Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
New Push To Cut Oil Import Bill By $100 Billion: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari told Lok Sabha on Thursday that the government is working on a policy to bring down the annual oil import bill by $100 billion by 2030 through extensive use of methanol in cooking gas and transportation fuel. "The final roadmap for 'Methanol Economy' being worked out by NITI Aaayog is targeting an annual reduction of $100 billion by 2030 in crude imports in line with our PM's vision," Gadkari said. He said a cabinet note on use of methanol in marine and water transport sector will be moved shortly. The minister said use of methanol can result in "great environmental" benefits, adding, its extensive use can reduce consumption of diesel by at least 20 per cent in next 5-7 years. Gadkari said 20 per cent blending of methanol with cooking fuel LPG will be low hanging fruit as it would result in an immediate savings of Rs 6,000 crore a year.
Centre Scraps Monthly LPG Price Hike: The Union government has rolled back the Rs 4 a month hike on domestic cooking gas cylinders, calling it a "corrective measure". A senior government official said that the government has taken the "corrective measure" as it was felt that raising LPG price every month contradicted its promise of free cooking gas connection for the poor. "It is felt that raising prices are giving a contrary signal to users. On the one hand, the government is pushing for free cooking gas connections for the poor; on the other, it is raising prices every month," the official said. The action, however, came only after the LPG prices had already been hiked by over Rs 76 a cylinder over the past 17 months. There are as many as 18.11 crore customers of subsidised LPG in the country. These include over 3 crore poor women who were given free connections during the last one year under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
Lok Sabha Passes Bill To Criminalise Triple Talaq: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill to criminalise triple talaq by Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives. The Supreme Court had declared the practice unconstitutional four months back. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 makes talaq-e-biddat or triple talaq illegal and a cognizable and non-bailable offence. It provides that a man committing the offence might be imprisoned for up to three years and might have to pay fine as well. The bill also seeks to entitle a woman to get the custody of her minor children as well as subsistance allowance from her husband in case he pronounced the triple talaq on her. The government introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal for consensus on criminalising the practice of triple talaq. The Bill, once turned into a law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha, will be applicable across the country, except in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Fire At Mumbai's Kamala Mills Leaves 14 Dead: At least 14 people have been confirmed dead and 16 others injured after a major fire broke out late night on Thursday at a building in Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel, according to the disaster control room of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The fire started on the sixth floor of the building in central Mumbai at around 12.30 am, and soon engulfed the entire place. The building also houses some commercial establishments including hotels, media offices, a police official said. Three persons with serious burn injuries have been taken to the Breach Candy hospital, the official said. “It’s a Level-II fire and we have mobilised our resources. The firefighting and rescue operation is going on,” he said, adding that the exact cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. Kamala Mills is a refurbished old industrial compound that now houses a host of swanky restaurants and other commercial establishments.
Green Light For Project To Tackle Stubble Burning In North India: A Rs 100 crore project to tackle crop burning in northern states, a phenomenon that purportedly escalates pollution in the national capital region during winter months, was given the green light by the Union Environment Ministry on Thursday. The project will receive funding under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change, leveraging about three times the approved amount from states and farmers. The project was approved at the meeting of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change chaired by environment secretary C K Mishra. The first phase of the project has been approved at a cost of approximately Rs 100 crore for Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan."The project will leverage approximately three times the approved amount with contribution from the states as well as farmers," the ministry said. The project aims to not only mitigate climate change impacts and enhance adaptive capacity, but also counter the adverse environmental impacts that arise from burning.
Reliance Jio To Acquire Mobile Business Assets Of RCom: Reliance Jio, led by billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani, will acquire mobile business assets of his younger brother Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications (RCom). The proposed transaction is subject to lenders’ approval and is expected to be wrapped up in a phased manner between January and March 2018. Both the parties are bound by confidentiality obligations and will make further disclosures at the appropriate time. The deal is slated to bring relief to RCom, which is reeling under a huge debt of around Rs 45,000 crore. The proceeds of the sale will be used for the company’s debt reduction. “Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited announced signing of definitive agreement for the acquisition of specified assets of Reliance Communications Limited and its affiliates,” Reliance Jio said on Thursday. “Consequent to the agreement, Jio or its nominees will acquire assets under four categories – towers, optic fiber cable network, spectrum and media convergence nodes – from RCom and its affiliates,” the company said.
World Bank Pledges $40 Million To Boost Tourism In UP: The World Bank pledged $40 million (about Rs 260 crore) for the development of tourism facilities in Uttar Pradesh. An agreement for international bank for reconstruction and development credit of $40 million from the World Bank for the UP Pro-Poor Tourism Development Project was signed on Thursday, a Finance Ministry statement said. The five-year programme is worth approximately $57.14 million, of which $40 million will be financed by the bank, and the remaining amount will be funded out of state budget, it said. The programme is aimed at increase tourism-related benefits for local communities in targeted destinations, it said. It is expected to have far-reaching social, economic and environmental benefits by targeting local communities and entrepreneurs near some of the main tourist and pilgrimage attractions in Uttar Pradesh, namely, Agra as well as Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Govardhan in the Braj region.
Government Vows 24-Hour Power For All By March 2019: Power Minister R K Singh said on Thursday that by March 2019 all homes in the country will be provided uninterrupted 24-hour electricity supply throughout the year. Singh also said a new law will be enacted to impose penalties on power discoms in case of failure to provide uninterrupted power after March 2019, except due to technical reasons. Singh said by December 2018, 1,694 villages, which are yet to be electrified, will have electricity connection and works in this regard has been going on. “All homes will get 24-hour power by March 2019,” he said during question hour in the Lok Sabha. The minister said the government has set a target of reducing the transmission and distribution losses of power from the current 21 per cent to 15 per cent by January 2019. He said Rs 175,000 crore is being spent to improve the power infrastructure across the country.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
How To Spend The Next Year: Any expenditure by GoI that seems out of whack with revenues will raise the bogey of ‘populism’. Cynics may see this as par for the course in an India election cycle. But should we risk our international credibility and reverse our strategy of pruning national debt? Perhaps not.
Japan May Be The World’s Biggest Surprise In 2018: While many think BoJ will be biased toward easing, others, including economists at Pictet Group in Geneva, expect surprises in Japan ranging from inflation to a geopolitical flare-up with China over disputed islands.
A Three-Day Work Week? It’s Possible With Artificial Intelligence: Not only will artificial intelligence improve the way we live but also give us more time to live life — by saving us from mundane and repetitive tasks that cause job dissatisfaction and burnouts.
India And The Future Of Life Sciences Innovation: There are many attractive features that the existing Indian ecosystem can offer the life sciences industry, including development of new medicines.
Gujarat Lessons: We Must Get Farmers Off Farms, Not More Goodies To Farms: We can solve the perpetual farm distress problem only by getting people off the farm, not by subsidising them to remain there. This will not only help them earn better livelihoods, but also make the rest of the agricultural sector vibrant, viable and productive.
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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