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Mumbai building collapse toll rises to 34, rescue efforts continue

The death toll in Thursday's collapse of an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building in the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai rose to 34 on Friday with the recovery of more bodies from the debris in search and rescue efforts that continued throughout last night.

 
Mumbai building collapse: Death toll reaches 34
The death toll in yesterday's collapse of an old, dilapidated seven-storeyed building in the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai rose to 34 with the recovery of more bodies from the debris in search and rescue efforts that continued throughout last night.
 
At least 12 others suffered injuries in the incident and have been admitted to the nearby J. J. Hospital for treatment, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, official sources said.
 
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) Assistant Commissioner J S Ghegadmal told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene that 46 victims had been extricated from the debris, of whom 34 were found dead.
 
With at least two more persons feared trapped under the tonnes of rubble,  scores of men from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Municipal Corporation, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local residents continued to be engaged in massive search and rescue efforts at the scene of the disaster.
 
Cranes, gas cutters and other equipment were being used to clear the debris and cut through the mangled steel and concrete to look for possible survivors.
 
The structure, Husaini Building, was 117 years old, sources said. It was located in a heavily congested area in south Mumbai's C Ward, near the J. J. Junction, and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment had a tough time reaching the spot.
 
The building had a playschool on the premises which would have opened at 10 am as usual. However, the building came down at about 8.30 am yesterday, much before the children were scheduled to arrive.
 
This is the third major incident of building collapse in the metropolis in recent weeks. On July 25, at least 17 people died and 11 others suffered injuries when a four-storeyed residential building collapsed in the suburban area of Ghatkopar. On August 26, six people lost their lives when a part of a seven-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Chandivali while some unauthorised portions of the structure were being demolished.
 
Municipal officials said they received a call about the collapse of the building around 8.40 am yesterday and the fire brigade was immediately rushed to the spot. Police have cordoned off the area to facilitate the smooth conduct of the search and rescue operations.
 
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The incident occurred two days after Mumbai experienced its heaviest rainfall since the July 2005 floods on Tuesday.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incident and is personally monitoring the situation. He visited the site yesterday and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who had lost their lives in the collapse.
 
He also ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident by a committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
 
Mr. Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the tragedy. He also asked the Municipal Commissioner to focus on ensuring immediate medical assistance to the injured persons. State Minister Subhash Desai visited the spot and later briefed Mr. Fadnavis about the situation.
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sadness over the loss of lives in the tragedy.
 
“Collapse of a building in Mumbai is saddening. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured," he said on Twitter.
 
Civic officials said the building had been declared unsafe for living six years ago. The residents had been served with evacuation notices in 2011 and ordered to vacate the building to enable redevelopment of the area under the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) project.
 
"We are extremely saddened and concened about this unfortunate incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families," a statement from the SBUT said here yesterday.
 
"All the necessary support from SBUT and the disaster management teams, including MCGM, Mumbai Police, Fire Brigade and MHADA are being mobilized towards ensuring the safety of all tenants in the affected area," it said.
 
The SBUT said the ground+six building housed a total of 13 tenants -- 12 residential and one commercial. Out of these, the Trust had already shifted seven families in 2013-14 to the SBUT transit homes.
 
"MHADA notices dated 28-03-2011 and 20-05-2011 declaring  the building dilapidated were issued along with offer of transit accommodation to the remaining tenants and occupants," it said.
 
The 150-year-old Bhendi Bazaar is home to more than 20,000 people. More than 80 percent of the 250 buildings in the locality are old and wornout and have been declared dilapidated and unfit for living by MHADA, the release added.
 
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16 dead, 15 injured, several trapped as five-storeyed building collapses in Mumbai

At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.

 
16 dead, 15 injured in Mumbai building collapse
At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.
 
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Assistant Commissioner J S Ghegadmal told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene that 31 victims had been extricated from the debris, of whom 16 were found dead.
 
The injured were rushed to the nearby J. J. Hospital, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, sources said.
 
With several more people feared trapped under the tonnes of debris, scores of men from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Municipal Corporation, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local residents were engaged in massive search and rescue efforts.
 
Cranes, gas cutters and other equipment were being used to clear the debris and cut through the mangled steel and concrete to reach the victims and look for possible survivors.
 
The structure was more than a hundred years old, sources said. It was locted in a heavily congested area in south Mumbai's C Ward, and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment had a tough time reaching the spot.
 
The building had a playschool on the premises which would have opened at 10 am as usual. However, the building came down at about 8.30 am, much before the children were scheduled to arrive.
 
This is the third major incident of building collapse in the metropolis in recent weeks. On July 25, at least 17 people died and 11 others suffered injuries when a four-storeyed residential building collapsed in the suburban area of Ghatkopar.
 
On August 26, six people lost their lives when a part of a seven-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Chandivali while some unauthorised portions of the structure were being demolished.
 
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Municipal officials said they received a call about the collapse of the building around 8.40 am and the fire brigade was immediately rushed to the spot. There was no immediate word on the number of people living in the building and how many of them were trapped under the debris. Police have cordoned off the area to facilitate the smooth conduct of the search and rescue operations.
 
The incident has come two days after Mumbai experienced its heaviest rainfall since the July 2005 floods.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incient and is personally monitoring the situation.
 
He has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident by a committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
 
Mr. Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the tragedy. He also asked the Municipal Commissioner to focus on ensuring immediate medical assistance to the injured persons. State Minister Subhash Desai visited the spot and later briefed Mr. Fadnavis about the situation.
 
Civic officials said the building had been declared unsafe for living six years ago. The residents had been served with evacuation notices in 2011 and ordered to vacate the building to enable redevelopment of the area under the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) project.
 
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RBI modifies rules yet again on deposit of banned notes

Two days after specifying that deposits exceeding Rs. 5000 in demonetised Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes can only be made once before December 30, 2016, the Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday modified the rules once again, saying that the restrictions would not apply to those with KYC-compliant accounts.

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Two days after specifying that deposits exceeding Rs. 5000 in demonetised Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes can only be made once before December 30, 2016, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today modified the rules once again, rsaying that the restrictions would not apply to those with KYC-compliant accounts.
 
In a notification sent to all banks on December 19, the RBI had said that, on a review of the provisions dealing with credit of the value of specified bank notes (SBNs) into bank accounts, it had been decided to place certain restrictions on deposits of SBNs into bank accounts while encouraging the deposits of the same under the Taxation and Investment Regime for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016.
 
"Tenders of SBNs in excess of Rs. 5000 into a bank account will be received for credit only once during the remaining period till December 30, 2016. The credit in such cases shall be afforded only after questioning tenderer, on record, in the presence of at least two officials of the bank, as to why this could not be deposited earlier and receiving a satisfactory explanation. The explanation should be kept on record to facilitate an audit trail at a later stage. An appropriate flag also should be raised in CBS to that effect so that no more tenders are allowed.
 
"Tenders of SBNs up to Rs. 5000 in value received across the counter will allowed to be credited to bank accounts in the normal course until December 30, 2016. Even when tenders smaller than Rs. 5000 are made in an account and such tenders taken together on cumulative basis exceed Rs. 5000 they may be subject to the procedure to be followed in case of tenders above Rs. 5000, with no more tenders being allowed thereafter until December 30, 2016," the earlier notification had said.
 
In the latest notification sent today to all banks, these provisions would not apply to fully KYC compliant accounts.
 
"Please refer to our circular DCM (Plg) No. 1859/10.27.00/2016-17 dated December 19, 2016. On a review of the above, we advise that the provisions of the above circular at sub para (i) and (ii) will not apply to fully KYC compliant accounts," the notification said.
 
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The Ministry of Finance had, explaining the December 19 decision, said on that date that more than five weeks had elapsed since the November 8 announcement on demonetisation. 
 
"It is expected that, by now, most of the people would have deposited such old notes in their possession," it had said.
 
"Further, an opportunity has been given to the public to make the payments towards tax, penalty, cess/surcharge and deposit under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) 2016 with the old bank notes of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 denomination upto 30th December, 2016," it had said.
 
The decision had attracted a lot of criticism from Opposition parties as well as people at large in view of the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that there was no reason for people to rush to the banks to deposit their old notes because they had time till December 30 to do so.
 
The demonetisation has led to a huge shortage of cash in hand for people across the country and has severely affected businesses. There continue to be long queues outside banks and ATM kiosks all over the country, which have been running out of cash every day.
 
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RBI cuts repo rate by 25 bps to 7.25%, keeps CRR unchanged at 4%

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday reduced its policy repo rate by 25 basis points from 7.5 per cent to 7.25 per cent with immediate effect and kept the cash reserve ratio of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent, saying there was a case for a cut in the rate.

 
RBI cuts repo rate by 25 bps to 7.25%
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today reduced its policy repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) from 7.5 per cent to 7.25 per cent with immediate effect and kept the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent, saying there was a case for a cut in the key rate.
 
"With low domestic capacity utilization, still mixed indicators of recovery, and subdued investment and credit growth, there is a case for a cut in the policy rate today," RBI Governor Raghuram G. Rajan said in his Second Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2015-16 here.
 
He also said that banks should pass through the sequence of rate cuts into lending rates.
 
Dr Rajan said the central bank would continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 14-day term repos as well as longer term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions.
 
It would also continue with overnight/term variable rate repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity, he said.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stood adjusted to 6.25 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 8.25 per cent.
 
Dr Rajan noted that banks had started passing through some of the past rate cuts into their lending rates, headline inflation had evolved along the projected path, the impact of unseasonal rains had been moderate so far, administered price increases remained muted, and the timing of normalisation of US monetary policy seemed to have been pushed back. 
 
"With low domestic capacity utilization, still mixed indicators of recovery, and subdued investment and credit growth, there is a case for a cut in the policy rate today," he said.
 
"Yet, of the risks to inflation identified in April, three still cloud the picture. First, some forecasters, notably the IMD, predict a below-normal southwest monsoon. Astute food management is needed to mitigate possible inflationary effects. 
 
"Second, crude prices have been firming amidst considerable volatility, and geo-political risks are ever present. Third, volatility in the external environment could impact inflation. 
 
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"Therefore, a conservative strategy would be to wait, especially for more certainty on both the monsoon outturn as well as the effects of government responses if it turns out to be weak. With still weak investment and the need to reduce supply constraints over the medium term to stay on the proposed disinflationary path (to 4 per cent in early 2018), however, a more appropriate stance is to front-load a rate cut today and then wait for data that clarify uncertainty," he said.
 
"Assuming reasonable food management, inflation is expected to be pulled down by base effects till August but to start rising thereafter to about 6.0 per cent by January 2016 – slightly higher than the projections in April. Putting more weight on the IMD’s monsoon projections than the more optimistic projections of private forecasters as well as accounting for the possible inflationary effects of the increases in the service tax rate to 14 per cent, the risks to the central trajectory are tilted to the upside," he said.
 
"Reflecting the balance of risks and the downward revision to GVA estimates for 2014-15, the projection for output growth for 2015-16 has been marked down from 7.8 per cent in April to 7.6 per cent with a downward bias to reflect the uncertainties surrounding these various risks," he noted.
 
Dr Rajan said strong food policy and management would be important to help keep inflation and inflationary expectations contained over the near term. 
 
"Furthermore, monetary easing can only create the enabling conditions for a fuller government policy thrust that hinges around a step up in public investment in several areas that can also crowd in private investment. This will be important to relieve supply constraints and aid disinflation over the medium term. A targeted infusion of bank capital into scheduled public sector commercial banks, especially those that implement concerted strategies to clean up stressed assets, is also warranted so that adequate credit flows to the productive sectors as investment picks up," he said.
 
The statement said that, since the first bi-monthly monetary policy statement of 2015-16 issued in April 2015, incoming data suggested that the global recovery was still slow and getting increasingly differentiated across regions. 
 
It said global financial markets had also been volatile, with risk-on risk-off shifts induced by changing perceptions of monetary policies in the advanced economies. Global currency markets continue to be dominated by the strength of the US dollar, with the G3 currencies reflecting the asynchronicity of their monetary policy stances. 
 
The statement noted that, as anticipated, the Central Statistics Office had revised downwards its estimate of India’s gross value added (GVA) at basic prices for 2014-15 by 30 bps from the advance estimates. 
 
"Domestic economic activity remains moderate in Q1 of 2015-16. Agricultural activity was adversely affected by unseasonal rains and hailstorms in north India during March 2015, impinging on an estimated 94 lakh hectares of area sown under the rabi crop. Reflecting this, the third advance estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture indicate a contraction in foodgrains production by more than 5 per cent in relation to the preceding year’s level," it said.
 
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The statement said successive estimates have been pointing to a worsening of the situation, with the damage to crops like pulses and oilseeds – where buffer foodstocks are not available in the central pool – posing an upside risk to food inflation. 
 
It said that, for the kharif season, the outlook is clouded by the first estimates of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), predicting that the southwest monsoon will be 7 per cent below the long period average. This has been exacerbated by the confirmation of the onset of El Nino by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it said.
 
"What is clear is that contingency plans for food management, including storage of adequate quantity of seeds and fertilisers for timely supply, crop insurance schemes, credit facilities, timely release of food stocks and the repair of disruptions in food supply chains, including through imports and de-hoarding, need to be in place to manage the impact of low production on inflation. Inflation control will also be helped by limiting the increase in agricultural support prices," it said.
 
The statement said industrial production had been recovering, albeit unevenly. The sustained weakness of consumption spending, especially in rural areas as indicated in the slowdown in sales of two-wheelers and tractors, continued to operate as a drag. Corporate sales have contracted. 
 
"The disappointing earnings performance could have been worse if not for the decline in input costs. Capacity utilisation has been falling in several industries, indicative of the slack in the economy. While an upturn in capital goods production seems underway, clear evidence of a revival in investment demand will need to build on the tentative indications of unclogging of stalled investment projects, stabilising of private new investment intentions and improving sales of commercial vehicles," it said.
 
The statement said that, in April, output from core industries constituting 38 per cent of the index of industrial production declined across the board, barring coal production. 
 
"The sustained revival of coal output augurs well for electricity generation and mining and quarrying, going forward. There is some optimism on gas pricing and availability. The resolution of power purchase processes has to be expedited and power distribution companies’ financial stress has to be addressed on a priority basis. Some public sector banks will need more capital to clean up their balance sheets and support lending as investment revives," it said.
 
The RBI said leading indicators of services sector activity were emitting mixed signals. 
 
"A pick-up in service tax collections, sales of trucks, railway freight, domestic air passenger and air freight traffic could augur well for transport and communication and trade. On the other hand, the slowdown in tourist arrivals, railway traffic and international air passenger and freight traffic could affect hotels, restaurants and some constituents of transportation services adversely. The services PMI declined in April 2015, mainly on account of slowdown in new business orders. Community and personal services are likely to be held back by the ongoing fiscal consolidation," it said.
 
In April, retail inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) decelerated for the second month in a row, supported by favourable base effects [of about (-) 0.8 per cent] that moderated the rise in the price index for the fourth successive month. 
 
"Food inflation softened to a contra-seasonal four-month low, with the impact of unseasonal rains yet to show up. Vegetables inflation continued to ease, along with that of other sub-groups such as cereals, oil, sugar and spices. On the other hand, protein items, especially milk and pulses, continued to impart upward inflationary pressures," it said.
 
It also said fuel inflation rose for the fourth successive month to a twelve-month high, driven by prices of electricity and firewood. 
 
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"Inflation in these components was accentuated by base effects – the recent price uptick coming on top of muted increases a year ago. Inflation excluding food and fuel rose marginally. House rent, education, medical and transport expenses were among the major drivers of inflation in this category. Rural wage growth, although still moderate, picked up. Inflation expectations remain in high single digits, although they may adapt further to current low inflation. Yet, both input and output price pressures remain muted as reflected in the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey," it said.
 
The statement said merchandise export growth had weakened steadily since July 2014 and entered into contraction from January 2015 through April, with a recent shrinking of even volumes exported. 
 
"The deterioration in export performance affected economies across Asia as global demand fell and the fall in commodity prices impacted terms of trade for commodity exporters. From December 2014 onwards, merchandise import growth also turned negative, led by a sharp decline in the volume of oil imports as inventory build-up by refineries subsided. 
 
"Gold imports spiked in the month of March and remained elevated in April owing to festival demand and regulatory relaxations. Notably, the volume of imports has been recording increases, despite the value decline. Given these developments, the reduction in the current account deficit resulting from the sharp decline in oil prices has begun to reverse, though the size of the deficit is expected to be contained to about 1.5 per cent of GDP this year. 
 
"Net exports are, therefore, unlikely to contribute as much to growth going forward as they did in the past financial year. Consequently growth will depend more on a strengthening of domestic final demand. While portfolio and direct foreign investment flows were buoyant during 2014-15, with net foreign direct investment to India at US$ 36.6 billion and net portfolio inflows at US$ 41 billion, the year 2015-16 has begun with net portfolio outflows in the wake of a reduction in global portfolio allocations to India. Foreign exchange reserves are around US$ 350 billion, providing a strong second line of defence to good macroeconomic policies if external markets turn significantly volatile," the statement added.
 
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Aruna Shanbaug, in vegetative state for 42 years after being raped in 1973, dies

Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years after being brutally raped in1973, died on Monday morning in Mumbai's KEM Hospital after a bout of pneumonia, hospital sources said.

 
Aruna Shanbaug dies after 42 years in vegetative state
Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years after being brutally raped in1973, died this morning in Mumbai's KEM Hospital after a bout of pneumonia, hospital sources said.
 
Shanbaug, 67, was put on ventilator support in the intensive care unit of the hospital for more than a week, they said.
 
She breathed her last at around 9.30 am today, they said. She would have turned 68 in the first week of June.
 
Shanbaug had been in a semi-comatose condition after the horrific incident of November 23, 1973 in which her assailant, Sohanlal, used a dog chain around her neck to pin her down during the assault, resulting in serious damage to her brain cells.
 
Her colleagues at the KEM Hospital had been caring for her for the past four decades, meeting her every need and ensuring, among other things, that she did not have even a single bedsore during this period.
 
On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court had, in an important ruling, dismissed a petition filed by Ms Pinki Virani, who claimed to be the next friend of Shanbaug, seeking permission for euthanasia since she was in a vegetative state for more than 37 years at that time.
 
A bench comprising Justices Markendey Katju and Gyansudha Misra  held that active euthanasia is illegal but passive euthanasia is permissible with the permission of the concerned high court in appropriate cases.
 
The bench in its 110-page judgement held that the real next friend of Shanbaug was the staff of the K E M Hospital, Mumbai, who had een looking after her for decades.
 
The apex court while permitting passive euthanasia in appropriate cases with the permission of the concerned high court, however, put a rider that the high court will have to set up a medical court before permitting passive euthanasia and it will be the law of the land till Parliament enacts appropriate law on the issue of mercy killing.
 
The Central Government as well as the KEM Hospital had vehemently opposed the petitioner.
 
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Salman Khan given 5 years in jail in 2002 case, HC extends his bail by two days

Bollywood star Salman Khan was on Wednesday convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Mumbai for causing the death of a pavement dweller in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was accused of driving under the influence of liquor, but got bail for two days from the Bombay High Court a little later.

 
Salman Khan gets five years in jail in 2002 hit-and-run case
 
 
Popular Bollywood actor Salman Khan was today convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a sessions court here for causing the death of a pavement dweller in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was accused of driving under the influence of liquor, but got bail for two days from the Bombay High Court a little later.
 
Sessions judge D W Deshpande held that all the charges against the actor, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder, had been proven.
 
Since the quantum of sentence was more than three years, Khan could not have applied for bail in the sessions court and, therefore, approached the High Court. Khan was already on bail in the case, and the High Court extended it by two more days until Friday, when it will hear his bail application.
 
Khan's lawyers had sought bail on the ground that the detailed order of the sessions judge had not been made available yet.
 
Once the copy of the High Court's order reached the session court, he left for home around 7.15 pm after completing various formalities. Hundreds of his fans and well-wishers had gathered outside his residence in Bandra to greet him on his arrival.
 
The sessions judge accepted the prosecution's case that Khan, 49, was at the wheel at the time of the accident, rejecting the defence plea that it was his driver Ashok Singh who was actually driving the vehicle then.
 
Khan and members of his family present in the court room were visibly upset after hearing the verdict.
 
During the argument on the quantum of sentence, lawyers for the actor pleaded for a lesser term, citing his philanthropic work and the fact that he had paid Rs 19 lakh as compensation to the family of the victim. They also said he was prepared to pay more if ordered to do so. "We are not running away from responsibility," his counsel said.
 
The prosecution, on the other hand, argued for the maximum sentence of 10 years.
 
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The case related to the incident, nearly 13 years ago, on September 28, 2002 when the actor's Land Cruiser went out of control and ran over five persons sleeping on a pavement outside a bakery in the Bandra area of the city. One person died and the four others suffered injuries in the incident.
 
The prosecution said Khan was driving the vehicle when the mishap occurred, that he was driving without a licence and that he was drunk at that time. They also accused him of fleeing from the scene. The actor, on the other hand, said he was not driving, that he was not drunk and that he had not run away from the spot.
 
The prosecution produced eyewitnesses, those who were injured in the accident, employees of the bar where the actor had consumed drinks, doctors who examined his blood samples and forensic experts, among others, as witnesses.
 
In a surprising development, Khan's driver Ashok Singh turned up in court recently, after more than 12 years, and deposed that it was he who was driving the car on that day. He said the front left tyre of the car had burst, leading to the mishap
 
Large crowds of Khan's fans, mediapersons, lawyers and others had gathered outside the court at Kalaghoda to find out about the judgement.
 
The judge pronounced his guilty verdict within minutes after arriving in court and later prounced the quantum of sentence, about two hours later, at 1.10 pm.
 
Khan was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, rash and negligent driving, causing hurt by act endangering life,  causing grievous hurt, causing damage to property, driving vehicle in contravention of rules and driving at great speed after consuming alcohol.
 
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Modi urges RBI to set targets for financial inclusion for banks, FIs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged the Reserve Bank of India to take the lead in encouraging financial institutions to set concrete targets for financial inclusion over the next 20 years, to help transform the quality of life of the poor.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Financial Inclusion Conference organised by the Reserve Bank of India, in Mumbai on April 2, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Financial Inclusion Conference organised by the Reserve Bank of India, in Mumbai on April 2, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to take the lead in encouraging financial institutions to set concrete targets for financial inclusion over the next 20 years, to help transform the quality of life of the poor. 
 
"I come as a representative of the poor, underprivileged, marginalized and tribals; I am one among them; I seek on their behalf and trust you will not disappoint me," he said at the RBI Conference on Financial Inclusion here, which also marked the completion of 80 years of the central bank.
 
Mr Modi encouraged RBI to set goals on intermediate targets: of 2019, when the country will celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi; 2022, 75 years of independence; 2025, 90 years of RBI, and 2035, 100 years of RBI. 
 
He said the success of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and the Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG subsidy (DBTL), had shown the potential of the enormous role that the banking sector can play in ensuring financial inclusion. 
 
Calling for making financial inclusion a "habit", Mr Modi asked banks to take inspiration from the success of women self-help groups. He asked banks to keep in mind the requirement of youth who needed either knowledge or skills. He also gave the example of the soon-to-be-launched Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank in this regard and urged banks to come up with creative financial inclusion instruments to help prevent farmer suicides. 
 
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The Prime Minister said that, along with economic and social parameters, there was need to think of a geographical parameter as well for financial inclusion. He said eastern India had immense economic potential, and the banking sector should recognize and plan for this. 
 
Appreciating the role played by RBI over the last 80 years, the Prime Minister complimented the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan for his grasp and clarity on economic issues. 
 
As part of the Make in India initiative, the Prime Minister urged RBI to take the lead in ensuring that India starts to manufacture the paper and ink that are used to print currency notes. 
 
Apart from Dr Rajan, Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
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RBI cuts repo rate by 25 bps to 7.5%, keeps CRR unchanged at 4%

Acting for the second time within two months outside the policy review cycle, the Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday, in a surprise move, reduced the key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 7.75 per cent to 7.5 per cent with immediate effect.

 
Acting for the second time within two months outside the policy review cycle, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today, in a surprise move, reduced the key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points (bps) from 7.75 per cent to 7.5 per cent with immediate effect.
 
RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said in a statement on monetary policy that the central bank had also decided to keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL).
 
He said the RBI would continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 7-day and 14-day term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions.
 
He said it would continue with daily variable rate repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stood adjusted to 6.5 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 8.5 per cent with immediate effect, he said.
 
The RBI had, on January 15 this year, reduced the repo rate by 25 basis points to 7.75 per cent, stating then that the momentum of inflation had significantly reduced.
 
However, in its Sixth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2014-15 on February 3, the RBI decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 7.75 per cent, saying there had been no substantial new developments on the disinflationary process or on the fiscal outlook since January 15.
 
Today's decision has come just four days after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented his General Budget for 2015-16 to Parliament on February 28.
 
On February 20, the Central Government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had signed a landmark agreement on Monetary Policy Framework under which the RBI will aim to bring inflation below 6 per cent by January 2016.
 
The target for financial year 2016-17 and all subsequent years shall be 4 per cent, with a band of +/- 2 per cent.
 
The agreement, made public on March 2, is a shift towards inflation targeting that Dr Rajan had been advocating for some time.
 
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Dr Rajan said in his statement today that the need to act outside the policy review cycle was prompted by two factors.
 
"First, while the next bi-monthly policy statement will be issued on April 7, 2015 the still weak state of certain sectors of the economy as well as the global trend towards easing suggests that any policy action should be anticipatory once sufficient data support the policy stance. Second, with the release of the agreement on the monetary policy framework, it is appropriate for the Reserve Bank to offer guidance on how it will implement the mandate," he said.
 
He said that, going forward, the RBI would seek to bring the inflation rate to the mid-point of the band of 4 +/- 2 per cent provided for in the agreement with the Governmnt, that is, to 4 per cent by the end of a two-year period starting fiscal year 2016-17.
 
He said the guidance on policy action given in the fifth-bi-monthly monetary policy statement of December 2014 was largely unchanged. 
 
"Further monetary actions will be conditioned by incoming data, especially on the easing of supply constraints, improved availability of key inputs such as power, land, minerals and infrastructure, continuing progress on high-quality fiscal consolidation, the pass through of past rate cuts into lending rates, the monsoon outturn and developments in the international environment," he said.
 
Dr Rajan recalled that, in its statement on monetary policy of January 15, 2015, the RBI had reduced the policy repo rate by 25 basis points and indicated that “Key to further easing are data that confirm continuing disinflationary pressures. Also critical would be sustained high quality fiscal consolidation…”.
 
"While maintaining the interest rate stance in its sixth bi-monthly monetary policy statement of February 3 in the absence of new developments on inflation or on the fiscal outlook till then, the Reserve Bank indicated that it will keenly monitor the revision in the consumer price index (CPI) with regard to the path of inflation in 2015-16 as well as the Union Budget for 2015-16," he said.
 
The statement said the new CPI, rebased to 2012, was released on February 12. Inflation in January 2015 at 5.1 per cent as measured by the new index was well within the target of 8 per cent for January 2015. 
 
"Prices of vegetables declined and, hearteningly, inflation excluding food and fuel moderated in a broad-based manner to a new low. Thus, disinflation is evolving along the path set out by the Reserve Bank in January 2014 and, in fact, at a faster pace than earlier envisaged," it said.
 
"The uncertainties surrounding any inflation projection are, however, not insignificant. Oil prices have firmed up in recent weeks, and significant further strengthening, perhaps as a result of unanticipated geo-political events, will alter the inflation outlook. Other international commodity prices are expected to remain benign, given still-sluggish global demand conditions. Food prices will be affected by the seasonal upturn that typically occurs ahead of the south-west monsoon and, therefore, steps the government takes on food management will be critical in determining the inflation outlook. Finally, the possible spill over of volatility from international financial markets through exchange rate and asset prices channels is also still a significant risk," it said.
 
The RBI said that, perhaps, the most significant influences on near-term inflation would be the strength of aggregate demand relative to available capacity. Two recent developments pertaining to the demand-supply balance are the recently-released GDP estimates and the Union Budget for 2015-16.
 
"The Central Statistical Organisation is to be commended on the changes it has made to the methodology of estimating GDP, bringing India up to international best practice. Yet the picture it presents of a robust economy, with growth having picked up significantly over the last three years, is at odds with still-low direct measures of growth of production, credit, imports and capacity utilisation as well as with anecdotal evidence on the state of the economic cycle. Nevertheless, the picture of a steadily recovering economy appears right," Dr Rajan said.
 
"The fiscal impulses in the Union Budget then assume importance. There are many important and valuable structural reforms embedded in this Budget, which will help improve supply over the medium term. In the short run, however, the postponement of fiscal consolidation to the 3 per cent target by one year will add to aggregate demand. At a time of accelerating economic recovery, this is, prima facie, a source for concern from the standpoint of aggregate demand management, especially with large borrowings intended for public sector enterprises," he said.
 
"Some factors mitigate the concern. The government has emphasized its desire to clean up legacy issues which gave a misleading picture of the true extent of fiscal rectitude, and has also moderated the optimism in its projections. To this extent, the true quantum of fiscal consolidation may be higher than in the headline numbers. Also, the government is transferring a significantly larger amount to the states, without entirely devolving responsibility for funding central programmes. To the extent that state budget deficits narrow, the general fiscal deficit will be lower. 
 
"Furthermore, supported by lower international energy prices, there is a welcome intent to shift from spending on subsidies to spending on infrastructure, and to better target and further reduce subsidies through direct transfers. Finally, the central government has signed a memorandum with the Reserve Bank setting out clear inflation objectives for the latter. This makes explicit what was implicit before – that the government and the Reserve Bank have common objectives and that fiscal and monetary policy will work in a complementary way. In sum, then, the government intends to compensate for the delay in fiscal consolidation with a commitment to an improvement in the quality of adjustment," he said.
 
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Dr Rajan noted that all these mitigating factors had a fair component of intent. The realised net fiscal impulse will depend on both central and state government actions going forward, he said.
 
"Finally, the rupee has remained strong relative to peer countries. While an excessively strong rupee is undesirable, it too creates disinflationary impulses. It bears repeating here that the Reserve Bank does not target a level for the exchange rate, nor does it have an overall target for foreign exchange reserves. It does intervene on occasion, in both directions, to reduce avoidable volatility in the exchange rate. Any reserve build-up is a residual consequence of such actions rather than a direct objective," he said.
 
The RBI said that softer readings on inflation are expected to come in through the first half of 2015-16 before firming up to below 6 per cent in the second half. 
 
"The fiscal consolidation programme, while delayed, may compensate in quality, especially if state governments are cooperative. Given low capacity utilisation and still-weak indicators of production and credit off-take, it is appropriate for the Reserve Bank to be pre-emptive in its policy action to utilise available space for monetary accommodation," it added.
 
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Bollywood personalities take a stand, urge people to vote for "secular party"

In an unprecedented move, a group of well-known people from the film and entertainment industry, including filmmakers such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Mahesh Bhatt, Govind Nihalani and Zoya Akhtar, singer Shubha Mudgal and actor Nandita Das, on Wednesday issued an appeal, urging people to vote for the secular party which is most likely to win in their constituency.

Nandita Das
Nandita Das
In an unprecedented move, a group of well-known people from the film and entertainment industry, including filmmakers such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Mahesh Bhatt, Govind Nihalani and Zoya Akhtar, singer Shubha Mudgal and actor Nandita Das, today issued an appeal, urging people to vote for the secular party which is most likely to win in their constituency.
 
"The best thing about our country is its cultural diversity, its pluralism - the co-existence of a number of religions and ethnicities over centuries, and hence the blooming of multiple streams of intellectual and artistic thought," the appeal said.
 
"And, this has been possible only because Indian society has prided itself on being essentially secular in character, rejecting communal hatred, embracing tolerance," it said.
 
The signatories, who also included filmmakers Imtiaz Ali, Kabir Khan and Vijay Krishna Acharya, writer Anjum Rajabali, and actors Swara Bhaskar, Jyoti Dogra and Joy Sengupta, said that the very sense of India was vulnerable today.
 
"The need of the hour is to protect our country's secular foundation. Undoubtedly, corruption and governance are important issues, but we will have to vigilantly work out ways of holding our government accountable to that. However, one thing is clear: India's secular character is not negotiable! Not now, not ever. 
 
"As Indian citizens who love our motherland, we appeal to you to vote for the secular party, which is most likely to win in your constituency," they added.
 
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Other signatories to the appeal include filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Kundan Shah, Hansal Mehta, , writer-diector Saket Chaudhary, documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, actor Aditi Rao, writer-director Vinay Shukla, writers Sanjay Chhel, Kamlesh Pandey, Robin Bhatt, Rajesh Dubey, Vinod Ranganath, Imteyaz Husain, 
 
Tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan, lyricists Sameer Anjan, Kauser Munir and Jalees Sherwani, film editors Amitabh Shukla and Nishant Radhakrishnan, art director Sukant Panigrahi, producer Anusha Khan, sound designer Bishwadeep Chatterjee, screen writers Manasee Palshikar, Rukmini Sen, Priyanka Borpujari and Mazahir Rahim, documentary filmmaker Surabhi Sharma and screen writer Sharad Tripathi also signed the appeal.
 
The signatories also included cinematographers Anil Mehta and C K Muraleedharan, producer Preety Ali, filmmaker Sona Jain, theatre activist Sameera Iyengar, playwright Shivani Tibrewala Chand and activists Tushar Gandhi, Teesta Setalvaad and Javed Anand.
 
This is the first time that Bollywood personalities have come out collectively to take a stand during elections in the country, though many of them have been individually associated with political parties. Many have also contested and won elections and also served as Ministers at the Centre.
 
Writer Rajabali, whose brainchild the appeal is, told mediapersons that he was surprised at the readiness with which the younger lot signed the statement and took a stand at a time when they might justifiably be more obsessed with their careers.
 
Actress Nandita Das, who has been involved in a variety of causes, said that she owed whatever she was today to the secular and pluralist upbringing that she had.
 
Without naming any party, she said there was a couple of them which are playing a divisive role. She said that, by laying emphasis on development and governance, these parties were seeking to underplay their divisive record.
 
According to her, there was enough evidence in the public domain about the role these parties had played. She said it was not just about communalism and Muslims, but about all other religious, linguistic and regional groups. In this context, she pointed out the stand taken by various parties on criminalisation of private and consensual sex between adults of the same sex.
 
"I am what I am because of the varied influences that I have experienced. I want my son to grow up with all these many influences," she said. She said the country could not be reduced to a monolith or a homogenous entity. "In our differences lie our unity," she said.
 
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Nine killed in fire on Mumbai-Dehradun Express near Dahanu in Maharashtra

Nine passengers including a woman, were killed when a fire broke out in the speeding 19019 Mumbai-Dehradun Express near Dahanu in Thane district of Maharashtra in the early hours of Wednesday.

Fire kills nine on Mumbai-Dehradun Express
Nine passengers including a woman, were killed when a fire broke out in the speeding 19019 Mumbai-Dehradun Express near Dahanu in Thane district of Maharashtra in the early hours of today.
 
Western Railway sources said the fire broke out in S3 coach of the train and then spread to the adjoining coaches S2 and S4, taking the passengers, most of whom were asleep, unawares.
 
The cause of the fire, which broke out at around 0235 hours today while the train was running between Dahanu Road and Gholwad stations , could not be ascertained immediately, the sources said.
 
According to them, the fire was noticed by a gateman at a level crossing, and he alerted the station master of Gholwad station, who quickly contacted the driver and asked him to stop the train.
 
Fire tenders and ambulances rushed to the spot and the blaze was brought under control soon. The affected coaches were detached and the rest of the train was later brought to Gholwad station, about 145 km north of Mumbai, on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border, around 0530 hours.
 
Accident and medical relief vans were rushed to the spot from Mumbai and Valsad in Gujarat to assist in the relief efforts.
 
Five persons who felt suffocated due to the smoke were given first aid in the acident relief vans and later discharged, te sources said.
 
The Divisional Railway Manager of Mumbai Central Division and other top railway officials rushed to the spot to supervise the relief operations.
 
Five of the deceased have been identified by the Railways as Ms Deepika Shah , 65, Mr Dev Shankar Upadhyay, 48, Mr Surendra Shah, 68, Mr Nasirkhan Ahmedkhan Pathan, 50, and Mr Feroz Khan, 38. 
 
The bodies of the victims were sent to Civil Hospital, Dahanu Road (Telephone No. 02528 222371) by the Government Railway Police.
 
The  Railways have offered free accommodation in the train to the relatives of the deceased up to Dahanu Road.
 
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has expressed his grief at the loss of lives and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those killed in the fire.
 
He has also announced an inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, Western Circle, into the incident.
 
Meanwhile, services on the up line resumed at 0640 hours, the sources added.
 
About 500 food packets along with tea and drinking water were arranged for the passengers of the train at Valsad where five more coaches were added to the train before dispatching it for its o­nward journey.
 
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The Railways have opened helplines to provide information to relatives of the passengers.
 
The numbers are:
 
Mumbai: 022 23011853 and 022 23007388
Valsaid: 241903- Valsad; 
Dahanu Road: 022 67649632
Bandra Terminus: 022 26435756
Surat: 0261 2423992
New Delhi: 011 23342954
Dehradun: 0135 2624002, 2624003
 
Just 11 days ago, on December 28, 2013, as many as 26 passengers were killed and eight others suffered injuries when a major fire broke out in an air-conditioned coach of the 16594 Bangalore-Nanded Express shortly after it left the Satya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam station in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.
 
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SBI, Carlyle Group entity acquire GE Capital's stake in SBI Card

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, and The Carlyle Group today announced that they have completed the acquisition of GE Capital Group’s entire stake in SBI Card, the second-largest credit card franchise in India.
 
SBI Card is operated through two joint-venture companies, SBI Cards & Payment Services and GE Capital Business Process Management Services, which issue credit cards and process card transactions in the Indian market. SBI and Carlyle now own 74% and 26%, respectively, in each of the two entities.
 
Dinesh Kumar Khara, Managing Director, Risk, IT & Subs., SBI, said, “We are confident that we, together with Carlyle, will be able to take SBI Card to the next level of success. We have put the proper systems in place to increase our market share in the credit card business, and launched new initiatives to improve the synergy between SBI Card and the bank. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to GE Capital, the outgoing partner, who has progressively collaborated with us in building SBI Card to the level where it stands today and for completing the smooth transition together.”
 
Sunil Kaul, Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, said, “Today is an important milestone as SBI Card enters a new phase of development under this new partnership. Carlyle and SBI share the same vision for SBI Card and the credit-card industry and are very excited about the company’s growth prospects.”
 
 “I would like to thank the State Bank of India for their support in finding a solution that works best for all parties and enabling GE Capital to fully exit our stakes in SBI Card and the card processing company.” said Rich Laxer, GE Capital Chairman and CEO. “State Bank of India has been a great partner over the last 19 years providing value for customers and we wish them continued success in the new partnership with Carlyle,” he added.
 
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India’s forex reserves dip by $ 1.044 billion to $ 400.897 billion

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Reversing a four-week uptrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 1.044 billion to $ 400.897 billion during the week ended December 8, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 1.2 billion to $ 401.942 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had fallen by $ 1.028 billion to $ 376.428 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 20.703 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 5.3 million to $ 1.497 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fell by $ 11 million to $ 2.269 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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GE, Tata group enter into strategic partnership to manufacture LEAP engine components in India

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GE of the United States and the Tata group of India announced here yesterday the signing of an agreement on November 29, 2017, to manufacture CFM International LEAP engine components in India, for the global supply chain.
 
The two companies also announced their intention to jointly pursue military engine and aircraft system opportunities for the India market. 
 
A press release from Tata said the LEAP engine is the world’s leading jet engine known for its technological superiority, efficient fuel consumption, performance for powering single-aisle commercial jets.
 
“Tata group is a leader in the Indian defence and aerospace sector, and we look forward to working together to meet the growing demand for LEAP engines. Our collaboration in building innovative technologies will support the ‘Make in India’ vision of the Indian government,” said John L Flannery, Chairman and CEO of GE.
 
“We look forward to working with GE to build more expertise and strengthen India’s defence manufacturing capabilities,” said N Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons. “Tata group’s partnership with GE will help drive synergies in defence manufacturing and focus on innovation to support our armed forces.”
 
Under the strategic partnership, GE Aviation and Tata Sons’ subsidiary, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), will join forces for manufacturing, assembling, integration and testing of aircraft components. A new Centre of Excellence (COE) will be established to help develop a robust ecosystem for aircraft engine manufacturing in India and build related capabilities.
 
GE currently provides the jet engines and marine gas turbines for many Indian military applications including the Air Force Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas Mk 1, Indian Navy P-8I aircraft, and P-17 Shivalik class frigates. Several military programs under development that include the Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas Mk 2, P-17A & P-71 ships, and the AH-64 attack helicopters will be powered by GE engines.
 
The release said TASL is focused on providing integrated solutions for aerospace, defence and homeland security. It has become a significant player in the global aerospace market, becoming the premier manufacturing partner for global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
 
It has capabilities throughout the aerospace value chain from design to full aircraft assembly, the release added.
 
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Actor-director Neeraj Vora passes away at 54

 
Actor-director Neeraj Vora passes away at 54

Bollywood actor and filmmaker Neeraj Vora breathed his last on Thursday after being in coma for over a year.

He was admitted to the Criti Care hospital in Mumbai. It is being said that Vohra had been moved to friend Firoz Nadiadwala’s house after he slipped into coma. A room in Nadiadwala’s residence was converted into an ICU for his speedy recovery.

The late actor is known for his work in films like, 'Company', 'Pukar', 'Rangeela', 'Satya', 'Baadshah', ‘Bol Bachchan’ and 'Mann'. He also directed films 'Phir Hera Pheri' and 'Chachi 420'.

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L&T commissions 225 MW Sikalbaha Combined Cycle Power Plant in Bangladesh

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) today said it had successfully commissioned and handed over the state-of-the-art 225 MW Sikalbaha Combined Cycle Power Plant to Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) for commercial operation. 
 
The power plant, located near the port city of Chittagong in southeastern Bangladesh, was inaugurated on December 10 by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
 
A press release from L&T said the company's scope of work included design, engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of the complete power plant on a turnkey basis, with Gas Turbines, Steam Turbine and Generators from Siemens AG, Germany. 
 
Work on the Sikalbaha project had started in April 2015 and the power plant was partly commissioned in Open Cycle in May 2017.
 
Mr. Shailendra Roy, CEO & Managing Director–L&T Power & Whole-Time Director–L&T, said, “We are proud to be associated with Bangladesh authorities for the power project. Their thorough professionalism ensured that the project smoothly got off the ground.”
 
This project has been executed by the Gas Based Power Projects Business Unit of L&T, based out of Vadodara. 
 
In Bangladesh, L&T partly commissioned in Open Cycle the 360 MW Bheramara Combined Cycle Power Plant Development Project of North West Power Generation Co. Ltd. in March 2017. It is currently executing two more gas-based power projects in Bangladesh -- 400 MW Bibiyana III Combined Cycle Power Project and 400 MW Bibiyana South Combined Cycle Power Project of BPDB.
 
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Modi says India alert about its interests in Indian Ocean, aware of challenges

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the commissioning ceremony of naval submarine INS Kalvari into the Indian Navy, in Mumbai on December 14, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the commissioning ceremony of naval submarine INS Kalvari into the Indian Navy, in Mumbai on December 14, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India was fully alert with regard to its global, strategic and economic interests in the Indian Ocean and also well aware of challenges such as sea-borne terrorism, piracy and drug trafficking that it and other countries in the region face.
 
Dedicating the naval submarine INS Kalvari to the nation at the Naval Dockyard here, he said that this was the reason the modern and multi-dimensional Indian Navy plays a leading role in promoting peace and stability in the region.
 
He said the ocean's innate potential added economic muscle to India's national development and it is playing a key role in tackling these challenges.
 
INS Kalvari (S-21) is a diesel-electric attack submarine that has been built for the Indian Navy by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited. It is the first of six Scorpene class submarines built under Project 75 (Kalvari class) into the Indian Navy that will be inducted into the Indian Navy. The project has been undertaken in collaboration with the French  builder Naval Group.
 
Regarded as a very prestigious acquisition, INS Kalvari is the most potent platform to have been constructed in India. 
 
Congratulating the people of India on this occasion, Mr. Modi described INS Kalvari as a prime example of "Make in India." He commended all those involved in its manufacture. He described the submarine as an excellent illustration of the fast growing strategic partnership between India and France. He said the INS Kalvari will add even more strength to the Indian Navy.
 
He said that the 21st century is described as Asia's century. He added that it is also certain that the road to development in the 21st century goes through the Indian Ocean. That is why the Indian Ocean has a special place in the policies of the Government, he added. 
 
The Prime Minister said this vision can be understood through the acronym SAGAR - Security and Growth for All in the Region. 
 
Mr. Modi said India believes that the world is one family and is fulfilling its global responsibilities. India has played the role of "first responder" for its partner countries, in times of crisis, he added. He said the human face of Indian diplomacy and Indian security establishment is our speciality. He said a strong and capable India has a vital role to play for humanity. He said countries of the world wish to walk with India on the path of peace and stability. 
 
He said that the entire ecosystem related to defence and security has started to change in the last three years. He said the skill-sets accumulated during the manufacture of INS Kalvari is an asset for India. 
 
The Prime Minister said that the Government's commitment had ensured that the long pending issue of "One Rank One Pension" has been resolved.  He said the Government's policies and the bravery of the Armed Forces had ensured that the use of terrorism as a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir had not been successful. 
 
He expressed his gratitude to all those who have dedicated their lives to the nation's security. 
 
Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command, Commodore Rakesh Anand (Retd.), CMD, MDL, Commodore K. S. Subra-Manian (Retd.), Commanding Officer of erstwhile Kalvari (a Soviet Foxtrot class submarine) and a host of other dignitaries were also present to witness this historic and landmark occasion. 
 
Upon arrival at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, the Prime Minster was received by the Chief of the Naval Staff. He was presented a 100-man guard of honour and was introduced to the ship’s officers and other dignitaries present. 
 
The Commissioning Warrant of the submarine was thereafter read out by the Commanding Officer, Captain S D Mehendale. Subsequently, hoisting of the Naval Ensign onboard for the first time and ‘Breaking of the Commissioning Pennant’ with the National Anthem being played, marked the completion of the Commissioning Ceremony.      
 
INS Kalvari is manned by a team comprising eight officers and 35 sailors with Captain Mehendale at the helm as her first Commanding Officer. 
 
The construction of the submarine, designated as MDL Yard 11875 commenced with the first cutting of steel at MDL on December 14, 2006.
 
The ‘Boot Together’ of the submarine wherein the five separate sections were welded into one was completed on July 30, 2014.  Interestingly, she is the first Indian Naval vessel to be built using this modular approach of   construction. She was hauled out on Pontoon from the East Yard Dry Dock of MDL in the presence of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on April 6, 2015. The submarine was ‘launched’ and christened as ‘Kalvari’ on October 27, 2015 by Mrs. Ritu Shrawat, wife of then CMD, MDL, R Adm RK Shrawat (Retd.).
 
Kalvari first put to sea on May 1, 2016. She has since undergone a comprehensive trial schedule to validate her capability to Float, to Move, and to Fight Towards the last, she has undertaken successful torpedo launch as well as the Navy’s maiden SM 39 Exocet combat missile firing on March 2, 2017. The formal delivery of the boat to the Indian Navy is the last milestone before commissioning. On completion of trials, the boat was delivered to the Indian Navy by MDL on September 21, 2017.
 
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According to an official press release, Kalvari is a potent Man o’ War capable of undertaking offensive operations spanning across the entire spectrum of Maritime Warfare.  She embodies cutting edge technology and compares favourably with the best in the world. She has an overall length of 67.5 metres and a height of about 12.3 metres.  The hull form, the fin and the hydroplanes are specifically designed to produce minimum underwater resistance. Her 360 battery cells (each weighing 750 kg) power the extremely silent Permanently Magnetised Propulsion Motor. Her stealth is further enhanced through the mounting of equipment inside the pressure hull on shock absorbing cradles. 
 
The boat’s undersea warfare capability comprises a cluster of advanced weapons and sensors integrated into the Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS). The sonar suite is Low Frequency Analysis and Ranging (LOFAR) capable enabling long rage detection and classification. Post-classification, she may choose to engage the enemy by utilising either the sea skimming SM 39 Exocet missiles (Flying Fish in French) or the heavy weight wire guided Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedoes.  Towards self-defence, she is fitted with mobile C303/S anti-torpedo decoys.
 
The boats attack and search periscopes are equipped with Infrared/ Low Light Level cameras and Laser Range finders. The boat also has her two 1250 kW MAN Diesel Engines for rapidly charging batteries. The submarine boasts of a highly advanced Combat Management System and a sophisticated Integrated Platform Management System.
 
The crests of all Indian Naval ships depict three sail ships at the top commemorating India’s rich maritime heritage. This is followed by the Ashoka Chakra flanked by a Horse and a Bull on either side. The circular lower part depicts a ring of lotus buds encircling the unique badge of each ship with her name written in Devnagiri script. 
 
The boat's crest depicts Kalvari, a Tiger Shark in Malayalam, which symbolises agility, strength and predatory prowess. The Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo Cuvier) a species of Requiem Shark found in tropical and temperate waters is a macropredator, capable of attaining a length of over 5 metres. It is a solitary and mostly nocturnal hunter whose skin pattern resembles the tiger’s stripes. It is known for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks, with a range of prey that includes crustaceans, fish, seals, birds, squid, turtles, sea snakes, dolphins, and even other smaller sharks. Noticeably the shark is superimposed over both ocean and sky, alluding to the boat’s capability of engaging both surface and sub-surface targets.
 
The history of the Indian Navy’s Submarine Arm can be traced to the dedicated efforts of over a decade that commenced soon after India attained her independence.  A modest beginning was made when a team of officers were trained at HMS Dolphin, UK in 1962. The Submarine Arm came into being on December 8, 1967 when the tricolour was hoisted on the first INS Kalvari. Thereon the Foxtrots, with their cheerful and determined crews, set the Arm’s proud traditions. Two of these boats participated in the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
 
The induction of the 877 EKM (Sindhughosh class) and Type 209 (Shishumar class) brought advancements in technology and fire power. The commissioning of the first Indian-built (by MDL) submarine INS Shalki on February 7, 1992 heralded the country’s indigenous submarine construction capability.  Commissioning of the nuclear powered Chakra–I in 1988 and Chakra–II in 2012 leapfrogged the IN into a select group of nuclear submarine operating navies.
 
The insignia of the Submarine Arm is the National Emblem flanked by two dolphins. Dolphins, attendants to Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea and patron deity to sailors, are considered as the sailor’s friends. They were also chosen to represent the Submarine Arm because of the characteristic way in which they dive and surface.
 
The erstwhile INS Kalvari, the first Indian submarine, was commissioned on December 8, 1967, under the command of Commander Subra-Manian at the Soviet seaport of Riga. Since then the day is aptly celebrated as “Submarine Day” by the Indian Navy. Kalvari embarked on her maiden passage from Riga on April 8, 1968 and arrived at Vishakhapatnam on July 16, 1968 covering a total of 19,000 nautical miles enroute. After almost three decades of service, the sentinel of the deep was decommissioned on May 31, 1996. After decommissioning Kalvari’s fin has been displayed at Beach Road, Visakhapatnam as part of the city’s Maritime Museum. Kalvari’s original bell as well as the Officers’ Commissioning Plaque was gifted to the Commanding Officer of the new Kalvari in 2015 by the then Commander-in- Chief, Eastern Naval Command,  Vice Admiral Satish Soni.
 
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Modi to dedicate naval submarine INS Kalvari to the nation tomorrow

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation the naval submarine INS Kalvari at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai tomorrow.
 
INS Kalvari is a diesel-electric attack submarine that has been built for the Indian Navy by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited. It is the first of six such submarines that will be inducted into the Indian Navy, and represents a significant success for the "Make in India" initiative. The project has been undertaken with French collaboration. 
 
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, dignitaries of the Maharashtra Governmnt an  senior Naval officers will be  present on the occasion. Apart from addressing the gathering, Mr. Modi will also undertake a visit of the submarine, an official press release added.
 
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Actress Zaira Wasim alleges harassment by co-passenger on Vistara flight

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"Secret Superstar" actress Zaira Wasim was allegedly the victim of sexual harassment by a fellow passenger on an Vistara flight from Delhi to Mumbai late last night.
 
The 17-year-old actress, who had made her debut in the hit movie Dangal, posted a video on Instagram to talk about her ordeal.
 
In the video, she is seen talking about the incident and breaking down several times while doing so. The man, who was sitting in the seat behind her apparently stretched his foot out and touched her inappropriately, taking advantage of the dimmed lights.
 
Zaira said she tried to record his act but could not do so because of the dim lights. She said the man kept touching her back and neck with his foot. 
 
After deboarding the  flight, she narrated her experience on Instagram. "This is not done. This is not the way anybody should be made to feel. This is terrible. Is this how you're going to take care of girls?" she asked, wiping away her tears.
 
"Who is going to help us girls? No one will help us if we don't decide to help ourselves. And this is the worst thing."
 
Zaira shared a picture, in which the man is seen stretching his foot on to her armrest of her seat. She also said that she had called out to the cabin crew for help but to no avail.
 
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"So I was in a flight travelling from Delhi to Mumbai today and right behind me one middle aged man who made my 2 hour journey miserable," she said.
 
"It was all chill till I felt somebody brushing against my back while I was half asleep," she said.
 
"Guess he couldn't sit like a civilized human beging and placed his foot on my arm rest while he's fully  PHELAOED his body on his eat. It continued for another 5-10 minutes and then I was sure of it. He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck.
 
"I ignored it the first time. Blamed the turbulence for it. Until I woke me up to this PLEASANT SIGHT of his BEAUTIFUL foot rubbingmy back and neck. The lights were dimmed so it was even worse. I tried to record it on my phone to understand it better but because the cabin lights were dimmed, I failed to get it," she said.
 
"Slow claps for Vistara's crew guys. Wonderful!" she said.
 
Vistara said it would carry out a detailed investigation of the incident. "We @airvistara have seen the reports regarding @ZairaWasimmm experience with another customer on board last night. We are carrying out detailed investigation and will support Zaira in every way required. We have zero tolerance for such behaviour," the airline said in a post on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Later in the day, the airline issued another statement, saying it was carrying out a detailed investigation of the incident.
 
"We are talking to our crew who were serving Ms. Wasim to understand the incident at greater length, and reaching out to fellow passengers as well. We will support Ms. Wasim in every way required and also if she decides to report the matter to the police.
 
"It appears crew only became aware of something amiss during final descent when they were seated for landing. Further details will come from the investigation which is currently ongoing in full force.
 
"We apologise for what Ms. Wasim experienced and we have zero tolerance for such behaviour," it added.
 
The National Commission for Women also took note of the incident and said it would write to the airline as well as the police about it.
 
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Ebix’s travel exchange, Via.com launches online travel sale: BOTS 2017

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EbixCash, a leading financial exchange and an initiative of the United States-based Ebix, Inc., today announced the launch of an online travel sale through its travel exchange Via.com.
 
The 8-day sale will feature cashback on domestic and international airlines, special offers on top hotel chains and amazing deals on holiday packages, a press release from Via.com said.
 
The Biggest Online Travel Sale – BOTS 2017 – will go live from tomorrow across Via.com desktop site, mobile site, Android and iOS app, and will last till December 17.
 
With the aim of building an airport like enterprise exchange for India, while consolidating the entire gamut of financial services, travel is a key element of the EbixCash Financial Exchange, with an estimated 600 million Indians taking some kind of travel last year, the release said.
 
Bhavik Vasa, Chief Growth Officer, EbIxCash said, “This is the third edition of the Biggest Online Travel Sale and we expect this to be the largest travel sale ever in terms of scale and bookings. The Christmas holiday period is traditionally a period of vacationing and travel for people across the country, and thus our holiday sale is targeted to maximize savings on travel and accommodations for our customers.”
 
The release said customs can deals in this sale period, which include up to 50% cashback on flight tickets, deals on more than 400,000 hotels across the world, or up to 80% off on hotels, and up to Rs. 30,000 off on holiday packages to Europe, South Africa & Australia.
 
Via.com had previously run a holiday sales offer in 2015 and 2016, both of which were hugely successful with the company registering 10x increase in traffic and 8x surge in transactions. This year, Via.com expects a 20x to 30x surge in traffic during the sale period, the release said.
 
"Via is recognized as a leader in the travel space in India, besides being the only profitable Travel exchange out of all its peers, while having grown at a CAGR of 45% over the last 3 years. One of South East Asia’s leading travel exchanges with over 110,000 distribution outlets and 8000 corporate clients, Via processes over 24.5 million transactions every year. Via’s multi-channel exchange also engages directly with consumers through its B2C website and mobile application platforms," the release said.
 
Via is an integral part of the Ebix group’s integrated EbixCash platform, that offers mobile Phone Recharges, Money Transfer, Insurance, Prepaid Gift Cards & Retail Products, besides Domestic & International Air, Hotel & Holidays, Rail, Bus and Rental Car bookings amongst other services.
 
Ebix Inc. is a leading international supplier of on-demand software and e-commerce services to the insurance, financial, e-governance and healthcare industries.
 
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SpiceJet conducts seaplane trials at Chowpatty in Mumbai

Low-cost airline SpiceJet, which is the country’s largest regional player, conducted seaplane trials in association with Japan's Setouchi Holdings at Girgaum Chowpatty here today in a step towards its goal of providing air connectivity to the remotest parts of the country.
 
A press release from the airline said SpiceJet and Setouchi Holdings had been working closely for over six months to explore opportunities for small 10- and 14-seater amphibious and land plane operations to provide air connectivity to smaller towns and cities of India which have hitherto remained unconnected due to infrastructural challenges.
 
This was the second phase of trials for the amphibious aircraft. Under the first phase, trials of the land plane were conducted in Nagpur and Guwahati.
 
Today's trials were conducted in the presence of Mr. Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation; Mr. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Minister of Civil Aviation; and senior government and aviation officials.
 
SpiceJet is the only Indian airline to explore air connectivity through water bodies such as rivers or inland waterways, the release said.
 
Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, regions in the North East, Andamans, Lakshadweep and other coastal areas are a few destinations that are being evaluated for amphibious plane operations.
 
“We see tremendous potential in our smaller cities and we feel it is our duty as an Indian carrier to bring these smaller towns on the country’s aviation map. Being the largest regional airline in the country and a trendsetter of the Regional Connectivity Scheme - UDAN, SpiceJet will continue to add new wings and give a boost to regional economies," Mr.  Ajay Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet said.
 
 “Seaplane operations can bring the remotest parts of India into the mainstream aviation network without the high cost of building airports and runways. While we are one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, we need to ensure equitable and inclusive air connectivity within the country. Our seaplane service will open a whole new market for both the airline and tourism industry and will revolutionise the regional connectivity scheme," he said.
 
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Mr. Kazuyuki Okada, President & CEO, Setouchi Holdings Inc., said, “SpiceJet has been doing an incredible job in driving the government’s UDAN scheme from the very beginning. We are delighted to associate with the airline to support them in their grand endeavour. With the ability to land in a small or confined space, Kodiaks are the perfect flying machines that can effectively connect the country’s remote cities and airstrips, which can in turn revolutionize the regional connectivity scheme. We look forward to exploring new opportunities with SpiceJet which will help us serve India better.”
 
Japan’s Setouchi Holdings Inc., a pioneer in the small aircraft aviation industry, is a part of the Tsuneishi Group of Hiroshima Prefecture. Setouchi Holding owns Quest,  the manufacturer of specialised amphibious and non-amphibious range of aircraft globally. There are about 200 Kodiak Quest aircraft flying all over the world for the past 10 years.
 
According to the release, amphibious planes are reliable, tough and resilient and can take off and land from places that do not have landing strips or runways and water bodies, thus reaching areas that lack other modes of transport or adequate infrastructure. Reliable, tough and resilient these smaller fixed wing aircraft can land on water bodies, gravel and grass.
 
SpiceJet has started flights on four rotes in recent months under the Regional Connectivity Scheme and plans to launch more.
 
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India’s forex reserves rise by $ 1.2 billion to $ $401.942 billion

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Continuing an uptrend for the fourth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 1.2 billion to $ 401.942 billion during the week ended December 1, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 1.208 billion to $ 400.741 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had risen by $ 1.151 billion to $ 377.456 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves increased by $ 36.5 million to $ 20.703 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 4.9 million to $ 1.502 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rose by $ 7.4 million to $ 2.28 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins order valued at over Rs. 1600 crore

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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T), has won an order worth more than Rs. 1,600 crore from the public sector Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited's (HPCL) Visakhapatnam Refinery.
 
The project is a part of HPCL Visakh Refinery Modernisation Project (VRMP) and involves engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of 3.053 MMTPA Full Conversion Hydrocracker Project.
 
"The order reinforces L&T’s unique capability to deliver 'design to build' engineering and construction solutions across the hydrocarbon spectrum," a press release from the company said.
 
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Full Text: RBI's Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18

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Following is the text of the Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18 and Resolution of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) here today: 
 
On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to:
keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 per cent.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
 
The decision of the MPC is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth. The main considerations underlying the decision are set out in the statement below.
 
Assessment
 
2. Since the last meeting of the MPC in October 2017, global economic activity has been gaining momentum through the final quarter of the year, driven mainly by advanced economies (AEs). US growth remained largely resilient to hurricanes and grew at the highest pace in the past three years in Q3 of 2017, with positive contributions from private consumption, investment activity and net exports. The unemployment rate fell to 4.1 per cent in October, the lowest in the last 17 years. In the Euro area, economic activity expanded, underpinned by accommodative monetary policy and strong job gains. The Japanese economy also continued to grow in Q3, largely supported by external demand, which helped compensate for the slowing of domestic consumption.
 
3. Among major emerging market economies (EMEs), the services sector remained the main driver of growth in China in Q3. However, weakness in real estate and construction activity remained a drag on growth. In Brazil, incoming data suggest that the recovery gained further momentum in Q3, with unemployment touching an intra-year low in September. Business and consumer confidence rose in October. Economic activity in Russia moderated in Q3 due to weakness in industrial production. The South African economy continued to face headwinds from weak manufacturing activity, elevated levels of unemployment and political instability.
 
4. The latest assessment by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for Q4 indicates a loss of momentum in global trade due to declining export orders. Crude oil prices touched a two-and-a-half-year high in early November on account of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) efforts to rebalance the market. Bullion prices have been under some selling pressure on account of the rising US dollar. Weak non-oil commodity prices and subdued wage dynamics have kept inflation contained in many AEs, while the inflation scenario remains diverse in major EMEs.
 
5. Global financial markets have remained buoyant, reflecting the improving economic outlook and the gradual normalisation of monetary policy by the US Fed. Equity markets have gained on improved corporate earnings and anticipation of large tax cuts in the US. Although equity markets have made gains in EMEs in general, they faced risk aversion in some economies. While bond yields in most AEs have moved sideways in the absence of inflation pressures, they have risen across most EMEs on country-specific factors. In currency markets, the US dollar has gained, while the surge in the euro on positive economic data lost some momentum in November due to political uncertainty. Several emerging market currencies weakened due to domestic factors. Capital inflows to EMEs have been differentiating among countries, based on investor perceptions of risk-return trade-offs.
 
6. On the domestic front, the growth of real gross value added (GVA) accelerated sequentially in Q2 of 2017-18, after five consecutive quarters of deceleration. It was powered by a sharp acceleration in industrial activity. All the three sub-sectors of industry registered higher growth. GVA growth in the manufacturing sector – the key component of industry – accelerated sharply on improved demand and re-stocking post goods and services tax (GST) implementation. The mining sector expanded in Q2 due to higher coal and natural gas production. GVA growth in the electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services sector also strengthened on higher demand. In contrast, growth in agriculture and allied activities slackened, reflecting the lower than expected kharif harvest. Activity in the services sector decelerated, mainly on account of slowdown in financial, insurance, real estate and professional services, and in public administration, defence and other services (PADO) following the large front-loading of government expenditure in Q1. Despite some improvement, construction sector growth remained tepid due to transitory effects of the RERA and GST implementation. Growth in the trade, hotels, transport and communication sub-group remained resilient, in spite of some slowdown in growth in Q2 as compared with the previous quarter. On the expenditure side, the growth of gross fixed capital formation improved for the second successive quarter. However, growth in private final consumption expenditure – the mainstay of aggregate demand – slowed to an eight-quarter low in Q2.
 
7. Looking beyond Q2, rabi sowing in Q3 has so far been marginally lagging behind the acreage sown during the comparable period of the previous year. Precipitation since October has remained at around 13 per cent below the long period average (LPA). Major reservoirs, the main source of irrigation during the rabi season, were at 64 per cent of the full reservoir level vis-a-vis 67 per cent in the previous year. On the positive side, pulses sowing increased significantly as compared with a year ago, partly reflecting the impact of lifting of the export ban for all varieties of pulses.
 
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8. Available high-frequency indicators suggest a mixed picture of industrial activity for Q3. Core industries’ growth was flat in October as all constituents barring steel and fertilisers slowed down sequentially. Coal mining, which revived strongly in Q2, slowed down too, while cement production contracted. In contrast, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for manufacturing, which fell in October, rebounded in November, driven by output and new orders. Also, according to the Reserve Bank’s Industrial Outlook Survey (IOS), production is expected to pick up in Q3 as order books are rising.
 
9. Services sector activity has remained mixed in October. In the transportation sector, sales of commercial vehicles decelerated; those of passenger vehicles and two-wheeler turned into contraction mode. By contrast, domestic and international air passenger and freight traffic, and railway freight expanded robustly. The Reserve Bank’s survey suggests that sentiments on service sector activity for Q3 are upbeat and auto sales have rebounded in November. On the other hand, PMI for services moved into contraction zone in November.
 
10. Retail inflation measured by year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) recorded a seven-month high in October, driven by a sharp uptick in momentum, tempered partly by some favourable base effects. Food inflation was volatile in the last two months – declining sharply in September and bouncing back in October – due mainly to vegetables and fruits. Milk and eggs inflation has shown an uptick, while pulses inflation remained negative for the eleventh successive month in October. Cereal inflation remained stable. Fuel group inflation, which has been on an upward trajectory since July, accelerated further due to a sharp pick-up in inflation in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene, coke and electricity.
 
11. CPI inflation excluding food and fuel, which increased from July to September, remained steady in October. This reflected the softening of petroleum product prices on account of the reversal of taxes on petroleum products by the central and state governments. However, there was a hardening of housing inflation following the implementation of higher house rent allowances for central government employees under the 7th central pay commission award.
 
12. The Reserve Bank’s survey of households showed inflation expectations firming up in the latest round for both three months ahead and one year ahead horizons. Farm and industrial raw material costs rose in October. Firms responding to the Reserve Bank’s Industrial Outlook Survey expect to pass on the increase in input prices to their output prices. Turning to other costs, wage growth in the organised sector edged up, while rural wage growth weakened, particularly in agriculture.
 
13. Surplus liquidity in the system has continued to decline during October and November. Currency in circulation increased by Rs. 736 billion in Q3 (up to December 1, 2017) over end-September on festival demand. The Reserve Bank managed surplus liquidity through the conduct of regular variable rate reverse repo auctions of various tenors, ranging from overnight to 28 days. Net average daily absorption of liquidity under the LAF declined from Rs. 2,229 billion in September to Rs. 1,400 billion in October 2017 and further to Rs. 718 billion in November. The Reserve Bank conducted open market sales of Rs. 300 billion in October-November, taking the total absorption of durable liquidity during the financial year so far to Rs. 1.9 trillion, comprising Rs. 900 billion in the form of open market sales and Rs. 1 trillion of long-term treasury bills under the market stabilisation scheme. The weighted average call rate (WACR) traded 12 bps and 15 bps below the repo rate during October and November, respectively, as against 13 bps in September.
 
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14. Merchandise exports declined by 1.1 per cent in October 2017 after showing positive growth for 14 consecutive months. A sustained increase in exports of engineering goods, petroleum products and chemicals during the month was outweighed by a sharp fall in shipments of gems and jewellery, ready-made garments, and drugs and pharmaceuticals. Imports continued to expand, though at a modest pace. Although gold imports rose sequentially in October, they moderated from their level a year ago. Consequently, the trade deficit widened again in October. Despite moderation in September, net foreign direct investment in H1 of 2017-18 was at the same level as a year ago. With the announcement of the recapitalisation plan for public sector banks, foreign portfolio inflows into equities resumed sharply in October, after recording outflows in the preceding month. India’s foreign exchange reserves were at US$ 401.94 billion on November 30, 2017.
 
Outlook
 
15. The October bi-monthly statement projected inflation to rise and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year, including the impact of increase in house rent allowance (HRA) by the Centre. The headline inflation outcomes have evolved broadly in line with projections. Going forward, the inflation path will be influenced by several factors. First, moderation in inflation excluding food and fuel observed in Q1 of 2017-18 has, by and large, reversed. There is a risk that this upward trajectory may continue in the near-term. Second, the impact of HRA by the Central Government is expected to peak in December. The staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up housing inflation further in 2018, with attendant second order effects. Third, the recent rise in international crude oil prices may sustain, especially on account of the OPEC’s decision to maintain production cuts through next year. In such a scenario, any adverse supply shock due to geo-political developments could push up prices even further. Despite recent increase in prices of vegetables, some seasonal moderation is expected in near months as winter arrivals kick in. Prices of pulses have continued to show a downward bias. The GST Council in its last meeting has brought several retail goods and services to lower tax brackets, which should translate into lower retail prices, going forward. On the whole, inflation is estimated in the range 4.3-4.7 per cent in Q3 and Q4 of this year, including the HRA effect of up to 35 basis points, with risks evenly balanced.
 
16. Turning to GVA projections, Q2 growth was lower than that projected in the October resolution. The recent increase in oil prices may have a negative impact on margins of firms and GVA growth. Shortfalls in kharif production and rabi sowing pose downside risks to the outlook for agriculture. On the positive side, there has been some pick up in credit growth in recent months. Recapitalisation of public sector banks may help improve credit flows further. While there has been weakness in some components of the services sector such as real estate, the Reserve Bank’s survey indicates that the services and infrastructure sectors are expecting an improvement in demand, financial conditions and the overall business situation in Q4. Taking into account the above factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 of the October resolution at 6.7 per cent has been retained, with risks evenly balanced.
 
17. The MPC notes that the evolving trajectory needs to be carefully monitored. First, two of the key factors determining the cost of living conditions and inflation expectations, i.e., food and fuel inflation, edged up in November. Inflation expectations of households surveyed by the Reserve Bank have already firmed up and any increase in food and fuel prices may further harden these expectations. Second, rising input cost conditions as reflected in various surveys point towards higher risk of pass-through to retail prices in the near term. Third, implementation of farm loan waivers by select states, partial roll back of excise duty and VAT in the case of petroleum products, and decrease in revenue on account of reduction in GST rates for several goods and services may result in fiscal slippage with attendant implications for inflation. Fourth, global financial instability on account of the pace of/uncertainty over monetary policy normalisation in AEs and fiscal expansion in the US carry risks for inflation. The expected seasonal moderation in prices of vegetables, and fruits and the recent lowering of tax rates by the GST Council could mitigate upside pressures. Accordingly, the MPC decided to keep the policy repo rate on hold. However, keeping in mind the output gap dynamics, the MPC decided to continue with the neutral stance and watch the incoming data carefully. The MPC remains committed to keeping headline inflation close to 4 per cent on a durable basis.
 
18. In the MPC’s assessment, there have been several significant developments in the recent period which augur well for growth prospects, going forward. First, capital raised from the primary capital market has increased significantly after several years of sluggish activity. As the capital raised is deployed to set up new projects, it will add to demand in the short run and boost the growth potential of the economy over the medium-term. Second, the improvement in the ease of doing business ranking should help sustain foreign direct investment in the economy. Third, large distressed borrowers are being referenced to the insolvency and bankruptcy code (IBC) and public sector banks are being recapitalised, which should enhance allocative efficiency. However, the MPC notes that the impact of these factors can be buttressed by reducing the cost of domestic borrowings through improved transmission by banks of past monetary policy changes on outstanding loans.
 
19. Dr. Chetan Ghate, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra, Dr. Viral V. Acharya and Dr. Urjit R. Patel were in favour of the monetary policy decision, while Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of 25 basis points. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by December 20, 2017.
 
20. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled on February 6 and 7, 2018.
 
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RBI retains repo rate at 6%, raises inflation projection to 4.3-4.7% for Q3-Q4

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility unchanged at 6.0% in keeping with its aim of keeping inflation under control while supporting growth.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 percent in keeping with its aim of keeping inflation under control while supporting growth.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
 
"The decision ... is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth," the central bank said in its Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18 on the basis of the resolution of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
 
The resolution said the decision was taken on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at today's meeting of the MPC.
 
The statement said that, among the MPC members, Dr. Chetan Ghate, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra, Dr. Viral V. Acharya and RBI Governor Urjit R. Patel were in favour of the monetary policy decision, while Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of 25 basis points. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by December 20, 2017, it said.
 
Among other things, the RBI marginally raised its inflation projection for the remainder of the financial year, saying it estimated inflation to be in the range of 4.3-4.7 percent in the  third and fourth quarters, including the impact of increase in house rent allowance (HRA) by the Central Government of up to 35 basis points, with risks evenly balanced.
 
The October bi-monthly statement had projected inflation to rise and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year, including the impact of increase in HRA.
 
The resolution said the headline inflation outcomes had evolved broadly in line with projections. Going forward, the inflation path will be influenced by several factors. First, moderation in inflation excluding food and fuel observed in Q1 of 2017-18 has, by and large, reversed. There is a risk that this upward trajectory may continue in the near-term. Second, the impact of HRA by the Central Government is expected to peak in December. The staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up housing inflation further in 2018, with attendant second order effects. Third, the recent rise in international crude oil prices may sustain, especially on account of the OPEC’s decision to maintain production cuts through next year. 
 
"In such a scenario, any adverse supply shock due to geo-political developments could push up prices even further," it said.
 
Despite recent increase in prices of vegetables, some seasonal moderation is expected in near months as winter arrivals kick in. Prices of pulses have continued to show a downward bias. The GST Council in its last meeting has brought several retail goods and services to lower tax brackets, which should translate into lower retail prices, going forward, the statement noted.
 
Turning to GVA projections, the resolution said Q2 growth was lower than that projected in the October resolution. 
 
"The recent increase in oil prices may have a negative impact on margins of firms and GVA growth. Shortfalls in kharif production and rabi sowing pose downside risks to the outlook for agriculture. On the positive side, there has been some pick up in credit growth in recent months. 
 
"Recapitalisation of public sector banks may help improve credit flows further. While there has been weakness in some components of the services sector such as real estate, the Reserve Bank’s survey indicates that the services and infrastructure sectors are expecting an improvement in demand, financial conditions and the overall business situation in Q4. Taking into account the above factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 of the October resolution at 6.7 per cent has been retained, with risks evenly balanced," it said.
 
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The MPC noted that the evolving trajectory needs to be carefully monitored. First, two of the key factors determining the cost of living conditions and inflation expectations -- food and fuel inflation -- edged up in November. 
 
"Inflation expectations of households surveyed by the Reserve Bank have already firmed up and any increase in food and fuel prices may further harden these expectations. Second, rising input cost conditions as reflected in various surveys point towards higher risk of pass-through to retail prices in the near term. Third, implementation of farm loan waivers by select states, partial roll back of excise duty and VAT in the case of petroleum products, and decrease in revenue on account of reduction in GST rates for several goods and services may result in fiscal slippage with attendant implications for inflation. Fourth, global financial instability on account of the pace of/uncertainty over monetary policy normalisation in AEs and fiscal expansion in the US carry risks for inflation. 
 
"The expected seasonal moderation in prices of vegetables, and fruits and the recent lowering of tax rates by the GST Council could mitigate upside pressures. Accordingly, the MPC decided to keep the policy repo rate on hold. However, keeping in mind the output gap dynamics, the MPC decided to continue with the neutral stance and watch the incoming data carefully. The MPC remains committed to keeping headline inflation close to 4 per cent on a durable basis," it said.
 
In the MPC’s assessment, there have been several significant developments in the recent period which augur well for growth prospects, going forward. First, capital raised from the primary capital market has increased significantly after several years of sluggish activity. As the capital raised is deployed to set up new projects, it will add to demand in the short run and boost the growth potential of the economy over the medium-term. Second, the improvement in the ease of doing business ranking should help sustain foreign direct investment in the economy. Third, large distressed borrowers are being referenced to the insolvency and bankruptcy code (IBC) and public sector banks are being recapitalised, which should enhance allocative efficiency. 
 
"However, the MPC notes that the impact of these factors can be buttressed by reducing the cost of domestic borrowings through improved transmission by banks of past monetary policy changes on outstanding loans," the statement said.
 
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Ockhi weakens, could cross south Gujarat, north Maharashtra coasts tonight: IMD

Cyclone Ockhi weakened into a deep depresssion over eastcentral Arabian Sea today and is expected to weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression later tonight.

 
Cyclone Ockhi to hit south Gujarat today: IMD
Cyclone Ockhi weakened into a deep depresssion over eastcentral Arabian Sea today and is expected to weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression later tonight.
 
However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) also held out the possibility that the sytem could dissipate over the sea before the landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions.
 
In a bulletin issued at 2000 hours today, the IMD said the deep depression had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of 18 kmph during the past six hours and lay centred at 1730 hours near latitude 19.4º N and longitude 71.5º E, about 240 km south-southwest of Surat and 150 km west-northwest of Mumbai. 
 
"It is very likely to continue to move northnortheastwards, weaken further and cross south Gujarat & adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near urat as a depression by tonight, the 5th December 2017. However, there is also a probability of dissipation of the system over the sea before the landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions, like high wind shear and colder sea surface temperatures near the coast," it said.
 
The bulletin said that, under the influence of the system, light to moderate rainfall was very likely at most places over south Gujarat region (Valsad, Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, Dang, Tapi, Amreli, Diu, Daman, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli districts) till tomorrow morning, with heavy isolated rainfall.
 
Light to moderate rainfall was also likely at a few places over Saurashtra till tomorrow morning and over north Gujarat and west Madhya Pradesh till tomorrow noon.
 
In Maharashtra, light to moderate rainfall was likely over north Konkan (Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts)till tomorrow morning, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
The bulletin said squally winds, with speed reaching 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph, were very likely along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat coasts during the next six hours before becoming 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, during the subsequent six hours.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough along and off north Maharashtra and South Gujarat during  the next 18 hours, it said.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off south Gujarat and north Maharashtra coasts during the next 18 hours.
 
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Meanwhile, a well-marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood persisted and was very likely to become a depression over the same area during the next 12 hours and further intensify into a deep depression during the subsequent 48 hours, the bulletin said.
 
"It is very likely to move towards north Tamil Nadu-south Andhra Pradesh coasts during the next 48 hours and subsequently to north Andhra Pradesh coast," it said.
 
The bulletin said rainfall was very likely at most places over Nicobar Islands during the next three days, with isolated heavy rainfall.
 
Rainfall was also very likely at many places over north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha on December 7 and 8, with heavy falls at isolated places.
 
Squally winds with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely over and aroun Nicobar Islands today and tomorrow before decreasing thereafter.
 
Sea conditions would be rough to very rough today and tomorrow around Nicobar Islands, it said.
 
Fishermen along and off Nicobar Islands were advised not to venture into sea till tomorrow. Similarly, fishermen along and off Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts were advised not to venture into sea between December 6 and 8.
 
NNN
 
 
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