New Delhi: The government on Tuesday raised the housing loan ceiling for availing one per cent interest subsidy to Rs 15 lakh from existing Rs 10 lakh, a decision that will benefit borrowers by up to Rs 14,865 per annum.

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A meeting of the Union Cabinet approved the proposal to give one per cent interest subsidy for home loans of up to Rs 15 lakh provided the actual cost of the house is not exceeding Rs 25 lakh.

Under a scheme introduced in 2009, home loan borrowers are getting one per cent interest subsidy on home loans of up to Rs 10 lakh, provided the cost of the house did not exceed Rs 20 lakh.

"A budgetary provision of Rs 500 crore has been made for the financial year 2011-12 for implementing the scheme," the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

With the increase in housing loan ceiling, the limit of subsidy for an individual borrower would go up to Rs 14,865 per year for a loan of Rs 15 lakh on reducing balance basis from the present limit of Rs 9,910 for a loan of Rs 10 lakh, Soni said.

The government has designated the National Housing Bank as the nodal agency for implementing the scheme both for scheduled commercial banks and housing finance companies, the Minister said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget Speech this year had announced liberalisation of the existing scheme of one per cent interest subvention on housing loans.

The existing scheme of one per cent interest subvention of housing loan up to Rs 10 lakh provided the cost of the housing unit does not exceed Rs 20 lakh was approved by the Cabinet in September 2009, she said.

The scheme provides interest subsidy on housing loans as a measure to generate additional demand for credit and to improve affordability of housing in the lower and middle income groups, Soni said.

Plan for Optical Fibre Network approved

Aimed at providing broadband connectivity to Panchayats, the government on Tuesday approved the scheme of creating a national optical fibre network, which will help in offering governance, banking and health services online.

"The objective of the scheme is to extend the existing optical fibre network which is available up to district/block headquarter level to the gram panchayat level initially by utilising the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)," DoT Secretary R Chandrasekhar told reporters here.

The cost of this initial phase of the scheme is likely to be about Rs 20,000 crore and the target is to complete it in two years, he added.

Initially, the broadband project will be executed by state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and other institutions like RailTel. Later on BSNL, Power Grid and Gas Authority of India would also be made partners, he added.

According to telecom regulator TRAI, the number of broadband subscribers at the end of August 2011 stood at 12.69 million.

Rs 3k crore capital infusion in Nabard

The government on Tuesday approved Rs 3,000-crore capital infusion over a period of two years in National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to help the lender mobilise higher resources from the market.

The Union Cabinet approved the proposal for augmenting the capital base of Nabard by infusing Rs 3,000 crore, as the government equity in two installments of Rs 1,000 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 2,000 crore during 2012-13, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said here.

This would raise the paid up capital of the apex agriculture and rural development bank to Rs 5,000 crore, she said after the Cabinet meeting.

As per RBI's guidelines, the outstanding total resources mobilised at any point of time by a Financial Institution should not exceed 10 times its Net Owned Funds (NOF).

The Government of India holds 99 per cent share capital of Nabard. It is to be noted that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) divested its 71.5 per cent stake in Nabard to the government last year.

Nod to raise India's quota in IMF

The government also approved a proposal to increase the country's contribution to IMF, which would make it the 8th largest shareholder in the Washington-based multilateral agency.

The Cabinet's approval to increase India's quota in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) follows Fourteenth General Review of Quotas of the agency.

"India's quota share at the IMF will increase from 2.44 per cent to 2.75 per cent, making it the 8th largest quota holding country at the IMF," Ambika Soni said after the Cabinet meet.

Significantly, India's gain in terms of quota share is the 7th largest in 14th round of quota review.

In absolute terms, New Delhi's quota will increase from SDR (special drawing right) 5,821.5 million to SDR 13,114.4 million.

All the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries would now be among the 10 largest quota shareholders at the IMF.

GSI restructuring gets nod

Accepting the recommendations of a High Powered Committee (HPC) constituted to review the functioning of Geological Survey of India, the government on Tuesday approved GSI's restructuring by filling up vacant posts.

The decision was taken on Monday at a meeting of the Union Cabinet meeting here, Ambika Soni said.

"The cadre restructuring will address the acute stagnation, improve career growth and consequently attract talent to the sector," Soni said.

The restructuring will facilitate GSI to effectively function in mission mode with well defined objectives, encourage individual and group development and facilitate specialisation, she said.

The Cabinet also approved constitution of Geophysics, Chemistry, Engineering and Science and Technology streams as organised services to bring them on par with the geology stream.

Regional centre for biotechnology

The Government has also approved enactment of legislation for establishment of a regional centre for biotechnology training and education to produce quality human resource in disciplinary and inter-disciplinary areas.

The decision to set up such a centre has been taken in view of the global recognition of modern biotechnology as a rapid advancing science where molecular techniques are employed to develop health care solutions for human and animal sector and for other areas, it said.

The proposed centre would create physical infrastructure in critical platform technologies to support inter-disciplinary education training and research in biotechnology for providing interface between different areas to help molecular breeding, bio-energy and green technologies.

The centre will work in collaboration with other centres of UNESCO and carry out its programmes through grants provided by the government, it added.

Rs 1,835 crore for road projects in AP, Orissa

The Central government on Tuesday approved two projects of widening of National Highways in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa entailing a total investment of about Rs 1,835 crore under its flagship road building programme NHDP.

The Cabinet Committee of Infrastructure (CCI) approved projects for four laning of Vijayawada-Machlipatnam section of NH 9 in Andhra Pradesh and four/two laning of Birmitrapur-Barkote section on NH 23 in Orissa under National Highways Development Project (NHDP) phase IV-A, an official release said.

"The total estimated cost of the project (Andhra Pradesh) is Rs 736 crore ... The total estimated cost of the project (Orissa) is Rs 1,098.90 crore...," the release said.

On land acquisition, resettlement, rehabilitation and pre-construction, Rs 130 crore and Rs 320.75 crore will be spent on Andhra Pradesh and Orissa projects, respectively.
Both the projects will be built on design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis in BOT (Toll) mode of delivery.

On the Orissa project, which is based in Sundargah and Deogarh districts, it said the concession period is 23 years including construction period of 30 months for 125.61 km scheme.