Happy New Year

2009 dawns ....the 'terror'ble 2008 comes to an end.Happy New Year !

Mumbai Bulletproof

No one can keep us down.....a snapshot from Mood Indigo @ IIT Powai..reflection the mood of the Nation.

Drugged Sunderban tiger dies

The tiger that mauled a girl and a beat ranger before it was tranquillized and captured in Kantamari village of Kultali on Sunday, died mysteriously at Bonny Camp late on Tuesday evening. Hit by two tranquillizer darts, it had been in a daze for around 55 hours, leading experts to suspect that it might have succumbed to an overdose of sedatives. Two months ago, the discovery of a tiger carcass had led to a controversy, a CBI inquiry and the transfer of several top forest officials. The death of another tiger — that too in the forest department’s custody — has come as a huge shock. This tiger was supposed to have been released in the Sunderbans on Monday but forest officials kept postponing it, apparently because the animal was still drowsy. A team of veterinarians tried desperately to revive it but their efforts failed. At 8.30 pm on Tuesday, the eight-feet-long tiger breathed its last. In the face of strong criticism, forest officials claimed the animal was “old” and may have been suffering from septicemia. “It had a bleeding injury on one its paws. We tried antibiotics but unfortunately, it didn’t work,” said Atanu Raha, principal chief conservator of forests, ruling out the possibility of a tranquillizer overdose. But sources said a life-saving step may have been ignored in the panic and confusion of the capture. The tiger had been shot twice because the first dart did not seem to have any effect. “The catamine hydrochloride shots were perhaps not followed by the mandatory valium shot. It might have proved fatal,” said a source.

India - Pakistan : Head to Head and options available

Will Pakistan ever take action on the Lashkar? War is definitely not an option.

Indian Aviation : Happy days are here again ?

New Year Cheer...Airlines have announced cuts in airfares with fuel prices sliding.

Forces of darkness can’t stand a flame

As 2008 comes to an end, some snippets of Osho's wisdom...
Never for a single moment cling to the old. Whatsoever is old, just go on dropping it. The moment it is old, be finished with it, put a full stop by it. Never look back, there is nothing worth looking back at. One cannot look back. One has to go ahead. Be adventurous. Let there be no continuity with the past. It no longer belongs to you. Get out of it as a snake moves out of the old skin and does not even look back. Just a moment before, that skin was part of his body; now, no more. Move out of the past continuously so that you can remain in the present. Much energy is released if you complete things. Have you watched it in yourself? If you don’t complete a thing it remains on your head, in your thoughts, knocking, to be completed. Until you complete it, it goes on hovering around you.
You are taking a bath: make it complete. How to make it complete? Be there, enjoy it, live it, feel it. Come out of your bath after doing it completely, totally. You are eating, then eat! Then forget. Nothing exists in the world except your present act. Whatsoever you are doing, do it so completely so unhurriedly, so patiently, that the mind is saturated and becomes content. Only then leave it.
If you really live, live to the fullest, there will be no need to repeat. Live totally. Whatsoever you want to do, do it! Don’t avoid and don’t repress.
Every night before you go to sleep, finish that day. It is finished in existence; now it is futile to carry it in the mind. If something has remained incomplete in the day, complete it in your mind. The forces of darkness may be great but they can’t stand even a small flame of a candle. Their greatness is only an appearance, because basically darkness has no existence of its own. Darkness is only the absence of light. Light has its own existence, and to have one’s own existence is the true power.
The dawn is bound to come. The night may be long. The agony may be great. The darkness may be becoming more and more intense but nothing can prevent the new man from arising on the horizon. One thing has always to be remembered, that whatsoever is destructive is impotent, only creativity has potentiality, is potent. They cannot destroy the eternal being in you. In fact, the situation today is more destructive than it was ever before. But as I see it, it may prove a blessing in disguise. All that is beautiful and real in existence has an inner urge to expand.

Flashback 2008

Finally, 2008 is coming to an end. It was a year of tumult, turmoil and terror, a year that brought both -- the best of times and the worst of times.The year started on a high. Ten days into 2008, the BSE Sensex closed at an all-time high. That same day, Ratan Tata unveiled the Nano, the world’s cheapest car. The economy expanded 9 per cent for the third straight year ended March. The India growth story, it seemed, would carry on forever.
Then, the tide turned. High global commodity and crude oil prices began to push the inflation rate to double digits. Interest rates rose in tandem, and the loan-fuelled consumption boom began to peter out. The tremors from the US financial crisis finally ended the prevailing feel-good factor — by the second half of the year
The downslide only got worse. Economic growth has slipped to 7 per cent or less, and India’s cup of woes, it seemed, was full. But the Gods who write India’s script had saved the worst for the last. The Mumbai terror attacks on November 26 were the culmination of a year in which terrorism scaled new peaks across the country.As the year draws to a close, the mood is sombre. The crisis has brought new challenges—this is the first time liberalized India is facing the downside of globalisation. But hope still floats in the air.
The nuclear deal, the successful launch of Chandrayaan-1 and Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, among many other examples, underline India’s resilience.

RComm rolls out GSM nationwide

With competition hotting up in the mobile services space in India, Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications (RComm) launched the much-awaited nationwide global system for mobile communications (GSM) wireless services. RComm, the country’s second-largest mobile-phone operator, will cover 11,000 towns and 3,40,000 villages and will pump in Rs 10,000 crore for the GSM roll out. The roll-out will also include all metros. The service is expected to cover over 1 million retailers in India. India, the world’s secondlargest mobile-phone services market after China, added more than 10 million subscribers for the third straight month in November. Announcing the GSM roll out plans, Anil Ambani, chairman, RComm, said that the company could launch the services six months ahead of schedule. “What has taken other companies 15 years to achieve, we have completed in less than 15 months,” he said, adding that the GSM telephony will complement the group's CDMA offering to give customers a wider choice. GSM standard accounts for about 75% of India’s 336 million wireless users. The CDMA network of Reliance Comm spans more than 20,000 towns and 450,000 villages and has some 60 million subscribers across the country. Bharti Airtel has 83 million and Vodafone’s Indian unit has 59 million users. “Customers will have a choice now. We have always said we are technologyneutral. Customers marry products and services, and not technology,” Ambani said.
The company did not announce the pricing of the services yet, but said it expected good growth in the business as seven out of ten mobile customers are entering the GSM space. For RComm, all the growth has been from CDMA, but the GSM roll-out will enhance market share, Ambani said. With the launch of its GSM service, Reliance’s customers will be able to use the widest range of over 250 handsets and devices compared to any other operator in India. Reliance’s customers can now roam on more networks globally in more than 200 countries – offering the widest choice available to customers in India, a company statement said.
Stating that the company looks forward to participating in the 3G auction in 2009, Ambani said that his company may spend between Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 4,000 crore on 3G services.
Meanwhile, RComm on Monday also said that it has repurchased 250 zero coupon foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) each of $1,00,000 aggregating to Rs 121.22 crore ($25 million) at a discount of 52.5% and has extinguished the same on December 29, 2008.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

The Bombay HC permitted the BMC to cull "nuisance" strays....


India added 10.35 million mobile users in November

Indian mobile phone firms signed up 10.35 million users in November, slightly fewer than the previous month’s record but maintaining pacy growth in a slowing economy. The country’s total wireless subscriber base at the end of November stood at 336.08 million, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday, a rise of 49% from an year earlier. The user base grew nearly 44% in the 11 months to November, or 102.45 million new additions, the data showed. Firms added an all-time high 10.42 million customers in October. Calls rates as low as 1 cent (71 paise) a minute and cheap handsets are driving demand in India, the world’s fastest growing wireless market. Operators are now expanding infrastructure to cover untapped smaller towns and villages to hook new users. India is the second largest wireless market in the world, trailing only China with at least 600 million mobile users.
Top mobile operator Bharti Airtel Ltd, which added 2.72 million new users in November, taking its total subscriber base to 82.9 million, led the additions. No. 2 Reliance Communications Ltd added 1.77 million users to have a total of 59.6 million, while third ranked Vodafone Essar Ltd gained 2.06 million subscribers to 58.8 million.Other mobile operators include Idea Cellular Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd, Aircel and state-run firms Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

The anger is still there....

Idea in Karnataka

Idea Cellular Ltd, telecom service provider, is planning to invest Rs 300-400 crore in the next 15 months to enhance network coverage in Karnataka.The company wants to reach out to 78% of Karnataka’s towns and villages by March 2010. At present, it’s penetration in to the Karnataka is close to 40%. Himanshu Kapania, director operations, Idea Cellular, said that by March, Idea’s coverage in the Karnataka will go up to 50%. “We will be taking our current coverage of 3,410 towns and villages to 6,400 by March 2009 and to 11,200 by 2010,” he added. The mobile service provider is trying to accelerate to pace of garnering market share in the state. Spice Communication’s share in the mobile telephony market had been lagging with just 9.5% in Karnataka due to very low coverage and technological snags. Its rival Bharati Airtel was way ahead with around 50% market share.Sanjeev Aga, managing director, Idea Cellular, said, “It was a one horse race, but that will change with enhanced services and coverage that we will offer.” Wider coverage in the Karnataka will also help the company to expand its market share in south India from current 20%. Two weeks back, the company transformed Spice into Idea in Punjab. On Monday, it made its entry into Spice’s second circle of Karnataka by unveiling the Idea logo and brand identity.
Aga said Spice’s 900 megahertz (MHz) circles provides immense opportunity to Idea and with entry into Punjab and Karnataka, it’s now present in nine 900 MHz circles.The other states, where it operates with 900 MHz licences are Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, UP (west) and Haryana.In the 900 MHz circles, Idea is leading and the fastest growing mobile service provider in the country with subscriber base of 27.41 million. In November, it grew at 63% y-o-y, with addition of 10.59 million new subscribers. In the same period, Bharati Airtel grew at 56% with subscriber base of 26.29 million.Aga said the company would not be launching services in any more circles in this fiscal. Currently, it is present in 15 of the 22 circles and will be in all circles in the next 12 months. Early next fiscal the company will launch its services in Orissa and Tamil Nadu.

Northern chill : Fog everywhere

Winter is here and so is the Fog....causing disruptions in travel across North India.

GI status for Sozani embroidery

The Centre has won a small, but economically significant victory for Jammu and Kashmir just before Christmas. J&K won geographical indication (GI) status for its famous Sozani embroidery.
Pakistan had strongly opposed local artisans filing for GI status in 2006. Later, it acceded, but wanted to be coopted as an applicant. Its argument: some territories (read: PoK) where Sozani is made are under the control of Islamabad.
The GI Registry of India, the organisation mandated by the WTO to register such claims for the subcontinent,rejected Pakistan’s demand since it was not in compliance with Indian GI law or the Trips Agreement. The global pact explicitly states that anyone objecting to a GI application cannot later be accepted as a co-applicant. At stake is a business worth over Rs 400 crore.The GI status implies that only embroidery made by artisans from J&K would be referred to as Sozani. Entirely handmade, Sozani is done on shawls, dressmaterials,bedsheet sets,and commands a premium in both international and domestic markets.
GI is given to products with a reputation attributable to a place of origin or the area where it is manufactured. “With the GI certification, products get a distinct identity, which can be distinguished from fakes,”says GK Muthukumaar,senior associate at law firm Anand & Anand.
Ten other Kashmiri products are in the queue for GI status: papiermache,walnut wood carvings, silk carpets, Amblikar shawls, Namda rugs, katamband (woodceilings) and pinjrakari (latticedwood carvings).
This is not the first time that Pakistan has opposed Indian GI applications—and lost.In the case of Pashmina yarn from Kashmir, a GI for which was recently granted to India, Pakistan had claimed that the fine wool is produced in its region as well.

BJP's mantra on response to Pakistan

Acknowledging that a war with Pakistan cannot be an option at this juncture, the BJP instead suggested UN-supervised joint military action against terrorists operating out of the neighbouring country. The saffron party also wanted economic sanctions on Islamabad for not acting against terrorists and sought the US’ support for it. “India could consider the option of military blockade of Karachi,” said BJP president Rajnath Singh in Mumbai . He also called for framing charges of “war crimes” against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jamaat-ud-Dawaa and ISI in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Mr Singh felt the government should take the international community into confidence and persuade it to launch a joint military action under UN Security Council’s supervision against terrorists operating from Pakistan. “The UPA government considers the US as India’s strategic partner after signing the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. It is high time that the Centre uses its diplomatic channels with Washington to stop all financial assistance to Pakistan and work jointly to impose economic sanctions against it,” Mr Singh said. He said the US aid to Pakistan was nearly $ 2 billion a year. Recently, the US was instrumental in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) providing a $7.6-billion package to save Pakistan from bankruptcy. “According to credible media reports published in US dailies, Pakistan has been diverting the monetary assistance from Western countries to fund terrorist modules that work against India,” the BJP leader said. He said Pakistan leadership has admitted to the role of “non-state players” in the Mumbai attacks. “The international community must take cognisance of the fact that Islamabad cannot control the non-state actors operating in the country,” he said.

Somewhere in Chennai....

The new flyover on G N Chetty Road all lit up on its inaugural day

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

Mayawati's image takes a battering

The Indica is 10

Tata's first indigineous car made in India for the world is 10 years old and has a new avtaar.

Delhi Metro snippets

This new year, residents of north Delhi will have a reason to smile. As Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is all set to unveil the extension of the Delhi Metro line from Vishwavidyalaya Metro station to Jehangirpuri within next 15 days — nine months ahead of schedule. According to officials, the train trials on the stretch and the construction of all the stations have been completed. The flooring, electicals, lifts and escalators have been fitted, even the ticketing and automatic fare collection (AFC) gates are installed. The finishing work like polishing of floors, filling gaps in tiles, setting up the airconditioning vents is underway. And this, say local property dealers, is already having an impact on real estate rates in adjoining colonies like Model Town, Mukherji Nagar, Derawal Nagar, Adarsh Nagar, DDA flats in Jehangirpuri and Adarsh Nagar. Said Rajesh Singh, a property dealer based in Model Town: ‘‘The first announcements itself saw a property hike. After news of the trial runs came and the first trains were seen, the rates of properties near the station have gone up by almost 20 per cent. Even PGs for students around Mukherjee Nagar which are close to the station are demanding higher rentals.’’ The 6.36 km long extension will ferry over 1.51 lakh commuters by 2011 and will add five more stations to the existing Line 2 from Central Secretariat to Vishwavidyalaya. The line runs underground till the next station at GTB Nagar, after which the rest of it is elevated. For better crowd management, the entries and exits to all stations will be uni-directional, which means one staircase will be reserved for people to enter while another on the same side for those exiting. What sets the elevated stations of this new extension apart from other Metro stations in the city is that they are all ‘‘hanging’’ from the sides of the bridge. The stations have been designed such that they are all 24-metres wide. Of this, nine metres is a full structure that stands tall in the middle of the road, on the central verge and from the ground level itself. On the upper levels, the station building extends about 7.5 metres from each side, with no pillars connecting to the ground. So, when it is seen from the road, it appears like the sides of the building are hanging from the central structure. The changed design leaves scope for widening the road in future as well. With opening of this extension on the Vishwavidyalaya side and those to Badarpur and Gurgaon from the Central Secretariat side, Line 2 will become the longest line on the Metro. Also, DMRC has plans to extend this line further from Jehangirpuri to Badli. Vishwavidyalaya-Jehangirpuri Extension:
Length : 6.36 km
Number of stations : 5 (four elevated) Stations - GTB Nagar (underground), Model Town, Azadpur, Adarsh Nagar and Jehangirpuri .
Busiest station (expected) : Adarsh Nagar .
Expected total ridership (2011) : 1,51,749 entry/exits
GTB Nagar- 30,405
Model Town -34,668
Azadpur -30,867
Adarsh Nagar -37,684
Jehangirpuri -18,125
Scheduled opening : Jan ’09
Construction started : Nov ’05
Deepest point : 15.3m below road (at Kingsway Camp)
Highest point : 22m (at Azadpur crossing)
City’s first four-level crossing - Azadpur will become Delhi’s first crossing with four levels of commuting. For this an underpass & a flyover are under construction. There will also be a surface-level intersection. The Metro line will form the topmost layer. DMRC plans to develop a mall at the Azadpur station.
New LCD display boards : All underground stations will get new type of LCD display boards. They will display waiting time. DMRC is planning to display messages regarding safety, social service & ads on them

J&K to get 3G CM ?

With National Conference patron and his father Farooq Abdullah dispelling speculation over the party’s chief ministerial nominee, Omar Abdullah is set to assume office once power-sharing talks with Congress are concluded in the next couple of days. The senior Abdullah set the stage for the third generation CM from one of Kashmir’s oldest political families when he told the media, “I have thought over this through the night. Looking at the situation, honestly I think we need a younger man.” With the NC having cleared his name, Omar arrived in Delhi for consultations and his path to the chief ministership looked even clearer with Congress firmly rejecting a last-minute offer from PDP leaders Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba to support a Congress CM for the entire term. Senior Congress sources said the party was not going to be drawn into a “power game” and would respect the spirit of the Jammu and Kashmir result.

Saraswati snippets

Almost 13 km from Kurukshetra lies the ancient village of Bhoresaidan — named after the Kaurava hero Bhurisrava, who was one of Duryodhana’s 11 distinguished senapatis during the Mahabharata war. A dusty road adjacent to the village leads to a yawning valley, flanked by rocks and covered with a soil that is a curious mix of various sedimentary deposits. Rajesh Purohit, deputy director of the Kurukshetra-based Sri Krishna Museum, bends to scoop up some of the soil. “This soil has a lot of history,” he says gravely. “After all, the river Saraswati used to once flow here.” Purohit's contention is that the ‘valley’ is actually the bed of the Saraswati, a fact which finds mention in numerous ancient literary texts, but whose existence has often been questioned by historians. “The discovery of the river bed,” he says, “proves beyond doubt that Saraswati is not a myth.” That myth may now be laid to rest forever as plans are afoot to revive a part of the course taken by this ancient river. The Haryana government has acquired almost 20 acres of land and work is under way on a 50 km-long channel in Kurukshetra, through which the river will flow again. “The revival of the Saraswati will benefit countless people in the region as it will augment ground water resources,” says Darshan Lal Jain of the Saraswati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, which is working with the government on this project. The plan is not to line with the river’s course with bricks so that water can permeate the ground. With ground water levels dipping to as low as 150 feet, the river’s revival may be a boon for parched Haryana. A boon that would not have been possible without the discovery of the river bed. “In 2004, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred,” recalls Purohit. “Water started oozing out from a palaeochannel (a dried river bed) at the Kapil Muni temple sarovar at Kalayat. We carried out studies of this water. Simultaneously, a scientific team studied its mineral composition.” Scientists from ISRO also carried out studies using space imagery and discovered a number of fossil valleys in upper central Haryana. “Mapping images of the palaeo channels showed that they corresponded to the archaeological sites of Haryana,” says Purohit. “This means that these settlements came up near the river, as was the norm in those times and gives further proof that the river Saraswati indeed existed,” he says. Incidentally, the debate about the existence of the Saraswati has been continuing for a long time although lately, most historians have begun to concede that the river perhaps did exist. However, they still continue to debate the name by which the river was known, the route that it took and the reasons for its disappearance. “There is no doubt that the Saraswati river existed. However, opinion is divided on whether it was known as the Saraswati or the Ghaggar,” says S Kalyanraman of the Saraswati Research and Education Trust (SRET). The idea that the ancient Saraswati might be the modern-day seasonal river, Ghaggar, is not new. It was first put forward over 100 years ago by CF Oldham, an English engineer who observed that the dry bed of the Ghaggar appeared too broad for a seasonal river. He believed that the Ghaggar was, in fact, flowing on the bed of a bigger river that existed before. Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley sites have also revealed numerous settlements along the Ghaggar, lending further credence to this theory. But then, how did this river disappear? “Primarily due to tectonic shifts,” says K S Valdiya of the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. “Tectonic uplifts caused the deflection of the waters of the Yamuna and Sutlej, which contributed the bulk of the expanse of the river. In a way, it was a case of ‘river piracy’,” says Valdiya, who recently delivered the keynote address at a conference on the Saraswati that was organised by SRET. Whatever the reason for its disappearance, this river sutra is far from over. And when this ancient river does start to flow again, everyone will be watching. After all, it is not every day that a river is reborn.

Mumbai Suburban Railway snippets

2009 would hopefully bring :50 brand new trains, each costing Rs 20 crore, will roll out from ICF, Chennai .Tickets will be available on mobile phones. Season tickets can be obtained through ATVM machines. Suburban services will be extended up to Dahanu Road on WR. Conversion from 1,500 volts DC to 25,000 volts AC on both Western and Central Railways .The fifth and sixth lines between Kurla-Thane will be contructed Harbour line will be extended from Andheri to Goregaon .Modern maintenance car-shed will come up at Virar .A mid-town terminus will be built at Dadar. New station buildings will come up on the east side at Andheri and Borivali stations .


Pokkali Rice gets GI status

At a time when the world fritters time and money on researching new varieties of paddy that are flood and saline resistant, an indigenous organic variety in coastal Kerala that thrives on salinity and water is finding survival a tough proposition. The cultivation system, Pokkali, which alternates paddy and prawns, is practiced in the wetlands of Alappuzha, Thrissur and Ernakulam districts. With 'Pokkali rice' getting the GI (geographical indication) status, experts hope that it will ensure higher market access and returns.The Pokkali system of rice farming in coastal Kerala is a highly commended farming system that effectively complements the natural system. The nearness to sea and subsequent periodical seawater inundation ensure the uniqueness of the rice varieties cultivated, and contribute to the high degree of specialisation in the cultural practices followed.The rice cultivation compliments prawn culture, which follows it, making it a unique agro-ecological continuum that is traditionally organic. After the harvest, the decaying stubbles of paddy serve as food for prawns and likewise prawn excreta makes the field fertile. Farmers abstain from using agrochemicals in growing rice, which hampers the productivity of the succeeding crop.Paddy cultivation is practiced in Pokkali tracts during the low saline phase and prawn farming is practiced during the high-saline phase.It is also globally well known for its salt-resistant genes that have been studied using modern biotechnological tools by the University of Arizona. In the international plant breeding labs, it is the gene of the Pokkali paddy that is used as the parent gene to culture saline and flood-resistant paddy.
Pokkali system of cultivation is giving way to the untenable monoculture of prawn due to economic reasons. Though this provides higher net returns over the traditional rice-prawn culture in the short run, it is found to be unsustainable in the long run, in both the ecological and the social context. Unavailability of farm hands, hard labour and the returns on the commodity are not encouraging says farmers. The total area under Pokkali has shrunk from 25,000 hectare a few decades back, to a mere 5,500 hectare now. Despite Kerala government's direct intervention, that has made the monoculture illegal, more area is being gradually brought under fallow-prawn and prawn prawn systems. The decline of Pokkali cultivation has in turn affected prawn farming. The juvenile prawns do not get the high protein from the decaying stubbles, and are rendered vulnerable to diseases. Developing a market for organic rice, where a higher price is ensured, is expected to make the Pokkali rice farming profitable in the long run. Pokkali rice is distinguishable in taste, quality and utility from the conventional rice. Studies by the Kerala Agricultural University and other experts report that consumers are willing to spend a price premium of 60% for the organic attribute. The market mechanism, involving a price premium for the branded rice, can be seen as an efficient alternative for conservation, complementing the government regulations.

The Ambani Patriarch's birthday

28th December was the birthday of Dhirubhai Ambani...