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Informal trade or smuggling rampant in India-Pak trade: ASSOCHAM Paper
Oct 03,2016

Informal trade or putting it bluntly, smuggling of goods, between India and Pakistan is estimated at over USD five billion, almost double the official two-way commerce between the two neighbours with history of chequered ties, an ASSOCHAM study has pointed out.

Based on well-researched documents and reports by over 50 top think tanks and research organisations, including ICRIER, annual reports of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, Lahore Journal of Economics, Institute of South Asian Studies-National University of Singapore among others, the ASSOCHAM Paper on India - Pakistan Trade, bought out some interesting facts which include the non-formal trade or unaccounted transactions, which can bluntly be called smuggling.

n++Smugglers/traders mainly carry out the informal trade between Pakistan and India through the exchange of goods at the Indo-Pakistan borders as well as through the misuse of the personal baggage scheme through the Green Channel facilities at international airports or railway stations. Informal trade is also taking place through Afghanistan whereby goods are exported officially from India to Afghanistan and later on brought into Pakistan through Peshawarn++.

It said while the actual volume of informal trade is difficult to calculate, there are different informal channels of information which has been collated over a period of time by different research bodies and think tanks. The ASSOCHAM Paper has largely drawn upon a wide bank of these research documents.

n++Informal traders in both the countries have developed efficient mechanisms for information flow, risk sharing and risk mitigation. The three important contributory factors towards thriving informal trade are quick realization of payments, zero documentation and little procedural hassles leading to lower transaction costs. n++

There are more exports from India than imports through the smuggling route. Besides the Afghanistan route, other channels of such informal trade include India-Dubai-Pakistan, Wagah by rail or road and Srinagar-Muzaffarabad. The composition of items going from India include jewellery, textiles, machinery and electronic appliances. On the import front, the items include textiles, dry fruits, spices and carpets.

Significantly the informal trade or smuggling is over and above the Third country trade which is generally done through Dubai and is not illegal. The Third country trade is also done through agents in Singapore. Through this route, exports from India include capital goods, textile machinery, dyes and chemicals, iron and ore, spices, tannery equipment, machine tools, cotton fabrics, tyres and chemicals and medicine. It is mostly exports.

n++Trade between Pakistan and India via Dubai has the advantage (for the traders) that consignments are not scrutinized as much as those coming directly from either countryn++.

So, the India-Pakistan official trade of USD 2.67 billion is far less than other channels.

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20 States rewarded for promoting urban reforms under Atal Mission during 2015-16
Oct 01,2016

19 States and the Union Territory of Chandigarh were today rewarded with performance incentive for promoting urban reforms under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) during 2015-16. While Tamil Nadu topped the list of performing States, Chandigarh headed the list of Union Territories.

Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu felicitated the lead performers with mementoes and cheques during INDOSAN Conference in New Delhi. He said that the focus of reforms during 2015-16 was on e-governance, Double Entry Accounting, collection of user charges and municipal taxes, water and energy audit, single window clearences and the focus of reforms during 2016-17 is online building permissions in all the 53 million plus cities, replacement of old water pumpsets with energy efficient ones, reuse of treated water and urban flooding mitigation planning.

Reform incentive distributed to 20 States/UT was : Tamil Nadu (Rs.61.34 cr), Karnataka (Rs.29.92 cr), Odisha (Rs.10.27 cr), Telangana (Rs.10.73 cr), Kerala (15.00 cr), Chattisgarh (Rs.13.00 cr), Andhra Pradesh (Rs.13.62 cr), MP (Rs.33.45 cr), Gujarat (Rs.26.72 cr), Bihar (Rs.15.04 cr), Rajasthan (Rs.20.80 cr), Mizoram (Rs.1.63 cr), Maharashtra (Rs.45.57 cr), UP (Rs.63.47 cr), Jharkhand (Rs.7.28 cr), Himachal Pradesh (Rs.3.54 cr), Tripura (Rs.1.70 cr), West Bengal (Rs.24.89 cr), Goa (Rs.1.34 cr) and Chandigarh (0.69 cr).

Rs.400 cr was earmarked for reform incentive during 2015-16. 23 States/UTs applied to the Ministry of Urban Development. After verification of claims States/UT scoring 70% marks were identified for giving reform incentive. Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and A & N Islands could not qualify.

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FM: Government is working on a target date of 1st April, 2017 for the roll out of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the country
Oct 01,2016

The Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley said that the Government is working on a target date of 1st April, 2017 for the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country. He said that till 16th September, 2017, that is one year after the provisions of the Constitution (101st Amendment) Act, 2016 being brought into force, the Constitution empowers the Central Government to levy excise duty on manufacturing; and service tax on the supply of services. The Finance Minister said that similarly the Constitution Amendment Act empowers the State Governments to levy sales tax or Value Added Tax (VAT) on the sale of goods till that time i.e. 16th September, 2016. The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley said that so far the Government is following the road map for implementation of GST as per the schedule. The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley was making his Opening Remarks at the Fourth Meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to the Ministry of Finance. The subject of the meeting was the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley further said that the First Meeting of the GST Council was held in a very cordial and constructive environment earlier this month and today, he will hold the Second Meeting of the GST Council. In the GST regime, the GST Council has been created under Article 279A of the Constitution. The GST Council is a joint forum of the Centre and the States. The Council will take decisions on important issues like tax rates, exemption list and threshold limits etc.

Thereafter, the Members of Consultative Committee sought various clarifications with regard to GST Law and gave suggestions for its better implementation. Some of the major suggestions include need for absolute clarity and transparency with regard to where taxes will be collected, assessed and where the appeal will be filed in case of GST regime. The members said that it will be challenging task to tackle complex situation arising-out of implementation of GST law in a federal system. Some of the members suggested there is a need for launching a large scale Awareness Campaign especially for the small traders as most of them are still unaware about the complex procedures and processes under GST regime including for registration and filing of returns etc. Some of the members suggested that availability of IT network in all parts of the country, especially in small towns and rural areas, must be ensured as GST system will work only online. Some of the members appreciated the initiative of the Government in getting the GST law passed by both the Houses of Parliament as well as its commitment to implement it in a time bound manner. The members hoped that this law will bring relief to the common man by exempting certain essential items from GST and moderate rate of taxation on other items which in turn will bring down the prices of common man consumption items as well as cost of living at large.

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CBDT notifies 7 districts of Andhra Pradesh for availing tax incentives under the Income-tax Act
Oct 01,2016

Under the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act, 2014 the Government of India is extending special assistance to four districts of Rayalseema and three districts of North coastal Region of Andhra Pradesh. To further boost the industrial activities, the CBDT has notified these seven districts for availing tax incentives under section 32(1)(iia) and section 32AD of the Income-tax Act.

Accordingly, any manufacturing undertaking set up during the period from 01.04.2015 to 31.03.2020 in these districts of Andhra Pradesh is eligible for 15% of higher additional depreciation and 15% of investment allowance on the cost of plant and machinery acquired by it during the said period.

The 7 districts of Andhra Pradesh notified as backward areas vide Notification in S.O.3075 (E) dated 28.09.2016 are:

1. Anantapur

2. Chittoor

3. Cuddapah

4. Kurnool

5. Srikakulam

6. Vishakhapatnam

7. Vizianagaram

The aforesaid incentives are in addition to other tax benefits available under the Income-tax Act.

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Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of Puducherry and Airports Authority of India sign MoU to Promote Regional Connectivity Scheme
Oct 01,2016

The Ministry of Civil Aviation, State Government of Puducherry and Airports Authority of India today signed a tri-partite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Regional Connectivity Scheme thereby initiating the collaborative partnership. With the development, the State Government of Puducherry has formally agreed to provide the concessions required from the State Governments in the Regional Connectivity Scheme. The MoU is signed by Shri Manoj Parida, Chief Secretary, Puducherry, Smt. Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Shri A.K. Dutta, Member, Airports Authority of India.

Speaking on the occasion, the MOS for Civil Aviation, Shri Jayant Sinha said that he hoped the subsidies would attract airlines which also needed to find the appropriate aircrafts and pilots to service the regional sector. The Chief Minister of Puducherry, Shri V. Narayanaswamy said that he was happy to cooperate in promoting the Regional Connectivity Scheme as it would improve the connectivity to Puducherry.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had earlier released the draft Regional Air Connectivity Scheme (RCS) for stakeholder consultation, with the twin objectives of promoting balanced regional growth and making flying affordable for masses,. The RCS is the key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy which was released by the Ministry on 15th June 2016. The scheme, which would be in operation for a period of 10 years, envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports. This would be achieved through a financial stimulus in the form of Central and State government concessions, as well as Viability Gap Funding to the interested airlines to kick-off operations from such airports, so that the passenger fares are kept affordable. The fare for a one hour journey of appx. 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft or for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter would now be capped at Rs. 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different lengths / duration.

To reduce the cost of operations, Central Government would be providing concessions in the form of reduced excise on VAT, service tax and flexibility of code sharing at the RCS airports. Similarly, the State governments would have to lower the VAT on ATF to 1% or less, besides security and fire services free of cost and electricity, water and other utilities at substantially concessional rates. Similarly, Landing and Parking charge and Terminal Navigation Landing Charges shall not be imposed by the airport operator.

A Regional Connectivity Fund would be created to fund the VGF requirements under the scheme. The same would be funded through a levy on certain domestic flights. The partner State Governments would also contribute a 20% share to this fund (10% for North Eastern States). For balanced regional growth, the allocations under the scheme would be equitably spread across the 5 geographical regions of the country viz North, West, South, East and North-east.

The States have been given a key role under the scheme. The selection of airports where RCS operations would be done in consultation with State Government and after confirmation of their concessions. This will be based on the selection of routes by the airline operators.

In view of the above, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is in the process of signing of an MoU with State Governments to ensure their commitment and support to regional air transport operations by providing concessions as required under the RCS for making it successful. Puducherry is the sixth State with which such an MoU is signed. The other states are Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

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7% stake of Government in Hindustan Copper fully subscribed and Government to get approximately Rs 400 crore from this disinvestment
Oct 01,2016

Hindustan Copper is a vertically integrated company in the mining and metal sector, under Ministry of Mines. Government of India is the major stake holder in said CPSE, owning 89.95% of paid up equity.

Government offered 6,47,65,260 shares ( comprising 7% of total paid up equity ) to public through OFS route, at floor price of Rs 62 per share of face value Rs 5/-. 20% of the offer size, i.e. 1,29,53,052 shares were reserved for retail category.

The trading took place on NSE as well as BSE on 29.9.2015 and 30.9.2015 for the non-retail and retail category respectively. The non retail category got oversubscribed with 1.56 times. The issue has been fully subscribed and Government will get approximately Rs 400 crore from this disinvestment.

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Eight core infrastructure sector output rises 3.2% in August 2016
Sep 30,2016

The output of eight core infrastructure industries improved 3.2% in August 2016 over August 2016. The cumulative output improved 4.5% in April-August 2016 over the corresponding period of last year.

Coal production (weight: 4.38%) declined by 9.2% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 increased by 2.6% over corresponding period of previous year.

Crude Oil production (weight: 5.22%) declined by 3.9% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 declined by 3.1% over the corresponding period of previous year.

The Natural Gas production (weight: 1.71%) declined by 5.7% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 declined by 4.2% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Petroleum Refinery production (weight: 5.94%) increased by 3.5% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 increased by 7.6% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Fertilizer production (weight: 1.25%) increased by 5.7% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 increased by 6.4% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Steel production (weight: 6.68%) increased by 17.0% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 increased by 5.5% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Cement production (weight: 2.41%) increased by 3.1% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August 2016-17 increased by 4.4% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Electricity generation (weight: 10.32%) increased by 0.1% in August 2016 over August 2015. Its cumulative index during April to August, 2016-17 increased by 5.7% over the corresponding period of previous year.

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Indias external debt declines 1.1% in Q1 of FY2017
Sep 30,2016

Indias external debt declined by 1.1% or US$ 5.4 billion to US$ 479.7 billion at end June 2016 over end-March 2016 level, primarily on account of a decline in commercial borrowings. The decline in the external debt was augmented by valuation gains resulting from the appreciation of the US dollar against the Indian rupee and other major currencies. The external debt to GDP ratio stood at 23.4% as at end-June 2016, a shade lower than its level of 23.7% at end-March 2016.

Valuation gains due to appreciation of the US dollar against the Indian rupee and other major currencies was placed at US$ 1.4 billion. Excluding the valuation effect, the decline in external debt would have been US$ 4.0 billion instead of US$ 5.4 billion as at end-June 2016 over the level at end-March 2016.

Commercial borrowings continued to be the largest component of external debt with a share of 36.6%, followed by NRI deposits (26.3%) and short-term trade credit (16.6%).

At end-June 2016, long-term debt was placed at US$ 397.6 billion, recording a decline of US$ 4.1 billion over its level at end-March 2016. The share of long-term debt in total external debt was marginally higher at 82.9% as at end-June 2016 as compared to its level at end-March 2016.

The share of short-term debt (original maturity) in total debt witnessed a marginal decline over its level at end-March 2016. The ratio of short-term debt (original maturity) to foreign exchange reserves declined to 22.6% as at end-June 2016 (23.1% at end-March 2016).

On a residual maturity basis, short-term debt constituted 42.4% of total external debt at end-June 2016 (42.6% at end-March 2016) and stood at 55.9% of total foreign exchange reserves (57.4% at end-March 2016).

US dollar denominated debt continued to be the largest component of Indias external debt with a share of 57.1% as at end-June 2016, followed by the Indian rupee (28.6%), SDR (5.9%), Japanese yen (4.8%) and Euro (2.4%).

The borrower classification shows that the outstanding debt of the Government increased; however, non-Government debt declined at end-June 2016.

Debt service payments declined to 7.5% of current receipts as at end-June 2016 as compared with 8.8% at end-March 2016.

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NTPC Faces Regulatory Hurdles on Fuel Cost
Sep 30,2016

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERCs) tariff orders for a few of NTPC Limiteds (IND AAA/Stable) plants for the control period FY15-FY19, could lead to significant under-recoveries on fuel cost on account of a lower energy charge rate (ECR, INR/kWh), says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). The ECR approved by CERC is lower in the range of 20%-31% than was sought by NTPC. The difference in the ECR is due to the change in the basis for measurement of the gross calorific value (GCV) of coal to as-receivedn++ as against n++as firedn++.

CERC is likely to follow the same principle for the rest of NTPCs plants leading to large differences in the fuel cost recovery. However, Ind-Ra expects NTPC to contest the same through regulatory process and initiate steps to install the infrastructure for measurement of coal GCV on n++as receivedn++ basis. There is also a possibility of a dialogue between NTPC and Coal India (CIL) to resolve differences over coal grade slippages.

As per CERCs tariff regulations 2014-2019, coal GCV has to be measured at the point of unloading of the coal at the power station gate, referred to n++as-receivedn++ basis compared to the earlier regulations, which allowed measurement of coal GCV at the point before coal is fired, referred to n++as-firedn++ basis. In its petition to CERC, NTPC had been highlighting the lack of infrastructure at its plants as the reason for its inability to measure coal GCV on n++as-receivedn++ basis. Therefore, CERC, in the absence of data on n++as-receivedn++ basis, has now considered the GCV on n++as-billedn++ basis while arriving at the ECR leading to the consideration of a higher GCV rate.

CERC had decided to shift to the n++as-receivedn++ basis of GCV measurement so that: a) the generating company bears the inefficiencies if any, post unloading of the coal and b) the generating company takes up the coal grade slippage with the coal supplier company and resolve it. On the other hand, NTPC had been highlighting problems with respect to the measurement of GCV on n++as-receivedn++ basis and was seeking n++as-firedn++ basis on four grounds. Firstly coal samples taken after the crushing of coal for firing are of small and homogenous size compared to samples taken from wagons which are big and heterogeneous. Secondly, sample collection time from wagons is longer leading to demurrage charges. Thirdly, safety for personnel collecting is better when samples are taken after crushing. Lastly samples taken from the wagons may not be accurately representative, since often good quality coal could be loaded at the top and superficial layers become dry during the transportation, while the moisture percolates inside the wagons to the lower layers.

The difference between the GCV on n++as-receivedn++ and n++as-firedn++ basis is governed by the ambient temperature, type of coal and duration for which coal is stored. As per the Central Electricity Authority of India, the heat loss during such time should not be more than 0.1% in GCV value, which is in line with international studies. However, in this case the difference between the GCV of the coal works out to 20%-31%.

Ind-Ra notes, that NTPC has been contesting the GCV calculation and had been highlighting the grade slippages in the quality of coal. The grade slippage discussion between CIL and NTPC has become more visible post the January 2012 change in coal grading methodology to GCV based grading from the earlier used heat value based system of grading.

Ind-Ra notes, NTPC over the last two years has seen tightening of operational norms- namely the station heat rate, specific consumption and auxiliary consumption, change in basis for providing the capacity charge incentives to plant load factor instead of plant availability factor and lower tax arbitrage. All these have had a negative impact on NTPCs profitability.

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One lakh villages will become ODF on 2nd October, 2016-Tomar
Sep 30,2016

The Union Minister for Rural Development, Drinking Water & Sanitation and Panchayati Raj Shri Narendra Singh Tomar said that by 2nd October, this year, one lakh villages will become Open Defecation Free, ODF and 40 Districts will achieve the status of ODF Districts in this financial Year. He said, to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to put focus on sanitation, the Prime Minister had launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on 2nd October, 2014, after his historic address from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August, 2014.

Shri Tomar said that the Central Government, State Governments, Municipal bodies, Panchayati Raj Institutions, NGOs, Spiritual and Religious leaders, Public Representatives, Educational Institutions and famous personalities from all walks of life have joined hands together to make India, a Clean India by 2nd October, 2019, the 50th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, as announced by the Prime Minister. Shri Tomar stressed that Swachh Bharat Mission is not a government programme, but its a peoples movement and there is need for behavioural change among the people as merely toilet construction will not be sufficient to achieve the ODF status.

Shri Tomar informed that the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is compiling the best practices from villages across the country and will bring it to the notice of the common man to emulate the same. The Minister expressed confidence that after Prime Ministers address at the INDOSAN, the Swachh Mission will gain new momentum.

At present 87, 666 villages are ODF, apart from 1,544 villages in Namami Gange areas. This needs to be underlined that the sanitation coverage was 42.12 percent on 2nd October, 2014, when the programme was launched, which has now increased to 55.31 percent, while 24 Districts have been declared as ODF ones. Sikkim is the only State which has achieved the ODF status, and Kerala, Haryana, Gujrat and Maharashtra will soon achieve the ODF status.

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Surgical Strikes havent affected gold prices in India: Dr M. Veerappa Moily
Sep 30,2016

Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, Dr M. Veerappa Moily said today India Surgical Strikes on Pakistan have not affected gold prices in India at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.

n++Need policies for promoting gold as investment of the country; shall suggest appropriate policies to standing committee. The domestic saving coming down drastically and the gold can play an important role in the economy of the country,n++ said Dr Moily while inaugurating an ASSOCHAM 9th International Gold Summit & Excellence Awards.

Due to its high liquidity, financing against gold has caught on very well with banks. With huge base of stable and growing depositors coupled with larger number of loan seekers, banks have become a vibrant hub for gold activities-both for purchase as well as lending. The importance of Banks in this activity cannot be undermined and as the demand for gold grows, it will increase the importance and effectiveness of banking sector -largely for its trust as well as affordable lending rates.

He said that gold has been considered as a safe haven asset throughout history as it has been viewed as a store of value and a means of exchange for millennia. It is essentially a currency that cannot be manipulated by the interest rate policies of the government and has traditionally been used as a hedge against inflation or a falling dollar.

The sentiment towards the yellow metal remains very high irrespective of the rise/fall in prices and this love for the commodity has made the nation heavily reliant on imports of commodities. Petroleum crude accounts for about 34 percent of the total inward shipments, followed by gold and silver (12 percent of the total imports), machinery (10 percent), electronic goods (7 percent) and pearls, precious and semi-precious stones (5 percent), added Dr. Moily.

The Indian gems and jewellery sector is among the most competitive in the world, contributing to 65% by value, 85% by carat and 92% by number of pieces globally, and accounting for more than USD 36 billion of total Indian exports as in 2014-15.In recognition of the business excellence demonstrated by entrepreneurs who make up this industry.

India is one of the largest importers of gold in the world. India accounts for nearly one-third of the total world demand for Gold. At more than 20,000 tonnes, Indian households hold the largest stock of gold in the world, noted Dr. Moily.

He also said that as per estimates, India is the worlds largest buyer of Gold followed by China and both countries account for over half of the global demand. India has an estimated private gold stock of 20,000 tonnes worth $1 trillion, while it mines only around 1.5 tonnes. About 35% of the Gold demand in India is for investment purpose and is held in the form of bars and coins.

Dr. Moily said, n++40% of the world gold stock is lying in India in the form of jewellery and some in temples. The World Gold Council estimates the annual consumer demand for gold will be excess of 1,200 tonnes, at a value of Rs 2.5 trillion, by 2020n++.

The gold policy until economic reforms in the early 1990s centred around the major objectives of discouraging people from purchasing gold, reducing domestic demand, regulating supply of gold, curbing smuggling and black income and conserving foreign exchange.

n++After the severe Balance of payment crisis during early nineties, there has been a shift in the approach of the gold policy. It was realized that the role of a liberalized and developed gold market was in the interest of consumers and efforts were made to integrate the gold market with financial markets,n++ said Dr. Moily.

He also said that to restrict the rising trend in gold imports, which is adversely affecting Indias balance of payments, measures were and are being taken by the government. In order to keep a check on the current account deficit, the UPA government had imposed import restrictions on gold, oil and other commodities. Now the government has come up with two schemes, Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS) and Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme (SGBS).

Over the past decade, the Indian gold industry has significantly matured. The market currently has several participants from Bullion Banks, Government Agencies, Premier Trading Houses, Precious Metal Exchanges, Institutions offering Gold Loans and Gold ETFs. However, the market needs policy action from the regulators for further growth of gold industry in India.

Asia has emerged as an extremely important market for the global gold trade. Five countries- China, India, UAE, Singapore and Thailand together last year imported 2,581 tonnes. In other words nearly 60% of the total global supplies flowed into these countries.

The annual consumption of gold which was estimated at 65 tonnes in 1982, has increased to about 1000 tonnes presently. About 80% is for jewellery fabrication for domestic demand, 15% for investor demand and barely 5% for industrial use.

Despite the fact that India is the worlds largest consumer of gold, there is no reference point for gold prices in the country. Though it is the leading player in import and trade in bullion and export of jewellery, it does not exert any significant impact in discovery of gold prices in the international market. The reason is that countrys bullion trade is fragmented and unorganized.

In order to make India, the global gold trading hub, it is necessary to identify the inefficiencies involved in Indian bullion market and to create a momentum to remove such inefficiencies in a gradual but steady manner. Finally, the institutional and policy-level issues associated with the various sections of the gold market have to be addressed by the government in coordination with the different regulatory bodies.

The Govt. of India has implemented hallmarking scheme to protect the consumer in purchasing gold jewellery of requisite purity, develop export competitiveness and make India a leading market for gold jewellery in the world. Hallmarking is the accurate determination and official recording of the proportionate content of precious metal in precious metal articles. Hallmarks are thus official marks used in many countries as a guarantee of purity or fineness of precious metal articles. The principle objectives of the Hallmarking Scheme are to protect the public against adulteration and to obligate manufacturers to maintain legal standards of fineness.

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MoU with World Bank for investing Rs 2,200 crore to set up training centres for MSMEs across India: Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhury
Sep 30,2016

The union Ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Bank for investing Rs 2,200 crore to set up training centres for MSME sector across India by 2017, Minister of State for MSME, Mr Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhury said at an ASSOCHAM event.

n++We will also monitor if the money disbursed by the Ministry has reached the target person,n++ said Mr Chaudhury while inaugurating an ASSOCHAM conference on Startup Integration in MSME sector.

n++Saudi Arabia is likely to invest up to Rs two lakh crore in India, it is a confidential matter, but since we have opened our defence and aviation sectors for foreign direct investment (FDI) we hope to get significant advantage of the same in MSME sector,n++ said the Minister.

Highlighting that the government will soon bring a project for promoting honeybee keeping, he said that Ministry had taken various steps like - making databank, introducing credit guarantee scheme, barcode, enabling online complaint and other such initiatives during the course of past two years.

Earlier in his address, a top MSME Ministry official informed that the government was working towards making the sector ready for GSTN (goods and services tax network) and make the sector tax compliant.

n++We are working to make MSMEs GSTN-ready and we need the support of various associations to see how the sector can take advantage of the new tax reform which is going to be historic, start up or no start up you have to be tax compliant,n++ said Mr S.N. Tripathi, additional secretary and development commissioner, MSME Ministry.

He said that the MSME Ministry had notified a framework to enable an entrepreneur to demand restructuring of his loan due to various changes.

n++A framework has been notified by the Ministry of MSME for quick restructuring of loans if the banks are convinced, RBI has also conquered it and in fact all banks have been mandated to create a committee at the branch level with representatives from state government and other institutions,n++ said Mr Tripathi.

He said that MSME Ministry was working towards nurturing academia and entrepreneurs budding ideas. n++Our ministry is working with about 202 engineering colleges and every year we get 100-150 ideas from each college and out of these till date we have nurtured about 600 ideas of which almost 25 per cent have been commercialised.n++

n++We want to commercialise such ideas, we are in talks with some investors - venture capitalists and angel investors and we have succeeded in this behalf as about 100 of the 750 ideas have been commercialised and some of these have clocked transaction and turnover of Rs 10-12 crore so we support good ideas in terms of what we call is incubation,n++ said Mr Tripathi.

He said that the Ministry was working in the domain of start up, scale up and even set up categories.

The top official also said that the MSME Ministry was working on framework to revive the industries that have been rendered inoperational or have been shut down, to unlock their potential.

n++We want to create framework to revive industries that have been shut, the banks are working in this behalf as per governments direction as they have made a committee for corrective action plan whereby an entrepreneur can approach banks for restructuring of loan due to change in technology, management or any other foreseen or unforeseen change on his own and not as per the banks terms,n++ said Mr Tripathi.

He said that considering cash flow based lending is a problem for MSMEs, so banks are working in this direction as per governments direction.

He also emphasised upon the need to bring about more awareness regarding intellectual property right (IPR) in MSME sector.

n++We are promoting awareness about IPR and how to file patents through about 32 institutions which includes chambers, industry bodies, colleges and others,n++ said Mr Tripathi.

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Sports Sector Gets the Infrastructure Status
Sep 30,2016

For addressing the issue of deficit of sports infrastructure in the country, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports Affairs had moved a proposal for inclusion of Sports in the harmonized master list of infrastructure sub-sectors so that the sports sector becomes eligible for obtaining long term financial support from banks and other financial institutions on the same principle as is available to other infrastructure projects.

The Ministry of Finance after a series of meetings and discussions with different agencies including RBI have decided that sports infrastructure will be included under the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Subsectors and that it n++includes the provision of Sports Stadia and Infrastructure for Academies for Training / Research in Sports and Sports-related activitiesn++ In this connection Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, had issued a Gazette Notification dated 09th September 2016.

This inclusion would encourage private investment in a public good which has socio-economic externalities in a country with young population. It will also bolster investment in sports infrastructure sector which will contribute to the economy and help in promotion of health and fitness of the people of this country as also provide opportunities for employment in the new and exciting sectors. It goes without saying that investment of the private sector will widen the platform from where the country can become a sporting power in future.

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Minister of Railways Launched and Dedicated Various Services to the Nation
Sep 30,2016

Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, Minister of Railways, as a part of fulfilment of Budget Announcements 2016-17, launched and dedicated following services to the nation : -

1.Liberalised station to station special freight rates policy

2.Policy providing sub quota of 33 % to women within reserved categories for the allotment in catering units.

3.Policy giving preference to local domicile holders for commercial licenses at stations.

4.New system of allocating vacant berths after final charting to wayside stations.

5.Launch of the new n++Train at a Glancen++ and new Time Table effective from 1st October 2016.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said that the Indian Railways is striving hard to achieve full passengers satisfaction in all respects and todays initiatives are part of our such endeavours. He said that the introduction of new policy providing sub-quota of 33% to women in catering units is a step towards women empowerment and their increased participation in Railways. He said that Railways will continue to introduce such new reformative steps.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Railways Shri Rajen Gohain said that Indian Railways being the biggest organization of the country has lots of complex projects to implement throughout the country. But overcoming the difficulties and complexities, Railways is implementing its budget announcements in a very promised manner which is a landmark in itself.

Salient Features of the initiatives : -

POLICY PROVIDING SUB QUOTA OF 33 % TO WOMEN WITHIN RESERVED CATEGORIES FOR THE ALLOTMENT IN CATERING UNITS

n++ In compliance of Budget Announcement 2016-17, a Sub Quota of 33% for women in allotment of each of the reserved catering units is being introduced on Indian Railways in order to extend economic empowerment for women.

n++ Current Status of Reservation at Minor Catering Units (Stalls / Trolleys / Khomchas)

n++ A1, A, B, and C Category stations - 25% of the Units are reserved for various categories like SC (6%), ST (4%), BPL (3%), OBC (3%), Minorities (3%), Freedom Fighters (4%) and Physically Challenged persons (2%).

n++ D, E and F Category stations - 49.5% of the Units are reserved for various categories like SC (12%), ST (8%), OBC (20%) and Minorities (9.5%).

n++ 33% sub quota reservation for women shall ensure allotment of minimum 8% stalls to women at A1, A, B & C category station and minimum 17% at D, E and F category station.

n++ There are approximately 8000 Minor Catering Units over Indian Railways.

n++ Under this provision, Railways shall ensure that women participation does not fall below a specific level.

POLICY GIVING PREFERENCE TO LOCAL DOMICILE HOLDERS FOR COMMERCIAL LICENSES AT STATIONS

In compliance of Budget Announcement 2016-17, a process of giving weightage to district Domicile Holders for commercial licenses at stations is being proliferated at all stations over Indian Railways.

n++ The proliferation would help to build local ownership and rural empowerment along with socio - economic development.

n++ The weightage to district domicile holders is being proliferated for allotment of Catering Units at all categories of stations.

n++ The proliferation of weightage to district Domicile Holders at all category of stations will ensure protection of livelihood of the small vendors.

n++ The allotment of Minor Units over Indian Railways will ensure local ownership and will also promote regional / local cuisine, which is always a preferred choice.

n++ The weightage parameter would range from 20% to the local District Domicile holders to 12% to the State Domicile holders in techno-commercial scores.

TRANSFER OF VACANT BERTHS FOR OPTIMAL UTILISATION OF BERTHS

n++ IR is introducing the facility of transfer of berths remaining vacant after second charting at the train originating station to the next and subsequent stations for clearing the waitlisted passengers at such stations.

n++ The PRS system will automatically allot vacant berths available at the originating stations after preparation of second chart to the subsequent stations where waitlisted passengers are available. The passenger will get SMS on his registered mobile indicating the coach and berth number allotted. This will help passengers boarding at road side stations to get confirmed berths. Presently they get their berths confirmed only if confirmed berths from the pooled quota (PQ) allotted to the station are cancelled.

n++ The TTEs will be able to allot vacant berths on board after departure of the train only upto the next station where quota is available for the train. In case no person boards the train at the next station he can further allot/extend the same to the next quota station.

n++ At present about 3 lakh berths per year go unutilised while there may be demand at intermediate stations. This system will help in better utilization of available berths at the time of departure of trains from the originating station and also reduce the discretion available with TTEs in allotting the berths.

LIBERALISED STATION TO STATION SPECIAL FREIGHT RATES POLICY

n++ Section 32 of the Railways Act, 1989 empowers railway administration to quote Station to Station Rate (STS) in respect of carriage of various commodities.

n++ Railway Board used to issue guidelines to Zonal Railways for implementation of STS rates. Last guidelines on this subject were issued by Board in 2002, which were in operation till 2006. In November 2015, Zonal Railways were advised to exercise power vested with them to quote STS rates as per the Railways Act, 1989.

n++ On request from Zonal Railways and to enable them to garner more traffic from road and other modes, broad guidelines are being issued to Zonal Railways for finalising STS rates.

n++ Salient features of the proposed policy are as under:

n++ Existing as well as new traffic shall be eligible.

n++ Concession shall be granted up to a maximum of 30% on the incremental traffic over and above the benchmark NTKM. Benchmark NTKM is defined as average NTKMs of corresponding periods of previous 24 months.

n++ Concession shall be in the form of percentage discount over the Normal Tariff Rate (NTR). It should be ensured that the concessional freight should not be less than the NTR of Class 100.

n++ Concession shall be admissible to Block rake, two/multi point rake, Mini Rake etc.

n++ Concession may be granted for retention of traffic also up to maximum of 15%. In case of container traffic, STS discount upto maximum of 15% shall be given to commodities charged at Container Class Rate (CCR).

n++ STS scheme will be applicable for all terminals namely goods sheds, sidings, ports, CRTs, PFTOs etc.

n++ To avail STS, Rail users shall be required to apply to the DRM with details, who shall forward the same for approval of GM through CCM, COM and FA&CAO. If Railway administration approves grant of concession under STS, an agreement shall be executed between Railway and customer.

n++ The agreement shall be done for a maximum period of three years at a time and for not less than one year. Any change in freight rate (excluding imposition of any surcharge) shall not be applicable on the customer during the currency of the agreement or for one year, whichever is less.

n++ Commodities excluded from STS are -

o All commodities with classification below Class-100.

o All commodities under Main Commodity Head n++Coal & Coken++

o Iron ore (all types)

o Military traffic, POL and RMC

n++ Targeted customer: Food grain, Cement, Clinker, Dolomite, Limestone, Steel companies, Fly ash, etc.

n++ Expected additional l

Government Decides to Raise EPFO Investment in ETF from 5 Per Cent to 10 Per Cent
Sep 30,2016

The Government has decided to raise the Employees Provident Fund ( EPF) investment in Exchange Traded Funds from present 5 per cent to 10 per cent. Announcing this Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, the Minister of State(IC) for Labour and Employment said that the decision has been taken considering the good returns in ETF investment.

As per earlier decision EPFO is currently investing 5 per cent of the total accretion in Exchange Traders Fund (ETF). Accordingly, for the last one year, the EPFO has invested 6,577 crore in ETF for the financial year 2015-16. This investment has yielded a good return of 13.24 per cent. The past performance of the last six months from April, 2016 to August, 2016 shows gradual appreciation in the returns from 0.37 per cent in March, 2016 to 13.24 in August, 2016 per cent. Five per cent EPF has been invested in NIFTY 50 and SENSEX.

The pattern of investment prescribed by the Ministry of Finance has given guidelines for investment in equity from 5 per cent to 15 per cent.

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