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RBI-Centre clash, govt reportedly upset with bank for making rift public

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New Delhi: Indian government officials are very upset with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for publicly talking about a rift with the government, fearing it could tarnish the country’s image among investors, senior officials said.

The RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya warned that undermining a central bank’s independence could be “potentially catastrophic”, in an indication that it is pushing back hard against government pressure to relax its policies and reduce its powers.

In a speech to top industrialists, Acharya cited the Argentine government’s meddling in its central bank’s affairs in 2010 as an example of what can go wrong. That led to a surge in bond yields that badly hurt the South American economy.

 

“Governments that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite an economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution,” Acharya said.

The government officials Reuters spoke to on Monday declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.

One said that it was vital that what happened between the government in New Delhi and the RBI in Mumbai was kept confidential. “The government respects the autonomy and independence of the RBI but they must understand their responsibility,” the official said.

A second official, based in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, said it was “very unfortunate” that the RBI took the matters public. “The government is very upset. It was not expected from the RBI,” the official added.

An RBI spokesman was not immediately available for comments after business hours.

Government officials have recently called for the RBI to relax its lending restrictions on some banks, and New Delhi has also been trying to trim the RBI’s regulatory powers by setting up a new regulator for the country’s payments system.

The Modi administration has also been pushing the central bank to part with some of its 3.6 trillion rupees ($49 billion)surplus to help bridge the fiscal deficit and finance its welfare programmes.

The officials in New Delhi were particularly angry that Acharya launched the attack while Modi was about to head to Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first source said.

Finance ministry officials remained largely silent in response to the speech at the weekend, as they didn’t want to aggravate the issue when Modi and top officials were in Japan, this official said.

Government officials believe that RBI Governor Urjit Patel has some responsibility for the controversy, and he cannot expect an extension of his current three-year term – which ends next September – “as his right”, one of the officials added.

Acharya had three of his fellow deputy governors in the audience and also thanked Governor Patel for his “suggestion to explore this theme for a speech”, in a show of unity from an institution typically known for its restraint.

The official in the prime minister’s office said Patel could face a tough time when he appears before a parliamentary standing committee on Nov. 12.

Top government officials said they were surprised that Patel, who was appointed by the Modi administration in 2016 and initially cooperated with New Delhi, is creating tensions when the government is facing criticism over handling of the economy before a national election, due by next May.

On Monday, a third government source said the finance ministry was worried how markets would respond to Acharya’s public comments but felt more relaxed after they rose. The gains were largely a result of a separate announcement by the RBI about an injection of liquidity through government bond buying.

Modi’s government is pushing the RBI to relax lending norms for small businesses and pump more liquidity into the market to bolster economic growth before key state elections due in the next few weeks and the general election.

It is worried that the central bank’s hawkish monetary stance and stringent regulations on lending by state banks could push economic growth below 7 per cent in the October-December quarter – the last quarter for which data would be available ahead of the general election.

“When we are facing problems on the external front like high crude oil prices, trade tensions putting pressure on our current account balance, can we afford another domestic crisis?” the third government source said.


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WPI inflation at 8-month low of 3.80 pc in Dec on softening fuel, food prices

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New Delhi: Inflation based on wholesale prices fell to a 8-month low of 3.80 per cent in December, 2018, on softening prices of fuel and some food items.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation stood at 4.64 per cent in November, 2018, and 3.58 per cent in December 2017. According to the government data released on Monday, deflation in food articles stood at 0.07 per cent in December, against 3.31 per cent in November.

Vegetables, too, saw deflation at 17.55 per cent in December, compared to 26.98 per cent in the previous month. Inflation in the ‘fuel and power’ basket in December slumped to 8.38 per cent, nearly half of 16.28 per cent in November.

 

This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel through December. Individually, in petrol and diesel inflation was 1.57 per cent and 8.61 per cent, respectively, and for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) it was 6.87 per cent during December.

Among food articles, potato prices became cheaper substantially with inflation at 48.68 per cent in December, as against 86.45 per cent in November.

Inflation in pulses stood at 2.11 per cent, while in ‘egg, meat and fish’ it was 4.55 per cent. Onion witnessed deflation of 63.83 per cent in December, compared to 47.60 per cent in November.

The 3.80 per cent inflation is the lowest in 8 months, and a lower inflation than this was last seen in April at 3.62 per cent. Data for retail or consumer price index-based inflation would be released later in the day.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mainly takes into account retail inflation data while formulating monetary policy. In its fifth monetary policy review for the fiscal, last month, the Reserve Bank kept interest rates unchanged, but held out a promise to cut them if the upside risks to inflation do not materialise.

The central bank lowered retail inflation projection to 2.7-3.2 per cent for the second half of the current fiscal, citing normal monsoon and moderate food prices.

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Air tickets, identity cards to become redundant; flyers can use facial recognition to enter airport

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New Delhi: The hassle to show air tickets and identity cards at Airport will be over as air travellers can soon enter airport with facial recognition biometric facility.

GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) that operates the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), has successfully conducted the trial of facial recognition technology. During the first phase of the trial, employees of GHIAL were included. The second phase of the trial is expected to be launched by the end of this month, in which GHIAL will include common air fliers. And if the second phase of the trial is successful, GHIAL will implement facial recognition technology in Hyderabad airport from March onwards.

Three phases of facial recognition technology

 

First phase: GHIAL has installed facial recognition cameras in the Hyderabad. In the first phase, the imaging of passengers will be done through these cameras which will recognise the faces of the flyers.

Second phase: There would be a centralised registration system for passengers. Each passenger’s face will be attached with his/her photo identity like passport, Aadhaar, voting id, driving licence etc. The details of passengers along with his facial mapping will be scanned and stored by GHIAL through the centralised registration system at the Airport.

Third phase: The ID proof of the passengers along with their facial mapping will be stored at the e-boarding gate of the Airport.The data centres at Airlines will also have similar information. Whenever such passengers book tickets, the data system will alert the Hyderabad Airport authorities.

The moment you book a flight ticket originating from Hyderabad airport, your details will be shared by the data centre and the information will be given to all the concerned authorities.

When you reach the Hyderabad terminal gate, face recognition technology will identify you and all your details will be shared on the screen. The security personnel at the gate will access all your information via the system.

Similarly, your details can be accessed by the security personnel at the check-in counter, security check-in. Once the formalities are done, passengers will get an online boarding pass on their mobile phone.

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Maruti all-new WagonR 2019 available for booking at Rs 11,000

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New Delhi: Country’s largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India on Monday said that its all-new WagonR is available for booking starting.

Customers can book the 3rd generation WagonR at authorized dealer network across the country by paying Rs 11,000. They can also book the car online.

The New WagonR is powered by the advanced K-series engine offering high fuel efficiency and an unmatched driving experience, Maruti said. The car now comes with a new 1.2 L engine option that delivers powerful and impressive performance coupled with great fuel economy. Customers will also have the choice of 1.0 L engine for the all-new WagonR.

 

Maruti Suzuki’s acclaimed two pedal technology will also be offered in the new WagonR. The Auto Gear Shift (AGS) offers. Maruti said that for the first it is going to offer the most innovative SmartPlay Studio infotainment experience in the Big New WagonR.

The car will be available in Pearl Poolside Blue, Pearl Nutmeg Brown, Magma Grey, Pearl Autumn Orange, Silky Silver and Superior White Range of variants. The Petrol: 1.0 L engine will be available in Lxi, Vxi / Vxi AGS variants while the Petrol: 1.2 L will be available in Vxi, Vxi AGS, Zxi / Zxi AGS variants.

“The new WagonR gets bigger with enhanced comfort. The car’s sturdy and masculine look with true tall boy design makes for a strong road presence. The Big New WagonR not only embodies strong looks but is also stronger inside out,” Maruti said in a release.

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