Business & Economy

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.

‘Hunar Haat’ inaugurated at IITF 2017 in Delhi

“Hunar Haat”, where exquisite pieces of handicraft and handloom prepared by inmates of Tihar Jail and master artisans from across the country are displayed, was inaugurated at the India International Trade Fair (IITF 2017) at Pragati Maidan here today.
Inaugurating the ‘Haat’, Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was an impressive gathering of master artisans and craftsmen from “Tihar to Tripura, Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Karnataka to Kolkata”.
The Ministry has organised the Haat under “USTTAD” scheme in different parts of the country. It has become a successful mission to provide employment and employment opportunities and national as well international markets for thousands of master artisans, craftsmen and culinary experts.
The Minister said while on the one hand “Hunar Haats” have provided a platform to master artisans and craftsmen to display their rich heritage and skill, on the other, such exhibitions are providing domestic and international markets to these artisans and craftsmen.
This time, the “Hunar Haat” is being held at Hall Number-7G & 7H of Pragati Maidan, where about 130 artisans from 20 States and Union Territories are participating, including 30 women artisans. 
Mr. Naqvi said this was for the first time products made by inmates of Delhi’s Tihar Jail are also being made available. These products include handmade furniture, handlooms, handicrafts, bakery items, organic oil, spices and grain.
The artisans have brought with them very exquisite pieces of handicraft and handloom work like cane, bamboo and jute products of Assam; Tussar, Geeja, Matka Silk of Bhagalpur; traditional jewellery, lac bangles & jewellery from Rajasthan and Telangana; and Kantha products of West Bengal.
There are also  brocades of Varanasi; Lucknawi Chikan work, zari zardozi from U.P; Khurja ceramic products; clay items, blackstone pottery, dry flowers and traditional handicrafts of North-East; shawls, carpets & papier-mache of Kashmir; Ajrakh print, Mutva, Kutch embroidery & Bandhej of Gujarat; Batik/Bagh/Maheshwari of Madhya Pradesh; Aplique & Ajrakh of Barmer; leather products, brassware of Moradabad; Kalamkari of Telangana; to name a few. 
New products include baskets made from natural grass by artisans from Puducherry and UP; Gota patti work from Rajasthan, mural paintings & Bandhej from Gujarat.
Mr Naqvi said the Ministry had earlier organised “Hunar Haat” at Puducherry and Baba Khadak Singh Marg in Delhi this year and at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan last year. “It will be held in Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bhopal and other places in coming days.
“Besides, we are working to establish Hunar Hub in all states of the country where artisans will be provided training as per present requirement,” he added.

Asia Pacific CERT discusses building trust in digital economy

Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today inaugurated the first Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) Open Conference in India and the first in South Asia.
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) received the host country award from the APCERT, handed over by Japan CERT (JPCERT). CERTs from 22 digital Asia Pacific economies participated along with representatives from the USA, Europe, industry, academia, Government and media totalling more than 350 to discuss response mechanisms in the complex and evolving threat landscape for building trust in the digital economy.
On the occasion, the Minister made three significant announcements. He said under the government’s programme of supporting PhD scholars in digital technologies, the government will offer scholarships in cybersecurity to candidates from Asia Pacific, who do their PhD in any of the 100 leading universities of India, including IITs, IISc and other universities. He invited research scholars to explore the research possibilities in India.
Mr Prasad said innovation in cybersecurity was a big focus of the Government. There are more than 100 cybersecurity product companies in India and it was proposed that in furtherance of the Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India), preference will be given by all procuring entities in the government to domestically manufactured or produced Cyber Security Products.
He also said that the Ministry was in the process of working with Data Security Council of India to conduct Challenge Grant for cybersecurity as a means to encourage budding start-ups to develop innovative technologies.
India was selected to be part of the steering committee of APCERT along with six (Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan) other countries to shape the agenda for the next two years across the region.
The cybersecurity professionals had an opportunity to attend a highly content rich technical conference and interact with the Asia Pacific incident response leaders in cybersecurity. The international community got to see the skills and depth of some of the cybersecurity start-ups from India, an official press release said.
The spectrum of topics covered included setting up sectoral CSIRTS, Nation State exploits, vulnerabilities of the blockchain, secure communication in the industrial internet, cybercrime in financial technology ecosystem, building a sharing economy, machine learning, malicious behaviour in encrypted traffic, mobile security and artificial intelligence.

Govt. advances introduction of BS -VI grade auto fuels in Delhi to April 2018

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has decided to advance by two years the date for introduction of BS-VI grade auto fuels in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi to April 1, 2108 instead of April 1, 2020 as originally planned to combat high levels of air pollution in the region.

Delhi to get BS-VI grade fuel by April next year: Pradhan
The Ministry of Petroleum and  Natural Gas has decided to advance by two years the date for introduction of BS-VI grade auto fuels in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi to April 1, 2108 instead of April 1, 2020 as originally planned.
This has been done in view of the serious pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas, an official press release said.
The release said the decision had been taken in consultation with the state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs), which have also been asked to examine the possibility of introduction of BS-VI auto fuels in the whole of the National Capital Region with effect from April 1, 2019.
According to the release, the Government of India has been making concerted efforts, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment at COP 21, to reduce vehicular emissions and improve fuel efficiency with an aim to reduce the carbon footprints and keep a healthy environment. India has followed the regulatory pathway for fuel quality and vehicle emissions standards termed as Bharat Stage (BS), it said.
The Ministry said it had successfully introduced BS-IV grade transportation fuels across the country with effect from April 1, 2017. 
"With the launch of BS-IV grade fuel, a new era of clean transportation fuels has begun which will benefit all citizens of our country by substantially reducing pollution levels. Migration to BS-IV grade fuels shows India’s resolve to cut down emissions," it said.
"As a next step in this direction, Government in consultation with stakeholders has decided to meet international best practices by leapfrogging directly from BS-IV to BS-VI grade by 1st April, 2020, skipping BS-V altogether. Oil refining companies are making huge investments in fuel upgradation projects to produce the BS-VI grade fuels," the release said.
The measure is expected to help mitigate the problem of air pollution in NCT of Delhi and surrounding areas, the release added.

Govt. launches Bharat-22 ETF, targeting an initial amount of Rs. 8000 crore

The Government of India yesterday launched the Bharat-22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) managed by ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund targeting an initial amount of about Rs.8,000 crore.
The  new fund offer, which is open till November 17, is expected to benefit long term and retail investors by providing them an opportunity to participate in equity stocks of Government-run companies and earn stable returns. 
The units of the scheme will be allotted 25% to each category of investors. In this ETF, the Retirement Fund has been made a separate category. In case of spillover, additional portion will be allocated giving preference to retail and retirement funds. There is a 3% discount across the board. 
An official press release said the strength of the ETF lies in the specially created index, the S&P BSE Bharat-22 Index. This index is a blend of shares of key Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and also Government-owned shares in blue chip private companies like Larsen & Tubro (L&T), Axis Bank and ITC. 
The shares of the Government companies represent six core sectors of the economy - Finance, Industry, Energy, Utilities, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Basic Materials. 
"This combination makes the index broad-based and diversified. The sector and stock exposure limits help in risk management and reduction of concentration, providing stability to the Index. The strength of the index has been demonstrated in its performance from the time of its launch in August 2017 wherein it has outperformed the NIFTY-50 and Sensex," the release said.
The index constituents include leading "Maharatanas" and "Navratanas" such as Coal India, GAIL, Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (PGCIL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Bharat Petroleum, and National Aluminum Company (NALCO), three PSBs, including State Bank of India and Bank of Baroda, apart from the three private sector companies mentioned earlier.
"Through this instrument, the Government of India is divesting multiple stocks spread across various sectors in one bundled instrument thereby reducing overhang on individual stocks and maximizing sale proceed for the Government. This is expected to benefit long term and retail investors by providing an opportunity of participation in equity stocks of the Government run companies and earn stable returns," the release added.

Jaitley on two-day visit to Singapore for bilateral talks, meetings with investors

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is on a two-day visit to Singapore from today during which he will visit the Singapore Expo and deliver the keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Festival, a global event attracting more than 10,000 participants.
Mr. Jaitley is accompanied on the trip by Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance.  
The visit will reinforce close ties between India and Singapore, building upon their shared history, rooted in strong commercial, culture and people-to-people links, an official press release said.
The release said the Minister would pay a visit to the India Pavilion at the Singapore Expo, which showcases India's achievements in advancing financial technology, both within and outside the Government.  
Tomorrow, Mr. Jaitley will deliver the keynote address at Morgan Stanley's 16th Annual Asia Pacific Summit on the topic of “India: Structural Reforms and Growth Path Ahead".  
As part of the summit, he will meet the senior management of Morgan Stanley, and also address a gathering of Senior Fund Managers and key Financial Institutional Investors. 
During the visit, Mr. Jaitley will meet the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, to discuss bilateral issues. He will also discuss investment and other issues with his Singapore counterpart Heng Swee Keat.  He is also scheduled to meet Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
An Investors’ Roundtable has been organised by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Indian High Commission in Singapore to showcase to foreign investors the slew of investor friendly reforms undertaken by the Government of India and also to understand their ideas and suggestions about ramping up investments in India.  
The roundtable will be co-chaired by Mr. Garg and Ms. Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of Singapore. Mr. Jaitley will also address the investors in the beginning. The participants in the Investors’ Roundtable include senior executives of leading institutional investors and business houses in Singapore, who control significant investments globally and have either existing investments in India, or are contemplating such investments in the country in the near future. 
Mr. Jaitley will also have meetings with CEOs of GIC, the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) of the Government of Singapore, the Chairman of Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), CEO of Singapore Airlines, Chairman of Blackstone Asia Pacific and CEO of Singapore Stock Exchange, among others. He will also interact with the Chairman and Board of Directors of Temasek, a leading investment company, headquartered in Singapore. 

Global crude oil price of Indian basket falls to $ 61.17/bbl

The international crude oil price of the Indian basket, as computed and published today by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, fell to $ 61.17 per barrel (bbl) yesterday from $ 62.01 per bbl on the previous day.
An official press release said that, in rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket decreased to Rs 4007.56 per bbl on 14.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 4056.90 per bbl on 13.11.2017. 
The rupee closed stronger at Rs. 65.52 per US$ on 14.11.2017 as compared to 65.43 per US$ on 13.11.2017, it added.

Tata Motors joins hands with EESL for energy saving measures

Automobile manufacturers Tata Motors Limited has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Energy Efficiencies Services Limited (EESL) to achieve energy saving and resource conservation by implementing various energy efficiency initiatives across the company’s manufacturing facilities in India.
The energy efficiency programme will be implemented in Tata Motors’ manufacturing plants located at Pantnagar (Uttarakhand), Lucknow & Pune in the first phase, and will be later extended to other facilities, a press release from the company said.
EESL will undertake the complete upfront investment for the energy efficiency programme, with zero investment from Tata Motors. The overall implementation period for the programme will be two years, it said.
Mr Saurabh Kumar, MD, EESL, said, “Indian businesses are increasingly adopting energy efficiency measures and are significantly contributing to the efforts of the Government. This MoU is big step towards companies proactively adopting such simple yet effective measures. We are proud to partner with Tata Motors and enable them to become efficient in their energy use across facilities. I am sure we will see more and more industries come forward the similar manner to be benefited by higher efficiency in their facilities and at the same time contribute to the country’s journey towards being a low carbon economy. .
Mr. Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors Ltd. said, “Tata Motors has always been at the forefront of energy conservation initiatives. By executing innovative and sustainable solutions such as re-cycling of treated effluents, hazardous waste management and rainwater harvesting, Tata Motors has optimized its operations and ensured optimum resource utilization. Collaborating with EESL is a step further in this direction. By implementing energy efficient solutions, we are accelerating our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint in the form of lower greenhouse gas emissions, towards a cleaner future.”
The MoU covers such areas as diagnostic studies & pilot projects; energy audits for selected plant facilities to identify avenues for energy saving in electrical and thermal utilities; water audits to identify areas/means to reduce specific water consumption; pilot studies on cross-cutting technologies like tri-generation or VAM system for existing chiller based AC installation; waste heat recovery system; and fuel switching: electrical to gas and conventional to non-conventional.
Other highlights include implementation of energy efficiency projects through innovative financial models; installation/distribution of LED lights and energy efficient appliances (fans and/or air-conditioners) across the facilities of TML, and supply-chain entities; installation of energy efficient motors (IE3 type) in place of conventional motors; and installation of smart meters.

Package 1 of Delhi-Meerut Expressway project to be completed by year-end

Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari today reiterated the Government’s commitment for speedy completion of highway projects in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) to decongest the region and cut down vehicular pollution levels by nearly 50%.
The Minister conducted an on-the-spot inspection of one such project, the Delhi–Meerut Expressway project and briefed mediapersons near the Akshardham temple on NH 24.
He said the first package of the Delhi–Meerut Expressway project stretching from Akshardham Temple to Delhi-UP border will be ready by December this year.  The 9-km, 14-lane highway is being completed in a record time of 14 months as against the earlier expected construction period of 30 months.
This is also the first national highway in the country with 14 lanes, and has several features that would help reduce pollution. These include a 2.5 metre wide cycle track on either side of the highway, a vertical garden on the Yamuna Bridge, solar lighting system and watering of plants through drip irrigation only.
Mr Gadkari said this highway will be developed further up to Lucknow and will be a lifeline for the people of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It will also reduce traffic congestion on the Delhi – Meerut route, which in turn will lower the pollution levels in the region.
The work on the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways around Delhi was also going on at full speed and the former is likely to be ready before January 26 next year.  Once the NH-24 and the two peripheral expressways are ready, vehicles destined for neighbouring states will be able to bypass Delhi and this will reduce pollution by 50%.
The Minister said projects worth Rs 40,000 crore are being undertaken to decongest Delhi. These include plans for Dhaula Kuan stretch, Dwarka Expressway and a Ring Road for Delhi the cost for which will be borne jointly by the Centre and Delhi Government.
Apart from speedy construction of highways, the Ministry is also taking other steps to check pollution arising from the highways sector. These include actively promoting the use of bio-fuel driven vehicles and electric vehicles, greening of highways, covering construction sites to contain dust and promoting the use of waterways. Tenders have been issued for dredging of river Yamuna and linking Delhi and Agra through waterways.
Emphasizing that ecology, economy and development should go side by side, Mr Gadkari said these projects will pave the way for development, employment generation, cleaner atmosphere and hassle free travel for people.

GAIL reports 43% rise in PAT to Rs. 1,310 crore in Q2

Natural gas major GAIL (India) Limited today reported a 42% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in its profit after tax (PAT) in the second quarter (Q2) of financial year 2017-18, mainly due to better performance by Liquid Hydrocarbon (LHC) and NG Transmission & Marketing Segments.
 The company’s PAT for the quarter ending September 30, 2017 rose to Rs. 1,310 crore from Rs. 925 crore in the corresponding quarter of the last fiscal, a press release from GAIL said.
GAIL’s profit before tax (PBT) for the second quarter increased by 40% to Rs. 1,927 crore against Rs. 1,375 crore in the corresponding quarter of the last fiscal.
All the segments have registered positive physical growth both sequentially and on year-on-year basis, the release said.
The increase in net profit in Q2 FY 2017-18 on year-on-year basis, was supported by increase in Natural Gas Transmission and Marketing volumes by 5% each, LPG Transmission by 11%, Petrochemicals Sales by 29% and Liquid Hydrocarbon Sales by 17%.
On half yearly basis, GAIL’s PAT is Rs. 2,335 crore, signifying an increase by 32% against H1 16-17 after excluding gain from stake sale in Mahanagar Gas Limited.
GAIL’s PAT in the second quarter of FY 2017-18 rose by 28% vis-à-vis the first quarter of current financial year, from Rs. 1,026 crore to Rs. 1,310 crore largely on account of better performance in Natural Gas Transmission and Natural Gas Marketing segment. Strong performance in Natural Gas Transmission and Marketing is supported by increase in Sales volumes in these segments, the release added.

India's exports decline by 1.12% to $ 23.098 billion in October 2017

Reversing a 13-month uptrend, India's merchandise exports declined by 1.12 percent to $ 23.098 billion in October 2017 from $ 23.360 billion during the same month of the previous year, an official statement said here today, an official statement said here today.
In rupee terms, exports declined by 3.59% to Rs. 150325.95 crore in October 2017 as compared to Rs. 155926.73 crore during October 2016, it said.
The statement said that, during April-October 2017-18, the cumulative value of exports was $ 170.286 billion (Rs. 1097858.68 crore) as against $ 155.344 billion (Rs. 1039297.59 crore) in the corresponding period of the previous year, registering a positive growth of 9.62% in dollar terms and 5.63% in rupee terms.
According to it, the major commodity groups of exports which showed growth in October this year over the corresponding month of last year were Engineering Goods (11.77%), Petroleum Products (14.74%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (22.29%), Cotton Yarn/Fabs./made-ups, Handloom Products etc. (4.83%),Marine Products (8.52%) and Plastic & Linoleum (24.46%).
Non-petroleum and non-gems & jewellery exports in October 2017 were valued at $ 16.604 billion as against $ 16.202 billion in October 2016, an increase of 2.48%. Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports during April -October 2017-18 were valued at $ 124.281 bllion as compared to $ 111.556 billion for the corresponding period in 2016-17, an increase of 11.41%.
Imports during October 2017 were valued at $ 37.117 billion (Rs. 241562.31 crore) which was 7.60% higher in dollar terms and 4.91%  higher in rupee terms over the level of imports valued at $ 34.495 billion (Rs. 230246.81 crore) in October 2016. 
The cumulative value of imports for the period April-October 2017-18 was $ 256.434 billion (Rs. 1653435.01 crore) as against $ 209.835 billion (Rs. 1403911.51 crore) registering a growth of 22.21% in dollar terms and 17.77% in rupee terms over the same period last year.
Major commodity groups of import which showed high growth in October 2017 over the corresponding month of last year were Petroleum, Crude & products (27.89%), Electronic goods (7.04%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (17.43%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (66.28%) and Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (30.49%).
Oil imports during October 2017 were valued at $ 9.287 billion which was 27.89% higher than oil imports valued at $ 7.261 billion in October 2016. Oil imports during April-October, 2017-18 were valued at $ 56.252 billion which was 20.23% higher than the oil imports of $ 46.788 billion in the corresponding period last year.
The statement mentioned that global Brent prices ($/bbl) have increased by 15.87% in October 2017 vis-à-vis October 2016 as per World Bank commodity price data.
Non-oil imports during October, 2017 were estimated at $ 27.830 billion, which was 2.19% higher than non-oil imports of $ 27.235 billion in October 2016. Non-oil imports during April-October 2017-18 were valued at $ 200.182 billion which was 22.78% higher than the level of such imports valued at $ 163.046 billion in April-October 2016-17.
As regards services, exports during September 2017, the latest month for which RBI data is available, were valued at $ 13.732 billion (Rs. 88490.24 crore), registering a growth of 0.23% in dollar terms as compared to 3.97% during August 2017.
Imports of services during September 2017 were valued at $ 8.450 billion (Rs. 54452.56 crore), registering a negative growth of 2.40% in dollar terms as compared to positive growth of 18.05% during August 2017.
As far as merchandise is concerned, the trade deficit for October 2017 was estimated at $ 14.019 billion as against the deficit of $ 11.134 billion during October 2016.
As regards services, the trade balance for September 2017 was estimated at $ 5.282 billion.
Taking merchandise and services together, the overall trade deficit for April-October 2017-18 is estimated at $ 52.550 billion as compared to $ 22.132 billion during April-October 2016-17, the statement added.

Kovind inaugurates 37th India International Trade Fair-2017

President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the 37th India International Trade Fair (IITF) -2017 at Pragati Maidan here today.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kovind said the IITF is more than just a trade fair or exhibition. Commencing every year on November 14, it is a showcase of India on the global stage. It is also a symbol of the country’s ancient and enduring commitment to international trade.
“By instinct, we have been an open society – free to trade winds and cultural exchanges. We have valued a liberal, rules-based international trading order. This is part of our DNA. And this is the legacy that modern India and IITF are building on,” he said.
This year’s IITF takes place at a point when India is recognised as one of the bright spots of the global economy. The world has acknowledged the changed business environment in India and the strides made in ease of doing business.
The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been a milestone. It has broken down barriers between states. It has provided a boost to the creation of a common market and a more formal economy as well as a stronger manufacturing sector. As a result of these efforts, there has been a sharp rise in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the past three years – from $ 36 billion in 2013-14 to $ 60 billion in 2016-17, Mr Kovind said.
As many as 3,000 exhibitors, including 222 companies from abroad, are participating in IITF 2017. India’s 32 states and Union territories are represented. Institutions at the fair range from self-help groups to big business houses, and from small and medium manufacturing enterprises to digital start-ups. 
“IITF is a mini-India. It is a snapshot of the diversity and the sheer energy of this subcontinent,” Mr. Kovind said.
The President said the focus of India’s economic reforms and policies is to eliminate poverty and enhance the prosperity of millions of ordinary families. Trade must help common people. They are the ultimate stakeholders. The government’s key initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India, Start-up India, Stand-up India, Skill India, Smart Cities, and the resolve to double farmers’ incomes, are all an attempt to make economic reforms more meaningful to those at the grassroots, he added.

India's wholesale inflation rate rises to 3.59% in October 2017

India's headline annual rate of inflation, based on the revised monthly wholesale price index (WPI), with base 2011-12=100, rose to 3.59 percent for October, 2017 as compared to 2.60% for the previous month and 1.27%  during the corresponding month of the previous year.
An official statement, quoting provisional data, said here today that the official WPI for 'All Commodities' (Base: 2011-12=100) for October, 2017 rose by 1.0 percent to 115.5 from 114.3 for the previous month.
The statement said build-up inflation rate in the financial year so far was 2.03% compared to a build-up rate of 3.53% in the corresponding period of the previous year.
According to it, the rate of inflation based on WPI Food Index consisting of ‘Food Articles’ from Primary Articles group and ‘Food Product’ from Manufactured Products group increased from 1.99% in September, 2017 to 3.23% in October, 2017.
The rate of inflation for Fuel and Power, which has a weight of 13.15 in the index, rose to 10.52% in October, 2017 from 9.01% in September.
The statement said that, for August, 2017, the final Wholesale Price Index for ‘All Commodities’ (Base: 2011-12=100) and annual rate of inflation remained unchanged at its provisional level of 114.8 and 3.24%, respectively, as reported on September 14.

Inland Waterways Authority of India pushes for early completion of Jal Marg Vikas Project on Ganga

Pushing for early completion of Jal Marg Vikas Project on the Ganga, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has awarded a contract to a consultant for technical support services for the Multi-Modal Terminal at Haldia and new Navigation Lock at Farakka.
These projects are part of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) on National Waterway-I (River Ganga), being implemented with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 5369 crore.
The objective is to ensure adherence to timelines and budgeted costs of the project and full compliance with the other stated guidelines, an official press release said.
The consultants will ensure efficient management of the two engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts awarded by IWAI under the JMVP. They will provide comprehensive project technical support, including day-to-day supervision, proof checking of design, quality and safety parameters and coordination and management with all stakeholders. 
The contractor will also monitor the implementation of Environment Management Plan and Social Impact Management Plan.
The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate the plying of vessels with a capacity of 1500-2000 tons in the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. 
The major works being taken up under JMVP are the development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking, and so on, the release said.

Govt. says UIN of foreign missions should be record while making supplies to them

The Government today said that, under no circumstance, should any supplier decline to record the Unique Identity Number (UIN) of foreign diplomatic missions, United Nations organisations and diplomats while making supplies to them.
A press release from the Ministry of Finance said it had received representations from foreign missions and UN organisations regarding the unwillingess of vendors and supjpliers to record their UIN while making sales to such missions and organisations.
"It may be noted that sale or supply to Foreign Diplomatic Missions / UN Organizations is like any other Business to Consumer (B2C) sale and will not have any additional effect on the supplier’s tax liability. Recording of UIN while making such sales will enable Foreign Diplomatic Missions / UN Organizations to claim refund of the taxes paid by them in India," the release said.
"Therefore, it is advised that under no circumstance any supplier should decline to record the UIN of the diplomat / official on the tax invoice. 
"Further, it may also be noted that the diplomats / consulate staff may quote the same UIN as allotted to their Missions / Consulates or UN organizations while making any purchases. 
"Unique Identification Number (UIN) is a 15-digit unique number allotted to any specialised agency of the United Nations Organisation or any Multilateral Financial Institution and Organisation notified under the United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947, Consulate or Embassy of foreign countries. First two digits of the UIN denotes State code where the Diplomatic Mission/Consulate/ Embassy is located. 
"Search functionality for UIN is available on the GST Common Portal in Search Taxpayer option. On entering UIN and Captcha code, details of the Diplomatic Mission/Consulate/ Embassy will be available," the release added.

India-Canada bilateral trade much below potential

The current bilateral trade between India and Canada is much below the potential between two robust economies, despite the huge untapped potential for two-way trade and investment, the 4th India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment was informed today.
The Indian delegation was led by the Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu while the Canadian side was headed by the Minister for International Trade François-Philippe Champagne. 
The talks were held in “a friendly and encouraging atmosphere covering a host of trade and investment issues,” an official press release said.
Both sides noted the progress made during the 10th Round of the India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) held in August, 2017 and expressed their strong commitment for taking forward negotiations for early conclusion.
India also highlighted the importance of Services Component under CEPA. Both sides also noted the exchange of wish lists on the Services front and the Indian side reiterated that the architecture for Services under CEPA is a vital focus area and response from Canada on positive elements has to be mutually beneficial.
The Canadian side assured that they would look into the issues concerned, including movement of natural persons and what kind of provisions could be built into the CEPA. The Ministers directed the Chief Negotiators to discuss and explore ways for early conclusion of the Agreement. Both sides also took note of the progress made under the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and expressed their hope for an early conclusion.
Also, both sides deliberated on possible cooperation between the supporting agencies concerned, for mutual benefit as well as finding these agencies contributing directly or indirectly for promoting mutual trade interests.
It was agreed to explore collaboration in the area of export credit insurance through India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation Ltd. (ECGC Ltd.) and Canada’s Export Development Canada (EDC). Both ECGC Ltd. and EDC are members of the Berne Union (BU), an international association representing the global export credit and investment insurance industry. Canada also proposed for possible cooperation with their Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC).
The other issues such as early institutionalization of the CEO Forum mechanism, issue of extension of derogation of pulses, etc. were also discussed.
On the issue of pulses, the Commerce and Industry Minister suggested that given Canada’s advantage in Geo-Spatial Planning and the work done in Geographical Information System, both should be utilised to analyse the crop production systems in India, forecast the trend for next 10 years and accordingly work towards a predictable environment for potential pulses which could be supplied from Canada.
Mr Prabhu also invited the Canadian side for participation in the Partnership Summit scheduled to be held in February, 2018 at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and also invited Canada to be a partner country.

India’s retail inflation rises to 3.58% in October 2017

India's annual retail inflation rate, as tracked through the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rose to 3.58 percent in October 2017, the highest level in seven months, from 3.28 percent in September.
An official press release said the inflation rates based on the CPI in October 2017 were 3.36% in rural areas and 3.81% in urban areas, making for a combined rate of 3.58%, as compared to 4.20% in the corresponding month of the previous year.
The inflation rates based on the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) were 1.75% in rural areas and 2.13% in urban areas, adding up to a combined rate of 1.90%, as compared to 1.25% in the previous month and 3.32% in the same month of the previous year.
The rise in the inflation rate was attributed to the increase in food, fuel and housing prices. Within food inflation, it was attributed to the increase in the prices of vegetables, milk and milk products.
Fuel inflation rose to 6.36% in October on the back of firmer crude oil prices, from 5.6% in September 2017. The effect of the higher crude oil prices was tempered by a cut in excise duty announced by the Government.

Global crude oil price of Indian basket rises to $ 62.66/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 $ 62.66 per barrel (bbl) on November 10 from $ 62.40 per bbl on the previous day.
In rupee terms, the price of the Indian basket increased to Rs 4073.51 per bbl on 10.11.2017 as compared to Rs. 4049.46 per bbl on 09.11.2017, an official press release said.
The rupee closed weaker at Rs. 65.01 per US$ on 10.11.2017 as compared to 64.90 per US$ on 09.11.2017, the release added.

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins Rs. 1267 crore contract from ONGC

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of infrastructure and  constructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has bagged an offshore contract for the Balance Work for Pipeline Replacement Project-4 from public sector Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) valued at approximately Rs. 1,267 crore (about $ 194 million).
The contract, won against international competitive bidding, encompasses total Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning (EPCIC) for the project, a press release from L&T said.
The project is  part of ONGC’s strategy to replace some of its well fluid, gas lift and water injection pipelines along with brownfield modification works on existing platforms in its Mumbai High, Neelam, Heera and Bassein & Satellite Fields which are situated in the Western Offshore field in the Arabian Sea on the continental shelf of Western India.
"L&T has been serving the upstream hydrocarbon sector since the early ’90s. This contract reiterates the long term association of ONGC with L&T in the development of offshore fields in India. The company’s offshore track record includes successful completion of several challenging projects for domestic and international clients.
"LTHE provides complete ‘EPCIC’ solutions for the offshore oil & gas industry combining customized engineering, procurement, fast-track project management and world-class fabrication and sea installation capabilities meeting stringent timelines, conforming to international safety standards," the release added.

Cabinet approves protocol amending India-Kyrgyz Agreement for double taxation avoidance

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the protocol amending the agreement between India and the Kyrgyz Republic for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
The protocol amending Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) aims to update Article 26 (Exchange of Information) of the DTAA to international standards, an official press release said.
The release said the updated article provides for the exchange of information to the widest possible extent. The new paragraphs 4 and 5 being inserted into the existing Article 26 of the DTAA provide that the State from which information is requested cannot deny information on the ground that it has no domestic tax interest in that information or that the information requested is held by a bank or a financial institution, and so on, it said.
The protocol further empowers India to use information received under the DTAA to be used for other law enforcement purposes on the supplying State authorizing such use.
The existing DTAA between India and the Kyrgyz Republic was notified on February 7, 2001.  

Cabinet approves India-Hong Kong Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation

The Union Cabinet yesterday gave its approval for India to enter into an agreement with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income.
The agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to HKSAR & vice versa, prevent double taxation and provide for exchange of information between the two Contracting Parties, an official press release said.
It will improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance, the release said.
In so far as India is concerned, the Central Government is authorized under Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income, for exchange of information for the prevention of evasion or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income Tax Act, 1961. 
The agreement is on similar lines as entered into by India with other countries, the release added.

Second meeting of EAC-PM focuses on job creation, social sectors and infrastructure

The second meeting of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) held here yesterday spelt out a roadmap for stepping up skill development, job creation; enhanced resource investment in the social sector- including for health and education and for boosting infrastructure financing.
The meeting, chaired by Dr Bibek Debroy, Member, NITI Aayog, formulated far-reaching recommendations to guide the evolving framework for the Fifteenth Finance Commission, including the incentivization of States for achieving Health, Education and Social Inclusion outcomes, an official press release said.
The Council is also evolving the design of a new Economy Tracking Monitor, linking economic growth indicators with social indicators for last mile connectivity, it said.
Improvements needed in National Accounts and innovative steps for unlocking the growth, exports and employment potential of growth drivers were also deliberated upon - including through transformation of India’s Gold Market, the release said.
The meeting was attended by economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, Ashima Goyal and Shamika Ravi as Members along with Member Secretary and Principal Adviser NITI Aayog Ratan P. Watal.
The release said the Council took stock of the economic and social analysis done by the theme groups and evolving initiatives led by different Members. The Council identified key issues, strategies and recommended interventions in respect of these themes.
Lead presentations to the Council were made by experts on key themes- including infrastructure financing by Dr. Debroy, who underlined the need for infrastructure financing to be accorded high priority, with new mechanisms for a risk coverage umbrella.
NITI Aayog Member Vinod K. Paul highlighted strategies for achieving Swastha Bharat by 2022. The Skill Development Strategies were presented by Secretary, Skill Development, KP Krishnan who highlighted convergent initiatives to reach out to youth and women.
Dr. T. C. A. Anant, Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), outlined improvements needed in National Accounts, complemented by the presentation by Mr. Watal on issues on the current account deficit and the gold market. He also shared recommendations on the evolving framework for the 15th Finance Commission.
"The unique feature of the new Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister is turning out to be its ability to link economic growth with social aspects, with greater last mile connectivity. Its value addition as an independent institutional mechanism for providing informed advice to the Prime Minister is increasingly being recognized, with focused time-bound recommendations to move from policy to practice, benefiting from consultation with a wide spectrum of experts and stakeholders," the release added.
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