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Current Affairs - 24 February 2016

General Affairs 

Former Chief Justice HL Dattu Will Be Next Chairperson Of Human Rights Body
  • Former Chief Justice HL Dattu Will Be Next Chairperson Of Human Rights BodyNEW DELHI:  Former Chief Justice of India Justice Handyala Lakshminarayanaswamy Dattu was today selected as the next chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission.

    A committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the name of Justice Dattu for the post which was lying vacant for the last eight months after the retirement of KG Balakrishnan.

    Besides the prime minister, the meeting was attended by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien.

    Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge did not attend the meeting.

    65-year-old Justice Dattu had retired as Chief Justice of India on December 2 last year and after taking over as NHRC chairperson he will have a tenure of five years.

    The name will be sent to the President Pranab Mukherjee for his nod.

    Under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the president appoints the chairperson and members of the NHRC on the recommendation of the high-powered committee headed by the prime minister.

    Justice Dattu was Chief Justice of India from September 28, 2014 to December 2, 2015

    Justice Dattu enrolled as an advocate in 1975 and began practising in Bangalore and dealt with all types of matters -- civil, criminal, tax and Constitutional cases.

    From 1983 onwards he appeared in various capacities before the Karnataka High Court including as government pleader for sales tax department, standing counsel for Income Tax department and later as government advocate.

    After being designated as a senior standing counsel for I-T department in 1995, Justice Dattu was elevated as a judge of the Karnataka High Court.

    He was elevated as the Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court in February 2007 and shortly afterwards shifted in the same capacity to the Kerala High Court.

UN Security Council Expansion Should Be Based On Contemporary Realities: India
  • UN Security Council Expansion Should Be Based On Contemporary Realities: India
    UNITED NATIONS:  Asserting that efficiency of the Security Council does not depend on "numbers", India has said the UN top body's expansion should be based on "contemporary realities" and the need for ensuring due place to under-represented and unrepresented regions.

    "I fail to understand that if since 1945 the total population of the UN's membership has increased more than 3 times, the number of countries members of the UN has increased more than 3 times, yet we are hearing voices saying that increase of the size to less than 3 times what it was in 1945 is too much," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin told a council reforms meeting yesterday.

    He asserted that the UN must recognise that the case for optimal size of the expanded Council needs to be built on "contemporary realities".

    Mr Akbaruddin said the expansion should also be based on the need to ensure that the under-represented and unrepresented regions including the developing countries of Africa, Latin America and Caribbean and the vast majority of Asia and Pacific, find their due place in this "long overdue" expansion.

    In his statement at the Informal Plenary Meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the expansion of the 15-member Council, he said the argument that is heard is that the low 20's is compact and efficient while the mid 20's or 27 seats results in undermining the efficiency and effectiveness of the Council.

    He asked the meeting that, "Is there a causal link between effectiveness and numbers?"

    "If that is so, can someone demonstrate it to us? Also, if that is so are we to accept that in 1945 we agreed to an inefficient size to represent 2.35 billion 'peoples' and the 51 countries that were UN members then? On the other hand one can well make the case that a Council of 11 members in the phase of the Cold War was infinitely less effective than the larger Council in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War," he said.

    "Efficiency is not merely an issue of numbers but stems from a broader set of factors such as credibility, equitability, legitimacy and representativeness," Mr Akbaruddin asserted.

    He said he agreed with the statement of St Lucia's Ambassador Menissa Rambally, who is also the Spokesperson of L.69 Group, that 'efficiency' is not an arithmetical or managerial concept, it is a function of optimal and just decisions perceived to be fair and just.

    Mr Akbaruddin called for consolidating the text on the basis of convergence reached on various issues so that the member states could all have a better appreciation of where they stand.

    "By our account, there is more that unites us than what divides us; there is greater convergence than divergence," he said.

At Students' March, Rahul Gandhi Slams 'Suppressive' Government
  • At Students' March, Rahul Gandhi Slams 'Suppressive' GovernmentNEW DELHI:  Mounting a fresh attack, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi today accused the Modi government and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of crushing voices of dissent of students across the country and pitched for a law to protect them from "discrimination" and "suppression".

    "We need a law to ensure that students in colleges and universities do not face discrimination and their voice is not stifled," Mr Gandhi said lending his support to hundreds of students who took out a march demanding justice for Hyderabad University research scholar Rohith Vemula, and Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU student arrested on charges of sedition.

    The Congress Vice President also slammed the government for not including issues like Rohith's death and difficulties being faced by students of universities in the President's address to Parliament today.

    Accusing the Centre of muzzling the voice of students across universities in the country if they differ with ideology of RSS, Mr Gandhi said Congress will fight for bringing a law to check such "suppression".
     He alleged that government was trying to suppress not only the youths but also the Adivasis, Dalits and other weaker sections.

    "We don't want an India where an ideology is imposed upon us. We are fighting for it. RSS people want India to have one ideology, but we want an India of multiple voices and multiple ideologies," he said, amid loud cheers.

    In the second such protest in less than a week, thousands of students from various universities across the country took to the streets in the capital protesting against the death dalit student Rohith Vemula and the ongoing row at JNU.

RSS, BJP Want To Scrap Quota For Dalits And OBCs: Nitish Kumar
  • RSS, BJP Want To Scrap Quota For Dalits And OBCs: Nitish Kumar
    PATNA:  Branding Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement of forming a non-political committee on reservation as "extra constitutional", Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said the RSS and BJP wanted to scrap reservations for Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

    "RSS chief had earlier also made suggestion during Bihar Assembly elections that there should be a committee to review the reservation policy. But the Constitution clearly says that reservation would be given to people who are socially and educationally backward and on that basis Dalits and bakcwards have got reservation...Now RSS chief is talking something which is 'extra constitutional'," Mr Kumar said while talking to mediapersons after cabinet meeting.

    "Central government's main ideology is the same as that of RSS. They (RSS and BJP) are unhappy with the reservation being given to Dalits and Backwards...They want to scrap the reservation," Mr Kumar said.

    The RSS chief had yesterday suggested that a non-political committee should be formed to decide on the eligibility for reservation.

    Mr Bhagwat said a person not getting opportunity only because of his birth in a particular caste should not happen. His comments had come in the backdrop of the Centre announcing the setting up of a committee under Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu to examine the quota demand by the Jat community in government jobs.

    Mr Bhagwat's statement to review reservation policy, political analysts said, had adversely affected BJP's chances to grab power in Bihar.

    Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad and Mr Kumar had put the RSS chief's statement in the foreground of their electoral campaign during assembly elections and reaped benefits clinching three-fourth majority.

    On the Jat community's stir for quota, Mr Kumar held Central government responsible for taking delayed steps to end the logjam.

    "Central government is responsbile for whatever happened during the quota stir (by Jats)....The government should have acted much earlier," he said.

    The situation arose because they (BJP leaders) promised to give quota to Jats during assembly elections but later the government retracted from their promise, Mr Kumar said, adding that "This is completely their (BJP government's) fault. Why did they promise if they did not want to give quota to them."

BJP Alleges Conspiracy By Congress In Haryana's Jat Quota Agitation
  • BJP Alleges Conspiracy By Congress In Haryana's Jat Quota AgitationNEW DELHI:  BJP today alleged that Congress had a role in the extensive violence in Haryana during the Jat quota agitation for quota and asked party vice president Rahul Gandhi to stop his "divisive politics".

    The party referred to an audio tape, which has a close aide of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda allegedly inciting more violence, as it trained its guns on Congress.

    "It is clear from them (tapes) that there was a big conspiracy against the Haryana government. The way destruction was done, people were harassed and looting was done, it is very unfortunates.

    "We will expect Rahul Gandhi to not indulge in divisive politics in the country. If you have so much lust for power, then go to the people with your account. If Congress conspires against us, then we are in the court of people and they will do justice," BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma told a press conference.

    On allegations that Haryana government failed to handle the crisis, he said it was aware of its duties and doing its work.

    To a question about massive arson targeting properties, he said law will take its own course.

    Congress last night sought explanation from PCC delegate Virender over the audio clip in which he is accused of talking to a Khap leader in order to allegedly incite violence amid the ongoing Jat agitation.

    Mr Virender, a close aide of Mr Hooda, said the voice in the clip was his, "but the conversation has been doctored".

    Interacting with the media in Kaithal, Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala said that the state government would examine the role of officers and employees during the agitation and take stern action against those found guilty.

    Minister for state Nayab Saini, Guhla legislator Kulwant Bazigar, district BJP president Subhash Hajwana and other senior party office bearers were also present on the occasion.

    Mr Barala informed that the state government had announced that it will give Rs. 10 lakh as compensation and a government job to a family member of the "innocent persons" who were killed during the Jat reservation agitation.

Business Affairs 

Sensex plunges 378 points, Nifty ends at 7,109 as Budget session kicks off; Coal India top loser
  • Sensex plunges 378 points, Nifty ends at 7,109 as Budget session kicks off; Coal India top loserSnapping the four-session long gaining spree, the S&P BSE Sensex settled the day 378 points lower, while broader CNX Nifty ended just a tad above its key 7,100-mark on the first day of the Budget session.
    The headline indices sank tracking retreat in Asian markets as the oil price rally that boosted global equity markets reversed amid worries over supply glut.
    The 30-share index ended the day at 23,410, down 378.61 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,109, down 125.00 points at close.
    Market breadth turned fairly negative with 28 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in red.
    Coal India was the worst performing stock on Sensex and ended 4.1 per cent down.
    Oil prices and the stock market have moved in lockstep for much of the year as investors look at demand for energy for a bearing on global economic health.
    Investors were also jittery ahead of the government's 2016/17 budget, which is due on Feb. 29, amid hopes that policymakers will deliver a fiscally responsible budget that nonetheless steers spending to key areas such as infrastructure.
    "People are not wanting to punt on the market on the budget front because you don't know where you'll get stuck because of the global developments," said Vivek Mahajan, head of research, Aditya Birla Money.
    Overseas investors bought a total $90.51 million of Indian shares on February 18 and February 19. So far in 2016, they have net sold shares worth $2.38 billion.
    However, concerns over valuations remained, said analysts.
    "India until yesterday was the best among the emerging market space and that is what is going against India at this point of time," said Mahajan.
    Nifty is valued at 17.17 times its estimated 12-month earnings, versus a multiple of 11.2 for the Thomson Reuters Emerging Markets Asia Pacific Index.
    Oil retailer stocks Bharat Petroleum Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Indian Oil Corp fell between 2 and 3 per cent amid concerns that government may impose customs duty on crude oil imports in the budget.
    Mahindra CIE Automotive slumped 12.4 per cent intraday after posting 65 per cent decline in its third-quarter profit.

    Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.81 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index 0.25 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.37 per cent.

Can Union Budget trigger the equity market?
  • Can Union Budget trigger the equity market?So far, year 2016 has not been very lucky for the Indian equity markets and BSE Sensex is already down nearly 9 per cent. The devaluation of the Chinese currency in the beginning of the year and the US Federal Reserve hiking interest rates for first time in 9 years, have made investors across the globe nervous. According to market grapevine, investors have pulled out around $40 billion from equity funds in the last two months of 2016. In India too, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) pulled out $ 2.3 billion from Indian equities till February 22, 2016.
    "Interestingly none of the problems which investors cite for the recent decline of the markets are new," says R Venkataraman, managing director at IIFL Group.
     "The usual suspects are falling crude prices, plunging commodity prices, slowdown in global economy, problems in China, Fed rate hike, geo-political risks, war in Middle East, failure of the government to bring about major reforms, inflation, deflation, PSU banks and NPAs, fund flows to emerging markets, and so on," he adds.
    Whatever the reason be, Indian markets have reached a stage where the Sensex and Nifty are back to May 2014 levels.
    Indian markets are globally integrated and whatever happens in the world will definitely impact India and Indian markets. But forthcoming Budget would be one of the factors that would decide future movement of the Indian market. in the upcoming budget, market would look out for indication from the government on spending and reforms to attract investment and to boost India's GDP.
    With poor monsoon for two consecutive years the rural sector isn't spending. And the private sector is also on the back-foot due to the leveraged bets corporates had taken in 2008, in sectors like power, roads and infrastructure.
    In this scenario government is the only entity that will be able to spend money due to the huge fall in oil prices. In short government spending will determine which sector and companies will do well.
    Markets will also keep a close eye on the reform process of the government and the passage of reform bills. Considering the headwinds surrounding the economy, budget will have to keep in check fiscal prudence while increasing demand to re-start the engine of growth. In short, it will have to make the elephant run in such a manner that it reaches its destination without putting pressure on the government kitty.
    Government spending a key to fuel the growth engine 
    So what should government do?
    "Clearly focus has to remain on increasing demand and growth. Growth will be driven by investments," says Nilesh Shah, CEO at Kotak AMC.
    Shah feels, "It will require legislative changes as well as administrative reforms. Investment requires public push as private sector is leveraged. Budget should provide incentives for financial savings and lay a road map for fiscal consolidation to lower (interest) rates. Budget should raise resources through monetisation of government assets rather than raising taxes. It should focus on increasing financial savings, monetising government assets especially through strategic divestment and controlling subsidy along with increased public investment."
    Agreeing with Shah, Vikaas Sachdeva, CEO at Edelweiss AMC, feels that for the market to get a fillip, it is necessary for the government to invest further in physical infrastructure; which includes aggressive growth targets towards building roads, railways, ports, electricity, energy, etc.
    Sachdeva also wants a higher wallet share for social infrastructure which includes education, health and sanitation, skill development and other social welfare schemes.
    Fiscal prudence important to maintain credibility and stability
    Government spending seems to be the key catalyst for the equity market, but Gautam Chhaochharia, Head of India Research at UBS, says: "Quality of spending is the key. While spending is important, the government should stick to its roadmap on fiscal consolidation. Any deviation from it will be bad for the market as stability and credibility are very important factors for investors."
    He adds, "Besides equity investors, currency and macro- economic investors are investing in India and any loss of credibility will see them pulling out money from India."  
    "It would also be important to watch government allocation for the hikes in salary of government employees, after the implementation of the seventh pay commission." says Chhaochharia.
    "Increasing taxes, disinvestment of assets and spectrum auction for funding the salaries will be shoddy spending."
    Don't tax the retail sector but encourage them to invest
    Meanwhile, the only positive in this doomsday scenario for the Indian equity market has been the continuous inflows of money from the Indian mutual funds.
    In January 2016, mutual funds invested close to $1 billion in Indian equities countering the outflow from FIIs. Mutual funds have been the unsung hero in the last one year. For the first-time in the last two decade Indian mutual funds dominated FIIs, the lifeline of the Indian equity market.
    While the Indian equity markets ended the year 2015 four per cent lower, the mutual fund industry saw a total inflow of over Rs 4 lakh crore in equity funds, up 27 per cent compared to the corresponding period in the last year.
    "My biggest concern today for the Indian equity market is slowdown and outflow of money from mutual funds," said a mutual fund CIO on condition of anonymity.
    He also feels that with lack of domestic triggers and global concerns, it will be the Union Budget, which will be the immediate trigger for the Indian market.
    Despite a fall in equity market, the mutual funds saw a sustained flow of money into the mutual fund industry. In January 2016, the industry asset under management (AUM) in equity funds declined by 5 per cent, but the MF equity schemes continued to see an inflow of Rs 2,914 crore.
    Sachdeva of Edelweiss AMC, says, "For giving mutual funds a further fillip,  I hope the current budget will garner long-term money into equity schemes by bringing mutual fund schemes into the notified list of securities under Section 54EC as well as treating fixed income ETFs as listed debt. Also expecting clarity on who pays the service tax on MF distribution."
    "I believe this would be a catalyst for channelizing investor interest into tangible flows, for the government", he adds.
    There are different triggers domestically and globally that would change the market from the levels as well as the foreign flows. Budget is one of the trigger points.  
    "Though the headline numbers are negative in terms of FII flows. Among the emerging market, India is definitely in a bright spot with FIIs still overweight on India," says Aashish Mishra, managing director (Head Securities Services), Citibank.
    "If sentiment improves globally and towards emerging markets, India will be among the biggest beneficiary of foreign flows. However, on the domestic front we still have to wait for the outcome of the budget and see if it is a big-bang one that can overshadow global events." Mishra feels investors are looking for some tax clarification, fiscal deficit and quality of public spending. But other policy reforms like the implementation of GST, the drive of the government to lead investments in sectors like roads, power and railways and revival of corporate earnings will generate interest towards India.
    Simplifying market access and tax rules will be closely watched. While foreign investors will look at a clarification on permanent establishment rule for fund managers to set up local offices. Investors will also look to clarifications on the reduced withholding tax on bonds of 5 per cent that lapses in June 2017. We could see it being extended or made permanent in this budget. Then there is also GAAR rules that they would like to get clarity on.
    It is fairly clear that most people are looking towards India as a growth story, which will remain relatively unscathed in the global turmoil. Budget in that sense will be important if it can make the right noise in terms of increasing business confidence and further investments in the economy.
    "In 2014, when Modi ascended as the Prime Minister of the country, people had become very optimistic. They believed he had a magic wand and that a knight in shining armour had arrived who will solve all India's problems. Two years later, the market seems to have concluded that Prime Minister Modi is not doing anything, he is not good enough and that we are doomed. Both the extremes are wrong and the truth is somewhere in between," says Venkataraman of IIFL. "My advice to investors is, buying at current Nifty level makes more sense than buying at 9,000. Second, only invest that amount of money, which you can afford to lock in, for 5-10 years without worrying."  

Union Budget 2016-17: Tax cuts hold key to realty, mass-housing sops
  • FM Arun Jaitley
    With a focus on strengthening the economy, improving the investment climate with more public spending, boosting infrastructure and spurring demand and growth, the government may have little fiscal room in the national budget for the next fiscal for measures that specifically help the realty sector. But what will still hold the key for the annual exercise, due this time on February 29, is incentives for affordable housing and tax benefits.
    The government is quite serious about its flagship programme, "Housing for All by 2022", under which five crore new houses are to be built to meet the housing shortage. And since most of the shortage is in low-cost and affordable category, it holds the key to the success of the programme. The government realises it well and the real estate sector expects some kind of incentives/tax relief to boost low cost affordable housing of carpet area up to 90 sq mts in non metros and up to 60 sq mts in metros.
    Ahead of the budget, the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry has sanctioned construction of over 81,000 houses for economically weaker sections (EWS) across 163 cities and towns for Rs 4,076 crore ($590 million). In last year's budget EWS was brought under corporate social responsibility (CSR) with a tax waiver, besides allocating Rs.4,000 crore for the National Housing Bank to promote affordable housing.
    But unlike last year, this time, it is expected of the government to come up with a policy prescription to boost rental housing to tackle the massive housing shortage. The industry also expects the government to announce priority sector lending for affordable housing costing Rs.25 lakh for small and medium cities, Rs 35 lakh for metropolitan cities and Rs 50 lakh for mega cities.
    Considering the focus on "Make in India", it is expected that the government will rectify its flawed SEZ policy by effecting a cut in minimum alternate tax (MAT) for special economic zone (SEZ) units that are into manufacturing and with reduction in MAT fur SEZ developers.
    For the last over two years, real estate has been facing a slowdown.Though commercial real estate is well on the recovery path, residential real estate is still struggling with huge unsold inventories. Though because of tepid sales, prices have more or less become stagnant or seen a marginal decline, yet property buyers find homes unaffordable, particularly when home loan rates are still high.
    Last year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) effected a total of 100 basis points of interest rate cuts to provide momentum to housing market but the banks passed on only a part of this to consumers, with the result that it hardly had any worthwhile impact on sales.
    Another significant factor that was responsible for holding back home buyers was massive delivery defaults with long delays, badly shaking consumers' confidence. Though the industry is demanding substantial interest rate cuts to provide a fillip to housing market, considering that the RBI has little leg room tn this regard, one does not expect any relief on this front.
    In this backdrop, the sector is pinning hopes on tax benefits for home loans like increasing home loan principal repayment exemption limit from Rs.1.5 lakh to at least Rs.2 lakh and increasing deduction limits on home loan interest from Rs.2 lakh to Rs.3 lakh for self-occupied property. In the 2014 budget, this limit was raised by Rs.50,000.
    There is also a case for mortgage reforms to fully avail these tax benefits. Under the current rules, tax benefits can be availed by home loan takers only after they get possession of their homes. But considering long delays in delivery of homes, real estate developers are seeking an amendment to avail tax benefits from the time home buyers take loans.
    Fund scarcity has played havoc with the sector, especially by way of long delays in project completion because of which developers have lost the confidence of property buyers and investors. To channelise big time domestic and global investment, the government in the last budget made real estate investment trusts (REITs) functional which could also mobilise huge retail investment because investments in REITs are quite low compared to physical real estate besides being more liquid, regulated and safe.
    But despite that, REITs have failed to take off due to unattractive tax structure. In view of this, industry's demand to make tax structure attractive to make REITs functional is justified. In this year's budget, the real estate sector is demanding exemption for dividend distribution tax (DDT)-a major hurdle before REITs to take off, besides exemption in stamp duty.
    Though it's highly unlikely that the government will exempt stamp duty, yet one may expect waiving off of DDT to pave the way for REITs to take off. In order to expand the funding basket, the sector has sought ECB in all spheres of housing and real estate particularly under-construction projects.
    One of the oldest demands of real estate, which which is part of this year's budget wishlist as well, is easy and cheap bank funding for the sector. And to facilitate that, the apex real estate industry bodies are demanding industry status for the sector. But considering the poor financial health of banks, easy and cheap bank funding looks far fetched.
    Over the last few years, the affordability of real estate has been badly hit due to rising inflation and property prices amidst worsening job market with salary freezes or nominal hikes, resulting in decline in disposable income. While the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report will considerably boost disposable income of government sector employees, in this year's budget, the government may well hike the personal income tax limit by about Rs 50,000 to ensure more disposable income in the hands of private sector employees to spur home buying.

    To boost affordability, it is also expected that the government will carry forward its process of ease of doing business by announcing policy initiatives to do away with cumbersome and time consuming approval processes that result in cost escalation, especially when crucial reform legislation like the GST Bill, Land Acquitsition Bill, Real Estate Regulation & Development Bill are stuck in parliament.

Railway stocks fall up to 8% ahead of Rail Budget 2016
  • Railway stocks fall up to 8% ahead of Rail Budget 2016Railway-sector linked stocks on Tuesday tanked up to 8 per cent intraday ahead of Rail Budget 2016 as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu gears up to present it on Thursday.
    The stock of Kalindee Wagon was the worst hit and fell as much as 8.68 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), while Titagarh Wagon lost 8.19 per cent to Rs 126.00. 
    Kalindee settled the day 6.75 per cent down, while Titagarh 7.43 per cent lower. 
    Shares of BEML, which supplies equipment to Indian Railways, fell 3.31 per cent intraday and closed 2.62 per cent lower. 
    Shares of Siemens and Allcargo Logistics slipped 2.01 per cent and 3.46 per cent, respectively.
    Financially crippled Railways is standing at a crucial juncture with slight hopes of gaining enough funds from the Finance Ministry.
    Prabhu will have to depend mostly on the External Budgetary Resources (EBR) for execution of the capacity augmentation projects, details of which he will disclose in the Budget.
    Prabhu has written to the chief ministers of 18 states for taking up rail projects through joint ventures route. Six states, including Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Andhra, Chhatisgarh, have signed MoUs with the railways for forming joint ventures.
    While announcement of new trains is unlikely for the second consecutive year, a scheme for premium high-speed parcel trains is slated to be unveiled in the budget.
    Facing a decrease in earnings, the railways will press into service many special trains on higher fares, which is an indirect way of raising fares.

    The railways have earned Rs 136,079.26 crore as against the target of Rs 141,416.05 crore, a decline of 3.77 per cent.

Ramdev's Patanjali allotted 600 acre land in Maharashtra
  • Yoga guru Baba RamdevThe Maharashtra government has allotted 600 acres of land for Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth for its ayurvedic products unit and an orange processing plant.
    Yoga guru Ramdev had earlier expressed interest in using the produce from Maharashtra's forests for his ayurveda company.
    The Patanjali group, founded by Ramdev in 2006, on February 19 signed an MoU with the Maharashtra government for 200 acres of land in Katol, Nagpur district for an orange processing plant and 450 acres of land in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the MIHAN region for ayurvedic products unit.
    The units are slated to promote development of the tribal communities and generate employment as the company will provide a broader market to medicines prepared by processing the forest produce.  Ramdev has assured that the company will source honey, amla, aloe vera, giloh plant and other products, which are mostly collected by the tribal communities, from the forest department.
    The yoga guru estimated that there could a minimum annual turnover of around Rs.240 crore from the sale of forest produce, benefitting the tribals living in forests across the state.
    Ramdev said that there are also plans to construct a huge food park in Nagpur, on the lines of the Patanjali Food Park in Haridwar.

    Patanjali Ayurved, has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent years clocking 64 per cent growth in sales to Rs 731 crore, in the six months ended December 31, 2015, according to IMRB data. The revival of inclination for ayurvedic products amongst the Indian households has also boosted sales of other Indian herbal product companies like Dabur and Himalaya. Patanjali's rival ayurvedic firms witnessed double digit growth in December quarter, according to IMRB data, snatching the market share from global MNCs.

General Awareness

India Sports Awards 2015: SPY conferred upon Lalita Babar

    • The title of Sportsperson of the Year has been conferred uponlong-distance runner Lalita Babar for the India Sports Awards 2015.
      • The Indian Sports Award were presented in New Delhi on the last day of the “Turf 2015-16”, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) with the support of the sports ministry.
      India Sports Awards 2015 SPY conferred upon Lalita BabarHere is the list of other awardees
      Best company promoting sports (public sector)Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd.
      Best company promoting sports (private sector)YES Bank Pvt Ltd.
      Best professional services companyTechnology Frontiers (India) Pvt Ltd.
      Best NGO promoting sportsSTAIRS
      Best sports start-upHotFut Sports Infrastructure Pvt Ltd
      Best national sports federationAmateur Kabaddi Federation of India
      Sportsperson of the yearLalita Babar (Athletics)
      Breakthrough sportsperson of the yearDipa Karmakar (Gymnastics)
      Coach or support staff of the yearKuldeep Handoo (Wushu)
      Lifetime achievement awardBalbir Singh
      Best stateGujarat
      About Lalita Babar
      1989 born Lalita Babar is an Indian long-distance runner who competes in the 3000 metres steeplechase and is the current Indian national record holder in the same event.
      • She is currently supported by Anglian Medal Hunt Company.
      • In 2014, she became the hat-trick winner of the Mumbai Marathon.
      • At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, she won the silver medal.
      • At the 2015 Asian Championships, she won the gold medal.
      • In the process, she qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
      At the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, she became first Indian woman to qualify for the steeplechase final and stood 8th.

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