India now world’s sixth largest economy: Modi

Aug 15, 2018 0

New Delhi– India is celebrating its 72nd Independence Day amid positivity and confidence stemming from its robust economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

“India has registered its name as the sixth largest economy in the world. It has created positivity. We are celebrating the festival of freedom in such a positive atmosphere,” Modi said in his last Independence Day speech before the 2019 elections.

“The country is brimming with self-confidence and is regularly crossing new heights.”

Modi began his fifth speech from the Red Fort by talking about how his government had been working for the upliftment of Dalits and backward sections.

He said the government, at the recently concluded monsoon session of parliament, gave constitutional status to the OBC and SC-ST Commission to protect the rights of the underprivileged.

“The session was devoted to social justice. The session witnessed the passage of the bill to create an OBC Commission. Dalits, women and other weaker sections of the society have been empowered,” he said. (IANS)

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Indian banks inadequately prepared for cyber attacks: Experts

Aug 14, 2018 0

New Delhi/Pune– Cyber security experts on Tuesday questioned the preparedness of the Indian banks in case of a massive security breach involving funds, stressing that state-of-the-art security systems are the need of the hour.

Hackers siphoned off a whopping Rs 94.42 crore from the Pune-headquartered Cosmos Cooperative Bank Ltd — the second oldest and second biggest cooperative bank in India — to foreign and domestic bank accounts.

According to Nikhil Bedi, Partner, Deloitte India, robust security systems and incidence response capabilities are imperative for all companies and financial institutions that are custodians of customer data and customer assets, including funds.

“While there is growing awareness to regularly update an organisation’s cyber preparedness and defence mechanisms, a large number of institutions wake up to this reality only post an incident which often leads to a loss of reputation and/or financial misappropriation,” Bedi said in a statement.

In 2016, a malware-related security breach was reportedly detected in the non-SBI ATM network, following which the public sector lender blocked around six lakh debit cards.

An estimated 30 lakh-plus debit cards issued by various public or private banks were exposed to a potential risk of data breach.

Cyber attacks today are multi-pronged and can start with a malware being downloaded into a system or via a web application being hacked.

“This is a big challenge specially for banks, where it is no longer sufficient to protect just your data centres and your headquarters, you have to protect ATMs and branch offices in addition to securing incoming data even from affiliated organisations,” cautioned Anshuman Singh, Senior Director, Product Management at Barracuda Networks Inc.

US-based Barracuda Networks is a leading provider of cloud-enabled security and data protection solutions.

In the case of Cosmos Bank, a proxy switch was created and all the fraudulent payment approvals were passed through the proxy switching system. Normally, the Core Banking System (CBS) receives debit card payment requests via its “Switching System”.

According to bank officials, the malware attack was on the Switch System which is operative for the payment gateway of Visa/Rupay debit cards and not on the Cosmos Bank’s CBS so the customers’ accounts and their balances were not affected.

The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) domain remains most vulnerable to cyber threats.

“Regulators need to develop a risk management framework, including adequate threat response strategies and define the chain of command in case of a security breach,” said Sanjay Katkar, Joint Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer at Pune-based Quick Heal Technologies Limited.

“Hiring chief information security officers must be made mandatory for players in the BFSI domain. The sector should also run regular security protocols and simulations to test their incident response capabilities,” Katkar told IANS. (IANS)

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Falling rupee: Congress demands PM’s statement

Aug 14, 2018 0

New Delhi– As the Indian rupee fell to Rs 69.98 against the US dollar, Congress on Tuesday said ‘Modinomics’ has wreaked havoc for Indias economy and that a falling rupee is the symbol of the failures and economic mismanagement of the Modi government.

Congress hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would now make a comprehensive statement on the immediate steps that the government is going to take.

Fears over a rise in global protectionist measures, along with a strong US economy, dragged the Indian rupee to a fresh intra-day low of over 70 against the US dollar on Tuesday before recovering by a fraction at Rs 69.98.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said ‘Modinomics’ has wreaked havoc for India’s economy and left it in dire straits.

“A falling rupee is the stark symbol of the abject failures and economic mismanagement of the Modi government’, he said.

“Demonetisation, implementation of a flawed GST, tax terrorism, low growth, low investment, no jobs and now rising inflation are the myopic ad hoc economic policies that have become the identity of the Modi government,” said Surjewala.

“Rupee is now trading at an historic low. What the Congress could not achieve in 60 years, Modi and his careless economic policies have achieved in 60 months,” he added.

Surjewala said the rupee has lost almost 10 per cent of its value in 2018. “The rupee has become Asia’s weakest currency under this government,” he said.

“Even as Modi government is busy blaming global factors for a falling rupee, it is worth recalling that during the massive Global Financial Crises of 2008, the previous Congress-UPA government had managed the economy despite numerous global pressures,” he added.

He also said foreign investors are consistently losing confidence in government policies. (IANS)

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India’s YoY exports up 14% in July; trade deficit at $18 bn

Aug 14, 2018 0

New Delhi– India’s exports during July rose by 14.32 per cent to $25.77 billion, from $22.54 billion during the corresponding month of last year, but with imports rising at more than double the pace, the trade deficit for the month widened to over $18 billion, official data showed on Tuesday.

According to data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, engineering goods, petroleum products, gems and jewellery, organic and inorganic chemicals and drugs and pharmaceuticals showed a high export growth during the month under review.

“Cumulative value of exports for the period April-July 2018-19 was $108.24 billion as against $94.76 billion registering a positive growth of 14.23 per cent in dollar terms,” the ministry said in its review statement.

“Non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports during July 2018 were valued at $18.68 billion as compared to $16.98 billion during July 2017 exhibiting a positive growth of 9.98 per cent.”

As per the data, the country’s imports during the month under review rose by 28.81 per cent to $43.79 billion in July 2018 from $33.99 billion in the like period of 2017.

Segment-wise, oil imports during July 2018 jumped by 57.41 per cent to $12.35 billion from $7.84 billion imported during July 2017.

The ministry pointed out that global Brent prices ($/bbl) have increased by 53.16 per cent in July 2018 vis-à-vis July 2017.

“Non-oil and non-gold imports in July 2018 valued at $28.47 billion has recorded a positive growth of 18.42 per cent as compared to non-oil and non-gold import in July 2017,” the statement said

Additionally, gold imports in July edged higher by 40.94 per cent to $2.10 billion.

Consequently, India’s merchandise trade deficit widened to $18.02 billion during last month as against $11.45 billion in the corresponding period the previous year. (IANS)

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Flipkart shuts eBay India operations; to launch new site

Aug 14, 2018 0

Bengaluru– Leading e-tailer Flipkart on Tuesday shut its eBay India operations, three months after US retail giant Walmart bought a 77 per cent stake in it for $16 billion.

Announcing the end of its operations, the eBay India website read: “Sorry, you can no longer transact on eBay.in. But not to worry, Flipkart will introduce a brand-new shopping experience soon.”

While eBay has closed its India website for taking any new orders, it has set August 30 as the last date for buyers to raise claims for transactions done to date.

Earlier on July 26, eBay India, which allows both businesses and consumers to sell their goods through the site, had asked all its sellers to delist products which were worth less than Rs 250 and more than Rs 8,000.

Flipkart, however, did not respond to questions by IANS on the details of the new website to be launched.

The Bengaluru-based Flipkart in 2017 acquired eBay India’s operations in a $1.4 billion fund-raising deal from several investors, including eBay, which invested $500 million and received $200 million worth stocks in Flipkart.

With Walmart acquiring a majority stake (77 per cent) in Flipkart in a $16 billion (Rs 1,07,662 crore) deal in May this year, California-based eBay had announced that it would sell its stake in Flipkart back to the company for about $1.1 billion and relaunch its India business soon.

“The company plans to relaunch eBay India with a differentiated offer to focus initially on the cross-border trade opportunity,” eBay had said in a statement earlier.

Founded in 1995, eBay forayed into the Indian market in 2004. (IANS)

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Committed to promoting ease of doing business: Modi

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– Reiterating that his government is fully committed to promoting ‘ease of doing business and ensuring robust economic growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it has taken several “affirmative actions” in the last four years in this direction.

“Over the last four years, my government has consciously and diligently worked on several fronts to resolve issues being faced by the economy. It is because of these efforts that our economy is today growing at a rate of over 7.5 per cent, the highest among major economies,” Modi said in an interview to the Times of India published on Sunday.

He said that while the government encourages ‘ease of doing business’, it is unsparing in bringing “unscrupulous elements” to book. The Prime Minister also listed the “unprecedented” reforms his government initiated in terms of disinvestment and taxation.

“The emphasis is on simplifying processes, be it incorporation of a company, induction of a director, or payment of income tax or GST. In the World Bank ranking on Ease of Doing Business, India has moved up from 142 to 100, proving we are an enabling environment for companies,” Modi said.

He said his government has taken a “major decision” to change its approach towards central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) for “efficient management of public assets, unlocking wealth to the shareholders and creating wealth for the public”.

“New instruments for disinvestment include listing of CPSEs through IPOs (initial public offering), mergers and acquisitions of CPSEs, and listing of exchange traded funds (ETFs). Since 2014, government has realized over Rs 2 lakh crore from disinvestment of PSEs. In 2017-18, government realized a record Rs 1 lakh crore.

“This can be compared to the performance of the preceding 10 years (2004-05 to 2013-14) during which the cumulative collection was Rs 1.08 lakh crore. We have realized double the amount in less than half the period,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that on the direct tax front, income tax return forms have been rationalized to make them taxpayer-friendly and the income tax department has eased norms for scrutiny of assessments. The first slab of income tax up to Rs 5 lakh has been reduced from 10 per cent to 5 per cent for non-corporate tax payers.

“For the law-abiding, the procedures and processes are being simplified; for the unscrupulous there is no escape. As part of our mission against black money and corruption, my government has struck off the names of around 2.6 lakh shell companies and 3.09 lakh directors. Names of 55,000 companies more will be struck off this month,” the Prime Minister said.

On the measures to revive the banking sector that is reeling under massive non-performing assets (NPAs), Modi said in order to create a “clean and effective” recovery system, his government enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) besides amending the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, to authorize RBI to direct banks to take recourse to IBC route.

He said that to strengthen the PSBs, government has, after initial infusion of Rs 70,000 crore under Indradhanush plan, again announced recapitalization of Rs 2.11 lakh crore in October 2017. (IANS)

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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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