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March 2018 Economic Affairs

  • Metro Rail to add 31 km to connect Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad
    With the Metro rail getting good response from the residents of Hyderabad, the Telangana government has decided to extend the service to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad in the second phase works. 

    The government has announced setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to extend the Corridor-III from Biodiversity Park to the airport, covering a stretch of 30.7 km. 

    While the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR) would have 51 per cent stake in the SPV, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) will take the rest. 

    The SPV would also undertake road capacity improvement works for decongesting the city by constructing new roads and other modes of transport. This would include running cabs. 

    The company will have an authorised share capital of RS.1 crore, divided into 10 lakh equity shares of 10 each. The HMR had launched the Phase-I of the project in November 2017 by opening a 30-km stretch connecting Miyapur-Ameerpet (13 km) of Corridor-I with Ameerpet-Nagole (17 km) of Corridor-III. 

  • India has planned to undertake borrowings of Rs 2.88 lakh crore in first half of 2018-19
    The government has planned to undertake borrowings of 2.88 lakh crore rupees in the first half of 2018-19. This is 47.56 per cent of the budgeted gross borrowing programme of over 6.05 lakh crore rupees. 

    According to the Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, in April to September 2017-18, the government had borrowed 3.72 lakh crore rupees. He said, this represents a substantial reduction in borrowings as compared to last year. 

    He said, the 47.56 per cent of budgeted gross borrowing in the first half of next fiscal is lower than the average of 60 to 65 per cent in last five years. He expressed confidence that the government will be able to meet all expenditures without going into overdraft. 

    Mr Subhash Chandra Garg also said, the government will come out with inflation-indexed bonds linked to Consumer Price Index or retail inflation. He added that government securities of 1 to 4 years duration will also be introduced. 

    The Secretary said, in the next fiscal the government securities buyback would be reduced by 25 thousand crore rupees. 

  • Centre approves construction of another 3.21 lakh affordable houses for urban poor
    Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has approved the construction of another 3.12 lakh affordable houses for the benefit of urban poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) with an investment of over Rs. 18,000 crore with central assistance of over Rs. 4,700 crore. The approval was given in the 32nd meeting of the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee in its meeting held in New Delhi on 27th March

    The projects were sanctioned across 523 cities in the states of Haryana, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Mizoram, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Goa. Haryana has been sanctioned over 70,000 houses while West Bengal got around 60 thousand houses. 

    Rajasthan has been sanctioned over 54,000 affordable houses and Uttar Pradesh has been sanctioned around 40,000 houses. 

    Gujarat has been sanctioned over 35,000 houses and Karnataka has been sanctioned around 12,000 affordable houses. With the proposed houses, cumulative houses under PMAY (Urban) will become 42, 45,792 after final approval from the Committee. 

    With the participation of Goa, all 35 States and Union Territories having urban statutory towns and cities are now covered under the PMAY (Urban) Mission. 

  • Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) extends PAN-Aadhaar linking deadline to June 30
    The PAN Aadhaar linking deadline has been extended to June 30 by the CBDT through an order issued on 27th March. Current deadline was 31st March. It is understood that the latest order by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has come in the backdrop of the Supreme Court, earlier this month, directing extension of the March 31 deadline for linking Aadhaar with various other services. 

    The apex court ordered for the extension of the deadline till the five-judge constitution bench delivers its judgment on petitions challenging the validity of the biometric scheme and the enabling law. 

  • SAP to collaborate with NITI Aayog's Atal Innovation Mission
    NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission on 27th March signed a Statement of Intent with SAP, a tech company, to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. 

    As part of the agreement, SAP will adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Laboratories for five years to nurture science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning among secondary school children across the country. 

    The program aims to enable students to learn advanced technology topics relevant to digital transformation. 

    Acknowledging the importance of such collaborations, CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant said, India’s growth for the next few decades will depend on the innovations coming out of these tinkering labs. 

    Till date, Atal Innovation Mission has already announced selection of 2441 schools across India to establish Atal Tinkering Labs. More than 50 thousand school students have been engaged in such labs last year. 

    The goal is to expand their reach to every district and set up over 30,000 labs across the country over the next three years. 

  • CCEA approves continuation of Nutrient Based Subsidy, City Compost Scheme till 2019-20
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA has approved continuation of Nutrient Based Subsidy and City Compost Scheme till 2019-20. The total expenditure for continuation of both the schemes will be around 62 thousand crore rupees. 

    The expenditure for the scheme will be on actual basis since national roll out of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) entails 100 per cent payment of subsidy to fertilizer companies on sale of fertilizers to farmers at subsidized rates. 

    Government is making available fertilizers, namely Urea and 21 grades of Phosphatic and Potassic fertilizers to farmers at subsidized prices through fertilizer manufacturers and importers. 

  • India’s Fiscal deficit soared to Rs 7.15 lakh crore at the end of February
    India’s fiscal deficit soared to RS 7.15 lakh crore at the end of February, exceeding the revised target of Rs 5.94 lakh crore for the entire 2017-18 fiscal. 

    As per data released by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), fiscal deficit for April-February was 120 per cent of the revised estimates on account of increased expenditure and subdued revenue receipts. 

    The monthly account till February-end revealed that the government has collected Rs 12.83 lakh crore revenue, which is 79.09 per cent of revised estimates. Of this, over Rs 10.35 lakh crore is collected from taxes, while over Rs 1.42 lakh crore and Rs 1.05 lakh crore accrued on account of non-tax revenue and non-debt capital receipts, respectively. Non-debt capital receipts consist of recovery of loans of Rs 13,301 crore. Besides, Rs 92,493 crore has been mopped up through PSU disinvestment till February-end. 

    In the revised estimates of 2017-18, the government had raised the disinvestment target to Rs 1 lakh crore, up from Rs 72,500 crore in the Budget estimates. In 11 months till February, over Rs 5.29 lakh crore has been transferred to state governments as devolution of share of taxes by the Centre, which is Rs 66,039 crore higher than the corresponding period of last year 2016-17. 

    Total expenditure incurred by the government during the period was over Rs 19.99 lakh crore, which is 90.14 per cent of revised estimates for 2017-18. Of this, Rs 17.02 lakh crore is on revenue account and Rs 2.97 lakh crore is on capital account. Of the total revenue expenditure, Rs 4.50 lakh crore is on account of interest payments and Rs 2.27 lakh crore is on account of major subsidies. 

    In the Budget for 2018-19 presented on February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had revised upwards the fiscal deficit target to 3.5 per cent of the GDP for 2017-18, as against the initial target of 3.2 per cent, on account of GST implementation and deferment of spectrum auction. The fiscal deficit or gap between total expenditure and revenues has been pegged at 3.3 per cent for 2018-19. 

  • With debt at Rs 487 billion, government invites bids for 76% stake sale in Air India
    The government will divest 76 per cent stake in Air India, according to the information memorandum on the airline’s proposed stake sale released on March 28th. The sale will include Air India's shareholding in low-cost Air India Express and its joint venture ground handling subsidiary AISATS. 

    Bidders must have a minimum net worth of Rs 50 billion and net profit for three preceding years. However, the rule has been relaxed for Indian carriers to enable them to participate in the bid process. A domestic carrier, which is part of a consortium, does not need to fulfill the three-year profitability criteria if its shareholding in the consortium does not exceed 51 per cent. Similarly a domestic airline with a negative net worth can also apply as a part of the consortium, provided its stake is restricted to 51 per cent. 

    The proposed sale of Air India has attracted interest from local and foreign carriers, given the domestic airline’s strong fleet size of 115, its slots, traffic rights and market share of 16.9 per cent on overseas routes, the highest among all Indian carriers. 

    Also Air India's revenue of Rs 255 billion is the highest among all Indian carriers. IndiGo had submitted its interest to acquire Air India, but the airline said it was interested mainly in the airline’s international operations. Jet Airways has been in talks with its partner Air France-KLM for a possible bid, while SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh had said his airline was too small to bid for Air India. Among international carriers, Singapore Airlines said it had an open mind on acquiring a stake in the carrier. 

  • CCEA makes provision of Rs 6,600 crore for higher education loan for poor students
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved continuation of the Credit Guarantee Fund for Education Loans Scheme and continuation and modification of Central Sector Interest Subsidy Scheme with a financial outlay of 6,600 crore rupees from 2017-18 to 2019-20. 

    The scheme will cover loans for pursuing professional and technical courses to promote quality education. Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Human Resource Development Minister, Prakash Javadekar said, it will provide education loans to ten lakh students during this period. He said, within the next three years, students who are unable to bear the education fee will be given loans and education subsidy under the initiative. 

    The Minister said the CCEA also approved a proposal to formulate a Integrated Scheme on school education by subsuming Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and Teacher Education from 1st April, 2018 to 31st March, 2020. 

    An estimated allocation of 75,000 crore rupees has been approved for this which is a 20 percent increase over the current allocations. 

    The decision came in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of Sabko Shiksha, Achhi Shiksha and aims at supporting the states in universalizing access to school education from classes pre-nursery to XII across the country. 

    Mr. Prakash Javadekar said, the blackboards will now be replaced by digital boards in classrooms in the next five years for better access to education. 

    He also said a committee has been set up in this regard. The Minister also informed that the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya will now provide education to the girls of marginalized sections up to class 12th. 

  • Cabinet approves Rs 4,500 crore to boost development projects in North-East
    Cabinet has approved Schemes of North Eastern Council (NEC) including continuation of existing Schemes. It will boost the development projects in North-East. Four thousand 500 crore rupees have been approved for the scheme for three years upto March, 2020. 

    The Scheme of NEC - Special Development Project will be changed to be a Central Sector Scheme with 100 per cent grant. 

    Minister of Development of North Eastern Region, Dr Jitendra Singh told media in New Delhi that the government is committed for the development of the region and the hard work and dedication of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards North East has started showing results. 

    Besides, NEC is also implementing North Eastern Road Sector Development Scheme - Programme Component for upgradation of the important and strategic inter-state roads. 

  • Government asks businesses to register on e-way bill platform ahead of Apr 1 rollout 
    Government has asked businesses and transporters to register on e-way platform as soon as possible with just three days left for the Electronic Way bill to roll out. 

    From the first of April, businesses would be required to present the e-way bill to a GST inspector for inter-state transportation of goods worth over 50 thousand rupees through road, railways, airways and vessels. 

    Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said the company handling the backbone of the new indirect tax regime, GST Network, is much better prepared to roll out the new system from first of next month. He appealed to the traders to register themselves on the e-way bill portal as early as possible. 

    The e-way bill is being touted as an anti-evasion measure and would help boost tax collections by clamping down on trade that happens on cash basis. 

  • NPAs in MSME segment remain stable in Q3FY18: CIBIL and SIDBI
    Even as non-performing loans among large borrowers continue to rise, NPAs in the micro and SME segments seem to have stabilised. In the SME category (loans between Rs 10 and 250 million), NPAs remained stable at 11.2% at the end of Q3FY18, lower than the 11.3% at the end of Q3FY17. In the micro loans category (loans less than Rs 10 million), NPAs, in fact, fell from 9.2 % in Q3FY17, the period when demonetisation was announced, to 8.8 % in Q3FY18 shows a report by CIBIL and SIDBI. 

    By comparison, NPAs in the large borrowers’ category (loans greater than Rs 1 billion) have soared from 14.7 % in Q3FY17 to 16.9 % in Q3FY18. 

    The report titled MSME Pulse also finds that NPA rates are highest in the sub Rs 1 million category, followed by the Rs 50 to 100 million segment. 

    But, NPAs in the MSME segment could take a turn for the worse. The report finds that Rs 260 billion of the banking sectors exposure to MSMEs belongs to entities who have shown irregular payment behaviour by having continuous over dues for the past 6 months. 

    Add to this another Rs 80 billion, which is the non NPA exposure of entities whose other exposures has been tagged as NPA by at least one bank, and there is a high likelihood that some portion of this Rs 340 billion turns NPA in the near future. 

  • NHAI awarded 150 road projects of 7,400 km worth Rs 1,220 billion in Financial Year 2017-18
    In Financial Year 2017-18, NHAI has awarded 150 road projects of 7,400 km worth Rs 1,220 billion. In last 5 years, the average length of road projects awarded by NHAI was 2,860 km with 4,335 km awarded in the last financial year. 

    In comparison, the length of projects awarded in FY 2017-18 is an all-time high and a record achievement by NHAI since its inception in 1995, said an official statement. 

    It is expected that projects of around 3000 km shall be awarded in the first two months of the next FY 2018-19. 

    Out of the total projects awarded in 17-18, 3,791 km length was awarded on EPC mode at a cost of Rs 430 billion and 3,396 km was awarded on Hybrid Annuity mode at a cost of Rs 765 billion and 209 Km on Toll mode at a cost of Rs 25 billion. 

    Tendering and awarding projects picked up only after the sanction of ambitious Bharatmala programme and subsequent new procedure for sanction being put in place in November 2017, said the statement. 

    Under the new protocol, the NHAI board was delegated full powers for sanctioning EPC projects. Following that high powered Projects Appraisal Committee and Cost Committee was put in place in NHAI. 

    During this drive, post-Bharatmala, 232 projects were put on tender involving around 11,200 km of road length costing more than Rs 1,960 billion. To expedite land acquisition, number of retired officers were employed and strong monitoring mechanisms were put in place. "But for delay in land acquisition in some states, the award figures could have been still higher." 

    The projects awarded include 1,234 km in Rajasthan, 739 km in Maharashtra, 747 km in Odisha, 725 km in Uttar Pradesh, 511 km in Tamilnadu, 504 km in Andhra Pradesh, 468 km in Karnataka, 449 km in Gujarat, 389 km in Madhya Pradesh, 331 km in Haryana, 232 km in Bihar, 201 km in Jharkhand, 189 km in Telangana, 126 km in West Bengal, 120 km in Punjab, 100 km in J&K and balance in other states. 

  • India should engage bilaterally with key trading partners if global trade war escalates: Assocham
    Assocham on 18th March said, India should engage bilaterally with its key trading partners to promote exports if the world witnesses an escalation of a trade war. 

    In a statement, the industry chamber said, the higher level of imports than exports will not provide the country much space to retaliate at the time of increasing trade war as most of the Indian imports are unavoidable. 

    It said, India may end the current fiscal with a hefty import bill of 450 billion US dollars against exports of about 300 billion. The statement said, India should be watchful about a sudden jump in steel imports as the US has imposed heavy duties on steel. 

  • PM Narendra Modi reiterates India's staunch support to multilateral trading system
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that India is a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system. Mr Narendra Modi said this during an interaction with the Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Roberto Azevedo who called on him in New Delhi on 19th March

    Mr Narendra Modi said it is imperative to prioritise the WTO's activities so that it addresses the concerns of developing countries. 

    He urged Mr Azevedo to make special efforts so that the benefits of free trade and globalisation become more visible in developing countries. The Prime Minister also conveyed his best wishes for the success of the informal meeting of Ministers of WTO which is being organised in New Delhi. 

    The WTO Director-General thanked the Indian government for taking the initiative of starting a conversation to explore ways to reinvigorate the multilateral trading system. 

    Earlier, talking to reporters, Mr Azevedo had said discussions at the informal mini-ministerial meeting in the national capital will be useful for carrying forward the mandate of the multilateral trade body. 

  • Retail inflation eases to 4.4% in February
    In a sustained improvement in economic conditions, retail inflation in February eased as food prices softened, while industrial production soared in January. According to official data released on 19th March, consumer price index (CPI) based inflation eased to a four-month low of 4.44 per cent in February from 5.07 per cent in January. 

    Meanwhile, the Index of Industrial Production rose 7.5 per cent in January, led by robust expansion in the manufacturing sector. 

    The data come soon after the second advance estimate of GDP, which revised upwards the growth prospects for the fiscal to 6.6 per cent from the previous projection of 6.5 per cent. 

    Though it will give comfort to the Centre that had been under pressure after demonetisation, implementation of Goods and Services Tax and the Punjab National Bank scam, experts expect the Reserve Bank of India to maintain a status quo on rates. The next meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee is scheduled on April 4 and 5. 

    Before this, factory output grew at a sharpest pace in November 2017 at 8.8 per cent. It then grew by 7.06 per cent in December and by 3.5 per cent in January 2017. 

    But, on a cumulative basis, the IIP expanded by 4.1 per cent between April and January 2017-18, which was lower than the 5 per cent growth in the same period a year ago. 

    In January, manufacturing grew by a robust 8.7 per cent, followed by 7.6 per cent increase in electricity generation. However, mining grew by a mere 0.1 per cent in the month. 

    Amongst use-based industries, sectors including capital goods (14.6 per cent), consumer durables (8 per cent) and non-durables (10.5 per cent) showed healthy expansion in January, in an indication that both investments by companies and retail demand are coming back on track. 

    In February, consumer food price index softened to 3.26 per cent as against 4.7 per cent in January. It was much lower at 2.01 per cent in February 2017. Retail prices of pulses, sugar and spices contracted in February. 

  • Task force to review Income-Tax Act
    Government has constituted a task force to review the Income-tax Act, 1961 and to draft a new Direct Tax Law in consonance with the economic needs of the country. 

    Finance Ministry, in a release said, in this endeavour of drafting the new tax law, it is imperative to engage with stakeholders and general public. 

    The Ministry has sought suggestions and feedback from stakeholders and general public in the format provided on the departmental website. 

    It said, the format can be downloaded from the website and suggestions may be sent through e-mail at, latest by 2nd of next month. 

  • Rajya Sabha Parliament passes Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2018 
    Parliament has passed the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2018 with the Rajya Sabha adopting it on 22nd March

    The bill was passed by voice vote during the Zero Hour without discussion. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill last week. 

    The bill empowers the government to fix the amount of tax-free gratuity and the period of maternity leave with an executive order. 

    The legislation will enable the government to enhance the ceiling of tax-free gratuity to 20 lakh rupees from the existing 10 lakh rupees for employees falling under the Payment of Gratuity Act. 

    It allows the government to fix the period of maternity leave for female employees as deemed to be in continuous service in place of the existing 12 weeks. 

    After the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission, the ceiling of gratuity amount for central government employees was doubled to 20 lakh rupees. 

    The amendment to the payment of gratuity law comes in the backdrop of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 enhancing the maximum maternity leave period to 26 weeks. 

  • No Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence industries, ports, coal production in April-December: Government
    As many as six sectors, including defence industries, ports and coal production, have failed to attract any foreign direct investments during the April-December period of the current fiscal

    The other three sectors, which were not able to attract foreign inflows are - photographic raw film & paper, dye-stuffs and coir

    Barring defence industries and dye-stuffs, the other four segments had not received any FDI in 2015-16 either. The government has relaxed FDI norms in several sectors, including defence, single brand retail and civil aviation, to attract foreign direct investment in the country. India imports 70 per cent of its military hardware from different countries. During April-December 2017-18, FDI into the country grew by a meagre 0.27 per cent to USD 35.94 billion. 

  • Agricultural credit target for FY 2018-19 up to Rs 11 lakh crore
    The government has fixed the agriculture credit target of 11 lakh crore rupees for the year 2018-19 against last year’s target of 10 lakh crore rupees. 

    The government fixes agriculture credit disbursement targets for the banking sector every year and banks have consistently surpassed these targets. 

    With a view to ensuring agriculture credit at a reduced interest rate of 7 per cent per annum to farmers, the government is implementing an interest subvention scheme for short-term crop loans up to three lakh rupees. 

    The scheme provides interest subvention of two per cent per annum to banks on use of their own resources. 

    Besides, additional three per cent incentive is being given to the farmers for prompt repayment of the loan thereby reducing the effective rate of interest to four per cent. 

  • CCEA approves Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry
    Government took a big step in making India self-sufficient in silk production. According to the Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, the decisions taken by the cabinet will lead to the formation of a first ever inter-ministerial panel to boost R&D and technology transfer in the silk sector with a 1,000 crore rupee fund. 

    In a big move that will boost the domestic silk industry, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry for the next three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20. 

    The Scheme has four components –
    • Research & Development, Training, Transfer of Technology and IT Initiatives
    • Seed Organizations and farmers extension centres
    • Coordination and Market Development for seed, yarn and silk products
    • Quality Certification System by creating a chain of Silk Testing facilities, Farm based & post-cocoon Technology Up-gradation, and Export Brand Promotion
    • The scheme will promote Women Empowerment and livelihood opportunities to SC/ST and other weaker sections of the society. The scheme will help to increase productive employment from 85 lakhs to 1 crore persons by 2020

    • achieve self-sufficiency in silk production by 2022
    • To achieve this, production of high grade silk in India will reach 20,650 MTs by 2022 from the current level of 11,326 MTs
    • there is clear focus on improving production of highest grade quality of silk
    • Brand Promotion of Indian silk will be encouraged through quality certification by Silk Mark not only in the domestic market but in the Export market
    • The scheme will be implemented by the Ministry through Central Silk Board.

  • Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme to empower rural women through community participation
    The government has approved Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme for the period 2017-18 up to 2019-20 to empower rural women through community participation. 

    Community engagement through College Student Volunteers is envisioned in 115 most backward districts as part of the Block Level initiatives and during FY 2017-18, 50 most backward districts to be covered (8 blocks per district). 

    Annual budget for block level activities is Rs 35.36 lakh per block. New District Level Centres for Women have also been envisaged for 640 districts to be covered in a phased manner (220 districts during FY 2017-18, 220 more in 2018-19 and remaining 200 in 2019-20). 

    These centres will serve as a link between village, block and state levels in facilitating women-centric schemes and also give foothold to BBBP at the district level. The annual budget for each District Level Centre for Women is Rs 12.30 lakh. 

    This information was given by Minister of State for Women and Child Development, Dr.Virendra Kumar in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha. 

  • Trade barriers will jeopardise global economy, warns WTO chief
    The World Trade Organization (WTO) chief has warned states that creating barriers to international trade would "jeopardise the global economy". 

    WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement in Geneva on 24th March that disrupting trade flows will jeopardise the global economy at a time when economic recovery, though fragile, has been increasingly evident around the world. He called for restraint and urgent dialogue as the best path forward to resolve these problems. 

    US President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on Chinese imports, heightening fears of a trade war between the world's two largest economies. 

    Washington also launched a challenge before the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) against China over intellectual property breaches. 

    China, meanwhile, warned the United States that it was "not afraid of a trade war" as it threatened tariffs on USD 3 billion worth of US goods in retaliation over the US measures. 

  • Buyer Seller Meet cum Facilitation Camp on Textiles in Bengaluru
    Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani along with Union Minister Ananth Kumar on 11th March inaugurated a buyer and seller meet cum facilitation camp on textiles in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Government is providing educational facilities to children of handloom weavers by providing 75% of the fee. 

  • 1.36 lakh jobs added in July-September: Labour Bureau survey
    Employment in eight key sectors, including manufacturing, IT and transport, rose by 1.36 lakh on net basis in July-September this fiscal compared to the previous quarter, says a survey. 

    Construction sector was the only segment that reported job losses of 22,000 in the second quarter of FY2017-18. 

    Estimates from present quarterly employment survey reveal that there was an overall positive change of 1.36 lakh workers [in July-September] over the previous quarter [April-June], across eight sectors at all-India level

    The quarterly employment survey by the Labour Bureau for July-September stated the above statistics. 

    The Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, stated that there were positive changes in seven out of eight sectors. 

    Manufacturing sector added 89,000 jobs, education sector added 21,000 jobs while transport sector saw addition of 20,000 jobs. 

    Trade (14,000), health (11,000), accommodation and restaurant (2,000) and IT/BPO sector (1,000) also reported job additions. 

    According to the survey, female workers accounted for 74,000 and male workers 62,000. 

  • India’s arms imports from U.S. up by 550% growth in 2013-17: SIPRI report
    The U.S. recorded a blazing growth in its arms exports to India, recording over 550% growth in 2013-17 compared with the previous five years. 

    In contrast, Pakistan’s imports from the U.S. dropped by 76% in 2013-17 compared with 2008-12, while it emerged as the largest recipient of Chinese arms exports, according to the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

    Russia continued to be India’s largest arms supplier, accounting for 62% of India’s arms imports between 2013 and 2017. 

    India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013-17 and accounted for 12% of the global total. Its imports increased by 24% between 2008-12 and 2013-17

    “The tensions between India, on the one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fuelling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself

    While India continues to depend on imports for its arms requirements, China’s arms imports fell by 19 per cent between 2008-12 and 2013-17. 

    While it was the world’s fifth largest arms importer in 2013-17, China has also emerged as the fifth largest arms exporter, with exports rising by 38% between 2008-12 and 2013-17. A majority of these weapons have been procured by countries in India’s neighbourhood. 

  • Supreme Court sets deadline for CBI, ED to complete probe in 2G cases
    Supreme Court set aside the August 24, 2007 decision of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government to drop the land acquisition proceedings for over 600 acre Manesar land. 

    Supreme Court also directed the CBI to investigate transactions including unearthing unnatural gains received by middle men in Manesar land case. 

  • RBI discontinues Letters of Undertaking, Letters of Comfort for trade credit
    The Reserve Bank of India on 13th March discontinued Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) and Letters of Comfort (LoCs) for Trade Credits. 

    The RBI, in a circular, said it has been decided to discontinue the practice of issuance of LoUs/ LoCs for Trade Credits for imports into India by AD Category -I banks with immediate effect. 

    The circular added that the Letters of Credit will be continued to be issued subject to compliance with the provisions contained in Department of Banking Regulation Master Circular on 'Guarantees and Co-acceptances' dated July 1, 2015. 

    Recently, Punjab National Bank reported the fraudulent issuance of LoUs/ Foreign Letters of Credit for payment of import bills and fraudulent transactions in accounts, amounting to Rs 12,967.86 crore, to the RBI through its fraud monitoring reporting system. A multi-agency probe, including by CBI and ED has been launched into the PNB fraud. 

  • Supreme Court extends deadline to link Aadhaar with various services till final judgement
    The Supreme Court on 13th March extended the March 31 deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes run by the government. 

    This relaxation will be effective till the constitution bench delivers a final verdict on the validity of Aadhaar number and its enabling law. 

    The extension of the deadline would also apply on the mandatory linking with the bank accounts and mobile phone numbers. 

    A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra extended the deadline after the Centre agreed to extend the March 31 deadline for linking Aadhaar with all services and welfare schemes. 

    On December 15, 2017, the apex court had extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes. 

    Earlier, the top court had observed that the alleged defect of citizens' biometric details under the Aadhaar scheme being collected without any law could be cured by subsequently bringing in a statute. 

  • CCEA approves continuation of Urea Subsidy Scheme till 2020
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of Urea Subsidy Scheme from 2017 to 2020. The estimated cost on this will be around one lakh and 65 thousand crore rupees. 

    The Cabinet also approved implementation of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for disbursement of fertilizer subsidy. 

    The continuation of the urea subsidy scheme will ensure that adequate quantity of urea is made available to the farmers at statutory controlled price. 

    Implementation of DBT in Fertilizer Sector will reduce diversion and plug the leakages. 

    Department of Fertilizers is in the process to roll out DBT in fertilizer sector nationwide. 

    DBT would entail 100 per cent payment to fertilizer companies on sale of fertilizers to farmers at subsidized rates. Urea Subsidy is a part of Central Sector Scheme of Department of Fertilizers with effect from 1st of April 2017 and is wholly financed by the Centre. 

    The continuation of Urea Subsidy Scheme will ensure timely payment of subsidy to the urea manufacturers resulting in the timely availability of urea to farmers. 

  • World Bank projects India's GDP growth at 7.3 per cent
    The World Bank on 14th March projected India's GDP growth at 7.3 per cent for the next financial year and accelerate further to seven point five per cent in 2019-20. 

    The World Bank's biannual publication, India Development Update - India's Growth Story, expects the economy to clock a growth rate of 6.7 per cent in the current fiscal ending March 31. 

    The report, however, observed that a growth of over 8 per cent will require continued reform and a widening of their scope, aimed at resolving issues related to credit and investment and enhancing the competitiveness of exports. 

    The World Bank report further said that accelerating the growth rate will also require continued integration into global economy. 

    It pitches for making growth more inclusive and enhancing the effectiveness of the Indian public sector. 

  • Lok Sabha passes two Amendment Bills: Payment of Gratuity and Specific Relief 
    Parliamentary proceedings saw repeated disruptions for the ninth straight day in the second phase of Budget session. 

    Lok Sabha passed The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill amid din with a voice vote without debate. The bill seeks to make formal sector workers eligible for tax-free 20 lakh rupees gratuity up from the current ceiling of 10 lakh rupees at the time of leaving a job or superannuation. 

    The Specific Relief (amendment) Bill was also passed by the House in a similar fashion. This Bill proposes to grant a party the right to seek damages from the other side in case of a breach of a business contract and reduce the discretion of courts in such matters. 

  • Iron ore output to reach 210 million tonne this fiscal: Indian Bureau of Mines
    Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) has estimated the iron ore production in the country in the current fiscal at about 210 million tonne, 9 per cent more than the previous fiscal. In 2017, the country had produced 192 million tonne of iron ore. 

    The projection of higher production has come as a relief to the steel industry which was feeling jittery over disruption in mining operations in Odisha and Goa during the year and its subsequent impact on the iron ore prices. 

    Odisha, which produced 102 million tonne iron ore, 53 per cent of the country's total iron ore output of 192 million tonne in 2017, is poised to retain the top slot in 2018 as well. 

    By the end of last week, the state had produced 99 million tonne, two million tonne more than the output achieved in the comparable period 2017 and in the remaining days of this fiscal, the state is expected to cross the previous year's record, said an official source. On sales front also, iron ore despatches have gone up by 7.14 per cent to 120.63 million tonnes by the first week of March from 112 million tonnes in the same period of 20161-17. 

    Couple of months back, closure of some large mines in Odisha for non-payment of Supreme Court imposed compensation for illegal mining, contravening environment and forest approvals, had raised the spectre of iron ore supply deficit and pushed up the ore prices. Between October, 2017 and January 2018, iron ore prices had moved up as much as 60 per cent. 

    But most of these mines have now been allowed to restart operation after paying the compensation amount. In addition, a large mine of Aditya Birla group owned Essel Mining which was closed for last four years on regulatory issues has also been permitted to reopen. 

    Together, 25 million tonne of iron ore capacity has been restored in the state over the past couple of weeks. 

    Similarly, the Supreme Court in December 2017 relaxed the annual cap on iron ore excavation by Category A and B mines in Karnataka from 30 million tonne to 35 million tonne raising the prospect of higher ore output in the state. 

    In contrast, the Apex Court has ordered cancellation of renewed mining leases of 88 mines in Goa bringing to halt all iron ore extraction activity in the state from March 15. With the action coming late in the fiscal, it is unlikely to have much impact on the overall ore output in the current year, said an analyst. Besides, Goa iron ore mostly being shipped out, the development has very little impact on the domestic ore prices. 

  • FRDI Bill: Parliament grants more time to joint panel to submit report
    The introduction of the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill in Parliament will get delayed with the joint parliamentary panel looking into the proposed legislation getting an extension of time to submit its report on the matter. 

    This is the second occasion that the committee has been given additional time after an extension was granted in December 2017. 

    The Lok Sabha on 16th March gave its nod to a motion to grant the Joint Committee on the FRDI Bill time up to the last day of the Monsoon Session 2018 for submitting the report. 

    The approval for the motion seeking more time for submission of the report was granted by a voice vote amid noisy protests in the House. 

    In December, the joint committee was given time till the last day of the ongoing Budget Session. 

    The bill proposes to create a framework for overseeing of financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies, non-banking financial services (NBFC) companies and stock exchanges in case of insolvency. 

    The so-called "bail-in" clause in the draft legislation has been commented upon by experts who have expressed apprehension about potential harm to the deposits in the form of savings accounts. 

    Currently, only the deposits of up to Rs 100,000 are protected under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act that is sought to be repealed by the bill. 

  • Government: Rs. 10,000 crore of GST refunds sanctioned 
    The government on 16th March sought to debunk reports carrying unverified estimates of pending GST refunds, terming these figures “highly speculative and mostly inaccurate.” 

    So far, the government said, Rs. 10,000 crore of refunds had been sanctioned by the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the States, although it did not mention the quantum of the remaining amount. 

    It has been noticed that at regular intervals, unverified estimates of pending GST refunds on account of exports are published in the print media or put forward by various trade bodies

    It is a fact that while a number of exporters have not been able to get the export refunds, so far others have been granted refunds

    In order to overcome the causes of the delay in sanctioning of refunds, government has taken various steps, which includes amendments in the rules, changes in the business procedures of common portal and customs automated system to address the systemic issues. 

    The statement said that many of the errors plaguing the claims for refunds were due to the “inadequate familiarisation of the exporters with the GST laws and data entry errors in the various GSTRs/forms.” 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Doubling farmers' income our prime focus
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the three-day annual Krishi Unnati Mela, which began on 16th March. PM reviewed various stalls and interacted with people. 

    The main focus is on reducing agricultural costs and risk management, new technologies, micro-irrigation, waste water utility of agricultural and related fields were also displayed through the stall. 

    The main theme of this fair is to double the income of farmers by 2022 & it will continue till March 18. The objective of the event is to create awareness among farmers about the latest agriculture-related technological developments. 

    PM also inaugurated the Jaivik Kheti Portal aimed at promoting organic farming and conferred Krishi Karman Award to best performing states and also Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Krishi Vigyan protsahan awards. 

  • RBI issues PCA framework to maintain sound financial health of banks: Shiv Pratap Shukla
    Reserve Bank of India, RBI has issued a Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework to maintain sound financial health of banks. 

    According to the Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, it facilitates banks in breach of risk thresholds for identified areas of monitoring including capital, and profitability to take corrective measures in a timely manner. 

    He said, it is intended to encourage banks to eschew certain riskier activities, improve operational efficiency and focus on conserving capital to strengthen them. 

    Mr Shiv Pratap Shukla said, the framework is not intended to constrain the performance of normal operations of the banks for the general public. 

    RBI has placed eleven Public Sector Banks including Bank of India, Dena Bank, Central Bank of India, UCO Bank, IDBI Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Corporation Bank and Allahabad Bank under the PCA framework. 

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed USD 120 million loan to improve rail infrastructure
    Multilateral funding agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed a $120 million loan for completion of works for double-tracking and electrification of rail tracks along high-density corridors. The tranche 3 loan is part of the $500 million multi-tranche financing facility for Railway Sector Investment Programme approved by ADB Board in 2011. 

  • RBI tightens PSL norms for banks by directing them to create sub-targets
    The Reserve Bank has further tightened the priority sector lending PSL norms for foreign banks by directing them to mandatorily create sub-targets so that they lend a portion of their loans to small and marginal farmers as well as micro enterprises. 

    The PSL norms mandate foreign banks to eventually lend 40 per cent of their total loan book to the priority sector, such as agriculture, rural infra, and MSMEs among others from April 2020. 

    In a notification the RBI has said a sub-target of 8 per cent of net bank credit, or credit equivalent amount of off-balance sheet exposure, whichever is higher shall become applicable for foreign banks with 20 branches and above, for lending to MSMEs from next financial year . 

    Another sub-target of 7.50 per cent, using the same criterion, will be applicable to these banks from FY19 for lending to micro enterprises. 

    But in a partial relief, the apex bank removed the prior condition that only loans of up to 5 crore rupees and 10 crore rupees given to MSMEs would be PSL-compliant. 

    The notification further said, all bank loans to MSMEs will now qualify under PSL without any credit cap. 

  • RBI fines Axis Bank, Indian Overseas Bank for non-compliance of IRAC norms
    The Reserve Bank of India imposed a penalty of Rs. 3 crore on Axis Bank for non-compliance of Income Recognition and Asset Classification (IRAC) norms. 

    Besides, the central bank also imposed a penalty of Rs. 2 crore on Indian Overseas Bank for non-compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) norms. These penalties were imposed on February 27. 

    An RBI statement said a statutory inspection of Axis Bank with reference to its financial position as on March 31, 2016 revealed, violations of various regulations issued by RBI in the assessment of non-performing assets. Based on the inspection report and other relevant documents, a notice dated November 16, 2017, was issued to the bank advising it to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed. 

    In the case of IOB, the central bank said a fraud was detected in one of IOB’s branches. The examination of documents, including the bank’s internal inspection report, revealed non-compliance with KYC norms. 

    After considering the bank’s reply and oral submissions made in the personal hearing, RBI came to the conclusion that the charges of non-compliance with RBI directions and guidelines were substantiated and warranted imposition of monetary penalty. 

  • Mumbai, Delhi airports judged world’s best by Airports Council International
    Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, operated and managed by GVK, and Delhi’s IGI Airport, operated by GMR, have been jointly adjudged the ‘World’s Best Airport’ for customer experience in the 40 mppa (million passengers per annum) category. 

    This was announced on 6th March by Airports Council International (ACI). The ACI is a trade association with 1,953 airports from 176 countries among its members. 

    The award was adjudicated by means of ACI’s Airport Service Quality survey, conducted among millions of passengers. 

    Passengers were surveyed across international airports for their feedback on 34 key performance indicators. 

    The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, which is run by the GMR Group, won the customer experience award in the 5-15 mppa category. The 10-year-old airport has clinched the award for the fourth time and has always remained among the top three airports. 

  • Union Cabinet clears relief package for Telecom sector, DA hike and approved Arbitration & Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 
    Cabinet clears relief package for stressed telecom sector, gives more time to operators to pay for spectrum and easing spectrum holding limits; Dearness Allowance for central govt employees also hiked by 2%.

    The cabinet has also taken several other important decisions. Four of them further enhance India's strategic ties with France. 
    Apart from those, the notable ones are: 
    • Increase in dearness allowance of central govt employees by 2%
    • The DA hike will benefit 48.41 lakh Central Government employees & 61.17 lakh pensioners
    • DA hike means increased govt spending of 6,077.72 crore rupees a year
    • Cabinet also approved the Arbitration & Conciliation (Amendment) Bill
    • Passing of bill will lead to setting up of independent Arbitration Council of India
    • The ACI will be nodal institutional for settling disputes between companies within 12 months
    • The step is expected to make India a centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism

  • Mukesh Ambai richest Indian; Jeff Bezos tops global rich list Forbes 2018 ‘World’s Billionaires’ list
    Mukesh Ambani’s net worth has soared to USD 40.1 billion, making him the richest Indian for the 11th year in a row, while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos toppled Bill Gates as the world’s wealthiest person, says Forbes. 

    According to Forbes’ 2018 ‘World’s Billionaires’ list, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s wealth surged a whopping 72.84 per cent to USD 40.1 billion (Rs 2,60,622 crore) - highest among the 119 Indian billionaires on the list. Ambani was ranked 19th globally, up from 33rd position in 2017. 

    This year’s list consists of 2,043 of the richest people in the world. The combined net worth of this elite group is a whopping USD 9.1 trillion, up 18 per cent since last year. Their average net worth is a record USD 4.1 billion. 

    Azim Premji is the second richest Indian and was ranked 58th on the overall list with a net worth of USD 18.8 billion, followed by Lakshmi Mittal (62nd position, net worth of USD 18.5 billion), Shiv Nadar (98th, USD 14.6 billion) and Dilip Shanghvi (115th, USD 12.8 billion). 

    The 10 richest Indians include Kumar Birla, ranked 127th overall with a fortune of USD 11.8 billion, Uday Kotak (143, USD 10.7 billion), Radhakishan Damani (151, USD 10 billion), Gautam Adani (154, USD 9.7 billion) and Cyrus Poonawalla (170, USD 9.1 billion). 

    Acharya Balkrishna, the co-founder of FMCG company Patanjali Ayurved, was ranked 274th on the list with a net worth of USD 6.3 billion. 

    Meanwhile, Anil Ambani, the younger sibling of Mukesh Ambani was ranked 887th on the list with a net worth of USD 2.7 billion. Indian jeweller Nirav Modi is among the drop-offs from the list, along with Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter, Christoffel Wiese of South Africa, and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud. 

    Donald Trump, who became the first billionaire president in US history in January 2017, was ranked 766th on the list, down from 544, with a fortune of USD 3.1 billion. 

    Trump’s fortune fell USD 400 million since March 2017. 

    There were 259 newcomers, including the first ever cryptocurrency billionaires, while 121 dropped out due to falling fortunes or political headwinds, including 10 Saudi Arabians. 

    Forbes further noted that the gap between the really rich and the merely rich continues to widen, as fortunes soar to new heights so much so that the 20 richest people on the planet are worth a staggering USD 1.2 trillion, a sum roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Mexico. 

    The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and exchange rates from February 9, 2018. 

  • NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant launches Women Entrepreneurship Platform
    NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on 8th March launched the Women Entrepreneurship Platform, WEP, on the occasion of International Women's Day. The platform aspires to substantially increase the number of women entrepreneurs who will create and empower a dynamic New India. 

    WEP will provide opportunities to women to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses. It aims to promote women entrepreneurship and provide industry linkages and partner support to women entrepreneurs. 

    Nominations for the third edition of the Women Transforming India Awards 2018, was also opened on the occasion. 

    United Nations Resident Coordinator for India Yuri Afanasiev said Women Entrepreneurship Platform launched is a logical continuation of Women's transforming India awards. 

  • Direct tax collections register growth of 19.5% till Feb
    Direct tax collections have registered a growth of 19(point)5 per cent till February of the current fiscal as compared to corresponding period of last year. 

    The Direct Tax collections till February stood at 7.44 lakh crore rupees. 

    The net Direct Tax collections represent 74.3 per cent of the revised estimates of Direct Taxes for the financial year 2017-18 which is 10.05 lakh crore rupees. 

    The gross collections before adjusting for refunds have increased by 14.5 per cent to 8.83 lakh crore rupees during April, 2017 to February 2018. 

    Refunds amounting to 1.39 lakh crore rupees have been issued during April, 2017 to last month. In a statement, Finance Ministry said, the growth rate of net collections for corporate income tax is 19.7 per cent and for Personal Income Tax is 18.6 per cent. 

  • CCI approves acquisition of RCom infrastructure assets by Reliance Jio
    Debt-laden Reliance Communications' (RCom) proposal to sell infrastructure assets including towers, optic fibre cable and spectrum to Reliance Jio has been cleared by the Competition Commission of Indi (CCI). 

    In December 2017, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio had signed a pact to acquire the mobile business assets that includes spectrum, mobile towers and optical fibre network of RCom-owned by his younger brother Anil Ambani. 

    While neither Jio nor RCom had divulged the size of the deal, sources have pegged the transaction value at Rs 180 billion. 

    RCom statement, at that time, had said the deal packs in 122.4 MHz of 4G spectrum in the 800/900/1800/2100 MHz bands, over 43,000 towers, 1,78,000 kilometres of fibre and 248 media convergence nodes. 

    At the time of the deal announcement, the companies had also said that the transaction is likely to be completed in a phased manner by March 2018. 

    However, an arbitration panel in an interim order recently, has restrained RCom from asset sale or transfer, without its "specific permission".

  • GST Council recommends introduction of e-way bill 
    GST Council recommends introduction of e-way bill for inter-State movement of goods across the country from 1st April 2018. 

    For intra-State movement of goods, e-way bill system will be introduced w.e.f. a date to be announced in a phased manner but not later than 01st June, 2018. 

    Major improvements over the last set of rules, as approved by the Council now, are as follows: 
    • Value of exempted goods has been excluded from value of the consignment, for the purpose of e-way bill generation.
    • Public conveyance has also been included as a mode of transport and the responsibility of generating e-way bill in case of movement of goods by public transport would be that of the consignor or consignee.
    • Railways has been exempted from generation and carrying of e-way bill with the condition that without the production of e-way bill, railways will not deliver the goods to the recipient.
    • But railways are required to carry invoice or delivery challan etc.
    • Time period for the recipient to communicate his acceptance or rejection of the consignment would be the validity period of the concerned e-way bill or 72 hours,whichever is earlier.
    • In case of movement of goods on account of job-work, the registered job worker can also generate e-way bill.

  • Govt ropes in 4 institutes to push India’s ranking in ease of doing business index
    The Commerce and Industry Ministry has appointed four institutes, including IIFT and ICAI, to interact with stakeholders and suggest measures to push India’s ranking in ease of doing business index. 

    The National Institute of Construction Management and Research (NICMAR), the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) are the four institutes that have been roped in for the exercise. 

    As per the latest World bank’s Doing Business ranking, India’s position improved by 30 places to 100th. The government wants India to figure within top 50 in the coming years. 

    The parameters include - starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. 

    While ICAI would look into taxes parameter, ICSI and IIFT would work on starting a business and trading across borders, respectively. Similarly, NICMAR would collate feedback on dealing with construction permits. The move would help further push India’s ranking. 

    In the Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said to further improve the ease of doing business, the government has identified 372 action points for states which they would carry out in a mission mode. Improvement in ease of doing business will help attract more investments by ensuring better business climate for investors. 

  • Rotomac case: I-T dept files six chargesheets against Vikram Kothari
    The income tax department on 26th February said it had filed six chargesheets against Rotomac owner Vikram Kothari for alleged tax evasion. 

    These plaints were filed in a special court in Lucknow under various sections of the Income Tax Act. The tax official had earlier attached four immovable assets of the Rotomac group and its promoters. It had attached 14 accounts of the group in various bank branches in Uttar Pradesh. 

    These assets were attached to "recover outstanding tax demands" of about Rs 1 billion from the group

    The Kanpur-based group is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the alleged swindling of Rs 37 billion of loans advanced by a consortium of seven banks. 

    CBI had filed a criminal case against Rotomac Global Pvt Limited, its director Vikram Kothari, his wife Sadhana Kothari, son Rahul Kothari and unidentified bank officials based on a complaint from Bank of Baroda and conducted raids against them. The ED also registered a money laundering case against them. 

    It will probe if the allegedly defrauded bank funds were laundered and the proceeds subsequently used to create illegal assets and black money. 

  • Center releases financial assistance to several flood affected states
    The High-Level Committee for Central Assistance Chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh has approved assistance of 1711 crore rupees for Bihar which was affected by floods last year. The committee also approved assistance of 1055 crore rupees for Gujarat which was also affected by floods. 

    838 crore rupees have been sanctioned for West Bengal and 420 crore rupees each have been sanctioned for Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh which were also affected by floods. 

    Tamil Nadu will receive 133 crore rupees and Kerala will receive 169 crore rupees which were affected by cyclone Ockhi. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will get 836 crore and 396 crore rupees. The two states were affected by Kharif drought last year. 

  • Indian economy grows 7.2% in October-December period of 2017
    The Indian economy grew 7.2 per cent in the October-December period reflecting overall recovery due to good show by agriculture, manufacturing, construction and certain services. 

    The economy is expected to grow at 6.6 per cent in the current fiscal ending March 31, as per the second advanced estimates of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), compared to 7.1 per cent in 2016-17. 

    The earlier estimate was 6.5 per cent. The growth for the second quarter (July-September) has been revised upwards to 6.5 per cent, from 6.3 per cent estimated earlier by the CSO. 

    The previous high was recorded at 7.5 per cent in the July-September quarter of 2016-17. It said, the growth in GDP during 2017-18 is estimated at 6.6 per cent as compared to the growth rate of 7.1 percent in 2016-17. 

  • PM's Employment Generation Programme approved for three more years
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 28th March approved the continuation of Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme beyond 12th Plan for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20 with a total outlay of 5500 crore rupees. 

    The Scheme will create sustainable estimated employment opportunities for 15 lakh persons in three financial years. 

  • NITI Aayog panel recommends tax cuts on gold, revamping monetisation scheme
    A committee of the NITI Aayog has recommended drastic cuts in taxes on gold and also proposed a more liberalised approach towards the yellow metal to increase its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to 3 per cent by 2022. 

    The panel headed by Ratan P Watal, NITI Aayog principal advisor and former Union finance secretary, gave its report on gold policy, titled Transforming India’s Gold Market, to the finance ministry on February 26. 

    While the government has not made the report public, sources said the panel had recommended a sharp cut in all taxes on the gold business, including import duty and goods and services tax (GST). 

    Illegal gold imports have ranged between 100 and 150 tonnes annually in the past few years, and an overall cut in tax structure is required to stop smuggling, according to the report. 

    The committee had several rounds of discussions and met a number of subject experts before the final report was submitted, after a draft report in December. 

    Focus areas of the report, apart from cutting taxes, are promoting gold mining in India, responsible sourcing and good delivery of dore (unrefined) gold, making Indian standards for gold refined by Indian refineries, and setting up a Gold Board with statutory powers as a single-window agency to resolve all issues. 

    Other recommendations— Sharply reduce import duty and GST on gold — Replace sovereign gold bonds with gold saving account — Revamp gold monetisation scheme — Set up domestic Gold Council in line with Export Promotion Council — Treat only investment buying of gold as non-productive — Temples should hold gold in prescribed limit and deposit rest under GMS The finance minister has already announced formulating a comprehensive gold policy and setting up a gold spot exchange. 

    The committee has proposed policy measures from mining to marketing of gold. It also wants the jewellery business to be hassle-free, as “it is a productive business and the industry ecosystem consisting of 90-95 per cent of medium and small units employs 6.1 million people”. 

    It also said the investment part of gold import, a little over 16 per cent, was unproductive.The committee proposed the government see gold with the above perspective and offer alternatives for gold investments without imports.It proposed revamping the gold monetisation scheme (GMS) and that all banks and their branches offer the service, reducing minimum quantity of gold to be offered by customers under the GMS. 

    The committee also proposed making GMS attractive enough for banks by linking gold metal loans with international lease rates. 

    As of now, some banks hedge working capital finance cost by importing gold on lease from overseas banks and lending the same gold as gold metal loans to Indian jewellers. 

    In yet another proposal to give an alternative for gold investment, the committee proposed to replace sovereign gold bonds (SGB) with gold saving accounts, with all conditions and provisions similar to the current SGB. 

    However, after banks make proper arrangements, gold investment in rupee terms in proposed savings accounts should be backed by physical gold lying with Indian households. 

    Another important recommendation is to set up a gold domestic council in line with export promotion council chaired by a joint secretary level official. 

    The report proposed a liberal PAN (permanent account number) limit and a new limit for providing data to respective organisation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. 

    The gold trade had different reactions to the proposal with many expecting jewellers’ role to be enlarged in schemes like GMS and gold savings account, while they are divided on duty front.Some say that including GST and import duty, the tax on gold is over 13 per cent, which should come down to discourage smuggling, but another section says the cost benefit ratio to cut total duty on gold, which is otherwise coming through illegal route doesn’t benefit as revenue forgone for 100-150 tonnes of gold in duty terms is less than revenue loss if overall duty is reduced. 

  • Cabinet approves Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018
    In a major step to rein in economic offenders, Cabinet approves Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018; Bill empowers govt to seize all properties of the fugitive offender within the country; accused will not be entitled to file a civil claim. 

    The centre has path breaking measures to curb financial crimes that often originate at the banking systems in the country and have had a crippling effect on the economy. 

    The cabinet meeting took two major decisions that will go a long way to curb financial crimes in India and prove to be a major deterrent to the offenders. 

    The first step in curbing the financial crimes is the decision of cabinet to approve the Fugitive economic offenders bill 2018. 

    The bill has specific provision that will pave the way for declaring an economic offender a fugitive. It has provisions for attachment of the properties of the fugitive economic offender resulting from proceeds of crime; not only it has provision for confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property. 

    The bill provides for Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim. An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act. 

    The scam at Punjab National Bank has also prompted a move on setting up a new agency to regulate and discipline auditors. 

  • Cabinet clears setting up of National Financial Reporting Authority to oversee auditors
    Union Cabinet has approved the establishment of National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA). Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told that the NFRA will act as an independent regulator for the auditing profession which was one of the key changes brought in by the Companies Act 2013. 

    Mr. Jaitley said the jurisdiction of the NFRA for investigation of Chartered Accountants and their firms, will be extended to the listed companies and large unlisted public companies. 

    The decision is expected to result in improving foreign and domestic investments, enhancement of economic growth and supporting the globalisation of business by meeting international practices and assets in further development of audit profession.


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