Vibrant Gujarat Campaign

Received an e-mail from Narendra Modi as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Campaign.

Consultants queue up for CST Makeover

The process of redeveloping the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) moved a step forward as the railway ministry accepted final bids from seven consultants to prepare a feasibility report for the public-private-partnership (PPP) project.The historic station, used by almost 8 lakh people everyday, is spread over 63 acres. With 20 acres of vacant land available on the eastern side along the P D’Mello Road, the railways want to come up with a modern station complex integrated with the original heritage structure of CST. There are plans to develop the surplus land at Carnac Bunder, with the possibility of exploiting the free airspace, to optimise revenue needed to redevelop CST.P K Agarwal, executive director at the railway ministry, confirmed that railways had received seven bids from consultants to study the technical and financial viability of redeveloping CST into a worldclass station.“We will finalise the consultant as soon as possible. The consultant would have 26 weeks to prepare the report,’’ said Agarwal. Sources said the ministry would choose the consultant based on the experience of team members, reputation of the firm and methodology suggested to prepare the report. The selected consultant would have to depute a chief architect who, in turn, would head the team of experts in station layout, construction, transport planning, local governance and environment.Railway officials said the report would have to answer several problems like queues at booking counters, no segregation of in-bound and outbound passengers in both suburban and outstation sections, lack of circulation space and waiting rooms, inadequate arrangement for waste disposal, hygiene and drainage.“The report would have to come up with a masterplan that can ensure smooth flow of trains, passengers, freight and parcel. The redeveloped station needs to accommodate simple concerns like parking and modern amenities,’’ said a Central Railway official.

Mahindra snaps up Kinetic

Mahindra and Mahindra, famous for its utility vehicles and tractors, has fuelled up for the two-wheeler market. Confirming speculation about its planned foray into the two-wheeler space, the diversified business house announced its new plans as it bought the business assets of the struggling Pune-based Kinetic Motor (KMCL). Analysts, however, refused to buy the company’s bullishness and said it would be tough going for Mahindra in the fiercely competitive two-wheeler business.Mahindra, which reported a 16.6% drop in its Q1 net profits, said it would own 80% of a firm that would buy the assets of KMCL for Rs 110 crore while Kinetic would hold the rest. “The acquisition of business assets of KMCL will make us a fullrange player with a presence in almost every segment of the automobile industry,’’ said Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman and MD of Mahindra.

Telecom Snapshot

Remembering Mumbai's 26th July Deluge

Three long years after the July 26, 2005 deluge, the dreadful memories of “Black Tuesday” return to haunt the mind as soon as a few heavy showers hit the city.The rain pounded the city ruthlessly that day inundating it with 944 mm of rainfall and killing over 450 people. As a result, government agencies have started issuing prompt alerts, warning people not to venture out of their house unless it is extremely necessary.The agencies promptly alert the citizens but they have failed to display the same promptness in acting on the promises made by them. Immediately after the deluge, the State government, which had always been casual about the problems of water-logging in the city and towards complaints about choked drains got into action mode. It formed committees and special cells to tackle similar eventualities in future. It undertook a special project to clean the infamous Mithi river, which had caused flooding on a very large scale.There has been a percentage development in the cleaning up of Mithi, the main culprit, but the other commitments and promises made by the state are still untouched.
Mithi work just half way The work on Mithi too was delayed inordinately. Till now, around 80 per cent of the desilting work has been completed. Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the lackadaisical attitude of the government about the cleaning up of Mithi and introducing measures to prevent recurrence of the delugelike disaster, had alleged that contractors were adopting corrupt practices. “Desilting and other work should have been completed by now. But it has not been done. Sustained followup and the fear of the high court have given a momentum to the Mithi work. Even then, after three years, it has only reached the half-way mark.
In the current year, MMRDA removed 16.4 lakh cubic metres of silt, 12.5 lakh cubic metres to various dumping grounds,” said Somaiya.The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has, however, completed a major part of the work of removal and transportation of silt in its section of the Mithi. But the differences between the BMC and the MMRDA over the cleaning of the river have delayed much of the work. The BMC claims that almost eight lakh cubic metres of silt have been removed and transported in three years. “As a precautionary measure, the BMC is constructing retaining walls on both sides of the Mithi river. The work is expected to be completed next year,” a BMC official said.
The Central Water and Power Research Station (CW PRS), Pune, and the Centre for Environmental Science Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai had formulated recommendations and important guidelines in connection with the Mithi River Development Project. They had recommended that all the bridges/ crossings maintain the width of the river, either by reconstruction or repositioning of the ducts and/or removal of debris from the riverbed. They also said the bridge on S.V. Road near Mahim Bay be widened.
Though the measures have been initiated by the BMC, the vital work of widening and reconstruction of the Mithi riverbed is yet to start. It is vital that the work is given a push so that it gathers momentum. Widening of Mithi has been done along a 19-km stretch.The work on the remaining 2 km remains to be completed. If it is further delayed and if the city experiences heavy rain, there could be another deluge,” said Somaiya. “The State concentrated only on the Mithi, the main trouble maker. But what about other rivers that had contributed to the deluge? The desilting and other work on Dahisar, Poisar, Oshiwara, Waldhuni and Ulhas has not started. The State had been assuring immediate steps. It had made many announcements but done nothing in the past 36 months,” Somaiya alleged.
The Centre had sanctioned grants for a BRIMSTOWAD project. But no work has begun. The Centre had released Rs400 crore for this year for the Rs1,200-crore Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage project. An outlay of Rs100 crore has been proposed for 2008-09.
The action plan was ready last year and the tendering process has been completed but the actual work is still to start.
Men missing After the dreaded deluge, more that 135 persons went missing. Subsequently 82 bodies were recovered from various areas. However, as many as 28 persons are still missing and 20 bodies left unclaimed with Mumbai police.
Air India Colony at Kalina is flooded every monsoon. But July 26/7 was a horrifying experience for the residents. The Air-India and Indian Airlines employees’ colonies were submerged in 12-foot deep water.The colony went without food, water and electricity for four days.
“The colony was submerged because three of the four drainage outlets near it were choked. The BMC immediately took up the work of cleaning the drainage lines. However, only one has been cleaned in three years,” said T.K. Deb, secretary of Air India Colony.“We tried to increase the plinth level of our homes.Around 200 flats on the ground floor were vacated. The residents there were shifted to other flats in the colony. But to add to their problem, the MIAL too increased the level of its runway. So the next time it rains continuously, we fear we will have to face another 26/7,” Deb said.
After the deluge, the BMC had decided to implement the recommendations of the Chitale Committee, which had suggested the following Preparation of contour maps, which would include a complete picture of Mumbai’s drainage and sewerage systems vis-à-vis the city’s physical contours. The work of preparing the maps was entrusted to the National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad. After three years, the BMC is now trying to revive the twice-rejected plan.
Installation of rain gauges at 26 places in wards after discuaaion with consultants.One rain gauge was installed by the BMC at Malabar Hill as a pilot project to measure rainfall and water levels. To measure rainfall, the BMC had decided to spend Rs1 billion on pre-monsoon work. It was to comprise six search and rescue (SAR) teams armed with inflatable rubber speed boats and 12 kayaks for Karla, Santa Cruz, Bandra, Borivali, Marol, Dharavi and Byculla fire stations.
Installation of a hi-tech Doppler radar to better predict rain, removal of encroachments on drains, cross-drainage connectivity, creation of social awareness and participation of residents of low-lying areas, beside cleaning of drains and the Mithi river. The measures are yet to be fully implemented.
Desilting work, improving the storm water drainage system and renovating the old system.
Constructing pumping stations and installing pumps to drain out water.Shefali Deshmukh, a resident of Parel, said. “Postdeluge, it is clear that redevelopment of Mumbai city needs a planned sectoral method, not haphazard, as has happened so far. Remaking of Mumbai federation is taking the joint venture route for faster and better planned growth, while releasing enough funds for much-needed upgradation of infrastructure,” said convener of the RoMF, Lalit Gandhi, who is the CMD of Lok Housing and Constructions Limited.
CLOUDBURST FACTS Rainfall Santa Cruz (in mm)
By 11.30am 0.9
By 2.30pm 19.3
By 5.30pm 400.1
By 8.30pm 667.7
By 11.30pm 768.8
By 2.30am 885.0
By 5.30am 896.0
By 8.30am 944.2
DEATH TOLL till Aug 12, 2005 Mumbai 454 dead 20 injured Navi Mumbai 66 dead 22 injured 14 missing Thane 226 dead 19 injured 15 missing .

The N Deal Debate

Sulabh adopts Kalawati

A leading non-government organisation (NGO), Sulabh International, has decided to give Rs 3 lakh in August this year to Kalawati Bandurkar, the Maharashtra-based widow with nine children whose grim plight was narrated by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in the Parliament.
The NGO, which has done some major work in the area of sanitation, has decided to adopt Kalawati.She will get Rs 25,000 per month for the next 20 years from the Patna-headquartered voluntary organisation. “Rs 300,000 is what amounts to a year’s payment to Kalawati, and we have decided to give this money to her in August.We will get an account opened in her name in the nearest branch of a nationalised bank,” Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International said.He said his organisation would put Rs 3.3 million in her account some time next year as a fixed deposit, which will give her Rs 25,000 per month as interest for the next 19 years.
Kalawati’s family has been in dire straits after her farmer-husband committed suicide three years ago in his village in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra.
Rahul Gandhi referred to two poor families of Shashi Kala and Kalawati in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra in his speech during the trust vote in the Lok Sabha on July 22.Stating that there was no electricity in the duo’s houses, Gandhi sought to link the power situation in the country, especially in rural areas, with poverty alleviation and the need for nuclear energy.Kalawati, with seven daughters and two sons, was left with a nine-acre plot of farmland, which she used for cultivating cotton and soybean, according to Gandhi.As Vidarbha region has been in the grip of prolonged drought, Kalawati, like many others, did not find the output from her land enough to take care of her family.

RBI hikes Rates

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its quarterly review of the credit policy on Tuesday gave a clear indication that its monetary stance is aimed at containing inflation.The central bank, it seems, is willing to sacrifice growth for slaying the dragon of inflation.Inflation has remained in the double-digit arena for past six weeks, adding to the woes of the ruling coalition as it enters its last year in office.
RBI raised Repo rate by 50 basis points (bps) from 8.5 per cent to 9 per cent with immediate effect, increased the cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 25 bps to 9 per cent from the existing 8.75 per cent, with effect from the fortnight beginning August 30.The Repo rate is the rate at which banks are allowed to access funds from the RBI for liquidity adjustment. These measures are expected to suck up an estimated Rs 8,000 crore from the banking system.
Releasing the first quarter review of annual statement on the monetary policy for 2008-09, the central bank also revised its GDP growth projection for 2008-09 from the range of 8.0-8.5 per cent to around 8 per cent, barring domestic or external shocks.However, the apex bank kept bank rate and reverse Repo rate unchanged at 6 per cent. While the policy action would aim to bring down the current intolerable level of inflation to a tolerable level of below 5 per cent as soon as possible and around 3 per cent over the medium-term, RBI said, “At this juncture a realistic policy endeavour would be to bring down inflation from the current level of about 11-12 per cent to a level close to 7 per cent by March 31, 2009.’’ Referring to the emergence of any adverse and unexpected developments in various sectors of the economy, the central bank said it will continue to ensure a monetary and interest rate environment that accords high priority to price stability, well-anchored inflation expectations and orderly conditions in financial markets while being conducive to continuation of the growth momentum.The finance ministry commended the Reserve Bank of India’s stance on credit policy and hoped that the steps taken by it will bring down the price to a moderate level.It noted that on Monday in its first quarter review, the Reserve Bank of India had stated that potential inflationary pressure from international food and energy prices are likely to remain so for some time.
“Consistent with this conclusion, RBI has today increased the Repo rate by 50 bps and, with effect from August 30, 2008, the CRR by 25 bps. Government expects that the measures taken by RBI, in continuation of the measures already taken over the last two months, will help in moderating and containing inflation,” an official statement said.

The Way to go

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has listed three Indian success stories among 50 case studies from all over the globe of businesses which have ameliorated the living conditions of the poor without compromising on profit making.In a report entitled ‘Creating value for all: Strategies for doing business with the poor’ released, case studies demonstrate how companies have expanded beyond traditional business practices and brought in the world’s poor as partners in growth and wealth creation. The three Indian case studies which have gone in for inclusive business model relate to the Sulabh experiment, a sanitation company which has developed low-cost toilets for the poor, the Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital group in Bangalore which has made huge profit while meeting the needs of the poor patients, and the New Tripur Areas Development Corporation, a newly formed company to tackle the water and sewage problems of a textile-based economy town. The presentation of the study was made by V Kasturi Rangan, the Malcolam P McNair prof of marketing and director of research at the Havard Business School, and Sabha Sobhani, a co-author of the report. Introducing the Report, Maxine Olson, UNDP resident representative and UN resident cordinator, said, ‘’Inclusive markets capture a business approach to scale and replicability offer the best promise of bridging the gap between the constraints of today and the promise of tomorrow.’’ The report brings out how Sulabh has developed low-cost toilets for use among the poor, freeing up 60,000 people from work of scavengers in the field of human waste removal.Overall, ten million people have benefitted from the toilets in homes and public places.
Rangan said, ‘’Business with the poor can be profitable and sometimes even more profitable than business with the rich.’’ In this regard, he cited the case of Narayana Hospital, a cardiac health care provider to the poor. The hospital has earned a profit of 20 per cent, almost four percentage point more than the country’s largest private hospitals.
In Tamil Nadu, the local government entered into a joint venture with the local export associaiton--Tripur Exporters association-- and a private sector financing organisation-IL&FS--to create a water company. The new entity is involved in tackling water and sewage problems of the industrial town.The corporation has installed and also operates the water and sewage system, which is financed exclusively with commercial returns. The textile companies benefitted from improved water services.

Goldman Sachs reduces India's Growth Forecast

Global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs has reduced India’s growth forecast for fiscal year 2010 to 7.2 per cent from 8.2 per cent earlier due to a weak investment outlook on account of rising interest rates, it said in a note on Monday. Investment has been an important driver for growth in recent years, contributing to nearly half of total GDP growth in fiscal year 2008, the investment bank said.“With significantly higher rates than at the start of the year, we expect financing issues to become a key hurdle, especially for new investment plans,” Tushar Poddar and Pranjul Bhandari, economists at Goldman Sachs, said in the note. However, the growth forecast for FY09 remains unchanged at 7.8 per cent.“The government has imparted a massive fiscal stimulus by means of greater spending on a rural employment scheme, a debt waiver to farmers, and wage hike to civil servants. These will continue to bolster demand and growth,” they wrote.
Goldman Sachs has also raised its inflation forecast for both FY09 and FY10. For FY09, the forecast has been raised to 11.5 per cent from 10 per cent earlier, while for FY10 it has been increased to 5.3 per cent from 4.7 per cent earlier.India’s annual inflation rate was holding just below 12 per cent in mid-July, data showed on Thursday.Inflation is likely to come off in FY10, due to weakening demand driving growth below potential, a slowdown in the in 2009. rate of change of commodity prices, a favourable monsoon, well-anchored inflationary expectations, ongoing productivity change and a very high base from 2008.
Goldman’s forecast for the rupee for three, six and twelve months remains unchanged at 43.9, 44.1 and 42.2 respectively against the dollar.High oil prices are expected to continue to worsen the current account deficit and put depreciating pressures on the rupee in the near term.
“Over a 12-month period, however, we expect the rupee to appreciate as inflation begins to come off and becomes a catalyst for more sustained in?ows,” wrote Poddar and Bhandari.
The monetary policy would continue to remain tight in 2008, but start easing gradually .

CYG goes Green

Nearly 500 slums in Pune will receive 200 Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs and an equal amount of saplings free of cost as part of a unique ‘Paryavaran Mitra’ campaign launched by the organising committee of Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) to conserve energy.The purpose behind the drive, started by CYG under its Green Games initiative is to create awareness about energy conservation. The official mascot 'Jigrr 'distributed CFL bulbs and saplings among the slum dwellers of Mawale Ali, Karve Nagar.Present on the occasion were advisor to CYG Adityan Kumar, Shantanu Dixit of Prayas, Babita Prakash of WNS, Narendra Chawhan and the convener of 'Paryawaran Mitra' and Chairman of NGO Sarathi Shankar Kalmani. The campaign is being supported by University of Pune (UoP), Indian Medical Association (IMA) Pune charter, British Gas and WNS.Commenting on the campaign Kalmani said, “The main objective of the program is to create sensitivity among people to conserve energy. To make the campaign effective street plays were also performed to make the people awre about power shortage and effects of global warming” Around 1,100 volunteers comprising doctors, engineers, advocates and software engineers will work on the programme. IMA has dedicated 100 doctors for the campaign with each slum being allotted 25 volunteers each. The volunteers are expected to give the slums a cleaner and greener look with the best slum being feted at the CYG games.

Provident Fund goes Private

The Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) selected three private fund managers, along with India’s largest commercial bank, State Bank of India, to manage its corpus of Rs 240,000 crore.The organisation’s trustees selected the asset management companies of HSBC, ICICI Prudential and Reliance Capital, along with that of the SBI, to manage the fund that has 44 million members.The finance and investment committee (FIC) of the organisation’s trustees had earlier recommended the three private players as fund managers after they were found to be the lowest bidders, officials said.In April, the EPFO invited bids from state-run and private fund managers to manage its flagship scheme, and it received bids from 22 firms.Until now EPF funds have been managed by state-run SBI, but the government now wants to foster competition.
“Now the fund will be better and professionally managed,” Sudha Pillai, secretary at the ministry of labour and member of the EBP board said.

West blames India,China for breakdown of Doha Talks

India blamed the rich nations for their rigid stand on subsidies but said collapse of global trade talks here should be considered as a “pause” and not a “breakdown” of WTO negotiations.
Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said that India sought strong safeguards for its farmers from heavily subsidised imports from the developed nations which themselves have resorted to restricting trade for helping their agriculture sector.
Nath said except on special safeguard mechanism, the trade ministers had converged on several other contentious issues. These convergences should be kept on the table. “I would urge the director-general to treat this as a pause and not a breakdown and to keep on the table what is there,” he said. Nath said the developing countries have to guard themselves against import of subsidised products.
Gruelling negotiations by 30 trade ministers ended in a failure on Tuesday after the US, India and China found themselves in deadlock over the trigger point for levying duties in case of import surges of farm products.Nath, who remained extensively engaged in the core group of seven nations, said that he represented not only India’s interest but concerns of over 100 developing and least developed countries.
“I thought we cannot put at stake the livelihood security of one billion people in various (developing) countries,” he said.Nath said WTO “is not a buffet that you can pick up what you want and go.”

India set to lead Media,Entertainment Sectors

The $2.2-trillion global entertainment and media in the next four years will be spearheaded by India and China, whose economies have started bristling with disposable incomes and an urbanised middle-class.This is amidst a surprising scenario where the US remains the largest but slowest growing market in the sector. The new scenario will also be driven by a huge amount of strategic alliances in the industry. ‘’We’re seeing a new business model solidify for entertainment and media companies,’’ said Marcel Fenez, managing partner, Global Entertainment and Media practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Asia-Pacific and Latin America will be the fastest growing with the double-digit increases expected in each region for internet advertising, internet access spending, TV subscription and licence fees, casino and other regulated gaming and video games. Latin America will total $85 billion by 2012, up from $51 billion in 2007 advancing from a relatively small base at 10.6 per cent of the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR). Spending in Asia-Pacific will average 8.8 per cent CAGR, the second highest in any region, increasing from $333 billion in 2007 to $508 billion in 2012. Europe, Middle East and Africa will expand 6.8 per cent CAGR to reach $792 billion

SAFTA :Colombo Hopeful

As hosts of the 15th Saarc summit on Saturday and Sunday, Sri Lanka believes that the much talked about South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) is finally getting off the ground and moving from the declaration phase to its implementation after more than two decades since the fledgling South Asian grouping was formed in 1985.
“Safta became a reality in Colombo and the member states have returned to this island state for its implementation,” emphasised Sri Lanka’s international trade minister G L Peris to media persons in Colombo.
He maintained that a host of critical issues like the environment, climate change, energy security, food security and the continuing menace of terrorism will figure prominently in the deliberations among the heads of state or government.
Sri Lanka is convinced that the summit will witness a turning point in its nascent history.
“There will be progression from adopting declarations to actual implementation of the grouping’s intent in giving an impetus for mutually beneficial and direly needed developmental endeavours,” insisted a senior official in the Sri Lankan foreign ministry.
The Colombo Declaration on Food Security will be signed during the concluding session of the summit on Sunday.
The Saarc standing committee is categorical that Colombo will witness a shift in the spirit and level of cooperation among the member states in taking the “Partnership for the People” theme forward.
Simultaneously, the Saarc leaders are expected to formalise the setting up of the SDF or Saarc Development Fund, an umbrella develop- mental financial institution for the grouping. Mutual as- sistance in criminal matters is also expected to be firmed up.
The meeting of the foreign ministers gets under way Thursday which will prepare the groundwork for the summiteers.
Sri Lankan sources disclosed that on the expansion of Saarc there was an informal discussion.
The debate on this question might crop up at a later stage. There were seven members of Saarc when it came into existence 23 years ago and last year Afghanistan was inducted as the eighth member.
Prior to that in 2005, the grouping invited countries like the United States, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Korea and Mauritius as ob- servers. Concern has been ex- pressed in certain quarters that countries which are outside South Asia should be excluded from Saarc to be effective.
Meanwhile, the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) met Wednesday and focussed on allowing mass media products to be distributed among the member countries.
The Right to Information was recognised by the international com munity and freedom of information was a fundamental right.
Safma noted that nearly all Saarc countries recognised the need for freedom of information laws but their initiatives required to be reinforced.
More than one hundred journalists including scribes from Afghanistan had gathered here under the Safma banner.


Happy Birthday JRD

KingCong !

Reliance Retail ties up with Hamleys

Reliance Retail has clinched a deal with the world’s largest toy shop, Hamleys. India’s largest private conglomerate will be the partner in one of the biggest international expansions by the 250-year-old Hamleys till date.Sources said Hamleys and Reliance have struck a franchise deal to open large format stores. Reliance Retail is believed to have pipped the Wadias and Kishore Biyani’s Future Group in snapping up the deal.The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance and the Icelandic investor Baugur Group-controlled Hamleys are expected to make a joint announcement shortly. Reliance had also explored an arrangement with the US chain Toys ‘R Us before deciding to strike a deal with Hamleys. Hamleys’ foray into a potentially big market like India could be interesting. The seven-storey Hamleys store on London’s Regent Street is one of the top tourist draws. Despite its cult appeal globally, Hamleys has largely restricted itself to the UK market.It is believed that Reliance plans to open four standalone Hamleys stores in the first 24 months, which is a significant expansion move for the marque UK brand. Baugur is also working on expanding Hamleys to Middle-East, Russia, Turkey and China. Hamleys operates a standalone store in Jordan’s capital Amman.While the local stores may not be as big as the London flagship, it will surely be unlike anything seen before in India’s toy retailing space. The Indian stores will be around 25,000 sqft and will be opening doors in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore initially.With Hamleys selling toys of several brands besides its own, Reliance had little elbow room to work on an equity structure. Indian regulations don’t allow foreign players to hold stakes in Indian companies that sell multiple brands. It, however, allows foreign retailers to hold up to 51% in a company in India if it sells goods under a single brand only.The Hamleys deal marks Reliance’s third engagement with a major international brand in recent times. It has unveiled JVs with iconic apparel retailer Marks & Spencer and optical chain Vision Express. Hamleys is named after William Hamley, who founded a toy shop called ‘Noah’s Ark’ at High Holborn in London in 1760 Biz has survived in various forms to the present day. Hamleys moved to its current Regent Street premises in 1981 Hamleys is a holding co for several toy cos in the UK. Most notably, Hamleys purchased The English Teddy Bear Co in 2004

A Federal Agency against Terror strikes

Every time terror strikes, it has become customary for home minister Shivraj Patil to talk of the need for a federal agency, which, unlike the CBI, will have direct jurisdiction to investigate offences that are considered to have national and international implications. This radical proposal has however made little progress thanks to the resistance offered by states, which fear that such an agency would erode their existing monopoly over law and order. This is despite the fact that while upholding central legislations like TADA and POTA, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that since terror threatens the security of the whole country, it falls under the first item of the Union List, "Defence of India," rather than the first item of the State List, "Public order."The Centre-states conflict over the proposed federal agency seems all the more untenable considering that US is endowed with FBI despite a full-fledged federal system in which the states have far greater autonomy than they do in India.Since it is both a federal criminal investigative body and a domestic intelligence agency, FBI has been able to go all out to ensure that there hasn't been a single major terror strike in US since 9/11. In fact, the top investigative priority of FBI is avowedly to "protect the United States from terrorist attack." There is simply no such investigative agency in India mandated to take on terror at the national level. The CBI, which is primarily meant to deal with corruption, comes in if and when a state refers a terror case to it.As a result, the serial blasts on successive days in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, for all their similarities, are being probed by the local police of respective states, with little scope for institutional coordination or checking if there was any nexus between the two.The idea of a federal agency was first mooted in 2000 by Patil's predecessor, L K Advani, when he asked the K Padmanabhaiah Committee on police reforms to examine the feasibility of declaring certain crimes as federal offences "to enable a central agency to undertake investigation, without any loss of time."The Padmanabhaiah Committee not only recommended the creation of a federal agency but also put terrorism at the top of the proposed list of federal offences.In 2003, the Justice V S Malimath Committee on reforms of the criminal justice system sought to make the proposal more palatable to states by suggesting that federal agency may have concurrent jurisdiction over serious offences such as terrorism, war against state, arms and drugs trafficking, hijacking, money laundering and crimes against national infrastructure. The implication is that the role of the state police in probing any such offence will "automatically abate" if the proposed federal agency chooses to take it up.For all the exertions made by these committees, and for all his tough postures on terrorism, Advani failed to forge a consensus among states on the proposed federal agency. Though the list of terror strikes has since grown much longer, Shivraj Patil has proved to be as ineffective in realizing this much needed legal reform.

Hyderabad Metro Update

The Navabharat-led consortium has been recommended for the proposed Hyderabad Metro Rail project on the basis of their bids by an official committee. Surprisingly, the consortium did not seek any grant from the government for the project, which on the face of it, looks financially unviable. On the contrary, the consortium offered to pay Rs 30,311 crore to the exchequer during the concession period (34 years). A formal declaration awarding the Rs 12,132 crore project to the consortium, which includes Navabharat, city-based Maytas, Ital Thai of Thailand and IL&FS, to take up the purposed project under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, has to be made after the state cabinet approves this recommendation made by a committee of officials.Most of the other bidders for the project sought viability gap funding for the heavily capital intensive project. The Reliance Infra-led consortium wanted Rs 2,811 crore grant from the government, while Essar-led consortium sought Rs 3,110 crore. The third Magna-led consortium too filed bids with ‘zero’ grants, but offered only Rs 250 crore. But public analysts thought that with the top bidder actually agreeing to give money to the government —instead of taking any— meant that it would become a real estate project from being a metro rail project. They pointed out that as per the bid of the lead consortium — which has been agreed to by the official commitee—they would be able to develop real estate in the 217 acres of the 269 acres earmarked for the project.The three-member committee, comprises principal secretary (Finance) N Ramesh Kumar, Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) managing director G Asok Kumar and HMRL managing director NVS Reddy. HMRL managing director NVS Reddy categorically said at a press conference that the committee chose Navabharat-led consortium because it would contribute Rs 30,311 crores to the government without seeking any grant. According to HMRL officials, the successful bidder will have to pay Rs 11 crore at the time of signing the agreement, Rs 50 crore on financial closure, Rs 200 crore in the fourth year (the year the project becomes operational), Rs 100 crore per annum from seventh to ninth year and Rs 1,750 crore per annum from 18th to the 34th year.The proposed project would have three corridors—Miyapur-L B Nagar, JBS-Falaknuma and Nagole-Shilparamam—with stations at every kilometre.“The successful bidder for the proposed project will be announced in the next 10 days after the cabinet approval,” the HMRL managing director said. The Hyderabad Metro Rail works are likely to be grounded in October.

Tata's set to buy out Spanish Coach Firm

Tata Motors, which owns 21 per cent in the Spanish coachbuilder, Hispano Carrocera, will buy the balance capital in the company. Brothers Gerardo Múgica and Andres Mugica, who now own 79 per cent, are expected to sell their entire stake to the Tatas for two million euros.
If that happens, the Tatas will have the entire company to themselves for only 14 million euros.
In 2005, the Indian company paid 12 million euros in equity, debt and technical licensing fees for 21 per cent of the coachbuilder, with a caveat that it could acquire the other 79 per cent by 2010 paying an additional two million euros, provided the Spanish firm met certain performance standards.
Hispano is on course to meet those standards.Tata Motors has also extended a 15 million euro unsecured subordinated loan and a letter of comfort to Citibank for working capital loans of seven million euros to Hispano.

Rel Infra in a JV with Shanghai Electric

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) is to sign a joint venture (JV) agreement with Shanghai Electric Corporation (SEC). The JV will set up a $3 billion facility to manufacture power equipment in India.
Later, they will set up four more JVs to offer a range of services to power projects. These will include technical and design support, operations and maintenance, erection of power equipment and after-sales care. The four JVs will have an aggregate investment of up to $600 million. The power equipment JV will be signed by Ambani and SEC group chairman Xu Jianguo on Monday. It will leverage growing demand at home and in neighbouring markets.
This is a backward integration in Ambani’s power business. According to people in the know, the power equipment JV will begin producing in 2010 and have a capacity to manufacture equipment for generating 10,000 mw.
RInfra’s business spans engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), power distribution and generation. Its EPC order book has over Rs 21,000 crore worth of contracts. It is implementing several power projects, including the ones at Yamuna Nagar and Hissar in Haryana (combined capacity of 3,500 mw) and is carrying out electrification of about 7,000 villages in Uttar Pradesh. It has the EPC contract for Reliance Power’s Sasan mega power project.

The Day After :Urban India on Alert

Post the back to back bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad,all major cities were on high alert across India.Scenes of increased security in Mumbai,Delhi,Chennai and Bangalore.A nearly deserted JM Road in Pune on Sunday!


Blasts Rock Ahmedabad

Because Pictures can convey so much more than words.A Human Tragedy

India to overtake UK's Economy in 10 years

Economic forecasts predict that India will overtake the UK and become the world’s fifth largest economy within the next 10 years, the third largest behind China and the USA by 2025 and the second largest economy after China by 2050. The number of Indian companies in the West Midlands in UK has doubled since 2006. This year saw the biggest deal of all—Tata’s acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover, which made it the largest foreign investor in the region, employing over 13,000 staff. In a bid to forge more ties, an action plan has been put in place to seal new business and academic ties between the West Midlands and India.West Midland is part of the British Midlands region in the UK which is the branding of two UK government-funded Regional Development Agencies, Advantage West Midlands and East Midlands Development Agency, especially dedicated to attracting international businesses to the region.Two-way trade between the UK and India is today worth #8.7 billion per year and is growing by around 10% annually—a growth which West Midlands businesses are keen to tap into. Immigration minister and minister for the West Midlands, Liam Byrne, who launched the plan, noted that a priority for the Indian market has been set recognising the increasing desires and capabilities of Indian companies to expand their businesses globally. Over 30 Indian-owned businesses now operate in the region. Stokes Group was acquired by Mumbai-based Mahindra and Mahindra in 2006, a deal which safeguarded 285 jobs. A subsequent #5.6 million investment in the firm by an Indian automotive major has created a further 35 jobs. The investment was supported by a Selective Finance for Investment in England grant from Advantage West Midlands.

The Dabhol Jinx Continues

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday intervened to avoid a permanent closure of the Ratnagiri power project, previously Dabhol project. Singh directed Cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar to ask Maharashtra state chief secretary Johny Joseph to hold meeting on July 29 with the Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt Ltd's (RGPPL) shareholders-NTPC, Gail India, financial institutions and banks, MahaVitaran-and work out a plan for an early repairs of the damaged gas turbines by organising speedy delivery of necessary spares by GE.
Besides, Joseph will also look into the issue of additional funds required for the revival of phase I and also other gas turbines. State chief secretary will also deliberate on RGPPL's demand for increase in tariff to ensure that the project does not default on payments to lenders.
Meanwhile, state energy secretary Rahul Asthana on Thursday briefed power secretary Anil Razdan on the immediate measures needed for an early revival of the project with a total installed capacity of 2,150 mw.
Two major gas turbines (GT) failures have occurred since revival in April 2006.
These turbines have been supplied by GE. Due to the frequent closure or under capacity utilisation, the project is losing huge amounts of money. The project is currently not in a position to order mandatory spares. This is leading to longer outages and some of the units may have to shut down on account of lack of spares.
The Prime Minister decided to intervene after agriculture minister Sharad Pawar gave him the present state of affairs at the project site. Besides, after discussing the matter with the state energy minister Dilip Walse-Patil, Pawar, also talked to external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee who is the chairman of the empowered group of ministers on Dabhol project. RGPPL has sought an immediate bailout package which includes allowing interim increase in power block capacity charge till completion of project viability exercise, funding of about Rs 300 crore through Power Finance Corporation (PFC), make available Rs 200 crore for mandatory spares for power facility and Rs 100 crore for balance completion of works, including interest during construction (IDC) payout to PFC. Further, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) may be advised to help in indigenous/non-original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repairs of spares due to repeated failures and prohibitive cost of GE and 5% inter-state sale of power be deferred till completion of project viability exercise. Inter state sale of 5% of power is mandatory as the Ratnagiri project enjoys mega power project status.
Sources said GT-2A failed in January after 2,841 firing hours and failure of GT-2B had occurred in January last year after 8,801 firing hours. Third major failure was averted.During borescopic inspection on June 23, 2008, crack detected in compressor stage 15 static vane (S15) of GT3B after 5,248 firing hours. GE has advised opening of casing leading to shutdown of about 45 days.
There are also frequent failure in Liners, TPs and Nozzles. In view of failure, GE has advised preventive borescopic inspection of each machine at an interval of 1,000 hours.

Terror Strikes India ! 25 Blasts,2 Cities,2 Days


Home to 40% of the country's technology industry, Bangalore was rocked by serial blasts-seven within a span of 15 minutes-on Friday. The blasts killed one person, injured at least seven and exposed the vulnerability of the country's key industrial and financial centres to possible terrorist attacks. The low-intensity blasts were directed at securing the attention of IT companies. The first bomb exploded at 1.30 pm at Madivala, half a km from IT BPO major MphasiS office and a km from a unit of Wipro.The explosive content used equalled roughly two grenades', Bangalore police commissioner Shankar Bidri said. Nasscom said the blasts would reflect badly on the industry, while industry captains mostly kept up the faith.
Ganesh Natarajan, chairman, Nasscom, said, "Bangalore being the IT Hub of the country, any kind of negative image is bad for the industry. It is a sad development and puts a question mark on the safety of the city."
But Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said, there would be no impact on investments in the long run."Thereis no city or country in the world without a hole in the security systems,"she said.
As the news of the blasts spread, Security at many corporate offices, like Infosys and Wipro,has been tightened."All our employees are safe and there has been no impact on our business operations. We are in touch with the police department and will remain fully alert. We have increased securityon our campus,"an Infosys statement said.


At least 29 people were killed and 88 injured, as 16 blasts planned with precision and ruthlessness rocked heavily crowded bazaar and residential areas and two public hospitals of Ahmedabad on Saturday evening. The blasts, which happened between 6.45 and 8 pm, caught police unawares even as the state was under red alert, following the Bangalore serial blasts on Friday. Compared to Bangalore, the Ahmedabad blasts were of higher intensity. The police control room confirmed 24 deaths by 10.30 pm, even as reports of more deaths and more blasts came in. At least, 15 of the deaths were in blasts, which took place in the government-run Civil Hospital and another three in municipal-run LG Hospital. Two public hospitals were targeted with explosions even as blast victims from other sites were streaming in. All the blasts, except the one at Sarkhej, took place in crowded eastern neighbourhoods of the city and were confined within a five-km radius. The blasts happened in Sarkhej, Maninagar, Bapunagar, Thakkarbapanagar, Naroda, Raipur Narol and Sarangpur. The Civil Hospital and LG Hospital campuses were the last to get bombed. Most of the bombs were planted behind bicycles in tiffins contained in blue polythene bags while the bombs in the hospitals were placed in automobiles. The bombs were packed with timer devices and microprocessors. Preliminary reports suggest ammonium nitrate was used in the bombs. One of the bombs went off near a bus in a Hindu pocket of the otherwise Muslim-dominated Sarkhej ripping one side of the bus completely. The busy diamond market in Bapunagar here was also made a target. At Maninagar, the bombs were planted in the busy vegetable market and bus stops. Two bombs went off around 6.45 pm from near Sarangpur bridge. Eyewitnesses said multiple bombs were planted within a short range, which went off in an interval of a few seconds. The idea was to attract people to the site with the first blast and then explode the other with more devastating effect. “One bomb went off from a bag on one cycle carrier and as people collected, another one went off within 15 to 20 seconds on another cycle carrier,” said Bhushan Bhatt, a municipal corporator.

Left OUT!

Because a Picture can say a thousand words....

How the Chinese view India...

Chinese people are confident about their nation's place on the world stage but a poll highlights ‘significant tensions' between China and other rival powers, including India with 24% viewing New Delhi as an enemy.
Overwhelmingly, the Chinese think their country is popular abroad with roughly three-in-four (77%) believing people in other countries generally have favourable opinions of China. However, the 2008 survey by the Pew Research Centre's Pew Global Attitudes Project highlights significant tensions between China and other rival powers.Views about India are ‘mixed at best' with 25% viewing India as a partner, while asimilar number 24%describe it as an enemy,it said.Chinese view Japan with hostility.Views toward Japan are especially negative 69%have an unfavourable opinion of the country. 38% of Chinese consider Japan an enemy. Opinions of the United States also tend to be negative,and 34% describe the US as an enemy, while just 13% say it is a partner of China, says the survey.


Vodafone is neck and neck with R Com

Even as Bharti Airtel remains the clear leader with over 69 million subscribers, there is a close race for the second slot. Earlier this week, Reliance Communications stated it had crossed the 50-million mark (both GSM and CDMA). Now Vodafone Essar, too, has gone past the 50-million subscriber mark. While RCOM has held on to its second place for about three years now, one will have to wait for the month-end (when all telcos release their growth figures) to see if Vodafone Essar can snatch this position. As of June-end, both RCOM and Vodfaone Essar had over 49 million customers. Unlike Bharti and RCOM, which have a pan-India presence, Vodafone Essar operates in only 16 of the 22 circles. Vodafone Essar has also become the sixth telco in Asia to have over 50 million customers in a country. In fact, three of the six telcos who have 50 million plus users in a country are from India with the others being China Telecom, China Mobile and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo. China Mobile leads the pack with over 414 million subscribers as of June-end, followed by China Unicom with 170 million customers, Bharti Airtel with about 69 million and NTT DoCoMo with about 54 million.At the same time, it is also possible that RCOM may continue to hold on to its second place in the considerable future as it has a larger reach — its CDMA operations are available in all 22 circles while Reliance Telecom, its GSM arm, offers services in eight circles. Besides, the telco will soon announce the GSM rollout in the remaining 14 circles, too. Of RCOM’s 50-million plus subscribers, the GSM base accounts for just a little over 8 million. The race will continue to be tightly fought as Vodafone Essar, too, is in the process of launching operations in the remaining six circles soon. Meanwhile, in a related development, RCOM sources said the company had completed testing of its GSM network in 100 top cities while adding that initial signal testing has been successful and was in advanced testing stages.“Equipment installation, which includes MSC, core switch and auxiliary equipment, pre-paid & billing systems, has been tested and completed in the top 250 cities. The nation-wide GSM launch is scheduled by fiscal end and the company has already made investments of about $1 billion. Equipment orders have been placed with Huawei and Alcatel Lucent,” a source said. RCOM sources also added that the telco would target a monthly growth rate of 3 million subscribers on completion of its GSM network. Last month, Bharti Airtel had set a national record by adding 2.5 million users in June
COAI hits out at CDMA cos The GSM operators on Wednesday hit out at CDMA companies for demanding that the former be charged market rates for all radio frequencies they hold over the 6.2 MHz limit. The Cellular Operators Association of India on Wednesday said that ‘licence terms have been outlined by successive governments over a decade ago and the allegation of CDMA stakeholders tantamounts to raising fingers at every government and administration over the last decade and accusing them of acting in an extra-constitutional and unauthorised manner’. Last week, following Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh’s demands that GSM players be charged for ‘extra spectrum, the COAI written to the prime minister saying that allegations of GSM players holding excess spectrum were “completely baseless and incorrect”. These developments come even as the Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI), the CDMA body, has moved TDSAT asking that excess spectrum be taken back from GSM operators.

Bharti Airtel nets a record number of Subscribers

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest wireless operator, beat Street forecasts on Thursday with a 34% jump in net profit to Rs 2,025 crore for the quarter ended June 30, 2008, compared to Rs 1,512 crore in the corresponding period last year. Robust subscriber growth, coupled with expansion of network to remote areas and lower tariffs, saw the company’s revenues surge 44% to Rs 8,483 crore. With India’s mobile boom continuing to witness healthy growth, Bharti Airtel added a record 7.5 million subscribers during the period — the highest by any telco in any quarter. This resulted in the company improving its market share in the country’s fiercely competitive wireless subscriber space to 24.2% as on June 30, 2008, compared with 23.1% in the year-ago period. Bharti manages to limit fall in per-user revenue to 2% Bharti also accounted for close to 30% of the country’s wireless subscriber additions during this period. EBITDA climbed 44% to Rs 3,522 crore. The first quarter net profit also factors in a forex loss of Rs 148 crore. But there are some blips too. Bharti’s net income margin dropped to 23.9% in the June quarter when compared to 25.6% in the same period last year, the result of the telco’s move to cut tariffs. The margins for the mobile business declined to 30.7% from 35.4% in March quarter. The average revenue per user (ARPU), too, has declined 2% (Q-o-Q) to Rs 350 as against Rs 357 in the January-March 2008 period. On a year-on-year basis, the company’s ARPUs declined 10%. After soaring to an intra-day high of Rs 861, the Bharti scrip closed at Rs 797.95 on BSE, down 2.21% from Wednesday’s close. The Bharti management remained upbeat about the company’s Q1 performance and was confident that the company could sustain the growth momentum. “The slowdown in some sectors has had no impact on us — telecom is immune to this. We only see the situation improving as we expand our operations. We are close to rolling out our DTH operations. The launch of our services (GSM) in Sri Lanka will also happen before the year-end,” the company’s joint MD Akhil Gupta said. He added that the company was maintaining its guidance for stand-alone capex of $2.5 billion for the full year to March 2009. On a sequential basis, too, growth was impressive, even as the company arrested the slide in its EBITA margins. Net Q1 profit was up 9.3% compared with Q4 of FY08, while revenues grew 8.5%. The market was expecting lower net profit and total sales, especially after the operator had lowered STD tariffs by over 40% during the quarter. “It has been a particularly strong quarter with monthly customer adds crossing the 2.5-million mark. This clearly demonstrates that the Indian telecom growth story is intact and the rural markets are witnessing strong uptake,” the company’s chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal said in a statement. According to Mr Gupta, the mobile margins have declined because ‘profitability on this segment had been bifurcated into different segments’. “The tower business — both Infratel and Indus — are now separate entities. So, the margins are divided between segments such as passive infrastructure business and national long distance amongst others. Besides, companies can convert capex to opex and viceversa depending on the business model and so mobile margins can no longer be compared across quarters. If you look at an overall basis, our EBITDA margins have remained stable,” he added. The company’s president and CEO Manoj Kohli said the telco was not focused on ARPUs alone. Mr Kohli said ARPU decline was offset by the increase in the minutes of usage, which has gone up by 5% to 534 minutes for the quarter ended June 2008 against 507 minutes in the March quarter. “The lowering of tariffs has resulted in increased usage. This implies that even the new customers, most of whom are from rural India, are talking more. The rural traffic, too, has picked up well and is increasing. We had extended our networks to 25 new census towns during the previous quarter and we now cover all the 5,060 census towns in the country. We also added 22,000 new villages to our network. Bharti Airtel now reaches 3.65 lakh villages and covers 76% of the Indian population,” Mr Kohli said. Industry analysts, too, were upbeat about Bharti’s performance. “We were expecting a decline of 5% in the ARPU, whereas the fall of 2% was much lower than expectations. Even the minutes of usage are one of the best in recent quarters. We expect the company to report a growth of 30% and 35% in top-line and bottom-line for 2008-09,” said Anurag Purohit of Religare Securities. With regard to the decline in the per minute revenues, Bharti executives said this was on account of the company passing on to its customers the access deficit charges (ADC) levy cut from April 1.

Indian IT Sector to be second largest

Indian IT industry may be passing through a rough patch because of a slowdown in the US economy and high inflation rates, but this stage will pass. India will continue to drive the global IT market for the next few years, says a study.In fact, it will emerge as the second most important IT industry in the world after the US in terms of revenue and employment. “India will create the second largest IT services labour pool after the US within the next seven to eight years. That’s not all, domestic IT industry’s contribution to our GDP is likely to rise from 0.8% in 2006-07 to 2.65% by 2015-16,” says a yet to be released white paper ‘India’s Role in the Globalization of the IT Industry’ by Evalueserve, a KPO.It says, “By 2015-2016, the number of professionals working in the IT industry will grow ten-fold (from 2001-2002) and the total revenue will grow 22 times.” This means, the IT industry is likely to employ 3,750,000 professionals and record $193.1 billion in revenue by 2015-16.“Since India’s GDP is growing at 8.5% per annum in real terms and 14% in nominal terms, by 2015-16 our GDP is likely to be $2,400 billion. Given this, the IT industry is likely to constitute 8.05% of India’s GDP,” it says. While in the last decade, IT services exports (including engineering services, R&D, and those related to creating and maintaining software products) have been growing at 32% annually. Evalueserve estimates this growth rate will taper off and become around 20% in the next seven to eight years. The reason: rising wages, lack of high quality talent, and IT jobs relocating to other low-cost destinations in Eastern Europe and Latin America.The paper thus concludes: First, by 2016 India will have the second highest number of IT professionals in the world after the US. In fact, US will employ between 1.25 to 1.33 times more professionals than India. Second, even in 2016, the US IT industry will generate approximately $810 billion in annual revenue, which would be almost five times the revenue of the Indian IT industry. And third, since the IT industries in both the US and India have become inextricably linked with one another, both countries will import and export more IT services and products for the next seven to eight years.

Bombay HC remark on Sec 377

The Bombay high court in a landmark observation said that the controversial Section 377 of the IPC that deals with unnatural sex needs a relook. The remarks came in the judgment delivered by Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice Sharad Bobde in the Anchorage case while acquitting two Britons of the charge.“There are lots of changes taking place in the social milieu and many people have different sexual preferences, which are even not considered to be unnatural,’’ said the judgment that was penned by Justice Nazki. “Therefore it is high time that the provisions of law which were made more than a century ago, are looked at again.’’ Though the judge’s remarks come as a suggestion, the city’s lesbian and gay community welcomed the progressive views of the judge —the first time any court in the country has spoken about changing the law. “It is a significant and forward-looking view,’’ said Lesley Esteves, a Delhi-based activist. “Across the world countries have decriminalised homosexuality, but the law continues to exist in India,’’ she added.A vestige of the British Raj, Section 377 was enacted in 1860 in line with the anti-sodomy laws prevailing in England at the time. It says: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment of either up to 10 years or life. Elaborating a bit, the HC agreed with judgments that said that the only ingredients required to prove guilt in such cases is “carnal intercourse with penetration’’ and “if its against the order of nature’’. This criminalises a whole range of sexual acts from mutual masturbation, to fellatio and anal sex. “Consent is immaterial,’’ wrote Justice Nazki.According to gay rights activist and founder of the city NGO Humsafar Ashok Row Kavi, the law has been misused. “Section 377 has been used to stigmatise and harass gays and lesbians, and even blackmail them,’ said Kavi. A PIL by NGO Naz Foundation is pending before the Delhi HC, urging a reading down of the law. Both Esteves and Kavi insist that the PIL does not seek to repeal the Section 377. “As of now, this is the only law that can be used to book paedophiles and protect children from sex offenders,’’ said Kavi, adding that, “However, consensual adults should be removed from the ambit of the Act in order to provide a semblance of equity and justice.’’ In 2001, the law commission had recommended a repeal of Section 377. Five years later, the Union Ministry of Family and Child Welfare in 2006 too had backed the PIL asking for decriminalising homosexuality. The Bombay HC’s comments on the sensitive issue has sure provided the activists some more reason to cheer.

Financial Reforms soon?

Some major reforms, especially in the financial sector, are expected in the coming months. With the Left off its back, the Manmohan Singh government is keen to push them through, although the nod of its new partner, the Samajwadi Party, will be necessary. The good news is that the nod in favour may not be difficult to get. SP general secretary Amar Singh said, “We are open to discussing it (the proposed reforms). As we promised earlier, we will not be dogmatic or rigid in our approach.’’ Singh was responding to finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement on Wednesday in which he had said that the government would try to take the reforms process forward and mentioned insurance sector reforms as a priority.Amar Singh indicated that his party’s approach would be different from that of the Left—pragmatic considerations rather than ideological ones would guide it. To drive home the point, he added, “We will not be a stumbling block in any rational decision-making.’’It’s learnt that the PM is as eager to push through reforms as his FM. A couple of days before the trust vote, Singh had told his close aides that three sectors required special attention—insurance, pensions and banking. Labour reforms too are long awaited, but the government knows that this is much more politically fraught, and is unlikely to do anything on which there is no consensus among the UPA allies.Official sources said the PM would soon be taking up the issue of reforms with the SP. “Our aim will be to build a consensus on these reforms with Samajwadi leaders and to initiate steps to usher them in before the next polls,’’ said a source. Singh believes that valuable time has been lost because of the Left’s “cussedness’’ on reforms.In a move to assuage fears of unilateralism on the part of the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured the UPA allies that he would consult them regularly on major issues. The UPA’s win in the trust vote has been credited, among others, to Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, Rajashekhar Reddy, Oscar Fernandes, Margaret Alva and Vyalar Ravi.
Raising FDI cap in insurance from 26% to 49% Creating a statutory regulator for pension sector. This will break the monopoly of EPFO Allowing government’s stake in public sector banks to drop below 50% The reforms can change the bearish sentiment and help reverse the economic slowdown .Govt likely to appoint EPFO regulator, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is eager to make fresh economic reforms, believes that a dose of meaningful reforms would also be an antidote to the general sluggish sentiments and may, in fact, help in tackling inflation and other “aam admi’’ issues Financial sector reforms, covering insurance, banking and pensions, could spur investments and add as much as 1.5% of the country’s growth. That, in turn, would give the government the opportunity to address issues of welfare and distress.The main reform in insurance is to raise the foreign direct investment cap from 26% to 49%. In fact, finance minister P Chidambaram had proposed this FDI hike, but in light of the Left’s total opposition to his proposal, he had to backtrack. But once the cap is relaxed, a lot more foreign money is expected to flow in and help to expand the insurance sector.The Indian pensions sector is totally unreformed. The government wishes to create a statutory regulator for the sector and had promulgated an ordinance for appointing a Pension Funds Regulations and Development Authority. But once again, agreement with the Left proved elusive, and the ordinance lapsed. The appointment of a regulator will set the scene for breaking the monopoly of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), with which both the government and the private sector have to park their pension money currently. The regulator can permit new pension funds and create the framework for them to operate in an open and transparent environment. In turn, pension funds can vie for government or private sector pension money, offer advice on its best utilization and also give companies and individuals options on how best they think their money can be deployed that is, how much in fully secured instruments and how much in the market where returns could be higher but so would be the risk.Finally, the banking sector reforms that have been hanging fire entail allowing the government’s stake in public sector banks to come down below 50% and raising the current 1% cap on voting rights that applies to all other shareholders in state-owned banks.Reformers believe that this will bring in megabucks and enhance banks’ capital adequacy ratio.


Pompous Advertisement

Take a look at a self congratulatory advertisement issued by the Samajwadi Party!

BSNL rings in a $10 Billion expansion plan

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) plans to invest Rs 42,000 crore or roughly $10 billion over the next three years, mainly on network expansion, in order to take on private sector players who are rapidly gaining territory. “Our mobile expansion is on track. We have rolled out 25 million lines all-India and this capacity kicks off in August. We have announced tenders for another 93 million lines and are adding two million lines in WLL,’’ Kuldeep Goyal, CMD, BSNL .According to sources in BSNL, its revenues have dipped 6% to Rs 32,500 crore in 2007-08 from Rs 34,600 crore in 2006-7, while net profit is down to Rs 292 crore.BSNL, which controls over threefourth of the near Rs 27,000 crore fixed line revenues, serves as much as 80% of India’s 39.5 million fixed line subscriber base. Its fixed line revenues have been flat over the last two years despite the fact that this segment incurred a decline of over 10% in revenues across India and over 20% in subscriber base between 2006-7 and 2007-08.BSNL’s performance in mobile telephony has been better than fixed line business, clocking a near 13% increase in revenue to roughly Rs 10,600 crore. However, this is but a shadow of an over 35% industry growth rate which saw a majority of India’s leading GSM operators like Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, Spice and MTNL growing at over 40% in this period. While BSNL continues to be the largest service provider in national long distance (NLD/STD) and the fourth largest in international long distance, its NLD revenues have witnessed a massive 40% decline. These worrying numbers, controversies regarding its mobile equipment tenders preventing rapid expansion, rapid competitor growth and a potential merger with loss-making ITI indicates that these investments are critical for BSNL’s survival. BSNL is now turning towards broadband, network monitoring and managing MPLS networks for big corporates for its next big growth push.“We are in talks with international firms like Cable and Wireless and British Telecom to carry overseas traffic through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Managed Private Leased Services (MPLS) for big corporates,’’ said Goyal.“Broadband penetration is another focus area for BSNL which has a capacity of four million lines of which 2.3 million are in use, representing an over 50% share of the total four million broadband connections in the country,’’ added Goyal.

Mumbai Metro's Line 2

With news that the Rs 8,400-crore second Metro line will soon be cleared by the Centre, seven consortia—including the rival Ambani brothers as well as Tata Power Company—will soon be competing for the contract for building the line stretching from Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) joint commissioner Milind Mhaiskar said clearance from the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) at the Centre was expected in the next three weeks and the work for awarding the bid could then begin.The seven consortia, which have been shortlisted, are Tata Power Company with Pioneer Infratech and Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan, the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Energy Ltd with SNC Lavalin Inc of Canada and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Communication Ltd with Siemens of Germany and Gammon India Limited.The other groups include Larson & Toubro India with IDPL and GE Indian Industrial. Wellknown infrastructure development finance company IL&FS (India) has tied up with Punjlloyd Ltd, Transportation Network Ltd and Soma Enterprise of Hyderabad. GVK Power and Infrastructure India has tied up with Bombardier Transportation of the United States and Yeoh Tiong Lay of Malaysia.MMRDA officials said the DEA was currently scrutinising the projects’ draft agreement which the government would sign with the selected company that would construct and run the line having 27 stations. Work on the Rs 2,026-crore first Metro Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line has already started with Mumbai Metro One, which is a company jointly owned by Reliance Energy Ltd, MMRDA and Veolia, a French multinational beginning work on the ground. Meanwhile 278 shopkeepers and residents, who will be displaced by the Metro line, have formed a Metro Railway Project-Affected Persons Action Committee and are seeking justice. The shopkeepers, concentrated mainly near Andheri railway station, are concerned about being displaced by the project.

Recycled Water for Bangalore

In the next three years, Bangaloreans in North and West areas will be supplied ultra-filtered, treated sewage water through their taps, just like normal potable water.The BWSSB’s ambitious project to recycle and reuse sewage water for domestic purposes is picking up pace with the first phase ready for implementation. The Vrishabhavathi Integrated Water Management Scheme — first of the four major BWSSB’s projects approved under the JNNURM — will extract 135 MLD of tertiary treated water from the V-Valley treatment plant and make it suitable for drinking. Dasarahalli and RR Nagar will be covered under the scheme, said BWSSB sources.The two main surface water resources — TG Halli and Hesaraghatta — were last seen full in the 1990s. Given the unpredictable monsoon and lack of additional perennial fresh water sources, the only hope now lies in recycle and reuse.Water from the V-Valley plant will be subjected to ultrafiltration or reverse osmosis and then passed through pressure sand filters and activated carbon filters. This helps remove all bacteria and viruses. The treated water will be let into the Arkavathi river course where it blends with fresh water. After travelling nearly 5 km, the combined flow reaches the reservoir, is drawn into the water treatment plant at TG Halli and then distributed to the city.Ultra filtration uses membrane filtration where the level of dissolved salts is retained and can be blended with normal treated water to balance the salts. It costs nearly Rs 20 per kilo litre of output at the plant site. Reverse osmosis removes all impurities and recovery of usable water is 95%. The level of purity equals potable water as all dissolved salts are removed. It costs around Rs 35 per kilo of output at plant site. The V-Valley project could set a new trend in waste water treatment and reuse for drinking purposes with BWSSB being the first water board to venture into this. Developed countries use ultrafiltration to conserve water.The project, expected to begin in a couple of months, is scheduled for completion by March 2011.

Prime Time: 1.3 million watched the Trust Vote

On Tuesday, it was proved yet again that emotional outbursts, pandemonium and under-the-table deals made for better television than facts and figures.More people tuned in to watch the note-bomb and the climax to the trust vote as it unfolded on July 22 than the railway and Union finance budgets put together.Viewership for Lok Sabha TV touched over 13 lakh on Tuesday, while the finance budget attracted a net reach of 10,32,000 and 1,58,000 people watched the rail budget. Data collected by aMap from cable and satellite homes in the Hindi speaking market has estimated that nearly 13,67,000 people watched as three BJP MPs took out bundles of notes and plonked them on the Parliament table as stunned lawmakers gaped. Viewership for the second day of the special session was even higher than on the first, indicating the keen interest people had in political developments. About 9.5 lakh people watched Lok Sabha Television on July 21. The average daily viewership for the channel is about 6 lakh. The note-bomb notwithstanding, the suspense on whether the trust vote would eventually happen had viewers hooked till the end. Even the vote count was not without its share of drama; it was revised more than once with several members using paper slips to register their vote. The number of people watching Parliament proceedings is likely to be much higher as data available is only for cable homes, while LS TV is available on the terrestrial network. Viewers who do not have cable too can access the channel. It is also relevant that news channels which took live feed from LS TV drew away some of the viewership towards them.

Townships planned in Andhra

The development of townships will be taken up only by private infrastructure companies and foreign firms across Andhra Pradesh, especially around the twin cities.The municipal administration and urban development is working on a policy for townships named ‘The Andhra Pradesh Rules for Promotion and Development of Integrated Townships in Private Sector, 2008’. The townships will be promoted on the lines of special economic zones with the private initiatives and foreign investments.The Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (Huda) has already proposed 22 satellite townships along the Outer Ring Road (ORR). Of the 22, two townships at Tellapur and Sri Nagar along the ORR are being taken up by private developers. Initially, Huda proposed to develop satellite townships along the Outer Ring Road. But in the wake of crititicism over land acquisition by Huda, the municipal administration has decided to promote townships under the public private partnership (PPP) only.The townships policy will usher in a systematic development rather than haphazard growth around the cities, an official said. The Centre announced its policy on townships in 2004, allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the real estate sector.“We are studying the townships policies in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharastra. A workshop will be conducted to take the opinions of experts and the states which are implementing the policy,” the official said. The township rules will be applicable to all urban development authorities, municipal corporations, municipalities and their surrounding gram panchayats areas. The existing rules, regulations of local authorities and urban development authorities are not applicable in the townships.The townships will be broadly divided into three categories. One category will be minimum 100 acres which will be allowed in Huda area, Visakhapatnam and other urban development authorities. In the second category the minimum area will be 75 acres. These will come up in Tirupathi, Warangal, special development authority areas. Townships with minimum 50 acres will be allowed in municipalities and surrounding areas.The township should be integration of residential, commercial, educational, amenity spaces, health facilities, places for parks, playgrounds and public utilities. “Our plan is to encourage townships the combination of which will be workplace, residential and entertainment. The area could be IT or bio-technology or anything,” a senior official of the municipal administration said.The developer has to provide infrastructure facilities like roads, water supply, drainage, garbage disposal, power, open spaces and other conditions which are mandatory as per the environmental rules. The draft will also list exemptions to be given by the government like waiver of 50 per cent of conversion charges, non-agriculture charges, development charges reduction and property tax. The municipal administration and urban development department made similar attempts to bring about a special policy for townships in 2006. It took the opinions from the then Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad, Huda, director of town and country planning (DTCP) and other town planning experts but could not go ahead as the officials were dealing with preparation of new building rules 2006.

Pune: ROBs at Ghorpadi,Mundhwa

There seems to be some hope for the residents of Ghorpadi and Mundhwa who have to endure long halts at the two level-crossings in the area. The construction work for two railway over bridges (ROB) is expected to commence within a month, as the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has reportedly submitted a blue print to the railway department.When contacted, PMC officials said the General Arrangement Drawing (GAD) has been submitted to the railway department. “We had received the plan for carrying out some technical upgradation. Following this, the plan was submitted,” V.R. Patil, officer on special duty, said on Wednesday. Pune Cantonment Board president Brig R.J. Sharma too sounded optimistic. “Major paper work has been completed and the project should start in a month’s time,” he said. Two ROBs will have to be constructed in the Ghorpuri area — one on the Solapur line and the other on the Miraj line. Frequent traffic jams, even patients sometimes getting held up at the level crossings is the order of the day. According to residents, the level crossing is like the sword of Damocles, as it drops any time of the day. Although the passenger and express train schedules are in place, there are no fixed timings of goods trains passing the tracks.A commuter, Sanjay, said he is never sure if he will reach office on time “because the railway gate at the Ghorpadi crossing closes even when they check engines. This checking of engines business takes longer than an express train passes through the area.”The ROB work was also delayed because of opposition by shopkeepers and vendors. Although a market place was ready long time back along a nullah in the area, no efforts have been made to relocate the vegetable-fruit vendors there.

Pune :Bus for Ad Update

Although over a month has passed since the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) received a proposal from a Malaysian firm, offering to provide 2,500 buses as ‘royalty’ in exchange for advertisement rights for 15 years, things are yet to move forward. Apparently, the offer from the foreign company has various conditions attached and PMPML authorities are still mulling over whether to accept them or not. PMPML authorities will meet with the firm next week to negotiate the conditions, after which a clearer picture will emerge. The Malaysian offer came in the first week of June, one of six in reply to PMPML’s proposal of ‘buses for ads’. The other five bidders were from India. PMPML had chosen the Malaysian offer, saying it was the ‘best’ offer it has received. Now, however, PMPML seems to be doing a rethink and says there are many conditions attached to the offer. According to PMPML managing director Subrao Patil, one of the conditions is that the firm will provide 299 buses in the first year. The second condition, which according to authorities is questionable, says that the next lot of buses will be provided depending on the response the firm gets to its advertisements. Patil has questioned how such a condition could be accepted.The firm also wants that all advertisement sites be handed over to them immediately. According to Patil, these conditions were to be discussed at a meeting last week, but the meeting has now been postponed to next week.When PMPML invited bids for its ‘buses for ads’ proposal, it had pointed out that advertisements could be put on the interiors and the exteriors of the buses. It had also said that over 1,000 bus shelters were available for advertisements in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The number of bus shelters would later increase to 2,000 as many of them are to be installed on a build-operate-transfer basis.The new bus shelters would have futuristic designs, it had said. PMPML authorities believe there is huge revenue potential through advertisements in Pune as PMPML is the only organisation which provides public transport in the city.

Pune's 24 x 7 Water Supply Scheme Update

With water scarcity looming large in the city, the 24x7 water supply project is likely to get a new lease of life. Notwithstanding opposition by the BJP, the ruling NCP is prepared to push the proposal with the help of the Congress. The 24x7 water supply is the only answer to the situation likely to develop with the monsoon playing truant,” said an NCP leader. “Keeping politics aside, all parties need to support the proposal. The civic administration is of the same view.” He added that if the BJP and Shiv Sena continue to oppose the proposal, the NCP would go-ahead with the help of the Congress party.Congress leaders, earlier staunchly opposed to the proposal, have mellowed after the recent affinity between the two parties. MP Suresh Kalmadi and his team had extended an olive branch to the NCP after the ruling party and the BJP drifted apart over allegations and counter-allegations between Gopinath Munde and Ajit Pawar. “We were never opposed to the scheme,” said corporator and city Congress unit chief Abhay Chajjed. “We had objections to the procedure. If the proper procedure is followed, we will support the NCP on the 24x7 water project.” At the general body meeting on Tuesday, Municipal Commissioner Pravinsinh Pardeshi called for a “comprehensive” plan to tackle water scarcity and a technical way to repair leakages in the distribution network.The scope for the 24x7 water project comprises water audit and leak detection of the entire water supply system, complete metering for water audit study in a phased manner and zonewise investment plans for rehabilitation for reduction in leakages and implementation of 24x7 water supply. The civic administration’s proposal to appoint a consultant for the 24x7 water supply is mired in controversy after civic groups and political leaders objected to the tendering process where various companies have come together to form a consortium and work on the project plan. Allegations were made that the consortium had not purchased the tenders at all but were still allotted them by the civic body. Also, questions were raised regarding the fees paid to the consultant.The proposal was finally shelved and the standing committee decided to call a special meeting to discuss it. Eventually, the proposal became the bane of the Pune pattern with BJP leader Gopinath Munde targeting the scheme at every opportunity.

Sabarmati Riverfront Update

The Sabarmati Riverfront Development project inched forward with the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Limited (SRFDCL) calling for consultants for planning civic facilities in the entire 10.6-km stretch of the project.This would be the first call for consultants this year seeking opinions for laying civic facilities on either bank of the river. The construction of retaining walls on both the stretches of the river has almost been completed. Besides this strenghthening of the bridge piers (pilars) is being undertaken. Sources say that the building footprint for the banks is being worked upon and would be ready in the coming three to four months."We would have to provide civic infrastructure on the 162 hectares of land that is being reclaimed by SRFDCL. Twenty per cent of this stretch would be sold for commercial and residential purposes. Public utilities like parks, gardens, promenades, picnic spots and entertainment zones would come up on the stretch and we have to ready the infrastructure,” says a senior municipal official.“We decided to call in consultants during monsoon as by the time the season is over we can get started with the civic works. We have called for expression of interests from consultants for streetlighting, water supply and roads in particular. Most of the retaining wall works has been completed,” says AMC municipal commisioner IP Gautam.

Boeing ups India projections

The oil crisis may have forced Indian airlines to drastically prune their flights and fleet usage, but US aircraft major Boeing has upped its projection of aircraft requirement here for the next two decades. On Tuesday, Boeing released its 20-year current market outlook (CMO) which estimates India would need 1,001 new commercial planes worth $105 billion.This is almost 10% higher than last year’s CMO that said the country would need 911 planes worth $86 billion. Explaining the increased projection at such a time, Boeing’s senior VP (sales) Dinesh Keskar said: ‘‘Our forecast is not for the next year but next two decades. India’s 20-year GDP growth forecast is an average of 6.7%, the second highest in the world for large-GDP nations only after China. This will reflect in our CMO.’’ Out of the projected demand for 1,001 new planes, 880 will be additional requirement. Of the fleet strength of 324 in 2007, it will phase out 121 planes and need as many to replace them. In all, Boeing estimates 1,204 commercial planes would be flying in the country by 2027 — a quadruple growth in two decades. From last year’s CMO, the biggest growth in projected demand is in the below 200-seater single aisle planes like those of Boeing 737 or A-320 family, signalling Indian carriers airlines may like to increase frequencies on domestic routes.But with oil prices remaining high and airlines bleeding heavily, will this bullish outlook hold good? ‘‘These short-term losses are an opportunity to remove the overcapacity that is not allowing airlines to charge fares that can ever recover their costs. For instance, the break even fare of a full service carrier on Delhi-Mumbai route is about $154 but the typical total fare actually charged is about $121.Once capacity offered is closer to demand, fares will be closer to break even points,’’ he added. The US major expects the current problems to be sorted out in the next 12 to 18 months. It feels crude is unlikely to cross the $150 per barrel mark. The bullishness on Indian growth story perhaps stems from the fact that the average number of air trips a person makes is not more than two per year.Given a huge population base, even a slight increase in this figure with growing prosperity is expected to fuel the demand for 1,001 new planes over the next two decades.Meanwhile on the delayed Boeing 787-Dreamliner programme, Keskar said Air India could get the first plane in last quarter of next year. Jet Airways, whose deliveries were to begin in 2011, is yet to get a tentative date as the airline is planning to change the version of 787 it had originally ordered to get a bigger variety.‘‘AI will get compensated for the delay as per the agreement,’’ Keskar said.