Five mega projects revving up India in 2024 - Business Guardian
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Five mega projects revving up India in 2024



India is poised to unveil a slew of significant infrastructure projects in 2024, marking a pivotal stride toward bolstering the nation’s development landscape. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate five major infrastructure projects, including the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), Navi Mumbai International Airport, Noida International Airport, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, and the Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway, ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, stretching over 21.6 km, connects Mumbai city with mainland Navi Mumbai and is set for inauguration on January 12. This ambitious project aims to significantly truncate travel time between the two regions to a mere 20-25 minutes, rendering it the longest sea bridge constructed in India. With an estimated cost of INR 18,000 crore, the MTHL is a culmination of years of planning and a testament to infrastructural advancement.

Scheduled for operational readiness by the end of 2024, the Noida International Airport, constructed by Yamuna International Airport Private Ltd, is taking shape with rapid progress. Currently, around 80 percent of the airport’s runway work is complete, and the air traffic control building is nearing finalization. This greenfield airport, situated in the Jewar area of Gautam Buddh Nagar district, will serve as the second international commercial airport in the National Capital Region (NCR) and is projected to accommodate millions of passengers annually upon full completion.

The Navi Mumbai International Airport, managed by Adani Airports Holdings Ltd., is another critical infrastructure venture expected to commence operations in 2024. Located at Ulwe in Navi Mumbai, this airport, sprawling over 1,160 hectares, aims to handle substantial air traffic and cargo, further reinforcing the aviation network within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

These infrastructural milestones, coupled with the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and the Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway, underscore India’s commitment to fostering connectivity, economic growth, and enhanced accessibility across major regions. The completion of these projects is anticipated to catalyze economic development, ease transportation bottlenecks, and elevate India’s infrastructure to new heights.

These anticipated inaugurations represent a significant leap in India’s infrastructural evolution, reflecting a concerted effort to modernize transportation, stimulate economic growth, and alleviate regional disparities. With these ambitious projects set to become operational in 2024, India stands on the brink of a transformative phase, poised to harness the potential of enhanced connectivity, expedited logistics, and amplified economic opportunities for its populace. As the nation gears up to unveil these monumental endeavours, the forthcoming year holds promise for elevating India’s infrastructural prowess on the global stage.



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International Affairs

Japan’s Teleworking shrinks, Hybrid work surges: Govt. survey



With the gradual decline of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan is observing a significant change in work dynamics, as more people adopt a “hybrid work” approach, blending remote and in-office work. Insights from the fiscal 2023 government survey, administered by the transport ministry in October and November, illuminate the shifting teleworking landscape in the nation.

According to the survey results, the proportion of teleworkers in Japan has declined, with 16.1 percent of the 36,228 respondents reporting working from home or elsewhere outside the office in the last year. This represents a decrease of 2.7 percentage points from the previous survey. The decline marks a departure from the peak teleworking period during the height of the pandemic, reflecting a gradual return to pre-pandemic work arrangements.

Teleworking emerged as a prominent strategy during the pandemic, as the government sought to reduce the flow of people and curb the spread of infections. However, the survey highlights a discernible shift in this trend as the pandemic situation evolves. The ratio of teleworkers stood at 21.4 percent in the fiscal 2021 survey, declining to 18.8 percent the following year, and further dropping to 16.1 percent in fiscal 2023.

Despite the decrease in teleworking overall, the survey indicates that the average frequency of teleworking remains relatively stable, with individuals teleworking an average of 2.3 days per week, unchanged from the previous year. However, there has been a noticeable change in the distribution of teleworking frequency. Following the government’s decision to downgrade the legal status of COVID-19 in May last year, aligning it more closely with seasonal influenza, there has been a notable increase in the number of individuals working remotely for one or two days a week. Conversely, the proportion of those working remotely for five to seven days a week has decreased.

A ministry official attributed this shift to a growing trend of combining office-based work with telework, reflecting a broader adaptation to changing work dynamics in the post-pandemic era. This hybrid work model allows individuals to enjoy the benefits of both remote work, such as flexibility and reduced commuting time, and in-office collaboration and social interaction.

The survey also highlights regional variations in teleworking rates, with bigger cities exhibiting higher rates of remote work. For instance, the greater Tokyo area, including Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures, recorded a teleworking rate of 28 percent, indicating a strong prevalence of remote work practices in Japan’s bustling capital. In comparison, regions such as the Kinki region (covering Osaka and Kyoto) and the Chukyo region (centered on Nagoya) reported lower teleworking rates.

Overall, the findings of the fiscal 2023 government survey underscore the evolving nature of work arrangements in Japan, characterized by a shift towards hybrid work models that blend remote work with traditional office-based work. As organizations and individuals continue to adapt to the post-pandemic reality, flexible work arrangements are likely to remain a key feature of Japan’s work culture, promoting efficiency, resilience, and work-life balance in the years to come.

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Global light show: Solar storm wows, no major issues reported



A potent solar storm treated observers to a stunning celestial display worldwide overnight, resulting in seemingly minor disruptions to the electrical grid, communication networks, and satellite positioning systems. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said extreme geomagnetic storm conditions continued Saturday, and there were preliminary reports of power grid irregularities, degradation of high-frequency communications and global positioning systems. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that, so far, no FEMA region had reported any significant impact from the storms.

The US Department of Energy said Saturday it is not aware of any impact from the storms on electric customers. NOAA predicted that strong flares will continue through at least Sunday, and a spokeswoman said via email that the agency’s Space Weather Prediction Center had prepared well for the storm. Brilliant purple, green, yellow and pink hues of the Northern Lights were reported worldwide, with sightings in Germany, Switzerland, China, England, Spain and elsewhere.

NOAA issued a rare severe geomagnetic storm warning when a solar outburst reached Earth on Friday afternoon, hours sooner than anticipated. The agency alerted operators of power plants and orbiting spacecraft, as well as FEMA, to take precautions. “For most people here on planet Earth, they won’t have to do anything,” said Rob Steenburgh, a scientist with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, as quoted by AP. “That’s really the gift from space weather: the aurora,” Steenburgh said.

He and his colleagues said the best views may come from phone cameras, which are better at capturing light than the naked eye. The most intense solar storm in recorded history, in 1859, prompted auroras in Central America and possibly even Hawaii. This storm poses a risk for high-voltage transmission lines for power grids, not the electrical lines ordinarily found in people’s homes, NOAA space weather forecaster Shawn Dahl told reporters. Satellites also could be affected, which in turn could disrupt navigation and communication services here on Earth.

An extreme geomanetic storm in 2003, for example, took out power in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa. Following the storm’s passing, NOAA warns that signals between GPS satellites and ground receivers may experience interference or interruption. However, due to the abundance of navigation satellites, any disruptions are expected to be brief, as highlighted by Steenburgh.

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March records 449 Infra projects with Rs 5.01 trillion cost overrun: MoSPI



An official report revealed that in March 2024, a total of 449 infrastructure projects, each requiring an investment of Rs 150 crore or more, experienced a cost overrun exceeding Rs 5.01 trillion. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), responsible for monitoring infrastructure projects valued at Rs 150 crore and higher, indicated that out of 1,873 projects surveyed, 449 encountered cost overruns while 779 projects faced delays.

“The total original cost of implementation of the 1,873 projects was Rs 26,87,535.69 crore and their anticipated completion cost is likely to be Rs 31,88,859.02 crore, which reflects an overall cost overrun of Rs 5,01,323.33 crore (18.65 per cent of the original cost),” the ministry’s latest report for March 2024 said.

According to the report, the expenditure incurred on these projects till March 2024 is Rs 17,11,648.99 crore, which is 53.68 per cent of the anticipated cost of the projects. However, the number of delayed projects decreased to 567 if the delay is calculated based on the latest schedule of completion, it added.

Further, it said that for 393 projects, neither the year of commissioning nor the tentative gestation period has been reported. Out of the 779 delayed projects, 202 have overall delays in the range of 1-12 months, 181 have been delayed for 13-24 months, 277 projects for 25-60 months, and 119 projects have been delayed for more than 60 months. The average time overrun in these 779 delayed projects is 36.04 months.

Reasons for time overrun, as reported by various project implementing agencies, include delay in land acquisition, obtaining forest and environment clearances, and lack of infrastructure support and linkages. Delays in tie-up for project financing, finalization of detailed engineering, change in scope, tendering, ordering, and equipment supply, and law and order problems are among other reasons.

The report also cited state-wise lockdowns due to Covid-19 (imposed in 2020 and 2021) as a reason for the delay in the implementation of these projects. It has also been observed that project executing agencies are not reporting revised cost estimates and commissioning schedules for many projects, which suggests that time/cost overrun figures are under-reported, it added.

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Air India Express cancels 70 flights due to mass ‘Sick Leave’ by crew members



Air India Express has been plunged into turmoil as approximately 70 flights, primarily international ones, faced cancellations or delays due to senior crew members calling in sick. This disruption has prompted the Ministry of Civil Aviation to demand a comprehensive report from the airline while urging swift resolution of the issues at hand. Moreover, the airline has been advised to ensure compliance with Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) norms in providing facilities to passengers.

The genesis of the chaos can be traced back to Tuesday night when cancellations and delays commenced, extending into Wednesday morning. This compelled the airline to truncate its scheduled operations, leaving both domestic and international routes affected. The sudden dearth of crew members precipitated the grounding of flights, exacerbating the predicament.

Civil Aviation authorities have launched an inquiry into the matter, with sources disclosing that some senior crew members had ostensibly powered down their mobile devices just before flight operations, attributing their absence to health concerns. As a result, with no contingency staff available, the airline was compelled to cancel flights, resulting in significant inconvenience for passengers.

In response to the crisis, Air India Express issued a statement expressing regret for the upheaval experienced by passengers and acknowledging the last-minute sick reports from a segment of their cabin crew. The airline affirmed its commitment to investigating the underlying causes of these occurrences while actively mitigating the ensuing inconvenience.

The airline spokesperson emphasized that they are engaging with the affected crew members to discern the reasons behind their sudden unavailability. Concurrently, efforts are underway to minimize disruptions and assuage the inconvenience experienced by passengers. The statement underscored the airline’s dedication to maintaining service standards and apologized for the unanticipated disruption.

Affected passengers have been assured of options for recourse, including a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to alternative dates. Furthermore, passengers with imminent travel plans have been urged to verify the status of their flights before journeying to the airport to avoid further inconvenience.

This incident has cast a spotlight on the operational challenges confronting the aviation industry, echoing a similar debacle encountered by Vistara on April 1, when over 100 flights were severely impacted by pilots reporting sick. The recurrence of such disruptions underscores the vulnerability of airlines to sudden staff shortages and the imperative for robust contingency measures to mitigate their ramifications.

In light of these developments, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is closely monitoring the situation, cognizant of the broader implications for air travel. The call for a detailed report from Air India Express underscores the regulatory scrutiny that such disruptions invite, emphasizing the imperative for airlines to uphold operational integrity and passenger welfare.

As Air India Express endeavors to restore normalcy to its operations, stakeholders across the aviation landscape are vigilant, mindful of the imperative to address systemic vulnerabilities and fortify resilience against unforeseen disruptions. In the interim, affected passengers await resolution and assurance that lessons will be gleaned from this episode to forestall recurrence in the future.

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Boeing Set to launch astronauts in new capsule



Boeing is finally poised to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA after years of delays and stumbles.

After years of delays and stumbles, Boeing is finally poised to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. It’s the first flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule with a crew on board, a pair of NASA pilots who will check out the spacecraft during the test drive and a weeklong stay at the space station.

NASA turned to US companies for astronaut rides after the space shuttles were retired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has made nine taxi trips for NASA since 2020, while Boeing has managed only a pair of unoccupied test flights. Boeing program manager Mark Nappi wishes Starliner was further along. There’s no doubt about that, but we’re here now.

The company’s long-awaited astronaut demo is slated for liftoff Monday night. Provided this tryout goes well, NASA will alternate between Boeing and SpaceX to get astronauts to and from the space station.

A look at the newest ride and its shakedown cruise:

The capsule

White with black and blue trim, Boeing’s Starliner capsule is about 10 feet (3 metres) tall and 15 feet (4.5 metres) in diameter. It can fit up to seven people, though NASA crews typically will number four. The company settled on the name Starliner nearly a decade ago, a twist on the name of Boeing’s early Stratoliner and the current Dreamliner.

No one was aboard Boeing’s two previous Starliner test flights. The first, in 2019, was hit with software trouble so severe that its empty capsule couldn’t reach the station until the second try in 2022. Then last summer, weak parachutes and flammable tape cropped up that needed to be fixed or removed.

The crew

Veteran NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are retired Navy captains who spent months aboard the space station years ago. They joined the test flight afternthe original crew bowed out as the delays piled up. Wilmore, 61, is a former combat pilot from Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and Williams, 58, is a helicopter pilot from Needham, Massachusetts.

The duo have been involved in the capsule’s development and insist Starliner is ready for prime time, otherwise they would not strap in for the launch.

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FSSAI Denounces Allegations of Elevated Pesticide Levels on Indian Herbs and Spices as ‘False and Malicious’



The CIB and RC regulate the manufacturing, import, transport, and storage of pesticides, and accordingly, pesticides are registered, banned, or restricted.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) refuted media reports claiming that it allowed higher pesticide residues in herbs and spices. Terming the reports “false and malicious,” the food safety regulator, through a press note, asserted that India has one of the most stringent standards of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in the world, and MRLs of pesticides are fixed differently for different food commodities based on their risk assessments.

In India, pesticides are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA and FW) through the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB and RC), constituted under the Insecticide Act, 1968. The CIB and RC regulate the manufacturing, import, transport, and storage of pesticides, and accordingly, pesticides are registered, banned, or restricted. The Scientific Panel on Pesticide Residues of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) examines the data received through CIB and RC and recommends the MRLs after performing a risk assessment considering the dietary consumption of the Indian population and health concerns in respect of all age groups, the FSSAI said.

Total pesticides registered by CIB and RC in India are more than 295, out of which 139 pesticides are registered for use in spices. Codex has adopted a total 243 pesticides, out of which 75 are applicable to spices. A pesticide is registered on many food commodities with different MRLs based on risk assessment data. For instance, the use of monocrotophos is allowed on many crops with different MRLs, such as rice at 0.03 mg/kg, citrus fruits at 0.2 mg/kg, coffee beans at 0.1 mg/kg, cardamom at 0.5 mg/kg, and chilli at 0.2 mg/ kg.

The MRL of 0.01 mg/kg was applicable in the case of pesticides for which MRLs have not been fixed. This limit was increased to 0.1 mg/kg only in cases of spices and is applicable only for those pesticides that are not registered in India by CIB and RC. One pesticide or insecticide is used in more than 10 crops with different MRLs. For example, flubendiamide is used in Brinjal with an MRL of 0.1, whereas for Bengal Gramme the MRL is 1.0 mg/kg, for Cabbage 4 mg/kg, for Tomato 2 mg/kg, and for Tea it is 50 mg/kg.

Similarly, monocrotophos is used for food grains with MRLs at 0.03 mg/kg, for citrus fruits at 0.2 mg/kg, for dried chilli at 2 mg/kg, and for cardamom at 0.5 mg/kg. “The MRLs are dynamic in nature and regularly revised based on scientific data. This practice is aligned with global standards and ensures that MRL revisions are made on a scientifically valid basis, reflecting the latest findings and international norms,” FSSAI said.

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