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A. K. Mohanty takes over as Director BARC

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Dr. A. K. Mohanty, distinguished Scientist and Director, physics group of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Director, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata today took over as Director, BARC from K. N. Vyas, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy. 
 
Dr. Mohanty graduated from the 26th batch of the BARC Training School and joined Nuclear Physics Division of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 1983. 
 
During the past 36 years, he has worked in several areas of nuclear physics covering collision energy from sub-Coulomb barrier to relativistic regime.
 
Dr. Mohanty is the recipient of Young Scientists Award of Indian Physical Society (1988), Young Physicist Award by Indian National Science Academy (1991) and Department of Atomic Energy Homi Bhabha Science & Technology Award (2001).
 
While taking over as Director-BARC, Dr. Mohanty has expressed gratitude towards his predecessors in Physics Group who have helped him in understanding finer nuances of low and high energy nuclear physics.  He also gratefully acknowledged the efforts put in by his seniors which have helped in completion of projects of national and international importance in which he could contribute, and said he is committed to continue further the work of BARC in the fields of societal importance.
 
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Sensex up over 400 points, Nifty crosses 11,250

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The domestic equity indices surged over 1 per cent on Tuesday, with the BSE Sensex gaining over 400 points after the European Commission and the UK agreed to "legally binding" changes in the Brexit deal ahead of the vote in the British parliament.
 
The Nifty50 on the National Stock Exchange crossed the 11,250 mark during the day.
 
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said that they agreed to "clarifications and guarantees" regarding the Brexit provision to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and the UK province of Northern Ireland.
 
The announcement has boosted all the major Asian markets.
 
In the domestic markets, higher inflow of Foreign Institutional Investments (FII) also supported the gains, analysts said.
 
All the sectoral indices traded in the green led by realty, capital goods and consumer durable stocks.
 
At 11.12 a.m., the Sensex traded 37,494.50, higher by 440.40 points or 1.19 per cent from the previous close of 37,054.10 points.
 
It had opened at 37,249.65 and touched an intraday high of 37,519.08 and a low of 37,230.85 points.
 
The Nifty50 traded higher by 1.17 per cent or 130.65 points at 11,298.70 points.
 
Stock-wise, the top gainers on the Sensex so far were Bharti Airtel, Larsen and Toubro and ICICI Bank, while the only losers were Hero MotoCorp, Infosys, Bajaj Auto and ONGC.
 
IANS

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Sensex surges 280 points, Nifty crosses 11,250

The key Indian equity indices opened on a positive note on Tuesday with the BSE Sensex trading around 280 points higher and Nifty crossing 11,250.
 
The domestic market tracked a similar trend in the major Asian indices. Healthy buying in the power, energy and consumer durable stocks also supported the gains.
 
At 9.25 a.m., the Sensex traded at 37,336.72, higher by 282.62 points or 0.76 per cent from the previous close of 37,054.10 points.
 
It opened at 37,249.65 and touched an intra-day high of 37,349.92 and a low of 37,230.85.
 
The Nifty50 on the National Stock Exchange traded at 11,252.75, higher by 84.70 points or 0.76 per cent from the previous close of 11,168.05 points.
 
 
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Sensex, Nifty surge over 1%; PSU Banks, metal stocks gain

Markets rallied on Monday following the announcement of Lok Sabha election schedule and largely positive global markets. Sensex and Nifty surged over 1 per cent as buying interest was seen across all sectors.
 
Analysts said that the investor sentiment was upbeat after the declaration of election dates and some opinion polls predicting that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will return to power after the conclusion of the upcoming general election.
 
The S&P BSE Sensex jumped 382.67 points or 1.04 per cent at 37,054.10 while the Nifty gained 140 points or 1.28 per cent at 11,176.30.
 
Except for the export-oriented IT stocks, all the sectoral stocks gained led by PSU Banks, metal and auto stocks.
 
PSU Banks stocks rose in anticipation of better times post the elections, said Deepak Jasani of HDFC Securities.
 
"Market rallied followed by the declaration of election date with opinion poll suggesting an edge to the ruling party. Since many stocks are available at cheap valuation, investors rushed to high quality mid and small caps to participate in the pre-election rally," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.
 
"Having said that, market is awaiting CPI inflation data tomorrow (Tuesday) and upcoming policy announcements by central banks across the globe to get a clear direction."
 
The top gainers on Sensex were Bharti Airtel, up 8.08 per cent followed by Power Grid, Coal India, Reliance Industries and Vedanta, which surged in the range of 2 to 4 per cent.
 
Among the laggards were TCS, HCL Tech, NTPC, IndusInd Bank and Infosys, which declined up to 0.50 per cent.
 
IANS
 

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Sharad Pawar not to contest Lok Sabha polls

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Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar on Monday announced that he will not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The NCP had on February 13 said that Pawar would contest from Madha in Maharashtra.
 
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Kotak Mahindra Bank becomes first private sector bank to join ‘PSB Loans in 59 Minutes’

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Online PSB Loans Limited and Kotak Mahindra Bank today announced that Kotak has become the first private sector bank to join the platform psbloansin59minutes.com. 
 
Kotak will offer loans up to Rs one crore to micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME)  in India through this platform, a press release from the bank said.
 
MSME loan aspirants will now get the option to avail of ‘in-principle’ loan approvals in just 59 minutes from both public sector and private sector banks (presently only Kotak) through this platform.
 
Ambuj Chandna, Senior Executive Vice President & Head – Consumer Assets, Kotak Mahindra Bank said, “We are delighted to join psbloansin59minutes.com and participate in the Government of India’s initiative to facilitate easier access to credit to micro, small & medium enterprises. Small business owners require quick and hassle-free access to loans to grow or diversify their business. At Kotak, we offer a range of customised financing options with flexible repayment options. We are also seeing a steady rise in customers availing loans through digital channels.” 
 
Manoj Mittal, DMD, SIDBI said, “The on-boarding of Kotak Mahindra Bank is an important milestone for the portal. In addition to making a wide choice of credit products from public sector banks available to MSMEs registering on the platform, they now also get an option to access private sector lenders as well. This is true democratization of finance for the MSME segment."
 
The PSB Loans in 59 Minutes initiative aims at automation of various processes in loan appraisals in such a way that MSMEs get an eligibility letter and an in-principle approval in less than 60 minutes and can choose the bank of their choice. The value of the Contactless Business Loans offered ranges from Rs. 1 lakh up to Rs. 1 crore. The rate of interest starts from 8% onwards. The platform is directly connected to the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme. The solution uses advanced algorithms to analyze data points from various sources such as IT returns, GST data, bank statements, and so on.
 
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Maroon 5 performs at Akash, Shloka's wedding party

Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta Ambani during their wedding reception at Jio World Garden in Mumbai on March 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta Ambani during their wedding reception at Jio World Garden in Mumbai on March 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
After getting Beyonce to perform at a pre-wedding party for his daughter Isha last year, industrialist Mukesh Ambani -- the richest Indian -- on Sunday hosted a post-wedding celebration for his son Akash with American pop rock band Maroon 5 regaling a star-studded crowd.
 
Maroon 5, which has Adam Levine as its lead vocalist, took the stage at the Jio World Centre, and performed some of their hit tracks, including "Girls like you" and "What lovers do".
 
While a social media policy was issued to the guests urging privacy for the celebrations, a few video snippets from the private show made it to social media.
 
In one of the videos, the couple is seen dancing away and lip syncing to Levine's live rendition of his popular song "She will be loved".
 
Their songs "Sugar" and "Moves like Jagger" are reportedly loved by Akash and Shloka, respectively.
 
Having the Grammy Award-winning Maroon 5 at the party took Akash and Shloka's wedding celebrations to the next level after the Ambani family had already made the world sit up and take notice of the celebrations by roping in Coldplay and The Chainsmokers to perform at their pre-wedding gala in St. Moritz, Switzerland last month.
 
Akash, son of Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani, and Shloka, youngest daughter of diamond merchant Russell Mehta, got married here on Saturday at a lavish ceremony.
 
The celebration night on Sunday saw elaborate fireworks and a performance by Akash's mother Nita Ambani. She danced to Krishna bhajan "Achyutam Keshavam" with a musical fountain adding to the drama.
 
A host of Bollywood celebrities, politicians and sportspersons came together for the evening.
 
Bollywood celebs turned up in full force for the gala evening.
 
The guests included Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Karan Johar, Jeetendra and daughter Ekta Kapoor, Suniel Shetty and Mana Shetty, Riteish Deshmukh, Goldie Behl and Sonali Bendre Behl, Prasoon Joshi, Shankar Mahadevan, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna.
 
There was also Karisma Kapoor, Pooja Hegde, Boney Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Raj Kundra, Madhur Bhandarkar, Padmini Kolhapure, Falguni Pathak, Farah Khan, Sanjay Khan, Kiara Advani, Anu Malik, Dia Mirza, Kriti Sanon, Arjun Kapoor, Malaika Arora, Juhi Chawla, Rajkumar Hirani, Diana Penty and David Dhawan among others.
 
Sachin Tendulkar, Irfan Pathan, P.V. Sindhu, Anil Kumble, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya were seen from the sports world, while politician Uddhav Thackeray was seen with his son Aditya at the function.
 
A reception party on Monday will wrap up the celebrations.
 
IANS
 

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SBI links its savings bank deposits, short term Loan pricing to RBI's repo rate

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State Bank of India (SBI) today linked its key pricing decision for savings bank deposits and short term loans to the repo rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), effective from May 1, 2019.
 
A press release from SBI said this was done in order to address the concern of rigidities in the Balance Sheet structure and address the issue of quick transmission of changes in RBI’s policy rates.
 
According to the release, SBI had linked its savings bank deposits, with balances above Rs. 1.0 lakh to repo rate with current effective rate being 3.50% p.a. (2.75% below current repo rate of 6.25%).
 
All cash credit accounts and overdrafts with limits above Rs 1.00 lac also will be linked to the repo rate (current repo rate 6.25% plus a spread of 2.25%).   The risk premiums over and above this floor rate of 8.50 % would be based on the risk profile of the borrower, as is the current practice, the release said.
 
In order to insulate the small deposit holders and small borrowers from the movement of external benchmarks, SBI has decided to exempt savings bank account holders with balances up to Rs 1.00 lac and borrowers with CC/ OD limits up to Rs 1.00 lac from linkage to the repo rate.
 
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Foundation stones laid for Dwarka Expressway and Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, Jaipur Ring Road inaugurated

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stones for development of the 8-lane access controlled Dwarka Expressway and Delhi-Mumbai Expressway here yesterday. 
 
The ministers also inaugurated the Jaipur Ring Road through a video link on the occasion. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, Swaraj said the three projects are a gift for Delhi and Haryana. The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will change the future of the Mewat region and will bring it on the industrial map of the country, she said.
 
She expressed appreciation for the proposal to plant more than two million new trees on these roads. 
 
Jaitley said the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will link two most important freight centres of the country, boost economic activity and generate employment opportunities. He extended compliments for Gadkari’s efforts in developing the National Highway network in the country. He has successfully brought up this sector to the building of 29 km per day against a mere seven km earlier. Nearly 91% of the country’s villages are now linked with main roads, he said.
 
Gadkari said that, while developing expressways and highways, full attention is being given to minimising pollution levels. The Delhi-Meerut Expressway, Dhaula Kuan flyover and others will definitely reduce traffic congestion thereby improving the air quality in the city. 
 
The Delhi- Mumbai Expressway will also speed up the development and smart cities will develop along them, generating vast employment opportunities for the local people. Projects worth over 15 lakh crore are underway in the Ministry and these are being taken up with full transparency, in a corruption-free atmosphere. All projects are being completed within the time schedule.
 
The Delhi-Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway is conceived as a 1320-km greenfield project with an estimated cost of Rs 90,000 crore. The existing Delhi-Mumbai National Corridor (NH-8 section of the Golden Quadrilateral) is one the busiest and most critical routes of the national highways network, witnessing average traffic of more than 80,000 CPUs per day. 
 
Considering the present traffic scenario, it was decided to develop an alternative alignment connecting Delhi with Vadodara, which on linking up with the proposed Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway, would create seamless connectivity between Delhi and Mumbai and improve the efficiency of this busy National Corridor. 
 
The proposed Delhi-Vadodara-Mumbai road will result in an overall reduction of about 150 km in the present distance between Delhi and Mumbai. In addition, Delhi-Vadodara expressway would also act as an expressway to Jaipur via the already developed Jaipur-Dausa NH-11. 
 
The expressway will also reduce the distance to other important economic centres of Kota, Bhopal and Indore from Delhi (through spurs of intersecting NHs being developed under Bharatmala) by about 100 km.
 
The Delhi-Vadodara Expressway is being taken up in 5 phases at a cost of Rs 45,000 crore. Bids have been invited for all these phases and are at various stages of finalization. Work has been awarded for a part of Phase I and will be done for the remaining phases this year.
 
The 29 km Dwarka Expressway (NH-248BB) being built at a cost of Rs 9,000 crore will start from Shiv Murti to terminate near Kherki Daula on NH-8. This section of NH-8 is a part of Delhi-Jaipur-Ahmedabad-Mumbai arm of Golden Quadrilateral and Delhi-Gurgaon section is presently carrying traffic of over 3 lakhs PCUs, much beyond the designed capacity of this highway, leading to severe congestion. 
 
Keeping this in view, Dwarka Expressway has been conceived as a bypass of Gurgaon. This Expressway stretches 18.9 km in Haryana and 10.1 km in Delhi. It is also proposed to provide western connectivity to Indira Gandhi International Airport from Dwarka side from this expressway, providing alternate connectivity to the airport for west Delhi and Haryana. 
 
The expressway will also provide direct access to upcoming Exhibition-Cum-Convention Centre in Sector 25 of Dwarka.
 
The 57-km long six-lane Jaipur Ring Road has been completed at a cost of Rs 1,217 crore. It connects NH-11 (Agra Road), NH-8 (Ajmer Road), NH-12 (Tonk Road), and NH-12 (Malpura Road). 
 
The project involved the construction of two road overbridges (ROBs), a flyover, two major bridges, 20 minor bridges, 32 Vehicular Underpasses (VUPs) and 31 culverts. The project envisages a considerable reduction in traffic congestion and pollution in Jaipur city.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.559 billion to $ 401.776 billion

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Continuing an uptrend for the third consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by a whopping $ 2.559 billion to $ 401.776 billion during the week ended March 1, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 944.7 million to $ 399.217 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.061 billion to $ 374.060 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 $ 488.7 million to $ $ 23.253 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 3.0 million to $ 1.463 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 6.2 million to $ 2.9998 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Cabinet approves creation of post of Technical Member in SAT, Mumbai

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The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a proposal for creation of the post of Technical Member in the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), Mumbai at the level of Secretary to the Government of India.
 
The post will be in the pay scale of Rs. 2,25,000 (fixed) or Level 17 of the Pay Matrix as per the 7th Pay Commission, an official press release said.
 
According to it, the decision will facilitate the creation of an additional bench in SAT, Mumbai thereby allowing speedy disposal of the increased number of appeals with respect to Securities and Exchanges Board of India, (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), which will be much beneficial to investors, pensioners and the general public. 
 
"The securities market and insurance sector are growing rapidly. With increase in the volume of trading in securities market, and clients in the insurance sector, it is likely that the grievances will also increase. Therefore, it is necessary that a speedy redressal system is established. It would ensure speedy disposal of appeal cases related to insurance, securities market and pension benefitting the general public," the release added.
 
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CCEA approves Mumbai Urban Transport Project Phase-IIIA

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday approved Phase-IIIA of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project. 
 
The total estimated cost of the project is Rs. 30,849 crore with completion cost of Rs. 33690 crore.  The project is likely to be completed in five years, an official press release said.
 
Introduction of air-conditioned coaches with automatic door operation will improve comfort level and safety of commuters. Seamless travel for long distance suburban passengers will be ensured by extending and creating corridors. There will be improvement in passenger amenities, and passenger movement at stations. It will decongest entry/exit at the stations.
 
Increase in safety, capacity and efficiency of suburban network will be ensured by introduction of Communication Based Train Control System. There will be segregation of suburban rail operation on Central and Western Railway, the release said.
 
The Mumbai suburban railway network on Central and Western Railways has 385 route kms.  There are five corridors, two on Western Railway, two on Central Railway and one on Harbour Line. 
 
Every day about 8.0 million people travel in the suburban sections in more than 3000 train services.  There is severe overcrowding in the suburban trains and during peak hours, passengers carried are more than four times the carrying capacity, the release added.
 
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Reliance Infra E&C bags AAI contract for greenfield airport in Rajkot

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Reliance Infrastructure Limited E&C has said  that it has received the Letter of Award (LOA) from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for a contract worth Rs. 648 crore for the construction of new greenfield airport at Hirasar in Rajkot district of Gujarat.
 
The company, a part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, had participated in the tender for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract independently as a main contractor.
 
The scope of work includes, detailed designing, engineering, procurement and construction of runway, basic strips, turning pads, taxiways, apron, perimeter and other roads, earth work in cut/fill and grading, drainage system, related retaining structures, fire station, MT pool, fire pit, cooling pit, ARP and associated approaches, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of airfield ground lighting system, visual aids for navigation and bird hazard reduction, a press release from the company said here yesterday.
 
Reliance Infrastructure had scored the highest technical score of 92.2% among nine qualified bidders like Afcons, and L&T. The airport is to be completed within 30 months from the date of issue of LoA, it said.
 
The new airport is being constructed at a location near National Highway (NH-8B) connecting Ahmedabad and Rajkot, nearly 36 km from the existing Rajkot Airport. Over time, the proposed new airport will also meet the spill over needs of Ahmedabad, the release said.
 
"The holistic development of Hirasar airport will not only serve the demand generated by Rajkot city but also cater to the demand in the neighbouring states," it said.
 
Reliance Infrastructure E&C CEO Arun Gupta, said, “Our strong credentials in infrastructure projects execution are borne out by the successful execution of large scale transportation and power projects. The Hirasar airport project will further strengthens Reliance Infrastructure Limited’s bona fide to be a leader in infrastructure projects.”
 
Reliance Infrastructure Limited E&C is part of Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RInfra), with business interests spanning diverse infrastructure segments such as Roads and Highways, Railways and Metros, Mega Civil projects, Water and Marine, and Renewables in addition to Power projects.
 
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Anubhav Sinha unveils first look of his next – Article 15 – with Ayushmann Khurrana in the lead

Actor  Ayushmann Khurrana in the first look  of Anubhav Sinha's next 'Article 15'.
Actor Ayushmann Khurrana in the first look of Anubhav Sinha's next 'Article 15'.
After ardently presenting a rather delicate and provocative subject with élan in the critically acclaimed Rishi Kapoor-Taapsee Pannu starrer ‘Mulk’, director and producer Anubhav Sinha is gearing up to helm his next - a hard hitting investigative drama, pegged to be one of his most ambitious projects till date.
 
Titled ‘Article 15’, the film will not only be a first of its kind within the film industry with regards to its mammoth plotline, but will also see a fresh industry pairing with Sinha teaming up for the first time with the archetype of sundry cinema, Ayushmann Khurrana who enjoyed a successful run at the box office with critically acclaimed ‘Badhaai Ho’ and ‘Andhadhun’ last year.
 
While Khurrana will essay the role of the principal protagonist, a stellar support cast comprising Isha Talwar, Manoj Pahwa , Sayani Gupta, Kumud Mishra, M Nasser, Ashish Verma, Sushil Pandey, Subrajyoti Bharat, Ronjini Chakraborty and Zeeshan Ayub are all set to make Article 15 one of the most explosive drama films of 2019.
 
Interestingly as seen in the first look, the versatile actor who has embraced a gamut of on-screen characters and redefined box office success with his diverse choice of cinema, from a blind man to a sperm donor, will be seen essaying the role of a police officer for the first time in this film.
 
“It is an investigative drama where the audience too is an accused party. A very challenging film that needed an extraordinary actor like Ayushmann. Delighted to have him on board with an explosive bundle of such talented and acclaimed actors," Sinha  said.
 
"I’m always intrigued by the socio-political situation of our country. We hardly see films which present the situation in an unbiased way. Anubhav Sinha is one such director who understands the complexities of our country. I loved Mulk. It is the most balanced film based on communalism and extremism. And it will be an absolute pleasure to work with him on Article 15," Khurrana said.
 
The film will be produced by Benaras Media Works and has been on the floors since March 1 in Lucknow. True to Sinha’s recent cinematic appetite, the content-driven film will draw inferences from certain true-life events which have been researched upon over the last six months.
 
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ADB to provide $ 926 million loan for Mumbai Metro Rail Project

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $926 million loan agreement today to operationalize two lines for the Mumbai Metro Rail System that will ease the distress of millions of commuters each day and help provide a cleaner, less congested city. 
 
The single largest infrastructure project loan in ADB history approved by the ADB Board on February 26 will help fund lines 2A (Dahisar to D.N. Nagar), 2B (D.N. Nagar–Bandra–Mandale), and 7 (Dahisar [East] to Andheri [East]), totaling about 58 kilometers (km).
 
The project will fund 63 six-car trains, signaling and safety systems, and help establish a new dedicated metro operations organization to manage the entire metro network in Mumbai, an official press release said.
 
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will implement the project, it said.
 
Once operational by the end of 2022, an estimated 2 million passengers a day will use the two new lines, travelling in improved safety and comfort. It will also reduce emissions from vehicles, with carbon dioxide emissions expected to fall by about 166,000 tons a year, the release said.
 
“ADB financing will ease travel for millions of commuters across Mumbai, help decongest heavily crowded suburban rail systems, and contribute to providing modern, clean, and livable urban environment to its citizens,” said Mr. Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission who signed the loan agreement for ADB. 
 
“The New Mumbai Metro is an ambitious and truly transformative venture planned by the state government which will contribute to enhance the efficiency of the urban transport network and productivity of India’s financial center,” said Mr. Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance who signed the loan on behalf of Government of India. 
 
Mumbai, with a population of about 12 million, is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and renowned as the financial capital of India. Maharashtra accounts for about 15% of India’s gross domestic product, about 40% of which is generated from the Mumbai metropolitan region. Rail is the primary means of transport in Mumbai, where the suburban network totals almost 400 km and carries more than 7.5 million passengers a day. 
 
Recognizing the transportation challenges, the government has developed a plan for 12 metro lines with a total length of 276 km. 
 
Line 1, completed in 2014 on a public-private partnership model, carries about 400,000 passengers a day and has reduced travel time along its east-west route from 71 minutes to 21 minutes. Other new metro lines will ease travel and make the city more livable and competitive. Since access to the stations is sometimes difficult, ADB is also assisting MMRDA to improve last-mile connectivity by piloting electric vehicles and non-motorized transport at select stations. 
 
Carriages procured under this project will feature high-level safety features and automation, including surveillance systems, door closing, and train obstacle detectors. Platforms will have automatic doors, which will be synchronized with the trains, so there will no longer be a danger of surging crowds pushing passengers onto the tracks. The tracks will be elevated about 9 meters above road level, ensuring no nearby residents are put at risk. 
 
Various features that will benefit women include women-only carriages, mobile applications for women’s security, separate ticket counters, and reporting desks to address incidents of harassment. It will ensure women have improved opportunities for employment along the new lines, including a station staffed only by women. There will be station and carriage facilities for elderly or differently-abled passengers including priority e-ticket counters. 
 
The project also marks ADB’s first co-financing with the Shanghai-based New Development Bank, which will provide $260 million toward the metro systems project. The MMRDA will implement civil works and other related components for the lines 2A, 2B, and 7.
 
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India’s forex reserves rise by $ 944.7 million to $ 399.217 billion

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Maintaining an uptrend for the second consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 944.7 million to $ 399.217 billion during the week ended February 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had gone up by $ 150.2 million to $ 398.272 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 928.6 million to $ 371.999 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 $ 22.7644 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 5.3 million to $ 1.4602 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 10.8 million to $ 2.9936 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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DAE Units ensure availability radiopharmaceuticals at affordable prices

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Sustained, collective efforts of the Department of Atomic energy (DAE) units have ensured the availability of the state-of-the-art radiopharmaceuticals in India at an affordable price, according to DAE Secretary and Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, K N Vyas.
 
Addressing a DAE media meet at Anushakti Bhavan here yesterday, Vyas said, “Thanks to the very early, visionary beginning given to Indian atomic energy programme by Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, Apsara reactor was built in 1956 and put to wide use, including for production and applications of radioisotopes. 
 
“Among the myriad uses of radioisotopes, use of radio(active)pharmaceuticals - formulations or radioisotope labelled compounds - has emerged as a major field in medicine, namely, Nuclear Medicine (NM). DAE has remained in the forefront of R&D and production of a variety of radiopharmaceuticals for supply to hospitals and nuclear medicine centres across the country,” he added. 
 
Former Chairman, BRIT and Chief Executive, BRIT and Associate Director, Isotope Group, BARC, Dr N Ramamoorthy said, “DAE has taken sustained efforts towards ensuring indigenous availability of established radiopharmaceuticals as well as to develop emerging ones for state-of-the-art NM services in India. 
 
“Many such products are being regularly used for serving patients and some others are undergoing clinical evaluation. This has not only ensured the availability of many of the recently emerging radiopharmaceuticals, but has also made them indigenously available at an affordable cost to the patients in our country,” he added.
 
Four presentations were made on the occasion, by scientists and practising doctors, led by Dr P K Pujari, Associate Director, Radiochemistry & Isotope Group, DAE.
 
In his presentation, Dr Tapas Das, Radiopharmaceuticals Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre explained the basic concepts of radiopharmaceuticals and provided a brief overview of various radioisotope-based formulations available from DAE for the service of mankind.
 
‘Radiopharmaceuticals’ are a special class of formulations of radioisotopes, suitable for administration to patients for diagnosis or therapy of several specific ailments.
 
Diagnostic Radiopharmaceuticals are designed to provide images of intended specific organ or disease cites (lesions). Present-day nuclear medicine physicians are equipped with more than one hundred Nuclear Medicine imaging procedures covering virtually every major organ system of the human body.
 
Therapeutic applications of radiopharmaceuticals are based on the well-known principle that the ionizing radiations, especially the particulate emissions, have the ability to destroy cells by depositing their energy. The use of Therapeutic Radiopharmaceuticals is rapidly gaining momentum beyond treatment of thyroid disorders and is playing important roles, particularly in cancer.
 
Development of any new radiopharmaceutical is a significant challenge and requires the combined expertise of different branches of science, such as chemistry, biology, physiology, veterinary science and medicine.
 
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been rendering support to robust R&D as well as delivery of products of medically important radioisotopes. 
 
Several important radioisotopes such as, Molybdenum-99, Iodine-125, Iodine-131, Samarium-153, Lutetium-177 are produced regularly using Dhruva reactor and Fluorine-18 using the medical cyclotron facility and supplied to the hospitals all over the country through the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT). 
 
DAE produces a wide variety of radiopharmaceuticals and freeze-dried kits and supplies them on regular basis to the hospitals across the country. The efforts undertaken by the DAE scientists in the recent time have helped in developing several state-of-the-art radiopharmaceuticals; some of which are being regularly used for imaging and treatment of patients. 
 
Indigenous preparation of these radioactive agents or freeze-dried kits not only ensures the availability of most modern radiopharmaceuticals to the Indian population, but also their affordability to the major cross-section of Indian patients.
 
Dr Anupam Mathur, Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT) described the major services related to supply of radiopharmaceuticals and medical radioisotopes handled by the BRIT, a unit of DAE. 
 
Regular production and supply of the most widely used products are made by BRIT in close coordination with BARC, availing the radioisotopes produced in Dhruva reactor. 
 
The presentation provided a pictorial representation of the cycle of production of radiopharmaceuticals starting from reactor to patient use. It listed the major radiopharmaceuticals, both for diagnostic imaging (PET and SPECT) and therapy, supplied on regular basis for patient use in nearly 300 nuclear medicine centres and highlighted the frequency and quantum of their production.
 
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A few of the noteworthy contributions include kits for the production of organ or disease-specific 99mTc radiopharmaceuticals (for SPECT imaging) and 131I-based products (for both therapy and diagnosis). 
 
Nearly 70-80% of the requirements of the Indian nuclear medicine centres with respect to the above two groups of products are being met by current supplies by DAE. BRIT and RMC of BARC jointly operate the medical cyclotron facility at Parel and supply the important product called Fluorine-18-FDG and some other products for PET imaging, to users in and near Mumbai. 
 
Lutetium-177 based therapy products, recently developed at BARC are also being scaled up and supplied from BRIT, mainly for management of cancer patients. 
 
The presentation also touched upon some of the upcoming facilities of DAE for introducing new radiopharmaceuticals as well as for enhancing and/or strengthening the production capacity of some of the existing products, for example Mo-99/Tc-99m generators.   
 
Dr Sandip Basu, Consultant Physician and Head, Nuclear Medicine Academic Programme, Radiation Medicine Centre, BARC informed that two major Clinical Nuclear Medicine Centres under DAE serves patients in India. 
 
These are Radiation Medicine Centre (RMC), a Division of BARC instituted by Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha in the year 1963 and housed at Tata Memorial Hospital Annexe Building at Parel, Mumbai and Department of Nuclear Medicine of Tata Memorial Hospital, a DAE-aided Institute, housed at Tata Memorial Hospital Main Building at Parel, Mumbai.
 
At the level of Clinical departments, the primary mission constitutes (a) Patient Services: through use of radioisotopes in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures of Nuclear Medicine; (b) Basic Clinical Research (Bench to Bedside): Clinical translation of new radiopharmaceuticals to patients; (c) Human Resource Development: Trained manpower development through Education (Post Graduate Doctors and Technologists).
 
Major Nuclear Medicine Therapies undertaken are 131I (Radioiodine) for thyroid cancer; 177Lu-DOTATATE for metastatic/ advanced Neuroendocrine Tumor; 177Lu-PSMA treatment for Metastatic Prostate Cancer.
 
DAE’s indigenous radiopharmaceutical programme has provided a major boost not only to the functioning of these two centres, but also to the entire NM therapeutic services offered by other centres in the country.
 
Both these departments also run an impressive HRD program which offer postgraduate degree viz. MD in Nuclear Medicine to medical doctors as well as DMRIT/DFIT (Diploma in Medical Radio-Isotope Techniques / Fusion Imaging Technology) to Nuclear Medicine Technologists for working in Nuclear Medicine Centres. 
 
The training programmes at RMC started way back in 1973: today, nearly 70% of the Nuclear Medicine Physicians at different centres and the Professors and HODs of major Institutes like AIIMS, PGI, JIPMER, CMC Vellore have received their formal training in this Institute.
 
The multiple mandate of Department of Atomic Energy includes providing cancer treatment at affordable cost has been made a reality by improved Nuclear Medicine procedures developed in the two Institutes, RMC and TMC.
 
Dr Venkatesh Rangarajan, Department of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging, Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Memorial Centre threw light on the use of nuclear medicine in the evaluation of myocardial perfusion, which visualises microcirculation in heart and gives an entirely different information critical to the decision making process for selecting appropriate treatment. 
 
The information provided is complementary to the information provided by angiography. The cardiac viability study done with the help of PET & SPECT scan provides crucial information on the improvement of function after a cardiac treatment. More than 60,000 studies are conducted in a year across the country.
 
Paediatric nuclear medicine is the subspecialty in nuclear medicine where isotopes are used in diagnosis and treatment of diseases of children. This is more than 50 years old. 
 
The small amount of dose being injected and children-friendly studies, make these studies popular among paediatric physicians and surgeons. It provides critical information on the kidneys and other organs to the treating doctor. More than 36,000 studies are done in a year.
 
Hybrid imaging, especially PET/CT, has made a revolution in oncology. The scan involves collecting a computerized tomography series and a Positron emission tomography series. Seeing both the series and the fusion imaging reveals the disease accurately. 
 
The better accuracy has resulted in correct staging, detection of early recurrence, treatment response evaluation and end treatment evaluation. The 18 F FDG PET/CT is useful in almost all cancers. The 18F Fluoride images skeleton better, 18 F FLT detects cell growth accurately, 18 F FMIZO identifies hypoxia and FET detects brain tumours accurately.
 
The hybrid PET/CT has made such a tremendous impact on cancer treatment that the number of PET/CT centres has increased from one in 2004 to 225 now. The Tata Hospital itself performs more than 20,000 scans in a year.
 
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Reliance Foundation reaches out to families of Pulwama CRPF martyrs

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Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), has expressed its readiness to assume full responsibility for the education and employment of the children and the livelihood of the familes of the 40 CRPF personnel who were killed in a terror attack at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.
 
"If necessary, our hospital is ready to provide the best possible treatment to the injured jawans. We shall also deem it to be our duty to shoulder any other responsibility the government may place upon us in service to our beloved Armed Forces," a statement from the Foundation said here on Saturday.
 
"The entire Reliance Parivar fully shares the outrage of 1.3 billion Indians at the barbaric terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy on the Jammu–Srinagar highway on Thursday, in which 40 brave jawans were martyred.
 
"No evil power in this world can break India’s unity or our resolve to defeat terrorism, which is an enemy of humanity.
 
"Our hearts go out to the bereaved members of the martyrs’ families. The nation will never forget the bravehearts and their sacrifice. We pray for the recovery of the injured jawans.
 
"As citizens, as well as a Corporate Citizen, we stand fully behind our Armed Forces and our Government in this hour of national solidarity," the statement added.
 
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RIL subsidiaries hike stake in Future 101 Design, Genesis Colours

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The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has said that its subsidiary Reliance Brands Limited (RBL) has acquired a further stake of 2.5% in Future101 Design Private Limited on February 7 for a consideration of Rs. 1.99 crore, taking its total stake in Future101 to 15%.
 
In filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company also said that another of its subsidiaries, Reliance Retail Ventures Limited (RRVL), had acquired a further stake of 9.44% on February 7 in Genesis Colors Limited (GCL), for a consideration of Rs. 45 crore taking its total stake in GCL to 29.07% on the enhanced capital of GCL. 
 
Consequently, the stake of RBL in GCL shall be 43.66% and the aggregate equity shareholding of RRVL and RBL in GCL stands at 72.73%.
 
"The aforesaid acquisitions will help the company to strengthen its footage in the retail industry and support its long term strategy to enhance its value in the retail industry. No regulatory approvals were required for the said acquisition of shares. The investment does not fall within related party transaction for the company and none of RIL’s promoter / promoter group / group companies have interest in the above entities," the filing added.
 
Incorporated in 2013, Future 101 is the parent of luxury designer Raghavendra Rathore’s label and is engaged in manufacturing, distribution and sale of luxury apparel and other such products in India. 
 
Established in 1998, Genesis Colors Ltd. is the holding company of well known Indian fashion brands – Satya Paul and Bwitch.
It also holds the marketing and distribution rights in India for several international luxury labels under its arm Genesis Luxury Fashion Pvt. Ltd., including Paul Smith, Bottega Veneta, Jimmy Choo, Armani, G-Star, Tumi, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss and House of Leather Coach.
 
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SBI reduces home loan interest rate by 5 basis points

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State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, today announced a cut in interest rates on its home loans for all loans up to Rs. 30 lakh, a day after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut its repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 6.25%.
 
“As the nation’s largest lender, we have always kept customer interests at the centre. SBI has the highest market share of the home loans market and it is only appropriate that we empower the large lower and middle class segment by transmitting the rate cut announced by the RBI," SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar said.
 
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India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.063 billion to $ 400.241 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 2.063 billion to $ 400.241 billion during the week ended February 1, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 1.498 billion to $ 398.178 billion during the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here today, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 1.281 billion to $ 373.430 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 $ 764.9 million to $ 22.686 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 6.2 million to $ 1.4707 billion.
 
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $ 11.2 million to $ 2.6454 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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RBI's Sixth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2018-19

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Following is the text of the Reserve Bank of India's Sixth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2018-19 issued here today, based on the resolution of its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC):
 
On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to:
 
reduce the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 6.5 per cent to 6.25 per cent with immediate effect.
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.5 per cent.
 
The MPC also decided to change the monetary policy stance from calibrated tightening to neutral.
 
These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth.
 
The main considerations underlying the decision are set out in the statement below.
 
Assessment
 
2. Since the last MPC meeting in December 2018, there has been a slowdown in global economic activity. Among key advanced economies (AEs), economic activity in the US lost some steam in Q4:2018. The outlook for Q1:2019 is clouded by the partial government shutdown, though the labour market conditions remain strong. In the Euro area, economic activity lost momentum on weak industrial activity. The Japanese economy is gradually recovering and an accommodative monetary policy stance is expected to buttress domestic spending.
 
3. Economic activity also slowed in some major emerging market economies (EMEs). In China, growth decelerated in Q4:2018. Economic activity in Russia lost pace, with soft oil prices posing a downside risk to growth. The Brazilian economy appeared to have ended 2018 on a firmer note, driven by improved domestic spending and exports, though industrial activity continued to struggle to recover from the disruptions of H1:2018. In South Africa, the economic recovery in Q4:2018 remained gradual, tempered by weak industrial activity and subdued exports.
 
4. Crude oil prices recovered from their December lows in early January on production cuts, but remain below their peak levels in October. Base metals, which witnessed selling pressures in December on persisting uncertainty over US-China trade frictions, recouped losses in January on expectations of thawing of trade disputes and production disruptions. Gold prices have risen, underpinned by safe haven demand in response to geo-political uncertainty and volatility in equity markets. Inflation edged lower in major AEs and many key EMEs.
 
5. Global financial markets began the year on a calmer note after a turbulent December. Among AEs, equity markets in the US recovered from a sharp sell-off in December, triggered by monetary policy tightening by the Fed, trade tensions and an impending shutdown. EM stock markets, which declined in December on a slew of soft economic data, registered some gains recently on expectations of accommodative monetary policy stances in major economies. The 10-year yield in the US, which fell to a multi-month low in December, rose in January on the edging up of crude oil prices and positive risk sentiment, though softening of the Fed stance restricted the gains. Among other AEs, bond yields in the Euro area and Japan eased on diminishing optimism about global growth. In most EMEs, bond yields have eased as well. In currency markets, the US dollar remained under pressure, though expectations of easing trade tensions provided some support. EME currencies appreciated on the pause in the rate hiking cycle by the Fed and expectations of a positive outcome from US-China trade negotiations.
 
6. Moving on to the domestic economy, on January 7, 2019 the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released the first advance estimates (FAE) for 2018-19, placing India’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 7.2 per cent – the same level as in 2017-18 (first revised estimates). The FAE for 2018-19 featured an acceleration in gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) and a slowdown in consumption expenditure (both private and government). The drag from net exports is estimated to decline in 2018-19.
 
7. Some indicators of investment demand, viz., production and imports of capital goods, contracted in November/December. Credit flows to industry remain muted. Available data suggest that while revenue expenditure of the Centre, excluding interest payments and subsidies, contracted in Q3, that of States increased sharply, thus maintaining overall growth in government spending.
 
8. On the supply side, the FAE have placed the growth of real gross value added (GVA) at 7.0 per cent in 2018-19 as compared with 6.9 per cent in 2017-18. The estimates incorporated a slowdown in agricultural GVA growth and an acceleration in industrial GVA growth. Services GVA growth is set to soften due to subdued activity in trade, hotels, transport, communication and other services. Growth in public administration and defence services is also likely to moderate.
 
9. Rabi sowing so far (up to February 1, 2019) has been lower than in the previous year, but the overall shortfall of 4.0 per cent across various crops is expected to catch up as the season comes to a close. The lower rabi sowing reflects a deficient north-east monsoon (44 per cent below the long period average); however, storage in major reservoirs – the main source of irrigation during the rabi season – at 44 per cent of the full reservoir level (as on January 31, 2019) was marginally higher than in the previous year. The extended period of cold weather in this year’s winter is likely to boost wheat yields, which would partly offset the shortfall, if any, in area sown.
 
10. After exhibiting an uptick in the festive month of October, industrial activity, measured by the index of industrial production (IIP), slowed down in November. The year-on-year (y-o-y) growth in core industries decelerated to 2.6 per cent (y-o-y) in December, pulled down by a slowdown in the production of electricity and coal; and contraction in petroleum refinery products, crude oil and fertilisers output. Capacity utilisation (CU) in the manufacturing sector, as measured by the Reserve Bank’s order books, inventory and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS), increased to 74.8 per cent in Q2 from 73.8 per cent in Q1; seasonally adjusted CU also improved to 75.3 per cent from 74.9 per cent. While the Reserve Bank’s business assessment index of the industrial outlook survey (IOS) for Q3:2018-19 suggests a weakening of demand conditions in the manufacturing sector, the business expectations index (BEI) points to an improvement in Q4. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for January remained in expansion on the back of increased output and new orders.
 
11. High-frequency indicators of the services sector suggest some moderation in the pace of activity. Sales of motorcycles and tractors imply weakening of rural demand in December. Sales of passenger cars – an indicator of urban demand – contracted, possibly reflecting volatility in fuel prices and mandated long-term insurance premium payments. Commercial vehicle sales also shrank in December 2018 from a high base of the previous year. Lead indicators for the hotels sub-segment, viz., foreign tourist arrivals and air passenger traffic, point to softening in November-December. In the communication sub-segment, the telephone subscriber base contracted in October-November, while that of broadband continued to expand in October. The services PMI continued to expand in January 2019 despite a dip from the previous month. Indicators of the construction sector, viz., consumption of steel and production of cement, continued to show healthy growth, though growth in cement production inched lower in November 2018, reflecting a base effect.
 
12. Retail inflation, measured by y-o-y change in the CPI, declined from 3.4 per cent in October 2018 to 2.2 per cent in December, the lowest print in the last eighteen months. Continuing deflation in food items, a sharp fall in fuel inflation and some edging down of inflation excluding food and fuel contributed to the decline in headline inflation.
 
13. Five constituents of the food group – vegetables, sugar, pulses, eggs and fruits, accounting for about 30 per cent of food group – were in deflation in December. Inflation in respect of other major food sub-groups – cereals, milk, and oils and fats – was subdued. Within cereals, rice prices declined for the fourth consecutive month in December. Inflation in prices of meat and fish and non-alcoholic beverages showed an uptick, while it remained sticky for prepared meals.
 
14. Inflation in the fuel and light group fell from 8.5 per cent in October to 4.5 per cent in December, pulled down by a sharp decline in the prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), reflecting softening of international petroleum product prices. Kerosene inflation continued to edge up due to the calibrated increase in its administered price.
 
15. CPI inflation excluding food and fuel decelerated to 5.6 per cent in December from 6.2 per cent in October, dragged down mainly by the moderation in the prices of petrol and diesel in line with the decline in international petroleum product prices. Housing inflation continued to edge down as the impact of the house rent allowance (HRA) increase for central government employees dissipated. However, inflation in several of the sub-groups – household goods and services; health; recreation and amusement; and education – firmed up in December, offsetting much of the impact of lower inflation in petrol, diesel and housing.
 
16. Inflation expectations of households, measured by the December 2018 round of the Reserve Bank’s survey, softened by 80 basis points for the three-month ahead horizon and by 130 basis points for the twelve-month ahead horizon over the last round, reflecting the continued decline in food and fuel prices. Producers’ assessment of inflation in input prices eased in Q3 as reported by manufacturing firms polled by the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey.
 
17. Inflation in the prices of farm inputs and industrial raw materials remained elevated, despite some softening. Growth in rural wages moderated in October.
 
18. The weighted average call rate (WACR) traded below the policy repo rate on 12 out of 20 days in December, all 23 days in January and 4 days in February (up to February 6). The WACR was below the repo rate on an average by 4 basis points in December and 11 basis points each in January and February. Currency in circulation expanded sharply during December and January. The liquidity needs arising out of expansion in currency were met by the Reserve Bank through injection of durable liquidity amounting to Rs. 500 billion each in December and January through purchases under open market operations (OMOs). Accordingly, total durable liquidity injected through OMOs has aggregated Rs. 2.36 trillion during 2018-19 so far. Liquidity injected under the LAF was Rs. 996 billion in December on an average daily net basis, and Rs. 329 billion in January. In February, however, the average daily liquidity position turned into surplus with an average absorption of Rs. 279 billion.
 
19. Export growth on a y-o-y basis was almost flat in November and December 2018, primarily due to a high base effect and weak global demand. While growth in exports of petroleum products remained positive, non-oil exports declined, dragged down by lower shipments of gems and jewellery, engineering goods, meat and poultry. Import growth slowed in November and turned negative in December 2018. While imports of petroleum (crude and products) rose in line with the increase in import volumes, non-oil imports such as pearls and precious stones, gold, electronic goods and transport equipment, recorded declines. The merchandise trade deficit for April-December 2018 was a shade higher than its level a year ago. Net services exports picked up in October and November 2018, which combined with low oil prices, could have a salutary impact on the current account deficit in Q3. On the financing side, net FDI flows to India during April-November 2018 were higher than a year ago. Foreign portfolio flows turned negative in January 2019, after rebounding in November and December 2018. India’s foreign exchange reserves were at US$ 400.2 billion on February 1, 2019.
 
Outlook
 
20. In the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy resolution in December 2018, CPI inflation for 2018-19 was projected in the range of 2.7-3.2 per cent in H2:2018-19 and 3.8-4.2 per cent in H1:2019-20, with risks tilted to the upside. The actual inflation outcome at 2.6 per cent in Q3:2018-19 was marginally lower than the projection. There have been downward revisions in inflation projections during the course of the year, reflecting mainly the unprecedented soft inflation recorded across food sub-groups.
 
21. Several factors will shape the inflation path, going forward. First, food inflation has continued to surprise on the downside with continuing deflation across several items and a significant moderation in inflation in cereals. Several food groups are experiencing excess supply conditions domestically as well as internationally. Hence, the short-term outlook for food inflation appears particularly benign, despite adverse base effects. Secondly, the moderation in the fuel group was larger than anticipated. Inflation in items of rural consumption such as firewood and chips, which had remained sticky and at elevated levels, has collapsed in recent months. Electricity prices also showed an unexpected moderation, providing a softer outlook for the fuel group. Thirdly, while inflation excluding food and fuel remains elevated, the recent unusual pick-up in the prices of health and education could be a one-off phenomenon. Fourthly, the crude oil price outlook remains broadly the same as in the December policy. Fifthly, the Reserve Bank’s surveys show that inflation expectations of households as well as input and output price expectations of producers have moderated significantly. Finally, the effect of the HRA increase for central government employees has dissipated completely along expected lines. Taking into consideration these developments and assuming a normal monsoon in 2019, the path of CPI inflation is revised downwards to 2.8 per cent in Q4:2018-19, 3.2-3.4 per cent in H1:2019-20 and 3.9 per cent in Q3:2019-20, with risks broadly balanced around the central trajectory.
 
22. Turning to the growth outlook, GDP growth for 2018-19 in the December policy was projected at 7.4 per cent (7.2-7.3 per cent in H2) and at 7.5 per cent for H1:2019-20, with risks somewhat to the downside. The CSO has estimated GDP growth at 7.2 per cent for 2018-19. Looking beyond the current year, the growth outlook is likely to be influenced by the following factors. First, aggregate bank credit and overall financial flows to the commercial sector continue to be strong, but are yet to be broad-based. Secondly, in spite of soft crude oil prices and the lagged impact of the recent depreciation of the Indian rupee on net exports, slowing global demand could pose headwinds. In particular, trade tensions and associated uncertainties appear to be moderating global growth. Taking into consideration the above factors, GDP growth for 2019-20 is projected at 7.4 per cent – in the range of 7.2-7.4 per cent in H1, and 7.5 per cent in Q3 – with risks evenly balanced.
 
23. Headline inflation is projected to remain soft in the near term reflecting the current low level of inflation and the benign food inflation outlook. Beyond the near term, some uncertainties warrant careful monitoring. First, vegetable prices have been volatile in the recent period; reversal in vegetable prices could impart upside risk to the food inflation trajectory. Secondly, the oil price outlook continues to be hazy. Thirdly, a further heightening of trade tensions and geo-political uncertainties could also weigh on global growth prospects, dampening global demand and softening global commodity prices, especially oil prices. Fourthly, the unusual spike in the prices of health and education needs to be closely watched. Fifthly, financial markets remain volatile. Sixthly, the monsoon outcome is assumed to be normal; any spatial or temporal variation in rainfall may alter the food inflation outlook. Finally, several proposals in the union budget for 2019-20 are likely to boost aggregate demand by raising disposable incomes, but the full effect of some of the measures is likely to materialise over a period of time.
 
24. The MPC notes that the output gap has opened up modestly as actual output has inched lower than potential. Investment activity is recovering but supported mainly by public spending on infrastructure. The need is to strengthen private investment activity and buttress private consumption.
 
25. Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to change the stance of monetary policy from calibrated tightening to neutral and to reduce the policy repo rate by 25 basis points.
 
26. The decision to change the monetary policy stance was unanimous. As regards the reduction in the policy repo rate, Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra and Shri Shaktikanta Das voted in favour of the decision. Dr. Chetan Ghate and Dr. Viral V. Acharya voted to keep the policy rate unchanged. The MPC reiterates its commitment to achieving the medium-term target for headline inflation of 4 per cent on a durable basis. The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by February 21, 2019.
 
27. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled from April 2 to 4, 2019.
 
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RBI reduces repo rate by 25 bps to 6.25%, changes stance to neutral

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The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today decided to reduce its key policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points (bps) from 6.5 percent to 6.25 percent and to change its monetary policy stance from calibrated tightening to neutral.
 
The decision was taken by the MPC on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the RBI said in its Sixth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2018-19.
 
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stood adjusted to 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.5 per cent, the statement said.
 
"These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth," the statement and resolution of the MPC said.
 
The statement noted that, in the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy resolution in December 2018, CPI inflation for 2018-19 was projected in the range of 2.7-3.2 per cent in H2:2018-19 and 3.8-4.2 per cent in H1:2019-20, with risks tilted to the upside. 
 
The actual inflation outcome at 2.6 per cent in Q3:2018-19 was marginally lower than the projection. There have been downward revisions in inflation projections during the course of the year, reflecting mainly the unprecedented soft inflation recorded across food sub-groups, it said.
 
"Several factors will shape the inflation path, going forward. First, food inflation has continued to surprise on the downside with continuing deflation across several items and a significant moderation in inflation in cereals. Several food groups are experiencing excess supply conditions domestically as well as internationally. Hence, the short-term outlook for food inflation appears particularly benign, despite adverse base effects. 
 
"Secondly, the moderation in the fuel group was larger than anticipated. Inflation in items of rural consumption such as firewood and chips, which had remained sticky and at elevated levels, has collapsed in recent months. Electricity prices also showed an unexpected moderation, providing a softer outlook for the fuel group.
 
"Thirdly, while inflation excluding food and fuel remains elevated, the recent unusual pick-up in the prices of health and education could be a one-off phenomenon. Fourthly, the crude oil price outlook remains broadly the same as in the December policy. Fifthly, the Reserve Bank’s surveys show that inflation expectations of households as well as input and output price expectations of producers have moderated significantly. 
 
"Finally, the effect of the HRA increase for central government employees has dissipated completely along expected lines. Taking into consideration these developments and assuming a normal monsoon in 2019, the path of CPI inflation is revised downwards to 2.8 per cent in Q4:2018-19, 3.2-3.4 per cent in H1:2019-20 and 3.9 per cent in Q3:2019-20, with risks broadly balanced around the central trajectory," it said.
 
Turning to the growth outlook, the statement said GDP growth for 2018-19 in the December policy was projected at 7.4 per cent (7.2-7.3 per cent in H2) and at 7.5 per cent for H1:2019-20, with risks somewhat to the downside. The CSO has estimated GDP growth at 7.2 per cent for 2018-19.
 
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"Looking beyond the current year, the growth outlook is likely to be influenced by the following factors. First, aggregate bank credit and overall financial flows to the commercial sector continue to be strong, but are yet to be broad-based. Secondly, in spite of soft crude oil prices and the lagged impact of the recent depreciation of the Indian rupee on net exports, slowing global demand could pose headwinds. In particular, trade tensions and associated uncertainties appear to be moderating global growth. 
 
"Taking into consideration the above factors, GDP growth for 2019-20 is projected at 7.4 per cent – in the range of 7.2-7.4 per cent in H1, and 7.5 per cent in Q3 – with risks evenly balanced," it said.
 
The statement said headline inflation is projected to remain soft in the near term reflecting the current low level of inflation and the benign food inflation outlook. 
 
"Beyond the near term, some uncertainties warrant careful monitoring. First, vegetable prices have been volatile in the recent period; reversal in vegetable prices could impart upside risk to the food inflation trajectory. Secondly, the oil price outlook continues to be hazy. Thirdly, a further heightening of trade tensions and geo-political uncertainties could also weigh on global growth prospects, dampening global demand and softening global commodity prices, especially oil prices. Fourthly, the unusual spike in the prices of health and education needs to be closely watched. Fifthly, financial markets remain volatile. Sixthly, the monsoon outcome is assumed to be normal; any spatial or temporal variation in rainfall may alter the food inflation outlook. Finally, several proposals in the union budget for 2019-20 are likely to boost aggregate demand by raising disposable incomes, but the full effect of some of the measures is likely to materialise over a period of time.
 
"The MPC notes that the output gap has opened up modestly as actual output has inched lower than potential. Investment activity is recovering but supported mainly by public spending on infrastructure. The need is to strengthen private investment activity and buttress private consumption.
 
"Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to change the stance of monetary policy from calibrated tightening to neutral and to reduce the policy repo rate by 25 basis points," it said.
 
The statement said the decision to change the monetary policy stance was unanimous. As regards the reduction in the policy repo rate, Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia, Dr. Pami Dua, Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra and RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das voted in favour of the decision.
 
Dr. Chetan Ghate and Dr. Viral V. Acharya voted to keep the policy rate unchanged. 
 
"The MPC reiterates its commitment to achieving the medium-term target for headline inflation of 4 per cent on a durable basis," the statement added.
 
The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by February 21. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled from April 2 to 4, 2019.
 
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Piramal Ivanhoe Residential Equity Fund to invest Rs. 500 crore in Lodha Palava City

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Piramal Enterprises Limited (PEL), one of India's largest diversified companies, and Ivanhoé Cambridge, a real estate subsidiary of CDPQ (Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec), today announced an equity investment of Rs. 500 crore from the Piramal Ivanhoe Residential Equity Fund towards Palava, a smart city being developed by Lodha Group, located in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
 
PEL had previously announced a strategic co-investment fund with Ivanhoé Cambridge, to provide long term equity capital to blue chip residential developers across the five major metro cities in India (Mumbai, Bengaluru, National Capital Region, Pune and Chennai). 
 
Ivanhoé Cambridge had allocated an initial $ 250 million towards this fund, a press release from PEL said.
 
Khushru Jijina, Managing Director, Piramal Capital & Housing Finance Ltd, said “We are pleased to announce our first deal through Piramal Ivanhoe Residential Equity Fund that is focused on providing growth capital to Tier 1 developers across major metro cities in India. We believe that the timing is opportune for the provision of equity capital over a longer time horizon and facilitate participation in larger projects with the ability to generate returns across real estate cycles. We are committed to supporting the demand for equity from blue chip real estate developers, as they increasingly leverage investor partnerships in the early stages of the development to enable deployment over longer time horizon while generating returns across its life cycle.
 
Rita-Rose Gagné, President, Growth Markets, Ivanhoé Cambridge said “We are pleased to be investing in Palava City, a project we believe is a game-changer for mixed-use residential communities in India. As investors, we understand how our capital can play an important role in developing sustainable and modern places to live, work, play and more, in major cities around the world. We look forward to a successful project and more to come.”
 
Abhishek Lodha, Managing Director, Lodha Group, said “We are pleased to enter into partnership with marquee investors like Piramal and Ivanhoé Cambridge. The current investment is a testament to our proven track record in the affordable housing segment and our vision for developing Palava as one of the 50 most livable cities in the World.”
 
Palava City is an integrated smart city near Mumbai, with over 4,500 acres of land being developed across different phases. Phase I is spread across about 300 acres of land and is already delivered. Phase II spreads across about 700 acres and is currently under development with a potential saleable area of about 57 million sq ft.  Palava is located in the economic triangle of Navi Mumbai, Thane and Dombivli and is in close proximity to the rapidly expanding business hubs of Vashi, Airoli and Thane. Palava is currently home to a population of close to 100,000 people. 
 
"Palava is characterized as a 'Pedestrian First' smart city designed to have everything (Live-work-learn-play) within walking distance thereby enhancing the quality of life for its citizens. Palava has already made significant investments in developing high quality and sustainable infrastructure. Palava has been rated as the No. 1 smart city in terms of livability quotient by JLL and is emerging as a 'model of urbanization' in India which needs more new cities to meet the requirements of rapid urbanization," the release added.
 
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Three dead, two injured in roof collapse at Ulhasnagar in Thane

 
3 dead after building collapses in Ulhasnagar
Three persons died and two others suffered injuries when the roof of a clinic located in a building at Ulhasnagar in Thane district, near here, collapsed on Sunday afternoon.
 
Fire brigade and police personnel rushed to the scene to help extricate the victims from under the rubble. 
 
The victims were shifted to a nearby  hospital where three of them, including a two-year-old girl, were declared brought  dead.
 
The injured persons included the doctor who runs the clinic.
 
According to sources, the second storey of the five-storeyed building collapsed onto the first floor, which, in turn, came crashing onto the ground floor where the clinic was locted.
 
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