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RBI forms Financial Inclusion Fund with 2000 crore rupees corpus and GA

RBI forms Financial Inclusion Fund with 2000 crore rupees corpus

RBI forms Financial Inclusion Fund with 2000 crore rupees corpus: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 15 October 2015 formed a single Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF) with a corpus of 2000 crore rupees. The fund was formed by merging the Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF) and Financial Inclusion Technology Fund (FITF). The RBI also finalized the new scope of activities and guidelines for utilization of the new FIF in consultation with the Union Government. The new FIF will be administered by the reconstituted advisory Board constituted by Union Government will be maintained by NABARD.
Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF)
·       The Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF) and Financial Inclusion Technology Fund (FITF) were constituted in the year 2007-08 for a period of five years with a corpus of 500 crore rupees each to be contributed by Government of India (GOI), RBI and NABARD in the ratio of 40:40:20.
·       The guidelines for these two funds were framed by the Union Government itself. In April 2012, RBI decided to fund FIF by transferring the interest differential in excess of 0.5 percent on RIDF and STCRC deposits on account of shortfall in priority sector lending.
Guidelines of Financial Inclusion Fund
·       The overall corpus of the new FIF will be 2000 crore rupees. Contribution to FIF would be from the interest differential in excess of 0.5 percent on RIDF and STCRC deposits on account of shortfall in priority sector lending kept with NABARD by banks.
·       All the assets and liabilities of the erstwhile FITF as well as prior commitments from FITF for projects already sanctioned will be transferred to/reimbursed from FIF.
·       The Fund will be in operation for another three years or till such period as may be decided by RBI and Union Government in consultation with other stake holders.
Objective of Financial Inclusion Fund
·       To support developmental and promotional activities with a view to securing greater financial inclusion
·       The development and promotional activities include creation of FI infrastructure across the country, capacity building of stakeholders, creation of awareness to address demand side issues, enhanced investment in Green Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solution and increased technological absorption capacity of financial service providers/users.
·       The fund shall not be utilized for normal business/banking activities.
·       To help create an eco-system that would support banks investment for future business expansion.
·       To mobile significant investment required for further facilitating investments from banks and other financial institutions in addition to ICT-BC (Information Communication Technology – Business Correspondent) model for expanding banking operations in the unbanked areas
·       To address the key concerns which would help scaling the FI efforts like lack of proper connectivity, lack of training facilities for BCs, evolution of an appropriate business model, etc.
Purposes of Financial Inclusion Fund
·       Support for funding the setting up and operational cost for running Financial Inclusion & Literacy Centers in sync with the objective of Union Government for setting up Financial Literacy Centers up to the block level under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
·       Setting up of Standard Interactive Financial Literacy Kiosks in Gram Panchayats and any other financial literacy efforts under taken by banks in excluded areas
·       Support to NABARD & Banks for running of Business & Skill Development Centers including R-SETIs (to the extent not provided by the State Governments) to impart skill sets necessary for undertaking income generating activities and for providing forward linkages for marketing activities.
·       Sharing the cost of Government projects in connection with laying of last mile fibre optic network, funding of other technological or infrastructure related projects involved in improving or creating network connectivity, etc; in excluded areas.
Eligible Institutions that can seek support from Financial Inclusion Fund
Financial Institutions viz, Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks, Cooperative Banks and NABARD.
Eligible institutions with whom banks can work for seeking support from the FIF-
·       Non Government Organisations
·       Self-Help Groups
·       Farmer’s Clubs
·       Functional Cooperatives
·       IT enabled rural outlets of corporate entities.
·       Well-functioning Panchayats
·       Rural Multipurpose kiosks/Village Knowledge Centres
·       Common Services Centres (CSCs) established by Service Centre Agencies (SCAs) under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).
·       Primary Agricultural Societies (PACs)
Reserve Bank of India relaxes change in ownership norms of borrowing entities: The RBI, on 24 September 2015, announced relaxation in norms that allow banks to upgrade credit facilities extended to borrowing entities upon a change in ownership, only if the ownership has been changed outside Strategic Debt Restructuring Scheme (SDR). RBI announced that the banks can treat loans to stressed companies that have undergone ownership changes as standard loans, provided the stress was due to operational or managerial inefficiencies. The relaxation will offer more flexibility to banks to bring in a change in ownership of borrowing entities which are under stress due to operational/managerial inefficiencies despite substantial sacrifices made by the lending banks.
However, RBI announced that the upgrade in the asset classification is subject a few conditions:
·       As per the announcement, the new promoter should not be a person/entity/subsidiary/associate etc. (domestic as well as overseas), from/belonging to the existing promoter/promoter group.
·       The new promoter should have acquired at least 51 per cent of the paid up equity capital of the borrower company.
·       If the new promoter is a non-resident, and in sectors where the ceiling on foreign investment is less than 51 per cent, the new promoter should own at least 26 per cent of the paid up equity capital or up to applicable foreign investment limit, whichever is higher, provided banks are satisfied that with this equity stake the new non-resident promoter controls the management of the company.
RBI, UAE Central Bank ink MoU for supervisory information exchange: The RBI, in October 2015, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Bank of United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Supervisory Cooperation and Exchange of Supervisory Information. By signing the MoU, RBI is seeking to promote greater cooperation and share supervisory information among the authorities. So far RBI has signed 29 such MoUs, one Letter for Supervisory Co-operation (LSC) and one Statement of Co-operation (SoC) in this regard.
RBI inks MoU with Bank of Botswana for information exchange: The Reserve Bank recently signed an agreement on information sharing with Bank of Botswana under the Supervisory Cooperation and Exchange of Supervisory Information. With this, the Reserve Bank has signed 28 Such MoUs, one Letter for Supervisory Co-operation and one Statement of Co-operation.
NRI deposits up 14% in first five months of this fiscal: NRIs placed deposits aggregating $8.226 billion which is increased by 14% in the first five months of the current financial year as against $7.217 billion in the year-ago period, according to RBI data.
To curb bad loans, RBI looking to revamp consortium lending: To stem cases of fraud as well as increase in bad loans in the banking system, the RBI is considering a radical overhaul of the way banks give big-ticket loans to India Inc. This includes making consortium lending a must for loans of Rs. 500 crore and above and penalizing borrowers seeking loans outside the lenders’ consortium without the latter’s knowledge. Now, large banks such as State Bank of India and ICICI Bank have the wherewithal to individually take a single borrower exposure of Rs. 500 crore. If such loans turn sour, the banks’ earnings will be seriously impacted. So, consortium lending may be the best route as it would help spread risks and prevent banks from overexposure to a single borrower.
Consortium Lending
·       Consortium lending is a mechanism whereby a borrower takes a large loan from two or more banks by making a common application.
·       Barring the rate of interest, all the terms and conditions set out in the consortium’s contract are common. A common loan agreement and joint deed of hypothecation are used when loan is provided by a consortium of lenders.
·       Most large borrowers prefer having multiple banking relationships, whereby they have independent arrangement with each lending institution, the security offered to each institution is separate and no formal understanding exists between different lenders financing the same borrower.
·       In such an arrangement, lenders usually sanction loans on different terms and conditions. And, borrowers get an opportunity to play one bank against the other to wangle the best deal. Under the consortium guidelines that is in the works, banks could seek personal guarantee from borrowers whose ratings are below investment grade for loans above Rs.500 crore.
RBI encourages banks to seek more security in home loans: To encourage banks to seek more collateral for giving home loans, the RBI on 8 October 2015 prescribed lower risk weights where the borrower brings higher contribution. This is expected to free up capital for banks to give more loans. This move comes at a time when interest rates are coming down and competition to push home loans is increasing. Further, borrowers could have a tendency to borrow more.
·       The central bank has rejigged the slabs in the individual loan category up to Rs. 30 lakh (against Rs. 20 lakh earlier); above Rs. 30 lakh and up to Rs. 75 lakh (Rs. 20 lakh and up to Rs. 75 lakh); and above Rs. 75 lakh (unchanged).
·       Under the lowest slab (up to Rs. 30 lakh), the central bank has pegged the risk weight at 35 per cent for a loan-to-value (the amount of loan given as percentage of the value of the house) of less than or equal to 80 per cent.
·       If the loan-to-value (LTV) increases (to greater than 80 per cent and less than 90 per cent), the bank, accordingly, will have to set aside more capital as the risk weight will increase to 50 per cent.
·       For loans in the second slab (above Rs. 30 lakh and up to Rs. 75 lakh), the RBI said the risk weight will be 35 per cent for LTV less than or equal to 75 per cent. It will increase to 50 per cent for LTV greater than 75 per cent and less than 80 per cent.
·       In 2013, the central bank had carved out a separate sub-sector called Commercial Real Estate Residential Housing (CRE-RH) from the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) Sector. It did so as loans to residential housing projects under the CRE Sector exhibit lesser risk and volatility than the CRE Sector taken as a whole.
·       CRE-RH would consist of loans to builders/developers for residential housing projects (except for captive consumption) under the CRE segment. Such projects will ordinarily not include non-residential commercial real estate.
Forex: RBI eases hedging facilities: RBI has decided to allow all resident individuals, firms and companies, which have actual or anticipated foreign exchange exposures, to book foreign exchange forward and foreign currency-Indian rupee options contracts up to $1 million without any requirement of documentation on the basis of a simple declaration.
20 entities to get funding or promoting depositor awareness: RBI on 1 October 2015 released the names of 20 entities selected for grant of financial assistance from the Depositor Education and Awareness (DEA) Fund. These 20 entities, including Consumer Education and Research Society (Ahmedabad), Consumer Unity & Trust Society (Jaipur), Xavier Labour Relations Institute (Jamshedpur), and Indian School of Microfinance for Women (Ahmedabad), were selected out of 90 applications received for registration.
·       The applicants were selected on the basis of their meeting, among others, the minimum eligibility criteria, track record and evaluation of the work done by them in the field of depositor education, consumer awareness, and consumer protection.
·       The Fund will grant financial assistance to institutions, organizations, and associations for taking up activities relating to promoting bank depositors’ education and awareness.
Firms can raise up to $750m via rupee bonds: The RBI, on 29 September 2015, said that Rupee denominated bonds with minimum five years maturity can be issued by any corporate or corporate body overseas to raise up to $750 million per annum under the automatic route. Under the automatic route the amount will be equivalent of $750 million per annum. Cases beyond this limit will require prior approval of the Reserve Bank. The proceeds from the bonds have no end restrictions. However, they cannot be invested in real estate activities (other than for development of integrate township/affordable housing projects), capital market and its proceeds for equity investment domestically and to purchase land
Banks allowed to provide partial credit enhancement to infra bonds: To enable insurance and pension funds to invest in India’s infrastructure companies with credit rating of BBB minus and above, the RBI on 24 September 2015, allowed banks to do partial credit enhancement (PCE) of bonds offered by such infrastructure companies.
·       Instruments with BBB rating are considered to have moderate degree of safety regarding timely servicing of financial obligations and carry moderate credit risk.
·       Banks have been allowed to provide credit enhancement of up to 20 per cent of the total issuance.
·       Credit enhancement by banks ensures higher credit ratings and enables borrowers access to capital which otherwise could not have been accessed besides reducing their cost of borrowing.
RBI dispatches Rs. 1 notes to public sector banks: The much-awaited new Rs. 1 notes finally reached banks for distribution in September 2015. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) sent the notes to various public sector banks through its various regional offices. The Rs. 1 note has been reintroduced after two decades by the Ministry of Finance, which prints them. The government had announced earlier that 15 crore Rs. 1 notes will be printed every year at a cost of Rs. 1.14 each, primarily to address the shortage of lower denomination currency.
Banks can buy up to 10% equity without prior RBI approval: The RBI, in September 2015, announced that banks having a capital adequacy ratio of at least 10 per cent, besides being profitable in the last fiscal, do not require its prior approval for equity investments in financial institutions, stock exchanges, depositories and the like in case the investment is less than 10 per cent of the investee company’s equity.
Payment of $700 mn to Iran won’t impact currency market: Reserve Bank Deputy Governor H. R. Khan, on 8 October 2015, said $700 million will be paid to Iran on the due date as part of oil dues without having any impact on the currency market. This will the second payment since Iran reached a historic nuclear deal with the US and other western powers.
·       Essar Oil, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, Indian Oil Corp, and Hindustan Petroleum Corp had on September 30, 2015 paid the first tranche of $700 million to clear a chunk of the $6.5 billion they owe to Iran for past purchases.
·       The refiners deposited the rupee equivalent of $700 million in the Kolkata-based UCO Bank. UCO Bank purchased dollars for onward transmission to Iran.
·       The remaining $4 billion will be cleared in tranches after payment channels are okayed.
Rajan slams IMF for being soft on West’s easy money policies: RBI Governor RaghuramRajan on 19 October 2015 criticised the International Monetary Fund for staying on the sidelines and applauding the easy monetary policies being adopted by developed economies. Rajan, who has been a Chief Economist of the IMF, said developed countries were adopting monetary policies without considering the negative impact they have on the global economy. Rajan noted that emerging market economies were engaging in currency intervention that sparked competitive devaluation and it was time for policy makers, led by the IMF, to address these “extreme” policies. Otherwise, Rajan said, “We have to worry where this ends.”
RBI stresses on shared infrastructure for payments banks: The RBI, in October 2015, suggested payments banks that have been granted the in-principle licence to ensure there is sharing of infrastructure among banks. The regulator believes will help achieve the spirit of financial inclusion more efficiently. For payments banks keeping a check on the cost will be an important concern.
No relaxation in CRR, SLR norms, RBI tells small finance banks: The RBI, on 17 October 2015, turned down the plea of entities that have secured licences to set up small finance banks that they be given some leeway in cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) norms.
·       Currently, about 70 per cent of the borrowings of microfinance institutions (MFIs) are in the form of bank loans. As a non-banking financial company (NBFC)-MFI, an entity doesn’t have to keep aside part of the borrowings as SLR and CRR.
·       However, once it converts into a bank, it has to deploy a substantial part of its liabilities as SLR and CRR. This will not only raise the cost of funds, but also limit lending capacity.
·       Also, most lenders offer loans to MFIs as part of priority sector lending, a win-win-situation for both parties. While lenders are able to meet their priority sector lending targets (40 per cent of the loan book), the borrower has to pay slightly lower rates of interest.
·       Once an MFI is converted into a bank, its existing loans won’t be technically treated as part of priority sector lending, both in the books of the lender and the borrower. As such, the lender might fail to meet its targets.
·       Non-priority sector loans would entail higher interest rates. Currently, banks lend to MFIs at 12.5-14.5 per cent. However, non-priority sector lending would mean higher cost of funds (14.5 per cent).
RBI data shows bank credit growth at 9.4%: As per the Reserve Bank of India data, released on 14 October 2015, credit in the banking system continues to grow at a muted pace. It grew by 9.4% by October 02, 2015 to Rs 68,30,245 core from Rs 62,40,256 crore a year ago. In the same period deposits increased slightly faster at 11% to Rs 91,63,815 crore.
RBI says risk weight for foreign sovereign bonds also applicable for foreign central banks: The RBI, on 9 October 2015, said that the risk weights applicable to foreign sovereign bonds will also be applicable to the foreign central banks.
·       Those with AA and AAA rating from rating agencies will have zero risk weight. Those with A rating by rating agencies will have risk weight of 20 per cent while those with BBB and Baa will have 50 percent.
·       Those below investment grade (BB to B, Ba to B) will have 100 per cent risk weight while those below B will have 150 per cent risk weight.
RBI clamps on IOB: The RBI, in October 2015, initiated prompt corrective action (PCA) at Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) on the grounds that its management is unable to revive it. Chennai-based IOB posted a loss in the second and third quarters of the previous financial year and is considered to have not sufficiently improved its financial health. IOB’s net profit dropped 95 per cent during the quarter ended June to Rs. 14.7 crore, from Rs. 271.7 crore in the corresponding quarter in 2014. Net loss was Rs. 454 crore in 2014-15.
Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) and IOB
·       A ‘prompt corrective action’ is initiated if a bank’s capital adequacy ratio (CAR) goes below nine per cent, its net non-performing assets (NPA) ratio goes above 10 per cent or return on assets (RoA) falls below 0.25 per cent.
·       IOB’s RoA was negative in the September and December quarters of 2014-15 and 0.02 per cent in the quarter ended June 2015. However, the CAR and net NPA were above the threshold. The former was 9.75 per cent as of end-June and it has initiated a process to raise about Rs. 2,000 crore from the government through issue of preferential shares.
RBI empowers lenders’ forum to smoothen management takeover of ailing companies: RBI has empowered lenders’ forum by inviting standing membership from the country’s two largest lenders – State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, and ensuring top level representation from all participating banks, to make the battle against errant borrowers foolproof. RBI has now suggested that participation in the forum’s empowered group (JLF-EG) shall not be less than the rank of an executive director in a state-run bank or equivalent so that its decisions carry sufficient weight when steps like initiating changes of ownership in distressed companies are taken.
RBI allows Nostro accounts of the commercial banks of the ACU member countries: The RBI, on 8 October 2015, released memorandum of Procedure for channeling transactions through Asian Clearing Union (ACU). In view of the understanding reached among the members of the ACU during the 44th Meeting of the ACU Board in June, 2015, it has been decided to permit the use of the Nostro accounts of the commercial banks of the ACU member countries, i.e., the ACU Dollar and ACU Euro accounts, for settling the payments of both exports and imports of goods and services among the ACU countries. Consequently, payments for all eligible
·       Export transactions may be made by debit to the ACU Dollar/ACU Euro account in India of a bank of the member country in which the other party to the transaction is resident or by credit to the ACU Dollar/ACU Euro account of the authorized dealer maintained with the correspondent bank in the other member country;
·       Import transactions may be made by credit to the ACU Dollar/ACU Euro account in India of a bank of the member country in which the other party to the transaction is resident or by debit to the ACU Dollar/ACU Euro account of an authorized dealer with the correspondent bank in the other member country.
RBI to issue banknotes with three additional features: The Reserve Bank is issuing Banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi Series 2005 with a new numbering pattern and special features for the visually impaired in Rs. 100, 500 and 1000 denominations: In the new numbering pattern, the numerals in both the number panels of these denominations ascend in size from left to right, while the first three alphanumeric characters (prefix) remain constant in size. Printing the numerals in ascending size is a visible security feature in the banknotes so that the general public can easily distinguish a counterfeit note from a genuine one.
·       Special features for the visually impaired have been introduced in order to make it easier for them to identify banknotes, the size of the identification mark in Rs. 100, 500 and 1000 denominations has been increased by 50 per cent.
·       Angular bleed lines-4 lines in 2 blocks in Rs. 100,5 lines in 3 blocks in Rs. 500 and 6 lines in 4 blocks in Rs. 1000 denominations, have also been introduced.
·       The design of banknotes of Rs. 100, 500 and 1000 denomination is similar in all other respects to the current design of banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi Series 2005. All the banknotes in these denominations issued by the Reserve Bank in the past will continue to be legal tender.
·       The Reserve Bank advised banks to issue suitable instructions to all their branches informing them about the above changes so that no inconvenience is caused to the public, whatsoever.
·       Further, they are advised to ensure that the note sorting/detection machines used by their bank are suitably calibrated for processing these banknotes.
RBI relaxes norms of FPI investment in government securities: The RBI on 6 October 2015 relaxed the norms of Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) of government debt and also announced higher investment limits in rupee terms in government securities with a view to bring in an additional 1.2 lakh crore rupees by March 2018. The RBI fixed the FPI investment limits in rupee terms and raised the limits in phases to reach 5 percent of the outstanding stock by March 2018.
FPI investment in Government Securities
Rationale behind RBI’s directions
·       The RBI issued these directions in perusal of the announcement made in the fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for the year 2015-16 issued on 29 September 2015, wherein a Medium Term Framework (MTF) for FPI limits in Government securities was announced to provide a more predictable regime. The features of the MTF were:
·       The limits for FPI investment in debt securities will henceforth be announced in Rupee terms.
·       The limits for FPI investment in the Central Government securities will be increased in phases to reach 5 percent of the outstanding stock by March 2018. This is expected to bring in additional investment of 1200 billion rupees in the limit for Central Government securities by March 2018.
·       Additionally, there will be a separate limit for investment by all FPIs in the State Development Loans (SDLs), this limit will be increased in phases to reach 2 percent of the outstanding stock by March 2018.
RBI directions on FPI investment in Government Securities
·       For the fiscal year 2015-16, RBI enhanced the limit for investment by FPIs in Government sectors in two tranches from 12 October 2015 and 1 January 2016.
·       The limit will be increased from 1.53 lakh crore rupees to 1.7 lakh crore rupees from 12 October and it will be 1.86 lakh crore rupees from 1 January 2016.
·       Those Central Government securities in which aggregate investment by FPIs exceeds the prescribed threshold of 20% will be put in a negative investment list.
·       No fresh investments by FPIs in Central Government securities will be permitted till they are removed from the negative list.
·       There will be no security-wise limit for SDLs for now. And the operational guidelines relating to allocation and monitoring of limits will be issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

·       All these directions were issued under sections 10(4) and 11(1) of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

Banking & Business Development
IDFC Bank goes live with 23 branches: IDFC Bank on 1 October 2015 went live with a “soft launch” at 23 locations, including 15 branches in rural Madhya Pradesh, becoming the 91st scheduled commercial bank in the country. Later, Prime Minister NarendraModi on 19 October 2015 inaugrated the bank in New Delhi. The bank has headquarters in Mumbai that forms a part of IDFC, an integrated infrastructure finance company. IDFC Bank was granted a universal banking license in July 2015 by the RBI. IDFC was incorporated on 30 January 1997. It founded a non-operative financial holding company (NOFHC) in 2014 to manage its five subsidiaries IDFC Bank, IDFC MF, IDFC Alternatives, IDFCIDF & IDFC Securities to conform to RBI guidelines.
About IDFC Bank
Ready-assets advantage: The biggest advantage of IDFC Bank will be that after demerger of IDFC (holding company, IDFC FHCL) and IDFC Bank, all assets and liabilities related to banking operations have been transferred to IDFC Bank. The bank says it will be profitable from day one, backed by the accumulated profit of Rs 1,800 crore on the books of IDFC.
Branches: IDFC’s branches are located in Indore, Hoshangabad, Harda and Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh, while it has seven branches undertaking corporate and wholesale banking functions in Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. It has a solitary personal banking branch operating out of the company headquarters in the BKC business district in central Mumbai.
Small business units: The personal and business banking unit of the bank, focusing on retail, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and self-employed professionals, will start operations in January 2016. “Base rate: To begin with, IDFC Bank will have a base rate of 9.5 per cent and deliver at least a Rs 1,000 crore of profits this year.
Stressed assets: The net non-performing assets (NPAs) will be between 2 per cent and 3 per cent at the time of the start of the bank’s operations, but the total stressed assets – NPAs plus restructured assets – will be close to 15 per cent.
Growth target & customer acquisition: The bank is aiming at 10-15 per cent net profit growth and will rely on technology for customer acquisition, rather than opening branches across the country.
Books of account: IDFC Bank will have a balance sheet of Rs 75,000-80,000 crore initially. Out of this, the loan book, mostly infrastructure advances, will be in the region of Rs 55,000 crore, while the balance will be comprised of bonds, corporate bonds and investments.
Shareholding: IDFC shareholders (those who bought shares before October 1) will get one equity share in IDFC Bank for every equity share held in IDFC. IDFC Financial Holding Company (a 100 per cent subsidiary of IDFC) will hold a 53 per cent equity share in IDFC Bank, while 47 per cent will be held by shareholders of IDFC. IDFC Bank shares are likely to be listed by November 6, post which the new shares can be traded by investors.
UCO Bank registered highest increase in gross non-performing assets: UCO Bank was, on 4 October 2015, reported to have registered the highest increase in gross Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in percentage terms against total loans in the 2014-15 fiscal year. With this, UCO Bank became the worst performer among the other public sector banks.
Government infuses Rs 13,955 crore capital into 8 PSU banks: Eight public sector banks, including SBI, Punjab National Bank and Bank of Baroda, on 30 September 2015, said they had allotted equity shares on preferential basis to the government against capital infusion of Rs 13,955 crore. Bank of India, Canara Bank, Dena Bank, Corporation Bank and Andhra Bank were among the lenders that received capital infusion from the government.
Standard Chartered employees to create awareness for UN’s Global Goals: Standard Chartered Bank, on 28 September 2015, said its global network of employees and clients will create awareness about the United Nations’ programme “Global Goals for Sustainable Development”. UN’s Global Goals is a series of 17 ambitious targets to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change for everyone by 2030.
·       The bank is proud to be one of the founding partners of “Project Everyone”, which aims to raise awareness of the Goals, reaching seven billion people in seven days.
·       Project Everyone, founded by renowned filmmaker and founder of Comic Relief Richard Curtis for the United Nations, aims to reach 7 billion people in 7 days since September 26 with news of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana: PSBs to organise mega credit campaigns across country: Public sector banks, in September-October 2015, organized mega credit campaigns across the country to give a push to the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY). This (campaign) not only generated greater credit to micro enterprises but also created a sound eco system subsequently for bank credit to aspiring entrepreneurs especially small and micro entrepreneurs. All PSBs, Regional Rural Banks and Private sector banks have a target of Rs 1.22 lakh crore during the current financial year for disbursement to small and micro enterprises up to Rs 10 lakh.
·       MUDRA Ltd. Has been established as a subsidiary of SIDBI, with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore to provide refinance to all banks seeking refinancing of small business loans under PMMY.
·       PMMY loans fall into three categories, Shishu (up to Rs 50,000), Kishore (between Rs 50,000 – Rs 5 lakh) and Tarun (between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh). The current focus of the government is on the Shisu category of micro loans, so that the borrowers do not have to access credit from informal sources such as money lenders at high interest rates.
Jan Dhan deposits cross Rs. 25,000 crore: In a big boost to the government’s financial inclusion agenda, deposits in bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have exceeded Rs. 25,000 crore.
Government looking to cut stake in public sector banks to 52%: Finance Minister ArunJaitley, on 28 September 2015, said that the government was looking to reduce its stake in State-run banks to 52 per cent to make them more professional and independent. At present, the government owns over 59 per cent stake in State Bank of India, the country’s largest public sector lender, 81.5 per cent in Central Bank of India, 76.5 per cent in IDBI Bank, about 64.5 per cent in Canara Bank, 64.4 per cent in Bank of India, 61 per cent in Andhra Bank, over 60 per cent each in Allahabad Bank and Punjab National Bank, and 57.5 per cent in Bank of Baroda.
To speed up recoveries, DRTs to be revamped: Finance Minister ArunJaitley, on 28 September 2015, said with the government working on a mechanism whereby debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) will hold only two hearings within a defined time period one for the interim order and the other for the final order banks may soon be able to make faster recoveries from defaulting borrowers.
ICICI Bank tops mobile banking transactions list: According to RBI data, released on 20 October 2015, ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector lender, has outpaced its peers to record the highest number of mobile banking transactions. It recorded transactions worth Rs 6,885.36 crore in July 2015, higher than any other bank. Earlier, the top slot was occupied by HDFC Bank, which currently holds the second position, followed by Axis Bank and then State Bank of India.
7,035 wilful defaulters owe Rs 59,000 crore to PSU banks: As per data released 18 October 2015, as many as 7,035 wilful defaulters owe about Rs 59,000 crore to state-owned banks and SBI and Central Bank of India account for bulk of such borrowers. State Bank of India (SBI) and its five associate banks had 1,628 wilful defaulters owing Rs 16,834 crore to them, as of March 31,2015. Central Bank of India had 722 wilful defaulters, followed by Union Bank of India (643) and Canara Bank (612 such borrowers).
SBI gets RBI’s nod for starting real estate subsidiary: State Bank of India (SBI), in October 2015, received in-principle approval from the RBI to form a subsidiary to manage the real estate assets of the country’s largest lender. In the long run, banks may monetize these assets.
Jayakumar takes charge as MD & CEO of Bank of Baroda: P S Jayakumar, on 13 October 2015, took charge as managing director and chief executive at BOB’s corporate headquarters in Mumbai. A former Citibank executive, Jayakumar was selected in August 2015 from private sector firm VBHC Value Homes, where he was managing director and CEO.
YES Bank gets RBI nod for MF, AMC, trustee firm: Private lender YES Bank on 12 October 2015 got the central bank’s approval to set up a mutual fund, asset management company (AMC), and a trustee company. The lender said its AMC would channelize savings of retail and institutional investors in equity and debt capital markets.
Banks need Rs 5 lakh crorecapital for Basel III norms: A joint study of Assocham NIBM, in October 2015, said capital requirement of Indian banks would cross the Rs 5 lakh-crore mark while meeting the global Basel III banking norms by 31 March 2019.
·       The Reserve Bank has set a deadline of March 31, 2019, for implementation of these norms even as banks are fighting NPAs and capital market volatility.
FIU Imposes Rs 68 lakh fine on banks for failure to file STRs: Over a dozen public and private sector banks have been slapped a fine of Rs 68 lakh for their “failure” to report attempts of suspicious transactions and money laundering in their branches which were brought to light by a sting operation conducted in 2013. Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is the elite snoop wing under the Finance Ministry.
FIU and STR provisions
·       These penalty orders are appealable before the Appellate Authority of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in 45 days.
·       All the banks, in records accessed by PTI, have been penalized under section 13 of the PMLA for their “failure to detect and report attempts of suspicious transactions” in their select branches in the country which were covered under the sting operation.
·       Under anti-money laundering laws, the FIU Director is authorized to slap a maximum penalty of Rs 1 lakh on a bank for its failure to submit Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) to it.
·       An STR pertains to those transactions which have been done in unjustified complexity or without a bonafied reason giving rise to a suspicion about their intent or are suspected to be used for money laundering or terrorist financial activities.
·       The banks are bound under law to file STRs to FIU under anti-money laundering laws on a time bound basis.
HDFC Bank rolls out its largest brand campaign: Private sector lender HDFC Bank, on 9 October 2015, launched a nationwide campaign to position itself as a premier digital bank. Integrated, nationwide brand campaign ‘HarZarooratPoori Ho Chutki Mein, Bank AapkiMutthi Mein’ will reinforce bank’s position as India’s premier digital bank.
G-sec limit for foreign investors to be raised to Rs 1,79,500 crore: For foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), RBI will be increasing the investment limit in government securities to Rs 1,79,500 crore by January 1, from the existing Rs 1,53,500 crore.
BoB detects Rs 350-cr bill discounting irregularity: State-owned Bank of Baroda, in October 2015, detected Rs 350 crore bill discounting irregularity and initiated an investigation into it.
Bill Discounting
·       Bill discounting is a transaction under which a firm sells its accounts receivable at a discounted value to banks or a factoring company.
·       Selling of account receivable at a discounted value helps a company to meet its working capital requirement without restoring to borrowing.
·       In such transactions, a fraud can take place when there is mala fide intention of buyer and seller, and the transaction is not honoured.
·       In some cases, there are genuine reasons like product defect and financial crunch but in recent past many frauds have also surfaced leading to rise in bad loans of the bank.
·       In case the bank is unable to recover the amount, it adds to its Gross Non Performing Assets (GNPAs).
Central bank voices reservation over 100% FDI in private banks: RBI, on 1 October 2015, raised reservations over a proposal to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in private banks as it might create regulatory problems. It is of the view that 100 per cent FDI may complicate regulations for private and foreign banks. The proposal to raise FDI limit in private sector banks was recently discussed at a meeting of officials from the ministries of finance, commerce and industry and RBI.
FDI in Banking sector
·       Currently, 74 per cent FDI is permitted in private sector banks, of which up to 49 per cent is allowed under the automatic route and beyond that through the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
·       However, portfolio investments in the banking sector can go up to 49 per cent.
·       The proposal to raise the FDI limit would help the existing private sector banks, payments banks and small finance banks tap overseas markets to enhance their capital base.
·       RBI has recently given in-principle approval to 11 entities to set up payments banks and to 10 entities for small banks.
·       Foreign direct investment into the country grew 31 per cent to $9.50 billion during April-June this financial year.
Sebi exempts 3 PSBs from open offer: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on 29 September 2015 exempted the Centre from the takeover code obligations for its investment in Dena Bank, Bank of India and Corporation Bank. The Central government plans to infuse Rs 407 crore in Dena Bank, Rs 2,455 crore in Bank of India and Rs 857 crore in Corporation Bank. The infusion of capital, part of the government’s ‘Indradhanush’ initiative, would have triggered an open offer as the government’s stake in these banks would have increased by more than five per cent. In Dena Bank, the government’s stake is likely to increase 5.25 per cent – from 59.75 per cent to 65 per cent. In Bank of India, the government’s shareholding might raise from 64.43 per cent to 70.13 cent – an increase of 5.7 per cent. For Corporation Bank, the stake increase could be 5.78 per cent to 69.11 per cent.
Sebi’s norms on Open Offer
·       According to Sebi norms, when entities that hold 25 per cent or more equity in a company acquire an additional five per cent or more, they have to make an open offer to the public shareholders of the company.
·       In this case, Sebi has given the exemption on the ground this capital infusion is part of the government’s ‘Indradhanush’ plan and would help the banks meet the growing requirement of funds for expanding the business and to comply with Basel-III requirements on capital adequacy.
·       Capital adequacy of the bank is a requirement to protect its small customers as well as the public.
·       Sebi said commodity-specific businesses would also be allowed to become members of a commodity exchange.
RBS Bank to exit private banking business in India:
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Britain’s largest state-owned lender, on 24 September 2015 signed an agreement to transfer its private banking business in India to Sanctum Wealth Management. The transfer is expected to be completed by the first quarter of the next financial year.
SBI, ICICI Bank get permanent seat at lender’s forum for distressed assets: RBI, on 24 September 2015, mandated that SBI and ICICI Bank will be part of all the empowered committees of any joint lenders forum (JLF) set up by a consortium for addressing stress in loan servicing. The banking regulator announced this and other measures for hastening decisions in a JLF. These tend to get delayed, as lenders with smaller exposure tend to be reluctant on efforts to revive a stressed asset. A JLF is meant to initiate action to revive a project, if viable.
·       The central bank has now mandated that after a JLF finalizes a corrective action plan (CAP), the proposal should go to an empowered group of the lenders, for approval.
Citibank launches new savings bank account offerings: Citibank India, in September 2015, launched a new account for its retail customer base-Citi Priority-that will be focused on tapping the emerging affluent customer base.
IndusInd Bank and Tata AIA Life enter into Corporate Agency Partnership: IndusInd Bank and Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Limited, on 13 October 2015, entered into a corporate agency agreement. Under this agreement IndusInd Bank will distribute Tata AIA Life products across its branches and channels. Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Limited (Tata AIA Life) is a joint venture company, formed by Tata Sons Ltd. And AIA Group Ltd. (AIA). IndusInd Bank will distribute Tata AIA Life’s products through its 854 branches.
NHB gives nod to 6 new entities to become housing finance companies: The National Housing Bank (NHB), on 10 October 2015, granted permission to six new entities to become housing finance companies. These six companies are Supreme Housing Finance, Nivara Home Finance, Khush Housing Finance Private, Bajaj Housing Finance Capri, Global Housing Finance Pvt Ltd and Hinduja Housing Finance Ltd. Thus, as on date, the total number of HFCs registered with NHB is 72.
NCDEX, Kotak Mahindra Bank pact to provide commodities loans: National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX), on 6 October 2015, announced its tie-up with Kotak Mahindra Bank to provide financing to the depositors of goods in warehouses approved by the exchange. Under the arrangement, farmers and traders who have kept their commodities in NCDEX-approved warehouses can use such commodities as collateral for availing financial assistance from Kotak Mahindra Bank.
E-Banking & E Commerce
ICICI Bank launches mVisa-based Mobile Payment Service: ICICI Bank on 8 October 2015 launched a mobile payment service based on mVisa. The service enables customers to make electronic payments from their smartphones at traditional stores, e-commerce sites, deliveries made at home, radio taxi and utility bills among others.
Welspun India launches online retail portal: Riding the online wave, Welspun India, one of the largest home textile company, in October 2015, launched its online retail portal
Axis Bank’s apps for corporate clients: Axis Bank, the country’s third largest private sector bank, on 9 October 2015, rolled out a slew of mobile banking applications for its corporate clients. According to the bank, it was the first lender that has moved the entire gamut of corporate banking transactions online.
In a first, Kotak launches an offline funds transfer facility: Kotak Mahindra Bank, on 8 October 2015, launched a fund transfer service for its offline mobile app ‘Bharat’ in Ahmedabad. With this, Kotak has become the first bank in India to offer a funds transfer facility that does not require internet connectivity or a beneficiary.
DIPP notifies automatic FDI route for white-label ATMs: In a press note issued on 1 October 2015, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) said that the government had reviewed the extant FDI (foreign direct investment) policy and decided to allow foreign investment up to 100 per cent in While Label ATM operations under the automatic route. To promote financial inclusion, the Union Cabinet on September 9, 2015 approved the FDI policy in this regard.
HDFC Bank to disburse loans in nano seconds: HDFC Bank, India’s second largest private lender, on 22 September 2015, announced plans to disburse loans in nano seconds. The bank’s customers alone can avail of these loans, to be offered as a top-up on existing car/two-wheeler loans.
Yes Bank inks partnership with Snapdeal and Blue Dart to facilitate faster seller payments: Private sector bank Yes Bank, in October 2015, inked a partnership with Snapdeal, India’s largest online marketplace in terms of sellers transacting on its platform, and leading logistics and transportation company Blue Dart, which will see the financial institution make ‘strategic interventions in the financial supply chains’ of the latter two companies.
Bank of Baroda launches ‘Chillr Mobile App’: Bank of Baroda, on 19 October 2015, launches Chillr Mobile app, becoming the first public sector bank to partner with Chillr.
State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur launches Mudra Card under Pradhan Mantri MudraYojna: State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (SBBJ), on 29 September 2015, launched “MUDRA card” under PradhanMantri Mudra Yojna (PMMY) to provide easier credit facilities to micro units started by entrepreneurs engaged in non-farm activities. These loans are categorized into three segments: Shishu, loan amount up to Rs 50,000; Kishore, loan amount of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lacs; and Tarun, loan amount of Rs 5 lacs to Rs 10 lacks.
Dell Inc acquires EMC Corporation for 67 billion US dollars: Dell Inc and EMC Corporation on 12 October 2015 signed a definitive agreement under which Dell, together with its owners will acquire EMC Corporation, while maintaining VM ware as a publicly-traded company. It will be the biggest tech deal in history with a 67 billion US dollars acquisition of EMC Corp by Dell.
Retail major Future Group ties-up with Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurveda: Retail major Future Group on 9 October 2015 tied-up with Baba Ramdev-promoted Patanjali Ayurveda to sell the Patanjali’s FMCG products on its stores with plans for joint manufacturing in future.
Wipro and First Book to provide 35000 new books to kids in need in 5 Cities in U.S. & Canada: India’s leading information technology company Wipro Ltd. And First Book, a non-profit social enterprise, on 8 October 2015 entered into a partnership to provide new books to children in need across five cities in the USA and Canada.
Tata Power launches LED tube light scheme in Mumbai: Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company, on 8 October 2015 launched LED tube light scheme in Mumbai for its residential consumer. Under the scheme, Tata will provide five lights to each household at 525 rupees per piece against market price of 1325 rupees.
NDTV signs 100 crore rupees deal with Taboola: NDTV Convergence, the digital wing of NDTV group, on 30 September 2015 signed a strategic deal with the US-based content recommendations engine Taboola worth around 100 crore rupees for 3 years. The deal will boost the entire network of desktop and mobile sites of NDTV.
Reliance signs strategic pact with EDIC to manufacture defence equipment: Reliance Defence Limited (RDL) on 28 September 2015 signed a strategic pact with UAE’s Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC) for collaboration in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) category.
China’s DidiKuaidi joins hands with Ola to compete Uber in India: China’s largest taxi-hailing company, DidiKuaidi Joint Co. on 28 September 2015 announced to have invested in Ola to fight their common competitor, Uber Technologies Inc.
·       In February 2015, China’s two leading taxi-hailing apps, DidiDache and KuaidiDache announced their merger to create one of the world’s largest smartphone-based transport services company DidiKuaidi.
Wipro selected as member of Dow Jones Sustainability World Index: A leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, Wipro Limited was, on 28 September 2015, selected as member of the global Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) – 2015 for the sixth consecutive year.
·       The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) was launched in September 1999. DJSI evaluates the sustainability performance of the largest 2500 companies listed on the Dow Jones Global Total Stock Market Index.
Google teams up with Indian Railways to provide free Wi-Fi at 400 Stations:
Internet search engine giant Google on 27 September 2015 announced its tie-up with Indian Railways that will provide free Wi-Fi facilities to 400 stations. The Wi-Fi facilities will be provided under Project Nilgiri.
·       The project will make Internet hot-sports available to more than 10 million people just with the first 100 stations online. This will make it the largest Wi-Fi project in India.
Qualcomm announces investment of 150 Million US Dollars for Indian Start-Ups: Silicon Valley based chip-maker Qualcomm on 27 September 2015 announced to invest 150 million US dollars for Indian start-ups. The investment will come through a venture fund. The announcement was made after the company’s executive chairman Paul E Jacobs met the Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi at the Digital Economy event in San Jose. The venture fund was in support of Indian Government’s Digital India and Make in India initiatives.
Uninor re-branded as Telenor India: Telenor Group on 23 September 2015 announced that it had changed its brand identity along with legal company name from Uninor, its subsidiary in India, as Telenor India Communications Pvt. Ltd.
·       Telenor Group is one of the leading mobile operators in the world, with 189 million mobile subscriptions. The company headquartered in Oslo, Norway provides tele, data and media services in the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia. In Asia it is operational in Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Myanmar.
·       Uninor was launched in 2009 as per the agreement between Unitech Group and Telenor Group.
Google, Tata Trusts announced the launch of Android Developer Nanodegreesprogramme: Search engine Google and Tata Trusts in collaboration with Udacity on 21 September 2015 launched a scholarship programme to educate Indian students in Android development. As a part of the programme, 1000 scholarships will be offered to deserving students by Google and Tata Trusts. The students will be awarded with Android Developer Nanodegrees.
Infosys to acquire U.S. – based Noah for $70 million: India’s second largest IT exporter Inforsys on 9 October 2015 signed a definitive agreement to acquire Noah Consulting, LLC, a leading provider of advanced information management consulting services for the oil and gas industry. U.S.-based Noah Consulting helps upstream oil and gas companies, including super majors, independents and oil field service companies plan, architect and deploy information solutions to unlock the value of their oil and gas assets.
Google officially becomes Alphabet Inc: After US market closed on 2 October 2015, Alphabet replaced Google as the publicly traded company that will house Google’s search and Web advertising businesses, maps, YouTube and its “moonshot” ventures such as driverless cars. Google’s class A shares and class C shares automatically converted into the same number of Alphabet class A shares and class C shares and started trading on the Nasdaq from 5 October 2015. The ticker symbols will not change. The structural overhaul, announced in August 2015, is intended to separate the company’s core businesses from ventures such as the driverless cars, glucose-monitoring contact lenses and Internet-connected high-altitude balloons.
·       Google’s Sidewalk Labs, a company dedicated to coming up with technologies to improve urban city infrastructure such as a free Wi-Fi programme, will also be a part of the Alphabet business.
·       The core business will be called Google and operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Sundar Pichai will head Google.
·       Alphabet will be run by Google co-founder Larry Page and each of its businesses will have its own chief executive.
·       Starting from the company’s fourth quarter in January, Alphabet will have two reporting units-Google and all other Alphabet businesses taken as a whole.
·       Alphabet’s businesses will also include connected home products maker Nest, venture capital arm Google Ventures, and Google Capital, which invests in larger tech companies.
Cluster in Tirupati to make 7 crore smart phones a year: As per an announcement made in October 2015, four major domestic brands are joining hands to set up units at India’s first phone manufacturing hub Sri Venkateshwara Mobile and Electronics Manufacturing Cluster coming up in Tirupati. Micromax, Celkon, Karbonn and Lava will invest Rs. 2,000 crore in phases in the 120-acre hub located near Renigunta airport. Indian companies account for 45 per cent of the 24 corre phones sold in the country.
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Economy & Policy
First time in eight years fiscal balance turns surplus in August 2015: CGA: The Controller-General of Accounts (CGA), in October 2015, announced that India’s fiscal balance turned from deficit to surplus for the first time in 8 years. Fiscal deficit-difference between revenue and expenditure excluding borrowings- for August 2015 was pegged at – 15808 crore rupees that indicates surplus of revenues over expenditure. The surplus amount in the exchequer is significant due to the fact that the fiscal deficit was 73005 crore rupees during the same period in the previous fiscal-August 2014. In August 2015, the total expenditure was only 131214 crore rupees against the total revenue of 147022 crore rupees. The government could achieve surplus due to sharp surge in revenue receipts and decline in its total expenditures.
India’s GDP to grow at 7.5 percent in 2015: UNCTAD: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on 6 October 2015, projected that India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow at 7.5 per cent in 2015. It was revealed by the UNCTAD in its Trade and Development Report 2015, titled ‘Making the international financial architecture work for development.’
Highlights of UNCTAD report
·       India’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.5 per cent in 2015 compared to China’s 6.9 as China rebalances the structure of its demand by concentrating more on exports.
·       India’s upward growth will be possible because of lowering oil prices in the international market that will ease pressure on current account deficit.
·       India’s export growth (by volume) slowed down from 8.5 per cent in 2013 to 3.2 per cent in 2014.
·       Public banks, which account for 62 per cent of Indian bank loans, will find it difficult to meet the Basel III capital requirements between 2015 and 2019.
·       India has emerged as an important player in extending development assistance to developing and under developed countries as part of south-south cooperation that takes the form of credit, concessional loans and grants.
·       India is one of the few countries where the Public Private Partnership investment is high. Almost 60 per cent of the total private participation in projects recorded in developing countries was in China, Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, Mexico and Turkey.
·       It identified potential financial role of south-led multilateral banks including New Development Bank of BRICS and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in both of which India has membership.
Anil Baijal panel suggests uniform tax treatment for CSR works: The Union Government appointed committee chaired by Anil Baijal, former Union Home Secretary, on 7 October 2015 submitted its report on how to improve monitoring of CST spending to government. The panel in its report recommended uniform tax treatment for all Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities under Companies Act 2013 and leniency towards non-compliant companies in the first 2 to 3 years of the law.
Highlights of Baijal Panel Report
·       It suggests that under the Companies Act, 2013, certain class of profitable entities is required to spend at least 2 percent of their three-year annual average net profit towards CSR activities. The first year of implementation of Companies Act was financial year that lasted from April 2014 to March 2015 and compliance reports would be available by the end 2015.
·       It says that the differential tax treatment for expenditure on various CSR activities may create distortion in the allocation of funds across development sectors.
·       It says that there should be uniformity in tax treatment for CSR expenditure across all eligible activities. At present, certain activities such as contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund qualify for exemption.
·       It also asked to provide further clarity on applicability of section 135, which deals with CSR provisions.
NMPT introduces Ro-Ro coastal shipping service: In its efforts to boost coastal shipping, New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT), in October 2015, introduced Ro-Ro (roll-on roll-off) service between Mangaluru and Hazira. In Ro-Ro, the loaded trucks are driven into the vessel, and are driven out from the vessel once they reach the destination.
S&P retains India’s rating at ‘BBB’-with stable outlook: Global ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) on 19 October 2015 affirmed India’s long-term sovereign credit rating at ‘BBB’- and short-term rating at ‘A-3’ with a stable outlook.
RIL joins hands with 9 oil and gas firms for climate pact: Reliance Industries, along with nine of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, on 16 October 2015, declared their collective support for an effective climate change agreement, to be reached at the 21st session of the United Nations Conference of Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change (COP21) in November 2015.
Renewables, nuclear energy set to record impressive growth: Global Data: India’s cumulative installed capacity will more than double from 272.8 Gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to 609 GW by 2025, representing a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.3 per cent, according to research and consulting firm Global Data.
·       The multi-phase Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched in 2010, set a target of 20 GW of grid-based solar power by 2022 and 2 GW of off-grid capacity for the same year.
·       Thermal power will remain the dominant contributor to India’s energy mix, with installed capacity forecast to almost double from 188.9 GW in 2014 to 371.6 GW by 2025.
Infra fund: Shaktikanta Das to head search panel to select CEO: A search-cum-selection committee was, in October 2015, constituted under the Chairmanship of Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das for selecting a CEO for the investment management company, under the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). The investment management company will be responsible for taking investment decisions of the NIIF corpus, in which the government’s share will not exceed 49 per cent. The shareholding of the company would reflect the shares of the different investors of the corpus.
Funds mop-up: panel for Swachh Bharat bonds, cess: To raise resources for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, NITI Aayog’s Chief Ministers’ sub-group, on 14 October 2015, suggested Swachh Bharat bonds and Swachh Bharat cess by the Centre on petrol, diesel, telecom services, as well as on accumulated waste produced by plants generating mineral waste like coal, aluminium, and iron ore. The sub group is chaired by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.
The sub-group has proposed that given the scale and importance of the programme the sharing pattern of funds between Centre and States may be in the ratio of 75:25, while 90:10 for hilly States. It has also suggested reducing subsidy on chemical fertilizers and raising it on compost.
In order to improve the viability of waste management activities, the report proposes provision of tax exemptions to the private sector.
A dedicated Mission for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, called the National Technical Board, has been also proposed. The report has also recommended measures to attract private sector participation and Public Private Partnership (PPP).
FIPB approves Tata-AW chopper unit proposal: In a significant development, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), in October 2015, cleared the proposal for chopper assembling unit up by the Indian Rotocraft Ltd (IRL), a joint venture between Agusta Westland and Tata Sons Limited.
Government sets up panel to push mega innovation projects: The Government has set up a committee to push innovative collaboration joint ventures involving investment of over Rs. 2,000 crore with a view to create jobs, promote exports, and increase the potential of revenue to the exchequer. The Empowered Committee for Innovative Collaborations will be headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman and its members would include the Economic Affairs Secretary and the Industry Secretary. Besides, former Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and former Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar are also members on the committee.
·       The committee’s mandate would be to fast-track innovation joint ventures involving over Rs.2,000 crore.
·       It, however, will also be taking up projects involving lower investments if substantial social, economic, or security benefits are expected
Government to unveil new tool to check PAN transactions history: The Government is set to unveil an ambitious PAN activity monitoring and analysis software tool that will enable Income Tax department to check transactions history of a person country-wide and help sleuths in effective tracking of black money trail. The digital and smart platform is called the Income Tax Business Application-Permanent Account Number (ITBA-PAN).
ITBA-PAN software
·       The new software tool will enable the taxman to view, in a chronological order, the entire “PAN life cycle summary” or to simply say transactions history of an individual or entity where a PAN number has been quoted, in any part of the country.
·       The project will also enable the tax department and its two intermediary organizations – NSDL and UTIITSL – to allocate a fresh PAN number and subsequently issue a new card in 48 hours flat as compared to the about 15 days time taken currently.
·       The new platform will also allow the taxman to view and capture various events of an assessee like “death, liquidation, dissolution, de-merger, merger, acquisition, fake PAN or amalgamation of PAN” in a specific or general case in an event of any investigation to be carried out in a case of black money or tax evasion.
·       The new tool will also allow the taxman to remotely identify duplicate or fake PANs in its system which has been troubling the tax investigators for a long time and was used by criminals to perpetrate black money operations within and outside the country.
·       The ITBA-PAN software will also allow a PAN holder to request for deletion or de-activation of his or her PAN and it will send an electronic and digitally signed “intimation letter” in this regard to the concerned assessee.
·       What is PAN? PAN is a ten-digit alphanumeric number issued in form of a laminated card by the Income Tax department. It is also a national identification number of the taxpayer which has to be mandatorily quoted on the return of income and in all correspondences with the department.
Centre circulates model GST laws among states: As per news reports of 12 October 2015, the Centre and states have completed the drafting of the model Goods and Services Tax law as well as an integrated GST or iGST law, which will be put up in the public domain by early November 2015. The Central GST (CGST) will be framed based on the model GST law. Also the states will draft their own State GST (SGST) based on the draft model law with minor variations incorporating state-based exemptions.
·       The drafts of the proposed legislations are based on three principles definitional clarity, certainty in assessment, and promoting ease of doing business.
·       The model GST law and iGST law have been drafted by officials of both the Centre and States.
Accounting standards: Centre extends advisory panel’s term: The Corporate Affairs Ministry (CAM), in October 2015, extended the tenure of the 13-member National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards (NACAS). The advisory panel’s term will end on September 17 2016 or till the constitution of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), whichever is earlier, according to an order issued by MCA. The main purpose of setting up NACAS was to advise the Central Government on the formulation and laying down of accounting policies and accounting standards. In September 2014, the Centre had reconstituted NACAS under the Chairmanship of Amarjit Chopra.
TPP ‘secret’ deal raises public health and litigation concerns: Ministers of 12 countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia, on 5 October 2015, announced in Washington D.C, to have put place the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that is being seen as the mother of all trade deals. The over-arching trade deal covers an “ambitious” range from supporting employment creation and retention to enhancing innovation, transparency, labour and environment protection.
TPP and Health Concerns
·       The 12 countries Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam constitute 40 per cent of the global economy.
·       Public health advocates across the world have called for details of the deal to be made public, heir key concerns being enhanced protection of intellectual property (IP) and the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Provision.
·       A contentious feature, ISDS allows foreign investors to sue a Government internationally, if they felt that domestic policy had hurt their investment in the country. And enhanced IP brings with it concerns of increased research data protection and patent linkage with marketing approvals – measures that could encourage monopolistic behaviour and hurt public health.
·       Indian generic drugs have been at the forefront, from HIV treatment to recent incidents on Hepatitis C drug Sofosbuvir, where patients from other countries have come to India to access treatment, as it was expensive in their country.
Germany to provide 1 billion loans to solar power sector: Germany, on 5 October 2015, agreed to provide loans to the tune of 1billion at concessional rates to India’s solar energy sector. The loan will be disbursed over the next five years. A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect was signed by Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy Minister PiyushGoyal and the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller in New Delhi.
·       Other MoUs: A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the German Agribusiness Alliance and the Agriculture skill Council of India for the purpose of jointly establishing ‘Indo-German Centres of Excellence in Agriculture’.
India’s poverty rate lowest among nations with poor population: As per a latest World Bank report, released in October 2015, India accounted for the largest number of poor people in any country in 2012, but its poverty rate was lowest among countries having large number of poor population. According to the report, the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world is likely to fall to under 10 per cent of the global population in 2015.
World Bank Report Poverty
·       According to the report, the poverty rate in low-income countries average 43 per cent in 2012, compared to 19 per cent in lower-middle-income countries. Yet lower middle-income countries are home to about half of the global poor, compared to a third for low-income countries.
·       Part of the reason is that four nations with the largest populations were once classified as low-income but have moved into lower-middle-income category: China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria.
·       In its report, the bank uses an updated international poverty line of USD 1.9 a day, which incorporates new information on difference in the cost of living across countries.
·       The new line preserves the real purchasing power of the previous line (of USD 1.25 a day in 2005 prices) in the world’s poorest countries.
·       Using this new line (as well as new country-level data on living standards), the bank projects that global poverty will fall from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012 to 702 million people or 9.6 per cent of the global population this year.
India emerges most-favoured destination in Financial Times’ data on FDI in H1 2015: London-based business daily Financial Times (FT) on 29 September 2015 released Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) data for the period January June (H1) of 2015. As per the data, India in the first half of 2015 surpassed China to emerge as the most-favoured destination for FDI.
Australia approves Carmichael coal mine project of Adani Group: Asutralian Government, in October 2015, gave its approval for Adani Group’s Carmichael Coal mine and rail project in accordance with environment laws of country. The approval was granted subject to 36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history. Earlier in August 2015 Australian court had temporarily blocked the project because of environmental concerns.
·       Carmichael coal mine which is one of the world’s biggest coal mines is to be built by Adani Mining Pvt Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Adani Group.
PM lays foundation stone for 4th container terminal of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 11 October 2015, laid the foundation stone for the fourth container terminal of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), situated off Mumbai. The port aspires to be among the top 15 of the world with the implementation of several infrastructure projects, including the fourth terminal. At present it is ranked 31st.
India ranks 55th on 2015 Global Competitiveness Index: In the latest Global Competitiveness Report, released by the World Economic Forum in September 2015, India has moved up 16 positions to rank 55th on a global index of the world’s most competitive economies.
Highlights of the 2015 Global Competitiveness Index:
·       Globally, Switzerland has retained its top position as the world’s most competitive economy for seventh year in a row and is followed by Singapore, the US, Germany and the Netherlands in the top-five. These are followed by Japan, Hong Kong, Finland, Sweden and the UK in the top-ten.
·       China, holding steady at 28, remains by far the most competitive among large emerging economies.
·       In terms of competitiveness of its institutions, India is ranked 60th (out of total 140 countries and up 10 positions from last year), while for infrastructure it has gained six places to 81 st.
·       For macroeconomic environment, India is ranked 91st, helped by a reduction in commodity prices and improvement in the government’s budget deficit.
 Delhi to get info on Indians receiving interest in US accounts: As per an announcement made in October 2015, India has now been included in a list of 34 countries with which the US would automatically share information under the FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) regulations.
For third time in 143 years, country faces back-to-back drought: The South-West monsoon drawing to a close with a deficit of 14 per cent during E1 Nino year 2015 made it the first time in almost five decades that the country has endured two drought years on a trot.
Indian urbanization ‘messy’, reforms needed: World Bank: Terming India’s urbanization as “messy and hidden”, a World Bank report, on 24 September 2015, called for initiatives at the policy and institutional level to tap the economic potential it offers. According to the report, titled ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia,’ although they have made progress, India and other South Asian countries can make better utilization of opportunities that urbanization provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations.
Highlights of World Bank Report on Urbanization
·       The World Bank said there has been difficulty in dealing with pressures that increased urban populations put on basic services, infrastructure, land, housing and environment, fostering “messy and hidden” urbanization.
·       The report said messy urbanization in India is reflected in nearly 65.5 million people who live in urban slums as per the 2011 census and the increasing sprawl that afflicts many Indian cities.
·       Also, 13.7 per cent of urban population lived below the national poverty line.
·       The urban population in South Asia increased by 130 million from 2000 to 2011 and is poised to grow by almost 250 million in the next 15 years.
·       It said major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata have seen the fastest population growth on their peripheries. Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, GautamBudh Nagar, Greater Mumbai and Kolkata rank high among the Indian districts on the World Bank report’s prosperity index.
Centre raises rabi crop production target to 133 mt: The Centre on 22 September 2015 said that production of Rabi crops will be about 1.6 per cent higher at 132.78 million tonnes (mt) in 2015-16 compared with 130.75 mt produced last crop year (July-June). The winter cropping season accounts for 51 per cent of total food grains production in India.
Union Cabinet approves hiking bonus for Industrial workers: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in October 2015, approved amendment in the Payment of Bonus Act 1965 for the Industrial workers. According to the decision
·       The bonus ceiling under the legislation was increased from 3500 rupees to 7000 rupees per month.
·       The wage ceiling for getting bonus has also been increased from existing 10000 rupees per month to 21000 rupees per month.
CCEA approves World Bank assisted National Watershed Management project Neeranchal: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 7 October 2015 approved implementation of the World Bank assisted National Watershed Management Project Neeranchal with a total outlay 2142.30 crore rupees. The project will be implemented at the national level as well as in the nine states of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana. The government’s share in the project is 50 percent and the rest cost will be borne by the World Bank.
·       The project aims at achieving the major objectives of the Watershed Component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) and for ensuring access to irrigation to every farm (HarKhetKoPani) and efficient use of water (Per Drop More Crop).
·       The Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) was launched in 2009-2010 by the integration of various area development programmes of the Department of Land Resources (DoLR), including the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP), the Desert Development Programme (DDP) and the Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP). However, the IWMP will be implemented as the Watershed Component of PMKSY from 2015-2016 onwards.
Union Government increases import duty on wheat to 25%: The Union Government on 19 October 2015 raised the basic customs duty on wheat to 25 percent from 10 percent. This increase will be valid till 31 March 2016. The duty was raised in view of the continued fall in international prices of wheat and the anticipated adverse impact of increased imports during the first half of financial year 2015-16. Besides, the government also exempted specified biodiesel from central excise duty.
·       However, its inputs namely, RBD Palm Stearin, Methanol and Sodium Methoxide are Chargeable to central excise duty leading to CENVAT credit accumulation.
·       Central excise duty has been exempted on RBD Palm Stearin, Methanol and Sodium Methoxide used in the manufacture of such biodiesel subject to actual user condition for a period up to 31 March 2016.
TRAI makes it mandatory for telecom operators to compensate for call drops: Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indian (TRAI) on 16 October 2015 made it mandatory for mobile service providers (MSPs) to compensate consumers call drops with effect from 1 January 2016. The notification was issued by the TRAI as ninth amendment to the Telecom Consumer Protection Regulations, 2012.
TRAI and Call Drop
What has been mandated to MSPs?
·       Credit the account of the calling consumer by one rupee. However, such credit in the account of the calling consumer will be limited to three dropped calls in a day.
·       Send a message through SMS/USSD to the calling consumer within four hours of the occurrence of call drop and details of the amount credited into his account.
·       In case of post-paid consumers provide the detail of the credit in the next bill.
·       The implementation of the mandate will be closely watched b the TRAI which will also keep a watch on the measures being initiated by service providers to minimize the problem of dropped calls.
·       It will undertake a review of the mandate and its implementation after six months.
What is a call drop?
·       Call drop represents the service provider’s inability to maintain a call once it has been correctly established, that is, calls dropped or interrupted prior to their normal completion by the user, the cause of the early termination being with the service provider’s network.
·       In the past one year, the instances of call drops have increased too much causing too much problem to the consumers. As a result, TRAI had in June 2015 and July 2015 conducted drive tests in Mumbai and Delhi, which showed unsatisfactory network quality. TRAI than convened a meeting of all telecom operators to improve quality of network.
·       Off late, the call drop issue is starting to improve. Telecom operators like Airtel, Aircel, Idea, Vodafone and Tata Tele have been able to contain the problem and nearly half of the defective mobile sites have been fixed to address the menace.
Ministry of Railways launches Indian Railway Knowledge Portal: Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on 28 September 2015 launched Indian Railway Knowledge Portal for dissemination of detailed information on Indian Railways. It is an initiative of the National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR) which allows the user to access most of the available knowledge about Indian Railways at one location due to linkage of websites, documents and much more. The portal was launched through video-conferencing established between Ministry of Railways, Rail Bhawan and NAIR Headquarters at Vadodara.
Union Ministry of Road Transport launches Green Highways Policy, 2015: Union Minister of Road Transport & Hihgways and Shipping NitinGadkari, on 29 September 2015, launched Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification and Maintenance) Policy, 2015.
Highlights of Green Highway Policy 2015
·       The Green Highway Policy will make it compulsory for road developers to set aside 1 percent of the Total Project Cost (TPC) for Highway Plantation and Maintenance.
·       The policy seeks participation from the various segments of community including farmers, private sectors, government institutions and NGOs.
·       The scheme will supposedly spend 1000 crore rupees for trees plantation along National Highways in the fiscal year 2015-16.
·       Once implemented, the scheme will help in creating huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development.
·       Besides, the policy will also help in cutting down the carbon footprints and hugely benefit the environment.
Green Highway Fund
·       The policy calls for creation of fund account called Green Highways Fund (GHF) for developing green covers along the NH corridors.
·       Te GHF will be created from the fund collected through 1 percent of the TPC contributed by the developers.
·       NHAI will act only as a Fund Manager for maintaining the Account and releasing payments
Piyush Goyal launches access to clean cooking energy and electricity – survey of states report: Piyush Goyal Union Minister of State (IC) for coal, Power and New and Renewable Energy, on 29 September 2015 launched ‘Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity – Survey of States Report’. The study was conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment & Water (CEEW) in collaboration with Columbia University with support from the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation. According to the report,
·       It highlights that about 300 million Indians rely on kerosene for lighting, and more than 800 million relying on traditional biomass.
·       It says that the access to modern forms of energy is still a significant barrier to our development.
APSEZ inks MoU with IPGA to handle pulses across its ports in country: On 19 October 2015 signed a MoU to handle pulses across its ports to ensure smooth and cost efficient availability of the commodity across the nation.
EU imposes anti-dumping duty on Indian steel pipes: The European Union, on 24 September 2015, imposed a provisional anti-dumping duty of up to 31.2 per cent on imports of water and sewage pipes from India for six months to protect its industry.
Ministry allows captive power plants to take part in Coal India e-auctions: The Coal Ministry, in October 2015, made a one-time exception to allow captive power plants to participate in the e-auction for coal by Coal India. It said that 8.5 million tones may be offered under the traditional ‘forward e-auction’ for power producer up to March 31, 2016. According to the ministry,
·       Captive power plants can provide 49 per cent of their power generated to the grid. Further, captive power plants shall not draw power from the grid to the extent of their own generated power that is 51 per cent of the capacity.
New transfer pricing rules aimed at reducing litigation: Finance Ministry: In an effort to make tax policies more transparent and investor-friendly, the Finance Ministry on 20 October 2015, proposed to use multiple years’ data to analyse transfer pricing cases. Transaction price falling in the specified range will be accepted and no adjustment will be made by the tax authorities.
Finance Ministry Proposals on Transfer Pricing Rules
·       The use of multiple year data would average out any variations in a particular year and improve the transfer pricing analysis. The Ministry has notified amended rules for transfer pricing that are aimed to reduce litigation which includes the introduction of a “range concept” for determining arm’s length price and “use of multiple year data” for undertaking comparability analysis in transfer pricing cases.
·       The range concept will be applicable in certain cases for determining the price and will begin with the 35th percentile and end with the 65th percentile of the comparable prices.
·       Finance Minister ArunJaitley had in the Union Budget 2015-16 announced that a “range concept” for calculating the arm’s length price would be introduced.
·       Additionally, the Finance Ministry has also issued fresh guidelines for transfer pricing cases mandating that these should be picked up for scrutiny based on their risk profile. It has also reduced the number of cases that should be handled by each transfer pricing officers (TPOs).
Centre to create 40,000 tonnes of buffer stock of pulses to combat price rise: The government, in October 2015, announced to create 40,000 tonnes of buffer stock of pulses to combat price rise. The pulses will be purchased from farmers at market rates. While the new urad crop arrivals are expected in November 2015, tur will only teach the markets by mid-December to early-January.
With prices of tur (arhar) dal touching the Rs. 200/kg mark in some retail outlets across the country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre “would invoke” the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) to augment supplies and lower the rates. The PSF was set up in 2015 by the Agriculture Ministry, though it was announced during the 2014 Budget. It has a corpus of Rs. 500 crore and is used to manage prices of agricultural and horticultural products through market interventions.
Centre launches ‘Kisan’ pilot to speed up insurance claims: To fasten payment of crop insurance claims to farmers, the Centre on 5 October 2015 launched a pilot programme Kisan, which will use satellite and drone-based imaging and other geospatial technology to get timely and accurate data on crop yields. Additionally, an Android-based application called ‘Bhuvan’, developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was also launched to assess crop damage caused by hailstorms and gather data on the weather event using GPS technology.
·       The programme will be jointly conducted by Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, India Meterological Department, State Agriculture Departments and Remote Sensing Centres, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
·       The pilot project is being carried out in 12 districts across Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh over the current Kharif and upcoming Rabi seasons.
·       The districts chosen include Haryana’s Kurukshetra (rice) and Hisar and Karnal (wheat), Shimoga (rice), Raichur (rice) and Gulbarga (sorghum) in Karnataka, Yavatmal (cotton), Ahmednagar (wheat) and Solapur (sorghum) in Maharashtra, and Seoni (rice), Vidisha and Hoshangabad for wheat in MP.
Government finalizes new mid-day meal rules: The Government on 1 October 2015 notified ‘Mid Day Meal Rules, 2015’ which now provide for monthly testing of meals on a random basis by accredited labs, temporary utilization of other funds for meals, payment of food security allowance in case of non-supply of meals, among others. The rules provide for temporary utilization of other funds available with the school for MDm in case the school exhausts MDM funds for any reason; food security allowance to be paid to beneficiaries in case of non-supply of meals for specified reasons; and monthly testing of meals on a random basis by accredited labs to check its quality.

Centre proposes to raise rehab aid for bonded labour: To rehabilitate millions of bonded labour in the country, the Labour Ministry, on 21 September 2015, proposed to raise the existing scheme of assistance from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 1 lakh per adult male. It also proposed Rs. 2 lakh aid for special category beneficiaries, such as orphans, girl children forced into prostitution and beggars, out of which Rs. 1.25 lakh will be deposited in an annuity scheme and the rest in the beneficiary’s account.

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