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Mumbai building collapse toll rises to 34, rescue efforts continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire kills nine on Mumbai-Dehradun Express
Nine passengers including a woman, were killed when a fire broke out in the speeding 19019 Mumbai-Dehradun Express near Dahanu in Thane district of Maharashtra in the early hours of today.
 
Western Railway sources said the fire broke out in S3 coach of the train and then spread to the adjoining coaches S2 and S4, taking the passengers, most of whom were asleep, unawares.
 
The cause of the fire, which broke out at around 0235 hours today while the train was running between Dahanu Road and Gholwad stations , could not be ascertained immediately, the sources said.
 
According to them, the fire was noticed by a gateman at a level crossing, and he alerted the station master of Gholwad station, who quickly contacted the driver and asked him to stop the train.
 
Fire tenders and ambulances rushed to the spot and the blaze was brought under control soon. The affected coaches were detached and the rest of the train was later brought to Gholwad station, about 145 km north of Mumbai, on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border, around 0530 hours.
 
Accident and medical relief vans were rushed to the spot from Mumbai and Valsad in Gujarat to assist in the relief efforts.
 
Five persons who felt suffocated due to the smoke were given first aid in the acident relief vans and later discharged, te sources said.
 
The Divisional Railway Manager of Mumbai Central Division and other top railway officials rushed to the spot to supervise the relief operations.
 
Five of the deceased have been identified by the Railways as Ms Deepika Shah , 65, Mr Dev Shankar Upadhyay, 48, Mr Surendra Shah, 68, Mr Nasirkhan Ahmedkhan Pathan, 50, and Mr Feroz Khan, 38. 
 
The bodies of the victims were sent to Civil Hospital, Dahanu Road (Telephone No. 02528 222371) by the Government Railway Police.
 
The  Railways have offered free accommodation in the train to the relatives of the deceased up to Dahanu Road.
 
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has expressed his grief at the loss of lives and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those killed in the fire.
 
He has also announced an inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, Western Circle, into the incident.
 
Meanwhile, services on the up line resumed at 0640 hours, the sources added.
 
About 500 food packets along with tea and drinking water were arranged for the passengers of the train at Valsad where five more coaches were added to the train before dispatching it for its o­nward journey.
 
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The Railways have opened helplines to provide information to relatives of the passengers.
 
The numbers are:
 
Mumbai: 022 23011853 and 022 23007388
Valsaid: 241903- Valsad; 
Dahanu Road: 022 67649632
Bandra Terminus: 022 26435756
Surat: 0261 2423992
New Delhi: 011 23342954
Dehradun: 0135 2624002, 2624003
 
Just 11 days ago, on December 28, 2013, as many as 26 passengers were killed and eight others suffered injuries when a major fire broke out in an air-conditioned coach of the 16594 Bangalore-Nanded Express shortly after it left the Satya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam station in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.
 
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SBI Foundation commits Rs. 10 crore for conservation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai

A view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus building in Mumbai. Photo: Central Railway website
A view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus building in Mumbai. Photo: Central Railway website
SBI Foundation, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) subsidiary of State Bank of India, the country's largest bank, has sanctioned Rs. 10 crore for the conservation and restoration of Central Railway's iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus – a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- in Mumbai over the next three to five years.
 
Through this project, SBI aims to contribute to the development and preservation of world heritage structures in the country. 
 
The project would involve conservation and restoration of GM building heritage structure south and south  façade, conservation and restoration of  Old Annexe building façade, south façade side open space restoration of ground level, paving, landscape works and restoration of heritage compound wall, museum, and so on.
 
The restoration work of the heritage building, earlier known as Victoria Terminus (VT), will be done by INTACH, an expert agency, a press release from SBI added.
 
As part of Swachh Bharat Mission, the Government aims to make 100 iconic heritages, spiritual and cultural places in the country as model for ‘Swachchha Tourist Destinations’, the release added.
 
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Leslie Thng joins Vistara as chief executive officer

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Mr. Leslie Thng took over as the chief executive officer (CEO) of full-service carrier Vistara, a joint venture of Tata group and Singapore Airlines, here yesterday.
 
He has succeeded Mr. Phee Teik Yeoh, who has returned to Singapore Airlines to take up a senior appointment. 
 
"Mr Thng has taken over as the airline’s new CEO post all requisite approvals from the Government of India and regulatory authorities," a press release from Vistara said here yesterday.
 
Mr Thng has joined Vistara from Budget Aviation Holdings (BAH, a Singapore Airlines Holding Company) where he was serving as the chief commercial officer.
 
“I am delighted to be joining Vistara that has transformed air travel experience in India and cultivated a reputation of setting new standards in service excellence in the Indian aviation industry,” said Mr Thng. “I look forward to the opportunity to build on the strong foundation and momentum created by Phee Teik Yeoh, and work with the wonderful team of Vistara. I hope to get the support of all stakeholders, including the customers, to take Vistara through its next phase of growth and development,” he added.
 
Mr Thng, who started his career in SIA in 1999 and held many senior positions in the airline, has significant leadership experience and deep knowledge of the aviation sector across international markets and various businesses. Prior to being appointed chief commercial officer for Budget Aviation Holdings, he was chief executive of SilkAir. 
 
Mr Thng holds a bachelor’s degree (Honors) in Business Administration from the National University of Singapore.
 
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Voltas names Pradeep Bakshi as its next MD & CEO

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The Board of Directors of Voltas, the global air-conditioning and engineering services provider and a part of the Tata group, has announced that Mr. Pradeep Bakshi, executive director & chief operating officer, will succeed Mr. Sanjay Johri, MD and CEO, when the latter superannuates in February 2018.
 
Simultaneously, Mr. Anil George, executive director (finance and corporate affairs), will be elevated as deputy managing director, with increased responsibilities, a press release from the company said here today.
 
Mr. Noel Tata, chairman of the Board said that the company had achieved great success under Mr Johri, MD and CEO, since 2010. 
 
“We are market leaders in the room air conditioning business, with a market share of 22 percent. Our net profit jumped by 30 percent in FY2016-17, to reach Rs 511 crores, with ROCE at 21 percent. And the Voltas share price has grown by 340 percent in five years, from Rs 120 to Rs 530," he said.
 
“The appointments of Pradeep Bakshi and Anil George mark the culmination of a formal succession process at Voltas Limited, in which MD Sanjay Johri and the Board were engaged for two years to groom the leadership team of the company," he added.
 
Mr Johri said that he was proud of Voltas’s leadership team and confident about the company’s prospects. “Our flagship consumer arm will achieve rapid growth both in the existing room AC business, and also from the launch of refrigerators, washing machines and other consumer durables in Voltas’s JV with the Arcelik group of Turkey. We will also sustain profitable growth in our engineering projects and engineering products businesses. I wish Pradeep and Anil all success in taking the company to greater heights.”
 
Mr Bakshi said that he was gratified by the trust reposed in him by the Board of Directors. “I am fortunate to have outstanding colleagues at Voltas, as also the continued mentoring from our MD and CEO and the Board of Directors. My goal is to build on the strong foundations created by Mr Johri. I am confident we will attain market leadership in the wider basket of consumer durables, as we did in the room AC industry.”
 
Mr. George said that the leadership team of Voltas was dynamic, result-oriented and pro-active, and he had absolutely no doubt that the best years for the company lay ahead.  
 
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NIIF and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority sign investment agreement worth $1 billion

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) of India has signed an investment agreement worth $1 billion with a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

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The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) of India has signed an investment agreement worth $1 billion with a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).
 
As part of the comprehensive partnership agreement, ADIA will become the first institutional investor in NIIF’s Master Fund and a shareholder in National Investment and Infrastructure Limited, the NIIF’s investment management company.
 
Mr. Sujoy Bose, Chief Executive Officer of NIIF, said: “This agreement marks the culmination of an extensive process of collaboration with ADIA to develop an investment structure that is attractive to international investors while remaining closely aligned with the NIIF’s objectives. We are proud to have ADIA as our founding partner, and grateful for its support and contributions to date, and we now look forward to announcing further agreements with other investors.”
 
Mr. Khadem Al Remeithi, Executive Director of the Real Estate & Infrastructure Department at ADIA, said: “The NIIF is set to play an important role in facilitating the flow of foreign capital into India’s infrastructure sector. As a long-standing investor in India and in infrastructure globally, ADIA welcomes the opportunity to be the first to partner with NIIF in a platform that is sure to be of interest to other long-term institutional investors.”
 
An official press release said that the agreement was signed pursuant to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, Government of India and the Government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) to mobilise long term investment into NIIF.
 
Six domestic Institutional Investors (DIIs) -- HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited, HDFC Asset Management Company Limited, Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited, ICICI Bank Limited, Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance Limited, Axis Bank Limited -- will also be joining the NIIF Master Fund alongwith ADIA, apart from Government of India (GOI), the release said.
 
Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, said, "This is a significant milestone in operationalisation of NIIF. This Agreement paves the way for creating significant economic impact through investment in commercially viable infrastructure development projects."
 
The NIIF was created, after a decision by the Union Cabinet on July 29, 2015 and was envisaged to be established as one or more Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) under the SEBI Regulations. The proposed corpus of NIIF is Rs. 40,000 crore (around $ 6 billion). GOI’s contribution to the NIIF shall be 49% of the total commitment at any given point of time. NIIF has been mandated to solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners, like overseas sovereign/quasi-sovereign/multilateral/bilateral investors.
 
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Two companies -- NIIFTL, the trustee of the fund and NIIFL, the investment management company -- were incorporated in 2015. A Governing Council has been set up under the chairmanship of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to act as an advisory council to NIIF.
 
A few investors such as the Government of UAE, RUSNANO, QIA, RDIF and Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development (JOIN) have signed MoUs with the NIIF. In addition, DEA has signed terms for cooperation on the NIIF with the US Treasury and the UK Treasury. 
 
An India-UK Green Growth Equity Fund (GGEF) has been announced in April 2017. The fund shall be set up under the fund of funds vertical of NIIF, and shall have anchor commitments of GBP 120 million each from Government of India (through NIIF) and Government of UK.
 
NIIF is a fund manager that seeks to create long-term value for domestic and international investors seeking to invest in energy, transportation, housing, water, waste management and other infrastructure-related sectors in India. NIIF, an institution sponsored by the Government of India, is a collaborative investment platform for international and Indian investors. 
 
ADIA has, since 1976, been prudently investing funds on behalf of the Government of Abu Dhabi, with a focus on long-term value creation.  ADIA manages a global investment portfolio that is diversified across more than two dozen asset classes and sub-categories. With a long tradition of prudent investing, ADIA’s decisions are based solely on its economic objectives of delivering sustained long-term financial returns, the release added.
 
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IRCTC suspends two officials after 26 passengers complain of food poisoning on Tejas Express

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The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has placed two of its officials under suspension after 26 passengers suffered from symptoms of food poisoning after consuming food served to them on the 22120 Karmali-Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSTM) Tejas Express yesterday.
 
"Area officer of IRCTC at Madgaon and On Board Manager are placed under suspension pending fact finding report and food test report," IRCTC, which overseas catering operations on Indian Railways, said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday.
 
IRCTC also said that a show cause notice had been served on the catering contractor and strict action would be taken against him if found guilty.
 
The Konkan Railway Corporation said all 26 passengers had been treated at the Life Care Hospital at Chhplun where all of them were stated to be out of danger. Konkan Railway is providing all necessary assistance to them and also arranged for their onward transport to Mumbai by train, it said.
 
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A press release from IRCTC yesterday said the train had departed at 0900 hours yesterday from Karmali in Goa to Mumbai and 230 passengers were served breakfast on board.
 
A group of seven passengers complained of nausea and were attended to by the on-board supervisor. Meanwhile, two other groups of passengers, numbering 15 in all, also complained of nausea. A doctor travelling on the train attended to the passengers.
 
Meanwhile, the train was given an out of course halt at Chiplun, where a railway doctor attended to them. Ambulances were requisitioned and passengers complaining of nausea were taken to a local hospital.
 
"Enquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause. The kitchen where food was prepared was inspected by area officer, Madgaon after the incident and samples lifted for testing, including soup sachets. Group General Manager IRCTC has proceeded to Chiplun for coordination at the hospital for all arrangements for ensuring their comfort and onward movement," the release added.
 
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Tri-weekly special Rajdhani between Delhi, Mumbai from October 16

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A new tri-weekly special Rajdhani Express will begin service between Delhi and Mumbai from October 16 with lesser number of stoppages and saving around two hours in journey time in comparison to the existing Mumbai Rajdhani.  
 
Flexi fare shall not be levied on booking of the ticket in this train which will be hauled by two locomotives for better acceleration, deceleration and higher speed, an official press release said.
 
The fare for this train in 2nd AC and 3rd AC will be around 19% cheaper than the maximum flexi fare of corresponding classes of existing Mumbai Rajdhani. The catering services in this train will be optional and the passengers shall have the choice to opt out.
 
The Ministry of Railways stated that the train service would fulfil the long overdue demand of passengers to provide faster and convenient connectivity to passengers between the two metros. Delhi and Mumbai.
 
At present, two Rajdhanis and more than 30 mail/express trains run between Delhi and Mumbai.
 
The new service is planned to be commenced as a tri-weekly special service with only one rake and provide faster rail connectivity between Delhi and Mumbai and great convenience to passengers.
 
The service will enable the passengers to avoid peak-hours of traffic. The early morning arrival time is also set in such a way to facilitate people attend offices as per their routine. This train will have stoppages at Kota, Vadodara and Surat stations only.
 
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RIL reports 12.5% growth in net profit to Rs. 8109 crore in Q2

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today reported a 12.5 percent growth in its consolidated net profit in the second quarter (Q2) of financial year 2017-18, ended September 30, to Rs. 8109 crore over Rs. 7,209 crore in the same quarter of the previous financial year.
 
Reporting its financial performance for the quarter, the company said its revenue had gone up by 23.9% to Rs. 101,169 crore.
 
On a standalone  basis, the company said its net profit had gone up by 7.3% to Rs. 8,265 crore and its revenue by 16.8% to Rs. 75,165 crore.
 
The company said it had achieved a gross refining margin (GRM) of $ 12/bbl for the quarter.
 
The company also announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, telecom services provider Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, had made a net loss of Rs. 270.59 crore in the quarter.
 
RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani said, “Our company reported another quarter of robust performance. I am delighted to share that this includes the financial performance of Reliance Jio which had a positive EBIT contribution in its first quarter of commercial operations."
 
"The results also reflect strong underlying fundamentals of our refining and petrochemicals businesses. Sustained demand growth coupled with supply disruptions further tightened demand-supply balances globally during the quarter. The benefits of optimizing our business through new projects are beginning to emerge. The structural strength in energy and materials business environment augurs well for our new capacities which are coming on-line this year," he said.
 
Mr. Ambani said the company's retail business had delivered broad based, sustainable and profitable growth through improved operational excellence.
 
"The world is transforming, turning digital and India is not going to be left behind. India is ready to go digital, move from voice to data and Jio is creating the foundation of data for the next generation business. The rapid uptake of Jio services reflects the latent need of the society. We are confident that Jio will bring significant benefits to the Indian economy and the Indian customers and will take India to a much higher pedestal. We are focussed on providing multi-layered digital services on top of the basic connectivity service to optimally utilise our world class infrastructure.
 
"The strong financial results of Jio demonstrates the robust business model of Jio and the significant efficiencies that the company has built through its investment in the latest 4G technology and right business strategy. As always, the group has demonstrated excellence in execution, vision and commercial acumen," he said.
 
A press release from RIL said the increase in its revenue was primarily on account of increase in prices and volumes in refining, petrochemicals and retail businesses.
 
"Further, the consolidated revenues reflect the commencement of commercial operations of RJIL’s Wireless Telecommunication Network during the quarter.
 
"Exports (including deemed exports) from India refining and petrochemical operations were higher by 10.2% at Rs. 41,560 crore ($ 6.4 billion) as against Rs. 37,717 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year due to higher volumes and product prices. Other expenditure increased by 35.8% to Rs.  12,323 crore ($ 1.9 billion) as against Rs. 9,073 crore in corresponding period of the previous year primarily due to network expenses and access charges pertaining to the digital services business post commencement of commercial operations.
 
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"Operating profit before other income and depreciation increased by 39.4% to Rs. 15,565 crore ($ 2.4 billion) from Rs. 11,164 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. Strong operating performance was driven by the refining, petrochemicals, retail businesses and positive contribution from digital services starting from this quarter," it said.
 
The company said its outstanding debt as on 30th September 2017 was Rs. 214,145 crore ($ 32.8 billion) compared to Rs. 196,601 crore as on 31st March 2017. Cash and cash equivalents as on 30th September 2017 were at Rs. 77,014 crore ($ 11.8 billion) compared to Rs. 77,226 crore as on 31st March 2017. These were in bank deposits, mutual funds, CDs, Government Bonds and other marketable securities.
 
The capital expenditure for the quarter ended 30th September 2017 was Rs. 15,653 crore ($ 2.4 billion) including exchange rate difference capitalization. Capital expenditure was principally on account of ongoing projects in the petrochemicals and refining business at Jamnagar and digital services business.
 
Reporting its first quarterly financial performance, Reliance Jio said it had notched consolidated value of services of Rs. 7213 crore and consolidated EBIT of Rs. 261 crore. The standalone revenue from operations was Rs. 6,147 crore.
 
RJIL said its subscriber base as on September 30 was 138.6 million, with a net subscriber addition of 15.3 million during the quarter.
 
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India’s forex reserves dip by $ 862.2 million to $ 398.794 billion

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Maintaining a downward trend for the third consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 862.2 million to $ 398.794 billion during the week ended October 6, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had fallen by $ 2.59 billion to $ 399.656 billion during the previous week. 
 
With the latest figures, the foreign exchange reserves have gone down by $ 3.714 billion in the last three weeks after touching an all-time high of $ 4012.509 billion during the week ended September 15.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had fallen by $ 1.391 billion to $ 373.795 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 went up by $ 548.6 million to $ 21.240 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 7.9 million to $ 1.494 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 11.9 million to $ 2.264 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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SBI launches SME Assist to solve MSMEs' liquidity crunch

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, has launched a first-of-its-kind product ‘SME Assist’ wherein the bank will provide a short term working capital demand loan (WCDL) to its micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) customers for nine months.
 
Under ‘SME Assist’, the  bank will provide loans to MSME entrepreneurs on their Input Credit Claims under the Goods and Service Tax (GST) at a concessional rate of interest.
 
Mr. V. Ramling, CGM (SME), SBI said the product would help MSMEs to manage their working capital requirement till the time they get input credit. It also supports the government’s GST initiative, as it will help stabilize the SMEs to run their operations without any hurdle.
 
WCDL will be sanctioned outside Assessed Bank Finance (ABF) at 20% of the existing fund based working capital limit or 80% of input tax claim due on purchases, whichever is lower. With a processing fee of Rs.2000, MSMEs can avail WCDL to meet their working capital requirement. Companies applying for a loan under the product have to provide a certificate from their chartered accountant confirming the input credit claims, a press release from the bank said.
 
Also under SME Assist, SME borrowers can enjoy a moratorium period for the first three months. The ad hoc amount can be repaid either in one bullet payment or in six EMIs in next six months after moratorium period is over. Simple documentation is proposed and the SME customers of the bank can avail SME Assist facility till March 31, 2018, the release added.
 
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Cabinet nod for MoU between SEBI, Capital Markets Authority of Kuwait

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The Union Cabinet yesterday gave its approval for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) with Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Kuwait for mutual co-operation and technical assistance. 
 
The MoU is likely to promote further development of economic links and cooperation between the two regulators, and aims at creating conditions for an effective development of securities markets in the two countries, an official press release said.
 
It would also contribute towards strengthening the information sharing framework between the two. It is expected to add value to overseas mutual cooperation and regulation activities of SEBI and CMA, Kuwait, the release added.
 
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Probe finds Elphinstone Road railway station stampede was caused by sudden heavy rains

 
A high-level committee set up by the Railways to probe the September 29 stampede on a foot overbridge (FOB) at Elphinstone Road station in Mumbai, which left 23 people dead and more than 35 others injured, has concluded that the tragedy occurred due to sudden heavy rains that led to overcrowding on the bridge.
 
"The committee concluded that the incident occurred due to sudden downpour of heavy rains and accumulation of commuters on FOB and stair case at around 10.00 hrs onwards on that date," it said.
 
The report said the situation got "further aggravated" when one bundle of flowers of a vendor dropped down, followed by someone shouting that "Majha phool padla" (my flowers have fallen).
 
"Some commuters mistook the word 'phool' (flowers) for 'pul' (bridge). This may have possibly triggered panic and led to stampede," the report said.
 
The committee, headed by the Chief Safety Officer, Western Railway, consisted of five Senior Administrative Grade officers (Joint Secretary level).
 
It had issued a public notice inviting members of public having knowledge relating to the incidence and any matter connected therewith and desiring to give evidence. 
 
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"The committee examined all the matters pertaining to the incidence including the evidence from the witnesses, the written statement of injured persons, Railway officials of Elphinstone road station and analysis of footages of all the CCTV cameras installed at the station including those located on the FOB," an official press release said.
 
The committee also recommended certain short-term and long-term measures for Mumbai Suburban stations. It highlighted the fact that the issue of Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) for Elphinstone Road FOB took about 18 months. 
 
The Railway Board has decided to constitute a high-level expert committee to inquire into the reasons for delay in the whole process and suggest ways and means to ensure that such delays can be minimised in future. This committee would be headed by Mr. Pratyush Sinha (former Chief Vigilance Commissioner) and include Mr. Vinayak Chatterjee, Chairman CII Economic Affairs Council, and Mr. Subodh Jain, (retired Member Engineering , Railway Board)  as  Members and current Director Safety, Railway Board, Mr. Pankaj Kumar  as Member Secretary.
 
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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins Rs. 1150 crore contract from ONGC

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L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro, has bagged an offshore contract valued at approximately Rs. 1150 crore (about $ 177 million) for the Daman Development Project from the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
 
The contract, won against international competitive bidding, encompasses total Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning (EPCIC) for the project, a press release from the company said.
 
The project, part of ONGC’s strategy to extract gas from Daman Field, is situated in the south western part of Tapti - Daman block in Mumbai Offshore, located at about 160-200 km north-west of Mumbai and 160 km west of Daman.
 
The release said L&T has been serving the upstream hydrocarbon sector since the early 1990s. "This contract reiterates the long term association of ONGC with L&T in the development of offshore fields in India," it said.
 
The company’s offshore track record includes successful completion of several challenging projects for domestic and international clients. 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, the release added.
 
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India's forex reserves dip by $ 2.59 billion to $ 399.656 billion

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India's foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 2.59 billion to $ 399.656 billion during the week ended September 29, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country's forex reserves had fallen by $ 262.3 million to $ 402.247 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had fallen by $ 2.565 billion to $ 375.186 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at  $ 20.692 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 10 million to $ 1.502 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 15.2 million to $ 2.276 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Reliance sells its assets in Marcellus shale play of North-Eastern and Central Pennsylvania

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Reliance Marcellus II, LLC, a subsidiary of Reliance Holding USA, Inc. and Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), today said it had signed agreements to divest all of its interest in certain upstream assets in north-eastern and central Pennsylvania.  
 
The assets, which are currently operated by Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc., were sold to BKV Chelsea, LLC, an affiliate of Kalnin Ventures LLC, for consideration of $126 million, subject to customary closing terms and conditions, a press release from the company said.
 
Additionally, Reliance could receive contingent payments of up to $11.25 million in aggregate based on natural gas prices exceeding certain thresholds over the next three years.
 
The assets produce mainly gas and are located in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Clearfield Counties of Pennsylvania.
 
Mr. Walter Van de Vijver, President and CEO of Reliance Holding USA, Inc., said: "This transaction represents an opportunistic sale of developed upstream Marcellus assets and ends a successful partnership of 7 years with Carrizo in a joint sale.  We will continue to actively manage the remainder of our US shale resources."  
 
The Carrizo operated acreage was one of the three upstream assets in the United States, owned by Reliance. Reliance remains invested in the Marcellus shale play via its non-operated position with Chevron in southwestern Pennsylvania and in the Eagle Ford play via its non-operated position with Pioneer in Texas, the release said.
 
"The sale of the assets will be consummated in accordance with the terms of a purchase and sale agreement, dated October 5, 2017, by and between Reliance and the buyer. The transaction is anticipated to close by the end of the third quarter of FY2018, with an April 1, 2017 effective date.
 
"Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. acted as financial advisor to Reliance, Haynes and Boone served as its legal counsel," the release added.
 
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Full text: RBI's Fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18

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Following is the text of the Fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2017-18 and Resolution of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) here today: 
 
On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to:
• keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 per cent.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains at 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 per cent.
 
The decision of the MPC is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth. The main considerations underlying the decision are set out in the statement below.
 
Assessment
 
2. Since the MPC’s meeting in August 2017, global economic activity has strengthened further and become broad-based. Among advanced economies (AEs), the US has continued to expand with revised Q2 GDP growing at its strongest pace in more than two years, supported by robust consumer spending and business fixed investment. Recent hurricanes could, however, weigh on economic activity in the near-term. In the Euro area, the economic recovery gained further traction and spread, underpinned by domestic demand. While private consumption benefited from employment gains, investment rose on the back of favourable financing conditions. The Euro area purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for manufacturing soared to its highest reading in more than six years. The Japanese economy continued on a path of healthy expansion despite a downward revision in growth since March 2017 on weaker than expected capital expenditure.
 
3. Among the major emerging market economies (EMEs), strong growth in Q2 in China was powered by retail sales, and imports grew at a rapid pace, suggesting robust domestic demand; investment activity, however, slowed down. The Brazilian economy expanded for two consecutive quarters in Q2 on improving terms of trade, even as the impact of recession persists on the labour market. Economic activity in Russia recovered further, supported by strengthening global demand, firming up of oil prices and accommodative monetary policy. Although South Africa has emerged out of recession in Q2, the economy faces economic and political challenges. 
 
4. The latest assessment by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) indicates a significant improvement in global trade in 2017 over the lacklustre growth in 2016, backed by a resurgence of Asian trade flows and rising imports by North America. Crude oil prices hit a two-year high in September on account of the combined effect of a pick-up in demand, tightening supplies due to production cuts by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and declining crude oil inventories in the US. Metal prices have eased since mid-September on weaker than expected Chinese industrial production data. Bullion prices touched a year’s high in early September on account of safe-haven demand due to geo-political tensions, before weakening somewhat in the second half. Weak non-oil commodity prices and low wage growth kept inflation pressures low in most AEs and subdued in several EMEs, largely reflecting country-specific factors.
 
5. Global financial markets have been driven mainly by the changing course of monetary policy in AEs, generally improving economic prospects and oscillating geo-political factors. Equity markets in most AEs have continued to rise. In EMEs, equities generally gained on improved global risk appetite, supported by upbeat economic data and expectations of a slower pace of monetary tightening in major AEs. While bond yields in major AEs moved sideways, they showed wider variation in EMEs. In currency markets, the US dollar weakened further and fell to a multi-month low in September on weak inflation, though it recovered some lost ground in the last week of September on a hawkish US Fed stance and tensions around North Korea. The euro surged to a two and a half year high against the US dollar towards end-August on positive economic data, whereas the Japanese yen experienced sporadic bouts of volatility triggered by geo-political risks. Emerging market currencies showed divergent movements and remained highly sensitive to monetary policies of key AEs. Capital flows to EMEs have continued, but appear increasingly vulnerable to the normalisation of monetary policy by the US Fed.
 
6. On the domestic front, real gross value added (GVA) growth slowed significantly in Q1 of 2017-18, cushioned partly by the extensive front-loading of expenditure by the central government. GVA growth in agriculture and allied activities slackened quarter-on-quarter in the usual first quarter moderation, partly reflecting deceleration in the growth of livestock products, forestry and fisheries. Industrial sector GVA growth fell sequentially as well as on a y-o-y basis. The manufacturing sector – the dominant component of industrial GVA – grew by 1.2 per cent, the lowest in the last 20 quarters. The mining sector, which showed signs of improvement in the second half of 2016-17, entered into contraction mode again in Q1 of 2017-18, on account of a decline in coal production and subdued crude oil production. Services sector performance, however, improved markedly, supported mainly by trade, hotels, transport and communication, which bounced back after a persistent slowdown throughout 2016-17. Construction picked up pace after contracting in Q4 of 2016-17. Financial, real estate and professional services turned around from their lacklustre performance in the second half of 2016-17. Of the constituents of aggregate demand, growth in private consumption expenditure was at a six-quarter low in Q1 of 2017-18. Gross fixed capital formation exhibited a modest recovery in Q1 in contrast to a contraction in the preceding quarter.
 
7. Turning to Q2, the south-west monsoon, which arrived early and progressed well till the first week of July, lost momentum from mid-July to August – the crucial period for kharif sowing. By end-September, the cumulative rainfall was deficient by around 5 per cent relative to the long period average, with 17 per cent of the geographical area of the country receiving deficient rainfall. The live storage in reservoirs fell to 66 per cent of the full capacity as compared with 74 per cent a year ago. The uneven spatial distribution of the monsoon was reflected in the first advance estimates of kharif production by the Ministry of Agriculture, which were below the level of the previous year due to lower area sown under major crops including rice, coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds, jute and mesta.
 
8. The index of industrial production (IIP) recovered marginally in July 2017 from the contraction in June on the back of a recovery in mining, quarrying and electricity generation. However, manufacturing remained weak. In terms of the use-based classification, contraction in capital goods, intermediate goods and consumer durables pulled down overall IIP growth. In August, however, the output of core industries posted robust growth on the back of an uptick in coal production and electricity generation. The manufacturing PMI moved into expansion zone in August and September 2017 on the strength of new orders. 
 
9. On the services side, the picture remained mixed. Many indicators pointed to improved performance even as the services PMI continued in the contraction zone in August due to low new orders. In the construction segment, steel consumption was robust. In the transportation sector, sales of commercial and passenger vehicles as well as two and three-wheelers, railway freight traffic and international air passenger traffic showed significant  upticks. However, cement production, cargo handled at major ports, domestic air freight and passenger traffic showed weak performance.
 
10. Retail inflation measured by year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) edged up sequentially in July and August to reach a five month high, due entirely to a sharp pick up in momentum as the favourable base effect tapered off in July and disappeared in August. After a decline in prices in June, food inflation rebounded in the following two months, driven mainly by a sharp rise in vegetable prices, along with the rise in inflation in prepared meals and fruits. Cereals inflation remained benign, while deflation in pulses continued for the ninth successive month. Fuel group inflation remained broadly unchanged in August even as inflation in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene, firewood and chips rose. Petroleum product prices tracked the hardening of international crude oil prices.
 
11. CPI inflation excluding food and fuel also increased sharply in July and further in August, reversing from its trough in June 2017. The increase was broad-based in both goods and services. Housing inflation hardened further in August on account of higher house rent allowances for central government employees under the 7th central pay commission award. Inflation in household goods and services in health, recreation and clothing & footwear subgroups increased. Quantitative inflation expectations of households eased in the September 2017 round of the Reserve Bank’s survey. However, in terms of qualitative responses, the proportion of respondents expecting the general price level to increase by more than the current rate rose markedly for the three-month as well as one-year ahead horizons. Farm and industry input costs picked up in August. Real wages in the rural and organised sectors continued to edge up. The Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey showed that corporate pricing power for the manufacturing sector remained weak. In contrast, firms polled for the services sector PMI reported a sharp rise in prices charged.
 
12. Surplus liquidity in the system persisted through Q2 even as the build-up in government cash balances since mid-September 2017 due to advance tax outflows reduced the size of the surplus liquidity significantly in the second half of the month. Currency in circulation increased at a moderate pace during Q2, by Rs. 569 billion as against Rs. 1,964 billion during Q1, reflecting the usual seasonality. Consistent with the guidance given in April 2017 on liquidity, the Reserve Bank conducted open market sales operations on six occasions during Q2 to absorb Rs. 600 billion of surplus liquidity on a durable basis, in addition to the issuances of treasury bills (of tenors ranging from 312 days to 329 days) under the market stabilisation scheme (MSS) during April and May of Rs. 1 trillion. As a result, net average absorption of liquidity under the LAF declined from Rs. 3 trillion in July to Rs. 1.6 trillion in the second half of September. The weighted average call rate (WACR), which on an average, traded below the repo rate by 18 basis points (bps) during July, firmed up by 5 bps in September on account of higher demand for liquidity around mid-September in response to advance tax outflows.
 
13. Reflecting improving global demand, merchandise export growth picked up in August 2017 after decelerating in the preceding three months. Engineering goods, petroleum products and chemicals were the major contributors to export growth in August 2017; growth in exports of readymade garments and drugs & pharmaceuticals too returned to positive territory. However, India’s export growth continued to be lower than that of other emerging economies such as Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam, some of which have benefited from the global commodity price rebound. Import growth remained in double-digits for the eighth successive month in August and was fairly broad-based. While the surge in imports of crude oil and coal largely reflected a rise in international prices, imports of machinery, machine tools, iron and steel also picked up. Gold import volume has declined sequentially since June 2017, though the level in August was more than twice that of a year ago. The sharper increase in imports relative to exports resulted in a widening of the current account deficit in Q1 of 2017-18, even as net services exports and remittances picked up. Net foreign direct investment at US$ 10.6 billion in April-July 2017 was 24 per cent higher than during the same period of last year. While the debt segment of the domestic capital market attracted foreign portfolio investment of US$ 14.4 billion, there were significant outflows in the equity segment in August-September on account of geo-political uncertainties and expected  normalisation of Fed asset purchases. India’s foreign exchange reserves were at US$ 399.7 billion on September 29, 2017.
 
Outlook
 
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14. In August, headline inflation was projected at 3 per cent in Q2 and 4.0-4.5 per cent in the second half of 2017-18. Actual inflation outcomes so far have been broadly in line with projections, though the extent of the rise in inflation excluding food and fuel has been somewhat higher than expected. The inflation path for the rest of 2017-18 is expected to be shaped by several factors. First, the assessment of food prices going forward is largely favourable, though the first advance estimates of kharif production pose some uncertainty. Early indicators show that prices of pulses which had declined significantly to undershoot trend levels in recent months, have now begun to stabilise. Second, some price revisions pending the goods and services tax (GST) implementation have been taking place. Third, there has been a broad-based increase in CPI inflation excluding food and fuel. Finally, international crude prices, which had started rising from early July, have firmed up further in September. Taking into account these factors, inflation is expected to rise from its current level and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year, including the house rent allowance by the Centre. 
 
15. As noted in the August policy, there are factors that continue to impart upside risks to this baseline inflation trajectory: (a) implementation of farm loan waivers by States may result in possible fiscal slippages and undermine the quality of public spending, thereby exerting pressure on prices; and (b) States’ implementation of the salary and allowances award is not yet considered in the baseline projection; an increase by States similar to that by the Centre could push up headline inflation by about 100 basis points above the baseline over 18-24 months, a statistical effect that could have potential second round effects. However, adequate food stocks and effective supply management by the Government may keep food inflation more benign than assumed in the baseline.
 
16. Turning to growth projections, the loss of momentum in Q1 of 2017-18 and the first advance estimates of kharif foodgrains production are early setbacks that impart a downside to the outlook. The implementation of the GST so far also appears to have had an adverse impact, rendering prospects for the manufacturing sector uncertain in the short term. This may further delay the revival of investment activity, which is already hampered by stressed balance sheets of banks and corporates. Consumer confidence and overall business assessment of the manufacturing and services sectors surveyed by the Reserve Bank weakened in Q2 of 2017-18; on the positive side, firms expect a significant improvement in business sentiment in Q3. Taking into account the above factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 has been revised down to 6.7 per cent from the August 2017 projection of 7.3 per cent, with risks evenly balanced.
 
17. Imparting an upside to this baseline, household consumption demand may get a boost from upward salary and allowances revisions by states. Teething problems linked to the GST and bandwidth constraints may get resolved relatively soon, allowing growth to accelerate in H2. On the downside, a faster than expected rise in input costs and lack of pricing power may put further pressure on corporate margins, affecting value added by industry. Moreover, consumer confidence of households polled in the Reserve Bank’s survey has weakened in terms of the outlook on employment, income, prices faced and spending incurred. 
 
18. The MPC observed that CPI inflation has risen by around two percentage points since its last meeting. These price pressures have coincided with an escalation of global geopolitical uncertainty and heightened volatility in financial markets due to the US Fed’s plans of balance sheet unwinding and the risk of normalisation by the European Central Bank. Such juxtaposition of risks to inflation needs to be carefully managed. Although the domestic food price outlook remains largely stable, generalised momentum is building in prices of items excluding food, especially emanating from crude oil. The possibility of fiscal slippages may add to this momentum in the future. The MPC also acknowledged the likelihood of the output gap widening, but requires more data to better ascertain the transient versus sustained headwinds in the recent growth prints. Accordingly, the MPC decided to keep the policy rate unchanged. The MPC also decided to keep the policy stance neutral and monitor incoming data closely. The MPC remains committed to keeping headline inflation close to 4 per cent on a durable basis.
 
19. The MPC was of the view that various structural reforms introduced in the recent period will likely be growth augmenting over the medium- to long-term by improving the business environment, enhancing transparency and increasing formalisation of the economy. The Reserve Bank continues to work towards the resolution of stressed corporate exposures in bank balance sheets which should start yielding dividends for the economy over the medium term.
 
20. The MPC reiterated that it is imperative to reinvigorate investment activity which, in turn, would revive the demand for bank credit by industry as existing capacities get utilised and the requirements of new capacity open up to be financed. Recapitalising public sector banks adequately will ensure that credit flows to the productive sectors are not impeded and growth impulses not restrained. In addition, the following measures could be undertaken to support growth and achieve a faster closure of the output gap: a concerted drive to close the severe infrastructure gap; restarting stalled investment projects, particularly in the public sector; enhancing ease of doing business, including by further simplification of the GST; and ensuring faster rollout of the affordable housing program with time-bound single-window clearances and rationalisation of excessively high stamp duties by states.
 
21. Dr. Chetan Ghate, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra, Dr. Viral V. Acharya and Dr. Urjit R. Patel were in favour of the monetary policy decision, while Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of at least 25 basis points. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by October 18, 2017.
 
22. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled on December 5 and 6, 2017.
 
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