Over 1.2 billion people using Facebook Messenger every month

Apr 13, 2017 0

New York– Over 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger every month globally to stay in touch with the people and businesses that matter to them the most.

In the last few months, Facebook has added group video calling, a powerful and fast camera — preloaded with stickers, masks, frames, effects and the ability to share photos and videos to your Day, making it easy and fun to share what’s happening in your life, moment by moment.

“I keep on hearing powerful stories about how our product is becoming a more important part of your daily lives. So from all of us here at Messenger, a heartfelt thank you to all of you for giving us a chance to build something good and more meaningful for you,” said David Marcus, Vice President, Messaging Products, Facebook, in a post on Wednesday.

The company has also launched Mentions and Reactions to make group conversations on Messenger fun and engaging.

Last month, Facebook Messenger added a new feature Live Location that lets you share — for an hour within a private direct or group message thread — your real-time location on a map.

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Four held for cheating banks over Rs 2,240 crore

Apr 12, 2017 0

New Delhi– The CBI has arrested four directors of Delhi-based Surya Vinayak Industries Ltd for cheating a consortium of banks over Rs 2,240 crore, an agency official said on Wednesday.

Sanjay Jain, Rajiv Jain, Rohit Chaudhary and Sanjeev Agarwal have been arrested on the complaint of the Punjab National Bank, said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official.

It was alleged that the accused fraudulently used more than 100 shell companies for the diversion of bank funds.

The official said that there was no genuine business between the firm run by the accused and the shell companies.

“The firm also diverted Rs 376 crore out of the working capital limit obtained by the consortium of banks to six foreign subsidiaries based at Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Dubai and Ghana,” he said. (IANS)

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States not serious on protecting street vendors’ rights

Apr 12, 2017 0

New Delhi– Most states of the country are not “serious” about implementing the act meant to protect street vendors’ rights and top defaulters include Gujarat and Nagaland, a leading think-tank said in a report here on Wednesday.

The Street Vendors Act Compliance (SVAC) Index 2017, published by Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society (CCS), took stock of 23 states across the country and found a “prevailing state of inertia” in bringing the act into practice in its full spirit in these states.

“Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Puducherry, Uttarakhand and West Bengal did not even respond to RTI applications and telephonic calls for data collection,” the CCS said in a statement.

In the report, authored by advocate Prashant Narang and academic Yugank Goyal, the states were marked on the basis of the stages upto which they have implemented the clauses and rules enshrined in the act.

“Most compliant states as per the index are Delhi (01), Andhra Pradesh (02), Chhattisgarh (03), Jharkhand (04) and Tripura (05),” the advocacy group said, while Nagaland (which scored a zero as per the scale), Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Rajasthan comprised the bottom five.

The act in question – Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act – was passed in 2014 to protect the livelihood and rights of the small time street vendors, majorly consisting of those operating off carts.

“At a time when the government is running a scheme of ‘start-ups and stand ups’, and multiple rebates and subsidies are being handed out to these ventures, the problems faced by street vendors in the course of their earning of livelihood are being ignored,” the statement added. (IANS)

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Cabinet approves local purchase preference policy for oil firms

Apr 12, 2017 0

New Delhi–In a bid to promote manufacturing in India, the cabinet on Wednesday approved the domestic purchase preference policy for state-run oil firms that will allow domestic service or product providers to offer a higher bid and still be eligible for the contract.

“Manufacturers/service providers whose quoted price is within 10 per cent of the lowest valid price bid, would be eligible for purchase preference for a stipulated portion of the purchase order, on matching such price,” a Petroleum Ministry statement said here.

The preference policy will be applicable for five years.

“A steering committee will oversee implementation, carry out annual review and recommend continuation of the policy from year to year basis,” it said.

“Targets of local content (LC) will be stipulated for certain oil and gas business activities,” it added.

The cabinet also approved setting up of an Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy at Visakhapatnam with a capital expenditure of Rs 655.46 crore. (IANS)

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Drop in price of pulses reveals flaws in agriculture policy

Apr 12, 2017 0

By Abhishek Waghmare

A good monsoon that led to record sowing and production of pulses — especially tur dal (pigeon pea) — has almost halved their wholesale and retail prices in 2017, a year after dal prices skyrocketed to Rs 200 per kg in some cities at the end of 2015.

In many state-regulated agricultural markets of major tur-producing states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka, prices have fallen to Rs 4,000 per quintal in some markets, 20 per cent below the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,050 per quintal (including a bonus of Rs 425) since December 2016.

A ban on exports, restrictions on stocking by private agencies in a bumper-crop year and absence of futures trading in agricultural commodities have been cited as key reasons for pulses to follow “the usual roller-coaster of high and low prices” in consecutive years, wrote Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair professor for agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, in The Indian Express.

After two consecutive drought years, a good monsoon prevailed in most parts of India in 2016, barring some districts of Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat, among the major states.

The situation turned after a good monsoon, even as a perfect storm around tur dal — monsoon failures, insufficient MSP, poor yield per hectare of dal and growing public preference to opt for eggs and meat for proteins — would keep its price high for a long time.

Monsoon in 2016 turned out to be above normal in Maharashtra, productivity increased from about 360 kg/ha to 760 kg/ha and farmers planted dal on a record area, since the previous year, 2015, fetched them record prices at above Rs 100/kg.

Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Gujarat are the major tur-producing states. Rural district markets connect with farmers directly and consumers indirectly, since they involve intermediaries. At large consumer markets in cities, such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad, pulses from district markets are sold to retailers and consumers.

The wholesale price in major district markets — Amravati, Gulbarga, Vadodara and Narsinghpur — in the four major tur-producing states surged in 2015 and saw an almost equal or worse decline in 2016.

Supply fell in 2015, reducing dal in the market, compared to 2014. Traders paid farmers more than Rs 100/kg for tur — a record — and middlemen and retailers increased the price to Rs 180/kg in grocery shops.

In 2016, the sowing area of tur in Maharashtra increased 25 per cent to 1.53 million hectare but production is estimated to have increased 160 per cent, from 444,000 tonne in 2015-16 to 1.17 million tonne in 2016-17.

So, in 2016-17, the market is awash in dal, and traders are buying it from farmers at prices below the MSP.

To reduce the impact of the supply glut on farmers, the central government increased the buffer stock — produce that government buys directly from the farmer as a safety measure for farmers as well as market availability — for pulses ten-fold, from 0.2 million tonne to two million tonne.

Although the buffer stock has been increased, government agencies are not ready to stockpile pulses because storage space is limited, as is evident in Parbhani district, Maharashtra.

“Farmers with tur have been waiting at the district procurement centre of Food Corporation of India for more than a week as the Centre is running out of space,” a regional agricultural officer, who did not wish to be named, told IndiaSpend.

“They will get a better price (MSP) at the centre, but the tractor with tur costs them around Rs 800/day, which is effectively reducing the price from MSP to the market price of around Rs 4,000 per quintal,” he said.

In Karnataka, water shortage has imperilled the summer and winter (kharif and rabi) crops. The state government has responded with a special state bonus of Rs 450 per quintal, taking the procurement price of tur to Rs 5,500 per quintal, the highest ever by any state.

Not just government support, but having a sound marketing policy is equally important, Gulati argued in his article, a view he expressed in August 2016 as well. “Farmers should take planting decisions based on likely future prices and not last year’s market prices,” his March 2017 column said.

If farmers knew from futures prices that they would be paid below the MSP this season, they could have opted for cotton, which saw a reduction in area sown.

Pulses exports were banned in 2006, when record exports of 0.5 million tonne in 2005 aggravated domestic shortfalls. The ban has not been lifted, with some exceptions. Exports are about one per cent of total domestic production, according to government data.

The pulses shortage in 2015-16 saw imports rise to 5.8 million tonne, or a third of the production. In the oversupply year of 2016-17, exports remained banned.

Even when farmers are getting less than Rs 4,000 per quintal in domestic markets, pulses are still being imported at a price above Rs 10,000 per quintal, Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress parliamentary party said in Lok Sabha.

A government committee headed by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian recommended in September 2016 that the MSP for tur should be increased to Rs 6,000 per quintal in 2017 and Rs 7,000 per quintal in 2018. (IANS)

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India’s March retail inflation rises to 3.81% month-on-month

Apr 12, 2017 0

New Delhi–Shrugging off the depressive effect of demonetisation, India’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), or retail inflation, during March rose month-on-month at 3.81 per cent, as compared to 3.65 per cent in February, official data showed on Wednesday. Year-on-Year, however, the inflation rate fell as compared to 4.83 per cent recorded in March 2016.

Consumer food price inflation moderated to 1.93 per cent, as compared to 2.01 per cent in February.

The Central Statistics Office data revealed that the annual retail inflation for rural India was 3.75 per cent while that for the urban centres was 3.88 per cent. The annual food inflation was 1.85 per cent in rural areas and 2.27 per cent in the urban areas.

The government target is four per cent plus-or-minus two percentage points for the next five years.

Earlier this month, with inflationary concerns in mind, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) retained its key lending rate unchanged at 6.25 per cent, saying it awaited further macroeconomic data before deciding on any changes.

The RBI said risks are evenly balanced around the inflation trajectory at the current juncture. “There are upside risks to the baseline projection,” the RBI policy statement said.

“Inflation developments have to be closely and continuously monitored, with food price pressures kept in check so that inflation expectations can be re-anchored. At the same time, the output gap is gradually closing. Consequently, aggregate demand pressures could build up, with implications for the inflation trajectory,” it added.

At its last policy review in February 8, 2017, while holding rates at 6.25 per cent, the RBI had changed its policy stance from “accommodative” to “neutral”.

Expectations that the RBI will maintain status quo on rates had been fuelled by inflation numbers, with wholesale inflation soaring to over a three-year high of 6.55 per cent in February and retail inflation climbing to 3.65 per cent due to rise in food and fuel prices.

March vegetable prices plunged by (-)7.24 per cent on a year-on-year basis, while the cost of pulses and its products fell more sharply by (-)12.42 per cent.

The prices of milk and milk-based products surged by 4.69 per cent. Other protein-based food items such as meat and fish became dearer by 2.96 per cent.

Edible oils and fats prices increased by 3.76 per cent, whereas those for sugar and confectionery rose a whopping 17.05 per cent on a YoY basis.

The cost of cereals and its products appreciated by 5.38 per cent and prices of fruits were up by 9.35 per cent.

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India’s factory output contracts by 1.2 percent

Apr 12, 2017 0

New Delhi–India’s factory output contracted by (-)1.2 per cent in February, as manufacturing activity dipped, official data showed on Wednesday.

The factory output, as per the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), had decelerated by (-)1.2 per cent during February from a rise of 3.2 per cent reported for January 2017.

The factory output had expanded by 1.9 per cent in the corresponding month of the previous year.

As per the IIP data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the contraction was mainly on account of a 2 per cent decline in manufacturing output, which has the maximum weight in the overall index.

However, the output of other two major sub-indices — mining and electricity — expanded during the month under review.

The mining output rose by 3.3 per cent and that for electricity generation inched up by 0.3 per cent.

The cumulative growth of the country’s factory output has inched higher by 0.4 per cent in the 11 months of the last fiscal — April-to-February — period.

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Setback for Tatas, Adanis as Supreme Court rules out compensatory tariff

Apr 11, 2017 0

New Delhi–The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the plea for compensatory tariff by Tata Power and Adani Power Ltd for the additional costs that they were incurring on raised prices of the coal they were importing from Indonesia for their power plants in Gujarat.

The bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said: “The doctrine of frustration cannot apply to these cases as the fundamental basis of the PPAs remains unaltered. Nowhere do the PPAs state that coal is to be procured only from Indonesia at a particular price.”

Speaking for the bench, Justice Nariman ruled: “In fact, it is clear on a reading of the PPA as a whole that the price payable for the supply of coal is entirely for the person who sets up the power plant to bear. … an unexpected rise in the price of coal will not absolve the generating companies from performing their part of the contract for the very good reason that when they submitted their bids, this was a risk they knowingly took.”

The power generating companies had sought compensatory tariff after coal imported from Indonesia witnessed a steep hike follow change in their laws in 2010 and 2011 by which the export price of coal was aligned with international market price. This changed prices that were prevalent for last 40 years.

Tata Power is supplying power under the Power Purchase Agreement to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana and Adani Power under PPA is supplying power to Gujarat and Haryana from its plant is in Mundra.

The top court verdict set aside the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity’s (Aptel) April 7 ruling of by which it had said that an unforeseen increase in the cost of coal would be a ‘force majeure’ event under the PPA between power generating companies and distribution companies.

The top court verdict came on a batch of petitions by NGOs and state discoms, contending that the aligning the export price of Indonesian coal with the international market price does not create unforeseeable circumstances that prevent the power generating companies from fulfilling a contract under the PPAs. (IANS)

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Unitech directors granted three-month interim bail

Apr 10, 2017 0

New Delhi–A local court on Monday granted interim bail to real estate company Unitech’s Managing Directors Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra for three months.

The Economic Offences Wing had booked Sanjay and Ajay Chandra for allegedly cheating buyers and siphoning off clients’ money.

Additional Sessions Judge Raj Kapoor granted three months’ interim bail to the Chandra brothers asking them to furnish a bond of Rs 70 lakh each.

The court has directed them to submit their passport to the investigating agency and not to leave the country without prior permission.

On April 6, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ashu Garg, rejecting the bail plea of the Chandras, had remanded them to judicial custody till April 20.

They were booked for cheating buyers as Unitech first failed to complete a real estate project in Gurugram’s Sector 70 on time and then did not refund the money to buyers.

They were arrested from their residence in Gurugram on April 1 by the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police and a court here had sent them to two-day police custody the same day.

There are 90 complaints against the brothers in connection with the project. It was started in 2011 without getting environment clearance. Unitech obtained environment clearance in September 2013.

Even though it did not have environment clearance, the accused continued booking the flats without giving the real picture to investors and thus misrepresented facts to the investors.

The project was to be completed by 2014.

The accused were booked on charges of criminal breach of trust, cheating and criminal conspiracy.

The police had told the court that Unitech had collected Rs 363 crore from 557 customers for Anthea Floors residential project.

In 2015 also, the court had issued a non-bailable warrant against them in a misappropriation of funds case, though it was cancelled later.

Sanjay Chandra is also facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case and currently he is out on bail in that matter. (IANS)

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CBI gets custody of iCore group directors

Apr 10, 2017 0

New Delhi– The CBI on Monday got 10-day custody of iCore group directors accused of cheating thousands of investors with over Rs 4,000 core through a ponzi scheme, an official said here.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had sought the custody of the Kolkata-based accused officials — Anukul Maity and his wife Kanika Maity, for further probe.

“Anukul and Kanika were presented before the special CBI court in Bhubaneswar on Monday. The court granted CBI to take them in its custody for 10 days,” a CBI official said.

Both, Anukul and Kanika, were arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the West Bengal police in 2015.

The CBI took over the case in 2015 and registered case under sections of cheating and criminal conspiracy of Indian Penal Code following Supreme Court’s May 9, 2014 order.

The iCore group is alleged of raising huge deposits from the investors under its investment schemes by fraudulently promising very high returns and later refused to repay them.

The company, which ran Ponzi schemes till the middle of 2013, is said to have collected at least Rs 4,000 crore. Notably, the company started operations in West Bengal around 2007-2008, and in A short span of time, extended its business in nearly 12 states across the country.

In sheer size, iCore is far bigger than the Saradha scam that has rocked the country by collecting about Rs 2,500 crore from investors through its Ponzi schemes. (IANS)

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