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Economic Survey, 2013
Chief Economic Advisor Raghuram Rajan’s first ever Economic Survey was tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2013, by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. According to the Survey, WPI inflation is seen declining to 6.2-6.6 percent by March, which could create more room for rate cuts going ahead. It pegs growth at 6.1 and 6.6 percent in FY14.

Though problem areas are recognised, the survey seems to provide a sense of optimism within the current macro-economic framework.

  • FY13 GDP growth seen at 5%.
  • Indian economy likely to grow at 6.1-6.7% in FY14.
  • Growth downturn more or less over; economy looking up.
  • WPI inflation may decline to 6.2-6.6% in March.
  • Food inflation mainly driven by cereal prices.
  • Oil subsidy key fiscal risk; needs to be addressed.
  • Need to up diesel, LPG prices in-line with global rates.
  • Economic slowdown a wake-up call for stepping up reforms.
  • Room to increase exports limited in short-term.
  • Need to curb gold imports to cut current account deficit.
  • Financial sector to be influenced by short-term/long-term factors.
  • Fund flows to be influenced by risk perception of investors.
  • Revival of investment in industry, infra key challenge.
  • Industry growth still vulnerable to local, global factors.
  • Impact of policy easing may not lead to inflation surge.
  • Tax mop-up slippage can be lowered with additional efforts.
  • Inflation expectation anchored around current inflation targets.
  • India’s GDP growth seen around 5% in 2012-13.
  • India’s GDP growth seen at 6.1-6.7% in 2013-14.
  • India government target for fiscal deficit is 4.8 pct of GDP in 2013-14.
  • India government target for fiscal deficit is 3 pct of GDP in 2016-17.
  • Raising tax to GDP ratio to more than 11 pct seen as critical for sustaining fiscal consolidation.
  • Recommends curbing gold imports to reign in current account deficit.
  • Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) flows need to be targeted towards long-term rupee instruments.
  • India’s industrial output seen growing around 3% in 2012-13.
Union Budget 2013
On February 28, 2013, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented the Union Budget in the Parliament. While it was a job well-done on the fiscal front, the Budget failed strategically in certain critical areas and in comforting domestic equity markets.

The Finance Minister met the fiscal deficit target for FY2013 RE with 5.2% (as % of GDP), as against the budget estimate of 5.3%, despite 18% increase in the subsidy burden in FY2013—it is noteworthy to know that the progress is not only in terms of ratio of GDP but also in absolute terms.

Fiscal deficit in absolute terms is up just by 1.4% in FY2013 RE over FY2013 BE and merely 1% over the actual fiscal deficit in FY2012, despite about 122% increase in petroleum subsidy alone.

The government spent only 96% of budgeted expenditures in FY2013 RE and is committed to bring down fiscal imbalances significantly in FY2014.

All four major deficit parameters viz., Fiscal Deficit (overall deficit), Revenue Deficit (overall deficit without accounting for borrowings), Effective Revenue Deficit (Revenue deficit excluding Capital assets creating Grants from Revenue account) and Primary Deficit (overall deficit excluding interest payments) are expected to come down.

In absolute terms also Revenue Deficit, Effective Revenue Deficit and Primary Deficits are expected to fall by 2.9%, 23.1% and 15.9%, respectively. Only overall Fiscal Deficit is expected to go up marginally, by 4.1% in absolute terms.

Subsidy bill is expected to be contained at 2% in FY2014 BE, as against 2.6% in FY2013 RE—in absolute terms projected to fall by 10.3%, not an impossible task considering commitment to raise diesel price periodically, implementation of Cash Transfer Scheme and possible fall in crude oil prices due to global slowdown.

The Finance Minister earmarked Rs.33,000 crore for MNREG (welfare schemes) for FY2014 BE, same level as maintained in FY2013 RE. He has reduced number of Centrally Sponsored Schemes to 70 from 173, and also committed to review them every two years.

The Plan expenditure is projected to grow by 29.4%, whereas Non-Plan expenditure to grow only by 10.8%. Revenue expenditure (mostly non-asset creating expenses) to grow 13.7%, as against 36.6% increase for Capital expenditures (mostly reduce liability or to create assets).

The government’s responsibility towards a good budget and its concern regarding the stressful situation for the corporate and individuals was also evident from the way the fresh tax burden was imposed. 10% surcharge has been imposed on super-rich (with annual income of more than Rs one crore) for one year. Tax on royalty and fees on foreign companies has been increased from 10% to 25%. Service tax has been imposed on AC restaurants. Excise duty on cigarettes has been increased by 18%. Service tax abatement rate has been reduced to 70%, from 75%,which means individual who buy a house worth more than Rs one crore have to shell out additionally Rs50,000.

The overall tax revenues are expected to go up by 19.1% which is a comfortable growth target for the economy. On non-tax revenues the government is expecting a good growth of 32.8% on the back of increased surplus with the RBI to the tune of Rs 43,996.24 crore for FY14, versus Rs 25,446.75 crore in FY13, a growth of 73% y-o-y.

Other significant contribution to the non-tax revenues comes from the telecom auctions which were not completed in FY13 owing to the high price of the spectrum. The telecom auctions and license fees are expected to garner Rs. 40,847 crore in FY14E.

The government was able to divest close to Rs. 24,000 crores in FY13 through successful OFS of various companies like NMDC, NTPC, etc. Buoyed by the sentiment in FY13 the government would continue to divest its holding in various public sector enterprises and has increased the divestment target of PSUs to Rs 40,000 crore.

The Finance Minister also mentioned his intent to improve the tax to GDP ratio to the 2007-08 peak of 11.9%, from 5.5% (for direct taxes) and 4.4% for indirect taxes seen in 2011-12.

Other significant measures for the benefit of economic growth and promoting foreign investments are: 15% deduction as investment allowance for the companies which buy plant and machinery worth more than Rs.100 cr; almost freezing defence outlays, a significant component of total expenditure, over FY2013BE; classifying foreign investments more than 10% in a company as FDI—this will promote more inflows from the FIIs; tax-free infra bonds limit raised to Rs 50,000 crore, from Rs 25,000 crore earlier.

There were no significant measures to boost households’ financial savings, nor encouragement to the domestic investors in the form of abolishing, reducing short term capital gain tax or doing away with the STT, considering the fact that the retail investors are shying away from the domestic equity markets. No credible commitments have been made to contain current account deficits, nor have any substantial measures been proposed to promote the infrastructure outlays with help of private sector – like allowing large banks to issue tax-free bonds, etc.

Key features
  • Tax Administration Reforms Commissions to be set up.
  • Relief to tax payers with income between Rs 2 lakh-5 lakh with tax credit of Rs 2,000.
  • Surcharge of 10% on people with taxable income of Rs 1 crore or more.
  • Education cess for all tax payers to continue at 3 per cent.
  • Power sector tax holiday extended.
  • TDS of one per cent on transaction of property over Rs 50 lakh. Not to be applicable to agriculture.
  • Securities transaction tax on equity futures cut from 0.17 to 0.1 per cent
  • Commodities transaction tax on non-agriculture future contracts at 0.01 per cent.
  • E-filing of tax returns to be made mandatory for more sectors.
  • Royalty tax hiked from 10% to 25%.
  • Import duty on set-top boxes increased to 10% from 5%
  • Duty on imported goods like motor vehicles, yatchs and motor cycles increased
  • Excise duty on SUVs hiked to 30 per cent from 27 per cent. No duty on those used as taxi.
  • All silver to attract excise of 4 per cent.
  • Mobile phones priced over Rs 2,000 to attract 6 per cent duty.
  • Service tax on all A/C restaurants with over 2,000 sq ft.
  • Voluntary Compliance Encouragement Scheme for Service Tax payers.
  • Direct Taxes after changes will yield Rs 13,300 crore and indirect taxes Rs 4,700 crore.
  • Rs 9,000 crore for balance CST compensation to the States.
  • An additional sum of Rs 200 crore for women and child-welfare schemes to end discrimination.
  • Nirbhaya Fund of Rs 1,000 crore—for women and girl child related schemes.
  • Rs 150 crore proposed for health scheme for old. Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy to be mainstreamed; stresses on care for elderly (geriatric care).
  • Education to get Rs 65,867 crore, 17 per cent more than previous year. Mid-day meal scheme will get Rs 13,215 crore; Child development scheme to get Rs 17,700 crore, which is 11.2 per cent higher than previous year.
  • Clean drinking water and sanitation to get over Rs 15,000 crore.
  • MNREGS to get about Rs 33,000 crore.
  • Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana II announced for Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan. States that have completed PMGSY will be eligible for PMGSY 2.
  • Rural Development Schemes to get Rs 80,194 crore.
  • Agriculture sector to get Rs 24,049 crore.
  • Interest subvention scheme—Rs 1,000 crore for Eastern States growing rice.
  • Allocation to agricultural ministry increased 22 per cent, to Rs 27,049 crore for 2013-14.
  • Agricultural Research to get Rs 3,415 crore in 2013-14.
  • Farmers Producers Organisations to get matching grant, and credit enhancement scheme
  • Over and above food subsidy, Rs 10,000 crore set apart for food security Bill.
  • Credit disbursement to farmers targeted at Rs 7 lakh crore in 2013-14.
  • Budget 2013-14 proposes Rs 5,000 crore for NABARD to finance construction of warehouses, cold storage silos to store agriculture produce.
  • RIDF corpus to be increased to Rs 20,000 crore, from Rs 19,000 crore.
  • Infra Debt Fund to be encouraged to provide long term, low cost funds. Of the four IDFs registered, two have been launched.
  • Scheme to allow cities and municipalities to take up waste to energy projects on PPP mode. Waste to energy projects undertaken by municipalities to get viability gap funding.
  • Low cost finance for renewable energy projects. Life span for five years. Rs 800 crore for generation-based incentives for wind energy.
  • Low interest bearing funds from National Clean Energy Fund to IREDA to lend for clean energy projects.
  • New criteria to define backward regions: per capita, literacy and other human development indicators.
  • Defence allocation increased to Rs 2,03,672 crore. Department of Space to get Rs 5,615 crore; Rs 6,275 crore allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology; Atomic Energy to get Rs 5,880 crore.
  • An independent authority for the road transport sector has been proposed. About 3,000 km of roads to be awarded in the first six months of 2013-14.
  • Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor proposed with Japanese funding support.
  • Stating that five inland waterways have been declared as national, the river in Assam will be the sixth.
  • Two new ports will be set up—one in Sagar in West Bengal and another one in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Tax free bonds in 2013-14 up to Rs 50,000 crore.
  • Income limit for tax-savings under Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme raised to Rs 12 lakh from Rs 10 lakh. Inflation-indexed bonds will be announced on June 1.
  • First time home buyers, taking loan of up to Rs 25 lakh in FY 13-14, will get additional interest benefit of Rs 1 lakh.
  • NELP will be reviewed to move from profit sharing to revenue sharing and gas pricing policy will be reviewed.
  • SIDBI will get more funds to provide finance to MSMEs; corpus of Rs 500 crore proposed for SIDBI to set up credit guarantee fund.
  • Rs 50 crore for apparel parks proposed.
  • Funds provided to technology incubators located in educational institutes approved by DST, MSME to be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Women in handloom sector to get working capital and term loans at concessional interest of 6 per cent.
  • Rs 50 crore for environment schemes for textile units; Rs 96 crore for Textile Ministry interest subvention.
  • India's first public sector bank for women proposed with Rs 1,000 crore as initial capital.
  • Rs 2,000 crore for urban housing fund to be set up by NHB.
  • Private FM channels to reach 294 new cities, 839 new channels to be auctioned in 2013-14. All cities with over one lakh population will be covered by private channels.
  • Central Sponsored Scheme to be restructured. Numbers to be brought down to 70 from 173.
  • Over Rs 400 crore to make to make Post Offices IT-linked and provide real-time based banking services.
  • Rs 250 crore to set up National Institute of Sports Coaching at Patiala.
  • Insurance companies will be allowed to open branches in Tier two cities without IRDA’s approval. LIC will be allowed to open branches in all towns with over population of 10,000.
  • RSBY will cover auto-rickshaw pullers, taxi drivers, sanitation workers, rag pickers.
Railway Budget 2013
Rail Budget 2013 was presented by Railway Minister P.K. Bansal on February 26, 2013.

The highlights of the Railway Budget are:
  • Special coaches, called “Anubhuti”, equipped with luxurious services, to be introduced in select trains.
  • A new train, “Azadi Express” to places linked with the freedom struggle to be introduced, fares to be concessional.
  • Allocation of Rs 1,000 crore each made for Railway Land Development Authority and Railway Station Development Authority.
  • Common rail-bus ticket to be introduced for Katra-Vaishnodevi pilgrims.
  • Railway energy management company to be set up to harness solar and wind energy.
  • 1,000 crossings to be energised by solar power.
  • 1.51 lakh vacancies to be filled up.
  • Locomotive cabs to be air-conditioned.
  • India has joined China, Russia and the US as 1 billion-plus tonne freight carrier using Railways.
  • By end of 2013-14, 1,500 km of contracts to be awarded for two dedicated rail corridors.
  • Rs.1 lakh crore target set for public-private-partnership route.
  • Free Wi-Fi to be provided on some trains.
  • Rs.100 crore for improving stations in New Delhi.
  • SMS alerts for passengers on reservation status.
  • Next generation e-ticketing system by end of 2013.
  • Corporate plan for 10 years to be drawn up.
  • 10 per cent reservation in Railway Protection Force (RPF) for women.
  • Six more Rail Neer bottling plants to be set up.
  • Losses mounted from Rs.22,500 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.24,600 crore in 2012-13.
  • 12th Plan railway size to be Rs 5.19 lakh crore, with gross budgetary support of Rs 1.94 lakh crore.
  • 5.2 per cent growth in passenger traffic expected in 2013-14
  • Railway hopes to end 2013-14 with a balance of Rs 12,506 crore.
  • Fall in accidents-per million accidents down from .41 to .13.
  • Aim to eliminate 31,846 level crossings.
  • Dynamic fuel adjustment component to be introduced on freight rates from April 1, 2013, that will result in less than five per cent increase in rates.
  • Identification of 104 stations for upgradation in places with more than one million population and of religious significance.
  • 67 new express trains to be introduced; 27 passenger trains, 8 DEMUs.
  • Rs 9000 crore investments expected, including Rs 3,800 crore in port connectivity and Rs 800 crore in iron ore mines connectivity.
  • Indian Railway Institute for Financial Management to be set up at Secunderabad to train rail officers on a regular basis.
  • Forged Wheel Factory at Rae Bareli in collaboration with Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited.
  • Greenfield Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) manufacturing facility at Bhilwara (Rajasthan) in collaboration with State Government and BHEL.
  • Coach Manufacturing Unit in Sonepat District (Haryana) in collaboration with State Government.
  • Midlife Rehabilitation Workshop at Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) in collaboration with the State Government.
  • Bikaner and Pratapgarh workshops to undertake POH of BG wagons.
  • Workshop for repair and rehabilitation of motorized bogies at Misrod (Madhya Pradesh).
  • Wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi (Odisha).
  • Modern signalling equipment facility at Chandigarh through PPP route.
  • Upgrading another 60 stations as Adarsh Stations in addition to 980 already selected.
  • Centralized Catering Services Monitoring Cell set up with a toll free number (1800 111 321).
  • Introduction of executive lounge at 7 more stations, namely, Bilaspur, Visakhapatnam, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru.
  • Railway Energy Management Company to be set up to harness solar and wind energy.
  • Railways’ freight loading traffic scaled down by 100 million tonnes from 1025 million tonnes because of economic slowdown.
  • North-eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh will be added to the country’s railway map with the laying of the first track from Harmoti in Assam to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. The track is likely to be commissioned within 2013-14.
Budget Estimates 2013-14
- Freight loading of 1047 MT, 40 MT more than 2012-13.
- Passenger growth: 5.2 per cent.
- Gross Traffic Receipts: Rs 1,43,742 cr, an increase of 18,062 cr over RE, 2012-13.
- Ordinary Working Expenses: Rs 96,500 cr.
- Appropriation to DRF at Rs 7,500 cr and to Pension Fund at Rs 22,000 cr.
- Dividend payment estimated at Rs 6,249 cr.
- Operating Ratio to be 87.8 per cent.
- Fund Balances to exceed Rs 12,000 cr.
Annual Plan 2013-14
- Highest ever plan outlay of RS 63,363 cr.
- Gross Budgetary Support: Rs 26,000 cr
- Railway Safety Fund: Rs 2,000 cr
- Internal Resources: Rs 14,260 cr.
- EBR—Market Borrowing: Rs 15,103 cr.
- EBR—PPP: Rs 6,000 cr.
- 500 km new lines, 750 km doubling, 450 km gauge conversion targeted in 2013-14.
- Loan of Rs 3,000 cr repaid fully.
- 347 projects prioritized with assured funding.
- A new fund—Debt Service Fund—set up to meet committed liabilities.
- Target to create fund balance of Rs 30,000 cr in the terminal year of the 12th Plan.

RBI allows for new banks to be opened
Corporates, conglomerates—whether in the public or private sectors—as also Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) can now apply for a banking licence using a Non-Operative Financial Holding Company (NOFHC) structure.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued final guidelines for new banks on February 22, 2013. It refrained from restricting entities that had a significant presence in the real estate and broking sectors from setting up a bank, although it had put in some caveats in the draft guidelines.

RBI has stipulated that the new banks cannot have any exposure—whether credit or investments in debt or equity—to the “promoters, group entities or individuals associated with the promoter group or the NOFHC” and will count on feedback from investigative and tax agencies to issue licences on a “very selective basis”.

The NOFHC must hold a minimum of 40% of the paid-up equity capital of the bank for five years, with the stake being pared to 15% within 12 years. A minimum initial capital of Rs 500 crore is needed to set up a bank, and 25% of the branches need to be located in unbanked arees.

RBI has also tightened foreign holdings in new banks by capping the aggregate stakes of non-resident Indians, FDI and FIIS at 49% for the first five years. Currently, foreign direct investment of up to 74% is allowed in private banks.

To prevent round-tripping and circular movement of funds in the banking group, RBI has said that the financial entities held by the NOFHC should not have any exposure—credit and investments—to promoters or promoter-group entities or individuals associated with the promoter group or the NOFHC.

The new banks would be governed by all the existing prudential norms including Basel II and priority sector rules, the RBI said.

Major highlights:
  • Private and public sector entities & NBFCs can apply.
  • Minimum paid-up equity capital of Rs 500 crore required.
  • No curbs on brokerages and real estate companies.
  • NOFHC must cut stake in new bank to 15% in 12 years.
  • Total foreign stake capped at 49% for first five years.
  • NOFHC can hold up to 40% for up to 5 years.
  • Banks must list within 3 years of starting operations.
State Elections
Tripura: On February 28, 213, the Left Front retained power in Tripura for the fifth consecutive time, sweeping 50 of the 60 seats and leaving the Congress badly bruised with just 10 seats. The CPI-M bagged 49 seats while the Communist Party of India (CPI) won one seat. The Left has ruled Tripura since 1978 barring one term (1988-93). Manik Sarkar was re-elected as the Chief Minister.

It was the best result for the Left since 1978, when it won a record 56 seats. While the Congress managed to retain its 2008 tally of 10 seats, its ally the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) drew blank. The Trinamool Congress, which fielded 22 candidates in 2008, did not contest this time to prevent a split in non-Left votes. But even that did not help the Congress. Tripura had made history when a record 93.57 percent of the 2.3 million voters exercised their franchise February 14.

Nagaland: The Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) won 37 seats to retain control of the 60-member Assembly in Nagaland.

The NPF is the main constituent of the ruling DAN government. Congress (I), the main opposition party, could win only eight seats. A partner in the DAN, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won one seat while the Janata Dal-United got one seat.

Meghalaya: Congress (I) emerged as the single largest party securing 29 seats in the 60-member Assembly.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma retained his Ampati constituency for the fifth successive term. The electoral battle proved fatal for former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma’s NPP as only two of its 32 candidates won.

Centre notifies Cauvery Tribunal Award
The Union Government as directed by the Supreme Court on February 19, 2013, notified the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and this is expected to set in motion another round of confrontation between the two riparian States—Karnataka and Tamil Nadu—which have been in serious dispute for over three decades.

The Supreme Court had accused the Centre of abdicating its duty by not notifying the six-year-old final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and directed it to do so by February 20.

The Union Government has also gazetted the notification which is mandatory.

With the final award having been notified it is evident that the Union Government has to necessarily pave the way for the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board, under an Act of Parliament.

The award prescribes the constitution of a board for the overall management of the Cauvery basin reservoirs in the two States which in a way will be a successor to the Cauvery River Authority presently functioning under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The award also orders the formation of a Cauvery Water Regulation Committee which will be a successor to the Cauvery Monitoring Committee. Both the board and the regulation committee are expected to function under the direct charge of the Central Water Commission although they will comprise of representatives of all the four riparian States—Karnataka , Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Puducherry.

Gazetting of the final notification will result in the State government losing supervisory control over the four Cauvery basin reservoirs—the Krishnarajasagar , Hemavathi, Kabini and the Harangi reservoirs. In other words, Karnataka cannot exercise the option to release water to Tamil Nadu only after it had a sufficient storage in the reservoirs, particularly in the years of distress.

Sexual Harassment Bill passed

On February 26, 2013, Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, with the Rajya Sabha approving the legislation. It was approved by the Lok Sabha in September 2012.

The Bill covers under its list of offences sexual remarks, demand for sexual favour, or any act of physical advance or an unwelcome touch. Internal complaint committee will be mandatory for organisations with 10 or more employees. Employers not adhering to the rules will face Rs 50,000 fine and stricter penalties for repeated violations. The law also provides for action against complainant under service rules for false or malicious complaint. Clients, customers, apprentice, daily wage workers entering the workplace are also covered.

Visit of French President
President of France Francois Hollande arrived in New Delhi on February 14, 2013. During his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, France and India reiterated their commitment to the early implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project and speedy conclusion of the over $10-billion deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets.

Addressing a joint press conference with Manmohan Singh after delegation-level talks, Hollande said while France and India do not share the same kind of people or economy, they both “share the same values and principles”.

On boosting economic relations, Hollande said France wants to have “even more trade and in more fields” with India.

Manmohan Singh said India regards France as “one of its most valued strategic partners” and their relationship is “defined by the breadth and diversity of our co-operations, as well as by the intensity of our dialogue”.

Both sides also concluded negotiations on the short-range surface-to-air missile. The two countries had been discussing the surface-to-air missile, named ‘maitri’ (friendship) for more than five years. India’s DRDO and France’s MBDA are likely to jointly develop this system. The system would be deployed by the IAF and the Navy.

France and India also inked agreements in the railway sector, a cultural exchange programme, a letter of intent on intensification of cooperation in the fields of education, higher education and research and a statement of intent for long-term cooperation in space.

Under the agreement for cooperation in the field of railways, France would assist India in the upgradation of railways stations, high speed corridors and the modernisation of the railway network.

France also expressed anew its support to India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council at the earliest and also becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and other export control bodies. The two countries decided to establish an annual dialogue between their Finance Ministers to boost bilateral economic relationship.

On Afghanistan, the two sides expressed commitment to the key principles for a peaceful inter-afghan dialogue: acceptance of the Afghan Constitution, renunciation to violence and breaking links with terrorism.

Rail link between Tripura and Bangladesh approved
On February 16, 2013, India and Bangladesh signed a pact which will enable Tripura become the second State of India to have a rail link with Bangladesh. At present, West Bengal is the only State which is connected to Bangladesh. The MoU on the Agartala-Akhaura rail link was signed during the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to Bangladesh for the second Joint Consultative Commission meeting.

Akhaura, prior to 1947, served as a major link between Chittagong port and Tripura. Agartala is now linked on the Indian Railways meter gauge rail network, which will shortly be converted to broad gauge.

The linking of Akhaura and Agartala by rail was suggested in 1974 with the signing of a protocol between Bangladesh and India for cross traffic movement.

It was revived during trade talks between India and Bangladesh in December 1998. In a joint communiqué issued during Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina's visit in January 2010, it was agreed that construction of the Akhaura-Agartala link would be financed by grant from India.

The new line would be from Agartala to Gangasagar in Bangladesh. This would involve a double line from Gangasagar to Akhaura and additional loop lines at two stations in Bangladesh—Gangasagar and Imambari.

This link would also be vital for the Trans-Asian Railway Network, of which both India and Bangladesh are members. As part of TAR, India is already constructing a 350-km rail link from Jiribam (India) to Moreh (Myanmar). Bangladesh can also benefit by using this connection.

Visit of British Prime Minister

On February 18, 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron came to India for a three-day official visit.

Among the agreements signed during the visit was an agreement to set up a joint task force to fight cyber crime, a move London hopes will help it safeguard the personal banking and mobile phone data of millions of Britons, much of which is stored on Indian servers.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the biggest business delegation from the UK, and met members of the leading chambers, CII, FICCI and Assocham in Mumbai. Mr Cameron also announced the decision to give visas to Indian businessmen in one day.

During his discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Cameron was asked to help in ensuring an early conclusion of a fair, balanced and forward looking broad-based India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement, which will open new opportunities for trade and investment between the two countries. Mr Cameron also promised full cooperation with the investigation into alleged corruption in a helicopter deal, an issue which clouded his trip to New Delhi.

Cameron has targeted a doubling of annual bilateral trade with India, from 11.5 billion pounds ($17.8 billion) in 2010 to 23 billion pounds by the time he faces re-election in 2015.

He also stressed that there was “no limit” on the number of students who can study at British universities providing they have an offer and an English-language qualification.

India and Britain also decided to commence negotiations on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced at the media interaction after his talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr Singh also thanked Britain for its support for India’s full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and other multilateral export control regimes.

Mr Cameron said Britain was in favour of transferring high-technology to India. The two leaders also expressed interest in cooperation with regard to India in the Global centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Mr Manmohan Singh thanked Cameron for “strong personal commitment to India”— this was his second visit since becoming Prime Minister in 2010.

On February 20, David Cameron became the first serving British Prime Minister to voice regret for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial India where hundreds of civilians were killed in Amritsar in 1919. He expressed the regrets during his visit to Amritsar.

Trilateral Talks—India, US mull joint projects in Afghanistan
On February 19, 2013, India, USA and Afghanistan held a trilateral dialogue in New Delhi to discuss the situation there and consider how they could jointly take up developmental projects and ensure stability in the war-ravaged nation.

Y.K. Sinha, Additional Secretary in-charge of Afghanistan, led the Indian delegation while Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake led their respective delegations.

The meeting is considered significant in diplomatic circles, in the backdrop of the drawdown by Western forces from the embattled nation in 2014. Both USA and India are concerned that Afghanistan should not slip into the hands of extremist and radical forces after the drawdown.

The meeting is also discussed ways to enhance cooperation to deal with common challenges and opportunities, including combating terrorism and violent extremism and increasing regional trade and investment.

VVIP copter purchase scandal
The arrest of the Giuseppe Orsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of aerospace giant Finmeccanica in Italy, on graft charges, on February 12, 2013, prompted Defence Minister A.K. Antony to order a CBI probe into Rs 3,500-crore helicopter deal with the manufacturer.

India had placed an order of 12 copters for VVIP use with Augusta-Westland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. The multi-crore deal was signed in February 2010. The first lot, comprising three copters, was delivered in December 2012, while the remaining nine would be delivered in batches by March 2014.

“Future deliveries will depend on the outcome of the CBI probe and the Ministry of Defence could evoke the integrity clause to stall the deal while imposing penalties on the maker,” top MoD sources said.

The copters supplied by Augusta are to be a part of the IAF’s Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, the Prime Minister and other VVIPs. So far, the Russian-built Mi-17 is used for VVIP duties.

“Giuseppe Orsi arrested on Monday in relation to a probe into international corruption. He is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale of 12 helicopters by Finmeccanica's subsidiary Augusta-Westland to the Indian government.

Prosecutors suspect that around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), about 10 per cent of the deal were ploughed back into kickbacks to ensure Augusta-Westland won the contract. The Italian firm had won the bid beating American chopper maker Sikorsky.

Italian investigators have also alleged that business conglomerate Finmeccanica bribed S.P. Tyagi when he was chief of the Indian Air Force to swing the controversial Agusta-Westland VVIP chopper deal in favour of the company. The allegation is made in a preliminary inquiry report of the suspected corruption in the Rs 3,546 crore deal filed by prosecutors in Italy.

The deal had been under the scanner for more than a year now after Italian media reports suggested the arrest of two alleged middlemen in Europe for paying bribes to secure it. In December 2012, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told Parliament that there were allegations of bribery in a deal to procure VVIP helicopters from Augusta-Westland, but no formal inquiry has been ordered into the case due to lack of “specific information” so far. “If any wrongdoing is found in the case, suitable measures will be taken by the ministry,” he had said.

India slips on Human Rights Index
India has been cited for deteriorating human rights situation by the foremost global watchdog of civil liberties, with New Delhi getting raked for abuses and mishandling cases ranging from the Maoist insurgence in central India to the protests against a nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.

Human Rights Watch's 665-page world annual opus on the subject for 2012 also zeroed in on the rape of a Delhi medical student that convulsed the nation and brought worldwide opprobrium, saying violence against women continued unabated in India with increased reports of sexual assault.

The criticism came even as India's ambassador to Washington Nirupama Rao wrote on op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, promising that the government is “determined to change our nation’s laws—as well as the implementation of those laws—to prevent such heinous acts in the future.”

However, the report acknowledged that the government did make progress in some areas, including new legislation to protect children from sexual abuse and stronger support for international resolutions to protect human rights in other countries, notably Sri Lanka.


Presidential Elections in Cyprus
Conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades won an overwhelming victory in Cyprus’ presidential runoff on February 24, 2013, boosting hopes he will quickly act on his pledge to seek a bailout deal with international lenders to prevent the country’s financial meltdown.

Final election results showed Anastasiades took 57.5 percent of the vote, far ahead of his left-wing rival, the Communist-backed Stavros Malas, who finished with 42.5 percent.

Cyprus has been caught in a financial crisis aggravated by the situation in Greece. The government is seeking international help because Cypriot banks suffered huge losses from Greece’s sovereign debt restructuring. The island, which has been shut out of international financial markets since May 2011, needs about $22 billion in aid.

Cyprus has been split into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only the 545,000 eligible voters in the south could vote in the election. Many are believed to have cast blank ballots or abstained in protest.

Anti-austerity vote delivers hung Parliament in Italy and troubles for eurozone’s economy
Success in Italy for parties opposed to European Union-backed austerity policies delivered a hung Parliament on February 26, 2013, in the eurozone’s third-largest economy, raising the spectre of a prolonged period of political instability.

In the elections held on February 24-25, Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left bloc narrowly beat ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi in the lower House, but failed to secure a majority in the Senate. Control of both houses is needed to govern.

A protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo won a quarter of the vote.

The outcome of the election, which comes amid a deep recession and tough austerity measures, was so close that the margin of victory given in interior ministry figures was less than 1% in both houses of Parliament.

Italians have had more than a year of technocratic government under Mario Monti. But his attempts to reduce spending caused widespread public resentment and his decision to head a centrist list in the Parliamentary elections attracted little more than 10% of the vote.

It’s almost certain that the inconclusive election result will herald renewed market pressure on the country. The conflicting and confused message sent by voters is bound to trigger further effects beyond the initial plunge on the Milan stock market and an overnight hike in bond yields.

The reformist policies being pursued by Mr Monti’s outgoing technocratic government were standing between Rome and unaffordable borrowing costs. The Monti reforms were also underpinning the European Central Bank’s fragile grip on monetary stability throughout the currency area.

Now that voters have rejected those very policies, the ECB may be forced to ride to Italy’s rescue. But even this is fraught with difficulty, because the ECB can only intervene and engage in its much-vaunted “outright money transactions” if the receiving country is still pushing through a programme of reforms.

Germany would agree to nothing less. So the outcome of Italy’s election is a strong signal that the eurozone debt crisis is far from over. It could also be damaging for Ireland and Portugal—the two somewhat better-behaved members of the bailout programme. Both had hoped to take the “exit” at the end of 2013.

This election result also illustrates that the longer the hardship lasts, the more voters may be drawn to populist policies. Some 57% of Italian voters plumped for parties that explicitly oppose austerity.

Recent history suggests people are more likely to support austerity measures, if they can start to see tangible results in return for their sacrifice. Italy remains bureaucratic and highly State-regulated. A weak centre-left government, drawing on support from unions, may find it even harder to enact the kind of reforms that stand any chance of improving productivity and competitiveness.

Italy’s economy is still shrinking and its debt is forecast to rise to 128% of GDP by the end of 2013. Both the Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo political camps opposed some of the tax hikes and public spending cuts instituted by Mr Monti. Yet, even if some of these cuts were reversed, it seems doubtful that an economy that has hardly grown in two decades could be turned around anytime soon.

Reversing the most recent reforms would also signal that the new government was unwilling or unable to deal with fundamental economic problems. This in itself could lead to spiralling bond yields and the flight of capital invested in Italy could resume.

The only possible silver lining is that this latest popular backlash against Brussels-imposed austerity may force Germany and other EU partners to reconsider the pace of reforms.

EU agrees to first ever bloc budget cut
On February 8, 2013, European Union leaders agreed the first ever cut in the bloc’s budget after all-night talks driven by sharp differences over priorities for the next seven years.

Pushed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said the EU could not increase spending while many of its members were forced to slash their national budgets, leaders agreed a cut of around three percent compared with the 2007-13 budget.

Under the accord, 2014-20 actual spending, or “payments” in EU jargon, was set at 908.4 billion euros ($1.2 trillion), with an absolute ceiling of 960 billion euros for spending “commitments” to the budget.

That is just one percent of the bloc’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is less than the figure of 973 billion euros that Cameron and allies such as the Netherlands had rejected in November.

In the EU budget process, commitments refer to the maximum amount that can be allocated to programmes, while actual spending or “payments” is usually lower because projects are sometimes delayed or dropped.

Originally, the European Commission had sought a 5.0 percent increase in commitments to 1.04 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion).

The final agreement, however, is only part of the battle because there is another important hurdle to clear—the European Parliament must approve the budget, and lawmakers are in no mood for austerity. The heads of the four largest groups in Parliament, which is to vote on the budget in July, said they could not accept it in its current form as it would not help boost the struggling EU economy.

Visit of Iranian President to Egypt
On February 6, 2013, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab State a loan, but drew a cool response. Ahmadinejad said outside forces were trying to prevent a rapprochement between the Middle East’s two most populous nations, at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt’s signing of a peace treaty with Israel in the same year.

The two countries have not restored diplomatic ties since Egypt overthrew its long term leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but its first Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome to a summit of Islamic nations.

North Korea conducts Nuclear test

On February 12, 2013, North Korea staged its most powerful nuclear test yet, claiming a breakthrough with a “miniaturised” device in a striking act of defiance to global powers, including its sole patron China.

The communist State said it had staged its third test with a “successful” underground detonation, in a riposte to what it said was US “hostility”.

Its claim of miniaturisation suggests that it is a step closer to fitting a nuclear warhead onto a ballistic missile.

The third nuclear test by a defiant North today drew sharp condemnation from the international community, including the UN, the US, Japan as well as China, the reclusive nation’s only major ally.

Analysts said the timing appeared to be an attention-grabbing calculation from a State well versed in provocative acts, coming just ahead of US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address at the start of his second term.

North Korea’s two previous tests in 2006 and 2009 had triggered waves of UN sanctions.


The Solicitor General (SG) is the second senior-most law officer of the country.

Airtel has announced the launch of their voice service, “Apna Chaupal”, that will provide information in regional languages on agriculture, devotion, jibs, health and education.

World Cancer Day
 is observed on February 4. The 2013 theme focuses on item five of the World Cancer Declaration, adopted by the United Nations in 2011, which aspires to “dispel damaging myths and misconceptions” about the disease.

From February
 6, 2013, India’s biggest air show was held in Bangalore, with titans like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sukhoi etc. bringing their wares to India’s booming market.

On February 
7, 2013, the Union government sold a 9.5 per cent stake in NTPC and the auction was part of the government’s drive to raise Rs 27,000 crore in 2012-13, from selling shares in profitable public sector. The government got approximately Rs 11,430 crore from the stake sale. The government has so far raised over Rs 10,000 crore from selling stakes in NMDC (Rs 6,000 crore), HCL (Rs 800 crore), National Buildings Construction Corporation (Rs 125 crore) and Oil India (Rs 3,113 crore). This was the third time that NTPC, India’s biggest power producer with a capacity of 36GW, hit the markets in the past decade. While the company made its market debut with a listing in 2004, it launched a follow-on public offer in February 2010.

India’s per capita income, a gauge for measuring living standard, is estimated to have gone up 11.7 per cent to be Rs. 68,747 (Rs 5728 per month), as compared to Rs. 61,564 during 2011-12, as per the Advance Estimate of National Income. The per capita income in real terms (at 2004-05 constant prices) during 2012-13 is likely to attain a level of Rs. 39,143, as compared to the first revised estimate for the year 2011-12 of Rs. 38,037.

The gross
 fixed capital formation (GFCF) at current prices is estimated at Rs. 29.94 lakh crore in 2012-13 as against Rs. 27.49 lakh crore in 2011-12. However, at 2004-05 constant prices, the GFCF is estimated at Rs.19.44 lakh crore in 2012-13, as against Rs. 18.97 lakh crore in the previous fiscal.

 Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) registered an increase of 13.8 per cent and is estimated to be Rs. 11.87 lakh crore at current prices for 2012-13, against Rs. 10.43 lakh crore in 2011-12.

Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE) is estimated to have registered an increase of 12.8 per cent to Rs. 57.06 lakh crore at current prices, as against Rs. 50.56 lakh crore in the previous fiscal.

In a major
 initiative to reach out to the people in the social media space, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, on February 7, 2013, launched the “MyIndia Initiative-A Digital Volunteer Programme” aimed at disseminating development messages across the social media platform by registering citizens as volunteers in an effort to contribute positively towards nation building.

C-DAC Pune launched Param Yuva II, the fastest supercomputer in India and 62nd fastest in the world, on February 8, 2013. This is the first supercomputer that has crossed 500 teraflops in computing power in the country.

A Canadian astronaut has teamed up with Bare-naked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson for the first ever original track to be written and recorded in space, 402 km above the Earth aboard the International Space Station. The pair wrote the song together before the collaboration was recorded via satellite at a studio in Toronto. The song, called “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)” focuses on the experience of a person in space missing his loved ones on the Earth below. Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Robertson began co-writing the song when Hadfield was still in training in Russia for his five-month mission on the ISS.

“Somebody That I Used to Know”, by Australian artist Gotye, won Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards, 2013. The melodic heartbreak song, which featured New Zealand singer Kimbra, was one of 2012’s biggest hits. Mumford & Sons won album of the year Grammy.

Pandit Ravi Shankar received the Lifetime Achievement Grammy award, which was jointly accepted by his daughters, sitarist Anoushka Shankar and singer-songwriter Norah Jones. Pt Ravi Shankar also won the Best World Music Album Grammy for “The Living Room Sessions Part 1”, beating daughter Anoushka who was nominated in the same category for her album “Traveller”.

Ratan Tata is taking up a new role by joining hands with global leaders, including former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, to launch the Global Ocean Commission (GOC). The GOC brings together eminent people from different parts of the world for a new initiative to restore health and productivity to the ocean. It is an independent body of international leaders and aims to reverse degradation of the ocean and restoring it to full health and productivity.

‘One Billion Rising’ 
was a campaign held on February 14, 2013, to protest violence against women. One in every three women is raped or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to the UN. That’s a billion women. A billion women violated is an atrocity, a billion women dancing is a revolution. That was the message behind the ‘One Billion Rising’ movement conceived by American playwright Eve Ensler, inviting people to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to the violence.

According to the Open Budget Survey 2012, the transparency in the Indian budgetary system has improved marginally and is ranked 14th among 100 countries. India's open budget index (OBI) score improved from 67 in 2010 to 68 in 2012. The survey showed New Zealand, with an OBI score of 93, provided the most information on budget, followed by South Africa (90), the UK (88) and Sweden (84).

ONGC’s chartered-hired ultra-deep water drillship DDKG1 has set a world record for drilling well in deepest water depth by an offshore drilling rig. The rig DDKG1 drilled well NA7-1 in exploratory block KG-DWN-2004/1 in east coast India at a water depth of 3165 metres on January 23, 2013. Thereafter it successfully lowered and latched subsea (facilities) to drill further to target depth of 5625 metres. The rig, owned by Transocean, surpassed Transocean’s own prior record, set in 2011 by DDKG2 working for Reliance Industries on the east coast.

 Copernicus, mathematician and astronomer, helped popularise the idea that Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of the other way round, as was commonly believed at that time. His 540th birth anniversary was celebrated on February 19, 2013.

India’s first wildlife skywalk will come up in Maenam wildlife sanctuary in Sikkim. The State government had proposed to build a 22 kilometer rope-way from Maenam sanctuary to the skywalk, to be built beyond on the edge of Bhalleydhunga steep face with rain shelter and public conveniences.

 elbowed its way past Hong Kong to regain the title as the world’s most expensive market in which to rent office space, while Rio de Janeiro jumped to the No. 3 spot from No. 8, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. Delhi’s Connaught Place is the fourth most expensive market for office space.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated since 1997 every year on February 2 to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention).

February 28th
 is celebrated as National Science Day in India, commemorating the discovery of the Raman Effect by C.V. Raman.

On February 25,
 2013, in Jorhat, Assam, artistes played 315 types of musical instruments from across the world to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records. A large number of singers and musicians got together for the event—‘A Musical Journey for World Peace’. The accompanying vocalists presented the biggest non-classical symphony of its kind in the world. The earlier record of using the largest number of musical instruments in one such event was 181 at a musical concert in Japan. The event was organised by Mazumba Media and Entertainment and the music was composed by Rupam Jyoti Sharma, an engineer from Jorhat who is now based in California, USA.

ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) is planning to build the world’s largest vedic temple, the Chandrodaya Mandir, at Mayapur in the Nadia district of West Bengal, at an estimated investment of about $75 million.

Minister P Chidambaram, with his 2013 Budget speech, became the second minister to have presented eight Budgets in the history of independent India. Morarji Desai had presented 10 Budgets, of which two were interim Budgets.

The Union Budget 2013 has proposed setting up of two ports—one in Sagar, West Bengal and the other in Andhra Pradesh, which would increase the cargo handling capacity in the country. In addition, a new outer harbour will be developed in the VOC port (VO Chidambaram Port Trust, formerly Tuticorin Port at Thoothukkudi, Tamil Nadu) through the PPP. At present, there are 12 major ports in India. These are at: Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Kolkata (with Haldia), Chennai, Cochin, Paradip, New Mangalore, Marmagao, Ennore, Tuticorin, Kandla and Visakhapatanam.

In order to remove the ambiguity that prevails on what is FDI and what is FII, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proposed in Budget 2013 to follow the international practice and lay down a broad principle that, where an investor has a stake of 10 per cent or less in a company, it will be treated as FII and, where an investor has a stake of more than 10 per cent, it will be treated as FDI.

India and the United Kingdom have signed an accord to strengthen collaboration in the field of earth sciences and help improve forecasts about climate-related phenomena. The Memorandum of Understanding has been inked between Natural Environment Research Council of the UK (NERC) and Earth System Science Organization, Ministry of Earth Sciences (ESSO-MoES).

Business News

Telecom major Bharti Airtel has bought the entire shareholding in the joint venture with Alcatel Lucent, called Alcatel Lucent Managed Network Service India, as part of a new business model to manage fixed line and broadband networks.

US-based Computer maker Dell has announced it will take itself private in a $24.4 billion deal which is considered one of the most significant buyouts since the financial crisis. Dell has signed a definitive merger agreement under which the company’s Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell would acquire Dell. Company stockholders would receive $13.65 in cash for each share of Dell common stock they hold.

Private sector lender Kotak Mahindra  has acquired the business loans portfolio of the Indian arm of Barclays. With this acquisition, Kotak will have 6000 customers with total loans outstanding of about Rs 700 crore .

 second largest telecom operator, Vodafone India has tied up with loyalty programme Payback as its exclusive partner in the telecom category. The partnership will allow the Payback members redeem their points for every recharge at Vodafone as well as pay bills using the loyalty points earned.

Sun Pharmaceutical's dream to buy all the outstanding shares in Israel’s Taro Pharma and take it private has turned sour. Taro and Sun have mutually agreed to terminate their merger agreement, announced in August 2012.

The Insurance 
Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has approved revised investment regulations for insurance companies, allowing them to increase their exposure in equity in a given company from 10% to a higher level of 12% and 15%, depending on the size of the controlled fund.

Arvind Lifestyle Brands has acquired India operations of US-based Hanesbrands Inc and is aiming to generate Rs 500 crore revenue in next four years in the niche market.

When Parle Products launched Parle-G in 1939 during the British rule, the firm considered it a responsibility to sell affordable biscuits to Indians. Today, the same value plank has helped the glucose biscuit brand become the first Indian FMCG brand to cross the Rs 5,000-crore mark in retail sales in a year. In 2012, Parle Products sold Rs 5,010 crore worth of its flagship glucose biscuit brand at retail price, besting the entire domestic sales of Dabur or Godrej products and selling three times more than Maggi noodles.

On February 13, 2013,  Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) cleared four foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals in single brand retailing, including that of Decathlon, Fossil Inc, French fashion brand Promod, crockery maker Le Creuset and sports giant Decathlon. The proposal of Le Creuset, Fossil Inc, and Decathlon were for 100 per cent FDI, while Promod sought entering the segment through a joint venture. Decathlon alone would bring in foreign equity worth Rs 700 crore, while Promod would bring about Rs 30 crore and the American high-end accessories firm Fossil Inc plans over Rs 22 crore investment.

Warren Buffett’s
 Berkshire Hathaway Inc and 3G Capital will buy ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co for $23.2 billion in cash. Heinz valued the deal at $28 billion, which it called the largest in food industry history.

State-owned gas utility GAIL India Ltd has commissioned a Rs. 4,500 crore pipeline carrying gas from the just operationalised Dabhol LNG terminal into Bengaluru that promises to change the energy landscape of the region. The 1,000-km pipeline will feed industries at Belgaum, Dharwad, Gadag, Bellary, Davanagere, Chitradurga, Tumkuyr, Ramanagaram and Bengaluru who have till now been using costlier and polluting liquid fuels like naphtha and diesel as feedstock.

RDA Holding Co, the US-based owner of magazine Reader’s Digest, once the staple of doctors’ offices and coffee tables, has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in less than four years, citing a greater-than-expected decline of the media industry.

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), India’s oldest exchange and S&P Dow Jones Indices have entered into a 50:50 joint venture partnership to manage all the BSE indices, barely a week after it was informed that the global index provider licensing agreement with NSE expired on January 31, 2013. The new partnership with BSE also allows S&P Dow Jones to have an operational hub now in India for implementing its South-asia growth strategy to support clients globally. S&P Dow Jones’ other global hubs are in Hong Kong, London and New York. BSE Sensex will now be known as S&P BSE Sensex.

Apple has rolled out its media streaming device, Apple TV, in India at a starting price of Rs. 7,900. With the launch of Apple TV, the company’s full portfolio of Apple products are finally available in India. Apple TV allows consumers to wirelessly stream media content from their iTunes account to their television. The device faces competition from Micromax’s Smart Stick and Akai’s Smart Box.

BP Plc,
 Europe’s second biggest oil company, and Reliance Industries will invest US $5 billion in developing untapped gas reserves in the D6 block in the Krishna Godavari basin off India’s east coast as the partners attempt to reverse the fall in gas production.

Info Edge India, owner of the country’s largest job website, has acquired a majority stake in online restaurant guide Zomato. Info Edge’s total investment in Zomato stands at Rs. 86 crore, and it now has a 57.9 per cent stake in the company.

The Gujarat government and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Jakarta, Indonesia-based leading economic research institute, have decided to join hands for developing human resources in automobile manufacturing sector.

CURRENT AFFAIRS -2013 JAN/FEB Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 9:23:00 PM Rating: 5

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