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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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Actor-politician Vinod Khanna passes away after losing battle with cancer

Well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who had a huge fan following for his many tough guy roles on screen as well as for his looks and who later became an active politician, died in Mumbai on Thursday morning after losing a long battle with cancer.

 
Actor Vinod Khanna passes away
Well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who had a huge fan following for his many tough guy roles on screen as well as for his looks and who later became an active politician, died here this morning after losing a long battle with cancer.
 
He was 70. He is survived by his wife Kavita, three sons -- Rahul, Akshaye and Sakshi -- and a daughter, Shraddha.
 
The actor was admitted to the Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Center in Girgaon ,Mumbai in early April and breathed his last this morning, sources said.
 
His fans were shocked when they saw him in extremely frail health in a picture posted on social media while he was in hospital, and there were reports in the media then that he had been battling cancer for a long time.
 
His family, who were with him in his last days, did not give out any information about his health. The hospital, however, said today that he was suffering from cancer.
 
Khanna was a four-time member of Parliament, and represented the constituency of Gurdaspur in Punjab in the current Lok Sabha. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1998 as a candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was re-elected in 1999, 2004 and 2014.
 
He served as Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture from July 1, 2002 to January 28, 2003 and as Minister of State for External Affairs from January 29, 2003 to May, 2004 in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
 
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During his long career in Bollywood, he appeared in more than a hundred films, starting out with negative roles before graduating to lead roles in several successful movies. He made his debut in 1968 with Mann Ka Meet, and won popular and critical acclaim for his roles in films such as Mere Apne, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Achanak, Imtihan, Inkaar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Dayavaan, Jurm and Qurbani.
 
At the peak of his career, Khanna suddenly took a complete break from movies and joined spiritual guru Osho Rajneesh at his ashram. He returned to Bollywood after a five-year gap and starred in big hits such as Insaaf and Satyame Jayate. In recent years, he appeared in movies such as Dabangg, Players, Dabangg 2 and Dilwale.
 
Born on October 6, 1946, Khanna studied at St. Xavier's High School, Mumbai, Delhi Public School, Delhi, Lord Barnes High School, Devlali and Sydenham College, Mumbai.
 
He had served as the Chairman of the Film and Television Institute, Pune from 1998 to 2002. He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
 
Khanna married Geetanjali in 1971 and had two sons with her, Rahul and Akshaye, before they divorced. He married Kavita in 1990 and the couple had a son, Sakshi and daughter Shraddha.
 
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UFO Moviez India announces strategic tie-up with United Media Works

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UFO Moviez India Limited (UFO) has announced a strategic tie-up with United Media Works Pvt. Limited (UMW), a digital cinema technology and service provider having more than 300 digitized cinema screens on its network in India. 
 
Under this tie up, UFO has acquired long term exclusive rights from UMW to monetize the advertising inventory on these screens, a press release from the company said.
 
In addition, UFO will share movie content to these screens in UFO M-4 format. However, existing commercial and service arrangement between UMW and its channel partners, exhibitors and distributors shall remain unchanged, it said.
 
Mr. Rajesh Mishra, CEO Indian Operations, UFO Moviez said, “This strategic move leverages the strengths of both the companies and will be mutually beneficial.”
 
 Mr. Ashish Bhandari and Mr. Sachin Bhandari, Joint Managing Directors, UMW said, “We are very happy to be associated with UFO, the market leader in the digital cinema space, and are confident that this co-operation will be fruitful to both the organizations."
 
UFO Moviez India Limited is India’s largest digital cinema distribution network and in-cinema advertising platform in terms of number of screens. It operates India’s largest satellite-based, digital cinema distribution network using its UFO-M4 platform, as well as India’s largest D-Cinema network. 
 
As on December 31, 2016, its global network, along with its subsidiaries and associates, spans 6,674 screens worldwide, including 5,052 screens across India and Nepal and 1,622 screens across the Middle East (UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan), Israel, Mexico and the USA serviced by its subsidiary Scrabble Entertainment Ltd.
 
The company has also created a pan India, high impact in-cinema advertising platform with generally long-term advertising rights to 3,737 screens, with an aggregate seating capacity of approximately 1.74 million viewers and a reach of 1,911 locations across India, as on December 31, 2016. 
 
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Godrej Properties partners with Taj for luxury hotel at The Trees, Mumbai

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Real estate developer Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) today said it had partnered with Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris to develop a world class Taj brand hotel at The Trees, its flagship project, at Vikhroli here.
 
The Taj at The Trees will offer approximately 150 guest rooms and suites along with world class dining, entertainment, and conferencing facilities, a press release from the company said.
 
Situated in the heart of the city, Vikhroli is well connected to all of Mumbai’s major transit points and business hubs, it said.
 
The Trees is located just off the Eastern Express Highway and offers connectivity to BKC through the Santa Cruz Link Road (SCLR) in just 15 minutes and to Fort through the Eastern Freeway in just 30 minutes, the release said.
 
According to it, the future planned infrastructure in the city, including the bridge from Nava Sheva to Sewri and the proposed new airport, will further transform Vikhroli and the eastern belt into the central destination for Mumbai.  
 
"The Godrej Group’s landholdings in Vikhroli include a privately controlled mangrove reserve that is five times the size of London’s famed Hyde Park offering residents the opportunity to live in the heart of the city while forever remaining deeply connected to nature and fresh air," it said.
 
The release said the Trees mixed-use development contains a commercial precinct spread across 9.4 acres, which houses Godrej One, the Godrej Group’s global headquarters, which is now complete.
 
The more private luxury residential precinct spread across 6.7 acres will house a community of residential buildings with private parks and an iconic clubhouse facility.  The central mixed use precinct, spread over 9.2 acres, will comprise a Taj hotel, a luxury residential project named Godrej Origins, cultural buildings, and a high street retail court, it said.
 
"Adaptive reuse of heritage industrial structures within the development creates a unique and distinctive design and cultural experience. The Trees was awarded the Mixed Use Development of the Year award at the Asian Customer Engagement Forum (ACEF) Property Awards and received an Honor Award from the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.  Godrej One, the first completed building within The Trees, received the Commercial building of the Year Award at the NDTV Property Awards 2015," it said.
 
The company said it had collaborated with several renowned architects and engineering consultants to design the project. Sasaki Architects, the master planners for The Trees, have developed several iconic projects including the Beijing Olympics Masterplan. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the lead architects for Godrej One, are well known for designing architectural icons such as the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
 
"Continuing with the Godrej Group’s legacy of environmental leadership, this development aspires to be among the most sustainable in the world. Cutting-edge engineering features appear throughout the master plan and building design to ensure that energy requirements are minimized and water is conserved. All structures within the development will be planned as LEED or IGBC Platinum rated, which are globally recognized as the highest rating of sustainable design. Godrej Origins, the residential development, that is now being opened for sale is IGBC Platinum pre-certified," it said.
 
Mr. Pirojsha Godrej, Executive Chairman, Godrej Properties said, “We are thrilled to partner with Taj to create a luxury hotel at our flagship project. Our endeavour is to make The Trees India’s most exciting mixed-use development and this partnership is an important milestone towards that goal.  We look forward to working closely with the Taj team to create a landmark hotel.”
 
Mr. Rakesh Sarna, MD and CEO, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris said, “We are very pleased to be associated with a group like Godrej, which is synonymous with trust, integrity and quality. We share their commitment of sustainable development and we look forward to bringing world-class hospitality to this great location.”
 
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L&T Construction wins orders valued at Rs. 2694 crore

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its construction arm had won orders worth Rs. 2694 across various business segments.
 
A press release from the company said its Water & Effluent Treatment Business had received engineering, procurement & construction orders worth Rs. 2227 crore.
 
Orders have been secured from Narmada Water Resource Water Supply and Kalpsar Department, Government of Gujarat for Kakrapar - Gordha -Vad Lift Irrigation, Kadana - Patadungri Lift Irrigation and Sauni Yojana Link-2 Package 4 projects, it said.
 
The scope includes design and construction of pumping station with pumps, sub-stations, transformers along with MS pipeline rising mains, an underground pipeline distribution network and other allied electro-mechanical works.
 
Another order has been bagged from Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited, Karnataka for Nandawadagi Lift Irrigation project. The scope of work includes construction of approach channel, sump & pump house with pumps, switchyard, transmission line and allied electro-mechanical equipment along with MS pipeline rising mains, delivery chamber and other ancillary works.
 
The business has also received additional orders from its various ongoing projects, the release said.
 
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The company said its Smart World Communication Business had received an order worth Rs. 180 crore from Greater Vishakhapatnam Smart City Corporation Limited as System Integrator to implement smart city solutions for the city of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh under the Smart City Mission.
 
The scope of work includes installation of citywide surveillance system, variable message boards, public address systems, wi-fi access points, data centre with disaster recovery, command control centre, collaborative monitoring and facility management system. The project also includes implementation of smart elements such as solid waste management system, smart transport, smart poles, smart lighting, environmental sensor and enterprise resource planning.
 
The company also said that its Transportation Infrastructure Business had bagged an engineering, procurement and construction order worth Rs. 287 crore from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) for two laning of the Helwak-Karad Section of NH-166E in Maharashtra. The scope of work includes construction of 48.4 km of two-lane carriageway with concrete pavement, one major bridge, 14 minor bridges and other associated works.
 
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Centre may revive option of sending Haj pilgrims to Jeddah via sea route: Naqvi

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Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said that the Government was considering revival of the option of sending Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the coming days.
 
Addressing a training of trainers programme at Haj House here yesterday, Mr Naqvi said a high-level committee, formed by the government to frame the Haj Policy 2018 according to Supreme Court’s 2012 order, was exploring ways to revive the option of sending pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah.
 
Dispatching pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses by nearly half as compared to airfares. It will be a revolutionary, pilgrim-friendly decision, he said.
 
The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by sea was stopped in 1995. At present, devotees undertake the journey by air from 21 embarkation points across the country, he said.
 
Mr. Naqvi said another advantage with ships available these days is they are modern and well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at a time. They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles distance from Mumbai to Jeddah within two or three days. Earlier, the old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance. The high-level committee will soon submit its report, he said.
 
The Minister said the new Haj Policy is aimed at making entire Haj process easier and transparent. Haj pilgrims’ facilities will be in focus in the new policy.
 
The Minority Affairs Ministry, in coordination with other concerned agencies, had started preparations for Haj pilgrimage very early. The Ministry’s aim is to provide world class facilities to Haj pilgrims. The Minister said the measure to make Haj process online has produced good results. A total of 1,29,196 Haj applications were done online.
 
The increase in India’s annual Haj quota by Saudi Arabia Government has benefited all the states as quota of the states for Haj 2017 has also been increased significantly. Saudi Arabia has increased annual Haj quota of India by 34,005. The decision in this regard had been taken during signing of bilateral annual Haj agreement between India and Saudi Arabia at Jeddah on January 11 this year. It is the biggest increase in the quota of Haj pilgrims from India after several years.
 
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About 99,903 people went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for Haj from 21 embarkation points across India through Haj Committee of India during Haj 2016. Apart from this, about 36,000 Haj pilgrims had proceeded for Haj through the private tour operators.
 
For Haj 2017, a total of 1,70,025 people will go from India out of which 1,25,025 will go through Haj Committee of India while 45,000 people will go through Private Tour Operators.
 
In the three-day training programme, officials from Haj Committee of India; Consulate of Saudi Arabia; Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines; Air India; Customs; Immigration and doctors are providing information about “Do’s and Don’ts” during Haj.
 
This includes information about transport, accommodation and laws of Saudi Arabia. More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the programme. The trainers will now train the pilgrims in training camps.
 
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India’s forex reserves fall by $ 956.4 million to $ 368.998 billion

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Reversing a six-week uptrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves fell by $ 956.4 million to $ 368.998 billion during the week ended April 7, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 2.022 billion to $ 369.954 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone down by $ 951 million to $ 345.367 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 $ 19.869 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 3.1 million to $ 1.443 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 2.3 million to $ 2.318 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Telecom: Reliance Jio announces new Unlimited Plans

Telecom services provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) today announced new unlimited plans with special benefits, exclusively for members of its Jio Prime scheme, after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) advised it last week to withdraw its Summer Surprise scheme.
 
Under the Summer Surprise scheme, announced on March 31, the company had said that all Jio Prime members, when they make their first paid recharge prior to April 15 using its Rs 303 plan (or any higher value plan), would get services for the initial three months on a complimentary basis.  
 
A press release from RJIL said that the Summer Surprise had been fully withdrawn.
 
Under the new scheme, called Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan, plans start with a Rs. 309 Unlimited Plan,which provides unlimited SMS, caling and data (1GB per day at 4G speed) for three months on first recharge.
 
Under the Rs. 509 All Unlimited Plan for daily high data users will be offered unlimited SMS, calling and data (2GB per day at 4G speed) for three months on first recharge. Further details of all the plans are posted on the company website www.jio.com.
 
Considering the special benefits that are available to Jio Prime members, customers who were unable to subscribe to the scheme for any reason, can continue to do so by paying Rs. 408 or Rs. 608 (Jio Prime + recharge price) to avail these benefits, the release said.
 
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"These plans will be available starting today. Existing Jio customers who have not done their first recharge so far, need to do so by 15 April 2017 to avoid degradation and/or discontinuation of services," the release said.
 
The company, a subsidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), said it was currently implementing the world’s largest migration from free to paid services in such a short period of time. 
 
"In order to smoothen the migration from free to paid services, Jio has implemented simple, affordable and regulatory compliant plans in customer interest. Jio looks forward to customers making full use of this opportunity to avail the most attractive tariff plans in the industry, which are unparalleled globally.
 
"With this, Jio extends the benefits of a superior and advanced technology to take India to global digital leadership. Jio’s unmatched data strong network is capable of meeting the burgeoning data requirements of hundreds of millions of Indians. The announcement also marks another step in Jio’s commitment to continuously delight its customers and enable them to live a fully digital life. Jio is thankful to the millions of customers who have taken up Jio services," the release added.
 
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L&T Construction wins Rs. 5250 crore order from KAHRAMAA, Qatar

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said the Power Transmission and Distribution Business of its construction arm had won its single largest order, valued at Rs. 5250 crore, in the Middle East from KAHRAMAA - Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation - for its ongoing Qatar Electricity Transmission Network Expansion Plan-Phase XIII. 
 
Through this ambitious project, KAHRAMAA intends to expand the existing power transmission network to meet the ever-increasing demand for power due to the developmental works in the State of Qatar, a press release from the company said.
 
The prestigious $ 817 million order will involve the engineering, procurement and construction of 30 new Gas Insulated Sub-stations of varying voltage levels of 220 kV, 132 kV and 66 kV and approximately 560 km of 132 kV and 66 kV underground cables under various definite and framework packages. The works of the project are spread all over the Gulf state, including both freshly developed as well as already developed areas, it said. The project is scheduled for completion in phases from 15 to 32 months.
 
“The development drive in the State of Qatar is in high gear and we are proud to be partnering in it by bagging yet another prestigious project from KAHRAMAA,” Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, Deputy Managing Director & President, Larsen & Toubro, said.
 
“We have been associated with KAHRAMAA for over a decade which has put in place a programme well ahead of the times to provide sufficient power and water for Qatar. We look forward to furthering this significant strategic relationship and continue to play a key role in making Qatar proud and a very modern state,” he added.
 
After being involved in Phases VIII, X, XI and XI-A, this mandate from KAHRAMAA represents a repeat order for Phase XII, the release said.
 
Previously, KAHRAMMA has awarded L& T more than 40 sub-stations and approximately 100 km of high-voltage cabling projects worth nearly $ 1.1 billion. 
 
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India's forex reserves soar by $ 2.022 billion to $ 369.954 billion

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Continuing an uptrend for the sixth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 2.022 billion to $ 369.954 billion during the week ended March 31, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 1.151 billion to $ $367.932 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.083 billion to $ 346.318 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 decreased by $45 million to $ 19.869 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 5.1 million to $ 1.446 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 10.7 million to $ 2.320 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Regulator TRAI advises Jio to withdraw three-month complimentary offer

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today advised telecom services provider Reliance Jio, a subsidiary of energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to withdraw the three-month complimentary benefits it had offered to its Prime Members under the Summer Surprise scheme.
 
Under the scheme, announced on March 31, the company had said that all members, when they make their first paid recharge prior to April 15 using Jio’s Rs 303 plan (or any higher value plan), would get services for the initial three months on a complimentary basis.  
 
The paid tariff plan will be applied only in July, after the expiry of the complimentary service, the company had said.
 
"Today, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has advised Jio to withdraw the 3 months complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise.
 
"Jio accepts this decision. Jio is in the process of fully complying with the regulator’s advice, and will be withdrawing the 3 months complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise as soon as operationally feasible, over the next few days," a press release from the company said.
 
"However, all customers who have subscribed to Jio Summer Suprise offer prior to its discontinuation will remain eligible for the offer," the release added.
 
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Full Text: RBI's First Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18

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Following is the text of the Sixth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2016-17 and Resolution of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued here today: 
 
Resolution of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) Reserve Bank of India
 
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 6.25 per cent.
 
Consequent upon the narrowing of the LAF corridor as elaborated in the accompanying Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies, the reverse repo rate under the LAF is at 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate are at 6.50 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 MPC met in February 2017, indicators of global growth suggest signs of stronger activity in most advanced economies (AEs) and easing of recessionary conditions in commodity exporting large emerging market economies (EMEs). In the US, high frequency data indicate that the labour market, industrial production and retail sales are catalysing a recovery in Q1 of 2017 from a relatively subdued performance in the preceding quarter. Nonetheless, risks to higher growth have arisen from non-realisation or under-achievement of macroeconomic policies. In the Euro area, the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to a six-year high in March amidst improving consumer confidence and steadily strengthening employment conditions. In the Japanese economy, nascent signs of revival are evident in the form of falling unemployment, improving business sentiment on fixed investment, and rising exports helped by the depreciation of the yen; however, deflation risks linger.
 
3. For EMEs, the outlook is gradually improving, with indications that the slowdown characterising 2016 could be bottoming out. In China, supportive macroeconomic policies, surging credit growth and a booming property market have held up the momentum of growth albeit amidst concerns about financial stability and capital outflows. In Brazil, hardening commodity prices are providing tailwinds to reforms undertaken by the authorities to pull the economy out of recession, although financial fragilities remain a risk. Russia is benefiting from the firming up of crude prices and it is widely expected that growth will return to positive territory in 2017.
 
4. Inflation is edging up in AEs to or above target levels on the back of slowly diminishing slack, tighter labour markets and rising commodity prices. Among EMEs, Turkey and South Africa remain outliers in an otherwise generalised softening of inflation pressures. Global trade volumes are finally showing signs of improvement amidst shifts in terms of trade, with exports rising strongly in several EMEs as well as in some AEs whose currencies have depreciated.
 
5. International financial markets have been impacted by policy announcements in major AEs, geo-political events and country-specific factors. Equity markets in AEs were driven up by reflation trade, stronger incoming data and currency movements. Equity markets in EMEs had a mixed performance, reflecting domestic factors amidst a cautious return of investor appetite and capital flows. In the second half of March, dovish guidance on US monetary policy lifted equities across jurisdictions, especially in Asia, as the reach for EME assets resumed strongly, although doubts about the realisation of US policies, Brexit and softer crude prices tempered sentiments. Bond markets have mirrored the uncertainty surrounding the commitment to fiscal stimulus in the US and yields traded sideways in AEs, while they generally eased across EMEs. In the currency markets, the US dollar’s bull run lost steam by mid-March. EME currencies initially rose on optimism on the global outlook, but some of them have weakened in recent days with the fall in commodity prices. Crude prices touched a three-month low in March on rising shale output and US inventories. Food prices have been firming up globally, driven by cereals.
 
6. On the domestic front, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released its second advance estimates for 2016-17 on February 28, placing India’s real GVA growth at 6.7 per cent for the year, down from 7 per cent in the first advance estimates released on January 6. Agriculture expanded robustly year-on-year after two consecutive years of sub-one per cent growth. In the industrial sector, there was a significant loss of momentum across all categories, barring electricity generation. The services sector also slowed, pulled down by trade, hotels, transport and communication as well as financial, real estate and professional services. Public administration, defence and other services cushioned this slowdown. To some extent, government expenditure made up for weakness in private consumption and capital formation.
 
7. Several indicators are pointing to a modest improvement in the macroeconomic outlook. Foodgrains production has touched an all-time high of 272 million tonnes, with record production of rice, wheat and pulses. The record production of wheat should boost procurement operations and economise on imports, which had recently surged. Rice stocks, which had depleted to close to the minimum buffer norm, have picked up with kharif procurement. The bumper production of pulses has helped in building up to the intended buffer stock (i.e., 20 lakh tonnes) and this will keep the price of pulses under check – the domestic price of pulses has already fallen below the minimum support price (MSP).
 
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8. Industrial output, measured by the index of industrial production (IIP), recovered in January from a contraction in the previous month, helped by a broad-based turnaround in manufacturing as well as mining and quarrying. Capital goods production improved appreciably, although this largely reflected the waning of unfavourable base effects. Consumer non-durables continued, however, to contract for the second successive month in spite of supportive base effects. Thus, investment and rural consumption demand remain muted. The output of core industries moderated in February due to slowdown in production of all the components except coal. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) remained in expansion mode in February and rose to a five month high in March on the back of growth of new orders and output. The future output index also rose strongly on forecasts of pick-up in demand and the launch of new product lines. The 77th round of the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey indicates that overall business sentiment is expected to improve in Q1 of 2017-18 on the back of a sharp pick up in both domestic and external demand. Coincident indicators such as exports and non-oil non-gold imports are indicative of a brighter outlook for industry, although the sizable under-utilisation of capacity in several industries could operate as a drag on investment.
 
9. Activity in the services sector appears to be improving as the constraining effects of demonetisation wear off. On the one hand, rural demand remains depressed as reflected in lower sales of two- and three-wheelers and fertiliser. On the other hand, high frequency indicators relating to railway traffic, telephone subscribers, foreign tourist arrivals, passenger car and commercial vehicles are regaining pace, thereby positioning the services sector on a rising trajectory. After three consecutive months of contraction, the services PMI for February and March emerged into the expansion zone on improvement in new business.
 
10. After moderating continuously over the last six months to a historic low, retail inflation measured by year-on-year changes in the consumer price index (CPI) turned up in February to 3.7 per cent. While food prices bottomed out at the preceding month’s level, base effects pushed up inflation in this category. Prices of sugar, fruits, meat, fish, milk and processed foods increased, generating a sizable jump in the momentum in the food group. In the fuel group, inflation increased as the continuous hardening of international prices lifted domestic prices of liquefied petroleum gas during December 2016 – February 2017. Kerosene prices have also been increasing since July with the programmed reduction of the subsidy. Adapting to the movements in these salient prices, both three months ahead and a year ahead households’ inflation expectations, which had dipped in the December round of the Reserve Bank’s survey, reversed in the latest round. Moreover, the survey reveals hardening of price expectations across product groups. The 77th round of the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey indicates that pricing power is returning to corporates as profit margins get squeezed by input costs.
 
11. Excluding food and fuel, inflation moderated in February by 20 basis points to 4.8 per cent, essentially on transient and item-specific factors. In February, favourable base effects were at work in the clothing and bedding sub-group as well as in personal care and effects, the latter also influenced by the disinflation in gold prices. The volatility in crude oil prices and its lagged pass-through are impacting the trajectory of CPI inflation excluding food and fuel. Much of the impact of the fall of US $4.5 per barrel in international prices of crude since early February would feed into the CPI print in April as its cumulative pass-through occurred with a lag in the first week of this month. Importantly, inflation excluding food and fuel has exhibited persistence and has been significantly above headline inflation since September 2016.
 
12. With progressive remonetisation, the surplus liquidity in the banking system declined from a peak of Rs. 7,956 billion on January 4, 2017 to an average of Rs. 6,014 billion in February and further down to Rs. 4,806 billion in March. Currency in circulation expanded steadily during this period. Its impact on the liquidity overhang was, however, partly offset by a significant decline in cash balances of the Government up to mid-March which released liquidity into the system. Thereafter, the build-up of Government cash balances on account of advance tax payments and balance sheet adjustment by banks reduced surplus liquidity to Rs. 3,141 billion by end-March. Issuances of cash management bills (CMBs) under the market stabilisation scheme (MSS) ceased in mid-January and existing issues matured, with the consequent release of liquidity being absorbed primarily through variable rate reverse repo auctions of varying tenors. Accordingly, the average net absorption by the Reserve Bank increased from Rs. 2,002 billion in January to Rs. 4,483 billion in March. The weighted average call money rate (WACR) remained within the LAF corridor. The maturing of CMBs and reduced issuance of Treasury bills leading up to end-March has also contributed to Treasury bill rates being substantially below the policy rate.
 
13. Merchandise exports rose strongly in February 2017 from a subdued profile in the preceding months. Growth impulses were broad-based, with major contributors being engineering goods, petroleum products, iron ore, rice and chemicals. The surge in imports in January and February 2017 largely reflected the effect of the hardening of commodity prices such as crude oil and coal. Non-oil non-gold imports continued to grow at a modest pace, though capital goods imports remained sluggish. With imports outpacing exports, the trade deficit widened in January and February from its level a year ago, though it was lower on a cumulative basis for the period April-February 2016-17.
 
14. Balance of payments data for Q3 indicate that the current account deficit for the first three quarters of the financial year narrowed to 0.7 per cent of GDP, half of its level a year ago. For the year as a whole, the current account deficit is likely to remain muted at less than 1 per cent of GDP. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has dominated net capital inflows during April-December, with manufacturing, communication and financial services being the preferred sectors. Turbulence in global financial markets set off a bout of global risk aversion and flight to safe haven that caused net outflows of foreign portfolio investment (FPI) during November 2016 to January 2017. The tide reversed with the pricing in of the Fed’s normalisation path and improvement in global growth prospects. FPI flows turned positive in February and welled up into a surge in March, especially in debt markets relative to equity markets (which had been the dominant recipient until February). This reversal appears to have been driven by stable domestic inflation, better than expected domestic growth, encouraging corporate earnings, clarity on FPI taxation, pro-reform budget proposals and state election results. The level of foreign exchange reserves was US$ 369.9 billion on March 31, 2017.
 
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15. Since the February bi-monthly monetary policy statement, inflation has been quiescent. Headline CPI inflation is set to undershoot the target of 5.0 per cent for Q4 of 2016-17 in view of the sub-4 per cent readings for January and February. For 2017-18, inflation is projected to average 4.5 per cent in the first half of the year and 5 per cent in the second half.
 
16. Risks are evenly balanced around the inflation trajectory at the current juncture. There are upside risks to the baseline projection. The main one stems from the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the south west monsoon in view of the rising probability of an El Niño event around July-August, and its implications for food inflation. Proactive supply management will play a critical role in staving off pressures on headline inflation. A prominent risk could emanate from managing the implementation of the allowances recommended by the 7th CPC. In case the increase in house rent allowance as recommended by the 7th CPC is awarded, it will push up the baseline trajectory by an estimated 100-150 basis points over a period of 12-18 months, with this initial statistical impact on the CPI followed up by second-order effects. Another upside risk arises from the one-off effects of the GST. The general government deficit, which is high by international comparison, poses yet another risk for the path of inflation, which is likely to be exacerbated by farm loan waivers. Recent global developments entail a reflation risk which may lift commodity prices further and pass through into domestic inflation. Moreover, geopolitical risks may induce global financial market volatility with attendant spillovers. On the downside, international crude prices have been easing recently and their pass-through to domestic prices of petroleum products should alleviate pressure on headline inflation. Also, stepped-up procurement operations in the wake of the record production of foodgrains will rebuild buffer stocks and mitigate food price stress, if it materialises.
 
17. GVA growth is projected to strengthen to 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 from 6.7 per cent in 2016-17, with risks evenly balanced.
 
18. Several favourable domestic factors are expected to drive this acceleration. First, the pace of remonetisation will continue to trigger a rebound in discretionary consumer spending. Activity in cash-intensive retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transportation and unorganised segments has largely been restored. Second, significant improvement in transmission of past policy rate reductions into banks’ lending rates post demonetisation should help encourage both consumption and investment demand of healthy corporations. Third, various proposals in the Union Budget should stimulate capital expenditure, rural demand, and social and physical infrastructure all of which would invigorate economic activity. Fourth, the imminent materialisation of structural reforms in the form of the roll-out of the GST, the institution of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and the abolition of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board will boost investor confidence and bring in efficiency gains. Fifth, the upsurge in initial public offerings in the primary capital market augurs well for investment and growth.
 
19. The global environment is improving, with global output and trade projected by multilateral agencies to gather momentum in 2017. Accordingly, external demand should support domestic growth. Downside risks to the projected growth path stem from the outturn of the south west monsoon; ebbing consumer optimism on the outlook for income, the general economic situation and employment as polled in the March 2017 round of the Reserve Bank’s consumer confidence survey; and, commodity prices, other than crude, hardening further.
 
20. Overall, the MPC’s considered judgement call to wait out the unravelling of the transitory effects of demonetisation has been broadly borne out. While these effects are still playing out, they are distinctly on the wane and should fade away by the Q4 of 2016-17. While inflation has ticked up in its latest reading, its path through 2017-18 appears uneven and challenged by upside risks and unfavourable base effects towards the second half of the year. Moreover, underlying inflation pressures persist, especially in prices of services. Input cost pressures are gradually bringing back pricing power to enterprises as demand conditions improve. The MPC remains committed to bringing headline inflation closer to 4.0 per cent on a durable basis and in a calibrated manner. Accordingly, inflation developments have to be closely and continuously monitored, with food price pressures kept in check so that inflation expectations can be re-anchored. At the same time, the output gap is gradually closing. Consequently, aggregate demand pressures could build up, with implications for the inflation trajectory.
 
21. Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to keep the policy rate unchanged in this review while persevering with a neutral stance. The future course of monetary policy will largely depend on incoming data on how macroeconomic conditions are evolving. Banks have reduced lending rates, although further scope for a more complete transmission of policy impulses remains, including for small savings/administered rates. It is in this context that greater clarity about liquidity management is being provided, even as surplus liquidity is being steadily drained out. Along with rebalancing liquidity conditions, it will be the Reserve Bank’s endeavour to put the resolution of banks’ stressed assets on a firm footing and create congenial conditions for bank credit to revive and flow to productive sectors of the economy.
 
22. Six members voted in favour of the monetary policy decision. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by April 20, 2017.
 
23. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled on June 5 and 6, 2017.
 
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RBI keeps policy repo rate unchanged at 6.25%

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India on Thursday kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility unchanged at 6.25 percent as part of its objective of achieving its retail inflation target of 4 percent within a band of +/-2 percent, while supporting growth.

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The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today kept its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.25 percent as part of its objective of achieving its retail inflation target of 4 percent within a band of +/- 2 percent, while supporting growth.
 
The First Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18 of the RBI on the basis of the resolution of the MPC at its meeting here today said the decision was based on its assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation.
 
Consequent upon the narrowing of the LAF corridor, as elaborated in an accompanying Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies, the reverse repo rate under the LAF is at 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate are at 6.50 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 statement said.
 
The resolution said that, since the February 2017 bi-monthly monetary policy statement, inflation had been quiescent. Headline CPI inflation is set to undershoot the target of 5.0 per cent for Q4 of 2016-17 in view of the sub-4 per cent readings for January and February. For 2017-18, inflation is projected to average 4.5 per cent in the first half of the year and 5 per cent in the second half, it said.
 
"Risks are evenly balanced around the inflation trajectory at the current juncture. There are upside risks to the baseline projection. The main one stems from the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the south west monsoon in view of the rising probability of an El Niño event around July-August, and its implications for food inflation. Proactive supply management will play a critical role in staving off pressures on headline inflation. 
 
"A prominent risk could emanate from managing the implementation of the allowances recommended by the 7th CPC. In case the increase in house rent allowance as recommended by the 7th CPC is awarded, it will push up the baseline trajectory by an estimated 100-150 basis points over a period of 12-18 months, with this initial statistical impact on the CPI followed up by second-order effects. 
 
"Another upside risk arises from the one-off effects of the GST. The general government deficit, which is high by international comparison, poses yet another risk for the path of inflation, which is likely to be exacerbated by farm loan waivers. Recent global developments entail a reflation risk which may lift commodity prices further and pass through into domestic inflation. Moreover, geopolitical risks may induce global financial market volatility with attendant spillovers. 
 
"On the downside, international crude prices have been easing recently and their pass-through to domestic prices of petroleum products should alleviate pressure on headline inflation. Also, stepped-up procurement operations in the wake of the record production of foodgrains will rebuild buffer stocks and mitigate food price stress, if it materialises," it said.
 
The resolution said GVA growth is projected to strengthen to 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 from 6.7 per cent in 2016-17, with risks evenly balanced.
 
"Several favourable domestic factors are expected to drive this acceleration. First, the pace of remonetisation will continue to trigger a rebound in discretionary consumer spending. Activity in cash-intensive retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transportation and unorganised segments has largely been restored. Second, significant improvement in transmission of past policy rate reductions into banks’ lending rates post demonetisation should help encourage both consumption and investment demand of healthy corporations. Third, various proposals in the Union Budget should stimulate capital expenditure, rural demand, and social and physical infrastructure all of which would invigorate economic activity. Fourth, the imminent materialisation of structural reforms in the form of the roll-out of the GST, the institution of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and the abolition of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board will boost investor confidence and bring in efficiency gains. Fifth, the upsurge in initial public offerings in the primary capital market augurs well for investment and growth," it said.
 
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"The global environment is improving, with global output and trade projected by multilateral agencies to gather momentum in 2017. Accordingly, external demand should support domestic growth. Downside risks to the projected growth path stem from the outturn of the south west monsoon; ebbing consumer optimism on the outlook for income, the general economic situation and employment as polled in the March 2017 round of the Reserve Bank’s consumer confidence survey; and, commodity prices, other than crude, hardening further.
 
"Overall, the MPC’s considered judgement call to wait out the unravelling of the transitory effects of demonetisation has been broadly borne out. While these effects are still playing out, they are distinctly on the wane and should fade away by the Q4 of 2016-17. While inflation has ticked up in its latest reading, its path through 2017-18 appears uneven and challenged by upside risks and unfavourable base effects towards the second half of the year. Moreover, underlying inflation pressures persist, especially in prices of services. Input cost pressures are gradually bringing back pricing power to enterprises as demand conditions improve. 
 
"The MPC remains committed to bringing headline inflation closer to 4.0 per cent on a durable basis and in a calibrated manner. Accordingly, inflation developments have to be closely and continuously monitored, with food price pressures kept in check so that inflation expectations can be re-anchored. At the same time, the output gap is gradually closing. Consequently, aggregate demand pressures could build up, with implications for the inflation trajectory.
 
"Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to keep the policy rate unchanged in this review while persevering with a neutral stance. The future course of monetary policy will largely depend on incoming data on how macroeconomic conditions are evolving. Banks have reduced lending rates, although further scope for a more complete transmission of policy impulses remains, including for small savings/administered rates1. It is in this context that greater clarity about liquidity management is being provided, even as surplus liquidity is being steadily drained out. Along with rebalancing liquidity conditions, it will be the Reserve Bank’s endeavour to put the resolution of banks’ stressed assets on a firm footing and create congenial conditions for bank credit to revive and flow to productive sectors of the economy," it said.
 
Six members voted in favour of the monetary policy decision. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by April 20, 2017.
 
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RBI appoints Malvika Sinha as new Executive Director

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has appointed Ms. Malvika Sinha as Executive Director (ED) consequent upon the appointment of Mr. B P Kanungo as Deputy Governor yesterday.
 
Ms. Sinha took charge of her new position yesterday, a press release from the central bank said.
 
As Executive Director, Ms. Sinha will look after Foreign Exchange Department, Department of Government and Bank Accounts and Internal Debt Management Department.
 
Ms. Sinha holds a Master's Degree from University of Bombay and has done her Master's in Public Administration. She is also a Certificated Associate of Indian Institute of Bankers.
 
She joined RBI in 1982 and as a career central banker served in the areas of regulation and supervision, foreign exchange and Government and Bank Accounts in the Bank. Prior to being promoted as ED, she was Principal Chief General Manager, Department of Co-operative Banking Supervision in the Reserve Bank.
 
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Mahesh Kumar Jain takes charge as MD & CEO of IDBI Bank

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Mr. Mahesh Kumar Jain has assumed charge as Managing Director & CEO of IDBI Bank with effect from April 3.
 
Prior to the current assignment, Mr. Jain was the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Indian Bank.
 
A press release from IDBI Bank said Mr. Jain had joined Indian Bank as an Executive Director in September 2013 where he handled key portfolios such as Corporate & Retail Credit, SME Credit, Risk Management, Recovery & Legal, Accounts, Technology Management, Banking Operations Department, Business Process Re-engineering and Compliance Department. 
 
Prior to joining Indian Bank, he served as General Manager with Syndicate Bank and handled various portfolios, including Credit, Operations, Investments and Risk Management. He began his banking career with Punjab National Bank.
 
He was a member of the Steering Committee on Risk Management of IBA and a Member of the IBA working group on Risk Management and implementation of Basel II and III. He was also the Secretary & Coordinator to Basant Seth Committee on Review & Revamp of Internal & Concurrent Audit System in PSBs.
 
At present, Mr. Jain is a member of the NIBM Governing Board, PGDM Executive Council of NIBM, CII National Committee on Banking 2016-17 and CII National Council on Financial Sector Development 2016-17.
 
Mr. Jain has M.Com., MBA, CAIIB, CFA and FRM to his academic credit.
 
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Renowned classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar passes away

Kishori Amonkar
Kishori Amonkar
Renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar, who was recognized as one of the foremost innovative exponents of the Jaipur gharana, passed away here late last night after a brief illness.
 
She was 84. She is survived by two sons. Her husband Ravindra Amonkar had predeceased her in the 1980s.
 
Ms. Amonkar, who was ailing for some time, breathed her last at her residence in central Mumbai a week before her 85th birthday, sources close to her family said.
 
The singer had a huge following for her rendering of classical khyals as well as the lighter classical genres of thumris and bhajans.
 
Born on April 10, 1932 in Mumbai, Amonkar trained under her mother, classical singer Mogubai Kurdikar of the Jaipur gharana, but later experimented with a variety of vocal styles.
 
The singer also dabbled a bit in playback singing for Hindi movies, having sung for Geet Gaya Patharon Ne in 1964 and for Drishti in 1990.
 
Apart from performing at music recitals, Ms. Amonkar also used to speak at lecture-demonstrations on the role of rasa in music.
 
Ms. Amonkar was honoured by the Government with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honour, in 1987 and with the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, in 2002. She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1985 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2009.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the passing away of Ms. Amonkar. "Demise of Kishori Amonkar is an irreparable loss to Indian classical music. Deeply pained by her demise. May her soul rest in peace," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The works of Kishori Amonkar will always remain popular among people for years to come," he added.
 
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RwandAir kick off direct flight operations between Mumbai and Kigali

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Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has added yet another international route for travelers between the metropolis and the African city of Kigali.
 
RwandAir, the national carrier of Rwanda, has announced the commencement of non-stop flights, four times a week, between the two cities, a press release from CSIA said.
 
Fflight WB500 will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Kigali to Mumbai, leaving from there at 0035 hours and reaching here at 1105 hours. The return flight, WB 501, will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, leaving from here at 0145 hours and reaching Kigali at 0515 hours, the release said.
 
The flights will be operated by a B737-800, RwandAir’s young Boeing Next generation Fleet, offering dual class cabin.
 
The release said passenger traffic and trade between Mumbai and Africa had always been significant. Mumbai is Africa's major gateway, comprising 70% of the capacity deployed between India and Africa.
 
In calendar year (CY) 2016, as many as 0.8 million passengers travelled between Mumbai and Africa, growing at 8% annually. 
 
The release said that Mumbai strategic geographical positioning acts as a major transfer hub for passengers between South East Asia and Africa. 
 
"CSIA, Mumbai is excited to welcome RwandAir, flying directly between Kigali and Mumbai with 4 weekly flights. The non-stop air connectivity will not only increase tourism but will also enhance business opportunities, strengthening the relationship between the two nations," the release added.
 
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SBI merges five Associate Banks, Bharatiya Mahila Bank with itself

State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, has merged its five Associate Banks -- State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Travancore -- besides Bharatiya Mahila Bank with itself with effect from Saturday.

File photo of State Bank of  India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya
File photo of State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya
State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, has merged its five Associate Banks -- State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Travancore -- besides Bharatiya Mahila Bank with itself with effect from today.
 
With this six-way mega merger, SBI will join the league of top 50 banks globally in terms of assets, a press release from the bank said.
 
"SBI  has again displayed its ability to change and evolve in order to continue as the country champion among banks in India and to create enduring value," it said.
 
The release said the total customer base of the bank would reach 37 crore with a branch network of around 24,000 and nearly 59,000 ATMs across the country.
 
The merged entity will have a deposit base of more than Rs. 26 lakh crore and advances level of Rs. 18.50 lakh crore.
 
Post-merger, all the customers of Associate Banks will enjoy the benefits of a wide array of digital products and services offered by the State Bank of India, the release said.
 
“We welcome the customers, employees and all other stakeholders of Associate Banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) to SBI fold.  The Bank will strive to conclude the transition process within a quarter. The combined entity will enhance the productivity, mitigate geographical risks, increase operational efficiency and drive synergies across multiple dimensions while ensuring increased levels of customer delight," SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya said.
 
According to the release, SBI is already well poised with robust technology products and services to empower the customers and make their banking seamless. 
 
Some of the key technology products and services of SBI are SBI Quick – a self-service app, State Bank Buddy – a mobile wallet, SBI Mingle – social media banking platform on Facebook and Twitter, State Bank Anywhere - a mobile banking app on smartphones.  SBI is the first Bank to launch digital banking outlets –sbINTOUCH branches at various locations to provide an immersive experience to customers in banking.  
 
"The bank is committed to continue the digital drive to bring in more innovative products and services for customer convenience.  Online SBI, the bank’s web banking platform, is the 5th most visited financial site, globally," the release said.
 
"Post- merger, the Bank will rationalize its branch network by relocating some of the branches to maximize the reach.  This will help the bank to optimize its operations and improve profitability. Integration of Treasuries of the Associate Banks with the Treasury of SBI will bring in substantial cost saving and synergy in Treasury operations," the release added.
 
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