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Mumbai

Five injured as bridge collapses on tracks in Mumbai, rail traffic disrupted

Five persons suffered injuries after a part of a road overbridge collapsed on the tracks near Andheri station here on the Western Railway early Tuesday morning, bringing rail traffic on the section to a complete halt for several hours.

 
Part of road bridge collapses on railway tracks in Mumbai
 
 
Five persons suffered injuries after a part of a road overbridge collapsed  on the tracks near Andheri station here on the Western Railway early Tuesday morning, bringing rail traffic on the section to a complete halt for several hours.
 
Western Railway sources said the mishap occurred on the south end of the station, towards Vile Parle, around 7.25 am.
 
Luckily, there was no train passing passing at that time under the nearly five-decade-old Gokhale Bridge, which connects Andheri East to Andheri West.
 
The overhead electrical equipment on the tracks was damaged and traffic on all  lines was held up, they said.
 
The injured were rushed to Cooper Hospital, where a team of Railway doctors were treating them.
 
The sources said train services were suspended between Bandra and Goregaon. Local train services from Churchgate to Bandra and from Goregaon to Virar have been resumed, they said.
 
Western Railway officials said efforts were on to restore traffic on the lines at the earliest. 
 
Personnel of the Mumbai Police, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Fire Brigade, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Western Railway, among other agencies, were working at the spot to clear the debris and restore rail traffic.
 
The Western Railway advised commuters to avoid travelling on its lines unless it is absolutely necessary. Extra buses have been arranged from Borivali to South Mumbai.
 
The Mumbai Police said there would be heavy traffic on various roads. "Commuters might face traffic congestion on roads leading to the Airport. Plan your journey accordingly so that you are in time to catch your flight," it said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
With traffic on the affected bridge stopped, the police advised commuters to consider alternative routes to reach their destinations.
 
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The Western Railway has set up the following helplines for passengers: Andheri - 022676 30054; Churchgate - 02267622540; Borivali - 02267634053; Mumbai Central - 02267644257; and Surat - 02602401791.
 
The Western Railway also said that the Commissioner, Railway Safety, Western Circle will conduct an enquiry into the collapse of a part of the bridge.
 
It said food packets and water bottles were being arranged for passengers of long distance trains stranded at various stations because of the incident.
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said he had directed officials to speed up the repair works and rapidly restore traffic in close coordination with other departments. "I have also ordered an enquiry by Commissioner of Rail Safety," he said on Twitter.
 
Mumbai's famed Dabbawalas suspended their tiffin box deliveries on the affected Western Railway routes for the day but would continue normal services on other routes, sources said.
 
The Western Railway said the Harbour  Line was expected to be restored by this afternoon. The Up/Down fast lines and Suburban Track Avoiding (STA) lines are expected to be open by 1900 hours and the Up/Down slow lines by midnight tonight.
 
Following the incident, the Western Railway has cancelled, regulated and short-terminated some trains for today.
 
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Five killed, two injured as chartered plane crashes in Mumbai suburb

At least five persons including a pedestrian were killed and two injured when a small chartered plane crashed in the thickly populated suburb of Ghatkopar in north-east Mumbai on Thursday, officials said.

 
Chartered plane crashes in Mumbai, 5 dead
 
 
At least five persons including a pedestrian were killed and two injured when a small chartered plane crashed in the thickly populated suburb of Ghatkopar in north-east Mumbai on Thursday, officials said.
 
Eyewitnesses said that the plane was seen hurtling down in the narrow Jeevadaya Lane area and crashed with a deafening sound before breaking into pieces and bursting into flames around 1.15 p.m. There were two pilots and as many engineers on board.
 
The fuselage had broken into several pieces and one piece was recovered at least 50 metres away while some other portions of the plane burnt in the premises of an under-construction building. The fire was brought under control within half an hour by the fire brigade.
 
The aircraft's crucial Flight Data Recorder or Black Box was recovered.
 
A local passer-by in the vicinity of the crash was burnt fatally when some burning ATF fuel from the aircraft fell on him, said an eyewitness who was among the first to reach the spot.
 
The cause of the crash is not known and it occurred in the compound of the under construction Jagruti apartments, thereby averting a potentially major disaster.
 
There are usually at least four dozen labourers working on the premises but they had taken a lunch break when the aircraft hurtled there, creating a crater by its impact.
 
Aviation expert and Executive Airways Managing Director Pradeep Thampi said the aircraft was a 30-year-old King Air C-90, purchased from the Uttar Pradesh government by private company UY Aviation Pvt Ltd in Mumbai around a couple of years ago.
 
"Its call sign was VT-UPZ and it was a regular 12-seater on a test flight. The tragedy has claimed the pilot, co-pilot and two engineers. We cannot say immediately what may have led to the sudden crash," Thampi told IANS.
 
An Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson confirmed that the Mumbai-based UY Aviation Pvt Ltd had bought the aircraft a few years ago.
 
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu, who hails from Mumbai, expressed "deep shock" over the tragedy and directed the ministry officials concerned to rush to the accident site and provide all assistance possible.
 
Prabhu said he has ordered the Director-General of Civil Aviation to conduct an investigation into the crash and a team has left for the spot for a preliminary probe.
 
Mumbai Police, fire brigade, disaster relief agencies, besides local BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, legislators and others are at the site and further details of the victim crew members and pedestrians are awaited.
 
IANS
 
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Modi says New India is rising on pillar of economic opportunity for all

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that a "New India" was rising, an India that stands on the pillars of economic opportunity for all, knowledge economy, holistic development, and futuristic, resilient and digital infrastructure.

 
India has emerged bright spot in global economy: Modi
 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said a "New India" was rising, an India that stands on the pillars of economic opportunity for all, knowledge economy, holistic development, and futuristic, resilient and digital infrastructure. 
 
"The Indian story of economic resurgence closely mirrors that of many other parts of Asia. Now, the continent finds itself at the centre of global economic activity.  It has become the main growth engine of the world. In fact, we are now living through what many have termed the ‘Asian Century’," he said in his address at the opening ceremony of the Third Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) here.
 
"We look forward to our continued engagement with our development partners including AIIB," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said AIIB, which started its financing operations in January 2016, has 87 members and a committed capital stock of $ 100 billion and is poised to play a critical rule in Asia.
 
"As developing countries, we share similar challenges. One of them is to find resources for provision of infrastructure. I am happy that the theme of this year’s Meeting is “Mobilizing Finance for Infrastructure: Innovation and Collaboration”. Investments by AIIB in sustainable infrastructure can impact the lives of billions of people," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said Asia still faced wide ranging disparities in access to education, healthcare, financial services and formal employment opportunities. Regional multi-lateralism through institutions such as AIIB can play a central role in helping to raise resources, he felt.
 
"Sectors such as energy and power, transportation, telecom, rural infrastructure, agriculture development, water supply and sanitation, environment protection, urban development, and logistics require long term funds. The interest rates on these funds need to be affordable and sustainable.
 
"In a short period, AIIB has approved 25 projects in a dozen countries with a total financing of over 4 billion US Dollars. This is a good beginning.
 
"With committed capital of 100 billion dollars and huge need for infrastructure in member countries, I take this opportunity to call upon AIIB to expand from financing 4 billion dollars, to 40 billion dollars by 2020 and 100 billion dollars by 2025. This would require simpler processing, and faster approval. It would also need high quality projects and robust project proposals," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said AIIB and India were both strongly committed to making economic growth more inclusive and sustainable.
 
"In India, we are applying novel Public Private Partnership models, Infrastructure Debt Funds, and Infrastructure Investment Trusts to fund infrastructure. India is trying to develop brownfield assets as a separate asset class for infrastructure investment. Such assets, having passed the stages of land acquisition and environment and forest clearances, are relatively de-risked. Hence, for such assets, institutional investment from pension, insurance and sovereign wealth funds are likely to be more forthcoming.
 
"Another initiative, is the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. This aims to channel investments from both domestic and international sources into infrastructure. This Fund has received a boost with AIIB committing 200 million US dollars for investment," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India is one of the most investor-friendly economies in the world. "Investors look for growth and macro-economic stability. They want political stability and a supportive regulatory framework to ensure protection of their investment. From the point of larger scale of operations and higher value addition, an investor is also attracted by a large domestic market size, availability of skilled labour and good physical infrastructure. On each of these parameters, India is well placed and has performed very well," he said.
 
He went on to list India's achievements on this score. "India has emerged as a bright spot in the global economy which is driving global growth as well. With a size of 2.8 trillion US dollars, it is the seventh largest in the world. It is the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity. In the fourth quarter of 2017, we grew at 7.7 per cent. In 2018, we are projected to grow at 7.4 per cent," he said.
 
"Our macro-economic fundamentals are strong with stable prices, a robust external sector and a fiscal situation firmly in control. Despite  rising oil prices, inflation is within the mandated range. The Government is firmly committed to the path of fiscal consolidation. Government debt as percentage of GDP is consistently declining. India has achieved a rating upgrade after a long wait. 
 
"The external sector remains robust. Our foreign exchange reserves of more than 400 billion US dollars provide us enough cushion. Global confidence in India’s economy is rising. Total FDI flows have increased steadily – more than 222 billion US dollars have been received in the last four years. As per UNCTAD’s World Investment Report, India continues to be one of the top FDI destinations in the world," he said.
 
"From the point of a foreign investor, India counts as an extremely low risk political economy. The Government has taken a number of steps to boost investment.  We have simplified rules and regulations for businesses and undertaken bold reforms. We have provided investors an environment which is efficient, transparent, reliable and predictable.
 
"We have liberalized the FDI regime. Today, most sectors are on automatic approval route.
 
"The Goods and Services Tax is one of the most significant systemic reforms that our country has undergone. It works on the One Nation - One Tax principle. It reduces tax cascading, increases transparency, and adds to logistics efficiency. All of this makes it easier for the investor to do business in India.
 
"These and other changes have been noticed by the global fraternity. India has jumped 42 places in three years to enter the top hundred in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2018.
 
"The size and growth of the Indian market hold much potential. India’s per capita income has doubled in the last ten years. We have over 300 million middle class consumers. This number is expected to double in the next ten years. The size and scale of requirement in India gives the added advantage of economies of scale for investors. For example, the housing programme in India targets ten million houses in urban areas. This would be more than the total requirement of a lot of countries taken together. Therefore the use of new technology in house construction would have added advantage, if tried in India. 
 
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"Another example of scale would be the Renewable Energy Programme in India. We have set a target to construct capacity of 175 giga watt of renewable energy by the year 2022. Of this, the solar energy capacity will amount to  100 giga watt. And we are well on course to exceed these targets. We have added more capacity to renewable energy than conventional energy in 2017. We are also making collaborative efforts to mainstream solar energy in the form of an International Solar Alliance. The founding conference of the Alliance was held in New Delhi earlier this year. The Alliance aims at a solar capacity of 1000 Giga Watt with an investment of one trillion US dollars by 2030.
 
"India is working on e-mobility. The challenge before us is of technology, particularly with respect to storage. We will be hosting a global mobility conference this year. I hope that this will help us in moving forward," he said.
 
"In India, we are upgrading connectivity at all levels. The Bharatmala scheme is aimed at improving road connectivity by constructing national corridors and highways. The Sagarmala project has been undertaken for boosting port connectivity, port modernization and port-linked industries. Dedicated Freight Corridors are being developed to mitigate the congestion of our railway network. The Jal Marg Vikas project would augment capacity of navigation on National Waterways for internal trade carried through inland water transport. Our UDAN scheme works towards regional airport development and improved air connectivity. An area which I believe still remains untapped and needs attention is the possibility of utilising India’s large coastline for transportation and freight movement.
 
"While we talk about the conventional concept of infrastructure, I must mention some of the modern day infrastructure on which India has worked. Bharat Net is targeted at providing last mile internet connectivity in the country. India has  over 460 million internet users and 1.2 billion mobile phones in use. We are promoting the use of digital payments. Our United Payments Interface system or UPI along with BHIM App and RuPay Card has shown the true potential of digital economy in India. Through the UMANG App, more than 100 public services have been made available to the citizens through their mobile phone. Our Digital India Mission aims to bridge the rural-urban digital divide.
 
"Agriculture is the lifeline of the Indian economy. We are promoting investments in warehouses and cold chains, food processing, crop insurance and allied activities. We are promoting micro-irrigation to ensure optimal use of water with increased productivity. I would like AIIB to look into potential investment opportunities in this field and associate with us.
 
"We aim to provide every poor and homeless household a house with toilet, water and electricity by the year 2022. We are also looking at various strategies for effective waste management.
 
"We have also recently launched Ayushman Bharat, our National Health Protection Mission. This will provide a benefit cover of over 7000 dollars annually to more than 100 million poor and vulnerable families. The resulting expansion of health care facilities will lead to the creation of a large number of jobs. This will also promote the production of high quality medicines, consumables and other medical technology equipment. Jobs will also be created for ancillary activities including call centres, research and evaluation and IEC activities. The entire healthcare industry will receive a boost.
 
"Moreover, with the Government assuring healthcare benefits, the savings of a family, can now be better used for other consumption and investment. This increased disposable income in the hands of a poor family would lead to increased demand in the economy. I see great untapped potential in this for investors," he added.
 
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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.

RBI logo
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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RBI relaxes ECB norms to prop up rupee

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday liberalised some aspects of the external commercial borrowings (ECBs) policy including those related to rupee-denominated bonds to help check rupee depreciation.
 
"It has been decided to allow eligible ECB borrowers who are into manufacturing sector to raise ECB up to $50 million or its equivalent with minimum average maturity period of 1 year," the RBI said in a notification.
 
Till date, ECB up to $50 million or its equivalent could be raised by eligible borrowers with minimum average maturity period of three years.
 
The decision to revise the minimum average maturity period of three years to one year was part of the five measures announced by the government last week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an economic review meeting.
 
Presently, Indian banks can act as arranger and underwriter for rupee denominated bonds (RDBs), also called masala bonds, issued overseas, and their holding cannot be more than five per cent of the issue size after six months of issue as an underwriter.
 
"It has now been decided to permit Indian banks to participate as arrangers/underwriters/market makers/traders in RDBs issued overseas subject to applicable prudential norms," the central bank said.
 
Last Monday, the government exempted tax on interest payable by Indian companies to non-residents, including foreign companies, on borrowings through off-shore rupee denominated bonds issued till March 31, 2019.
 
Till now, interest payable on such bonds issued before July 1, 2020 was liable for concessional rate of tax of five per cent.
 
These steps, which are aimed at raising the foreign exchange inflow, are part of the multi-pronged strategy to curb current account deficit (CAD) and rupee depreciation.
 
Last Friday, after the Prime Minister held the economic review meet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the government's five measures and also a broad policy decision to curb non-essential imports and increase exports.
 
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Trade tensions dent indices; equities slip for third consecutive day

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Broadly negative global cues on the back of escalation in trade tensions dragged the key Indian equity indices into the red on Wednesday.
 
Additionally, heavy selling pressure in banking, healthcare and FMCG counters, outflow of foreign funds and high crude oil prices eroded investors' risk taking appetite for the third consecutive session.
 
However, an appreciation in the rupee's value against the US dollar arrested the market's slide.
 
Index-wise, the wider NSE Nifty50 closed at 11,234.35 points, lower by 44.55 points or 0.39 per cent from the previous close of 11,278.90 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex, which had opened at 37,432.93 points, closed at 37,121.22 points, lower by 169.45 points or 0.45 per cent from the previous close of 37,290.67 points.
 
It touched a high of 37,530.63 points and a low of 37,062.69 during the day's trade.
 
"Markets continued to correct on Wednesday. It was the third consecutive session of losses for the Nifty," said Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.
 
"Broad market indices like the BSE Mid Cap and Small Cap indices lost more, thereby underperforming the main indices. Market breadth was negative on the BSE and the NSE."
 
According to Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services: "Stock markets in India continued their downward trajectory as trade-war fears threatened to derail global economic growth."
 
"Sectoral performance, though mixed, was largely skewed towards the negative."
 
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On the currency front, the Indian rupee closed at 72.37, recovering 61 paise from its previous close of 72.98 per greenback.
 
Investment-wise, provisional data with the exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrip worth Rs 2,184.55 crore and domestic institutional investors bought stocks worth Rs 1,201.30 crore.
 
Sector-wise, metal stocks gained 173.65 points, oil and gas gained 143.28 points and IT stocks edged up by 23.21 points. 
 
On the other hand, the S&P BSE banking index lost 152.39 points, the Healthcare index was down 93.30 points and the FMCG ended 131.23 points lower from its previous close.
 
The top gainers on the Sensex were Coal India, up 2.60 per cent at Rs 280.55; ONGC, up 1.90 per cent at Rs 176.65; Tata Steel, up 1.31 per cent at Rs 620.45; Hero MotoCorp, up 0.99 per cent at Rs 3,142.35; and Kotak Mahindra , up 0.88 per cent at Rs 1227 per share.
 
The losers were IndusInd Bank, down 3.05 per cent at Rs 1,804.60; Maruti Suzuki, down 2.30 per cent at Rs 8,207; HDFC Bank down 1.58 at Rs 1,961.95; Yes Bank, down 1.44 per cent at Rs 318.50; HDFC, down 1.35 per cent at Rs 1,831.15 per share. 
 
IANS
 

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Trade tensions dent indices; equities slip for third consecutive day

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Broadly negative global cues on the back of escalation in trade tensions dragged the key Indian equity indices into the red on Wednesday.
 
On a provisional basis, the two key indices closed in the negative territory for the third consecutive session, with the S&P BSE Sensex losing over 150 points.
 
Additionally, the NSE Nifty50 dropped around 50 points to end below the 11,300 mark.
 
Sector-wise, heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, FMCG and consumer durables counters.
 
At 3.30 p.m., the wider NSE Nifty50 provisionally closed at 11,234.35 points, lower by 44.55 points or 0.39 per cent from the previous close of 11,278.90 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex, which had opened at 37,432.93 points, provisionally closed at 37,121.22 points, lower by 169.45 points or 0.45 per cent from the previous close of 37,290.67 points.
 
It touched a high of 37,530.63 points and a low of 37,062.69 points during the day's trade.
 
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Markets open on high note on Wednesday

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The 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) on Wednesday opened on a positive note during the morning session of the trade.
 
The Sensex of the BSE after opening at 37,432.93 points touched a high of 37,530.63 points and a low of 37,372.06 points.
 
It was trading at 37,343.73 points up by 53.06 points or 0.14 per cent higher than its Tuesday's close at 37,290.67 points.
 
On the other hand, the broader 51-scrip Nifty at National Stock Exchange (NSE) opened at 11,326.65 points after closing at 11,278.900 points on Tuesday.
 
The Nifty was trading at 11,294.05 points in the morning.
 
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Trade tensions, rupee depress equity indices; banking stocks down

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Latest global trade protectionist measures, along with high crude oil prices and a depreciation in rupee's value, dragged the Indian equity market in the red for a second consecutive session on Tuesday.
 
Sector-wise, heavy selling pressure was witnessed in the interest sensitive stocks like banking, auto and capital goods.
 
Index-wise, the wider NSE Nifty50 provisionally closed at 11,278.90 points, lower by 98.85 points or 0.87 per cent from the previous close of 11,377.75 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex, which had opened at 37,660.19 points, provisionally closed at 37,290.67 points, lower by 294.84 points or 0.78 per cent from the previous close of 37,585.51 points.
 
It touched a high of 37,745.44 points and a low of 37,242.85 during the day's trade.
 
"Carrying on from Monday, markets continued to dive on Tuesday to close in the red for the second consecutive session. The Nifty had in fact opened on a positive note, but selling soon resumed and pulled the index lower," said Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.
 
"The weakness came on the back of rising global trade tensions after (US President Donald) Trump said he will impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, escalating the trade conflict."
 
According to Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services: "Selling pressure increased on the bourses due to spike in oil prices led by factors like implication of US sanction on Iran and supply constraints.
 
"Domestic triggers failed to add momentum despite ease in inflation, government policies to contain CAD and consolidation in PSUBs. This situation will ease once the global bond and currency market stabilise which is currently under pressure given the chaos over oil and Fed rate hike."
 
On the currency front, the Indian rupee closed at 72.98, weakening 47 paise from its previous close of 72.51 per greenback.
 
Investment-wise, provisional data with the exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrip worth Rs 1,143.73 crore and domestic institutional investors bought stocks worth Rs 264.66 crore.
 
Sector-wise, only FMCG stocks on the BSE ended in the green, gaining 102.11 points. 
 
On the other hand, the S&P BSE banking index lost 510.20 points, the auto index was down 353.54 points and the capital goods ended 250.56 points lower from its previous close.
 
The top gainers on the Sensex were Hindustan Unilever, up 3.87 per cent at Rs 1,666.15; Yes Bank, up 1.43 per cent at Rs 323.15; Wipro, up 1.02 per cent at Rs 332.50; ONGC, up 0.93 per cent at Rs 173.35; and ITC, up 0.23 per cent at Rs 302.60 per share.
 
The losers were State Bank of India, down 4.06 per cent at Rs 274; Tata Motors, down 3.36 per cent at Rs 251.45; Bajaj Auto, down 2.84 at Rs 2,775.90; Axis Bank, down 2.81 per cent at Rs 608.45; Tata Motors(DVR),down 2.45 per cent at Rs 137.55 per share.
 
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Global trade tensions dent rupee; closes at 72.98

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The latest global trade protectionist measures, along with high crude oil prices, dragged the Indian rupee to a fresh low of 72.98 per US dollar on Tuesday.
 
At 5 p. m., the rupee closed at 72.98 per greenback from its previous close of 72.51 per dollar. 
 
It had opened at 72.60 per US dollar at the Inter-Bank Foreign Exchange Market and remained range bound. 
 
However, the Indian currency's slide commenced from 4.45 p.m. onwards as it touched 72.96 breaching its previous intra-day record low of 72.91 made on September 12.
 
According to analysts, concerns over a rise in inflation rate, growing protectionism in global trade and an outflow of foreign funds from the country's equity market have had an adverse impact on the Indian currency.
 
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Equity indices end in red for second straight session

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The key Indian equity indices provisionally closed in the negative territory for the second successive day on Tuesday, with the S&P BSE Sensex losing close to 300 points.
 
The NSE Nifty50 also dropped nearly 100 points to end below the 11,300 mark, after global markets fell on the announcement of fresh US tariffs on Chinese imports.
 
Sector-wise, heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, auto and capital goods counters.
 
At 3.30 p.m., the wider NSE Nifty50 provisionally closed at 11,278.90 points, lower by 98.85 points or 0.87 per cent from the previous close of 11,377.75 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex, which had opened at 38,027.81 points, provisionally closed at 37,290.67 points, lower by 294.84 points or 0.78 per cent from the previous close of 37,585.51 points.
 
It touched a high of 37,745.44 points and a low of 37,242.85 points during the day's trade.
 
IANS

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Indian equity indices open in green

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The key Indian equity market indices opened in positive territory on Tuesday.
 
Healthy buying activity was witnessed in healthcare, consumer durables, oil and gas stocks.
 
Globally, however, investor sentiments were subdued owing to the ongoing US-China trade tension, which limited the gains in the domestic market.
 
At 9.28 a.m., the Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange, traded at 11,406.10 points, higher by 28.35 points or 0.25 per cent from its previous close of 11,377.75 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex which had opened at 37,660.19 points, traded at 37,691.56 points, higher by 106.05 points, or 0.28 per cent from its previous close of 37,585.51 points.
 
So far, it has touched an intra-day high of 37,745.44 points and a low of 37,532.29 points.
 
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Sensex plunges over 500 points on weak global cues

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The key Indian equity indices provisionally closed deep in the red on Monday, as the S&P BSE Sensex lost more than 500 points and the NSE Nifty50 slipped by around 140 points amidst negative global cues on concerns over the US-China trade war escalating.
 
Sector-wise, heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, consumer durables and auto counters.
 
At 3.30 p.m., the wider NSE Nifty50 provisionally closed at 11,377.75 points, lower by 137.45 points or 1.19 per cent from the previous close of 11,515.20 points.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex, which had opened at 38,027.81 points, provisionally closed at 37,585.51 points, lower by 505.13 points or 1.33 per cent from the previous close of 38,090.64 points.
 
It touched a high of 38,027.81 points and a low of 37,548.93 points during the day's trade.
 
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Sensex tanks 400 points on weak global cues; Nifty down 100 points

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Weak global markets amid the US-China trade concerns plunged the key Indian equity indices on Monday afternoon, with the S&P BSE Sensex losing around 400 points so far.
 
The wider NSE Nifty50 also lost over 100 points during the intra-day trade. Among the sectors, heavy selling pressure was witnessed in banking, consumer durables and auto stocks. 
 
Globally, market sentiments were subdued on reports that the US might announce fresh tariffs on Chinese imports.
 
At 12.50 p.m., the Nifty50 on the National Stock Exchange traded at 11,410.00 points, lower by 105.20 points or 0.91 per cent from the previous close.
 
The BSE Sensex, which had opened at 38,027.81 points, traded at 37,680.58 points, lower by 410.06 points or 1.08 per cent from the previous close of 38,090.64 points.
 
So far, it has touched an intra-day high of 38,027.81 points and a low of 37,597.05 points. 
 
The top gainers on the Sensex were Tata Steel, Wipro, IndusInd Bank, Power Grid and Bharti Airtel, while the major losers were HDFC, NTPC, State Bank of India, HDFC Bank and Tata Motors (DVR).
 
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Global cues equity indices lower; banking stocks down

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Fears over escalation in global trade protectionist measures and broadly negative Asian markets dragged the key Indian equity indices lower during the morning trade session on Monday.
 
The session saw heavy selling pressure in banking, consumer durable, capital goods and automobile counters.
 
At 9.30 a.m., the Nifty50 at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) traded at 11,418.25 points, lower by 96.95 points or 0.84 per cent from its previous close.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex which had opened at 38,027.81 points, traded at 37,781.06 points, lower by 309.58 points or 0.81 per cent from its previous close of 38,090.64 points.
 
So far, it has touched an intra-day high of 38,027.81 points and low of 37,776.57 points.
 
On September 14 -- the previous trade session -- the NSE Nifty50 closed at 11,515.20 points, higher by 145.30 points or 1.28 per cent from its previous close of 11,369.90 points.
 
Similarly, the barometer S&P BSE Sensex had made gains. It closed at 38,090.64 points, higher by 372.68 points or 0.99 per cent from its previous close of 37,717.96 points.
 
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Fuel prices rise unabated, petrol nears Rs 90/litre in Mumbai

File photo of a petrol pump
File photo of a petrol pump
The rise in domestic fuel prices continued unabated on Sunday, with the price of petrol nearing the psychological Rs 90 a litre mark in Mumbai and the fuel selling at Rs 89.29 under the dynamic pricing regime.
 
As per rates released daily by state-run Indian Oil Corp, the depreciating rupee and expensive crude oil further pushed petrol and diesel to new record highs on Sunday.
 
Petrol in Delhi, which is cheapest among the four metros due to lower taxes, rose to Rs 81.91 per litre on Sunday while it increased in Kolkata and Chennai to Rs 83.76 and Rs 85.15 respectively.
 
Similarly, diesel prices rose on Sunday in Delhi and Kolkata to Rs 73.72 and Rs 75.57 per litre respectively and climbed to Rs 77.94 and Rs 78.26 per litre in Chennai and Mumbai respectively. 
 
Fuel prices in the country have been going up almost daily since August 1. They fell only once on August 13 and have been on record levels for nearly two weeks now. 
 
Sector experts say a weak rupee and high excise duty are major factors for the rise in fuel prices. 
 
Inflationary risks along with broadly negative global cues depressed the Indian rupee to a new low of 72.74 on Tuesday.
 
Also, high global crude oil cost has become a major concern for the country, which imports over 80 per cent of its oil requirements. The UK Brent crude oil price hovers around $78 per barrel.
 
Since the start of the calendar year, the petrol price in Delhi has gone up by 15.4 per cent from Rs 69.97 on January 1, 2018. The hike in diesel price has been even more steep. It has gone up by 22 per cent since January 1 when it cost Rs 59.70.
 
Earlier this week, the West Bengal government reduced the excise on petrol and diesel by Re 1 per litre each. 
 
As per the country's pricing mechanism, the domestic fuel prices depend upon the international fuel prices on a 15-day average and the value of the rupee.
 
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