IndUS Business Journal

Track your family driver with this app

Jul 18, 2016 0

New Delhi–In a bid to provide women extra security as they travel in cabs, a Delhi-based duo has developed an app for monitoring a family member travelling with the driver in the absence of a guardian.

Valet2You mobile App helps its users track their chauffeurs while they drive family member to their destination.

“Valet2You has empowered all of us to ensure safety of their near and dear ones through a free App service,” said app co-developers Rishabh Kapoor and Utsav Khaitan.

“Now you do not have to worry about your daughter or mother going alone in the car,” they added.

To use the app, Android and iOS users have to register along with the driver on Valet2You App.

Thereafter, wherever the driver is taking the family member, he can be easily tracked on the owner’s phone.(IANS)

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Indian life insurance industry logs 33 percent growth in first quarter

Jul 18, 2016 0

Chennai– The 24-member Indian life insurance industry closed the first quarter of the current fiscal with a new business premium of Rs 31,392.55 crore — logging a growth of 33.2 per cent, the Life Insurance Council of India said.

As per the provisional data uploaded on the Council’s website, the life insurance industry logged a new business of Rs 31,392.55 crore during the first quarter — up from Rs 23,568.14 crore earned during the first quarter of 2015-16.

LICThe Council connects various stakeholders in the life insurance industry.

The public-sector Life Insurance Corporation of India has logged 37.53 per cent growth in the new business during the first quarter of the current fiscal with a total premium income of Rs 22,592.22 crore, up from Rs 16,428.23 crore earned during comparable period the previous fiscal.

On the other hand, the private sector comprising 23 players clocked new business premium totalling Rs 8,798.34 crore during the first quarter of 2016-17, a growth of 23.23 per cent over the previous fiscal’s comparable quarter new premium of Rs 7,139.91 crore.

Interestingly, Max Life Insurance’s new business seems to have not been affected by its announcement to merge with HDFC Standard Life.

The company closed the first quarter with a new business premium of Rs 569.78 crore, up from Rs 459.14 crore earned during the comparable quarter the previous year.

Around mid-June 2016, the company announced its decision to merge with HDFC Standard Life.

Amongst the top private sector leaders HDFC Standard Life logged 28.83 per cent growth with Rs 1,409.29 crore new business premium while the rival ICICI Prudential Life clocked just 3.12 per cent growth for the period under review at Rs 1,258.89 crore.

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Indian Supreme Court to examine if entry tax violates constitutional guarantee freedom of trade

Jul 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– A nine judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court bench will hear from Tuesday a batch of petitions by some top corporate houses and business associations challenging the imposition of entry tax by the various state governments, contending that it was violative of the freedom of trade and commerce provided under the Constitution.

Supreme Court-IndiaThe bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice R. Banumathi, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan will examine whether entry tax being imposed by the various states was in breach of Article 301 providing for freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse within the country.

The top court is seized of about 2,000 petitions by manufacturers and their associations who have challenged the constitutional validity of entry tax laws enacted by the different States.

The entire issue of entry tax that is under challenge through these petitions involve financial implications of about Rs 30,000 crore – a huge sum for the cash-strapped states like Odisha which would be getting something like Rs 1,600 crore from the tax.

The top court was first moved by Jindal Stainless Ltd. way back in 2002 when the company had challenged the validity of the Haryana Local Area Development Tax Act, 2000.

It had challenged the validity of act on the grounds that it was violative of Article 301 since it imposed restrictions on trade and is not protected by Article 304.

Secondly Jindal Stainless Ltd had contended that the enactment of the law that levies sales tax on inter-state sales was beyond the competence of the state legislature.

Article 304(b), Jindals said, provides that no law for the imposing reasonable restrictions on the freedom of trade in public interest would be brought before the state assembly without prior sanction of the President.

The first order on the plea was passed on September 26, 2003, and had referred the matter to a larger bench of five judges.

The five judge constitution bench on April 13, 2006, after examining the whole gamut of issues including previous judgments, directed hearing of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the various state laws on entry tax on goods travelling from one state to another.

On December 18, 2008 a two judges bench framed 10 questions for consideration by the larger bench and the crucial question was “whether the state enactments relating to levy of entry tax have to be tested with reference to both Article 304(a) and Article 304(b) of the Constitution and whether Article 304(a) is conjunctive with or separate from Article 304(b)?”

Addressing the questions, the five judges bench felt that the April 9, 1962 judgment of the seven judge bench on entry tax and related issues needs to be revisited as certain doubts were expressed about it.

Referring the matter to still larger nine judges bench by their order of April 16, 2010, the bench framed several questions including the balancing of freedom of trade and commerce in Article 301 vis-a-vis the States’ authority to levy taxes under article 245 and Article 246 of the Constitution, as well as if taxation is justiciable and on the inter-relationship between Article 19(1)(g) (Right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) and Article 301. (IANS)

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Support GST in national interest, Modi urges opposition

Jul 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to the opposition on the eve of the Monsoon Session of Parliament to seek its cooperation over the long-pending GST bill observing that the issue was not about which government would get the “credit” even as the Congress offered no assurance, saying it will support bills based on “merit”.

He also urged all the political parties to keep national interest above all considerations and also welcomed suggestions for extending the sittings of parliament.

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Indian Prime Minister Mody

“Important Bills, including the GST Bill, are to be taken up during the Monsoon Session beginning Monday and I hope that there would be meaningful discussions and outcomes during the session,” Modi said at an all-party meeting convened by the government here ahead of the parliament’s session.

Referring to GST, he noted that the issue was not about which government would get the credit for its introduction but the bill’s passage.

“We represent both the people and parties and there is a need to keep national interest above anything else,” Modi said, calling for passage of important bills, including the GST.

However, the Congress said that it will support in Parliament any legislation that is in the nation’s interest but offered no assurance.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is the party Chief Whip in Lok Sabha, said: “GST issue was not discussed in the all-party meeting. With regard to GST, the government has still to revert to us on the three demands (raised by the party). There have been intermittent discussions, but no solution has come.”

The three demands are one per cent additional levy to be implemented by states, 18 per cent cap on GST and setting up of a dispute resolution mechanism.

“We are still awaiting a concrete response from the government on these issues. It is very clear to the people of the country that this government is adamant,” he added.

He said the Congress would raise in Parliament issues like inflation, unemployment, interference of the central government in state affairs and incidents like Kairana

Party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had told reporters ahead of the meeting that: “The Congress will support any bill which is in the interest of the nation, people and growth. We will let the bills pass on basis of merit… we do not obstruct passage of bills.”

He, however, did not clarify the party’s stand on the long-pending GST bill, which tops the government’s priority list.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the issue of the GST bill cannot be settled between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alone.

“As far as the GST Bill is concerned, it’s not a matter to be settled bilaterally between BJP and Congress. I have been requesting the government since two years to call an all-party meet to discuss the GST bill and listen to our concerns to form consensus,” he said.

Terming the all party meeting “fruitful”, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said all parties desired smooth functioning of parliament.

He also said that the government will talk to all opposition parties on the GST bill.

“We are talking to all parties and will talk in future as well on the GST and other bills. We want to create a consensus,” he said.

Responding to suggestions from some leaders for increasing the sittings of Parliament, Modi said he welcomed the suggestion and urged them to ensure proper utilisation of the available time.

As many as 45 leaders from 30 parties attended Sunday’s meeting where Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and S.S. Ahluwalia were also present.

Keen on passing the GST bill, the government has been holding a series of meetings with opposition leaders, which included an interaction that Jaitley had on Thursday with Azad and Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.

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Techie held for hacking Air India frequent flyers accounts

Jul 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– A 23-year-old techie has been arrested for hacking Air India’s Frequent Flyer member accounts and using them to book tickets sold to several travel agents, Delhi Police said on Sunday.

The accused, Anitesh Giri Goswami, a BCA graduate from Pune, was arrested from Jaipur on Friday.

According to police, a complaint was received in the Cyber Crime Cell of the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) alleging some persons were selling Air India tickets by redeeming of miles of genuine Flying Returns Members after hacking the Frequent Flyer members account.

In a statement, the EOW said it was found that the hub of the scam was in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur and Goswami was its mastermind. On basis of electronic surveillance and information of a local informer, a raid was conducted at an apartment in Jaipur and Giri was nabbed.

A laptop, several mobile phones and other relevant documents were also recovered from his possession.

Police further claimed that Giri was an IT expert, who had earlier worked with Kingfisher Airlines and Air India and was well versed with the online ticket-booking system and functioning of Air India’s intranet and internet-based systems.

Explaining the modus operandi, police said that Giri first understood functioning of the ticketing system as well as the points/miles system of the airlines and then hacked into the Loyalty Plus programme website of Air India.

After gaining access, he administrator user rights, which he used to upgrade several other user IDs with the same rights, police said.

Using these IDs, he verified hundreds of dormant accounts of Frequent Flyer members by uploading fraudulently prepared KYC (know your customer) documents, and used these membership accounts and the miles or points accumulated in these accounts for booking airline tickets. These were sold to various travel or ticketing agents based in Pune, Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai.

He gained access to the internal functioning of Air India website while working at the Jodhpur airport, and left his Air India job to start exploiting loopholes in the Frequent Flyer Programme’s functioning.

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Minister: 200 food parks to come up across India

Jul 17, 2016 0

Agra– The Union government has planned 200 new food processing units across India, reducing the requirement of land and capital from Rs 200 crore to Rs 20 crores, Minister of State for Food Processing Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti said on Sunday.

In her address on the second and final day of an international convention on potatoes, fruits and vegetables here, she said Agra which produces 45 to 50 percent of the country’s total potato crop should take advantage of the facilities being offered by the government and hoped the new initiatives would help the potato cultivators.

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti

The minister said that due to earlier limits, entrepreneurs were not able to invest in this sector and potatoes from the Agra region are presently sent to other states due to high costs of processing.

Organised by the Federation of Cold Storage Associations of India, the event, which saw participation of delegates from China, the US, Holland, and Germany, is expected to give a big boost to upgradation of technology in the food processing sector.

Association’s secretary Rajesh Goyal said the partner country Holland sent 80 delegates to the exhibition which showcased the latest technology and techniques available to increase the efficiency of cold storages, and promote use of solar energy.A

The Federation has been demanding end to Mandi Samiti tax on potatoes.

Speaking at the valedictory session, Uttar Pradesh minister Ram Shakl Gurjar promised he would facilitate policy reforms and press the government to do away with annual licensing of cold storages, to have one-time licenses as in other states.

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Around dozen bills listed for taking up in parliament’s monsoon session

Jul 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– While the bill for the introduction of Goods and Services Tax across the country remains a priority, the Government has listed around a dozen bills pending introduction, consideration and passage during the Monsoon Session of parliament, starting on Monday.

Two bills are pending passage in the Lok Sabha, while seven bills are pending in the Rajya Sabha, including the GST Bill.

Indian ParliamentHere are the bills listed by the government:

*The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 – The bill replaces an ordinance. It introduces a uniform entrance examination for all medical educational institutions for undergraduate and the postgraduate courses.

*The Dentists (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 – The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated on May 24 to amend the Dentists Act, 1948. It seeks to introduce a uniform entrance examination for all dental colleges for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Bills pending in the Lok Sabha:

*The Indian Trust (Amendment) Bill, 2015 – The Lok Sabha has to pass this bill again with amendments made by the Rajya Sabha. The bill amends certain archaic provisions in the Act of 1882, which allows trusts to invest surplus income in certain categories/areas, including certain specified securities in the UK, Karachi and Rangoon.

*The Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – The bill is presently lying with a joint committee of parliament. It seeks to amend four laws — Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI), Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 (RDDBFI), Indian Stamp Act of 1899 and Depositories Act of 1996.

Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha:

*The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015 – The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in May 2015 even as opposition parties sought sending it to a parliamentary panel. The bill seeks to amend the Act to incorporate necessary provisions to strengthen safeguards against disclosures which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country and security of the state, among other things.

*The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016 – The bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state. It has been passed by the Lok Sabha.

*The Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill, 2016 – The bill seeks to provide legislative backing to the regional centre after India entered into an agreement in 2006 with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) regarding establishment of the Regional Centre for Biotechnology Training and Education in India to serve the member-countries of UNESCO. It has been already passed by the Lok Sabha.

*The Goods and Services Tax Bill (The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-second Amendment) Bill, 2014) – Being pitched as the most important legislation for the session, this bill seeks to introduce Goods and Services Tax in India. The government has been talking to the opposition parties to get it through, after failing to take it through the Upper House in the previous sessions. It was passed by the Lok Sabha in May 2015.

*The Enemy Property (Amendment & Validation) Bill, 2016 – The bill seeks to amend the Enemy Property Act, 1968, to vest all rights, titles and interests over enemy property in the Custodian. The bill has been already passed by the Lok Sabha.

*The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 – The bill seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, and adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between the age of 14 and 18. The bill seeks to prohibit employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified, like mines and hazardous processes.

*The Homeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2015 – The Act establishes the Homoeopathy Central Council to regulate and enforce standards with regard to homoeopathy colleges and homoeopathy practitioners. The bill seeks to disallow admissions in homeopathy medical colleges which do not conform to the prescribed educational standards.

Bills for Introduction:

*The High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill, 2016 – The bill facilitates change in the names of Bombay High Court as Mumbai High Court and Madras High Court as Chennai High Court’ respectively.

*The Institute of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – The bill amends The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961, for incorporation of new IITs at Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Palakkad (Kerala), Dharwar (Karnataka), Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Goa, Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) and conversion of Indian School of Mines (ISM) at Dhanbad (Bihar) to an IIT under the law.

*The National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2016 – The bill includes NIT, Andhra Pradesh, in its First Schedule.

*The Use and regulation of DNA-based technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016 – Regulates the use of DNA analysis of human body substances, profiles and establishes the DNA profiling board and a national DNA data bank.

Apart from these, the government has also listed discussion and voting on Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) for 2015-16. (IANS)

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Market Outlook: GST, corporate results hold key to velocity of Indian equities

Jul 17, 2016 0

Mumbai–Despite the volatility and mixed first quarter results from some big corporate entities, key Indian stock market indices ended higher during the trading week that ended on July 15.

Future directions, however, will depend on a host of issues, notably the way the monsoon session of parliament deals with key economic bills, analysts maintain.

Bombay Stock Exchange

Bombay Stock Exchange

The two key indices — the sensitive index (Sensex) of the BSE and the Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) — gained 2.6 per cent each last week, even though the last day of trading was marked by losses.

The 30-scrip Sensex closed with a gain of 709.60 points or 2.62 per cent at 27,836.50 points, while the 51-scrip NSE Nifty surged 218.20 points or 2.62 per cent at 8,541.40 points.

The rise was also aided by foreign portfolio investors emerging as net buyers of equities worth $1.24 billion from July 11-15, as per data with the National Securities Depository Ltd.

“This was one of those weeks when the markets did very well but somehow it didn’t feel like that. May be because of information technology results, especially Infosys (which was below expectations), and also since the last session ended on a low note,” Pankaj Sharma, Head of Equities, Equirus Securities, told IANS.

Looking ahead, analysts did not see much of an impact from the terror attack at Nice in France, but felt the passage of the goods and services tax by parliament (or not) held the key to influencing sentiments.

“The monsoon session of parliament and related developments on the passage of goods and services tax bill will be closely tracked. The markets are expecting a positive outcome. A negative outcome could be a source of disappointment,” said Devendra Nevgi, Chief Executive of ZyFin Advisors.

Anand James, Chief Market Strategist at Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services, told IANS that the impact of the new tax regime on certain stocks was already being felt.

“The terror attack in Nice ensured that investors were largely risk-averse on Friday, but the week still registered handsome gains in goods and services tax-themed stocks as well as state owned banks,” James said.

“Improved potential for parliament’s monsoon session clearing the goods and services tax bill next week has lent a positive bias to the market lately. But being more of a long-term theme rather than a one off event, it is less likely that the week ahead will further ride on goods and services-linked stocks.”

In a limited way, macro-economic data also had an impact on stocks. Four key numbers were announced last week — retail inflation, wholesale inflation, industrial output and export-import data.This apart, the Reserve Bank is scheduled to take up its monetary policy review on August 2.

“The expectations of a rate cut have receded in view of the rise in both wholesale and retail inflation coming at 1.62 per cent and 5.77 per cent, respectively, for the month of June. Industrial production growth of 1.2 per cent was a positive surprise,” said Aggarwal.

Exports, too, logged a growth, albeit small, after 18 months of decline.

Also expected soon is the government’s announcement of the next round of capital infusion in state-run banks, for which Rs 25,000 crore has been earmarked for this fiscal. Then at an academic level, focus will also be on who is named the next governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

“The government may make the announcement on who will succeed Raghuram Rajan as the Reserve Bank Governor. This certainly would be important for investors,” said Pankaj Sharma of Equirus.

“The new Reserve Bank governor is likely to be announced shortly, keeping the focus on the rupee, which was seen giving away gains on Friday, and state owned banks, which had outperformed last week,” added James.

“Another interesting thing to note is that the some of the items which contributed positively in factory output growth are not really very good indicators of core industrial activity. For example, higher AC sales are good to see but we really doubt if 39 per cent growth in room air conditioners should be seen as a sign of industrial revival,” James said.

“We also think that because of tepid industrial production growth, there would be huge pressure on the Reserve Bank to cut rates consistently and continuously, especially after Rajan departs.”

With the results season kicking in, eyes will also be on the first quarter numbers. Among the big names, Tata Consultancy and Infosys announced theirs’ last week. But no trend emerged. Reliance Industries, though, stunned the market with higher-than-expected profits.

“While Tata Consultancy was more positive in its management commentary, Infosys not only cut the full-year guidance for revenue growth but also highlighted the challenges industry is struggling with. So, this is a divergent view from two of the most keenly watched Indian IT companies. This, in our view, makes the IT sector very interesting at this point,” Sharma said.

Nevgi added: “With the markets rallying since this month, aided by global sentiments, its important that earnings also catch up to sustain the rally or else the markets would go into an expensive zone.”

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India’s National Building Code will give impetus to construction regulation

Jul 17, 2016 0

By Vinod Behl

The revised National Building Code, set to be unveiled later this year, will bring state-of-the-art and most contemporary version of the building code, dealing with futuristic developments, in line with the Narendra Modi government’s emphasis on realty reforms.

Indian Prime Minister Modi

Indian Prime Minister Modi

The code, meant to help regulate building construction in the country, lays down a set of minimum provisions for buildings, designed to protect the safety of the public, with regard to structural efficiency, fire and earthquake hazards and health aspects, including environmental concerns. It mainly contains administrative provisions, development control rules and general building requirements, stipulations regarding building materials, structural design and construction, plumbing services, landscaping, signage and outdoor displaying structures, etc.

The new code will provide detailed guidelines on construction management and come up with a comprehensive regulation and certification of structural safety of buildings with a series of improvements in the safety provisions to meet the challenges associated with the new trend of high rise buildings, including super tall structures and mixed use developments such as malls, multiplexes and integrated townships.

The new code will also give an overall direction for practical application of the provisions of different specialised aspects of spatial planning, design and construction of buildings, creation of services, proposing an integrated approach for utilising appropriate knowledge and experience of qualified professionals, right from conceptualization through construction and completion stages of a building project and during the entire life cycle.

The code complements the government’s ambitious mission “Housing for All” that has a special focus on low cost affordable housing. The new code has detailed provisions for pre-fabricated construction for speedier construction with quality, to meet acute housing shortage. Further, to check project delays, the code focuses on streamlining procedures for real estate projects (SAPREP) through the single window concept.

It incorporates the suggestions mooted by the SAPREP panel constituted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, as part of Model Building Bylaws. The revised code has also renewed focus on integrated approach to get maximum benefit from the building and its services in terms of timely completion and cost- effectiveness with quality.

In line with the Modi government’s mission “Accessible India, Empowered India”, together with the “National Policy for Persons with Disabilities” and the “UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, the code has for the first time made elaborate provisions for making buildings and public places accessible to millions of disabled and elderly persons. The code for barrier-free built environment will be applicable to all forms of public housing by government and private builders.

In view of the growing popularity of green/sustainable buildings, the new code promotes ecologically appropriate practices, use of eco-friendly construction materials and conventional and alternative technologies, reduction of pollution, protection and improvement of local environment and socio- economic considerations towards the creation of sustainable human settlements.

With a view to boosting sustainability, the building code has for the first time included provisions for glazing in buildings with respect to their effect on energy, visual (light) in the building and selection and manifestation of glass with respect to safety. It will also focus on energy conservation, use of solar energy and efficient lighting.

Keeping pace with the era of smart homes and smart cities, NBC 2016 has come up with a new chapter on “Information and Communication Enabled Installations” with general guidelines for planning and providing information and communication technology (ICT) services in the building and execution stages. Also, in view of the growing significance of property management, for the first time, a new chapter on “Asset Facility Management” has been added. The other new additions include Escalation and Moving Walks and solid waste management.

The building code, first formulated in 1970, and subsequently revised in 1983 and 2005, is implemented through municipal corporations, local urban bodies, public works departments and other construction departments and agencies. The new code, a revised version of the one released in 2005, will turn out to be a game changer in regulating building construction in line with the contemporary new trends and advancements in construction, together with new age reforms in the real estate and construction sector.

(Vinod Behl is editor, Realty Plus, a leading real estate monthly. The views expressed are personal.)

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World Bank-funded fruit project underway in Himachal

Jul 17, 2016 0

Shimla– A World Bank-funded Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Development Project is being implemented in the state with an outlay of Rs 1,115 crore, mainly to protect apple cultivation, a government spokesperson said on Sunday.

The project spread over seven years would focus on providing new technologies to horticulturists for increasing crop productivity and capacities.

Apples-HimanchalTo protect the fruit crop, mainly from the hailstorms, the state government has increased subsidy on anti-hail nets to 80 per cent.

The spokesperson said for strengthening marketing facilities, 10 fruit yards and collection centres have been made operational in the state in the past three and a half years with an expenditure of Rs 27.45 crore.

Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s major apple producing states, with more than 90 per cent of the produce consumed in the domestic market.

Himachal Pradesh’s fruit economy is worth around Rs 3,500 crore a year, with apple alone contributing 89 per cent to this figure, mostly in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

A Horticulture Department official said growers are taking to apple plantation on a large scale even in the remote district of Lahaul-Spiti.

Overall area under apple cultivation has increased to 1,09,553 hectares in 2014-15, he said.

He said the government has started weather-based crop insurance scheme to protect growers’ interests.

Initially, the scheme was launched in six blocks for apple crop and four blocks for mango crop. The coverage under the scheme has since been extended in view of the scheme’s popularity.

In the last fiscal, the scheme was implemented in 36 blocks for growing apple, 41 blocks for mango, 15 blocks for kinnow, 13 blocks for plum and five blocks for peach crops.

In addition, 17 blocks have been covered under add-on cover scheme to protect the apple fruit crop from hailstorms.

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