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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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OGPL, IL&FS to evaluate merging of wind businesses

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Orient Green Power Company Limited (OGPL) today said its Board of Directors had approved entering into exclusive discussions with IL&FS Wind Energy to evaluate a potential merger of the wind energy generation businesses of both entities.  
 
The resultant merged entity will have 1.2 GW of operating wind capacity, and will be by far the largest listed renewable energy company in India, a press release from the company said.
 
The release said OGPL is in the process of demerging its wind and biomass entities into two separate companies -- OGPL (Wind) and Bio-bijlee Green Power Limited (Biomass), respectively. 
 
Subsequent to the demerger, OGPL will have an operating wind capacity of 425 MW in FY 17 with an additional 43 MW under construction which will augment capacity of the combined entity in FY 18.  
 
IL&FS Wind has an operating capacity of 775 MW in FY 17. IL&FS is also developing an additional 228 MW which the merged entity will be in a strong position to acquire.
 
Both companies have entered into a non–binding agreement with an exclusivity period of 90 days. 
 
"At this stage, the companies would like to clarify that any potential outcome is subject to due diligence, definitive documentation and approvals by regulators, creditors, shareholders and other third parties," the release said.
 
Arpwood Capital has been engaged as the transaction adviser, it added.
 
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Mr. T. Shivaraman, Managing Director of SVL Limited and Vice- Chairman, OGPL, said, “We believe combining the resources and capabilities of both companies into a single organization will provide significant benefits to all stakeholders. This collaboration will result in the creation of a wind power generation company with a truly pan–India presence, and with the benefit of scale. The combined entity will benefit from an enhanced financial position, geographic diversity of wind projects and a variety of Power Purchase Agreements. It will also enjoy a strong pipeline of new projects."
 
"This transaction provides OGPL a platform to substantially grow its foot print. As the pioneering pure-play listed renewable energy company in India, this transaction will enable OGPL to set new industry benchmarks," he added.
 
Mr. Vibhav Kapoor, Group CIO of IL&FS said “This transaction will be value accretive for both parties. The combined entity will emerge as a market leading renewable energy company with a presence across all significant wind markets in the country."
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins orders worth Rs. 1700 crore

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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has won orders worth Rs. 1700 crore in its Construction Services business vertical.
 
A press release from L&T said the business had secured three new orders, with a combined value of Rs. 1200 crore, for pipelines and associated works in the western region of India, and also received an order for additional work, worth Rs. 500 crores, from an existing
contract.
 
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Reliance Industries reports 3.6% rise in net profit to Rs. 7,506 crore in Q3

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today reported a 3.6 percent rise in its net profit to Rs. 7,506 crore in the third quarter (Q3) of 2016-17 as compared to Rs. 7245 crore in the same period of the  previous year.
 
On a standalone basis, the company reported a 10% increase in its net profit to Rs. 8,022 crore in Q3.
 
A press release from the company on the highlights of its unaudited financial results for Q3 said its revenue (turnover) increased by 16.1% to Rs. 84,189 crore in the quarter. In its refining business, the company achieved a gross refining margin (GRM) of $ 10.8/bbl for the quarter.
 
“Our robust integrated platform, sound operational processes and business portfolio aligned to the needs of emerging India enabled us to deliver another record performance in challenging market conditions. The refining business has delivered eight consecutive quarters of double-digit GRMs, benefiting from the global demand for transportation fuels and improved product cracks," RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani said.
 
"We successfully commissioned the first phase of Paraxylene plant during the quarter, further deepening the linkage between our refining and petrochemicals operations. Our growth strategy focuses on creating sustainable returns for our shareholders through value-enhancing, high-return projects. We are executing well on our projects under construction and remain confident on delivering on our growth plans.
 
"I am also delighted by our country’s eagerness to adopt to a digital life as witnessed by the record-breaking launch of Jio. Its comprehensive ecosystem has enabled millions of Indians to lead a richer life through its offerings," Mr. Ambani added.
 
The release said the growth in turnover in the quarter was primarily on account of  increase in prices of refining and petrochemical products, led by 13% increasein Brent crude prices. Revenue was also boosted by robust growth in retail business, it said.
 
Exports from the company's India operations were higher by 4.0% at Rs. 38,038 crore ($ 5.6 billion) as against Rs. 36,564 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
The company's outstanding debt as on 31st December 2016 was Rs. 194,381 crore ($ 28.6 billion) compared to Rs. 180,388 crore as on 31st March 2016.
 
Cash and cash equivalents as on 31st December 2016 were at Rs.  76,339 crore ($ 11.2 billion) compared to Rs. 89,966 crore as on 31st March 2016. These were in bank deposits, mutual funds, CDs and Government Bonds and other marketable securities, the release said.
 
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Demonetisation: RBI enhances ATM withdrawal limit to Rs. 10,000 per day

The Reserve Bank of India on Monday enhanced the limits placed on withdrawals from automated teller machines (ATMs) and current accounts in the wake of the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes.

RBI logo
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today enhanced the limits placed on withdrawals from automated teller machines (ATMs) and current accounts in the wake of the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes.
 
A circular from the central bank to all banks said that, with immediate effect, the limit on withdrawals from ATMs had been enhanced from current limit of Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 10,000 per day per card. This will beoperative within the existing overall weekly limit of Rs. 24,000.
 
The limit on withdrawal from current accounts has been enhanced from the current limit of Rs. 50,000 per week to Rs. 1,00,000 per week and it extends to overdraft and cash credit accounts also, the circular added.
 
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India’s forex reserves dip by $1.142 billion to $359.155 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 1.142 billion to $ 359.155 billion in the week ended January  6, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 625.5 million to $ 360.297 billion in the previous week, reversing a seven-week downtrend.
 
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 $ 241.8 million  to $ 336.824 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 $ 1.399 billion to $ 18.584 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) rose by $ 5.7 million to $ 1.438 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 9.4 million to $ 2.308 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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N Chandrasekaran appointed Chairman of Tata Sons

The Board of Directors of Tata Sons, at its meeting on Thursday, appointed Mr. N. Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as its new Executive Chairman.

N Chandrasekaran
N Chandrasekaran
The Board of Directors of Tata Sons, at its meeting today, appointed Mr. N. Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as its new Executive Chairman. 
 
"This is as per the unanimous recommendation of the Selection Committee. Mr. Chandrasekaran shall take charge from February 21, 2017," a press release from the Tata Group said.
 
The Board of Tata Sons said Mr. Chandrasekaran, 53, had demonstrated exemplary leadership as the CEO and MD of TCS.
 
"We believe he will now inspire the entire Tata group to realise its potential acting as leaders in their respective businesses, always in keeping with our value system and ethics and adhering with the practices of the Tata group which have stood it in good stead.”
 
Mr. Chandrasekaran has been the CEO and MD of TCS since 2009. A Tata lifer, he had joined the company in 1987. He was appointed as a Director on the board of Tata Sons on October 25, 2016.
 
On October 24, 2016, Tata Sons had, in a surprise move, announced the removal of Mr. Cyrus P. Mistry as its Chairman and named former Chairman Ratan Tata as Interim Chairman of the company.
 
The Board had also constituted a Selection Committee to choose a new Chairman. The committee comprised Mr. Ratan Tata, Mr. Venu Srinivasan, Mr. Amit Chandra, Mr. Ronen Sen and Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, as per the criteria in the Articles of Association of Tata Sons. 
 
The committee had been manadated to complete the selection process in four months.
 
Tata Sons is the promoter of all key Tata companies and holds the bulk of shareholding in these companies. The chairman of Tata Sons has traditionally been the chairman of the Tata group.
 
About 66 per cent of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family. The biggest of these trusts are the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which were created by the families of the sons of Jamsetji Tata.
 
The Tata Group comprises over 100 operating companies in seven business sectors: communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals.
 
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The group has operations in more than 80 countries across six continents, and its companies export products and services to 85 countries. .
 
Mr. Mistry is the younger son of Mr. Pallonji Mistry, the largest individual shareholder in Tata Sons. 
 
Born in 1963, Mr. Chandrasekaran, or Chandra, as is known, has a Master's degree in Computer Applications from Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu.
 
Beyond the office, he is an avid photographer, and a passionate long-distance runner who has completed several marathons around the world including Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, Mumbai, New York, Prague, Stockholm, Salzburg and Tokyo.
 
Mr. Chandrasekaran was also appointed as a Director on the board of the Reserve Bank of India in 2016.
 
Under his leadership, TCS has generated consolidated revenues of US $16.5 billion in 2015-16. 
 
He has served as the Chairperson of the IT Industry Governors’ at the World Economic Forum, Davos in 2015-16. He has been playing an active role in the India-US and India-UK CEO Forums. He is also part of India’s business taskforces for Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan and Malaysia. He served as the chairman of NASSCOM, the apex trade body for IT services firms in India in 2012-13 and continues to be a member of its governing Executive Council.
 
“I am humbled and honoured to be chosen to lead a truly great institution that occupies a unique position in hearts of the people in India and the world. I am proud to have been part of the Tata family for over 30 years and assuming this position is a great privilege," Mr. Chandrasekaran said.
 
“I want to thank the Tata Sons board and Mr Ratan N Tata for their confidence in me to lead this trusted institution that has a rich heritage.   
 
“At the Tata group, we are at an inflection point. I am aware that this role comes with huge responsibilities. It will be my endeavour to help progress the group with the ethos, ethics and values that the Tata group has been built on," he added.
 
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Khanderi, second of Navy's Scorpene class stealth submarines, launched

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Khanderi, the second of the Indian Navy’s Scorpene class stealth submarines, was launched here today by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, paving the way for her sea trials.
 
Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff and a host of other dignitaries were present on the occasion at Mazagon Dock Shipyard Limited (MDL).
 
The submarine is expected to be delivered to Navy by the year end. She has been christened after her illustrious predecessor, an erstwhile ‘Foxtrot’ class submarine decommissioned in 1989, which is as per the traditions of Indian Navy, an official press release said.
 
The construction of six Scorpene submarines is presently being progressed at MDL under Project 75 with Transfer of Technology from DCNS, France as the collaborator. The first of the six  submarines, Kalvari, is presently undergoing sea trials and likely to be commissioned into Navy by mid-2017. 
 
These submarines, post induction, would form the core of the Navy’s conventional Submarine Arm, the release said.
 
Dr. Bhamre said that Project 75 Kalvari is a key milestone in self- reliance and indigenisation for the country. Admiral Lanba said that the fact that ‘’Khanderi” compares with the best in the world speaks highly of the experience and expertise Indian shipbuilders have gained over the years. 
 
He added that as Indian Navy celebrates Golden Jubilee of the submarine arm in 2017, the induction of Project 75 submarines would mark the beginning of a new chapter in the country's submarine capabilities.
 
The launching of Khanderi also marks a critical milestone event for the shipyard which earlier has delivered two Shishumar class submarines in the 1990s and has now strengthened its position as a submarine building yard for Indian Navy. Started as a small dry dock facility for East India Company, MDL has established itself as a frontline defence public sector undertaking, with indigenous construction of several ships and submarines for Navy such as P 15 B destroyers and P 17 A class stealth frigates being the latest.
 
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India's forex reserves go up by $ 625.5 million to $ 360.297 billion

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Reversing a seven-week downtrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves  rose by$ 625.5 million dollars to $ 360.297 billion in the week ended December 30, 2016, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had dipped by $ 935.2 million to $359.671 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 $ 612.4 million to $ 336.582 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 $ 19.983 billion while its special drawing rights (SDRS) increased by $ 4.9 million to $ 1.432 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 8.2 million to $ 2.299 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Veteran actor Om Puri passes away after cardiac arrest

Om Puri
Om Puri
Veteran actor Om Puri, one of the most versatile and intense artistes in Indian cinema, passed away at his residence here in the early hours of today after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.
 
He was 66.
 
The actor's friends, who reached his residence after hearing the news, said he appeared to have suffered a heart attack this morning. 
 
According to various sources, Puri had returned home last evening after a shoot. This morning, his driver raised an alarm when he got no response after repeatedly ringing the door bell. The actor was found dead when the door was forced open, they said.
 
Born on October 18, 1950, at Ambala in Haryana to a Punjabi family, Puri had earned an enviable reputation with his work, first in art cinema and later in mainstream commercial Indian, British, Hollywood and Pakistani films as well as in independent films.
 
Puri graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune and was also an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi, from where he passed out in 1973 and had the well-known actor Naseeruddin Shah as a co-student.
 
He made his film debut in 1976 in Marathi film Ghashiram Kotwal, based on the play of the same name by Vijay Tendulkar.
 
Puri was one of the leading lights, along with Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, in the so-called "art films" of those years such as Bhavni Bhavai (1980), Sadgati (1981), Ardh Satya (1982), Mirch Masala (1986) and Dharavi (1992).
 
He won critical acclaim for his performances in films such as Aakrosh (1980), Disco Dancer (1982) and Ardh Satya. He got the National Award for Best Actor for Ardh Satya for his role as a police inspector.
 
He also acted in movies such as Maachis in 1996, Gupt (1997) and Dhoop (2003).
 
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In 1999, he acted in Kannada movie AK 47 and also in British comedy East is East, in which he played a first generation Pakistani immigrant in the north of England, struggling to come to terms with his far more westernised children.
 
He had a cameo in Richard Attenborough's highly-acclaimed film Gandhi (1982).
 
By the mid-1990s, Puri began appearing in character roles in mainstream Hindi cinema, which won him a following among the masses. He also appeared in British films such as My son the Fanatic (1997) and The Parole Officer (2001).
 
In Hollywood, he appeared in films such as City of Joy (1992) with Patrick Swayze; Wolf (1994) with Jack Nicholson; and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) with Val Kilmer. In 2007, he appeared as General Zia-ul-Haq in Charlie Wilson's War, which starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
 
Puri also appeared in Hindi television serials such as Kakkaji Kaheen (1988) as a paan-chewing 'Kakkaji', which was a parody on politicians, and Mr. Yogi (1989) as a suave 'sutradhaar' who enjoys pulling the protagonist's leg. These two serials underlined the actor's abilities as a comedian.
 
He received critical acclaim for his performance in Govind Nihalani's television film Tamas (1987) based on a Hindi novel of the same name. 
 
He played comic roles in Hindi films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro which attained a cult status, followed by Chachi 420 (1997), Hera Pheri (2000), Chor Machaye Shor (2002) and Malamaal Weekly (2006).
 
In recent years, he appeared in Hindi films such as Singh Is Kinng, Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Billu. He was seen in the role of Mohammad Ali Kasuri in Road to Sangam (2009). In 2010, he appeared in The Hangman. In 2011 he was in the Indian action movie Don 2.
 
In 2014, he appeared opposite Helen Mirren in the comedy-drama The Hundred-Foot Journey.
 
Puri married Seema Kapoor in 1991 but they separated some months later. In 1993, he married Nandita Puri, with whom he had a son. The couple separated in 2013.
 
The Government honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1990. 
 
He had won the National Award for Best Actor for Arohan in 1982 and the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award for Aakrosh in 1981, for Ghayal in 1990, Maachis in 1997, gupta in 1998 and Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha in 1999.
 
He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
 
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India’s forex reserves fall by $ 2.381 billion to $ 360.606 billion

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Going down for the sixth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves fell by $ 2.381 billion to $ 360.606 billion in the week ended December 16, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had dipped by $ 887.2 million to $ 362.987 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 down by $ 2.355 billion to $ 3.369 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 $ 19.983 billion while its special drawing rights (SDRS) declined by $ 9.9 million to $ 1.428 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 15.9 million to $ 2.292 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Sun Pharma to acquire branded oncology product Odomzo for global markets

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Pharmaceuticals major Sun Pharma today announced its plans to acquire a branded oncology product, Odomzo, from Novartis.
 
"The agreement has been signed between subsidiaries of both the companies and will close following anti-trust clearance and further closing conditions. The agreement has been signed for an upfront payment of US$ 175 million and additional milestone payments," a press release said.
 
Odomzo (Sonidegib) was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2015. It is a hedgehog pathway inhibitor indicated for the treatment of adult patients with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma (laBCC) that has recurred following surgery or radiation therapy, or those who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy. 
 
Approximately 70% of the prescribers are dermatologists and rests are oncologists for this class of drug, the release said.
 
According to IMS Health, the hedgehog inhibitor class grew by 40% in the year to October 2016 as compared to the same period in the previous year.
 
"New data supporting the use of Odomzo were presented at ASCO in June 2016. Data from the BOLT trial showed continued antitumor activity for more than 26 months in patients treated with Odomzo with no new safety concerns.  At the 30-month follow-up, patients with locally advanced BCC had an overall response rate (ORR) as per central review of 56% with  Odomzo® 200 mg.1 The most frequent grade 3 and 4 adverse reactions occurring in more than 2% of patients were fatigue, decreased weight and muscle spasms," the release said.
 
Mr. Kirti Ganorkar, Global Head – Business Development – Sun Pharma, said, “Odomzo gives us an opportunity to meaningfully expand our already established branded dermatology business and support our expansion into Branded Oncology with a launched brand.  We see meaningful global potential for Odomzo by leveraging Sun Pharma’s existing dermatology and oncology infrastructure to provide an innovative product to BCC patients worldwide.”
 
Mr. Jesper Jensen, Head – Biologics and Dermatology, Sun Pharma, said, ”We look forward to collaborating with the medical community to bring this novel therapy to the market to patients suffering from locally advanced basal cell carcinoma.  Odomzo complements and enhances our existing dermatology franchise.  This acquisition has the potential to leverage and expand the relationships that our Levulan sales team have with the dermatologists that treat common pre-cancerous skin conditions.”
 
The release said non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer globally. BCC accounts for approximately 80% of non-melanoma skin cancers, accounting for over 2 million estimated cases in the US alone. BCC consists of abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin's basal cells, which line the outermost layer of the skin. It occurs most frequently on the head and neck, with the nose being the most common site. BCC that spreads from where it started to nearby tissue is called locally advanced and can be highly disfiguring. Advanced BCC is thought to represent roughly 1-10% of all cases of BCC. Worldwide incidence of BCC is rising by 10% each year due to factors such as an aging population and increased ultraviolet exposure. 
 
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Deposits of old notes in excess of Rs. 5000 can be made only once till Dec. 30: RBI

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today modified the rules regarding deposit of demonetised Rs. 500 and Rs.1000 bank notes, specifying that deposits exceeding Rs. 5000 can only be made once before December 30, 2016.
 
In a notification sent to all banks, the RBI said that, on a review of the provisions ii, iii and iv at C of Para 3 dealing with credit of the value of specified bank notes (SBNs) into bank accounts, it has 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 such bank notes in excess of Rs. 5000 into a bank account will be received for credit only once during the remaining period till December 30. 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, it said.
 
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.
 
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.
 
"It may also be ensured that full value of tenders of SBNs in excess of Rs. 5000 shall be credited to only KYC compliant accounts and if the accounts are not KYC compliant credits may be restricted up to Rs. 50,000 subject to the conditions governing the conduct of such accounts," the notification said.
 
The above restrictions shall not apply to tenders of SBNs for the purpose of deposits under the Taxation and Investment Regime for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016, it added.
 
The equivalent value of specified bank notes tendered may be credited to an account maintained by the tenderer at any bank in accordance with standard banking procedure and on production of valid proof of identity.
 
The equivalent value of specified bank notes tendered may be credited to a third party account, provided specific authorisation therefore accorded by the third party is presented to the bank, following standard banking procedure and on production of valid proof of identity of the person actually tendering.
 
A press release from the Ministry of Finance noted that more than five weeks had elapsed since the time of 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 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 said.
 
The release also said that a number of representations had been received from District Cooperative Central Banks (DCCBs) to allow them to deposit with their linked currency chests the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes that had been collected by them between the 10th of November and 14th of November, 2016. An enabling notification to this effect has been issued. NABARD which supervises the DCCBs will conduct complete audit check of the Know Your Customer (KYC) documents of the individual customers who have deposited these notes or of the members of the Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) who have deposited these notes. The details in this regard will be notified by RBI, the release said.
 
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India’s forex reserves dip by $ 887.2 million to $ 362.987 billion

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Falling for the fifth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 887.2 million to $ 362.987 billion in the week ended December 9, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had fallen by $ 1.431 billion to $ 363.874 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 down by $ 873 million to $339.258 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 $ 19.983 billion while its special drawing rights (SDRS) declined by $ 5.4 million to $ 1.438 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 8.8 million to $ 2.307 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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India’s forex reserves dip by $ 1.431 billion to $ 363.874 billion

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Declining for the fourth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 1.431 billion to $ 363.874 billion in the week ended December 2, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had fallen by $ 193.8 million to $ 365.306 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 down by $ 957.9 million to $ 340.131 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 $ 477.9 million to $ 19.983 billion while its special drawing rights (SDRS) grew by $ 1.7 million to $ 1.444 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 2.8 million to $ 2.316 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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SBI okays sale of 3.9% stake in SBI Life to KKR and Temasek for Rs. 1,794 crore

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, today said it had approved the sale of 3.9 crore shares of Rs. 10 each, equalling a 3.9% stake in its subsidiary SBI Life Insurance Company Limited (SBI Life) for Rs. 1,794 crore ($ 264 million). 
 
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Executive Committee of its Board and is subject to the regulatory approvals, a press release from the bank said.
 
 An investment vehicle affiliated with KKR-managed funds and an affiliate of Temasek, the Singapore based Investment Company, will each purchase 1.95 crore shares from SBI. The proposed transaction values SBI Life at Rs. 46,000 crores (at Rs. 460 per share). 
 
"The transaction completion is subject to regulatory approvals," the release said.
 
Upon completion of the transaction, SBI will hold 70.1% stake in SBI Life while its joint venture partner, BNP Paribas Cardif, will continue to hold 26.0%.
 
Kotak Mahindra Capital Company Limited and SBI Capital Markets Limited acted as the exclusive financial advisors for the transaction, the release said.
 
“State Bank of India is happy to welcome KKR and Temasek as our incoming partners in SBI Life. The partnership with KKR and Temasek is a recognition of the efforts of SBI Life’s commitment to create a high quality institution which is a leader in the private Indian Life Insurance space. Moreover, this transaction values SBI Life at Rs. 46,000 crores, reflecting significant value creation since its inception in 2001," SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya said.
 
Mr. Arijit Basu, MD & CEO, SBI Life said, “SBI Life is a leader in an attractive industry with strong underlying growth drivers and this transaction particularly reflects investor conviction in the business strength of our franchise. We are delighted to partner with KKR and Temasek and look forward to an enriching association to support SBI Life’s continued growth, sustainable profitability and contribution to our policyholders’ progress.”
 
Mr. Sanjay Nayar, Member & CEO of KKR India, said, “We see exciting growth opportunities for Indian insurers stemming from increasing savings, a rising middle class and rapid urbanization. We look forward to supporting SBI Life’s long-term growth alongside these high-caliber partners, and are excited to enhance financial access for citizens across the country and promote the development of a more inclusive financial services industry.”
 
Mr. Rohit Sipahimalini, Joint Head, Temasek India, said, “We are positive on the long term potential of insurance in India which is a play on growing middle income, rising household financial savings and supportive demographics. SBI Life stands well-positioned to benefit from these long term trends and we look forward to supporting SBI Life in its growth plans.”
 
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RBI keeps key policy repo rate unchanged at 6.25%

 
In a surprise move, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today decided to keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.25 percent.
 
In the RBI's Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2016-17, a resolution adopted by the MPC had taken the decision on the basis of its assessment of the current and evolving macro-economic situation at its meeting today.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains unchanged at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.75 per cent, it said.
 
"The decision of the MPC is consistent with an accommodative stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving consumer price index (CPI) inflation at 5 per cent by Q4 of 2016-17 and the medium-term target of 4 percent within a band of +/- 2 percent, while supporting growth," it said.
 
The statement said the MPC took note of the upturn in the prices of several items that is masked by the easing of inflation on base effects during October.
 
Despite some supply disruptions, the abrupt compression of demand in November due to the demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 100 banknotes (specified bank notes or SBN) could push down the prices of perishables in the reading that becomes available in December, it said.
 
On the other hand, prices of wheat, gram and sugar have been firming up. While discretionary spending on goods and services in the CPI excluding food and fuel – constituting 16 per cent of the CPI basket – could have been affected by restricted access to cash, the prices of these items may weather these transitory effects as they are normally revised according to pre-set cycles, it said.
 
The statement said pices of housing, fuel and light, health, transport and communication, pan, tobacco and intoxicants, and education – together accounting for 38 per cent of the CPI basket – may remain largely unaffected. Going forward, base effects are expected to reverse and turn unfavourable in December and February. If the usual winter moderation in food prices does not materialise due to the disruptions, food inflation pressures could re-emerge. Furthermore, CPI inflation excluding food and fuel has been resistant to downward impulses and could set a floor to headline inflation, it said.
 
"With the OPEC’s agreement to cut production, crude prices may firm up in the coming months. Global developments, especially as financial markets factor in the future stance of US monetary and fiscal policy, could impart volatility to the exchange rate thereby feeding into inflation. The withdrawal of SBNs could result in a possible temporary reduction in inflation of the order of 10-15 basis points in Q3. Taking these factors into account, headline inflation is projected at 5 per cent in Q4 of 2016-17 with risks tilted to the upside but lower than in the October policy review. The fuller effects of the house rent allowances under the 7th CPC award are yet to be assessed, pending implementation, and have not been reckoned in this baseline inflation path," it said.
 
The statement said the outlook for gross value added (GVA) growth for 2016-17 had turned uncertain after the unexpected loss of momentum by 50 basis points in Q2 and the effects of the withdrawal of SBNs which are still playing out.
 
The MPC revised downwards its estimate for GVA growth for 2016-17 from 7.6 percent to 7.1 percent.
 
"Downside risks in the near term could travel through two major channels: (a) short-run disruptions in economic activity in cash-intensive sectors such as retail trade, hotels & restaurants and transportation, and in the unorganised sector; (b) aggregate demand compression associated with adverse wealth effects. The impact of the first channel should, however, ebb with the progressive increase in the circulation of new currency notes and greater usage of non-cash based payment instruments in the economy, while the impact of the second channel is likely to be limited. In October 2016, GVA growth in H2 was projected at 7.7 per cent and for the full year at 7.6 per cent. Incorporating the expected loss of growth momentum in Q3 and waning effects in Q4 alongside the boost to consumption demand from higher agricultural output and the implementation of the 7th CPC award, GVA growth for 2016-17 is revised down from 7.6 per cent to 7.1 per cent, with evenly balanced risks," it said.
 
The statement said that, in Q3 upto early November, liquidity conditions remained in mild surplus mode. The Reserve Bank injected liquidity of Rs. 1.1 trillion through OMO purchases during the fiscal year so far, including an OMO purchase auction of Rs. 100 billion in October. 
 
"Although the replacement of SBNs has engendered large surplus liquidity warranting exceptional operations, this needs to be seen as transitory. The Reserve Bank is committed to conducting liquidity operations in pursuit of the objectives of the revised framework put in place in April to restore system level liquidity to a position of neutrality as the surplus liquidity pressures abate.
 
"In the view of the Committee, this bi-monthly review is set against the backdrop of heightened uncertainty. Globally, the imminent tightening of monetary policy in the US is triggering bouts of high volatility in financial markets, with the possibility of large spillovers that could have macroeconomic implications for EMEs. 
 
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"In India, while supply disruptions in the backwash of currency replacement may drag down growth this year, it is important to analyse more information and experience before judging their full effects and their persistence – short-term developments that influence the outlook disproportionately warrant caution with respect to setting the monetary policy stance. If the impact is transient as widely expected, growth should rebound strongly. 
 
"Turning to inflation, food prices other than vegetables are exhibiting sustained firmness and a pick-up in momentum. Another disconcerting feature of recent developments is the downward inflexibility in inflation excluding food and fuel which could set a resistance level for future downward movements in the headline.
 
"Moreover, volatility in crude prices and the surge in financial market turbulence could put the inflation target for Q4 of 2016-17 at some risk. Given these indicators of underlying inflation, it is appropriate to look through the transitory but unclear effects of the withdrawal of SBNs while setting the monetary policy stance. On balance, therefore, it is prudent to wait and watch how these factors play out and impinge upon the outlook. 
 
"Accordingly, the policy repo rate has been kept on hold in this review, while retaining an accommodative policy stance," the statement said.
 
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RBI to issue new Rs. 100 banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi Series-2005

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today said it would shortly issue new Rs. 100 denomination banknotes in the Mahatma Gandhi Series-2005, without inset letter in both the numbering panels, bearing the signature of Dr. Urjit R. Patel, Governor, RBI, and the year of printing '2016' printed on the reverse of the banknote.
 
A press release from the RBI said the design of these banknotes to be issued now is similar in all respects to the Rs. 100 banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi Series- 2005 issued earlier, having ascending size of numerals in the number panels, bleed lines, and enlarged identification mark, on the obverse. 
 
Reserve Bank of India had also issued Rs. 100 denomination banknotes with the ascending size of numerals in the number panels but without bleed lines and enlarged identification mark. These banknotes will remain in circulation concomitantly with the banknotes being issued now, it said.
 
"All the banknotes in the denomination of Rs. 100 issued by the Bank in the past will continue to be legal tender," the release added.
 
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