Home prices largely steady in Delhi-NCR during April-June: Report

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– Prices in the residential real estate sector were largely steady in the Delhi-NCR region, barring Gurgaon where prices rose marginally, a report said on Thursday.

Although enquiries increased during the quarter, sales and average prices are yet to revive in the Delhi-NCR region.

“Gurgaon witnessed a marginal upswing in home values, while the twin cities of Noida and Greater Noida reported a plateauing market,” said the Insite Report 2018 (April-June) by 99acres.com.

“Delhi recorded a stable realty landscape in anticipation of the long-pending Dwarka Expressway,” it added.

Commenting on the developments in the Delhi and the National Capital Region, Maneesh Upadhyaya, Chief Business Officer, 99acres.com, said: “Construction activity is on a rise around Dwarka Expressway and certain pockets of Gurgaon, which is expected to be fully operational by February 2019. This has lifted market sentiment and the average ‘asks’ around the belt may see an uptick in quarters to come.”

“The rental markets of Gurgaon and Delhi also saw residential leasing rates going up by three per cent, each, over the last one year. To summarise, Delhi NCR’s real estate market is benefitting from steadily improving connectivity and has positioned itself on the recovery path, Upadhyaya said.

As per the report, the upcoming and completed infrastructure projects including the Jewar International Airport, elevated roads, new metro corridors, malls and medical units had improved the sentiment, but did not convert into higher sales volume in Noida and Greater Noida. Ghaziabad’s realty market, meanwhile, remained placid in the face of stale inventory.

In Haryana, both the major cities of Gurgaon and Faridabad witnessed restricted number of new launches in April-June 2018. While price points inched up slightly in Gurgaon on the back of some project handovers and new flyovers easing traffic gluts at important junctions, Faridabad reported weak realty sentiment, it noted.

According to the report, other than Delhi-NCR, Chennai and Kolkata, all major cities reported an upswing in average home prices between one and three per cent. (IANS)

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Facebook partners Asian College of Journalism for high-integrity news in India

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– In its bid to curb the spread of fake news and ensure high-quality journalism in India, Facebook on Thursday announced its first partnership in the country with Chennai-based Asian School of Journalism (ACJ).

Part of the Facebook Journalism Project — announced last year to develop high-quality journalism around the world — the partnership will also establish a scholarship programme at ACJ.

“The association with ACJ reflects our commitment to support the journalism ecosystem by training future journalists,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Global Head of News Partnerships.

By partnering with ACJ, Facebook that has 270 million users in India will be able to help train journalism students on fact-based and high integrity journalism in the digital age, the social media giant said in a statement.

The scholarship programme will support five students from ACJ in four career specialisations — print, new media, radio and television.

“We are happy to partner with the Facebook Journalism Project. It will provide valuable hands-on experience and the expertise to distinguish informative and trustworthy news,” said Sashi Kumar, Chairperson, ACJ.

Facebook also announced to extend its collaboration with Mumbai-based BOOMLive, an independent digital journalism initiative.

“Through our partnership with BOOMLive, we hope to encourage the systemic growth of fact-checking on all platforms,” Brown added.

BOOMLive is certified by the Poynter Institute, the international fact-checking network.

“Following fact checking in English during the Karnataka pilot stage, BOOMLive will now also provide fact checking capabilities in Hindi and Bengali, and will also fact-check photos and videos, in addition to article links,” Facebook noted.

The social media platform partnered BOOMLive in April before Karnataka went to the polls in May.

Facebook said it will continue to strengthen its work and partnerships around news literacy in India and extend it across local languages, partner newsrooms, journalists and fact checkers to build a more informed community.

“We hope this will contribute to ongoing efforts to combat misinformation online,” said Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder, BOOMLive.

The Facebook Journalism Project is serving as a hub to promote and support high-quality journalism on the social media giant’s platform, while collaborating with news publishers and third-party fact-checking organizations across the globe. (IANS)

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DMRC revenue up 73% in 4 years

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– The Delhi Metro’s revenues increased by more than 73 per cent in the last four years, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.

In a written reply given by Union Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was shown to have earned Rs 1,505.84 crore, Rs 1,649.19 crore, Rs 1,765.38 crore, and Rs 2,612.80 crore, in four years from 2014 to 2018.

As the figures show, the DMRC’s revenue rose by 73.55 per cent in these four years, and nearly 50 per cent of it was earned by the transporter between year 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The major jump in the revenue was in 2017, when the corporation doubled the fare, and also when major expansion was done in the metro network under Phase III in the form of sections of Pink Line, Magenta Line, Violent Line and Green Line.

The Minister told the House that the average daily ridership in the Delhi Metro is 26 lakh.

In another reply, the Minister told the House that DMRC’s 150 km expansion stipulated in Phase III will be completed by 2020, of which 98 km has been made operational so far.

“Out of total 150 km, 98 km has been made operational, another 49 km will be commissioned by June 2019 and the rest 3 km by December 2020,” he said.

According to the DMRC, the 8.53 km-long Pink Line stretch between Durgabhai Deshmukh South Campus station to Lajpat Nagar will be opened for public on August 6. Another section of the Line — from Majlis Park to Durgabai Deshmukh South Campus (21.565 km) — was started in March this year. (IANS)

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Availability of water will be a major issue: Prabhu

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– Noting that the availability of water is going to be a major issue for the country in future, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday urged corporates to provide new technology and management expertise to address the crises in availability of portable water during a CSR event here.

According to the minister, by 2035, India will become a $10 trillion economy, the third largest in the world and availability of water is going to be a major issue.

“It should be ensured that India, the third largest economy by then, is not water stressed,” a statement quoted the minister as saying.

Prabhu called for joint efforts by the government and the corporates by pulling all resources such as financial, managerial, policy framework and local resources, to address the critical challenges in sectors of water, education and healthcare.

The minister described CSR as an exemplary model in the country for companies “who have realised that their financial success is incomplete without support of the society”.

He added that CSR is a reality and it makes commercial sense for corporates to invest in society.  (IANS)

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NITI Aayog launches global hackathon to crowdsource mobility solutions

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– Envisaged to be one of the largest hackathons in the world, the NITI Aayog on Thursday launched a global mobility hackathon “Move Hack” to crowdsource future mobility solutions for India.

Focused on 10 themes and open to individuals from all nationalities, the hackathon will have an online leg, followed by a Singapore leg, and the finals in New Delhi.

“Move Hack is the first platform in the world which has enmeshed public transport, private transport, road safety, multimodal connectivity and new age transport technologies such as zero emission vehicles and intra-city aerial transport in a hackathon platform spearheaded by a government,” NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said.

“We want the best minds in India and globally to compete and come up with prototypes and solutions for these challenges. India has some of the most diverse problem contexts in the world. If you can solve for India, you can solve for the world and we will help you get there,” he added.

The top 30 solutions emerging out of the online leg will be mentored in Singapore and the top 20 teams from Singapore leg will participate in the final round to be held in New Delhi on September 5 and 6, an official statement said.

Awards for the hackathon include recognizing top 10 winners with total prize of more than Rs 2 crore, it added. The winners will be announced during the Move Summit 2018, which is also organised by the NITI Aayog on September 7 and 8.

“Rapidly evolving technologies and business models for delivering mobility services have dramatic potential to transform the global transportation sector. Mobility that ranges from pedestrian and personal transport to public transit and freight movement is extremely critical and impacts rural and urban daily lives,” the statement said. (IANS)

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Mehul Choksi is Antigua: CBI sources

Aug 2, 2018 0

New Delhi– Fugitive Indian diamond trader Mehul Choksi, wanted by Indian authorities in Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, is in Antigua and Berbuda, CBI sources said on Thursday.

“The Antiguan authorities confirmed his presence in Antigua,” a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) source said.

He said the Antiguan authroties’ reply came after CBI wrote to them seeking details of Choksi’s whereabouts in the fraud case.

On July 24, it was revealed that Choksi had moved to Antigua from the US several weeks ago using an Antiguan passport. The revelation came from Antiguan authorities in response to a CBI diffusion notice (a request to Interpol for the arrest of a specific person) circulated to foreign countries through Interpol.

The red corner notice (RCN) request from the CBI to the Interpol against Choksi is still pending.

On July 11, the ED asked a special court in Mumbai to declare both diamond merchants — Choksi and Nirav Modi — as ‘fugitives’ under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018 because they had fled India a month before they were named in the fraud case on January 31.

The ED has been probing two cases of money laundering against Choksi, Nirav Modi and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on the basis of an FIR registered by the CBI.

In these cases, the ED had on May 24 and May 26 filed prosecution complaints or charge-sheets against Choksi and Nirav Modi.

The court has taken cognisance of the charge-sheets and issued non-bailable warrant against both of them.

On the request of the ED and the CBI, the Interpol had earlier issued RCN against Nirav Modi. (IANS)

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Accenture’s ‘innovation challenge’ may open your door to job

Aug 1, 2018 0

Bengaluru– Global professional services company Accenture is inviting college students to participate in this year’s “innovation challenge” and win prize worth up to Rs 150,000, besides getting into a fast-track recruitment process to be set up for all eligible finalists.

As part of the competition, Accenture is inviting entries from students pursuing graduate, under-graduate and post-graduate programmes for two themes, “innovate for businesses” and “innovate for the society”, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The participants can demonstrate their technology skills in areas such as advanced analytics, automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Blockchain, crowdsourcing, digital ethics and cybersecurity, Immersive Reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) for their entries.

“Accenture has been conducting innovation programmes for college students in India for the past six years and more than 20,000 ideas have been submitted by students during this time,” said Mohan Sekhar, Senior Managing director and lead for Accenture Advanced Technology Centers in India.

Submissions to the challenge will undergo a screening process and the shortlisted participants will be invited to present their ideas to a jury panel consisting of industry professionals and experts at the grand finale scheduled to be held in Bengaluru in October, Accenture said.

The deadline for submitting entries to the challenge is August 12, the company said. (IANS)

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LS passes Insolvency Code amendment Bill

Aug 1, 2018 0

New Delhi– A Bill to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016, allowing home buyers to be treated as financial creditors, was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday amid allegations from opposition parties that some changes were intended to “help just one industry”.

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the aim of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill was to ensure that all cases are led to resolution instead of liquidation.

He said the Insolvency Law Committee submitted its report on March 26 and every recommendation of the committee was accepted and brought into the amendment.

The Bill, which seeks to replace an ordinance brought by the government earlier this year, was introduced by Goyal on July 23. The Minister said the government brought the ordinance to expedite the resolution process.

“We wanted that the benefits (of committee recommendations) are quickly brought into the resolution process. I feel that the focus of the government should be on resolution, not liquidation. Liquidation should be our last option. And longer the delay in the process, greater are the chances of job loss,” Goyal said in his reply during the discussion on the Bill in the Lok Sabha.

He added the necessity to bring the ordinance was also to protect the interest of home buyers who would now be treated as financial creditors.

“It is the responsibility of the government to protect the interests of home buyers and that’s why it was important to bring the ordinance. However, all the provisions are prospective in nature, not retrospective. So there is no question of bringing it to benefit any particular individual or industry,” he said.

The Minister added that most cases of bad loans took place before 2014 and that the quantum of bad loans tripled between 2007 and 2014 due to ever-greening and restructuring of loans.

He said during the earlier governments, borrowers of big loans did not worry about paying back as an environment was created where they thought the responsibility lay with banks to recover the loans, not with them to pay back.

“We have changed that situation. Now, the loans are coming back to the banks,” he said.

He said the cost of resolution was very high during the earlier process, which has now been brought down.

“Earlier, the cost of recovery was nine per cent and it used to take seven to eight years. Even then the recovery process lingered on. Under the IBC, the cost of recovery has been reduced to below one per cent and the average recovery has been 55 per cent with 100 per cent recovery in some cases,” Goyal said.

During discussing on the Bill, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily said there should be checks and balances at every stage and the bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Terming the ordinance tainted, Moily said: “A stock answer with you is that the NPAs are all of previous legacy. But what have you done to correct that legacy except raising your hand? They are now amounting to Rs 11 lakh crore or Rs 12 lakh crore. It is galloping.”

“This is a holistic law. Your oratory power should match your action. We need to work on this in a holistic way. This Code was referred to none of the standing committees.

“You do not have faith in the Lok Sabha. You do not refer the matter to us,” he added, saying during the UPA rule, they always referred all financial bills to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Moily also said as the Minister for Corporate Affairs, he sent Companies Law to the Standing Committee on Finance, which was headed by Yashwant Sinha, four times.

“This Bill is of no consequence. It will not serve the purpose. Even if it serves, it will serve only the interests of one or two individuals…”

N.K. Premachandran of RSP opposing the Bill said: “I would like to appeal to the Minister to clarify and explain the urgency in issuing an ordinance. The promulgation of an ordinance is a clear case of crony capitalism. It is just to benefit a particular industry or a company.” (IANS)

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RBI hikes repo twice in succession to bring it to 6.5%

Aug 1, 2018 0

Mumbai– Continuing with the reversal of accomodation begun in June, the RBI on Wednesday 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, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel said its monetary policy committee (MPC) noted that the rise in retail inflation has continued for the third consecutive month.

“On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at
its meeting today, the MPC decided to increase the policy repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.5 per cent,” said the third monetary policy review statement of the current fiscal.

“Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) stands adjusted to 6.25 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.75 per cent.”

The statement noted that ‘fuel and light group’ inflation rose sharply in the period since the previous policy review, pulled up by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene prices.

The RBI, 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.

“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,” RBI said.

Retail inflation in India touched the 5 per cent mark in June, compared to 4.87 per cent in May and has gone beyond the RBI’s revised inflation projection of 4.8-4.9 per cent for the first half of the current fiscal.

Noting the government’s decision to raise minimum support prices (MSPs) by at least 150 per cent of the cost of production for all kharif crops, RBI said this is much higher than the average increase seen in the past few years.

“(This) will have a direct impact on food inflation and second round effects on headline
inflation,” the statement said.

The RBI maintained its inflation projection of 4.8 per cent for the second half of
2018-19 and said it would touch 5.0 per cent in the first quarter of the next fiscal 2019-20.

Uncertainty around domestic inflation needs to be carefully monitored in the coming months,” Patel said.

The Governor also noted the high volatility in global crude oil prices and said that any fiscal slippage by the Central and state governments would have an impact on the inflation outlook.

Official data showed on Tuesday that the country’s fiscal deficit rose further in June and stood at Rs 4.29 lakh crore touching 68.7 per cent of the current year’s target.

Patel also pointed to the “tightening” condition of finacial markets and recent global
developments that could adversely impact India.

He said rising trade protectionism poses a grave risk to near-term and long-term global growth prospects by adversely impacting investment, disrupting global supply chains and hampering productivity.

“Geopolitical tensions and elevated oil prices continue to be the other sources of risk to global growth,” he added. (IANS)

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Rate hike to impact credit growth, hit realty sector: Experts

Aug 1, 2018 0

Bengaluru– The 0.25 per cent increase in repo rate by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to 6.50 per cent would impact credit growth and delay the revival of realty sector, said an industry player on Wednesday.

“The hike will certainly impact credit growth and further delay the revival of the real estate sector. Construction activity was picking up slowly post policy reforms, but the rise in interest rate will hurt consumer sentiment,” said House of Hiranandani Chairman Surendra Hiranandani in a statement here.

The central bank earlier in the day hiked its key lending rate by 25 basis points to 6.50 per cent citing upside risks to inflation.

“Though the increase was on expected lines, it is surprising that it has been done despite the RBI maintaining ‘neutral’ stance. Inflation is expected to trend upwards and might surprise in the second-half of the year owing to increase in MSP (Minimum Support Price) and higher government spending,” asserted Hiranandani.

The real estate sector was looking for encouragement for accelerated growth post-RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) and Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime over a year.

“Interest rates and regulation will decide the success of the real estate sector in India.”

India Ratings and Research (Fitch group) Principal Economist Sunil Kumar Sinha said by hiking the policy rate again, the RBI had reinforced that inflation targeting would remain its primary objective and not hesitate to act proactively.

“The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) chose not to wait for the data to clear up the haze that may have warranted pause for a while like recent drop in crude oil prices, reduction in the GST rate on a number of items and good progress of monsoon so far,” pointed out Sinha in a statement here.

A sustained rise in core inflation over the last 12 months and risks from rise in MSP for kharif crops and spurt in spending in an election year have pushed the RBI to go for a back-to-back hike in the third bi-monthly policy review.

“By keeping the monetary policy stance neutral, the RBI has kept the window open to move the rate either way in future based on data. We believe it is not likely to have any more hike in this fiscal (2018-19), said Sinha.

Mahindra Group Chief Financial Officer V.S. Parthasarathy said the central bank had balanced the growth-inflation dynamics in view of the global and domestic scenarios.

“The rate hike should help temper inflation and provide a support to the rupee. Though monsoon has been good so far, core inflation has remained sticky,” admitted Parthasarathy.

Noting that growth was on firm ground, as evident from the performance in core industries at a seven-month high, the CFO said in a statement here that Indian business could do well if the government and the RBI focused on driving growth.

Defending the hike, IIM-Kozhikode Economics Professor Rudra Sensarma said the RBI had no choice but raise the rate as retail inflation was on the rise.

“One-year data shows inflation has risen in tandem with higher oil prices. With crude prices set to rise further due to trade wars and geo-political tensions, it is not clear how a policy tightening will help address what is essentially a supply side phenomenon,” said Sensarma in a statement.

As the rate hike may hurt the hopes of a recovery in the capex cycle, the central bank could have waited till October to assess the impact of the monsoon on food prices before increasing the interest rate consecutively, he said. (IANS)

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