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India's net international investment position deteriorates in Q3

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India's net International Investment Position (IIP) -- the difference between its external financial asssets and liabilities -- deteriorated in the quarter ended December 2013 due to the rise in the value of foreign-owned assets in the country, data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) here yesterday said.
 
International Investment Position (IIP) is a statistical statement that shows, at a point in time, the value and the composition of (i) financial assets of residents of an economy that are claims on non-residents and gold bullion held as reserve assets; and (ii) liabilities of residents of an economy to non-residents. 
 
The difference between an economy's external financial assets and liabilities is its net IIP. Such balance sheet analysis of international accounts helps in understanding sustainability and vulnerability of the economy’s external sector.
 
According to a statement from the RBI, the net claims of non-residents on India (as reflected by the net IIP) increased by $ 17.7 billion over the previous quarter to $ 317.2 billion as at end-December 2013. This change in the net position reflected an increase of $ 39.9 billion in the value of foreign-owned assets in India vis-à-vis an increase of US$ 22.2 billion in the value of Indian Residents’ financial assets abroad.
 
Indian residents’ financial assets abroad stood at $ 458.9 billion as at end-December 2013 recording an increase of $ 22.2 billion over previous quarter mainly due to increase of $ 16.7 billion in reserve assets and increase of $ 5.8 billion in other investment abroad, mainly trade credit and currency and deposits. Direct investment abroad showed marginal decline of $ 0.3 billion.
 
According to the statement, the foreign-owned assets in India increased by $ 39.9 billion over the previous quarter to $ 776.1 billion mainly due to increase of $ 23.6 billion in currency and deposits component of ‘other investment’. 
 
Direct investment in India and portfolio investment in India also increased by $ 8.6 billion and $ 5.6 billion, respectively. In portfolio investment, while equity investment increased by $ 8.0 billion, debt investment decreased by $ 2.4 billion. Among other investment liabilities, trade credits declined by $ 1.2 billion and loans increased by $ 3.2 billion.
 
On the effects of rupee appreciation,  the statement said the variation in exchange rate of rupee vis-à-vis other currencies affected change in liabilities, when valued in $ terms. Equity liabilities in $ terms increased by $ 16.3 billion, due to the  stock valuation effect resulting from rupee appreciation, while net inflow was $ 11.5 billion during the period.
 
On the composition of exernal financial assets and liabilities, it said reserve assets continued to have the dominant share (64.0 per cent) in India’s international financial assets in December 2013, followed by direct investment abroad (26.1 per cent). 
 
Direct Investment (29.2 per cent), portfolio investment (22.8 per cent), loans (mainly ECBs) (22.1 per cent), trade credit (11.4 per cent) and currency and deposits (12.7 per cent) were the major constituents of the country’s financial liabilities.
 
The share of non-debt liabilities decreased marginally to 44.8 per cent as at end- December 2013 from 45.1 percent at end- September 2013, the statement added.
 
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India's forex reserves rise by $ 1.348 billion to $ 298.635 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 1.348 billion to $ 298.635 billion in the week ended March 21, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here yesterday.
 
The reserves had risen by $ 1.838 billion in the week ended March 14, by $ 1.088 billion in the week ended March 7 and by $ 954.6 million in the week before that, making this the fourth consecutive week of increase.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here yesterday , the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 1.58 billion to $ 271.394 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 the previous week's level of $ 20.978 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) decreased by $ 16.9 million to $ 4.462 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 241.7 million to $ 1.801 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform in Mumbai on April 5-6

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The National Centre for the Performing Arts, one of India's premier arts institutions, will present the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra  (SSO) here on April 5 and 6 at its Jamshed Bhabha Theatre here on April 5 and 6.
 
The programme is part of an ambitious effort of cultural exchange to promote and educate children about Western classical music in the country.
 
Mr. Khushroo N. Suntook, NCPA Chairman and Founder of SOI, said, "We are pleased to be presenting the BBC SSO in Mumbai as part of their tour leading up to the Commonwealth Games. We share the BBC SSO's ambition of promoting and educating children about Western classical music. With this joint venture we are sure to get a few steps closer to achieving our plan to promote this genre in India and bring India on the international map for western music."
 
The BBC SSO will be on a tour of India as part of which it will hold concerts, workshops and exchange between students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the K M Music Conservatory of Bollywood composer A R Rahman.
 
Composer James MacMillan will lead the BBC SSO, accompanied by violinist Nicola Benedetti and students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 
 
On April 5, animateur and music education expert Paul Rissmann will join the orchestra, Benedetti and MacMillan to present a special programme for young audiences and families - 'An Introduction tothe Symphony Orchestra for the Entire Family.', presenting the genre in the form of animation and projections. 
 
On April 6, the orchestra will present Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.
 
Benedetti said: "This will be my very first trip to India and I am so excited. It's a highlight of my coming year because as well as playing some wonderful concerts, the orchestra and I will be staying in eachof the cities for a few days, giving workshops and getting involved with the local communities. This is an element of music making I have dedicated so much time to and I'm thrilled to be joining another organization equally serious about sharing this music with all members of the community, not just to the folk who can afford to attend the concerts."
 
Lloyd Anderson, Director of the British Council Scotland, said, "The Scottish Symphony Orchestra's tour  of India, accompanied by students from the Royal Conservatoire, will create a programme of ground breaking musical collaborations in order to build stronger links between India and Scotland. While our historical ties are strong, this tour, through engaging with young people at every stage, will make those relationships relevant to a new generation. The British Council is delighted to have helped to bring this tour about - renewing friendships and bringing musicians and music-lovers together from different parts of the world."
 
MacMillan is the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation. He attracted attention with the acclaimed BBC Proms premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (1990). His music combines rhythmic excitement, raw emotional power and spiritual meditation and his percussion concerto Veni,Veni, Emmanuel (1992) has received over 400 performances. He is also active internationally as a conductor and is Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie.
 
He has conducted numerous orchestras around the globe, including the Baltimore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Tokyo, amongst others.
 
Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Winner of Best Female Artiste at the 2012 Classical BRIT Awards, Benedetti records exclusively for Decca (Universal Music). Her most recent recording, The Silver Violin, reached No.30 in the UK pop charts simultaneously topping the classical charts.
 
Through her work with such organizations as Sistema Scotland, she has helped to demonstrate the power that music can have in transforming the lives of young people.
 
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RIL carries out maintenance shutdown of paraxylene unit at Jamnagar

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has taken a planned maintenance shutdown of one of its three paraxylene units at Jamnagar in Gujarat.
 
The scheduled shutdown period is approximately for a period of six weeks, a press release from the company said.
 
"This shut down will also be utilized to improve reliability and performance of the unit. The other two paraxylene units will continue to operate normally," it said.
 
RIL has a total capacity of 1.8 million tonnes per annum of paraxylene at 
Jamnagar, the release added.
 
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Reliance selected for exploration of two offshore blocks in Myanmar

Reliance logo
Reliance logo
The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said it had been selected by the Ministry of Energy (MOE) of  Myanmar  for exploration of two offshore blocks (M17 and M18) in Myanmar Offshore Block Bidding Round – 2013.
 
Both the blocks are located offshore in the Moattama basin of Myanmar in water depths upto 3000 ft and together encompass an area of 27,600 sq. kms, a press release from RIL said.
 
The 2013 Offshore Blocks Bidding Round saw participation from global exploration and production (E&P) players. In all, 36 companies submitted 64 proposals for the 30 offshore blocks on offer. RIL had submitted proposals for three offshore blocks.
 
As per the process, RIL or its affiliates will enter into Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) for the two blocks. The PSC allows for initial preparation and study periods before committing into Phase 1 of exploration period.
 
"RIL’s participation is in line with its strategy of portfolio rationalization by expanding its international asset base by investing in regimes having attractive internationally competitive terms on offer. The company thus hopes to leverage its organizational capabilities and expertise to create value for the E&P segment," the release added.
 
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Hindi film actress Nanda passes away at 75

Legendary actress Nanda passes away at 75
Well-known Hindi film actress of yesteryears Nanda passed away at her residence in Versova after suffering a heart attack, sources said.
 
She was 75. Her funeral will be held here later today, the sources said.
 
She was engaged to film producer Manmohan Desai in 1992, who died in a fall from his apartment in 1994. She remained unmarried after that.
 
Some of her notable films during a fairly successful career included Hum Dono, Dhool Ka Phool, Dulhan, Bhabhi, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Prem Rog, Gumnaam and Ittefaq.
 
She was born on January 8, 1939 to Vinayak Damodar Karnataki (Master Vinayak), a well-known Marathi actor and filmmaker, who passed away when she was a child.
 
Nanda began her film career as a child artiste. She got her big break when renowned filmmaker V Shantaram, her paternal uncle, cast her in Toofan Aur Diya, a successful brother-sister saga.
 
She went on to play the title role in Chhoti Bahen and acted in other movies such as Teen Deviyan, Kanoon and Anchal, for which she won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award in 1960.
 
She signed as many as eight films with the then relatively unknown Shashi Kapoor, including Char Diwari, and the two became a successful screen pair.
 
One of these films, Jab Jab Phool Khile, featured the song "Yeh Samaa" that was picturised on her and remained one of her all-time favourites.
 
With Rajesh Khanna, she did films such as The Train, Ittefaq and Joroo Ka Ghulam. She appeared opposite Jeetendra in Parivar and Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke.
 
After staying away from films for some time, she returned in the early 1980s with films such as Ahista Ahista, Mazdoor and Prem Rog, before taking her final bow.
 
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Eros comes on board NH 10 with Phantom Films, Anushka Sharma

Anushka Sharma
Anushka Sharma
Film entertainment major Eros International Media Limited today said it would join hands with Phantom Films and actor Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Production to co-produce director Navdeep Singh’s NH 10.
 
An action thriller about a road trip that goes wrong, NH 10 is Navdeep Singh’s second film after the critically acclaimed Manorama 6 Feet Under and stars Anushka Sharma who also debuts as producer with the venture.
 
“The film is an exciting collaboration with Anushka and Phantom and we are happy to associate with this talented team. NH 10 promises to be an interesting journey and we are looking forward to supporting and nurturing such strong content driven films," Sunil Lulla, Managing Director, Eros International Media Ltd, said.
 
Vikramaditya Motwane of Phantom Films said: "NH10 is a superb script, and we have a tremendous director in Navdeep Singh. We are excited about our partners on the film and look forward to making a kick-ass film."
 
Anushka Sharma said, “I’m doubly thrilled about NH-10, as it’s a superb role and it also kick-starts this new phase in my film journey. This is my second film after Bombay Velvet with Phantom, and it’s a blast working with them. It’s going to be super-exciting working together again on what promises to be an explosive film.”
 
Others involved in the making of the film include international action directors headed by Armin Sauer, who has done stunt work in The Bourne Supremacy, V for Vendetta and The Constant Gardner among other films. 
 
Being shot this winter across the northern plains around Delhi, NH 10 will release on September 12.
 
Formed in 2012, Phantom Films was floated by the directors’ league of Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena. 
 
Clean Slate is a film production helmed by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma.
 
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Woman vegetable vendor stabbed to death on Mumbai train

Woman vegetable vendor killed on Mumbai train
A woman vegetable vendor was stabbed to death by an unidentified man on a suburban train while she was on her way to Borivali from Virar in the early hours of this morning, police said.
 
The victim, identified as Panga Andher, 55, had boarded the luggage compartment of the Virar-Churchgate train at Virar at 0355 hours as per her daily routine.
 
According to Mr Deepak Devraj, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Government Railway Police, Western Railway, the woman used to by vegetables from Virar and sell them in the wholesale market at Borivali every day.
 
He said the woman, who was alone in the compartment, was attacked by someone with a sharp weapon while the train was between Nalasopara and Vasai stations. The police are not sure if there was more than person involved in the attack.
 
Hearing the woman's screams, women in the adjacent ladies' coach pulled the emergency chain and the train was stopped. When the motorman and a home guard went to the luggage compartment, they found the woman bleeding from injuries in her abdomen. By then, the assailant had jumped off the train from the other side and escaped.
 
The train was stopped at Vasai, where she was rushed the nearby Ravi Hospital, where she was declared dead on arrival.
 
Police are investigating the incident. 
 
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7 burnt alive as petrol tanker overturns near Thane on Surat-Mumbai highway

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As many as seven persons were burnt alive when a petrol tanker on its way from Surat to Mumbai exploded in flames after oveturning at Charoti near Thane in Maharashtra today.
 
Police sources aid the mishap occurred at around 2.30 pm at a spot about 110 km from Thane.
 
Those killed three persons in the tanker and four passers-by, the sources said, adding that the bodies of the victims had been charred beyond recognition.
 
About seven others suffered injuries and have been admitted to the Civil Hospital in Thane for treatment. Apart from the tanker, some vehicles near it on the road were also affected by the flames, they said.
 
Fire tenders and ambulances were rushed to the spot from Thane and other nearby towns, the sources added.
 
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RBI Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty seeks slightly earlier departure

Dr. Kamlesh Chandra Chakrabarty

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty has sought  a slightly earlier departure, on April 25, than the scheduled end of his term on June 30 for personal reasons.
 
"The Reserve Bank is very grateful for his many years of excellent work in very difficult times. Dr. Chakrabarty always speaks his mind, and has been a very valuable guide for successive governors," a statement from the central bank said.
 
"In recent years, Dr. Chakrabarty has spearheaded the Reserve Bank’s move towards risk-based supervision. His experience as a banker has given him the ability to diagnose weaknesses in the system, and made him a forceful advocate for change," it said.
 
"I personally have benefited enormously from his advice," RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said.
 
A search is on for his successor, the statement added.
 
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Four convicts in first Shakti Mills compound gang-rape case given life

Four get life sentence in Shakti Mills gangrape
A sessions court here today sentenced four convicts in the gang-rape of a call centre employee on July 31 last year in the Shakti Mills compound in Lower Parel in central Mumbai to imprisonment for life.
 
In a second case, involving the gang-rape of a photo-journalist in the same desolate area on August 22, in which four men - including three involved in the first case - were convicted, the court deferred the pronouncement of sentence to March 24.
 
Pronouncing the sentence, Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi described rape as a serious and brutal crime.
 
"The offence violates the victim and the society at large. It is also aiolation of the fundamental right of Right to Life and it should be kept in mind coupled with the fact that the offence of rape has caused agony on her mind," she said.
 
The court said the crime committed by the four convicts - Vijay Jadhav (19), Mohammad Qasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Kasim Bengali (21), Mohammad Ansari (28) and Mohammad Ashfaque Shaikh - was not done on the spur of the moment but was a pre-meditated conspiracy.
 
After the judge pronounced the sentence, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam sought framing of additional charges on the three men -- Jadhav, Qasim Shaikh and Salim Ansari -- involved in the second case for repeated offence under section 376 (e) of the Indian Penal Code.
 
He pointed out that the maximum penalty for such a repeat offence was capital punishment.
 
The court then deferred the pronouncement of sentence in the second case to March 24.
 
The judge had yesterday convicted five men guilty in the two cases of gang-rape, including Siraj Khan, the fourth convict in the photo-journalist case.
 
Two minors, one in each case, will be dealt with separately by the Juvenile Justice Board.
 
The trial in both cases, which had led to a huge public outcry coming as they did just months after the horrific December 16 gang-rape case in Delhi, was put on a fast-track and they were heard on a day-to-day basis. Both cases were tried simultaneously.
 
The 23-year-old photo-journalist, who was working as a trainee with an English magazine, was gang-raped while she was on an assignment in the compound last August along with a male colleague. 
 
Three weeks earlier, the 19-year-old call centre employee was gang-raped in the same area when she was walking through the compound of the defunct mill as "short-cut" to the railway station with a male friend.
 
The photo-journalist had identified the accused in the incident. The call centre employee recognized the men who had assaulted her from the pictures released by the police in the photo-journalist's case.
 
After the two incidents came to light, the local authorities have cleared the desolate mill complex of the dense undergrowth and strengthened security in the area.
 
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Four injured as Mumbai local train derails near Titwala

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At least four persons suffered injuries when four coaches of a suburban train, bound for Kasara from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), derailed today.
 
Central Railway officials said the mishap occurred between Titwala and Ambivli stations.
 
One of the four passengers had suffered grievous injuries, they said.
 
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Mumbai Indians to meet KKR in IPL 2014 opener on Apr 16 at Abu Dhabi

 
Defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the opening match of the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on April 16 at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
KKR had won the tournament in 2012.
 
At its meeting in Chennai earlier today, the IPL Governing Council confirmed that the first phase of the Pepsi IPL 2014 season matches will be played in the UAE from April 16-30.
 
A total of 20 matches will be played in three stadiums: the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi; the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, Sharjah; and the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. 
 
The match-schedule for the UAE leg can be seen here.
 
Pursuant to the initiative taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, many State Governments have indicated that IPL matches can be conducted in their respective states. 
 
"Based on the responses received so far, the BCCI believes that the Pepsi IPL 2014 can be conducted in India from the first week of May," a press release from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said, adding that the schedule for the remaining 40 matches would be announced in due course.
 
The BCCI had, on March 12, announced that the 2014 season of IPL would be played from April 16 to June 1, with the first leg to be staged in the UAE due to the Lok Sabha elections being held in India at the same time.
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According to the schedule announced by the Election Commission, polling in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha will be held on nine days between April 7 and May 12.
 
The Government had conveyed to BCCI that it would be difficult for it to ensure security for the IPL matches given the huge requirements of security forces for the peaceful conduct of the elections.
 
The 2009 edition of the IPL had been staged in South Africa because it coincided with the last Lok Sabha elections. This year, too, there was talk that the tournament would be held in South Africa, but the UAE finally got the nod.
 
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Reliance Jio to launch services across India using Viom Networks' towers

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Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, today said it would launch its services across India using telecom tower infrastructure provided by Viom Networks.
 
Under a Master Services Agreement, Reliance Jio will use Viom Networks’ pan-India passive telecom infrastructure having a footprint of over 42,000 telecom towers.
 
"This agreement is in line with our mission of a pan-India launch spanning next-generation voice and data services and leveraging existing telecom infrastructure,” said Mr Sanjay Mashruwala, Managing Director, Reliance Jio.
 
“We look forward to partnering with Viom Networks for rolling out services across the country," he said.
 
Reliance Jio holds a pan-India unified license and is currently building a network to offer next generation high-speed data services. The company believes that the Indian market is highly underserviced. 
 
"There’s thus a deep demand undercurrent for reliable (4th generation) high speed internet connectivity, rich communication services, and various digital services on pan-India basis in key domains such as education, healthcare, security, financial services, government citizen interfaces and entertainment," he said.
 
"The mission therefore is to provide anytime, anywhere access to innovative and empowering digital content, applications and services, thereby propelling India into a global leadership league in the digital economy," he added.
 
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“From a conventional tower company, we are transforming ourselves as an innovation-driven, data-centric infra solutions provider,” said Mr Syed Safawi, CEO, Viom Networks.
 
“We are delighted to partner with Reliance jio and offer our countrywide network infrastructure. Our consistent delivery of high network up time, on-time reliable project delivery capability, and optimal operation and a maintenance cost offer a great value package," he added.
 
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India's forex reserves up by $ 1.088 billion to $ 295.449 billion

 
India’s foreign exchange reserves increased by $1.088 billion to $295.449 billion in the week ended March 7, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here yesterday.
 
The reserves had increased by $954.6 million to $294.360 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here yesterday , the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 1.070 billion to $ 267.972 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 the previous week's level of $ 20.978 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) increased by $ 12.6 million to $ 4.481 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 5.7 million to $ 2.017 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Larsen & Toubro wins Rs 3655 crore road project in Qatar

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it secured a prestigious international order worth Rs 3655 crore (2.187 billion Qatari riyals) for a major road project in Qatar.
 
The order was received by L&T Construction's Transportation Infrastructure Business from Ashgal, the Public Works Authority of Qatar, for the design and construction of the Al Wakrah Bypass Road (P015).
 
A press release from the company said the scope of work involved construction of an 11 km road consisting of 10 lanes and four future lane sections with additional collectors/distributor roads, frontage roads and ramps. 
 
The freeway will provide access to the existing and planned developments via five major interchanges comprising 20 bridges, 13 bicycle overpasses, 8 vehicular underpasses, 3 pedestrian bridges and 736 m long and 32 m wide vehicular tunnel works. 
 
State-of-the-art road furniture and other related utility works for potable water,  treated sewer effluent, drainage, electrical, intelligent transportation system, irrigation and landscaping are also part of the scope of work.
 
The project is scheduled to be completed in 32 months, the release said.
 
Al Wakrah Bypass is a major South-North freeway connecting the existing Al Wakrah - Mesaieed Road. This new freeway will be a continuation of an existing major urban North-South high speed corridor of Doha Expressway. At its southern end, the proposed bypass will intersect with the existing Al Wakrah - Mesaieed Road and it branches into two directions to the planned Doha Sea Port to the south and the Mesaieed Industrial area to the West. 
 
Mr. S. N. Subrahmanyan, Member of the Board and Senior Executive Vice President (Infrastructure & Construction) said: “We are delighted to have bagged this prestigious order. This is the company’s single largest road order in the international market and is an important turning point in our plans of growing the company’s business in the Middle East region.” 
 
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UK opens two new Visa Application Centres in Mumbai

 
The United Kingdom today opened two new visa application centres (VACs) here as part of a renewed partnership with VFS Global to provide visa application services in India and across South Asia.
 
The new VACs, located at Bandra-Kurla Complex and Nariman Point, were inaugurated by Sir James Bevan, the UK High Commissioner in India.
 
A press release from the British Deputy High Commission said the new VACs would provide an enhanced experience for visa applicants in Mumbai. The introduction of a New Premium Lounge at the Bandra-Kurla Complex VAC offers applicants a plush and relaxed experience, with a little more privacy, while applying for a visa, it said.
 
The release said the UK partnership with VFS Global had now been extended until 2019. Under the new contract, VFS Global and the UK Government will ensure that the VACs in a number of key markets are located as conveniently as possible for visa applicants. In particular in South Asia, the new contract also foresees major refurbishment of all VACs, it said
 
The UK also announced that it would be extending its “Passport Passback” service to all locations in India. This service allows applicants to retain their passports while visa decisions are being made, in particular to support business travellers needing to travel in the interim period. It also helps those visiting the UK who also wish to apply for other visas.
 
Sir James said the UK's 13 VACs in India and its numerous additional offerings, including the same day visa service, underlined that the country was "open for business".
 
He said nine out of ten Indians who applied for a UK visa got one and the UK issued more visas to Indians than to any other nationality in the world: over 400,000 in 2013. He said the number of visas issued had gone up by 5 per cent in 2013, including for visitors, workers and dependents.
 
He said the average time taken for issuance of a visa was just eight days and India was the first country where the UK had introduced the same-day visa service.
 
"We look forward to welcoming even more Indians to Britain this year. Indians who visit the UK have a good time and leave with a good impression. We aim to make that good impression on you before you even leave India – with the best visa service there is," he added.
 
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UAE to host first leg of IPL 2014; playoffs, final leg to be played in India

 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today announced that the 2014 Pepsi Indian Premier League (IPL) season would be played from April 16 to June 1, with the first leg to be staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to the Lok Sabha elections in India.
 
"From Wednesday 16th April to Wednesday 30th April, at least 16 matches will be held in the United Arab Emirates," a press release from BCCI said.
 
"BCCI is very grateful to the Emirates Cricket Board, its Chairman Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and the government of the UAE for their offer of wholehearted support to host the Pepsi IPL for this period," it said.
 
For the period from Thursday 1st May to Monday 12th May, BCCI has approached the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India seeking permission to play IPL matches in India in cities where the polling has concluded in the respective state. 
 
"BCCI is extremely conscious of the various complexities involved but hopes for a favourable consideration. BCCI will abide by the decision of the authorities in this regard. If it is not possible to play in India during this period, IPL matches will be held in Bangladesh and BCCI is thankful to the Bangladesh Cricket Board and the government of Bangladesh for their support," it said.
 
From Tuesday 13th May, by when polling would have concluded in all states, the remaining league matches plus the playoffs will be played in India. 
 
There will be no matches scheduled on Friday, May 16, the day of counting of votes in the election.
 
"BCCI will take the advice of the authorities if any further restrictions are required around the counting day," the release said, adding that a detailed match schedule for the Pepsi IPL 2014 season would be released soon.
 
According to the schedule announced by the Election Commission, polling in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha will be held on nine days between April 7 and May 12.
 
The Government had conveyed to BCCI that it would be difficult for it to ensure security for the IPL matches given the huge requirements of security forces for the peaceful conduct of the elections.
 
The 2009 edition of the IPL had been staged in South Africa because it coincided with the last Lok Sabha elections. This year, too, there was talk that the tournament would be held in South Africa, but the UAE finally got the nod.
 
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L&T Construction wins orders valued at Rs 2935 crore

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its construction division had won new orders worth Rs 2935 crores across various business segments in February and March this year.
 
These include orders worth Rs 1035 crore in the Transportation Infrastructure Business, a press release from the company said.
 
It said a major EPC order had been received from Rail Vikas Nigam for construction of roadbed, major and minor bridges, track linking, outdoor signaling and electrical works in connection with doubling of Sambalpur-Barpali, Barpali-Bolangir, Bolangir-Titalgarh sections as part of the Sambalpur-Titalgarh doubling project of East Coast Railway in Odisha. 
 
Another order has been received from the Public Works Department, Government of Maharashtra, for rehabilitation and upgradation of NH-222 from junction with NH-211 to Manwath (Tadoboragaon) section to two lane with paved shoulders on EPC basis under NHDP-IV.   
 
The company has also bagged a turnkey order from Government of Odisha for two-laning of Kanakotra to Jharsuguda section with paved shoulder including construction of bypass at Belpahar in Odisha. This section connects NH 200 with Jharsuguda. 
 
In the Building & Factories Business, the company has won orders worth Rs 562 crore, including a turnkey contract from Lucknow Development Authority for construction of MIG/Super MIG flats in Lucknow. The brief scope of works includes construction of 1672 Flats in 11 residential towers (1 basement+1 stilt plus 19 floors). The construction involves civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, finishing and other associated works.
 
The Water & Renewable Energy Business has secured orders worth Rs 553 crores, including an order for execution of river front development project in Patna from Bihar Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation. The project is funded by the World Bank. The scope involves construction of 21 ghats along river Ganga and beautification of the river bank with other associated works.
 
It got an order from Government of Gujarat for design, site preparation, supply, installation and maintenance of city surveillance and intelligent traffic monitoring system for three major cities in Gujarat. 
 
The company's Power Transmission & Distribution Business has bagged orders worth Rs 502 crore in domestic and international markets.
 
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A turnkey order has been bagged from Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited for the work of system improvement, strengthening and augmentation of power distribution system and establishing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) compatibility for Aligarh town in Uttar Pradesh.
 
An international order has been bagged from KAHRAMAA (Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation) to construct 132 KV GIS Substation at Doha festival City on EPC basis.
 
Additional orders worth Rs 283 crores have also been received from various ongoing jobs of the Metallurgical & Material Handling and Heavy Civil Infrastructure Businesses, the release added.
 
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India's forex reserves rise by $ 954.6 million to $ 294.36 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves increased by $954.6 million to $294.360 billion in the week ended February 28, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The reserves had fallen by $ 383.7 million to $ 293.406 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here yesterday , the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 33.6 million to $ 266.902 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 increased by $ 902.3 million to $ 20.978 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) increased by $ 13 million to $ 4.469 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 5.7 million to $ 2.012 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Naval officer dies in gas leak on board under-construction destroyer INS Kolkata

Yard-701 mishap: One officer killed, two injured
An officer of the Indian Navy died and some personnel of the public sector shipbuilders Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) here were affected in a gas leak in a mishap ths afternoon onboard the under-construction INS Kolkata, the Navy's most modern destroyer, which was due to be commissioned in some weeks from now.
 
Sources in the Navy and at MDL identified the deceased officer as Commander Kuntal Wadhwa.
 
According to them, he died after he ended up inhaling excessive quantities of carbon dioxide in the mishap on the vessel, officially called Yard-701, around 1 pm today while it was undergoing machinery trials. He was rushed to hospital along with the others, where he was declared dead, they said.
 
"Yard-701, being built by MDL while undergoing machinery trials in MbPT had a malfunction in its Carbon Dioxide unit, leading to gas leakage. One naval officer and some MDL personnel were affected and have been hospitalised," a statement from MDL had said earlier.
 
The mishap is expected to push back the commissioning of the ship by some weeks and has come as another setback for the Navy, whch is yet to recover from the fire on board one of its submarines, INS Sindhuratna, on February 26, in which two Naval officers were killed and seven others were injured.
 
That incident came on top of several incidents and accidents involving Naval assets, starting with the devastating explosions and fire on board another frontline submarines, INS Sindhurakshak, in August last year, in which 18 men lost their lives.
 
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi had resigned from his position on February 26, hours after the fire on INS Sindhuratna, accepting moral responsibility for the incidents.
 
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Rakesh Sharma appointed MD&CEO of Lakshmi Vilas Bank

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Lakshmi Vilas Bank today announced the appointment of Mr. Rakesh Sharma, a former State Bank of India (SBI) official, as its Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer.
 
Mr. Sharma’s last assignment with SBI was as Chief General Manager for Patna Circle, comprising two states of Bihar and Jharkhand. He served SBI for more than 33 years, and has experience in retail and wholesale banking, asset liability management, loan syndication, trade finance and personnel development.
 
During his stint at SBI, Mr. Sharma held several responsibilities including head of mid-corporate accounts in Andhra Pradesh region and supervising retail operations in the states of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Western Uttar Pradesh. 
 
Mr. Sharma also administered banking operations for International Banking Group (IBG) encompassing consolidation of balance sheets for all the foreign offices of the bank. While posted at Tokyo, he was in charge of overall functioning of SBI branches in Japan, a press release from Lakshmi Vilas Bank added.
 
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India's current account deficit narrows sharply to $4.2 billion in Q3: RBI

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India's current account deficit (CAD) narrowed sharply to $ 4.2 billion (0.9 per cent of GDP) in the third quarter (Q3) of 2013-14 from $ 31.9 billion (6.5 per cent of GDP) in Q3 of 2012-13.
 
The figure is also lower than $ 5.2 billion (1.2 per cent of GDP) in Q2 of 2013-14, the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement on the country's balance of payments (BoP) for Q3 on the basis of preliminary data.
 
"The lower CAD was primarily on account of a decline in the trade deficit as merchandise exports picked up and imports moderated, particularly gold imports," it said.
 
On a BoP basis, merchandise exports increased by 7.5 per cent to $ 79.8 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 (3.9 per cent in Q3 of 2012-13) on the back of significant growth especially in the exports of engineering goods, readymade garments, iron ore, marine products and chemicals, it said.
 
On the other hand, merchandise imports, at $ 112.9 billion, recorded a decline of 14.8 per cent in Q3 of 2013-14 as against an increase of 10.4 per cent in Q3 of 2012-13. 
 
The statement said that the decline in imports in Q3 was primarily led by a steep decline in gold imports, which amounted to $ 3.1 billion as compared to $ 17.8 billion in Q3 of 2012-13 and $ 3.9 billion in Q2 of 2013-14.
 
As a result, the merchandise trade deficit (BoP basis) contracted by around 43 per cent to $ 33.2 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 from $ 58.4 billion a year ago, it said.
 
Net services receipts improved during Q3 of 2013-14, essentially reflecting a decline in payments on account of services imports. Net services at $ 18.1 billion recorded a growth of 8.9 per cent in Q3 of 2013-14 (y-o-y).
 
The statement said net outflow on account of primary income (profit, dividend and interest) amounting to $ 5.4 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 was relatively lower than that in the corresponding quarter ($ 5.8 billion) of 2012-13 as well as the preceding quarter ($ 6.3 billion). In Q3 of 2013-14, gross private transfer receipts at $ 17.3 billion showed an increase of 4.8 per cent (y-o-y).
 
In the financial account, on net basis, both foreign direct investment and portfolio investment recorded inflows of $ 6.1 billion and $ 2.4 billion, respectively in Q3 of 2013-14. Within portfolio investment, the debt segment showed net outflow in Q3 which, however, was offset by higher net inflows of US$ 6.2 billion under the category of equity.
 
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‘Loans’(net) availed by deposit taking corporations (commercial banks) witnessed an outflow of $ 5.9 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 owing to repayments of overseas borrowings and a build-up of their overseas foreign currency assets. 
 
Under ‘currency & deposits’, net inflows of NRI deposits amounted to $ 21.4 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 as compared to $ 2.7 billion in Q3 of 2012-13.
 
A sharp increase in NRI deposits was on account of fresh FCNR(B) deposits mobilised under the swap scheme offered by the Reserve Bank during September-November 2013. 
 
Loans (net) availed by other sectors (i.e., external commercial borrowings) at $ 4.1 billion also showed an increase of 42.1 per cent over Q3 of 2012-13. Net flows under trade credits and advances, however, continued to be negative in Q3 of 2013-14 as repayments remained higher than disbursements.
 
On a BoP basis, there was a net accretion of $ 19.1 billion to India’s foreign exchange reserves in Q3 of 2013-14 as compared to a drawdown of $ 10.4 billion in the preceding quarter, it said. 
 
The turnaround in export growth and decline in imports from July 2013 onwards led to a sharp improvement in the trade deficit to $ 116.9 billion in April-December 2013 from $ 150.0 billion in April-December 2012.
 
Contraction in the trade deficit, coupled with a rise in net invisibles receipts, resulted in a reduction of the CAD to $ 31.1 billion (2.3 per cent of GDP) in April-December 2013 from $ 69.8 billion (5.2 per cent of GDP) in April-December of 2012.
 
Net inflows under the capital and financial account (excluding change in foreign exchange reserves) declined to $ 39.7 billion in April-December 2013 from $ 68.5 billion in corresponding period of 2012-13 owing to net outflows on account of portfolio investment, higher repayment of loans, and trade credit & advances.
 
On BoP basis, foreign exchange reserves increased by $ 8.4 billion during April-December 2013 as compared with an accretion of $ 1.1 billion in April-December 2012, the statement added.
 
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RBI extends date for exchanging pre-2005 banknotes to Jan 1, 2015

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today extended the date for exchanging the pre-2005 banknotes to January 1, 2015. 
 
It has also advised banks to facilitate the exchange of these notes for full value and without causing any inconvenience whatsoever to the public, a press release from the central bank said.
 
"The Reserve Bank solicits the cooperation of the public in withdrawing these notes from circulation by exchanging them at a bank branch convenient to them.
 
"This withdrawal exercise is in conformity with the standard international practice of not having multiple series of notes in circulation at the same time. A majority of such notes have already been withdrawn through the banks and only a limited number of notes remain with the public.
 
"The Reserve Bank clarifies that the public can continue to freely use these notes for any transaction and can unhesitatingly receive these notes in payment, as all such notes continue to remain legal tender," the release said.
 
The Reserve Bank will continue to monitor and review the process so that the public is not inconvenienced in any manner, it added.
 
The RBI had earlier, on January 22, announced that it would, after March 31, 2014, completely withdraw from circulation all banknotes issued prior to 2005.
 
It said the public could easily identify the notes to be withdrawn as the notes issued before 2005 do not have on them the year of printing on the reverse side. 
 
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India, UAE agree to bolster bilateral trade, continue strategic dialogue

Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma with Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, at the 2nd Meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investment, in Mumbai on March 3, 2014.
Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma with Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, at the 2nd Meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investment, in Mumbai on March 3, 2014.
India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today agreed on several steps to strengthen bilateral trade and pave the way for continued strategic dialogue between them.
 
At the second meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investments (HLTFI) held in Mumbai, the two sides also held wide-ranging discusions on priority sectors of engagement for chanelling investments in the two countries.
 
The meeting was co-chaired by Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Shekh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court.
 
The HLTFI was established in April 2012 as a platform to address mutual issues associated with existing investments between the two countries and to promote and facilitate cross-border investments.
 
More than 30 government and private sector representatives from India and the UAE were present at the meeting, an official press release said.
 
The two sides discussed ways of supporting the establishment of a strategic petroleum reserve in India in a manner serving the common strategic interests of both countries and based on the principles of long term strategic partnership and cooperation. They decided to establish another joint working group to make progress on this effort.
 
They also discussed ways of expediting the resolution of current pending issues associated with existing UAE investments in India (Etisalat, Emaar & DP World), and a plan of action was agreed for the Legacy Issues sub-working group to address and resolve these issues.
 
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The meeting acknowledged TAQA, the Abu Dhabi-based international energy and water company, as the largest private operator of hydroelectric plants in India, following its acquisition, signed on Saturday 1st March, 2014 in New Delhi, of two hydroelectric plants in India. 
 
The equity invested by the TAQA-led consortium in the acquisition of the two hydroelectric plants will amount to approximately Rs 3,820 crores (US$ 616 million), of which 51% is from TAQA. The consortium will also acquire the assets` non-recourse project debt, taking the value of the deal to $ 1.6 billion. 
 
The agreement followed the signing of the UAE-India Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in December 2013 and the UAE`s commitment at the last HLTFI meeting to invest US$ 2 billion in India`s infrastructure sector.
 
The UAE side invited the Indian companies in the renewable energy area to the UAE to meet with Masdar to discuss potential investments.
 
The meeting noted that the UAE and India are significant trading partners and bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to continue its important growth in years to come. Alongside trade, the HLTFI would seek to achieve a similar growth path for investment with a clear roadmap between the two countries, an official press release issued after the meeting said.
 
Mr Sharma underlined India’s status as a major destination for foreign investments and the opportunities that exist for the UAE, especially in infrastructure areas such as roads and highways, power and utilities, civil aviation, ports, renewable energy and urban infrastructure,  and participation through the Infrastructure Debt Funds. 
 
He also highlighted India’s desire to participate in the hydrocarbon sector in the UAE, especially in the upstream petroleum sector. He also mentioned that he saw greater opportunities for UAE investors as strategic partners in India’s growth story.
 
"Today we have advanced the work of the Joint Task Force, and laid the foundation for further mutually beneficial investments and areas of common interest," Sheikh Hamed said.
 
"We look forward to the ratification of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and the resolution of the outstanding issues identified at our first meeting. Together, our combined efforts will help to further strengthen bilateral trade relations and pave the way for continued strategic dialogue," he said.
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The first meeting of the HLTFI, held in Abu Dhabi in February 2013, resulted in a wide-ranging discussion on matters of mutual interest including the identification of priority sectors of engagement for possible investments in the two countries. Since then, work conducted by the HLTFI to strengthen and develop bilateral relations in the field of investments culminated in the signing, in December, 2013, of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), serving as a platform for promotion and reciprocal legal protection of investments in both countries.
 
As a result of decisions taken during the inaugural meeting of the HLTFI, several joint working groups have been created to address issues of mutual interest in the following sectors: Infrastructure, Investment & Trade, Energy, Manufacturing & Technology, Aviation, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Legacy Issues. 
 
At today`s meeting, an action plan was agreed to expedite progress across all these joint working groups, the release added.
 
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