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Policy on interest rate on loans for agricultural purposes
Aug 02,2017

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has deregulated the interest rate on advances sanctioned by Scheduled Commercial Banks and these interest rates are determined by banks with the approval of their respective Board of Directors subject to regulatory guidelines on interest rate on advances contained in RBIs Master Direction dated 03.03.2016. Interest rates on loans could vary from time to time and be based on credit profile of the borrowers. The information on interest rates charged on loans, vehicle type-wise is not maintained centrally.

With a view to ensuring availability of agriculture credit at a reduced interest rate of 7% p.a. to farmers, the Government of India in the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare implements an interest subvention scheme for short term crop loans up to Rs. 3.00 lakh. Under the said scheme, additional subvention of 3% is given to those farmers who repay their short term crop loan in time, thereby reducing the effective rate of interest to 4% p.a. for such farmers.

Further, with effect from 2014-15, the Long Term Rural Credit Fund (LTRCF), was created with NABARD out of shortfall in achievement of Priority Sector Lending (PSL) targets by Scheduled Commercial Banks, in order to provide long term refinance to Cooperative banks and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) to encourage long term investment credit lending in agriculture. At present the interest rate on advances to banks under LTRCF is at 4.90%.

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RBI has issued Cyber Security Framework in Banks
Aug 02,2017

As per data reported by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the number of cyber crime pertaining to credit card, ATM, debit card and Internet banking shows a marginal increase of 4.4% from 13,083 in 2014-15, to 13,653 in 2016-17.

RBI has issued Cyber Security Framework in Banks, mandating banks to put in place a Board-approved cyber-security policy, which covers the risks from cyber threats and the measures to address/ mitigate these risks.

RBI has issued instructions to banks for reversal of erroneous debits arising from fraudulent or other transactions, and for Board-approved bank policy to cover customer protection, the mechanism of compensating the customer for the unauthorised electronic banking transactions, and display of the same on the banks website, along with the details of grievance-handling / escalation procedure. Under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, if a customer does not receive any reply within a period of one month after receipt of representation by the bank or is not satisfied with the reply given, he can file a complaint before the Ombudsman, who can ask the bank to pay compensation of up to Rs. 20 lakh to the customer for loss, suffered by the customer due to an act of omission of the bank, and also compensation of up to Rs. 1 lakh for mental agony and harassment.

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Special package to address debt burden of farmers
Aug 01,2017

The Government has taken the following initiatives to reduce the debt burden of farmers:

n++ With a view to ensuring availability of agriculture credit at a reduced interest rate of 7% p.a. to farmers, the Government of India in the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare implements an interest subvention scheme for short term crop loans up to Rs. 3.00 lakh. Under the said scheme, additional subvention of 3% is given to those farmers who repay their short term crop loan in time, thereby reducing the effective rate of interest to 4% p.a. for such farmers.

n++ Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued master directions on relief measures to be provided by lending institutions in areas affected by natural calamities including drought which, inter alia, include identification of beneficiaries, extending fresh loans and restructuring of existing loans, relaxed security and margin norms, moratorium, etc. The benchmark for restructuring of loans has been reduced from 50% to 33% crop loss, in line with the National Disaster Management Framework. In addition, as per the Priority Sector Lending Guidelines issued by RBI, loans to distressed farmers to repay non-institutional lenders, are eligible under priority sector.

n++ Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) provides a comprehensive insurance cover against failure of insured crops due to non-preventable natural risks, thus providing financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/ damage arising out of unforeseen events; stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming; and encouraging them to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.

n++ For development of agriculture and welfare of farmers of the country, the Government in Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), is implementing various Central Sector/ Centrally Sponsored Schemes, which include:

i. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)

ii. National Food Security Mission (NFSM)

iii. National Agriculture Market (e-NAM)

iv. National Mission For Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)

n++ Post demonetisation, Government has taken the following relief measures for the farmers in the cooperative sector:

i. An additional grace period of 60 days for prompt repayment incentive @ 3% was provided to such farmers whose crop loans dues fell due between 01/11/2016 to 31/12/2016 and if such farmers repaid the same within 60 days from their due date in this period.

ii. Interest waiver for two months (November and December, 2016) for all short term crop loans availed from Cooperative Banks between 01.04.2016 to 30.09.2016 and upfront deposit of the same in the accounts of the concerned farmers.

iii. National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development (NABARD) raised short term borrowings from the market at prevailing market rate of interest for ₹17,880.78 crore and disbursed the same under refinance for on-lending to Cooperative Banks at 4.5% rate of interest during 2016-17.

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Reduction/exemption of tax rates under GST for small businesses
Aug 01,2017

The Government has received representations from small businesses relating to exemption from GST, reduction in applicable rates of GST, and product and area wise exemptions. The GST rates on supply of goods and services have been notified based on the recommendations of the GST Council. The tax rates on goods have been fixed taking into consideration, inter alia, the total indirect tax incidence on goods prior to GST, which included the central excise duty rates / embedded central excise duty incidence, VAT rates or weighted average VAT rates, embedded VAT incidence, cascading of VAT over excise duty, incidence on account of CST, Octroi, entry tax, etc.

Keeping in view the interests of small business, any supplier in the State or Union territory, other than special category States, whose aggregate turnover in a financial year does not exceed Rs.20 lakh [Rs.10 lakh in the case of Special Category States] is not liable to be registered under the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.

Further, a composition scheme has been provided for the benefit of small business. An eligible registered person in the State or Union territory, other than Special Category States [other than Uttarakhand], can avail benefit of this scheme (Except those manufacturing ice-cream, pan masala and tobacco products) by paying an amount equal to 2% of turnover in the State in case of manufacturers and 1% equal to the turnover in the State in the case of trader dealers. The turnover limit for availing of composition levy initially was Rs. 50 lakhs in the preceding financial year. However, keeping in view the interests of small businesses, the same was increased to 75 lakhs [except in case of Special Category States]. The raised limit in case of Uttarakhand, however, is Rs. 75 lakhs. Thus, the interests of traders are not likely to be adversely affected in general.

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Under the GST regime the applicable tax rate on passenger tickets for economy class has been reduced from 6% to 5%
Aug 01,2017

Under the GST regime the applicable tax rate on passenger tickets for economy class has been reduced from 6% to 5% (non-creditable for goods). The tax rate for business and first class has been increased from 9% to 12% (with input tax creditable for both goods and services procured by airlines). With regard to the UDAN Scheme, the applicable tax would also be 5% (non-creditable for goods) on the value of the passenger ticket excluding the subsidies provided by the Central Government and the State Governments. Moreover, since the maximum airfare or cap prescribed for the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) seats is inclusive of the applicable GST and the same is reimbursable to the airline operator(s) concerned at actuals from the Regional Connectivity Fund, there would be no impact on fares charged from passengers booked on RCS seats.

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Amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to make mandatory for Medical Devices to print MRP on the packages
Aug 01,2017

Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Chemicals & Fertilizers, Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya, said that it would become mandatory for medical devices to print/label MRP on the packages.

Shri Mandaviya stated that Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has made amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 making these rules applicable to medical devices, on one hand, and to e-commerce companies, on the other. These rules shall be applicable from 01.01.2018, he added.

Further, the Minister stated that the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 provide that every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, e-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted, in case of consumer complaints.

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After introduction of GST, all India weighted average MRP of Urea has decreased by 71 paise per bag: Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya
Aug 01,2017

Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Chemicals & Fertilizers, Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya, said that the all India weighted average MRP of Urea has decreased by 71 paise per bag. Therefore, the farmers have directly benefitted from GST. Further, there is adequate availability of all subsidized chemical fertilizers across the country and there is no report of any shortage, the Minister added.

Shri Mandaviya stated that GST being an Indirect Tax, the dealers and manufacturers collect it for Government and deposit it to the Government treasury. Prior to the implementation of GST, the farmers of different States were paying different taxes (Excise Duty and VAT) ranging between 1% to 7%. With the introduction of uniform GST at 5%, the farmers of different States are liable to pay uniform tax amount. The prices of P&K fertilizers have decreased in majority of States after implementation of GST, he added.

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Payment of Mineral Royalty to Districts
Aug 01,2017

Ministry of Mines has amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act, 1957 through the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015, one of the important provisions being the introduction of section 9(B); for the establishment of District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in districts affected by mining related operations. The object of DMFs is to work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations, the DMFs will be funded by statutory contributions from holders of mining lease and in this regard, rules specifying rates of contribution to DMFs has been notified on 17.09.2015, which prescribes the rate of contribution to DMF as follows:

(a) 10% of royalty in respect of mining leases granted on or after 12.1.2015; and

(b) 30% of royalty in respect of mining leases granted before 12.1.2015

Contribution will directly go to the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) of the respective district.

The Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) has been conceived by the Central Government which will be implemented by the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) of the respective districts using the funds accruing to the DMFT. At least 60% of PMKKKY funds will be utilized for high priority areas like: (i) drinking water supply; (ii) environment preservation and pollution control measures; (iii) health care (iv) education; (v) welfare of women and children; (vi) welfare of aged and disabled people; (vii) skill development; and (viii) sanitation. The rest of the funds will be utilized for the following: (i) physical infrastructure; (ii) irrigation; (iii) energy and watershed development; and (iv) any other measures for enhancing environmental quality in mining district.

Directions have been issued under section 20A of MMDR Act on 16.09.2015 to all States to incorporate the PMKKKY into the rules framed by them for the District Mineral Foundations.

As per the information made available by Government of Maharashtra, total amount of Rs. 26.35 Crores has been collected by Pune District under DMF and Rs. 365.94 Crores has been collected by Government of Maharashtra under DMFs. As per Section 9(B)(2) of the MMDR Act, the manner in which the DMF shall work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations shall be prescribed by the State Governments through rules framed in this regard. The funds accrued to DMF will be utilized for the activities as per the PMKKKY. The details of the expenditure made in this regard are not maintained centrally by the Ministry of Mines.

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UDAY: Green Shoots in Financial Performance of Discoms Visible, Although Challenges Remain
Aug 01,2017

India Ratings and Researchs (Ind-Ra) initial assessment of Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme suggests that both financial outcome (gap between average cost of supply (ACS) and average revenue realisation (ARR)) and operational efficiency (decline in aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C)) have improved at an aggregate level. However, aggregate performance masks wide inter-state variations. The reduction in ACS-ARR gap and AT&C losses observed in FY17 (over FY15) were similar to the trend observed during FY12-FY14. Ind-Ra believes that since different states joined UDAY at a different point of time, with the majority (17 states) of them joining in FY17, the time elapsed since then until now is too short to assess the success of the UDAY scheme.

Ind-Ra believes reduction in interest cost has benefitted discoms finances. This is estimated to have freed up INR220 billion capital of the banking sector. However, in the medium-to-long-term, an improvement in operational performance such as increased billing efficiency through feeder metering and feeder audit leading to higher collection will be crucial for keeping the discoms finances healthy. Tighter monitoring of action plan, appointment of nodal officers and state level monitoring committee are also equally important for achieving the desired results.

As of 31 March 2017 (FYE17), 26 states and one union territory have joined UDAY. Nagaland, Odisha and West Bengal have not joined UDAY. Until FYE17, INR2.69 trillion of discoms debt qualified for restructuring, and the state governments and discoms together issued bonds worth INR2.33 trillion (86.5% of the discoms debt). At FYE17, pending bonds to be issued by the states is estimated to be INR362.78 billion, which are likely to be issued by discoms. Issuance by state government will be subject to the fiscal space of each state according to their state Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Acts.

Ind-Ras assessment indicates that some green shoots have emerged so far as the financial performance of the discoms is concerned due to reduced interest cost and savings in power purchase cost (9MFY17: INR140.89 billion). Chhattisgarh discom turned profitable in 1QFY17, while Gujarat discoms increased their profitability in 9MFY17. Similarly, Haryana discoms turned profitable in 2QFY17 and 3QFY17. These results are encouraging; however, the success of UDAY lies in how quickly discoms of larger states such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, among others turn around and make their finances self-sustainable. This will also improve the liquidity profile of independent power producers supplying power to these discoms.

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IT system of all the North East States Treasuries except Nagaland integrated with PFMS
Aug 01,2017

The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, Government of India has been taking several initiatives in the area of Public Expenditure Management in the North Eastern States with special focus on capacity building of the State Government officials and integration of the State Treasuries with the Union Public Financial Management System (PFMS) in order to improve the efficiency and transparency of public expenditure. These initiatives were reviewed recently by Shri Ashok Lavasa, Finance Secretary & Secretary (Expenditure) in a meeting with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and Director, National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM).

Treasury Integration with PFMS

To provide the Centre and State Governments with a real time, reliable and meaningful Management Information System and an effective Decision Support System (DSS) as well as track fund flow in respect of Central Sector (CS) and Central Assistance to State Plan (CASP) schemes, the IT system of all the North East States Treasuries (namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, and Tripura) except Nagaland, have been integrated with PFMS.

Capacity Building

In last six months, 15 Trainings have been organized by the Central Project Management Unit (CPMU) of PFMS and different Ministers/Departments of Government of India in North Eastern States on PFMS. These 15 trainings include one training in each State Head quarter (two in Assam) by CPMU and six (6) trainings organized by different Ministers/Department in Assam/Meghalaya. Total 739 officers/officials/Non officials have been trained in these trainings. Scheme specific training on PFMS being organized by line Ministers/Departments are also being attended by the North Eastern States.

Besides the above, the participants from North East have also been attending Treasury Integration Workshops being organized at New Delhi. State Project Management Units at Guwahati and Shillong are by now well equipped with the skill set required for providing guidance for implementation of PFMS and these SPMUs are providing and holding support to the implementing agencies on need basis.

The National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), an autonomous body under the Department of Expenditure has take-up training of the officers from the North Eastern States as a special focus area. Government E-Marketplace (GeM) training was conducted by NIFM faculty at Guwahati, Assam for three days, from 27th to 29th June 2017, wherein 53 participants of the Government of Assam were provided practical exposure to use of GeM for procurement of Goods and Services. A one week program on Public Private Partnership (PPP) in North-Eastern States has been conducted from 10th July 2017. More programs on GeM, Government Accounts and Finance and GST are planned to be conducted for officers of the North Eastern States in the coming months.

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Indias solar capacity fell short of target of 17 GW by FY2017: study
Aug 01,2017

Indias installed solar capacity fell short of target of 17 gigawatts (GW) by the end of FY2017, the country will need to significantly ramp up the pace of solar capacity additions by 10 GW this year and 15+ GW per year to meet the 2022 target, noted a recent ASSOCHAM-NEC joint study.

In 2014, Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a goal to increase solar power capacity to 100 GW by 2022n++five times higher than the previous target, said the report.

The biggest technological issue in terms of solar is the efficiency of solar cells. Currently the efficiency ranges from 12% to 20%, though this continues to improve. The rest of the energy striking the panel is either reflected or is wasted as heat. The main issue with efficiency is that higher efficiency solar panels cannot be commercially mass produced, said the ASSOCHAM-NEC study.

To achieve the 100 GW target by 2022, the focus has slightly shifted from indigenous manufacturing. Policies to curb the imports from other countries (for instance China) are not benefiting the domestic manufacturing. Furthermore the increase in taxes in the GST structure in solar from 0% to 5% coupled with reduced taxes in coal from 11.69% to 5% may lead to slow adoption of solar in Indian energy sector.

Lack of uniform policies across sectors and implementation issues is also an area of concern. In India subsidy structure is complex and there are involvement of multiple agencies. Land allotment is a long procedure in India, which requires approvals at different levels from authorities.

Currently the foreign investment in Indian solar industry is less than 20%. Even after the 100% FDI under automatic route and 74% through foreign equity participation in a joint venture (without approval), it has not paved the path for significant foreign investments in Indian solar industry.

One major issue with solar power is its reliability. At best, a solar panel can generate power for 12 hours a day. As the solar power is available only in at a certain time interval, it makes sense to bottle up the energy and save it for later use. However, main issue with battery packs is the longevity and cost for better reliability. Reliability of grid integration system is also an issue in most of the small residential and commercial rooftop systems and large utility-scale solar power stations.

Electricity transmission & distribution (T&D) performs a vital task of connecting end-users to electricity generators. Despite considerable improvement in the past decade, India has one of the highest level of electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in the world. T&D losses represent electricity that is generated but does not reach to the end customer. Indias T&D losses range from 20%-30% which is primarily due to two reasons, (1) technical inefficiency, and (2) theft.

The solar panels used in India are not designed to handle very high temperatures and dust prone conditions. Because of this, module damages are common and result in loss in energy generation. Stress related damages to panel results reduced yield. It also increases the cleaning and replacement cost at the site. The efficiency of solar panel drops drastically even when a small portion is blocked by a film of dust.

Poor financial conditions of distribution companies coupled with inadequate financial capacity of stakeholders amounts to financial challenges in the Indian solar industry. Investment required per MW generation of solar power is around INR 6 crores, which means a total of approximately INR 600,000 crores for 100 GW.

Viability of solar power projects in India has become an area of serious concern. Solar projects being capital intensive, the project companies take hefty loans from the banks and any change in timeline or policy affects the overall budget of the project. Due to long timeline of the projects, payback period also gets extended.

For solar projects, cost of obtaining capital is usually considered high. This high risk is because of the counter party risk. The counter party risk is because of the inability of the distribution companies (Discoms) to pay for the power they purchase. Discoms have mandate to purchase renewable power to fulfil RPOs (renewable purchase obligations).

Indian solar industry is growing at a rapid pace and requires an integrator to coordinate with private companies and public sectors. There is a need of a consolidator to bring every stakeholder on the same table to better define policies and frameworks for Indian solar industry (public-private partnerships (PPPs) may offer an effective way to promote and implement rooftop solar PV projects, particularly in India).

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Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI dips sharply in July 2017
Aug 01,2017

PMI survey data indicated that the introduction of the goods & services tax (GST) weighed heavily on the Indian manufacturing industry in July. New orders and output decreased for the first time since the demonetisation-related downturn recorded in December last year, with rates of contraction the steepest since February 2009 in both cases. Consequently, companies purchased fewer quantities of inputs for use in the production process, leading to an overall decline in holdings of raw materials and semi-finished items. Cost burdens increased further, but factory gate charges were lowered as firms attempted to win new business.

At 47.9 in July, down from 50.9 in June, the Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at its lowest mark since February 2009 and highlighted the first deterioration in business conditions in 2017 so far. The downturn was widespread across the three broad areas of manufacturing, with intermediate goods producers the worst affected.

Incoming new work dropped for the first time in the year-to-date and at the steepest pace since early- 2009. Anecdotal evidence indicated that the GST launch hampered demand. Different to the trend for total order books, new export orders continued to rise in July. That said, the rate of expansion softened from Junes eight-month high.

Lower sales triggered an overall accumulation in stocks of finished goods. The rise in holdings of manufactured products was marginal, but interrupted a two-year period of ongoing depletion.

Discouraged by the downturn in factory orders, companies lowered production in July. The fall ended a six-month sequence of growth, and the rate of reduction was the most pronounced since the global financial crisis.

Fewer output requirements caused a reduction in purchasing activity. Although moderate, the contraction in buying levels was the quickest in eight-and-a-half years. Subsequently, inventories of inputs decreased.

According to Indian manufacturers, higher tax rates sparked greater cost burdens in July. However, the pace at which input costs rose was moderate and much weaker than its long-run average. Reflecting attempts to win new business in the face of a competitive environment, some companies lowered their selling prices. Overall, the rate of discounting was marginal. Prior to July, charges had increased for 16 months in succession.

After having increased in June, payroll numbers fell in the current reporting month. But, with the vast majority of panellists signalling unchanged headcounts, the rate of job shedding was marginal overall.

The 12-month outlook for output remained positive in July, with companies expecting more clarity regarding the GST to support growth. New projects in the pipeline and improved product quality were also mentioned as reasons underpinning positive sentiment. The level of confidence was at an 11-month high.

Commenting on the Indian Manufacturing PMI survey data, Pollyanna De Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit and author of the report, said: Manufacturing growth in India came to a halt in July, with the PMI down to its lowest mark in almost eight-and-a-half years amid widespread reports that the sector has been adversely affected by the implementation of the goods and services tax. The reductions in output, new orders and purchasing activity were all the steepest since early-2009.

The downturn was broad-based across all sub-sectors covered by the survey, with output scaled back among firms in the consumer, intermediate and investment goods categories amid falling order books.

The weakening trend for demand, relatively muted cost inflationary pressures and discounted factory gate charges provide powerful tools for monetary policy easing, which has the potential to revive economic growth.

Upcoming PMI releases will show whether underlying conditions remain on the downside or if Julys contraction was a temporary blip. Goods producers foresee the latter, with panellists widely commenting that a lack of clarity regarding tax rates caused confusion among suppliers and manufacturers themselves when agreeing on prices. As such, businesses expect GST information to become clearer in coming months.

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The contribution of tourism to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 6.77% in FY10 to 6.88% in FY13
Aug 01,2017

The number of Domestic Tourist Visits to all States/Union Territories (UTs), including the visits for religious and medical purpose, has increased to 161.4 Crore in 2016 from 143.2 Crore in 2015, registering a growth of 12.7% in 2016 over 2015.

The number of Foreign Tourist Visits to all States/UTs, including the visits for religious and medical purpose, has increased to 2.5 Crore in 2016 from 2.3 Crore in 2015, registering a growth of 5.9% in 2016 over 2015.

The number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals, as differentiated from Foreign Tourist Visits, in India has increased to 88.0 lakh in 2016 from 80.3 lakh in 2015, registering a growth of 9.7% in 2016 over 2015.

As per the information available for the current year, the number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India during January-June 2017 were 48.8 lakh registering a growth of 17.2% over the same period of 2016.

As per the 2nd Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) of India - 2009-10 and subsequent estimation, the contribution of tourism to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 were 6.77%, 6.76%, 6.76% and 6.88% respectively

The major schemes operated by the Ministry of Tourism for development and promotion of tourism in the country are given below:

n++ Swadesh Darshan - Integrated Development of Tourist Circuits on Specific Themes

n++ National Mission for Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD)

n++ Overseas Promotion and Publicity including Market Development Assistance

n++ Assistance to IHMs/FCIs/IITTM/NCHMCT

n++ Domestic Promotion and Publicity including Hospitality

n++ Capacity Building for Service Providers

n++ Computerization and Information Technology

Tourism is a demand based concept defined not by its output but by its use. It consumes the output of various industries like Passenger Transport (Air/ Rail/Road), Hotels & Restaurants, etc. The initiatives taken by the Ministry to boost tourism in the country under various schemes would in turn benefit the various service industries by way of increasing demands and inter-alia direct and indirect employment generation.

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The new Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and Bhutan has come into force with effect from 29th July 2017
Aug 01,2017

The bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan are governed by the Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between the Government of India and Bhutan. The Agreement provides for a free trade regime between the territories of India and Bhutan. The Agreement also provides for duty free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.

The Agreement was last renewed on 29th July 2006 for a period of ten years. The validity of this Agreement was extended, with effect from 29th July 2016, for a period of one year or till the new agreement comes into force, through exchange of Diplomatic notes.

The new Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement was signed on 12th November 2016 by the Minister of State (IC), Ministry of Commerce and Industry on behalf of the Government of India during her visit to Bhutan on 11th-13th November, 2016. As per its provisions, the new Agreement was to come into force on a mutually decided date. As agreed to by both India and Bhutan, the new Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and Bhutan has come into force with effect from 29th July 2017.

The new Agreement will further strengthen the bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan.

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EPFOs tie-up with Banks to collect EPFO dues & to make payments of PF withdrawals, pension & insurance to EPFO beneficiaries
Jul 31,2017

Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has tied up/entered into arrangement agreement with ten banks to collect EPFO dues and to make payments of Provident Fund (PF) withdrawals, pension and insurance to EPFO beneficiaries. These banks are State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Indian Bank, Allahabad Bank, Union Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank.

The main objective of the multi banking arrangement is to provide more options to the employers to remit the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution directly from their bank accounts. This will not only make them cost effective but also ensure real time transfer of funds through net banking.

In order to provide social security benefits to the workers in the unorganised sector, the Government has enacted the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008. The said Act stipulates formulation of suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers on matters relating to: (i) life and disability cover, (ii) health and maternity benefits, (iii) old age protection and (iv) any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government through the National Social Security Board. In this regard, various schemes have been formulated by the line Ministries at the Centre to provide social security cover to the unorganized workers.

The review of various welfare initiatives is an ongoing process like revision in the threshold limit for coverage under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and Employees State Insurance Act, 1948, enhancement of the benefit payable under the Employees Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme, revision of minimum wages in the Central sphere, enhancement of paid maternity leave, etc.

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