Dena, Vijaya, Bank Of Baroda To Merge To Form India’s 3rd Largest Bank


We had announced in the budget that consolidation of banks was also in our agenda, Arun Jaitley said.

New Delhi: 

Three state-run banks – Dena Bank, Vijaya Bank and Bank of Baroda – will be merged to create the third-largest bank in the country, the government said today, as part of efforts to clean up the country’s banking system.

The government will continue to provide capital support to the merged entity. The announcement, made by Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar during a press conference with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, comes as the country’s banking sector grapples with Rs 8.99 lakh crore worth non-performing assets or NPAs.

The proposal will be sent to the boards of the three banks, which need to approve it, before any further process, Rajiv Kumar said. He added that the sector needs reforms and the government is taking care of banks’ capital needs.

The government expects that the process of amalgamation would be completed by the end of this financial year. The three banks will continue to function independently till the merger.

Rationalisation of overseas operation in banking sector is in full swing, Mr Kumar said, adding the government is keen to take steps so that history isn’t repeated as far as NPAs are concerned

Speaking on the merger, Arun Jaitley said that bank lending was becoming weak, hurting corporate sector investments.

The government had announced in the budget that consolidation of banks was also in our agenda and the first step has been announced, he added.

“No employee will face any service conditions which are adverse in nature. The best of the service conditions will apply to all of them,” Mr Jaitley said.

The government owns majority stakes in 21 lenders, which account for more than two-thirds of country’s banking assets. PSU Banks account for the lion’s share of bad loans plaguing the sector. The sector needs capital infusion in millions of rupees in the next two years to meet global Basel III capital norms. In January, the government announced Rs 88,139 crore capital infusion in public sector banks in the current fiscal.

Currently, state-run State Bank of India, and private sector peers HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank are the three largest banks in the country.

Five associates and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank became part of the State Bank of India (SBI) in April last year, which helped the country’s largest lender increase its scale and cut expenses through synergy of operations.

In August last year the government had set up a ministerial panel to speed up consolidation of state-run banks.





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India Must Shed ‘Largest Arms Importer’ Tag, Says Defence Production Secretary Ajay Kumar


Public-private partnership in defence in the country is being encouraged to step up arms exports

Kolkata: 

The secretary in the department of defence production (DP) Ajay Kumar today said India has overtaken China as the world’s largest arms importer and should shed the tag.

He said the public-private partnership in defence in the country is being encouraged to step up arms exports and licensing system in some items that had been liberalised.

“India is the world’s largest arms importer, a place which earlier belonged to China”, he said over video conference from Delhi at a seminar organised by Bharat Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

Mr Kumar said, “If China could (reduce dependence on imports productions) then why cannot India”?

Citing the instance of Mexico, he said the central American country has established a huge aero-manufacturing base and exports to the US and Europe.

According to MR Kumar, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are responsible for 74 per cent of the global arms trade. “What part of that pie we need to have?” he asked, adding that many countries were willing to buy arms from India.

Mr Kumar said that testing infrastructure would be set up for the private sector also.

Former chief of Air Staff Arup Raha said, “unfortunately India continues to depend on imports for high-end weapon systems”. 





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India Post Payments Bank: PM Narendra Modi To Launch India’s Largest Payments Bank IPPB Today


PM Modi To Launch India's Largest Payments Bank Today: 10 Facts

India Post Payments Bank or IPPB will leverage its vast network of post offices across India

New Delhi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch India Post Payments Bank or IPPB — the largest payments bank in the country by network size — in New Delhi today. A payments bank operates on a small scale; it carries out most banking operations, but cannot give loans or issue credit cards directly. The IPPB’s full services will be made operational at 650 branches the moment PM Modi inaugurates the facility. The new bank will leverage the postal department’s vast network across India and help people in previously unbanked rural locations to use banking services easily, the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted. The payments bank sector in India grew and expanded in lightning speed after the Reserve Bank of India approved several applicants in 2015.





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Aadhaar, World’s Largest Digital ID Project, Sued For Data Leaks


The government has collected biometric and demographic details of over 1.1 billion people for Aadhaar

The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear a plea seeking damages from the operator of world’s largest biometric database for alleged failure to adopt adequate security measures that led to data leaks.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat of the High Court has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India, which is providing digital ID to over a billion people based on their biometrics, to submit a written response to the petition filed by a law professor. The body has six weeks to reply and the court will hear the case next on November 19.

The government has collected biometric and demographic details of over 1.1 billion people to assign a unique 12 digit identification code called ‘Aadhaar’ number to citizens. Despite government’s claims of data protection measures including 13-feet high walls, unending reports of leaks have raised concerns over security of the huge database that is used for services ranging from opening a bank account to getting cooking gas connections.

In his petition, Shamnad Basheer has urged the court to form an expert panel to investigate and quantify financial damages due to the data leak. The authority claims its protection measures are fool proof and the program has helped the government bring transparency and save billions of rupees in disbursement of social sector benefits to poor.

“The inability of respondent to secure the identity information of Aadhaaris, including that of the petitioner, has resulted in a serious and egregious violation of the fundamental right to privacy and dignity,” Basheer said in his petition.

The Supreme Court had last year ruled that privacy is an inalienable fundamental right and is expected to give a ruling on legal validity of Aadhaar program in coming months. Lawyers and activists had challenged the database’s validity claiming it violates citizens’ privacy and lays a design for surveillance state. The government had denied the claims in the top court.





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With India’s “Largest” 1,000-Seater Restaurant, IKEA Bets Big On Indians’ Tastebuds


Ikea, Hyderabad: Ikea will offer a wide range of food items from Swedish and Indian cuisines

Hyderabad: 

Ikea is set to leap into a milestone of sorts with the launch of its sprawling 37,000 square-metre store in Hyderabad today. For its launch, Ikea is betting big on tempting the average Indian’s taste buds by launching its biggest-ever restaurant inside an Ikea store as well as “possibly India’s largest,” as per its words. The massive 1,000-seater restaurant will serve customers a wide range of food items consisting of staples from Swedish and Indian cuisine, ranging from meatballs and salmon to biryani, samosas and dal makhni.

Ikea’s trademark Swedish meatballs will however undergo a slight tweak to adapt to Indian culture. Unlike traditional meatballs which are made from beef or pork, Ikea will have chicken and vegetarian options instead.

“Fifty percent of the food will be Swedish inspired, salmon and shrimp dishes and so on. We’ll also have quite a few Indian dishes like dal makhani, biryani, samosas,” Patrik Antoni, Ikea’s deputy country manager for India, told news agency AFP.

For just Rs 149, hungry shoppers will get to sink their teeth into chicken meatballs, while a plate of biryani will be available for just Rs 99.

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Ikea’s trademark Swedish meatballs will however undergo a slight tweak to adapt to Indian culture. Unlike traditional meatballs which are made from beef or pork, Ikea will have chicken and vegetarian options instead (AFP)

Apart from its food offerings, Ikea will also serve combos of coffee or tea with cinnamon buns for just Rs 70, while customers with Ikea’s family card will get the combo at a discounted rate of just Rs 50.

With over 7,500 items which will be up for sale in Ikea’s store in Hyderabad’s HITEC area, with around 1,000 items which will be sold just under Rs 200, Ikea says it wants its customers to “have some energy boost halfway through.”

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IKEA Hyderabad Store Launch: The massive 1,000-seater restaurant will serve customers a wide range of food items consisting of staples from Swedish and Indian cuisine, ranging from meatballs and salmon to biryani, samosas and dal makhni (AFP)

“Food is part of the total experience,” Ikea’s food manager Henrik Osterstrom told AFP.

Along with standard furniture, Ikea will also sell “locally relevant products” as well.

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Ikea hopes to ground itself firmly in India’s furniture retail sector and give other players like Walmart, with its recent acquisition of Flipkart in the pipeline, and local players like Pepperfry and Urban Ladder, a run for their money

Masala boxes, tawas (frying pans), rice cake makers and mattresses made from coconut fibres will be sold.

With its 13-acre store hiring employing around 900 people, Ikea hopes to ground itself firmly in India’s furniture retail sector and give other players like Walmart, with its recent acquisition of Flipkart in the pipeline, and local players like Pepperfry and Urban Ladder, a run for their money.

(With Inputs From AFP)





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Twin Blazes Become California’s Largest Wildfire In History


Clearlake Oaks, United States: 

Two blazes mercilessly charring northern California have grown so rapidly that they became the US state’s largest in recorded history Monday, authorities said.

Collectively dubbed the Mendocino Complex, the wildfires have burned through 283,800 acres (114,850 hectares) – an area nearly the size of the sprawling city of Los Angeles – and are just 30 per cent contained, according to state fire authority CalFire. Two people have died in the inferno.

“Today a higher pressure system brought warmer weather, drying, and strong winds to the region,” CalFire said in an evening update.

“Tonight fire crews will try to take advantage of the lower temperatures to increase suppression and hold current containment lines.”

It was the second fire to break records in the fire-prone, most populous US state in as many years, following the Thomas Fire in December 2017, which stood at 281,893 acres.

Further north in the state, the deadly Carr Fire has scorched more than 164,400 acres of land since July 23, and killed another seven people along the way.

Its intensity was so great at one point, that it generated a tornado-like whirl of fire – as well as its own weather system.

Authorities say it was triggered by the “mechanical failure of a vehicle” that caused sparks to fly in tinderbox-dry conditions.

The fire has razed more than 1,600 buildings, including some 1,000 homes, state officials say.

More than 14,000 firefighters were battling the blazes across the state.

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Firefighters trying their best to control the fire (AFP)

Several thousand people have been evacuated as the fires swept across the state, although some have been given permission in recent days to return to their homes.

The wildfires are “extremely fast, extremely aggressive, extremely dangerous,” said Scott McLean, a deputy chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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Helicopter drops water while battling the fire, near Clearlake Oaks (AFP)

“Look how big it got, just in a matter of days… Look how fast this Mendocino Complex went up in ranking. That doesn’t happen. That just doesn’t happen.”

President Donald Trump raised eyebrows by tweeting about the wildfires inaccurately, claiming there was not enough water to fight them and appearing to place the blame on environmental laws, not climate change.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump said.

“It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

In fact, “we have plenty of water to fight these wildfires, but let’s be clear: It’s our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires,” Daniel Berlant, CalFire assistant deputy director, told The New York Times.

In an unrelated long-running dispute, farmers have demanded more water to irrigate crops for years, while environmentalists say diverting more water to crops would kill off fish stock and hurt rivers.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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California Wildfire Becomes Second Largest In State History


Firefighters had managed to contain 45 percent of the Carr blaze by Monday morning. (Reuters)

A sprawling blaze in Northern California grew on Monday into the second-largest wildfire ever recorded in the state, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency, highlighting the ferociousness of this year’s fire season.

Fire officials expect it to take another nine days to fully contain the so-called Mendocino Complex Fire, which had scorched 273,664 acres (110,748 hectares) by Monday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, an area nearly the size of Los Angeles.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to get a break anytime soon,” Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, said in an interview on Monday. “It’s pretty doggone hot and dry, and it’s going to stay that way.”

Some areas in Central and Northern California could see temperatures reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) and winds of 15 miles (24 km) per hour, with higher gusts that could fan the flames and spread embers, he said. Environmentalists and some politicians say the uptick in the intensity of the state’s wildfire season may be linked in part to climate change.

The Mendocino Complex Fire has destroyed 75 homes and forced thousands to flee.

Still only 30 percent contained, it is one of 17 major wildfires burning across California that prompted Trump to declare a “major disaster” in the state on Sunday, ordering federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Another fire, the nearly two-week-old Carr Fire, claimed another life on Saturday, a 21-year-old apprentice lineman, Jay Ayeta, officials with PG&E Corp said on Sunday.

Ayeta died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain in Shasta County.

He was the seventh person to die in that blaze, which has scorched more than 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento, including two young children and their great-grandmother whose home was overrun by flames, and two firefighters. The Carr Fire is now the 12th largest fire recorded in the state.

Firefighters had managed to contain 45 percent of the Carr blaze by Monday morning, and authorities were letting some evacuees return.

© Thomson Reuters 2018

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)





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Iran Replaces Saudi Arabia As 2nd Largest Oil Supplier To India


Overall supply of Iranian oil to India saw a dip of 16 per cent due to US pressure (Representational)

New Delhi: 

Iran was the second-biggest oil supplier to Indian state refiners between April and June, India’s oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said today, replacing Saudi Arabia as companies took advantage of steeper discounts offered by Tehran.

India, Iran’s top oil client after China, shipped in 5.67 million tonnes or about 457,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the country in the first three months of this fiscal year, Mr Pradhan told lawmakers in a written reply.

He did not provide comparable numbers from the year-ago period. Data compiled by Reuters shows that India imported about 3.46 million tonnes, or about 279,000 bpd, from Iran between April and June last year.

State refiners, accounting for about 60 per cent of India’s 5 million bpd refining capacity, had curbed imports from Iran last year in protest against Tehran’s move to grant development rights for the giant Farzad B gas field to other parties.

The refiners – Indian Oil Corp, Chennai Petroleum Corp, Bharat Petroleum and its unit Bharat Oman Refineries Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals – shipped in 9.8 million tonnes of Iranian oil in 2017/18, about a quarter less than a year ago, Mr Pradhan’s reply stated.

For this fiscal year, the refiners had decided to almost double imports from Iran, which offered almost free shipping and extended credit period on oil sales.

Iraq continued to be the top oil supplier to India in the April-June period. New Delhi shipped in 7.27 million tonnes of oil from Iraq, while shipments from Saudi Arabia totalled 5.22 million tonnes, making it the third largest supplier, Mr Pradhan’s statement showed.

India and other major buyers of Iranian oil are under pressure to cut imports from the country after Washington in May withdrew from a 2005 nuclear deal with Tehran and decided to reimpose sanctions on the OPEC member.

Reuters reported last month that India had asked refiners to prepare for drastic reductions or even zero Iranian oil imports.

The first set of sanctions will take effect on Aug. 6 and the rest, notably in the petroleum sector, following a 180-day “wind-down period” ending on November 4.

“Indian refineries import crude oil from diverse sources including Iran, depending on technical and commercial considerations,” Mr Pradhan said, without elaborating if the refiners would cut imports from Tehran.

India’s overall oil imports from Iran in June declined by about 16 per cent from May as refiners started weaning their plants off crude from Iran to avoid US sanctions.

© Thomson Reuters 2018





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India Inaugurates World’s Largest Visa Centre In Bangladesh


Rajnath Singh inaugurated the integrated centre at JFP along with his counterpart.

Dhaka: 

Visiting Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday inaugurated the world’s largest state-of-the-art visa centre here with modern facilities, promising shorter waiting times for applicants.

Mr Singh inaugurated the integrated centre at Jamuna Future Park (JFP) along with his Bangladeshi counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, reports bdnews24.

Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was also present, told the media that “this is the largest Indian visa centre in the world and possibly the largest anywhere”.

The new centre will replace the existing centres in Motijheel and Uttara from July 15.

The remaining two centres in Dhaka — at Gulshan and Mirpur Road — will also be shifted to this centre, located in a spacious 18,500 square feet commercial area, by August 31.

The existing e-token (appointment) system for submission of visa applications will also be withdrawn from July 15.

Bangladeshis constitute one of the largest numbers of visitors from a single country to India, the report said. Last year the country issued 1.4 million visas to Bangladeshi nationals.

India has 12 visa centres in Bangladesh, which is the highest number the former has in any country in the world, the report said.

India issues five-year multiple entry visas for freedom fighters, senior citizens and businessmen.

On Friday, Mr Singh tweeted that India and Bangladesh have made “notable progress in transforming our land and maritime boundaries into zones of peace and tranquillity”.

His three-day visit is taking place in the context of the Home-Minister level talks held on a regular basis between India and Bangladesh, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said.

The last such talks were held in New Delhi in July 2016.

Issues tied to security, border management, cooperation in countering illegal activities and travel arrangements are expected to be discussed at a meeting on Sunday.





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Mexico’s Largest Solar Park Will Provide Electricity To 1.3 Million Homes


Viesca, Mexico: 

Driving through the endless dunes and cacti of the Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico, a shimmering blue field suddenly appears on the horizon — not a mirage, but the largest solar park in Latin America.

This silent stretch of sand in the state of Coahuila is the spot the Italian energy giant Enel picked to build the Villanueva power plant: 2.3 million solar panels that sprawl across a sun-soaked area the size of 2,200 football fields.

When the plant reaches full capacity later this year, it will supply enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.

It is the biggest solar project in the world outside China and India.

The panels are designed to turn in tandem with the sun, like a field of metallic sunflowers.

They are part of Mexico’s push to generate 35 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2024.

Mexico won plaudits from environmentalists in 2015 when it became the first emerging country to announce its emissions reduction targets for the United Nations climate accord, ambitiously vowing to halve them by 2050.

A key part of that push is a sweeping energy reform undertaken in 2013.

One of outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s signature initiatives, it was initially criticized by president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who will take office on December 1.

But the anti-establishment leftist has warmed to the overhaul, and analysts now say it is likely here to stay.

The reform made global headlines for reopening Mexico’s oil sector to foreign companies after 76 years of state monopoly.

A lesser-known — but perhaps ultimately more important — aspect was to allow private companies to generate and supply electricity.

Under the new law, Mexico is now holding clean-energy auctions in which private companies bid to produce and sell electricity on an open market.

“We’re very happy with the business environment and opportunities that exist in Mexico,” said Enel’s global director for renewable energy, Antonio Cammisecra.

“Since the reform, we see better market conditions and potential for a company like ours.”

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Mexico is now on the top 10 list of countries with the most clean energy investment because of this program

Cutting costs

Projects like this are also benefitting from a sharp drop in prices for solar technology in recent years.

“Photovoltaic solar energy is the fastest-growing energy in the world. And that is driving technology innovators,” said Arturo Garcia, an energy specialist at the international consulting firm Deloitte.

The energy reform and price plunge are together reshaping the solar market in Mexico.

“Before the reform, it was an environmental issue,” said Victor Ramirez, executive director of the National Solar Energy Association.

“Today, it’s not just about the environment, it’s about economics. If solar sources are cheaper, investment is going to gravitate there.”

The new opportunities are attracting international interest.

Besides the $650-million Villanueva project, Enel has another solar park and is building two wind farms.

Last May it pledged an additional $97 million in investment to expand its projects in Mexico.

Spain’s Iberdrola is building two solar parks, Dutch firm Alten is building another, and British-backed Atlas Renewable Energy recently acquired yet another.

“Mexico has world-class solar resources,” said Camilo Serrano, Atlas’s general manager for Mexico.

“The potential is absolutely proven, and investors’ appetite is obvious in the auctions.”

Electric interest

The auctions have so far raised an estimated $8.6 billion in investment.

Mexican Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell recently said they would lead to the construction of 40 solar parks and 25 wind projects.

Mexico, which had nine solar parks in 2015, aims to have 68 by 2021, he added.

Three auctions have been held so far. The production price offered by electricity suppliers has dropped from $50 per megawatt-hour to $20.

Thanks to the program, Mexico is now on the top 10 list of countries with the most clean energy investment, according to the government — which predicts the price plunge will continue at the next auction, slated for November.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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