Business & Economy

FTP review seeks to resolve blocked working capital problem of exporters

Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu speaking at the release of the Mid-Term Review of the Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-20, in New Delhi on December 5, 2017.
Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu speaking at the release of the Mid-Term Review of the Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-20, in New Delhi on December 5, 2017.
Commerce and Industry Ministry Suresh Prabhu today released the Mid-Term Review of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20 which has restored the  benefits under the export promotion schemes of duty free imports under Advanced Authorisation, Export Promotion Capital Goods and 100 percent Export Oriented Units, thus resolving the problem of blocked working capital for exporters following the roll-out of Goods and Service Tax (GST).
The FTP review has focused on increasing the incentives for labour intensive Micro, Small and Medium Enteprises (MSMEs), an official press release said. 
Export incentives under Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) have been increased by 2% across the board for labour intensive MSME sectors, leading to additional annual incentive of Rs. 4,567 crore.
This is in addition to the already announced  increase in MEIS incentives from 2 percent to 4 percent for Ready-made Garments and Made Ups in the labour intensive Textiles Sector with an additional annual incentive of Rs. 2,743 crore, the release said.
Further, incentives under Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) have also been increased by 2%, leading to additional annual incentive of Rs. 1,140 crore.
Thus, incentives under the two schemes have been increased by 33.8%  (Rs. 8,450 crore) from the existing incentives of Rs. 25,000 crore, leading to boost in exports from the labour intensive sectors and increased employment opportunities. 
The release said that some of the major sectors benefited are as under:
·         Rs. 2,743 crore for Ready-made Garments and Made Ups in   Textiles Sector 
·         Rs 749 crore for Leather and Footwear Articles,
·         Rs 921 crore for handmade carpets of silk, handloom and coir and Jute products 
·         Rs 1,354 crore for Agriculture and related products,
·         Rs 1,140 crore for Services including Hotel & Restaurant, Hospital, Educational services etc.
·         Rs 759 crore for Marine products
·         Rs 369 crore for Telecom and Electronics Components
·         Rs 193 crore for Medical and Surgical Equipment.
The release said that the validity period of Duty Credit Scrips has been increased from 18 to 24 months and GST rates on transfer/sale of scrips has been reduced to zero. The issue of gold availability for exporters has been resolved by allowing Specified Nominated Agencies to import gold without payment of IGST. Support to Export Credit Guarantee Corporation is also being enhanced to increase insurance cover to exporters, particularly MSMEs exploring new or difficult markets.
A new scheme of self-assessment based duty free procurement of inputs required for exports has been introduced. There will be no need of Standard Input Output Norms in such cases and this will eliminate delays. 
"It is based on trust. Exporters will self-certify the requirement of duty free raw materials/ inputs. The scheme would initially be available to the Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs) and will get expanded as more exporters join the AEO program. The scheme will improve ease of doing business," the release said.
Contact@DGFT service has been launched on the DGFT website ( as a single window contact point for exporters and importers for resolving all foreign trade related issues and also to give suggestions.  Exporters/importers can track the status of their queries through the assigned reference number. A feedback mechanism has also been provided. High level monitoring of disposal is being ensured, the release said.
A State-of-the-Art Trade Analytics division has been set up in DGFT for data based policy actions. The initiative envisages processing trade information from DGCIS and other national and international databases related to India’s key export markets and identify specific policy interventions.
A new Logistics Division has been created in the Department of Commerce to develop and co-ordinate  integrated development of the logistics sector, by way of policy changes, improvement in existing procedures, identification of bottlenecks and gaps, and introduction of technology based interventions in this sector. These steps would improve India’s ranking in the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) and promote exports and enhanced growth.
Focus will be given to Ease of Trading across borders.  A professional team to handhold, assist and support exporters in their export related problems, accessing export market and meeting regulatory requirements. The team will also examine the procedures and processes in clearances related to trading across borders for their simplification and rationalization and track progress. Dwell time at ICDs, ports and airports is being closely monitored in coordination with Customs, and infrastructure Ministries.
"The Foreign Trade Policy will continue to be reviewed and evaluated regularly for addressing concerns of the exporters, simplification of procedures and for promotion of exports," the release said.
Minister of State for Commerce and Industry C. R. Chaudhary, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia, Secretary Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ramesh Abhishek and the Director General of Foreign Trade Alok Chaturvedi were among those present on the occasion.
Mr. Prabhu said the FTP would leverage the long term advantages of GST, in terms of reduced compliance and logistics costs. 
He said the policy would focus on exports from labour intensive and MSME sectors by way of increased incentives in order to increase employment opportunities. Emphasis will be given on ‘Ease of Trading’ across borders. Information based policy interventions will be ensured through a state-of-the-art Trade Analytics Division. While share in traditional products and markets will be maintained, the focus will be on new products and new markets. 
Mr. Adhia emphasized that the Government had been very sensitive towards exporters. The Export Package was approved by the GST Council, resolving the problem of blockage of working capital. He further stated that ITC and IGST refunds for exporters are being expedited and explained in detail the process and procedure for refund of IGST claims for exporters. He reiterated that GST will be very beneficial for exporters in the long run. The Ministry of Finance will continue to work in collaboration with the Department of Commerce and exporters to address their operational issues, he said.
Ms. Teaotia said the FTP would continue with the ‘Whole of Government’ approach involving all Ministries and State Governments. Over the last 10 years, exports have grown at a CAGR of 8%, she said.
She said an important consideration in framing the policy had been the need to ensure that it is aligned with both India’s interests in trade negotiations, as well as its obligations and commitments under various WTO agreements. 

ISA to become treaty-based international intergovernmental organization on Wednesday

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) will become a treaty-based international intergovernmental organization tomorrow, in terms of its Framework Agreement, with Guinea becoming the 15th ratifying country on November 6.
The ISA, headquartered in India, has its Secretariat located in the campus of National Institute of Solar Energy, Gwalpahari, Gurgaon, Haryana.    
The ISA is an Indian initiative, jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Francois Hollande on November 30, 2015 in Paris on the sidelines of COP-21, the UN Climate Conference. It aims at addressing obstacles to deployment at scale of solar energy through better harmonization and aggregation of demand from solar rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. As of date, 46 countries have signed and 19 countries have ratified the Framework Agreement of ISA.
Australia, Bangladesh. Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guiana, Fiji, France, Gabonese Republic, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, India, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Tonga, Togolese Republic, Tuvalu, UAE, Vanuatu, and Venezuela are the signatory countries.
India, France, Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, Cuba, Fiji, Guinea, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Nauru, Niger, Peru, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tuvalu are the ratifying countries so far.
The ISA Interim Secretariat has been operational as a de facto organization since 25th January, 2016.  Three programmes - Scaling Solar Applications for Agriculture Use, Affordable Finance at Scale, and Scaling Solar Mini-grids - have been launched. These programmes will help in achieving the overall goal of increasing solar energy deployment in the ISA member countries for achieving universal energy access and speeding up economic development. In addition, ISA has initiated plans to launch two more programmes: Scaling Solar Rooftops and Scaling Solar E-mobility and Storage.
Further, ISA has also been developing a Common Risk Mitigating Mechanism (CRMM) for de-risking and reducing the financial cost of solar projects in the ISA member countries. The instrument will help diversify and pool risks on mutual public resources and unlock significant investments. An international expert group has been working on the blue print of the mechanism and it will be rolled out by December 2018.
Another major initiative is establishment of Digital Infopedia which will serve as a platform to enable policy makers, Ministers and corporate leaders from ISA countries to interact, connect, communicate and collaborate with one another. The interactive platform was operationalized on 18th May 2017. Digital Infopedia will have three heads: (a) Member countries counter for investment opportunities; (b) at least 1000 best practices on solar energy (audio/visual), and (c) Member countries of ISA and the ISA Secretariat audio and visual interaction.
The Paris Declaration establishing ISA states that the countries share the collective ambition to undertake innovative and concerted efforts for reducing the cost of finance and cost of technology for immediate deployment solar generation assets. This will help pave the way for future solar generation, storage and good technologies for each prospective member countries’ individual needs, by effectively mobilizing more than $1000 billion in investments that will be required by 2030.
India has offered to meet ISA Secretariat expenses for initial five years.  In addition, the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India has set aside $2 billion for solar projects in Africa out of Government of India's $10 billion concessional Line of Credit (LOC) for Africa. Government of France has also earmarked a euro 300 million soft loan for solar related projects in ISA member countries.

BHEL bags R&M order for ESP Package at Kahalgaon Super Thermal Power Station in Bihar

The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) toay said it had, in the face of stiff international competitive bidding (ICB), secured an order for the renovation and modernization (R&M) of Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) at Kahalgaon Super Thermal Power Station (STPS) in Bihar.
Valued at over Rs. 215 crore, the turnkey order envisages carrying out R&M of ESPs at Kahalgaon STPS, Stage-I (4x210 MW) of NTPC Limited. 
The ESPs, originally supplied along with the units by BHEL, have been in successful operation for more than 25 years since the commissioning of the units, a press release from the company said.
According to it, renovation of these ESPs will enable these units to meet the new norms for suspended particulate matter (SPM) emission, recently announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF & CC). Modernisation of the units will facilitate the operation of these units for many more years, it said.
BHEL’s scope of work in the contract includes design, engineering, manufacture, supply, dismantling, erection, testing and commissioning of the ESPs to bring down the SPM emission to the stipulated level for all the four units of Kahalgaon STPS, Stage-1.
Major equipment for the project will be supplied by BHEL’s units located at Ranipet and Bhopal, while the execution on site will be undertaken by Power Sector Eastern Region.
BHEL is already executing similar R&M projects on turnkey basis for NTPC Limited and state utilities like GSECL, CSPGCL, and so on. With the R&M of ESPs by BHEL, many old units will be able to comply with the new emission norms, the release added.

ADB to support Reliance LNG terminal, power project in Bangladesh

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved debt financing and partial risk guarantees totaling $583 million to develop the Reliance Bangladesh Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Power Project. 
The project, which includes a power generation facility to be located in Meghnaghat, near the capital city of Dhaka, and an LNG Terminal, near Kutubdia Island south of Chittagong, will significantly increase power generation and improve energy infrastructure in Bangladesh, a press release from ADB said.
ADB’s financing package includes loans and partial risk guarantees for the power generation facility, as well as for the LNG terminal. The total project cost is approximately $1 billion, it said.
“ADB’s partnership with Reliance Power will help Bangladesh scale up its energy infrastructure to sustain and support the country’s economic growth,” said Michael Barrow, Director General of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department. “ADB’s role as a direct lender and guarantee provider will enable Reliance Power to mobilize much needed long-term debt financing and help attract new lenders to Bangladesh.”
According  to the release, diversifying Bangladesh’s sources of energy is critical for the country as demands for natural gas have placed significant pressures on the country’s domestic gas reserves. New LNG import facilities will enable the country’s existing gas-dependent infrastructure to remain viable while opening the country to access natural gas from global markets, it said.
ADB’s support will help Reliance Power Limited to develop an initial approximately 750 megawatts (MW) of gross power generation capacity and terminal facilities for LNG import. Reliance Power plans to increase its power generation capacity to around 3,000 MW in Bangladesh. Energy from the power plant will be sold into the country’s electricity grid under a long-term power purchase agreement with the Bangladesh Power Development Board.
“Reliance Power has achieved a major and important milestone of approval of financing for its landmark project in Bangladesh. This is an important step in helping Bangladesh achieve energy security,” said Venugopala Rao, CEO of Reliance Power. “ADB's leadership in financing will help us to develop this clean and reliable LNG-based power project in Bangladesh.”
Reliance Power Limited is a part of the Reliance Group and is one of India’s leading private sector power generation companies.
The company has one of the largest portfolios of power projects in the Indian private sector, based on coal, gas, hydro, and renewable energy, with an operating capacity of 5,945 MW, the release added.

Fifteenth Finance Commission holds first meeting

The Fifteenth Finance Commission, constituted on 27th of November 2017, held its first meeting today at North Block in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Mr. N. K. Singh.
The meeting was attended by all the other members of the Commission, including full-time members Shaktikanta Das and Anoop Singh and part-time members Ashok Lahiri and Ramesh Chand.
An official press release said the Commission held preliminary discussions on the Terms of Reference for the Fifteenth Finance Commission as per the Order made by the President of India and notified by the Ministry of Finance on 27th November, 2017.
"The Commission was cognisant that it has been assigned wide-ranging Terms of Reference which needed to be suitably addressed. Towards this objective, it was felt that wide-ranging consultations with all stake holders including various Ministries of the Union Government, all State Governments, Local Bodies, Panchayats and Political parties of each State Government needed to be expeditiously initiated. 
"The Commission recognised that there was also need to undertake analytical papers, analysis from leading research organisations within the country and elsewhere to suitably address the Terms of Reference.
"The Commission was keen to seek academic inputs and inter-actions with leading Think Tanks and domain knowledge experts which would assist the Commission in its work. 
"The Commission approved the setting-up of its office at Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan on Janpath in New Delhi," the release added.

Airtel acquires strategic stake in Juggernaut

Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel today said it had acquired a strategic stake in Juggernaut Books, a popular digital platform to discover and read high quality, affordable books and to submit amateur writing.
"The investment is in line with Airtel’s endeavour to build an open content ecosystem and bring world-class digital content to its customers," a press release from the company said.
"The investment from Airtel will enable Juggernaut to ramp up content acquisition, digital marketing and prepare for a subscription offering launch in the next few months," it said.
Badal Bagri, Chief Financial Officer, Bharti Airtel said, “Juggernaut is an exciting digital platform and complements our content vision. We look forward to working with them and supporting the next phase of their growth journey.”   
Speaking of the fund raise, Juggernaut founder and publisher Chiki Sarkar said, “We are excited to partner with Airtel in our journey ahead. Airtel has a great understanding of digital content consumption and we have much to learn and benefit from this strategic partnership."
“Our ambition is to get many more Indians to read & write and our partnership with Airtel will allow us to expand our distribution manifold,” Juggernaut CEO Simran Khara said.
Juggernaut’s former investors include Infosys co-founder and current chairman Nandan Nilekani and Boston Consulting Group India CEO Neeraj Aggarwal. 
Launched in April 2016, the platform has close to 1 million downloads across android and ioS. In May 2017, the writer’s platform went live to offer amateur writers the ability to digitally publish their content and stand a chance to win publishing contracts. The writer’s platform in the past six months has received just under 500 stories with nine of them securing publishing contracts.

India re-elected as Member of International Maritime Council

India has been re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organization [IMO] under Category “B” at the 30th session of its Assembly held in London yesterday.
The IMO Council consists of 40 member countries. In Categories “A” and “B” there are 10 members each and in Cateogary “C” 20 members, who are elected by the IMO Assembly. IMO Council plays a crucial role in deciding various important matters within the mandate of the IMO, in relation to the global shipping industry, including its work programme strategy and budget. 
Unlike in the past where India was re-elected to the IMO Council un-opposed, this time, for the 10 seats under Category “B” two new entrants -- UAE, a non-member of the IMO Council so far and Australia, presently a member of the IMO Council under Category “C” --  had filed their nominations and this had necessitated holding of the election. India, however, emerged a winner in the keenly contested election. 
The 30th Session of the IMO Assembly is being held at IMO Headquarters London from November 27 to December 6.
The session is being attended by a high-level Indian delegation led by Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Mr. Gopal Krishna, Secretary (Shipping), Mr. Amitabh Kumar, Additional Director General of Shipping, Capt. Jayakumar, Deputy Nautical Advisor, Directorate General of Shipping and representative of the Indian Register of Shipping. 
India has a large merchant marine fleet of 1,359 vessels, both on foreign going and coastal operations, with a combined gross tonnage of 12.2 million. Nearly 90% of India’s overseas trade by volume is carried through maritime transport. Nearly 92% of these goods are carried through foreign flag vessels. With the Indian economy poised to grow at a faster pace, there exist more opportunities for both the Indian and foreign flag vessels to carry large volumes of goods, to and from the Indian coasts. India has a strong contingent of more than 145,000 active seafarers who continue to be the preferred choice for specialized vessels. 
India has been one of the earliest members of the IMO, having ratified its Convention and joined it as a member-state in the year 1959. India has had the privilege of being elected to and serving the Council of the IMO, ever since it started functioning, and till date, except for two years for the period 1983-1984. 
India is a party to 34 IMO Conventions and protocols and is currently in the advanced stage of ratifying Ballast Water Convention and Bunker Convention. India has already deposited with the ILO the instrument of ratification of the Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention (revised), 2003 and Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. 
India continues to provide services of its expert manpower to the IMO, as and when required. The IMO’s panel of auditors for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS) and Goal Based Standards (CBS) has a number of auditors from India. A number of domain experts also participate in the meetings of working groups constituted by IMO Committees. 
With re-election in IMO, India will continue to engage with the international maritime community to further her maritime interests and promote the welfare of her citizens, an official press release said.

Infosys appoints Salil S. Parekh as CEO and Managing Director

Salil S. Parekh
Salil S. Parekh
IT services major Infosys announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Salil S. Parekh as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director (CEO & MD) of the company effective January 2, 2018.
Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the Board said, “We are delighted to have Salil joining as the CEO & MD of Infosys. He has nearly three decades of global experience in the IT services industry. He has a strong track record of executing business turnarounds and managing very successful acquisitions. The Board believes that he is the right person to lead Infosys at this transformative time in our industry. The Board is also grateful to Pravin for his leadership during this period of transition.”
Ms. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson of the Nomination & Remuneration Committee, stated, “After a comprehensive global search effort, we are pleased to appoint Salil as the CEO & MD. He was the top choice from a pool of highly qualified candidates. With his strong track record and extensive experience, we believe, we have the right person to lead Infosys.”
Mr. Parekh joins Infosys from Capgemini where he was a member of the Group Executive Board. He has Master of Engineering degrees in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, and a Bachelor of Technology degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.
A press release from the company said Mr. U B Pravin Rao would step down as the interim CEO and Managing Director effective January 2, 2018 and will continue as Chief Operating Officer and a whole-time Director of the Company.
Mr. Pravin Rao had been appointed as interim CEO and Managing Director of the company on August 18, 2017 after the resignation from the position of Dr. Vishal Sikka.

Mukesh Ambani says India can overtake US, China in this century

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani today said that India would become a global economic leader, tripling its GDP from $ 2.5 trillion at present to $ 7 trillion in the next ten years and become the third largest economy in the world.
"Can we cross the $ 10 trillion mark by 2030, and close the gap between India and China, and India and USA? Yes, we can. Can India become the most prosperous nation in the world, overtaking both USA and China, within this century? Yes, most certainly we can," he said in his address on "Irreversible Rise of India" at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2017 here.
"We are seeing ? and the entire world is seeing ? a new and resurgent India. And I believe that the coming three decades will be the defining decades for India.
"In 2047, India will celebrate the centenary of our Independence. Around the same time, China will celebrate 100 years of the birth of the People’s Republic of China. Today the whole world is talking about China’s Rise and India’s Rise. This is civilizational re-birth for both India and China. There is nothing surprising about it. In the long history of mankind, India and China were the most prosperous nations before the 17th Century.
"After a short interval of about 300 years of western domination, the centre of gravity of world economy is shifting back to India and China. But, friends, today I wish to make a prediction. By the middle of the 21st century, India’s Rise will be higher than China’s Rise. And more attractive to the world," he said.
Mr. Ambani said India would provide a superior and different development model, one that would create equitable and inclusive growth based on technology, democracy, good governance and a society-wide culture of empathy.
He pointed out that no country had ever emerged as a global power, without embracing new technologies whole-heartedly and without using new-generation energy sources widely.
"Each technological revolution completely rewrites the rules of the game and creates a new world order. It creates opportunities for early adopters of that technology to leapfrog into positions of global leadership, power and influence.
"Through the first two Industrial revolutions, India remained on the fringes. India started catching up in the computer-driven Third Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now upon us. The foundation of this revolution is connectivity, computing, data and artificial intelligence. It is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological worlds. Human civilization will collectively achieve more in the next 30 years than what it has achieved in the last 300 years," he said.
He said there were three defining characteristics of the new age. The first is that the world would go from linear to exponential. The second is that the world will go from scarcity to abundance. The third is that there will be a migration from a goods and services economy to one powered by intelligent services.
"I believe that intelligent services are the next frontier of competitive differentiation and market leadership across industries. We are in the age of super-intelligence. What manufacturing was for China, super-intelligence will be for India. We have the opportunity to not only rapidly grow our own economy, but also to be the provider of intelligent services to the rest of the world," he said.
"It’s my firm conviction that India can not only participate in the 4th Industrial Revolution, but has the opportunity to be a leader," he said.
Mr. Ambani said India's youth, who form 63% of its population, can adapt to technology easily, with talent, ideas and entrepreneurial energy, the courage to dream big, and the ability to realise their dreams.
"I have no doubt that they will make India the Number One Start-up nation in the world," he said.
He said India's historical lack of infrastructure was actually a boon in disguise because it could now skip multiple generations of technologies and directly embrace the next generation.
"Most importantly, we have the political vision, leadership, determination and ability to make India a technology leader. Our Prime Minister’s Digital India vision has created an alignment amongst all political parties in this mission of making India a technology leader. Each and every one of our 29 states has embraced this vision," he said.
"Collectively, these three factors have perfectly positioned India to be a leader in this new age. We can see early signs of successes around us," he said.
He cited the examples of Aadhaar, the world's largest and most sophisticated biometic ID system with nearly 1.2 billion enrolled members; Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which created a world record by launching 104 satellites with a single rocket; and the mobile broadband adoption.
"We now have the opportunity to digitally reinvent all sectors of our economy, whether it is financial services, commerce, manufacturing, agriculture, education and healthcare. India can leapfrog the world in each of these sectors," he said.
Mr. Ambani said that in agriculture, India had the opportunity to create a digital green revolution which  meant that there would be digitally enabled mechanical services to benefit all farmers irrespective of their landholdings; digitally enabled fertilisers and pesticides to rejuvenate soil; digitally enabled ‘seed to crop’ processes to get the best yields and double and treble every farmer’s income; digitally enabled water management to achieve more crop per drop; and digitally enabled supply chain from the farmer to the consumer with full traceability, to ensure quality at every stage and remove wastage at every stage.
Similarly, he said, there was a big digital opportunity in education. "We need digital tools and innovations to break geographical, social, language and economic barriers."
He said 58,000 colleges, over 700 universities and 19 lakh schools in India would be digitally connected, with RIL's telecom subsidiary, Reliance Jio playing a leadership role.
"A student anywhere, even in a remote village, can have access to the best teachers and the latest knowledge in the world. AI-based smart assistants can bring personalised learning adapted to the needs of each student. And which can in fact overcome the gaps and constraints of classroom education, like any age, any time and any subject learning in any language.
"Now it is both possible and necessary to reorient education for the new kinds of productive and creative employment that will replace large number of existing mechanical jobs. This will help in quickly imparting and upgrading new employable skills to millions of our youth. Within a single generation, we can empower and enrich our vast and young human resources to give India a competitive edge in the world," he said.
Mr. Ambani said that, in healthcare, India could overcome constraints of  budget, physical infrastructure and trained personnel only by adopting digital tools and innovations.
"As in education, the best doctors and best diagnostic facilities can become accessible to all citizens anywhere in the country. Shared medical devices and predictive healthcare will be able to save lives in the remotest corners of our country," he said.
"Fewer doctors and scarce facilities will serve far many more patients across the nation. India can thus design a path-breaking and affordable healthcare system that will be a model for the rest of the world.
"When new technologies touch and transform the lives of all Indians, India’s Rise becomes inevitable," he said.
Mr. Ambani said Reliance was a proud participant in India’s Rise and privileged to serve this New India.
"I have been fortunate to participate in building global-scale Reliance businesses in energy, information and digital services. As energy and information converge in future, Reliance will contribute even more significantly to India’s Rise.
"Five years ago, when most Indian businesses were investing outside India, we decided to invest about $ 60 billion in India. We have nearly completed this investment cycle. We are now ready to commit even more in our next investment cycle. We are doing this out of our undiminished conviction that India is the biggest investment opportunity in the world.
"Therefore, to foreign investors, I have a simple message: Be a part of India’s Rise. Invest in India. Earn in India. Grow in India. Partner with India and Prosper together with India," he said.
Pointing out that India would celebrate the centenary of her independence in 30 years, Mr. Ambani said that, in this period, the country could and must aspire to grow from $ 2.5 trillion economy today  to become the most prosperous nation in the world in the 21st century.
"I will safely predict that, from now on, every new generation of Indians will live a better life than the previous generation. 
"As the internet becomes accessible to all Indians, I believe we will be among the first to graduate to the Internet of Everything. The Internet of Communication, Content and Commerce. But I believe that we have only scratched the surface. In the coming years, I can imagine an Internet of Intelligence that powers next-generation smart services. An Internet of Energy, with smart sensors, smart grids and distributed generation that lays the foundation for our nation’s energy security. An Internet of Trust,  that creates the framework for distributed transactions and contracts without intermediaries. An Internet of Empathy – that harmonizes value creation with life-sustaining human and ethical values.
"I believe that India is well positioned to combine its demographic, technological, entrepreneurial and civilizational strengths to seize this opportunity and create a bright and prosperous future for our nation.
"As a nation we must rise to this occasion. The climb is difficult. The challenges are many. And the goal cannot be achieved by any one person or enterprise. All of us – 1.3 billion Indians will have to work together with a single purpose to realize this. We must have a partnership of all sections of society to realize this in the fastest possible time.
"Collectively, let us commit ourselves today to work together to make India’s Rise a reality. And make it Irreversible. And make it Unstoppable.And may God bless us as we embark on this most exciting new era in India’s history. In many ways, we are pilgrims of progress," he added.

Jaitley says deceleration trend in growth has been reversed

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the recovery of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate to 6.3% in the second quarter (Q2) of financial year 2017-18, up from 5.7% in Q1, showed that the deceleration trend in overall growth witnessed since the first quarter of the last fiscal year had now been reversed.
Data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) yesterday said that the real gross value added (GVA) growth had shown a similar increase from 5.6%  in the first quarter to 6.1% in the second quarter, despite a deceleration in agricultural growth from 2.3% in the first quarter to 1.7%  in the second.
Mr. Jaitley told journalists here yesterday evening that the acceleration in growth this quarter had been helped by a rapid growth in manufacturing which increased from 1.2% in the first quarter to 7% in the second quarter. 
"Robust growth of 7.6 percent in electricity and other utilities, and 9.9 percent in trade, transportation and communications also powered this acceleration. Overall, the services sector recorded a growth of 7.1 percent in the second quarter," he said.
"Encouragingly, the rate of growth of gross fixed capital formation has also increased from 1.6 percent in the first quarter to 4.7 percent in the second quarter. Real private consumption growth has broadly held steady at 6.5 percent," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said the economy now seemed to have weathered the transitional challenges experienced earlier in the year and appeared poised for a durable recovery going forward.

Cabinet nod for MoU between India, Italy for cooperation in Agriculture and Phytosanitary issues

The Union Cabinet yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Italy for cooperation in Agriculture and Phytosanitary issues. 
It replaces the earlier MoU signed in January, 2008 which is going to expire in January, 2018, an official press release said.
The MoU provides for cooperation in the fields of phytosanitary issues, agricultural production and a wide range of other sectors including animal husbandry, agricultural research, food processing and other additional fields as may be mutually decided by both the sides.
The MoU has provision for exchange of information on the situation of agriculture and rural development, strengthening of technical exchange and production cooperation in respect of agricultural mechanization/ farm machinery and agro-industrial infrastructures, removal of technical barriers and exchange experiences in animal husbandry sector including modern scientific researches and technologies.
The MoU provides for setting up of a Joint Working Group in order to promote bilateral exchanges in the field of agriculture, consider long-term initiatives for agricultural cooperation, and promote cooperation in order to reduce phytosanitary risks in exported goods also through the definition of specific joint procedures.
It will encourage and facilitate contacts between governmental agencies, scientific and academic institutions and business communities of both countries and promote further cooperation between the respective research institutes of the two countries, the release added.

Cabinet approves investment cooperation and facilitation treaty between India, Brazil

The Union Cabinet yesterday gave its approval for signing and ratification of the Investment Cooperation and Facilitation Treaty (ICFT) between India and Brazil.
The treaty will result in increase of investment flows between the two countries, an official press release said.
The ICFT between India and Brazil will provide appropriate facilitation to Brazilian investors in India and Indian investors in the Brazil. It is likely to increase the comfort level and boost the confidence of investors by assuring a level playing field and non-discrimination in all investment facilitation matters, thus providing conducive investment climate to investors. It would help project India as a preferred Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination to all Brazilian investors, the release added.

Cabinet okays transfer of land assets owned by HVOC to Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

The Union Cabinet yesterday gave its approval for transfer of all land assets owned by the public sector Hindustan Vegetable Oils Corporation Ltd (HVOC) to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) or its authorized agency for appropriate utilization or disposal.
In lieu of the transfer of the land assets of HVOC, complete liabilities of HVOC towards loans taken from the Government including interest would be written off, an official press release said.
The Government shall also take care of all contingent liabilities of HVOC that may arise in future due to pending cases in various courts, tribunals and authorities, it said.
The land located in seven cities was lying unutilized for many years. The transfer of the properties to MoHUA would enable use of the land for public purpose. This will facilitate early winding up of HVOC, which is a sick PSU under liquidation, the release added.

NCRTC signs agreement with ADIF, Spain for RRTS projects in NCR

India and Spain signed a technical cooperation agreement yeserday which would, among other things, provide an institutional mechanism for mutual cooperation in the field of urban transport, especially in implementation of the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) in the National Capital Region  (NCR).
The agreement was signed by Mr. Vinay Kumar Singh, Managing Director, National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) and Mr.  Miguel Nieto Menor, Director General, ADIF of Spain, in the presence of Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri and Mr. Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary in the Ministry.
The ceremony was also  attended by Mr. Fernando Nocolos Puiggari, Director International, ADIF, senior Ministry officials and representatives from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Spanish Embassy in India.
Mr. Puri said on the occasion that the  agreement would enable availability of technical advice on specific issues, besides providing training and collaboration in the technical areas of Track, Signalling, Rolling Stock, Safety, Multi modal integration, station design, and so on.
NCRTC, a joint venture of the Government of India and the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, is mandated to design, construct, operate and maintain rail-based RRTS in the NCR.
Three RRTS corridors -- Delhi-Meerut, Delhi-Panipat and Delhi-Alwar -- have been prioritised for implementation in first phase. The Delhi-Ghaziabad- Meerut corridor will be the first corridor to be implemented for which pre-construction activities including geo-technical investigations, detailed design, utility shifting planning and traffic diversion planning are in progress, an official press release said.
The RRTS, a first of its kind project in India, with design speed of 180 kmph will use state-of-the-art technologies for track structure, rolling stock and signalling system.
Expertise and experience in India on these technologies for higher speeds being limited, international expertise will be tapped for efficient implementation of project, operation of system and developing capacity in the country. 
Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias (ADIF), Spain, a state-owned railway infrastructure company, has experience of planning, developing, constructing, operating and maintaining high-speed railway and regional rail systems like Cercanias’ in Madrid, the release said.
SNCF, the state-owned railway company of France, has also expressed willingness to support RRTS projects. The possibility of similar agreement between NCRTC and SNCF was explored during the recent visit of SNCF delegation’s earlier this week, the release added.

Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI increases to 52.6 in November

The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 52.6 in November 2017 as the Indian  manufacturing sector recorded its strongest improvement in business conditions for 13 months, with marked and accelerated increases in  output and new orders.
"Furthermore, manufacturing companies observed a renewed increase in new export orders during November. On the job front, greater production requirements led to the fastest rate of employment creation since September 2012," a press release from Nikkei said.
"Meanwhile, there was a pick-up in inflationary pressures, with input costs increasing to the greatest extent since April," it said.
The rise in the PMI to 52.6 in November from 50.3 in October indicated a substantial improvement of operating conditions in India’s manufacturing sector, the release said.
At the broad market group level, growth in consumer and intermediate goods offset a marginal deterioration in investment goods category, it said.
The release said the upward movement in the headline index was driven by a marked increase in output. Furthermore, the rate of expansion quickened to the strongest since October 2016. A combination of higher order book volumes and a decrease in GST rates reportedly contributed to greater production. 
"That said, the rate of growth remained weaker than the trend seen since the inception of the survey in March 2005," the release said.
According to it, following the negligible decline in the prior month, new orders increased in November. Although weaker than the long-run average, the rate of growth accelerated to the fastest in 13 months. The only market groups category to not record a rise in new work was capital goods, as was the case with output.
At the same time, overall new export orders increased for the first time in three months, albeit marginally, it said.
"It was a positive picture for factory employment in November, with manufacturers raising their payroll numbers at the sharpest rate since September 2012. Panellists commented on greater inflows of new work. All three monitored broad categories registered expansions, led by intermediate goods. Amid reports of delayed payments by clients, outstanding business rose in November. That said, the rate of growth was marginal," it said.
The release said manufacturers attempted to replenish their input stocks by purchasing greater quantities of raw materials and semi-finished items in November. However, the overall rate of growth was modest and below the long-run series average. Meanwhile, pre-production inventories declined for the fifth consecutive month in November.
On the price front, input cost inflation quickened to the fastest since April and was solid overall. Among the items reported as being up in price were chemicals, steel and petroleum products. While input prices rose at a stronger pace, the rate of output charge inflation was marginal.
"Anecdotal evidence indicated that firms were unable to fully pass on higher cost burdens to customers amid ntensive competitive conditions," the release said.
Ms. Aashna Dodhia, Economist at IHS Markit and author of the report, said: “India’s manufacturing economy advanced on its path to recovery as disruptions from the recent tax reform (GST) continues to diminish. Growth in output and new orders picked up to the fastest since October 2016, reportedly supported by reductions in GST rates and stronger underlying demand conditions. Nevertheless, the headline PMI remained below the average seen since the inception of the survey in March 2005."
“Stronger factory production levels translated into the fastest rate of employment creation since September 2012. Meanwhile, export growth rose for the first time in three months as overseas demand for Indian goods improved.
“Underlying data indicated that the central bank is less likely to adopt an accommodative stance as input cost inflation intensified to the fastest since April. At the same time, firms were unable to fully pass on higher cost burdens to price-sensitive clients.
“The current phase of expansion led to business sentiment picking up as growth momentum seems likely to continue over the near-term," she added.

HDFC AMC Board approves initiating process for IPO

The Board of Directors of HDFC Asset Management Company Limited (HDFC AMC), chaired by Mr. Deepak Parekh, today approved initiating the process for an initial public offering (IPO), subject to relevant corporate, regulatory and other approvals as applicable or required.
Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC Ltd.) and Standard Life Investments Limited (SLI) have also, in principle, approved the IPO of HDFC AMC by offering shares to the public in one or more tranches, a press release from the company said.
Post such dilution in tranches, the shareholding of HDFC Ltd. and SLI in HDFC AMC will be at least 50.01% and 24.99%, respectively, it said.
Standard Life Aberdeen plc (the ultimate parent company of SLI), HDFC Ltd. and HDFC AMC also confirmed that it is their intention to enter into a Collaboration Agreement to work together towards developing new products in India which they believed would further enhance their successful long-term relationship.
“We believe that the listing would unlock value of the business for the shareholders and provide investors an opportunity to participate in the emerging Asset Management space within our group,” said Mr. Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC AMC.
“The Indian Asset Management industry has seen strong business flows with increasing awareness of mutual fund products. The improving penetration levels of Mutual Fund products provide an interesting opportunity to channelize investments more productively," said Mr. Milind Barve, Managing Director of HDFC AMC.
HDFC Asset Management Company Limited (HDFC AMC), Investment Manager to HDFC Mutual Fund, is one of the leading asset management companies in the country. It manages a total AAUM of Rs. 2,69,781 crore of which Rs. 1,19,159 crore is in Equity Oriented Funds for the quarter ending September 2017.

India's eight core industries grow by 4.7% in October 2017

A coal power station.
A coal power station.
India's eight  core industries, which have a combined weight of 40.27 percent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), grew by 4.7 percent in October 2017, as compared to the same month of the previous year, an official statement said here today, quoting provisional data.
The base year of the Index of Eight Core Industries was revised from the year 2004-05 to 2011-12 from April, 2017.
The statement said the combined Index of Eight Core Industries stood at 128.2 in October, 2017. Its cumulative growth during April-October, 2017-18 was 3.5%, it said.
According to the statement, coal production, which has a weight of 10.33% in the IIP, increased by 3.9% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 1.8% during April-October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Crude oil production (weight: 8.98%) declined by 0.4% in October, 2017 from October, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 0.2% during April-October, 2017-18 from the corresponding period of the previous year.
Natural gas production (weight: 6.88%) increased by 2.8% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 4.7% during April-October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Petroleum refinery production (weight: 28.04 per cent) increased by 7.5% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 2.9% during April to October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Fertilizer production (weight: 2.63 per cent) increased by 3.0% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 1.3 per cent during April to October, 2017-18 from the corresponding period of previous year.
Steel production (weight: 17.92 per cent) increased by 8.4% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 6.0% during April to October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
Cement production (weight: 5.37 per cent) declined by 2.7% in October, 2017 from October, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 1.6% during April to October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Electricity generation (weight: 19.85 per cent) increased by 2.1% in October, 2017 over October, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 5.2% during April to October, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.

India's GDP growth recovers to 6.3% in Q2 of 2017-18

India's GDP growth recovered to 6.3% in Q2 of 2017-18, up from a three-year-low of 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, as the lingering impact of the November 8, 2016 demonetisation and effects of the introduction of GST in July continued to be felt by manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.

India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth recovered to 6.3 percent in the second quarter of (Q2) (July-September) of 2017-18, up from a three-year-low of 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, as the lingering impact of the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes and effects of the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in July continued to be felt by manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.
The growth rate had dipped to 6.1% in the last quarter of 2016-17 and slowed down to 7.1% for 2016-17 as a whole as the effects of demonetisation took its toll on the economy.
The estiamtes of GDP for Q2 of 2017-18, released here today by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, showed that GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q2 of 2017-18 is estimated at Rs. 31.66 lakh crore, as against Rs. 29.79 lakh crore in Q2 of 2016-17, showing a growth rate of 6.3%.
Quarterly gross value added (GVA) at Basic Price at constant (2011-12) prices for Q2 of 2017-18 is estimated at Rs. 29.18 lakh crore, as against Rs. 27.51 lakh crore in Q2 of 2016-17, showing a growth rate of 6.1% percent over the corresponding quarter of the previous year.
An official statement, citing the data, said the economic activities which registered growth of over 6.0% in Q2 of  2017-18 over Q2 of 2016-17 are ‘manufacturing’, ‘electricity, gas, water supply & other utility services and ‘trade, hotels, transport & communication and services related to broadcasting’. The growth in the ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’, ‘mining and quarrying’, ‘construction’ 'financial, insurance, real estate and professional services' and ‘Public administration, defence & other services’ is estimated to be 1.7%, 5.5%, 2.6%, 5.7% and 6.0%, respectively, during this period.

Skill India partners with Airbnb to provide training to hospitality entrepreneurs

The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Tourism and Hospitality Sector Skill Council (THSC) have signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.  
The MoU, inked yesterday, will provide hospitality skills training to hospitality micro-entrepreneurs in India, an official press release said.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan said, “We believe that this partnership will help to augment Skill India Mission by bringing in global best practices for the training of small hospitality entrepreneurs."
“The domestic tourism has immense potential in India and this partnership will benefit the ecosystem by creating opportunities for women and youth.  We will extend all possible cooperation to make India a tourism hotspot,” he added.
Airbnb Regional Director of Policy for India, Southeast Asia and ANZ, Brent Thomas said, “This partnership will help to create more skilled, digitally-literate hospitality entrepreneurs - especially among the women and those in underserved areas - who can create a homestay in every home, offer authentic experiences in every Indian locality and help spread the benefits of tourism.” 
The signing of MoU is in line with the Government’s endeavour to promote entrepreneurship under the  Skill India Programme, the release said. NSDC is the implementation arm of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
Through the partnership, the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Airbnb, NSDC and THSC will work together to create an accredited skill development module for hospitality entrepreneurs offering homestay facilities, unique accommodations and local experiences.
Building on Airbnb’s commitment to support Skill India Mission by creating 50,000 hospitality entrepreneurs in India, the MoU aims to empower more citizens, including those in rural and underserved areas to join the ‘alternate accommodation’ sector and pursue new livelihood opportunities by sharing their homes.
Under the terms of the MoU, the parties agreed to establish occupation standards and competency matrices for job roles and develop the courses for hospitality entrepreneurs offering homestay and facilities, other unique accommodations and local experiences for travellers.
They agreed to create standards for certification and accreditation as per the requirements and global benchmarks of Tourism and Hospitality industry for hospitality entrepreneurs offering homestay facilities, other unique accommodations and local experiences for travellers.
The parties agreed to set the framework for long-term Council-Industry partnership and strengthen the skilled labour pool required by the Tourism and Hospitality industry.

L&T bags EPC order for 400 MW gas-based power plant in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has awarded the contract for setting up Bibiyana South 400 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant Project to a consortium of Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Samsung C&T Corporation of South Korea. 
L&T shall be executing the EPC contract valued at approximately $ 250 million, a press release from the company said here today.
The power plant will be located at Bibiyana Upzila in Hobiganj district of Sylhet division in the north-eastern sector of Bangladesh, around 215 km by road from Agartala in India.
L&T’s scope includes design, detail engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of the complete power plant on a turnkey basis. The plant will incorporate state-of-the-art Single Shaft Advanced Class Gas Turbine, Steam Turbine and Generator from Siemens AG of Germany, which will be procured by L&T. 
L&T-Sargent & Lundy, a joint venture company of L&T and Sargent & Lundy LLC, USA, will carry out the plant integration and detail engineering, using propriety technology of Sargent & Lundy, the release said.
Mr. Shailendra Roy, CEO & Managing Director–L&T Power & Whole-Time Director–L&T, said, “That L&T has bagged the fourth order in Bangladesh firmly establishes its project execution credentials in that country.”
This project will be executed by the Gas Based Power Projects Business Unit of L&T, based out of Vadodara. 
"L&T’s well-established strengths in design, engineering and construction, combined with robust quality and safety standards and on-time delivery, are vital contributors to its success in the power sector," the release said.
L&T has executed several large gas based power projects on EPC basis for government utilities and independent power producers in India and abroad. L&T has recently commissioned two gas based power projects in Bangladesh - 360 MW Bheramara Combined Cycle Power Plant Development Project of North West Power Generation Co. Ltd., and 225 MW Sikalbaha Combined Cycle Power Plant Project of BPDB. L&T is also executing the Bibiyana III 400 MW Combined Cycle Power Project of BPDB for Marubeni Corporation of Japan on EPC basis, which is in advanced stage of execution.

BHEL commissions 30 MW hydel unit in Mizoram

The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had successfully commissioned the second unit of the 2x30 MW Tuirial Hydro Electric Project (HEP) in the state of Mizoram. 
The unit has been commissioned by BHEL in less than a hundred days of the commissioning of the first unit, a press release from the company.
Located in Kolasib district of Mizoram, the greenfield project of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) has been set up on the river Tuirial. Power generation from Tuirial HEP will contribute significantly to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and contribute towards achieving a low carbon development path for the nation, the release said.
The order for Electrical & Mechanical (E&M) works for two units of 30 MW each was placed on BHEL by NEEPCO, for design, manufacture, supply, installation and commissioning of two 30 MW Vertical shaft Francis Turbines & matching Generators, Transformers and Switchyard. 
The equipment has been manufactured and supplied by BHEL’s units at Bhopal, Jhansi, Bengaluru, Rudrapur and Mumbai and the execution of work on site has been carried out by the company’s Power Sector Eastern Region.
The release said NEEPCO’s entire installed hydro capacity of 785 MW has been supplied and commissioned by BHEL. The other hydro project of NEEPCO currently under execution by BHEL is the 4x150 MW Kameng HEP in Arunachal Pradesh. 
Various other hydro projects of NEEPCO, commissioned by BHEL, include the 3x135 MW Ranganadi HEP in Arunachal Pradesh and the 4x50 MW Kopili HEP in Assam.
In the North Eastern states, BHEL has installed over 3,200 MW of power generating capacity, accounting for more than 75% of the total installed capacity in the region.
BHEL is presently executing hydro electric projects of around 3,100 MW in the country, in addition to 2,940 hydro projects in Bhutan. 

ADB approves $ 500 million facility to improve rural roads in five Indian states

ADB logo
The Board of Directors of the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) for the Second Rural Connectivity Investment Program totaling $500 million to improve rural roads in five Indian states.
“All-weather roads are crucial for economic growth, especially in India’s rural areas,” Andri Heriawan, an ADB Transport Specialist, was quoted as saying in a press release from the bank. 
“Building on the success of our previous assistance in the rural roads sector, ADB will work closely with the Government of India to provide the connectivity to improve rural communities’ access to markets, health centers, education facilities, and other opportunities," he said.
The release said rural roads are vital components of India’s overall road network, comprising 80% of all paved roads in the country and connecting rural areas with major district roads, state roads, and national highways. Recognizing this, the investment program will construct and upgrade over 12,000 kilometers (km) of rural roads in the states of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal. 
It will also support the state governments to improve rural road maintenance and safety, the release said.
The program builds on the first Rural Connectivity Investment Program in 2012, financed by ADB through an $800 million MFF, which added about 9,000 km of all-weather rural roads in the same states.
The investment program’s first tranche, amounting to $250 million, expected in December 2017, will construct an initial 6,254 km of all-weather rural roads. It will also pave the way for the training of about 2,000 project engineers on road safety and road maintenance. The program’s second tranche, for the same amount, is expected to come in the third quarter of 2019.
The investment plan supports the government’s drive for innovative approaches to reduce costs, conserve non-renewable natural resources, and promote the use of waste materials in rural road construction. Given that the project states are expected to see increased rainfall and storm surges, the road designs will take into account these climate risks with measures such as greater elevation of road embankments, slope protection, and better drainage in flood-prone areas, the release said.
Women were extensively consulted during the project design and will gain some key benefits, including improved access to healthcare, livelihoods, and schooling. In addition, at least a third of workers hired in road construction and maintenance works will be women, it said.
Apart from the MFF, ADB will also provide a $500,000 technical assistance (TA) grant from its Technical Assistance Special Fund to strengthen the sustainability of rural road assets, disaster resilience, and innovation in rural road development. 
The TA is due for completion in December 2021, with the investment program expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the release added.

Global crude oil price of Indian basket rises to $ 61.92/bbl

The international crude oil price of the Indian basket, as computed and published today by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, fell to $ 61.92 per barrel (bbl) yesterday from $ 61.95 per bbl on the previous day.
In rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket decreased to Rs 3988.73 per bbl on 28.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 4008.03 per bbl on 27.11.2017, an official press release said.
The rupee closed stronger at Rs. 64.42 per US$ on 28.11.2017 as compared to 64.69 per US$ on 27.11.2017, it added.

India, UK to sign MoU in the Urban Transport Sector

India and the United Kingdom will soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the urban transport sector for cooperation in policy planning, technology transfer and institutional organisation, an official press release said today.
Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari met Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport in London yesterday when the two sides discussed a draft MoU in this regard.
The draft MoU seeks to facilitate cooperation in the transport sector and enable the sharing of expertise and latest technology to promote efficient mobility solutions. It is also expected to usher in policy reforms that can transform the transport sector through improved customer service/data analysis and better use of IT systems. It will also help in promoting digital transactions and induction of high capacity diesel/electric vehicles in India. The MoU will also establish the terms on which such assistance can be provided.
The decision to sign the MoU follows Mr  Gadkari’s earlier visit to London in May this year, during which he finalized bilateral cooperation arrangements between Transport for London(TfL) and Indian Ministry of Road Transport & Highways to cover a wide range of transport mobility solutions and associated activities in the urban environment.
Mr Gadkari is also scheduled to address a session of the International Maritime Organization. He had addressed Indian business leaders in the UK, urging them to cooperate in the Namami Gange project of which he is holding the Minister’s portfolio.

B. N. Sharma appointed as Chairman of National Anti-profiteering Authority under GST

Mr. B. N. Sharma, a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was today appointed as the first Chairman of the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
This follows by the approval by the Union Cabinet last week for creation of the posts of Chairman and Technical Members of the NAA.
Mr. Sharma, an IAS officer of 1985 batch (Rajasthan cadre), is currently posted as Additional Secretary in the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance. He has been closely associated with the formulation of GST and its implementation. 
He has also worked as Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Power and prior to that, in the Commercial Taxes Department in the State of Rajasthan.
As its first Chairman, Mr. Sharma is expected to give a direction to the Authority in boosting the confidence of consumers that GST is a ''Good and Simple Tax'' in the overall national interest, an official press release said.
He will be assisted by four senior officials of the rank of Joint Secretary and above, who have been appointed as Technical Members in the Authority. These officials are Mr. J.C. Chauhan, Chairman Tax Tribunal, Himachal Pradesh; Mr. Bijay Kumar, Principal Commissioner GST, Kolkata; Mr. C.L. Mahar, Principal Commissioner GST, Meerut; and Ms. R. Bhagyadevi, ADG, Systems, Chennai.
The appointments were made on the recommendation of a high level Selection Committee headed by Mr. P.K. Sinha, Cabinet Secretary. Revenue Secretary, Chairman, CBEC and Chief Secretaries of States of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were the other members of the Selection Committee.
The Authority has been set up for a two-year period, which would begin from the date Mr. Sharma assumes charge as Chairman.
The Authority is mandated to ensure that the benefits of input credit and the reduction in GST rates on specified goods or services are passed on to the consumers by way of a commensurate reduction in prices. With the Chairman and Technical Members now having been appointed, the Authority becomes functional thereby reassuring consumers of Governments' commitment that GST would result in lower prices of goods and services, the release said.
The release said that the GST Council has been engaged in rationalizing and reducing the GST rates on a wide spectrum of goods and services. The last and the most significant reduction took place from midnight of 14 November, 2017 when the GST rate were slashed from 28% to 18% on goods falling under 178 headings. This now leaves only 50 items which attract the highest GST rate of 28%. Likewise, a large number of items witnessed a reduction in GST rates from 18% to 12% and so on with some goods being completely exempt from GST.
In addition to the Authority, the institutional mechanism for effective implementation of the "anti-profiteering" measures enshrined in the GST rules consists of a Standing Committee, State level Screening Committees and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).
Consumers who are aggrieved that there has been no commensurate reduction in prices may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the State. After forming a prima facie view on the substance of the application, the matter would be referred to a Standing Committee at the Centre. The Standing Committee shall, in turn, ask the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC to carry out detailed investigation. The Director General of Safeguards shall report its findings to the Authority. The Screening Committee is expected to look into complaints of local nature while the Standing Committee would ordinarily enquire into cases of mass impact with All India ramification.
Once the Authority confirms there is justification to apply anti-profiteering measures, it has the authority to order the business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed along with interest @18% to the consumers of the goods or services. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the consumers, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund. The Authority also has the power to impose penalty on the defaulting business or even order the cancellation of its registration under GST.
The Authority shall function from the Jeevan Bharti Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi. The secretariat for the Authority shall be as follows:
Directorate General of Safeguards,
2nd Floor, Bhai Veer Singh Sahitya Sadan,
Bhai Veer Singh Marg, Gole Market,
New Delhi: 110001.
Tel.: 011-23741537
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