Business & Economy

Govt. urges industry to pass on benefit of GST rate cuts to consumers

The Central Government appeals to the Industry Leaders to pass on the benefit of GST Rate reduction to the consumers as it is expected to encourage domestic demand and investment among others. 
The Government today appealed to the industry leaders to pass on the benefit of the recent reduction in the Goods and Service Tax (GST) to the consumers as the move is expected to encourage domestic demand and investment.
At its 23rd meeting in Guwahati on November 10, the GST Council had recommended the reduction of the GST rate from 28% to 18% on goods falling under 178 headings, leaving only 50 items under the maximum rate.
A large number of items have also witnessed a reduction in GST rates from 18% to 12%, 12% to 5% and so on. All these changes have become effective from November 15.
"The benefit of reduction in the GST rate has to be passed on by the suppliers to the consumers by way of commensurate reduction in prices. The reduction in GST rates is also expected to encourage domestic demand and investment," an official press release said.
Ms. Vanaja N. Sarna, Chairperson, Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) has addressed a letter to all the major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies pointing out the need to immediately revise the maximum retail price (MRP) on all the products in which the reduction of GST has been announced by the Council.
She has also requested all to give wide publicity to the revised MRP of products. 
"The Government expects that the industry should immediately respond to the earlier appeal made by the Finance Minister on this issue," the release added.

International Seminar on Indian Space Programme opens in Delhi

India Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar today said that innovations were shaping the space industry and the endeavour should be to provide access of advantages of space to common people.
Inaugurating an international seminar on "Indian Space Programme: Trends and Opportunities for Industry" here, Mr. Kiran Kumar said technological innovations had undergone a giant leap with the passage of time.
"The development and progress of the country is directly dependent on the strides made in the sector of space growth," he said.
The two-day seminar has been organised by ISRO and its commercial arm Antrix Corporation in coordination with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The objective of the event is to deliberate on the best practices, pursue the ongoing discussion process to support further work of India's space sector and facilitate arriving at a coherent framework, whereby the sector can start expanding the domestic and global opportunities through enhanced partnerships and collaborations.
The seminar is aimed at highlighting the achievements and major milestones of the Indian space sector in the recent past, and the future programs and plans. During the seminar, the stakeholders from industry, policy makers, thought leaders and academia, will brainstorm on the enabling and encouraging policies of the Government to exploit the commercial space segment by Indian Industry targeting both domestic and international market.
Mr. Kiran Kumar said industry-academic interaction and collaboration are the pillars for knowledge development in this sector. Value addition in the space sector is multi-faceted in its approach with collaborative models of development like public private partnership (PPP) are adding a new dimension to the future growth prospects.
He urged the private sector to collaborate and explore the huge potential in space sector in areas such as space exploration, joint ventures of collaboration in assembly and integration of satellite sub-system, cluster development, knowledge and information dissemination and launch infrastructure co-development.
Avenues of collaboration existed in ISRO’s versatile workhorse PSLV launch vehicle integration and GSLV cryogenic technology transfer, communication and navigation satellite creative co-creation opportunities, among others.
Indigenous development of space and satellite technology, be it PSLV or GSLV, can provide the ideal ground for infrastructure development of country. Such developments can help in communication and navigation earth observation, education, health, agriculture, energy resource exploration, mineral and meteorological analysis, he added.
The pace of development in the space sector is resulting in astronomical demand for more scope of co-development and collaboration. ISRO has at present, 42 operational satellites and has set new benchmarks in Lunar and Mars exploration by the successful launch of Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan.
President, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Naoki Okumura said that the collaboration of India and Japan is multi-dimensional in aspects related to exploration of space science, collaboration among space industry of both countries; promote research communities for their scientific endeavour and development of centers of excellence in space infrastructure projects. He emphasized on developing the space projects leveraging each other capabilities for the holistic growth of the space sector.
Deputy Director General, JSC Glavkosmos, Russia, Mr. Vitaly Safonov said the scope of collaboration of space industry is promising. He said that India and Russia have excellent bilateral relations in political, cultural and diplomatic level and the space collaboration is another step in defining the growing relations between the two countries. He said that the perspective of industry partners of two countries is for capacity building and for new modes of development in various sector like space and earth sciences, communication and navigational satellite technological advancement, space enabled services cooperation, space engine and sub-system co-development with utilizing each other potential by elevating the level of cooperation to unprecedented levels.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chairman Space Division of FICCI, Col HS Shankar said the ecosystem of technology and satellite development can be facilitated by big industries such as Tata, L&T, Godrej, ECIL, BEL and small and medium enterprises. He said the growth could be fostered with government to business and government to government collaboration with foreign Government and space agencies.
The two-day seminar includes sessions on Space Industry Ecosystem: Role and Opportunities for Industry, Leveraging Public-Private Partnership for Indian Space Programs, Capacity building and talent management and panel discussion on role of industry in Indian Space Program.
Eminent speakers include Dr M Annadurai, Director, ISRO Satellite Centre (Bangalore), Dr P G Diwakar, Scientific Secretary, ISRO, K. Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, S. Somnath, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, P. Kunhikrishnan, Director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Tapan Mishra, Director, Space Applications Centre, Dr V K Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, Dr. Y V N Krishnamurthy, Director, National Remote Sensing Centre and Dr. Kumar Krishen, Professor, University of Houston, USA.

Health Ministry issues notification on maximum permissible antibiotics limit in meat & poultry

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a notification on the maximum permissible limits of various antibiotics in meat and meat products including chicken.
The maximum permissible limit of 37 antibiotics and 67 other veterinary drugs are prescribed for chicken, an official press release said.
The notification of an amendment to Food Safety & Standards (Contaminants, Toxins & Residues) Regulations, 2011 was issued on November 7, 2017, the release said.
Through this notification, objections and suggestions have been invited from all the stakeholders including general public within 30 days of the notification, that is, by December 6.
The objections and suggestions received will be placed before the Scientific Panel of FSSAI on Residues of Pesticides and Antibiotics for consideration. The recommendations of the panel will be considered by the Scientific Committee and then the Food Authority for approval after which it will be notified in the Gazette of India with the approval of the Minister, the release added.

Aadhaar data not breached or leaked: UIDAI

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) today denied that Aadhar data was ever breached or leaked.
Responding to a news report, appearing in certain sections of the media claiming that 210 Government sites made Aadhaar information public, giving the impression of data leak or breach, UIDAI said the report was a “skewed presentation of the facts”.
The Aadhaar data is safe and secure and there has been no data leak or breach at UIDAI, the organisation mandated to issue an easily verifiable 12-digit random number as Unique Identity to all residents of India, the release said.
The release said data on these websites was placed in the public domain as a measure of proactive disclosure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by these government and institutional websites which included beneficiaries’ name, address, bank account, and other details including Aadhaar number and was collected from the third party/users for various welfare schemes.
"It was this collected information which had been displayed in the public domain under RTI Act. There was no breach or leakage of Aadhaar data from UIDAI database or server as has been aired by the said report," the release said.
The release said that, acting promptly on the media report, UIDAI and Ministry of Electronics & IT had directed the concerned Government departments/ministries to immediately remove it from their websites and ensure that such violation did not occur in future.
"Certain other measures were also taken at various levels to ensure that such incidents of display of Aadhaar numbers do not take place. Following UIDAI’s action, the data was removed from these websites immediately.
"However, the news report presented the facts in a skewed manner and misleads readers. UIDAI reiterated that Aadhaar security systems were of international standards. Aadhaar data is fully secure. There has been no breach or leakage of Aadhaar data at UIDAI.
"Also, the Aadhaar numbers which were made public on the said websites do not pose any real threat to the people as biometric information is never shared and is fully secure with the highest encryption at UIDAI. The mere display of demographic information cannot be misused without biometrics," it said. 
UIDAI clarified that the Aadhaar number is not a secret number. It is to be shared with authorized agencies when an Aadhaar holder wishes to avail a certain service or benefit of government welfare scheme/s or other services. Proper use of Aadhaar number does not pose a security or financial threat.
"Also, the mere availability of Aadhaar number will not be a security threat or lead to financial/other fraud, as for a successful authentication fingerprint or iris of the individual is also required. Further, all authentications happen in presence of personnel of respective service provider which further add to the security of the system.
Furthermore, UIDAI security system has people’s participatory security system like Biometric Lock facility available at UIDAI portal which any Aadhaar holder can use to put his/her own lock on one’s biometric by visiting UIDAI’s official website , the release added.

Logistics sector granted infrastructure status

The Government has granted infrastructure status to the logistics sector and "Logistics Infrastructure" has been included as a new item in the renamed category of "Transport and Logistics".
A footnote stated that "Logistics Infrastructure” means and includes Multi-modal Logistics Park comprising Inland Container Depot (ICD) with minimum investment of Rs. 50 crore and minimum area of 10 acres, Cold Chain Facility with minimum investment of Rs. 15 crore and minimum area of 20,000 sq. ft, and/or warehousing facility with investment of minimum Rs. 25 crore and minimum area of 1 lakh sq ft.
An official press release said that the need for integrated logistics sector development has been felt for quite some time in view of the fact that the logistics cost in India is very high compared to developed countries. 
"High logistics cost reduces the competitiveness of Indian goods both in domestic as well as export market. Development of logistics would give a boost to both domestic and external demand thereby encouraging manufacturing and 'job creation'. This will in turn be instrumental in improving country's GDP," the release said.
The inclusion of “Logistics Sector” in the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sectors was considered in the 14th Institutional Mechanism (IM) Meeting held on November 10. It was recommended by the Institutional Mechanism and subsequently approved by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The status will enable the Logistics Sector to avail infrastructure lending at easier terms with enhanced limits, access to larger amounts of funds as External Commercial Borrowings (ECB), access to longer tenor funds from insurance companies and pension funds and be eligible to borrow from India Infrastructure Financing Company Limited (IIFCL). 

Global crude oil price of Indian basket falls to $ 60.27/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 $ 60.27 per barrel (bbl) on November 17 from $ 60.57 per bbl on the previous day.
In rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket decreased to Rs 3908.55 per bbl on 17.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 3954.83 per bbl on 16.11.2017, an official press release said.
The rupee closed stronger at Rs. 64.85 per US$ on 17.11.2017 as compared to 65.30 per US$ on 16.11.2017, the release added.

World Bank to provide $ 98 million loan for large-scale solar parks in India

The Government of India and the World Bank signed here today a $ 98 million Loan Agreement and $2 million Grant Agreement to help India increase its power generation capacity through cleaner, renewable energy sources. 
The Shared Infrastructure for Solar Parks Project will finance the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) to provide sub-loans to select states to invest in various solar parks, mostly under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s (MNRE) Solar Park Scheme, a press release from the bank said.
The first two solar parks to be supported under the project are in the Rewa and Mandsaur districts of Madhya Pradesh, with targeted installed capacities of 750 MW and 250 MW, respectively. In addition, other states where potential solar parks could be supported under this project are in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Haryana, it said.
The agreement for the project was signed by Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India; Mr. K S Popli, Chairman and Managing Director, on behalf of IREDA; and Mr. Hisham Abdo, Acting Country Director, World Bank India, on behalf of the World Bank.   
“The Government of India is committed to set up an enabling environment for solar technology penetration in the country. This project will help establish large-scale solar parks and support the government’s plan to install 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power out of a total renewable-energy target of 175 GW by 2022,” Mr. Kharde said.
“The use of this clean and green technology will also help contribute to global efforts to meet the challenges of climate change," he said.
IREDA will utilize the funding under this project to develop common infrastructure such as power pooling sub-stations, intra-park transmission infrastructure and provide access to roads, water supply and drainage, among others. 
While some states intend to provide a full range of infrastructure services to the selected private or public sector developers, others plan to provide only pooling stations to facilitate internal evacuation. This, in turn, is expected to facilitate solar power investment by the selected developers in support of the Government of India’s efforts to increase the share of electricity that comes from renewable energy.
With about 331 GW of installed capacity, India’s power system is among the largest in the world. Yet per capita electricity consumption is less than one-third of the global average. An estimated 300 million people are not connected to the national electrical grid. With a rapidly growing economy, the need for reliable power is only going to grow. This project will facilitate increase in electricity generated in solar parks and add to India’s clean power generation capacity.
“India’s goal of scaling up the provision of clean energy will require a vibrant market for solar investments,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. “The challenge for this project is to go beyond investments; it is to deepen the solar market,” he added.
The release said the project is one in a series of engagements requested by the Government of India from the World Bank in the solar power sector. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is actively supporting some of these selected solar parks in Madhya Pradesh and now in Odisha.
"IFC is pleased to participate in India’s ambitious solar power agenda to address the country's energy needs. To achieve this, large-scale solar projects have to be bankable. By assisting the government in the Rewa solar project, IFC has demonstrated that robust project design, innovative de-risking and contract structuring can help attract global investors to the project. With important outcomes of open access, large-scale and grid parity, the Rewa solar project paves the way for many more large-scale solar projects in the country," said Jun Zhang, IFC India Country Head.
To achieve India’s solar energy targets by 2022, another focus area would be in building the capacity of IREDA and the project implementing agencies of those states where the solar parks are to be located. Support under the project will be provided in human resource and business planning, project monitoring, procurement and contract management, environmental and social safeguards and financial management, among others.
“Through this engagement, it is expected that the investments will boost market confidence, enable demonstration of economies of scale in large-scale grid-connected solar generation, contribute towards pushing down equipment and transaction costs, increase efficiency while reducing unit costs of solar power, and catalyze further support from other investor groups to help India achieve its ambitious target of installing 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022,” said Surbhi Goyal, Senior Energy Specialist and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project.
The $ 75 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years. The $ 23 million loan from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) has a 10-year grace period, and a maturity of 40 years. The $ 2 million is an interest-free CTF grant.

Gadkari lays foundation stone for Cochin Shipyard’s Rs 970-crore International Ship Repair Facility

Cochin Port is all set to become a global ship repair hub, according to  Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari.
The Minister, after laying the foundation stone for a Rs 970-crore International Ship Repair Facility (ISRF) for Cochin Shipyard Limited, here yesterday, said the state-of-the-art facility would be able to handle a major chunk of small and medium-sized vessels plying in India.
CSL will set up a ship lift system of size 130 m x 25 m with a lifting capacity of 6000 tonnes and six workstations. The facility can repair up to 85 vessels, and the shipyard will be almost doubling the number of ships that can be repaired every year.            
Pointing out that this facility will help boost India’s share in commercial ship repair market, Mr Gadkari said the industry will also generate about 6000 direct and indirect jobs, besides giving rise to a number of ancillary industries in the state. It would thus have a multiplier effect on employment and economy.
The Minister also inaugurated the conference Build the Ship – 2017 organized by the Ministry of Shipping. The event deliberated upon the recommendations of a study regarding the growth strategies for promotion of Shipbuilding, Ship Design, Ship Repair and Marine Ancillaries in India.
At the conference, the Minister announced the launch of a Centre of Excellence in Maritime and Shipbuilding (CEMS), a startup in skill development for maritime and shipbuilding sector. CEMS will have campuses at Vishakhapatnam and Mumbai.
It is being set up by the Ministry of Shipping in collaboration with Siemens under the flagship programme Sagarmala. CEMS will provide industry-relevant skill development, equip students with employable engineering and technical skills in the port and maritime sector and contribute to the ambitious Sagarmala programme.
It will help meet the domestic skill requirement in ship design, manufacturing, operating and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO). CEMS also aims to become an international nodal centre in South Asia, attracting students from the neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia for skill development in the Port and Maritime sector.
This initiative will add to the Make in India and Skill India efforts in the maritime sector. Mr Gadkari also unveiled the logo of CEMS at the launch event.
A joint venture between CSL & HDPEL- Hooghly Cochin Shipyard Ltd. (HCSL) has been incorporated with CSL holding 74% shares and HDPEL 26% in HCSL. A Shareholders agreement was signed between CSL and HDEPL at the conference for taking over manufacturing facilities of HDEPL in Kolkata.
Mr. Gadkari also visited Munnar, where he laid the foundation stone for rehabilitation and upgrading of NH 85 from Bodimettu to Munnar to a two-lane road with a paved shoulder. The 42 km project is estimated to cost Rs 380.76 crore.

L&T Construction to build Mumbai Trans Harbour Link; order valued at Rs. 8,650 crore

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said the Heavy Civil Infrastructure business vertical of its construction arm had bagged a major order worth Rs. 8,650 crore from Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for the construction of Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), Packages 01 & 03. 
The project involves construction of a 21.8 km bridge connecting Mumbai mainland with Navi Mumbai, a press release from the company said.
The project was won against stiff competition from renowned international and domestic companies, it said.
The package-01 of the contract involves the construction of a multi-level interchange at Sewri and a 6-lane marine bridge from Sewri to 10.38 km into the Mumbai bay, crossing over the Sewri mudflats, Pir Pau Jetty and Thane Creek channels. 
The contract, secured in partnership with IHI Corporation, Japan involves the construction of an Orthotropic Steel Deck crossing the various obligatory navigation channels which will be first of its kind in India.
The package-03, won by L&T on a standalone basis, involves the construction of a 3.6 Km, 6-lane land bridge at Navi Mumbai connecting National Highway-4B and State Highway-54 apart from the construction of Interchanges, Rail Over Bridges and Toll Plazas.
The proposed Mumbai Trans Harbour Link will serve as an economic gateway to Navi Mumbai connecting to Nhava Sheva Port, the Mumbai Pune Expressway and the Mumbai Goa Highway.
“Being a city with a very large population, Mumbai requires a number of important infrastructure to meet its ever-increasing needs and we are delighted to have bagged this very crucial mandate that will significantly improve connectivity in and around Mumbai,” said Mr. S. N. Subrahmanyan, CEO and MD, Larsen & Toubro. 
“We are grateful to MMRDA to have reposed their trust in us and we are confident of executing and delivering this landmark project to quality and in time,” he added.

ICMR signs MoU with FICCI for commercialization of technologies for affordable healthcare solutions

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for the Health Technology Accelerated Commercialization (H:TAC) Program. 
H:TAC will be implemented in partnership with the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Under the program, FICCI and IC2 Institute will commercialize technologies developed by ICMR labs for the benefit of communities at large.
The program will leverage the expertise and technical knowledge of ICMR scientists who have developed much needed affordable healthcare technologies. The program will ensure market access for the already developed technologies of ICMR labs and it would accelerate the availability of advanced diagnosis, treatment, prevention and healthcare delivery, benefitting the health and welfare of every Indian citizen.
H:TAC will also build capacities for ICMR scientists by providing them training on technology commercialization strategies and giving them an exposure on global best practices on innovation and commercialization. The program will take innovations from ICMR labs to not only Indian markets but global markets by providing handholding and business development support to ICMR scientists.
The MOU was signed in the presence of Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Secretary General, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry; Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, DHR & Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research; Dr. Sanjay Madhav Mehendale, Additional Director General ICMR; Ms. Ritu Dhillon IAAS, Sr. Financial Advisor ICMR; Dr. Chandershekhar, Scientist G & Head- Innovation & Translational Research, Intellectual Property Rights, ICMR and other eminent experts of ICMR.

Govt. extends timeframe for display of revised MRP due to GST rates reduction up to December 31, 2017

Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan has announced an extension of the three-month timeframe for manufacturers, packers and importers of pre-packaged commodities to declare the revised retail sale price (MRP) in addition to the existing retail sale price up to December 31, 2017.
On account of implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) from July 1 this year, the Government had earlier given a timeframe of three months up to September 30. Declaration of the changed retail sale price (MRP) was allowed to be made by way of stamping or putting a sticker or online printing, as the case may be.
Use of unexhausted packaging material/wrapper was also been allowed till that date after making the necessary corrections.
As the Government has reduced the rates of GST on certain specified items, Mr Paswan has granted permission under sub-rule (3) of rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, to affix an additional sticker or stamping or online printing for declaring the reduced MRP on the pre-packaged commodity. In this case also, the earlier Labelling/ Sticker of MRP will continue to be visible.
This relaxation will also be applicable in the case of unsold stocks manufactured/ packed/ imported after July 1 where the MRP would come down due to the reduction in the rate of GST.

India’s forex reserves rise by $ 554.2 million to $ 399.293 billion

Reversing a three-week downtrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 554.2 million to $ 399.293 billion during the week ended November 10, the Reserve Bank of India said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had dipped by $ 22.2 million to $ 398.739 billion during the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had risen by $ 555.8 million to $ 374.876 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 remained unchanged at $ 20.667 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) fell by $ 1.8 million to $ 1.489 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rose by $ 0.2 million to $ 2.261 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

Govt. welcomes Moody's upgrade of India's sovereign credit rating

Those who doubted India's economic reforms should introspect: FM
The Government today welcomed the upgrade of India's local and foreign currency issuer ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 and the change of the outlook on the rating to stable from positive by international credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service.
India’s rating has been upgraded after a period of 13 years. India’s sovereign credit rating was last upgraded in January 2004 to Baa3 (from Ba1).
"Government of India welcomes the upgrade and believes, as rightly noted by the Moody’s that this is in recognition of major economic and institutional reforms undertaken by Government of India," a statement from the Ministry of Finance said.
"These reforms include introduction of path breaking Goods and Services Tax (GST); putting in place a sound monetary policy framework; measures taken to address recapitalisation of public sector banks and a number of measures taken to bring formalisation and digitalisation (The JAM agenda) in the economy - demonetization, the Aadhaar system of biometric accounts and targeted delivery of benefits through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system.
"Moody’s have also rightly recognized the Government’s commitment to macro stability which has led to low inflation, declining deficit and prudent external balance and Government’s fiscal consolidation programme which has resulted in a reduction of fiscal deficits from 4.5% of GDP in 2013-14 to 3.5% in 2016-17 and its consequential sobering impact on general government debt. Government intends to stay the course on fiscal consolidation in the medium term," the statement added.

Modi reviews performance of key infrastructure sectors

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reviewed progress of key infrastructure sectors including the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), housing, coal and power. 
The meeting, which lasted for about two and a half hours, was attended by top officials from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), NITI Aayog and infrastructure Ministries of the Government of India, an official press release said.
In course of the presentation made by CEO NITI Aayog, it was noted that remarkable progress has been made in several areas. 
Under PMGSY, 81 per cent of the targeted habitations numbering about 1.45 lakh have so far been connected, the meeting was told. 
Officials said progress was being made towards connecting all the remaining unconnected habitations within a defined timeframe. 
The Prime Minister observed that resources available for this work should be used optimally throughout the year. He also hoped that the advancement of the Union Budget date would lead to further improvement in performance. 
He was informed of the expeditious resolution of complaints received on the Meri Sadak App. He called for detailed analysis of the complaints, so that timely remedial measures are initiated wherever required. 
Reviewing progress towards the roadmap to deliver one crore houses in the rural areas by 2019, the Prime Minister said that the positive impact of housing on the lives of the beneficiaries should be suitably examined, and the focus should be on improving their quality of life. 
Reviewing the coal sector, the Prime Minister called for renewed efforts towards underground mining and coal gasification, through infusion of latest technology inputs. 
He was also informed about progressing towards the targets for rural electrification and household electrification, the release added.

Global crude oil price of Indian basket rises to $ 60.57/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, rose to $ 60.57 per barrel (bbl) yesterday from $ 60.36 per bbl on the previous day.
An official press release said that, in rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket increased to Rs. 3954.83 per bbl on 16.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 3945.36 per bbl on 15.11.2017. 
The rupee closed stronger at Rs. 65.30 per US$ on 16.11.2017 as compared to 65.37 per US$ on 15.11.2017, it added.

TCS announces Internet of Things digital transformation partnership with Rolls-Royce

TCS, Rolls-Royce announce tie-up
IT services major Tata Consultancy Services and Rolls Royce, the market leader in high performance power systems, have announced the expansion of their long-standing partnership in order to exploit future data innovation opportunities.
The partnership will help Rolls-Royce accelerate its ‘Digital First’ vision, deliver further value to customers, improve existing services, accelerate development and deployment times and create new areas of growth, a press release from TCS said here on Wednesday.
This digital transformation for Rolls-Royce will be supported by TCS’ Connected Universe Platform, a platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering that accelerates the development and deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) applications. As part of this agreement, TCS will provide IoT digital platform capability, allowing data to be captured, shared and analysed more quickly across Rolls-Royce so that new products and services can be developed at pace. This will enable Rolls-Royce to use data to innovate within all of its businesses and collaborate more effectively with partners and customers, the release said.
Mr. Rajesh Gopinathan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tata Consultancy Services said: “TCS is honoured to be part of this continuing Digital Transformation journey for Rolls-Royce. TCS’ Connected Universe Platform with its Services and Solutions offer a wealth of functionalities that will allow Rolls-Royce to more easily develop, deploy, and launch products and services to the market quickly. Organisations are increasingly building upon a digital foundation to transform their businesses, and TCS is actively guiding our customers to become increasingly more Intelligent, Automated and Agile. TCS continues to be the global technology partner of choice for navigating and taking advantage of the opportunities in the new Business 4.0 era.”
Mr. Neil Crockett, Chief Digital Officer at Rolls-Royce, added: “This is an example of how we intend to unleash data innovation through collaboration. TCS is an outstanding partner with excellent experience in delivering a flexible and agile platform capability across many different markets. We expect to be able to realise both short-term and long-term benefits through collaboration with partners and customers on the TCS IoT Platform. It will allow us to take advantage of fast-paced data innovation – including accelerating our application of industrial artificial intelligence and a range of other cutting edge breakthrough opportunities.”
In addition, TCS and Rolls-Royce will build on their long-standing collaborative partnership by launching a world-class analytics and agile applications capability hub in Bangalore. TCS has also recently opened a new customer delivery centre in Derby, UK dedicated to servicing Rolls-Royce, and also will be supporting from its Global Delivery Centres Rolls-Royce sites across the UK, Germany, Nordics, Canada, Singapore and India, the release added.

Cabinet okays deputation of Group ‘A’ officers with Telecom, IT background to TCIL

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for deputation of Group ‘A’ officers of the Department .of Telecommunications (DoT) and other  Ministries, with telecommunication and information technology background, to the public sector Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL).
The decision allows TCIL to fill up such number of posts by deputation of Group 'A' officers of DoT and other Ministries for the intervening period i.e. from 01.10.2016 till the approval of this proposal (earlier Cabinet approval was valid up to 30.09.2016) and for a further period of three years from the date of approval, as per DPE guidelines subject to maximum of 10% of the total number of below Board level posts, in Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) with exemption from the rule of immediate absorption.
It also provides that, in future, the issue of exemption of below Board Level Posts in TCIL may be dealt in terms of DPE OM No. 18(6)/2001-GM-GL-77 dated 28.12.2005 so that such proposal is not required to be brought before the Cabinet, an official press release said.

Cabinet approves resolution for adoption of recommendations of the Railway Convention Committee

The Union Cabinet today  approved a proposal of the Ministry of Railways to move a resolution in both Houses of Parliament adopting the recommendations of the Railway Convention Committee (2014), as contained in its Sixth Report on "Rate of Dividend payable by the Railways to the General Revenues for the year 2016-17 and other ancillary matters".
The committee had recommended that, for the year 2016-17, purely as a one-time move, the rate of dividend payable by Railways to the General Revenues be waived off, an official press release said.

Cabinet okays increase in carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy

The Union Cabinet today approved an increase in the carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy under the Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) for the Middle Income Group (MIG) under Pradhan Mantri AwasYojana (Urban).
An official press release said that, to enhance the scope, coverage and outreach of the scheme, the Cabinet has approved increasing the carpet area in the MIG I category of CLSS from the existing 90 square metres to "up to 120 square metres" and increasing the carpet area in respect of MIG II category of CLSS from the existing 110 square metres to "up to 150 square metres".
This change has been made effective from 01.01.2017, the date the CLSS for MIG had become effective, the release said.
"The CLSS for MIG is a pro-active step in meeting the challenges of urban housing shortage. It also is a pioneering step to enable the Middle Income Group to access the benefits of an interest subsidy scheme," it said.
The CLSS for MIG covers two income segments in the MIG -- Rs.6,00,001 to Rs.12,00,000 (MIG-I) and Rs.12,00,001 to Rs.18,00,000 (MIG-II) per annum. In the MIG-1, an interest subsidy of 4% has been provided for loan amounts up to Rs.9 lakh while in MIG-2, an interest subsidy of 3% has been provided for loan amount of Rs.12 lakh. 
The interest subsidy will be calculated at 9% NPV over a maximum loan tenure of 20 years or the actual tenure, whichever is lesser.  Housing loans above Rs. 9 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh will be at non-subsidized rates. The CLSS for MIG is currently effective up to 31.03.2019.
"The limit of 120 sq m. and 150 sq m. is seen as a reasonable enhancement and would cater to the market generally scouted by the MIG belonging to the two income categories specified in the scheme. The increase in carpet area will enable the Ml category of individuals to have a wider choice in developers' projects. The increased carpet area will also give a boost to the sale of ready built flats in the affordable housing segment," the release said.

Cabinet approves establishment of National Anti-profiteering Authority under GST

The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for the creation of the posts of Chairman and Technical Members of the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) under the Goods and Service Tax (GST), a day after the cut in tax rates for a large number of items of mass consumption came into effect yesterday.
The decision paves the way  for the immediate establishment of this apex body, which is mandated to ensure that the benefits of the reduction in GST rates on goods or services are passed on to the ultimate consumers by way of a reduction in prices. 
The establishment of the NAA, to be headed by a senior officer of the level of Secretary to the Government of India with four Technical Members from the Centre and/or the States, is aimed at reassuring consumers that Government is fully committed to take all possible steps to ensure the benefits of implementation of GST in terms of lower prices of the goods and services reach them.
At its meeting in Guwahati, the GST Council had, with effect from November 15, slashed the GST rate from 28% to 18% on goods falling under 178 headings. There are now only 50 items which attract the GST rate of 28%. Likewise, a large number of items have witnessed a reduction in GST rates from 18% to 12% and so on and some goods have been completely exempt from GST. 
The "anti-profiteering" measures enshrined in the GST law provide an institutional mechanism to ensure that the full benefits of input tax credits and reduced GST rates on supply of goods or services flow to the consumers. This institutional framework comprises the NAA, a Standing Committee, Screening Committees in every State and the Directorate General of Safeguards in the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC). 
Affected consumers who feel the benefit of commensurate reduction in prices is not being passed on when they purchase any goods or services may apply for relief to the Screening Committee in the particular State. However, in case the incident of profiteering relates to an item of mass impact with 'All India' ramification, the application may be directly made to the Standing Committee. After forming a prima facie view that there is an element of profiteering, the Standing Committee shall refer the matter for detailed investigation to the Director General of Safeguards, CBEC, which shall report its findings to the NAA. 
In the event the NAA confirms there is a necessity to apply anti-profiteering measures, it has the authority to order the supplier / business concerned to reduce its prices or return the undue benefit availed by it along with interest to the recipient of the goods or services. If the undue benefit cannot be passed on to the recipient, it can be ordered to be deposited in the Consumer Welfare Fund. In extreme cases, the NAA can impose a penalty on the defaulting business entity and even order the cancellation of its registration under GST. 
"The constitution of the NAA shall bolster confidence of consumers as they reap the benefits of the recent reduction in GST rates, in particular, and of GST, in general," an official press release said.

Global crude oil price of Indian basket falls to $ 60.36/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 $ 60.36 per barrel (bbl) yesterday from $ 61.17 per bbl on the previous day.
An official press release said that, in rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket decreased to Rs 3945.36 per bbl on 15.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 4007.56 per bbl on 14.11.2017. 
The rupee closed stronger at Rs. 65.37 per US$ on 15.11.2017 as compared to 65.52 per US$ on 14.11.2017, the release added.

Paytm, ICICI Bank tie up to offer short term instant digital credit

Payments platform Paytm and India's largest private sector bank by consolidated assets ICICI Bank have tied up a partnership to jointly launch ‘Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid’ to enable customers to access interest-free short-term digital credit.
"This new offering will enable millions of Paytm customers to get access to instant credit for the first time for everyday use-cases ranging from movies to bill payments to flights to physical goods," a press release from ICICI Bank said here today.
According to it, this is the country’s first tie-up between a scheduled commercial bank and a payments platform to offer digital credit to customers of the commerce platform instantly.
Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid is a digital credit account with instant activation: with no hassles of documentation or branch visit, while activation is fully online. There is no transaction, joining or hidden administration fees either, it said.
"Available 24x7 and on all days, it is based on a new Big Data based algorithm by ICICI Bank for real-time credit assessment of customers. The algorithm uses an intelligent combination of financial and digital behaviour of the customer including credit bureau check, purchase patterns, frequency of purchase to ascertain the credit – worthiness of a customer within a few seconds. Based on the credit-score of the customer, the bank offers upto 45 days interest-free credit limit. It ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000, extendable upto Rs 20,000 based on the repayment history. Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid will also offer a quick checkout to customers with the Paytm Passcode," the release said.
As a start, Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid will offer the credit limit to select customers of the bank using the Paytm app. It will shortly be available to non-ICICI Bank customers using the Paytm app. 
Once the credit limit is set up for a customer, a consolidated bill is generated on the first day of the next month, which has to be paid by the 15th day of the same month. Customers can use their Paytm Wallet, debit card or internet banking of any bank for repayment of their dues, the release said.
Mr. Anup Bagchi, Executive Director, ICICI Bank said, “ICICI Bank revolutionised the consumer loan business in the country. We provide a host of personal loans and credit cards to millions of customers. We are now witnessing two distinct new trends: One, many customers—who are new-to-credit and therefore, do not have a credit history-- are looking for short term credit.  Two, millions of young Indians are now buying products online. We have combined these two insights to bring out a novel proposition of giving short term credit to people, completely online and instantly. In this endeavour, we have leveraged upon Big Data to develop a new algorithm that instantly assesses the credit worthiness of customers using a combination of financial and digital parameters to sanction the credit line instantly. We are delighted to launch Paytm-ICICI Bank Postpaid, our first offering in this space in association with Paytm.”
Mr. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder & CEO - Paytm said, “It’s common for us to ask a trusted friend for money for frequent expenses and promise to pay later. These exchanges are based on trust that you will pay back as soon as you have access to money. We believe our customers are sincere with their payments and Paytm Postpaid will play a major role in helping them pay for their daily expenses on time. This will democratize access to credit including those with less disposable income. We are happy to launch credit in a digital way to the masses in the form of Paytm Postpaid with ICICI Bank as our first partner.”

India traditional PC market grows 20.5% y-o-y in in Q3 of 2017

The overall India traditional personal computer (PC) shipments  grew by 20.5% year-on-year (YoY) to 3.03 million units during the third quarter (Q3) of 2017, due to strong consumer demand and special projects, according to IDC's latest Quarterly Personal Computing Devices Tracker November 2017.
The shipments grew by 72.3% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ). Een after excluding large education projects of over 10,000 units, the market still grew 10.9% y-o-y, a press release from IDC said.
The release said the consumer PC market was 1.51 million units in Q3 2017, which is 9.5% higher compared to the same period last year and a growth of 85.4% QoQ. 
"Seasonality and online festive sales drove positive consumer spending throughout the quarter despite declining consumer sentiment on the back of low employment opportunities, income and price levels," said Manish Yadav, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India.
The commercial PC market registered 1.52 million units in Q3 2017. Large education projects improved the commercial PC market share from 45.2% a year ago to 50.2% in Q3 2017. 
"Special education projects in states like Tamil Nadu, Assam, etc. along with pumped-up demand from SMBs after the implementation of the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) has led to growth in Q3," Yadav said.
HP Inc. maintained its leadership position in the overall India traditional PC market with 31.1% share in Q3 2017. HP recorded a healthy 30.2%  growth YOY due to a state-owned education project along with strong consumer demand. HP offered partner-focused, consultative training to address SMBs with new GST-ready solutions which was coupled with invoicing software by KPMG.
Lenovo took the second spot, with a 24.1% market share in the overall India traditional PC market in Q3 2017. The consumer PC business grew at an encouraging 30.9% YOY, with a focus on expanding online and modern retail channels. Excluding special projects, the company grew by 5.4% year on year, aided by GST-ready machines along with increased and spill over spending from enterprises across verticals.
Dell slipped to third position with 20.0% market share in the overall India traditional PC market in Q3 2017. The company saw a growth of 226.3% quarter on quarter in overall consumer segment as it rebounded from stock unavailability during the latter half of Q2 2017. But this was still a YOY decline of 2.6% in Q3 2017. Commercial volumes declined YOY by 3.5% despite spending from its key enterprise accounts along with a large number of back to back orders spilled over from the previous quarter.
"IDC expects the overall India PC market in Q4 to decline due to seasonality and reduced consumer demand after the high consumer spending in Q3. However, going forward, the excitement around gaming PCs and price drops after GST will remain important factors for the consumer segment," said Navkendar Singh, Associate Research Director, IDC India. 
"Additionally, a few major deals in the commercial segment, backed by education projects across different states and spending from BFSI and IT/ITeS verticals, will aid the increasing contribution of the commercial segment," he said.

Infosys partners with Udacity to offer self-driving car engineer nanodegree program

IT services major Infosys today said it had entered into a partnership with global online learning company Udacity to train Infosys employees in its Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program.
The program, known as Udacity Connect, a combined in-person and online training offering, will give Infosys employees the skills needed as the company continues to focus on autonomous technology across a range of industries, including automotive, manufacturing and mining, a press release from Infosys said.
The 20-week curriculum will train Infosys employees on engineering technologies for self-driving vehicles, including advanced courses in deep learning and machine learning. Program participants will also engage in six-week apprenticeships working on solutions for Infosys clients’ most-pressing challenges. The apprenticeships will help quickly scale participants’ skills and translate into practical new industry solutions, the release said.
According to it, the goal of the program is to train 500 engineers by the end of 2018. In addition, Infosys will hold a hackathon/competition in November that is designed to identify the brightest of Infosys’ global talent to select the first 100 participants for the program.
“Infosys is committed to re-skilling and training its employees in groundbreaking technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous technologies,” said Ravi Kumar S., President and Deputy COO, Infosys. “We are proud to expand our partnership with Udacity with the launch of the in-person and online Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program as we accelerate the pace of skill adoption and ensure our clients continue to be at the forefront of innovation.”
“Udacity is focused on lifelong learning for all people at any stage in life. We are excited to expand our partnership with Infosys in providing their employees with the skills necessary to thrive in the fast-growing autonomous vehicle space,” said Vish Makhijani, CEO of Udacity.
"Infosys is investing in developing deep expertise in autonomous technology that will allow our clients to embrace these technologies at scale in their own contextualized environment," the release added.
Udacity's nanodegree program, a credential that consists of a series of online courses and projects in key areas such as self-driving car, AI, robotics, machine learning, data science and web/mobile development, is recognized by top employers such as Google, AT&T, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nvidia, Facebook and others.

Naidu calls for homegrown food security strategy

Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu today called for evolving India's own homegrown food security strategy to meet the needs of the country’s increasing population.
Inaugurating AP AgTech Summit 2017 here, Mr Naidu said increased production and efficient distribution of food grains could move the country forward to achieve the goal of zero hunger and adequate nutrition for all.
“Ours is a country with a vast agro-ecological diversity and where 64%  of the total workforce in the rural areas is engaged in agriculture and contributes 39% of the total rural net domestic product.
“Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Agriculture, along with fisheries and forestry contributes around 17% of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2016-17 at 2011-12 prices,” he said.
“The last 70 years after independence have been years of significant growth. The country’s food grain production increased by 8.7% and reached a record high of 273.83 million tonnes in 2016-17,” he added.
Mr Naidu said the Food and Agriculture Organization has acknowledged that India is the world's largest producer of milk, pulses and jute, and ranks as the second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruit and cotton.
From 50 million tonnes in 1950, India's food grain production rose more than five times, to over 257 million tons in 2014-15. India is the world's largest milk producer, producing over 130 million tonnes annually. The dairy sector is also one of the largest employers of rural people, especially women. With an annual production of over 10 million tonnes, India ranks second in global fish production and aquaculture, next only to China.
“Yet, we have formidable challenges confronting us. We have set for ourselves a very ambitious target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. According to one estimate, if we have to achieve this, the progress in various sources of growth has to be accelerated by 33%.
“Clearly, business as usual will not do. We have to innovate. We have to work with farmers to infuse knowledge and technology.  We must use technology to enhance productivity and see that the economic benefits of increased production reach all the farmers. Combine Agricultural Technology with Information Technology to improve Agricultural Sector. The workforce in agriculture sector is declining at the rate of approximately 2 percent every year. There is a general perception that agriculture is not a good economic proposition. This perception and trend must be reversed,” Mr Naidu said.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Minister for Agriculture, Horticulture, Sericulture and Agri-Processing, Andhra Pradesh, Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy, Minister for Human Resources Development, Ganta Srinivasa Rao, Minister for Endowments Pydikondala Manikyala Rao were present on the occasion.
The AP AgTech Summit 2017 provides an opportunity for global leaders, start-up founders and technology experts to discuss innovative ideas for agricultural transformation in Andhra Pradesh as well as in the rest of India, he added.
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