Spectrum Metro gets clearance from National Green Tribunal

Spectrum Metro, a high street retail development in Sector 75 gets a green signal from NGT. The project is in the advanced stage of construction and is being carried out in accordance with the Environment Clearance.

The application for Environment Clearance was duly made on 11.02.2018. After following due procedure, EC was granted on 11.06.2018.

On 8.10.2018, the Tribunal asked for a report from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), to which it stated that the construction of the project was completed in the end of 2017 before filing an application on Environment Clearance. In affect to the statement, a compliance report has been furnished recently by email on 22.12.2018 presenting that the project had yet not been completed.

The project is centrally located with excellent social and civic infrastructure and is expected to cater to a footfall of almost 8 lakh people with over 100 plus international brands present. The entire project is a green building development conforming to cost-saving parameters and energy efficient elements and will have a total saleable area of approximately 1.2 mn sq. ft.

Sagar Saxena, Project Head, Spectrum Metro, “We have been working as per the guidelines of NGT and the project is already in advanced stage of construction. Also, we are strictly following the orders for Pollution control and are working in accordance to it. The project is being designed keeping all the major aspects in mind.”

Study Says Milky Way Galaxy Is “Warped, Twisted” Not Flat

According to a study conducted by a team of astronomers at a university in Australia, the Milky Way’s disk of stars is not flat but rather  “warped and twisted” and far away from the galaxy’s centre. 

“We usually think of spiral galaxies as being quite flat, like Andromeda which you can easily see through a telescope,” said Professor Richard de Grijs from Macquarie University in Australia.

To understand, the team used 1,339 “standard” stars, each up to 100,000 brighter than our sun, to map the real shape of our home galaxy.

The new 3D map of our galaxy showed that the warped Milky Way disc also contains young stars and confirmed that the warped spiral pattern is caused by torque from the spinning of the Milky Way’s massive inner disc of stars, according to the study published in the Nature Astronomy journal.

From a great distance, our galaxy would look like a thin disk of stars that orbit once every few hundred million years around its central region, where hundreds of billions of stars, together with a huge mass of dark matter, provide the gravitational “glue” to hold it all together.

But the pull of gravity becomes weaker far away from the Milky Way’s inner regions. In the galaxy’s far outer disk, the hydrogen atoms making up most of the Milky Way’s gas disk are no longer confined to a thin plane, but they give the disk an S-like warped appearance.

“It is notoriously difficult to determine distances from the Sun to parts of the Milky Way’s outer gas disc without having a clear idea of what that disc actually looks like,” said Xiaodian Chen from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

“This research provides a crucial updated map for studies of our galaxy’s stellar motions and the origins of the Milky Way’s disk,” added Licai Deng, also from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Astronomers have observed a dozen other galaxies which showed similar progressively twisted spiral patterns in their outer regions. So our Milky Way’s twists are rare but not unique, the astronomers added.

Xiaomi Series Redmi 6, Redmi 6 Pro & Redmi 6A Receive Temporary Price Cut in India

The company has announced a temporary price cut in Redmi 6, Redmi 6 Pro and Redmi 6A smartphones inIndia. All these three will be available at a discounted price between February 6 to 8, 2019. These can be purchased at a range from Rs.500 to Rs. 2,000 on their original launch price. The three smartphones will be available at a reduced price from the official Xiaomi e-store, Amazon. in and Flipkart starting tomorrow. 

The Chinese smartphone maker announced the limited time price cut on the Redmi 6A ₹ 5,999, Redmi 6 ₹ 8,179 and the Redmi 6 Pro ₹ 9,999 via a tweet from the official Redmi India Twitter account, and also took a dig at Samsung’s freshly launched Galaxy M-series smartphones by asking millennial smartphone users to choose wisely. However, the company has not disclosed the platform-specific offers such as banking discounts, EMI offers, exchange plans, etc. for the three phones.

The Redmi 6 Pro’s 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant will be available at Rs. 10,999, down from its launch price of Rs. 12,999. The lower-end Redmi 6 Pro variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage will also get a price reduction worth Rs. 2,000 and will be available at Rs. 8,999, down from its original price of Rs. 10,999. Additionally, the entry-level Redmi 6A will be available at a reduced price for three days starting February 6, 2019. The Redmi 6A’s 2GB RAM/ 32GB storage model will be sold at Rs. 6,499, down from its original launch price of Rs. 6,999.

When it comes to the Redmi 6, only the 3GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant of the smartphone will be available at a reduced price point. This particular model, which was launched at Rs. 9,499 and later received a price cut, can be purchased for Rs. 8,499 during the 3-day discount fest. Interestingly, the discount on the Redmi 6 is already live on Flipkart  as part of the Flipkart Super Value Week sale. Flipkart is also offering benefits such as a 10 percent discount for purchases made using an Axis Bank Buzz credit card and an instant discount worth Rs. 1,800 as well as 20GB of extra data to Airtel subscribers.

Indian Army Short Of Funds, Puts Temporary Allowances Paid To Officers On Hold

The Indian Army due to shortage of funds has put on hold the temporary allowances paid to officers. The notice was put up by its accounts division on its website on Monday. Soon after, the notice was pulled down, and anonymous army officials said such posts were “uncalled for” and painted a “poor picture.”

“Due to insufficient funds available under Temporary duty and Permanent Duty Heads of Army officers, no TA/DA advances and claims can be processed till receipt of sufficient funds under the relevant heads. However, the facility for Leave Travel Concession will continue,” said the post put up by the Principal Comptroller of Defence Accounts (PCDA), Pune, the agency that disburses salaries and emoluments to officers.

The freeze is likely to hit hundreds of officers. The army has 40,000 officers and at any given time, at least 1,000 officers are on the move or on “temporary duty” to attend courses, planning conferences, Court of Inquiries (CoI), or exercises among other things.

After the interim budget, the defence ministry said it had received the biggest-ever allocation, an increase of around 7% over last year’s provisioning.

“Sensitive issues like operational plans, deployments cannot always be discussed on the phone and officers are called to formation headquarters including Army Headquarters… ,” a senior officer who did not want to named, said explaining why officers need to move frequently.

The 1.3-million strong force spends about Rs 4,000 crore every year to pay officers and men who move from their stations for conferences with various formations, planning, training, field exercises and to attend courses.

“This year about Rs 3200 crore has been spent,” a second senior officer, who didn’t want to be named, said. “An additional amount – of about Rs 800 crore – has been allocated to tide over the crisis,” he said.

The ministry of defence played down the issue. A spokesperson said “at times, funds allotted (based on estimated expenditure) to specific heads fall short of the actual expenditure.

The shortfalls are only temporary and are resolved routinely through re-appropriations. Adequate funds are provided under all heads including Temporary and Permanent Duty heads.”

A UN Study Says US-China Trade War May Boost Indian Economy

According to a UN study, the trade war between US and China is likely to boost the Indian economy with a rise of 3.5 per cent in exports. Amongst this, the European Union will probably be the biggest winner bagging $70 billion in additional trade. Amid tit for tat tariff hikes between Washington and Beijing, trade is being diverted and a handful of countries will capture a slice of the giants’ exports, said the report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Monday.

“Substantial effects relative to the size of their exports are expected for Australia, Brazil, India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Vietnam,” it said. The report, titled “The Trade Wars: The Pain and the Gain”, said that “bilateral tariffs alter global competitiveness to the advantage of firms operating in countries not directly affected by them”.

The study found that European exports will grow by $70 billion, while Japan, Canada and Mexico will see exports increase by more than $20 billion each.

“Countries that are expected to benefit the most from US-China tensions are those which are more competitive and have the economic capacity to replace US and Chinese firms,” the UNCTAD said.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a damaging trade row that has seen both sides levy tariffs on billions of dollars worth of one another’s goods. In December, both countries agreed to hold off on new tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks.

They have a deadline of March 1 to strike a deal, or the US has said it will increase tariff rates on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. The trade war will also have a number of negative effects on global trade, especially within certain markets, the UNCTAD said.

The report said that there will be huge costs if the trade war intensified and that Asian countries were likely to suffer most from protectionism. “The implications are going to be massive… The implications for the entire international trading system will be significantly negative,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s Head of International Trade, at a news conference.

Smaller and poorer countries would struggle to cope with the external shocks, she said and added that the higher cost of the US-China trade would prompt companies to shift away from current East Asian supply chains.

According to the UNCTAD report, East Asian producers will be hit the hardest, with a projected $160 billion contraction in the region’s exports. It also warned that the effects could be felt everywhere.

“There’ll be currency wars and devaluation, stagflation leading to job losses and higher unemployment and more importantly, the possibility of a contagion effect, or what we call a reactionary effect, leading to a cascade of other trade distortionary measures,” Coke-Hamilton said.

New FDI Norms May Lead To Exit Of Walmart From Flipkart, Says Morgan Stanley

The American multinational retail corporation, Walmart may exit Flipkart after India’s new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms for e- commerce companies came into being, warned US investment banker Morgan Stanley. 

According to the report, Walmart-Flipkart saga might turn out to similar to what happened with Amazon in China in late 2017.

“An exit is likely, not completely out of the question, with the Indian e-commerce market becoming more complicated,” the report by Morgan Stanley said late Monday.

“There is a precedent for an exit as Amazon retreated from China in late 2017 after seeing that the model no longer worked for them,” the report read.

“We estimate that Flipkart derives 50 percent of its revenue from this category, meaning Flipkart could face meaningful disruption and top-line pressure in the near term,” it added.

The new FDI rules may require Flipkart to remove as much as 25 percent products from its platform including smartphones and electronics that constitute a bulk of sales, said Morgan Stanley.

On February 1, disruption was caused in the e-commerce operations in India of the two companies after the new FDI norms for the e-commerce sector came into effect.

The norm prohibited the online retailers from mandating any company to sell their products exclusively on its platform.

In the new policy, the Commerce Ministry also noted that the online retail firms would not directly or indirectly influence sale price of goods and services and would maintain a level playing field.

Amazon India had to withdraw many of its products and they were listed as “currently unavailable” as the new norms prohibit the e-retailers from selling products of companies in which they have stakes.

The two companies have together lost market capitalisation of $50 billion (roughly Rs. 3,60,000 crores).

Amazon lost market capitalisation of over $45 billion on Nasdaq while Walmart lost over $5 billion on the NYSE.

Trump All Geared With Solid US Economy For SOTU, But Threat Remains

President Donald Trump is set to enjoy the backing of an almost solid economy as he delivers his second State of the Union address on Tuesday night. However, questions about its sustainability persist. 

Trump will mostly display the recent signs of strength. Friday’s jobs report showed that employers summed up most jobs in January in almost a year. The comparative proportion of Americans looking for working or currently working has reached almost a five- year high. And a separate report showed that factory output rose at a healthy clip in December.

Those figures, however, haven’t fully erased concerns about an array of headwinds facing the U.S. economy this year.

Several challenges loom: Overseas growth is stumbling, led by weakness in China, the world’s second-largest economy. Europe is hamstrung by a recession in Italy and the potential for an unruly Brexit. A trade war between the U.S. and China and higher U.S. mortgage rates, partly engineered by the Federal Reserve, remain threats. The impact of the administration’s tax cut may fade. And a 35-day partial government shutdown will likely trim official measures of growth for the first quarter, economists say.

U.S. businesses are defying those headwinds, for now. Many analysts attribute the economy’s current health to Trump’s tax cuts in late 2017 and a jump in government spending last year, as part of a budget deal between the administration and Congress.

“No other major economy in the world did what we did,” said Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The stimulus did a very good job of covering up all the blemishes of the economy, including the risks of the trade war.”

Economic growth reached 3.8 per cent last spring and summer, the fastest six-month pace in four years. It also accelerated job gains at a time when many economists expected hiring to slow. With the unemployment rate already low, analysts figured that companies would have fewer unemployed people to hire.

Yet employers stepped up their hiring and drove the unemployment rate down to 3.7 per cent in November, the lowest in five decades. It has since ticked up to 4 per cent, partly because of government workers who were temporarily unemployed because of the shutdown.

White House officials say the good times will continue. Kevin Hassett, a top administration economist, forecasts that growth will clock in at 3 per cent a year for the next decade. He predicts that the administration’s corporate tax cuts will entice businesses to invest more in machinery, software and buildings, which will make workers more productive and generate longer-term growth.

So far there is little evidence that that is happening, economists say. After a burst of investment in the first half of last year, companies have since pulled back on spending. Some economists attribute their caution to the administration’s trade war with China.

“They’re willing to add more people — that’s good,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, referring to U.S. businesses. But “right now they’re not willing to pull the trigger and bet on building more capacity. That undermines your foundation for future growth.”

Most economists expect the impact of the tax cuts and extra government spending to fade as the year progresses and for the rate hikes the Fed has already imposed to hold back growth somewhat. Inevitably, too, a prolonged global slump would weaken the U.S. economy as well.

Harris forecasts that growth will slow to a 2 per cent annual rate in the final three months of this year. Economists at JPMorgan Chase expect it will be just 1.5 per cent.

Exactly how the U.S. economy is faring is harder than usual to judge because many data reports, including the quarterly figures on growth, are still delayed from the shutdown. The government hasn’t yet said when it will release its first estimate of gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of the economy — for the final three months of 2018.

Trends that had looked alarming a month or two ago now appear benign, perhaps even supportive of growth. The stock market, having plunged nearly 20 per cent late last year, rose 8 per cent in January, its best monthly performance since 2015. Americans who are invested in stocks typically cut spending when market indexes fall steadily. That is now less likely to happen.

And suddenly the Fed under Chairman Jerome Powell looks like an economic ally. The central bank had raised its benchmark short-term interest rate four times last year — action that helped make mortgages and other consumer and business loans costlier. In December, the Fed’s policymakers said they envisioned raising rates twice more this year.

But this week, the Fed held its benchmark rate steady and sent its strongest signal to date that it saw no need to raise rates in the coming months — perhaps even for the rest of the year. Its message ignited a rally on Wall Street, which cheered the prospect of continued modest borrowing rates for the near future.

At the same time, Swonk points out that home and auto sales are declining, suggesting they have peaked. A slowdown in such major purchases could weigh on growth in the coming months.

Dominating The Indian E- commerce, Jeff Bezos- Ambani Face off

Amazon.com and Walmart inc.’s  very plans to dominate the Indian online retail market have been abandoned by political priorities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to the fate of the elections.

The upcoming elections to be held in May has significantly increased the influence of local retailers for curbing  growth on the two US Giants. On cue, India this month rolled out constraints on foreign e-commerce players including Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart, which together control 70 percent of its online shopping. The tighter rules, aimed at protecting small traders, may end up benefiting the country’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, who is building a home-grown competitor.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is still licking its wounds after being trounced in three key recent state polls and a year ago fighting an unexpectedly close contest in Gujarat — Modi’s home state. Among small businesses, which are a traditional support base, the government’s popularity has been eroded by 2016’s surprise cash ban and the subsequent chaotic roll out of a new sales tax.

The rules now bar Amazon and Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd. from owning inventory, and require them to treat all vendors equally, throttling discounts and exclusives — a huge advantage to homegrown companies including Ambani’s new venture. His Reliance Industries Ltd., which owns India’s largest retail chain and third-biggest telecom network, has the potential to evolve into a local version of Amazon or Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., UBS AG said last month.

“Whether serendipitous or not, India’s tightened regulatory regime for online retailers is a huge win for Reliance with its new retail ambitions,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief executive officer of consultancy Greyhound Research. “This could be a field leveler for them.”

Ambani wants his consumer offerings — covering telecom, fiber-to-home broadband, media and entertainment and retail — to contribute nearly as much to the conglomerate’s overall earnings as its bread-and-butter energy and petrochemicals businesses.

He’s fresh from disrupting the nation’s telecom sector, which he entered in 2016 with services so cheap that rivals have quit, merged or gone bankrupt, including a carrier controlled by his younger brother.

Unique Model

On the back of that success, he last year unveiled plans to create a model that combines Reliance’s consumer offerings into a “hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform.”

Analysts at UBS predict Reliance can gain market share in new-age retail given its starting point of 280 million telecom subscribers, a broadband offering, extensive content and a web of 10,000 stores nation-wide.

The company also wants to partner with India’s 12 million mom-and-pop shops to create distribution and delivery centers.

Reliance resembles Alibaba in its ability to offer bundled services in a fast-growing, fragmented market with low online penetration, according to UBS.

“In retail/e-commerce, despite competition from well-funded global companies, Reliance’s wide footprint of physical stores along with its omni-channel focus, subscriber reach and regulations governing foreign e-commerce entities,” could help it gain market share, analysts including Mumbai-based Amit Rustagi wrote in a Jan. 24 report.

Representatives for Reliance, Walmart, Amazon and India’s commerce ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the U. S. retail giants are being curbed in a market where they have committed billion of dollars and, till recently, looked to have already won.

Both will have to cut back on cash-back payments and discounts — a sore point for smaller sellers, who accuse the pair of predatory pricing. To meet rules, the companies have also removed thousands of products from virtual shelves, must redraw contacts with merchants and brands as well as brace for a full-fledged e-commerce policy that is under review.

Flipkart’s losses may rise 20 percent to 25 percent following the changes, according to Morgan Stanley, which said in a report that it didn’t think Walmart was considering walking away from the investment. The world’s largest retailer is “financially and strategically invested in India,” analysts including Simeon Gutman wrote, adding that it may make sense to exit if Walmart can’t see a long-term path to profits.

Other Setbacks

Walmart has suffered other setbacks: During the course of its Flipkart acquisition and soon after, it lost the co-founders of its new purchase. Their know-how and connections would have helped the U. S. retailer better navigate this latest regulatory wrinkle.

Reliance will probably use the opportunity posed by the government’s tighter rules to make a “grand entry” into e-commerce, said Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general for the Confederation of All India Traders, a lobbying group that had threatened political repercussions if the Feb. 1 rollout was delayed.

Ambani had last month mapped out the beginnings of his strategy, rolling out a shopping platform to 1.2 million store-owners in western India. As the initiative expands, the company will enlist more neighborhood shops as distribution and delivery centers for products that will be available on its mobile platform, people familiar with the plans said at the time.

An integrated platform will probably be launched within 18 months, the people had said.

“Our agenda is to ensure a level playing field,” Khandelwal said. “Players such as Amazon and Walmart are in a major fix post the new guidelines and they will take time to restructure their operations.”


Rahul Gandhi Takes Stance For The Alliance, Says Division Is In BJP

Congress President Rahul Gandhi banishing the description of the Mahagathbandhan (the Grand Alliance) versus the BJP as chaos versus Modi said that while oppositions are united, it is not the alliance but the BJP which is amidst chaos withy senior party leaders. Rahul, in an interview, said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who was recently appointed as the party in charge for Uttar Pradesh (east), would also play a national role as well. “As general secretary, she has, by definition, a national role… I give a job, and then I give another job based on the success of the job,” Gandhi said.

As Congress president, Gandhi said he was keen on strengthening the party and indicated that would drive his approach towards alliances. In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, where the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have left the Congress out of their grouping to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he said that while the Congress would “work with the SP and the BSP because we have ideological agreement on a number of issues with them… we are not going to give up our right to push our ideology in Uttar Pradesh either”.

The demand for a Ram temple is a hot button issue in Uttar Pradesh but Gandhi declined to commit himself one way or the other. “It would not be fair for me to opine as the highest court in the country is deliberating on it,” he said. “I would say that what the Supreme Court decides is what the Congress and everyone will accept.”

Gandhi targeted Modi in the interview, and said in his “15 years of political career”, he has not seen “the type of Opposition unity” that exists today. “If I [were to] speak to Mr [Nitin] Gadkari, Ms [Sushma] Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, their [the BJP’s] entire leadership, I wouldn’t be surprised to find absolute rejection of Mr Narendra Modi’s style of functioning. So, the division is actually in the BJP and what is keeping that division publicly out of sight is fear… So, what Mr Modi has not understood is that Mr Modi is only Mr Modi’s leader.”

Gandhi elaborated that the opposition parties were absolutely united on three things. One, the need to address the job crisis; two, the challenges posed by agrarian distress; and three, that “we are not going to let Mr Modi and the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] destroy India’s institutions”. Every institution in India, Gandhi added, “is facing Mr Modi’s autocratic backlash. Mr Modi believes that he is the Lord of India, just like the British believed.”

Gandhi also said he believes the anti-corruption image that Modi fought the 2014 elections has been completely eroded by the Rafale controversy. “Mr Modi’s credibility is gone,” he said, adding that when he is driving around Delhi, he hears people say “chowkidar chor hai” (the watchman is a thief) to him. The slogan, coined by the Congress, was used during the assembly elections late last year and is a riff on Modi’s comment in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that he was a watchman who wouldn’t allow any corruption on his watch. “I know that there is something wrong” about the Rafale deal, he said, adding that if his party came to power, it would ask experts on military aircraft, and defence purchases, to look into the deal and that “if they feel something needs to be done, it’ll be done”. But “my understanding is that the Rafale is a good aircraft,” Gandhi added.

Gandhi said that he and the Congress would fight for the rights of anyone to whom injustice was being done, including big businesses. “If somebody is unfair to the biggest industrialists in the country, I will be the first person to try and make it fair… where I draw the line is when somebody in India is violent against somebody else. That’s my main issue with the RSS – you are spreading hatred and violence… I will fight you for it.”

An aggressive Gandhi targeted the BJP for being soft on businessmen who run companies loaded with debt and ignoring the plight of farmers. “How many farmers can walk into Mr Arun Jaitley’s office or to a resolution professional and seek a 60%-75% haircut? That’s the crux of it,” he said. Crony capitalism was one of the biggest charges against the Congress-led UPA that ruled India between 2004 and 2014, and Gandhi has now taken a similar tack to attack the government.

In the hour-long interview, Gandhi also laid out his party’s strategy to take on the agrarian crisis and create jobs. “Agriculture has no magic wand. It needs a comprehensive and composite policy and strategic intervention.” First generation Green Revolution policies don’t work anymore, especially because of globalisation, he explained. On jobs, he said, “you are not going to get jobs from the 15-20 biggest industrialists in the country. You will generate jobs from unleashing the huge potential of micro, small and medium businesses”. His idea involves tapping local skills and abilities (Gandhi listed Moradabad, Kanpur, Sriperumbudur, Surat and Ludhiana as instances of districts that have expertise in metal working, leather manufacturing, mechanical work, textiles and gems, and hosiery). “Give them access to banks, give them support, protect them and see what happens.”