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President's Address to the Nation on the eve of Republic Day

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  • Cabinet approves methodology for auction of coal mines and blocks for sale of coal; Clears introduction of two bills in Parliament to protect savings of investors; Also gives nod to six railway projects with thrust on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address valedictory session of national conference on Doubling Farmers Income by 2022 in New Delhi today.
  • Supreme Court agrees to hear on Friday, PIL seeking Nirav Modi's deportation in alleged Punjab National Bank fraud case.
  • Agni-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile successfully test-fired from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast.
  • And, at least 100 civilians killed in Syrian Army bombardment of rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the methodology for auction of coal mines and blocks for sale of coal. Briefing media in New Delhi, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said, the opening up of commercial coal mining for private sector is the most ambitious reform in the coal sector since the nationalisation of this sector in 1973. The methodology gives highest priority to transparency, ease of doing business, and ensuring that natural resources are used for national development. It is expected to bring efficiency by moving from an era of monopoly to competition. The Minister said, the higher investment will create direct and indirect employment in coal bearing areas especially in mining sector. He said, it will also incentivise coal bearing states with increased revenue.

"People will be encouraged to bid through a transparent bidding platform and there will be an auction process after short listing the bidders and will invite all press to participate and enjoy the auction process which is really quite interesting. You have to see the benefit of that in solar power, now you are seeing the benefit that in wind power and now in commerical coal mining, the same honest,  trasparent bidding which will help maximise the revenue to India, West Bengal, Jharkhand and all the backward the regions."


In a major policy initiative to protect the savings of investors, the Cabinet today also gave its approval to introduce two bills in Parliament. The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 is aimed at tackling the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country. Companies and institutions running such schemes exploit existing regulatory gaps and lack of strict administrative measures to dupe poor and gullible people of their hard-earned savings.

The Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2018 has been approved in order to facilitate orderly growth of the Chit Funds sector and remove bottlenecks being faced by the Chit Funds industry.

The Government also approved six railways projects with special thrust on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. CCEA has approved the 130 kilometres long Jeypore-Malkangiri New Line project at a cost of over 2600 crore rupees. The project is likely to be completed by 2022-23 and will cover the districts of Koraput and Malkangiri of Odisha. It will help in combating Left Wing Extremism through development in these districts.

CCEA also approved doubling of Muzaffarpur-Sagauli and Sagauli-Valmiki Nagar lines with electrification projects. The additional capacity will ease congestion and minimise delays. It also approved Jhansi-Manikpur and Bhimsen-Khairar lines doubling with electrification projects.

Besides, the CCEA approved the Bhatni-Aurnihar line doubling with electrification project.

Mr Goyal said, the electrification projects will help generate employment opportunities.

हमने शत प्रतिशत विद्युतीकरण का निर्णय ले लिया है। उससे एक प्रकार से देशभर में और पेकएल रीजन् में जो लेागों को काम नहीं मिलता था उनको  काम मिलेगा। रेलवे लाइन तो देशभर में, स्टेशन डेवलपमेंट देशभर में होगा। बेकवर्ड एरिया में होगा। इसी प्रकार से वाईफाई, सीसीटी ये पूरे देशभर में हम लेकर जा रहे है। तो अलग-अलग प्रोजेक्टस से लाखों लोगों को काम मिलेगा।

The Cabinet also cleared proposal for constitution of Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal on request from Odisha. The tribunal shall determine water sharing among basin states on the basis of overall availability of water in the Mahanadi basin, contribution of each state, present utilisation of water resources in each state and potential for future development.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the valedictory session of a national conference on Doubling Farmers Income by 2022 in New Delhi this evening. Mr Modi will share his vision and insights on agricultural development and farmers’ welfare during the conference, which was inaugurated by Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh yesterday. Our correspondent reports that the conference is organised with a view to identify various critical issues relating to agriculture and farmers’ welfare and finding appropriate solutions.

"The government aims to formulate a proper roadmap with timelines to achieve the goal of doubling farmers income by 2022. Agriculture Ministry has already taken various initiatives to boost farmers income and launched soil health card scheme, new programmes for insurance and irrigation and linking of 585 mandis through electronic platform. The main aim of the conference is to build a consensus around appropriate recommendations that will help in shaping the vision of the government. The participants of conference comprising farmers, farmers’ associations, scientists, economists, trade industry, NGOs and policy makers. With Dipendra Kumar, ARTI RANA, AIR News Delhi."


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a PIL seeking deportation of billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi in the alleged Punjab National Bank fraud case. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, today said, the bench will hear the matter on Friday. The PIL has sought Nirav Modi's deportation within two months for his alleged involvement in the siphoning off Punjab National Bank money to the tune of 11,400 crore rupees. It sought immediate and strict action against those PNB and Reserve Bank of India officials involved in the case. The PIL also sought new guidelines for big loans.


In Uttar Pradesh, the CBI continued its raids for the second consecutive day at the same three locations in Kanpur in connection with its probe into a multi-crore loan default by Rotomac Pen promoter Vikram Kothari. The raided places included office and residential premises of the company’s directors. The sleuths of the agency opened the lockers owned by the family members of Kothari in different banks at Kanpur and took several documents in possession. The CBI also questioned Kothari and his wife today as well.


The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today said, the allegations that Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash was assaulted by AAP MLAs are completely false. In a statement, the party said, a meeting of MLAs was held yesterday at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence as about 2 lakh 50,000 families were deprived of rations last month due to faulty implementation of Aadhaar. It said, the MLAs were under tremendous pressure from the public but the Chief Secretary refused to answer questions saying he was only answerable to the Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.


India's surface-to-surface Agni-II ballistic missile was successfully test-fired this morning from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast. As part of the user trial, the Strategic Forces Command with logistics support from Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) carried out the test at 8:38 AM. More from our correspondent:

"The 17 tonnes can also be increased to 3 thousand kilometre by reducing the payload.  Defence sources said, the test was aimed at re-establishing the operational effectiveness of the weapon system. The test came two weeks after India successfully test-fired its indigenously developed Prithvi-II missile as part of a user trial. The Agni missile being developed by DRDO as a deterrent against nuclear armed neighbours are among India’s most sophisticated weapons. Wtih SN Pattnaik report from Sambalpur, Gulshan Rawat for AIR News."


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting Mumbai today as part of his week-long visit to India. Mr Trudeau will attend the Canada - India Business Forum and have separate meetings with business leaders as well as film personalities to explore future opportunities. To promote Canada-India cooperation on a range of issues, Mr Trudeau will be joined by a delegation of six Canadian ministers.


Spiritual leader Aga Khan is arriving in New Delhi this evening on a 10-day visit to India. This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan leadership. He will hold talks with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu tomorrow. During his stay in New Delhi, Aga Khan will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


In Syria, at least 100 civilians have been killed in an Army bombardment of the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group said, air strikes, rocket fire and shelling on the besieged suburbs of Damascus also injured 325 people. It said, the government forces is bombing Eastern Ghouta to pave the way for a ground offensive.

Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is the last opposition pocket around Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad has deployed reinforcements in an apparent concerted effort to retake it.


The Maldives Parliament will vote today on President Abdulla Yameen's request to extend the ongoing emergency in the country for an additional 30 days. The President's office said in a statement that the extension is warranted by the National Security Council as the threat to national security has not diminished and the Constitutional crisis has not been resolved. MPs loyal to the President had voted yesterday to send the proposal to the national security committee for debate. The committee has recommended for extension which has to be ratified by Parliament vote. All opposition MPs boycotted the session in a bid to prevent the ruling party from having the numbers needed for the vote. Our correspondent has filed this report:

"Maldives government does not have enough numbers to fulfill the quorum required for Parliamentary vote to extend the emergency but efforts are on. Some opposition MPs have been approached for their presence as Parliament should have at least half of its strength present for voting. President’s party has got 40 MPs while the required number is 43. President office said disengagement of opposition MPs will cripple the Parliament’s ability to decide upon the issue. However, sources said government has plans to overcome the crisis and the emergency in all likelihood, will be extended. Santosh Kumar, AIR News, Colombo."


Saudi Arabia will host its first-ever Arab Fashion Week next month. The move is another example of the opening up of the country under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s transformation programme. The Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council said, the fashion week will be held in Riyadh from the 26th to the 31st of next month, with a second edition already scheduled for October. Our West Asia correspondent reports that the Crown Prince has been leading a drive to reform the country's dependence on oil, including expanding the private sector and empowering women.


The Iranian search teams today found the wreckage of a plane that went missing in the Zagros mountains two days ago with 66 people on board. A government spokesman said, the helicopters found the wreckage on Dena mountain. The search efforts were hampered yesterday due to heavy snow and fog.


After witnessing losses in previous trading sessions, the domestic stock markets gained several points today. The Sensex at Bombay Stock Exchange was trading 134 points up at 33,909, a short while ago. The Nifty at the National Stock Exchange was trading 26 points up at 10,404.


The Indian IT industry is on a growth path and is poised to register a growth rate of 7 to 9 per cent during the next fiscal. Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing World IT Congress in Hyderabad today, NASSCOM President R. Chandrasekhar said, the current financial year is expected to clock a revenue of 167 billion US dollars and digital industry is growing at a fast pace of nearly 30 per cent.


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