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Actress Mallika Sherawat to participate in Oxford Union debate on gender

Mallika Sherawat
Mallika Sherawat
Indian actress and model Mallika Sherawat is among those invited to participate in a debate by the Oxford Union on February 27 on the proposition, "This House Believes Gender Exists to Oppress".
 
Ms Sherawat will speak against the motion, along with S Bear Bergman, trans activist, poet, playwright and theatrical performer, Jessi M'Bengue, model ad dancer, and Stephen Whittle, activist with transactive group "Press for Change", Professor of Equalities and Law and former President of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.
 
Those speaking for the motion include Calpernia Addams, musician, actor and campaigner for transgender rights, David Aaronovitch, author, broadcaster and journalist, and Roberta Kaplan, American lawyer who has successfully argued the case against the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in front of the US Supreme Court in 2013, removing one of the last obstacles to gay marriage in the US.
 
The programme for the debate said Ms Sherawat is renowned for her roles in Bollywood films, her on-screen presence, and her outspoken criticism of attitudes towards women in India.
 
In its invitation to Ms Sherawat, a representative of the Union wrote, “We feel that as a figure who recently was very outspoken about the image of women and women’s rights in a country like India, Mallika would lend an interesting angle to the debate.” 
 
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"Yes, I have accepted the invitation. The date is set on Feb 27th. A lot of preparation is required. It's a great honour. I come from a small town, so it means a lot to be invited to speak at such a historic venue. I can use the platform to highlight issues like drop in the conviction rate in rape cases across the country," Ms Sherawat said.
 
Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union is one of the most famous debating societies in the world and has hosted world leaders from all fields. 
 
They include former US Presidents Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
 
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RBI clarifies on import of gold, gold dore by banks and agencies

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that, in cases of gold imports on the basis of Advance Authorisation (AA) and Duty Free Import Authorisation (DFIA) issued before August 14, 2013, the condition of sequencing imports prior to exports shall not be insisted upon even in case of entities/units in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export-Oriented Units (EOUs), Premier and Star Trading Houses.
 
The central bank issued the clarification yesterday after it had received representations in this regard and following consultations with the Government.
 
In a notification to all scheduled commercial baks (SCBs) which are authorised dealers (ADs) in foreign exchange and all agencies nominated for import of gold, it said the imports made as part of the AA/DFIA scheme will be outside the purview of the 20:80 scheme.
 
Such Imports will be accounted for separately and will not entitle the Nominated Agency/ Banks/Entities for any further import, it said.
 
"The Nominated Banks / Agencies / Entities may make available gold to the exporters (other than AA/DFIA holders) operating under the Replenishment Scheme. They can resort to import of gold for the purpose, if considered necessary. However, such import will be accounted for separately and will not entitle them for any further import," it said.
 
"Import of gold in the third lot onwards will be lesser of the two: Five times the export for which proof has been submitted; or Quantity of gold permitted to a Nominated Agency in the first or second lot."
 
On import of gold dore, the RBI clarified that refiners are allowed to import gold dore of 15% of their licence for each of the first two months.
 
In case the quantity has already been identified by Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for first two lots, import of such quantity will be in compliance with the guidelines issued earlier on December 31, 2013, it said.
 
"DGFT, through a notification, may include new refiners, and fix licence quantity for them," it said.
 
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India’s forex reserves increase by $ 1.26 billion to $ 292.33 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 1.26 billion to $ 292.33 billion in the week ended February 7, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here yesterday.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 1.263 billion to $ 265.832 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 last week’s level of $ 20.076 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) declined by $1.3 billion to $ 4.429 billion.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $1.5 million to $ 1.994 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Unity Infraprojects bags two projects worth Rs. 364.42 crore

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Civil contracting major Unity Infraprojects Ltd today said it had bagged two projects worth Rs 364.42 crore from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and NTPC.
 
A press release from the company said these included one for a township package for Kudgi Super Thermal Power Project, Stage I (3x800MV) by NTPC Limited, valued at Rs. 248.58 crore, which is to be completed within a period of 24 months.
 
The second order worth Rs. 115.84 crore is from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai for Design, Planning and Construction including supply, delivery, erection, commissioning of mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and automation works and comprehensive operation and maintenance of Storm Water Pumping Stations (SWPS) at Britannia Outfall, Reti Bunder Bay, Reay Road, Mumbai.
 
Mr. Abhijit K. Avarsekar, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Unity Infraprojects Ltd., said, “We received two orders amounting Rs. 364.42 cr in the fourth financial quarter so far. We are privileged on receiving order repeats from MCGM and NTPC. It symbolises the trust these clients have on us. This is a platform to showcase our skills and quality in operations and we are very much confident to accomplish these projects within the given time-frame.”
 
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Reliance says Kejriwal's move on FIR on gas pricing "shocking", allegations baseless

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The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said the direction of the Delhi Government to order the registration of first information reports (FIR) against it and others in relation to the decision of Union Cabinet to revise the price of gas was "shocking".  
"The complaint and each of the allegations on the basis of which the Delhi Government has taken such action are completely baseless and devoid of any merit or substance whatsoever," the energy and petrochemicals major said in a statement this evening.
 
"The allegations appear to have been made by persons who are also petitioners in the Supreme Court of India in a petition in which similar allegations have been made. The issue of gas pricing is also a contentious issue between the contracting parties being the Government of India and the Contractors.
 
"We deny these irresponsible allegations and propose to resort to the available legal remedies to protect our reputation and preserve the pioneering efforts and investment made by Reliance so far. We also remain fully committed to the development of oil and gas sector in India within the parameters of law," the statement added.
 
Earlier in the day, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had directed the anti-corruption branch (ACB) of his government to file first information reports (FIRs) against Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister M Veerappa Moily, former Minister Murli Deora and RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani in connection with the pricing of natural gas from the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin.
 
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FIRs would also be filed agianst former Director General of Hydrocarbons V K Sibal, RIL and others, he said.
 
Mr Kejriwal told a press conference in Delhi that he had done this after the ACB had received a complaint that RIL had made windfall profits following an increase in the price of gas allowed by the Government.
 
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Singapore Airlines to shift Mumbai operations to T2 of CSIA

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Singapore Airlines today said it would shift its operations at the Mumbai Airport to the new Terminal 2 (T2) with effect from February 12.
 
Recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan singh, this state-of-the-art, integrated terminal is designed to handle 40 million passengers annually.
 
"With effect from 1300 hours IST on 12 February, 2014, immigration clearance and checked-in baggage collection for customers arriving into Mumbai will be at the new Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) Terminal 2 (T2)," a press release from the airline said.
 
Singapore Airlines flights arriving in Mumbai on 12 February at the new T2 will be SQ426 (12 Feb, 2105 hrs), SQ422 (13 Feb, 0525 hrs) and SQ424 (13 Feb, 2250 hrs), the release said.
 
Departing flights are SQ425 (12 Feb, 2220 hrs), SQ421 (13Feb, 0845 hrs) and SQ423 (14Feb, 0005 hrs), the release added.
 
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President to visit Maharashtra on February 8-9

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President Pranab Mukherjee will visit Mumbai, Nagpur and Gondia in Maharashtra on February 8-9.
 
Tomorrow, Mr Mukherjee will inaugurate the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Kishinchand Chellaram College at Mumbai. He will also inaugurate the 150th Anniversary Celebrations of the Advocates’ Association of Western India (AAWI) at the National Sports Club Complex, Worli, Mumbai on the same day. 
 
On February 9, he will inaugurate "Krishi Vasant", a national exposition organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Maharashtra at the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur.
 
On the same day, he will attend annual day function of the Gondia Education Society at Gondia before returning to the capital, an official press release added.
 
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Reliance Capital Asset Management discloses investment by group firms in MF

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Reliance Capital Asset Management (RCAM), a part of Reliance Capital, today said that, as of December 31, 2013, the investment of group companies, in its total mutual fund average assets under management (AAUM) stood at Rs 3274 crore ($ 528 million).
 
This accounted for 3.2 per cent of the total mutual fund AAUM of Rs 1,02,487 crore ($ 16.5 billion), it said.
 
The information was given as part of RCAM's decision to voluntarily disclose total investments made by group companies in its total mutual fund AAUM.
 
The company, in addition to disclosing its total mutual fund Assets Under Management (AUM) and AAUM, will also be giving total investments made by group companies in its mutual fund AAUM, a press release from RCAM said.
 
The disclosure would be made on a quarterly basis, in line with the frequency of disclosures mandated for all AMCS.
 
RCAM will be the first assets management company (AMC0 to make such separate disclosures in public domain of total investments by group companies in its mutual funds, it said.
 
“As the biggest asset manager in the country, we feel it is our responsibility to take disclosures in the mutual fund industry to the next level. Disclosing the details of total investment by group companies in the AAUM will help the investor get a better view of the fund house and enable greater transparency. We hope the other players in the industry will also makes this voluntary disclosure in the larger interest of the investors,” said Mr Sundeep Sikka, CEO, RCAM.
 
Investments from group companies will include investments made by Reliance Capital Limited (sponsor & holding company); Reliance Group affiliate companies, subsidiaries and businesses including insurance, securities, power, infrastructure and communications & media
 
“The size of the AAUM is one of the important criteria which help the investors in taking an informed decision for investing in mutual funds. We need to help these investors by building their confidence with all such disclosures that can enhance their trust in the industry," Mr Sikka said.
 
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India’s biggest dry bulk vessel berths at Essar Ports in Hazira

Essar Ports achieved a major milestone when MV Kiran, a 175,000 tonne DWT vessel, India's largest dry bulk vessel, berthed at its bulk terminal at Hazira in Gujarat to discharge iron ore pellets.
 
The vessel, owned by Essar Shipping, has an overall length of  281m and beam of 45 m, making it the largest ship the terminal has handled till date. 
 
"The handling of a ship of this size highlights the capability of Essar Bulk Terminal Hazira, to handle the largest of bulk carriers. It also highlights the operational efficiency of the terminal, and the capability of the operating team," a press release from the company said today.
 
"We deployed powerful tugs, and ensured adequate under keel clearance, accurate judgment of vessel’s engine and steering capabilities," Capt. Subhas Das, CEO, Essar Bulk Terminal, Hazira, said.
 
Mr. Rajiv Agarwal, MD & CEO, Essar Ports Ltd. said, "We are proud of our team at Hazira, which is now handling some of the largest bulk carriers. Our focus is on operational excellence and safety of operations, and our teams on the ground are continuously striving towards it."
 
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Star CJ Network India appoints Mumbai start-up as its digital marketing agency

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Online home shopping company Star CJ Network India Pvt. Ltd has appointed Digital Strings, a Mumbai based start-up, to manage its online marketing activities. 
 
All online marketing activities of Star CJ across various social media platforms will be handled by Digital Strings, a press release from the agency said here today.
 
"Digital Strings will be responsible for managing the online reputation of Star  CJ. The mandate will also include managing Star CJ’s social media presence, driving online visitors through search engine marketing and managing online advertising for creating a strong presence of the brand digitally," it said.
 
Mr. Kenny Shin, Chief Executive Officer of Star CJ, said, “After a rigorous evaluation of various agencies, our team made a decision of appointing these young bunch of professionals to manage our online marketing activities.”
 
“We have been quite successful in the business of home-shopping on our channel Star CJ alive. But looking at the change in the consumer behavior in India due to the penetration of online shopping, we intend to strengthen our presence online and reach out to a wider consumer base. We believe that Digital Strings would stand up to our expectations and help us create a niche in the online shopping business," he said.
 
According to the release, the estimated online media spend for Star CJ is Rs 5.5 crore for 2014. Star CJ intends to expand its online business drastically by the end of this year and take a strong position in the e-commerce space through the online sale of premium category products such as mobile phones, kitchen appliances, electronics, household goods, and so on.
 
Mr. Rohit Kerkar, Managing Director, Digital Strings, added, “It is a big win for us as a start-up. I am grateful to the team of Star CJ for seeing us capable enough to manage their online reputation as against various well established agencies currently present in the country. We are privileged to be associated with Star CJ.  Our team at Digital Strings will strive hard to manage and build Star CJ’s online image.”
 
Star CJ is a joint venture between Star Group and the South Korean home shopping major, CJ O Shopping Co. Ltd. The venture was started in 2009, with the launch of program slots on Star Utsav. In 2010, it was introduced as a 24X7 home shopping TV. 
 
StarCJ.com was launched in the year 2011 to reach out to more consumers.
 
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Rajnikanth's latest Kochadaiyaan to be released on April 11

Actor Rajnikanth in a still from Kochadaiyaan
Actor Rajnikanth in a still from Kochadaiyaan
Entertainment major Eros International Media Ltd today said it would release Tamil megastar Rajnikanth's latest film Kochadaiiyaan -- The Legend, a Mediaone Global Entertainment Limited production directed by his daughter Soundarya Rajnikanth Ashwin, worldwide on April 11.
 
A press release from the company said the film features the unique visual mastery of Photorealistic Performance Capture technology for the very first time in an Indian film. 
 
This technology has been previously seen in Hollywood masterpieces such as Avatar, Tin Tin and Beowulf, it said.
 
Kochadaiiyaan is an epic dramatization of good versus evil, with Rajnikanth in a double role in a larger than life depiction. 
 
Also starring in the movie are Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone together with South India’s leading stars R. Sharath Kumar, Nazar, Aadi, Shobana and Rukmini.
 
Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman has provided the musical score for the film.
 
“Following last year’s celebrations of India's film making centenary we view the release of Kochadaiiyaan as part of the next steps of Indian cinema. For the first time a full length feature has been made using performance capture technology in India and I truly hope this creates a whole alternate film making avenue apart from live action films in our country," Soundarya said.
 
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Mr. Sunil Lulla, Managing Director, Eros International Media Ltd added, “Eros is proud to present this magnum opus with Rajinikanth, which will take the Indian film industry to the next level. We are confident that this will be a landmark film in world cinema as a result of the ground breaking technology used."
 
"The film will be released in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Bengali and Punjabi in India and overseas in more than 6,000 screens. We will be releasing an English version internationally as well," he said.
 
In a brand tie-up, Eros International and Mediaone have tied up with Karbonn Mobile to launch 1 million Kochadaiiyaan branded mobile phones to celebrate the release of the film.  
 
The Karbonn ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ mobile phones will have screen savers and  images from the film along with its trailer and signature tune. These  Kochadaiiyaan mobile phones are intended to launch in February 2014, during the audio launch of the film.
 
Kochadaiiyaan was shot extensively at Pinewood Studios in the UK with a team of world-class technical experts including the London-based Centroid Studios, a state of the art facility for Full Body Motion Capture, which has worked on various Hollywood productions including the recent Brad Pitt starrer World War Z as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, Ironman 2 and Harry Potter, and Counter Punch Studios from Los Angeles, who have been behind successes such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua. 
 
They worked in collaboration with Faceware Technologies, United Kingdom, who have worked on The Mummy 3 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for the Facial Capturing technology. 
 
A team of technical experts from South India and China have worked on this technology, with the best production facilities in London, for the overall completion of the project, the release added.
 
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Harbhajan Singh to captain Rest of India against Karnataka in Irani Cup

File photo of Harbhajan Singh. Photo by Ron Gaunt-IPL-SPORTZPICS
File photo of Harbhajan Singh. Photo by Ron Gaunt-IPL-SPORTZPICS
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was today named as the captain of the Rest of India squad that will take on Ranj Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup match in Bangalore from February 9-13.
 
The  15-member team also includes opener Gautam Gambhir, batsman Kedr Jadhav, the top-scorer in the Ranji Trophy tournament.
 
Others chosen in the side include Jiwanjyot Singh, Baba Aparajith, Ankit Bawne, Dinesh Kartik, Amit Misra, Mandeep Singh, Parvez Rasool and Ashoke Dinda.
 
The following is the team, picked by the Senior Selection Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI): 
 
Harbhajan Singh (Captain ), Jiwanjyot Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Baba Aparajith, Kedar Jadhav, Ankit Bawne, Dinesh Kartik, Amit Mishra, Pankaj Singh, Ashoke Dinda, Varun Aaron, Parvez Rasool, Anureet Singh, Natraj Behera, Mandeep Singh.
 
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ABG Shipyard delivers indigenously-built oceanographic research vessel to NIO

R V Sindhu Sadhana
R V Sindhu Sadhana
ABG Shipyard Limited, India’s largest private sector shipbuilding company, has delivered the country’s first indigenously built oceanographic research vessel, RV Sindhu Sadhana, to CSIR – National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) at a ceremony held in Goa.
 
The vessel was inducted into the service of the NIO in the presence of Prof. Samir Brahmachari, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences.
 
A press release from ABG Shipyard said the vessel was designed for worldwide sub-sea operations, and is one of the most sophisticated and advanced research vessels in the world today. The acquisition of RV Sindhu Sadhana will provide the NIO with new dimensions in the field of oceanographic research, it said.
 
Measuring 80 metres in length and having a gross register tonnage (GRT) of 4,154T, RV Sindhu Sadhana’s detailed design was undertaken in-house, the company said.
 
The vessel has a crew of 28 persons and can accommodate a team of 29 scientists, in modern modular accommodation. The ship has the capabilities to operate in extreme environmental conditions and undertake complex research activities at water depths of up to 6,000 metres, it said.
 
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ABG is also building a Diving Support Vessel for Halul Offshore (Qatar), three Cadet Training Ships for the Indian Navy and a Pollution Control Vessel for the Indian Coast Guard.
 
Mr. Rishi Agarwal, Chairman ABG Shipyard said “With the induction of RV Sindhu Sadhana, NIO will enhance its sub-sea research in oceans around the world, bringing in rich experience for Indian oceanographers and enable the development of multi-disciplinary research in the country.  With highly skilled workforce and state of the art manufacturing facilities, ABG Shipyard has competitive edge over other shipyards in India and is in the process of delivering more such specialized vessels."
 
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L&T Power’s Rajpura supercritical thermal plant starts commercial operations

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it had successfully completed commissioning and testing of the first unit of its 2x700 MW supercritical thermal power plant of Nabha Power on January 31.
 
The plant was constructed on a turnkey basis by L&T Power with more than 90% of the equipment sourced from the group companies of L&T, a press release from the company said.
 
The supercritical boiler and turbine were manufactured by L&T’s joint venture companies with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) located at Hazira, Gujarat. The plant is the largest unit of any indigenously manufactured power plant in the country, it said.
 
Mr Shailendra Roy, Member of the Board, L&T, said, “We have demonstrated our capability as the leading power plant EPC player in the country with the successful commissioning of the first unit of the Rajpura plant. The timely completion and stable operations further establishes L&T’s ability to build large complex engineering marvels of global standards.”
 
The release said final pre-commercialization tests involved continuous operation of the plant for 72 hours at full peak load of 700 MW. Subsequently the plant had to undergo two sets of ramp up and ramp down tests. 
 
Conducted by an independent engineer, the tests were monitored by teams of experts from Punjab State Power Corporation, Lahmeyer International and L&T Power. The plant demonstrated near 100% stability during trial operations, it said.
 
The release said commercial operations of the plant would significantly augment Punjab’s generation capacity making the state power surplus, and will enable it to export power to the national grid. Based on supercritical technology, it will be one of the most eco-friendly and efficient coal-based thermal plants in India, it said.
 
The foundation stone of the greenfield project was laid by Chief Minister of Punjab Parkash Singh Badal in presence of L&T’s Group Executive Chairman, Mr A M Naik on March 3, 2010. 
 
The plant went through ‘light up’ on December 5, 2013 and was dedicated to the state of Punjab by the Chief Minister in the presence of the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Mr Roy on December 8, 2013.
 
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Mumbai monorail project inaugurated by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan

Video: Maharashtra CM inaugurates Mumbai Monorail
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan today inaugurated the much-awaited monorail project that will open for commuters from tomorrow and become a significant addition to the public transport system in the metropolis.
 
The project is the first of its kind in the country and is being implemented in two phases at a cost of Rs 3000 crore.
 
The first phase, inaugurated today, is the 8.9 km Wadala-Chembur section. In the second phase, the line will be extended to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk in South Mumbai.
 
Mr Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar took the ride from Wadala to Chembur as hundreds of curious locals thronged the stations for a view of the train.
 
In the initial stages, the services will be operated with six four-coach trains and another ten will be added in the next stage. The trains will run at every 15 minutes from 7 am to 3 pm. The frequency and the running hours will be gradually increased.
 
All the coaches of the trains will be air-conditioned and each train will have a capacity of about 560 passengers.
 
The project has been executed by a consortium of engineering major Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Malaysian firm Scomi Engineering and is owned and operated by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA).
 
The monorail is expected to cut the travel time between Wadala and Chembur by nearly half to 21 minutes from the present 40 minutes.
 
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MMRDA officials said civil works on the second phase of the project had been completed.
 
There are six stations on the route from Wadala to Chembur and tickets are priced between Rs 5 and Rs 11. There will be no monthly passes.
 
The trains will have a maximum speed of 80 kmph and an average speed of 65 kmph. The monorail will be linked to the existing suburban railway system at various points.
 
The decision to introduce monorail, as a feeder service to the Mass Rapid Transit System and cater to crowded and narrow areas was taken by MMRDA in September 2008.
 
It is expected to be a safe and efficient mode of urban transport and reduce congestion on he roads.
 
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India's forex reserves increase by $ 157.3 million to $ 292.239 billion

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India's foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 157.3 million to $ 292.239 bllion in the week ended January 24, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here yesterday.
 
The forex reserves had fallen sharply by $ 1.205 billion to $ 292.081 billion in the week ended January 17. They had risen by $ 179 million to $ 293.287 billion in the week before that.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 117.3 million to $ 266.052 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 last week’s level of $ 19.724 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) rose by $ 27.6 million to $ 4.456 billion.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 12.4 million to $ 2.007 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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RBI releases framework for revitalising distressed assets in economy

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today released on its website the Framework for Revitalising Distressed Assets in the Economy, which outlines a corrective action plan that will incentivise early identification of problem cases, timely restructuring of accounts which are considered to be viable, and taking prompt steps by banks for recovery or sale of unviable accounts. 
 
A press release from the RBI said the main features of the framework are:
  • Early formation of a lenders’ committee with timelines to agree to a plan for resolution.
  • Incentives for lenders to agree collectively and quickly to a plan: better regulatory treatment of stressed assets if a resolution plan is underway, accelerated provisioning if no agreement can be reached.
  • Improvement in current restructuring process: Independent evaluation of large value restructurings mandated, with a focus on viable plans and a fair sharing of losses (and future possible upside) between promoters and creditors.
  • More expensive future borrowing for borrowers who do not co-operate with lenders in resolution.
  • More liberal regulatory treatment provided for asset sales:
  • Lenders can spread loss on sale over two years provided loss is fully disclosed.
  • Take-out financing/refinancing possible over a longer period and will not be construed as restructuring.
  • Leveraged buyouts will be allowed for specialised entities for acquisition of ‘stressed companies’.
  • Steps to enable better functioning of Asset Reconstruction Companies mooted.
  • Sector-specific Companies/Private equity firms encouraged to play active role in stressed assets market.
The release said that, with the slowdown of the economy, a number of companies/projects are under stress. As a result, the Indian banking system has seen increase in non-performing assets (NPAs) and restructured accounts during the recent years. 
 
"Not only do financially distressed assets produce less than economically possible, they also deteriorate quickly in value. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that the banking system recognises financial distress early, takes prompt steps to resolve it, and ensures fair recovery for lenders and investors. ‘Improving the system’s ability to deal with corporate distress and financial institution distress by strengthening real and financial restructuring as well as debt recovery’ has been indicated by the Governor, Reserve Bank of India as one of the five pillars on which Reserve Bank’s developmental measures will be built for improving the financial system over the next few quarters," it said.
 
Accordingly, a Discussion Paper on ‘Early Recognition of Financial Distress, Prompt Steps for Resolution and Fair Recovery for Lenders: Framework for Revitalising Distressed Assets in the Economy’ was released on December 17, 2013 for comments by January 1, 2014.
 
The framework released today incorporates public comments on that paper and outlines the specific proposals the Reserve Bank will implement.
 
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Eight killed, 11 injured as luxury bus rams into diesel tanker in Thane

At least eight passengers were killed and 11 others suffered injuries when a private luxury bus they were travelling in rammed into a diesel tanker from behind near Kude village in Palghar taluka of Thane district in Maharashtra in the early hours of Wednesday.

Bus collides with oil tanker in Thane, eight charred to death
At least eight passengers were killed and 11 others suffered injuries when a private luxury bus they were travelling in rammed into a diesel tanker from behind near Kude village in Palghar taluka of Thane district in Maharashtra in the early hours of today.
 
Official sources told NetIndian that the bodies of those killed in the mishap were charred beyond recognition after the two vehicles erupted into flames in the impact of the collision.
 
Police said all the deceased passengers of the bus, which was on its way from Pune to Ahmedabad. The driver of the bus was among those killed.
 
The accident occurred around 1.45 am at Kude, which is in the Manor police station area, on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway.
 
In all, the bus was carrying about 20 passengers. The bus belonged to a Pune firm, while the tanker was carrying diesel from Bharat Petroleum Corporation and was on its way to Vapi in Gujarat, they said.
 
The bodies of the victims had been sent for post-mortem examination. The district authorities have asked the bus operator to provide them with the list of passengers on the bus. DNA tests would be conducted to help establish the identity of those killed, the sources said.
 
District Collector P Velrasu said that nine of the passengers had got onto the bus from Pune, of whom six were safe. Other passengers got into the bus at points such as Panvel and Thane, they said.
 
The district administration was making efforts to establish the identity of the victims.
 
The injured people were admitted to the Manor Rural Hospital for treatment, where they were said to be out of danger.
 
Fire tenders from nearby areas rushed to the spot and helped to bring the fire under control. 
 
Several senior officials of the district administration and police also reached the scene. Traffic on the highway was affected briefly as a consequence of the accident, sources added.
 
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RBI hikes repo rate by 25 bps to 8%, keeps CRR unchanged at 4%

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday surprised the markets yet again by increasing the key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility by 25 basis points from 7.75 per cent to 8.0 per cent, citing the elevated consumer inflation levels.

RBI hikes repo rate by 25 bps to 8%
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today surprised the markets yet again by increasing the key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 7.75 per cent to 8.0 per cent, citing the elevated consumer inflation levels.
 
In  its Third Quarter Review of Monetary Policy 2013-14, the central bank kept the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liability (NDTL).
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stood adjusted at 7.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 9.0 per cent.
 
The markets and economists had not expected any change in the rates.
 
Announcing the hike, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said that an increase in the policy rate by 25 basis points was needed to set the economy securely on the recommended disinflationary path.
 
Referring to the balance of risks in the evolving macroeconomic outlook, he said the slowdown in the economy was getting increasingly worrisome. 
 
"Our current assessment is that growth is likely to lose momentum in Q3 of 2013-14, with industrial activity in contractionary mode, mainly on account of manufacturing. Lead indicators of services also suggest a subdued outlook, barring some pick-up in transport and communication activity," he said.
 
On the other hand, agricultural performance had so far been robust, and the strong pick-up in rabi sowing indicated that this should be sustained, he said.
 
He said that another silver lining was the significant narrowing of the trade deficit on the back of resilient export growth. 
 
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"The current account deficit for 2013-14 is now expected to be below 2.5 per cent of GDP as compared with 4.8 per cent in 2012-13. The recent resumption of capital inflows should help finance the current account deficit comfortably. Reserves have been rebuilt since September, and are expected to increase further as oil marketing companies, that have been buying foreign exchange in the market, repay the Reserve Bank when their swaps come due. 
 
"Nevertheless, given the uncertain external environment, the government and the RBI cannot pause in their efforts to ensure fiscal and monetary stability," he said.
 
According to Dr Rajan, the gravest risk to the value of the rupee is from CPI inflation which remains elevated at close to double digits, despite the anticipated disinflation in vegetable and fruit prices. 
 
"Moreover, inflation excluding food and fuel has also been high, especially in respect of services, indicative of wage pressures and other second round effects. Elevated levels of inflation erode household budgets and constrict the purchasing power of consumers. This, in turn, discourages investment and weakens growth. High inflation weakens the rupee. Inflation is also a tax that is grossly inequitable, falling hardest on the very poor. It is only by bringing down inflation to a low and stable level that monetary policy can contribute to reviving consumption and investment in a sustainable way. The so-called trade-off between inflation and growth is a false trade-off in the long run," he said.
 
Dr Rajan said it was possible to bring inflation under control without a substantial sacrifice of short term growth, provided the country did what was necessary and was patient.
 
He recalled that, in the Mid-Quarter Review on December 18, 2013, the policy decision was to wait for more data, and that the RBI had offered guidance on what it would do contingent on the data.
 
"Although headline inflation has fallen significantly with the substantial fall in vegetable prices, CPI inflation excluding food and fuel has remained flat and WPI inflation excluding food and fuel has risen. Given these data, the increase in the policy rate undertaken today is consistent with the guidance given in the Mid-Quarter Review," he said.
 
Dr Rajan also pointed out that the Dr. Urjit Patel Committee had indicated a “glide path” for disinflation that sets an objective of below 8 per cent CPI inflation by January 2015 and below 6 per cent CPI inflation by January 2016. 
 
"The Reserve Bank’s baseline projections set out in the accompanying Review of Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments for Q3 of 2013-14 indicate that over the ensuing 12-month horizon, and with an unchanged policy stance, there are upside risks to the central forecast of 8 per cent. Accordingly, an increase in the policy rate by 25 basis points is needed to set the economy securely on the recommended disinflationary path," he said.
 
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He said that, if the disinflationary process evolved according to this baseline projection, further policy tightening in the near term was not anticipated at this juncture. 
 
"In fact, if inflation eases at a pace that is faster than we currently anticipate, and that reduction is expected to be sustained, the Reserve Bank will have room to become more accommodative," he said.
 
"Of course, the Reserve Bank is fostering growth through steady reforms. For example, last week, cash settled interest rate futures started trading on various exchanges. The enhanced framework for resolution of distressed assets will be operational by April 1. The recommendations of the Dr. Nachiket Mor Committee on financial inclusion are being examined carefully as are the recommendations of the Dr. Urjit Patel Committee on the monetary policy framework," he added.
 
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Tata Motors Managing Director Karl Slim dies in Bangkok

Karl J. Slym
Karl J. Slym
Tata Motors' Managing Director Karl Slym died today in Bangkok, where he had gone to attend a meeting of the board of the company's Thailand unit.
 
"The company shares the grief of Karl Slym's wife and family at their irreparable loss," a statement from the company said here.
 
Media reports from Bangkok said Slym, 51, seemed to have fallen from a higher floor of the hotel he was staying in.
 
"I am deeply saddened to inform you about the untimely and tragic demise of our company's Managing Director, Karl Slym," a statement from Tata Motors Chairman Cyrus P Mistry said.
 
Slym joined Tata Motors as Managing Director in 2012 and was leading its operations in India and international markets, excluding the Jaguar and Land Rover business. 
 
Before joining Tata Motors, he was the Executive Vice President & Board Member, SGMW Motors, China (a General Motors Joint Venture), prior to which he was President, Managing Director and Board Member of General Motors in India. 
 
For over two decades, Mr. Slym had been with Toyota and General Motors in various positions across geographies. He was an alumnus of Stanford University and a Sloan Fellow.
 
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CBI arrests EPFO official, private individual in Mumbai in bribery case

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today said it had arrested an Area Enforcement Officer of the Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) at Kandivili, Mumbai and a private consultant for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs. 13 lakh from the manager of a hospital.
 
A press release from the agency said a case was registered against the EPFO officer on the basis of a complaint that he had demanded a bribe of Rs 15 lakh from the complainant for showing a favour in the matter of the EPF liability of the hospital at Palghar in Thane district.
 
After verifying the demand of bribe, CBI laid a trap and the EPFO consultant,  private individual, was arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs.13 lakh on behalf of the Area Enforcement Officer, who was also later arrested.
 
Searches were conducted at the residential and official premises of both the accused persons, the release said.
 
The arrested accused were produced before the Designated Court and were remanded six days police custody, it added.
 
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India’s forex reserves fall by $1.205 billion to $ 292.081 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves fell sharply by $ 1.205 billion to $ 292.081 billion in the week ended January 17, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said today.
 
The forex reserves had risen by $ 179 million to $ 293.287 billion in the previous week. In the week ended January 3, the reserves had gone down by a whopping $ 2.599 billion to $ 293.109 billion
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, declined by $ 1.209 billion to $ 265.935 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 last week’s level of $ 19.724 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) declined by $ 2.6 million to $ 4.428 billion.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 1.2 million to $ 1.994 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
 
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Organized retail real estate supply grows 78% in 2013: CBRE

The total organized retail real estate supply in India grew by 78 per cent to approximately 4.7 million square feet in 2013 from the total mall supply of 2.5 million square feet in 2012, according to a new report from CBRE.
 
Pointing out that most of the supply in 2013 was concentrated across Tier II cities, the report, India Retail Market View H2 2013, aid that 2014 was likely to witness supply addition in the key hubs of the National Capital Region (NCR) and Mumbai.
 
The report said demand from international and domestic brands as well as retailers continued to strengthen throughout 2013; with the second half of the year witnessing an increase in demand for quality retail space in Delhi NCR, Pune and Chennai.
 
Demand from global retailers in the Delhi NCR and Mumbai markets remained buoyant, as more retail groups sought space in prime shopping centres, as opposed to standalone high street outlets, the report said.
 
“Despite ongoing uncertainty, retail real estate witnessed good activity during 2013 with a number of international brands entering and expanding across key cities," Mr. Anshuman Magazine, Chairman and Managing Director of CBRE, South Asia Pvt. Ltd., said.
 
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"The year 2014 is expected to remain positive for the retail sector, with existing brands expected to ramp up operations and new brands look to making their India entries. Although domestic retailers have been performing steadily, they face competition from global retail groups, especially in the apparel and F&B segments," he said.
 
The report said that prominent global players—such as Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, Forever 21, Zara and Superdry—expanded their presence across the country’s leading cities.
 
Retailers in the luxury and bridge-to-luxury segments were particularly active, with brands such as Brook Brothers, Missoni, Michael Kors and Emilo Pucci making inroads into the country’s market places, it said.
 
According to the report, rental values displayed mixed trends across the top cities during H2 2013. While traditional high street markets—such as Khan Market (Delhi) and Brigade Road, Commercial Street (Bangalore) witnessed an increase in rental values, the shopping hubs of Eastern Mumbai and South Bangalore observed a rental decline in H2 2013 compared to first half of the year.
 
Cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata largely witnessed stability in pricing across most micro-markets; while Pune saw an increase across its high streets, even as its mall rentals remained stable.
 
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"Going forward, the limited availability of quality retail space in core locations is likely to pose a greater barrier to new retailer entry in a number of key markets—including Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore—as opposed to prohibitive rentals. On account of such constraints in quality supply, select developments are likely to witness greater than average increment in rentals because of retailer preferences for such spaces," the report added.
 
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBG), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firms.
 
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Actor Shah Rukh Khan suffers minor injuries while shooting in Mumbai

Hotel doors falls on SRK, injuring him!
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan suffered minor injuries while shooting for filmmaker Farah Khan's Happy New Year at a five-star hotel in the suburbs today.
 
"Mr Khan had a minor accident on the sets while shooting. He has a minor injury and has got the necessary medical aid. Mr Khan is absolutely fine now. Thank you for all your wishes!" an official statement from his office said.
 
According to various accounts of the incident, the actor suffered the injures when a door, with a problem in its hinges, fell on him when he was passing through. 
 
He was rushed to the Nanavati Hospital nearby, where doctors treated him for bruises and also conducted various tests to make sure there were no internal injuries.
 
The actor, who left the hospital for home after about two hours, was advised by the doctors to rest for the day, sources added.
 
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RBI says banknotes issued prior to 2005 will be withdrawn after March 31, 2014

The Reserve Bank of India said on Wednesday that it would, after March 31, 2014, completely withdraw from circulation all banknotes issued prior to 2005.

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today said that it would, after March 31, 2014, completely withdraw from circulation all banknotes issued prior to 2005.
 
From April 1, 2014, the public will be required to approach banks for exchanging these notes, a press release from the central bank said.
 
Banks will provide exchange facility for these notes until further communication, it said.
 
The RBI 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. 
 
It also clarified that the notes issued before 2005 will continue to be legal tender. This would mean that banks are required to exchange the notes for their customers as well as for non-customers.
 
From July 1, 2014, however,  to exchange more than 10 pieces of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, non-customers will have to furnish proof of identity and residence to the bank branch in which she/he wants to exchange the notes.
 
The Reserve Bank has appealed to the public not to panic and requested them to actively co-operate in the withdrawal process.
 
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