Mamata redeems promise, returns land to Singur farmers

Sep 14, 2016 0

Singur, West Bengal–Redeeming a pledge she made years back, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday returned 9,117 land records to farmers and compensated 800 peasants from whom land had been taken against their will for the Tata Motors’ Nano project.

Mamta Banerjee

Mamta Banerjee

Amid chants and songs eulogising the state and the chief minister, thousands watched as Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, personally handed out the documents to many of the farmers who responded with warm smiles and touched her feet in gratitude at the Singur Diwas venue here at Sanapara.

It was the same spot of the Durgapur Expressway where Banerjee had held a 16-day sit-in protest in 2008 demanding 400 acres out of the total 997.11 acres acquired for the project be returned to the “unwilling farmers”.

Lending a hand at the packed event were her party leaders including celebrities like actor Dev Chatterjee.

Intellectuals and activists including Narmada Bacho Andolan founder member Medha Patkar, who had supported Banerjee’s staunch stance on the issue right at the outset, were also present.

A replica of an agricultural field installed at the venue in Hooghly district struck a chord with the peasants who erupted in joy and were overwhelmed with the celebrations which came two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down the land acquisition made by the erstwhile Left Front government and ordered the land be returned to the cultivators. (IANS)

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Four Indian-Americans and One Indian in the 35 Innovators Under 35 List of MIT Technology Review

Sep 14, 2016 0

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Four Indian-Americans are included in the MIT Technology Review’s prestigious 35 Innovators Under 35 list for the year 2016. They are: Dinesh Bharadia, Jagdish Chaturvedi , Maithilee Kunda and Sonia Vallabh. Samay Kohli of India and Bangladeshi-American Ehsan Hoque were also included in the list. (Photos, bios and description by MIT Technology review)

“The people in our 16th annual celebration of young innovators are disrupters and dreamers. They’re inquisitive and persistent, inspired and inspiring,” said MIT Tech Review. “No matter whether they’re pursuing medical breakthroughs, refashioning energy technologies, making computers more useful, or engineering cooler electronic devices—and regardless of whether they are heading startups, working in big companies, or doing research in academic labs—they all are poised to be leaders in their fields.”

The magazine said that these innovators are building the stuff of the future, from a smart sweatband to tomorrow’s memory technology.

Here are the brief bios of four Indian-Americans as published by MIT Technology Review:

Dinesh Bharadia, 28

Dinesh Bharadia

Dinesh Bharadia

MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

A seemingly impossible radio design will double wireless data capabilities.

Dinesh Bharadia invented a telecommunications technology that everyone said would never work: he found a way to simultaneously transmit and receive data on the same frequency.

Because the signal from broadcasting a radio transmission can be 100 billion times louder than the receiving one, it was always assumed that outgoing signals would invariably drown out incoming ones. That’s why radios typically send and receive on different frequencies or rapidly alternate between transmitting and receiving. “Even textbooks kind of assumed it was impossible,” Bharadia says.

Bharadia developed hardware and software that selectively cancel the far louder outgoing transmission so that a radio can decipher the incoming message. The creation of the first full-duplex radio, which eventually could be incorporated into cell phones, should effectively double available wireless bandwidth by simply using it twice. That would be a godsend for telecom companies and consumers alike.

Samay Kohli, 30

Samay Kohli

Samay Kohli

GreyOrange

After greasing the wheels of India’s e-commerce boom, this executive eyes overseas expansion.

Homegrown e-commerce companies in India are slashing prices and delivery times as they battle to serve the country’s burgeoning middle class. Many of these companies are able to do it because of warehouse automation technologies developed by Samay Kohli and his team at the robotics firm GreyOrange.

Two of GreyOrange’s Butler robots, which are designed to be warehouse workhorses.

GreyOrange sells swarms of “Butler” robots, which store products and bring shelves to human workers, and “Sorters,” which automatically scan and sort packages of any size or shape. The company boasts 92 percent of India’s warehouse automation market, a sector that Kohli thinks “can become humongous.”

With offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, the company isn’t content serving India alone. It plans to expand into the Middle East and China this year, and within two years Kohli expects to be exporting warehouse robots to Europe. He hopes to get a first-mover advantage over other robotics startups chasing the same opportunity—one that became even larger after Amazon bought the warehouse automation company Kiva Systems in 2012 and brought its technology in house rather than selling it to Amazon’s e-commerce rivals.

Kohli and his cofounder Akash Gupta launched the company in 2011, after developing, while in college, what they believe to be India’s first humanoid robot. Seeing China’s e-commerce boom, they spotted “an industry ripe for disruption,” says Kohli.

Maithilee Kunda, 32

Maithilee Kunda

Maithilee Kunda

Vanderbilt University

People on the autism spectrum are inspiring her novel approach to creating artificial intelligence.

“My research began in graduate school when I was working on artificial-intelligence systems and read Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science who talks about how her autism gives her this unique visual way of thinking compared to most people.

“I thought: That’s interesting. Most AI systems are not ‘visual thinkers’ like her. Most AI systems use variables, numbers, lists, and so on, and they reason using mathematical and logical operations. These systems are ‘verbal thinkers.’ What if you had an AI system that used data made up entirely of images and reasoned only using visual operations, like rotating images around or combining images together? If Temple Grandin can do amazing things because of her visual thinking abilities, it seemed to me that the same should be true of AI systems.

“I’ve been taking what we learn from people on the autism spectrum who have interesting visual abilities and building that into AI systems. It’s early, but I expect that they ultimately will be very valuable. If we want to help students learn to solve difficult problems, then we ought to have several AI tutors that can show students different ways of solving the same problem. If we want to help doctors find patterns of disease outbreaks, then we ought to have multiple AI analysts that can sift through the data using different styles of pattern finding.”

Jagdish Chaturvedi, 32

Jagdish Chaturvedi

Jagdish Chaturvedi

InnAccel

This doctor can laugh about the complex path he took to becoming an innovator.

“I invented a low-cost ear, nose, and throat—ENT—imaging device. So I call myself the first ENTrepreneur! Sorry—cheesy joke; I’m also an amateur standup comedian. I love performing. It’s how I de-stress. But I also find comedy helps sharpen my observational skills.

“Those skills helped me invent Entraview, which has helped 200,000 patients. As a trainee doctor I saw many farmers with advanced throat cancer. I discovered that expensive imaging systems were only available in major cities, so rural doctors relied on outdated mirrors and headlamps. I asked my boss why no one had tried attaching endoscopes to small off-the-shelf cameras. He said, ‘Why don’t you?’

“Entraview was a big learning curve for me. I worked with a design firm but got too involved trying to create a one-size-fits-all device. I’d nearly exhausted my funds when my boss said, ‘Go learn the right way to do this.’

“The Stanford-India Biodesign program teaches Indian doctors and engineers how to invent. Their process showed me where I’d gone wrong and gave me the connections to arrange a pitch with Medtronic. We simplified and focused on ears. Not the original goal, but the path of least resistance to market, and now the platform can evolve.

“I’ve since contributed to 18 medical-device inventions, and I’m now clinical lead at a med-tech incubator, InnAccel, where I help multiple startups while still practicing medicine, to keep me grounded with clinical needs.

“India imports 75 percent of its medical tech. We have great inventors, but most make the same mistakes because they don’t get the innovation process. The first step is finding the right team.”

Sonia Vallabh, 32

Sonia Vallabh

Sonia Vallabh

Broad Institute

A devastating personal diagnosis led her to become a scientist on the trail of a cure.

Five years ago, Sonia Vallabh graduated from Harvard Law School and went to work at a small consulting company. But a stunning medical diagnosis made her change course completely: she learned she has a genetic mutation that causes a deadly brain disease. Today she and her husband work in a lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and have published research showing a possible pathway to a treatment. As she told the tale at an event on precision medicine with President Obama in February:

“At the heart of my story is a single typo in my genome.

“We all carry around thousands of typos in our DNA, most of which don’t matter much to our health—but my typo is an unusually clear-cut case. It’s a single change in a particular gene that causes fatal genetic prion disease, where patients can live 50 healthy years but then suddenly fall into deep dementia and die within a year. And there’s no treatment—at least, not yet.

“In 2010, I watched this disease unfold firsthand. I had just married my husband, Eric Minikel. My mom, healthy at 51, had single-handedly organized our beautiful wedding. Then, all of a sudden, we were watching her waste away before our eyes. We had no name for what we were seeing. It was only from her autopsy that we learned there was a 50 percent chance I’d inherited the genetic mutation that killed her.

“We decided right away I’d get tested. We wanted to know what we were up against. After months in agonizing limbo, a geneticist confirmed our greatest fear: The same change that was found in your mother was found in you.

“Knowing the hard truth has given us a head start against our formidable medical enemy.”

“Knowing the hard truth has given us a head start against our formidable medical enemy. We waged a campaign to educate ourselves—taking night classes, attending conferences, and eventually taking new jobs in research labs. We retrained as scientists by day and applied what we were learning to understanding my disease by night. Four years later, we’re devoting our lives to developing therapeutics for my disease.

“We know the road ahead is uncertain—no amount of hard work can guarantee there will be a treatment for me when I need one. We are going to do everything we can, hand in hand with creative allies from every sector, to build this bridge as we walk across it and develop a treatment that could save my life, and the lives of many others.”

Ehsan Hoque, 34

Ehsan Hoque

Ehsan Hoque

University of Rochester

If you want to be the life of the party, practice by talking to a machine first.

Can computers teach us to be our best selves? Ehsan Hoque, a researcher at the University of Rochester, believes so. He has created two computer systems that train people to excel in social settings.

One program has a virtual businesswoman that can recognize your expressions and statements so she can nod, smile, and prompt you with further questions as you chat with her. At the end of the conversation she’ll give you feedback about your interpersonal performance, including your body language, intonation, and eye contact.

Hoque also designed a pared-down mobile version, free for anyone with Internet access to use. There’s no animated character; instead, it records video and sends you a write-up about your social skills, noting the speed of your speech, the pitch and loudness of your voice, the intensity of your smiles, and whether you overused certain words.

All of Hoque’s research comes back to his brother, a teenager with Down syndrome. Hoque is his brother’s primary caretaker and has seen how difficult social interactions of any kind can be for him, especially in school. But Hoque hopes his tools will be useful to all kinds of people—individuals with Asperger’s, customer service representatives, nervous students with looming class presentations, or even just someone gearing up for a date or an interview.

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Reliance Capital to list home finance business

Sep 13, 2016 0

Mumbai– The board of Reliance Capital, part of the Anil Ambani-led group, on Tuesday approved a proposal to independently list its home finance business on the stock exchanges.

The independent listing of Reliance Home Finance is expected to unlock substantial value for existing shareholders of Reliance Capital, the company said in a statement.

Anmol A. Ambani, Director, Reliance Capital

Anmol A. Ambani, Director, Reliance Capital

“The listing of Reliance Home Finance will also lead to increased management focus and accelerated growth in the home finance business,” it added.

“To address the needs of this sector, Reliance Home Finance has charted an aggressive growth plan in this space, and aims to increase its book size to over Rs.50,000 crore in the next few years,” said Anmol A. Ambani, Director, Reliance Capital.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a goal of affordable housing for all by 2022. There is presently an estimated shortage of 100 million residential units in India,” he said.

“We expect the listing and allotment of shares in Reliance Home Finance, free of cost, to unlock significant value for our almost one million strong shareholder family.”

According to the proposal, 49 per cent stake in Reliance Home Finance will be allotted to all shareholders of Reliance Capital, in the ratio of one share free of cost in Reliance Home Finance for every one share held in Reliance Capital.

Reliance Capital will hold a 51 per cent stake in Reliance Home Finance, and the company will be adequately capitalised to grow the lending book to over Rs 20,000 crore in the next 18 months.

The proposal is subject to necessary shareholders’ and other approvals.

Reliance Home Finance, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Reliance Capital, provides a wide range of loan solutions in housing and related construction.

The company reported an annual asset base under management of Rs 8,259 crore ($1.2 billion) during the quarter ended June 30, 2016.

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India to lead world in key categories: US envoy

Sep 13, 2016 0

New Delhi– US Ambassador to India Richard R. Verma on Tuesday said that by 2030, India will lead the world in key categories, including by becoming the third largest economy.

“The great promise in our (India-US) partnership lies not only in our work together, but also in India’s rising influence and confidence on the global stage, which of course is generated from strength here at home,” Verma, who is of Indian origin, said while delivering the 17th Annual Justice Bodh Raj Sawhney Memorial Trust Oration at the National Law University here.

Richard Verma

Richard Verma

“By 2030 – less than 15 years from now – India will lead the world in key categories: it will be the most populous nation, with the largest middle class, the largest number of college graduates, the third largest economy, the most patent holders, and most mega-cities,” he said speaking on the theme of “Advancing our Shared Values”.

“You will lead the world in internet and smart phone users. Development and infrastructure growth will be phenomenal, just imagine how much will change given that two-thirds of the infrastructure and cities of modern India are yet to be built”.

Speaking on India-US ties, he said that the relationship has been “on a strong trajectory for the past decade, has made great strides in the past two years in particular”.

“Our two leaders, Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and (US) President (Barack) Obama have met eight times, including last week in China and then again in Laos,” he stated.

“We have well over 100 initiatives that were launched in three big bilateral summits and there are nearly 40 government-to-government working groups that meet regularly on everything from global health and defense to cyber security.”

Citing the reasons for the growth in ties between the two sides, one was the “certain chemistry between our two leaders, that’s for sure”.

“Second, so many people of goodwill have been working on this relationship for decades – and it’s their hard work that has begun to pay off,” the Ambassador said.

“And, third, our people-to-people ties have only grown stronger – there are now some three million Americans of Indian descent in the United States. They serve as a natural bridge for so much of what we do.”

Verma described the Indian Constitution as a document that is the foundation for the shared values between India and the US.

“The American and Indian Constitutions start with the same three words “we the people,” he said.

“We are governed by the rule of law, by the people and for the people. We have complex systems for checking and balancing government excess,” he said.

He said both countries hold free and fair elections, both have federal systems, with strong and diverse states, with shared power between the central and state governments, both have bicameral parliaments, and the exceptional militaries of both countries are overseen by civilians.

“We do not share these values with every other country. As we know, not all countries choose democracy, inclusiveness, equal rights or free elections,” the Ambassador said.

“Therefore, these are the roots of a special bond we share with India. The United States set out on this democratic path 240 years ago, while India shed its colonial rule some 70 years ago.”

He said that when Obama visited India in January of 2015 as the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations, the US and India made their views clear in a joint agreement reached on the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific.

“It was not a long or complex document – it stands at just a bit more than a single page,” Verma said.

“But its brevity belies the historic nature of the enterprise on which the United States and India agreed to embark together.”

The Ambassador said that India’s rise not only presented opportunities for India, but can shape a brighter future for Asia and beyond.

“That is why the United States unabashedly supports India’s rise as a great power on the world stage,” he said.

“India’s reach and influence reaches well beyond the Indian Ocean and South Asia.” (IANS)

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Three Indian women ranked in 50 Most Powerful Women International List of Fortune Magazine

Sep 13, 2016 0
Arundhati Bhattacharya-SBI

Arundhati Bhattacharya

New York–State Bank of India’s chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, ICICI Bank’s chief Chanda Kochhar and Axis Bank CEO Shikha Sharma ranked in the top twenty of the ’50 Most Powerful Women International’ list released by Fortune.

The list, which considered women based outside the US, placed Bhatacharya at the second spot while Kochhar was ranked at fifth. Sharma was on 19th position.

Eurozone’s largest bank by market value, Banco Santander’s Group Executive Chairman Ana Botin topped the list.

Elaborating the profile of SBI chief, Fortune said: “Bhattacharya’s profile has risen during her three-year tenure atop India’s largest bank, a 210-year-old institution.”

The SBI Chairperson, who was speculated to succeed Raghuram Rajan, as governor of the Reserve Bank of India, orchestrated SBI’s merger with six other groups. Once the merger completes, the bank will become one of largest lenders in Asia.

Chanda Kochhar

Chanda Kochhar

“She has continued her high-profile battle with the bank’s bad loans, while courting overseas partners invest in the stressed assets,” Fortune said.

Beside, ICICI Bank’s Managing Director and CEO Kochhar was acknowledged as a “visionary” even by rival bankers.

“After seven years at the helm of India’s largest private sector lender, with consolidated assets of $139 billion, Kochhar has overhauled the nation’s consumer retail business,” Fortune said while highlighting her effort to augment the bank’s performance.

Though bad loans eroded income growth this year, she has engaged turnaround experts to help ditch those distressed assets, it said.

Acknowledging Sharma’s contribution to the private lender, Fortune said:

Shikha Sharma

Shikha Sharma

“Sharma has grown Axis from an underrepresented bank to the nation’s fastest growing private sector lender, with revenue up 15 per cent to $7.9 billion in 2015 and nearly 3000 branches across 1,800 cities and towns.”

In May, Sharma issued a $500 million green bond at the London Stock Exchange – Asia’s first such certified bond in support of green energy and environmentally friendly projects. It was oversubscribed twice, it said.

Last week, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was ranked second and was the only woman of Indian-origin in Fortune’s list of the 50 most powerful women in the US.

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HP bullish on Digital India, eyes smaller towns for growth

Sep 13, 2016 0

By Nishant Arora

Boston–The laptop and printer major HP Inc is committed to the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative and is working closely with various state governments to empower the rural people in tier II and tier III cities where the future growth lies, top HP executives have said.

“Although HP already has a strong presence pan-India, it is now spreading into tier II, III and even IV cities to empower small and medium businesses (SMBs) and bring its low cost, disruptive technology right at their doorsteps,” Richard Bailey, President, Asia Pacific and Japan at HP Inc, told IANS in an interview.

Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey

“We are working very closely with the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative and is in touch with state governments to realise the dream of connecting India with our low-cost, disruptive offerings,” Bailey added.

HP has acquired Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s printer business for $1.05 billion, besides launching 16 new A3 LaserJet and PageWide Platforms based on the powerful multi-function printing (MFPs) technology.

The acquisition positions HP to disrupt the $55 billion copier industry — a segment that has not been innovated in decades.

“We are currently working with our channel partners in India to understand the A3 market better,” Bailey said.

According to Gurpreet Brar, Director, Commercial Channel Sales, Printing and Personal Systems (HP India) with the GST coming soon, the consumption of information technology is going to grow exponentially and HP is ready the fill the gap.

“The time is really bullish. We are witnessing the growth across the country and are focused on top 30 states where retail is really going to expand,” Brar told IANS.

According to a latest report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), HP achieved 44.7 percent shipment share in Q1 2016 and remained as the market leader in India.

In the laser segment, HP continued to be the market leader with 57.7 percent market share, followed by Canon and Samsung at the second and third position, respectively.
The 16 new LaserJet and PageWide printers based on the MFP technology are set to change the printing landscape in the country.

“Some of the printers will be available in India in middle and towards the end of 2017. We are focused on the growing market in the country where we are already number one in the LaserJet printing space,” Bailey told IANS.

According to Brar, he is flooded with queries from his channel partners and customers alike.

“People are eagerly waiting for the disruptive A3 LaserJet and PageWide platforms to arrive in India. We are very bullish and looking for a major growth trajectory in days to come,” Brar told IANS.

Calling the new LaserJet and PageWide platforms a “real disruptive play”, Enrique Lores, President, Imaging & Printing, HP Inc, said that HP can now deliver the industry’s most advanced lineup of A3 MFP and A4 laser print solutions for the office.
“The complexity of traditional copiers makes repair and maintenance too inefficient for our partners and customers,” added Lores.

“By leveraging our superior printing technology, we can change the status quo with next generation A3 multi-function printers that improve the overall customer and partner experience. This is what we mean by reinventing printing,” Lores said. (IANS)

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India Inc hails move on direct selling

Sep 13, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Centre’s announcement of “model guidelines” for direct selling, which is expected to boost entrepreneurship and spur growth in the country, has been hailed by India Inc.

India Inc. termed the move, announced on Monday, as progressive and said it would boost the sector.

It is expected to affect the top global direct selling companies operating in India, like Hindustan Unilever, Amway, Oriflame, Tupperware, HLM Retail India, RMP Infotech and Dewsoft Overseas.

Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters on Monday that the state governments and union territories should take necessary action to implement the guidelines on direct selling.

Under the guidelines, state governments are to set up a mechanism to monitor and supervise the activities of Direct Sellers and Direct Selling Entity regarding compliance of the guidelines for Direct Selling.

Industry leaders welcoming the move said “the next important step” is to ensure that the states adopt these guidelines quickly.

According to the guidelines, any direct selling entity conducting sales activities shall submit an undertaking to the Department of Consumer Affairs within 90 days, stating that it is in compliance with these guidelines and also provide details of its incorporation.

By definition, direct selling includes demonstration and sale of products and services to consumers, usually in their homes or at their jobs.

A. Didar Singh“FICCI congratulates the government for releasing the much awaited guidelines. It is a very progressive move by the government which will give a boost to Rs 72 billion industry and will help in motivating the stakeholders associated with the sector,” A. Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI.

Jitendra Jagota, Chairman, Indian Direct Selling Association said the guidelines will help in making a distinction between legitimate Direct Selling and fraudulent schemes, operating under the guise of direct selling.

“Indian Direct Selling Association welcomes the guidelines on Direct Selling with open arms. This will be very encouraging for the development of the industry. We wish to thank the government, especially, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs for coming out with the guidelines for the Direct Selling Industry,” Jagota said.

“The guidelines on Direct Selling issued by the government represent an important step which will both safeguard the interests of consumers, as well as identify and help protect ethical direct selling companies,” said Anshu Budhraja, CEO, Amway India.

“We welcome this action by the government, as the direct selling industry, along with FICCI, was pursing these guidelines proactively,” he said.

Budhraja said the guidelines reinforce the company’s faith in India “where we have invested more than Rs 600 crore to set-up a world class manufacturing facility employing, directly and indirectly, close to 1,000 people.”

“The next important step is to ensure that the states adopt these guidelines quickly as that is where the implementation will happen,” he said.

By definition, direct selling includes demonstration and sale of products and services to consumers, usually in their homes or at their jobs.

Officials said that in the era of internet and e-commerce, direct selling would mean sales made through e-contact arrangements as well as internet sales.

Amit Chadha, secretary general of Indian Direct Selling Association, said: “It is heartening to see the government making efforts to provide regulatory backing to Direct Selling Industry. These Guidelines also take into account the consumer protection and safety, something that has been a prime concern for the Direct Selling Industry also.”

He said: “In the absence of proper policy or guidelines, numerous fraudulent players have been taking advantage of the situation.”

The conditions for conduct of direct selling business mandates that companies should maintain “proper and updated website” with all relevant details of the entity, contact information, its management, products, product quality certificate, price, complete income plan and complaint redressal mechanism for direct sellers and consumers.

“The website should have space for registering consumer complaints and should ensure that grievances are addressed within 45 days of making such complaints,” an official source said. (IANS)

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State Bank of India mulls 25 basis point interest rate cut

Sep 11, 2016 0

By Meghna Mittal

Mumbai–State Bank of India (SBI) Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya says a 25 basis points cut in interest rates was in the offing and that an improvement in the financial health of India’s banking sector was closely linked to the overall performance of the economy.

In an interview to IANS, the 60-year-old banker also said the four per cent inflation target fixed by the government is a tad low in an emerging economy like India where food inflation has rarely fallen below six per cent in the past 60 years.

Nonetheless, she felt the current inflation level is set to fall due to a statistical play that could pave the way for a cut in interest rates by commercial banks — which the central bank has been asking for, as and when it has itself cut interest rates.

Arundhati Bhattacharya-SBI“Inflation will start coming down because there was a base effect in the last two months, which was actually pushing inflation up. That effect will moderate in the coming months,” she said referring to the current impact of a lower movement in price indices in the previous year.

“So, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be looking at a small rate cut this year.”

Giving reasons why she felt the four per cent inflation target was low, Bhattacharya said in her interview that 45-50 per cent of the components in the Consumer Price Index comprised food items, which are very volatile.

Since a major weight in the index is also assigned to health, education and transport, it is also difficult to keep their inflation levels below two per cent, so as to average out the overall rise in the price line to four per cent or below.

Yet, she said, the upper limit of inflation of six per cent “is perfectly fine” as the prices are expected to ease in coming months. “The Reserve Bank’s trajectory of five per cent is within the realms of possibility.”

After the government notified the annual, five-year inflation target of four per cent, plus or minus two percentage points, on August 5, bankers saw little scope in interest rate cuts. This is because the retail inflation is already precariously close to the tolerance level.

In the interview, Bhattacharya also spoke on the recent norms for commercial banks to sell their stressed assets to other banks and non-banking finance companies, as part of the central bank’s effort to help them clean up their balance sheets.

“Many of these things we were already doing. We’ve always done the sale to asset reconstruction companies. We give them time for due diligence. There is total transparency. We have also been doing e-auctions for more than six quarters,” she said.

“But now, we are allowed to sell to other banks. But how much will the banks be eager? They will also have the same problems. So unless the resolution methodology starts performing better, I don’t think they will be in a better position to resolve issues,” she added.

“I’ve not been approached by any bank or non-banking finance company to buy stressed assets.”

As far as the State Bank of India was concerned, Bhattacharya said, while the efforts were on to deal with past non-performing assets, fresh accumulations were also inevitable. “We’ve given a guidance of about Rs 40,000 crore as the slippage, of which Rs 8,000-9,000 crore has happened.”

When asked how the legacy issues in bad loans will be addressed, the banker — who is due to retire in October — said it would take a long time. She was also quick to qualify that “long time” would not be longer than five years.

“It’s important for us to get the economy firing on all cylinders. If it happens, our turnaround will also happen rapidly. Till the time economic activity picks up and the demand picks up, even with the best of things, you’ll still have a slow recovery,” she said.

“But five years is a very long time, I don’t think we need five years. Surely the economic activity is going to pick up much before five years.” (IANS)

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Mallya expresses willingness to return to India

Sep 9, 2016 0

New Delhi– Liquor baron Vijay Mallya in an e-mail to his lawyer has expressed his willingness to return to India and respect the country’s judicial system.

An hour before the hearing on Friday, Mallya sent an e-mail to his defence counsel Ajay Bhargava asking him to file a plea seeking exemption from personal appearance before a court hearing a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules on his behalf.

Vijay Mallya

Vijay Mallya

“I request you to kindly appear before the learned judge on the said date on my behalf and file an exemption application requesting the judge to kindly dispense with my personal presence on the said date of hearing (September 9),” Mallya wrote in the mail.

“I request you (defence counsel) to also kindly convey to the learned judge that I have the utmost respect for his authority and towards the judicial systems of the country, in general,” Mallya said in the mail.

“However, in the given circumstances, despite my best intentions to obey the order of the learned judge, I find myself incapacitated to travel to India, at this moment, even though I am making all the efforts to have the said revocation of my passport set aside.”

“As you are fully aware of the matter and duly authorised by me to represent me in the proceedings thereof – I request you to kindly proceed with the final arguments in the matter,” Mallya wrote.

Mallya on Friday sought exemption from personal appearance in court and said he is unable to return to the country and face trial in a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules as the Indian authorities had suspended his passport.

On July 9, the court had asked Mallya to personally appear before it on September 9, after allowing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) plea to withdraw the exemption given to him from personal appearance in the case.

Mallya’s counsel Ajay Bhargava moved a plea seeking exemption from his personal appearance and told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass that his client is living in London.

Defence counsel apprised the court that Mallya’s passport had been suspended by Indian passport authorities in April.

On April 23, his passport was revoked without even affording a personal hearing which he had requested for, the court was told.

“… ever since the revocation of his passport, the applicant (Mallya) has been staying in London and is not in possession of any requisite travel document which could possibly enable him to travel to India,” Mallya’s counsel said.

The counsel said that Mallya had urged the court to allow him to be represented by his lawyer to continue with the final arguments and save the court’s precious time.

Public Prosecutor Navin Matta told the court that Mallya is evading questioning and proceedings in other matters pending against him.

The court allowed Mallya’s plea for exemption for today (Friday) and sought a reply from the Enforcement Directorate. It fixed October 4 for further hearing in the case.

During the last hearing, the court had allowed the ED plea to seek recall of a court order that granted permanent exemption from appearance to Mallya, who faces money laundering charges in India.

The court was hearing the final arguments in the 2000 case related to alleged violation by Mallya of provisions of the erstwhile Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) in arranging funds to advertise his company’s liquor products abroad.

According to ED, Mallya had allegedly paid $200,000 to a British firm for displaying the Kingfisher logo in the Formula One World Championships in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

The agency had claimed that the money was allegedly paid without prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India, in violation of FERA norms.

Mallya was summoned and tried in the case. He was granted exemption from personal appearance by the Delhi court on December 20, 2000.

The ED has sought withdrawal of exemption granted to Mallya and sought the court’s direction asking him to personally remain present in court on each and every date of final arguments of the case.

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India prohibits use of Samsung Galaxy Note7 on board aircraft

Sep 9, 2016 0

New Delhi– India’s civil aviation regulator on Friday prohibited the use of Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone on board aircraft.

According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the guidelines on the carriage and usage of the phone on board aircraft were issued after the recent safety related incidents involving the smartphone globally.

Galaxy 7In a public notice, the regulator advised travellers and the airlines to ensure that the communication device is not turned on or its battery charged on board the aircraft.

The notice further detailed that the smartphone should not be stowed away in any checked-in baggage. However, the smartphone can be carried in a switched off mode in hand-baggage.

“The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a public notice prohibiting the use of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on board an aircraft,” said an official statement.

“The Ministry has advised airlines and travelling public not to turn on or charge the said mobile during flights.”

Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a warning not to charge or switch on Galaxy Note7 on board aircraft.

The stern warning came at a time when Samsung is dealing with a global recall of nearly 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 shipped so far across the world.

Three Australian airlines have already barred passengers from using or charging the smartphone during flights.

More than 35 cases of exploding batteries have been reported since the phone, which retails for $1,035, was launched on August 19.

The smartphone was launched last month in India for Rs 59,900 with iris biometric scanner for enhanced security, upgraded S Pen and a dual-curved screen.

Samsung on its part said that Galaxy Note7 sales have not started in India, and that the company has delayed sales to alleviate any safety concerns.

“We are aware of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) notice. Consumer safety and peace of mind are our top priority,” a Samsung India Spokesperson said.

“Galaxy Note7 sales have not started in India, and we have delayed sales to alleviate any safety concerns. We plan to expedite new shipments of Galaxy Note7 soon to reduce any inconvenience for our customers.” (IANS)

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