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Today's Hot Stories-July 4, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Government clears "Right to Education Bill" to provide free education for age group (6-14 )
(2) Floods wreak havoc in Assam, 200000 people displaced
(3) Pakistan appeals against release of JuD Chief Hafiz Saeed
(4) Rishad Premji, 32-year-old son of Wipro founder Azim Premji, moves into a new role of General Manager, Treasury and Investor Relations at Wipro
(5) DLF raises Rs 1000 crore through land sales
(6) Tata's Nano in Nigeria by 2010
(7) Paes-Black in Wimbledon mixed doubles final
(8) India wins 3rd ODI against West Indies by 6 wickets
(9) Five-time champion Roger Federer booked a date with history, taming Tommy Haas in straight sets to make it to his seventh Wimbledon final
(10) Jackson to be buried in $250000 gold plated coffin

5 Stories for Today

(1) Mamata spares passengers
(2) North Korea 'tests more missiles'
(3) Maruti Suzuki launches new Grand Vitara
(4) World Bank directs $6.6 billion to South Asia; $400 million to India
(5) India remains preferred FDI destination

(1) Mamata spares passengers

Better amenities, concessions for the masses and students and a record number of new trains, including low-cost trains for the youth, have been balanced with a slew of commercially viable projects by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in the first Railway budget of the new UPA government.

It is for the first time in six years that passenger and freight charges have been left untouched.

Ms. Banerjee took the opportunity to outline the Railways’ road map by setting up a series of committees to prepare the blue print for the path ahead and held back announcement of new projects for want of clearance from the Planning Commission. These would be announced in due course.

Ms. Banerjee proposes to initiate a record 57 new train services, extend the services of 27 other trains and increase the frequency of 13 others. This includes a dozen trains, which would run without any halt from point to point under the nomenclature ‘Duronto (superfast) trains’; low-cost air-conditioned trains with seating arrangements dedicated to the young generation; and the low-income group and women-only, EMU trains to be introduced in Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata suburban during rush hour.

She also proposed to introduce air-conditioned double-decker coaches for inter-city passengers. Ms. Banerjee announced a new scheme for labourers earning less than Rs.1500 a month allowing them to travel up to 100 km to their place of livelihood at a concessional monthly season ticket (MST) of Rs. 25 a month under the scheme “Izzat” which, she said, was to accord dignity to workers of the unorganised sector.

The budget proposes to extend the existing MST for students to those studying in madrasas, higher and senior madrasas. The MST available to students in Kolkata will be applicable in Metro Rail Kolkata also.

She announced the revision of the Tatkal Scheme under which the period of booking the ticket has been reduced from five days to two days. The minimum charge would be Rs. 100 instead of Rs.150 and the fare would be charged for the destination instead of the entire route of the train as of now.

On the other hand, she intends to set up 50 multi-functional complexes at railway stations serving pilgrimage, tourist and industry centres, encourage private ownership of special purpose rolling stock for commodities and private operation of freight terminals, introduce premium service for container movement with assured transit time, super fast premium parcel service on pilot basis on three routes, set up mega logistics hubs alongside Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors, and set up a cold storage chain for the benefit of farmers and the rural economy.

She announced the setting up of an Eastern Industrial Corridor, a new factory at Kanchrapara-Halisahar, which would produce 500 EMU and MEMU and Metro coaches annually. A 1,000-MW power plant would be set up at Adra, 50 stations would be developed as world class stations, 375 as ideal stations and automated laundries set up at metropolitan cities, units of Burn Standard and Braithwaite to be taken over.

She promised an onboard housekeeping scheme, toilet facilities in DEMU and MEMU trains with a journey time of more than two hours, automated vending machines at 200 large and medium-sized stations and the sale of tickets through post offices and mobile vans.

She declared a surplus of Rs. 17400 crore in 2008-09 and a dividend of Rs. 4,717 crore to the government, leaving the Railways with an investible surplus of Rs. 12,681 crore.

(2) North Korea 'tests more missiles'

North Korea has tested three short-range missiles, South Korean media say, as concern mounts in the region that a long-range test could be days away.

It test-fired other missiles earlier this week and has incurred fresh UN sanctions since holding a second underground nuclear test in May.

Two of the missiles were fired from a base near Wonsan into the Sea of Japan, South Korea's defence ministry said. They are believed to have been Scuds with a range of 500 km (312 miles).

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the first two missiles had been fired at 2300 GMT. The third missile was fired at around 10:45, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.

"Our military is fully ready to counter any North Korean threats and provocations based on strong South Korea-US combined defence posture," the JCS said in a statement.

A South Korean defence official said Saturday's tests were of greater concern than Thursday's, as the missiles had longer ranges.

"Thursday's missile tests were apparently made as part of a military drill but today's launches, which came on the eve of the US Independence Day, are believed to be aimed at political purposes," the official told Yonhap.

Correspondent John Sudworth in Seoul says the launches are seen there as part of North Korean efforts to ratchet up the tension. Japanese and South Korean media have reported that North Korea may be preparing to launch another long-range ballistic missile. There are fears that North Korea is trying to produce nuclear warheads small enough to put on missiles.

After six-nation talks aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear ambitions broke down earlier this year, Pyongyang said it would "weaponise" its plutonium stocks and start enriching uranium for a light-water nuclear reactor.

On 12 June the UN Security Council approved a resolution allowing inspection of air, sea and land shipments in and out of North Korea suspected of carrying banned arms and weapons-related material. The North has said it will treat any interception of its ships as a declaration of war.

(3) Maruti Suzuki launches new Grand Vitara

The country's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India today launched an advanced version of its sports utility vehicle Grand Vitara, priced at Rs 16.67 lakh-Rs 17.97 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

"Highly popular over the world, the Grand Vitara is one of the global strategic models in Suzuki Range. For all those customers, who are increasingly looking at SUVs, the Grand Vitara 2.4 offers more power and the best in class 4X4 drive at a highly competitive price," Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Executive Officer (Marketing and Sales) Mayank Pareek said in a statement.

Grand Vitara would come with a 2.4 litre petrol engine in both manual as well as automatic transmission, the company said. MSI's parent Suzuki has sold over 25 lakh units of Grand Vitara across the world since launch, it added.

(4) World Bank directs $6.6 billion to South Asia; $400 million to India

The World Bank Group committed US $6.6 billion in fiscal year ended June 30 to South Asia, where India is the largest borrower, much of it focused on helping the countries cope up with the impact of the global economic crisis.

Key to the Bank's strategy in South Asia is scaling up existing programmes that are delivering results, the group said.

In India, a $400 million loan was extended to improve access to finance for India's Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which face serious challenges in accessing adequate and timely financing on competitive terms. Within South Asia, India was the largest borrower from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), accounting for $2242 million.

Pakistan was the second largest borrower with US $1,609 million (IDA), followed by Bangladesh at $1,096 million (IDA), the Bank said.

The Bank also provided $500 million to support the Government of Pakistan's programme to regain and maintain economic stability and steer the economy back onto a higher growth path.

With an increase of US $1.1 billion over the previous year, the Bank invested in 89 projects to promote economic growth, fight poverty, and assist private businesses, including nearly US $2 billion in infrastructure financing, a critical sector to provide the foundation for rapid recovery from the crisis and job creation.

South Asian countries have been hard hit by a series of crises like food, then the fuel crisis, followed by the global financial crisis, said Isabel M. Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asia.

"In response to the impact of these successive crises much of our work has been refocused to provide rapid financial assistance and policy advice to reverse the slowdown in growth and investment and to protect the poor and most vulnerable people."

Globally, the World Bank Group committed US $58.8 billion in fiscal year 2009, up 54 percent from fiscal year 2008.

Commitments from IBRD, which provides financing, risk management products, and other financial services to countries, rose sharply in FY09 to US $32.9 billion for 126 operations, from US $13.5 billion the previous year.

Commitments from IDA, which provides interest-free loans and grants to the world's 79 poorest countries, totalled a record US $14 billion in FY09, up 25 percent from US $11.2 billion in FY08.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which makes equity investments, and provides loans, guarantees, and advisory services to private-sector business, committed close to US $1.2 billion in 47 projects in FY09 in South Asia.

(5) India remains preferred FDI destination

Notwithstanding global meltdown and the financial crisis impacting major economies of the world, India continued to remain as the preferred and attractive foreign direct investment (FDI) destination attracting nearly $46.5 billion of FDI during 2008.

According to the Economic Survey, FDI flows in 2008-09 were also the reflection of the confidence of foreign investors in the growth prospects of the Indian economy.

“India continues to retain its position as a preferred destination for investments,” it states. There had been an increase in FDI during 2008-09 over the previous year, it said.

With regard to foreign institutional investors (FIIs), the Survey said there were signs that the FIIs who had recorded net outflows in 2008-09 might have returned to the Indian market in the last two months.

According to an UNCTAD study, FDI into India went up from $35.1 billion in 2007 to $46.5 billion in 2008 even as global flows declined from $1.9 trillion to $1.7 trillion during the period. It has suggested that FDI limit in defence industries should be raised to 49 per cent from 26 per cent at present and allow up to 100 per cent FDI on a case-by-case basis. Besides, the survey suggested increasing FDI cap in the insurance sector from the existing 26 per cent to 49 per cent and for specialised insurance companies to 100 per cent.




           
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