Goa, Lakshadweep get new air link, passenger traffic in Feb ‘24 down 2.9 % from Jan - Business Guardian
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Goa, Lakshadweep get new air link, passenger traffic in Feb ‘24 down 2.9 % from Jan

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The country’s regional air connectivity scheme (UDAN) has taken another leap in the Government’s aim to extend its reach to tier 2 & 3 cities, with Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia on Tuesday inaugurating Fly91, a regional airline and flagging off its maidan flight between Manohar International Airport (MOPA), Goa and Agatti Islands, Lakshadweep.
The initiative is in line with the Government’s commitment to connect such cities through the UDAN scheme and the aviation industry’s target to raise domestic traffic to 30 crore by 2030 which was just 6 crore in 2014. The scheduled flights will commence from 18 March 2024, between Manohar International Airport, Goa and Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jalgaon, Agatti, Pune, Nanded and from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune to Sindhudurg, Jalgaon, Nanded and Goa, in a phased manner. These new connections will fulfil the demand for enhanced connectivity across the nation and increased accessibility of different regions which is needed to boost domestic air passenger traffic. A study of monthly data for the aviation industry for February 2024 by ICRA Ratings estimates domestic air passenger traffic for February 2024 at 127.5 lakh, lower by 2.9 per cent in comparison to 131.3 lakh in January 2024. However, it witnessed a YoY growth of 5.7 per cent in comparison to 120.7 lakh in February 2023 and was higher by 3.4 per cent on pre-COVID levels of 123.3 lakh in February 2020.

For 11 months of FY2024 (April-February 2024), the domestic air passenger traffic stood at 1,404.11 lakh, reflecting a YoY growth of 14 per cent over 11 months of FY2023 (April-February 2023), wherein the traffic stood at 1,230.00 lakh and 5 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels (i.e., April-February 2020) of 1,337.16 lakh. The airlines’ capacity deployment in February
2024 was higher by 3.4 per cent than that of February 2023 and was lower by 5.6 per cent in comparison to the pre-COVID levels (February 2020). It is estimated that the domestic aviation industry operated at a passenger load factor (PLF) of 90 per cent in February 2024, against 88 per cent in February 2023 and 88 per cent in February 2020 (pre-COVID levels).

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Legally Speaking

Supreme Court holds off on decision in Baba Ramdev contempt case

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The Supreme Court has deferred its decision on a contempt notice issued against yoga guru Ramdev, his associate Balkrishna, and their company Patanjali Ayurved in connection with a case involving misleading advertisements. The bench, comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, stated, “Orders on the contempt notice issued to respondents 5 to 7 (Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Balkrishna, and Ramdev) are reserved.” The Uttarakhand State Licensing Authority (SLA) informed the court that manufacturing licenses for 14 products of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd and Divya Pharmacy have been suspended immediately. The Supreme Court noted that the counsel representing the firm had requested time to submit an affidavit detailing the actions taken to retract the advertisements of Patanjali products and to recall the medicines.

Highlighting the importance of public awareness and responsible influence, the court emphasized that Baba Ramdev wields significant influence and should employ it responsibly. It awaits an affidavit from Patanjali outlining the measures implemented to withdraw the existing misleading advertisements of the company’s products, with instructions for submission within three weeks.

During the proceedings, Indian Medical Association (IMA) President R V Asokan extended an unconditional apology to the bench for remarks made against the top court in a recent interview with news agency PTI. Justice Kohli conveyed to Asokan that public figures cannot criticize the court in media interviews. However, the court indicated its disinclination to accept the apology affidavit submitted by the IMA president at present. In an earlier hearing on May 7, the apex court had denounced Asokan’s statements as “very, very unacceptable.” The court reiterated its stance that celebrities and social media influencers are equally liable for the products they endorse, warning that if such products are found to be misleading, they could face repercussions.

The case stems from a plea filed in 2022 by the IMA alleging a smear campaign by Patanjali against the Covid-19 vaccination drive and modern medical systems. As the legal proceedings unfold, the Supreme Court continues to emphasize the importance of accountability and responsible conduct in advertising and public discourse. The case underscores the need for stringent regulations to curb misleading advertisements and ensure consumer protection. With the demand for transparency and ethical practices on the rise, the judiciary plays a pivotal role in upholding standards of integrity in commercial communications.

As the court awaits the submission of the affidavit from Patanjali, stakeholders across industries are keenly observing the developments, anticipating their implications on advertising practices and regulatory enforcement in the country.

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Vantage Markets & Cristina Gutierrez Honor Moms

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Gutierrez’s exceptional success in motorsport is rooted in her deep connection to her mother’s guidance, which she gratefully acknowledges as the foundation of her journey.

Vantage Markets, a prominent multi-asset broker, is joining in the celebration of Mother’s Day alongside NEOM McLaren Extreme E Driver, Cristina Gutierrez, emphasizing the significance of family support and values in her successful career. In an exclusive interview with Vantage, Gutierrez attributes her championship journey to the values instilled by her mother, highlighting perseverance, loyalty, and the importance of family as guiding principles. She reminisces about her first Dakar Rally experience in 2017, where her mother’s presence made the achievement particularly memorable for the entire family. Despite her remarkable achievements in motorsport, Gutierrez remains deeply connected to her mother’s guidance and wisdom, acknowledging her roots and expressing gratitude for the experiences life has offered her.

Vantage extends warm wishes to all mothers and their families on Mother’s Day, with Marc Despallieres, Chief Strategy and Trading Officer, emphasizing Gutierrez’s journey as a testament to maternal support and guidance. Vantage’s celebration follows their recent International Women’s Day campaign with Gutierrez, amplifying messages of empowerment and inclusion.

Vantage Markets, also known as Vantage, offers clients access to a diverse range of trading products, including Forex, Commodities, Indices, Shares, ETFs, and Bonds. With over 13 years of market experience, Vantage provides a trusted trading ecosystem and user-friendly platforms, empowering clients to seize trading opportunities.

As Vantage continues to champion diversity and inclusion, they proudly support Gutierrez and mothers worldwide, recognizing the invaluable role of family support in personal and professional success. This heartfelt celebration underscores the enduring bond between mothers and their children, highlighting the influence of family values in shaping individuals’ lives and careers.

On this special occasion of Mother’s Day, Vantage Markets, in collaboration with NEOM McLaren Extreme E Driver Cristina Gutierrez, takes a moment to honor the profound impact of maternal support and guidance. Gutierrez’s journey to championship glory serves as a poignant reminder of the role mothers play in shaping their children’s destinies. As Gutierrez reflects on her achievements, she attributes much of her success to the core values instilled by her mother: perseverance, loyalty, and the importance of family. These principles have not only propelled her forward on the racetrack but have also guided her through life’s challenges.

One particularly memorable moment Gutierrez shares is her first Dakar Rally experience in 2017, where her mother’s presence made the triumph all the more meaningful. The shared joy of accomplishment underscored the tight-knit bond that exists within their family, leaving an indelible mark on Gutierrez’s heart. Despite her ascent to motorsport stardom, Gutierrez remains grounded in her roots, cherishing the wisdom and guidance passed down by her mother. She expresses gratitude for the lessons learned and the unwavering support that continues to fuel her journey.

Vantage Markets extends heartfelt wishes to all mothers and their families, recognizing the immeasurable contributions they make every day. Chief Strategy and Trading Officer Marc Despallieres emphasizes Gutierrez’s story as a testament to maternal love and encouragement, echoing sentiments of empowerment and inclusion.

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International Affairs

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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