will be eligible for Statutory Liquidity Ratio purposes.20CommissionCommission for distribution of the bond shall be paid at the rate of 1% of the total subscription received  by  the  receiving offices and receiving offices shall share at least 50% of the commission so received with the agents or sub agents for the business procured through them.

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Sikkim becomes 22nd State to join UDAY
Feb 23,2017

The Government of India and the State of Sikkim signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under the Scheme Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), for operational improvement of the States Power Distribution Department. With the signing of MoU, the total number of States covered under UDAY has reached twenty-two. Sikkim would derive an Overall Net Benefit of approximately Rs. 481 crores through UDAY by way of cheaper funds, reduction in AT&C and transmission losses, interventions in energy efficiency, etc. during the period of turnaround.

The MoU paves way for improving operational efficiency of the Power Distribution department of the State. AT&C losses and transmission losses would be brought down through compulsory distribution transformer metering, consumer indexing & GIS mapping of losses, upgrade/change transformers, meters etc., smart metering of high-end consumers, feeder audit etc., besides eliminating the gap between cost of supply of power and realisation. The reduction in AT&C losses and transmission losses to 15% and 3.50% respectively is likely to bring additional revenue of around Rs.453 crores.

Demand Side interventions in UDAY such as usage of energy-efficient LED bulbs, agricultural pumps, fans & air-conditioners and efficient industrial equipment through PAT (Perform, Achieve, Trade) would help in reducing peak load, flatten load curve and thus help in reducing energy consumption in the State of Sikkim. The gain is expected to be around Rs.25 crores.

While efforts will be made by the Power Distribution Department of the State to improve their operational efficiency, and thereby reduce the cost of supply of power, the Central government would also provide incentives to the State Government for improving Power infrastructure in the State and for further lowering the cost of power. The Central schemes such as DDUGJY, IPDS, Power Sector Development Fund (PSDF) or such other schemes of Ministry of Power and Ministry of New & Renewable Energy are already providing funds for improving Power Infrastructure in the State and additional/priority funding would be considered under these schemes, if the State/DISCOMs meet the operational milestones outlined in the scheme. Further, with improved efficiency, the State Power department would be in a better position to borrow funds at cheaper rates for Power infrastructure development/improvement in the State.

The ultimate benefit of signing the MOU would go to the people of Sikkim. Reduced levels of transmission and AT&C losses would mean lesser cost per unit of electricity to consumers. Further, financially and operationally healthy State Power Distribution department would be in a position to supply more power. Higher demand for power would mean higher PLF of generating units and therefore, lesser cost per unit of electricity which would again mean lesser cost per unit of electricity to the consumers. The scheme would also allow speedy availability of cheaper power to households in the State that are still without electricity. Availability of 24*7 power to hitherto unconnected villages/households etc. would boost the economy, provide more employment opportunities for the people of the State and thereby, improve the standard of living of the people of the State.

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Moodys: Asian high-yield bonds unaffected by dispute on make-whole premiums in North America
Feb 23,2017

Moodys Investors Service says that the dispute between investors and bond issuers in North America regarding payment of the make-whole premium upon a default by the issuer has not reached Asia and is unlikely to ever do so.

Unlike some recent high-yield bonds for North American companies, Asian high-yield bonds covered in Moodys Covenant Quality Assessments (CQAs) do not include the no premium on default language in their indentures, says Jake Avayou, a Moodys Vice President and Senior Covenant Officer.

This language prevents bondholders from seeking certain premiums if a company breaches its covenants and defaults, and first appeared in late October 2016 in an investment grade bond issued by NIKE, Inc. (A1 stable) and a high-yield bond issued by Rackspace Hosting, Inc. (B1 stable), a portfolio company of Apollo Global Management, adds Avayou.

The languages appearance followed a decision by a US district court that favored bondholders over Cash America International Inc. The court essentially ruled that, in the case of a bond issuers voluntary breach, acceleration of the debt is not the bondholders only remedy; bondholders are also allowed to seek payment of a make-whole premium. But the court also noted that indentures could include provisions that specify n++and thereby limit n++ the remedies available to the bondholders.

That prompted issuers, private-equity firms and their counsel to use their negotiating leverage to change the language in their indentures to favor them, rather than their bondholders. The no premium on default language was included by a handful of US companies in their high-yield bond indentures in late 2016.

In early January, potential investors in four high-yield bonds in North America successfully pushed back on including the no premium on default language in their bond indentures. Their success raised awareness of the risks of including the clause in high-yield bonds and spurred more investors in North America to resist its inclusion. But this awareness and pushback occurred before the clause made its way into any Asian deals, making it less likely -- as indicated -- that issuers in Asia will be able to negotiate for its inclusion going forward.

Another reason no Asian bond has included the no premium on default clause is that Asian investors have been less willing than their North American counterparts to sacrifice structural protections in their hunt for yield.

And Asian bond issuers typically chip away at existing covenants -- for example by upsizing permitted investment and debt carve-outs and lowering fixed-charge coverage ratio thresholds in their debt incurrence covenants -- rather than introduce new provisions that weaken investor protections.

Additionally, the majority of US high-yield bonds into which the clause was introduced are led by private-equity sponsors, but there are very few such deals in Asia.

Moodys further notes that the inclusion of a equivalent premium by corporate issuers in North America, instead of the no premium on default clause, is also unlikely to reach Asia.

The equivalent premium clause provides that in the event of a default due to a willful action by the company to avoid paying the redemption premium, the company must pay an equivalent premium upon acceleration of the notes.

Moodys says that while this clause is investor-friendly, it also creates uncertainty by leaving crucial terms such as willful action and intention of avoiding payment undefined, leaving investors vulnerable to unfavorable judicial interpretations.

However, no Asian high-yield bond has included an equivalent premium clause to date, and Moodys does not expect that this provision will be introduced into the Asian market.

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RJios New Prime Tariff Plan, While Boosting Industry ARPU, Would Target Peers High-end Subscribers
Feb 23,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) says Reliance Jio Infocomms (RJio; IND AAA/Stable) recently announced tariff plan for its first 100 million subscribers, who also subscribe to its Prime Membership Programme, would help improve industry average revenue per user (ARPU) over the medium to long term. This is because the tariff plan under its Prime Membership Programme of INR303/month/subscriber generates an ARPU of INR260 (net of taxes), which is higher than the industry-blended ARPU (incumbents blended ARPU of INR190 and data ARPU of INR150).

RJios strategy clearly targets the high-end consumers of other dominant industry players. Ind-Ra expects incumbents to follow suit by offering a similar package plan to retain their data subscribers. This would test the traffic carrying ability of industry players in the near term, and the players with required network infrastructure and capacity would be able to protect their subscriber market shares. Bharti Airtel Ltd has 118,197 3G and 4G enabled sites and a 210,000km fibre cable network compared to RJios 90,000 4G sites and 126,000km fibre cable, Idea Cellular Ltds 65,000 sites (3G and 4G) and 115,500km cable network and Vodafone India Ltds 76,000 (3G and 4G) sites.

As RJio would start pricing its offerings from April 2017, its quickly garnered subscriber base of 100 million users could witness some churn. RJios prime subscribers would continue to avail the unlimited voice and data services for the next 12 months, starting 1 April 2017. These services were available to them at free of charge till March 2017 under RJios Welcome Offer and Happy New Year Offer. RJio apart from bundled services offers free content to its subscribers.

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Job creation through growth: New ASSOCHAM President
Feb 23,2017

Welcoming various steps taken by the Government to curb black money and corruption, new ASSOCHAM President Mr. Sandeep Jajodia said, as economy is still in the stage of remonetisation, the people should be encouraged and not discouraged to start spending again. Enough cash in both rural area and cities, along with some bold and pragmatic decisions on issues like bank NPAs would be key drivers for reverting to 8% growth, he said.

While extending ASSOCHAMs full cooperation for the governments drive against black money and corruption, Mr. Jajodia said, however, it must be ensured that there shall not be any tax terrorism and fear psychosis among the consumers, especially of high value products and services, as also the trade channels, must be avoided. Besides, government officials at all levels should be made accountable for their actions, Mr. Sandeep Jajodia said.

Lauding governments sincere efforts in tackling NPAs of public sector banks, Mr. Jajodia said, we are faced with a situation where banks, with loads of cash, are finding it hard to lend despite lowering of interest ratesn++n++Apparently, there are not many takers for credit. n++The credit off-take from the corporate India, in any case, would be quite low as long as the entire issue of non-performing assets, cleaning up of the banks balance-sheets is not resolved with a pragmatic approach and strong political willn++. He said a clear distinction should be made between the willful defaulters and those whose business ran into difficulty due to external economic factors like volatile commodity prices or even those whose commercial decision may appear to be wrong in the hindsight.

Here again, someone at the political leadership, has to bite the bullet since the top bank managements, despite the new RBI guidelines are wary of taking hard decisions in terms of debt restructuring for fear of coming under the investigative scanner.

n++This is a bad vicious circle, we should not allow ourselves to slip into, as the stakes are quite high for creating a huge number of jobs which is possible only through a vibrant economy built on strong consumer demand, robust manufacturing, trade and services and modernizing the Indian agriculture, integrating it well into the manufacturing of food processingn++, Mr. Jajodia pointed out.

Dealing with a large number of macro domestic and global issues, the new ASSOCHAM President said for now, the government should further speed up infrastructure projects being financed by public funding in roads, highways, railways, ports and airports. The Budget for 2017-18 has provided for a sizeable allocation of Rs. 3.96 lakh crore for entire infrastructure space which is a commendable feat by the Honble Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitely. However, it must be ensured that the execution of the key infrastructure projects is done with speed and efficiency so that a positive spin-off effect is seen across different related industries like steel and cement.

While the investment has to be led by the public sector, the private sector which is reeling under high leverage must be hand-held and roped in with new and innovative business models so that the industry can revive to its previous peaks. The total investment of Rs 2.41 lakh crore, provided in the Budget for rail, road, shipping, should be front-loaded so that the follow up impact can be seen across different sectors.

Creation of jobs for the youth, who are getting added in large numbers every year, is one of the prime responsibilities both for the government and the corporate India. As many as 12 million youth are ready to join the workforce per year which needs to be given jobs. The aspiration and dreams of the youth should be nurtured and adequate platform should be provided to them to perform. Initiatives like Startup India, Skill India are good initiatives but the implementation of these programmes must be linked to specific targets in terms of jobs.

Further incentives for investment into manufacturing, IT, infrastructure and other core industrial sectors would create more employment for the youth. A large manufacturing plant or a big infrastructure project creates lots of ancillary job opportunities which in turn give opportunity for start-ups by aspirational youth to unleash their entrepreneurial abilitiesn++ said Mr. Jajodia.

He said, the Industry is working closely with the Centre and the state governments on glide path for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the biggest ever tax reform in the country. We hope that remaining areas of divergence among the centre and the states are resolved in the next meeting of the GST Council.

While praising the Government to give infrastructure status to affordable housing, Mr. Jajodia emphasized the need for further reforms / incentives for the entire reality sector, which again can create lakhs of new jobs across the value chain, starting from steel, cement, bricks and other construction material. The revival of the sector would then lead to resolution of the NPAs which have crept into the housing and realty sector. n++This sector involves many SMEsas also the large companies, along with lakhs of skilled and unskilled workers in the business cycle.n++ said Mr.Jajodia.

As for the issue of protectionism being spear-headed by the Trump Administration, Mr Jajodia said the Indian government, industry, political leadership across different parties along with civil society must actively engage with the US Government , politicians , industry bodies and other stakeholders to drive home a point that the open trade policies help create jobs and not take them away. n++The sectoral case studies on how the outsourcing has helped improve global supply chain across different sectors, with the help of technology, and created consumer demand and jobs in America should be pursuedn++.

On Brexit, he said, the Indian policy makers should remain pro-active about the turn of events and how the entire Brexit deal is negotiated between the EU and Britain and fine-tune our policies accordingly.

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Commerce Minister emphasizes the need to focus on Research, Standards and Aggregation to enhance Farmers income
Feb 22,2017

Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has emphasized the need to focus on Research, Standards and Aggregation to enhance farmers income. Interacting with the members of the ICFA(Indian Council of Food and Agriculture) on the issue of Doubling of Farmers Income through Agro and Food Trade she said Inter -Ministerial discussions are necessary for coordination. The Minister said the government is willing to hear suggestions and respond to all issues pertaining to exports and domestic trade.

Smt. Sitharaman said agricultural research is of paramount importance ,citing example of Tobacco she said till date there has been no research done to find alternative crop for tobacco farmers. Further she highlighted the issue of Onion production where again research is needed to prevent the shortage and glut of production .

The Minister said the issues pertaining to international standards will be taken up appropriately. She said preserving the interests of the farmers has to be the core of all discussions in which both the central and state governments have to come together.

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Health Ministry undertakes largest ever drug survey in the world for determining the quality of drugs
Feb 22,2017

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India had entrusted the work relating to carrying out a Survey of the extent of Problems of Spurious and Not of Standard Quality Drugs to the National Institute of Biologicals (NIB), Noida. The NIB has since submitted the report to the Government.

The statistical design of the Drug Survey included as many as 224 Drug molecules belonging to 15 different therapeutic categories of the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011. As part of this survey, 47,954 drug samples relating to 23 dosage forms were drawn from 654 districts of 36 States and Union Territories from the supply chains including retail outlets, Government sources and from eight airports and sea ports.

A nationwide training in drugs survey methodology was imparted at 28 centres across the country to over 1800 Sample Drawing Officers (SDOs) and representatives of the Civil Society / Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). The role of the Civil Society / Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) representatives was to observe that the drugs samples are drawn in accordance with the sampling methodology and the highest degree of transparency and objectivity is maintained in the process to eliminate any bias.

All the samples were subjected to test / analysis as per pharmacopoeial requirements in the Central and State Drug Testing Laboratories that have been accredited by NABL. Overall, out of the 47,012 samples tested, 13 samples were found to be Spurious and 1,850 samples were found to be Not of Standard Quality (NSQ). As such, the percentage of NSQ Drugs in India has been found to be 3.16% and that of Spurious drugs 0.0245%.

This is the largest ever scientifically designed and professionally executed drug survey undertaken in the world for determining the quality of drugs.

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NDMA starts advance preparations for tackling heat wave this year
Feb 22,2017

The National Workshop on Preparation of Heat Wave Action Plan began in Hyderabad. The two-day workshop is being organized by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the Government of Telangana in a bid to effectively tackle the onslaught of heat wave this year.

The workshop is aimed at sensitising States to the need of preparing and implementing their Heat Wave Action Plans in line with NDMAs Guidelines for Preparation of Action Plan - Prevention and Management of Heat-Wave formulated and circulated last year.

This timely workshop will help heat wave-prone States in drawing up their plans for 2017 as heat wave onslaught in various parts of the country typically starts by the latter half of March. Last year, the effective implementation of Heat Action Plans by some of worst affected States brought down the number of heat wave-induced deaths in the country by about 50 per cent.

Speaking on the occasion, Shri R.K. Jain, Member, NDMA, said, n++In 2015, the number of deaths recorded due to heat wave was higher than deaths caused by any other disaster. In this background, NDMA came up with a set of guidelines for managing heat waves in 2016. We closely reviewed and monitored the preparedness and actions taken by heat wave prone States and with the combined efforts of all stakeholders, especially the State Governments, were able to bring down the number of deaths drastically.n++

Dr. D.N. Sharma, Member, NDMA, said that with advance planning and preparedness, and active participation of all stakeholders, not only deaths but also illnesses induced by heat waves could be brought down.

Giving a presentation on prevention and management of heat waves, Dr. V. Thiruppugazh, Joint Secretary, NDMA, emphasised on the importance of Heat Action Plans and a robust database. He added that awareness campaigns were needed to sensitise communities to take measures to reduce the impact of heat waves.

Dr. K. Tirupataiah, ADG, Dr. MCR-HRD Institute, Hyderabad, spoke about the importance of reviving indigenous traditions and knowledge to mitigate the impact of heat waves. He also talked about the need to involve children and Panchayati Raj Institutions in spreading the message of awareness.

The first technical session on Heat Wave Action Plan and Risk Reduction focused on the development of Heat Action Plans for prevention and management of heat waves. It discussed the nuances of fine-tuning Action Plans to cater to localized needs and solutions.

During the second session, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Maharashtra shared their experiences and best practices to help other States prepare their Heat Wave Action Plans. These States, which are among the most vulnerable, have been able to largely mitigate the impact of heat waves with better preparedness and timely intervention.

The session on Early Warning and Forecasting of Heat Wave was chaired by Dr. D.N. Sharma, Member, NDMA. It focused on the importance of area-specific short-range forecasting along with extended forecasting to help authorities to understand the immediate requirements of a region as well the most suited mitigation measures for the entire heat wave season.

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