Business & Economy

Budget: Rs. 14.34 lakh crore to be spent in 2018-19 on livelihood, infrastructure in rural areas

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today outlined various measures to give a boost to livelihood and infrastructure in rural areas of the country in his Budget for 2018-19 presented to the Lok Sabha.
“As my proposals outlined indicate, focus of the Government next year will be on providing maximum livelihood opportunities in the rural areas by spending more on livelihood, agriculture and allied activities and construction of rural infrastructure," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said that, in 2018-19, the Government owuld spend Rs. 14.34 lakh crore for creation of livelihood and infrastructure in rural areas, including extra-budgetary and and non-budgetary resources of Rs. 11.98 lakh crore. 
Apart from employment due to farming activities and self employment, this expenditure will create employment of 321 crore person days, 3.17 lakh kilometers of rural roads, 51 lakh new rural houses, 1.88 crore toilets, and provide 1.75 crore new household electric connections besides boosting agricultural growth, he said.
Further, the Government substantially increased the allocation for the National Rural Livelihood Mission to Rs. 5750 crore in 2018-19. 
Mr. Jaitley said that loans to Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women increased to about Rs. 42,500 crore in 2016-17, growing 37% over previous year. The Government is confident that loans to SHGs will increase to Rs.75,000 crore by March, 2019, he said.
For strengthening the Ground water irrigation scheme under Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna - Har Khet ko Pani – the Government allocated Rs 2,600 crore for this purpose. This would provide assured irrigation in 96 deprived irrigation districts where less than 30% of the land holdings get that presently, the Minister said.
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Budget: Govt. to set up Affordable Housing Fund in National Housing Bank

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  today said that the Government would establish a dedicated Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the National Housing Bank, funded from priority sector lending shortfall and fully serviced bonds authorised by the Government of India.
"A roof for his family is another concern of the poor. Far from the Benami properties earned by corruption, the poor only desire to have a roof, a small house by his earning of honesty," Mr. Jaitley said while presenting the Union Budget for 2018-19 in the Lok Sabha.
"Our Government is helping them so that they may fulfil the dream of their own house. We have fixed a target that every poor of this country may have his own house by 2022. For this purpose Prime Minister Awas Yojana has been launched in rural and urban areas of the country. Under Prime Minister Awas Scheme Rural, 51 lakhs houses in year 2017-18 and 51 lakh houses during 2018-19 which is  more than one crore houses will be constructed exclusively in rural areas. In urban areas the assistance has been sanctioned to construct 37 lakh houses," he said.
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Budget: Govt. keeps MSP for all unannounced Kharif crops at least at 1.5 times their production cost

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced that the Government had decided, as per the pre-determined principle, to keep the minimum support price (MSP) for all unannounced crops of Kharif at least at one and a half times of their production cost.
"In our party's manifesto it has been stated that the farmers should realize at least 50 per cent more than the cost of their produce, in other words, one and a half times of the cost of their production," he said while presenting the Union Budget for 2018-19 in the Lok Sabha.
"Government have been very much sensitive to this resolutions and it has declared Minimum support price (MSP) for the majority of rabi crops at least at one and a half times the cost involved. Now, we have decided to implement this resolution as a principle for the rest of crops," he said.
"I am confident that this historic decision will prove an important step towards doubling the income of our farmers," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said the Government was committed for the welfare of farmers. "For decades, country’s agriculture policy and programme had remained production centric. We have sought to effect a paradigm shift. Honourable Prime Minister gave a clarion call to double farmers’ income by 2022 when India celebrates its 75th year of independence. Our emphasis is on generating higher incomes for farmers.  We consider agriculture as an enterprise and want to help farmers produce more from the same land parcel at lesser cost and simultaneously realize higher prices for their produce. Our emphasis is also on generating productive and gainful on-farm and non-farm employment for the farmers and landless families," he said.
"As a result of the hard work of our country's farmers agriculture production in our country is at a record level. Doing the year 2016-17 we achieved a record food grain production of around 275 million tonnes and around 300 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said the Government worked with the holistic approach of solving any issue rather than in fragments.
"Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get full benefit of the announced MSP. For this, it is essential that if price of the agriculture produce market is less than MSP, then in that case Government should purchase either at MSP or work in a manner to provide MSP for the farmers through some other mechanism. Niti Ayog, in consultation with Central and State Governments, will put in place a fool-proof mechanism so that farmers will get adequate price for their produce.
"For better price realization, farmers need to make decisions based on prices likely to be available after its harvest. Government will create an institutional mechanism, with participation of all concerned Ministries, to develop appropriate policies and practices for price and demand forecast, use of futures and options market, expansion of warehouse depository system and to take decisions about specific exports and imports related measures," he said.
Mr. Jaitley recalled that he had announced last year strengthening of the e-National Agricultural market (e-NAM) and to expand its coverage to 585 Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs). He said 470 APMCs had been connected to the e-NAM network and the rest would be connected by March this year.
"More than 86% of our farmers are small and marginal. They are not always in a position to directly transact at APMCs and other wholesale markets.  We will develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs). In these GrAMs, physical infrastructure will be strengthened using MGNREGA and other Government Schemes. These GrAMs, electronically linked to e-NAM and exempted from regulations of APMCs, will provide farmers facility to make direct sale to consumers and bulk purchasers," he  said.
Mr. Jaitley said an Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore would be set up for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure in the 22000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) and 585 APMCs.
Noting that the task of connecting all eligible habitations with an all-weather road has been substantially completed, Mr. Jaitley said it was now time to strengthen and widen its ambit further to include major link routes which connect habitations to agricultural and rural markets (GrAMs), higher secondary schools and hospitals. 
He said the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Phase III, the Government's flagship rural roads scheme, would include such linkages.
"For several years, we have been stating that India is primarily an agriculture based country. As India is primarily an agriculture based country, our districts can specialize in some or other agricultural produce and be known for it. But special attention is lacking in this regard. There is a need to develop cluster based model in a scientific manner for identified agriculture produces in our districts in the same manner as we have developed model for industrial sector. 
"Cultivation of horticulture crops in clusters bring advantages of scales of operations and can spur establishment of entire chain from production to marketing, besides giving recognition to the districts for specific crops. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare will reorient its ongoing Schemes and promote cluster based development of agri-commodities and regions in partnership with the Ministries of Food Processing, Commerce and other allied Ministries.
"Our Government has promoted organic farming in a big way. Organic farming by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Village Producers’ Organizations (VPOs) in large clusters, preferably of 1000 hectares each, will be encouraged.  Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) will also be encouraged to take up organic agriculture in clusters under National Rural Livelihood Programme.
"Our ecology supports cultivation of highly specialized medicinal and aromatic plants. India is also home to a large number of small and cottage industries that manufacture perfumes, essential oils and other associated products. Our Government shall support organized cultivation and associated industry. I propose to allocate a sum of Rs. 200 crore for this purpose.
"Food Processing sector is growing at an average rate of 8% per annum.  Prime Minister Krishi Sampada Yojana is our flagship programme for boosting investment in food processing. Allocation of Ministry of Food Processing is being doubled from Rs. 715 crore in RE 2017-18 to Rs. 1400 crore in BE 2018-19. Government will promote establishment of specialized agro-processing financial institutions in this sector," he said.
Pointing out that, though tomato, onion and potato are basic vegetables consumed throughout the year, seasonal and regional production of these perishable commodities posed a challenge in connecting farmers and consumers in a manner that satisfies both.
He said the Government proposed to launch an "Operation Greens" on the lines of "Operation Flood". He said Operation Greens would promote FPOs, agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management, adding that he proposed to allocate a sum of Rs. 500 crore for this purpose. 
"India’s agri-exports potential is as high as US $ 100 billion against current exports of US $ 30 billion. To realize this potential, export of agri-commodities will be liberalized. I also propose to set up state-of-the-art testing facilities in all the forty two Mega Food Parks.
"I propose to extend the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs. Small and marginal farmers will get more benefits.
"Bamboo is ‘Green Gold’.  We removed bamboo grown outside forest areas from the definition of trees.  Now, I propose to launch a Re-structured National Bamboo Mission with an outlay of Rs. 1290 crore to promote bamboo sector in a holistic manner. 
"Many farmers are installing solar water pumps to irrigate their fields.  Generation of solar electricity is harvesting of Sun by the farmers using their lands. Government of India will take necessary measures and encourage State Governments to put in place a mechanism that their surplus solar power is purchased by the distribution companies or licencees at reasonably remunerative rates. 
"Our Government set up a Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) in NABARD for meeting funding requirement of irrigation works. Scope of the fund would be expanded to cover specified command area development projects. 
"Last year, I had announced setting up of Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF) for facilitating expansion of coverage under micro irrigation and Dairy Processing Infrastructure Development Fund (DPIDF) to help finance investment in dairying infrastructure. It is now time to expand such focused investment Funds. I, now, announce setting up a Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector. Total corpus of these two new Funds would be Rs. 10,000 crore," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said the volume of institutional crdit for the agricultural sector would raised to Rs. 11 lakh crore for 2018-19 from Rs. 10 lakh crore in the current financial year.
"Presently, lessee cultivators are not able to avail crop loans.  Consequently, a significant proportion of arable land remains fallow and tenant cultivators are forced to secure credit from usurious money lenders. NITI Aayog, in consultation with State Governments, will evolve a suitable mechanism to enable access of lessee cultivators to credit without compromising the rights of the land owners. 
"Government will extend a favourable taxation treatment to Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs) for helping farmers aggregate their needs of inputs, farm services, processing and sale operations," he added.
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Jaitley keeps personal IT rates unchanged, announces National Health Protection Scheme

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday left unchanged the income tax rates for individuals but offered some relief to salaried taxpayers and extended the benefit of the reduced corporate tax rate of 25% to companies who have reported turnover up to Rs. 250 crore in the financial year 2016-17.

Jaitley announces National Health Protection Scheme for poor families
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today left unchanged the income tax rates for individuals but offered some relief to salaried taxpayers and  extended the benefit of the reduced corporate tax rate of 25% to companies who have reported turnover up to Rs. 250 crore in the financial year 2016-17.
Presenting the Union Budget for 2018-19 to the Lok Sabha, Mr. Jaitley also announced two major initiatives as part of the ‘‘Ayushman Bharat’’ programme aimed at making path breaking interventions to address health holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems, covering both prevention and health promotion.  
He said the Government would launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries), providing coverage upto Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.  
"This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme," he said.
"We are all aware that lakhs of families in our country have to borrow or sell assets to receive indoor treatment in hospitals. Government is seriously concerned about such impoverishment of poor and vulnerable families. Present Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) provide annual coverage of only Rs. 30,000 to poor families. Several State Governments have also implemented/supplemented health protection schemes providing varying coverage.  My Government has now decided to take health protection to more aspirational level," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said the National Health Policy, 2017 had envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. 
"These 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people. These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.  These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. 
"I am committing Rs. 1200 crore in this budget for this flagship programme.  I also invite contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres," he said.
"I am sure the New India which we aspire to create now will emerge," he said.
Overall, he said, the Budget was guided by the Government's mission to especially strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, MSME and infrastructure sectors of the economy.
Mr. Jaitley said there was a general perception in society that individual business persons have better income as compared to the salaried class, but income tax data suggested that the major portion of personal income tax collection came from the salaried class.
He said that, for assessment year 2016-17, 1.89 crore salaried individuals had filed their returns and had paid total tax of Rs. 1.44 lakh crore which worked out to average tax payment of Rs. 76,306 per individual salaried taxpayer. As against this, 1.88 crores individual business taxpayers including professionals, who filed their returns for the same assessment year paid total tax of Rs. 48,000 crores which works out to an average tax payment of Rs. 25,753 per individual business taxpayer.
"The Government had made many positive changes in the personal income-tax rate applicable to individuals in the last three years. Therefore, I do not propose to make any further change in the structure of the income tax rates for individuals," he explained.
Mr. Jaitley proposed to allow a standard deduction of Rs. 40,000 in lieu of the present exemption in respect of transport allowance and reimbursement of miscellaneous medical expenses. However, the transport allowance at enhanced rate shall continue to be available to differently-abled persons. Also other medical reimbursement benefits in case of hospitalization etc., for all employees shall continue. 
He said that, apart from reducing paper work and compliance, this would help middle class employees even more in terms of reduction in their tax liability. 
"This decision to allow standard deduction shall significantly benefit the pensioners also, who normally do not enjoy any allowance on account of transport and medical expenses. The revenue cost of this decision is approximately Rs. 8,000 crores. The total number of salaried employees and pensioners who will benefit from this decision is around 2.5 crores," he said.
Mr. Jaitley also announced some incentives for senior citizens to ensure them a life with dignity. He said the exemption of interest income on deposits with banks and post offices will be increased from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000 and TDS shall not be required to be deducted on such income, under section 194A. This benefit shall be available also for interest from all fixed deposits schemes and recurring deposit schemes.
He also proposed to raise the limit of deduction for health insurance premium and/ or medical expenditure from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 under section 80D. All senior citizens will now be able to claim benefit of deduction up to Rs. 50,000 per annum in respect of any health insurance premium and/or any general medical expenditure incurred. 
The limit of deduction for medical expenditure in respect of certain critical illnesses has been raised from Rs. 60,000 in case of senior citizens and from Rs. 80,000 in case of very senior citizens, to Rs. 1 lakh in respect of all senior citizens, under section 80DDB.
Mr. Jaitley said these concessions would give extra tax benefit of Rs. 4,000 crores to senior citizens. 
In addition to tax concessions, he proposed to extend the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana up to March, 2020 under which an assured return of 8% is given by Life Insurance Corporation of India. The existing limit on investment of Rs. 7.5 lakh per senior citizen under this scheme is also being enhanced to Rs. 15 lakh.
Mr. Jaitley prefaced his tax proposals by stating that the attempts made by the Government for reducing the cash economy and  for increasing the ta net had paid rich dividends.
"The growth rate of direct taxes in the financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18 has been significant. We ended the last year with a growth of 12.6% in direct taxes and in the current year, the growth in direct taxes up to 15th January, 2018 is 18.7%. The average buoyancy in personal income tax of seven years preceding these two years comes to 1.1. In simple terms tax buoyancy of 1.1 means that if nominal GDP growth rate of the country is 10%, the growth rate of personal income tax is 11%. However, the buoyancy in personal income tax for financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18 (RE) is 1.95 and 2.11 respectively. This indicates that the excess revenue collected in the last two financial years from personal income tax compared to the average buoyancy pre 2016-17 amounts to a total of about `90,000 crores and the same can be attributed to the strong anti-evasion measures taken by the Government," he said.
"Similarly, there has been huge increase in the number of returns filed by taxpayers. In financial year 2016-17, 85.51 lakhs new taxpayers filed their returns of income as against 66.26 lakhs in the immediately preceding year. By including all filers as well as persons who did not file returns but paid tax by way of advance tax or TDS, we can derive the figure of Effective Taxpayer Base.  This number of effective tax payer base increased from 6.47 crores at the beginning of F.Y.14-15 to 8.27 crores at the end of F.Y.16-17. We are enthused by this success of our measures and we pledge to continue to take all such measures in future by which the black money is contained and the honest taxpayers are rewarded. Demonetization was received well by honest taxpayers as 'imandari ka utsav' only for this reason," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said that, recognising the need for facilitating compliance, Government had liberalized the presumptive income scheme for small traders and entrepreneurs with annual turnover of less than Rs. 2 crore and introduced a similar scheme for professionals with annual turnover of less than Rs. 50 lakhs with the hope that there would be significant increase in compliance. 
"Under this scheme, 41% more returns were filed during this year which shows that many more persons are joining the tax net under simplified scheme. However, the turnover shown is still not encouraging. The Department has received 44.72 lakh returns for assessment year 2017-18 from individual, HUF and firms with a meagre average turnover of Rs. 17.97 lakh and an average tax payment of Rs. 7,000 only. The tax compliance behaviour of professionals is no better; the department has received 5.68 lakh returns under the presumptive income scheme for assessment year 2017-18 with average gross receipts of Rs. 5.73 lakhs only. Average tax paid by them is only Rs. 35,000," he said.
In order to encourage professionalism in post-harvest value addition in agriculture, Mr. Jaitley proposed to allow hundred percent deduction to companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies and having annual turnover up to Rs. 100 crore in respect of their profit derived from such activities for a period of five years from financial year 2018-19. He said this measure would encourage Operation Greens mission announced by him earlier and would give a boost to Sampada Yojana.
At present, hundred per cent deduction is allowed in respect of profit of co-operative societies which provide assistance to its members engaged in primary agricultural activities. Over the last few years, a number of Farmer Producer Companies have been set up along the lines of co-operative societies which also provide similar assistance to their members. 
Mr. Jaitley noted that, currently, a deduction of 30% is allowed in addition to normal deduction of 100 % in respect of emoluments paid to eligible new employees who have been employed for a minimum period of 240 days during the year under section 80-JJAA of the Income-tax Act. However, the minimum period of employment is relaxed to 150 days in the case of apparel industry.
In order to encourage creation of new employment, he proposed to  extend this relaxation to footwear and leather industry. He also proposed to rationalise this deduction of 30% by allowing the benefit for a new employee who is employed for less than the minimum period during the first year but continues to remain employed for the minimum period in subsequent year. 
In the real estate sector, currently, while taxing income from capital gains, business profits and other sources in respect of transactions in immovable property, the consideration or circle rate value, whichever is higher, is adopted and the difference is counted as income both in the hands of the purchaser and seller. Sometimes, this variation can occur in respect of different properties in the same area because of a variety of factors including shape of the plot and location.
"In order to minimize hardship in real estate transaction, I propose to provide that no adjustment shall be made in a case where the circle rate value does not exceed 5% of the consideration," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said that the reduction of corporate tax rate to 25% in the Union Budget 2017 for companies whose turnover was less than Rs. 50 crore in financial year 2015-16 had benefited 96% of the total companies filing tax returns.
He said the decision to now extend this benefit to companies who have reported turnover up to Rs. 250 crore in the financial year 2016-17 would benefit the entire class of micro, small and medium enterprises which accounts for almost 99% of companies filing their tax returns. 
He said the estimate of revenue forgone due to this measure is Rs. 7,000 crore during the financial year 2018-19. After this, out of about 7 lakh companies filing returns, about 7,000 companies which file returns of income and whose turnover is above Rs. 250 crore will remain in 30% slab. The lower corporate income tax rate for 99% of the companies will leave them with higher investible surplus which in turn will create more jobs, he said.
Mr. Jaitley proposed to provide two more concessions to the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC). 
"The Government had endeavoured to develop a world class international financial services centre in India. In recent years, various measures including tax incentives have been provided in order to fulfil this objective. To further this objective, I propose to provide two more concessions for IFSC. In order to promote trade in stock exchanges located in IFSC, I propose to exempt transfer of derivatives and certain securities by non-residents from capital gains tax. Further, non-corporate taxpayers operating in IFSC shall be charged Alternate Minimum Tax (AMT) at concessional rate of 9% at par with Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) applicable for corporates," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said that, currently, the income of trusts and institutions is exempt if they utilise their income towards their objects in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Income-tax Act. However, there is no restriction on these entities for incurring expenditure in cash. In order to have audit trail of the expenses incurred by these entities, it is proposed that payments exceeding Rs. 10,000 in cash made by such entities shall be disallowed and the same shall be subject to tax. 
Further, in order to improve TDS compliance by these entities, he proposed to provide that in case of non-deduction of tax, 30% of the amount shall be disallowed and the same shall be taxed.
Currently, long term capital gains arising from transfer of listed equity shares, units of equity oriented fund and unit of a business trust are exempt from tax. 
"With the reforms introduced by the Government and incentives given so far, the equity market has become buoyant. The total amount of exempted capital gains from listed shares and units is around Rs. 3,67,000 crores as per returns filed for A.Y.17-18. Major part of this gain has accrued to corporates and LLPs. This has also created a bias against manufacturing, leading to more business surpluses being invested in financial assets. The return on investment in equity is already quite attractive even without tax exemption. There is therefore a strong case for bringing long term capital gains from listed equities in the tax net. However, recognising the fact that vibrant equity market is essential for economic growth, I propose only a modest change in the present regime. 
"I propose to tax such long term capital gains exceeding Rs. 1 lakh at the rate of 10% without allowing the benefit of any indexation. However, all gains up to 31st January, 2018 will be grandfathered. For example, if an equity share is purchased six months before 31st January, 2018 at Rs. 100 and the highest price quoted on 31st January, 2018 in respect of this share is Rs. 120, there will be no tax on the gain of Rs. 20 if this share is sold after one year from the date of purchase. However, any gain in excess of Rs. 20 earned after 31st January, 2018 will be taxed at 10% if this share is sold after 31st July, 2018.  The gains from equity share held up to one year will remain short term capital gain and will continue to be taxed at the rate of 15%. Further, I also propose to introduce a tax on distributed income by equity oriented mutual fund at the rate of 10%. This will provide level playing field across growth oriented funds and dividend distributing funds. In view of grandfathering, this change in capital gain tax will bring marginal revenue gain of about Rs. 20,000 crore in the first year. The revenues in subsequent years may be more," he said.
At present there is a three per cent cess on personal income tax and corporation tax -- consisting of two per cent cess for primary education and one per cent cess for secondary and higher education. 
"In order to take care of the needs of education and health of BPL and rural families, I have announced programs in Part A of my speech. To fund this, I propose to increase the cess by one per cent. The existing three per cent education cess will be replaced by a four per cent “Health and Education Cess” to be levied on the tax payable. This will enable us to collect an estimated additional amount of Rs. 11,000 crores," he said.
Mr. Jaitley said that the e-assessment introduced in 2016 on a pilot basis and extended to 102 cities in 2017, would now be rolled out across the country. This is expected to transform the age-old assessment procedure of the income tax department and the manner in which they interact with taxpayers and other stakeholders. "Accordingly, I propose to amend the Income-tax Act to notify a new scheme for assessment where the assessment will be done in electronic mode which will almost eliminate person to person contact leading to greater efficiency and transparency," he said.
On the Indirect Taxes side, this was the first budget after the roll out of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) on July 1 last year. Since excise duties to a large extent and service tax have been subsumed in GST, along with corresponding duties on imports, Mr. Jaitley's budget proposals were mainly on the customs side.
"In this budget, I am making a calibrated departure from the underlying policy in the last two decades, wherein the trend largely was to reduce the customs duty. There is substantial potential for domestic value addition in certain sectors, like food processing, electronics, auto components, footwear and furniture. To further incentivise the domestic value addition and Make in India in some such sectors, I propose to increase customs duty on certain items. I propose to increase customs duty on mobile phones from 15% to 20%, on some of their parts and accessories to 15% and on certain parts of TVs to 15%. This measure will promote creation of more jobs in the country," he said.
To help the cashew processing industry, he proposed to reduce customs duty on raw cashew from 5% to 2.5%.
He proposed to abolish the Education Cess and Secondary and Higher Education Cess on imported goods, and in its place impose a Social Welfare Surcharge, at the rate of 10% of the aggregate duties of Customs, on imported goods, to provide for social welfare schemes of the Government.  Goods which were hitherto exempt from Education Cesses on imported goods will, however, be exempt from this Surcharge. In addition, certain specified goods will attract the proposed Surcharge at the rate of 3% of the aggregate duties of customs only.
Mr. Jaitley also proposed to make certain changes to the Customs Act, 1962, to further improve ease of doing business in cross border trade, and to align certain provisions with the commitments under the Trade Facilitation Agreement. To smoothen dispute resolution processes and to reduce litigation, certain amendments are being made, to provide for pre-notice consultation, definite timelines for adjudication and deemed closure of cases if those timelines are not adhered to. 
With the roll out of GST, he proposed to change the name of Central Board of Excise and Customs [CBEC] to Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). 
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IREDA inks agreement for large-scale solar parks in Madhya Pradesh

Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) and Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) signed an agreement today for financing the shared infrastructure of two large solar parks in Madhya Pradesh.
The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), World Bank and IREDA had come out with a proposal to channelize $ 100 million for creating a common infrastructure for ultra-mega solar parks in India to achieve the 100 GW solar capacity addition target by 2022, set by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Under the World Bank Line of Credit, IREDA has sanctioned its first loan of Rs. 210.62 crore to RUMSL to finance two such solar parks in Madhya Pradesh.  The agreement was signed by S K Bhargava, Director (Finance), IREDA  and Avaneesh Shukla, Executive Engineer, RUMSL in the presence of Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General, International Solar Alliance (ISA).
The broad terms and condition of the agreement include a fixed interest rate of 8.5% p.a. for entire loan tenure, moratorium from principal repayments up to 5 years and loan repayment period of up to 20 years.
Speaking on the occasion, K S Popli, CMD, IREDA appreciated the initiative of MNRE, support of The World Bank and more specifically of DEA to reduce the Sovereign Guarantee fee to 0.5%. This support from DEA will enable to expedite development of such proposals in other states also, he added.
Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General, ISA stressed the need to pay immediate attention to the development of 121 projects of solar technologies in 121 ISA member countries by April 21, 2018.
He congratulated IREDA and RUMSL for achieving the feat in a short time frame and also for the innovative Payment Security Mechanism which will ensure timely payment to the developer.
Manu Srivastava, Principal Secretary and Managing Director, RUMSL mentioned that RUMSL, at present, was setting up two solar parks, in Rewa with a capacity of 750 MW and Mandsaur with 250 MW capacity. 
With the solar park model, Payment Security Mechanism and the Line of Credit from The World Bank, the tariff for Rewa project was as low as Rs. 3.30 on a levelized basis. Out of the total power proposed to be generated at Rewa solar park, 24% has been agreed to be purchased by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and balance 76% by Madhya Pradesh Power Management Company Ltd (MPPMCL), an official press release added.
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CSO revises FY16 GDP growth up to 8.2%, FY17 unchanged at 7.1%

The Central Statistics Office on Wednesday revised the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for 2015-16 to 8.2% from the earlier estimates of 8 percent and kept the growth rate in 2016-17 unchanged at 7.1 percent.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation today revised the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for 2015-16 to 8.2% from the earlier estimates of 8 percent and kept the growth rate in 2016-17 unchanged at 7.1 percent.
In the First Revised Estimates of National Income, Consumption Expenditure, Saving and Capital Formation for 2016-17along with Second Revised Estimates for 2015-16 and Third Revised Estimates for the financial year 2014-15 released here today, the CSO said real GDP or GDP at constant (2011-12) prices for the years 2016-17 and 2015-16 stood at Rs. 121.96 lakh crore and Rs. 113.86 lakh crore, respectively.
Nominal GDP or GDP at current prices for the year 2016-17 is estimated as Rs. 152.54 lakh crore while that for the year 2015-16 is estimated as Rs. 137.64 lakh crore, exhibiting a growth of 10.8% during 2016-17 as against 10.4% during 2015-16, a statement from the CSO said.
The statement said that, at the aggregate level, nominal GVA at basic prices increased by 10.1% during 2016-17 as against 9.2% during 2015-16. In terms of GVA at constant (2011-12) basic prices, there has been a growth of 7.1% in 2016-17, as against growth of 8.1% in 2015-16, it said.
The statement said the growth in real GVA during 2016-17 has been lower than that in 2015-16 mainly due to lower growth in ‘manufacturing’ (7.9%), ‘construction’ (1.3%), ‘transport, storage, communication & services related to broadcasting’ (4.3%), ‘trade, repair, hotels and restaurants’ (8.9%), ‘financial services’ (1.3%) and‘real estate, ownership of dwelling & professional services’ (8.0%),
At constant prices, the growth rates of primary (comprising agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining & quarrying), secondary (comprising manufacturing, electricity, gas, water supply & other utility services, and construction) and tertiary (services) sectors have been estimated as 7.4%, 6.1% and 7.5% during 2016-17 as against a growth of 2.6%, 9.4%  and 9.6%, respectively, in the previous year.
Nominal Net National Income (NNI) at current prices for the year 2016-17 stood  at Rs. 134.9 lakh crore as against Rs. 121.5 lakh crore in 2015-16, showing an increase of 11.0% during 2016-17 as against an increase of 10.7% in the previous year.
Gross National Disposable Income (GNDI) at current prices is estimated as Rs. 154.6 lakh crore for the year 2016-17, while the estimate for the year 2015-16 stood at Rs. 140.2 lakh crore, showing a growth of 10.3% as against 10.2% in the year 2015-16.
Gross Saving during 2016-17 is estimated as Rs. 45.73 lakh crore as against Rs. 43.02 lakh crore during 2015-16. Rate of Gross Saving to GNDI for the year 2016-17 is estimated as 29.6% as against 30.7% estimated for 2015-16.
The highest contributor to Gross Saving is the household sector, with a share of 54.2% in the year 2016-17. However, this share has declined from 56.9% in 2015-16. This decline can be attributed to decline in households gross financial savings, which has declined from Rs. 15.21 lakh crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 14.05 lakh crore in 2016-17. 
On the other hand, the share of Non-Financial Corporations and Financial Corporations have increased from 39.8% in 2015-16 to 41.0% in 2016-17 and 6.8% in 2015-16 to 7.3% in 2016-17, respectively. The dis-saving of General Government has decreased from 3.5% of Gross Saving in 2015-16 to 2.5% in 2016-17.
Gross Capital Formation (GCF) at current prices is estimated as Rs. 46.71 lakh crore for the year 2016-17 as compared to Rs. 44.42 lakh crore during 2015-16. The rate of GCF to GDP declined from 32.3% during 2015-16 to 30.6% in the year 2016-17. The rate of GCF excluding valuables to GDP stood at 30.8%  and 29.5% for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17m respectively. The rate of capital formation in the years 2011-12 to 2016-17 has been higher than the rate of saving because of net capital inflow from Rest of the World (ROW), the statement said.
In terms of the share to the total GCF (at current prices), the highest contributor is Non-Financial Corporations. However, its share has declined from 56.0% in 2015-16 to 55.1% in 2016-17. Share of household sector in GCF is also significant, which has risen from 30.5% cent in 2015-16 to 31.4% in 2016-17. The share of General Government in GCF has increased from 11.9% in 2015-16 to 12.9% in 2016-17.
Within the Gross Capital Formation at current prices, the Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) amounted to Rs. 43.52 lakh crore in 2016-17 as against Rs. 39.18 lakh crore in 2015-16. The rate of GFCF to GDP at current prices continues to be the same at 28.5% in both the years 2015-16 and 2016-17. The change in stocks of inventories, at current prices, decreased from Rs. 2.55 lakh crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 1.00 lakh crore in 2016-17, while the valuables decreased from Rs. 2.03 lakh crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 1.76 lakh crore in 2016-17, it said.
The rate of Gross Capital Formation to GDP at constant (2011-12) prices has decreased from 34.5% in 2015-16 to 33.5% in 2016-17.
Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE) at current prices is estimated at Rs. 90.05 lakh crore for the year 2016-17as against Rs. 80.91 lakh crore in 2015-16. In relation to GDP, the rates of PFCE at current prices during 2015-16 and 2016-17 are estimated at 58.8% and 59.0%, respectively.
At constant (2011-12) prices, the PFCE is estimated as Rs. 63.51 lakh crore and Rs. 68.12 lakh crore, respectively, for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17. The corresponding rates of PFCE to GDP for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17 are 55.8% and 55.9%, respectively.
Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) at current prices is estimated as Rs. 16.64 lakh crore for the year 2016-17 as against Rs. 14.28 lakh crore during 2015-16. At constant (2011-12) prices, the estimates of GFCE for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17 stood at Rs. 11.25 lakh crore and Rs. 12.62 lakh crore, respectively.
The statement said that Per Capita Income, i.e., Per Capita Net National Income at current prices, is estimated as Rs. 94,731 and Rs. 1,03,870, respectively, for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17. Correspondingly, Per Capita PFCE at current prices, for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17 is estimated at Rs. 63,065 and Rs. 69,322, respectively.
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Reliance Jio denies it has launched any JioCoin app

Telecom services provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) today denied that it had launched any JioCoin app and advised people to stay away from them.
The clarification by Reliance Jio came following reports in the media and various websites about the existence of the purported JioCoin apps on the internet that are soliciting investments in crypto currencies from people.
"Reliance Jio would like to inform the public and media that there are no such apps offered by the company or its affiliates / associates. Any such apps using the JioCoin name are fake and people are advised to refrain from dealing with any of them," a statement from the company said here.
"Reliance Jio takes a serious note of such fraudulent attempts by unscrupulous persons to misguide the public in the name of Jio and reserves the right to take appropriate legal recourse," the statement added.
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NHAI provides toilets at 192 toll plazas; remaining 180 to be covered by March 2019

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has provided toilet facilities at 192 toll plazas across the country, while the remaining 180 toll plazas will be covered by the end of March 2019. 
Under the Union Government’s flagship programme Swachh Bharat Mission, NHAI is providing separate ladies' and gents' toilets on both up and down carriageways of each of its 372 toll plazas and also placing litter bins and hoardings carrying the Swachhta (cleanliness) message,  along with a message discouraging littering at these sites.
An official press release said NHAI proposes to achieve the target of providing toilet facilities at every toll plaza during the final year of the Swachh Bharat Mission. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways is monitoring the progress in this regard, it said.
Under the current Swachhta Pakhwada (Cleanliness fortnight), work has been carried out in all the toll plazas along National Highways to make them free of open defecation and installation of temporary toilets.
Swachhta Pakhwada Awareness Workshops were held along with ensuring that all road-side "dhabas" were litter free and maintained hygiene. Special cleanliness drive, mega road cleaning event and ‘Shramdan’ were held.
Steps were taken to ensure generation of less waste during road construction. Circulars were issued to the companies to maintain adequate sanitation facilities during the road and bridge construction. Construction sites were made litter free.
Swachhta message was displayed through banners, posters and hoardings. Tree plantation drive along with maintenance and growth of plants were held. Awards were distributed to best performing SBM functionaries.
Outdated posters along highways were removed as these add to clutter and also distract road users, the release added.
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India's eight core industries grow by 4% in December, 2017

A coal power station.
A coal power station.
India's eight core industries, which have a combined weight of 40.27 percent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), grew by 4.0 percent in December, 2017, as compared to the same month of the previous year, an official statement said here today, quoting provisional data.
The base year of the Index of Eight Core Industries was revised from the year 2004-05 to 2011-12 from April, 2017.
The statement said the combined Index of Eight Core Industries stood at 129.1 in December, 2017. Its cumulative growth during April-December, 2017-18 was 4.0%, it said.
According to the statement, coal production, which has a weight of 10.33% in the IIP, declined by 0.1% in December, 2017 from December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 1.3% during April-December, 2017-18 over corresponding period of the previous year.
Crude oil production (weight: 8.98%) declined by 2.1% in December, 2017 from December, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 0.4% during April-December, 2017-18 from the corresponding period of the previous year.
Natural gas production (weight: 6.88%) increased by 1.0% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 4.0%  during April-December, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Petroleum refinery production (weight: 28.04%) increased by 6.6% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 3.9% during April-December, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
Fertilizers production (weight: 2.63%) increased by 3.0% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 0.6% during April-December, 2017-18 from the corresponding period of the previous year.
Steel production (weight: 17.92%) increased by 2.6% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 6.7% during April-December, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Cement production (weight: 5.37 per cent) increased by 19.6% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 2.7% during April-December, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year.
Electricity generation (weight: 19.85%) increased by 3.3% in December, 2017 over December, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 4.9% during April-December, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year, the statement added.
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World Bank to provide $ 100 million for project to promote rural enterprises in Tamil Nadu

The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $100 million loan agreement that is expected to promote rural enterprises, facilitate their access to finance, and create employment opportunities for youth, particularly women, in selected blocks of Tamil Nadu across 26 districts, directly benefitting over 400,000 people.
The Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project will create an enabling environment for producer organizations and enterprises to promote businesses across select value chains, an official press release said.
Based on the analysis, communities will identify commodities and subsectors in the value chain for preparing business plans. Thirty percent of the financing for these business plans will be through a matching grant program from the project and the remaining 70 percent will be leveraged from other financial institutions, it said.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance said that the Government of India is committed to help create an enabling environment of institutional reforms, policies and investments which are key factors that will help India attain speedy and inclusive rural transformation. He said that the project will enable producer organizations and enterprises,  especially women entrepreneurs, in Tamil Nadu build businesses that will help them access finance, markets and networks and generate employment.
?The agreement for the project was signed by Mr. Khare on behalf of the Government of India; Mr. Praveen P. Nair, Project Director on behalf of the Government of Tamil Nadu; and Mr. Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank India, on behalf of the World Bank.
?It will also specifically support eligible households from socially and culturally disadvantaged groups harness their existing assets, skills, and resources; break their entry barriers to value-added economic activities; enhance their ability to access finance, markets, technology, and related support services; help them graduate to value-added economic activities with higher returns such as garment manufacturing and food processing units, eco-tourism ventures, and businesses around creative industries.
Mr. Ahmad said that World Bank-financed State Livelihood Projects, which have so far reached over 35 million people, have given the rural poor a greater sense of identity, and better services and livelihood opportunities. He said that this project will build on those achievements and support Tamil Nadu’s rural enterprises access finance, build business skills and create jobs.
The release said the project would be operational in 120 blocks across 3,994 villages in 26 districts of Tamil Nadu with 411,620 direct beneficiaries. It will work with targeted households that are already part of Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The project will be rolled out in a phased manner – 26 blocks will be taken up for implementation in all project districts in the first eight months, followed by 52 blocks by the end of 12 months, and the remaining 42 blocks by the end of 18 months from initiation of project implementation.
?Selected innovations and start-up ideas will also be tested or scaled up under a newly created platform known as the Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Marketplace. 
"This platform will identify, showcase and celebrate innovative solutions related to themes that have the potential to impact rural economic growth in the state. Innovative ideas related to promoting rural artisans, local nutritious food systems and traditional health practices will be considered. The project will draw lessons from several rural livelihoods programs in India and build on the successes of the recently closed Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project," the release said.
?Mr. Hans Raj Verma, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu said that the project would support building an ecosystem that will provide business development services to entrepreneurs in rural and semi-urban areas for promoting rural enterprises and creating employment opportunities. He said that it will specifically target at least 60 percent women entrepreneurs from the SHG network in Tamil Nadu who have the potential to move into the next level of economic integration.
"?An e-governance architecture with the use of ICT along with a robust Management Information System (MIS) will help monitor and track results real time," he added.
The $100 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years.
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ADB to provide $ 250 million loan to improve rural connectivity in five states

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India today signed a $250 million loan to finance the construction of 6,254 kilometres of all-weather rural roads in the States of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), the government's flagship sural roads programme.
The First Tranche Loan is part of the $ 500 million Second Rural Connectivity Investment Programme for India approved by the ADB Board in December 2017, an official press release said.
The programme is aimed at improving rural connectivity, facilitating safer and more efficient access to livelihood and socio-economic opportunities for rural communities through improvements to about 12,000 kilometres of rural roads across the five States.
Mr. Sameer Kumar, Khare, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs in the Government’s Ministry of Finance signed the loan agreement on behalf of Government of India. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Khare said that the ADB-funded investment program will provide continued assistance to the PMGSY and support the Government’s long-term goal for rural development. He said that the programme is likely to have a transformative impact in terms of rural economy and would also bring in greater efficiency in terms of access and connectivity for the rural people in the five States. Under the project, about 2,000 technical personnel would be imparted training on road safety and maintenance.
Mr. Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission who signed the agreement for ADB, said that the investment programme will support the Government’s drive for innovative approaches to reduce costs, conserve non-renewable natural resources, and promote the use of waste materials in rural road construction. He said that road maintenance will be ensured through the provision of a 5-year post-construction maintenance in each civil works contract.
The investment programme builds on the $ 800 million ADB-financed first Rural Connectivity Investment Programme in 2012 that added about 9,000 kilometres of all-weather rural roads in the same States, the release said.
In view of increased rainfall and storm surges in the project States, the road designs will take into account these climate risks with measures such as greater elevation of road embankments, slope protection, and better drainage in flood-prone areas. 
Women were extensively consulted during the project design and will gain some key benefits, including improved access to healthcare, livelihoods, and schooling, the release added.
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Tamil Nadu CM lays foundation stone for 1320 MW Udangudi Supercritical Power Project to be set up by BHEL

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami laid the foundation stone for the 2x660 MW Udangudi Supercritical Thermal Power Project here today.
Valued at Rs.7,359 crore, the project has been awarded to public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) on EPC basis, by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd (TANGEDCO).
The event was attended by Tamil Nadu Deputy  Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and other dignitaries.
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Applied DNA Sciences, GHCL and RIL launch CertainT recycled PET bedding products in NY Home Fashion Show

Applied DNA Sciences, Inc. today announced it is collaborating with GHCL Limited, a global manufacturer of home textiles, and energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) to launch CertainT verified recycled PET (rPET) bedding products at the New York Home Fashions week, to be held from March 19 to 22.
Fully source-verified, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET post-consumer) is the clear plastic best known for packaging bottled water, and is the most widely recycled plastic in the world. GHCL will use Applied DNA’s CertainT platform in connection with PET- and/or recycled PET-blended bed sheets, pillowcases, and shams sold in-store or online in the United States, a press release from Applied DNA said.
RIL is collaborating with GHCL and Applied DNA as the preferred fiber-manufacturing partner to use the CertainT platform for authenticity of recycled PET in bed sheets, pillowcases, and shams.
"RIL, the largest integrated producer of polyester fibre and yarn in the world, manufacturers the most ecofriendly fibres in the world, Recron Green Gold fibres and Recron Green Gold Dope-Dyed (EcoD) Fibres & Tow, which are manufactured via ecofriendly processes of the highest standard. These fibers have been granted the Global Recycle Standard from the internationally recognized Control Union Certificates, Netherland," the release said.
Mr. Hemant Sharma, Sector Head - Polyester, RIL said, “RIL is the only company that has created a complete circle from creation of PET resin for making bottles, collection of discarded PET bottles, and converting them to Recron Green Gold Eco Friendly Polyester fibres for use by the downstream textile value chain that converts the fibres in to apparel and home textiles.”
“Recron Green Gold fibres and tow demonstrate the lowest carbon footprint number and meet the most stringent environmental criteria for being a green fiber. The collaboration with Applied DNA and GHCL for making forensic science based Recron Green Gold fibre further bolsters our thrust on quality and persuasion for highest standards," he added.
“Consistent with global sustainability and the circular economy, we provide the first fully source-verified recycled PET bedding product line using CertainT, Applied DNA’s proprietary traceability system that tags, tests, tracks the original r-PET pellets to finished products,” said Manu Kapur, President and CEO of GHCL Home Textiles. 
“We produce a wide range of synthetic yarns from polyester, viscose and other high-end yarns which now utilize the CertainT system for full traceability. The ability to source and buy CertainT yarns made from verified recycled PET fiber is a unique offering that GHCL can provide to customers globally.”
GHCL operates its home textiles facility in Vapi in the state of Gujarat, India. The facility oversees the production process from spinning to weaving to finished processed fabric, which is then made into duvet sets, sheet sets, comforters, to name a few. As one of the leading manufacturers in home textiles in India, the plant boasts an annual production capacity of 36 million meters of finished fabric per annum. GHCL’s home textile products are predominantly exported worldwide to USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and other European Union countries as well. 
On October 25, 2017, GHCL was presented with the Golden Peacock Award for Excellence in Corporate Governance in London, UK.
“CertainT does what no other system can do – we can tag every single fiber and verify them through a defined and secure supply chain through systematic sampling, testing and tracking,” said Dr. James Hayward, president and CEO of Applied DNA. “Momentum with retailers and manufacturers across a variety of textiles is growing; we are pleased to see the CertainT platform and trademark now making its way onto retail shelves this year, giving consumers what they want.”
Applied DNA is a provider of molecular technologies that enable supply chain security, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft technology, product genotyping and DNA mass production for diagnostics and therapeutics.
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GAIL begins work on West Bengal stretch of Prime Minister Urja Ganga pipeline

Public sector natural gas major GAIL (India) Limited has started pipeline construction work in West Bengal for providing gas supply to Matix Fertilizers at Durgapur. 
The project is being executed on a fast-track basis as part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga Pipeline project -- the Jagdishpur-Haldia & Bokaro-Dhamra Natural Gas Pipeline (JHBDPL) project.
A press release from GAIL said the 555 km pipeline, with an approved cost of approximately Rs. 2700 crore, would pass through eight districts of West Bengal -- Puruliya, Bankura, Burdwan, Nadia, Hooghly, Howrah, East Medinapur and 24 North Paragana.
Further project activities for execution of pipeline in the state of West Bengal upto Haldia and City Gas Distribution in Kolkata are also expected to commence shortly, it said.
The prestigious 2655 km long JHBDPL project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2015.Hon’ble Prime Minister of India in July’2015. The project is progressing in full swing. The pipeline will pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
The release said the project is being executed in a phased manner. Phase I consists of pipeline network from Phulpur – Dobhi with spurlines to Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Patna and Barauni (755 Km) and is scheduled to be completed by Dec ‘18. Phase II of the project beyond Dobhi (Gaya) towards Durgapur Haldia & Bokaro – Ranchi and Angul – Dhamra (1900 Km) is scheduled to be completed progressively by Dec’20.   
The project will usher in industrial development in the eastern part of India by supplying environmentally clean natural gas to fertilizers and power plants, refineries, steel plants and other industries. Further, the arrival of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga will provide direct and indirect employment to thousands of people, the release said.
The project will also provide clean energy to households and transportation in the cities on the pipeline route. City Gas Network laying activities in Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi and Cuttack have already commenced and activities in other cities such as Patna and Jamshedpur will start by next month. 
The pilot project in  Bhubaneshwar for providing piped natural gas (PNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) has already been inaugurated in October 2017 and December, 2017, respectively, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan.
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Economic Survey predicts 7-7.5% growth in 2018-19

The Economic Survey 2017-18 tabled in Parliament today by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that a series of major reforms undertaken by the Government over the past year would allow real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to reach 6.75% this fiscal and rise to 7.0-7.5 percent in 2018-19, thereby re-instating India as the world’s fastest growing major economy. 
The survey said that the reform measures undertaken in 2017-18 could be strengthened further in 2018-19.
The survey underlines that due to the launch of the "transformational" Goods and Services Tax (GST) reform on July 1, 2017, resolution of the long-festering Twin Balance Sheet (TBS) problem by sending the major stressed companies for resolution under the new Indian Bankruptcy Code, implementing a major recapitalization package to strengthen the public sector banks, further liberalization of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the export uplift from the global recovery, the economy began to accelerate in the second half of the year and could clock 6.75% growth this year. 
The survey points out that, as per the quarterly estimates, there was a reversal of the declining trend of GDP growth in the second quarter of 2017-18, led by the industry sector. 
The Gross Value Added (GVA) at constant basic prices is expected to grow at the rate of 6.1% in 2017-18 as compared to 6.6% in 2016-17.
Similarly, agriculture, industry and services sectors are expected to grow at the rate of 2.1%, 4.4% and 8.3%, respectively in 2017-18. 
The survey said that, after remaining in negative territory for a couple of years, exports rebounded during 2016-17 and are expected to grow faster in 2017-18. However, due to higher expected increase in imports, net exports of goods and services are slated to decline in 2017-18. 
Similarly, despite the robust economic growth, the savings and investment as a ratio of GDP generally declined. The major reduction in investment rate occurred in 2013-14, although it declined in 2015-16 too. Within this the share of household sector declined, while that of private corporate sector increased, it said.
The survey pointed out that India could be rated as among the best performing economies in the world as the average growth during last three years was around 4 percentage points higher than global growth and nearly 3 percentage points higher than that of Emerging Market and Developing Economies. It pointed out that the GDP growth has averaged 7.3% for the period from 2014-15 to 2017-18, which is the highest among the major economies of the world. That this growth has been achieved in a milieu of lower inflation, improved current account balance and notable reduction in the fiscal deficit to GDP ratio makes it all the more creditable, the survey said.
According to the survey, concerns have been expressed about growing protectionist tendencies in some countries but it remains to be seen how the situation would unfold.
Some of the factors could have dampening effect on GDP growth in the coming year such as the possibility of an increase in crude oil prices in the international market. However, with world growth likely to witness moderate improvement in 2018, expectation of greater stability in GST, likely recovery in investment levels, and ongoing structural reforms, among others, should be supporting higher growth. On balance, country’s economic performance should witness an improvement in 2018-19, it said.
The survey stressed that, against the emerging macroeconomic concerns, policy vigilance would be necessary in the coming year, especially if high international oil prices persist or elevated stock prices correct sharply, provoking a “sudden stall” in capital flows. 
"The agenda for the next year consequently remains full: stabilizing the GST, completing the TBS actions, privatizing Air India, and staving off threats to macro-economic stability. The TBS actions, noteworthy for cracking the long-standing 'exit' problem, need complementary reforms to shrink unviable banks and allow greater private sector participation. 
"The GST Council offers a model 'technology' of cooperative federalism to apply to many other policy reforms. Over the medium term, three areas of policy focus stand out: Employment: finding good jobs for the young and burgeoning workforce, especially for women. Education: creating an educated and healthy labor force. Agriculture: raising farm productivity while strengthening agricultural resilience. Above all, India must continue improving the climate for rapid economic growth on the strength of the only two truly sustainable engines—private investment and exports," the report said.
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HPCL acquisition to make ONGC third largest refining company in India

The acquisition of the 51.11% equity share of the Government of India in HPCL is slated to make ONGC the third largest refining power in the country, Mr DD Misra, Director (HR), ONGC said here today.
Speaking at the Republic Day celebrations at ONGC Corporate Headquarters here, Mr. Mishra said that, with  this, the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) was set to become India’s first fully vertically integrated energy company with presence across the entire hydrocarbon value chain.
Mr Misra was speaking in the capacity of officiating CMD, in place of Mr Shashi Shanker, who is representing India as part of a high level delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We are geared up to contribute in achieving the Prime Minister’s vision of 10% reduction in energy imports by 2022,” he said.
The capacity increase from acquisition of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) would contribute to ONGC’s downstream kitty of MRPL, that registered its highest ever throughput of 16.57 MMT. 
This combined with ONGC’s other value multiplier projects such as ONGC Petro additions Ltd (OPaL), ONGC Mangalore Petrochemicals Ltd (OMPL) and ONGC Tripura Power Company (OTPC) that are all fully operational, would consolidate ONGC’s presence in the downstream hydrocarbon sector. 
The company is also consolidating its upstream presence by adding more reserves in the proven reserve base. “By working expeditiously on the Kutch-Saurashtra basin, ONGC will be shortly adding the 8th producing basin to India’s oil and gas map. This will be a moment of pride for all ONGCians," he said.
Besides, the company is also actively engaged in National Seismic Programme and Hydrocarbon assessment missions.
“We performed well during 2016-17 and are continuing with the same zeal in 2017-18,” he said, adding that the company has done extremely well on onshore crude production as well as natural gas production. “Continuing with strong performance in first 9 months of this fiscal, our crude production is 16.892 MMT – 1.5% more than the previous period,”he said. 
Mr Misra said that the company's natural gas output in FY’17 also witnessed a growth of 4.29% at 22.09 BCM. “During the first nine months of this fiscal, natural gas production has been higher by 7.9% as compared to same period in 2016-17," he said.
Over the past three years, ONGC’s Board has approved projects worth over Rs 78,000 crore that would lead to additional hydrocarbon output of over 180 MMToe.
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Ministry of Road Transport & Highways signs MoU with IL&FS for construction of Zojila tunnel

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here yesterday for construction of the 14.150 km long, two-lane Zojila Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.
This would be India's longest road tunnel and the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia, an official press release said.
The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and will bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions, it said. 
The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu & Kashmir, it said.
The project aims at construction of a 14.150 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.200 km long egress tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg in J&K. 
The total capital cost of the project is Rs. 6,808.69 crore. It includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement andrehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years. The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899.42 crore. The construction period of the project is seven years which shall be reckoned from the date of commencement of construction.
The tunnel will be an engineering marvel, a first of its kind in such geographical area. It will have all modern technical safety arrangements such as cut and cross ventilation system, two axial fans,, fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted  power supply, CCTV monitoring, variable messaging boards, traffic logging equipment , tunnel radio, emergency telephone system, and so on.
The main objective of the project is to provide all-weather connectivity to the strategically important Leh region in Jammu & Kashmir which at the moment is limited to at best six months in a year because of snow on the passes and threat of avalanches. This project, along with other ongoing projects like 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.
Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, urged the construction company to make efforts to complete the project faster than the seven years assigned for it so that its  benefits can reach the people of the region at the earliest. He also urged the company to explore whether it is technically feasible to lay railway tracks in the tunnel along with the road.
The projects will also increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities. There would be enormous boost in employment as local businesses get linked to national market and the region is able to receive round the year tourist traffic, the release added.
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Japan commits ODA loan of Rs. 2587 crore for Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Project

The Government of Japan today committed Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of Yen 45 billion (approximately Rs. 2,587 crore) for the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Project (Phase 3) (I) through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The notes in this regard were exchanged today between Mr. S. Selvakumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India and Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India, an official press release said.
The release said the project would provide residents of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) area, especially in 110 villages, with safe and stable water supply and sewerage services by carrying-out construction of water treatment plant and sewage treatment plants, thereby improving living conditions of the residents as well as the investment environment in the concerned areas.
"India and Japan have had a long and fruitful history of bilateral development cooperation since 1958. In the last few years, the economic cooperation between India and Japan has steadily progressed. This further consolidates and strengthens the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan," the release added.
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Jaitley unveils details of recapitalisation of public sector banks

Jaitley unveils details of recap plan for PSBs
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today unveiled details of the government's massive two-year Rs. 2.11 lakh crore re-capitalisation plan for public sector banks (PSBs) announced in October, 2017, which include Rs. 80,000 crore through Recap Bonds and Rs. 8,139 crore as budgetary support in the current fiscal year.
IDBI Bank, which has the highest stressed loan ratio and is in the RBI's Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) list, will get the largest share of this at Rs. 10,610 crore.
Among the other PCA banks, Bank of India will get Rs. 9,232 crore; UCO Bank - Rs. 6,507 crore; Central Bank of India - Rs. 5,158 crore; Indian Overseas Bank -- Rs. 4,694 crore; Oriental Bank of Commerce - Rs. 3,571 crore; Dena Bank - Rs. 3,045 crore; Bank of Maharashtra - Rs. 3,173 crore; Corporation Bank - Rs. 2,187 crore; and Allahabad Bank - Rs. 1,500 crore.
Among the non-PCA banks, State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, will get Rs. 8,800 crore; Punjab National Bank - Rs. 8,800 crore, Bank of Baroda - Rs. 5,375 crore; Canara Bank - Rs. 4,865 crore; Union Bank of India -- Rs. 4,524 crore; Syndicate Bank - Rs. 2,839 crore; Andhra Bank - Rs. 1,890 crore and Punjab & Sind Bank - Rs. 785 crore.
Mr. Jaitley said steps needed to be taken to ensure that governance of PSBs adhered to the highest standards and called for an institutional mechanism to prevent the repetition of the past.
The plan addresses regulatory capital requirement of all PSBs and provides a significant amount towards growth capital for increasing lending to the economy, he said.
The recapitalisation would be accompanied by a strong reforms package across six themes incorporating 30 action points, he said.
The reforms agenda is based on the recommendations made at the PSB Manthan held in November, 2017 involving senior management of PSBs and representatives from Government.  
The reform agenda is aimed at EASE - Enhanced Access and Service Excellence, focusing on six themes of customer responsiveness, responsible banking, credit off take, PSBs as Udyami Mitra, deepening financial inclusion & digitalisation and developing personnel for brand PSB.   
The overarching framework for the reforms agenda is “Responsive and Responsible PSBs”.
Mr. Jaitley said capital infusion by the Government is contingent on performance of PSBs on reforms.  Whole Time Directors of PSBs would be assigned theme wise reforms for implementation.  Their performance in this regard would be evaluated by the bank Board.
A survey by an independent agency in respect of EASE would be conducted to measure public perception about improvements in access and service quality.  Results of the survey shall be made public each year.
An official press release said that, taken together, the recapitalisation and reform agenda is sharply focused on strengthening PSBs, increasing lending to MSMEs and making it easier for MSMEs and retail customers to transact as well as significantly increasing access to banking services.  It includes a commitment to banking services within 5 kms of every village, refund  within 10 days of any unauthorised debit in electronic  transactions, a mobile App  for locating banking outlets and a mobile ATM in every underserved district.
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Antrix, TeamIndus mutually terminate launch services agreement

Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and TeamIndus, a private Indian aerospace company, today announced that they were mutually terminating the launch services agreement signed by them in 2016.
"Antrix remains committed to encouraging and promoting private enterprise in space. TeamIndus will continue with its goal of building a world class private aerospace company," a press release from Antrix said.
"TeamIndus also thanks Antrix for its assistance and looks forward to collaborating with Antrix in the future to take India higher and ufrhter into space. Antrix takes this opportunity to wish TeamIndus all success in its future endeavours," the release added.
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Essar Oilfields awarded CBM well drilling contract by ONGC

Essar Oilfields Services India Limited (EOSIL), a part of the Essar Group, today said it had been awarded a one-year, Rs 32-crore contract by the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to drill 30 wells at the latter’s coal bed methane (CBM) block in Bokaro, Jharkhand. 
The company will be deploying the MR#11 land rig for the job, which is expected to commence in the next few weeks, a press release from EOSIL said.
EOSIL, which is close to posting a revenue of Rs 300 crore in the current fiscal, has three of its land rigs currently in operation. These rigs have been contracted with Oil India and Mercator Petroleum, it said.
The release said EOSIL's offshore semi-submersible rig, the Essar Wildcat, is also deployed on a three-year Rs 850-crore contract with ONGC since May 2017, making this the company’s second drilling contract with the state-owned oil and gas exploration and production major.
EOSIL is expecting to increase its revenues by a further 20% in FY 2018-19 because of better deployment of assets. Eight of its rigs are likely to be in operation for a range of clients in the upcoming financial year, it said.
Mr Rajeev Nayyer, CEO, EOSIL, said: “We are proud to have been awarded this drilling contract for the Bokaro block, which is being widely regarded as India’s biggest CBM project. It demonstrates the depth of our expertise in contract drilling and will help us secure more such prestigious projects. With increased activity in India’s oil & gas exploration sector, our state-of-the-art rigs are well equipped to help boost domestic crude production, thus ensuring the country’s energy security.”
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Central assistance of Rs 246.9 crore for nine projects released under PMKSY

Central Assistance of Rs 246.9 crore for nine prioritized projects has been released under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) for Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) works.
The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had also released Rs. 487.80 crore for Command Area Development (CAD) works of 17 projects last week, an official press release said.
During 2017-18, assistance amounting to Rs 1152.52 crore has been released for 26 priority projects under AIBP. Also, Rs 3318.85 crore has been released as State share from NABARD for 24 priority projects under AIBP.
For CAD works, assistance amounting to Rs. 524.90 crore for 22 priority projects and Rs. 71.52 crore as State share has been released through NABARD.
Thus, total funds of Rs 6047.15 crore have been leveraged under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) through NABARD during 2017-18 so far.
Further, Rs 436 crore has been released under PMKSY- Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP) for Surface Minor Irrigation (SMI) and Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) schemes for various States, the release added.
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NHAI awards contract for four-laning of Hiran River-Sindoor River section of NH-12 in MP

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has issued a Letter of Award (LOA) for the four-laning of the Hiran River-Sindoor River section of national highway (NH)-12 in Madhya Pradesh,
The work in the 64-km section to be executed at a cost of Rs 866.39 crore will be executed by Krishna Constructions-Gawar Construction Limited (JV), an official press release said.
The project would be implemented in the EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) mode with a construction period of 24 months.  The project includes upgrading of the highway from two-lane to four-lane with rigid pavement (cement concrete road).
It also involves the construction of four major bridges, 20 minor bridges, nine underpasses at the location of a minor junction and 29 minor junctions for the free and safe movement of road users.
The project road passes for 13 km through a wildlife sanctuary in which 39.750 hectares (ha) of forest land is required for diversion. The road also passes through reserve and protected forest for two km length of which 11.081 ha. forest land is required for diversion. 
In order to facilitate free and safe movement of wildlife, adequate mitigation measures have been included in the project with an additional span of 5m on either side of the major bridges, provision of structures of size 5X3.5M at 25 locations.
On completion of the project, the journey on this highway stretch will become safer, saving time, fuel and vehicle maintenance cost, the release added.
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Ministry sets zero scrap balance target for all Zonal Railways.

The Railways Ministry has advised all General Managers of Zonal Railways to strictly monitor the e-auction of scrap.
The total scrap sales till December 2017 of the current financial year has reached Rs 1837 crore which is 22% higher than the corresponding sales of Rs 1503 crore up to December in the financial year 2016-17.
Earnings from the sale of scrap not only augments Railways' revenue but also helps in keeping the track, stations, workshops, depots neat and tidy, an official press release said.
In this regard, the Ministry has directed all Zonal Railway & Production units to achieve zero scrap balance by end of March 2018.  General Managers of all the Zonal Railways/PUs have been advised to regularly monitor this activity and to intensify supervision at senior officers’ level so as to promptly identify scrap and offer it for e-auction.
Indian Railways have been selling its internally generated scrap entirely through online e-auction.  Majority of the scrap material comprises worn-out rails and track fittings released from track renewal/gauge conversion, steel scrap generated in course of overhaul /repairs of rolling stocks, other non-ferrous and miscellaneous scrap.
The e-auction module is part of the IREPS (Indian Railways E-Procurement System) which is a single portal of Indian Railways handling all procurement tenders and e-auctions digitally. All the Zonal Railways and Production Units use this single platform for online sales of scrap. 
Monthlym on an average, 200 e-auctions are conducted by Materials Managers in Divisions and Stores Depots spread all over Indian Railways.  Auction schedules and details of saleable materials are published regularly on IREPS website and updated online, the release added.
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Transport infrastructure in Varanasi undergoing major overhaul

Union Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways Mansukh L Mandaviya today reviewed the progress of national highways works in and around the city, visited the Multi-Modal Terminal Hub being constructed under the World Bank aided Jal Marg Vikas project on river Ganga and inaugurated a Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
 Mr Mandaviya held a meeting with the officers of Project Implementation Unit (PIU) of Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Regional Officers of NHAI.
At present, seven National Highways works worth Rs 5260 crore are being executed in  Varanasi city.  Two road projects with the estimated cost of Rs 5,764 crore are in the pipeline.
The Minister visited the Multi-Modal Terminal hub at Varanasi, being constructed at a cost of Rs. 169.70 crore under Jal Marg Vikas project. The terminal will have a capacity of 0.54 million tonnes per annum.
The construction work of the terminal is expected to be completed by November 2018. A proposal to establish a Freight Village and Logistic Hub in Varanasi -- the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- is also under consideration of the Government.
These would provide the required infrastructure with state of the art equipment and all modes of transport -- rail, road and waterways – resulting in reduced logistics cost and transportation time and facilitate ease of doing business, an official press release said.
In order to make available quality generic medicines at affordable prices, Mr Mandaviya also inaugurated a Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra at Ramarepur Pahariya in the city.
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