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.
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.

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. 
"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.
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. 
"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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Sports networking site Viktre expands into India

Viktre, a content publishing platform and online community for professional athletes and fans, expanded into the Indian market today.
Apart from its India-based partners, cricketers Zaheer Khan and Rohit Sharma were present at the launch of the sports networking site.
Curated to showcase the life of an athlete, Viktre provides a multi-faceted network and community for professional athletes to connect on a more personal level with their fans. The platform features two interfaces: One for fans to interact with their favorite athletes via exclusive content, and one for professional athletes of all levels to interact with each other in a private, peer-to-peer setting.
“Launching in India has been an enormous goal of ours since day one,” said Al Steele, founder and CEO, Viktre. “We are thrilled to commemorate our expansion with these amazing athletes and delegates, who have helped us celebrate the rich sports culture in India. Viktre is all about embracing and celebrating the craftsmanship of athletes and the loyalty of sports fans. There’s few places on earth that have the same enthusiasm as Indian players and fans.”
A press release from Viktre said the platform, which is already operating in North America, was keen on developinga footprint in India.
The company is currently partnered with over 1,000 of the world’s most influential athletes, representing a myriad of sports and interests from golf to football and now cricket and boxing.
"Viktre's unique way of communicating with fans and athletes allows me to tell my personal stories – about cricket, charity, and family – all in my own voice and from my distinct point of view,” said Anil Kumble, head coach of the Indian cricket team. “It is wonderful to see a Canadian company investing in India, in Indian athletes and Indian sports.“
The official launch event was held at the Cricket Club of India here, with delegates and athlete partners from around the world. John Tory, mayor of Toronto, Canada, was also in attendance to represent and celebrate the prosperity of Canadian-Indian business relations, both in India and Canada. 
The social network can be accessed online or via its iOS and Android app, the release added.

CCEA approves fresh estimates for deepening, widening of Mumbai Harbour, JN Port channels

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) yesterday approved fresh estimates of the project Deepening and Widening of Mumbai Harbour Channel and JN Port Channel (Phase-II). 
The cost of the project will be Rs. 2029 crore excluding Service Tax, an official press release said. The entire project cost will be funded through internal resources of JN Port Trust (JNPT) with market borrowing, if necessary. 
The release said the project includes the widening of the existing channel from 370 m at present to be widened from presently 370 m to 450 m for straight reach and the channel to be extended from existing 33.5 kms to 35.5 kms. The draft of the channel will be increased from existing 14 m draft to 15 m. The estimated quantity to be dredged to the tune of 35.03 million including 1.73 million rock dredging. 
The work is likely to be implemented by inviting global tenders and to be completed within two years after its award, it said.
The present total capacity of the JNPT for container handling is 5 million TEUs (Twenty feet Equivalent Unit). After the 4th Terminal becomes operational, this capacity will be enhanced to 9.8 million TEUs. Considering the expansion of the container vessel sizes on the main trade routes, it is anticipated that vessels of more than 8,000-12,000 TEU size will call at the JN Port. 
After completion, JNPT will attain capacity for handling additional traffic throughput of 1.67 million TEUs. The enhanced capability would help in handling larger vessels upto 12,500 TEUs besides economic benefits like saving in vessel waiting time and savings on account of transshipment. The ultimate benefit to users will be in terms of lower unit cost, direct and indirect tax benefits in addition to reduction in vessel traffic congestion at JNPT. This would add to the competitiveness of India’s export-import trade, the release said.
"Over the years, the size of container ships is progressively becoming larger as it is much more economical to operate large ships and the cost of operation gets cheaper as much as by 40% for the larger ships. With increase in container cargo volume and increase in capacity of container carrying vessels fleet worldwide, JN Port has decided to handle new generation container vessels with wider beam and deeper drafts. The new generation bigger size vessels need deeper channel depth to navigate and accordingly deepening and widening of the channel further from 14.0 to 15.0 m draft with vessel capacity of 12,500 TEU is envisaged," it said.
At present, JN Port is handling vessels having a draft of 14 m that is 6,000 TEUs capacity by taking advantage of tidal window, the release added.

BCCI doubles men cricketers' retainer amounts, enhances match fees

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today doubled the annual retainer for all categories of men cricketers, with the amount going up to Rs. 2 crore per annum for Grade A players, to Rs. 1 crore per annum for Grade B players and Rs. 50 lakh per annum for Grade C players.
The decision was taken by the BCCI's Committee of Administrators, which met earlier in the day and decided on the Annual Player Contracts for men cricketers for the period ending September 30, 2017.
A press release from BCCI said the Match Fee enhancement for men cricketers will be effective from October 1, 2016 onwards. It will be Rs 15 lakh per Test, Rs 6 lakh per ODI and Rs 3 lakh for T20 International.
While updating the list of contracted players, the BCCI has demoted batsman Shikhar Dhawan to Grade C from Grade B, while Suresh Raina does not figure in any of the three groups.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Murali Vijay have been promoted to Grade A, where they join Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane.
Following is the updated list of contracted players:
Grade A: Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay.
Grade B: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuvraj Singh.
Grade C: Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Amit Mishra, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Ashish Nehra, Kedar Jadhav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Parthiv Patel, Jayant Yadav, Mandeep Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur, Rishabh Pant
The BCCI also handed over a cheque for Rs. 15 lakh to Ms. Sandhya Rajesh Sawant, wife of late Rajesh Sawant, who passed away while he was on official assignment with the India Under 19 team, in recognition of his services to Indian cricket.

Idea, Vodafone India merge to create India's largest telecom company

Telecom services providers Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular on Monday announced that they had reached an agreement to combine their operations in India, excluding the former's 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, to create the country's largest telecom operator.

Telecom services providers Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular today announced that they had reached an agreement to combine their operations in India, excluding the former's 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, to create the country's largest telecom operator.
"The combined company would become the leading communications provider in India with almost 400 million customers, 35 per cent customer market share and 41 per cent revenue market share," a press release from the two companies said.
Idea Cellular is the third largest wireless operator in India and is listed on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). It is part of the Aditya Birla Group, one of the largest business groups in India.
Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications groups with  mobile operations in 26 countries. It partners with mobile networks in 49 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. As of 31 December 2016, Vodafone had 470 million mobile customers and 14.3 million fixed broadband customers. 
The release said the brand strategy of the combined company would be developed in due course and would leverage customers’ affinity for both existing brands, built up over the past decade. The name of the combined listed company will be changed in due course, it said.
"The merger of Idea and Vodafone India is founded on a shared commitment to realise the Indian Government’s ‘Digital India’ vision and financial inclusion goals, delivering significant benefits to 1.3 billion Indian consumers and creating substantial value for all stakeholders," the release said.
According to it,  by combining their respective businesses, Idea and Vodafone will establish a company with the scale and efficiency required to offer innovative and attractively priced mobile services, enhancing consumer choice in a highly competitive market with at least five major telecoms providers. The combination of the two companies’ networks and spectrum holdings, together with continued investment, will accelerate the pan-India expansion of wireless broadband services on 4G/4G+/5G technologies to build capacity, supporting the expansion of digital content and IoT services and delivering a world-class broadband experience to customers.
Vodafone, Idea in $ 23 billion Indian merger
The release said the combined company would have sufficient spectrum to compete effectively with the other major operators in the market. It would hold 1,850 MHz, including circa 1,645 MHz of liberalised spectrum acquired through auctions. It will be capable of building substantial mobile data capacity, utilising the largest broadband spectrum portfolio with 34 3G carriers and 129 4G carriers across the country.
"Vodafone India’s strong presence in metro circles and Idea’s leadership in semi-urban and rural telecom markets will allow for nationwide leadership within Indian M&A guidelines. In circles where both Idea and Vodafone India currently have a limited presence, the combined entity will become the leading challenger with the scale to compete more effectively and enhance consumer choice," it said.
The release said the combined company would  be able to draw on support from its two largest shareholders, Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, to drive growth, investment and to create value for all stakeholders. The parties’ capabilities combine experience of running leading businesses across multiple industries and geographies, world-class expertise in telecoms with global scale, enterprise services, mobile money services and procurement and a deep understanding of – and strong relationships within – the Indian market, it said.
Providing details of the transaction, the release said Idea would contribute all of its assets including its standalone towers with 15.4k tenancies and its 11.15 per cent stake in Indus Towers. Vodafone will contribute Vodafone India including its standalone towers with 15.8k tenancies but excluding its 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers.
"The merger ratio is consistent with recommendations from the joint independent valuers. Based on Idea’s undisturbed share price (INR72.5 based on the 30 trading day VWAP as at 27 January 2017), the agreed merger ratio implies an enterprise value for Vodafone India of INR828 billion (US$12.4 billion) and an enterprise value for Idea’s mobile business of INR722 billion (US$10.8 billion), excluding its 11.15 per cent stake in Indus. This is equivalent to valuing Vodafone India at 6.4x EV/LTM EBITDA and Idea excluding its stake in Indus Towers at 6.3x EV/LTM EBITDA," it said.
"Vodafone’s contribution of net debt will be dependent on Idea’s net debt at completion as well as customary closing adjustments. Vodafone will contribute INR25 billion (US$369 million) more net debt than Idea at completion. Based on Idea’s net debt of INR527 billion (US$7.9 billion) as at 31 December 201610, this would have implied INR552 billion (US$8.2 billion) of debt to be contributed by Vodafone," it said.
The release said Vodafone would own 45.1 per cent of the combined company after transferring a 4.9 per cent stake to the Aditya Birla Group for INR39 billion (US$579 million) in cash, concurrent with completion of the merger. The Aditya Birla Group will then own 26.0 per cent of the combined company and Idea’s other shareholders will own the remaining 28.9 per cent.
The Aditya Birla Group has the right to acquire up to a 9.5 per cent additional stake from Vodafone under an agreed mechanism with a view to equalising the shareholdings over time. If the Aditya Birla Group does not equalise its stake, Vodafone will reduce its holding in order to equalise its ownership with that of the Aditya Birla Group. Until equalisation is achieved, the additional shares held by Vodafone will be restricted and votes will be exercised jointly under the terms of the shareholders’ agreement.
Prior to completion of the transaction, Vodafone and Idea intend to sell their standalone tower assets and Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus Towers to reduce leverage in the combined company. Vodafone will also explore strategic options for its 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers; potential options include either a partial or a full disposal, the release said.
As the combined company will be jointly controlled by Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, Vodafone will deconsolidate Vodafone India immediately. Post-closing, the combined company will be reported as a joint venture by Vodafone and accounted for under the equity method, resulting in a decrease of Vodafone’s net debt.
"As described above, as at 31 December 2016 this would have been INR552 billion (US$8.2 billion), which together with the INR39 billion (US$579 million) of cash received from the Aditya Birla Group would lower Vodafone Group’s reported leverage by around 0.3x Net Debt/EBITDA," the release said.
The transaction is expected to be accretive to Vodafone’s cash flow from the first full year post completion, it said.
According to the release, combination of Idea and Vodafone India will create the scale to meet customers’ rapidly accelerating demand for data consumption, and enable significant efficiencies. 
Run-rate cost and capex synergies are expected to reach INR140 billion (US$2.1 billion) on an annual basis by the fourth full year post-completion. This is equivalent to a net present value of approximately INR700 billion (US$10.5 billion)14, after integration costs. Operating cost savings represent 60 per cent of the expected run-rate savings.
The release said the major expected sources of cost and capex synergies include:
rationalising network infrastructure, generating operational efficiencies, lower maintenance expenses and savings in energy costs;
higher spectrum availability and larger single radio access network (RAN) deployment coupled with re-deployment of overlapping equipment from rationalised sites, resulting in lower capex;
service centres, back office and distribution efficiencies;
streamlining regional and nationwide IT systems and evolving to a single IT system for the new entity; and
optimising general and administration costs.
"The parties also anticipate some regulatory dis-synergies. These are primarily driven by spectrum liberalisation payments and requirements to meet regulatory spectrum caps and market share thresholds in certain circles one year after completion of the transaction. Spectrum liberalisation costs are expected to have a net present value impact of approximately INR30 billion (US$0.5 billion)," it said.
The two parties have agreed a standstill period for the first three years after closing, during which neither party can buy any shares from or sell any shares to a third party.
During the standstill period, the Aditya Birla Group has the right to purchase a stake of up to 9.5 per cent in the combined company from Vodafone at an agreed price that is equivalent to an equity value of INR946 billion (US$14.1 billion) for 100 per cent of the combined company (post-closing). This is equivalent to INR130 per share, which represents a premium of 80 per cent to Idea’s undisturbed share price of INR72.5 (based on the 30 trading day VWAP as at 27 January 201717).
If the parties’ shareholdings have not been equalised over the first three years, the Aditya Birla Group needs to inform Vodafone how many further shares (up to a maximum of 9.5 per cent less any shares purchased in the first three years), it wishes to acquire. The Aditya Birla Group then has a period of 12 months to complete such purchase at the prevailing market price. At the end of the third year after closing, the standstill provisions expire in relation to all shares other than those that the Aditya Birla Group has committed to acquire, if any.
From the beginning of the fifth year after completion, if Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group’s shareholdings in Idea are not yet equal, Vodafone will sell down shares in the combined company to equalise its shareholding to that of the Aditya Birla Group over the following five-year period.
"Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group have entered into a shareholders’ agreement, and it is intended that the combined company’s articles will be amended at closing to reflect certain rights for each party.
"Following completion, the Board of the combined entity will be comprised of 12 directors including three directors appointed by each of Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, and six independent directors.
"The Aditya Birla Group will have the sole right to appoint the Chairman (as one of its three directors), who will be Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla. Vodafone will have the sole right to appoint the Chief Financial Officer. Both Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group will jointly agree on the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Operating Officer," the release said.
Those roles – together with those of the broader management team – will be confirmed prior to closing, with appointments made on the principle of ‘the best person for the job’, it said.
The parties’ rights under the shareholders’ agreement – and the amended articles of the combined company – will be subject to a number of conditions including (but not limited to) a party maintaining its shareholding in the combined company above 26 per cent until 31 March 2020 and above 21 per cent thereafter, it said.
The release said pro forma net debt as at 31 December 2016 would have been INR1,079 billion (US$16.1 billion). On this basis, leverage of the combined company would have been 4.4x LTM EBITDA19. Pro forma for the sale of Vodafone and Idea’s standalone towers as well as Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus and the estimated run-rate opex synergies, leverage would have been 3.0x LTM EBITDA.
"The parties expect the combined company to be self-funding going forwards but are committed to maintaining appropriate leverage prior to closing and thereafter, aided by the expected sale of Idea and Vodafone India’s standalone towers as well as Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus.
"The parties have agreed a capital structure and dividend policy which is expected to be implemented post completion. This will ensure that the combined company is appropriately capitalised and that excess cash flow21 is distributed to shareholders," it said.
The release said the transaction is subject to approvals from the relevant regulatory authorities. Vodafone and Idea have undertaken preparatory work on the required scheme and other necessary filings.
The transaction is also subject to other customary closing conditions, including the absence of any material adverse change. Shareholder approval will be required from Idea shareholders under a scheme of arrangement. The transaction is not subject to approval from Vodafone shareholders.
The transaction has a break-fee of INR33 billion (US$500 million) that would become payable under certain circumstances.
Vodafone and Idea anticipate that completion will take place during the 2018 calendar year, the release said.
For the last twelve months to December 31, 2016, Idea Cellular reported revenue of INR369billion (US$5.5 billion) and EBITDA of INR114 billion (US$1.7 billion).
Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, said: “Throughout its history, the Aditya Birla Group has been synonymous with the task of nation building and driving inclusive growth in the country. This landmark combination will enable the Aditya Birla Group to create a high quality digital infrastructure that will transition the Indian population towards a digital lifestyle and make the Government’s Digital India vision a reality. For Idea shareholders and lenders who have supported us thus far, this transaction is highly accretive, and Idea and Vodafone will together create a very valuable company given our complementary strengths.”
Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: “The combination of Vodafone India and Idea will create a new champion of Digital India founded with a long-term commitment and vision to bring world-class 4G networks to villages, towns and cities across India. The combined company will have the scale required to ensure sustainable consumer choice in a competitive market and to expand new technologies – such as mobile money services – that have the potential to transform daily life for every Indian. We look forward to working with the Aditya Birla Group to create value for all stakeholders.”

L&T Hydrocarbon wins Rs. 1656 crore contract from ONGC

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of infrastructure and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has bagged an offshore contract for the Neelam Re-Development and B173AC Project from the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) valued at Rs. 1656 crore ($ 245 million).
A press release from L&T said the contract, won against international competitive bidding, encompasses total ‘EPCIC’ – Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning for the project. 
The scope includes one new process platform having gas processing and compression facilities, three new well head platforms, 32 km pipeline, clamp-on on three existing platforms and modification work on eight existing platforms in the Neelam Field in western offshore basin in India, it said.
The project, part of ONGC’s strategy to enhance the field life and increase recovery of Neelam field, is scheduled to be completed by April 2019. 
The incremental gain from the field after implementation of project till 2034-35 is pegged at 2.76 MMT crude oil and 4.786 BCM gas.
Neelam Offshore field is situated in the Heera-Panna block in Mumbai Offshore, located at about 45 km south-west of Mumbai city.
The release said LTHE provides complete ‘EPCIC’ solutions for the offshore oil & gas industry combining customized engineering, procurement, fast-track project management and world-class fabrication and sea installation capabilities meeting stringent timelines, conforming to international safety standards.

M. S. Swaminathan, a global scientist of rare distinction, says Mukherjee

President Pranab Mukherjee conferring the Honorary D. Lilt. upon Dr. M.S. Swaminathan at a special convocation of University of Mumbai, in Mumbai on March 17, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee conferring the Honorary D. Lilt. upon Dr. M.S. Swaminathan at a special convocation of University of Mumbai, in Mumbai on March 17, 2017.
Lauding Dr. M. S. Swaminathan as a global scientist of rare distinction, President Pranab Mukherjee today conferred an Honorary D. Litt. on him at a special convocation of the University of Mumbai.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mukherjee said the University of Mumbai, whose alumni include Mahatma Gandhi, has always recognized leaders who have played a transformational role in various fields. Those conferred Honorary D. Litt. in the past include eminent scholars and social reformers like R.G. Bhandarkar, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dr. C.V. Raman and M. Visvesvaraya.
The President said Dr. Swaminathan’s work brought about a sea-change in the life of the nation. It is due to his pioneering efforts that India transformed from a ship-to-mouth existence to one of the leading producers and exporters of food grains in the world.
Over a period of 65 years, Dr. Swaminathan has worked in collaboration with scientists and policy-makers on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant genetics and agricultural R&D. He is considered a global scientist of rare distinction because of the indelible mark he has made on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world, the President said.
His advocacy of sustainable agriculture leading to an ever-green revolution makes him an acknowledged world leader in the field of sustainable food security, he said.
Mr. Mukherjee said the higher education sector had a crucial role in the national developmental effort. Being the storehouse of traditional wisdom, as also the nursery of new knowledge, the higher education eco-system will influence various growth centres of the economy.
“Growth of the economy depends on higher education in important ways. The quality of training provided to students employed by the economy determines the level of its competence. Induction of quality manpower is the first point of contact that the economy has with the higher education system,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“The graduates have to meet the skill-set requirements of the domestic economy. The course work in our campuses must be aligned to the needs of the industry. It will be beneficial to have corporate experts advising academic managers on industrial requirements in the course curricula,” he added.
The President said the 21st century is expected to be an ‘Asian century’ with the Asian countries regaining their pre-eminence in the world through all-round development. The post-eighties’ performance of the Asian economies is a symbol of this resurgence. One of the important elements that has guided in this journey is education and new knowledge, he said.
"Ancient India was known for the high level of philosophical debate and discussion it nurtured. India was not a mere geographical expression but it reflected an idea and a culture," he said.
“Conversation and dialogue are part of our ethos and life. They cannot be done away with. Universities and higher education institutions are the best fora for free exchange of views. We should embrace free conversation and even argument, leaving behind narrow mindsets and thoughts.
“The lesson for a modern Indian university is to ensure that this great tradition finds new life and vigour within its precincts. There should be no room for intolerance, prejudice and hatred within the spaces of our educational institutions. They must act as flag bearers for the co-existence of multiple views, thoughts and philosophies,” he added.
The President said growth of the economy was dependent on higher education. The quality of training provided to students employed by the economy determines the level of its competence. Induction of quality manpower is the first point of contact that the economy has with the higher education system.
“The graduates have to meet the skill-set requirements of the domestic economy. The course work in our campuses must be aligned to the needs of the industry. It will be beneficial to have corporate experts advising academic managers on industrial requirements in the course curricula,” he added.
“A vast quantum of knowledge is created in the tertiary education system through research. They find application in society through industrial and other sectors. A robust industrial linkage, according to me, provides an efficient mechanism for transfer of knowledge from the higher education system to the economic system,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“Industry-academia collaborations have focused mainly on conferences, training of industrial employees, internship of students, adjunct faculty positions for industry experts, and transfer of academically created intellectual property to business enterprises through licensing.
“While these are important, the industry-academia interface must also focus on high intensity linkages like research partnerships, shared incubators and research parks. A strong relationship between an institution of higher learning and an industrial enterprise can spur further expansion of the spheres of collaboration,” he added.
“I am pleased to note that the University of Mumbai has taken a holistic view in this connection. Not only is it developing newer programmes which will prepare its students to face the challenges of the changing economy; it is also investing in creating an eco-system conducive to basic research and to incubate innovation.
“The vision of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh, to prepare the Master Plan of the University for its infrastructural and R&D make-over, is noteworthy. Looking at the initiatives the university has undertaken in its 160th year – be it the establishment of the Centre for Railway Research; or the Film and Media Entertainment Training academy; or its programmes in sports management, aviation, leadership development, or fire-fighting; or successfully aligning itself to the government initiatives like ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’and ‘Make in India’, - it is poised to partner effectively in the nation’s developmental effort,” the President said.

India’s forex reserves rise by $ 98.6 million to $ 364.109 billion

Maintaining an uptrend for the third consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 98.6 million to $ 364.109 billion during the week ended March 10, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had jumped by $ 1.218 billion to $ 364.01 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 $ 95.7 million to $ 340.456 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.914 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 1.1 million to $ 1.435 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 1.8 million to $ 2.305 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

L&T Electrical & Automation FZE wins Rs. 500 crore order from Qatar Rail Company

L&T Electrical & Automation FZE (LTEAFZE), the Competency Centre for L&T Electrical & Automation (E&A)’s automation business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has won a major order worth Rs. 500 crore from Qatar Rail Company (QRail) for Phase 1 of Doha Metro.
The scope of the order encompasses supply, installation, testing, integration, commissioning and five years of maintenance of a network-wide Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS) for 37 stations, a press release from the company said.
LTEAFZE was nominated by QRail for network-wide implementation of BACS after a meticulous assessment of its capabilities in delivering technologically advanced solutions within stringent project timelines and with distinguished quality against global automation product manufacturers. The Frame Agreement awarded by QRail to LTEAFZE is through nine contracts with design & build contractors for the stations and tunnels under multiple lines (Red line, Green line and Gold Line) and a five-year maintenance contract directly with Qatar Rail, it said.
“LTEAFZE’s core strengths for project management, domain knowledge and application engineering will enable us to offer distinctly superior and proven system integration solutions by leveraging L&T’s capabilities built over four decades. Backed by a pool of experienced engineers, LTEAFZE has the competency to provide preventive and corrective maintenance services to maximise the performance and uptime of its automation systems and control equipment," Mr. S.C. Bhargava, Senior Vice President & Head of E&A Business, said.
The metro system will be built in two phases: the first will see the construction of three out of the four lines (Red, Gold, and Green) and 37 stations spanning 111 km of tunnels and 8.7 km of viaducts. The Phase 1 has to be completed on a fast-paced project schedule for handing over all the 37 stations by August 2018 with scheduled start on revenue period by end-2019. These lines are expected to be open to the public by 2020. 
When in operation, the project will provide an environmentally-friendly and sustainable mode of transport to over 600,000 commuters a day by 2021. 
The second phase will be completed by 2026, and will involve the expansion of the Phase 1 lines, and the construction of an additional Blue Line and another 72 stations.
The purpose of BACS is to control and supervise MEP systems, acquire and display MEP equipment status and alarms, provide reliable and effective 3rd-party interfacing services, storage and offline/online analysis of MEP systems acquired data, enable testing and commissioning of MEP systems. It will be able to operate either in remote control mode through ICC Rail SCADA controls or in stand-alone mode from the station control room. The project requires a structured and systematic approach to ensure all requirements are met with regard to reliability, availability, maintainability and safety (RAMS).
Interfaced with BACS are the MEP systems and sub systems like station air conditioning systems, special ventilation system for life safety, fire-fighting system, LV power systems, addressable lighting systems, vertical and horizontal transportation system and plumbing system at stations and tunnels.
The release said BACS is being designed to help build green station buildings with higher energy efficiency, lower operating and maintenance costs, better indoor air quality and greater occupant comfort and productivity in line with global sustainability assessment systems. BACS solution is based on fault-tolerant programmable logic controllers, BACS servers and software with system availability equal to or more than 99.995% and safety integrity level equal to or more than 2 in view of the control of critical life safety functions.
L&T Electrical & Automation (E&A) is a major business portfolio of infrastructure and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T). LTEAFZE is a 100% subsidiary of L&T International FZE and a part of L&T Electrical & Automation. Established at Jebel Ali (Dubai) in the UAE in April 2008, it provides systems integration solutions to major industry verticals like Oil & Gas, Water & Wastewater, Power, Utilities and Infrastructure in GCC, Africa and CIS markets.

USFDA to lift import alert on Sun Pharma's Mohali facility

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd today said it was informed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) yesterday that it would lift the import alert imposed on the company's Mohali, Punjab manufacturing facility and remove it from the Official Action Initiated (OAI) status.
This proposed action will clear the path for Sun Pharma to supply approved products from the Mohali facility to the US market, subject to normal US FDA regulatory requirements, a press release from the company said.
The Mohali facility was inherited by Sun Pharma as part of its acquisition of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. in 2015. The US FDA had taken action against the Mohali facility in 2013 when it ordered the facility to be fully subject to Ranbaxy’s Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction. Certain conditions of the consent decree will continue to be applicable to the Mohali facility, the release said.
"This development illustrates Sun Pharma’s commitment to work closely with the US FDA and strive for 100% cGMP compliance at its manufacturing facilities," the release added.

Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat decommissioned

File photo of INS Viraat sailing out from Mumbai for Kochi on her last sailing under her own steam, on July 23, 2016, ahead of her decommissioning later in the year.
File photo of INS Viraat sailing out from Mumbai for Kochi on her last sailing under her own steam, on July 23, 2016, ahead of her decommissioning later in the year.
Indian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier INS Viraat was decommissioned at a grand and solemn ceremony at the Naval Dockyard here yesterday, bringing the curtains down on a glorious era.
INS Viraat, the second Centaur-class aircraft carrier in service, had spent 30 years in the Indian Navy and 27 years as HMS Hermes in the Royal Navy.
The decommissioning ceremony was attended by more than 1300 personnel who had served on board the ship.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, KCB, ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of Royal Navy, and Vice-Admiral Vinod Pasricha, the commissioning Commanding Officer of INS Viraat, were the guests of honour, while Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, was the chief guest on the occasion.
To commemorate “30 years of Glorious Service to The Nation” by INS Viraat, a Special Postal Cover was released by Admiral Lanba on the occasion.
INS Viraat holds the world record as mentioned in the Guinness Book of records for being the longest serving warship of the world. The ship which was the centrepiece of the Navy, housed the fighters Sea Harriers of INAS 300, popularly called “White Tigers”, anti-submarine aircraft Sea King Mk 42B - also known as “Harpoons” -, Sea King Mk 42 C and the SAR helicopter Chetak as an integral flight. 
The indigenous Advance Light Helicopters ‘Dhruv’ and the Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 have also operated from the ship. The Sea Harrier fleet was decommissioned in Goa on May 11 last year.
Under the Indian flag, the ship has clocked more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft in the past three decades and has spent nearly 2252 days at sea sailing across 5,88,287 nautical miles (10,94,215 km). This implies that Viraat has spent seven years at sea, circumnavigating the globe 27 times. Since her inception, she has had a total of 80,715 hours of boilers running. 
Viraat played a major role in Operation Jupiter in 1989 during the Sri Lankan Peacekeeping operation, after which she was affiliated with the Garhwal Rifles and Scouts of the Indian Army in 1990. She also saw action during Op Parakram in 2001-2002, post the terrorist attack on Parliament. The ship was instrumental in honing the art of flying operations from a carrier deck in the Navy, which also resulted in seamless induction of INS Vikramaditya and its integration with the fleet. 
The ship has participated in various international joint exercises like Exercise Malabar (USA), exercise Varuna (French) and Naseem-Al-Bahar (Oman Navy). She has also been an integral element of all annual theatre level exercises (TROPEX). The last operational deployment of Viraat was for the International Fleet Review (IFR 2016) off Vishakhapatnam in February 2016. 
‘Mother’, as she was fondly referred to in the Navy, had been commanded by 22 Captains since 1987. She was the flagship of the Navy since her inception. Around 40 Flag officers including five Chiefs of Naval Staff were raised and groomed in her lap. Her legacy under the Royal flag was no less. As HMS Hermes, she was commanded by 13 Captains of the Royal Navy. Her role in Operation Mercy in 1974 and the Falklands War in 1982 are now textbook references for future navies. 
As part of the decommissioning ceremonies, a "barakhana" for retired and serving sailors and their families was held on March 4 and a ceremonial dinner were held on the following day. During these functions, nineteen personnel comprising officers, sailors as well as civilians, and personnel from Garhwal Rifles and Hermes Association were felicitated for notable services onboard. 
At sunset yesterday, the Naval Ensign and Commissioning Pennant was lowered for the last time onboard INS Viraat, bringing to a nostalgic end a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian Navy.
"The legacy of Viraat will live on forever and will be carried forward by INS Vikramaditya, which is already integrated with the fleet, and INS Vikrant which will be inducted in the next few years," an official press release added.

Filmmaker Karan Johar becomes father to twins via surrogate

Karan Johar
Karan Johar
Well-known filmmaker and talk show host Karan Johar today announced that he had become the father of twins, a boy named Yash and a girl named Roohi, who were born via a surrogate.
“I am ecstatic to share with you all the two most wonderful additions to my life, my children and lifelines;  Roohi and Yash.  I feel enormously blessed to be a parent to these pieces of my heart who were welcomed into this world with the help of the marvels of medical science," Johar, 44, said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Johar said this was an emotional yet well thought-out decision which he had taken after considering all the responsibilities and duties that come with being a parent.
"In order to arrive at this decision, I have prepared myself mentally, physically, emotionally and logistically to ensure that my children get all the unconditional love, care and attention from me and mine. I have submitted to the fact that my children are my world and priority.  My work, travels and social commitments would have to  take a back seat and I am prepared for that. By the grace of God, I have the most caring and supportive mother who will be an integral part in the up-bringing of her grandchildren and of course, friends who are family.
"I am eternally grateful to the surrogate who has fulfilled my lifelong dream and provided a warm, loving and nurturing environment to my children before bringing them into this world. She will always remain in my prayers.
"Finally, a big thank you to Dr. Jatin Shah for his guidance and support and for being like a family member through this wonderful and exciting journey," he added.
The boy is named after Karan's father Yash Johar, a renowned filmmaker who passed away in 2004, while the girl's name is an anagram of Hiroo, his mother's name.

India's forex reserves rise by $ 63.7 million to $ 362.793 billion

Reversing a two-week downtrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 63.7 million to $ 362.793 billion in the week ended February 24, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had decreased by $ 56.8 million to $ 362.729 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 $ 63.4 million to $ 339.783 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 $ 19.248 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 0.1 million to $ 1.443 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 0.2 million to $ 2.317 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

L&T Construction wins orders valued at Rs. 2170 crore

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its construction arm had won orders valued at Rs. 2170 crore across its various business segments.
A press release from the company said these included orders worth Rs. 1169 crore secured by its Power Transmission & Distribution Business.
Consolidating its position in the sub-station segment of highest voltage level in Oman, the business has secured an order from Oman Electricity Transmission Company SAOC for turnkey construction of the 400/132 kV Qabel Grid Station and associated works, the release said.
The business has secured two more orders from customers for design, supply, construction and commissioning of five 132 kV sub-stations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On the domestic front, the business has won a contract from West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. for strengthening the sub-transmission and distribution network in the urban area of Nadia district, West Bengal under the Integrated Power Development Scheme.
The release said Water & Effluent Treatment Business had won an order worth Rs. 360 crore. These include an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) order bagged from Rajasthan Urban Drinking Water Sewerage and Infrastructure Corporation Limited (RUDSICO), Government of Rajasthan, under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for the execution of a sewerage project with treatment facilities spread across three towns -- Bharatpur, Gangapur and Hindaun.
The scope includes constructing 354 km of sewerage network, providing more than 40,000 house connections and building eight sewage treatment plants of total capacity 24.75 million litres per day (MLD) using Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) Technology.
The release said the company's Building & Factories Business had secured an order worth Rs. 320 crore from a client to construct commercial and residential towers in Mumbai. The scope of works include civil shell and core, and finishing works.
In addition to above, the business has secured additional orders worth Rs.  321 crore from existing clients across various business segments.

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins Rs. 1100 crore contract from IOC

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), a wholly owned subsidiary of infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged an onshore engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract from Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) worth around Rs. 1100 crores for setting up a 0.740 MMTPA Fluidised Cracking Unit (FCC) including LPG Treatment Facility at its Bongaigaon Refinery, Assam.
LTHE has won the contract through a competitive bidding process, in which reputed global EPC organisations also participated, a press release from the company said.
The scope of work under the contract covers extended basic engineering, detailed engineering, procurement, supply, transportation, storage, fabrication, inspection, construction, installation, testing, mechanical completion, pre-commissioning and commissioning of the unit, it said.
The process licensor for the Indmax unit is Lummus Technology Inc. For the LPG treatment unit, the process licensor is Merichem, USA. 
LTHE has the distinction of executing all Indmax FCC Units including IOC’s Guwahati and Paradip refineries, the release added.

INS Betwa on even keel, to be fully operational by April 2018

INS Betwa, a P-16A Class frigate has been made upright by the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai and the salvage firm Resolve Marine, specially contracted for the operation. 
It may be recalled that the ship, which was undergoing major repairs, had keeled onto her side during her undocking on December 5, 2016.
An official press release said the salvage operations were progressed on a war footing and the initial stabilisation of the ship was achieved by December 29, 2016.
The complete salvage operation involving complex hydrodynamic calculations and rigging up of intricate measuring and monitoring systems was completed in less than two months, it said.
As the ship was undergoing major refit and mid-life up-gradation since April 2016, majority of the equipment/ machinery had already been removed for routine servicing/ replacement with upgraded equipment. 
"Indian Navy is confident that with in-house expertise and sustained efforts, the ship will be made fully operational by her scheduled date of refit completion i.e by April 2018," the release added.

OCare launches platform for dentists, insured patients

Ocare, an independent Insurance Process as a Service (IPAAS) platform, has launched an integrated and improved website aiming to connect empanelled dentists and insured patients on a single digital platform.
“While insurance has been around for many years now, dental insurance is a new concept in India," Dr. NeerajSheth, founder & CEO, OCare, said.
"With low oral health in India and the growing costs of dental treatments, Dental Insurance is a must to maintain dental hygiene in the country. We aim to provide the best product coupled with a seamless engagement of a dentist with his patient," he said.
“Besides choosing OCare's wide list of empanelled dentists to take care of their dental needs, patients can access their dental history at any time they want. For dentists too, this is a boon as they will be able to better recommend a course of treatment based on their history,” added Ravi Kikan, COO, OCare.
A press release from OCare said the website had been designed to provide easy navigation and information flow for Ocare’s products and services for customers as well as dentists.
"Dental Insurance is a completely new concept and there are quite a few queries on what dental insurance is and how the entire process works right from when a patient enters the clinic, the dentist outlining their treatment plan to details of the claim reimbursement process. All these questions are answered in an easy 4-step process in the ‘How it Works section’ of the website," the release said.
Further questions about dentist empanelment, insurance coverage and turnaround time are answered in the Help/FAQ section to assist both prospective patients and dentists. The terms and condition section on the website clearly outlines the treatments covered, exclusions and costs.
Once a dentist registers with OCare, he can enter all the details related to his practice, treatment and costs. He can use the scheduler to manage his appointments and patients. Dentists will also use this platform to enter details related to the treatment plan, costs and sharing an OPG of the decayed tooth and the tooth post treatment. This also ensures all dental records are maintained digitally and can be accessed at any time, it said.
Patients can use this platform to book appointments at a preferred dentist based on location and convenience. They can view their medical and treatment history and most importantly use it for their dental insurance claim process, it said.
According to the release, Ocare brings to patients dental insurance for the first time in India. It covers existing conditions, has no waiting period, offering a sum assured of Rs. 25,000 per annum covering dental treatments over a location independent dental network. 
"OCare offers a host of benefits for a nominal premium for Rs. 1699. OCare is currently offered as a group insurance to corporates, schools, colleges, and organizations with a member-strength of more than 50," it said.
Other product highlights include an oral hygiene kit, loyalty card with points redeemable for dental services and bi-annual dental check-ups.

Reliance Jio unveils Prime Membership programe for existing 100 million customers

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), a subidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on Tuesday announced the Jio Prime Membership programme for its existing 100 million-plus subscribers with a slew of benefits.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani unveiling Reliance Jio's Prime Membership Programme in Mumbai on February 21, 2017.
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani unveiling Reliance Jio's Prime Membership Programme in Mumbai on February 21, 2017.
Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), a subidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today announced the Jio Prime Membership programme for its existing 100 million-plus subscribers with a slew of benefits.
Announcing the programme, Mr. Ambani, the Chairman and Managing Director of RIL, said Jio Prime members would be able to enjoy the unlimited benefits of the existing Jio Happy New Year Offer for another full year , or till March 31, 2018, for a nominal one-time enrolment fee of Rs. 99 and an introductory price of Rs. 303 per month. This effectively works out to just Rs. 10 per day, he said.
He said the programme would enable Jio Prime members to enjoy the full bouquet of Jio's applications absolutely free till March 31, 2018, which translates to additional benefit worth over Rs. 10,000 for them.
In addition, there will be many other attractive deals and offers from both Jio and its partners that the Jio Prime Members will enjoy under this programme, he said.
Mr. Ambani said the programme will be available only for current Jio subscribers and those who sign up on or before March 31 this year. Enrolment will start from March 1 and remain open until March 31.
He said Jio would also offer other "Extreme Value Plans" to members, details of which they can see via the MyJio app and
"We are putting together a line-up of attractive deals and offers, from both Jio and its partners," he said.
"We are committed to returning your trust in us… and you can count on us to give you manifold more surprises in the coming days. As they say in Mumbai, 'Unlimited Maza, continue hoynga'," he said.
Mr. Ambani said subscribers can enrol for the membership through the MyJio app, or the website or at any Jio or Jio partner store.
"This is a limited time opportunity that we are launching only for our existing customers, and I invite all of you to enroll at the earliest," he said.
"Customers will also enjoy a completely digital recharge and billing experience to provide further convenience and ease of usage," he added.
Mr. Ambani said RJIL had enrolled 100 million subscribers in just 170 days after launching its services on September 5, 2016. This meant that it added seven new members per second every single day for the last 170 days.
This is the fastest achieved by any start-up technology company in the world including the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype, he said.
He said a Jio SIM card today resides in the SIM slot of a majority of 4G smartphones in India. Further, Jio’s proprietory app ‘Jio4GVoice’ and its utilitarian Jiofy Wifi devices are enabling lakhs of 3G and 2G smartphone owners to enjoy a 4G voice and data environment without having to invest in a new handset. 
"A series of similarly thoughtful, customer-oriented solutions and applications have helped create a unique digital life experience for Indian consumers and added to the excitement for the Jio offering," he said.
Mr. Ambani said Jio users today make more than 200 crore minutes of voice and video calls every day. They also consumed more than 100 crore GB of data on the Jio network, which worked out to more than 3.3 crore GB of data a day.
"Remember, before Jio, India was 150th in the world in broadband  netration...Today, India is the number one country in the world for mobile data usage. Jio users as much mobile data as the entire United States of America, and nearly 50% more mobile data than all of China," he said.
Mr. Ambani said a significant portion of this data is consumed as video, and Jio carries nearly 5.5 crore hours of video dail on its network, making it one of the largest mobile video networks in the world.
Speaking about the Jio infrastructure, he said it alread had more than twice the number of 4G base stations compared with all the other Indian operators put together. "In the coming months, we will more than double our data capacity… and this means even better quality for our customers. By the end of 2017, the Jio network will be present in nearly all the cities, towns and villages of India and cover 99% of our country’s population," he said.
He said lakhs of customers had moved to Jio fro other networks, using the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) facility and the trend is increasing every day.
"Data is the oxygen of Digital Life and it is our promise that Jio will provide world-class quality and quantity of data, at prices that are affordable to all Indians. It is our credo that while we are the best today… we will strive to be better tomorrow," he said.
Noting that the company's Happy New Year Offer was drawing to a close on March 31, he said Jio would start offering its traffic plans from April 1. "On all of Jio’s tariff plans, all domestic voice calls to any network will always remain free. Across India. To any network. Always. And no roaming charges, no blackout days and no hidden charges," he said.
"n the last few months, hundreds of offers have been launched by the industry. These plans have created a lot of confusion in the market… and customers are having what I call Data and Value Anxiety .. whether they are getting the best value for the price that they are paying. So, we have decided to do something that will remove this confusion once and for all.
"Jio is instituting a comprehensive process of monitoring all publicly announced plans from all operators… across the country… on a regular basis. And we will not only match the highest selling tariffs of each of the other leading Indian telecom operators… but we will provide 20% more data in each of these plans," he said.
Mr. Ambani described the company's 100 million initial customers as the "first believers in Jio".
"Today is the day for me to show my gratitude to you… to ensure that you always continue to get extreme value with Jio," he added, as he unveiled details of the Jio Membership programme.
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