RBI leaves key rates unchanged

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) left key rates unchanged, with the repo rate constant at 6.25% in the first monetary policy outing since the government's demonetization move going against the tide of market expectations. The BSE Sensex crashed 183 points immediately after the announcement.
"On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting today, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.25%. Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains unchanged at 5.75%, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.75%," the RBI said in a statement.
This was the second monetary policy decision taken by the six-member Monetary Policy and also the second one for Urjit Patel as the apex bank's chair.
The market was expecting a 25 bps rate cut as the economy grapples with a cash crunch in the aftermath of demonetization which has sucked out 86% currency in value terms and has been now converted (nearly the entire amount) into bank deposits. Some were even expecting a larger 50 bps cut in the repo rate to boost growth which is likely to take a hit as consumption and demand have thinned as liquidity ran dry.
In October, both the retail and wholesale inflation eased on lower food prices, which increased the likelihood of a rate cut, according to brokerages.
In the month, WPI inflation dipped to 3.39% while CPI inflation cooled to 4.20%.

Mumbai - Pune Hyperloop proposal

US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies on Tuesday said it has proposed to link Mumbai and Pune with its ultra-high speed transport system. The company has submitted a proposal in this regard to Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, chairman Bibop Gresta said.
Once it gets approval, Hyperloop will do a feasibility study in six to eight months. The company says it can start operations in 38 months.
“India is the perfect mix of high density, lack of infrastructure and political willingness. We are talking about a feasibility study which can become a real track once the study is positive. If the government wants to do it, we are ready,” Gresta said in an interview.
Hyperloop is working to develop transportation systems where pods zip across vacuum tubes at a top speed of about 1,300 km/h. According to Gresta, building a track would cost $40 million per km.
“The cost depends on the location. To be generic, it will be $40 million per km. But it is one-fourth of high-speed rail. When you consider investment in infrastructure, you also consider how fast you can recoup it. This investment can be recouped in eight years,” he said.
Hyperloop is in discussions with about 20 countries to launch a project. It has already signed agreements with Slovakia, Nigeria, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and the state of California (US).
Apart from a connector between Mumbai and Pune, the company is also considering four other routes. Gresta declined to reveal more details on the routes but said the company is yet to approach the centre on these routes.
The first Japanese bullet train, which will cover the 508 km distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in two hours at about 350 km/h, may see the light of day by 2025. The cost of the project is about Rs.98,000 crore, or about $15 billion, which, of course, does not include operation and maintenance costs.
Japan, however, will help India with the funding.

Motown: November 2016

In a month when most car makers took a hit on account of the government's demonetisation move, Maruti Suzuki reported a robust jump in wholesale volumes to corner 52% of the Indian passenger vehicle market. The company's market share had stood at 46.7% in the year-ago period and at 44% in October 2016.
In November, Maruti Suzuki grew passenger vehicle sales by 14.1% to 1,26,220 units. Challenges in cash availability affected consumer sentiment across manufacturers with passenger vehicle sales inching up by around 2.6% to 2,42,700 units in November.The numbers are wholesale dispatches made to dealerships and do not reflect demand at the retail level.
Industry insiders said barring some major manufacturers who have order backlog on new products, for most companies, retail sales have dropped by 30-50%.
Fresh purchase decisions are also being postponed as disruption in the status quo has affected consumer sentiments. Car makers across the industry are doling out promotional offers and building awareness around use of digital wallets, cheques, credit and debit cards to facilitate cashless transactions.
Maruti Suzuki has maintained it is not expecting any long-term dent on sales because of demonetisation and the resultant cash crunch, as 85-90% of the purchases are funded by loans.

Delhi to Meerut in 60 minutes

The Board of National Capital Region Transport Corporation has cleared the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Rapid Rail Transit Corridor (RRTC) that will enable travel at the rate of 160 kmh. The 92 km-long corridor, with a capital investment of Rs.21,902 crore, will bring down travel time between Delhi and Meerut to 60 minutes by a normal train.
The project was conceived more than 10 years ago and is a segment of a larger plan to connect important towns in the NCR region with Delhi through a high speed based commuter transit system. The entire corridor is expected to be completed by 2024.
The corridor will originate at the Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal and pass through Delhi, Ghaziabad and Meerut regions before terminating at Modipuram. Of the 92.05 km-long stretch, 60.354 km will be on an elevated viaduct, 30.245 km will be underground, while 1.451 km will be at grade for connections to two depots, one each at Duhai and Modipuram. In Delhi and Meerut the RRTC will be underground, including the stretch where the line will cross the Yamuna.The section running along the median of the Delhi-Meerut highway will be elevated. The line will have 17 stations.
Sources said that the Delhi-Meerut RRTC is expected to carry about 7.91 lakh passengers in 2024, 9.20 lakh in 2031 and 11.40 lakh passengers by 2041. The peak hour peak day traffic has been estimated at 18,224 in 2024, 22,215 in 2031 and 26,462 in 2041.
“This corridor will be de signed for a maximum speed of 180 kmh with an operating speed of 160 kmh. The coaches will have a 2x2 seating system, like in aircraft. Each train will have one business class coach, beside 11 others,“ said a source. “On completion of this corridor, travel time between Delhi and Meerut will come down to 48 minutes by express trains and 60 minutes by normal trains,“ he added.
As per the project report, the 38.05 km Sahibabad-Meerut south section, including the Duhai depot, is likely to commence revenue operations in January 2023, the 16.60 km Sarai Kale Khan-Sahibabad in January 2024 and the remaining 37.40 km Meerut South-Modipuram in July 2024.

Justice Khehar to be next CJI

India will get its first Chief Justice from the Sikh community in the new year as Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar will be sworn in as the next CJI on January 4.
The process for Justice Khehar's appointment as the next CJI was set in motion by incumbent CJI T S Thakur, who wrote to the Union government recommending his appointment as the next CJI. This is in sync with the tradition of the CJI being succeeded by the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court. Justice Thakur retires on January 3. In his letter to law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Justice Thakur described Justice Khehar as a competent and worthy successor. Interestingly, 64-year old Justice Khehar's appointment as CJI would mean persons from the Sikh community getting to occupy the three most important posts in Indian democracy over a period of time -President (Giani Zail Singh), PM (Manmohan Singh) and CJI. Justice Khehar was appointed as an SC judge on September 13, 2011.Justice Khehar will have a short tenure of a little over seven months -from January 4 till August 28. He earned a place in history when the five judge bench headed by him shot down the National Judicial Appointments Commission, a body being set up through a constitutional amendment unanimously passed by Parliament to select judges for the SC and HCs.
Justice Khehar authored the lead judgment and termed the NJAC a threat to independence of judiciary as the law minister was part of the committee to select judges.

Jaya is laid to rest next to MGR grave

With the sunset as the backdrop and amid the sound of bugles, AIADMK leader and four-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa's coffin was lowered into a vault in the MGR memorial complex on the Marina beach around 6 pm on Tuesday. Jayalalithaa, who was in hospital from September 22, suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday. When attempts to resuscitate her failed, she was put on life support, but her condition continued to deteriorate. She was declared dead on Monday night.
Her body, draped in a green and red Kanjeevaram sari, lay in state from 5 am at Rajaji Hall. On December 24, 1987, Jayalalithaa had astounded mourners on the steps of the same hall when she fought exhaustion and swallowed her pride as she stood vigil by the body of her mentor and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M G Ramachandran for two days despite efforts by MGR's family to push her away. Almost 30 years later, she returned to where she once stood as a protégé, this time as a leader with a rich political legacy and a battalion of followers, mostly women.
Inconsolable women beat their chests or lay on the road. Some fainted of dehydration and exhaustion. As the crowd surged, trying to catch a glimpse of their leader from afar, police had to use force.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief ministers, Congress vice-president Ra hul Gandhi, civil servants and members of the film fraternity were among those who paid homage.
While her close aide Sasikalaa Natarajan and her family stood close to the body, MLAs sat on the steps leading to the hall. Despite the sombre mood, there were loud cheers when celebrities like Rajinikanth arrived.
By 4 pm, police and army personnel started preparing for the nearly 2 km walk to the Marina beach. As the casket was moved to a flower-decked gun carriage, which was flown in from New Delhi, the crowd grew quiet. When the procession moved through the swarm of people, chants of “Puratchi Thalaivi Amma (revolutionary leader, mother)“ bade her farewell.
It took close to an hour for the cortege to reach the MGR memorial. Barricades and human chains formed by policemen didn't suffice. Some who tried to get close to the procession were lathicharged. People waved flags and scaled walls and buildings along the route to catch a glimpse of their leader. Some refused to believe she had died and cried `Long Live Puratchi Thalaivi'.
Her family didn't play a major role in the funeral rites. It was her close aide of 30 years Sasikalaa who took charge, while Jayalalithaa's nephew Deepak Jayakumar followed. Like her predecessors Periyar E V Ramasamy, C N Annadurai and MGR, Jayalalithaa was not cremated. However, some Vaishnavite rituals, including dropping sandalwood pieces and sprinkling water and rose petals, were followed.Prior to this, the Tricolor on her body was folded by Armymen and handed over to Sasikalaa.
Before the sandalwood casket inscribed with the words Puratchi Thalaivi Selvi J Jayalalithaa was lowered into the ground around 6pm, several leaders, including TN governor Vidyasagar Rao, CM O Panneerselvam, Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Pon Radhakrishnan and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad paid tributes. As her body was laid to rest, barely 100m from the grave of MGR, an uncertain silence descended on the crowd at Marina beach.