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Ministry of External affairs enquire missions to promote Ayush, Ayurveda: V.K. Singh
Feb 22,2017

Ministry of External affairs (MEA) have asked all chairs and missions to take a serious look to promote Ayush and Ayurveda, said (Dr) V.K. Singh (Retd), Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India at an ASSOCHAM event.

n++On part of Ministry of External affairs (MEA), we have asked all our chairs and missions to promote Ayush and Ayurveda because 25 missions have got Ayush facilitation centers and these are being managed in a manner in which we would like them to become much greater facilitation center then what they are today,n++ said Mr Singh.

He said that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is aware of need for simplifying VISA procedures and open for the suggestions and recommendations to make things better for people who are coming.

n++Misuse and abuse creates problems for any new initiative,n++ he added. To ensure that things are made as transparent as possible and things are made in this manner in which they cannot be misused, said Mr. Singh.

n++This is field got tremendous potential which can make India the hub of medical facilities which will help India as well as allow rest of the world to depend on Indian++, said Mr. Singh.

Mr Singh also said that we have treatments both traditional medical field and as well as alternative therapies that are perfected and cause the traditional Indian medicinal practices. There are people in continents that look towards India as a country which gives affordable medical care.

The tourist looks for the facility which is at par best in the world that is hygiene, friendly staff who can guide you correctly and the doctors who are not going to overcharge you, added Mr. Singh.

In his address at the ASSOCHAM summit, Mr Amarendra Khatua, Secretary (Special Assignment), MEA and DG, ICCR, said that today, today, the pharma market is about US$ 40 billion in 2017-18, the average growth rate is 14% per year at CAGR and in real terms medical visa arrivals are increased almost at the rate of 80% every year since 2010. The MEDiTravel industry now needs concentrated and coordinated approach for growth, revenue generation and quality service.

Medical tourism in exports not only results in increased foreign exchange earnings, increased tourism revenue earning, attracts tourism investment in the sector, creation of employment, improves standard and accountability in the local health services and facilities and growing awareness, added Mr. Khatua.

n++It also creates great India brand. The brand properly packaged and marketed by a study, is estimated to have a market size of a US $ 60 billion per yearn++.

He also highlighted the action plan like we must have a focussed market development programme in the target countries through regional insurance product and cross border payment arrangements.

Introduction of polit schemes for specialised electric treatments and procedures and sell them specialised trade fairs or promotional events abroad. Need to have a study of setting up medi-value EPZs in different parts of India, said Khatua.

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Ministry of Road Transports New Format for Reporting Accidents
Feb 22,2017

An expert committee was constituted by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to review the format for reporting of road accidents. The committee headed by Senior Adviser of the Transport Research Wing and consisting of experts from IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, WHO, senior officers from the Police and Transport Departments of States, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, submitted its recommendations, which have also been accepted by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Briefing the media in the capital today, Mrs Kirti Saxena, Senior Adviser of Transport Research Wing and Chairperson of the committee said that FIRs at police station suffer from under reporting of data from the accident site, which are therefore inaccurate and incomplete. She informed that the committee met a number of times to look into the weaknesses of the existing format for reporting accidents. After studying the way accidents are reported in various states and also in other countries, the new format was recommended to the Ministry. She also stated that the main role would be that of the police for whom workshops would have to be held. Prof. Geetam Tiwari from IIT Delhi and member of the committee elaborated on the salient features of the new format. She informed that at present reports are collected from police stations and State Governments send their report to the Centre. She expressed the hope that the new format would fill in gaps in reporting of accidents by minimizing subjectivity. Prof. Sudeshna Mitra of IIT Kharagpur and member of the committee said that recording of the accident site will play crucial role in the task of reporting. She added that the GPS detail will enable to understand the road design at site. Besides, vehicle analysis and also person related details would help in analyzing the accidents. The recording of accident data is done in FIRs at police stations. These records are liable to be subjective as the police personnel fill it up according to their understanding and assign reasons for accidents as per their interpretation. There are apprehensions that due to limited technical understanding, the police persons recording the data are not able to recognize the role of road engineering defects, the nature of impacting vehicles and other such technical details that may have caused the accident. As a result, these aspects that are so vital for ensuring road safety but remain unreported or under reported.

After a series of deliberations the committee has developed a uniform accident Recording Format to be adopted by the police in all states and UTs. The accident Recording Form has five sections designed to capture all relevant information like accident identification/location, road condition, vehicles involved and victim details. Section A contains accident identification details like location, vehicle type etc. Section B captures road conditions and features like culvert, gradient, pothole etc. Section C would capture details about vehicle - both motorized and non motorized, overloading etc. Section D would capture traffic violations by drivers and Section E would capture details about persons other than drivers involved in the accident. The form is simple and would be easy for the police persons at thana levels to understand and fill up. It also minimizes subjective elements.

In addition to the above, the committee has also developed a set of corresponding annual road accident data Reporting Format consisting of 17 forms in which the states/ UTs would be required to furnish the annual road accident data to TRW of the Ministry within one month of the completion of a calendar year.

This development is important as the data forms the basis for analyzing the cause of accidents, identifying black spots and taking corrective steps to eliminate the same. This is also the data that gets compiled by the Transport Research Wing of the Ministry in its annual publication Road Accidents in India. Over a period of time the data will reveal patterns which will provide solutions and enable action to be taken.

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Government to Come up With its own Study to Assess Impact of Pollution on Human Health: Environment Minister
Feb 22,2017

The Government is to come up with its own study with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to assess the trends and impact of pollution on human health. Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Anil Madhav Dave, said that the Government is taking all necessary steps to mitigate air pollution. He gave a detailed account of various sources of pollution and actions taken by the Government for their management. Giving an account of recent steps taken by the Government, the Minister referred to the notification on Graded Response Action Plan to address different levels of air pollution in National Capital Region. Referring to several media reports, linking air pollution specifically to deaths, Mr. Dave said there is a need to exercise caution in interpretation of these studies.

The Government is closely monitoring the trend of various air pollutants across the country under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme. The Monitoring network comprises manual stations spread over 300 cities in 29 States and 6 Union territories. Apart from manual stations, there are 54 Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations that cover 33 cities in 12 states. The monitoring network is being expanded to cover all metro cities and capital towns.

The result of the monitoring shows that, while the levels of Particulate Matters have a fluctuating trend, the value of SO2 is generally within permissible limits, while the value of NO2 is fluctuating and slightly above the permissible limits. The value of Particulate Matter is the main concern and the Government has been taking all necessary measures to mitigate this problem in a systematic manner.

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Government Issued Dated Securities Worth Rs.161,000 Crore Taking the Gross Borrowings in April-December of FY17 to Rs. 5,02,000 Crore or 83.7 Per Cent
Feb 21,2017

During Q3 of FY17, the Government issued dated securities worth Rs.161,000 crore taking the Gross Borrowings in April-December of FY17 to Rs. 5,02,000 crore or 83.7 per cent of BE, vis-a-vis 85.6 per cent of BE in April-December of FY 16. Net market borrowings from April-December of FY17 were at Rs.362,012 crore, 85.1 per cent of BE. Auctions of both Government dated Securities and Treasury Bills, during Q3 of FY17 were held in accordance with the pre-announced issuance calendar. In the 11 tranches of G-securities auction, five new securities, namely 7.06% GS 2046, 6.51% FRB 2024, 6.62% GS 2051, 6.57%GS 2033 and 6.79% GS 2029 were issued during the Quarter on October 10, November 7, November 28, December 5 and December 26, 2016, respectively. The Weighted Average Maturity (WAM) and Weighted Average Yield (WAY) issued during Q3 FY17 was 15.59 years and 6.78 per cent. The liquidity condition in the economy continued to improve during the quarter. The cash position of the Government during Q3 of FY17 was comfortable and remained in surplus mode.

The Public Debt (excluding liabilities under the Public Account) of the Central Government provisionally increased by 2.4 per cent in Q3 of FY 17 on Q-o-Q basis. Internal debt constituted 92.6 per cent of Public Debt as at end-December 2016, while marketable securities accounted for 83.6 per cent of Public Debt. About 26.6 per cent of outstanding stock has a residual maturity of up to 5 years at end - December 2016, which implies that over the next five years, on an average, around 5.3 per cent of outstanding stock needs to be repaid every year. Thus, rollover risk in the debt portfolio continues to be low. The implementation of budgeted buy back/ switches in coming period is expected to further reduce roll over risk.

G-sec yields declined sharply across the curve during the quarter, post the Governments decision on November 8, 2016 to demonetize high denomination value notes which was viewed positively by market as deposits were expected to surge in banks and led to bullish market sentiment, particularly for short end bonds. The bullish market sentiment was however, restrained to a certain extent with rise in global crude prices on OPEC agreement with Russia in its meeting to cut oil output, hiking by US Fed of key policy rate by 25 bps and FOMC commentary suggesting further rate hikes at a faster pace. The trading volume of Government Securities on an outright basis during Q3 FY 17 decreased by 11.87 per cent over the previous quarter.

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Record 444 LMT of paddy procured during ongoing Kharif Marketing Season: Shri Ram Vilas Paswan
Feb 21,2017

The Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution expressed satisfaction over the production figures as per the 2nd advance estimates released by the Agriculture Ministry. The expected record output proves that the farmers are responding positively towards the measures taken by the Central Government. Shri Paswan congratulated the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh on the record production of foodgrains which he shared with the media on 16th February, 2017. According to the 2nd advance production estimates, the production of major crops is expected to be 271.98 mMT.

Shri Paswan said that soon after the NDA Government took-over, the country faced drought like situation continuously for two years and this is for the first time that monsoon was good. Now farmers and consumers will reap the benefits of pro-farmer policies of the Union Government. The Minister said that sowing of wheat grew by 7%, while the increase in pulses was 11% and in oilseeds it was 6% as compared to last year. As a result, we are expecting 221.4 LMT record production in pulses. Similarly the wheat production is expected to be 965 LMT. Union Government has framed a policy to transfer the MSP directly to the accounts of farmers in a transparent manner. Government has increased the MSP of pulses and oilseeds considerably and there is steady increase in the MSP of paddy and wheat. Shri Paswan told that during the ongoing Kharif Marketing Season a record 444 LMT of paddy has been procured from the farmers. Shri Paswan said that farmers have produced record pulses, however, there were complaints that they were not getting even then MSP for Moong and Arhar. The Government immediately responded, first, by increasing the buffer stock of pulses from 1.5 MT to 20 LMT in order to protect farmers interests. Further the Government has engaged 3 central agencies viz. FCI, NAFED and SFAC to procure pulses directly from farmers which is still going on.

As per the data released by the Agriculture Ministry, wheat production will be around 965 LMT. Going by the sowing area and favourable weather conditions, the country will have good yield of wheat. The Food Department held a meeting with wheat producing States on 15th February, 2017 and has set the procurement target at 330 LMT for the ensuing Rabi Marketing Season 2017-18. Extensive preparations have been made for procurement operations and Government will make necessary arrangements for payment of MSP to farmers. Special attention has been given to the farmers of Eastern States. Government has recently removed import duty on wheat to increase its availability in domestic market. In a span of around 2 months, 40 LMT Wheat has been imported and this year more than 55 LMT wheat imports have happened in total. Fresh wheat crop is expected to come by mid-March. It has been experienced when there is price-rise the benefit is taken by the traders and consumers are exploited. However, when fresh crop hits the market prices fall and the farmers have to take the loss. Shri Paswan assured that the Government will take all necessary steps to ensure payment of MSP to farmers and may review the import duty on wheat if required.

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Future of real estate sector is in affordable housing, says Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu
Feb 21,2017

Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu urged real estate developers to take up affordable housing projects in a big way while stressing that therein lies the future of the real estate sector. Elaborating on his statement, the Minister said that n++ The Governments focus on ensuring Housing for All including the Middle Income Groups offered immense opportunities both at the bottom and the middle of the pyramid which needs to be seized by the developers who have seen ups and downs in recent yearn++. He spoke at a Conference on n++Real Estate Sector-Post Remonetisation and RERAn++ organized by PHD Chambers.

Shri Venkaiah Naidu further said that the Government has paid more attention to the real sector than any other sector by announcing more than 20 supporting measures to revive real estate sector over the last two years including announcing the long awaited infrastructure status for affordable housing besides several tax concessions and exemptions. He further said that under Prime Ministers Awas Yojana (Urban), people belonging to Economically Weaker Sections, Low Income Groups and Middle Income Groups with incomes up to Rs.18 lakh per year have been made eligible for central assistance up to Rs.2.35 lakh per each beneficiary. n++Low cost long term financing under infrastructure status, tax concessions and central assistance under PMAY and the scale of housing needs of these sections make affordable housing the best investment opportunity and developers are left with no further excuses for not seizing this opportunityn++ Shri Naidu stressed.

Shri Naidu said that various initiatives of the Government including the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, the Benami Properties Act and note withdrawal have enabled a new real estate eco-system based on 4 Cs viz., Character, Credibility, Confidence and Cash that would help revive the sector. He said that while the Real Estate Act removes the taint restoring the character of the sector leading to credibility and enhanced confidence of buyers, central assistance, reduced interest rates and tax concessions keep more cash in the hands of buyers.

Stating that the Ministry of HUPA has so far approved construction of over 16 lakh affordable houses for urban poor with an investment of about Rs.90,000 cr and central assistance of about Rs.25,000 cr, Shri Naidu expressed concern over private developers not taking up any projects so far. He urged them to change their mindsets and outlook and take up affordable housing projects given the business logic that goes with it in the changing context.

Shri Naidu said that his Ministry would soon convene a Round Table with real estate bodies and representatives of banks and Housing Financing Companies and others concerned to deliberate on the road ahead for promoting affordable housing so that the target of ensuring Housing for All by 2022 would be met.

On the effects of note withdrawal, the Minister noted that it was only a temporary interlude and the process of remonetisation is almost completed. Shri Naidu noted that n++For various reasons, real estate sector over the years has come to be seen as the villain in the theatre of corruption and note withdrawal was expected to address flow of unaccounted for money in to the sector by about 20% to 30% which in turn would bring down prices substantiallyn++.

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Standard Operating Procedure for protection and care of children in street situations launched
Feb 21,2017

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations for their rehabilitation and safeguarding was released by Minister for Women & Child Development, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi.

The NCPCR decided to outline a detailed intervention framework for care and protection of children living in street situation as the problems faced by these children are multi-dimensional and complex. The SOP aims at streamlining the interventions within the current legal and policy framework. The purpose of the SOP is to identify processes that should be set in motion once a child on the street has been identified as a child in need. These processes would be within the existing framework of rules and policies and would create a convergence of the various agencies. Besides it also provides a step-by-step guideline for all the stakeholders for care, protection and rehabilitation of these children.

Speaking about the release of the SOP, Smt. Maneka Gandhi said, n++Our government is committed to the well-being of every child in India. This initiative will help the Government to ensure that health education and protection mechanisms are made available to children living on the streets.

The SOP was drafted after taking into consideration a detailed field research study with inputs received from regional consultations held at Patna, Lucknow, Hyderabad and Mumbai from 35 NGOs. Children who survived from the street were also consulted in Delhi at NCPCR before drafting of the SOP.

Children living in the streets are among the most vulnerable groups. Most of these children have little or no adult supervision and protection. They also do not have access to education and basic health care living a life of struggle for survival. The lack of basic care and protection exposes them to abuse, exploitation and neglect depriving them of the most basic human rights.

Cities in India are witnessing rapid urbanization. By 2030, 40% of Indias population is expected to be living in urban areas which mean that child population in streets will continue to grow. Therefore, it is important to integrate the needs of children in street situations into urban policies and planning. A 2016 survey by Save the Children in Lucknow, Mughalsarai, Kolkata- Howrah, Patna and Hyderabad found 84,563 children living on the streets. An older study by the same organization in Delhi put their number at 50,000.

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OECD GDP growth slows to 0.4% in fourth quarter of 2016
Feb 21,2017

Real growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the OECD area decelerated slightly to 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 0.5% in the previous quarter, according to provisional estimates.

Among Major Seven economies, growth picked up in Germany and France in the fourth quarter of 2016, to 0.4%, compared with 0.1% and 0.2% respectively in the previous quarter, and remained stable in the United Kingdom, at 0.6%. However, growth slowed sharply in the United States (to 0.5%, down from 0.9%) and also, albeit slightly, in Japan and Italy (to 0.2%, compared with 0.3% in the previous quarter).

In the European Union and in the euro area, growth was stable at 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

Year-on-year GDP growth for the OECD area was stable at 1.7% for the fourth straight quarter. Among Major Seven economies, the United Kingdom (2.2%) recorded the highest annual growth rate (for the fourth consecutive quarter), while Italy and France registered the lowest (1.1%).

For 2016 as a whole, GDP rose by 1.7% in the OECD area, down from 2.4% in 2015.

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Vice President Hamid Ansari launches India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program during his visit to Africa
Feb 21,2017

Vice President of India, Shri Hamid Ansari, launched the India- Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme as one of the major Science and Technology initiatives between India and Rwanda. The Program was launched in presence of the Prime Minister of Rwanda, Anastase Murekezi and is a key announcement made during the high level visit of the Indian Vice President.

India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a first of its kind initiative to be launched and piloted between India and Rwanda to strengthen the bilateral relationship purely based on Science, Technology and Innovation. The objective of the Program is to match the socio-economic needs of Rwanda by linking the Rwandan industry with leading edge Indian technologies and innovations. The Program will deploy 20 demonstrated and validated Indian technologies and innovations over a period of two years. The joint programs/ventures created with Rwandan partners will deliver at least 20 sustainable social enterprises that will stimulate economic impact development in Rwanda.

As a prelude to the Program, fifteen Indian techno-entrepreneurs also showcased their innovative solutions at the prestigious Kigali Convention Centre, Kigali. The Showcase and Business to Business interaction were inaugurated by the Vice President of India and the Prime Minister of Rwanda. More than 100 interested private and public sector attendees from Rwanda attended and interacted with Indian innovators and business delegates. The showcased Indian Innovations included CassavaTech, a patented technology that brings down capital cost of processing Cassava from USD 15,000 to USD 200 and reduces operating cost from USD 20 to USD 2 for 200 kg processing capacity. The technology further reduces drying time for Cassava from 10 days to 10 hours producing high quality Cassava flour. Another technology showcased was a ~100% compostable menstrual hygiene solution providing affordable pads to adolescent girls and women. This is done using a unique low cost, low electricity consuming machine that produces 1200-2400pads/8-10 hrs through community participation from 12-16 women (no specific skills required) as production workforce.

The India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry supported by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

Shri Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India stated n++I am happy to learn of the initiative jointly taken by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Science and Technology for organizing the India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program and a Technology & Innovation Showcase at Kigali. Science and Technology are powerful drivers of growth and development all over the world. The solution of our myriad problems lies in a deeper understanding of science and more judicious use of technology. I am sure the joint programs/ventures foreseen with Rwandan partners will play an important role in fostering sustainable development and progress in both the countries.n++

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology stated n++Indio-Rwanda joint initiative in field of Science and Technology and its commercial exploration is indeed a welcome step and goes a long way in further cementing Indio-Africa relationship. Visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Africa and India hosting 40 head of states/government during indo-Africa Forum Summit III speaks of our mutual desire for engagement in diversified fields for benefit of people of two region. I wish this initiative will go a long way in establishing everlasting mutually beneficial partnership leading to inclusive growth of people of two region.n++

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology shared n++We are proud to carry forward the vision and announcement of our Honble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to share our validated technologies and innovations with Rwanda soon to start India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program. This Program has been conceived to bridge Rwandas assessed needs for impact development by bringing together Rwandan entrepreneurs and public sector with Indian innovators. India is proud to partner with Rwanda in this first pilot to establish a technology transfer and enterprise creation which can then be replicated in East African nations and across the African continentn++.

On the launch of the program, Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI said n++India and Africa share a common historical background and have been long term partners in their journey of growth and development. FICCI has been working with the Department of Science and Technology over the last decade to identify, nurture and scale innovative solutions that address global development challenges. We now look forward to sharing and transferring such technological solutions to our friends in Africa and deeply engage with the entrepreneurial fraternity in Africa.n++

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India Ratings Maintains Negative Outlook on Infrastructure Sector for FY18
Feb 21,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has maintained a negative outlook on the infrastructure sector for FY18, albeit with revised outlooks for a couple of sub-sectors.

The increase in receivables position of wind power plants limited the headroom available to handle low wind patterns; hence, Ind-Ra has revised wind energys outlook to negative for FY18 from stable for FY17. With little improvements in the issues facing the toll roads sector (low inflation, slower ramp up, lower toll rate growth) and coal-based thermal power (demand-supply mismatch, increased thrust on renewables), Ind-Ra continues with its negative outlook on these two sectors. Favourable policy actions and strong passenger growth drive the outlook revision to positive for airports for FY18 from stable, while other subsectors (solar, ports, transmission) have been maintained on a stable outlook on the back of performances largely in line with Ind-Ras expectations.

Roads: Ind-Ra has maintained a negative outlook on toll roads for FY18, on the expectation of sluggish traffic growth compounded by a subdued Wholesale Price Index. Ind-Ras analysis reveals the vulnerability of projects, especially the ones with a short operational track record (less than three years), to a 200bp reduction in base case growth rates, which would lead to impairment in debt serviceability. Road developers have found a penchant for infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) - 75% of the InvITs in the listing stage are from the highway sector. Though prima facie traction in InvITs seems positive, the actual trimming of debt to the desired levels would be clear by 1HFY18, and discord over valuation may be a major stumbling block for InvITs. The pace of financial closures under the hybrid annuity model is marred, due to low termination payments and less equity contributions; consequently, lenders exercise caution before lending.

Thermal Power: The negative outlook on thermal power is mainly due to suboptimal plant load factors, lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements which has been compounded by low priority in power scheduling, and added uncertainty in awarding compensatory tariffs. Slow demand growth and abundant options for state distribution companies to tap into short-term market for meeting any temporary demand spikes have led to the lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements. Although steps have been taken at the policy level by the introduction of measures such as Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, Ind-Ra believes that reliance on state distribution companies errant payment cycle places issuers at a disadvantage for tapping capital markets.

Solar Power: Ind-Ra maintains a stable outlook for the solar power sector on the back of a stable performance, predictable nature of cash flows based on long-term power purchase agreements, decreasing panel prices, favourable debtor days, albeit with a limited operational track record. Ind-Ra believes that a combination of evolving payment security mechanism (such as creation of a payment security fund and state government guarantee) and a fall in panel prices (November 2017 yoy about 28%) will not only reduce the funding costs but also drive low solar tariffs.

Availability-based Assets: Ind-Ra has maintained a stable outlook on availability-based assets, both annuity and transmission projects, primarily on the back of strong counterparty credit profiles and demonstrated records of timely receipts of availability payments. Most of the annuity-based road projects and transmission assets continue to demonstrated availability in line with empirical evidence, reiterating Ind-Ras expectation of above normative level availability in case of transmission assets.

Airports: Despite global macroeconomic headwinds, the airport sector recorded yet another year of a robust traffic throughput and was aided by government measures, resulting in the revision of the sectors outlook to positive for FY18. With better-than-expected improvement in throughput levels, the capex plans of couple of airports are likely to be advanced. Delay in real estate monetisation continues to be an overhang on the Mumbai and Delhi airports. However, strong growth in aero-related revenues has negated the possible impact on revenues. Airports are well poised to refinance their debt and the agency expects issuances with elongated tenors and bullet repayments.

Seaports: The outlook for seaports is maintained at stable for FY18, due to continued throughput volumes growth in line with overall economic growth. Most of the major ports recorded year-on-year growth in traffic and there were no surprises in the top commodities traded across ports compared to the previous year.

OUTLOOK SENSITIVITIES

A reduction in interest rates and the stability of the Indian rupee can help ease the overall pressure on projects cash flow while a pick-up in economic activity will have a salutary effect on traffic volumes and energy demand, leading to portfolio-wide increases in coverage metrics.

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Nearly 10 lakh citizens get reward money over Rs.153.5 crore for embracing Digital Payments
Feb 21,2017

It has been 58 days since the launch of NITI Aayogs two incentive schemes - Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana to promote digital payments and the public response has been quite encouraging.

The initiative to make Digital Payments a mass movement in India through the two schemes has made a headway across the country with more and more people adopting digital transactions.

According to the latest figures released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which has been executing the schemes, nearly 10 lakh consumers and merchants have been disbursed over Rs.153.5 crore as reward money till 20th February, 2017.

Highlights:

n++ Among the 9.8 lakh winners are more than 9.2 lakh consumers and 56,000 merchants.

n++ 120 consumers have won prize money worth Rs. 1 lakh each

n++ 4,000 merchants have won Rs. 50,000 prize money each

n++ Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi have emerged as the top five states/ Union Territory(s) with maximum number of winners

n++ Active participation was seen among females and males across regions

n++ Winners belong to diverse socio-economic backgrounds, from farmers, merchants, small entrepreneurs, professionals, housewives, students to retired persons.

n++ While majority of the winners are in the age group of 21 to 30, a significant number are also above 60 years of age.

n++ The diversity in age of winners is from 15 to 66 years, challenging the notion that the old find it difficult to embrace technology to adopt digital payments.

The winners have their own stories to tell it all as to how the switch over to digital payments has been le and how it has made the life easier for them. Sabir, a 22-year-old cab driver from Delhi won Rs. 1,00,000 under Lucky GrahakYojana for consumers. Digital payments are a blessing in disguise for him because he has to take care of his mother and differently-abled sister after the demise of his father and doesnt have time to stand in lines at the bank. Bhim Singh, a 29-year-old wheat farmer from Hissar in Haryana and winner under this initiative, now uses digital payments for buying supplies from wholesalers. Jayanthi SF, from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, a 29-year-old engineering student and mother to a six-year-old, is a proud winner of Rs. 1,00,000 under the scheme.

Among the merchants, Damodar Prasad Khandelwal, a 42-year-old grocery store owner from Alwar in Rajasthan, won Rs. 50,000 in the weekly prize under Digi-DhanVyaparYojana for merchants. Manju R Gowda, a 32-year-old fast-food restaurant owner in Mumbai is another winner of Rs. 50,000 under this scheme.

An analysis of the reward data also reveals winners as belonging to a wide geographical cross-section, including rural and urban areas spread across every State.

NITI Aayog has been organizing DigiDhanMelas at 110 cities across India, beginning December 25th, 2016.. It will go on every day until April 14, 2017. Till date, 59 DigiDhanMelas have been organized to take the digital payments movement to the masses across the country.

Background:

NITI Aayog launched two schemes on December 25, 2016 - Lucky GrahakYojna (LGY) for consumers and Digi-DhanVyaparYojna (DVY) for merchants to incentivize them and promote digital payments. The two schemes shall remain open till April 14, 2017. There are 15,000 daily winners qualifying for total prize money of Rs. 1.5 crore. In additional to this there are over 14,000 weekly winners qualifying for total prize money of over Rs. 8.3 crore every week.

Customers and merchants using RuPay Card, BHIM / UPI (Bharat Interface for Money / Unified Payments Interface), USSD based *99# service and Aadhaar Enabled Payment Service (AePS) are eligible for wining daily and weekly lucky draw prizes.

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M&A and InvITs in Infrastructure Sector to Account 12% of Total Equity Requirement
Feb 21,2017

Infrastructure deals particularly in road sector in the form of Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) is likely to gain traction in 2017, says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). The agency estimates INR0.4 trillion of funds to be raised by infrastructure sector from 25 major mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and InvITS in 2017. While this could support several cash strapped infrastructure developers, the high indebtedness and weak cash flow are likely to keep leverage at 7x-8x over FY18-FY20, marginally lower than the FY16 level of 8.5x. Ind-Ras analysis of 66 large borrowers in the infrastructure sector reflects that the deals would contribute only 12% of the total equity requirement of INR3 trillion-INR4 trillion to deleverage to a sustainable level of 4x-5x.

Road: Ind-Ra expects INR173 billion of funds to be raised by performing assets in the road sector through M&A deals and InvITs in 2017, due to monetisation of road projects (toll operate transfer) and tax efficiency. This contributes one-third of the total equity requirement to deleverage to a sustainable level. The sector is likely to benefit from the Union Budget 2017-18 budgetary allocation of INR0.9 trillion for road and highway segment, with an aim to stimulate private sector participation in the sector. This in Ind-Ras view would largely benefit the non-stressed players with a strong balance sheet. M&A activities in the stressed assets in the road sector are unlikely to witness a pick-up due to disagreements in valuations and the extent of debt hair-cuts required.

Thermal Power: Ind-Ra believes that domestic consolidation in the thermal sector will continue in 2017. The sector has been impacted by a sub-optimal plant load factor, weak cash flows and poor credit profile of distribution companies. An increase in the industrial electricity demand, an increasing pace of signing of new power purchase agreements and the successful implementation of Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana scheme would aid the ailing sector from a further distress. A potential equity of INR60 billion is likely to be unlocked from M&A deals in the thermal power sector. This in Ind-Ras view is negligible, since it accounts a mere 4% of the total equity requirement for deleveraging corporates to a sustainable level.

Renewable Energy (Wind and Solar): Ind-Ra expects INR69 billion of equity released from the renewable energy sector to contribute one-third of the sectors total equity requirement to deleverage to a sustainable level. The Union Budget thrust on the second phase of development of 20GW solar energy and solar tariffs approaching grid parity is likely to garner investors interest in to the sector. On the contrary, deal activities will be subdued in the wind energy sector due to halving of accelerated depreciation to 40% and lapse of generation-based incentives effective 1 April 2017.

Other Infrastructure: Ind-Ra believes M&A activities and InvITs in other sectors such as transmission, airport and ports are expected to unlock equity worth INR59 billion. Ind-Ras view M&A activities in these sectors to remain subdued in 2017 as majority of the consolidation in these sectors has already been taken.

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Pharma industry to reach USD 55 bn in 3 years; medical tourism major growth driver: ASSOCHAM-IITTM study
Feb 21,2017

Indian pharmaceuticals market is expected to touch US$ 55 billion by 2020 from the current level of US$ 36.7 billion in 2016 growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.92 per cent, according to ASSOCHAM-IITTM joint study.

Indian pharmaceuticals market increased at a CAGR of 17.46 per cent during 2005-16 with the market increasing from US$ 6 billion in 2005 to US$ 36.7 billion in 2016. By 2020, India is likely to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and sixth largest market globally in absolute size, noted the study titled `Medical Value Travel (MVT),` jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and research firm Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM).

According to joint report, Indian Health Care is expected to rise at a rate of CAGR of 29% during 2015-20 to US $280 billion with rising income, greater health awareness, increased precedence of lifestyle diseases and improved access to insurance,

The year 2015 witnessed the growth of 140% of foreign tourist`s arrival on medical visa from the year 2013, where more than 50, 000 people visited India on medical visa. This number rose to approx 1,34,000 in 2015. In fact, the number of foreign tourist`s arrival on a medical attendant visa also doubled from 2013 to 2015, increasing from 42,000 odd in 2013 to more than 99,000 in 2015, adds the study.

The study reveals that in the first 6 months of 2016 alone, close to a lakh foreign tourists have arrived on a medical visa making it a very lucrative market. The top most countries availing medical visa were Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Republic of Korea and Nigeria.

The majority of the patients coming to India for treatment are from the Middle East, Africa, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka for its expertise in cardiac and orthopaedic procedures, in addition to other specialised areas like neuro-surgeries, cancer treatment and organ transplantation. India is also attracting medical tourists looking for the traditional system of medicine available in India, noted the study.

The ability to offer holistic medical services such as Unani, Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda, and Homeopathic treatments (AYUSH) is also a huge attraction.

There are less numbers of accredited hospitals in India. Thailand being a smaller nation has 55 JCI accredited medical facilities. Lack of enough accredited medical facilities decreases the supply potentials of India as a medical tourism hub. Though the cost of treatment in India is less but there is high cost of accommodation which creates a barrier for low income group patients. There is also lack of proper regulatory and review framework related to medical tourism giving way to many legal and ethical issues.

Many problems arise due to lack of synergy between various stakeholders. Stringent medical visa rules also create a barrier as it makes the process of entering in the country difficult. This issue is high on radar due to the influx of medical tourist from ISIS hit countries which creates huge security issue for India, highlighted the joint study.

The government of India has recognized the potential of medical tourism and has come up with supporting policies. The Indian Ministry of Tourism is actively promoting medical tourism through overseas road shows where market development assistance (MDA) is provided to medical and wellness tourism service providers to encourage overseas promotion. The government has introduced medical visa to govern medical tourism. In order to further expand the healthcare system and enhance its quality, the government also actively provides incentives and giving special approvals to foreign firms for direct investments.

Indias cost of production is significantly lower than that of the US and almost half of that of Europe. It gives a competitive edge to India over others. Growing number of medical facilities are realizing the importance of accreditation and certification leading many labs and hospitals taking up accreditation and certification. This could increase the number of accredited facilities in India.

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NDMA to conduct mock exercises on earthquake preparedness in Uttarakhand
Feb 21,2017

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will conduct two mock exercises on earthquake preparedness in this week covering all districts of Uttarakhand. The exercises, to be conducted in collaboration with the State Government, will assess the readiness of various stakeholder departments in the event of a high-intensity earthquake.

The first exercise will be held today (21 February) and cover Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, Haridwar, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Pauri Garhwal and Rudraprayag districts. In this connection, a coordination conference and a table-top exercise were held today through video-conferencing. Senior officials from all stakeholder departments such as NDRF, Health, Police, Education, Firefighting, Civil Defense, Public Relations, Transport, etc. attended these preparatory meetings.

Yet another round of a coordination conference and a table-top exercise will be held on Wednesday. This will be followed by the second mock exercise on Thursday covering Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Champawat, Almora, Nainital and Udham Singh Nagar districts.

These exercises will deal with simulated scenarios of earthquakes wherein the participants will be trained on key aspects of Disaster Management such as the formation of Incident Response Teams and Emergency Operation Centres (EOC), coordination among various participating agencies, evacuation and medical preparedness.

Aimed at enhancing the preparedness and response mechanism of key stakeholders, these exercises will also help to highlight areas that need improvements. NDMA expert Major General V.K. Datta (Retd.), who will lead the exercises, said, Mock exercises help in filling gaps and ensuring better communication thus improving coordination among various agencies in real-life situations. He further emphasised on the need for regularly conducting such exercises in Uttarakhand as the entire hill State falls either in the Seismic Zone V or IV and has experienced many high-intensity earthquakes in the past.

After the drills, post-exercise analyses will also be carried out to discuss the shortcomings, challenges and ways to improve them.

NDMA regularly conducts such mock exercises across the country in its efforts to improve preparedness and response mechanisms for various disasters. NDMA has conducted more than 500 mock exercises in different States and Union Territories. Next month, it will conduct a mock exercise on flood and tsunami preparedness in Puducherry.

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Health Secretary launches SAATHIYA Resource Kit and SAATHIYA SALAH Mobile App for Adolescents
Feb 20,2017

Shri C K Mishra, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare launched the SAATHIYA Resource Kit including Saathiya Salah Mobile App for adolescents, here today, as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program. One of the key interventions under the programme is introduction of the Peer Educators (Saathiyas) who act as a catalyst for generating demand for the adolescent health services and imparting age appropriate knowledge on key adolescent health issues to their peer groups. In order to equip the Saathiyas in doing so, the Health Ministry has launched the Saathiya Resource Kit (including Saathiya Salah Mobile App).

Introducing the Resource Kit and the Mobile App, Shri C K Mishra said that our country is home to 253 million adolescents which is largest in the world in terms of absolute numbers and when RMNCH programs were launched globally, India was the first country to add the +A i.e. adolescent component to the RMNCH, making it todays RMNCH+A program. He emphasized that adolescents are the critical mass of asset which in future would be the biggest dividends to the countrys economy; thereby their health and wellness are of utmost priority. To address and cater to the health and development needs of the countrys adolescents, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) in January 2014. RKSK identifies six strategic priorities for adolescents i.e. nutrition, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), substance misuse, injuries and violence (including gender-based violence) and mental health.

The most important component and driving force of RKSK program are its Peer Educators and this resource kit has been launched to enable them to communicate with the adolescents of their community, Shri Mishra stated. He specified that the kit is being launched to enable the 1.6 lakhs Peer Educators towards taking their job forward and answering all the queries in the minds of an adolescent in-spite of the plethora of media (Magazines, TV, internet etc.) available. The Peer Educators will be trained across the country in a phased manner, ensuring optimum use of the resource kit, which is a ready source of a range of communication material specially designed to help the Peer Educator to be recognized and respected as saathiya, a good friend for the adolescents.

This Resource Kit comprises i) Activity Book, ii) Bhranti-Kranti Game iii) Question-Answer Book and iv) Peer Educator Diary. In addition to the kit is the mobile app Saathiya Salah (downloadable from Google play-store) which acts as a ready information source for the adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the Peer Educators. The mobile app is also linked to another important piece of cost-effective information platform of a toll-free Saathiya Helpline (1800-233-1250) which will act as an e-counselor. While the short films will be played by the Peer Educators at their group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries. Encashing on mobile technology, the shy adolescents or those unable to interact with the peer educators due to family reasons, can access the information through the free mobile app as well the toll free helpline.

Among senior officials of the Ministry at the launch, also present were the representatives of Development Partners (UNFPA, PFI) who contributed to development of the Resource Kit. Mr. Diega Polacios, Country Director,UNFPA stated that the Resource Kit has being designed to present the Peer Educators with key information on adolescent health, which would then enable them to communicate the same and help the adolescents at the grass root/village level. Further at the launch, demo of the Mobile App was conducted wherein a mock call was made to the Saathiya Helpline by Secretary (HFW).

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