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Business & Economy

Business commerce platform Tradeshift announces partnership with Infosys BPO

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Tradeshift, the world’s largest business commerce platform, today announced a partnership with Infosys BPO, the Business Process Outsourcing subsidiary of IT services major Infosys Limited.
 
Tradeshift’s cloud-based platform, coupled with Infosys’ business process management expertise across the Finance, Accounting and Procurement domains, will further enable clients to digitize their source-to-pay and other supply chain processes, a press release from Infosys said.
 
According to the release, the benefits of the partnership for customers include further reduced costs, improved agility, and process efficiency.
 
Customers will be able to take advantage of early payment discounts, remove manual paper-based processes, build custom applications, and help meet their transactional digital transformation objectives, it said.
 
Infosys will deploy these capabilities across clients first in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and China, the release said.
 
“We look forward to this exciting journey of combining Infosys’ deep domain and process expertise with our B2B commerce platform,” said John Sibley, Vice President, Global Alliances and Channels, Tradeshift. “This partnership will provide greater transparency and agility, along with a compelling value proposition to suppliers and buyers alike, on various touch points in the source to pay lifecycle.”
 
“In today’s disruptive environment, platform-based ‘Business Process As-a-Service’ models have become integral to the Business Process Management (BPM) industry,” said Anantha Radhakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys BPO. “This partnership with Tradeshift will further amplify Infosys BPO’s leadership position through the combination of ‘software + services’ in Procurement and Finance and Accounting. This collaboration will help augment our experience and expertise in transformative Business Process Management and enable us to further deliver tremendous business outcome benefits to our clients.”
 
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India’s retail inflation rate rises to 15-month high of 4.88% in November 2017

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India’s annual retail inflation rate, as tracked through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to a 15-month high of 4.88 percent in November 2017 from 3.58 percent in October.
 
An official press release said the inflation rates based on the CPI in November 2017 were 4.79% in rural areas and 4.9% in urban areas, making for a combined rate of 4.88% as compared to 3.63% in the same month of the previous year.
 
The inflation rates based on the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) were 4.11% in rural areas and 4.9 percent in urban areas, adding upto to a combined rate of 4.42% in November 2017 as compared to 2.03% in the corresponding month of 2016.
 
The rise in inflation was attributed to the rising food prices, especially in the prices of vegetables, fruits, eggs, sugar and confectionery and prepared meals, snacks and sweets.
 
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India's industrial output growth slows down to 2.2% in October

 
India's industrial output growth slowed down to 2.2 percent in October 2017, as compared to the level in the same month of the previous year, from 3.8 percent in September, an official statement said here today.
 
The Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production and Use-Based Index for October 2017 (Base 2011-12=100), released here today by the Central Statistics Office of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the General Index for the month stood at 123.0.
 
The cumulative growth for the period April-October 2017 over the corresponding period of the previous year stood at 2.5%.
 
The statement said the Indices of Industrial Production for the Mining, Manufacturing and Electricity sectors for October 2017 stood at 101.2, 124.3 and 149.8, respectively, with the corresponding growth rates of 0.2%, 2.5% and 3.2% as compared to October 2016.
 
The cumulative growth in these three sectors during April-October 2017 over the corresponding period of 2016 was 3.4%, 2.1% and 5.3%, respectively, it said.
 
The statement said 10 of the 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive growth during October 2017 as compared to the corresponding during the same month of the previous year.
 
The industry group ‘Manufacture of pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemical and botanical products’ showed the highest growth  of 23.0%, followed by 12.8% in ‘Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ and 9.7% in ‘Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products’.
 
On the other hand, the industry group ‘Other manufacturing’ showed the highest negative growth of (-) 36.4% followed by (-) 20.9% in ‘Manufacture of tobacco products’ and (-) 16.1% in ‘Manufacture of rubber and plastic products’.
 
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The statement said the growth rates in October 2017 over October 2016 were 2.5% in Primary goods, 6.8% in Capital goods, 0.2% in Intermediate goods and 5.2% in Infrastructure/ Construction Goods. Consumer durables and Consumer non-durables recorded growth of    (-) 6.9% and 7.7%, respectively.
 
Some important item groups showing high growth during October 2017 over the same month in previous year include ‘Bodies of trucks, lorries and trailers’ (199.0%), ‘Meters (electric and non-electric)’ (64.2%), ‘Separators including decanter centrifuge’ (60.6%), ‘Digestive enzymes and antacids (incl. PPI drugs)’ (53.9%),  ‘Bars and Rods of Alloy and Stainless Steel’ (52.0%), ‘Flat products of Stainless Steel’ (50.9%), ‘Axle’ (50.3%), ‘Full-cream/ Toned/ Skimmed milk, whether or not chilled’ (21.5%) and ‘Tea’ (20.1%).
 
Important item groups that have registered high negative growth include ‘Jewellery of gold (studded with stones or not)’ [(-) 76.9%], ‘Plastic jars, bottles and containers’ [(-) 52.1%], ‘Electric heaters’ [(-) 39.9%], ‘Bags/ pouches of HDPE/ LDPE (plastic)’ [(-)38.2%], ‘Other tobacco products’ [(-) 38.1%], ‘Printing Machinery’ [(-) 37.5%], ‘Tooth Paste’ [(-) 32.4%], ‘Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits (e.g switchgear, circuit breakers/switches, control/ meter panel)’ [(-) 31.6%], ‘Plastic components of packing/ closing/ bottling articles & of electrical fittings’ [(-) 30.9%], ‘Palm Oil refined (including Palmolein)’ [(-) 28.6%], ‘T. V. set’ [(-) 25.5%] and ‘Copper bars, rods & wire rods’ [(-) 23.4%].
 
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BHEL commissions coal-fired Power Project in Indonesia

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had achieved yet another milestone in the South East Asian region with the successful commissioning of a 54 MW coal-fired captive power project in Indonesia.
 
The 3x18 MW power project located at Sangatta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia has been set up by BHEL for PT Citra Kusuma Perdana (PT CKP) for their coal-mining operations.
 
For the project, BHEL designed, engineered, manufactured and supplied the Boiler, Turbine & Generator (BTG) island and associated auxiliaries along with supervisory services during erection & commissioning, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said BHEL has executed several projects in the region including projects in Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In Indonesia, the company has earlier successfully executed a 2x30 MW boiler project for PT Makmur Sejahtera Wisesa (PT MSW); and 2x11 MW & 1x15 MW captive power projects for PT Indo Bharat Rayon (PT IBR).
 
An integrated power plant equipment manufacturer with over 50 years of experience, BHEL today has a presence in 82 countries in all the six continents across the globe and has installed nearly 180 GW globally.
 
BHEL is currently engaged in the execution of all types/ range of power equipment; Thermal, Gas, Nuclear, Hydro and Solar, in addition to supplying products and systems to other major infrastructure sectors of the economy such as Transmission, Transportation, Oil & Gas, Defence & Aerospace and Water.
 
In the overseas market, BHEL is presently executing various types of Hydro, Thermal and Gas based power projects, including the prestigious 2x660 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, Bangladesh.
 
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Logo and tagline contest for National Nutrition Mission with Rs 1 lakh prize money

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The Ministry of Women & Child Development has launched a contest inviting creative minds to design a logo and suggest a tagline for its National Nutrition Mission.
 
"It is an opportunity for citizens who aspire to see their design displayed on a National platform," an official press release said.
 
The Government had approved the National Nutrition Mission to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, mothers and children. The programme aims to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth rate. Accordingly, it was felt pertinent to launch an appropriate logo and tagline to generate awareness among the masses, the release said.
 
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said that, in keeping with the overwhelming response received in similar contests run on the Ministry’s social media platform, it is proposed to award a prize money of Rs. 1 lakh to the winner.
 
Participants could send either a logo or a tagline or both. In case the logo and tagline selected by the jury are from separate participants, then the prize money would be split, the release added.
 
Details of the contest are available on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ministry WCD (@MinistryWCD). The last date to submit entries on nnm.mwcd@gmail.com is December 17.
 
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Online coupons major GrabOn onboards Tata CLiQ, Scoot, Honor as partners for 'Christmas Carnival'

 

GrabOn, an online coupons and deals platform, has brought onboard big names such as Tata CLiQ, Scoot and Honor as partners for its 12-day "Christmas Carnival" from December 11-22 that will give its users a chance to win prizes worth up to Rs. 10,00,000.

 
The prizes include return tickets for two couples to destinations in South East Asia, smart phones, gift hampers and many other goodies, a press release from the Hyderabad-based company said.
  
The grand prize of the carnival is sponsored by Scoot, the low-cost, medium-to-long haul arm of the Singapore Airlines Group. 
 
Mr. Bharath Mahadevan, Scoot’s Country Head, India said: “Scoot is excited to be associated with GrabOn’s Christmas Carnival, and in keeping with the season of gifting we are pleased to give away free tickets on our flights from India for two lucky couples.”
 
The tickets can be used to fly out of India to Scoot’s International destinations such as Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok, Phuket, Hanoi and 20 others.
 
The 12-day celebrations will be sponsored by Tata CLiQ, India's leading marketplace portal, and co-sponsored by Honor, the mobile computing sub-brand of Huawei; Purplle, a portal for beauty products; and EventsHigh, an event discovery platform. A Honor smartphone will be the Daily Top Prize during the carnival.
 
To participate in the contest, users should visit the campaign page and log in with Facebook. They can then play games, share holiday wishes and refer friends to earn more points. The main aim is to top the leaderboard and better their chances to win.
 
“We are pleased to announce that we have onboarded Tata CLiQ, Honor Phones and Scoot as our partners for the Christmas Carnival campaign. This campaign has the potential of bringing in more players than before with exciting gaming events and bigger prizes at stake,” said Ashok Reddy, the founder and CEO of GrabOn.
 
With over 5.5 million monthly unique visitors, 14 million coupons redeemed every month and more than 25 million subscribers, GrabOn provides authentic coupons and discounts to users through its innovative Buzz notifications and savings app.
 
In an effort to improve the experience of online shoppers, GrabOn has recently entered the price comparison space with BestPriceOn, a service that helps them compare the prices of electronic gadgets and large electronic appliances on different online e-commerce websites before purchasing.
 
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Tata Motors to increase prices of its passenger vehicles by up to Rs. 25,000 from January 2018

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Automobile manufacturers Tata Motors today said it would be increasing prices of its entire passenger vehicles range by up to Rs. 25,000, starting January 2018. 
 
The increase in price is due to rising input costs, a press release from the company said here.
 
Mr. Mayank Pareek, President, Passenger Vehicle Business, Tata Motors, said, “The changing market conditions, rising input costs and various external economic factors have compelled us to consider the price increase. We are optimistic on maintaining our growth trajectory in the coming year on the back of our robust product portfolio like Tiago, Hexa, Tigor and the recently launched Nexon."
 
The introductory prices of the recently launched lifestyle compact SUV, Nexon, which comes with Level Nex design, performance and technology features, will be ending by December 31 and the entire range would also witness a price hike from January 2018 by up to Rs. 25,000, the release added.
 
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ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit to be held in Delhi on December 11-12

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The ASEAN India Connectivity Summit (AICS) on the theme 'Powering Digital and Physical Linkages for Asia in the 21st Century' will be held here on December 11-12.
 
The summit will be attended by Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road, Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation; Mr. ManojSinha, Minister of State for Communications;Gen. (Dr.) V.K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs; Mr. M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs; and Ms. Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs.
 
From ASEAN, Mr. Phan Tam, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Viet Nam; and Mr. Tauch Chankosal, Secretary of State, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Cambodia will attend  the event, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said.
 
In addition, the AICS would be bringing together, policymakers, senior officials from the Government, investors, industry leaders, representatives of trade associations and entrepreneurs on the same platform.
 
A part of the celebratory events being organised to commemorate the silver jubilee of ASEAN-India dialogue partnership, the AICS aims to accelerate existing connectivity prospects; identify issues of concern, evolve suitable policy recommendations and develop strategies to enhance economic, industrial and trade relations between ASEAN and India. Its focus areas are Infrastructure, Roadways, Shipping, Digital, Finance, Energy and Aviation.
 
The AICS is being organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in collaboration with AIC and CII. The partner organizations are Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Shipping and Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India. The Associate organizations are EXIM Bank, IDFC Institute, National Maritime Foundation and RIS.
 
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Airtel signs agreement with DoT, USOF to connect over 2100 uncovered villages in North East

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Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel today said it had signed an agreement with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for provision of mobile services in identified uncovered villages and national highways in the North Eastern States of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
 
Under the agreement, Airtel will set up over 2.000 mobile towers/sites in unconnected pockets of the region and deliver telecom connectivity to citizens in over 2.100 villages over the next 18 months. The deployment will also boost connectivity along important national highways in the region, a press release from Airtel said.
 
Airtel would receive approximately Rs. 1,610 crores from the USOF for executing the project, the release said.
 
The telecom infrastructure set up by Airtel will also enable other telecom service providers to offer services in the region, thereby, providing  a major fillip to telecom connectivity in the region, which is characterized by tough terrain. Expanding telecom connectivity will also add to the economic and social development of the region, the release said.
 
Mr. Ajai Puri, COO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel said, “Airtel has been leading the expansion of telecom services in North East India and as the largest operator in these markets, we have gained deep understanding of the region. This project will provide a massive boost to telecom connectivity in these areas and truly connect them with the rest of India and the world. Customers in these areas can look forward to affordable world-class mobile services very soon.” 
 
Airtel is the largest mobile operator in the North Eastern States and is the only operator to offer 2G/3G/4G services in the region. It has made significant investments to expand service availability in the region, the release added.
 
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Direct Tax collections for FY 2017-18 grow by 14.4% upto November, 2017

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Direct Tax collections for financial year 2017-18 up to November 2017 increased by 14.4 percent to Rs. 4.8 lakh crore as compared to the net collections for the corresponding period of the previous fiscal year, an official statement has said, quoting provisional data.
 
The net direct tax collections represent 49% of the total Budget Estimates of Direct Taxes for 2017-18 (Rs. 9.8 lakh crore), it said.
 
 Gross collections (before adjusting for refunds) have increased by 10.7% to Rs. 5.82 lakh crore during April-November, 2017. Refunds amounting to Rs. 1.02 lakh crore have been issued during April, 2017 to November, 2017, the statement  added.
 
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Ebix’s travel exchange, Via.com launches online travel sale: BOTS 2017

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EbixCash, a leading financial exchange and an initiative of the United States-based Ebix, Inc., today announced the launch of an online travel sale through its travel exchange Via.com.
 
The 8-day sale will feature cashback on domestic and international airlines, special offers on top hotel chains and amazing deals on holiday packages, a press release from Via.com said.
 
The Biggest Online Travel Sale – BOTS 2017 – will go live from tomorrow across Via.com desktop site, mobile site, Android and iOS app, and will last till December 17.
 
With the aim of building an airport like enterprise exchange for India, while consolidating the entire gamut of financial services, travel is a key element of the EbixCash Financial Exchange, with an estimated 600 million Indians taking some kind of travel last year, the release said.
 
Bhavik Vasa, Chief Growth Officer, EbIxCash said, “This is the third edition of the Biggest Online Travel Sale and we expect this to be the largest travel sale ever in terms of scale and bookings. The Christmas holiday period is traditionally a period of vacationing and travel for people across the country, and thus our holiday sale is targeted to maximize savings on travel and accommodations for our customers.”
 
The release said customs can deals in this sale period, which include up to 50% cashback on flight tickets, deals on more than 400,000 hotels across the world, or up to 80% off on hotels, and up to Rs. 30,000 off on holiday packages to Europe, South Africa & Australia.
 
Via.com had previously run a holiday sales offer in 2015 and 2016, both of which were hugely successful with the company registering 10x increase in traffic and 8x surge in transactions. This year, Via.com expects a 20x to 30x surge in traffic during the sale period, the release said.
 
"Via is recognized as a leader in the travel space in India, besides being the only profitable Travel exchange out of all its peers, while having grown at a CAGR of 45% over the last 3 years. One of South East Asia’s leading travel exchanges with over 110,000 distribution outlets and 8000 corporate clients, Via processes over 24.5 million transactions every year. Via’s multi-channel exchange also engages directly with consumers through its B2C website and mobile application platforms," the release said.
 
Via is an integral part of the Ebix group’s integrated EbixCash platform, that offers mobile Phone Recharges, Money Transfer, Insurance, Prepaid Gift Cards & Retail Products, besides Domestic & International Air, Hotel & Holidays, Rail, Bus and Rental Car bookings amongst other services.
 
Ebix Inc. is a leading international supplier of on-demand software and e-commerce services to the insurance, financial, e-governance and healthcare industries.
 
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Technical Cooperation Non-Cash Grant for Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar and Kochi for urban transport

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Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Bhubaneswar in  Odisha and Kochi in Kerala will receive Technical Cooperation Non-Cash Grant for Urban Transport Activities.
 
An Implementation Agreement on Sustainable Urban Transport project between Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and the German development agency GIZ was signed here yesterday in the presence of Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri and German Ambassador Dr Martin Ney.
 
The agreement was signed by Mr. Mukund Kumar Sinha, OSD & ex officio Joint Secretary, Housing & Urban Affairs and GIZ Country Director Wolfgang Hanning.
 
Under the agreement, an amount of euro four million (approximately Rs. 29 crore) will be given to the three cities for urban transport activities through GIZ over a period of three years. The main objective is to improve planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport, an official press release said.
 
The Annual Negotiations and Consultations between India and Germany in 2015, had listed Technical Cooperation by Germany for Urban Mobility in India as one of measures to be taken. It was later formalised with a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
 
The project will give the desired impetus in three major interventions proposed under Smart City Mission of the Ministry -- ITS based transport solutions, Non-motorised vehicles and Last mile connectivity, the release added.
 
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Business leaders commit support of nearly Rs. 500 crore for Namami Gange Mission

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Captains of Indian trade and industry have committed a support of nearly Rs. 500 crore for the development of amenities like ghats, river fronts, crematoria and parks at various places along River Ganga as part of the Namami Gange Mission.
 
Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari had interacted with business leaders in Mumbai yesterday and appealed to them to participate in the mission to clean the Ganga. The interaction was organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Gadkari emphasised that cleaning the Ganga should become a people’s movement. A lot of private individuals from across the world have pledged support for cleaning Ganga and donated generously. He also said that strict laws will be brought in to check pollution of the river.
 
The support from the business community in Mumbai follows closely after similar success in London last week where Indian corporates committed overwhelming support for Namami Gange Mission after an interaction with Mr Gadkari at a road show organized by NMCG.
 
Private funding is being sought for projects worth over Rs. 2,500 crore for development of ghats, crematoria, waterbodies, parks, sanitation facilities, public amenities and river front.
 
An indicative list of these projects have been published as a booklet and are also available on the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) website as an e-booklet. The Government is appealing to the business community to participate in the Namami Gange Mission to clean the river by funding projects of their choice.
 
At the interaction with business leaders in Mumbai Shri Gadkari outlined the implementation of the ‘Namami Gange’ programme for rejuvenation of the river Ganga and its tributaries, which has been divided into three levels.
 
The short term activities for immediate visible impact include river surface cleaning and modernization of ghats and crematoria.
 
The medium term activities to be implemented within five years include municipal sewage management, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, Ganga gram, industrial effluent management, water quality monitoring and rural sanitation.
 
Long term activities to be implemented within ten years include adequate flow of water, improved efficiency of surface irrigation and increased water use efficiency.
 
Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Satyapal Singh said for Indians Ganga is not just a river, it is a civilization in flow. Water as one of the tatvas is symbolically associated with creation, dissolution, fertility and cleansing and is inherent in the larger Indian cultural ethos.
 
Mr UP Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources said 113 ghats and 52 crematoria were under various stages of progress at a cost of Rs. 626.57 crore. As many as 84 ghats in Varanasi will be cleaned up at a cost of Rs. 5 crore per year .
 
All villages near Ganga have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). Trash skimmers have been deployed in 11 cities to collect all kinds of floating waste materials to clean the river surface.
 
The Union Government, through Namami Gange Programme announced in 2014, has given a much needed thrust to restoring the wholesomeness of the river by allocating resources of about Rs. 20,000 crore. It has adopted an integrated Ganga Rejuvenation approach addressing various aspects.
 
The National Mission for Clean Ganga ( NMCG) has sanctioned projects worth about Rs. 17,000 crore for Sewerage Management, Industrial Effluents Managements, Biodiversity Conservation, Solid Waste Management, Afforestation , Rural Sanitation, River Front Management, Capacity Building, Development/ Rehabilitation’ of Ghats & Crematoria etc. and above all a Communication & Public campaign to make ‘Ganga Rejuvenation’ a public movement.
 
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India’s forex reserves rise by $ 1.2 billion to $ $401.942 billion

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Continuing an uptrend for the fourth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 1.2 billion to $ 401.942 billion during the week ended December 1, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 1.208 billion to $ 400.741 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had risen by $ 1.151 billion to $ 377.456 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves increased by $ 36.5 million to $ 20.703 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 4.9 million to $ 1.502 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rose by $ 7.4 million to $ 2.28 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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CBDT extends deadline for linking of Aadhaar with PAN till March 31, 2018

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The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) today extended the deadline for linking of Aadhhar number with taxpayers' Permanent Account Number (PAN) till March 31, 2018.
 
An official press release said that, under the provisions of recently introduced section 139AA of the Income-tax Act, 1961, with effect from 01.07.2017, all taxpayers having Aadhaar Number or Enrolment Number are required to link the same with PAN.
 
"In view of the difficulties faced by some of the taxpayers in the process, the date for linking of Aadhaar with PAN was initially extended till 31st August, 2017 which was further extended upto 31st December, 2017.
 
"It has come to notice that some of the taxpayers have not yet completed the linking of PAN with Aadhaar. Therefore, to facilitate the process of linking, it has been decided to further extend the time for linking of Aadhaar with PAN till 31.03.2018," the release added.
 
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Major Ports register growth of 3.46% during April-November, 2017

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With major ports registering a growth of 3.46% during April-November, 2017, India was making its presence felt on the global maritime map, an official press release said today.
 
The major ports together handled 439.66 million tonnes of cargo during the period as against 424.96 million tonnes during the corresponding period of previous year.
 
Nine ports -- Kolkata (including Haldia), Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Cochin, New Mangalore, Mumbai, JNPT and Kandla -- registered positive growth in traffic.
 
The highest growth was registered by Cochin Port (17.93%), followed by Paradip (13.13%), Kolkata, including Haldia (12.64%), New Mangalore (7.07%) and JNPT (5.69%).
 
Cochin Port growth was mainly due to increase in traffic of POL (25.15%) and Containers (10.46%). There was decrease in traffic of Other Liquids (-26.24%), Fertilizer Raw Materials (-23.33%), Finished Fertilizers (-11.76%) and other Misc. Cargo (-1.19%).
 
In Kolkata Port, overall growth was 12.64%. Kolkata Dock System (KDS) registered traffic growth of 4.33% while Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) registered positive growth of 16.70%.
 
During the period April to November 2017, Kandla Port handled the highest volume of traffic, 72.03 million tonnes (16.38% share), followed by Paradip with 64.97 million tonnes (14.78% share), JNPT with 43.26 million tonnes (9.84% share), Mumbai with 42.33 million tonnes (9.63% share) and Visakhapatnam with 40.95 million tonnes (9.31% share). Together, these five ports handled around 60% of major port traffic.
 
Commodity-wise percentage share of POL was maximum at 34.02%, followed by Container (19.89%), Thermal & Steam Coal (13.07%), Other Misc. Cargo (12.37%), Coking & Other Coal (7.47%), Iron Ore & Pellets (6.58%), Other Liquid (4.22%), Finished Fertilizer (1.28%) and FRM (1.10%).
 
The Ministry of Shipping has taken significant strides in the last three years to make India’s presence felt on the global maritime map.
 
Various steps have been taken to provide a robust legislative framework, create capacities, impart skills to people, and create an enabling business environment for the growth of the maritime sector in the country.
 
Recently, Mr Gadkari laid the foundation stone of a Rs. 970-crore International Ship Repair Facility (ISRF) at Cochin Shipyard Limited, which will make Cochin a global ship repair hub.
 
Giving a boost to the maritime sector under Sagarmala, a world-class Centre of Excellence in Maritime and Ship Building (CEMS) is also being set up with campuses at Vishakhapatnam and Mumbai. It will provide industry-relevant skill development, equip students with employable engineering and technical skills in the port and maritime sector.
 
These steps have resulted in India gaining prominence in the global maritime arena.
 
In the recent elections to the IMO Council India secured the second highest number of votes and was re-elected to in Category-B, that is, states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade. The IMO Council consists of 40 member countries.
 
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ADB approves $ 346 million loan to upgrade highways in Karnataka

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The Manila-based Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $346 million loan to upgrade highways in Karnataka.
 
“The road network is a critical element of the transport infrastructure in Karnataka,” said Ravi Peri, an ADB Principal Transport Specialist. “In line with state policy which recognizes road development as an engine of growth, the Karnataka State Highways Improvement III Project will improve road capacity and maintenance, promote safer roads, and increase access to markets and basic services.”
 
Karnataka, in southwest India, has a per capita income higher than the national average and has lower unemployment and poverty rates. The state also receives substantial foreign direct investment and has a strong industrial and services base, an ADB press release said.
 
The release said road transport in the state has increased rapidly, and there is a need to prioritize expansion and improvement of the road network to retain Karnataka’s advantage in economic development. An efficient road network linking villages, towns, and cities will provide stronger links between remote, poor regions and more developed markets and urban hubs, it said.
 
"The project will improve 419 kilometers of state highways, upgrading them to two and four-lane widths with paved shoulders, depending on traffic needs, and improving culverts and bridges. The project roads will also address the needs of residents along the state roads for adequate footpaths, lights, and improvement to curves that pose safety hazards, especially at night. The project will carry out a road safety survey to identify critical accident spots across the state highways and carry out measures to improve these. Planned pedestrian and women-friendly elements include bus shelters, marked crossings, footpaths, and proper signage. In addition, the project will strengthen the efficiency and work of the Karnataka Public Works, Ports, and Inland Water Transport Department. 
 
"Over the years, the state government has used various funding sources to improve state roads, including state budget, public-private partnerships, and finance from multilateral agencies, including ADB. This is the second loan from ADB for improving the state’s road network. The total cost of this project is $655 million, of which the state government will provide $202 million and the private sector will invest an estimated $107 million through hybrid annuity contracts. The project is due for completion at the end of 2023," the release added.
 
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GAIL fast tracks implementation of Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga Project

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Public sector natural gas major GAIL (India) Limited has awarded the laying contract for 520 kms pipeline connectivity from Dobhi (in Bihar) to Durgapur (in West Bengal), including a 120 kms line to Jamshedpur (in Jharkhand). 
 
With these awards, the major contracts for Phase II of the Jagdishpur-Haldia & Bokaro-Dhamra Natural Gas Pipeline (JHBDPL) project have been finalised. The prestigious 2655 km JHBDPL project, also known as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga’ project, will pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
 
A press release from GAIL said the project would usher in industrial development in east India by supplying environmentally clean natural gas to fertilizer and power plant, refineries, steel plants and other industries. 
 
The release said the City Gas Network laying activities in Varanasi and Bhubaneswar have already commenced and activities in other cities such as Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Cuttack and Kolkata will start by next month. City Gas Distribution will provide clean fuel to household, transportation and other commercial sectors.
 
Mr. B. C. Tripathi, CMD, GAIL (India) Ltd. said, “The project activities of Phase I is under advanced stage of construction which will supply gas to Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Patna and Barauni. Though certain hindrances are being encountered in RoU opening, GAIL is putting all-out efforts to overcome the hindrances and complete Phase I before the scheduled completion of December 2018. With the award for pipeline to Durgapur and Jamshedpur, GAIL till date has already awarded contracts over Rs 6,000 crores covering phase I and II of the project.”
 
“GAIL is presently executing 4,000 kms of natural gas pipeline. The 4,000 km pipeline will cover the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka. GAIL is making huge investment in pipeline to fulfil Government’s vision of National Gas Grid. The capex of GAIL for the next financial year is expected over Rs 6,000 crores which will be a jump of more than 50% of current financial year," Mr. Tripathi added.
 
"With these, the activities of Phase II of JHBDPL and city gas projects en route the pipeline will also gain momentum and GAIL is committed to complete the project within the project cost and schedule," the release added.
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins order valued at over Rs. 1600 crore

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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), has won an order worth more than Rs. 1,600 crore from the public sector Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited's (HPCL) Visakhapatnam Refinery.
 
The project is a part of HPCL Visakh Refinery Modernisation Project (VRMP) and involves engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of 3.053 MMTPA Full Conversion Hydrocracker Project.
 
"The order reinforces L&T’s unique capability to deliver 'design to build' engineering and construction solutions across the hydrocarbon spectrum," a press release from the company said.
 
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Airtel, Intex join hands to launch affordable 4G smartphones

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Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel today said it had, as part of its ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative, partnered with smartphones manufacturer Intex Technologies to launch a range of affordable 4G smartphones with advanced features.
 
A press release from Airtel said the Intex Aqua Lions N1 would be available to its customers at an effective price of Rs. 1649 (compared to market price of Rs. 3799).  
 
The dual SIM 4G smartphone is powered by MTK chipset with a 4” full touch WVGA screen, 2MP Rear & Front VGA camera, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage which is expandable up to 128GB along with a host of other features, the release said.
 
Customers need to make a down payment of Rs. 3149 for the Aqua Lions N1, which will come bundled with a monthly pack of Rs 169 from Airtel, offering data and calling benefits. The customer is required to make 36 continuous monthly recharges of Rs 169 from Airtel. After 18 months, the customer will get a cash refund of Rs 500 and another Rs 1000 after the completion of 36 months, taking the total cash benefit to Rs 1500.
 
Under the ‘Mera Pehla 4G Smartphone’ initiative, Airtel aims to partner with multiple mobile handset manufacturers to create an ‘open ecosystem’ of affordable 4G smartphones and bring them to market for virtually the price of a feature phone. The partnership with Intex gives further momentum to this initiative which has received extremely positive response from customers looking to upgrade to a 4G smartphone and get on to the digital superhighway with access to all popular apps, the release said.
 
Mr. Ajai Puri, Chief Operating Officer (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel said, “We are really pleased to see the continued positive response to our ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative from customers as well as smartphone manufacturers. We are delighted to have Intex on board as a partner and their brand familiarity plus distribution reach will add to our affordable smartphone proposition and offer more choice to our customers. We look forward to working with them towards empowering every Indian with a 4G smartphone.”
 
Ms. Nidhi Markanday, Director, Intex Technologies, said, “For Intex, consumers come first and we look at the benefits they get from our partnerships and offerings. We are delighted to launch the all new Aqua Lions N1 exclusively under the ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative to drive the adoption of 4G smartphones. The strategic tie-up with Airtel will help Intex offer very affordable smartphones that will accelerate the shift of feature phone users to smartphone without pinching the pocket.”
 
In addition to the Intex Aqua Lions N1, two more 4G smartphones have been introduced under the initiative.
 
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The Intex Aqua A4 comes at an effective price of Rs 1999 (compared to market price of Rs 4999). It is powered by 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and an 8GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 64GB. It has a 5MP primary camera on the rear and a 2MP front shooter.
 
The Intex Aqua S3, the most advanced phone in this range, is available an effective price of Rs 4379 (compared to market price of Rs 6649). It comes with a 5” HD IPS display and is powered by 1.3GHz quad- processor. It has 2GB RAM and an internal storage of 16GB that can be expanded up to 64GB. It has a 2450 mAh battery plus 8MP primary camera and a 5MP front shooter with flash for taking pictures.
 
All devices are Android powered and offer full access to all apps on Google Play Store, including YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. The smartphones come preloaded with MyAirtel App, Airtel TV and Wynk Music.
 
In case the customer does not wish to opt for the Rs 169 bundled plan, she/he has the flexibility of doing recharges of any denomination and validity as per individual requirements. However, to claim the cash refund benefit, recharges worth Rs 3000 must be done within the first 18 months (to claim the first refund installment of Rs 500) and another Rs 3000 over the next 18 months (to claim the second refund installment of Rs 1000).     
 
With today’s launch, Airtel now offers seven 4G smartphone models under its ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative. It has partnerships with Karbonn Mobiles and Celkon in addition to Intex, the release added.
 
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IRFC raises $ 500 million through 10-year green bonds

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The Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) today said it had raised $ 500 million thorugh the issue 10-year green bonds from investors in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and offshore United States.
 
Proceeds of the senior unsecured dollar bonds would be used to finance the eligible Green Projects under Dedicated Freight Railway Lines and Public Passenger Transport, a press release from the company said.
 
The green bonds have been certificated by the Climate Bond Initiative (CBI), while the “Green Bond Framework” formulated by IRFC has been verified by KPMG, it said.
 
This was IRFC’s inaugural foray into the green bond market. The 10-year benchmark has a semi-annual coupon of 3.835% per annum and a maturity date of 13 December 2027. It offers investors a yield of 3.835%, equivalent to 145 basis points over the 2.25% UST due 15 November 2027. There were orders for more than $ 1.6 billion with 99 investors consisting of very high quality accounts.
 
Mr S. K. Pattanayak, Managing Director, IRFC said, “We are very delighted on the successful launch and completion of this transaction which establishes IRFC’s status as one of the most sought-after Indian state-owned enterprises credit in the international bond markets. This was IRFC’s return to the international bond markets since February 2014, so investors were very keen to gain exposure to a rare high quality credit from India. The issue has been oversubscribed by 3x times and managed to achieve a very strong price compression. The successful completion of the deal underscores investor's confidence in IRFC.”
 
“The launch of the deal at initial price of UST + 165ps area and a final pricing at UST +145bps reflected the strength of the orderbook and saw investment interest coming from high quality investors in Asia, Europe and Middle East, and offshore US. The successful transaction followed an extensive road show in Singapore, Hong Kong and London. At UST +145bps, this represents the tightest 10-year spread paid by an Indian public sector corporate in the last decade in the USD markets," he added.
 
Barclays, HSBC, MUFG and Standard Chartered Bank acted as joint bookrunners and joint lead managers for the issue.
 
Setup in 1986, IRFC is wholly owned by the Government of India. It is under the administrative control of Ministry of Railways (MOR) and plays a critical role in the Indian government’s plans and policies given its exclusive role as financier to the Ministry of Railways.
 
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Tata Motors rolls out first batch of Tigor electric vehicles from its Sanand facility in Gujarat

Tata Motors rolling out the first batch of its Tigor electric vehicles from its Sanand plant in Gujarat on December 6, 2017. In the image, Mr. Ratan N Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group and Mr. N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons and Tata Motors are seen flagging off the first batch of EVs.
Tata Motors rolling out the first batch of its Tigor electric vehicles from its Sanand plant in Gujarat on December 6, 2017. In the image, Mr. Ratan N Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group and Mr. N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons and Tata Motors are seen flagging off the first batch of EVs.
Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran today flagged off Tata Motors' first batch of Tigor electric vehicles (EVs) from its manufacturing facility at Sanand near here in Gujarat.
 
Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group, Mr. Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors and members of the Tata Motors Executive Committee were present on the occasion.
 
The Tigor EVs are being manufactured for the Indian Government’s order of electric vehicles from the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), an entity under the Ministry of Power.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Chandrasekaran said it was a significant milestone for Tata Motors. "As we work together to build the future of e-mobility in India, I am confident that our customers will respond very favourably to this electric model."
 
Mr. Butschek said, "With Tigor EV, we have begun our journey in boosting e-mobility and offering a full range of electric vehicles to the Indian customers. This tender has effectively paved way for connecting our aspirations in the e-mobility space with the vision of the Government.”
 
Tata Motors had qualified as L1 bidder in the midst of stiff competition and won the tender of 10,000 electric cars floated by EESL in September 2017. For phase 1, Tata Motors is required to deliver 250 Tigor EVs, for which it has received a LoA. For an additional 100 cars, the LoA is expected to be issued shortly by EESL. The electric drive systems for this prestigious order have been developed and supplied by Electra EV – a company established to develop and supply electric drive systems for the automotive sector.
 
"Tata Motors is committed to the Government’s vision for electric vehicles by 2030 and will work in a collaborative manner to facilitate faster adoption of electric vehicles and to build a sustainable future for India," the release added.
 
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RBI retains repo rate at 6%, raises inflation projection to 4.3-4.7% for Q3-Q4

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility unchanged at 6.0% in keeping with its aim of keeping inflation under control while supporting growth.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 percent in keeping with its aim of keeping inflation under control while supporting growth.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
 
"The decision ... is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth," the central bank said in its Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18 on the basis of the resolution of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
 
The resolution said the decision was taken on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at today's meeting of the MPC.
 
The statement said that, among the MPC members, Dr. Chetan Ghate, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra, Dr. Viral V. Acharya and RBI Governor Urjit R. Patel were in favour of the monetary policy decision, while Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of 25 basis points. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by December 20, 2017, it said.
 
Among other things, the RBI marginally raised its inflation projection for the remainder of the financial year, saying it estimated inflation to be in the range of 4.3-4.7 percent in the  third and fourth quarters, including the impact of increase in house rent allowance (HRA) by the Central Government of up to 35 basis points, with risks evenly balanced.
 
The October bi-monthly statement had projected inflation to rise and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year, including the impact of increase in HRA.
 
The resolution said the headline inflation outcomes had evolved broadly in line with projections. Going forward, the inflation path will be influenced by several factors. First, moderation in inflation excluding food and fuel observed in Q1 of 2017-18 has, by and large, reversed. There is a risk that this upward trajectory may continue in the near-term. Second, the impact of HRA by the Central Government is expected to peak in December. The staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up housing inflation further in 2018, with attendant second order effects. Third, the recent rise in international crude oil prices may sustain, especially on account of the OPEC’s decision to maintain production cuts through next year. 
 
"In such a scenario, any adverse supply shock due to geo-political developments could push up prices even further," it said.
 
Despite recent increase in prices of vegetables, some seasonal moderation is expected in near months as winter arrivals kick in. Prices of pulses have continued to show a downward bias. The GST Council in its last meeting has brought several retail goods and services to lower tax brackets, which should translate into lower retail prices, going forward, the statement noted.
 
Turning to GVA projections, the resolution said Q2 growth was lower than that projected in the October resolution. 
 
"The recent increase in oil prices may have a negative impact on margins of firms and GVA growth. Shortfalls in kharif production and rabi sowing pose downside risks to the outlook for agriculture. On the positive side, there has been some pick up in credit growth in recent months. 
 
"Recapitalisation of public sector banks may help improve credit flows further. While there has been weakness in some components of the services sector such as real estate, the Reserve Bank’s survey indicates that the services and infrastructure sectors are expecting an improvement in demand, financial conditions and the overall business situation in Q4. Taking into account the above factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 of the October resolution at 6.7 per cent has been retained, with risks evenly balanced," it said.
 
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The MPC noted that the evolving trajectory needs to be carefully monitored. First, two of the key factors determining the cost of living conditions and inflation expectations -- food and fuel inflation -- edged up in November. 
 
"Inflation expectations of households surveyed by the Reserve Bank have already firmed up and any increase in food and fuel prices may further harden these expectations. Second, rising input cost conditions as reflected in various surveys point towards higher risk of pass-through to retail prices in the near term. Third, implementation of farm loan waivers by select states, partial roll back of excise duty and VAT in the case of petroleum products, and decrease in revenue on account of reduction in GST rates for several goods and services may result in fiscal slippage with attendant implications for inflation. Fourth, global financial instability on account of the pace of/uncertainty over monetary policy normalisation in AEs and fiscal expansion in the US carry risks for inflation. 
 
"The expected seasonal moderation in prices of vegetables, and fruits and the recent lowering of tax rates by the GST Council could mitigate upside pressures. Accordingly, the MPC decided to keep the policy repo rate on hold. However, keeping in mind the output gap dynamics, the MPC decided to continue with the neutral stance and watch the incoming data carefully. The MPC remains committed to keeping headline inflation close to 4 per cent on a durable basis," it said.
 
In the MPC’s assessment, there have been several significant developments in the recent period which augur well for growth prospects, going forward. First, capital raised from the primary capital market has increased significantly after several years of sluggish activity. As the capital raised is deployed to set up new projects, it will add to demand in the short run and boost the growth potential of the economy over the medium-term. Second, the improvement in the ease of doing business ranking should help sustain foreign direct investment in the economy. Third, large distressed borrowers are being referenced to the insolvency and bankruptcy code (IBC) and public sector banks are being recapitalised, which should enhance allocative efficiency. 
 
"However, the MPC notes that the impact of these factors can be buttressed by reducing the cost of domestic borrowings through improved transmission by banks of past monetary policy changes on outstanding loans," the statement said.
 
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Commerce Ministry imposes Minimum Import Price on pepper

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The Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has approved the proposal of the Spices Board for fixing the CIF value of Rs.500 per kg as Minimum Import Price (MIP) for pepper to protect the interests of pepper growers.
 
In recent times, decline in the domestic pepper price due to cheaper import of pepper from other origins has been a major concern among pepper growers, an official press release said.
 
Pepper prices have gone down by nearly 35 per cent in one year and have resulted in a lot of hardship for pepper growers, it said.
 
Since most of the pepper-producing countries are in the ASEAN region, there have also been apprehensions of pepper from these countries being routed through Sri Lanka, taking advantage of lower duty under SAFTA and ISLFTA, for availing concessional import duty. Farmers' associations have demanded taking of stringent measures including fixing of MIP for pepper to prevent cheaper imports of pepper into the country from other origins.
 
Fixing of MIP will help in improving the domestic price particularly when the harvesting season of pepper is fast approaching, the release added.
 
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Pradhan interacts with stakeholders on expansion of City Gas Distribution networks

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The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) held an interaction session here yesterday with all stakeholders to discuss the expeditious expansion of City Gas Distribution (CGD) networks in the country.
 
The session was chaired by  Union Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and attended by senior officials of the Ministry and various State Governments, the Chairperson and Members of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), and representatives of the gas industry including CGD companies.
 
An official press release said the Government has envisaged ushering in a gas-based economy by increasing the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix of the country from the current level to 15% in coming years. In order to move forward, the Government has put thrust on enhancing domestic gas production, encouraging the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG), completion of national gas grid and speedier roll out of CGD networks.
 
At the meeting, the efforts made by the Government so far were highlighted. The meeting was told that, in order to expedite the expansion of PNG networks, the Government through the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has also advised the States to rationalize the permission processes for laying CGD infrastructure in the cities. 
 
At present, 31 entities are operating CGD networks in 81 cities and connected about 39.8 lakh households. The Government and PNGRB has identified about 140 possible Geographical Areas (GAs) in 21 states where work to develop CGD network can be started in the near future.
 
An official press release said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set a target of connecting one crore households with PNG Connection. In order to have a holistic development of CGD sector in the States, views of all stakeholders including State Governments and others will be factored in while firming up GAs, it said.
 
The development of CGD networks in the planned GAs has the potential to generate direct employment opportunities for about 60,000 people at a total investment of about Rs. 21,000 crore in the next five years.
 
Mr. Pradhan said there was need to link CGD networks to rural areas, inustries, food processing units and so on.
 
He emphasised that state Governments should actively participate in this to make it a success and develop the Indian gas sector.
 
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