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LPG PRODUCTION

New Delhi: The government is eyeing close to Rs 30,000-crore investment for expansion of LPG production and distribution network in next three years as it widens cooking gas coverage by giving out a record number of connections.

A record 3.45 crore LPG connections were given during the fiscal ended March 31, 2017, including 2.2 crore free connections to poor women, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters here.

As many as 6 crore connections have been given in last three years, taking LPG to 72.84 per cent of the population. The LPG coverage was just over 50 per cent when the NDA government took office in May 2014, he said.

Increasing LPG coverage is part of the government’s plan to cut on the use of polluting firewood and liquid fuel as medium of cooking. The use of LPG not just help environment but also increases productivity and prevent health hazards.

“When we took office, there were about 14 crore active LPG connections. In three years, this has gone up to 20.08 crore,” he said.

The main reason for the vast expansion is the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana of providing free cooking gas connection of below poverty line (BPL) women.

Under the scheme, the government bears the cost of Rs 1,600 for getting the connection.

“PMUY was launched on May 1, 2016 with a target to provide 5 crore connections in three years. The first year target was 1.5 crore. But we have done 2.2 crore connections in the first year,” he said.

Pradhan said his ministry is looking at raising the target of free LPG connections but a decision will be taken after consulting the finance ministry which has to provide the financial support.

For the 5 crore connections, Rs 8,000 crore was provisioned.

The ministry is targeting 3 crore connections including 1.5-2 crore under PMJY during the 2017-18 fiscal and another 4 crore in the following year. This would help take LPG coverage to 95.49 per cent of the population.

He said PMJY initially targeted less LPG coverage states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. As many as 56.05 lakh connections under PMJY have been distributed in Uttar Pradesh, taking LPG coverage to 74.5 per cent of the state population from 53 per cent previously. The state now has LPG coverage higher than the national average.

RECOVERY OF BAD LOANS

New Delhi: The government has empowered RBI to ask banks to initiate insolvency proceedings to recover bad loans, amounting to over Rs 6 lakh crore in case of state- owned lenders alone, and promised more measures to resolve the NPA crisis.

Acting quickly, the RBI made substantial changes in the norms and also warned banks of monetary penalty for missing NPA resolution timelines.

Within hours of the notification on ordinance amending the Banking Resolution Act 1949, the RBI, through a notification, eased the decision making process in the Joint Lenders’ Forum (JLF) and Corrective Action Plan (CAP) under the ‘Framework for Revitalising Distressed Assets in the Economy’.

Gross NPA of PSBs nearly doubled to Rs 5.02 lakh crore at the end of March 2016, up from Rs 2.67 lakh crore at the end of March 2015. Jaitley further said an amendment is proposed to the prevention of corruption act which has been introduced in Parliament. The Standing Committee has submitted its report on its and will come up for consideration of both the Houses. “Some other steps also being taken, which once decided, will be communicated,” he added.

Further, the government is also planning to modify MoUs which banks sign at the time of receiving capital from the government.

This, he said, would relate to immediate cash release initiatives, like sale of assets, closure of non profitable branches, reduction of overheads, business turnaround steps, and strengthening of credit appraisal process.

Emphasising that ordinance has been notified as of today morning, the Finance Minister said, discussions were on for last one and a half months with regard to NPA resolution policy.

The government has issued a general authorisation to RBI in this regard in line with the ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee last last evening.

The ordinance, which amends Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act 1949, will have to be placed in Parliament for approval in the upcoming monsoon session. It has inserted Section 35 AA and Section 35 AB in the Act.

“The object of this Act is that the present status quo cannot continue. And the present status quo is that not much was moving and therefore a paralysis in the name of autonomy is detrimental to the economy itself and therefore that really requires to be broken,” Jaitley said.

He said the move will expedite commercial decision making of the banks.

The minister said one of the objects is that “when bankers take commercial decisions on commercial and banking considerations, they must have adequate comfort level”. Jaitley further said that interference of the Finance Ministry has not helped in dealing with the problem of the sector.

“Whenever North Block has without power interfered in the banking system, it hasn’t done very good,” he said. The ordinance has also empowered the RBI to set up sector related oversight panels that will shield bankers from later action by probe agencies looking into loan recasts.

2.2 PERCENT BUDGETARY ALLOCATIONS FOR HEALTH

Mumbai, May 5 () Union minister J P Nadda today said the government is striving hard to offer affordable and quality healthcare services to all and committed to raise the spending on healthcare to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a phased manner.

“The mission of the ministry of health and family welfare is to reform and manage the health sector effectively and efficiently to deliver comprehensive health and family welfare services that are equally distributed, accessible and sustainable for all across the country,” the union health minister said.

He was speaking at the diamond jubilee celebration of Family Welfare Training and Research Centre here. Nadda said the government has announced the National Health Policy 2017 after a gap of 15 years and is committed to increase the spending on healthcare to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a phased manner.

“The ongoing efforts of the government aim to promote and understand the quality of care and develop innovative solutions to long standing challenges in the health system of the country to align with sustainable development goals and to ensure good health and well-being of the country,” he added.

He said that health is an important component of the sustainable development goals and is represented by SDG-3- ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages’.

The minister said, “The rate of decline of our under five mortality has more than doubled from 3.3 per cent in 1990-2008 to 6.9 per cent in 2008-2014.” About tuberculosis, the minister said, “Our TB incidence has reduced to 2,172 lakh in 2015 compared to 300 lakh in 1990. There is also a reduction in maternal mortality rate, reduction in incidents of malaria and new HIV infections. AP NP

 

EDIBLE OIL CAUSES LOSSES

New Delhi : Select edible oil prices continued to slide for yet another week at the wholesale oils and oilseeds market due to slackened demand from vanaspati millers as well as retailers against ample stock position following increased supplies from producing belts.

Castor and linseed oils in the non-edible section, also eased on reduced offtake by consuming industries.

Traders said besides easing demand from vanaspati millers and retailers, adequate stock position on increased supplies from producing belts mainly kept pressure on select edible oils prices.

In the national capital, groundnut mill delivery Gujarat) and mustard expeller (Dadri) oils fell by Rs 100 each to Rs 10,300 and Rs 8,000 per quintal, respectively. Mustard pakki and kachi ghani oils traded lower by Rs 50 each to Rs 1,250-1,295 and Rs 1,300-1,400 a tin, respectively.

Soyabean refined mill delivery (Indore) and soyabean degum (Kandla) oils, which remained steady for the major part of the week,met with resistance at the fag-end and slipped by Rs 100 each to Rs 6,450 and Rs 6,150 a quintal, respectively.

On the other hand, palmolein (rbd) and palmolein (Kandla) oils edged up by Rs 50 each to Rs 5,500 and Rs 5,550 per quintal in scattered demand. In the non-edible section, castor and linseed oils slipped to Rs 9,400-9,500 and Rs 9,500 from previous levels of Rs 9,450-9,550 and Rs 9,600 per quintal, respectively.

MID TERM FOREIGN TRADE POLICY

NEW DELHI: Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharamant has said the revised mid-term foreign trade policy (FTP) is to be announced few days ahead of July 1, the scheduled date for the Goods and Services Tax roll out.

After holding a meeting with various stakeholders, including exporters as part mid-term review of FTP (2015-20) here, the minister also said that no suggestions were made to scale down the 2020 export target of $900 billion, including services.

Given the current economic and geopolitical situations globally there are concerns that international trade may be impacted. Sitharaman said suggestions were made that the review should be concluded by July 1 so that it is aligned with the GST implementation.

“We found merit in the suggestion that the review of the policy should be well in time to go along with the roll out of the GST. It means I have to announce it well in time for July 1,” she said. She further said that there were certain specific suggestions and questions for the GST Council comprising state finance ministers, and headed by the Union Finance Minister. A team including the Commerce Secretary to seek time from GST Council on the specific issue, including one related to duty refunds of exporters.

EXPERTS TO LOOK INTO RAILWAY SAFETY

New Delhi: The Centre has set up an expert team to look into the issue of railway safety and suggest ways to improve it in the wake of several incidents of suspected sabotage of tracks. The decision was taken at a recent meeting attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu besides others.

The four-member expert team will look into the issue of security of railways and suggest ways to improve it, official sources said.

Prabhu had, in the past, said there were attempts to sabotage rail tracks and carry out explosions. He had said there were seven “blast attempts” and three cases of attempted sabotage, among others.

The Railways had said there was an “unusual” jump in “sabotage” cases in 2017 with around 18 such incidents in the first 40 days of the year. There were reports of sabotage attempts by placing boulders, concrete slab, stone slab or rail pieces on tracks in Lucknow, Mumbai, Waltair, Allahabad and Maldadivisions.

At an election rally at Gonda in Uttar Pradesh on February 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Kanpur train accident in which 150 people were killed was a “conspiracy” and the perpetrators carried it out “sitting across the border” in Nepal. Fourteen coaches of the Indore-Patna Express had derailed near Pukhraya in Kanpur Dehat district on November 20, 2016.

COST OF AIR FARE TO GO UP

New Delhi: The passenger service fee (PSF), paid by air travellers, is likely to go up marginally as the government is mulling increasing the security and facilitation charges.

This may happen as a high-level meeting, attended by Union ministers of state for home and civil aviation Kiren Rijiju and Jayant Sinha respectively and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, asked the ministry of civil aviation to find out ways and means to recover the cost of security arrangements at airports.

The home ministry has also been told to find out what will be the total annual cost of providing security at 143 functional airports in the country, a government functionary said. The reports from the two ministries are expected to come within two months and then a decision will be taken to increase the PSF.

Each air passenger in India has to pay Rs 130 as security charge and it is part of the Rs 225 being charged as PSF by the airlines while selling the tickets.

The security charge of Rs 130 has not been increased in last 15 years and now, since the cost of providing security to airports has gone up manifold, there is all likelihood that the amount will go up, the functionary said.

Currently, there is no unanimity on who will foot the Rs 800 crore bill raised by the home ministry for providing CISF security at airports across the country.

While the civil aviation ministry argued that since security is a sovereign function, the money should come from the consolidated fund of the Government of India, the finance ministry is said to have suggested that the burden should be passed on to the air travellers. The home ministry disagreed with the finance ministry’s suggestion, contending it would lead to hike in air fare.

Out of the 98 functional airports in the country, 59 are under the Central Industrial Security Force cover. Among them, 26 airports, including those in New Delhi and Mumbai, are in the hyper-sensitive category. Of these hyper-sensitive airports, 18 are under the CISF cover, while six like Srinagar and Imphal are being guarded by the CRPF, the state police or other paramilitary forces.

Under the sensitive category, there are 56 airports out of which only 37 are under the CISF cover. The list of airports has gone up to 143 with the inclusion of 45 small airports after the launch of regional connectivity scheme, named ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik’ (Udan).

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