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IndiGo to start daily flights on three new routes from April

Budget carrier IndiGo Friday said it will start daily flights on three new routes -- Chennai-Raipur, Hyderabad-Gorakhpur, and Kolkata-Gorakhpur -- from April.

The carrier also said that April onwards, it will add more flights on the Chennai-Trivandrum, Bengaluru-Mangalore, Bengaluru-Udaipur and Bengaluru-Chennai routes.

"We are very excited to add 14 new flights to our network along with three new routes connecting Chennai, Raipur, and Gorakhpur," William Boulter, the chief commercial officer of IndiGo, said.

The flights on the Chennai-Raipur route will begin from April 7. It will depart from Chennai at 10.20 am and land in Raipur at 12.20 pm. On its return journey, it will depart at 12.50 pm and reach Chennai at 2.25 pm.

Similarly, the flights on the Hyderabad-Gorakhpur route will begin from April 30. It will depart from Hyderabad at 9.55 am and land in Gorakhpur at 12.05 am. The flight will then depart from Gorakhpur at 12.35 pm and land at Hyderabad airport at 2.10 pm.

The flights on the Kolkata-Gorakhpur route will also begin from April 30. The flight will leave from Kolkata at 2.20 pm and land in Gorakhpur at 4 pm. It will then leave Gorakhpur at 4.30 pm and land in Kolkata at 6.50 pm.

IndiGo is currently the largest airline in India with around 40 percent of the domestic passenger market share.

Mayawati's ex-secretary raided by I-T department over tax evasions worth Rs 100 crores

In a development which can have far-reaching political implications, the Income Tax department on Tuesday (March 12) conducted raids at 12 locations in Kolkata, Lucknow, and Delhi in connection with misappropriation of funds by former IAS officer and Uttar Pradesh principal secretary Netram during Mayawati's tenure.

Netram is considered to be one of the close associates of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati.

According to sources, Netram was planning to contest the Lok Sabha election this time on BSP ticket.

The raid locations include his residence in Lucknow, few official premises in Kolkata and Delhi.

Netaram misappropriated funds of over Rs 100 crore belonging to Uttar Pradesh government and invested in a Kolkata firm. Sources say incriminating documents and material have been seized by the I-T department during the raids.

NGT fines Volkswagen Rs 500 crore for using cheat devices in diesel cars

The National Green Tribunal has slapped a penalty of Rs 500 crore on Volkswagen for using "cheat device" in its diesel cars in India. Earlier, a panel formed by the NGT had recommended a fine of Rs 171.34 crore over the damage emissions from Volkswagen cars had done. Declaring the judgment on Thursday, a bench headed by NGT Chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel instructed the German auto manufacturer to deposit the amount within two months. Volkswagen will reportedly challenge the NGT order before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen refuted the allegations of violating BS-IV norms leveled against it. The company argued that the emission test results in question were based on "on-road testing" of its cars and there were no prescribed standards for this.

The NGT bench, however, turned down Volkswagen's objection, stating that sustainable development is the main guiding factor, and thus, the manufacturer's objections to the report can be admitted. The green tribunal said that it may consider utilizing the money towards improving air quality in the Delhi NCR region and other highly polluted areas of the country.

The tribunal is hearing pleas filed against Volkswagen vehicles in 2015 for alleged violation of emission norms in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal in the US. Volkswagen had admitted to installing a "defeat device" in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe, and other global markets. A "cheat" or "defeat device" is software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars.

In its tests conducted on some Volkswagen models, Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the permissible levels under BS-IV norms. Following this, Volkswagen India had recalled around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms to rejig the software. The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India unlike in the US.

India-origin former Cisco employee arrested for $9.3 million fraud in US

An Indian-origin former employee of Cisco Systems has been arrested and charged with a criminal complaint alleging he defrauded a technology major of more than USD 9.3 million.

Prithviraj Bhikha, 50 was charged in a criminal complaint with wire fraud, US Attorney David Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John Bennett have said.

The criminal complaint was unsealed Monday following Bhikha's arrest on March 1 at the San Francisco International Airport.

Bhikha made his initial appearance Monday morning in federal court before US Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero and has been released on a USD three million bond.

His next court appearance is scheduled for March 18 for arraignment. If convicted on the charge in the criminal complaint, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment and a fine of USD 250,000 along with restitution.

According to an affidavit filed by a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bhikha of San Francisco was employed until mid-2017 by Cisco as a director in its global supply unit in San Jose. That unit was in charge of working with suppliers and vendors to obtain parts for Cisco products.

In around 2013, Bhikha is alleged to have begun advocating within Cisco for the approval of a new project, of which he would be in charge, the goal of which was for Cisco to retain third-party vendors to negotiate savings with manufacturers on small parts used in Cisco products.

The complaint affidavit alleges that Bhikha devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud Cisco by establishing overseas business entities, then directing and approving Cisco contracts to these entities pursuant to the project, and failing to disclose his ownership interest in the overseas entities.

The affidavit alleges that Cisco wired approximately USD 6.5 million to one of these entities and approximately USD 2.8 million to another.

More than USD 8.5 million was wired from bank accounts associated with these two overseas entities to US bank accounts either controlled jointly by Bhikha and his wife or by his wife alone.

The complaint affidavit also alleges that when Cisco employees became suspicious regarding one of Bhikha's overseas entities in 2016, Bhikha and another Cisco employee worked together to create documentation to send to Cisco employees regarding that company.

US plan to remove preferential trade status won't really hurt India; to impact duty reduction worth $190 million

Even as the US has decided to withdraw tariff concessions offered to $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports through its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, Union Commerce Ministry stated that the concessions only amounted to a duty reduction of $190 million, a year.

Anup Wadhawan, Secretary, Commerce, said that the US decision has come despite the best efforts of India for meaningful negotiation.

"The US had initiated the review on the basis of representations by the US medical devices and dairy industries, but subsequently included numerous other issues on a self-initiated basis. These included issues related to market access for various agriculture and animal husbandry products, relaxation/easing of procedures related to issues like telecom testing/conformity assessment and tariff reduction on ICT products. The Department of Commerce engaged with various Government of India departments concerned with these issues, and India was able to offer a very meaningful way forward on almost all the US requests," a ministry statement said.

Even on the basic complaints that triggered the review-that of medical devices and dairy products-India had agreed to take a balanced approach.

"India was ready to address US concerns regarding medical devices in principle, by putting in place a suitable trade margin approach in a reasonable time frame to balance concerns about fair pricing for the consumers and adequate remuneration for the suppliers. On the issue of dairy market access, India has clarified that while our certification requirement, that the source animal had never been fed animal-derived blood meal, is non-negotiable given the cultural and religious sentiment, the requested simplified dairy certification procedure, without diluting this requirement, could be considered," Wadhawan points out. The Commerce ministry also said that it had conveyed its willingness to provide market access to products like cherries and pork originating from the US. On reduction of our IT duties, India maintained that its duties are moderate and not import stopping and agreed to extend duty concessions on specific items in which there is a clear US interest. The country was also willing to consider discussions for a Mutual Recognition Agreement on telecom testing.  

"India was agreeable to a very meaningful mutually acceptable package on the above lines to be agreed to at this time while keeping remaining issues under discussion in the future," the ministry statement said.   

Meanwhile, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said that "India's termination from GSP follows its failure to provide the United States with assurances that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors". The withdrawal of benefits will happen after a two month notice period.

In its submission to USTR last year, the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) had said that the GSP has over the years helped India to grow its US exports to $48.63 billion in 2017. India was also the biggest beneficiary of GSP with total GSP imports of $5.6 billion that year. However, it noted that there has been an only moderate increase in imports under GSP from India by $1.15 billion 2012-2017 with the share of GSP imports in the total imports from India coming down from 12.94 percent in 2012 to 11.51 percent in 2017. FIEO wanted US to continue the concessions to India as the scheme helped the US producers to import raw materials, components, parts, machineries and equipments under GSP thus cutting their cost of production to become competitive both at the domestic turf as well as in exports. A quarter of GSP imports being consumer goods also benefitted consumers with lower prices in the US, it pointed out.

While the revenue impact of the US deciding to end the concessions will not be significant, it will certainly increase the cost of local manufacturing that depended on cheap raw material import from India. 


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