Indian economy set to revert to trend growth of 7.5%: World Bank report

The Indian economy is set to revert to its trend growth rate of 7.5 percent in the coming years as it bottoms out from the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetization, a new World Bank report has said.
The India Development Update, released today, is a biannual flagship publication of the World Bank which takes stock of the Indian economy. 
The current issue (March 2018), titled “India’s Growth Story” describes the state of the Indian economy, shares India’s growth experience and trajectory over the past several decades and provides a long-term perspective on India’s growth outlook. 
The report noted that, over the last 50 years, India’s average growth has accelerated slowly but steadily across sectors – agriculture, industry and services – and become more stable. This is reflected in increasing labour productivity and total factor productivity. 
After growing far more rapidly before the global financial crisis, the economy has grown at an average rate of about 7 percent since 2008–09, a press release from the World Bank said.
The update centres around an assessment of what it will take for India to return to growth rates of 8 percent and higher on a sustained basis. To sustain its growth path, India will need to keep a close eye on several factors to make the country more resilient to shocks: the changing landscape of open trade, reforms in the banking sector, strengthening financial institutions, and regulatory supervision of the financial sector, it said.
Deepening its structural reforms in the areas of health, education and service delivery will be critical for development of human capital required to sustain growth, it said.
The report said India’s GDP growth saw a temporary dip in the last two quarters of 2016-17 and the first quarter of 2017-18 due to demonetization and disruptions surrounding the initial implementation of GST. 
"Economic activity has begun to stabilize since August 2017. India’s GDP growth is projected to reach 6.7 percent in 2017-18 and accelerate to 7.3 percent and 7.5 percent in 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively. While services will continue to remain the main driver of economic growth; industrial activity is poised to grow, with manufacturing expected to accelerate following the implementation of the GST, and agriculture will likely grow at its long-term average growth rate," the release said.
"India’s growth in recent years has been supported by prudent macroeconomic policy: a new inflation targeting framework, energy subsidy reforms, fiscal consolidation, higher quality of public expenditure and a stable balance of payment situation. In addition, recent policy reforms have helped India improve the business environment, ease inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and improve credit behaviour," it said.
The update points to the positive impulse expected from India’s novel GST system which, while remaining more complex than comparable systems in other countries, is likely to improve the domestic flow of goods and services, contribute to the formalization of the economy and sustainably enhance growth.
“India’s long-term growth has become more steady, stable, diversified and resilient. In the long-run, for higher growth to be sustainable and inclusive, India needs to use land and water, which are increasingly becoming scarce resources, more productively, make growth more inclusive, and strengthen its public sector to meet the challenges of a fast growing, globalizing and increasingly middle-class economy,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.  
"Despite the recent momentum, attaining a growth rate of 8 percent and higher on a sustained basis will require addressing several structural challenges. India needs to durably recover its two lagging engines of growth – private investments and exports - while maintaining its hard-won macroeconomic stability. Crucial steps in this process include cleaning up banks’ balance sheets, realizing the expected growth and fiscal dividend from the GST, and continuing the integration into the global economy," the release said.
“Durable revival in private investments and exports would be crucial for India achieving a sustained high growth of 8 percent and above,” said Poonam Gupta, Lead Economist and the main author of the report. “This will require continued impetus for structural reforms. Resorting to countercyclical policies will not help spur sustained growth and India should not compromise its hard-earned fiscal discipline in order to accelerate growth,” she added.
The report said  India's rate of investment needs to accelerate. Private investment in India is constrained by several factors including issues related to past leverages, credit availability, market demand, and policy uncertainty. Understanding and relieving the generic, spatial, or sector-specific constraints to investment growth is important. Further policy measures should aim at assuring an efficient mix of public and private resources to effectively use scarce public funds and crowd-in private investment. Private sector investment in particular needs to be enhanced, through measures that assure a favorable investment climate while reducing policy uncertainty, it said.
"Reviving bank credit to support growth is important. The banking sector is experiencing high balance sheet stress. The genesis of the problem can be traced to the period of exuberant bank credit growth during 2004–08, and to the response to the global financial crisis, which entailed evergreening of loans. Decisive reforms will be needed to enable the Indian banking sector to help finance India’s growth aspirations. The implementation of the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is an important step towards improving the credit behavior; and the recent efforts towards recapitalization have the potential to ease stress on the banking sector and reinvigorate bank credit. However, they need to be followed by wider reforms. Additional measures could include a consolidation of public-sector banks, revising their incentive structure to align more closely with their commercial performance, ensuring a level playing field for private banks, and opening the space for greater competition," the release said.
"Export growth rate remains well below the levels registered during the boom years of 2004-2008. The Update points out that India’s export growth has lagged global growth in recent years. Among the many preconditions for India to reverse this pattern are an infrastructural boost to bring it on par with the world’s current manufacturing hubs. In addition, reforms to land, labor and financial markets would be needed to assure the continued competitive supply and use of key production inputs. Finally, building on recent improvements to its doing business ranking, India can benefit from further strengthening its competitive business environment," it said.
"As India has increased the level of integration with the rest of the world in recent years, it could benefit from the revival in the global economy and trade volumes, both of which are poised to grow at healthy rates in the near-term. Leveraging the global recovery will be key for India to elevate its growth rates. While oil prices pose less of a risk for the Indian economy, the expected normalization of monetary policy by the US and other advanced economies are likely to tighten financing conditions," the release added.
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India's wholesale inflation rate declines to 2.48% in February, 2018

India's headline annual rate of inflation, based on the revised monthly wholesale price index (WPI), with base 2011-12=100, declined to 2.48% in February, 2018 as compared to 2.84% in the previous month and 5.51% during the corresponding month of the previous year.
An official statement, quoting provisional data, said here today that the official WPI for All Commodities for February, 2018 remained unchanged at its previous month's level of 115.8.
According to it, the build-up inflation rate in the financial year so far was 2.30% compared to a build up rate of 4.92% in the corresponding period of the previous year.
The statement said the rate of inflation based on WPI Food Index consisting of ‘Food Articles’ from Primary Articles group and ‘Food Product’ from Manufactured Products group decreased from 1.65% in January, 2018 to 0.07% in February, 2018.
The statement said that, for the month of December, 2017, the final WPI for All Commodites remained unchanged at its provisional level of 115.7, reported on January 15. Accordingly, the annual rate of inflation also remained unchanged at 3.58% as reported on that date, it added.
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20 Opposition parties attend dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi

Congress President Rahul Gandhi with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge at a dinner for Opposition leaders hosted by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on March 31, 2018.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge at a dinner for Opposition leaders hosted by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on March 31, 2018.
Leaders of the Congress and 19 other Opposition parties met here last night over a dinner hosted by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to discuss ways of ensuring more effective coordination in Parliament and explore a broad alliance of like-minded secular parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Those who attended the dinner included Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Satish Chandra Mishra of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC), Sharad Yadav, former president of the Janata Dal (United), and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav and Rajya Sabha member Misa Bharti, children of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Others who attended the dinner included Sudip Bandyopadhyay of Trinamool Congress (TMC), Left leaders D Raja (CPI) and Mohammad Salim (CPI-M), K Kanimozhi of the DMK, AIUDF's Baddrauddin Ajman, D. Kupender Reddy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Jitan Ram Manjhi of Hindustan Awami Morcha, Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Jose K Mani, N K Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party and Induan Union Muslim League's P K Kunhalikutty.
Apart from Ms. Gandhi, party president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the other Congress leaders present at the dinner, held at Ms. Gandhi's 10, Janpath residence, included A. K. Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge.
"Fabulous dinner tonight, hosted by UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi Ji. An opportunity for leaders from different political parties to meet and bond, informally," Mr. Rahul Gandhi said on micro-blogging site Twitter last night.
"Much political talk but much more important - tremendous positive energy, warmth and genuine affection," he said.
Yesterday's gathering took place against the backdrop of the continuing stand-off between the Government and the Opposition in Parliament.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who was also present at the meeting, said the dinner should not be seen as an effort to build an electoral alliance. It was an effort to discuss issues facing the nation and to build "unity of purpose", he said.
"It is natural that the leaders will discuss the government's disinterest in ensuring Parliament functions, the agrarian crisis and joblessness of youth," he said.
Mr. Tejashwi Yadav told journalists later that the dinner meeting was the first step towards a comprehensive alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was "breaking apart" -- a reference to the Telugu Desam Party's (TDP) recent decision to withdraw its two Ministers from the Union Council of Ministers over the question of special status for Andhra Pradesh.
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Kovind inaugurates World Hindi Secretariat, addresses Indian diaspora in Mauritius

Visiting Indian President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the World Hindi Secretariat building, launched the World Hindi Secretariat’s logo and an Early Digital Learning Programme on the third day of his visit to Mauritius yesterday.
Mr Kovind also unveiled the foundation stones of a social housing project and a large ENT hospital being built with Indian assistance.
Addressing the gathering, the President said Hindi has played an important role in society and culture in both India and Mauritius. It is a global language and the Indian community, spread across the world, has preserved its culture and traditions – and passed it to the next generation – through its linguistic traditions, including Hindi. Hindi is being taught in about 175 universities in various countries, he said.
He noted that the 11th World Hindi Conference is scheduled to be held in Mauritius in August this year. Apart from India, Mauritius is the only country where this conference is being hosted for the third time. This is evidence of the affection of the people of Mauritius for Hindi, he said.
Later in the day, the President addressed the Indian diaspora at a reception hosted by the High Commissioner of India in Mauritius.
“In India, we rejoice at the remarkable success of our brothers and sisters who left Indian shores many generations ago and have achieved great material success while cherishing their spiritual values. Since time immemorial, Indian life and society have been defined by 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum', meaning the whole world is our family. This is even more so for Mauritius, with whom we are linked by blood and sweat,” Mr Kovind said.
The President said that today, more than ever, India wants to connect with its diaspora. To this end, a special provision has been made for Mauritius in the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme, he said.
He invited members of the Indian diaspora to visit and participate in programmes of the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in Delhi. He was happy to note that young Mauritians have already started to connect with the Kendra.
“We must use our diaspora networks and platforms for connecting with India and for engaging with others in different parts of the world,” he added.
Earlier in the morning, two former Prime Ministers of Mauritius, Mr Paul Berenger and Mr Navin Ramgoolam, called on the President in separate meetings.
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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Popular physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76
Stephen Hawking, who was regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein and had an improbable journey since being diagnosed with a motor neurone disease in 1963, has died, his family announced today.
He was 76. He is survived by his wife Jane, daughter Lucy, and two sons, Robert and Timothy.
Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of Motor Neurone Disease, shortly after his 21st birthday, and was given two years to live. He became wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication. But he did not allow all this to affect him and continued with his research into theoretical physics. He wrote several books that became immensely popular, travelled extensively for lectures and other engagements and had hoped to make it into space one day.
The announcement said Hawking passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Cambridge in England.
"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," his family said in a statement.
"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," it said.
"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever,” it said.
Hawking, who overcame his disease to become a brilliant researcher and one of the best known scientists in the world, wrote several influential books, including "A Brief History of Time", which is an international bestseller.
He served as Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. 
He had more than a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Science. 
Later, Hawking served as the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.
His other books for general readers include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.
Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. When he was eight his family moved to St. Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to St. Albans School and then on to University College, Oxford (1952); his father's old college. Stephen wanted to study mathematics although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he pursued physics instead. After three years, he was awarded a first class honours degree in natural science. 
In October 1962, Stephen arrived at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge to do research in cosmology. After gaining his PhD (1965) with his thesis titled 'Properties of Expanding Universes', he became, first, a research fellow (1965), then Fellow for Distinction in Science (1969) at Gonville & Caius college. In 1966 he won the Adams Prize for his essay 'Singularities and the Geometry of Space-time'. Stephen moved to the Institute of Astronomy (1968), later moving back to DAMTP (1973), employed as a research assistant, and published his first academic book, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, with George Ellis. 
Hawking worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's general theory of relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes (1970). These results indicated that it was necessary to unify general relativity with quantum theory, the other great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit 'Hawking' radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear (1974). 
Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science. Later, Hawking worked with colleagues on a possible resolution to the black hole information paradox, where debate centres around the conservation of information.
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Goyal holds consultations on Station Redevelopment Programme

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal today met with architects and planners to discuss issues related to the Station Redevelopment Programme.
A total of 110 professionals from 54 firms participated in the meeting. The Minister was categorical that, in view of the financial condition of Indian Railways and the paying capacity of public, there was a need for finding solutions that meet the aspirations of travelling public at low cost.
“We shall work on providing innovative solutions tailored to uniquely Indian conditions. I am confident that we will eventually be in a position to share the expertise in other countries as well,” he added.
The consultation meeting held with architects was aimed at understanding the issues and difficulties in the development and redevelopment of railway stations. The discussions covered a wide range of issues from the difficulties that the architects and planners were facing; modifications required in various documents guiding the station design; and general directions in station redevelopment programme.
Mr Goyal assured the participants that, as desired, the empanelment will be made in more categories and the name of the architect will be included in the plaque. The Minster also directed IRSDC to take up capacity building of consultants as Station Development is as yet a new field. Young architects and planners should also be involved in the station development program and they may be engaged for smaller and simpler stations, he said.
The Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC), as the nodal agency, is taking up redevelopment of around 600 major railway stations across the country. Towards this objective of stakeholders’ consultation, an idea competition for development of 635 stations of Indian Railways, ‘SRIJAN’ (Station Rejuvenation Initiative through Joint ActioN) has been launched at MyGov portal since January 26 this year.
This mammoth exercise will kickstart the programme worth Rs 1,00,000 crore investments and requires extensive involvement of engineers, planners, architects and other professionals besides the contractors and developers. To prepare the plans for stations, IRSDC has taken up multiple initiatives:
-- For the International Design Competition for 3 Railway Stations, namely, Nagpur, Gwalior and Baiyappanhalli,
-- IRSDC has empaneled experienced consultants with multi-disciplinary teams. It has also invited professionals to take initiatives and share their vision for railway stations for a token fee and in response, eleven architects have registered themselves for development of 74 railway stations.
-- SRIJAN (Station Rejuvenation Initiative through Joint Action), an Ideas competition has been launched by IRSDC, where users and young minds are invited to put across their ideas for implementing “Low Cost High Visibility” items at station areas. Around 450 entries have been received so far.
The last date for submission of entries in this competition is March 26. The winners will get certificates and worthy ideas will be incorporated in the designs. IRSDC has also launched competition through Mygov portal for IRSDC logo and tagline. The winners for the logo and tagline will get cash prize of Rs 75,000 each.
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Need for expansion of metro transportation in tier-II cities: Mangu Singh

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) Managing Director Mangu Singh today stressed the need for expansion of metro transportation in tier-II cities of the country.
“It is not necessary that every city has a metro system, rather it should be based on the requirements of each city,” Mr Singh said delivering the inaugural address at the first regional conference on ‘Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) for Urban Areas – Opportunities and Challenges’.
In this regard, he pointed out that the DMRC has recommended an alternative transport mode for Dehradun, capital of Uttarakhand.
Mr Rakesh Ranjan, Adviser, NITI Aayog said the MRTS which is beyond metro rail, has a critical role in regional connectivity. However, issues of under-investment in MRTS needs to be addressed. He also spoke at length on the financial viability of metro railway system in the light of investment requirement in an urban transport system which amounts to Rs 100,000 crore.
Mr Soon-Sik Lee, Senior Transport Specialist at ?Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank said the AIIB was enhancing the quantum of loan to India from existing US $ 1.7 billion to US $ 2 billion. India is a founding member of the AIIB.
Dr Kumar V Pratap, Joint Secretary (Infrastructure, Policy & Finance), Ministry of Finance stated that the MRTS was necessary for its efficiency and environmental benefits. It causes less pollution and congestion thus providing more efficient and cost-effective services, which is in tune with the mantra of the Government.
With the MRTS, more people per unit of energy can be transferred as compared to personalized transport, he said. Hence, MRTS is economically more viable in comparison to other modes of transport. Mr Mukund Kumar Sinha, Joint Secretary, Urban Transport, stated that the investment requirement for MRTS would be around 4 billion US dollars in the next five years.
Mr Mangu Singh said a good transport system was necessary for the social, economic and cultural growth of India, provided with matching resource and developmental facilities to keep technology updated. A sustainable urban transport system is the need of the hour in the present green field scenario of India. Urbanisation is the natural centre for growth.
Investment in the MRTS will decrease pollution and accidental rates. The DMRC is growing in its role as a nurturing hub for other metro rail aspiring cities. With an enhanced emphasis on renewable energy, it is providing consultancy to Bangladesh and Indonesia for their metro rail projects, he added.
Mr Parashuram Singh, Managing Director, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation, mentioned the impediments faced in the extension of Metro Rail in Kolkata, including the reality that Metro Rail has to take into account the heritage buildings lying in alignment with the proposed lines as well as the burden of removing 1000 hutments lying along the alignment.
The other dignitaries who spoke on the occasion included Kumar Keshav, Managing Director, Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation Ltd., Deepa Kotnis, Executive Director, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. and Prof. Sanjay Gupta, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi among others.
The conference was jointly organized by Ministry of Finance, AIIB, ASSOCHAM and Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS).
Before the third annual meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to be held in Mumbai from June 22 to 27 this year, eight such regional conferences will be held on the issues relating to infrastructures development, sustainable infrastructure, mass rapid transportation  system, port and coastal infrastructure, urban development and the like in eight different cities of India, an official press release said.
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Prabhu says India committed to protecting Intellectual Property Rights

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu today said India was fully committed to protecting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and the Government had, towards that end, enacted the National IPR Policy 2016.
Inaugurating a two-day National Conference on Counterfeiting and Role of Enforcement Agencies here, he recalled that India was one of the first countries to support the need for IPR, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. 
He said the NIPR Policy would stimulate innovation and creativity across sectors and also provide a clear vision regarding IPR issues.
He listed the various initiatives of the Government and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, including awareness initiatives for citizens and business houses, strengthening of enforcement agencies, sensitization of the judiciary, simplifying and streamlining of processes for applying for patents and trademarks.
Mr Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union to India and Bhutan, said protection and enforcement of IPRs are crucial to creativity and innovation. In the European Union, IPR incentive sectors account for 40% of the GDP. 
European Union countries are some of the most innovative countries in the world. Counterfeit and pirated goods account for 2.5 % of global trade. It is in India’s interest to protect IPRs and to have more effective law enforcement, he said.
Secretary, DIPP, Ramesh Abhishek, Joint Secretary, DIPP, Rajiv Aggarwal, Siddharth Roy Kapur, President Film and Television Guild of India and senior police and law enforcement officers were present during the function.
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NHAI awards contract for Dwarka Expressway in Haryana

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has issued Letter of Award (LoA) for Package-4 of Dwarka Expressway from Basai Road Overbridge (RoB) to NH-8–SPR intersection in Haryana under the Bharatmala programme.
Development of this section of Dwarka Expressway will ensure seamless and safe movement of traffic between Delhi and Gurgaon and help in decongestion of the existing Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, an official press release said.
The eight-lane expressway (NH-248 BB) will be constructed on EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) mode at a cost of Rs 1047.007 crore. The 8.76 km stretch of the road will be constructed by Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T), the release said.
The project comprises an 8-lane elevated structure for main carriageway of Dwarka Expressway, trumpet interchange for Manesar Road and cloverleaf interchange with NH-8-SPR intersection. 
The completion period of the project is two years with maintenance period of four years. Under the project, a minor bridge will be widened, additional ROBs, five vehicle underpasses (VUP), six bus bays with bus shelter will be erected and four junction improvements will be carried out, the release said.
Dwarka Expressway has to be implemented in five packages. The first package of 5.3 km is from Shiv Murti to RuB, the second of 4.2 km from RuB to Haryana border, package 3 from Haryana border to Basai RoB - 10.2 km, package 4 from Basai RoB to NH-8 – SPR intersection - 8.77 Km, and the fifth package - 5 km of Western Airport Connectivity from Dwarka Expressway through tunnel, it added.
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India sets target to eliminate TB by 2025, ahead of global deadline of 2030, says Modi

Modi urges health sector help eradicate TB from country
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India has set the target to eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by 2025, ahead of the global target year of 2030.
Addressing the inaugural session of the “End TB” summit here, Mr Modi said, “The global target for eliminating TB is 2030, but today I announce that the target for India to eliminate TB is 2025, five years before the global target,”  
He said the Government was working comprehensively towards this goal. Since the State Governments have a key role to play in this regard, he has personally written to all Chief Ministers to join in the campaign, he said.
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the Delhi End TB Summit would be a landmark event towards the complete elimination of the disease. He said every step taken towards its eradication is also linked to the betterment of the lives of the poor.
The frontline TB physicians and workers are a crucial part of the drive to eliminate TB. The patients who overcome this disease are also a source of inspiration for others, he added.
Mr. Modi cited the examples of Mission Indradhanush and Swachh Bharat, to show how the Union Government is speeding up progress towards desired targets.
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda, Minister of State Anupriya Patel, WHO Director-General  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and former Director of Stop TB Partnership Lucica Difiu along with the Health Ministers from 20 countries were also present at the inaugural function.
The summit is being co-hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and Stop TB Partnership.
The Prime Minister also mentioned about the two major initiatives in the health sector, as part of Ayushman Bharat programme. He said that the National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. Under this, 1.5 lakh centres will bring comprehensive primary health care systems closer to the homes of people.
Under the National Health Protection Scheme, the second flagship programme of Ayushman Bharat, 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) will be provided with a coverage of up to 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 added.
Mr Nadda, in his speech, said that to achieve 'End TB' targets, the Government has rolled out new `National Strategic Plan (NSP) to end TB by 2025` which has been appreciated by the global community as a model plan for combating Tuberculosis.
“We are starting a new scheme for nutritional support, expanding public-private partnership models and aligning our strategies to follow the similar success we got in HIV /AIDS. We are using Information Technology (IT) tools for monitoring the programme and treatment adherence. Community engagement is the hallmark and it is becoming a social movement to End TB in India,” he added.
Budget constraints will never be an issue for health schemes and this has been demonstrated by increasing the budget for health and through the announcement of two path-breaking initiatives under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ that address health holistically, Mr Nadda said.
In order to reduce out of pocket expenditure for the poor, the Government has started Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) pharmacies across the country and have made stents and knee replacement affordable for the common man, he pointed out.
Dr Ghebreyesus termed India’s plans to achieve the targets 5 years before the global target as “bold, courageous and ambitious”. Along with Mr Nadda, he also chaired a session on   "Tracking Progress on Delhi Call to Action".
Meanwhile, the Health Minister, presiding over a meeting with State Health Ministers, highlighted the importance of active participation by the States through intense review and regular monitoring, to meet the time-bound goal of ending TB by 2025.
TB is the leading infectious killer in India. An estimated 28 lakh new cases of TB were reported in 2016, with over 4 lakh people succumbing to the disease, including those with TB and HIV. The new NSP adopts a multi-pronged approach which aims to detect all TB patients with an emphasis on reaching those patients seeking care from private providers and undiagnosed TB in high-risk populations.
Treating all patients irrespective of where they seek care adopting a patient-centric approach, preventing the emergence of TB in susceptible population groups and building empowered institutions and human resources to streamline implementation form the cornerstone of the plan.
India is also implementing the National Strategic Plan for TB elimination that is backed by a funding of more than Rs 12,000 crore for the next three years to ensure that every TB patient has access to quality diagnosis, treatment, and support. The Revised National Tuberculosis Programme has treated over 2 crore patients since its inception.
Also present at the event were Health Ministers from the States, senior officers of the Ministry and representatives and delegates from across the globe.
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Trump removes Tillerson, names Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State

Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
United States President Donald Trump today removed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said he would be replaced by Mr. Mike Pompeo, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
"Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!" Mr. Trump said on micro-blogging site Twitter today.
"Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" he added.
Ms. Haspel is the Deputy Director of the CIA.
Media reports quoted Mr. Trump as telling journalists outside the White House today that his differences with Mr. Tillerson were about personal "chemistry".
"We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things," he said. "When you look at the Iran deal, I think it's terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently, so we were not really thinking the same," he said.
"With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it's going to go very well. Rex is a very good man I like Rex a lot," Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Pompeo, 54, was sworn in as Director of the CIA on January 23, 2017. Before that, he was serving in his fourth term as congressman from Kansas’ 4th District. He served on the House Intelligence Committee as well as on the Energy and Commerce Committees. In 2014, Mr. Pompeo was also appointed to the House Select Benghazi Committee to investigate the tragic events in Benghazi, Libya.
Prior to his service in Congress, Mr. Pompeo founded Thayer Aerospace, where he served as CEO for more than a decade. He later became President of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturing, distribution, and service company.
Mr. Pompeo graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the US Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. After leaving active duty, Mr. Pompeo graduated from Harvard Law School, having been an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Mr. Tillerson, 65, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was sworn in as the 69th U.S. Secretary of State on February 1, 2017.
After taking a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Mr. Tillerson joined Exxon Company in 1975 as a production engineer. He rose through the ranks to become president of the corporation and a member of the board of directors in 2004, and served as ExxonMobil's chairman and chief executive officer from 2006 to 2016.
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SC extends deadline for linking Aadhaar for all services indefinitely

The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the deadline for people to link their Aadhaar numbers for various services such as bank accounts and mobile telephones indefinitely till it pronounces its judgement on a bunch of petitions in the matter.

The Supreme Court today extended the deadline for people to link their Aadhaar numbers for various services such as bank accounts and mobile telephones indefinitely till it pronounces its judgement on a bunch of petitions in the matter.
"Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we accept the submission made by the learned Attorney General. Subject to that, we direct that the interim order passed on 15.12.2017 shall stand extended till the matter is finally heard and the judgment is pronounced," a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said in its order.
The other judges on the bench are Mr. Justice A. K. Sikri, Mr. Justice A. M. Khanwilkar, Dr. Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Mr. Justice Ashok Bhushan.
During the hearing, Mr. Arvind Datar, senior counsel, brought to the court's notice that a set of Rules, the Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018 has been introduced which has conceived of passport under "Tatkal” Scheme. He and senior counsel Shyam Divan submitted that the interim order passed by the court on  December 15, 2017 should be extended and it should also cover the issuance of passports.
Attorney General K. K. Venugopal submitted that the court may think of extending the interim order. He, however, felt that the benefits, subsidies and services covered under Section 7 of The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 should remain undisturbed. The court accepted that.
Today's order means that the March 31 deadline for people to link their Aadhaar number to their bank accounts and mobile telephones, among other services, stands extended indefinitely.
"It is also directed that the same shall also control and govern the Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018," the order said.
The five-judge Constitution Bench is hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy filed by former Karnataka High Court judge K S Puttuswamy and others.
Aadhaar is a 12-digit random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that uniquely identifies residents of India, along with their biometric information such as fingerprints and iris scans.
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Kovind holds talks, meets top leadership in Mauritius

Visiting Indian President Ram Nath Kovind led delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth of Mauritius and members of his Cabinet here yesterday.
The President also witnessed the exchange of several agreements and MoUs between India and Mauritius on the second day of his visit.
India has announced a new line of credit of $ 100 million for defence procurement by Mauritius. It offered a Multi-Purpose Offshore Patrol Vessel (MPOPV) to Mauritius to augment its security capacity. This would be financed through the new defence LOC and also with an additional grant component of $ 5 million.
The other agreements/MoUs exchanged were an MoU on cooperation between Nalanda University in Bihar and Mauritius; an MoU on the establishment of an Ayurveda Chair at the University of Mauritius; an MoU between the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in India and the Public Service Commission of Mauritius, whereby the UPSC will provide necessary assistance for capacity building to its Mauritian counterpart and an agreement to facilitate cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kovind said, “India and Mauritius share common security concerns in the Indian Ocean Region. India has assisted Mauritius in the past by supplying patrol vessels. Taking this cooperation further, I am happy to announce today that India will supply a Multi-Purpose Offshore Patrol Vessel to Mauritius under a Line of Credit.”
Later in the day, several Mauritian dignitaries including Chief Justice Kheshoe Parsad Matadeen, National Assembly Speaker Santi Bai Hanoomanjee and Leader of Opposition Xavier Luc Duval called on him.
In these meetings, Mr Kovind reiterated that India accords great importance to the steady development of relations between the two countries. India-Mauritius bilateral cooperation is comprehensive and multi-faceted. A regular high-level interaction between political leaders of the two countries has given direction and impetus to this partnership. Shared values of democracy, rule of law and social harmony further reinforce the relationship, he added.
Earlier this morning, the President visited Ganga Talao and the Apravasi Ghat World Heritage site to pay his tributes. Both these sites are held in great reverence by the Indian community in Mauritius. Apravasi Ghat represents the location where members of the early Indian community arrived in Mauritius as indentured labourers in the 19th century.
Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim hosted a lunch in honour of Mr Kovind. Speaking on the occasion, the President thanked the Government and people of Mauritius for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality accorded to him and his delegation. He congratulated Mauritius on the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from colonial rule.
On March 11, Mr Kovind attended a welcome banquet hosted by Mr. Jugnauth. Speaking on the occasion, the President expressed his gratitude to the government for inviting him to be Chief Guest for the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Mauritius. He said that this is a distinct honour for the 1.3 billion people of India.
He said Mauritius is a gateway to the Indian Ocean Region and to Africa. It can serve as a hub for Indian companies looking to access the African mainland. As the proverbial “Star and Key” of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has a natural convergence of interests with India. “Our cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism has been exemplary,” he added.
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Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Police Investigation instituted

The Government has approved a proposal to institute the Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Police Investigation to promote high professional standards of investigation of crime in the State/UT Police and Central investigating agencies in the country.
Officers from the rank of Sub-Inspector to Superintendent of Police are eligible. Based on the average crime data for the last three years, a total of 162 medals will be awarded every year; of these, 137 will be for the States/UTs and 25 for the Central investigating agencies -- National Investigation Agency (NIA), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB).
Distribution of medals among the States/UTs will be on the basis of the average of IPC crimes registered by them and the crime data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the years 2013, 2014 & 2015. The distribution of medals will be reviewed after every three years based on the average crime data. There will be a quota of medals for women investigators.
BPR&D will invite nominations from States/UTs/Central investigating agencies based on recommendations from a State-level Committee headed by ADG rank officer. These nominations will be processed by a screening committee in BPR&D and approved by a sanctioning committee in MHA.
The names of awardees will be declared on August 15 every year. A certificate signed by Union Home Minister along with a medal will be awarded to each winner and their names shall be published in the Gazette of India.
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Modi to inaugurate The Delhi End TB Summit on Tuesday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate The Delhi End TB Summit at Vigyan Bhawan in the capital tomorrow.
The Summit will be co-hosted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and Stop TB Partnership.
An official press release said Mr. Modi would launch Tuberculosis Free India Campaign on this occasion. TB Free India Campaign will take the activities of National Strategic Plan (NSP) for TB elimination forward in mission mode, it said.
The NSP is backed by funding of over Rs 12,000 crore over the next three years to ensure every TB patient has access to quality diagnosis, treatment, and support. The new NSP adopts a multi-pronged approach which aims to detect all TB patients with an emphasis on reaching those seeking care from private providers and undiagnosed TB in high-risk populations, the release said.
The Prime Minister’s vision to end TB by 2025, five years ahead of the SDGs has galvanized the efforts of the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme, which has treated over 2 crore patients since its inception in 1997, the release added.
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Change of Guard Ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan to be held at new summer timing from this weekend

The Change of Guard ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan will move to summer timings from this weekend (March 17-18).
A Rashtrapati Bhavan press release said the ceremony would now take place at 0800-0840 hrs on Saturdays and at 1730 -1810 hrs on Sundays. These timings will be adhered to till November 14.
The Change of Guard Ceremony is open to the public. Visitors having a valid photo ID card can watch the ceremony free of cost subject to availability of seats. Entry is through Gate No. 2 or 37 of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the release added.
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India’s retail inflation rate eases to 4.44% in February, 2018

India’s annual inflation rate, as tracked through the Consumer Price Index (CPI), eased to a four-month low of 4.44 percent in February, 2018, from 5.07 percent in the previous month.
The fall was attributed a fall in food inflation on the back of lower vegetable prices and stability in housing inflation.
An official press release said the inflation rates based on the CPI in February, 2018 were 4.37% in rural areas and 4.52% in urban areas, adding up to a combined rate of 4.44%, as compared to 3.65% in the same month of the previous year.
The inflation rates in February, 2018 based on the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI)  were 3.62% in rural areas and 2.45% in urban areas, making for a combined rate of 3.26% as compared to 4.70% in the previous month and 2.01% in the same  month of the previous year.
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India's industrial output grows by 7.1% in January 2018

India's industrial output grew by 7.5 percent in January, 2018 as compared to the level in the same month of the previous year, an official statement said here today.
The Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) with base 2011-12 for January 2018, released by the Central Statistics Office of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the General Index for the month of January, 2018 stood at 132.3.
This is the third consecutive month in which factory output has clocked a high single-digit growth and some analysts saw in it an early sign of industrial revival post demonetisation and GST roll-out.
The cumulative growth for the period April-January 2017-18 over the corresponding period of the previous year stood at 4.1%, it said.
According to the statement, the Indices of Industrial Production for the Mining, Manufacturing and Electricity sectors for January, 2018 stood at  114.5, 133.8 and 149.5, respectively, with the corresponding growth rates of 0.1%, 8.7% and 7.6% as compared to January 2017.
The cumulative growth in these three sectors during April-January 2017-18 over the corresponding period of 2016-17 was 2.5%, 4.3% and  5.3%, respectively.
The statement said 16 of the 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showed positive growth during January, 2018 as compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
The industry group ‘Manufacture of other transport equipment’ showed the highest positive growth of 33.1%, followed by 27.8% in ‘Manufacture of furniture’ and 26.6% in ‘Manufacture of  motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’. On the other hand, the industry group ‘Manufacture of tobacco products’ showed the highest negative growth of (-) 46.5%, followed by (-) 32.4% in ‘Other manufacturing’ and (-) 13.2% in ‘Printing and reproduction of recorded media’.
The statement said the growth rates in January, 2018 over January, 2017 were 5.8% in Primary goods, 14.6% in Capital goods, 4.9% in Intermediate goods and 6.8% in Infrastructure/ Construction Goods.  Consumer durables and Consumer non-durables recorded growth of 8.0% and 10.5%, respectively.
Important item groups which  showed high growth during January, 2018 over the same month in the previous year include ‘Bodies of trucks, lorries and trailers’ (267.5%), ‘Steroids and hormonal preparations (including anti-fungal preparations)’ (102.9%), ‘Stainless steel utensils’ (89.2%),‘Axle’ (58.8%), ‘Separators including decanter centrifuge’ (49.7%), ‘Sugar’ (40.9%), ‘Two-wheelers (motorcycles/ scooters)’ (37.7%), ‘Digestive enzymes and antacids (incl. PPI drugs)’ (31.7%), ‘Commercial Vehicles’ (29.8%), ‘Films of polythene, polyester, PVC & other forms of plastic’ (22.0%)  and ‘Cement- all types’ (21.5%).
Item groups that registered high negative growth include ‘Jewellery of gold (studded with stones or not)’ [(-) 73.8%], ‘Other tobacco products’ [(-) 73.4%], ‘Hand Tools incl. interchangeable tools, not mechanised’ [(-) 64.7%], ‘Bags/ pouches of HDPE/ LDPE (plastic)’ [(-) 40.7%], ‘Kerosene’ [(-) 37.3%], ‘Material handling, lifting and hoisting equipment’ [(-) 34.3%], ‘Plastic components of packing/ closing/ bottling articles & of electrical fittings’ [(-) 29.1%],  ‘Paper of all kinds excluding newsprint’ [(-) 28.8%], ‘Medical/ surgical accessories’ [(-) 27.1%] and ‘Printed Books (incl. Manuals, reports, brochures, catalogs, etc.)’ [(-) 21.1%].
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49 dead as US-Bangla Airline plane crashes at Kathmandu airport

At least 49 people died when a US-Bangla Airlines aircraft, operating flight BS 211 from Dhaka, crashed and burst into flames after touching down at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, on Monday afternoon, official sources said.

49 dead as plane crashes at Kathmandu airport in Nepal
At least 49 people died when  a US-Bangla Airline aircraft, operating flight BS 211 from Dhaka, crashed and burst into flames after touching down at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, this afternoon, official sources said.
The 78-seater Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft was carrying 71 people -- 67 passengers and four members of crew -- and was on a flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh when it veered off the runway while landing and crashed onto a football ground near the airport at about 2.18 pm local time, they said.
The sources said 31 bodies were extricated from the wreckage of the aircraft while 18 others were declared dead in hospitals.
As many as 22 passengers were taken to various hospitals in Kathmandu for treatment, local media reports quoted Nepal Police spokesperson, Deputy Inspector General Manoj Neupane, as saying.
The reports quoted TIA officials as saying that those on board the aircraft included 37 men, 27 women and two children. As many as 33 of the passengers were Nepalis.
Officials told local mediapersons that the aircraft was out of control when it attempted to land on the runway. 
“The aircraft was permitted to land from the Southern side of the runway over Koteshwor but it landed from the Northern side,” one of them said, adding that the reason for the unusual landing was yet to be ascertained.
Rescue teams from TIA and Nepal Army personnel rushed to the scene and launched rescue efforts.
All flights to and from TIA were cancelled for the time being following the crash.
Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished speedy recovery for the survivors. He said the Government would investigate the incident.
Mr. Oli as well as other leaders and the Ambassador of Bangladesh in Nepal visited the scene of the accident to take stock of the situation.
US-Bangla Airlines is a privately owned Bangladeshi airline headquartered in Dhaka. It is a subsidiary of US-Bangla Group, a United States-Bangladesh joint venture company.
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Kovind lauds Indian community’s contribution to development of Mauritius

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has lauded the Indian community’s contribution to development and prosperity of Mauritius.
Mr Kovind, who arrived here yesterday on the first leg of his State Visit to Mauritius and Madagascar, was received at the airport by Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, and his entire Cabinet, dignitaries and local people.
He later addressed a gathering of students and young people at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute at Moka, where he also paid tributes before a statue of the Mahatma.
The President said he was honoured to be in Mauritius for a milestone moment in its history – the 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule. March 12 marks not just the golden jubilee of the independence of Mauritius but also the 26th anniversary of this nation having become a republic, he added.
The first people from India arrived in Mauritius 200 years ago, in the 1820s. In 1834, the first indentured labourers from India reached these shores. From those early challenges, the Indian community has come a long way. It has contributed, along with its fellow citizens of diverse backgrounds, to making Mauritius a prosperous country and a model for this region.
"As a steadfast friend, India has been proud to support their efforts. The Indian community in Mauritius comprises those who trace their roots to a variety of Indian states, from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu to Gujarat to several others. They should become a living bridge between Mauritius and India, as also with individual states of India," he added.
The President said India’s affection and feeling for Mauritius is symbolic of shared aspirations for Africa and for the Indian Ocean Region. “Above all else, it is our people who bring us together. Mauritius is one of the largest participating countries in the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme."
"Over 300 young people from here undergo civilian and defence related training in India each year. Under India’s Africa Scholarships programme – part of the India Africa Forum Summit initiative – each year 97 scholarships are offered to Mauritian students for higher education," he added.
“Another 200 students enrol themselves in Indian universities on a self-financing basis. They come to India as cherished friends. And we send them back as ambassadors of India – and life-long believers in our partnership,” he said.
“The challenge before us is to modernise our society and economy without succumbing to an extractive and energy-guzzling model. India is making every effort to meet this challenge – but this challenge is not India’s alone. It is the challenge of every country and every global citizen. As an island nation, Mauritius is of course extremely conscious of this challenge,” Mr Kovind said.
“India sees Mauritius as central to the emerging institutional architecture of the Indian Ocean Region – and we want to sail together, and sail far, in these majestic waters. Our aspiration is for Mauritius to rise as a leading economy and a voice for peace and stability in the entire Indian Ocean Region,” he added.
Mr Kovind called on Mauritius President Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim at the State House. During the discussions, he said India was committed to its development cooperation partnership with Mauritius. It looks forward to further strengthening its capacity building and financial assistance programme for Mauritius.
 “We should ensure that the traditional strength, dynamism and exalted status of our bilateral relations are handed over to our youth to carry it forward. There is a need to engage the youth more in our bilateral, regional and diaspora networks,” he added.
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BHEL secures Rs. 736 crore order for nuclear steam generators

The public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) today said it had secured an order worth Rs. 736 crore for the supply of steam generators from Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limted (NPCIL). 
The order has been received against competitive bidding, a press release from the company said here.
The steam generators will be used for a 700 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) to be installed at Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna (GHAVP) in Fatehabad district of Haryana. The steam generators will be manufactured at the Tiruchirappalli plant of BHEL, it said.
BHEL has been a pioneer in the design and development of Nuclear Steam Generators alongwith NPCIL and has so far supplied 38 Steam Generators for various Nuclear power installations in the country. Currently, BHEL manufactured Steam Turbine Generator sets contribute nearly half of the country’s total installed Nuclear power capacity.
BHEL is the only Indian company associated with all the three stages of the Indian Nuclear Power Programme - the first stage Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR), the second stage Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) and the third stage Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and has been a partner for over four decades in the development of the indigenous Nuclear Power Programme since its inception, the release added.
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Multilateral Air Exercise to be held from March 12-16 at Southern Air Command HQ

A Multilateral Air Force Exercise, ‘Ex Samvedna’, spearheaded by the Indian Air Force (IAF), will be conducted by Southern Air Command (SAC) from March 12-16.
‘Samvedna’ means empathy. It will ensure better understanding and sharing of response procedures between a number of friendly neighbouring nations, a Defence Ministry press release said.
It is the first composite HADR Air exercise in the South Asian region and would be focused on practising Air Force-centric Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) solutions in a multi-national cooperative disaster management environment. Air Forces of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Myanmar have already committed resources and personnel for the exercise. A few other Air Forces from the region are also expected to join in, the release said.
The first day of exercise would be dedicated towards pre-exercise ground training with an aim of getting all participants on a common platform. The Table Top Exercise (March 13-14) would be aimed at setting up a scenario of pre and post Tsunami disaster requirements and guide participants to work out Air Force Centric HADR solutions.
Flying-cum-Field Training Exercise (March 15-16) will be conducted from the dispersal area of Air Force Station Trivandrum to practice the flying/ field activities undertaken by Air Forces towards HADR under controlled conditions.  
"This exercise would help in putting in place a basic framework for the conduct of Joint Air HADR operations, which will be further refined during subsequent exercises. This exercise is expected to lead to more coordinated and efficient HADR Air operations in the entire South Asian region when the need arises," he added.
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CBEC, GSTN start detailed detailed data analytics on GST

The Goods and Service Tax (GST) Council was yesterday, at its 26th meeting here, apprised of the fact that the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and the GST Network (GSTN) have started detailed data analytics across a number of data sets available with them. 
The outcome of preliminary data analysis has revealed interesting insights, an official press release said.
"It has emerged that there is variance between the amount of IGST and Compensation Cess paid by importers at Customs ports and input tax credit of the same claimed in GSTR-3B.
"There are major data gaps between self-declared liability in FORM GSTR-1 and FORM GSTR-3B.
"It was deliberated that this information may be further analysed and adequate action may be initiated accordingly," the release added.
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Kovind hosts banquet for Macron, leaders attending ISA Founding Conference

President Ram Nath Kovind has said that the India-France global partnership was in an expansive mode and the  two countries should continue to work together, with ever greater commitment, for peace, security and stability. 
"India and France stand at the threshold of becoming technological and manufacturing partners in cutting-edge defence cooperation, even as we enhance the operational links between our militaries," he sai at a banquet he hosted last night at Rashtrapati Bhavan for French President Emmanuel Macron and the Heads of State and Government attending the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
"India sees France as an important partner in its quest for clean and renewable energy and for a sustainable future," he said.
Welcoming Presidents, Vice Presidents, Prime Ministers, Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers from over 45 countries as well as Heads of International Organisations, the President thanked them for their support for the ISA.
"India and France are special friends. We are united by a common vision of the world - a world under-pinned by democratic values and peaceful co-existence. We both strive for a multi-polar world predicated on a rules-based global order. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Strategic Partnership this year, it is time for us to reflect on our bilateral journey thus far. Our two countries are working together in almost every aspect of human endeavour; from fashion, food to outer space.
"At the same time, our strategic cooperation is advancing in new areas. The Indian Ocean Region, cyber space and the world of next generation technology pose limitless possibilities for our joint action. We stand at the threshold of becoming technological and manufacturing partners in cutting edge defence cooperation, even as we enhance the operational links between our militaries," he said.
"The Indian economy is on a high growth trajectory. Our Make In India, Digital India, Start-up India and Clean India programmes are laced with prospects. These offer manifold opportunities to your companies. I am happy that we already have a large number of French companies engaged in smart cities, infrastructure and railways in India. We are keen to further strengthen this ongoing partnership,"  he said.
"Our cooperation on security is growing. In terrorism, we face a common enemy. We need to re-double our efforts to fight this evil. We truly appreciate the support we have received from you as we rightfully claim our place on high tables.
"Our cultural engagement has been deep and varied. French curiosity in Indian philosophy and epics has led to praise-worthy scholarly works. We Indians love cinema and in you we find an engaging partner, be it the works of Jean Renoir or the carnival at Cannes. This year has a special significance for our spiritual and cultural connection; we are celebrating 50 years of the founding of Auro-ville, an Indo-French home in our country.
"We are both committed to a sustainable world. For this to happen, we need to give our youths more opportunities to interact and engage with each other. I am hopeful that our new understandings on mobility, skill and education will open new doors for them," he said.
Mr. Kovind said the International Solar Alliance would, on March 11, embark on a gleaming future and the large presence of distinguished leaders from the four corners of planet at the conference tomorrow was an assertion that “we did not inherit our future from our ancestors; we have borrowed it from our children”.
"It is this shared realization of our debt to the future that has led us to craft the International Solar Alliance. President Macron, we commend your efforts towards fight against climate change. You can count on India as a trusted partner in this endeavour," he added.
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EIB, IREDA sign Euro 150 million Loan Agreement for Renewable Energy Financing in India

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) Ltd. signed a loan agreement for the second line of credit (LoC) of Euro 150 million on non-sovereign basis here yesterday.
The line of credit is for the tenure of 15 years including a grace period of 3 years. It will be used for financing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency projects in India. More than 1.1 million households are expected to benefit from clean energy produced with these funds, an official press release said.
The loan agreement was signed by K S Popli, Chairman and Managing Director, IREDA and W Hoyer, President, EIB in the presence of R K Singh, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy.
Speaking about India’s mission to electrify every single village, Mr R K Singh said, “There are villages in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh where you trek on foot for three to four days to reach. Our aim is to bring electricity to even these remote places…. We have decided to go green, as we have a responsibility to future generations and the planet.” 
Highlighting the fact that renewable energy (RE) has now become economically viable, he said that "companies bidding for RE projects are getting funds from all over the world…. Today, many countries want us to share our experience in this field.”
Mr Anand Kumar, Secretary, MNRE said that two factors -- efficient technology and easy finance -- are important for the success of renewable energy sector. He expressed confidence that India will exceed its target of 175 GW renewable energy by 2022.
Mr K S Popli, CMD, IREDA said that the speed with which the second line of credit was negotiated shows the mutual confidence and comfort that EIB and IREDA had developed after working with each other for last 4 years. Moreover, the EIB has extended this line of credit without insisting on a sovereign guarantee from Government of India, which also shows their commitment and confidence in the sector, he added.
Mr W. Hoyer, President, EIB appreciated India’s role in International Solar Alliance and its commitment to Paris climate deal. He said that with much sunlight, solar energy is evidently a solution here.
Mr Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union to India was among the dignitaries present along with other senior officials of MNRE, IRDEA and EIB.
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