IndUS Business Journal

Indian currency printed by Chinese firm? AAP takes on Modi government

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– The AAP government on Monday sought a clarification from the Centre following a report published in a Chinese daily claiming that a company there has been given the licence to print Indian currency.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national spokesperson Raghav Chadha termed the revelation as a “big threat to India’s national security” and “financial sovereignty” and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why this information was not available in the public domain.

“What were the reasons behind approaching a foreign firm instead of assigning someone domestically? Was India approached by China, and did we succumb to pressure from them in their bid to increase their global influence?” Chadha asked.

The South China Morning Post, a Chinese financial news publication, has reported that a Chinese state-owned company, China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, has been contracted to print large quantities of international currencies including that of India.

The report states that in 2013, Beijing launched the belt and road plan which involved 60 countries from Asia, Europe and Africa to stimulate economic growth.

The President of the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, Liu Guisheng, was quoted as saying that his company has since then “successfully won contracts for currency production projects in a number of countries including Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Poland.”

Referring to the report, Chadha said that an undisclosed source was quoted as saying that some governments have asked Beijing “not to publicise the deal because they are worried such information could compromise national security or trigger unnecessary debates at home.”

He opined that in the light of recent hostilities between the two nations, this could lead to some “serious strategic disadvantages for India”.

The report claims that despite domestic currency demand being at its lowest, China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation has been “functioning at full capacity to deliver on international contracts”.

It also states that while there was not much work until last year, there has been a sudden jump in production.

Chadha went on to dub the Modi government’s demonetization move as “wasteful and dubious” in making India a cashless economy and said that similarly, the decision of outsourcing the printing of Indian notes to China is “counter-productive and dangerous.”

“If the intent was to move towards a cashless economy, what is the objective of rolling out new currency for Rs10? Who is the beneficiary of the expense at which the printing is being pursued?” Chadha asked.

“Another suspicious aspect of this deal is how it negates our fight against counterfeit currency. This action puts us in a vulnerable position. Will this not create more avenues for international parties for counterfeiting?” he added. (IANS)

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Pune ranked most liveable city in India, Delhi 65th

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– Pune is the most liveable city, followed closely by Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai in a ranking of 111 Indian cities with the national capital ranked at a lowly 65 on the Ease of Living Index released by the government here.

Thane is the fourth Maharashtra city that made it to the top 10 in the list. Other cities ranked among the best 10 are Tirupati, Chandigarh, Raipur, Indore, Vijaywada and Bhopal.

Notably, none of the cities in big states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have made it to the top 10.

Chennai has been ranked 14, Hyderabad at 27 and Bengaluru at 85. Kolkata had refused to participate in the survey.

Gurugram is at the 88th spot. Rampur in Uttar Pradesh is at the bottom of the list that has Jammu and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir at 95 and 100.

The Ease of Living Index was launched by Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday.

The survey based on four parameters — governance, social institutions, economic and physical infrastructure — was conducted in 111 cities across the country.

It is an initiative of the ministry to help cities assess their liveability on the bases of global and national benchmarks.

The survey was started to encourage cities to move towards an outcome-based approach to urban planning and management.

Its framework comprised four pillars — institutional, social, economic and physical which are further broken down into 15 categories and 78 indicators.

The minister said evaluation of cities was done on a 100-point scale with the institutional and social pillars carrying 25 points each, five points for the pillar on economic and 45 points for the physical pillar.

A ministry official said the cities submitted data on more than 50,000 points. Secondary audit of 10,000 documents, physical audit of 14,000 units and survey of more than 60,000 citizens were completed which led to finalization of the index.

The assessment standards, according to the government, are closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will provide a strong impetus to India’s effort for systematic tracking progress of the goals in the urban areas.

Of the 17 SDG goals, eight are directly linked to India’s ease of living assessment framework. (IANS)

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If elected, Congress to bring one tax, remove GST: Rahul

Aug 13, 2018 0

Bidar (Karnataka)– Again dubbing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as the Gabbar Singh tax, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday said his party, if elected, would introduce one tax and remove the new indirect tax regime with five slabs.

“As soon as the Congress returns to power at the Centre in the next general elections, we will bring a single tax and remove the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ with five slabs,” asserted Gandhi at a huge party rally here in Karnataka.

Gandhi coined the GST after the famous Bollywood villain Gabbar Singh in the blockbuster “Sholay”, which was shot near Ramanagara near Bengaluru.

Claiming that the Congress would form the next government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls, due by May 2019, Gandhi told the gathering that the party would listen to the people and fulfil their wishes.

“We will form and run a government that will do what the people want. We work for the benefit of farmers, youth, poor and small businesses,” Gandhi said at the party’s Janadhwani (voice of people) rally at Nehru ground in the state’s north-west town, about 690 km from Bengaluru.

Urging the people to reach out to the party cadres in the southern state for securing justice, Gandhi said it was the Congress which introduced Article 371J for educational and employment reservations to the natives of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

“The BJP said it was not possible to bring Article 371J but we brought and proved it wrong. It benefitted the local people in getting jobs and admission to medical and engineering colleges in the region.

Notified in November 2013 during the UPA tenure at the Centre, Article 371J of the Constitution is aimed at all-round development of the state’s six northern districts, including Bidar.

Mocking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly failing to generate 2-crore jobs or deliver on promises he made four years ago, the party president said in contrast the Congress was doing its best in fulfilling the promises it made ahead of the May 12 state assembly polls and as an alliance partner in the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-led coalition government in the southern state.

“We promised during the election to waive crop loans of farmers. We are doing whatever we have promised,” noted Rahul.

“Modi waived loans of industrialists in crores but not a rupee of farm loan across the country. Yet he goes around talking about the farmers’ welfare and claiming to be working for them,” alleged Rahul.

Ridiculing Modi for saying a ‘dhabawala’ (food carriers) used technology to make fuel from the waste in the gutter, Gandhi lamented that the Prime Minister thinks even making snacks like ‘pakodas’ and carrying tiffin boxes are job creators for the youth.

Regretting Modi’s ‘silence’ over atrocities on women and sexual assault on girls at home shelters in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Rahul said the former’s call for ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ (save a girl child and educate a girl) was hollow, as there is no let-up in violence against them.

Party’s national secretary and its state in-charge K.C. Venugopal, party’s leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, former Union minister Veerappa Moily and the party’s state unit president Dinesh Gunde Rao were also present at the rally.

“I’m confident our party will win the Lok Sabha polls with a majority. The BJP came to power only through lies, but people are aware that all promises they made were only lies. In all sectors, the Modi government has failed,” Rao tweeted. (IANS)

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India-made passenger aircraft to fly in 3 years: Minister

Aug 13, 2018 0

Bengaluru– State-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)’s 19-seater “Saras” passenger aircraft will be ready within next three years, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

“The implementation process of 19-seater modification to Saras will begin soon and the aircraft will be ready for commercial use within next three years, giving a boost to regional connectivity,” Vardhan told reporters here.

The Minister was speaking on the sidelines of an event to unveil a design and integration facility for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones at NAL.

A prototype of Saras flew in January earlier this year for 40 minutes over Bengaluru skies for the first time nearly a decade after the project was left in limbo after a test flight crashed in 2009, killing three Indian Air Force pilots.

The home-grown aircraft project was revived after the government sanctioned Rs 100-crore for the plane.

The civil aircraft programme, named after the Indian crane Saras, was conceived in the 1990s as a joint project between India and Russia.

NAL took it on its own when Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes, backed out due to the financial crisis that emerged after the breakup of Soviet Union then.

It took two decades for scientists at NAL to fly the plane first in May 2004. (IANS)

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Those opposing developmental projects have terror links: Modi

Aug 13, 2018 0

Chennai– Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said there are proof of links between terror outfits and those who oppose developmental projects in states.

In an interview to Tamil newspaper Daily Thanthi, Modi said in the recent times it has been observed that some people hinder the implementation of developmental projects in states.

“There are proof of such people having links with terror outfits. It is not only me who is saying this, even my predecessor Manmohan Singh had rightly said that some foreign non-governmental organisations (NGO) are instigating protests against the nuclear power project in Kudankulam,” Modi said in an e-mail interview to the newsdaily.

He was responding to a question about Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan saying that there are movements of terror organisations in Tamil Nadu and their activities are of serious concern.

Continuing further, he had said that these terror outfits create fear among innocent people about projects that are for the welfare of people.

Asked about Bharataiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah’s statement that Tamil Nadu is one of the most corrupt states in India, Modi said it is the right of the people of that state to estimate the performance of their governments.

“My government is against corruption. It will fight corruption wherever it is. No other government since Independence has fought against corruption like ours,” Modi said.

On the issue of aligning with Rajinikanth when he floats a political party, Modi said the question itself is hypothetical and he cannot be expected to answer that.

Modi said without the support of AIADMK and DMK, the BJP won one Lok Sabha constituency in the last general elections.

“It is not an ordinary achievement in Tamil Nadu. We have some traditional pockets of support. That support base is now expanding. For a long period, the choice was limited in Tamil Nadu elections, but now youth are in search of an alternative,” Modi said. (IANS)

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Microsoft builds digital solution for CBSE to prevent paper leaks

Aug 13, 2018 0

By Gokul Bhagabati

New Delhi– The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which came under heavy criticism this year following the leak of class 10 mathematics paper and class 12 economics paper, has forged a partnership with tech giant Microsoft to prevent such leaks in the future.

The paper leaks triggered nation-wide outrage among students and parents. This set the CBSE, which has 20,299 schools in the country, in action, paving the way for the partnership with Microsoft which developed an encrypted security solution for digital question papers for the board within a period of three months.

“We have developed for CBSE an innovative solution which makes question papers leak-proof until 30 minutes prior to the start of the examinations,” Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D) and Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise, told IANS in a telephonic interaction.

“But if the question papers get leaked after they are allowed to download (just half an hour before the start of the exam) due to some bad actors, the system allows easy traceability as question paper for each centre are watermarked,” Bhansali said.

At present, the solution is having its pilot run, but it has passed the first test with flying colours, Microsoft claimed.

As part of their collaboration, CBSE and Microsoft successfully executed in July the first ever pilot of the digital question paper generation and delivery process at 487 centres for compartment examinations for class 10.

How does the system work?

The system allows the Controller of examination to track the entire process using a software solution built on Windows 10 and Office 365.

The overall process is encrypted and a two-factor authentication process is embedded. So examiners will have to identify themselves before they can download the examination papers. They are allowed to download the papers (after authetification) only 30 minutes prior to start of the exams.

“The system allows various authentification process. For example, it can be OTP (one-time password) based or biometric based. It is up to the clients what two authentification process they want to choose,” Bhansali added.

“The authentification can even be Aadhaar-based,” said the Microsoft executive.

The solution leverages features in Office 365 to encrypt and watermark the papers. The watermark has the individual center’s code imprinted on it which allows for localisation and traceability in the eventuality of a paper leak.

A CBSE administrator initiates the distribution of the examination papers, which results in the generation of emails to the respective centres with a link to OneDrive, a file-hosting service operated by Microsoft, where an exam paper, specific to the exam centre can be downloaded.

Apart from securing the system, this digitisation process is expected to save significant amount of time and cost for examination administrators due to online paper generation, automated delivery process and reduction in approval cycles.

“The system that we have developed for CBSE can be easily replicated for other boards or examination administrators. We will be happy to share it with other central or state authorities that conduct examinations for various purposes,” Bhansali told IANS. (IANS)

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Amid currency woes, Turkey accuses US of ‘stabbing it in back’

Aug 13, 2018 0

Ankara– Turkey on Monday accused the US of “stabbing it in the back” as the country’s economic woes failed to stop market turmoil amid a deepening diplomatic spat with Washington.

The US last week imposed sanctions on Turkey over its refusal to extradite a US pastor imprisoned in the country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Twitter)

The sanctions caused market turmoil, which the central bank attempted — but failed — to soothe with market-boosting measures.

Hitting out at the US, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “You act on one side as a strategic partner but on the other you fire bullets into the foot of your strategic partner.

“We are together in NATO and then you seek to stab your strategic partner in the back.”

As the crisis deepened at the end of last week, the lira and the Turkish stock market slid sharply.

Erdogan, who has presided over soaring inflation and borrowing levels, said the currency’s fall was the result of a “plot rather than prevailing economic conditions”, the BBC reported.

Turkey’s stock market has fallen 17 per cent, while government borrowing costs have risen to 18 per cent a year. Meanwhile, inflation has hit 15 per cent.

Although the lira rose slightly after the central bank’s move to support the economy, it still hit a new record low against the dollar and stock markets in Europe and Asia fell.

On Monday, benchmark stock indexes in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai were all down more than 1.5 per cent in late morning trading. The Shanghai Composite later recovered from a fall of 1.7 per cent to trade with much smaller falls in afternoon trading.

In mid-day trading in Europe, London’s 100-share index was down 0.6 per cent, while the German and French share markets were down by 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry said it was taking legal action against 346 social media accounts it claimed had posted comments about the weakening lira “in a provocative way”.

The lira’s worst day was last Friday when US President Donald Trump approved the doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium over Ankara’s refusal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson.

He has been detained for nearly two years, accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Gulenist movement, which Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Erdogan is irked over the inaction by the US against the Gulenist movement and failure “to unequivocally condemn” the 2016 coup attempt. Washington has refused to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

The Turkish Central Bank announced on Monday that banks would be given all the liquidity — help to keep money moving — they needed. But the bank did not increase interest rates, which would help contain inflation while supporting the lira.

Erdogan dismissed the fall of the currency as “a storm in a tea cup” and urged Turks to sell dollars and buy lira to help boost the currency. (IANS)

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Bengal CM lays foundation stone of Silicon Valley hub

Aug 13, 2018 0

Kolkata– West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday laid the foundation stone of a Silicon Valley hub proposed to come up over 100 acres of land at New Town, a satellite city of Kolkata.

Officials said Reliance Jio will set up a data centre spread over 40 acres in the area.

“Not just the state and the country, the Silicon Valley hub will be a top IT destination in the whole world,” Banerjee said on the occasion.

She said that the state is industry- and technology-friendly and had one of the least attrition rates with low operational costs.

“We are happy that Reliance Group is setting up a new state-of-art data centre in Kolkata. New projects of Amazon, Fujisoft, new IT Parks at Purulia, Malda and Siliguri were also launched today (Monday),” the Chief Minister said.

Finance Minister Amit Mitra said that Bengal had collaborated with Amazon Internet Service and FujiSoft for high-end IT solutions.

Information Technology major Infosys on Monday announced commencement of work on its new software development centre spread over 50 acres here.

The company will invest approximately Rs 100 crore in the first phase of construction of a 525,000 square feet facility.

The first phase will be completed within 15 months from the date of obtaining all statutory clearances. (IANS)

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Lower food prices cool India’s July retail inflation to 4.17%

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– Lower food prices eased India’s July retail inflation to 4.17 per cent from 4.92 per cent in June, even as it continued to rule over the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s medium-term inflation target of 4 per cent, official data showed on Monday.

However, on a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in July 2018 was higher than in the corresponding period last year, when retail inflation stood at 2.36 per cent.

According to the data furnished by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI) rose 1.37 per cent in July from 2.91 per cent in June 2018.

Product-wise, prices of milk-based products, eggs, meat and fish pushed the retail inflation higher on a YoY basis.

In contrast, deflation in the cost of vegetables, pulses and sugar capped the overall food prices.

Accordingly, the prices of milk-based products rose by 2.96 per cent, while cereals became dearer by 2.92 per cent and meat and fish prices recorded a rise of 2.26 per cent.

On the other hand, the category of “pulses and products” became cheaper by (-) 8.91 per cent and that of “sugar and confectionery” by (-) 5.81 per cent.

The sub-category of food and beverages during the month under consideration recorded a rise of 1.73 per cent over the same period last year.

Among non-food categories, the “fuel and light” segment’s inflation rate accelerated to 7.96 per cent in July.

Continuing with the reversal of accommodation begun in June, the RBI earlier this month again hiked its key lending rate by 25 basis points to bring the repo to 6.50 per cent citing upside risks to inflation.

Addressing the media on the hike in the repo, or the short-term lending rate for commercial banks, Governor Urjit Patel said its monetary policy committee (MPC) noted that the rise in retail inflation had continued for the third consecutive month.

“The decision of the MPC is consistent with the neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth,” the RBI said.

The central bank, however, maintained its “neutral” stance on policy, as it has done over five previous bi-monthly policy reviews which allows it to move either way on rates.

Commenting on the CPI numbers, Deloitte India Lead Economist Anis Chakravarty said in a statement: “Inflation continued to remain fuelled by higher oil prices as increasing levels of core inflation, especially housing, clothing, and miscellaneous activities. The movement in food inflation has also increased and is likely to follow an upward trajectory due to MSP increase.”

“Given that inflation remains above the medium term target of 4 per cent and the scales are tilted to the upside, the recent increase in key policy rate may provide some respite,” he added. (IANS)

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SpiceJet launches complimentary IFE system

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– Budget passenger carrier SpiceJet has become the first Indian low cost airline to launch a complimentary in-flight entertainment system.

According to the company, “SpicEngage”, a complimentary in-flight entertainment system allows flyers to access a range of entertainment content at no extra charge.

“Unlike traditional in-flight entertainment systems, flyers can easily access SpicEngage on their hand-held devices by following a few easy steps,”

“The system is currently available aboard all SpiceJet’s domestic and international flights.” (IANS)

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