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Business & Economy

Infosys partners with ValGenesis to enable digitisation in life sciences

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IT services major Infosys today said announced a new partnership with paperless validation company ValGenesis, that it said would bring even stronger compliance and quality management for its customers in the healthcare and life sciences sectors. 
 
Under the partnership, Infosys will integrate ValGenesis’ Validation Lifecycle Management System (VLMS) within its suite of services for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, which will be delivered in a rapidly deployable, highly secure cloud environment.
 
ValGenesis is a leading paperless validation lifecycle management solution in the life sciences industry that allows customers to automate the validation process fully, eliminate inefficiencies found in paper-based manual processes, while also reducing costs and validation cycle times. 
 
A press release from Infosys said the ValGenesis Validation Lifecycle Management System (VLMS) efficiently manages all types of validation activities such as equipment, computer systems, cleaning, analytical methods, and process validation. The system delivers technology solutions that are fully configurable and rapidly deployable onsite or by way of a secured cloud environment, it said.
 
"Validation systems are still almost entirely manual, paper-based process, resulting in significant inefficiencies, higher costs and more significant opportunity for errors to creep in. They can also result in delays to life-saving medicines and procedures to patients. ValGenesis’ VLMS includes a regulatory framework allowing validation requirements to be specified in advance. Risk Management, a key component of VLMS, is integrated and flexible, giving companies the ability to leverage standard risk tools to best suit their needs. Reusability is inherent and available at test and requirement levels, significantly improving efficiency via pre-approvals. Consistency is also driven by standardization which improves a company’s compliance posture," the release said.
 
According to it, Infosys’ Life Sciences Practice works with 50+ leading pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, providing premium regulatory, quality and compliance services. Leveraging its extensive capabilities and experience in the life sciences space, Infosys will deploy the ValGenesis Validation Lifecycle Management System (VLMS) to its customers as a single “paperless” system that manages every activity in the entire validation lifecycle. 
 
Through this partnership, Infosys will help biopharma and medical devices customers transform to next generation of automation driven quality and compliance services which will help organizations generate significant efficiencies and allow them to focus on their core business, it said.
 
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Ms. Sangita Singh, Executive Vice President and Head, Healthcare & Lifesciences, Infosys, said, “Healthcare is potentially the world’s most stringently-regulated industry. The huge volumes of highly-sensitive information that biotech and life sciences firms generate is subject to incredibly strict standards – for example, recording the outcomes from clinical trials. The digitization of the industry to ensure better data and document accuracy is incredibly important for many ethical, legal and business reasons, with auditors and regulators demanding that data regarding equipment, computer systems, processes, and outcomes be properly recorded and validated. ValGenesis is pioneering paperless validation, and our new partnership will bring significant savings and much better compliance to our customers.”
 
Mr. Narayan Raj, VP Sales at ValGenesis, said, “Infosys’ long pedigree in life sciences makes them the perfect partner for ValGenesis as we seek to transform validation for the life sciences and biomedical sectors. Infosys has a comprehensive understanding of the pressures faced by these firms, such as the demand for reducing costs, optimising efficiency, and ensuring that they meet the most stringent regulatory requirements. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership, with ValGenesis’ technology complementing Infosys’ product set to redefine the way that biopharma firms conduct their business, optimising patient safety, and helping to bring new treatments to the public as quickly and safely as possible.”
 
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Ministries of Railways, HRD, S&T sign MoU on Technology Mission for Indian Railways

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The Ministry of Railways (MOR), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here today to propel the Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR).
 
The MoU for joint funding of TMIR was signed by Chairman, TMIR Prof. N.S. Vyas; Mr. Alok Kumar, Co-Chairman/TMIR, on behalf of the Ministry of Railways; Mr. R. Subrahmanyam, Additional Secretary (TE) on behalf of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Dr. Neeraj Sharma, Adviser, DST on behalf of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
 
Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said the MoU would facilitate collaboration and cooperation among the parties and the co-financing of TMIR by investment sharing for identified railway projects for applied research.
 
The funding component of MOR is 30%, MHRD is 25% and DST is 25%, an official press release said.
 
"This Technology Mission will provide forceful impetus to India’s growth engine on the ‘Make in India’ vision track of the Prime Minister. The indigenous technologies would successfully be developed with win-win scenario to all the consortium members. While Indian Railways would get the world class technologies, academic and research institutions would get involved in numerous applied research projects which would help them in reorienting research towards national objectives," he said.
 
He said the applied research done under the Mission would help Indian Railways provide a safer, more comfortable, hassle-free and faster journey to all rail users and will make Indian Railways the world leader.
 
Mr. K.K. Sharma, Secretary, MHRD and Dr. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST also spoke on the occasion.
 
The Ministry of Railways had set up the Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR) as a consortium of Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Science & Technology on an investment sharing model for taking up identified railway projects for applied research and use on Indian Railways.
 
As per the MoU, Ministry of HRD and Ministry of Science & Technology have agreed to fund TMIR projects to the tune of Rs. 75 crore each while Railways and the industry will also contribute their respective shares.
 
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The Technology Mission will take up R&D projects in the areas of heavy haul, safety, energy, environment and urban railways. The projects will be implemented through a Mission Implementation and Coordination Committee having members from the three Ministries, academia and industry. The projects will be implemented in the national R&D labs and academic institutions. Collaborations, wherever essential, will be entered into with similar foreign institutions.
 
The MICC consists of nominees of Railways, RDSO, Ministry of HRD, Ministry of Science & Technology and is headed by Prof. N.S. Vyas of IIT-Kanpur as Mission Chairman and Mr. Alok Kumar, Chief Admin. Officer/Const/Northern Railway as Co-Chairman/TMIR.
 
"While through this consortium approach for technology development in mission mode, Railways will be benefitted with availability of world class indigenized technologies at very reasonable cost, academic research institutions will be benefitted with applied research and real situation output in the form of new products for immediate use and with availability of source codes for all such indigenized technologies at very low cost. The Indian industries will also be gaining in the form of production of new items to be used on Indian Railways with additional export potential, helping in the national cause of revenue generation and on the theme of ‘Make in India’," the release said.
 
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Govt. to launch 7.75% Savings (Taxable) Bonds, 2018 from January 10

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The Government of India today announced it would launch 7.75% Savings (Taxable) Bonds, 2018 commencing from 10th January 2018 to enable resident citizens or Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs) to invest in a taxable bond, without any monetary ceiling.  
 
An official press release said that the bonds are open to investment by individuals (including Joint Holdings) and HUFs. Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are not eligible for making investments in these bonds. 
 
Applications for the bonds in the form of Bond Ledger Account will be received in the designated branches of agency banks and SHCIL, in all numbering about 1600. 
 
The bonds will be issued at par i.e. at Rs.100.00. The bonds will be issued for a minimum amount of Rs.1,000 (face value) and in multiples thereof. Accordingly, the issue price, will be Rs.1,000 for every Rs.1,000 (Nominal). 
 
The bonds will be issued in demat form (Bond Ledger Account) only. The bonds will be on tap till  further notice and issued in cumulative and non-cumulative forms. There will be no maximum limit for investment in the bonds, the release said.
 
Interest on the bonds will be taxable under the Income-tax Act, 1961 as applicable according to the relevant tax status of the bond holder. They will be exempt from Wealth-tax under the Wealth Tax Act, 1957. 
 
The bonds will have a maturity of 7 years carrying interest at 7.75% per annum payable half- yearly.  The cumulative value of Rs. 1,000 at the end of seven years will be Rs. 1,703. 
 
The bonds are not transferable. They are also not tradeable in the secondary market and are not eligible as collateral for loans from banking institutions, non-banking financial companies or financial institutions. 
 
A sole holder or a sole surviving holder of a bond, being an individual, can make a nomination, the release added.
 
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Nikkei India Services PMI: Sector returns to growth in December

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The Nikkei India Services Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data for December 2017 released today showed that, following a decline in November, the Indian services sector returned to marginal growth during the month as new orders broadly stabilised.
 
"Though solid overall, cost inflationary pressures also eased from November’s recent-high, whilst business expectations remained positive. Reflecting improvements in output requirements, job creation quickened to the fastest since September," a press release from Nikkei said.
 
From 48.5 in November to 50.9 in December, the seasonally adjusted Business Activity Index signalled a renewed increase in activity following a decline in November. 
 
The release said the turnaround in business activity stemmed from growth in Information & Communications and Finance & Insurance, with declines seen elsewhere. "That said, activity growth was slight and remained well below the average recorded for the survey history as a whole," it said.
 
"Meanwhile, production growth at Indian manufacturers quickened to the fastest in five years. The headline seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index posted at 53.0 in December up from 50.3 in November. The latest reading was the highest since October 2016 and greater than the average recorded in 2017 so far," the release said.
 
Following a decline in November, new orders stagnated. Where growth was reported, Indian service providers mentioned improved demand conditions. However, those firms that saw a decline in new contracts reported that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) continued to weigh on underlying sales volumes.
 
The release said that, in comparison, manufacturing new orders rose for the second consecutive month in December. Moreover, the rate of expansion quickened to the sharpest since October 2016. Growth was underpinned by greater demand from domestic and international markets, according to anecdotal evidence, it said.
 
Reflecting cash shortages and delayed customer payments, levels of outstanding work rose at both manufacturers and service providers. Although modest, the rates of accumulation were stronger than their respective series average, it said.
 
"Monitored service providers increased staff recruitment during the month in response to greater activity, with jobs growth quickening to the fastest since September and stronger than the series trend," it said.
 
Meanwhile, manufacturers raised their staffing levels during December. In fact, job creation accelerated to the sharpest since August 2012, the release said.
 
Another factor supporting hiring among service providers was confidence towards the outlook for activity. The degree of optimism was broadly similar to November’s four-month high. An expected improvement in business conditions was the key factor behind positive projections, according to anecdotal evidence, it said.
 
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"Despite being solid overall, input cost inflation in the service sector eased from November’s four-year high and registered below the survey average. This translated into service providers raising output prices at the slowest pace since mid-2017 during December. Where average selling prices rose, respondents commented on the partial passthrough of higher cost burdens to customers. As was the case with input prices, output charges rose across all five broad sector groups," the release said.
 
Meanwhile, GST continued to exert upward pressure on manufacturers’ cost burdens in December. Overall, input cost inflation quickened to the sharpest since April. Subsequently, firms raised their average selling prices at the fastest pace in 10 months, it added.
 
Ms. Aashna Dodhia, Economist at IHS Markit, and author of the report, said: “India’s service economy showed signs of recovery as it returned to marginal expansion in December. That said, it remained on a weak growth trajectory amid reports that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was still hindering efforts to secure new clients."
 
“Greater backlogs continued to accumulate as a result of cash shortages and delayed payments that stemmed from the disruption of recent structural reforms.
 
“Still, the best overall performance of the economy was recorded since October 2016, endorsing the standpoint that the economy is recovering from the implementation of the twin shocks of demonization and GST. This expansion was mainly driven by manufacturing companies, with output growth here the sharpest since December 2012.
 
“Encouragingly, service providers were offered some respite around inflationary pressures, as input cost inflation registered below the series trend. Furthermore, job creation in both sectors outstripped historical averages signalling a continued revival of the labour market," she added.
 
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Cabinet approves MoU between India, Israel on cooperation in oil and gas sector

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The Union Cabinet today approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Israel on cooperation in the oil and gas sector.
 
An official press release said the MoU was expected to provide impetus to India - Israel ties in the energy sector.
 
The cooperation envisaged under the agreement will facilitate promotion of investments in each other's countries, technology transfer, R&D, conducting joint studies, capacity building of human resources and collaboration in the area of start-ups, the release added.
 
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Cabinet okays extension of norms for mandatory packaging in jute materials

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for mandatory packaging of food grain and sugar in jute material for the Jute Year 2017-18. 
 
The decision would sustain the core demand for the jute sector and support the livelihood of the workers and farmers dependent on the sector. The Jute Year 2017-18 period is from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018.
 
The CCEA has extended the mandatory packaging norms under the Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, 1987. 
 
An official press release said the approval mandates that 90% of the food grains and 20% of the sugar products be mandatorily packed in jute bags.
 
The decision also mandates, in the first instance, that the entire requirement for packing of foodgrains would be placed in jute bags thus, making a provision for 100% packing of food grains in jute bags subject to the ability of the jute industry to meet the requirement.
 
The decision will benefit farmers and workers located in the Eastern and North Eastern regions of the country particularly in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.
 
The industry is predominantly dependent on Government sector which purchases jute products more than Rs. 5,500 crore every year.  Considering that nearly 3.7 lakh workers and approximately 40 lakh farmers are dependent for their livelihood in the sector, the government has been making concerted efforts for the development of jute sector; increasing the quality and productivity of raw jute, diversification of jute sector and also boosting and sustaining demand for jute products. 
 
With a view to boosting demand in the jute sector, the Government has imposed Definitive Anti-Dumping Duty on import of jute goods from Bangladesh and Nepal with effect from January 5, 2017.
 
As a result of these measures, 13 twine mills in Andhra Pradesh had resumed operation, benefitting 20,000 workers. Further, the imposition of Definitive Anti Dumping Duty has provided scope for an additional demand of 2 lakh MT of jute goods in the domestic market for the Indian jute industry.
 
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In order to improve the productivity and quality of raw jute through a carefully designed intervention, called the Jute ICARE, the Government has been supporting close to one lakh jute farmers by disseminating improved agronomic practices such as line sowing using seed drills, weed management by using wheel-hoeing and nail-weeders, distribution of quality certified seeds and also providing microbial assisted retting.
 
These interventions have resulted in enhancing the quality and productivity of raw jute and increasing income of jute farmers by Rs. 10,000 per hectare.
 
In order to support jute farmers, Jute Corporation of India (JCI) has been given a grant of Rs. 204 crore for 4 years starting from 2014-15 to enable JCI to conduct MSP operations and ensure price stabilization in the jute sector.
 
With a view to supporting the diversification of jute sector, the National Jute Board has collaborated with National Institute of Design and a Jute Design Cell has been opened at Gandhinagar.
 
Promotion of Jute Geo-Textiles and Agro-Textiles has been taken up with the state governments particularly those in the North Eastern region and also with departments such as Ministry of Road Transport and Ministry of Water Resources.
 
In order to promote transparency in jute sector, Jute SMART, an e-govt initiative was launched in December 2016, providing an integrated platform for procurement of B-Twill sacking by Government agencies. Further, the JCI is transferring 100% funds to jute farmers online on the jute procurement under MSP and commercial operations.
 
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Cabinet approves revised Model Concession Agreement for PPP Projects in Major Ports

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The Union Cabinet today approved amendments to the Model Concession Agreement (MCA) to make port projects more investor-friendly and the investment climate in the port sector more attractive.
 
The amendments to the MCA envisage constitution of the Society for Affordable Redressal of Disputes - Ports (SAROD-PORTS) as dispute resolution mechanism similar to the provision available in the Highway Sector, an official press release said.
 
The other salient features of the revised MCA include providing an exit route to developers by way of divesting their equity up to 100% after completion of two years from the Commercial Operation Date (COD). This is now similar to the MCA provisions of Highway Sector.
 
Under the provision of additional land to the concessionaire, land rent has been reduced from 200% to 120% of the applicable scale of rates for the proposed additional land.
 
The concessionaire would pay Royalty on "per MT of cargo/TEU handled" basis which would be indexed to the variations in the WPI annually. This will replace the present procedure of charging royalty which is equal to the percentage of gross revenue, quoted during bidding, calculated on the basis of upfront normative tariff ceiling prescribed by Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP).
 
This step will help to resolve the long pending grievances of Public Private Participation (PPP) operators that Revenue share is payable on ceiling tariff and price discounts are ignored. The problems associated with fixing storage charges by TAMP and collection of revenue share on storage charges, which has plagued many projects, will also get eliminated.
 
The concessionaire would be free to deploy higher capacity equipment/facilities/technology and carry out value engineering for higher productivity and improved utilization and/or cost saving on project assets. "Actual Project Cost" would be replaced by "Total Project Cost".
 
The new definition of "Change in Law" will also include imposition of standards and conditions arising out of TAMP guidelines/orders, Environmental Law & Labour Laws and increase and the imposition of new taxes, duties, etc. for compensating the concessionaire.
 
Since the viability of the project was affected, the concessionaire will now be compensated for the increase and imposition of new taxes, duties etc. except in respect of imposition/increase of a  direct tax, both by Central  and  State Government.
 
The provision for commencement of operations before COD will lead to better utilization of assets provided by the port in many projects before the formal completion certificate.
 
The provision regarding refinancing is aimed at facilitating the availability of low-cost long-term funds to the concessionaire so as to improve the financial viability of the projects.
 
The provision of SAROD-PORTS for redressal of disputes to the existing Concessionaires will be done by introducing the Supplementary Agreement to be signed between the Concessionaire and the Authority.
 
A Complaint Portal will be set up for the port users. A Monitoring Arrangement has been introduced for keeping a periodical status report of the project.
 
The amendments have been proposed keeping in view the experience gained in managing PPP projects in the port sector during the last 20 years and to obviate the problems being faced on account of certain provisions in the existing MCA. The amendments in the MCA have been finalized after extensive consultation with the stakeholders.
 
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Cabinet nod for Jal Marg Vikas Project for enhanced navigation on Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its approval for the implementation of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 (NW-1) at a cost of Rs. 5369.18 crore.
 
The project, to be executed with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank, is expected to be completed by March 2023.
 
This alternative mode of transport will be environment-friendly and cost-effective. The project will contribute to bringing down the logistics costs, an official press release said.
 
It involves mammoth infrastructure development including multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services and navigation aids. It would also provide socio-economic impetus and huge employment generation.
 
NW-1 development and operations will lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46,000 and indirect employment of 84,000 will be generated by vessel construction industry, the release said.
 
The states to be covered are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal. It will also cover major districts including Varanasi, Ghazipur, Ballia, Buxar, Chhapra, Vaishali, Patna, Begusarai, Khagaria, Munger, Bhagalpur, Sahibganj, Murshidabad, Pakur, Hoogly and Kolkata.
 
The funding pattern comprises IBRD loan component: Rs 2, 512 crore (US$ 375 million); and Government of India counterpart funds of Rs 2,556 crore (US$ 380 million), to be sourced from budgetary allocation and proceeds from the bond issue. Private sector participation under PPP mode will be for Rs 301 crore (US$45 million).
 
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Major components will be fairway development; construction of the multi-modal terminal at Varanasi; construction of the multi-modal terminal at Sahibganj;  construction of the multi-modal terminal at Haldia; construction of an intermodal terminal at Kalughat; and construction of an intermodal terminal at Ghazipur.
 
It also involves the construction of a new navigation lock at Farakka; provision of navigational aids; construction of five pairs of Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro)  terminals;  construction of Integrated Ship Repair and Maintenance Complexes; provision of River Information System (RIS) and Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) and bank protection works.
 
The release said one of the major problems for a commercially viable and safe navigation on NW-1 is low depth upstream of Farakka due to low discharges from tributaries and difficult hydro morphological characteristics of river Ganga.
 
A pilot study on the Allahabad-Ghazipur stretch was commissioned by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to find solutions to this problem.
 
Based on the findings of this study, a proposal for the development of NW-1 at an estimated cost of Rs 4,200 crore (US$ 700 million) was taken up for seeking technical assistance and investment support from the World Bank to the tune of US$ 350 million in three phases.
 
The Finance Minister had announced JMVP in Budget Speech in July 2014, to enable commercial navigation of at least 1,500 tonnes vessels in the Ganga.
 
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Govt. notifies scheme of Electoral Bonds aimed at cleansing political funding

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The Government of India today notified the Scheme of Electoral Bonds that is aimed at cleansing the system of political funding in the country.
 
The Electoral Bond would be a bearer instrument in the nature of a Promissory Note and an interest free banking instrument. A citizen of India or a body incorporated in India will be eligible to purchase the bond.
 
Electoral Bond (s) would be issued and can be purchased for any value, in multiples of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 10,000, Rs. 1,00,000, Rs .10,00,000 and Rs. 1,00,00,000 from Specified Branches of the State Bank of India (SBI).
 
The purchaser would be allowed to buy Electoral Bond(s) only on due fulfilment of all the extant KYC norms and by making payment from a bank account. It will not carry the name of payee. Electoral Bonds would have a life of only 15 days during which it can be used for making donation only to the political parties registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or a Legislative Assembly.
 
The Electoral Bonds under the scheme shall be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July and October, as may be specified by the Central Government. An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of the General election to the House of People. 
 
The Electoral Bond(s) shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a designated bank account with the authorised bank, an official press release added.
 
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Government takes tough stand on adulteration of milk

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Taking a tough stand on adulteration of milk, the Government has asked stakeholders to identify the unscrupulous agents who indulge in adulteration of milk as their business.
 
Directions have been issued by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries (ADF), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, to all Chief Secretaries and Food Commissioners of States/UTs to conduct 500 random sampling of milk every month at village level for detecting adulteration particularly of edible oil, sucrose and detergents, an official press release said.
 
This drive will be started immediately and 50,000 samples will be taken countrywide.  
 
These decisions were taken at a meeting Union Ministers of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Parshottam Rupala and  Gajendra Singh Shekhawat held on December 21.
 
The Ministers discussed the issue of adulteration of milk and milk products with the State Cooperative Milk Federations, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and State Food Safety Department representatives.
 
The FSAAI has been advised to follow up on the directives. States have been asked to instal milk adulteration testing equipment at the village. Assistance for this will be provided by DADF under the National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD). A sum of Rs. 100 crore has been earmarked for this purpose.
 
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was directed to enable quick testing methods for testing chemicals that are not detected by the existing testing machines. Uttar Pradesh is being assisted to install 390 milk adulteration testing equipment in 2017-18 at village/district level. Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and others have been asked to follow suit.
 
The FSAAI has also been directed to develop standards for honey testing as fructose adulteration malpractice was rampant. NDDB is setting up a National Honey Testing Laboratory for the purpose with Central Government assistance.
 
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Cooperatives told to purchase milk brought by farmers to dairies without discrimination

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The Government has directed all the country's major cooperatives such as Gujarat (Amul), Karnataka (Nandini), Bihar (Sudha), Haryana (Vita), Punjab (Verka), Uttar Pradesh (PCDF-Parag) to ensure that the milk being brought by farmers to their dairies should be purchased without discrimination. 
 
This followed a meeting chaired by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare here on December 21, an official press release said.
 
The release said that the milk procurement by the cooperatives during November 2017 had recorded an increase of 20.4% in milk procurement as compared to the last year.
 
According to it, the procurement price of milk during November 2017 is also higher by 4.7% when compared to last year. The stock of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) is at 1,16,946 MT due to higher conversion and expected to be up to 2,00,000 MT by the end of March 2018. Domestic price of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) and Ghee are higher by about 9% and 19% respectively during November’2017 when compared to last year.
 
Secretary (ADF) stated that a target of 255 MMT of Milk Production by 2022 has been set by the Department so as to double the farmers’ income in line with achieving the Prime Minister’s vision.
 
The total share of milk procurement by cooperatives is to be increased from existing 10% to 20% of milk production by 2022. This will ensure better returns to dairy farmers. The States and Cooperatives are to prepare their plans accordingly, the release said.
 
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Financial assistance to the tune of Rs. 10,881 crore is being provided under Dairy Processing Infrastructure Fund (DIDF) to Milk Federations/Unions for the purpose.
 
An advisory was also issued on December 15 to all the States to include milk in the Mid-day Meal Scheme, Anganwadi Scheme and others. The Departments of Food and Public Distribution were requested to consider inclusion of milk in the PDS system.
 
Ministry of Women and Child Development was requested to include milk in the Nutrition Missions. This will increase the consumption of milk and ensure better returns to dairy farmers even in the flush season.
 
The cooperatives have also been advised to set a target 2% share in the world trade by 2020. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) will prepare an action plan in coordination with the States to achieve the export target, the release added.
 
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RIL commissions world’s largest refinery off-gas cracker at Jamnagar

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said it had successfully commissioned and achieved design throughput of the world’s first ever and largest Refinery Off-Gas Cracker (ROGC) complex of 1.5 MMTPA capacity along with downstream plants and utilities. 
 
The ROGC complex is a core component of RIL’s most innovative and world-scale J3 project at its integrated Refinery-Petrochemicals complex at Jamnagar in Gujarat, a press release from the company said.
 
"With the commissioning of ROGC complex, the largest ever expansion of RIL’s petrochemicals portfolio comes to a flawless completion. This is one of the largest capital expenditure programmes globally in the sector in recent times. It epitomises RIL’s core strategy of continuously pursuing opportunities for cost optimisation and efficiency enhancement through vertical integration across the value chain," the release said.
 
The ROGC complex has a unique configuration as it uses off-gases from RIL’s two refineries at Jamnagar as feedstock, the release said.
 
"This innovative approach of integration with refineries provides a sustainable cost advantage, making ROGC competitive with respect to the crackers in Middle-East and North America which have feedstock cost advantage," the release said.
 
"ROGC design is highly flexible and energy efficient. Given the complexities of such a plant, the start-up has been flawless adhering to the most stringent safety and technical integrity standards globally.
 
"ROGC is the latest addition to RIL’s existing cracker portfolio, consisting of cracker facilities at Nagothane in Maharashtra and Hazira, Dahej and Vadodara in Gujarat," it said.
 
There are nearly 270 ethylene plants globally with a combined capacity of over 170 MMTPA. RIL’s combined ethylene capacity is now close to 4 MMTPA at five of its manufacturing sites. With ROGC and imported Ethane, RIL has one of the most competitive and flexible cracker portfolios.
 
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Ethylene from ROGC is used in downstream plants to produce Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG) and Polyethylene (LLDPE and LDPE). Similarly, Propylene from ROGC has enhanced output of the existing Polypropylene (PP) plants at Jamnagar complex to produce high-value co-polymers.
 
"The commissioning of MEG plant marks completion of all-round expansion of the polyester value chain post successful commissioning of Para-Xylene (PX), Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA), Polyester filament and Poly Ethylene Terephthalate (PET) plants over last three years.
 
"With the commissioning of LLDPE and LDPE plants at Jamnagar along with its existing PE plants at other manufacturing sites, RIL has capability to produce entire range of PE grades covering all end-uses in the Indian market.
 
"The ROGC complex is built in a record time with approximately 40% lower capital cost compared to the similar projects globally. The unique configuration with sustainable cost advantage, competitive project schedule, lower capital cost and incident-free flawless start-up makes ROGC complex as one of the best executed project globally from concept to commissioning," the release said.
 
Mr. Mukesh D. Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited said: “The world’s first ROGC and downstream plants mark a paradigm shift in the profitability and sustainability of RIL’s petrochemicals business. The ROGC complex is built on our core philosophy of deep feedstock integration to establish industry leading cost and efficiency benchmarks. This world scale petrochemicals expansion, once again showcases RIL’s unique competitive advantage in efficient execution of complex projects and flawless commissioning capabilities, adding yet another jewel to its crown. This is a fitting tribute to RIL’s visionary Founder Chairman Shri Dhirubhai H. Ambani."
 
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L&T Construction wins orders valued at Rs. 1454 crore, including breakthrough contract in Egypt

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its construction arm had won orders worth Rs. 1,454 crore across various business segments.
 
A press release from the company said tehse included an order worth Rs. 864 crore secured by its Smart World & Communications Business Unit for the implementation of 5 million Smart Meters.
 
The scope involves design, SITC and O&M support of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Solutions for 5 million Smart Electricity Meters with GPRS-based communication modules for the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
 
The tender for smart meters was floated by state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) as International Competitive Bidding. The goal of the project is to create a sustainable impact by increasing discom revenues by better billing efficiency, improvement in customer satisfaction, and so on. This shall also provide access to real-time data and provide all information on a single console in an integrated manner to remotely control the entire network and thereby increase operational efficiency, the release said.
 
The project involves installation of 5 million Smart Meters in 16 cities across Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, provisioning of GPRS network, integration with the existing legacy systems and upcoming discom systems, including metering, billing & collection systems and smart dashboards. 
 
The entire applications of the project will be deployed on cloud including Head End System and Meter Data Management System, which are the first of their kind in India for such a large scale project.
 
"This is a significant win for us in the smart solutions space and reaffirms our credentials as a technology leader,” said Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, L&T.
 
“As an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Implementation partner, we will use cutting edge technology to provide an integrated solution capable of high-end analytics on a futuristic and eminently scalable platform in-line with the central government’s plan to reduce the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of state utilities,” he said.
 
The release said L&T's Smart World business had  been making its presence felt across many of the major Indian cities by creating safe, smart and connected solutions. This project for 5 million smart meter integration is expected to be the largest such rollout program ever in a single lot in the industry, it said.
 
The company said its Power Transmission & Distribution Business had bagged orders worth Rs. 568 crore from both international and domestic customers.
 
In Africa, the business has bagged a breakthrough order from the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company for turnkey construction of the Sokhna 500/220kV Gas Insulated Sub-station, it said.
 
"This order, secured amidst stiff international competition in consortium with an OEM partner, augurs well for the expanding presence of the business in African continent," the release said.
 
In the domestic market, Sterlite Power Grid Ventures Ltd., a leading independent power transmission player, has once again reposed faith in L&T by awarding an order for a major project involving engineering, procurement and construction of 765kV, 400kV and 220kV transmission lines associated with Goa Tamnar Transmission Project Limited.
 
Further, the business has secured an order from Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation Ltd., a Karnataka Government undertaking, for turnkey execution of power distribution system to strengthen works in several subdivisions of the Mysuru area, the release added.
 
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India’s spices exports rise 24% during April-Sept 2017

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Buoyed by surging demand in international markets, India exported 5,57,525 tonnes of spices and spice products valued at Rs. 8,850.53 crore  during April-September 2017 as against 4,50,700 tonnes worth Rs. 8700.15 crores during the corresponding period a year earlier, registering an increase of 24% in volume and 2% in rupee terms.
 
In dollar terms, India’s exports of spices and spice products during the first half of the current fiscal were pegged at $1.374 billion as against $ 1.300 billion during the same period in 2016, notching an increase of 6%, a press release from Spices Board said here today.
 
 Spices Board Chairman A. Jayathilak said chilli, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, garlic and mint products have been amongst the most demanded Indian spices, meeting the increasing demand for quality spices in global markets. “Moreover, the Board’s efforts to promote these spices have resulted in an appreciable increase in their exports,” he added.
 
“What is satisfying is that India’s exports of spices and spice products have been consistently moving up in the face of volatility in international markets and stringent food safety regulations imposed by countries across the globe,” he said.
 
The release said chilli retained its position as the most demanded spice with exports of 235,000 tonnes amounting to Rs 2,125.90 crore in value, as against 165,022 tonnes in the previous fiscal, registering an increase of 42% in volume.
 
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Chilli was followed by cumin with a total volume of 79,460 tonnes worth Rs. 1,324.58 crore as against 68,596 tonnes valued at Rs. 1,104.32 crore during the corresponding period last year, registering an increase of 16% in volume and 20% in value.
 
Next in line was turmeric with an export volume of 59,000 tonnes having a value of Rs. 547.63 crore. 
 
However, the export of mint products, though 11,280 tonnes in volume, was worth Rs. 1317.40 crore in value as against 10,850 tonnes and Rs. 1157.45 crore, respectively during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, registering an increase of 4% in volume and 14% in value.
 
The export of small cardamom, cumin, garlic, asafetida, tamarind and seeds like ajwain, mustard, dill and poppy registered an increase both in volume and value as compared to April-September 2016. The export of value-added products like curry powder, mint products and spice oils and oleoresins also increased in volume and value during the period.
 
The export of large cardamom, chilli, ginger, fennel and coriander also showed an increase in terms of volume.
 
During April-September 2017, a total volume of 2,230 tonnes of small cardamom, valued at Rs. 248.71crore, was exported as against 1,624 tonnes worth Rs. 138.96 crore during this period last year, registering an increase of 37% in volume and 79% in value.
 
During April–Sept 2017, a total volume of 27,040 tonnes of garlic was exported, fetching Rs.188.54 crore as against 15,337 tonnes valued at Rs.127.62 crores last year, registering an increase of 76% in volume and 48% in value.
 
In the case of value-added products, the export of curry powder/paste was 17,030 tonnes worth Rs. 348.88 crore as against 14,016 tonnes (Rs. 278.40 crores) last year, registering an increase of 22% in volume and 25% in value.
 
During the period, a total volume of 8,800 tonnes of spice oils and oleoresins valued at Rs. 1332.22 crore was shipped as against 6,617 tonnes worth Rs. 1237.06 crore last year -- an increase of 33% in volume and 8% in value.
 
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Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI increases to 54.7 in December 2017

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The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) increased to 54.7 in December 2017, up from 52.6 in November, pointing to the strongest improvement in manufacturing conditions since December 2012 and a five-year high in output growth.
 
"The Indian manufacturing sector ended the year on a strong note, with operating conditions improving at the strongest rate in five years. The overall upturn was supported by the sharpest increase in output and new orders since December 2012 and October 2016 respectively," a press release from Nikkei said.
 
"In response to greater inflows of new business, job creation quickened to the greatest since August 2012. On the price front, input cost inflation accelerated to the strongest since April and was marked overall. Subsequently, firms raised their average selling prices at the fastest pace since February," it said.
 
The PMI is a seasonally adjusted composite single-figure indicator of manufacturing performance in the country. It is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 400 industrial companies. An index reading above 50 indicates an overall increase in that variable, below 50 an overall decrease.
 
The release said the increase in PMI was consistent with  the strongest improvement in the health of the sector since December 2012.
 
"Notably, the PMI reading was slightly stronger than the average (54.0) recorded since the inception of the survey in March 2005. At the broad market group level, growth was recorded across all three monitored categories (consumer, intermediate and investment)," it said.
 
According to the release, the upward movement in the headline index was driven by a sharp increase in output. Furthermore, the rate of expansion quickened to the strongest since December 2012. Higher order book volumes and improved underlying demand conditions reportedly contributed to greater production.
 
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"Notably, the rate of growth outstripped the trend seen since the start of the survey. New orders placed at Indian manufacturers rose for the second month in succession during December.
 
"Furthermore, the rate of growth quickened to the sharpest since October 2016. According to anecdotal evidence, new business inflows were underpinned by greater demand from home and international markets. In turn, new export orders rose at the quickest pace since June," it said.
 
The release said that, resulting from improved demand conditions, Indian manufacturers upped their staffing levels at the end of the year. In fact, job creation accelerated to the strongest since August 2012.
 
In response to greater inflows of new orders, good producers were encouraged in December to engage in input buying at the sharpest rate since August 2015. As a consequence, the sector observed a modest increase in pre-production inventories for the first-time since June, it said.
 
"Meanwhile, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) continued to exert upward pressure on manufacturers’ cost burdens in December. Furthermore, input cost inflation accelerated to the strongest since April and was sharp overall. Reflecting greater cost pressures, firms raised their output charges for the fifth month in succession. Although the rate of inflation quickened to a 10-month high, it was modest and weaker than the long-run series average," it said.
 
"Finally, the Future Output Index signalled the strongest level of confidence in three months, with more than one-in-five survey participants forecasting higher production. Expectations of an improvement in economic conditions was cited as the key factor behind positive sentiment. That said, the level of business confidence remained below the trend observed for the survey history," the release said.
 
Ms. Aashna Dodhia, Economist at IHS Markit and author of the report, said: “India’s goods-producing economy advanced on its recovery path, with operating conditions improving at the strongest pace since December 2012. Strong business performance was underpinned by the fastest expansions in output and new orders since December 2012 and October 2016 respectively. Anecdotal evidence pointed to stronger market demand from home and international markets."
 
“However, the sector continues to face some turbulence as delayed customer payments contributed to greater volumes of outstanding work. 
 
"On the price front, July’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) continued to lead to greater raw material costs, with input cost inflation accelerating to the sharpest since April. As consumer spending recuperates, firms were restricted in their ability to pass on higher cost burdens to clients which further placed upward pressure on firms’ margins.
 
“Challenges remain as the economy adjusts to recent shocks, but the overall upturn was robust compared to the trend observed for the survey history. This outlook was shared by the manufacturing community as sentiment picked-up to the strongest in three months amid expected improvements in market conditions over the next 12
months," she added.
 
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Investment of Rs. 1,91,155 crore proposed by 90 Smart Cities

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A total investment of Rs. 1,91,155 crore has been proposed by the 90 cities under their smart city plans, according to Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Puri.
 
The projects focusing on revamping an identified area (Area Based Projects) are estimated to cost Rs. 1,52,500 crore. Smart initiatives across the city (Pan City Initiatives) account for the remaining Rs. 36,655 crore of investments, an official press release said today. 
 
Besides ABD and Pan city projects, an amount of Rs. 1,998.49 crore has been kept aside for O&M cost of the Mission and other contingencies.
 
The implementation of the Smart Cities Mission is done by a Special Purpose Vehicle(SPV) to be set up at city level in the form of a limited company under the Companies Act, 2013 and are promoted by the State/UT and the Urban Local Body (ULB) jointly, both having 50:50 equity shareholding. 
 
After selection, each Smart City has to set up SPVs and start implementation of their Smart City Proposal, preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs), tenders etc.  The SPV will convert the Smart City Proposal into projects through Project Management Consultants (PMCs) and implementation thereafter.
 
So far, 77 Smart Cities (including 11 of the Round 3 cities) have established their SPVs, Mr. Puri said.
 
He was addressing the Parliamentary consultative committee meeting attached to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs on December 28. 
 
Members of Parliament Raghav Lakhanpal, Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Dr Srikant Eknath Shinde and Dr Satyanarayana Jatiya besides Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary, Housing & Urban Affairs and senior officers were also present at the meeting.
 
Mr. Puri said 2855 projects worth Rs. 1,35,459 crore were in various stages of implementation.  While 147 projects worth Rs. 1,872 crore have been completed, 396 projects with a  cost of Rs. 14,672 crore were currently under implementation.
 
Tendering has started for 283 projects with a cost of Rs. 16,549 crore and detailed project reports were being prepared for 2,029 projects worth Rs. 1,02,366 crore, he added.
 
“The selection process of Smart Cities is based on the idea of competitive and cooperative federalism and follows a challenge process to select cities in two stages.  A two-stage selection process has been followed,” he said. 
 
“In the first stage, a total number of 100 smart cities has been distributed amongst the States and UTs on the basis of equitable criteria.  The State/UT subsequently have shortlisted and potential smart cities on the basis of preconditions and scoring criteria. 
 
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“In the second stage of the competition, each of the potential 100 smart cities had prepared their Smart City Proposal (SCP) which contained the model chosen (retrofitting or redevelopment or greenfield development or a mix thereof) and additionally include a Pan-city dimension with smart solutions,” he added.
 
In Stage 1, all States/UTs shortlisted 98 potential Smart Cities to participate in Stage II.  Further, on the basis of requests received from States, 12 new potential Smart Cities (left out capital cities and equal scoring cities) have also been included to participate in All India Competition (Stage 2) of the Smart City Challenge Process.
 
In Stage II, 90 cities (20 cities in Round1 in January 2016, 13 cities in fast-track round in May 2016, 27 cities in Round 2 in September 2016 and 30 cities in Round 3 in June 2017) have been selected so far. The other 10 cities are expected to be selected in this financial year (2017-18), the Minister said.
 
Under SCM, 2,864 projects worth Rs. 1,35,958 crore are in various stages of implementation, 148 projects worth Rs. 1,872 crore have been completed and work is underway for 407 projects with a cost of Rs. 15,600 crore.
 
Further, tendering has started for 237 projects with a cost of Rs. 13,514 crore and DPRs are being prepared for 2,025 projects worth Rs. 1,02,260 crore. The progress with respect to the implementation of projects pertaining to Smart Solutions, Smart Roads, Smart Water, Solar Rooftops, and Visible & Impactful is also underway.
 
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India's eight core industries grow by 6.8% in November 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 6.8 percent -- a 13-month high -- in November 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 123.9 in November 2017. Its cumulative growth during April to November, 2017-18 was 3.9%, it said.
 
According to the statement, coal production, which has a weight of 10.33% in the IIP, declined by 0.2% in November 2017 as compared to the same month in 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 1.5% during April to November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Crude oil production (weight: 8.98%) increased by 0.2% in November, 2017 over November, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 0.2 per cent during April to November, 2017-18 from the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Natural gas production (weight: 6.88%) increased by 2.4% in November  2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 4.4% during April to November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Petroleum refinery production (weight: 28.04%) increased by 8.2% in November 2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 3.6% during April to November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Fertilizer production (weight: 2.63%) increased by 0.3% in November 2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 1.1% during April to November 2017-18 from the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Steel production (weight: 17.92%) increased by 16.6% in November 2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 7.2% during April to November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Cement production (weight: 5.37 per cent) increased by 17.3% in November 2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 0.6% during April to November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
Electricity generation (weight: 19.85%) increased by 1.9% in November 2017 over November 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 4.9% during April-November 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year, the statement added.
 
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SBI reduces base rate, BPLR by 30 basis points

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, has reduced its  base rate and  Benchmark Prime Lending Rate (BPLR) by 30 basis points (bps) with effect from today.
 
The base rate has been reduced from 8.95% to 8.65% for existing customers and the BPLR from 13.70% to 13.40%, a press release from SBI said.
 
Additionally, bank has decided to extend on-going waiver on home loan processing fees till March 31, 2018 for new customers keen on buying their dream house and other customers looking to switch their existing loans to SBI, it said.
 
Mr. P. K. Gupta, Managing Director - Retail and Digital Banking, SBI said, " The reduction in base rate is a new year gift to the bank's loyal customers as a large number of consumers who have their loan linked to base rate will be benefitted by decrease in rates. This reduction is part of bank's efforts to ensure transmission of reduction in the policy rates in the recent past. Approximately 80 lakh customers will be benefitted by this move."
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering secures orders valued at Rs. 2,100 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 secured a major EPC contract for Crude Distillation and Vacuum Distillation Unit (CDU & VDU) from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Visakhapatnam Refinery, and an extension to an ongoing contract for Reliance Industries Limited, Jamnagar, together adding up to approximately Rs. 2,100 crore.
 
The 9 MMTPA CDU & VDU project is a part of HPCL Visakh Refinery Modernisation Project (VRMP) and involves Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Commissioning, a press release from L&T said.
 
"The order reinforces LTHE’s unique capability to deliver 'design to build' engineering and construction solutions across the hydrocarbon spectrum," it said.
 
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Financial sector regulators present budget proposals at FSDC meeting

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Regulators in the financial sector presented their proposals for the Union Budget 2018-19 at the 18th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here yesterday.
 
An official press release said the council deliberated over the proposals. It also advised the concerned Ministries and Departments to examine the proposals in detail for appropriate further action.
 
The meeting was attended by Dr. Urjit R. Patel, Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, Finance Secretary and Secretary, Department of Revenue; Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs; Mr. Rajiv Kumar, Secretary, Department of Financial Services; Mr. Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA); Dr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser; Mr. Ajay Tyagi, Chairman, SEBI; Mr. T.S. Vijayan, Chairman, IRDAI; Mr. Hemant G Contractor, Chairman, PFRDA; Dr. M. S. Sahoo, Chairman, IBBI, and other senior officers of the Government of India and financial sector regulators. 
 
Secretary, MCA and Chairman IBBI have been added as members of Council vide Gazette notification dated 18th September 2017.
 
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Rabi crops sowing crosses 565 lakh hectares: Govt.

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Sowing of Rabi crops in the country has crossedd 565.79 lakh hectares (ha) as on December 29, as compared to 571.47 lakh ha at this time of the season last year, an official statement said here, quoting preliminary reports received from the States.
 
The statement said wheat had been sown in 273.85 lakh ha so far (as compared to 290.74 lakh ha at this time last year); rice in 16.33 lakh ha (11.55 lakh ha), pulses in 150.63 lakh ha (138.34 lakh ha), coarse cereals in 50.71 lakh ha (51.28 lakh ha) and oilseeds in 74.27 lakh ha (79.56 lakh ha).
 
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Date for filing return in Form GSTR-1 extended to January 10, 2018

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The Government has extended the last date for filing of returns in Form GSTR-1 for all taxpayers for the relevant periods, under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime, to January 10, 2018.
 
The decision covers registered persons having aggregate turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore in the preceding financial year or the current financial year, who were required to file quarterly return in Form GSTR-1 for July-September, 2017 and registered persons having aggregate turnover of more than Rs. 1.5 crore in the preceding financial year or current financial year who were required to file monthly returns in Form GSTR-1 for the July-October period by December 31, 2017, an official press release said.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 3.536 billion to record $404.922 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by a whopping $ 3.536 billion to a new record all-time high of $ 404.922 billion during the week ended December 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 488.2 million to $ 401.386 billion during the previous week.
 
The foreign exchange reserves had crossed $ 400 billion for the first time in September this year and had touched the previous high of $ 402.509 billion, on the back of a rise of $ 1.782 billion, during the week ended September 15. Since then, however, they have been fluctuating.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 3.773 billion to $ 380.680 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 $ 12.6 million to $ 20.716 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by  $ 1.8 million to $ 1.502 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fell by $ 252.2 million to $ 2.023 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Installed capacity of nuclear power in India touches 6,780 MWe

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The total installed capacity of nuclear power in India has touched 6,780 MWe, comprising 22 nuclear reactors.
 
The capacity is expected to increase gradually to 22,480 MW (including PFBR, 500 MW being implemented by Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited) by 2031 on progressive completion of projects under construction and accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the Union Government, Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question yesterday.
 
He said the low installed capacity base of nuclear power in the country is mainly on account of the technology development in an international embargo regime that persisted from 1974 to 2008 and constraint of resources faced during the initial decades of the nuclear power programme, as it had to depend solely on budgetary support.
 
The low share of nuclear power in the total installed capacity is on account of its low capacity base, he said.
 
The average tariff of nuclear power in the financial year 2016-17 was Rs.  2.95 per unit, with tariffs of stations ranging from Rs 1.07 in case of the oldest station TAPS 1 & 2 to Rs 4.10 in respect of the latest station, KKNPP 1 & 2.
 
The present tariff norms for nuclear power are based on recovery of relevant costs and a return on equity of 15.5%, to be grossed up with normal tax rate applicable during each year of the tariff period. The norms are similar to those notified by various Electricity Regulatory Commissions for other electricity generating technologies, Dr. Singh said.
 
Nuclear power is a clean, environment-friendly baseload source available 24X7. It also has huge potential that will ensure long-term energy security of the country in a sustainable manner.
 
Therefore, nuclear energy is an important component of the country’s energy mix and is being pursued along with other sources of energy in an optimal manner, Dr. Singh added.
 
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Govt. cautions people about risks in investing in virtual 'currencies', says they are like ponzi schemes

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The Government today cautioned the people once again about the risks involved in investing in so-called virtual "currencies", pointing out that they are like ponzi schemes.
 
“There has been a phenomenal increase in recent times in the price of Virtual ‘Currencies’ (VCs) including Bitcoin, in India and globally. The VCs don’t have any intrinsic value and are not backed by any kind of assets," a statement from the Ministry of Finance said.
 
"The price of Bitcoin and other VCs therefore is entirely a matter of mere speculation resulting in spurt and volatility in their prices. There is a real and heightened risk of investment bubble of the type seen in ponzi schemes which can result in sudden and prolonged crash exposing investors, especially retail consumers losing their hard-earned money," it said.
 
The statement said consumers needed to be alert and extremely cautious as to avoid getting trapped in such ponzi schemes. 
 
"VCs are stored in digital/electronic format, making them vulnerable to hacking, loss of password, malware attack etc. which may also result in permanent loss of money. As transactions of VCs are encrypted they are also likely being used to carry out illegal/subversive activities, such as, terror-funding, smuggling, drug trafficking and other money-laundering Acts," it said.
 
"VCs are not backed by Government fiat. These are also not legal tender. Hence, VCs are not currencies. These are also being described as ‘Coins’. There is however no physical attribute to these coins. Therefore, Virtual ‘Currencies’ (VCs) are neither currencies nor coins. The Government or Reserve Bank of India has not authorised any VCs as a medium of exchange. Further, the Government or any other regulator in India has not given license to any agency for working as exchange or any other kind of intermediary for any VC. Persons dealing in them must consider these facts and beware of the risks involved in dealing in VCs," it said.
 
"The users, holders and traders of VCs have already been cautioned three times, in December, 2013, February, 2017 and December, 2017, by Reserve Bank of India about the potential financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks that they are exposing themselves to by investing in Bitcoin and/ or other VCs. RBI has also clarified that it has not given any licence/ authorization to any entity/ company to operate such schemes or deal with Bitcoin or any virtual currency. 
 
"The Government also makes it clear that VCs are not legal tender and such VCs do not have any regulatory permission or protection in India. The investors and other participants therefore deal with these VCs entirely at their risk and should best avoid participating therein," the statement added.
 
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