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Trying to lower road construction cost, improve quality: Gadkari

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Nitin Gadkari

New Delhi, Sep 10 : Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said industry players should adopt innovative methods and new technologies to improve cost efficiency and construction quality of infrastructure projects.

The road transport minister also warned cement players against cartelisation, black-marketing and profiteering.

“You need to reduce construction cost and improve quality. Cost reduction should be made without any compromise on quality,” he said while addressing an event on ”BITU-CON 2020: BITUmen and Road CONstruction Industry”, organised by FICCI.

Gadkari, who also holds the MSME portfolio, said the industry can play a significant role in boosting India”s infrastructure through the aid of innovation and technology.

Industry players should look towards innovative methods of using waste like iron slag besides other material for use in infrastructure projects, the minister said.

Plans are afoot to reduce bridge construction cost through innovative technologies like promoting steel fibre in construction on the pattern of Malaysia and if successful that alone could save Rs 25,000 crore annually in bridge, Gadkari said.

Similarly, Niti Aayog has given green signal to Buldhana pattern of projects that have changed the face of some parts of Maharashtra, which entail excavation or dredging of ponds in drought-prone areas to ensure rain water harvesting and recharge of ground water, the minister said.

The dredging is done by the highways ministry free of cost in lieu of sand, deposits and aggregates to be used for highways construction, thereby reducing cost.

Gadkari said likewise technical parameters were being reduced to promote domestic players in infrastructure creation and cited example of Zojila tunnel, saying the government through change specifications has been able to reduce the cost of the project significantly at a time when it was demanded to enhance the original cost by about Rs 7,500 crore to Rs 11,000 crore.

“A meeting was convened to deliberate on the specifications which was attended by about 150 developers, consultants and other stakeholders. I had asked officials to reduce the technical qualification criteria besides financial qualifications without any compromise on quality,” he said adding that over Rs 4,000 crore was saved due to it and the tender has been awarded.

Gadkari said the project for which tenders were floated for three times earlier was ultimately won by Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL).

Among the three bidders in the race including Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International JV, the Hyderabad-headquartered company had quoted the lowest Rs 4,509.5 crore for the tunnel project, stuck for over six years now.

The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in May 2018 laid the foundation stone for the Rs 6,800 crore project, billed as the Asia”s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking about bitumen, Gadkari said it was found that such roads got damaged soon and urged the industry to come forward with technical innovations and a 10-year defect liability.

At the same time, he warned cement makers to refrain from “black-marketing, profiteering and cartelisation” saying the highways ministry alone has a potential to buy cement worth Rs 1 lakh crore but cement makers despite repeated warnings were being indulged in wrongdoings.

He said given the quality of concrete highways his ministry was in favour of making it mandatory, but wrong practices by cement manufacturers prevented any such step.

The minister said that his ministry plans to take road building to more than 30 km a day and innovations and newer technologies were welcomed.

He also stressed the need for newer technologies for highways building in difficult terrains like Chardham where a Rs 12,000 crore project is underway to link Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

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Airtel narrowing gap with Jio on 4G in India: Report

While Jio won in 48 cities outright it drew for the first place with Airtel in Coimbatore.

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airtel

New Delhi: Airtel has come closer to challenging Reliance Jio which continues to reign supreme on 4G availability and 4G coverage experience in India, says a new report by mobile analytics company Opensignal.

While the average proportion of time that Jio users spent connected to 4G has increased by 0.5 of a percentage point since the last report to reach an impressive 98.7 per cent, Airtel saw its score increase by 1.1 percentage points.

“As a consequence, Jio’s lead has dropped from 3.7 percentage points to 3.1,” said the report.

In regional analysis of 49 cities, Airtel came close to challenging Jio’s dominance on 4G availability in a majority of the cities although Jio continued to win almost all awards, said the report.

While Jio won in 48 cities outright it drew for the first place with Airtel in Coimbatore.

However, for the second report in a row, Airtel has won four of the awards outright — video experience, games experience, voice app experience and download Speed experience, while ownership of the upload speed experience award smoothly passed from Vodafone to Vi.

This is the first report in which Opensignal treated Vodafone and Idea as a single operator — Vi — in line with the combined operator’s new branding that was announced on September 7.

For the report, Opensignal examined the mobile network experience of the four main mobile network operators in India: Airtel, BSNL, Jio and Vi, over a period of 90 days beginning May 1 to see how they fared, and further delved deeper into 49 of India’s largest cities, comparing the experience users received on these four operators.

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Govt-owned NABARD gives clean chit to Reliance Commercial Finance

Action of Indian Bank and Federal Bank is despite the Delhi High Court staying such action by the lead bank Bank of Baroda on 14th August, 2020.

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Anil Ambani

New Delhi: Government owned National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the second largest lender to Reliance Commercial Finance Limited (RCF) with over Rs 1,100 crore of secured loan exposure has given clean chit to RCF and has removed its red flag.

NABARD is a part of the consortium of lenders and is signatory to an Inter Creditor Agreement (ICA) executed between the lenders of RCF under June 7, 2019 circular of RBI on resolution of stressed assets.

NABARD had classified the account of RCF as Red Flag on February 25, 2020. Thereafter lenders conducted a detailed forensic audit by Grant Thornton (GT).

At a meeting of the Consortium of Lenders led by Bank of Baroda, held on Friday September 25, 2020, NABARD informed the consortium of lenders that having examined the GT forensic report, it found no element of fraud and has therefore removed the red flag.

Earlier, Delhi High Court on August 14 had stayed a move by Bank of Baroda, the leader of Consortium of Bank, to classify the accounts as fraud, restraining banks from taking any other coercive action till the next hearing. Similar action of Punjab National Bank was also stayed by Delhi High Court on 11th August, 2020.

As per information reported on Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC), Indian Bank and Federal Bank have classified their exposure to Reliance Home Finance Ltd (RHFL) as a fraud account.

Indian Bank having an exposure of only Rs. 120 crore, made such classification on 29th August, 2020. The exposure of Federal Bank to RHFL is 100 crore — out of the total RHFL debt of over Rs 10,000 crore.

Action of Indian Bank and Federal Bank is despite the Delhi High Court staying such action by the lead bank Bank of Baroda on 14th August, 2020.

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Paytm Dares Google, Brings Back Cricket League With UPI Cashback

Paytm said that the cashback was being given following all rules and regulations set by the government.

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Paytm APP

New Delhi: Home-grown financial services platform Paytm, which was briefly removed from Google Play Store for alleged policy violations earlier this month, said on Monday that it has brought back the Paytm Cricket League with UPI cashback and scratch cards.

Now, users can collect stickers of their favourite cricket stars as they pay digitally for their mobile bills, recharges, buying groceries or money transfers, Paytm said.

Once they complete a set, they can redeem it for cashback up to Rs 1,000, it added.

Every sticker collected by the user is automatically added to the cricket album. There are three different milestones to be achieved for getting cashback — 11 unique cricket players, 11 unique bowlers or 11 unique batsmen.

Whenever a milestone is achieved, the users get a scratch card with an assured cashback.

“We are excited to bring Paytm Cricket League back on our app to reward users with UPI cashback on reaching various milestones, accomplished by collecting player stickers,” a Paytm spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier, Paytm in a blog post stated that Google mandated it to remove the UPI cashback and scratch cards campaign to get re-listed on the Android Play Store even though offering both is legal in India.

Paytm said that the cashback was being given following all rules and regulations set by the government.

The company alleged that it was “arm-twisted” by the search engine major to comply with what it called “biased Play Store policies that are meant to artificially create Google’s market dominance.”

Later, the Paytm app was restored on the Play Store after a gap of a few hours.

“We maintain that our promotional campaign was within guidelines and there was no violation. We believe that such arbitrary actions and accusatory labelling go against the laws of our country and acceptable norms of fair competition by arbitrarily depriving our users of innovative services,” the Paytm spokesperson said.

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