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CPI leader Govind Pansare dies, four days after being shot at in Kolhapur

 
CPI leader Govind Pansare succumbs to bullet injuries
Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and anti-road toll activist Govind Pansare, who was shot at and injured by unidentified assailants in Kolhapur on February 16, succumbed to his injuries at the Breach Candy Hospital here late last night, sources said.
 
Pansare, 82, who had suffered serious injuries in the attack, was earlier in the day yesterday flown in an air ambulance from the Kolhapur hospital where he was being treated.
 
Sources said he breathed his last around 10 pm yesterday. Hospital sources said hehad suffered heavy bleeding in the lungs.
 
Pansare and his wife Uma were shot at by the assailants, who came on a motorcycle, near their house in Kolhapur when they were returning from their morning walk. Both were immediately rushed to a local hospital.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had arranged for an air ambulance to bring Pansare to Mumbai on a request from his relatives.
 
Mr Fadnavis, who visited the hospital late yesterday, said on microblogging site Twitter, "Maharashtra has lost a progressive leader. The state will always remember his contribution for giving justice to the poor and depressed classes."
 
Pansare's body was taken back to Kolhapur today for his funeral today after the autopsy.
 
The police are, meanwhile, preparing sketches of the suspects on the basis of information provided to them by Mrs Pansare, who is recovering from her injuries.
 
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Govt. refutes reports that INO Project will be used for storing nuclear waste

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The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) today strongly refuted recent media reports which suggsted that the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project's underground laboratory and tunnels would be used for storing nuclear waste.
 
"Such reports are not factual and are baseless. Department of Atomic Energy strongly refutes such erroneous and malicious reports. It categorically states that no nuclear waste will be stored there at any time and INO laboratory will be used only for the purpose of basic science research in the field of neutrino physics," a statement from DAE said here.
 
"The operation of INO will have no release of radioactive or toxic substances. It is not a weapons laboratory and will have no strategic or defence applications," it said.
 
According to the statement, the INO Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 meter.
 
The underground laboratory, consisting of a large cavern of size 132m × 26m × 20m and several smaller caverns, will be accessed by a 1900 m long and 7.5 m wide tunnel. 
 
The project is jointly supported by the DAE and the Department of Science & Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the nodal agency.
 
The objective of INO is to conduct basic research on the elementary particle called neutrino.  Presently 21 research institutes, universities and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from all over the country are involved in this project. 
 
"INO is expected to galvanise interest in basic science research in the whole country and particularly in and around Theni and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu.  Science students across the country will have opportunity to pursue cutting edge research in the field of particle physics while being located in India.
 
"The observatory will be located underground so as to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation. Tunnel construction is very common and will not have any impact on environment, water sources or dams in the region. The project has all the required clearances from various Central and State Government authorities. A detailed geotechnical studies was also carried out by the Geological Survey of India (GSI)," the statement added.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.956 billion to new high of $333.169 billion

India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 2.956 billion to a new all-time high of $ 333.169  billion in the week ended February 13, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 2.33 billion to a previous high of $ 330.213 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.299 billion to $ 307.257 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 20.183 billion during the week while its special drawing rights fell by $ 5.1 million to $ 4.089 billion.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 661.9 million to $ 1.64 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Anil Kumble to be inducted into ICC Cricket Hall of Fame

Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble
Former India captain Anil Kumble will be inducted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Fame, along with the late Betty Wilson of Australia, one of the greatest women cricketers of all time, during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 match between India and South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 22.
 
Two more former legends of the game will be inducted during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, a press release from ICC said.
 
One of the most versatile wrist-spinners to ever play the game, Kumble, with 619 Test wickets, is the third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket after Muttiah Muralidaran (800) and Shane Warne (708).
 
His 337 wickets in one-day internationals (ODIs) ranks him in ninth position on the all-time list of most successful bowlers in that format. 
 
Kumble captained India in 14 Tests between 2007 and 2008, winning three and losing five.
 
In the 138-year history of Test cricket during which 2,156 Tests have been played to date, Kumble is one of only two bowlers after England’s Jim Laker to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings. He achieved this feat against traditional rival Pakistan in New Delhi in February 1999.
 
Kumble made his Test debut in 1990 in Manchester and his final appearance was in New Delhi in October-November 2008. During his career, Kumble played 132 Tests and 271 One-Day Internationals. Apart from his 619 Test and 337 ODI wickets, Kumble also scored 2,506 runs in Tests and 938 runs in ODIs.
 
Wilson, a former Australia batter, played 11 Tests between 1947 and 1958 in which she scored 862 runs at average of 57.4 and took 68 wickets at 11.8 per wicket.
 
On her debut against New Zealand at the age of 26 in 1948, she scored 90 and took four for 37 and six for 28. In her second Test, she scored 111 against England, becoming the first Australia woman to score a Test century against England, and took nine more wickets. Against England in 1957-58, she became the first cricketer, male or female, to score a century and take 10 wickets in a Test.
 
Wilson passed away on 22 January 2010, aged 88.
 
Kumble and Wilson will be formally inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame during the innings break in the India versus South Africa match at the MCG..
 
ICC Director and Chairman of Cricket Australia Wally Edwards will present Kumble with his commemorative cap, while Wilson’s commemorative cap will be received by her nephew, Ken Wilson, from ICC Chief Executive David Richardson.
 
“It’s an honour to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Indeed, it will be a great moment of pride to receive it during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I deem it as a great privilege to join the list of great cricketing luminaries.”
 
“Anil was an outstanding international cricketer, a very well-respected opponent, a great statesman for his country and a role model for millions of aspiring cricketers. He played hard but within the spirit of the game. His performance and record speak volumes for his tenacity, commitment, endurance and service to the game," Richardson said.
 
Richardson said of Betty Wilson: “History shows that Betty was an inspiring cricketer, one of the pioneers of women’s cricket and immensely respected because she always put cricket first. Had her debut not been delayed by World War II, I am sure she would have scored lot more runs and taken many more wickets.”
 
Kumble, who is now the Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, is the fourth India cricketer to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame after fellow former captains Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009.
 
Overall, Kumble and Wilson are the 77th and 78th inductees while two more former icons of the game will be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, details of which will be announced in due course, the release said.
 
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The process for the selection of players into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame started last year when the ICC Chairman invited all the living ICC Cricket Hall of Famers to send their nominations. The ICC Nominations Committee reduced the long-list to 10 men’s and three women’s cricketers. The short-list was then sent to the Voting Academy, which included representatives of all the 10 Full Members, media representatives from all the 10 Full Members, Associate & Affiliate Member, women’s cricket and FICA representatives as well as living ICC Hall of Famers. The ICC collated the nominations and forwarded the ballot papers to the auditors who provided the final results.
 
The following are the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame:
 
Initial Inductees (55):
Sydney Barnes, Bishan Bedi, Alec Bedser, Richie Benaud, Allan Border, Ian Botham, Geoffrey Boycott, Donald Bradman, Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Denis Compton, Colin Cowdrey, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Lance Gibbs, Graham Gooch, David Gower, WG Grace, Tom Graveney, Gordon Greenidge, Richard Hadlee, Walter Hammond, Neil Harvey, George Headley, Jack Hobbs, Michael Holding, Leonard Hutton, Rohan Kanhai, Imran Khan, Alan Knott, Jim Laker, Harold Larwood, Dennis Lillee, Ray Lindwall, Clive Lloyd, Hanif Mohammad, Rodney Marsh, Malcolm Marshall, Peter May, Javed Miandad, Keith Miller, Bill O’Reilly, Graeme Pollock, Wilfred Rhodes, Barry Richards, Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Garfield Sobers, Brian Statham, Fred Trueman, Derek Underwood, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Frank Woolley, Frank Worrell
 
2009-10 Inductees:
Herbert Sutcliffe, Steve Waugh, Wasim Akram, Victor Trumper and Clarrie Grimmett
 
2010-11 Inductees:
Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, Ken Barrington, Courtney Walsh and Joel Garner
 
2011-12 Inductees:
Belinda Clark, Frederick Spofforth, Curtly Ambrose and Alan Davidson
 
2012-13 Inductees:
Enid Bakewell, Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne
 
2013-14 Inductees:
Adam Gilchrist, Debbie Hockley, Bob Simpson and Waqar Younis
 
2014-15 Inductees:
Anil Kumble and Betty Wilson. Two more to be announced in due course
 
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NPCI initiates ecosystem for Unified Payments Interface

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National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the umbrella organization for all retail payment systems in India, has taken up a new initiative of implementing a Unified Payment Interface (UPI) to simplify and provide a single interface across all systems. 
 
The new interface is designed to enable all account holders to send and receive money from their smartphones with a single identifier – Aadhaar number, mobile number, virtual payments address – without entering any bank account information.
 
A press release from NPCI said the UPI would make possible paying and receiving payments as easy as swiping a phone book entry and making a call on mobile phone.
 
"Everyone who has an account should be able to send and receive money from their mobile phone with just an identifier without having any other bank/account details," it said.
 
The unified layer should allow application providers to take advantage of enhancements in mobile devices, provide integrated payments on new consumer devices, provide innovative user interface features, take advantage of newer authentication services, and so on, the release said.
 
It would allow banks and other payment players to focus on their core business and allow half a billion phones to be the primary payment device in conjunction with other third party authentication.
 
“This unified layer, which offers next generation peer-to-peer immediate payment just by using personal phone, uses existing systems such as IMPS, AEPS, to ensure settlement across accounts. The usages of existing systems ensure reliability of payment transactions across various channels,” Mr A P Hota, MD & CEO, NPCI, aid.
 
NPCI presented a live demonstration of transactions involving a few select banks during the event yesterday, which was inaugurated by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram G. Rajan.
 
Others present included former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani, Bank of India Chairman and Managing Director V R Iyer and NPCI Chairman Balachandran M.
 
The release said UPI is a standardized, innovative, adoptable, secure and cost-effective interface. Once formulated, the standardized API, designed for enabling different forms of payment beneficial for mobile application, and other channels, can be integrated into the NPCI infrastructure.
 
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UPI will make payments possible only by providing an address with others without having ever provided account details or credentials on third party applications or websites. It also has ability for sending collect requests to others (person to person or entity to person) with "pay by" date to allow payment requests to be “snoozed” and paid later before expiry date without having to block the money in the account until customer is ready to pay.
 
UPI has the ability to use personal mobile to "pay" someone (push) as well as "collect" from someone (pull). User can pre-authorize multiple recurring payments similar to ECS (utilities, school fees, subscriptions, etc.) with a one-time secure authentication and rule based access. 
 
All payment system players will use a standard set of APIs for any-to-any push and pull payments.
 
In addition, it has the ability to pay and collect using "virtual payment addresses" that are "aliases" to accounts that may be payee/amount/time limited, providing further security features. It has ability to have PSP provided mobile applications that allow paying from any account using any number of virtual addresses using credentials such as passwords, PINs, or biometrics (on phone), the release said.
 
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RBI issues clarifications on import of gold by nominated banks, agencies

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today clarified that the obligation to export under the 20:80 gold import scheme, which it had scrapped on November 28, 2014, would continue to apply in respect of unutilised gold imported before the date of abolition of the scheme.
 
In a circular to authorised dealer banks, the central bank said it had been receiving requests for clarification on some of the operational aspects of the guidelines on import of gold consequent upon the withdrawal of the 20:80 scheme.
 
The circular said nominated banks were now permitted to import gold on consignment basis. All sale of gold domestically will, however, be against upfront payments. Banks are free to grant gold metal loans.
 
Star and Premier Trading Houses (STH/PTH) can import gold on DP basis as per entitlement without any end use restrictions, it said.
 
"While the import of gold coins and medallions will no longer be prohibited, pending further review, the restrictions on banks in selling gold coins and medallions are not being removed," the circular said.
 
The RBI had on November 28 last year scrapped the 20:80 scheme which required traders to export 20 per cent of the gold imported by them.
 
The government had on July 22 last year imposed some restrictions on the import of various forms of gold by nominated banks and agencies, premier and star trading houses, special economic zone (SEZ) units and export-oriented units (EOUs) which are permitted to import gold for use in the domestic sector.
 
Through a circular of August 14, 2013, the government prohibited the import of gold in the form of coins and medallions.
 
Welcoming the clarifications, Mr Somasundaram PR, Managing Director, India, World Gold Council, said they were in the right direction following the removal of the 20:80 import restriction and definitely positive for the industry, restoring the previous position.
 
"It is the right time to look at all aspects of Gold Policy with a longer term perspective, going beyond just import policy and incremental changes. The focus of government must be on making gold a smoothly fungible asset in the hands of the millions of households," he added.
 
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RCom partners with Twitter to bring cricket World Cup action to customers

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Telecom services provider Reliance Communications (RCom) the global telecom sponsor of the ICC World Cup 2015, today said it had partnered with micro-blogging site Twitter to bring to its customers a comprehensive platform to follow the ongoing 14-nation tournament.
 
"By allowing its users new ways to connect and engage on Twitter and follow the six-week tournament, Reliance Communications will look to drive Internet adoption and usage during this iconic event, and help drive greater recharges and create stickiness around data usage," a press release from the company said.
 
The release said customers who do not have a Twitter account can also access cricket-related Tweets by logging on to www.rcom.co.in/cricket on their mobile phones throughout the duration of the event, which began on February 13 and will end on March 31.
 
"Here, RCOM customers can engage with players, commentators and celebrities, watch exclusive pictures and videos and of course remain updated with all the latest scores without incurring any data charges," it said.
 
Customers will also be able to follow their favorite accounts and get updates without any data charges from Team India, @BCCI and its players, including skipper MS Dhoni (@msdhoni) or vice-captain Virat Kohli (imvkohli), commentator Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha), as well as former players like Viv Richards (@vivrichards56) and Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne), amongst many others. 
 
Reliance will also encourage users outside the Reliance network to participate in various interactive contests on Twitter on its account @RelianceMobile. Participants could win miniature bats as souvenirs, it said.
 
“We are delighted to partner with Twitter to offer this unique service to all cricket fans for a unique World Cup experience,” Gurdeep Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Business, Reliance Communications, said. “Cricket is best enjoyed with friends and the fun doubles when you can share exchange with all friends instantly. It is with this thought  that  Reliance has made Twitter free and inclusive, so that our customers can get the most of this World Cup,” he added.
 
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Arvinder Gujral, Director of Business Development, India and SE Asia, Twitter, said: “As a platform for live, public conversations, Twitter has changed the way people connect with sporting & global events including cricket tournaments. All the exciting action on and off the pitch as well as the roar of the Indian cricket fans from Jamagar to Itanagar, and Srinagar to Coimbatore, will be heard on Twitter. Through this partnership, Reliance Communications will enable millions of subscribers across the country to join this cricket party for free and in real-time via Twitter.”
 
In addition to this, Reliance has launched an exclusive cricket portal wherein its customers can download content related to the event like match highlights, commentary, and behind the scenes images. All a customer has to do is go to ICCCWC2015.rcom.co.in.
 
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Former Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil passes away

 
Former Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil dies
Former Maharashtra Home Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader R R Patil passed away at a private hospital here today after a prolonged illness.
 
He was 57. His funeral will be held at his village in Sangli district tomorrow, sources said.
 
Mr Patil was undergoing treatment at the hospital at the Lilavati Hospital for oral cancer for some time.
 
Raosaheb Ramrao Patil was born on August 16, 1957 in Sangli district of Maharashtra, he did his B.A. and LL.B. He started out in his political career as a member of the Sangli district panchayat from 1979 to 1990 before being elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in 1990 from Tasgaon. He was re-elected four times in 1995,, 1999, 2004 and 2009.
 
He was appointed Minister for Rural Development in 1999. He was given the Home portfolio in 2004 and again in 2009. In his first stint as Home Minister, he had to quit in December 2008 after some controversial remarks on the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. 
 
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India’s forex reserves rise by $ 2.33 billion to new high of $330.213 billion

 
India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 2.33 billion to a new all-time high of $ 330.213  billion in the week ended February 6, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had soared by a whopping $ 5.846 billion to a previous high of $ 327.883 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 1.633 billion to $ 304..958 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 $ 805.3 million to $ 20.183 million, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) rose by $ 21.8 million to $ 4.094 bilion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 130.3 million to $ 977.8 million during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Gold jewellery demand in India up 8% to record 662 tonnes in 2014

India – one of the two largest gold markets in the world – had its strongest year for jewellery demand since the World Gold Council’s (WGC) records began in 1995, up 8% on a year ago to 662 tonnes (t) in 2014.
 
Overall, 2014 saw a stabilisation of the gold market as it pulled back from the extremes of 2013, according to the latest Gold Demand Trends full year report from the WGC.
 
Annual gold demand was 3,924t, 4% lower than 2013. The year ended strongly, with gold demand in Q4 2014 up 6% year on year to 987t, driven by demand for jewellery and central bank buying, the report said.
 
It said jewellery remained the biggest source of demand for gold. Total jewellery demand for the year was 2,153t, down 10% compared to the previous year, which is not surprising given the price-driven jewellery demand surge in 2013. 
 
The report said that demand in India was driven by wedding and festival buying despite the presence of government restrictions on gold imports for most of the year. 
 
Although China saw demand decline 33% year on year, it still represented the second best year for jewellery demand in China since WGC records began, it said.
 
The report said there was also strong jewellery demand in the United Kingdom and the United States, driven by improved economic performance, up 18% to 28t and 9% to 132t respectively.
 
Investment demand, the other big driver of the gold market, was up 2% in 2014, from 885t in 2013 to 905t last year. Total bar and coin investment was down 40% as investors who had made major purchases in 2013 held back from further purchases. This was offset by a dramatic slowdown in outflows from exchange traded funds (ETFs), from 880t in 2013 to 159t in 2014.
 
Central banks continued to see the value of gold as a reserve asset in 2014. Annual central bank demand was up 17% to 477t.  This was particularly evident in the last quarter of 2014, when demand was up 40% year on year to 119t, making Q4 2014 the 16th consecutive quarter and 2014, the fifth consecutive year that central banks were net purchasers of gold.
 
Total supply in 2014 was virtually unchanged compared to 2013 at 4,278t, as recycling contracted to a seven year low, offsetting annual mine production growth, which was up 2% to a record 3,114t.
 
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Marcus Grubb, Managing Director, Investment Strategy at the World Gold Council said: “2014 was a year of stabilisation and innovation in the gold market, with annual gold demand down by just 4% after the record-breaking level of buying seen in 2013. It was a standout year for Indian jewellery, despite government restrictions on gold imports, reinforcing the nation’s affinity with gold. Meanwhile Chinese gold demand returned to those last seen in 2011/2012 as consumers and investors took time to digest the substantial volumes accumulated in 2013."
 
“What’s particularly notable about 2014 is that the striking shift in physical gold demand from West to East is now being followed by gold infrastructure development in Asia. New products and trading platforms were introduced like the Shanghai Gold Exchange International Board, the 'Gold Send' mobile app in Turkey and the new kilobar contracts in Singapore and Hong Kong  - all designed to make gold more accessible to greater numbers of buyers in the East," he added.
 
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EXIM Bank signs MOC with All India Artisans and Craft Workers Welfare Association

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The Export-Import Bank of India signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) here today with All India Artisans and Craft Workers Welfare Association (AIACA), a non-profit organization based in New Delhi, which works on increasing incomes and standard of living of crafts producers by enhancing market opportunities and providing various business development services to them. 
 
The purpose of the MOC is to identify areas and means of cooperation through which Indian grassroots/social enterprises could be supported to enable them reach international markets, a press release from Exim Bank said.
 
Under the MOC, both Exim Bank and AIACA will share their knowledge and connect each other to promising social enterprises for further support, including financial and advisory.
 
The MOC was signed by Mr. Debasish Mallick, Deputy Managing Director, Exim Bank and Ms. Madhura Dutta, Executive Director, AIACA.
 
Mr Mallick said EXIM Bank had been striving towards promotion of exports of products from rural grassroots business enterprises by providing them with an array of services including those related to financial support, capacity building, and export marketing. 
 
The underlying objective is to augment sustainable employment opportunities and exports from the disadvantaged sections of rural India.
 
Mr. Mallick emphasized that this partnership with AIACA was a part of Exim Bank's outreach strategy to target a wider spectrum of grassroots organizations and would supplement the bank's efforts towards boosting exports from rural India.
 
Ms. Dutta said the synergy between the two institutions would improve the quality of business of social enterprises and make them more sustainable in the long run.
 
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SpiceJet resumes service to Hubli from Bengaluru, Mumbai

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Low-cost carrier SpiceJet today said it would resume flights to Hubli in Karnataka from March 1 with daily flights connecting the city with state capital Bengaluru and Mumbai.
 
The airline will operate 78-seater Bombardier Q-400 aircraft on these routes, a press release from the company said.
 
SpiceJet had earlier suspended its Hubli operations as the runway there was under maintenance since October 2014. The runway has since been declared to be completely functional.
 
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Actress Sonam Kapoor hospitalised due to respiratory infection

Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor has been hospitalised because of a reported respiratory infection.
 
"Hate being sick... Oowie," the actress said on micro-blogging site Twitter and also posted a picture of her hand, with a drip tube stuck to it for intravenous fluids.
 
Media reports said the actress had got the infection while shooting for Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, in which she is paired with Salman Khan.
 
Sonam also said that she used the opportunity to finish reading Gautam Chintamani's biography of late actor Rajesh Khanna. "Very well and fairly written for fans, sceptics and cinephiles," she said.
 
She also thanked chef Kelvin Cheung for sending her protein cookies. "Thank you @chefkelvincheung for the care package.. Feeling better already!!" she said.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 5.846 billion to all-time high of $ 327.883 billion

 
India’’s foreign exchange reserves soared by a whopping $ 5.846 billion to an all-time high of $ 327.883 billion in the week ended January 30, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had fallen by $ 97.9 million to $ 322.037 billion in the week ended January 23 after rising by $ 2.66 billion to a previous high of $ 322.135 billion in the week before that.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 5.814 billion to $ 303. 325 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.378 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $  24.6 million to $ 4.072 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 6.8 million to $ 1.108  billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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NPCI proposes Unified Payment Architecture for all retail payments in India

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National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the umbrella organization for all retail payments in India, has released a document containing the technical specifications that corporates, merchants, banks and other institutional players can adopt to send and receive payments in an inter-operable way. 
 
The thrust would be on optimum utilization of smart phones and biometric authentication from the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a press release from NPCI said.
 
"The significance of this development is that merchants would not have to struggle as to how they themselves link with their banks. Software development task would be easier and payment can happen on a real-time, on a 'Request Response' basis," it said.
 
The security layer as at present remains unchanged. This would also facilitate innovations in a big way within the overall ambit of payments system regulations of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), it said.
 
“When implemented fully, India can be one of the leading countries in the world on such initiatives,” NPCI Managing Director and CEO A P Hota said.
 
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Snapdeal collaborates with Kolte-Patil for its home buying expo

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Pune-based real estate developer Kolte Patil Developers Ltd has tied up with e-commerce major Snapdeal to enable customers to make online bookings for all its 13 properties on display at its home buying expo, NestFest.
 
The exhibition wi be held at SSPMS Grounds in Pune from February 6-8.
 
"Now customers can log in to Snapdeal, book a Kolte Patil property and avail all the NestFest offers," a press release from the company said here today.
 
Properties on sale during the exhibition range from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 10 crore and many brands such as Samsung, Bugatti, Villeroy and Boch have joined hands with Kolte-Patil to deliver value to its customers.
 
Mr Sujay Kalele, CEO, Kolte-Patil said, “Snapdeal always brings value to its customers in all its product categories. Just like them, we at Kolte-Patil are great believers of offering value in all forms to our customers. It was a natural progression for Snapdeal to extend the same to home buying. Today’s home buyer wants to make sure that they have the ability to buy, even the biggest things of their lives at their fingertips. Online booking options at Snapdeal ensure that we are present exactly where our current customers are.”
 
Mr. Kunal Bahl, co-founder and CEO Snapdeal.com said, “Snapdeal always values partnerships where our customers benefit the most. The wide range of benefits that NestFest 2015 is providing our customers, compelled us to tie up with Kolte-Patil Developers Ltd. This partnership would continue post NestFest 2015, with more exciting value adds for our customers."
 
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Central Railway completes 90 years of suburban services in Mumbai

The Central Railway today completed 90 years of suburban services in Mumbai.
 
It was on this day in 1925 that Sir Leslie Wilson, the  then Governor of Bombay, flagged off the first EMU service with four cars from the then Bombay Victoria Terminus to Kurla on the harbour line.
 
Much has changed since then. Today, for instance, the Central Railway runs 15-car trains on the Main line.
 
In 1925, the Central Railway ran 150 services and carried 2.2 lakh passengers every day. Today, it runs 1618 services and carries 41 lakh passengers daily, a press release from Central Railway added.
 
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1600 exhibitors from 30 countries to participate in Plastindia 2015

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As many as 1600 exhibitors from India and 30 other countries will participate in Plastindia 2015, one of the main plastics related events in the country, which will be held from February 5-10 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
 
About 150,000 business visitors are expected to attend the event that will be held over an area of 125,000 square metres, a press release from Plastindia Foundation, the organisers, said today.
 
Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Ananth Kumar and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel will inaugurate the event and also release the Industry Status Report on plastics on the occasion.
 
The release said the exhibition would showcase the latest in technology, innovation, processes, products, responsible plastics management, recycling and a whole host of related aspects of plastics.
 
Mr. Subhash Kadakia, President, Plastindia Foundation said, “Apart from the dynamic exhibition, there will be a stunning bouquet of associated offerings that make Plastindia exhibitions a ‘must not miss’ affair for global plastics honchos. The new arena created with the help of the Gujarat government will showcase new facilities for the country." 
 
Concurrent to the event, an international conference, titled, ‘Gateway to Innovations,’ will be held at the Convention Centre at The Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.
 
Alongside the main event, the fourth Proplast exhibition, which will showcase the global standard capabilities of India’s plastics processing fraternity, will also be held.
 
The 24th ASEAN Plastics Forum, the sixth Plasticon Awards, the Wintech Technology Transfer initiative, as well as numerous B2B meets on investment, finance, knowledge sharing and so on will be held concurrently, the release said.
 
The release said that a rebate of 5% will be offered on purchase of machinery from Gujarat based companies and 3% on machinery to companies outside the state, during the exhibition period. Purchase of raw materials will have further subsidies on VAT and 5% subsidy on the interest on purchase of machinery.
 
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RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 7.75%, says no new developments in disinflationary process

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday decided to keep its key policy 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 when it had cut the rate by 25 basis points.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today decided to keep its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) 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 when it had cut the rate by 25 basis points.
 
In his Sixth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2014-15, RBI Governor Raghuram G. Rajan also said that the cash reserve ratio of scheduled bans unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL).
 
He said the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) of commercial banks would be reduced by 50 basis points from 22.0 per cent to 21.5 per cent of their NDTL with effect from the fortnight beginning February 7.
 
The RBI has decided to replace the replace the export credit refinance (ECR) facility with the provision of system level liquidity with effect from February 7, 2015, he said.
 
It will continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos of 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.
 
It will also continue with daily variable rate term repo and reverse repo auctions to smooth liquidity, he said
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF will remain unchanged at 6.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 8.75 per cent, he said.
 
Stating that the momentum of inflation had significantly reduced, the RBI had on January 15, outside the policy review cycle, reduced the repo rate by 25 basis points from 8.0 per cent to 7.75 per cent.
 
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"Given that there have been no substantial new developments on the disinflationary process or on the fiscal outlook since January 15, it is appropriate for the Reserve Bank to await them and maintain the current interest rate stance," Dr Rajan said today.
 
Dr Rajan said that, by and large, inflation dynamics had so far been consistent with the assessment of the balance of risks by the Reserve Bank’s bi-monthly monetary policy statements, although with some undershooting relative to the projected path of disinflation. 
 
"While inflation declined faster than expected due to favourable base effects during June-November, the upturn in December turned out to be muted relative to projections. Augmenting these data with survey data on falling inflationary expectations as well as data on weak commodity prices and muted rural wage growth, the Reserve Bank projected that it would meet its objective of 6 per cent CPI inflation by January 2016. Having committed in public statements to initiate a change in the monetary policy stance as soon as incoming data permitted, the Reserve Bank cut the policy rate on January 15, 2015," he said.
 
He also recalled that the RBI had also indicated that "key to further easing are data that confirm continuing disinflationary pressures. Also critical would be sustained high quality fiscal consolidation…”. 
 
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The central bank said the upside risks to inflation stem from the unlikely possibility of significant fiscal slippage, uncertainty on the spatial and temporal distribution of the monsoon during 2015 as also the low probability but highly influential risks of reversal of international crude prices due to geo-political events. 
 
"Heightened volatility in global financial markets, including through the exchange rate channel, also constitute a significant risk to the inflation assessment. Looking ahead, inflation is likely to be around the target level of 6 per cent by January 2016. As regards the path of inflation in 2015-16, the Reserve Bank will keenly monitor the revision in the CPI, which will rebase the index to 2012 and incorporate a more representative consumption basket along with methodological improvements," it said.
 
The RBI said the outlook for growth had improved modestly on the back of disinflation, real income gains from decline in oil prices, easier financing conditions and some progress on stalled projects. 
 
"These conditions should augur well for a reinvigoration of private consumption demand, but the overall impact on growth could be partly offset by the weaker global growth outlook and short-run fiscal drag due to likely compression in plan expenditure in order to meet consolidation targets set for the year. Accordingly, the baseline projection for growth using the old GDP base has been retained at 5.5 per cent for 2014-15. 
 
"For 2015-16, projections are inherently contingent upon the outlook for the south-west monsoon and the balance of risks around the global outlook. Domestically, conditions for growth are slowly improving with easing input cost pressures, supportive monetary conditions and recent measures relating to project approvals, land acquisition, mining, and infrastructure. Accordingly, the central estimate for real GDP growth in 2015-16 is expected to rise to 6.5 per cent with risks broadly balanced at this point. The revised GDP statistics (base 2011-12) released on January 30 along with advance estimates for 2014-15 expected on February 9, 2015 will need to be carefully analysed and could result in revisions to the Reserve Bank’s growth projections for 2015-16," the statement said.
 
Dr Rajan said that, with liquidity conditions remaining comfortable, the recourse to export credit has been low – less than 50 per cent of the limit on monthly average basis since October 2014.
 
In pursuance of the Dr. Urjit R. Patel Committee’s recommendation to move away from sector-specific refinance, the ECR limit has been gradually lowered since June 2014. Continuing with this rationalisation, it has been decided to merge the facility with system level liquidity provision with effect from February 7, 2015. The Reserve Bank would continue to meet system wide liquidity needs as per the revised liquidity adjustment framework announced on August 22, 2014, he said.
 
He said that, in order to create space for banks to expand credit, the SLR was being reduced from 22.0 per cent of NDTL to 21.5 per cent. Banks should use this headroom to increase their lending to productive sectors on competitive terms so as to support investment and growth, he said.
 
Dr Rajan said the revision in the base year for GDP and GDP calculation methods would mean some revision in GDP growth numbers for 2014-15 as well as in GDP forecasts. 
 
"Domestic activity is likely to have remained subdued in Q3 of 2014-15, mainly reflecting the shortfall in the kharif harvest relative to a year ago. Agricultural growth is likely to pick up in Q4 with the late improvement in the north-east monsoon and in rabi sowing. Nevertheless, growth expectations should be tempered as lead indicators such as tractor and motorcycle sales and slowing rural wage growth all point to subdued rural demand," he said.
 
He said the improvement in industrial activity in November 2014 was broad-based, but continuing contraction in consumer goods production underscored the persisting weakness in consumption demand (even while raising questions about measurement of production). 
 
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Advance indicators of industrial activity - indirect tax collections; non-oil non-gold import growth; expansion in order books; and new business reported in purchasing managers surveys - pointed to a modest improvement in the months ahead, he said.
 
"Policy initiatives in land acquisition, as well as efforts underway to unlock mining activity and to widen the space for foreign direct investment in defence, insurance and railways, should create a more conducive setting for industrial revival. Faster clearances are also helping in resuscitating stalled projects. The improvement in business confidence is visible in a pick-up in new investment intentions, especially in transportation, power and manufacturing," he said.
 
The RBI said that, in the services sector, the purchasing managers’ survey indicated slower activity, especially in new orders. However, other indicators of the services sector including foreign tourist arrivals, automobile sales, cargo handled at ports, and railway freight traffic suggested improvement. 
 
"Overall, growth prospects will be contingent upon a turnaround in investment and a durable improvement in the business climate to complement the upsurge in business optimism. The sharp reduction in oil prices as well as in inflation is likely to increase personal disposable incomes and improve domestic demand conditions in the year ahead," it said.
 
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Reliance Industries applies for payments bank licence, SBI to take up 30% stake

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Energy, petrochemicals and retail major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has applied for a payments bank licence through a joint venture in which it will be the promoter and the State Bank of India (SBI), India's largest lender, would be a partner with equity investment of upto 30 per cent.
 
The partnership is in accordance with the guidelines for payments banks issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and subject to grant of license by RBI, a press release issued by the two companies said.
 
"This partnership brings together the combined strengths of two of India’s Fortune 500 corporations committed to making a transformative impact on India’s financial inclusion landscape," it said.
 
According to the release, the payments bank would leverage SBI’s nationwide distribution network and risk management capabilities along with the substantial investments made by RIL in its retail and telecom businesses. It will deploy state-of-the-art technology, build scalable infrastructure and create extensive branch and business correspondent network in order to provide last-mile access and intuitive user experience to all sections of society, it said.
 
"Besides promoting financial inclusion by providing banking and transaction services to unbanked, underbanked and small businesses, the partners see formation of the Payments Bank as an opportunity to:
·        lead and co-create an eco-system to provide accessible, simple and affordable banking solutions;
·        digitize payments and act as a catalyst towards a cashless society;
·        democratise banking and payment services through massive adoption and low transaction costs," the release added.
 
RIL is India's largest private sector company, with a consolidated turnover of Rs 4,46,339 crore ($ 74.5 billion), cash profit of  Rs 33,980 crore ($ 5.7 billion) and net profit of  Rs 22,493 crore ($ 3.8 billion) for the year ended March 31, 2014.
 
The group's activities span petroleum refining and marketing, petrochemicals, exploration and production of oil and gas, retail and telecommunications.
 
SBI has16,081 branches in India, 189 international offices in 35 countries and approximately 225 million active customer accounts as of September 30, 2014. It is also the only Indian bank listed in the Fortune 500. 
 
The bank had deposits, net advances and total assets base of Rs 14,73,785 crores, Rs 12,09,648 crores and Rs 18,74,332  crores, respectively, as of September 30, 2014, the largest by each measure among banking institutions in India.
 
In order to expand its distribution network, SBI has tied up with over 61,501 business correspondents all over the country. 
 
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Sun Pharma receives US FTC clearance for Ranbaxy acquisition

 
Pharmaceuticals majors Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd today announced that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has completed its review of the proposed acquisition of Ranbaxy by Sun Pharma and has granted early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR Act).
 
The early termination of the waiting period under the HSR Act satisfies one of the essential conditions to the closing of the Ranbaxy acquisition, a press release from Ranbaxy said.
 
Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy also announced that the FTC accepted a proposed consent agreement pursuant to which, Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy have agreed to divest Ranbaxy’s interests in generic minocycline tablets and capsules to an external third party.
 
"Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy are working closely towards completion of the transaction and will comply with the conditions laid down in the FTC consent agreement within the specified time," the release added.
 
Sun Pharmaceuticals and Ranbaxy had, on April 7 last year, announced that they had entered into definitive agreements pursuant to which Sun Pharma would acquire 100% of Ranbaxy in an all-stock transaction.  
 
The combination of Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy would create the fifth-largest specialty generics company in the world and the largest pharmaceutical company in India. 
 
The combined entity will have operations in 65 countries, 47 manufacturing facilities across five continents, and a significant platform of specialty and generic products marketed globally, including 629 ANDAs. 
 
The transaction has a total equity value of approximately $ 3.2 billion, the two companies had said on that date.
 
On December 8, 2014, the two companies said they had received an order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) of December 5 approving the acquisition.
 
One of the preconditions of the order is that parties procure the divestment of seven products. These products constitute less than 1% of the combined entity's revenues in India. 
 
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Jet Airways to increase frequencies on high demand domestic sectors

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Private sector carrier Jet Airways today said it would operate 16 additional daily Boeing 737 flights effective February 1 to March 28 to meet increased demand on key domestic sectors.
 
A press release from the airline said it would operate additional early morning flights from Bengaluru and Chennai to Mumbai and late evening services from Mumbai to the two key southern cities. 
 
Additional daily flights will also be operated from Bengaluru and Chennai to Delhi.
 
Jet Airways will further enhance its frequencies from Mumbai to Kolkata, Chandigarh, Kochi and Raipur with additional daily flights.
 
Jet Airways currently operates nine daily flights from Mumbai to Bengaluru, seven daily flights from Mumbai to Chennai and vice versa, five flights to Kolkata, one flight to Chandigarh, two flights to Kochi and two daily flights to Raipur. In addition, Jet Airways currently operates three flights from Delhi to Chennai and eight flights from Delhi to Bengaluru.
 
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SBI, European Investment Bank sign loan agreement to support SME, Mid-Caps

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State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest bank, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term lending institution, have signed a loan agreement for Euro 100 million to be utilised for onlending to private businesses in the country. 
 
This is the third tranche of a total sanction of Euro 200 million by EIB. A first tranche of Euro 55 million and second tranche of Euro 45 million was signed on June 25 and November 28 last year, respectively.
 
The agreement was signed on January 19 by SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and Mr. Roman Escolano, Vice President, EIB at Luxembourg at the European Investment Bank head office, a press release from SBI said.
 
The loan will be utilised to support the development of private sector, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), social and economic infrastructure as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation in India, it said.
 
The EIB funds will be earmarked for financing projects across a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, as well as wholesale and retail trade and services. 
 
The entire process was facilitated by SBI’s subsidiary, SBI Capital Markets, the release added.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.66 billion to all-time high of $ 322.135 billion

India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by a whopping $ 2.66 billion to an all-time high $ 322.135 billion in the week ended January 16, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 236.4 million to $ 319.475 billion in the previous week.
 
The previous high had been reached in the week ended September 2, 2011 when the foreign exchange reserves had touched $ 320.79 billion.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.685 billion to $ 297.53 billion during the week.
 
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
 
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.378 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down by $ 19.3 million to $ 4.109 billion during the period.
 
 India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 5.2 million to $ 1.118 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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RBI asks commercial banks to display loan interest rates, fees on their websites

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked all scheduled commercial banks in the country to display on their websites more information on interest rates and the fees and charges applicable on loans on their websites in order to promote transparency in their operations.
 
In a circular sent yesterday to all the banks, the RBI said that this was being done to further enhance transparency in the pricing of credit was based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Pricing of Credit.
 
"Banks should display on their website the interest rate range of contracted loans for the past quarter for different categories of advances granted to individual borrowers along with mean interest rates for such loans," it said.
 
The circular said the total fees and charges applicable on various types of loans to individual borrower should be disclosed at the time of processing of loan as well as displayed on the website of banks for transparency and comparability and to facilitate informed decision making by customers.
 
"Banks should publish Annual Percentage Rate (APR) or such similar other arrangement of representing the total cost of credit on a loan to an individual borrower on their websites so as to allow customers to compare the costs associated with borrowing across products and/ or lenders," it said.
 
The circular said the banks should provide a clear, concise, one page key fact statement/fact sheet, as per prescribed format to all individual borrowers at every stage of the loan processing as well as in case of any change in any terms and conditions. The same may also be included as a summary box to be displayed in the credit agreement.
 
In order to give banks sufficient time to comply with these instructions, it has been decided that the guidelines will come into force with effect from April 1, 2015, the circular added.
 
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