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Business & Economy

India-US Commercial Dialogue to be held in New Delhi on Thursday

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The India-US Commercial Dialogue and the India-US CEO Forum will be held on February 14 here to share the outcome of the 2018 commercial dialogue work plan.
 
The Indian side will be headed by Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and the US side by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The two Ministers will co-chair the India-US Commercial Dialogue.
 
An official press release said representatives of the US and Indian Governments will share outcomes of the 2018 commercial dialogue work plan, including the three work streams: standards, business climate and investment and travel and tourism.
 
Discussions will be held on the 2019 commercial dialogue priorities, identification of new areas of cooperation based on the new CEO Forum recommendations.
 
The co-chairs for the US- India CEO Forum are Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons and James Taiclet, Chairman, President and CEO of American Tower Corporation.
 
During the India-US CEO forum, working groups will give presentations and recommendations related to their sector. This forum was reconstituted by the Trump and Modi administrations.
 
The forum is an effective platform to highlight key market access issues that impact the ease of doing business and to identify areas for closer collaboration, the release said.
 
The annual bilateral trade in goods and services between the United States and India doubled over the last decade, from $ 58 billion in 2007 to $ 126 billion in 2017. Both countries are resolved to remain engaged and take measures for further enhancement of bilateral trade.
 
Bilateral trade in 2018 continued in spite of uncertain global economic conditions. Bilateral investment flows have also grown appreciably over recent years.
 
"India and the US recognize the complementarities that exist between the two sides and are resolved to use the commonalities of ideas, values and democratic systems to further deepen the commercial partnership," the release added
 
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India’s retail inflation slows down to 19-month low of 2.05% in January, 2019

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India’s retail inflation slowed down further to a 19-month low of 2.05 percent in January, 2019 from 2.11 percent in the previous month, thanks to easing food prices, official data released here today said.
 
The retail inflation rate was also lower than the 5.07% recorded in the same month of the previous year, the statement said.
 
According to the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the inflation rate based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 1.29% in rural areas and 2.91% in urban areas, making for a combined rate of 2.05%.
 
The inflation rate based on the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) stood at -2.80% in rural areas and -0.96% in urban areas, adding up to a combined rate of -2.17% in January, 2019 as compared to -2.65% in the previous month and 4.70% in January, 2018.
 
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India's industrial output grows by 2.4% in December, 2018

 
India's industrial output grew by 2.4 percent in December, 2018 as compared to the level in the same month of the previous year, official data released here today said.
 
Industrial production growth had slowed down to 0.5% in the previous month after recording 8.1% in October, 2018 -- a one-year high.
 
The Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) with base 2011-12 for the month of December, 2018 released here today by the Ministry of Statistics and Programe Implementation said the General Index for the month stood at 133.7.
 
The cumulative growth for the period April-December, 2018 over the corresponding period of the previous year stood at 4.6%, an official statement, quoting the data, said.
 
The Indices of Industrial Production for the Mining, Manufacturing and Electricity sectors for December, 2018 stood at 114.4, 135.5 and 150.3, respectively, with the corresponding growth rates of (-) 1.0%, 2.7% and 4.4% as compared to December, 2017.
 
The cumulative growth in these three sectors during April-December,  2018 over the corresponding period of 2017 was 3.1%, 4.7% and 6.4%, respectively.
 
The statement said 13 of the 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive growth during December, 2018 as compared to the corresponding month of the previous year,
 
The industry group ‘Manufacture of tobacco products’ showed the highest growth of 27.9% followed by 17.9% in ‘Manufacture of other transport equipment’ and 16.5% in ‘Manufacture of wearing apparel’. 
 
On the other hand, the industry group ‘Manufacture of furniture’ showed the highest negative growth of (-) 18.7% followed by (-) 16.4%  in ‘Other manufacturing’ and (-) 5.4% in ‘Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products’.
 
The growth rates in December 2018 over December 2017 were (-) 1.2% in Primary goods, 5.9% in Capital goods, (-) 1.5% in Intermediate goods and 10.1% in Infrastructure/ Construction Goods. Consumer durables and Consumer non-durables recorded growth of 2.9% and 5.3%, respectively.
 
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Govt. launches Lightjouse Projects Challenge for paradigm shift in housing construction technology sector

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The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has instituted a challenge for States and Union Territories (UTs) to select six sites across the country for constructing  Lighthouse Projects under Global Housing Technology Challenge - India (GHTC- India).
 
The winning six States/ UTs that score the highest marks across the prescribed criteria will be awarded lighthouse projects. 
 
The States/ UTs will receive Central Assistance to construct these projects as per the guidelines under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U), the Government's flagship urban housing programme.
 
In addition to this, a Technology Innovation Grant (TIG) for the States/ UTs is provisioned to offset the impact of any additional cost implication due to the use of new technology and to absorb the issues related to economies of scale and other related factors. 
 
The selected sites for lighthouse projects will be used as an "open laboratory" for a live demonstration and will receive due attention from academia (Civil Engineering, Planning, Architecture), practitioners (Public/ Private), policymakers (Central/ State) and media, apart from felicitation and recognition in a Grand Expo-cum-Conference.
 
GHTC-India has three components, namely, the conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference, identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the globe and promoting potential technologies through the establishment of Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-I) for incubation and accelerator support. 
 
Out of the three, the second component intends to identify and pilot ‘Proven Demonstrable Technologies’ from around the world in actual housing projects in different parts of the country. The shortlisted global technology providers will be invited to plan and construct lighthouse projects within the framework of PMAY (U) on pre-selected sites provided by States/UTs across six identified PMAY.
 
The last date for participation by the States and UTs is February 20. The States and UTs have to send their applications in the prescribed format at the earliest and latest by that day. The selected States and UTs will enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Ministry to execute these lighthouse projects in their States/ UTs under GHTC-India.
 
The States and UTs have also been apprised about this challenge through video conferencing chaired by Amrit Abhijat, JS & MD, Housing for All. He mentioned that the Ministry will also be doing Technology Meets during the construction year. 
 
This will encourage the potential beneficiary to visit the sites to see the ongoing work for adaptation.
 
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Maersk Line to operate on river Ganga from Varanasi to Kolkata on Tuesday

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Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, will move 16 containers on the river Ganga (National Waterway-1) from Varanasi to Kolkata tomorrow. 
 
Maersk moves 12 million containers yearly across the globe. The firm is on board India’s inland waterways for the first time.
 
Maersk moving containers on river Ganga follows similar movements already done by firms like PepsiCo, Emami Agrotech, IFFCO Fertilizers, Dabur India. With Maersk on board, the cargo from the hinterland will move directly to and from Bangladesh and the rest of the world through the Bay of Bengal.
 
On November 12, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated India’s first riverine multimodal terminal on river Ganga (National Waterway-1) at Varanasi to the nation. On the same day, he also received the country’s first container cargo that travelled on river Ganga (National Waterway-1) from Kolkata to Varanasi. 
 
The twin events marked watershed moments in the development of Inland Water Transport (IWT) in India and also broke grounds for a spurt in business activities on National Waterway-1.
 
Container cargo transport comes with several inherent advantages. Even as it reduces the handling cost, allows easier modal shift, reduces pilferages and damage, it also enables cargo owners to reduce their carbon footprint.
 
The government is developing NW-1 (River Ganga) under JMVP from Haldia to Varanasi (1390 Km) with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs 5369 crore. The project would enable commercial navigation of vessels with a capacity of 1500-2,000 DWT.
 
Union Minister for Shipping Nitin Gadkari had flagged off a consignment of Maruti cars from Varanasi to Haldia in August 2016. Since then pilot movements on National Waterways are currently being done on various stretches. 
 
More than 15 of them have already been successfully completed, including integrated movements through NW-1 (Ganga), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and NW-2 (Brahmaputra).
 
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Modi calls for responsible pricing of oil and gas, transparent markets

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering the inaugural address at Petrotech 2019, in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh on February 11, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering the inaugural address at Petrotech 2019, in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh on February 11, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the world needed to move to responsibile pricing of oil and gas, which balances the interests of both the producer and consumer, and also towards transparent and flexible markets for the two commodities.
 
"Only then can we serve the energy needs of humanity in an optimal manner," he said in his inaugural address at Petrotech 2019, the 13th International Oil & Gas Conference and Exhibition at Greater Noida, near here, in Uttar Pradesh. "For too long, the world has seen crude prices on a roller-coaster."
 
The event, India's flagship hydrocarbons conference, has been organised under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
 
Modi said another key issue that needs the world to come together is climate change. "Together, we can achieve the targets we set for ourselves at COP-21 in Paris. India has made rapid strides in meeting its commitment. We are on our way to reaching the target," he said.
 
Energy Ministers and top officials from more than 60 countries are attending the event that will feature more than 80 speakers and has about 7000 delegates, , including technologists, scientists, planners, policy-makers, management experts, entrepreneurs, service-providers and vendors.
 
The event is an opportunity for India to schowcase the market and investor friendly developments that have taken place in recent times in its oil and gas sector.
 
Modi noted that, over the last quarter century, Petrotech had served as a platform to discuss solutions to challenges that the world faces in the energy sector.
 
"In each of our respective countries, we seek to deliver affordable, efficient, clean and assured energy supplies to our citizens. The presence of over sixty countries and seven thousand delegates here, is a reflection of that common quest," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that several decades of public life had convinced him that energy is a key driver of socio-economic growth. "Suitably priced, stable and sustainable energy supply, is essential for rapid growth of the economy. It also helps the poor and deprived sections of society, to partake of economic benefits," he said.
 
"At the macro level, the energy sector is a pivot and key enabler of growth," he stressed.
 
"As we gather here to discuss the present and future of global energy, winds of change are evident in the global energy arena. Energy supply, energy sources and energy consumption patterns are changing. Perhaps, this could be a historic transition.
 
 "There is a shift in energy consumption from West to East. The United States has become the world’s largest oil and gas producer after the shale revolution. 
 
"Solar energy and other renewable sources of energy have become more competitive. They are emerging as sustainable substitutes for traditional energy forms. Natural gas is fast becoming one of the largest fuels in the global energy mix.
 
"There are signs of convergence, between cheaper renewable energy, technologies, and digital applications. This may expedite the achievement of many sustainable development goals.
 
"Nations are coming together to tackle climate change. This is visible in global partnerships, such as the International Solar Alliance, promoted by India and France," he said.
 
Modi said that the world was entering an era of greater energy availability but more than a billion people across the globe still did not have access to electricity. Many more do not have access to clean cooking fuel, he said.
 
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"India has taken a lead in addressing these issues of energy access. In our success, I see hope for the world that problems of energy availability can be suitably addressed. People must have universal access to clean, affordable, sustainable and equitable supply of energy. India’s contribution in the onset of an era based on energy justice is significant.
 
"Currently, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world. Leading agencies such as IMF and World Bank, project the same trend to continue in the coming years. In an uncertain global economic environment, India has shown tremendous resilience as an anchor of the world economy," he said.
 
Modi said India recently became the sixth largest economy in the world. According to a recent report, by 2030, India could be the second largest world economy. 
 
"We are also the third largest energy consumer in the world, with demand growing at more than five percent annually. India remains an attractive market for energy companies with energy demand expected to more than double by 2040.
 
"We have adopted an integrated approach towards energy planning. During the last Petrotech conference in December 2016, I mentioned four pillars for India’s energy future. These are energy access, energy efficiency, energy sustainability and energy security," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said energy justice was also a key objective for him, and a top priority for India. Towards this end, the Government had developed and implemented many policies. The results of these efforts are now evident., he said.
 
He went on to detail the government's achievements in areas such as rural electrification, reduction of transmission and distribution losses, access to clean cooking fuel, clean transportation, and so on.
 
"The last five years have seen major reforms in India’s oil and gas sector. We have revamped our upstream policies and regulations. We have launched the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy to bring transparency and competitiveness in the sector.
 
"The bidding criterion has been changed to revenue sharing. This has helped reduce government intervention. An Open Acreage Licensing Policy and a National Data Repository is helping to increase exploration interest in Indian fields," he said.
 
Modi said gas pricing reforms have also been introduced. The Enhanced Oil Recovery Policy aims to promote the use of latest technology in improving productivity of upstream fields, he said.
 
He referred to steps such as liberalization of the downstream sector, market driven petrol and diesel prices, the National Biofuel Policy, private sector participation and boosting of foreign direct investment (FDI).
 
"India is becoming an attractive FDI destination. Companies like Saudi Aramco, ADNOC, TOTAL, Exxon-Mobil, BP and Shell are looking to increase their investments across the value chain," he said.
 
He also spoke about the progress made towards a gas-based economy, including the construction of a network of pipelines and setting up of City Gas Distribution projects.
 
"We are gearing up for Industry 4.0. This will change the way industry operates, with new technology and processes. Our companies are adopting latest technologies to improve efficiency, increase safety and reduce costs. This is being done in downstream retail, as well as in upstream oil and gas production, asset maintenance and remote monitoring.
 
"In recent years, we have deepened our international engagement with organizations such as the International Energy Agency, and OPEC. We chaired the International Energy Forum from 2016 to 2018. We have been able to convert our traditional buyer-seller engagements into strategic partnerships through bilateral investments. We have also promoted our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy by strengthening energy engagement with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar.
 
"I have regularly engaged with global CEOs from the oil and gas sector. In my interactions with world leaders and CEOs, I have always maintained that Oil and Gas are not only a commodity of trade but also of necessity. Whether it is for the kitchen of a common man or for an aircraft, energy is essential.
 
"Petrotech provides the perfect setting to ponder over the future of the energy sector. It is a good platform to reflect on how global shifts, transitions, policies and new technologies will influence market stability and future investments in the sector," he added.
 
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Kerala moves to speed up clearance of investment proposals

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched Kerala Single Window Interface for Fast, Transparent Clearances (K-SWIFT), an onine clearance mechanism that will ensure that investment proposals are cleared within days of applications.
 
The mechanism, which was launched at the inauguration of ASCEND Kerala 2019, is aimed at ending delays and official lethargy in clearance of investments.
 
ASCEND Kerala 2019 is an ambitious initiative of the government to position the state as an investment hotspot.
 
K-SWIFT is a cutting-edge software application that simplifies and speeds up approval of clearances from departments and agencies looking to launch enterprises in the state.
 
Noting that K-SWIFT complements the notion of rebuilding of Kerala, the Chief Minister urged the officials for a change in their attitude towards entrepreneurs. In this context, he said the 30-day time limit, which is applicable from village to secretariat level, may be reduced to even 15 days in future.    
 
“You should not have the wrong belief that advent of industries means exploitation of people,” he said.
 
“Kerala economy has been consumerist where lots of products have buyers, but not much of production is happening in the state. This has to be change,” he told delegates to the conference held at Lulu International Convention Centre Grand Hyatt, Bolgatty. “We have to increase MSMEs in the state. Through them, the government aims to provide jobs to around 50,000 people this year.”
 
Vijayan also launched an ‘Invest Kerala Guide’ brought out by the state government’s Department of Industries and Commerce, which is a key organiser of the day-long event that seeks to boost East of Doing Business.
 
Kerala Industry Minister E P Jayarajan said ASCEND Kerala 2019 was part of the government’s efforts to form an industry network in the state. Pointing out that a “new era” has dawned upon Kerala’s industry sector, he said any delay in taking steps in the online applications would attract serious steps against the departments and officials.
 
“Specific industrial parks will be set up in private and public sector as per the types of industry. In rural areas, the area limit will be 25 acres. The urban parks will have 15 acres,” he added. “The government will provide the same facilities of the public parks sector to private parks.”
 
The Minister revealed that around 36,000 MSME units have been established in the state within its two-and-a-half years, generating 1,24,000 jobs. Jayarajan also launched the portal of ‘Invest Kerala’that includes details about IBPMS (Intelligent Building Plan Management System).
 
K Ellangovan, Principal Secretary, Industries, Commerce & NORKA, gave a presentation on ASCEND Kerala 2019, and said Kerala is thecountry’s only state that has amended all the existing rules to streamline and encourage its industry sector. 
 
Tom Jose, Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, said in his welcome address that the industry sector’s motto was to convert jobseekers into entrepreneurs.
 
FICCI National President Sandip Somany noted Kerala topped national rankings in sectors such as startups, food-processing and technology.  CII Chairman (Southern Region) R Dinesh said Kerala has a unique advantage in knowledge-based industries.
 
Kerala Small Scale Industries Association President M Khalid also spoke at the session, where TiE Kerala Chapter President MSA Kumar proposed  a vote of thanks.
 
The meet showcased Kerala as a top-notch investment destination, where entrepreneurs from India and abroad can set up a wide array of enterprises in a speedy and hassle-free manner with minimum of bureaucratic interventions.
 
The conference, through presentations and panel discussions, also presented a slew of legislations and administrative reforms the Kerala government has initiated to enhance the Ease of Doing Business in the state.
 
Entrepreneurs, industry captains and representatives, administrators, policy-makers and top industry department officials, besides senior functionaries of local bodies were present.
 
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Harsimrat Kaur Badal inaugurates Cremica Food Park in Himachal Pradesh

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Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Sunday inaugurated the Cremica Mega Food Park Pvt Ltd in Himachal Pradesh via video conference. 
 
The park at Singha village in Una district is the first Mega Food Park operationalized in Himachal Pradesh. 
 
It is expected to give an impetus to the growth of the food processing sector in Himachal Pradesh and benefit the people of Una district and the people of nearby districts of Kangra, Hamirpur and Bilaspur, an official press release said.
 
The food park has been set up on 52.40 acres of land at a cost of Rs 107.34 crore. The facilities being created by the developer at its Central Processing Centre (CPC) include multi-crop pulping line with bulk aseptic packaging (24 MT/ hour), frozen storage (1000 MT), deep freeze, dry warehouse, quality control laboratory and so on.
 
The park also has a common administrative building for office and other uses by the entrepreneurs and three Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) at Solan, Mandi, and Kangra having facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Badal said the park would leverage an additional investment of about Rs 250 crore in 25-30 food processing units and generate a turnover of about Rs 450-500 crore annually. It will  also provide direct and indirect employment to 5,000 persons and benefit about 25,000 farmers in the CPC and PPC catchment areas.
 
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Buniyaad reeling machines distributed, mobile-App e-Cocoon launched at Surging Silk event

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Buniyaad tasar silk reeling machines were distributed to women from tribal areas at the Surging Silk event here on Saturday.
 
The event, organised by the Ministry of Textiles and Central Silk Board also saw the launch of mobile App e-Cocoon, which is expected to ensure quality certification in the silkworm seed sector, and the release of a compendium on Indian silk industry and state sericulture profile.
 
The distribution of the machine is part of total eradication of the age-old practice of thigh reeling and to ensure rightful earning to the poor rural and tribal woman reelers in the Tasar silk sector, an official press release said.
 
The machine, developed by Central Silk Technological Research Institute in association with an entrepreneur from Champa in Chhattisgarh, will improve the quality and productivity of Tasar silk yarn and reduce the drudgery of women.
 
It is planned to eradicate thigh reeling and replace it with Buniyaad reeling machines by end of March 2020.
 
Woman reelers using the traditional method earn approximately Rs 125 per day while a Tasar reeler using the Buniyaad machine can earn Rs 350 per day. The machine is priced at Rs 8,475 per unit excluding taxes and transportation charges. 
 
During the event, the best achievers of the silk industry across various segments of sericulture were honoured. Awards were also given to the best performing states. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj promised all support to the Textiles Ministry for promoting global trade of silk. She said silk is a strong commodity and there is a huge demand for it in the international market.
 
Talking about the popularity of Indian silk saree, she said her counterparts during the United Nations General Assembly meetings, often ask about the wide variety of colour, pattern and different designs of these fabrics.
 
Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said silk production has increased by 41% since 2013-14. The Buniyad reeling machine will not only rid the woman reelers of the painful practice of thigh reeling but also enhance their income and help them live a dignified life. 
 
The mobile app e-cocoon will help quality certification in silkworm sector, Ms. Irani said. She said the mobile application will be used by the Seed Analysts and Seed Officers nominated under the Central Seed Act for system and product certification through real-time reporting. 
 
Besides covering a large number of stakeholders – registered seed producers (RSP) and Registered Chawkie Rearers (RCR), the essentially required systems with the RSP, RCR and silkworm eggs and the silkworm reared worms will be effectively monitored.
 
India is the second largest producer of silk after China and the largest consumer of silk. India's silk production capacity is expected to reach about 38,500 tonnes by 2020 from the current level of 32,000 tonnes.
 
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Modi dedicates ONGC’s key east coast project S1 Vasishta to nation

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) S1 Vasishta Development Project to the nation at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.
 
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governor E S L Narasimhan and Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
S1-Vasishta Development Project is the first of the tough deep-sea forays of ONGC, in the promising eastern offshore, and has been built at a cost of about Rs. 5700 crore ($ 880 million), a press release from the company said.
 
S1 and Vashista fields are free gas fields located 30-35 km off Amalapuram, Andhra Pradesh in water depths ranging from 300-700 meters with in-place reserves of estimated 19.692 BCM of gas to be realized through four wells, connected through dual 14” pipelines tied back to onshore terminal at Odalarevu in coastal Andhra Pradesh. 
 
The terminal has capacity to process 6 MMSCMD gas with a provision for expansion up to 10 MMSCMD.
 
The integrated development of S1 Vasishta fields included building of gas processing facilities at onshore terminal, drilling and completion of four deep water wells, engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning of dual 14” pipelines and umbilicals and other associated subsea structures to transport the gas from the ocean floor to the Onshore Terminal at Odalarevu. 
 
Connecting subsea deep-water gas wells to onshore terminal through a network of underwater pipelines and control umbilical had been one of the most strenuous tasks. About 86 km of 14” pipelines were installed on seabed in offshore and about 8 km on land, the release said.
 
Presently, about 4 million cubic meters of gas per day is produced from S1 Vasishta fields which could be further raised, it added.
 
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Tata Motors begins supply of 40 electric buses to Lucknow City Transport Services

Automobile manufacturers Tata Motors today began the supply of 40 electric buses to Lucknow City Transport Services Limited (LCTSL), with the first of the Ultra 9/9m AC bus flagged off by Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna.
 
The new bus will begin its journey from Alambagh depot, a press release from the company said, adding that the remaining buses would be delivered within the next four months in a phased manner.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Rohit Srivastava, Product Line Head – Passenger Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, said, “Tata Motors has always been at the forefront of the E-mobility evolution and this order is a testament of our best-in-class solution tailored for the bus segment in India. The order is part of the 255 e-buses to be supplied to six STUs in the country, of which LCTSL is one."
 
"Our in-depth understanding of sustainable public transport for different markets and customers is what differentiates us from our competitors. We are determined to develop alternate fuel technologies and create more energy efficient vehicles supporting government’s efforts for promoting electric vehicles in the country," he said.
 
Manufactured at Tata Motors and Tata Marcopolo Dharwad plants, the Ultra Electric buses will have a traveling range of up to 150 kilometers on a single charge. The company has installed a charging station at the Alambagh depot for fast charging of buses. 
 
"The indigenously developed vehicle offers superior design with state-of-the-art features. Li-ion batteries have been placed on the rooftop to prevent breakdown due to waterlogging. The batteries are liquid cooled to maintain the temperature within an optimum range and ensure longer life along with better performance in tropical conditions," the release said.
 
Dr. A.K. Jindal, Head Engineering (Electric & Defence), CVBU, Tata Motors said, “Tata Motors has been engaging in advanced engineering and development of electric traction system for Hybrid as well as Pure Electric vehicles for over a decade. The Ultra Electric Bus is a new modular platform which has been developed in a very short lead time of less than a year, leveraging the knowledge and experience we have gained and demonstrating our commitment to the Government of India’s National Electric Mobility Mission Plan for Public Transport. 
 
"The architecture of the platform has been conceived and developed by in-house engineering team of Tata Motors, meeting the requirement of various tenders floated by different state transport undertakings. The exterior has been designed with new brand identity that includes stylized Ultra headlamps and streamlined looks. The vehicle architecture ensures very low energy consumption and low TCO (total cost of operation) apart from being a zero emission environment friendly bus.”
 
According to the release, the Ultra Electric buses are air-conditioned, have modern interiors and comfortable seats for 31 passengers. As an industry first, there will be air suspension for both front and rear axles to make travel more comfortable for the commuters. Integrated electric motor generator with a peak power of 333HP can deliver 197HP continuously ensuring effortless driving in congested roads and frequent start stops needing no shifting of gears. The critical electrical traction components have been sourced from internationally known best-in-class suppliers in USA, Germany and China offering proven products. The buses have been tested and validated by Tata Motors across states including Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Assam and Maharashtra to establish performance in diverse terrains.
 
Ajeet Singh, Joint Director, Urban Transport Directorate, Government of UP commented, “The Government of UP has a clear focus on revolutionizing transportation with sustainable, affordable and safe mobility solutions for the masses. We are elated to collaborate with the pioneers, Tata Motors, to bring to the people of Uttar Pradesh, state-of-the-art electric buses which will transform the bus travel experience with smarter, safer transportation while providing a cleaner environment to the residents."
 
"With an In-depth understanding of the market, Tata Motors is delivering the Starbus Ultra 9m AC E-Buses which will soon ply on the roads of Lucknow, from Alambagh Bus Terminal to Gomti Nagar route. We look forward to strengthening this association with Tata Motors to bring smart city solutions in future," he added.
 
The release said the company has tenders to supply 255 electric buses to six public transport undertakings including WBTC (West Bengal), LCTSL (Lucknow), AICTSL (Indore), ASTC (Guwahati), J&KSRTC (Jammu) and JCTSL (Jaipur). In addition to this, the company is also working on developing its electric mini-bus segment in the near future, it added.
 
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Thermal power projects with investments of over Rs. 2.5 lakh crore facing stress: ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton report

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Investments worth over Rs. 2,50,000 crore in thermal power projects (based on domestic coal, imported coal and gas) are facing stress, and immediate remedial measures need to be undertaken to ensure that they are revived in a time-bound manner, a recent ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton joint study has said.
 
The study also noted that country’s power sector has been one of the highly stressed sectors in recent times, with loans worth approximately Rs. 1,00,000 crore having turned bad or been recast.
 
“As per the recent estimates, around 66,000 MW capacity is facing various degrees of financial stress, including 54,800 MW of coal-based power, 6,830 MW of gas-based power and 4,570 MW of hydropower with the lenders having an exposure of around Rs. 3,00,000 crore to these assets, which is alarming, to say the least,” the ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton study titled, "Stressed Assets in the Indian Thermal Power Sector", said.
 
“Non-availability of regular fuel supply arrangements, lack of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), inability of promoters to invest equity and working capital, and regulatory and contractual issues are some of the major challenges faced by thermal power projects,” the report said.
 
The report said there was no universal solution for these ailing power assets and a mixed multi-pronged strategy needed to be adopted instead of a straight jacketed approach.
 
“This has to be done as there are not enough takers for all of these stressed assets and any unthoughtful action may result in huge credit recovery losses for the banks/FIs (financial institutions),” it added.
 
 While the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has already been amended four times since its enactment in 2016, the government is willing to amend it to make it stronger and effective. “This is considered imperative to provide an effective solution to thermal power projects," the report said.
 
Further, an effective resolution in a time-bound manner is warranted by improving the macro environment governing the power sector, it said.
 
This would involve augmenting coal supplies under the Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala (coal) Transparently in India (SHAKTI) and medium-term/short-term power procurement by distribution companies (Discoms) to alleviate the sub-optimal plant load factors (PLFs), it stated.
 
It would also require improvement in operations besides National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)/NTPC-led resolutions among others, the report said.
 
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RIL subsidiaries hike stake in Future 101 Design, Genesis Colours

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The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has said that its subsidiary Reliance Brands Limited (RBL) has acquired a further stake of 2.5% in Future101 Design Private Limited on February 7 for a consideration of Rs. 1.99 crore, taking its total stake in Future101 to 15%.
 
In filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company also said that another of its subsidiaries, Reliance Retail Ventures Limited (RRVL), had acquired a further stake of 9.44% on February 7 in Genesis Colors Limited (GCL), for a consideration of Rs. 45 crore taking its total stake in GCL to 29.07% on the enhanced capital of GCL. 
 
Consequently, the stake of RBL in GCL shall be 43.66% and the aggregate equity shareholding of RRVL and RBL in GCL stands at 72.73%.
 
"The aforesaid acquisitions will help the company to strengthen its footage in the retail industry and support its long term strategy to enhance its value in the retail industry. No regulatory approvals were required for the said acquisition of shares. The investment does not fall within related party transaction for the company and none of RIL’s promoter / promoter group / group companies have interest in the above entities," the filing added.
 
Incorporated in 2013, Future 101 is the parent of luxury designer Raghavendra Rathore’s label and is engaged in manufacturing, distribution and sale of luxury apparel and other such products in India. 
 
Established in 1998, Genesis Colors Ltd. is the holding company of well known Indian fashion brands – Satya Paul and Bwitch.
It also holds the marketing and distribution rights in India for several international luxury labels under its arm Genesis Luxury Fashion Pvt. Ltd., including Paul Smith, Bottega Veneta, Jimmy Choo, Armani, G-Star, Tumi, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss and House of Leather Coach.
 
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Airtel Kenya signs agreement with Telkom Kenya to combine operations

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Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel Limited on Friday announced the signing of an agreement by its subsidiary, Airtel Networks Kenya Limited with Telkom Kenya Limited for merging their respective Mobile, Enterprise and Carrier Services businesses in Kenya to operate as Airtel Telkom.
 
The ?nalisation and closure of the transaction is subject to approval by the relevant authorities, a press release from the company said.
 
"As per the agreement, both the partners will combine their operations in Kenya and establish an entity with enhanced scale, operational efficiency and strategic brand presence. The entity will invest in networks to further accelerate roll out of future technologies. The Enterprise and Carrier Services businesses should benefit from a larger fibre footprint and an increased number of enterprise customers - including both large corporations and SMEs who would have access to a diverse portfolio of world-class solutions," the release added.
 
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SBI reduces home loan interest rate by 5 basis points

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, today announced a cut in interest rates on its home loans for all loans up to Rs. 30 lakh, a day after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut its repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 6.25%.
 
“As the nation’s largest lender, we have always kept customer interests at the centre. SBI has the highest market share of the home loans market and it is only appropriate that we empower the large lower and middle class segment by transmitting the rate cut announced by the RBI," SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar said.
 
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BHEL develops India's first Regenerative 5000 HP electric locomotive

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The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had achieved a major technological breakthrough by successfully developing a state-of-the-art Regeneration System through in-house R&D efforts for Indian Railways’ fleet of conventional electric locomotives.
 
The country’s first such regenerative 5000 HP WAG-7 electric locomotive was flagged off by Ghanshyam Singh, Member Traction, Railway Board in the presence of Mr. Atul Sobti, Chairman & Managing Director, BHEL from the company’s Jhansi plant, a press release from the company said.
 
Directors on the board of BHEL and senior officials from Indian Railways were also present on this occasion.
 
The release said the idea of developing the energy efficient regeneration system was mooted by Indian Railways and BHEL responded to it by successfully developing the technology in-house, giving an impetus to the ‘Make in India’ initiative. With this, a new line of business has opened for BHEL and the company has expanded its footprint in the transportation sector, it said.
 
Presently, Indian Railways’ electric locomotives have a dynamic braking system where the energy generated during application of brakes gets wasted in the form of heat. BHEL has developed a system introducing the regenerative braking concept in these locomotives, that will feed the energy back to the overhead power lines. This will result in significant saving in energy consumption for Indian Railways. 
 
The system has already been tested in a 5000 HP, WAG7 Type, electric locomotive of Indian Railways at Jhansi, it said.
 
With this, BHEL has become the first organisation to successfully demonstrate the concept of regenerative braking system for DC traction motor-driven conventional electric locomotives.
 
According to the release, BHEL has been working very closely with Indian Railways for the last six decades to meet their requirement through innovate technologies and providing ‘Make in India’ systems and equipment for all types of rolling stock of Indian Railways. The company has created a dedicated centre for research and development in transportation technology and manufacturing facilities at its Bhopal, Jhansi and Bengaluru plants, it said.
 
The company is extending its offering in the transportation segment and has equipped itself to foray into manufacturing of metro coaches, rolling stock for high speed railway, Railway electrification and environmental friendly and efficient rolling stock for Indian Railways, the release added.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.063 billion to $ 400.241 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 2.063 billion to $ 400.241 billion during the week ended February 1, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 1.498 billion to $ 398.178 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 1.281 billion to $ 373.430 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves increased by $ 764.9 million to $ 22.686 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 6.2 million to $ 1.4707 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 11.2 million to $ 2.6454 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Gadkari to lay foundation for five NH projects worth Rs. 7,195 crore in Ayodhya on Friday

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Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari will lay the foundation for five national highway (NH) projects of total length 632 km and estimated cost of Rs. 7,195 crore in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, tomorrow.
 
The projects include beautification of the Ayodhya section of the Lucknow-Ayodhya highway at a cost of Rs 55 crore, four-laning of the Ayodhya-Akbarpur section of the Ayodhya-Varanasi highway at a cost of Rs 1081 crore, construction of the 46 km, 4-lane Ayodhya Ring Road at a cost of Rs 1289 crore, construction of the 44 km Mohanganj-Shringverpur section of the Ram Vangaman Marg at a cost of Rs 478 crore and construction of the 91 km Bikapur-Rudauli-Murtihanghat  section of Ayodhya’s 84 Kosi Parikrama Marg at a cost of Rs 896 crore. 
 
The Ram Vangaman Marg project stretches over 262 km from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot and is to be constructed at a cost of Rs 2020 crore, while Ayodhya’s 84 Kosi Parikrama Marg is a 275 km long project with estimated cost of Rs 2750 crore.
 
An official press release said the projects would establish direct connectivity from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot and Ambedkarnagar. The 84 Kosi Marg will facilitate movement of pilgrims around Ayodhya. The Ayodhya Ring Road will reduce traffic congestion in the city and lower pollution levels. The projects will facilitate pilgrimage and give a boost to tourism in the Ayodhya and Varanasi regions, thereby improving the socio economic condition of people in the area.
 
Gadkari, who also holds the portfolios of Shipping, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, willl also visit Prayagraj tomorrow where he will inaugurate Phase 2 of the River Information System on National Waterway-1 (River Ganga) between Farakka and Patna and also unveil new arrangement of Navigation Lock at Farakka that would enable breeding of Hilsa fish in River Ganga and help preserve the river ecosystem.
 
He will also visit an exhibition put up by the National Mission for Clean Ganga at the Kumbh Mela, the release added.
 
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Modi to lay foundation stone for highway project worth Rs 1938 crore in West Bengal on Friday

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the four- laning of the Falakata-Salsalabari section of National Highway (NH) -31 D in the northern part of West Bengal tomorrow.  
 
The 41.7 km long section of National Highways falls in the Jalpaiguri district of the state, and will be constructed at a cost of about Rs. 1938 crore, an official press release said.
 
The project will reduce the distance from Salsalabari and Alipurduar to Siliguri by nearly 50 km. 
 
"This is significant as better access to Siliguri means better access to railways and airways. The national highway will facilitate better movement of tea and other agricultural produce from the region to markets. The improved connectivity will also lead to an increase in tourism in the region. All this, in turn, will give a major boost to socio-economic activity in the state, opening up employment opportunities for the local people," the release said.
 
The highway section will have three railway overbridges, two flyovers, three vehicular underpasses, eight major bridges and 17 minor bridges, the release added.
 
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Cabinet approves abolition of institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman and Indirect Tax Ombudsman

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal for abolition of institution of Income Tax Ombudsman and Indirect Tax Ombudsman.
 
The approval comes in the wake of alternative complaint redressal mechanisms chosen by public and the fact that the institution of Ombudsman could not prove to be more effective than regular existing parallel channels of grievance redressal.
 
The Institution of Income Tax Ombudsman was created in 2003 to deal with grievances of public related to settlement of complaints relating to Income Tax. 
 
"However, the Institution of Ombudsman failed to achieve its objectives. It was observed that institution of new complaints have in turn fallen to single digits. Also, tax payers started preferring alternate methods of grievance redressal like CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System), AaykarSevaKendras etc.,. Further, it was also decided in 2011 to close vacant offices of Indirect Tax Ombudsman," the release added.
 
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RBI reduces repo rate by 25 bps to 6.25%, changes stance to neutral

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The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today decided to reduce its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points (bps) from 6.5 percent to 6.25 percent and to change its monetary policy stance from calibrated tightening to neutral.
 
The decision was taken by the MPC on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the RBI said in its Sixth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2018-19.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stood adjusted to 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.5 per cent, the statement said.
 
"These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth," the statement and resolution of the MPC said.
 
The statement noted that, in the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy resolution in December 2018, CPI inflation for 2018-19 was projected in the range of 2.7-3.2 per cent in H2:2018-19 and 3.8-4.2 per cent in H1:2019-20, with risks tilted to the upside. 
 
The actual inflation outcome at 2.6 per cent in Q3:2018-19 was marginally lower than the projection. There have been downward revisions in inflation projections during the course of the year, reflecting mainly the unprecedented soft inflation recorded across food sub-groups, it said.
 
"Several factors will shape the inflation path, going forward. First, food inflation has continued to surprise on the downside with continuing deflation across several items and a significant moderation in inflation in cereals. Several food groups are experiencing excess supply conditions domestically as well as internationally. Hence, the short-term outlook for food inflation appears particularly benign, despite adverse base effects. 
 
"Secondly, the moderation in the fuel group was larger than anticipated. Inflation in items of rural consumption such as firewood and chips, which had remained sticky and at elevated levels, has collapsed in recent months. Electricity prices also showed an unexpected moderation, providing a softer outlook for the fuel group.
 
"Thirdly, while inflation excluding food and fuel remains elevated, the recent unusual pick-up in the prices of health and education could be a one-off phenomenon. Fourthly, the crude oil price outlook remains broadly the same as in the December policy. Fifthly, the Reserve Bank’s surveys show that inflation expectations of households as well as input and output price expectations of producers have moderated significantly. 
 
"Finally, the effect of the HRA increase for central government employees has dissipated completely along expected lines. Taking into consideration these developments and assuming a normal monsoon in 2019, the path of CPI inflation is revised downwards to 2.8 per cent in Q4:2018-19, 3.2-3.4 per cent in H1:2019-20 and 3.9 per cent in Q3:2019-20, with risks broadly balanced around the central trajectory," it said.
 
Turning to the growth outlook, the statement said GDP growth for 2018-19 in the December policy was projected at 7.4 per cent (7.2-7.3 per cent in H2) and at 7.5 per cent for H1:2019-20, with risks somewhat to the downside. The CSO has estimated GDP growth at 7.2 per cent for 2018-19.
 
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"Looking beyond the current year, the growth outlook is likely to be influenced by the following factors. First, aggregate bank credit and overall financial flows to the commercial sector continue to be strong, but are yet to be broad-based. Secondly, in spite of soft crude oil prices and the lagged impact of the recent depreciation of the Indian rupee on net exports, slowing global demand could pose headwinds. In particular, trade tensions and associated uncertainties appear to be moderating global growth. 
 
"Taking into consideration the above factors, GDP growth for 2019-20 is projected at 7.4 per cent – in the range of 7.2-7.4 per cent in H1, and 7.5 per cent in Q3 – with risks evenly balanced," it said.
 
The statement said headline inflation is projected to remain soft in the near term reflecting the current low level of inflation and the benign food inflation outlook. 
 
"Beyond the near term, some uncertainties warrant careful monitoring. First, vegetable prices have been volatile in the recent period; reversal in vegetable prices could impart upside risk to the food inflation trajectory. Secondly, the oil price outlook continues to be hazy. Thirdly, a further heightening of trade tensions and geo-political uncertainties could also weigh on global growth prospects, dampening global demand and softening global commodity prices, especially oil prices. Fourthly, the unusual spike in the prices of health and education needs to be closely watched. Fifthly, financial markets remain volatile. Sixthly, the monsoon outcome is assumed to be normal; any spatial or temporal variation in rainfall may alter the food inflation outlook. Finally, several proposals in the union budget for 2019-20 are likely to boost aggregate demand by raising disposable incomes, but the full effect of some of the measures is likely to materialise over a period of time.
 
"The MPC notes that the output gap has opened up modestly as actual output has inched lower than potential. Investment activity is recovering but supported mainly by public spending on infrastructure. The need is to strengthen private investment activity and buttress private consumption.
 
"Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to change the stance of monetary policy from calibrated tightening to neutral and to reduce the policy repo rate by 25 basis points," it said.
 
The statement said the decision to change the monetary policy stance was unanimous. As regards the reduction in the policy repo rate, Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra and RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das voted in favour of the decision.
 
Dr. Chetan Ghate and Dr. Viral V. Acharya voted to keep the policy rate unchanged. 
 
"The MPC reiterates its commitment to achieving the medium-term target for headline inflation of 4 per cent on a durable basis," the statement added.
 
The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by February 21. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled from April 2 to 4, 2019.
 
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Cabinet approves higher allocation of power to home state from under- construction projects of NTPC

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal of the Ministry of Power to allocate to the Government of Telangana 85% of the power generated from Telangana Super Thermal Power Project (TSTPP) (4000 MW) of NTPC Ltd. and 85% power from expansion project of Patratu Thermal Power Station (4000 MW) of Patratu Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (PVUNL), a subsidiary company of NTPC Ltd, to the Government of Jharkhand.
 
Both the projects are being set up in two phases. Telangana Super Thermal Power Project will come up at Ramagundam in Peddapalli district and the Patratu Super Thermal Power Station will come at Patratu in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. 
 
The first phase of the TSTPP will comprise two units of 800 MW each and second phase for three units of 800 MW each. Patratu Thermal Power Station (PTPS) will comprise three units of 800 MW each in the first phase while two units 800 MW each will come up in the second phase.
 
The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 mandates that TPC shall establish a 4000 MW power facility in the successor state Telengana, as mentioned in the Thirteenth Schedule of the Act.
 
The allocation of 85% power from PTPS expansion project (4000MW) was prime condition in the Joint Venture Agreement between Government of Jharkhand and NTPC Ltd. for 4000 MW capacity expansion of PTPS.
 
Presently, Phase-I of both the projects are under construction. Telangana Super Thermal Power Project is expected to be commissioned in the third quarter of 2020-2021. As per the investment approval dated 29.01.2016, the indicative completion cost of the Telangana Super Thermal Power Project (TSTPP) is Rs. 11811.26 crore, out of which Rs. 1849 crore expenditure has been incurred upto March 2018.
 
Phase-I of Patratu Super Thermal Power Station is expected to be commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2022-2023. As per the investment approval dated 30.10.2017, the indicative completion cost of the PTPS expansion project is Rs. 18668 crore, out of which Rs. 247.66 crore expenditure has been incurred upto March, 2018.
 
The higher allocation of power to Telangana from TSTPP will ensure that the Central Government has taken the necessary measures as enumerated in the Thirteenth Schedule of the AP Reorganisation Act, for the progress and sustainable development of the successor States. 
 
Higher allocation of power to Jharkhand from PTPS will also help in improving the power scenario of the state. It will facilitate mission of the Government towards providing power to all, the release added.
 
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Cabinet approves establishment of unified authority for regulating financial services in IFSCs

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved establishment of a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India through the International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.
 
The first IFSC in India has been set up at GIFT City, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. An IFSC enables bringing back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centers by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions (FIs) to India by offering business and regulatory environment that is comparable to other leading international financial centers in the world like London and Singapore. 
 
It would provide Indian corporates easier access to global financial markets. IFSC would also complement and promote further development of financial markets in India, an official press release said.
 
Currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators such as RBI, SEBI and IRDAI. 
 
"The dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination. It also requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs. The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focused and dedicated regulatory interventions. Hence, a need is felt for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India to provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants. Further, this would also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective. The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in-sync with the global best practices," the release said.
 
Taking into account the regulatory requirements of IFSCs and the provisions of the existing laws of financial sector, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance (MoF) has prepared a draft Bill to set up a separate unified regulator for IFSCs. 
 
Following are the main features of the Bill:
 
Management of the Authority:  The Authority shall consist of a Chairperson, one Member each to be nominated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority(PFRDA), two members to be dominated by the Central Government and two other whole-time or full-time or part-time members.
 
Functions of the Authority:  The Authority shall regulate all such financial services, financial products and FIs in an IFSC which has already been permitted by the Financial Sector Regulators for IFSCs. The Authority shall also regulate such other financial products, financial services or FIs as may be notified by the Central Government from time to time. It may also recommend to the Central Government such other financial products, financial services and financial institutions which may be permitted in the IFSCs.
 
Powers of the Authority: All powers exercisable by the respective financial sector regulatory (viz. RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, and PFRDA etc.) under the respective Acts shall be solely exercised by the Authority in the IFSCs in so far as the regulation of financial products, financial services and FIs that are permitted in the IFSC are concerned.
 
Processes and procedures of the Authority: The processes and procedures to be followed by the Authority shall be governed in accordance with the provisions of the respective Acts of Parliament of India applicable to such financial products, services or institutions, as the case may be.
 
Grants by the Central Government:  The Central Government may, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, make to the Authority grants of such sums of money as the Central Government may think fit for being utilized for the purposes of the Authority.
 
Transactions in foreign currency: The transactions of financial services in the IFSCs shall be done in the foreign currency as specified by the Authority in consultation with the Central Govt.
 
The release said the establishment of a unified financial regulator for IFSCs will result in providing world-class regulatory environment to market participants from an ease of doing business perspective. 
 
"This will provide a stimulus for further development of IFSCs in India and enable bringing back of financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centres to India. This would also generate significant employment in the IFSCs in particular as well as financial sector in India as a whole," it added.
 
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Cabinet approves Official Amendments to Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval for moving official amendments to the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018, pursuant to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF). 
 
The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 was introduced in Parliament on 18th July, 2018 and was referred to the SCF, which submitted its 70th Report on the Bill to Parliament on 3rd January, 2019. 
 
An official press release said the official amendments would further strengthen the Bill in its objective to effectively tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, and prevent such schemes from duping poor and gullible people of their hard earned savings.
 
According to it, the Bill contains a substantive banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme. The principle is that the Bill would ban unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence ex-ante rather than the existing legislative-cum-regulatory framework which only comes into effect ex-post with considerable time lags.
 
The Bill creates three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.
 
The Bill provides for severe punishment and heavy pecuniary fines to act as deterrent.
 
The Bill has adequate provisions for disgorgement or repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally.
 
The Bill provides for attachment of properties and assets by the Competent Authority, and subsequent realization of assets for repayment to depositors. Clear-cut time lines have been provided for attachment of property and restitution to depositors.
 
The Bill enables creation of an online central database, for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country.
The Bill defines “Deposit Taker” and “Deposit” comprehensively. “Deposit Takers” include all possible entities (including individuals) receiving or soliciting deposits, except specific entities such as those incorporated by legislation. “Deposit” is defined in such a manner that deposit-takers are restricted from camouflaging public deposits as receipts, and at the same time, not to curb or hinder acceptance of money by an establishment in the ordinary course of its business.
 
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CCEA approves creation of Agri-Market infrastructure Fund

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The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday gave its approval for the creation of a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore for Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund (AMIF) to be created with NABARD for development and upgradation of agricultural marketing infrastructure in Gramin Agricultural Markets and Regulated Wholesale Markets.
 
AMIF  will provide the State and Union Territory (UT) Governments subsidized loans for their proposal for developing marketing infrastructure in 585 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and 10,000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs).  
 
States may also access AMIF for innovative integrated market infrastructure projects including Hub and Spoke mode and in Public Private Partnership mode.  In these GrAMs, physical and basic infrastructure will be strengthened using MGNREGA and other government schemes, an official press release said.
 
After approval of AMIF scheme, the interest subsidy will be provided by the Department of Agricultue, Cooperation and Farmers' Welfare (DAC&FW) to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in alignment with annual budget releases during 2018-19 and 2019-20 as well as upto 2024-25.  The scheme being demand driven, its progress is subject to the demands from the States and proposals received from them, the release added.
 
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