Maldives Minister Finds Tallest Railway Bridge in J&K Impressive

On his visit to the world’s tallest railway bridge in Jammu and Kashmir on May 17, 2023, Mohamed Aslam, Minister for National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Maldives, was ”very impressed” with the Chenab Bridge and the development the Indian Railways is bringing to India.

The Chenab Rail Bridge is constructed 359 metres above the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir region. It is about 35 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower.

The ministerial delegation from Maldives also included Shifaz Ali, Minister of State for National Planning, Housing & Infrastructure, Republic of Maldives, Mahjoob Shujau, Project Director, PMU, Republic of Maldives, and Mohamed Jinan Saeed, Project Manager, GMC-MTL project, PMU, Republic of Maldives.

With the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) Project about to be completed, Indian Railways is edging closer to connecting the Kashmir Valley to the rest of the railway network. The Chenab Bridge is the highest railway bridge in the world. It is a structural marvel built across a gorge of Chenab Bridge in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir under the USBRL Project.

The Ministry of Railways said the bridge will be open to visitors by the end of December 2023 or January 2024.

TCS Gets Rs 15,000-Crore BSNL Deal to Deploy 4G Network across India

A consortium led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on May 22 announced that it received an Advance Purchase Order (APO) valued at over Rs 15,000 crore (around $1.8 billion) from government-owned telecom enterprise Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). With the new deal, TCS will carry out deployment of 4G network across India for BSNL.

The TCS-led consortium includes Tejas Networks and C-DOT. Tata Group’s telecom gear making company Tejas Networks will be responsible for supplying and servicing the Radio Access Networks (RAN) equipment. Along with TCS, the APO was also issued to state-run ITI Ltd for this project. According to analysts, about 20 percent of the work and deal value will go to ITI.

The deal is the Indian IT services giant’s third major deal in 2023, after a $723-million deal from UK-based Phoenix Group and with British retailer Marks and Spencer. TCS already runs India’s passport project, the Indian Railways’ IRCTC site, and India Post’s digital project. Its contract for running the Passport Seva Programme was renewed last year in a deal worth Rs. 8,000 crore, said reports.

The deal to revive BSNL was in talks since September 2022.In July 2022, the Union Cabinet had approved a Rs 1.64 lakh crore revival package for BSNL, which included cash support of Rs 43,964 crore and non-cash support of Rs 1.20 lakh crore. 

India’s Online Retail Market Hits $60 Billion in GMV This Fiscal

The online retail market in India reached $60 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in FY23, registering a 22 per cent steady growth, said a report released by Redseer Strategy Consultants on May 19.

The Indian user base matured over the year with 31 percent of annual shoppers converting into monthly shoppers, up from 23 percent in FY21. These mature shoppers in select urban, tier 2 and 3 markets have helped ecommerce grow, the report said.

With 210 million annual shoppers, ads monetisation contributed $1.2 billion in revenue for the online retailers in the current financial year, with a 37 percent year-on-year rise. Despite losing momentum, the sector today stands at 2.5 times of pre-COVID levels and is performing much better than overall retail consumption, said Redseer. The popularity of e-tailing is due to increased propagation of smartphones and the internet.

Direct-2-consumer brand growth has also made traditional players take the digital route to sell their products. Monthly shopper base (MTU), which stood at 65 million in this fiscal is now 31 per cent of the annual e-tailing shopper base. It is the same metric that was just 23 per cent before the pandemic hit.

World’s Top 21 Fossil Fuel Firms Owe Climate Reparations of $209 Billion a Year

The top 21 global fossil fuel producers in the world are collectively responsible for $5.4 trillion in expected economic costs from climate change over the period of 2025-2050, averaging $209 billion per year, says a study published in the peer-reviewed journal One Earth. These costs are attributed to the extreme weather events and other climate change damages caused by the companies’ operational and product emissions from 1988 to 2022.

The study titled “Time to Pay the Piper” by Marco Grasso and Richard Heede, proposes a morally-based responsibility for oil, gas, and coal producers to compensate for climate damages. It quantifies the annual payments owed by these companies from 2025 to 2050 for the expected economic costs of climate change.

The total global economic damages from climate change – estimated by a consensus survey of 738 climate economists – come to $99 trillion between 2025 and 2050. After accounting non-fossil fuel sources of warming, the study estimates that fossil fuel emissions will contribute to $69.6 trillion in future economic damages during the same period. The authors attribute one third of these costs to the global fossil fuel industry, with one third each attributed to governments and consumers. Thus, the global fossil fuel industry is found to be responsible for $23.2 trillion in expected GDP loss from climate change impacts over 2025-2050, equivalent to $893 billion per year.

85 Lakh Millennials Invested in Mutual Funds in Last 5 Yrs

Over half the first-time mutual funds’ (MFs) investors over the last five years have been millennials, says a recent report by Computer Age Management Services (CAMS), India’s largest registrar and transfer agent for mutual funds.

The report, ‘The emerging force of the millennial investor is here to stay & grow’ was prepared by CAMS and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and released at the 17th CII Mutual Fund Summit in Mumbai on May 3, 2023. All insights in the report are based on data of the MFs serviced by CAMS. These account for 69 per cent of the Indian MF industry. The report focuses on millennials who entered the MF space for the first time during the last five financial years.

About 85 lakh investors (54 percent of the 1.6 crore new investors) that started investing in MFs during financial years 2019-2023 were millennials. The millennials who stayed invested through this period had assets worth ₹96,000 crore as of March 2023.

Millennials, also known as ‘Gen Y’, are people born between 1981 and 1996. In sharp contrast to the assumption that this generation is likely to go direct while making investment choices, the study found that 95% of millennials chose advisers or distributors to begin their MF journey.

Credit Card Spends Outside India to Attract 20% TCS

The Government of India has amended rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), bringing international credit card spends outside the country under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS). In addition, from July 1, spending on international credit cards (ICCs) will attract a higher rate of Tax Collected at Source (TCS) at 20%.

Spending in foreign exchange through ICCs will be covered under the Reserve Bank of India’s LRS, under which a resident can remit money abroad up to a maximum of $2.50 lakh per annum without the authorisation of the central bank, said a Union Finance Ministry notification on May 16. Any remittance beyond $2.5 lakh or its equivalent in foreign currency would require approval from the RBI.

Earlier, the use of ICCs for making payments for fulfilling expenses during travel outside India was not included in the LRS limit. The ministry notified the Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transactions) (Amendment) Rules, 2023, to include international credit card payments in the LRS.

The Union Budget 2023-24 hiked TCS rates to 20 per cent, from 5 per cent currently, on overseas tour packages and funds remitted under LRS (other than for education and medical purposes).

Now Track, Block Lost Mobile Phones in India with Sanchar Saathi Portal

The Department of Telecom of the Government of India has launched Sanchar Saathi Portal to help people block, track and check the genuineness of a used device before buying them.

“First leg of Sanchar Saathi portal is CEIR (Central Equipment Identity Register). If you lose your mobile phone, then you can visit this portal. There will be some identity verification, requirement of undertaking and immediately after this the portal will interact with law enforcement agencies and telecom service providers and block your lost mobile phone,” said Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

A feature of the portal is TAFCOP, which helps people check if there are other mobile numbers working in their name without their permission or knowledge.

The Centre has also made it mandatory to disclose IMEI – a 15-digit unique numeric identifier of mobile devices before their sale in India. The mobile networks will have access to the list of approved IMEI numbers which will check the entry of any unauthorised mobile phones on their network. The CEIR will be able to block any cloned mobile phones on the network with the help of many databases. With the new system in place, it will be futile to use stolen mobile phones. The system developed under Sanchar Saathi can also help in curbing the smuggling of phones.

The Sanchar Saathi facilities have been developed by C-DoT. The technology development arm under the Department of Telecom has been able to add features to check use of cloned mobile phones across all telecom networks.

Employees in the UAE among the Most Hard-Working Globally

People in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the hardest working globally and do the longest hours per week as the pandemic has changed the 9 to 5 workplace culture. Nearly half of the workers in the country put in over 49 hours in the office every week, says a Business Name Generator (BNG) study.

The BNG study found the UAE to be the world’s third hardest-working country, with 46.5 percent of workers logging 49 or more hours per week. While the average paid work hours per week total 52.6 in the country.

In the list of 150 countries, Malta tops as a staggering 91 per cent of workers spend 49 or more hours per week, the highest out of all countries studied. Malta is followed by Bhutan, the UAE, Bangladesh, Congo, Mauritius, Lesotho, Maldives, Pakistan and Lebanon. Israel, Austria, Netherlands, and France sit at the bottom of the ranking, with shorter work weeks and minimal overtime contributing to this. “While this may suggest a more laid-back approach to work in these nations, it may also reflect a commitment to work-life balance and a focus on personal well-being,” said BNG.

In addition to its data, BNG included data from the International Labour Organisation on average working hours and the number of workers that regularly work overtime in each country. It noted that the modern work environment has brought about many benefits, such as greater flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere, but has also raised questions about the culture of overworking and its impact on employees.

Zimbabwe Launches Local Digital Currency Alternative to the US Dollar

From May 8, Zimbabwe has begun circulating digital tokens backed by gold reserves that people can use to conduct peer-to-peer payments and transact with businesses, said Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John P Mangudya. International gold prices determined by the London Bullion Market Association will dictate the local pricing of the tokens, he added.

The African nation is introducing local digital tokens to reduce reliance on the US dollar. The tokens will be available to purchase via banks, and transactions will be enabled through “e-gold wallets or e-gold cards” held by banks. There is a vesting period of 180 days, after which the tokens can be traded. The minimum price to purchase digital tokens is $10 for individuals and $5,000 for financial institutions, corporates and other entities, said a press release by the central bank.

Mangudya hopes the tokens offer an innovative new payment option to Zimbabwean citizens. “The issuance of the gold-backed digital tokens is meant to expand the value-preserving instruments available in the economy and enhance divisibility of the investment instruments and widen their access and usage by the public,” he said.

The alternative to the US dollar is a bid to shore up the country’s faltering currency, which is officially valued at around 1,000 Zimbabwean dollars for $1, but can sell at almost double the price in the illegal market.

India to Form 100 Startups, 85,000 Experts in Semiconductor Space

India aims to establish 100 semiconductor design startups to create innovative solutions and designs for the global market, says Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and IT. The union minister said that the country also plans to create a talent pool of 85,000 highly-skilled professionals in the sector.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar was speaking at the third edition of the Semicon India event, which brought together students, young innovators, industry stakeholders, and other key individuals at IIT Delhi. With a brand-new curriculum in place, he believes India will contribute to the global semiconductor industry while becoming a significant player in the tech space.

The union minister further highlighted India’s progress, underlining that in only 14 months, the country has created opportunities in manufacturing and design. “What China took 30 years to achieve, our government and country want to implement in one decade. The focus has been on moving ‘New India’ from being an outlier on the fringe in the Global Value Chains of electronics to becoming a serious player,” Chandrasekhar emphasised.

India’s semiconductor market is projected to reach $64 billion by 2026. The minister expressed the government’s commitment to ensuring that India participates in every aspect of technological advancements in the coming years.