Morning Brief: First Phase Of Chabahar Port Opens; Strengthen Police Forces, States Told; New Power Sector Reforms
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
First Phase Of Chabahar Port Opens: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani launched the first phase of the Chabahar port on Sunday, opening up a new strategic transit route between Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province is easily accessed from India’s western coast and is considered as a “gateway to golden opportunities” for trade with central Asian countries. The port is likely to ramp up trade between India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi for trade with the two countries. India has been closely working with Afghanistan to create alternative, reliable access routes, bypassing Pakistan.
States Told To Strengthen Police Forces: State governments were told by the Centre to strengthen their own police machinery. They are told to boost the number of personnel as well as modernise to reduce dependence on central paramilitary forces in Left-wing extremism-affected areas of North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. “The Centre feels that there is a limitation to the efficacy of Central Paramilitary Forces in these areas and as such the state forces need to take the lead role in tackling these problems,” a senior official said. “The Centre has offered Rs 25,000 crore for the project to modernise state forces and to augment their numerical strengths,” he said. Asked if the idea was to slowly pull back the Central forces from these responsibilities, the official said, “This may be one of the objectives, but the main thrust is to reduce over-dependence on central paramilitary forces.”
RBI May Keep Key Interest Rates Unchanged: India’s central bank is likely to keep the key interest rate unchanged on Wednesday and stay focused on inflation control as the rebound in September quarter gross domestic product growth – after a five quarter decline – seemed to have eased pressure on it to lower rates, experts said. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), headed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel, will meet on 5 and 6 December for the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy statement for 2017-18. The resolution of the MPC will be made public on 6 December. In its October review, it had kept the benchmark interest rate unchanged on fears of rising inflation while lowering growth forecast to 6.7 per cent for the current fiscal. Bankers and experts are of the view that the RBI for the second time in a row may keep key repo-rate or short term lending rate unchanged as inflation trajectory is likely to remain upward in the coming months.
Heritage Conservation Push: Steam Engines To Make A Return: The Indian Railways is set to bring back steam engines of yesteryear to haul trains in its mountain railway sections such as Kalka-Shimla, Darjeeling-Siliguri and Matheran. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani announced that the mountain lines where trains are currently pulled by diesel engines will instead host steam engines. “We will also try to keep the ticket prices of these special trains economic,” Lohani said during the National Congress of Indian Steam Railway Society. The 96-kilometre Kalka-Shimla Railway line in Himachal Pradesh is operating its flagship Shivalik Deluxe Express and a couple of other passenger trains. They are currently hauled by diesel locomotives. The 130-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is undergoing a restoration work after which it will see more steam engines introduced. The 21-km Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra is also undergoing restoration and officials said the steam service could be launched next year.
Election Commission Vows Free And Fair Gujarat Polls: After reviewing polls preparation in Gujarat, the Election Commission of India on Sunday said it has directed the election machinery in the state to ensure effective monitoring and comprehensive planning for “free, fair and transparent” polls. Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti said the state election machinery had been directed to ensure effective monitoring, vigilance and planning to address concerns of political parties and instill confidence in the electorate. Joti said the commission is also considering suggestions made by political parties. Elections will be held at 50,264 polling stations including one all-woman polling booth in each constituency, Joti said, adding electronic voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trails will be used everywhere. Gujarat will vote in two phases – on 9 and 14 December – to elect a new 182-member assembly. The counting of votes will take place on 18 December.
Power Sector Reforms: Government Planning To Allow Consumers To Switch Electricity Service Companies: If a proposal to amend the existing Electricity Act is approved, consumers will be able to change their power suppliers just like telecom services. The power ministry will push Electricity Amendment Bill in the forthcoming Budget session, which provides for segregating the distribution network business and the electricity supply business. The separation will pave the way for introducing a new system where consumers will have the option to choose from multiple electricity service providers in their areas, similar to that of telecom services. "We are bringing a lot of amendment in the Electricity Act. It also provides for separation of carriage and content business. The draft would come to me in another week or so. We will try to push it for passage in Budget session of Parliament," the Power and Renewable Energy Minister R K Singh said and added that it will help to make industrial tariff reasonable which is unsustainable at present.
New Infosys CEO Faces Uphill Tasks: Software major Infosys has appointed Salil S Parekh as its chief executive officer and managing director with effect from 2 January 2018 for a five-year term, a regulatory filing by the company said. Parekh will be expected to restore stability, stem the tide of senior management exits and return the $10-billion company — once regarded as the bellwether of Indian outsourcing — to industry-level growth. “We are delighted to have Salil joining as the CEO and MD of Infosys. He has nearly three decades of global experience in the IT services industry. He has a strong track record of executing business turnarounds and managing very successful acquisitions,” said Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani. Parekh will be joining Infosys from Capgemini, where he was the member of the group executive board. The company said UB Pravin Rao will step down as interim CEO and MD effective 2 January and will continue as chief operating officer and a whole-time director of the company.
Venezuela Plans New Cryptocurrency System To Overcome Financial Blockade: Venezuela is creating a digital currency to combat a financial blockade by the United States, President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday. Called the Petro, it is backed up by Venezuela's reserves of oil and gas and its gold and diamond holdings, the president said in his weekly television programme. “This is going to allow us to move toward new forms of international financing for the country's economic and social development," the president said. Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis triggered mainly by a fall in crude oil prices and a drop in oil production. Maduro blames those problems on sanctions imposed by the United States in August, barring American citizens and companies from buying any new Venezuelan government. Petroleum is its main source of hard currency. Over the past year, the Venezuelan bolivar has plummeted 95.5 per cent against the dollar on the black market.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
Why Can’t Ayodhya Become A Symbol Of Our Coexistence: If Ambedkar’s life struggle and teachings drive home the message of social harmony, why can’t the city of Ayodhya become a symbol of our coexistence? This is a lesson that history, too, advises us to follow.
New System Of Transfer Of Fiscal Resources: Unequal access and poor delivery of services, including their quality across states, may partly be contributing to a lack of convergence in income and consumption parameters. While compositional shifts in resource transfers are indeed desirable in core services, scheme-specific transfers, together with independent monitoring, are equally necessary.
Making Northeast Medical Tourism Hub For The Region: Northeast India is gaining attraction of foreign and domestic investors under the Act East Policy. Medical tourism has the potential to bring huge investment in Northeast India and generate jobs.
Using Telecom Data For Development: Telecom data can be used to test the impact of optimizing road infrastructure on traffic. Telecom data holds the power to resolve issues – from preventing the spread of dengue to driving financial inclusion.
The Problem Of Congress Is Not That It Is Too Much Hindu, But Too Little: Indira Gandhi won elections by going on temple runs before every one of them and flaunting her religious credentials unabashedly. There is no reason why her grandson cannot do the same. But, unfortunately for the Congress, it is seen as a pro-Muslim party.
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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