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Modi says necessary decisions in the past would have avoided discomfort

Pune: In a veiled attack on Congress for opposing demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the “sins” of benami properties would not have happened and people would not be standing in queues now had necessary decisions been taken in the past.

“In 1988, Parliament passed Benami Property Act but it never got notified and implemented. The papers had got lost somewhere in a stack of files. It was me who re-opened it. Sins of benami properties would not have happened had the law been implemented,” he said after the inauguration of Pune metro.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy PIBPrime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image courtesy PIB

“Should I let the situation be as it is or should I change it? Should the wrongdoings be undone or not? If decisions were taken years ago, I would not have had to make people stand in queues. I have taken this step because I made a promise to save the country,” the Prime Minister said.

Modi warned those possessing black money to come clean now or they will stand no chance to save themselves.

“Some people thought all governments are the same and this government of mine will be no different. They thought they can put their black money in banks and convert it into white. Money did not become white but their faces turned black,” he said.

“There is still time where laws can help you. Come on the right path and sleep peacefully. If not, I will not sleep. I have started this war against corruption, black money, terrorism, naxalism with a lot of ‘jigar’ (heart),” he said.

The Prime Minister said that due to the demonetisation decision, income of urban bodies have increased by 200-300 percent and people, who were used to breaking rules at one point of time are now made to stand in queues.

Modi said that urbanisation is taking place at a fast pace today and stressed on generating employment and improving the quality of life in villages to stop migration to cities.

“Only then will the run from villages to cities will slow down. If we think in pieces and for immediate political gains, we can never overcome problems,” he said.

Modi said the Centre has started with a ‘Rurban’ mission which focusses on ensuring that that villages close to cities have the soul of a village and facilities of a city.

“Our Digital India campaign is not just meant for cities but for rural areas as well. We have decided to launch metro projects in more than 50 cities. Had we done so in bits and pieces, projects would have become costlier, more problems would have arisen and the projects would have had lagged even after we putting in money,” he said.

Modi said benchmarks of development need to become modernise and transform with changing times.

“Infrastructure is not just roads, rail and air transport but also highways and I-ways (information ways), for which we need an optical fibre network. We need to work on water grid, digital network, gas grid and space technology,” he said.

Modi said Pune Metro should have been visualised and implemented much earlier. “Previous governments have left a
lot of work for me to do,” Modi said.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 22:45 IST

PM Modi says stock market success should benefit villages not Dalal Street or Lutyens

Raigad (Maharashtra): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the crucial role played by financial markets for the growth of the Indian economy but warned of damages they can wreak if not properly regulated.

Inaugurating the new campus of National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) run by the stock markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) at Panvel, Modi said India enjoyed a good name for its well-regulated securities markets and for them to function effectively, the participants needed to be well-informed.

“The government is very keen to encourage start-ups… Stock markets are essential for the start-up system,” Modi said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Calling for wider inclusion, Modi said our markets must show that they were able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population, particularly related to infrastructure.

“The true measure of success (of the stock markets) is in its impact in villages, not on Dalal Street or Lutyens Delhi. Sebi should work for closer link between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit the farmers,” Modi urged.

Discussing the economic highlights, the Prime Minister said in less than three years, the government has transformed the economy.

“In 2012-2013, fiscal deficit had reached alarming levels, currency was falling sharply, inflation was high and current account deficit was rising.

“Now, we have slashed fiscal deficit, public investments have increased, forex reserves are high, inflation is low at less than four per cent compared to nearly double-digit in the previous regime,” Modi pointed out.

He said the government has progressed on ‘Ease of Doing Business’, the GST, pending since years, would soon be a reality and FDI has reached record levels, even “our critics acknowledge our speed of work”.

Modi made it clear that India has a bright future in the long run, and the government would not take decisions for short-terms benefits, and would not shy from difficult decisions if they were in the interest of the nation.

“My aim it to make India developed in one generation,” he concluded.

Earlier, Modi arrived in Mumbai by an IAF aircraft for a daylong visit to Maharashtra and has a series of engagements during the day.

On his arrival at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport around noon, he was received by Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Later, around 3 p.m., Modi will perform the ‘bhoomipoojan’, ground breaking ritual, for the ambitious sea memorial dedicated to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj coming up in the Arabian Sea, around 1.5 km from Mumbai shoreline at Marine Drive.

Thereafter, Modi will go to the Bandra Kurla Complex and perform the ground breaking ritual for the mega-infra project, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, two new Mumbai Metro lines and elevated road corridors.

In the evening, Modi is scheduled to visit Pune and lay the foundation stone for the proposed Pune Metro railway project.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 16:03 IST

Demonetisation: Why Narendra Modi won’t have an easy win over India’s penchant for cash

The buzzword now in the post-demonetisation days is cashless economy. A change to ‘less-cash economy’ and then ‘cashless economy’ is the new punch line of Narendra Modi government’s changed demonetisation narrative. It believes in target-based massive disruptions in the social equilibrium to attain quick results, not gradual transition. For this reason, both the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are pushing the banking system hard to nudge the public to embrace alternative payment modes to cash transactions, mainly using mobile payment platforms and Point of Sale terminals. Is India prepared for this change?

Going by the data available so far, the citizens in metros are willing to try out the new way of payments but the rural Indian isn’t yet ready for an overnight transition to a cashless world. That’s the sense one gets when analyses the RBI studies and other private surveys. According to an SBI research report, though there has been an increase in the volume of card-based transactions post 8 November (When PM Modi announced demonetisation), however the value per transaction has dropped.

It isn’t hard to understand why this has happened.

1) There isn’t enough infrastructure to propel a sudden spurt in digital payment activities.

2) There is a broader impact on consumer demand thanks to a drop in economic activities following the artificial cash-crunch.

3) A good number of people still do not trust the security features accompanying the digital payment instruments.

4) Laws aren’t strong enough in India as in developed countries to support the customer to compensate him for possible financial loss.

5) Despite all the digital India talk, internet and mobile penetration is far inadequate in non-metros to support the connectivity for seamless mobile-based financial transactions. A significant number of India’s 6 lakh odd villages still do not have good mobile, internet connectivity. According to TRAI report, only 15 percent of India’s 1.02 billion wireless subscribers have broadband connection.

A shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKDA shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKD

Reuters

Nevertheless, why there has been an increase in non-cash transactions since demonetisation? This spurt is artificial and a forced one by the government’s decision to pull out 86 percent of the currency in circulation in one go.

It is like saying when you artificially spike the price of vegetables to an unaffordable level to common man, he will start using meat and egg products more. That’s not necessarily because of his sudden love for meat but simply because vegetable isn’t affordable for now. For the same reason, when the veg prices come down again, there is a likelihood of many of these people returning to their old consumption pattern. Even in such a scenario, many vegetarians would rather start eating less than beginning to eat meat.

The current scenario, where the government and banking system is pushing citizens is something similar to this. The current spurt in the volume of non-cash transactions isn’t likely to sustain when the cash-crunch eases, unless there are good reasons (clear incentives) for someone to shift to the new mode. This is something one needs to wait and watch.

The reason for decline in per value transactions could be attributed to combination of factors mentioned above, of which a dip in consumer demand and lack of trust of plastic money transactions. The government’s well-intentioned move to progress the economy to a cashless mode needs more than short-term monetary incentives and lucky draws. These are mere gimmicks that might get only some short-term responses but not lasting results as this Firstpost report points out. The government needs to have a well laid out policy plan for the shift to digital economy that should happen over a period of time by preparing the infrastructure.

As the SBI report points out, India is lagging far behind when it comes to providing adequate infrastructure for cashless transactions. “Additionally, we may require an additional 20 lakh PoS machines. Interestingly, the per value transaction in post demonetization period has declined (though the no of transactions has increased) possibly reflecting less number of PoS machines in the country compared to the demand (India has 15.1 lakh PoS machines),” the report said.

This improvement in banking infrastructure is already happening, albeit in a slower pace, with more financial institutions like payments banks and small finance banks that are technology driven coming to the picture and bank accounts are being made available to hitherto unbanked through Jan Dhan Yojana scheme. Along with this, the banking system should make the customer aware about new mode of payments, instead of forcing someone, who hasn’t even used an ATM so far, to do it overnight.

According to an RBI concept paper on Card Acceptance Infrastructure, the average number of card transactions per inhabitant in India is among the lowest in major economies. Between Oct 2013 and Oct 2015, ATMs increased by around 43 percent while POS machines increased by around 28 percent. As of end-December 2015, the number of ATMs has increased to 1,93,580 while PoS machines had increased to 12,45,447 in the country.

As far as the usage is concerned, “from April 2015 to December 2015, the usage of debit cards at ATMs continues to account for around 88 percent of the total volume and around 94 percent of total value of debit card transactions. Usage of debit cards at POS machines accounts for only around 12 percent of total volume and 6 percent of total value of debit card transactions. This is despite the fact that between FY2012-13 and FY 2014-15 the debit card usage at POS machines registered a growth of 72 percent in terms of volume and 63 percent in terms of value,” the report said.

India’s penchant for cash is well known and even post demonetisation this nature is evident with people using their ATM/debit card more than ever but mainly for cash withdrawals, not purchases. India has around 94 crore debit cards but most of it is used for only cash withdrawals (read this report in The Indian Express). Then there are severe concerns about security issue on such transactions and laws to support a common customer in the event of loss from using technology platforms for financial transactions (read here). If the government hopes that it can bring about such a massive transformation, even hoping a less-cash society, in such a huge country in short-term, it is nothing but asking for the moon.

Such a change should happen on a need-based model, wherein a customer who has seen his income levels and financial literacy improves feels the need to migrate to the cashless mode, where the inspiration to shift comes from the customer not the government or banking system.

Having said this, over years, there has been an increase in non-cash transactions in the banking system with more number of people get accustomed to newer modes of payments. Things will improve when confidence builds up in electronic payment modes and infrastructure improves. But, empirical evidence available so far suggests that more than availability of infrastructure, India’s penchant for cash transactions will be the biggest hurdles of PM Modi’s cashless dream. A change in the mindset will be gradual and can’t be forced. Even if it is forced, the results are unlikely to sustain. There is no easy cure for India’s penchant for cash.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 15:11 IST

BJP would work to increase ‘happiness index’ in Goa: Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday said if BJP is voted to power in Goa for another term, it would work to increase “happiness index” of the coastal state.”We (BJP) performed well in social sector and also built the infrastructure in the state. But there is one thing still left to be achieved. I had a dream of infrastructure development, social development but the ultimate target is to increase the happiness index of the state,” he said.The former Goa Chief Minister was addressing BJP’s ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rally at Bicholim. BJP is holding these rallies to shore up support ahead of the Assembly elections in the state due next year.”Money (alone) does not give you satisfaction. Happiness index is now being discussed worldwide. I had mentioned it in my (state) budget presented in 2001. Until people are satisfied and contented, we cannot claim we have done enough for the state,” he said.”To do this (increase happiness index), I require your support. Last time (during 2012 polls) 21 BJP legislators were elected and this time we want at least 25-26 BJP legislators,” Parrikar said.Despite a ban on mining industry (imposed by the Supreme Court, later revoked), nobody committed suicide in Goa because the BJP government extended support to the affected people, he said, talking about the post-2012 elections period.

Toll collection resumes, traffic situation under control

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As toll booths resumed operations from 12 am on Friday, the traffic situation remained relatively smooth around toll booths across the country.On November 9, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, toll collection on national highways was suspended.Ministry of Road Transport and Highways sources said that deploying more staff across toll booths and keeping sufficient cash of lower denominations made collection smoother. Speaking to DNA, PC Grover, Director of National Highways Builders Federation, said that installation of Point Of Sales (POS) machines in almost 90 per cent of the booths made toll collection faster.”Not everyone was paying Rs 2,000 and seeking change. The toll booths had a bigger manpower and change was readily available. But, yes, we got the feedback that more cash is required,” he said.Reports from Bihar showed that the situation remained smooth on Saturday, with officials making advance preparations to tackle the cash crunch. “There was a slight panic among people but no untoward incident was reported from anywhere,” said Prabhat Ranjan Pandey, in-charge of multiple toll plazas in Bihar, including those in Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur and Begusarai districts.According to MK Pandey, manager of multiple toll plazas on NH 57, at least 8-10 POS machines have been installed at every toll plaza. “We are accepting Rs 2,000 notes, but returning the due change is a bit problematic,” said Pandey.However, the situation in Maharashtra was different. Long queues were seen on all toll plazas, including the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the old highway between the two cities and the Vashi toll booth on the Sion-Panvel highway.Although the booth operators claimed that adequate arrangements had been made, paucity of change and weekend rush led to long vehicular queues. Traffic police were deployed to clear the roads.Amin Sheikh, on a day-long trip out of the city, said: “The main concern is that Rs 2,000 note is not being accepted by anyone, including toll collectors. They insisted on Rs 100 note, when I gave a Rs 2,000 note. As I did not have Rs 100 note, I finally offered him a Rs 500 note.”A spokesperson of IRB Infrastructure, which collects tolls from 60 points across the country, said: “We have facilitated credit card and debit card payments at different points and lanes access the county. POS, Paytm and MobiKwik facilities were also arranged.”He said that they would soon install Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), a computerised system integrated with electronic equipment at toll plazas. “It reads radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on the vehicle’s windscreens and opens the barrier when a vehicle approaches the plaza by deducting certain amount,” said the spokesperson.Naveen Kumar Gupta, general secretary of All India Transport Congress, said that the traffic was smooth in most places but the actual situation could only be judged on Monday as many private cars were off roads on Saturday.”Many truckers also did not leave their destinations. We have suggested to the government that instead of collecting tolls through booths, an additional cess an annual permit for vehicles should be put in place,” he said.

Demonetisation: Rahul Gandhi claims PM Modi not concerned about common man

New Delhi: Taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the demonetisation issue, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged that the PM was working for a select few only and was not concerned for the poor common man, who has been queueing up for hours outside banks and ATMs.

“I have gone to the banks to see the situation myself in the morning. People there told me that they are facing a lot of inconvenience,” Rahul said outside Parliament.

Both Houses were adjourned repeatedly as the combined Opposition was unrelenting in its protest on the demonetisation issue.

Rahul said people were alleging that cash was being taken out surreptitiously from the back door in the banks for a few “selected people” while there were long queues of common people waiting outside for hours.

“They said they are in the queue and deals are being made and cash is taken out from back door. And some selected people are given that cash. Those who are rich get that and those who are poor are made to stand in the queue.

“They will be in the queue for three days and then they will leave (without cash). People are facing losses because of this,” he said.

Earlier in the day Rahul visited several ATMs in the city where he spoke to people about their problems.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

On the PM’s remark that the country will come out like gold after this exercise, the Congress scion asked, “For whom? “and added “I feel the treasuries of the PM’s own 15 or 20 people’s will be filled up and their loans will be waived. Poor people those who are in the queue will only suffer losses.”

Asked why opposition is not ready for discussion, he, however, said “We are going to discuss. We are ready for discussion.”

On the question of PM’s absence in Parliament, Rahul said “What is the need for the PM to come to Parliament? These days he is at a different level. Neither does he discuss with his Ministers nor does he talk to anybody. Whatever he thinks, he decides on his own.

“Such a big economic decision was taken in the history of India and he did it after talking with three-four people. There was no planning. What will happen to farmers, poor people, fisheries industries in Kerala and Bengal? He did not think of them.”

Taking a pot shot at Modi, the Congress leader said, “He is in a new form these days. You cannot call him super PM also. One has to think to define him, a new word has to be coined to describe him.”

Rahul also condoled the loss of lives in Sunday’s train accident in Uttar Pradesh and said the Prime Minister should first focus on improving safety and facilities for common man in trains, instead of planning to introduce bullet train.

“Infrastructure of Indian Railways needs to be improved. Modiji has talked of bullet train with Rs 1 lakh crore investment. The focus is at wrong place. Focus should be on how to make travelling in trains safer for the common people,” he said.

Talking of the need to reduce train journey time, he said, “If it takes two hours to reach a place then how it can be reduced to one hour. If it takes 20 hours then how we can make him reach in 10 hours.”

“But Modiji’s entire thinking is for 3000-5000 people. He spoke on bullet train but why did he not speak of track maintenance and safety?”

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 15:08 IST

Nepal to annul MoU with Indian consortium building Kathmandu-Nijgadh expressway

Kathmandu: Nepal has decided to terminate all memoranda of understanding (MoU) and decisions reached with an Indian consortium that was preparing to build the Kathmandu-Nijgadh expressway.

The Himalayan state was now preparing to build the project on its own as reported by the Kathmandu Post.

The 76 km long proposed highway had remained on the government’s drawing board since 1991.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Attempts to award the project to the Indian consortium of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction, had drawn flak earlier, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak told the parliamentary Finance and Development committees on Sunday.

“Without terminating the agreements and decisions reached in the past, it was impossible to move ahead, or build the project on our own,” he said.

Lekhak’s ministry is now planning to table a proposal to scrap all the agreements and understandings with the Indian developer at the Cabinet.

The Kathmandu-Nijgadh expressway which would cut travel time to an hour from the existing eight to 10 hours would be a public expressway where no toll would be levied, Lekhak told on Sunday.

The ministry was directed to settle issues related to the detailed project report (DPR) submitted by the consortium.

The developer had claimed that it had invested Rs 500-600 million for preparing the DPR.

Dhan Bahadur Tamang, secretary at the ministry, said a high-level committee was formed to sort the issue.

In 2014, the former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala-led government had made efforts to award the 100 billion-rupee-project to the consortium.

However, questions were raised over the Koirala government’s intention to offer minimum revenue guarantee up to Rs 15 billion a year to the developer if traffic remained inadequate to generate profits.

Even the Supreme Court, on 8 October, 2015, had issued an interim order shelfing the project.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 11:30 IST

DND flyway will remain toll-free, rules Supreme Court

New Delhi: The DND flyway connecting Delhi and neighbouring Noida will remain toll-free for commuters with the Supreme Court on Friday refusing to stay the Allahabad High Court verdict restraining Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd from levying cess.

A bench of Justices JS Khehar and L Nageswara Rao also asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to verify the cost of the DND flyway project and submit a report before the apex court.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“We have requested the CAG to verify the cost of the project…” the bench said, adding, “We refuse to grant any relief.”

The apex court had on 28 October refused interfere with the HC order restraining the company, saying it will pass directions after Diwali vacations.

On the toll collecting firm’s plea for interim stay on HC order, the apex court bench headed by the Chief Justice had said, “You have only ten kms of highway and you claim that you have made a road to the moon. … You have done well but not something (great).”

The firm had said the High Court did not take into account all aspects and submitted that factors like interest on construction cost, depreciation and maintenance expenses, which come to around Rs 12.5 lakh per day, have not been duly considered.

The high court, on 26 October, had brought cheers to millions of commuters ruling that no toll will be collected henceforth from those using the 9.2 km-long, eight-lane DND flyway. The order was passed as the high court allowed a PIL by the Federation of Noida Residents’ Welfare Association.

The PIL, filed in 2012, had challenged the “levy and collection of toll in the name of user fee” by the NTBCL.

In an over 100-page judgement, the high court had held “the user fee which is being levied/realised is not supported by the legal provisions relied upon by the Concessionaire (Noida Toll Bridge Company), Infrastructure Leaning and Financial Services (promoter and developer of the project) and Noida Authority.”

People registered for India’s Aadhaar program surpasses one billion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The number of people registered for India’s Aadhaar Program operated by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is the largest system of its kind in the world, surpassed one billion this April. NEC Corporation provides a large-scale biometrics identification system that utilizes fingerprints, face images, and iris images for this national identification system. UIDAI is promoting the Aadhaar Program to gather and manage the names, addresses and biometric information of people in India in an effort to create a society in which the entire nation can enjoy equal access to public and financial services. Once a person registers for the system, he or she will receive an individual 12-digit number (ID). Public organizations and banks will use these numbers to identify people when they apply to receive social security benefits or open bank accounts. NEC’s large-scale biometrics identification system uses three types of biometric information fingerprints, face images, and iris images’ to prevent people from being registered twice. This system can handle more than one million registrations per day by checking the registered biometric information for more than one billion people and comparing it to the biometric information of people seeking to register. “It is important to make sure that the same ID is not issued twice in order to maintain a highly reliable national identification system,” said, Noritaka Taguma, General Manager,Transportation and City Infrastructure Division, NEC Corporation. Taguma added, “NEC’s biometrics identification system helps to stop people from pretending to be others, while simplifying procedures by checking the information of people seeking to register for the Aadhaar Program with greater accuracy and efficiency.” NEC’s fingerprint and face identification technologies ranked first (*2) in the benchmark tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States. In addition, NEC also adjusted the identification algorithms for the biometric system for the Aadhaar Program in an effort to improve its identification accuracy.

BRICS summit 2016: Defense security, counter terrorism to dominate in Indo-Russia talks – MEA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting here ahead of the BRICS summit, both nations are expected to cover a host of areas in their bilateral talks including defence and energy, trade and investment. Speaking to ANI here, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Saturday said that India expects very substantive and fruitful discussions on a whole range of issues. “The India-Russia partnership covers a whole host of areas and not just the defence and energy but also trade and investment ties will be a major focus. Infrastructure, greater partnership on the energy side as well and of course defense security, counter terrorism are expected to dominate,” Swarup said. Further stating that the two leaders are also going to witness the laying of the foundation of Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 and 4, he added that a joint statement can be expected between India and Russia and a number of agreements are expected to be signed. “The Prime Minister is expected to have two more bilaterals. The first is with the president of China and then with the President of South Africa. Then the leaders will have a group photo with the BRICS under 17 football team captains,” Swarup said. The MEA spokesperson asserted that the photo op with the football captains was a very important initiative, which contributes to greater people-to-people ties between the BRICS nations.Earlier today, Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to welcome President Putin saying that, “India welcomes you, President Putin! Wishing you a fruitful India visit. Later in the day, both leaders held restricted talks which were then followed by delegation level talks. Both countries are likely to sign a multi billion deal for the S-400 Triumf long range air defence missile systems. The Prime Minister will also hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma in the evening on the sidelines of the five-nation BRICS Summit and BIMSTEC outreach meet.

Russia to form $1 billion joint fund with India, to pump $500 million into infra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a first, Moscow has agreed to pump in US $500 million into the Indian infrastructure space, along with an equal investment by the newly formed National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), to form a US $1 billion ‘Russian Indian Investment Fund’.The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) will invest US $500 million into the joint fund, which will support “attractive investment opportunities and growth of Russian business activity in India,” RDIF chief executive Kirill Dmitriev said. “The money will be invested in infrastructure projects with Russian component. We will look at energy, petrochemicals, transport infrastructure and different projects where our companies can also have a foot in India,” he told PTI over phone.An agreement to start the fund, the first of its kind partnership for the newly-formed NIIF, will be signed before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the eighth two-day BRICS Summit beginning here on Saturday, he said.Dmitriev said the actual money flow from the arrangement will be much higher as Russian businesses tend to invest a lot more when the RDIF signs agreements like these with any other country or institution. “There would be more money from Russian banks, Russian companies and other partners of the RDIF,” he explained and pegged the actual investment from Russia, including those by companies, can go up to USD 8 billion through an arrangement like this.Interestingly, at a time when India is actively considering to start projects connecting Iran with Central Asia, Dmitriev said the RDIF is also open to investing in other countries beyond India. “Though most of the investments will be in India, some can also be outside of India. It can be in other countries as well,” Dmitriev said.The RDIF was started in 2011 to make equity co-investments alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors, while the NIIF was floated by the government last year keeping in mind the needs to put up infrastructure.Having a corpus of Rs 40,000 crore, the NIIF is a vehicle to attract equity investments from domestic and international sources, and the government plans to contribute 49 per cent to the corpus. It will invest into the infrastructure sector in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects.

War not an option for India and Pakistan, says diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani

War not an option for India and Pakistan, says diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani

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Washington: Asserting that war is not an option for India and Pakistan, a top Pakistani diplomat has said Islamabad believes there is a need to resolve all bilateral disputes, including the Kashmir issue, through dialogue.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Going to war is not an option at all. The reason is both the countries need economic development, have to work for the welfare of the people,” Pakistan Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani told a group of reporters here at an award ceremony here held on the sidelines of the annual fall meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“So war is not an option at all. Specially among two nuclear-powered countries,” he said in response to a question yesterday.

“Thinking about war is unimaginable. So this is the thinking of the Government of Pakistan – to resolve all the issues including that of Kashmir through dialogue as per international legality,” Jilani said.

For most part of the week, Jilani accompanied two visiting Pakistani Envoys on Kashmir to various meetings including at the State Department and with the National Security Council.

“Very good response. Excellent response,” said Jilani, who also received the “Best Government Infrastructure Strategy in South Asia” award on behalf of Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Post Uri attack, IAF upgrades infrastructure in Eastern sector

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With alertness very high post the surgical strikes on militant camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Uri attack, Indian Air Force is aggressively upgrading infrastructure in the eastern sector specially in Arunachal Pradesh.IAF Eastern Air Command chief Hari Kumar said today that of the seven advanced landing grounds (ALGs) in Arunchal Pradesh, five have been made operational and two others will be ready by the end of the year.Apart from the ALGs, the IAF is also building capabilities to enhance performance in that state, he said.”Infrastructure development (in the eastern air command) has not kept pace with the rest of the world to allow us to have better equipment and better services that can be provided in this sector … When we look at the performance of any sector, we are looking at building up of capability. The capability to meet challenge and we are not looking up at any specific country as our competitor or our enemy,” he said.”In addition to the MiG 27 and the Hawks squadrons, we (EAC) are going to get another as the Rafale deal has been signed,” Kumar said.Expressing concern over Pakistan sponsoring cross-border terrorism, Kumar said, “If you’ll look at the western sector, Pakistan has made it a state policy to use unconventional warfare because they could not match the strength militarily.They use unconventional warfare wherein they are trying to hit us with a thousand wounds.” He expressed optimism that what happened in the western sector need not take place in the eastern part.”What happened in the west need not transfer to activity in the east. It is confined to that area and now we are waiting to what would be Pakistan’s reaction,” Kumar said.He said, “Both countries don’t want a war. War is not good for anybody, but we cannot let any country dictate terms to us and kill our soldiers.”

Toll tales: No respite for Mumbai motorists after all

A huge financial outgo may create hurdles in the plan to exempt light vehicles like cars from toll payment at the five entry points to Mumbai, contrary to the poll promise made by BJP government.The already cash-strapped state government may have to pay an average of Rs 250 crore annually till 2026 to exempt small vehicles from toll.According to Public Works Department (PWD) minister Chandrakantdada Patil, the exemption would cost the state Rs 250 crore annually till 2026 as small cars form 85% vehicles passing through the points. At other toll projects, they form only 35%.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We are in discussions with the finance department for the payment of this amount,” Patil said. The five entry points are Vashi, Dahisar, Mulund, Airoli and LBS Marg.”There isn’t any buy back or termination clause in the concession agreement,” informed Jayant Mhaiskar, Managing Director of MEP Infrastructure, the firm collecting toll at the entry points. He said that light vehicles comprise up to 70 per cent of the toll-paying traffic. Therefore, motorists may have to continue to shell out toll till 2016.The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has granted toll collection to MEP Infrastructure Developers Ltd till November 19, 2026.The state government had set up a committee under then additional chief secretary (PWD) Anand Kulkarni to look into the issue and Patil said the report had been completed by additional chief secretary Sumit Malik after Kulkarni’s retirement.However, a senior PWD official said that it was likely that the state government may allow the system to continue till the end of the concession period as the buyback or reimbursement was expensive. “You are actually buying out their projected revenues for the remaining years,” he explained.”The problem with many toll contracts is that they were drafted for the benefit of contractors, with some even lacking a buyback clause,” the official admitted.The toll waiver for light vehicles, like private cars, will have a major impact in Mumbai and Thane, where civic polls are due in early 2017.From June 1, 2015, 11 toll nakas under the PWD’s jurisdiction and one under the MSRDC were closed, with the state government buying them back.Cars, jeeps and buses were exempted from paying toll at 53 toll nakas – PWD’s 27 and MSRDC’s 26 – with the state reimbursing contractors. The exemption was later extended to school buses.The first toll road in Maharashtra was the Jaisingpur bypass in Kolhapur in the 1990s. This was later extended to roads like the Thane- Bhiwandi bypass and the Mumbai- Pune Expressway.

India needs USD 1.5 trillion to fill up the infrastructure gap: Jaitley

Beijing: India needs over USD 1.5 trillion in investment in the next 10 years to bridge infrastructure gap as the government intends to connect seven hundred thousand villages with roads by 2019 as part of a massive modernisation plan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Sunday.

“We have been able to sustain growth in the phase of global slowdown essentially on the strength of the infrastructure creation in India where the gap is huge,” Jaitley, who is in China to attend the Board of Governors of AIIB, said.

“Over the next decade, we require over USD 1.5 trillion in India alone to fill up the infrastructure gap. We also use the additional resource which is available with us as a result of falling prices because that regime helps us.

“In investing large public finance into infrastructure, for instance, we have seven hundred thousand villages in India. We intend to connect each of them by 2019,” he said while addressing a seminar on “Infrastructure and Global Economic Growth” organised by China sponsored Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) along with Finance Ministers of many countries.

He also spoke of massive rural sanitation programme as part of India’s current infrastructure programme.

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

“In terms of highway construction this year alone our target is 10,000 kms. Our railway system is over 100 years old. We are going in for a massive modernisation,” he said.

Jaitley said the government is seeking private sector participation in converting railway stations into commercial hubs.

The government plans to build more airports, sea ports and generate more power, particularly renewable energy which is ecologically also better from all points view, he said.

“These are all the emphasis areas we have under taken,” he said.

About arranging funding for the massive development, he said “we realise that starting point is public finances. It is only when the public finances are put into it, you start attracting and the activity begins a lot of private funds”.

At the same time there are large number of developmental institutions like World Bank, ADB which put in lot of money because infrastructure funding also brings in long time returns on a sustainable basis, Jaitley said.

Jaitley said infrastructure development is key to halt the slowdown of the global economic slowdown.

Infrastructure is where inequalities exist and the requirement of large number of economies world over is to fill up this infrastructure gap, he said.

“Over the next decade the world needs trillions of dollars to fill up this gap. I think it is extremely important if the world is to pulled from the present slowdown phase, infrastructure development holds the key,” he sad.

“We have been able sustain growth in the phase of global slowdown essentially on the strength of the infrastructure creation in India where the gap is huge,” he said.

Projects succeeds when risks for investment in projects reduced and eliminated, Jaitley told the seminar.

He said “the risk element (for investments) has to be minimised  and virtually eliminated. It is only then the infrastructure creation can take place at a faster pace,” he said.

“The projects have to be bankable, there has to social acceptability of the fact that users must pay for infrastructure. Infrastructure does not come for free,” he said.

“So if it is a road, those who use it have to pay for. If it is an airport or sea port users must pay for it,” Jaitley said.

“Those who use power must pay the actual tariff. Concessional tariffs do not work beyond a particular point,” he said.

“They make infrastructure creation itself difficult. Therefore reduction and finally elimination of risk element will involve the social acceptability, where the society accepts the principle that the funding of infrastructure, eventually has to come from users themselves. That is how the projects becomes bankable,” he said.

“Otherwise the risk element will remain and projects will stop halfway, be incomplete,” he said.

Jaitley due to arrive in Beijing on Thursday, as India-China finance dialogue gets cancelled

Beijing: The India-China Financial Dialogue due to be held in Beijing between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his Chinese counterpart Lou Jiwei next week has been cancelled.

Jaitley is due to arrive in Beijing on Thursday on a five-day visit to take part in a host of events including the planned eighth financial dialogue.

But the dialogue meet stands cancelled, informed sources told PTI.

Officials explained that the meet was cancelled as Department of Economic Affairs Shaktikanta Das could not attend the meeting.

Till now the two countries held seven rounds of financial dialogues but all of them were headed by Finance Secretaries of both sides.

This is the first time it was elevated to level of Finance Ministers of both countries. The seventh dialogue was held in New Delhi in 2014.

A file photo of Arun JaitleyA file photo of Arun Jaitley

A file photo of Arun Jaitley

It was officially circulated earlier that the dialogue would be held between the two ministers on 27 June.

The dialogue enables the two countries to annually review and discuss a wide gamut of international, bilateral issues for strengthening and deepening economic and financial cooperation between the two countries.

It was conceptualised in 2003 and the framework was formalised through an MoU signed in April 2005.

The cancellation of the 27 June meeting comes in the backdrop of India-China differences over New Delhi’s admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the group’s meeting in Seoul.

During his visit to China, which is the first after he took over as finance minister, Jaitley is due to address meetings of bankers and wealth fund managers and business investors meeting to scout for investments in India.

He is also due to attend the Board of Governors meeting of the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in which India along with 56 countries are members.

With 1.5 lakh accidents every year, transport ministry recommendations need enactment

It is estimated that India had 1.46 lakh accidents in calendar year 2015, as compared to 1.38 lakh deaths in calendar year 2014. Those seriously injured or disabled through road accidents ranges around 25 to 26 lakhs. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2013, that every 6th person dying out of road accidents was an Indian.

Last year, India, along with 2200 countries became signatory to WHO’s Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety and agreed to halve road traffic deaths by 2020, which is a key milestone in WHO’s Sustainable Development Goal.

However, India’s road sector faces archaic rules and practices and needs urgent reforms. As much as roads are in bad shape in several sectors, transport vehicles lack safety measures and training and health safeguards for transport drivers. The Brasilia Declaration was a “call to rethink transport policies in order to favour more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport and also ensure the safety for all road users.”

In March 2016, the Supreme Court ruled on protecting the Good Samaritan, and approved the Centre’s guidelines on preventing harassment of the Good Samaritans by police and other authorities. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) had issued a gazette notification in January 2016 that Good Samaritans helping an accident victim would no longer have to give their name and other details at the local police station.

Group of Transport Ministers recommendations are well thought. ReutersGroup of Transport Ministers recommendations are well thought. Reuters

Group of Transport Ministers recommendations are well thought. Reuters

Keeping in mind the Brasilia Declaration and the Supreme Court ruling, MoRTH initiated the Road Transport and Safety Bill (RTSB), which is expected to be presented in Parliament in the monsoon session. But, as transport is still a state subject, MoRTH formed a Group of Transport Ministers (GoM) to initiate consultation with the states and get wider acceptance to the RTSB. This was essential as several states were apprehensive with some of the provisions in the proposed Bill, specially relating to opening up of public transport and issues relating to control and regulation of permits and taxation.

Now, three meetings later, the GoM, which met last week at Dharmashala has come up with some 30 plus recommendations to finalise changes in the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act. The earlier meetings were conducted in Delhi and Bengaluru.

The Rajasthan transport minister Yoonus Khan, also the chair of the GoM told Firstpost, “some states like Maharastra resisted some of the proposals, especially moving registration of vehicles to the dealers from the RTOs, but finally everyone concurred on the recommendations. We are here to facilitate the people, not the other way around.” While protecting the Good Samaritan from harassment, was one of the key recommendations, higher compensation for victims of hit and run and better trauma care facilities for accident victims also figured.

Among some of the other recommendations, aimed at cutting the middle men and the harassment at the RTO, is simplifying forms and enabling online submission. This also includes applying of learners licence online. As for registration of vehicles at the dealers’ point — many dealers in Bengaluru are already providing customers with this service, but the GoM suggestion will take this to the next level. The Original Equipment Manufacturer or OEM will also be provided standardised registration plates and necessary equipment to write numbers and access to vehicle data.

However, there has been no talk at the GoM about freezing registration of vehicles to reduce the density of traffic on the roads. It is evident that this is a sensitive issue, as for many states, RTOs provide them the highest revenue. When asked about this, Yoonus Khan hedged the question by disputing that the highest revenue earner for a state was from the RTOs. “For instance in Rajasthan, PWD is the largest revenue earner.”

If the letter and spirit of the Brasilia Declaration has to be followed, road safety also involves reduction of the number of vehicles on the road, so that people can walk or cycle safely on the roads. This will also help in improving the air quality by reducing exhaust fumes and toxic pollution.

Another conspicuous absence is that of phasing out vehicles that are older than 15 years. Older vehicles are not only heavy polluters, but also are accident prone. Quite often, road accidents are caused by brake failure, or other equipment failure of these old vehicles. Some other points which merit looking at by the GoM are improved road conditions and better infrastructure on highways for rest and recuperation for drivers of both private and transport vehicles.

However, the drivers have not been completely ignored. GoM has recommended accident insurance cover to transport drivers. This should help drivers from being at the mercy of their employers for meeting medical expenses.

One major recommendation by the GoM is stringent penal provisions for repeat offenders on grave traffic violations, by revoking the licence for two years of a third time offender. This will not only act as a deterrent but will definitely reduce the number of accidents on the roads.

Some of the other technology related suggestions includes e-tolling across the country on a common RFID card. Imagine travelling across the country with an RFID card and not having to keep cash ready or wait in long lines to pay at the various toll booths across the states?

However, many of the GoM’s recommendations like online upgradation at the state level, will involve extensive funding and it’s not clear if MoRTH will have the wherewithal to fund these projects.
But, overall the GoM’s recommendations are a good start to improve motorable and safety conditions on the second largest road network in the world, transporting 65 percent of goods and 80 percent of passengers across the country.

Raghuram Rajan to exit as RBI Governor: No country for good men

Raghuram Rajan will not be either getting another term or will not be accepting another term as RBI Governor. India will have to get a new RBI Governor from 4 September, when Rajan will return to Chicago University to resume as a tenured professor in the University of Chicago’s vaunted economics department. India’s loss will be Chicago’s gain.

It will be difficult to replace him with another person of acumen, personality, experience, accomplishment and world stature. Most of our previous RBI Governors were mere flunkeys who let the nations banking and financial system drift towards the abyss. Rajan red flagged the NPA’s and the capital inadequacies of the PSU banks, and began moves to set things in order.

I can be sure that there would be much relief spreading through many of our corporate headquarters, most of all of many corporate chieftains who are in the Prime Minister’s Councils of Advisors on the Economy, Infrastructure etc.

File photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTIFile photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

File photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

I am also sure there will be much relief in the upper echelons of our state owned banks, where many actively took part in the malfeasances that left the banks deep in the red. Many of these people owe their positions to the crony capitalists who greased the palms of the powers that be to position their soon to be benefactors in positions of authority.

So there will be rejoicing among many in the upper echelons of the CII, FICCI and Assocham, and the 14 state-owned banks. Investments made and promises made will now be kept.

During my recent travels abroad addressing groups of economists and industry leaders interested in India, almost the first statement one heard was one hoping Rajan would stay.

We will no doubt get another RBI Governor, like we got a Pahlaj Nihalani at the Censor Board or Chetan Chauhan at NIFT and Ram Bahadur Rai at IGNCA. Maybe one who finds the approval of Subramanian Swamy and his mentor Chandra Swamy. While we are it, why not Dr Swamy as RBI Governor? He has the qualifications and the acumen required to do the job required.

This noise and dust kicked by the likes of Swamy and others only goes to prove that India is no place for good people. Its good for only the Swamy’s of the world.

As posted by Mohan Guruswamy on Facebook. Guruswamy heads the Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

Three new districts in West Bengal soon: CM Mamata Banerjee

Jhargram: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said Jhargram, Kalimpong and Asansol would be soon declared new districts.

Mamata Banerjee . AFPMamata Banerjee . AFP

Mamata Banerjee . AFP

The proposal has already been approved by the cabinet and the new districts would be announced as soon as the Calcutta High Court gives its nod.

“Infrastructure is partly ready in Kalimpong and Jhargram. The rest would be ready soon,” she added.

Banerjee, who held an administrative meeting here in West Mindapore district for the first time after assuming office for the second time, said government development schemes should be given importance and implementation of MGNREGA should be given priority.

‘Khadya sathi’ (a food security scheme and ‘Sabuj Sathi’ (bi-cycle for students) schemes of the government
should be given importance. “Implementation of scheme on 100-days work should also be given priority.”

She also stressed that all departments should work according to the timeline fixed by the administrative
authorities.

Any lapses by ration dealers would not be tolerated, she added.

She later inaugurated a tribal museum and presided over the first meeting of West Bengal Tribes Advisory
Committee.

Bihar Board Class 12 Results row: Govt, BSEB form 3-member committee to probe irregularities

Bihar government and Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) on Sunday constituted two separate committees to probe the alleged irregularities in evaluation of marks in this year’s 10+2 examination.The education department has formed a three-member committee which would probe the irregularities in evaluation of marks for 10+2 examination conducted by the BSEB this year.”As per the state government’s directive, the education department today constituted a high-level three-member committee to probe the irregularities in the evaluation of marks for 10+2 examination for both Arts and Science streams,” state Education minister Ashok Choudhary said in a release.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The probe committee would comprise of Bihar State Educational Infrastructure Development Corporation chairman Sanjeevan Sinha, Director, Secondary Education Rajiv Prasad Singh Ranjan and Director, Mass Education Vinodanand Jha.Choudhary said the committee would submit its report to the state government by June 20 after conducting a thorough probe.It may be noted that BSEB yesterday cancelled the result of the topper of science stream and another rank holder after a retest of 13 toppers of Arts and Science streams.Rest 11 toppers who had appeared for the retest and interview before an expert team have been given clean chit, the Board chairman had said.The Board today named a four-member committee headed by Patna High Court Judge Justice (retd) Ghanshyam Prasad to probe the irregularities in the evaluation of marks for 10+2 exam for Intermediate, Board chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh said, adding the committee has been asked to give its report at the earliest.Other two members of the committee are retired District Judge GP Srivastava and former IPS officer Mithu Prasad.Singh said the probe committee chairman has been asked to include an educationist in the committee.The Board had yesterday said the matter would be probed by a committee headed by a retired Patna High Court Judge on the alleged irregularities in evaluation of marks for state higher secondary exam in the current year, including irregularities in allotment of marks in the Intermediate examination.

dna investigation: IRB Infra has different tales on toll evaders

IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd seems to have different versions on its toll operations for the Dahisar-Surat Highway stretch.With government authorities it has been maintaining that lakhs of motorists are not paying toll, but to dna it said evasion was rare. IRB Surat-Dahisar Tollway Private Ltd had shot off letters to four police stations asking them to book and collect toll from over 6 lakh motorists.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per data accessed by dna, the private agency, in letters to officers attached with Virar and Kasa police stations in Maharashtra as well as Navsari and Pardi police stations in Gujarat, not only asked the cops to register First Information Reports (FIRs) against toll evaders but also to assist them in recovering the unpaid toll.While asking police officers “bound to assist toll collectors when required” to recover toll from non-paying motorists, the correspondence reads, “…under the Indian Tolls Act, 1951, the state is authorised to collect such toll…The toll tax levied is public revenue, and, hence, collection of toll is in the nature of public duty, which is to be performed by the agents appointed by the state government, and, in this case, the company and its officer collecting toll.”In the correspondences, the company say 6,05,695 persons passed the four (Khaniwade, Charoti, Bhagwada and Boriach) toll plazas on the Surat-Dahisar stretch without paying toll between March 14 and April 10. The maximum evaders were at Bhagwada (2,42,349), followed by Boriach (1,95,474).The details of the toll-evading motorists were shared with the Virar, Kasa, Pardi and Navsari police stations but questions on the FIRs or cases registered with police were not answered by IRB Infrastructure Developers.IRB’s statement to dna was “all our toll plazas / nakas are functioning efficiently. We have no major problems on toll collections at any point. Some motorists may resist but our staff manages to convince them to pay as per rules for highway users. But such incidents are rare and negligible. The police take care if there is any law-and-order issue.”Activist Sanjay Shirodkar alleged that the difference in stance by the private agency is nothing but a “conspiracy to ensure that the tenure or concession period is extended by showing lesser toll collections”.It is also doubtful whether the letters to the police station will be of any help. “We haven’t registered any offence on toll evasions as they are non-cognisable complaints and do not call for FIRs. We cannot take action. The private agency has to approach the judiciary to recover toll against the offenders. They need to file a complaint with the court,” said Ravi Magar, inspector at Kasa police station.TOLL EVADING MOTORISTSTOLL PLAZASPOLICE STATIONSOFFENCE AGAINSTDATES / DAYSKhaniwadeVirar1,13,718March 14 – April 10CharotiKasa54,154March 14 – April 10BhagwadaPardi2,42,349March 14 – April 10BoriachNavsari1,95,474March 14 – April 10TOTAL6,05,69528 DAYS

Toll Tales: Is IRB under-reporting money collected at toll booths?

While scanning the data shared by the IRB Surat-Dahisar Tollways Pvt Ltd with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), I stumbled upon the ballooned up figures of vehicles that either refused the pay the toll or were exempted.After repeated requests by dna to the toll agency to respond to its initial set of 15 questions and throw some light on the subject, IRB sent a four-sentence reply. According to the reply, it was rare for vehicle drivers to refuse to pay the toll. Their report to the NHAI, however, stated that the number of such refusals was very high.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This made me check the ground reality at four toll plazas – Khaniwade, Charoti, Bhagwada and Boriach. Baring a couple of individuals, the booth staffers were candid in voicing their experience. When asked if they were facing errant motorists on a daily basis, all of them responded in negative, and said it was rare.Also read: Toll Tales | Motorists argue and drive away without paying toll on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway: IRB reportIn fact one of the workers, who had been at the booth for two years, said some motorists made a hue and cry a year ago, but none were let off without paying the toll. Over a year ago, the state government had waived off toll at 53 plazas.Some other workers said motorists coming from both Gujarat and Maharashtra pay toll at the previous booths and so are aware that the toll hasn’t been waived off.As the report submitted by the toll agency mentioned that 20-25% of the vehicles went by without paying the tax, this correspondent decided to spend some time at the most “violated toll plazas” – the Bhagwada plaza – only to find work being carried out peacefully and no one getting into an argumentative mode.When the workers were told about the agency’s claims of FIRs being filed against the violators, they laughed and said, “Such a situation never arises.”Why, then, the IRB Infrastructure Developers Private Limited claimed that they have been filing FIRs? Why did the firm inform NHAI that there was widespread violation of rules? Why is the firm’s version to NHAI different from what it has shared with the media? And if there are no violations, who is pocketing the money collected from so many thousands of vehicles? Is it a clear case of under-reporting? Is anyone trying to make hay?Perhaps, it is only the toll operator-cum-highway maintaining agency that can answer these questions. Even NHAI officials need to start analysing data to check anomalies, if any.

Toll Tales: Agency says naypayers hit revenue, staffers beg to differ

In the last one year, vehicular traffic on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway (NH-8) has increased substantially, but according to the data shared by toll agency IRB Surat-Dahisar Tollway Pvt Ltd with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), this has not translated into corresponding hike in revenue. In fact, the agency has claimed that there has been a dip in revenue collection at Bhagwada toll plaza near Vapi.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Many have raised eyebrows over these figures as hardly any motorist manages to drive past the booths free of cost. In fact, as per the statistics available with dna, there has been a tremendous increase in vehicles using the highway and paying toll.For example at Boriach plaza near Navsari, the private agency counted 2,68,680 vehicles passing through between February 22 and 28, 2016. During the same week in 2015, 2,09,798 vehicles used the same stretch of road – an increase of 58,882 vehicles or 28.06% in just a year.Also read: Toll Tales | Huge rise in number of exempted vehicles in just a year: IRB reportAccording to the IRB Surat-Dahisar Tollway Pvt Ltd, however, of these 2,68,680 vehicles, 46,310 motorists did not pay up. It couldn’t be ascertained how many drivers refused to pay toll last year, as a mechanism to count such cases was absent.So, if free motorists and exempted vehicle categories are removed from the total, there has been just a 5.99% increase in toll revenue at Boriach plaza during the last week of February.The most interesting figures shared by the toll operator with NHAI were of Bhagwada toll plaza near Vapi. During the same week last year, as many as 1,97,776 vehicles passed through the plaza. A year later, 2,70,478 vehicles passed through it – a rise of 36.75%. But according to the agency, 74,814 motorists were let off after they argued against paying toll. This meant an overall reduction to 1,95,665 or a fall by 1.06% in motorists paying the toll.dna queried the IRB Infrastructure Development Pvt Ltd regarding the increase in vehicular traffic, reasons for motorists not paying up, data of vehicular traffic and revenue collections, vehicles exempted from paying toll and so on, through an email. The agency hasn’t responded as of now.Contrary to the agency’s claims, the staffers at Khaniwade, Charoti, Bhagwada and Boriach toll plazas said they did not witness any offender driving past the booths for free.

Railway Appropriation Bill: Govt working on faster trains with facilities, says Minister in RS

New Delhi: The government is working to bring faster trains with more facilities while trying to meet the diverse expectations of the society, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Monday as he announced several initiatives like a ‘National Plan for Railways’ for infrastructure development.

Prabhu told the Rajya Sabha that Railways faces a “paradox” like situation where it is expected to provide services like concessional travel and meet social objectives like a government enterprise but at the same time expected to perform like a commercial company.

The railways, he said, is trying to meet these diverse expectations as he mentioned seven missions including the ‘Mission to have zero accidents’, ‘Mission on Speed’ and ‘Mission on accounting reform’ etc.

He was replying to a debate on the Railways Appropriation Bill which was later approved by the Upper House. The Lok Sabha has already passed it.

Talking about efforts to bring faster trains, the Minister said a Spanish company has been involved in a project to reduce by 5 hours the time taken on the Delhi-Mumbai route. The Spanish company Talgo would bring its trains on an experimental basis for the project, he said.

The Railway minister also mentioned that to meet the demands of various sections, different types of faster trains like Antoday, Humsafar, Tejas, Mahamana, Gatimaan etc are being brought in.

Earlier some opposition members had raised questions about the ‘Bullet train’ project. Ranee Narah of Congress said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is from Gujarat and Rail Minister from Mumbai, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route had been chosen for the project.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Prabhu said efforts are being made to provide free water which has undergone quality checks and also provide better e-catering facilities.

He announced initiatives like setting up a dedicated body for research and development in railways and creating a ‘National Plan for Railways’ regarding infrastructure development.

He added that despite having to meet Pay Commission liability and Bonus Act liability, the Railways still has
managed a modest operating ratio.

Prabhu also emphasised that the Infrastructure investment in Railways has gone up considerably and it has touched 1 lakh 31 thousand crore in 2016-17. He said attempt should be made to increase Capital Expenditure to boost our economy.

Prabhu also said that in the coming years entire rail network in North East will be shifted to broad gauge. Some opposition members had claimed that Railways was ignoring the North East.

Referring to the plan to create a R&D body for Railways, Prabhu said NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat would present a report in this regard soon.

The Railway minister also said the amount allocated for doubling work had grown from Rs 3,881 crore to Rs 25,191 crore in two years.

He also claimed that the allocation towards development of railways in various states has been increased.

It has also been decided to create in-cabin toilets for locopilots in trains, he said.

The Railway minister also said that a substantial number of backlog of vacancies of SCs and STs had also been filled up.

Prabhu also talked about the plan to transform 400 railway stations into PPP mode and said the first such contract had been given for the Habibganj station in Bhopal.

He also said that the ministry is working with states to reduce delays because of stoppages.

Earlier, participating in the debate, several members like Vishambhar Prasad Nishad of SP and Ripin Bora (Cong) raised questions about the conditions of railway stations.

Congress members from North east Ranee Narah and Bora had also sought more attention towards the North East.

Narah questioned if there will be no development of the rail network in North East just because there has been no railway minister from the region.

She claimed her party leaders, including former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, had paid a lot of attention to development of railways in the Northeast.

During the debate, Lal Singh Vadodia (BJP) said reservation for railway seats should be provided to former Parliamentarians as well. Several MPs were seen supporting this demand.

Russia shows interest in Kejriwal government’s odd-even vehicle scheme

Russia has shown interest in the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme being actively promoted by the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi.A Russian delegation, headed by Sergey Andreykin, the First Deputy Head of the Department for Transport and Development of Transport Infrastructure, Government of Moscow, met Delhi’s Transport Minister Gopal Rai.Both sides discussed the Indian capital’s transport system and the Russians raised querries about the odd-even rule being implemented by city government and its impact.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The objective of the visit was to exchange experiences in the development of transport and logistic infrastructure. The problems in operation of urban transport i.e. Metro, Rail and CNG run DTC buses were discussed and the experiences of both the countries that how to overcome these problems, were discussed at length,” an official statement issued by the Delhi government said after the meeting.The Government of Delhi has enforced the odd-even rule twice — once between January 1 and January 15, and the second time between April 15 and April 30 this year.
ALSO READ Odd-even scheme not working? Delhi’s air quality deterioratesThe city government claims that the scheme has helped to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion in the national capital.

Maharashtra Sadan case: Judicial custody of Chhagan Bhujbal, nephew extended till April 27

A special court on Wednesday extended till April 27 the judicial custody of NCP leader and former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew and former MP Samir in connection with a money laundering case. The duo appeared before the special judge P R Bhavke via a video link from the Arthur Road jail here. Enforcement Directorate Lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar told the court dealing with Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases that investigations were on and the custody of the duo was further needed. Chhagan Bhujbal was arrested on March 14. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ED had told the court earlier it had attached properties of Bhujbals worth Rs 131.86 crore, while remaining properties worth Rs 708.30 crore were yet to be identified and attached.The ED had filed on March 30 an 11,500-page charge sheet, which names Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, nephew Samir, corporates like D B Realty, Balwa group of companies, Neelkamal Realtors and Builders Private Limited, Neelkamal Central Apartment LLP and Kakade Infrastructure.The agency has filed two FIRs against Chhagan Bhujbal, his family members and others under the anti-money laundering laws, based on FIRs filed by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau, to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of the state guesthouse ‘Maharashtra Sadan’ in Delhi and the Kalina land grabbing case in Mumbai.The high court, in December 2014, had constituted a special investigation team (SIT) comprising the ED and state ACB officials to conduct the inquiry against Bhujbal and others. The ACB complaint names Pankaj and Samir for offences such as cheating, conspiracy, criminal breach of trust under the IPC, and under the Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act.

Panama Papers: Here’s what DLF, Apollo Tyres, IndiaBulls have to say about allegations

New Delhi – Promoters of corporate houses, DLF, Apollo Tyres and IndiaBulls on Monday denied violating laws after being named among 500 Indians in leaked ‘Panama Papers’ for alleged offshore holdings.

“This (report) is aimed at distorting public perception which is extremely dear and important to all corporates and promoter families, especially when they have followed all applicable rules and regulations of government of India, RBI, FEMA and IT Department to the last detail,” DLF CEO Rajeev Talwar told PTI.

The report published by The Indian Express had said that DLF Promoter Family owns firms BVI and the family’s three offshore entities together held almost USD 10 million.

He further said: “We vehemently and strongly emphasise that all remittances were made after the government introduced the LRS Scheme in 2004. Each year the remittances were below the limit prescribed by RBI.”

dlfdlf

DLF emphasised all remittances were made after the LRS Scheme was introduced. Reuters

Stressing that all the remittances were made to the banks which were the authorised dealers, Talwar said: “therefore there is no question of wrongdoing. No companies were set up by the promoter groups in BVI. All these were existing companies to which shares were subscribed to as permitted by
government of India.”

Each year, this was reported to IT Department, it was also mentioned in DLF’s annual report, he added.

The report also said Onkar Kanwar, Chairman of Apollo Group, and his family members floated an offshore entity in British Virgin Islands in 2010 and two trusts in 2014.

Reacting to it, an authorised spokesperson said, “India lawfully permits foreign investments in accordance with certain regulations. Any investment abroad, that the Kanwar family may have, is in due compliance with the Indian laws, where applicable, including making disclosures wherever required.

“Much of the family members mentioned are NRIs. They are covered by other nation’s permissible laws for their foreign investments and are not covered by Indian laws and restrictions on residents in matters such as Income Tax and RBI.

Mumbai-based Indiabulls’ Sameer Gehlaut, who was also named among those with links to entities in offshore tax havens, later said all his overseas investments were made after “paying full taxes in India, each and every overseas remittance is disclosed to RBI as and when it has been made”.

“All disclosures related to these investments are also made with Income Tax authorities in yearly returns as well as with RBI in Annual Performance Reports. All my overseas investments are done strictly in accordance with RBI framework of Overseas Direct Investments,” he said in a statement.

A spokesperson of Indiabulls further said that Gehlaut receives dividends of Rs 350-450 crore every year and he has been investing his monies in his Indian family trust, SG Family Trust (stands for Sameer Gehlaut Family Trust) for further investments in its wholly owned subsidiary in India, Callies Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (India).

“Further Callies Infrastructure Pvt Ltd has capitalised its wholly owned subsidiary in Bahamas, Clivedale Overseas Ltd (Bahamas) that is engaged in property development business in London through its subsidiaries under the brand Clivedale,” the spokesperson said, while giving details of Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd’s property development business in London and also of SG Family Trust.

He further said these businesses were “strictly as per the RBI policy framework for Overseas Direct Investments” and all disclosures pertaining to business of SG Family Trust and Indiabulls Real Estate have been made to RBI and Income Tax departments for every financial year since inception and also
as and when each of the overseas remittances have been made.

PTI

ED files chargesheet in Maharashtra sadan scam; names Chhagan Bhujbal, son and nephew

Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday filed its first chargesheet in the Rs 870 crore Maharashtra Sadan scam and related money laundering cases in which veteran NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj and nephew Samir have been named.Live England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016ED officials said the 11,150-page prosecution complaint, also called chargesheet in police parlance, was filed before the Registrar of City Civil and Sessions court.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The accused persons named in the criminal complaint include Chhagan Bhujbal, Samir Bhujbal, Pankaj Bhujbal, corporates like D B Realty, Balwa group of companies, Neelkamal Realtors and Builders Private Limited, Neelkamal central apartment LLP and Kakade Infrastructure. The other individuals named in the complaint are Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, Sanjay Kakade and others,” the agency said in a statement. Chhagan Bhujbal is also a former deputy chief minister and an ex-PWD minister.ED officals said about 30 witnesses have also been named in the chargesheet, which has been filed by furnishing documentary evidence and questioning of the accused in the case till now.”Details of attachments made under PMLA laws in the case have been furnished in the chargesheet,” they said.The chargesheet has been filed on the basis of two PMLA FIRs filed by the agency which includes cases to probe the RTO office building and other infrastructure projects. The ED took cognisance of ACB FIRs to register its money laundering cases last year.Bhujbal, along with his ex-MP nephew Samir, have been arrested in the case by the ED and they are at present in jail.”Further identification of money trail and the assets generated out of the proceeds of crime is in progress. If required supplementary chargesheet/s will be filed in due course of time,” it said.The agency has filed two FIRs against Bhujbal, his family members and others under anti-money laundering laws, based on Mumbai Polices’ ACB FIRs, to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of Delhi-based state guest house Maharashtra Sadan and the Kalina land grabbing case.The Bombay High Court, in December, 2014, had constituted a Special Investigation Team comprising the ED and the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to conduct the inquiry against the politician and others. The ACB complaint names Pankaj and Samir and they had been booked under IPC Sections related to cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and relevant provisions of Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act. It has attached assets worth an estimated Rs 330 crore in the case till now.The new Maharashtra Sadan in national capital Delhi was built at a cost of Rs 100 crore when Congress-NCP coalition was in power in Maharashtra.

Digvijay Singh demands Union Minister Gadkari’s sacking over Zoji La project

Congress on Saturday demanded sacking of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, accusing him of awarding a single-bid contract of Rs 10,500 crore to a firm for Zoji La pass tunnel in Kashmir Valley in violation of CVC guidelines and called it a “symbol of corruption” in the NDA Government.CLICK HERE FOR LIVE SCORES: INDIA vs PAKISTAN, ICC World T20Party general secretary Digvijay Singh said that he is going to write to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Highways and Road Transport, to particularly examine this case.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I am told that the contract has since been cancelled and this means the Government has accepted that a contract was awarded against the rules,” he told reporters, adding Gadkari should resign or he should be dismissed as a Minister.Gadkari had earlier rubbished the charges of corruption and had said Singh’s allegations were “completely false” as the Ministry followed a transparent e-tender system. He had also denied that his son was a director in IRB Infrastructure Developers, which allegedly got the contract.Virtually daring Gadkari for a public debate, Singh said the Union Minister should come clean on the issue. Singh said alleged that the case is a “symbol of corruption” in the NDA Government.A known detractor of Gadkari, the Congress leader also sought to raise questions about an OSD of the Minister. Singh wondered as to why the name of the OSD, earlier a Superintending Engineer in Maharashtra, has been taken out of an FIR in a corruption case in that state even when the “ACB Nagpur had found him guilty”.Singh alleged that instead of “crony capitalism”, there is “crony nexus” between the engineer and the Minister “that stands established”.

Mumbai: 16 developers shortlisted for Dharavi redevelopment to construct 1.08 lakh houses

The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) has shortlisted 16 developers for redeveloping 240 hectares of Dharavi in the pre-bidding stage.The project aims to construct 1.08 lakh houses. More than 50% of them will be in the affordable segment. The biggest redevelopment project in the state, it will rehabilitate 58,000 people and is expected to be completed in seven years.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Housing minister Prakash Mehta said: “We are having a series of meetings with citizens and government officials. We will try to accommodate the residents there only so that their social, cultural and learning fabric will not be disturbed.”Nirmalkumar Deshmukh, chief officer of the project, said that the actual bidding process will start after the pre-bid. “We will now check the financial capability of the 16 developers before allowing them in the bidding process,” Deshmukh told dna.The 16 developers are Agafiya Trading, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Bayvilla Properties, Larsen & Toubro, Omkar, Alvino Realtors, Oberoi Construction, BG Shirke Construction Technology, Incline Realty, Kalpataru, Kay Bee Developers, Oberoi Realty, Tata Realty and Infrastructure, Nina Waterproofing Systems, Era Realtors and Neptune Developers.The Maharashtra government has decided to give a floor space index of 4 and the size of the flats meant for rehabilitation will be 350 sq ft each.”There are five sectors and the fifth has been developed by Mhada itself. Of the 1.08 lakh houses, the four developers will be able to sell 40,000 flats in the open market. In the remaining 68000 houses, 55000 will be utilised to rehabilitate hutments. The rest will be up for sale in the open market under the affordable housing segment,” said senior government officials.Although the Congress-NCP had invited bids in 2007 and 14 developers evinced interest, all of them backed out later alleging that the bidding process was faulty.One section of Dharavi residents, however, are not happy with the government over the project. “Our houses are much bigger than slums. So we should not be bracketed under the Slum Act. We should be either given bigger houses of 750 sq ft or excluded from the project,” the residents had written to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis recently.

The Vijay Mallya story: How the King of Good Times made bakras of 17 banks

The flamboyant liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, once hailed as the King of Good Times and Indian version of Richard Branson, is being chased by almost every institution in the country — the banks, regulators and, finally, the judiciary — for the Rs 9,000 crores he owes to the lenders. How did Mallya fall to his current plight, where he is personally held accountable for the failure of the airline business Kingfisher Airlines and delayed repayment of loans? The answer lies in a decision forced on him by lenders in 2010 to give a second lease of life to the airline that was then on the brink of a collapse.

Vijay Mallya with modelsVijay Mallya with models

Vijay Mallya with models

“Mallya had his back against the wall. Banks insisted him to offer personal guarantees for any further lending,” said a retired banker, who was previously with State Bank of India (SBI), on condition of anonymity.

“Otherwise, there was no reason why Mallya is personally held responsible for the repayment of the loan (Rs 9,000 crore now including the accrued interest amount). There are bigger stressed borrowers (companies) around,” the banker said, giving examples like Bhushan Steel and Winsome Diamonds.

The Kingfisher Airline, grounded in 2012, never made profit in its eight years of operations. When Mallya approached the group of lenders for further lending in 2010, there was serious differences of opinion among the group of senior bankers in SBI, and other banks in the consortium, on why should they lend to the airline again. But, the majority decision was to take the big risk again and lend to Mallya.

“It was, in a way, throwing good money after bad (since the KFA exposure was already stressed),” the banker quoted earlier said. “But, if we didn’t do that at that point, the exposure till then would have gone bad instantly. No one wanted that to happen. There was no option before us,” said the official. But, everyone knew what was in the store, though no one said anything in the discussion room. “The mood was partly that of helplessness and partly optimism,” the banker said.

Bankers were optimistic because Mallya himself was hopeful of turning around the airline, even though the entire aviation industry was groping in darkness. Ironically, however, despite Mallya’s optimism, everyone saw the writing on the wall.

Mounting losses

In March 2012, Kingsiher halted its international operations to Europe and Asian countries and cut down local flights to 110-125 a day with a fleet of 20 planes from 340 flights earlier to save money. By October 2012, the bird flapped its wings for the last time. Since then, it hasn’t seen the skies.

Kingfisher, once the second-largest airline in India, had little chances of resuming its operations since the necessary regulatory approvals were not in sight and its balance sheet was bleeding. The company’s losses had widened to Rs 2,142 crore for its fiscal fourth quarter ending in March 2013, compared with a net loss of Rs 1,150 crores a year earlier. The accumulated losses as of March 2013 stood at a whopping Rs 16,023 crore.

Its dues had mounted to over Rs 15,000 –Rs 16,000 crore to banks, airports and others and its flying licences expired at the end of last year. The death bells were begining to ring. In his desperation to revive the airline, Mallya twice submitted revival plans to the aviation regulator, with parent UB Group committing initial funding, but with no luck. In its eight-year life, the airline never made profit even once.

Mallya remained optimistic though not to lose the airline’s licence. “We have not submitted an ambitious plan. We have submitted a holding plan,” Mallya told reporters, while the government wasn’t convinced. “The problem is in the last two to three months, he’s given so many plans and he’s not adhered to any of them,” the then Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters in New Delhi.

Panic grips banks

Panic was beginning to set in in the banking industry, especially state-run banks, which were the majority in the banking consortium. After all, banks had to answer a lot to shareholders not just for further lending to Mallya in 2010, but for offering generous loan recast facilities and converting the debt of Kingfisher to equity at a huge premium.

In early 2011, the bank consortium including SBI had converted debt amounting to Rs 1,400 crore into equity at a 60 percent premium to the prevailing market price. Going by the stock exchange data, on March 31, there was preferential allotment to SBI and ICICI Bank due for conversion of compulsorily convertible preference shares into equity shares at a price of Rs 64.48 each. Remember, on that day, KFA shares closed at Rs 39.90 on the BSE.

“Within a few months, the share value had eroded so much that banks were put in a difficult position,” said the banker quoted earlier. Kingfisher last traded at Rs 1.36 on the BSE on 22 June 2015. The entire loan restructuring exercise to Kingfisher was done without any special dispensation from the RBI, which means that banks had to make heavy provisioning on their books, hoping that the airline will revive sooner or later and pay back the money. That never happened.

Finally, Kingfisher, was declared an NPA by most banks, including SBI, towards the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012. The majority burden of Kingfisher loans was on government-owned banks. The smartest in the lot was ICICI Bank, which managed to sell its entire Rs 430 crore Kingfisher loan exposure to a debt fund managed by the Kolkata-based Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd in mid-2012. The sarkari banks were the real bakaras in the entire story.

So what lies ahead?

Banks’ chances of getting their money back from Mallya are very less since Kingfisher hardly has any assets left for banks. Even if banks go ahead and sell Kingfisher assets such as the Kingfisher House in Mumbai, it will fetch only a fraction of what is at stake. The only hope for banks is if Mallya himself have a change of mind and decides to pay back banks from his personal wealth (Mallya has shares worth Rs7000 crore in various companies and lot more in fixed assets).

“But, all that will happen if he returns to the country and say he will pay back,” the banker said, adding that bankers are more irked by Mallya flaunting his wealth publicly even now when thousands of crores are at stake. According to reports Mallya already received $40 million of his severance pay fro Diageo before his flew to UK. Can the final battle between banks, led by SBI, and Mallya in Supreme Court and Bangalore DRT result in lenders getting their money back. Chances are less.

(Kishor Kadam Contributed to this story)

Govt to subsume additional cesses under GST within one year: Tax official

New Delhi: Government will subsume all the additional levies like Krishi Kalyan and Infrastructure cess in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), within one year of its implementation, a senior tax official said on Saturday.

“Cesses have been imposed with specific purposes. The government needs revenue. Once the Goods and Services Tax comes to play, hopefully by April 2017, all these taxes will be subsumed,” said Ram Tirath Member (Budget), Central Board of Excise and Customs.

Representational image. FreeimagesRepresentational image. Freeimages

Representational image. Freeimages

He was addressing a CII organised Finance Ministry-Industry interface.

In Budget 2016-17 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last month, the government has imposed two new cesses — one related to farm and another for infrastructure.

With effective June, the government has proposed to impose a Krishi Kalyan cess of 0.5 per cent on all taxable services.

The funds generated would be used to improve agriculture situation and welfare of farmers.

Citing pollution and traffic situation in the country, the finance minister also proposed to levy an infrastructure cess of 1 per cent on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5 per cent on diesel cars of certain capacity and 4 per cent on other higher engine capacity vehicles and SUVs.

In the previous budget, government had levied Swachh Bharat cess of 0.5 per cent on all taxable services.

The tax official said the government has tried to address all tax areas in the Budget. He also hoped that excess litigation in indirect tax matters would be cut down by 50 per cent in an year’s period.

“All of the areas (of taxes), we have addressed them. Whatever we could think of, whatever inputs we have got, we have done. And I am very much sure that within one year litigation in excess in indirect tax matter should be down by 50 per cent,” he said.

Tirath also said the government has simplified and rationalised many tax processes in the Budget.

PTI

Rs 50,800 cr, 208 rail over bridges: PM Modi launches Setu Bharatam project

New Delhi – Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India is set to take a quantum leap in infrastructure and the government is committed to strengthening it.

He was inaugurating an ambitious Rs 50,800-crore Setu Bharatam project, under which a total of 208 railway crossings will be replaced by rail over bridges (ROBs).

PM Narendra Modi launches Setu Bharatam Programme PIBPM Narendra Modi launches Setu Bharatam Programme PIB

PM Narendra Modi launches Setu Bharatam Programme PIB

As part of the project, 1,500 bridges of the British era will be overhauled at an estimated expenditure of Rs. 30,000 crore.

“Altogether, these ROBs and bridges are planned to be completed by 2019 at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,800 crore,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on the occasion.

The ministry has already launched an Indian Bridge Management System to map 1,50,000 bridges across the country.

Till now, an inventory of 50,000 bridges has been prepared while the first cycle of condition survey will be completed by June this year.

Speaking on the occasion Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari informed that the Setu Bharatam programme aims to make all National Highways free of railway level crossings by 2019. This is being done to prevent the frequent accidents and loss of lives at level crossings. The Minister informed that 208 Railway Over Bridges (ROB)/Railway Under Bridges (RUB) will be built at the level crossings at a cost of Rs. 20,800 crore as part of the programme. The details of 208 ROBs are as follows:

Andhra Pradesh – 33, Assam – 12, Bihar – 20, Chattisgarh – 5, Gujarat – 8, Haryana – 10, Himachal Pradesh – 5, Jharkhand – 11, Karnataka – 17, Kerala – 4, Madhya Pradesh -6, Maharashtra – 12, Odisha – 4, Punjab – 10, Rajasthan – 9, Tamil Nadu – 9, Utarakhand – 2, Uttar Pradesh – 9, West Bengal – 22.

PTI

Gujarat gets its wings: India’s first aviation park with an airstrip and training school to be set up in the state

Ahmedabad: To strengthen the aviation sector in Gujarat, the state government has planned to set up the country’s first-ever Aviation Park in Ahmedabad having a slew of facilities including an airstrip, training school, helipad and space for setting up small manufacturing units among others.

According to officials of government-owned Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Ltd (GUJSAIL), this integrated park aims to raise the awareness about the potential of the aviation sector among students, professionals, policy makers and business entities.

GUJSAIL, which is given the task by the government to carry out the project, has recently identified a piece of land near Bagodara village, about 30 kms from Ahmedabad.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

According to GUJSAIL CEO Captain Ajay Chauhan, the main aim of this Aviation Park is to raise awareness about the aviation sector among investors, students and people at large.

It will also provide a platform for manufacturing activities and human resources related to the sector, he said.

“This will be a first ever Aviation Park in India. There are hardly 3 or 4 such parks in the world. We have identified 60 hectares of land near Bagodara. Now, we will conduct a feasibility study of that location and hoping to finalise that location after government approval by the end of this financial year,” said Chauhan.

Giving details about the entire project, Chauhan, who is also the Director of Civil Aviation, stated that the Aviation Park will serve as a one-stop destination in the avenues of aerospace training, research, recreation and manufacturing.

“We want to create a complete eco-system where everything related to aviation sector gets available under one roof. In the initial phase, this park will provide platform for educating people about the aviation activities. Apart from a theatre and an info-tech area, the park will also have space for conducting air-shows and other aviation related adventure sports,” said Chauhan.

For professionals, the park will have a training complex having flight simulator, an aviation and aerospace management school, an aircrew training school, a helipad and a landing strip for smaller aircrafts, said Chauhan.

“We have planned various activities here including training and licensing of staff. This park will also be involved with aspects of air operation regulations, safety, security, environmental concerns, research and development, aviation-related policies etc,” Chauhan said.

According to him, the first phase of the park may get operational by the end of next financial year of 2016-17.

In the second phase of development, the focus will be on attracting national and international industrial houses to set up their manufacturing facilities in this park, he said.

“This Aviation Park can create direct and indirect employment for highly-skilled resources in the area of aerospace and avionics. In the later stages, this park will have small manufacturing units to produce spare parts for aircraft. We are planning to develop this park on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model,” he added.

PTI

Targeted because I am a backward, says Chhagan Bhujbal

Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Tuesday alleged that he was being targeted by the BJP government as he belonged to a backward community and because some people were trying to settle scores with him.Bhujbal’s nephew Samir was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case in Mumbai on Monday after the agency conducted multiple searches in connection with its probe against Bhujbals and others.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a video released from the US, Bhujbal alleged that he is being targeted by the BJP government, because he is a leader of the OBCs.”Some people are trying to settle scores with me for the fight that I have put up for the cause,” the former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister said.Samir’s arrest was preceded by multiple searches in Mumbai conducted by the ED in connection with its money laundering probe against Chhagan Bhujbal and others.The Union Government, in the winter session of Parliament in December, had said that Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) investigations against Chhagan Bhujbal and others have showed that entities, which have subscribed to companies controlled by the politician’s family were “dubious” and their transactions were done only on paper.Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, in a written reply in Lok Sabha on December 18, had said a case has been registered by the ED against Bhujbal, his family members including MLA son Pankaj, ex-MP nephew Samir, a firm called Ms K S Chamankar Enterprises and others.”I am in the US to attend a conference by the US Congress. I came to know my nephew is arrested, and that they are behind my son Pankaj as well. Also once I reach Mumbai they will be targeting me as well. What are the reasons?” Bhujbal said.The former Deputy Chief Minister said that the Maharashtra Sadan that came up in Mumbai was build on a B-O-T basis under the chairmanship of an Infrastructure committee headed by the Chief Minister.”The decision was taken after a lot of discussion. There is no irregularity and even officials from the present government have seconded that. But still BJP MP Kirit Somiya is making allegations that there is a scam,” he said.He alleged that his children were running legitimate business, but some people were working in a direction to destroy the Bhujbal family.”This is because I am a fighter and on the other hand, through my organisation- Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad- I have been working for the backward classes all over the country. And hence, some are keen to settle scores with me. And that’s why I am being sacrificed. But, I am sure that I will get justice,” Bhujbal said.

Bombay High Court: 13 floors of plush residential tower Palais Royale illegal

In a major setback to developers of Worli high-rise Palais Royale, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that 13 floors of the 56-storey residential tower were illegally built and directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to take action as per law.A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice C V Bhadang while upholding the decision of the Municipal Commissioner which held that 13-floors starting from the 44th floor to the 56th floor were illegally built has given the developer two months’ time to approach the corporation with a proposal for regularisation if not then after four months the civic body to take action of demolition.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The civic commissioner will also have to recalculate the refuge area after passing the necessary order if it goes against the developer.The court also set aside the order of the City Civil Court allowing the 15-storey public parking lot built by the developer Shri Ram Urban Infrastructure, as deemed permission, FSI of which the developer allegedly used for building the illegal floors. Thereby, the 15-floor parking lot is also termed as illegal. The building has apartments of sizes between 4,000 and 14,000 sq ft.The bench said, “Municipal Commissioner was right in expressing distaste about the manner in which the builder went ahead with constructing in complete defiance of law.” It also rejected the argument of the developer that huge investments were made in the construction by saying that “Major investment cannot be a ground to tolerate illegal construction.”The developer had challenged the civic chiefs order stating that areas exempted from the building’s FSI, like refuge areas, passages, swimming pools, be now counted as part of it. The commissioner had directed the developer to reduce the building’s refuge area FSI from the current 70% of the total construction to just 4%.Another Public Interest Litigation filed by NGO Janhit Manch raised many issues, it broadly concerned violations in constructing the refuge area — the space where residents can take shelter in the event of a fire and the public parking lot next to Palais Royale.

Digvijay Singh writes to PM Modi, demands action against Nitin Gadkari

Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Tuesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding action against Union Minister Nitish Gadkari and alleged that the awarding of Rs 10,050 crore Zojila pass tunnel contract to IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd was a case of “conflict of interest and quid pro quo”.”The association of Gadkari with the Mhaiskar family, the promoters of IRB is worst kept secret….This is a glaring example of conflict of interest and quid pro quo…..I look forward to your response to check this blatant act of favouritism and nepotisim in your government,” Singh said in the letter. He told the Prime Minister that the Mhaiskars have in the past “invested” crores in the business companies of the Gadkari family and Nikhil Gadkari, son of Nitin Gadkari, was the shareholder and promoter-director in Ideal Energy Projects Ltd of IRB Group.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It is said that Ceaser’s wife must be above suspicion. But since you have vowed that ‘na khaunga, na khane dunga’, we hope that you keep that in mind and take action,” he said, adding that he has also attached few official documents to establish his contention. He also expressing hope that PM would go deeper into the matter to unearth the truth and would “not shy” from referring the matter to CBI for prosecution.”I request you to kindly examine the matter and take necessary actions immediately so as also to ensure that the first instalment of Rs 981 crore is withheld till proper inquiry is made,” he said. Singh wrote the letter a day after he demanded immediate sacking of Gadkari alleging that the awarding of the contract was a “clear case of corruption at the highest level”. He also told the Prime Minister that Gadkari, heading the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, has allegedly violated the CVC guidelines while awarding the contract.However, Gadkari has rubbished the charges of corruption and said Singh’s allegations were “completely false” as the Ministry followed a transparent e-tender system. He also denied that his son was a director in IRB Infrastructure Developers. Singh had claimed that what was strange and unheard of is that the IRB was the sole bidder for the massive project in Jammu and Kashmir. He has said government should have gone in for the Swiss challenge method.Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement which requires a public authority which has received an unsolicited bid for a public project (such as a port, road or railway) or services to be provided to government, to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it.

Congress demands Nitin Gadkari’s immediate sacking after allegations of corruption

Congress on Monday demanded the immediate sacking of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari alleging that the awarding of the Rs 10,050 crore Zozila pass tunnel contract to IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd was a “clear case of corruption at the highest level”.Party General Secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters at party headquarters that Gadkari, heading the Road Transport and Highways Ministry, has allegedly violated the CVC guidelines while awarding the contract.However, Gadkari rubbished the charges of corruption and said Singh’s allegations were “completely false” as the Ministry followed a transparent e-tender system. He also denied that his son was a director in IRB Infrastructure Developers.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh claimed that what was strange and unheard of is that the IRB was the sole bidder for the massive project in Jammu and Kashmir. He said government should have gone in for the Swiss challenge method.Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement which requires a public authority which has received an unsolicited bid for a public project (such as a port, road or railway) or services to be provided to government, to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it.Singh alleged that Gadkari had business dealings with Dattatreya Mhaiskar, head of IRB, which had shares in the controversial Purti group floated by the Minister. He claimed Gadkari’s son Nikhil was director for some years in a subsidiary of IRB.

Road work is the latest scam from BMC

An interim report by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has hinted at a scam in the civic body’s road works.The scam in question relates to supplying raw materials to road-work sites and transporting debris from there. If the panel’s findings are anything to go by, it could be much larger than the Rs 150-crore de-silting scam.”Just like in the de-silting operations, we have come across a lot of bogus bills. The amount of debris that contractors claimed to have removed was never taken from construction sites to the dumping grounds outside the city. Similarly, the number of trips trucks made to deposit raw materials are also doubtful,” said a senior BMC official.The BMC spends over Rs 1,000 crore on road works every year. Last year, it had set aside Rs 3,200.35 crore for the roads and traffic department. In the last three years, the BMC has undertaken 3,073 road works.BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta had ordered a high-level probe into the city’s road works after allegations of shoddy work and corruption by mayor Snehal Ambekar.Ambekar, who is from the Shiv Sena, which rules the BMC, had written a letter to Mehta demanding a high-level probe into the city’s road works last month.”This is to inform you that, like the inquiry into the de-silting work, similar malpractice is being followed in the roads department. Contractors transport only 20% of the earth and 80% of the money goes into the pockets of contractors and corrupt officers,” read the letter.Mehta had asked deputy municipal commissioner Vasant Prabhu and chief engineer (vigilance) SO Kori to conduct a probe while Deshmukh was asked to oversee the entire enquiry and submit a report. Deshmukh told dna that the report was in its final stages but refused to divulge details.”We came across several instances where contractors’ claims could not be verified. There were a lot of errors in the way vouchers and challans were submitted. If debris was not transported, we fear that the roads were not dug up as per norms. This means that the raw material that was supposed to be used or claimed to be used was never used too. So, the entire road construction is now under question,” the official added.”We are quantifying the extent at the moment. We will submit a road-wise list of contractors and civic engineers involved. We are quantifying things at the moment. It will take around two weeks,” the official added.Only last month, the BMC’s probe into de-silting operations had revealed that not only did the contractors do sub-standard work, but openly cheat the BMC by inflating bills.The report claimed that there were irregularities in 65-70% of the work. “There have been similar finding in road works too. Unless a detailed probe is conducted, we will not be able to know the exact quantum of the scam. The quality of roads will have to be audited too. Only then, will we know the extent of the scam,” the official added.Under the scannerRPS Infraprojects, KR Construction, Jay Kumar, Relcon Infraprojects, RK Madhani, Mahavir Infrastructure, NA Construction, Navdeep Construction, Shah & Parikh, Pragati Enterprise and Rupesh Corporation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>