Income & Expenditure

Income and expenditure figures of our major political parties.

Somewhere in Chandigarh....

A bus makes it's way through a carpet of leaves.

IGI Aerocity snippets

Five reputed domestic and global hospitality companies have been awarded development rights for six asset areas in the much-delayed hospitality district of the IGI Airport, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) announced .The five developers — Accor, InterGlobe Hotels, Lemon Tree, Bird Group and Hyatt (Saraf Hotels) — were selected after technical and financial evaluation of all 60 bids received by DIAL, and then approved by the Board of Directors, based on the best commercial valuation levels offered by the bidders. A recent report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on ‘Development of tourism infrastructure and amenities for 2010 Commonwealth Games’ has said that only 500 rooms out of an earlier projected availability of 3,000 rooms were expected from DIAL in time for the mega-event.
A DIAL official said there is little time to build 3,000 rooms by 2010, adding that the new developers would be able to make approximately 2,000, without any specific time-frame.
“We are not certain if the rooms would be built in time for the Commonwealth Games,” the official said. “The developers will let us know shortly.” While the bidding process on 13 plots was given a go-ahead late last year, bids on only six plots have been evaluated and awarded so far. A DIAL source said the remaining bids would be opened shortly. “In all, the 45-acre hospitality district land has been divided into 13 asset areas, of which bids on six plots have been evaluated and awarded,” DIAL official said. “The rest will be announced shortly — DIAL will collect refundable security deposits from developers equivalent to three times the average annual rental of six years.” The successful bidders are now likely to develop a mix of super-luxury and budget hotels in the airport hospitality district, also known as the ‘aerocity project’.
As part of the development of hotels, the developers will offer service facilities like convention centres, restaurants and commercial plazas within the hotel premises to meet the requirements of passengers and airlines, officials said.



So please go and vote....

JBIC to fund extension of Kolkata's EW Metro

Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) has agreed to fund the East-West metro’s extension up to the airport. JBIC has recently given the nod to Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation’s (KMRC) proposed extension of an arm to airport from Salt Lake. The construction of 6.5-km track would cost Rs 800 crore more than the estimated budget for the East-West Metro project. KMRC has already engaged RITES for preparing the detailed project report (DPR) for the extension. The decision came after a study commissioned by the transport department stressed on the need for a mass rapid transit system (MRTS) connectivity between the airport and the city. Currently, the annual passenger handling capacity of the two airport terminals is six million. Once the integrated building becomes operational, it will jump to 20 million. While 6,000 private cars and taxis now come to the airport every day, the figure will go up to 24,000 after modernization. The MRTS can take a lot of pressure off its passenger dispersal system. Airports in most major cities of the world are linked with an efficient MRTS. But Kolkata remains an exception. “We want the work on the airport link to begin simultaneously so that the EW Metro attracts a higher volume of passengers when completed. The airport line will also benefit a lot of fliers, especially those who are booked on no-frills airlines,” said a KMRC official. “The target is to complete the link by 2010, when the modernization project will be completed and the new airport terminal building will become operational,” a senior airport official said. Tracks will be laid across the Kestopur canal to VIP Road and cover almost the entire stretch of the road before going underground near its junction with the road heading right towards the airport. The airport station may be integrated with the underground parking lot of the new terminal, said an airport official. The state transport department has planned a four-lane flyover from Chitpore to the Lake Town-VIP Road crossing. The existing Circular Railway connection between Dum Dum junction and the airport may be made a part of the Metro route. Metro Rail is studying the project feasibility. “The survey will be completed next month,” said a Metro official.

BrahMos test-fired

The Army’s objective to induct the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile as a ‘precision-strike weapon’ took a step forward with the testing of the cruise missile at Pokhran range for the second time this month. While DRDO promptly claimed the BrahMos Block-II missile had hit the ‘bull’s-eye’, the Army was reluctant to dub it ‘a success’ without ‘detailed analysis’. The Army’s reluctance comes in the backdrop of the first test of this Block-II BrahMos flopping on January 20, with software glitches making the 290-km range missile completely miss the intended target. The second test, on March 4, was dubbed successful by DRDO, even though the Army is yet to come out with its own findings. ‘‘We will combine and analyse the data of all the three tests before coming to a conclusion. Just one hit cannot be used to induct a new system,’’ said an Army officer. Army, on its part, had ordered two BrahMos regiments in the first phase at a cost of Rs 8,352 crore, with 134 missiles, 10 road-mobile autonomous launchers on 12x12 Tatra vehicles, four mobile command posts and the like. Navy, in turn, has ordered 49 BrahMos firing units at a cost of Rs 711 crore for now. Both Army and Navy are already inducting the missile’s Block-I version, while the Block-II variant has been designed to hit a specific small target, with a low radar cross-section, in a multi-target environment. Talking about Sunday’s test, a DRDO official said, ‘‘The missile, which flies at 2.8 Mach speed, took off successfully at 11.15am and hit the bull’s-eye, meeting all mission parameters.’’ He added, ‘‘Army’s requirement for the land-attack version, with Block-II advanced seeker software and target-discriminating capabilities, has now been fully met. This version is now ready for induction.’’The need for rapid induction of the advanced BrahMos cannot be overstated. The Pakistan Army is inducting its nuclearcapable Babur land-attack cruise missile, developed with China’s help to have a strike range over 500 km, in large numbers into its arsenal.

Wealth Index

The Wealth Index of our political parties.


Bring back Indian money stashed abroad: Advani

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to raise at the G-20 summit the issue of Indian money stashed abroad and promised to look into the problem of black money if his party comes to power."I want to demand today that the prime minister raise this issue strongly at the G-20 and ask to be provided with the details of the Indian wealth abroad," Advani told reporters in New Delhi. "I want to say that if NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) is voted to power, we will pursue this issue at legal and executive level and force Indian citizens to bring back their wealth to the country," Advani said, citing the 'crusade' by western countries against tax havens provided by Swiss banks.
Advani also asked the prime minister to hold a Cabinet meeting on the issue before going for the G-20 economic summit, to be held in London April 2. Advani quoted figures to buttress his point. "The total amount in foreign banks was $2.6 trillion in 2001 and in 2007 it was $5.7 trillion, which amounts to Rs.285 lakh crore. This is total - India's share is between $500 billion and $1,400 billion in 2001 and 2007 respectively," said Advani. Terming the issue as a convergence of 'terror, crime and black money', the BJP leader said the money stashed abroad is enough to meet the developmental needs of the country. "We have estimated that if the whole amount Rs 285 lakh crore is brought back, the debt of all farmers can be paid off. We may have world-class roads in the whole country... There will be facilities for potable water in 600,000 villages... This is just to show the advantage accrued to the country," Advani argued.
The former deputy prime minister reminded that National Security Advisor MK Narayanan had cautioned in 2007 about the 'terror money' responsible for the boom in the stock exchange then.
"Earlier, there were black money and crime money and now there is terror money. It is convergence of terror, crime and black money. We need to pursue it with courage and determination for national interest," asserted the octogenarian leader. Advani said he will write to the Election Commission to ask all candidates to submit an affidavit regarding any assets abroad. He also promised to form a task force comprising R Vaidyanathan, a professor of finance at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, financial expert S Gurumurthy, criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani and security expert Ajit Doval.

Airbus plans new base in India

A slowdown in the Indian aviation industry has failed to dampen the spirit of Airbus. The European aircraft manufacturer is planning to set up a manufacturing base in India. As part of its globalisation attempts, the company is planing to invest about $1 billion in India over the next 10 years and is looking for partnerships. “We plan to develop a manufacturing base in India in the next three-four years, but we are not going to copy what we have done in China. For India, the biggest development is in services and engineering,” Eric Zenin, head (business development and international cooperation), Airbus said. The company said that India continued to be one of the biggest emerging markets in aerospace. “The air traffic in India is expected to grow at 11.3 per cent compared with 11.1 per cent in China and 9.4 per cent in Eastern Europe. Over the next 20 years, Indian traffic growth at 6.4 per cent would be higher than the rest of the world, which is expected to grow at 4.4 per cent,” Christian Scherer, the executive vice-president of the company said.
The company is also looking at shifting part of its operations out of Europe. “We are planning to build up to 20 per cent of aero structures and 30 per cent of engineering sub-contracting offshore by 2020 and India will get a large chunk of this business,” Scherer said. Airbus has five engineering centres outside Europe — two in the US and one each in Bangalore, Beijing and Russia.
The Bangalore engineering centre began operations in 2007. The centre is already developing advanced capabilities in modelling and simulation, including areas such as flight management systems, aero dynamics and digital simulation with the current workforce of about 100 people. “We would hire about 300 more people over the next four years,” he added.

A Mask here, a Mask there....

Which one would you wear?

Head - to - Head

As the UPA’s rule at the centre comes to an end, its report card could read as follows: The best GDP growth followed by a deceleration, the steepest inflation followed by the lowest inflation, the most farmer suicides followed by one of the biggest loan waivers, most jobs created and most jobs lost, a huge impetus to infrastructure threatening to peter out, large rural employment projects, and promises of reforms not kept. But above all, posterity will probably remember the UPA rule for three things — the nuclear deal with the US, the fact that the coalition managed to somehow stay in power for five years, and its rediscovery of the aam aadmi, or the common man. Has UPA done better than the NDA government? The jury is out and only after the elections will it be known which of the two combines is perceived to have done better.
Out of power for five years, NDA would like to be remembered for a few achievements from 1999 till 2004. No doubt, the unleashing of reforms by NDA led to a vibrant economy; the golden quadrilateral project gave India the first taste of what modern roads could be like; the expansion of telecommunications and development of ports and airports connected India like never before, the universal education scheme dreamed of making every Indian literate, and Indian IT was put on the global pedestal. Harking back to 1998 Pokharan nuclear tests, BJP , which was to later lead the NDA government, would like to take India back on a power trip.
It is a matter of debate if the economy is in a healthier state at the end of UPA’s rule than it was when NDA ceded power in 2004. Pranab Mukherjee, the keypolicy architect in the Congress, was perhaps reassuring himself, his party and the coalition partners when he told Parliament recently: “People have seen how our government has success fully steered the country through difficult times.” He may have been correct in his claim, though. For, despite the severe knocks that the Indian economy received as the global banking system teetered, the country is relatively better off, thanks largely to the checks and balances in our financial/ banking system.
However, like a good opposition leader, BJP’s L K Advani, has a different take on the UPA’s performance. He sees the economy as badly managed, causing prices to spiral up. “Prices of all commodities and services have gone through the roof. The UPA and Congress have mismanaged the economy badly,” Advani said. Mindful that a good economy did NDA no good in the 2004 elections, Advani turns to other issues. He accuses UPA of turning India into a soft state. “There should be zero tolerance toward terrorism”. On the UPA side, P Chidambaram boasts of 9 per cent GDP growth in four of the five years of UPA rule. During NDA’s time, the average growth was 5.8 per cent. The Shiv Sena leader and minister in the NDA government, Suresh Prabhu, looks beyond growth and sees a government in a deeper debt abyss than ever before. “A yawning trade deficit, faltering exports coupled with an unprecedented rise in current account and fiscal deficits are the legacies the Manmohan Singh government is leaving behind,” Prabhu said.
What has NDA to show? Stable prices during its governance despite the Orissa cyclone and the Kargil war that cost a lot of resources, say its leaders. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy of the Congress lists the UPA’s biggest achievements: The waiver of farm loans worth over Rs 65,000 crore, the rural employment guarantee scheme, easy education loans and high spending on the social sector.

New Delhi Station modernisation snippets

Eight companies have cleared the first round of qualification for the Rs 5,000-crore New Delhi railway station’s modernisation project. L&T Transco, DLF and GVK Developmental Projects, Mumbai-based Trif Infrastructure, DB Reality and Nishok Realities are among eight companies, besides Hyderabad-based VNR Infrastructure and KMC Constructions. More than a dozen companies, including Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure and Kolkatabased Srei Infra were in the race for a slice of the Indian Railways’ world-class railway station project. However, only eight companies submitted requests for qualification (RFQs) after the Railways changed the qualifying criteria around two months back.
According to a senior railway ministry official, “We are in the process of evaluating these bids. Once its over, we will invite technical bids. We are looking at a maximum of six bidders for the project.” To fasttrack the selection process, the ministry has handed over the technical bid documents to qualified bidders as it finishes the evaluation. The railways have appointed a consortium of business and design consultants — Hong Kong’s Terry Ferrell & Partners, London’s Ove Arup & Partners and Smec International of Gurgaon — to finalise the business plans for project.

Mumbai Metro II snippets

The nodal agency for he implementation of the second metro rail corridor has sent the proposal for an underground stretch between Andheri and Bandra, presented by residents protesting against the project, for evaluation by an independent consultant. The “conceptual plan” proposes an underground section of the Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd corridor from ESIC Nagar in Andheri to Bandra. According to these citizen activists, the overground metro corridor will affect hundreds of structures. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has asked an independent consultant to scrutinise the plan before forwarding it to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, its principal consultant. “We’ve asked Louis Berger Group to scrutinise the plan. They will come up with a feasibility report,” said Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner. The study will look into the technical feasibility, financial viability and the impact of the alternative design on the pace of implementation of the corridor. The economic slump has affected the implementation of the 32-km corridor as none of the seven interested consortia had submitted financial bids for the Rs 6,192-crore project. However, the MMRDA is hopeful of getting a few responses by April 30, the fourth extended date to submit bids. The MMRDA is also contemplating to fund the project in case no bidders come forward.
On the other hand, the residents of areas like JVPD, Santacruz, Khar and Linking Road are conducting their own detailed study into the plan proposed by their core committee. “We’re conducting our own detailed micro plan for the eight-km underground stretch in association with IIT, Mumbai,” said Nitin Killawala, member of the residents’ committee. According to them, an elevated metro corridor will affect hundreds of structures. “As per our calculation, from ESIC Nagar to Bandra, there are over 153 structures that will be affected. At some places, the staircases marked on maps of the planning agency fall in the frontage of the buildings or commercial structures,” said Killawala, who is also an architect. The residents want the government to scrap the tendering process and come up with another funding model and incorporate the underground section. “The MMRDA has sent us a letter saying that its consultants are evaluating the proposed plan, but it hasn’t given us any time frame within which it will be done. The MMRDA should discontinue the bidding process for the time being,” Killawala said. According to him, the MMRDA is avoiding the underground section mainly owing to its cost factor, but it is neglecting the social cost an elevated corridor will incur.

Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy

Mahatma Gandhi came back from the dead and reformed a criminal in Lage Raho Munnabhai. Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj hopes to do the same with the angry Maharashtrian in Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy (I am Shivajiraje Bhosale Speaking), a Marathi film that stars Bollywood actor-director Mahesh Manjrekar and is due to be released on April 3, incidentally, in the presence of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. The film revolves around Dinkar Maruti Bhosale, a middle class Maharashtrian in cosmopolitan Mumbai. He always complains about the lack of respect a Marathi person receives in Mumbai and feels he is victimised everywhere because he is a Marathi, little realising that he himself has brought this situation upon himself. Dinkar reaches Pratapgad and the spirit of Shivaji Maharaj is aroused. Shivaji Maharaj takes on Dinkar for his shallow thinking and asks him to command respect and not demand it. “Marathi people always complain that they have been sidelined by outsiders. The film, however, questions Marathi people if those outsiders had stopped them from progressing. It is a thought-provoking film and I hope people change after watching the film,” said Santosh Manjrekar, Mahesh’s brother and the director of the film. The film, which stars Mahesh Manjrekar, Makarand Anaspure and Sachin Khedekar, also features Sukhvinder Singh’s first Marathi song.
Manjrekar says the film represents the angst felt by middle class Marathi people, which Maharashtrains should watch and learn from. “There are two types of migrants, well educated and lower class. It is the middle class that is crushed between these two and the film portrays the middle class frustration.” Over the last year, Raj’s party has been raising the locals versus outsiders issue in the state. The protests by Raj’s party also saw violence. Raj had earlier attended the film’s audio release function while other political leaders like Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and NCP city chief Sachir Ahir had attended the premier.

Forex reserves jump $5.1 bn

After plunging nearly $56 billion since March 2008, India’s foreign exchange reserves got a big boost last week. The country’s forex reserves rose by $5.1 billion in the week ended March 20 due to a weakening of non-dollar assets like the euro, yen and the British pound. These assets were revalued as the dollar gained sharply against these currencies. According to the latest figures available with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), total foreign exchange reserves, including gold and SDR, rose by $5.1 billion to $253.8 billion. While foreign-currency assets swelled by $5,081 million, the value of gold and SDR (special drawing rights) — notional currency with the IMF pegged to the dollar, euro, pound and the yen — remained unchanged during the week. The reserves with the IMF increased by $21 million during the week. In rupee terms, the reserves had fallen by Rs 10,983 crore during the same period. “Forex reserves are likely to rise further as foreign investors (FIIs) have been pumping money into Indian markets of late,” said a banking source. FIIs put around $350 million in Indian stocks last week.
The rise in dollar came amidst the campaign by China for an alternative to the US dollar as a global reserve currency. People’s Bank of China’s governor Zhou Xiaochuan had floated the idea of a new currency reserve system to replace the dollar. He identified the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), whose value is linked to a basket of currencies, as a possibility. However, US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner said the dollar would still be the dominant reserve currency. The US just has to make sure the rest of the world is confident in its economic policy, he added.

Why is the Congress going solo?

An informative article by DK Singh.

The Congress’s decision to not have a national alliance with any party is part of its strategy to regain its lost glory, writes Even as the party’s heir apparent is working on a plan to regain the party’s lost glory, the Congress is hoping to emerge as the single largest party in the 2009 election and lead the next government.Last Wednesday, as the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) was bracing to leave the UPA to align with the AIADMK, Union Minister Kapil Sibal said, “Every regional party jostles for space and wants to throw out the national party (from the state). Similarly, the national party does not want to give them space at the national level. This has been there in every election and will continue to be so.” While he was talking of the reality of coalition politics, his remarks explained the grand old party’s positioning vis-à-vis its allies since the Congress Working Committee (CWC)’s decision on January 29 not to have any national alliance with any party.
The following days witnessed the emergence of a ‘new Congress’ that was demanding and assertive in its approach to regional partners. It had suddenly undergone a complete transformation—from being a mendicant alliance partner who had agreed to contest just four of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in 2004 to a “self-respecting” national party whose president Sonia Gandhi refused to entertain a request for appointment from the same leader after he cut a deal with LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan to offer merely three seats to the Congress in Bihar.
While Congress sources maintained Lalu’s request was “still under consideration”, an embarrassed RJD chief tried to argue that he had never sought an appointment. On March 17, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav made overtures to the Congress to enter into a pre-poll alliance in UP . “I am ready for talks (on seat sharing) if the Congress wants,” Mulayam said in Lucknow. “The SP has already put out candidates. Where is the scope for talks,” replied Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of UP, in Delhi the same day. The SP was ready to give 17 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP to the Congress—which had won just nine out of 71 seats it had contested in 2004—but the ruling party at the Centre wanted many more in the form of friendly contests.
In the months leading to elections in 2004, Sonia had gone out of the way to forge new alliances, calling on CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet, calling up M. Karunanidhi to congratulate him on pulling out of NDA, driving down to NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s home, walking across to her neighbour Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s residence, and driving down to BSP leader Mayawati’s Humayun Road residence to greet her on her birthday.
In 2009, however, when UPA partners were crying foul about the CWC decision, there was not even a conciliatory statement from the grand old party. While it worked hard to stitch up an alliance with the NCP in Maharashtra, the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand—and unsuccessfully tried to stop the PMK from walking out of DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu—it showed no such flexibility when it came to its seat-sharing talks with regional parties in the cow belt. Congress sources attributed this change in the Congress’s attitude towards its alliance partners to AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s long-term plan to revive the party in the cow belt—the party’s old bastion that had slipped out of its hold.
So when the CWC decided to have only state-specific alliances this year, the writing on the wall was clear. “Rahulji had gone to Bihar in September last year to visit flood-affected areas. He found his party non-existent there. He wanted the party to at least make a beginning in the state and it could not happen if the party remained RJD’s doormat,” said a senior Congress leader close to Rahul.
“Rahul is ready to sit in the Opposition for five years, but he wants the party to follow a long-term objective,” said a young party MP. While Rahul, who wanted the party to field young candidates on ‘losing seats’, forwarded a list of candidates recommended by the Youth Congress and the NSUI to those in charge of ticket distribution, he is not making any decisive intervention. While other leaders are focusing on the 2009 election, Rahul is touring the country in a bid to reach out to the youth. “He is working on a long-term plan to revive the party. He is looking at 2014, not 2009,” said a Congress leader.
Since 1998, when Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the Congress, there has been a constant soul-searching in the party. While it was forced to accept the necessity of entering into a coalition arrangement, the yearning for past glory never died. At an AICC session in New Delhi in November 2007, the party’s resolution and Sonia Gandhi’s remarks betrayed the party’s ambition. “Coalition means positive support from all sides. But working in a coalition does not mean we lose our political space forever,” Sonia Gandhi said in her address at the AICC session. “Such a coalition cannot be at the cost of revival of the Congress, particularly in States where its base had eroded,” said the party’s resolution.
A survey carried out by an agency hired by the Congress had given it 185 seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election, according to insiders. The survey had, however, been carried when the RJD, the LJP and the PMK were with the Congress. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy has assured the high command that the party would retain at least 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh. The feedback from Gujarat is “satisfying” as party leaders expect to retain 10 of the 12 seats it won in 2004. The DMK’s position in Tamil Nadu is “not bad”, although the PMK’s exit from the alliance is considered a “setback”. The Congress had received positive feedback from most of the states, except Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. While the party hopes to gain in the Left bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, the BJP’s preoccupation with its internal squabbles was also a positive from the Congress’s point of view. “If the party has to revive itself in UP and Bihar, this is the right time to start finding our feet,” said a CWC member.


IPL 2009 Schedule

IPL Season 2 kicks off is South Africa on April 18th.

Earth Hour 2009

India joins rest of the world...

World Trade snippets

The Slowdown showeth.

Another News Channel !

Is there room for so many ?

Festive Times

It was Gudi Padva, Ugadi and Cheti Chand....

Uttarakhand hops on the Tourism Bandwagon

Uttarakhand focuses on the domestic tourist.


What Indians Want....by 2022.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

26/11 : Now at a bookstore

Saw a copy at the Mumbai Airport the other day.

Of Sensex' swings & Montek's musings

Is this a whiff of revival? Or am I just stupidly optimistic?


Murky waters....It seems all parties are waiting for the election results to decide with which party / coalition they are.

India emerges 2nd in medical tourism race

India spends 1.2% of its GDP on health, but takes care of foreign patients — the country ranks second in medical tourism. In 2007, Indian hospitals treated 4.5 lakh patients from other countries against topper Thailand’s 12 lakh. A two-year study by healthcare researchers Deloitte revealed there’s always been an inflow of patients from neighbouring countries and West Asia, but now there’s a significant rise in patients from the US, UK and Europe. Cheaper treatment is a huge attraction and, during recession, that’s a big fact. But other factors, too, have contributed to the growth of medical tourism in India. “Indian clinical and paramedical talent is globally appreciated and with JCI accreditation of some hospitals, international standard is proven. Thirdparty intervention through health insurance has also given it a boost,” said Vishal Bali, CEO, Wockhardt Group of Hospitals. “Thailand, which revolutionized medical tourism, is more into cosmetic surgery; India focuses on cardiac, neurological or orthopaedic problems,” Bali said. Another significant factor is long patient waiting list, especially in the UK and Europe. The per-capita healthcare expenditure in Korea is $720 against India’s $94. Treatment cost is lowest in India — 20% of the average cost incurred in US; in Singapore, Thailand and South Africa, it’s 30% of the US cost. Medical tourism showcases the potential of Indian healthcare sector to the world which dreaded India for the incidence of AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, malaria and diabetes.

Delhi Metro snippets

West Delhi locales like Paschim Vihar, Peeragarhi and Madhipur are coming closer to the heart of the Capital sooner than designated. The New Delhi Metro line from Inderlok to Mundka, through Punjabi Bagh, will be opened for use by the end of 2009, as against the deadline of March 2010. ‘‘Seeing the pace of construction, the schedules of arrival of coaches was advanced and we will be in a condition to open the line months before the scheduled date of March 2010. The exact date of opening is being finalised,’’ said a DMRC spokesperson. The 18.5 km link will provide a connect between two existing Metro lines and also has an interchange with the Ring Railway network. The line branches out southwards from the existing Inderlok metro station to hit the Rohtak Road from Punjabi Bagh via another metro station at Ashok Park. For about 11 km henceforth, the fully elevated line runs along the central verge of Rohtak Road to reach the last station at Mundka via Shivaji Park, Madhipur, Paschim Vihar, Peeragarhi, Udyog Nagar, Surajmal Stadium and Nangloi. Interestingly, two existing Delhi Metro lines are being joined together in the middle for the first time. The new metro corridor will join the Inderlok Metro station on Line 1 to Kirti Nagar station on Line 3, and will cut travel time between the two stations by almost 45 minutes. At present, commuters need to travel 16 metro stations before they can reach Kirti Nagar from Inderlok. For the link, two new stations will be constructed near the existing stations at Inderlok and Kirti Nagar. The existing station buildings will cater to Line 1 and 3. For commuter convenience, the old and new stations will be linked at the platform and concourse levels. One of the two crosslink stations — at Satguru Ramsingh Marg — is being linked with a foot overbridge to the existing Ring Railway station at Patel Nagar. The Inderlok-Mundka line is the country’s first railway line on standard gauge.


Launched in selected cities.

India, Israel ink defence deal

The government has quietly inked the Rs 10,000-crore project with Israel to develop new-generation medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, capable of detecting and destroying hostile aircraft and spy drones at a range of 120km. Despite the Cabinet Committee on Security clearing it in July 2007, the joint DRDO-Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) project was on hold till now due to naming of IAI in the Rs 1,160-crore Barak-I deal kickbacks case by CBI.

BJP starts ‘cyber war’

The next time you key in the words ‘Sonia Gandhi’ or ‘Manmohan Singh’ into the Google search engine, you will find a paid link on the top right corner of the screen trying to take your attention to L K Advani and the BJP. While the search will throw up legitimate results containing the key words searched for, the sponsored links on the right will throw up messages saying things like: ‘Do you know why Advaniji is a better leader, BJP a better party... If you don’t, then visit lkadvani.in.’ It’s a strategy devised by the infotech cell of the saffron party to lure away net surfers otherwise heading for websites of the Congress party or its leaders. Several other search words will lead to similar results. Try ‘Rahul Gandhi’ and you might get a link with a teaser like ‘Do you share the dream? 21st century, India’s century—Advani for PM’. Type ‘Congress party’ and you may see ‘BJP a better alternative: Learn how Advani plans to make the 21st century India’s century’. Sometimes the link is a blog and the teaser is: ‘Bloggers for L K Advani: Get the official blogger for Advani Button Now. Show your support.’ It goes without saying that the Congress is peeved at the way the BJP is trying to “encroach’’ on its cyberspace by getting sponsored links to divert surfers’ attentions. Ashish Gosalia, chairman of the science and technology cell of the state Congress, said, “This is not fair. They should not hijack our opportunity to attract surfers to our party websites. There are scores of internet users who daily type in Rahul, Sonia Gandhi or Congress party into search engines to access info about our party’s activities. The BJP seems to be desperate.’’ It amounts to something like a cyber war, he added. Gosalia said the Congress would not counter the move by employing similar “encroachment techniques’’ in cyberspace. “We are confident of publicising the websites of our leaders and the party through banners, posters and party booklets,’’ he said.Internet expert Vijay Mukhi said such strategies have been employed by automobile companies. “It had created a controversy between two companies years ago, but it is not illegal,’’ he stated. The BJP’s IT team comprises IIT engineers and one is even an IIT-IIM. It is learnt that the same team visited monster.com, naukri.com and social networking sites like Orkut to build a database of 12 lakh emails in the past six months. The party has already dispatched 40 lakh mails in the past two weeks.

‘Overstaying licensee a trespasser’

A leave-and-licence agreement does not confer the licensee any right on the property, the Bombay high court has held. “Leave-and-licence generally does not create a right in the property or interest in the property,’’ a division bench of Justice S B Mhase and Justice Prasanna Varale said. “It is only a right to enjoy the property for a specified period without creating any interest in the property.’’ The court was adjudicating a dispute between cosmetics company L’Oréal and Global Earth Properties Developers over the premises occupied by the former at a prime location in Peninsula Tower I, Lower Parel. The judges ruled that as the 33-month leave-and-licence agreement, signed by L’Oréal for office space and 27 carparking slots, had expired, it was a “trespasser’’ on the property. The court also struck down a single judge’s observation that L’Oréal could continue to occupy the space on the basis of the L&L agreement till its legal battle with GEPD was decided. This paves the way for the GEPD to move the court to recover a compensation of Rs 1.18 lakh a day from L’Oréal for the period it has overstayed.The judges said L’Oréal could be in unlawful possession of the property according to the agreement’s terms but GEPD would still have to follow the due process of law to evict it. “It is a well-settled principle that even a trespasser cannot be removed by taking the law in one’s hands and the person entitled to possession of the property shall obtain it by following the due process of law... that is the method in a civilised society.’’ L’Oréal deposited Rs 2.12 crore and signed an agreement with Piramal, the original owners of Peninsula Towers, in November 2003. Piramal subsequently sold the property to GEPD. When the original term of the L&L agreement expired in May 2007, GEPD asked L’Oréal to move out. The matter then went to court. L’Oréal claimed that it had signed an additional document with Piramal that allowed for automatic renewal of the licence for 15 months and further renewals of 18 and 33 months; it meant it could occupy the property till November 2012. L’Oréal’s lawyers claimed that GEPD was bound to honour the agreement, which the latter denied. The high court upheld an order of a single judge refusing L’Oréal protection from eviction and a stay on the suit filed by GEPD against it. The court further said the question of validity of the additional document for renewal could be looked into by the trial court. The HC has stayed its order for eight weeks.


More from Bleed India

The Congress' Manifesto

The Congress released a low on reform and high on populism manifesto. The poll pledge paper, released by party president Sonia Gandhi, promised a heavily subsidised food scheme and improvements in the job guarantee scheme. The party said it would concentrate on deepening the efforts it undertook over last five years in the social sector. Consolidation and continuity is the leitmotif of the Congress work programme for 2009-2014. Centering on its “commitment” to the aam aadmi, the Congress is seeking another five years in the saddle with the promise of maximum possible security to every citizen, health insurance coverage to every family below the poverty line, education loans for all, enacting a national food security act, pursue affirmative action for SCs and STs in the private sector, reservation for economically weaker sections of all communities and reservation of a proportion of seats in panchayats and nagarpalikas for persons below the age of 35 years. The party has pledged to enact a National Food Security Act, which will entitle all families below the poverty line, by law, to 25 kg of rice or wheat every month at the rate of Rs 3 per kg. In keeping with its mantra of inclusion, the Congress promises to set up subsidised community kitchens in all cities for homeless people and migrants. The party has pledged health insurance coverage for all families below the poverty line under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna over the next three years. Congress proposes to implement a scheme to supply energy to poor families at affordable prices.
Conceivably, as a response to the current economic downturn, Congress has opted to remain silent on economic reforms. Instead it has eschewed the policy of “blind privatisation”. Perhaps, in deference to possible post-election tie-ups, Congress manifesto opts to tread the middle path-disinvestment without privatisation. It upholds the right that Indian people have “to own part of the shares of public sector companies, while the government retains majority shareholding”. The Congress committed itself to retaining enterprises like banks, insurance companies, energy, transport and telecom companies in the public sector. It will work towards attracting private investment in the exploration for oil and mineral, including coal and iron ore. Rather than specific measures of economic reform, the Congress seems to move sideways, to ensure a climate of “equitable” and “inclusive” growth. The farmer is a central player in this effort. The Congress has promised to amend the Land Acquisition Act to ensure that the interests of land owners are “more adequately protected”. Given the unrest over remuneration for acquired land, the party has said that it will ensure that farmers get “at a very minimum” market rates for land that has been acquired for industrial projects. Though no committments have been made, Congress believes that “farmers should be given an options to become stakeholders” in these industrial ventures. The party has pledged “to extend interest relief to all farmers who repay bank loans on schedule” The party says it is “determined to ensure that farming becomes a profitable occupation. All measures in support of this objective will be taken.” Besides comprehensive crop insurance schemes, the party will also examine the feasibility of “direct income support to farmers in the ecologically vulnerable regions”.
The manifesto states that the party is “firmly committed to maintaining high growth with low inflation, particularly in relation to prices of essential agricultural and industrial commodities.” Reminding that the average growth rate in the first four years of the Congress-led UPA government was 9%, the party says it will “strive to maintain this momentum with a relentless emphasis on growth that accelerates the generation of productive jobs for our youth.” The party has also reiterated its commitment to the “path of fiscal responsibility” — suggesting that "subisides reach only the actual needy and poor sections". Congress says that it will continue efforts to "create and implement a national consensus" on the issue of subsidies. For the manufacturing sector, the small entrepreneur and the small and medium enterprises has been promised a “new deal.” The Congress, which prides itself on its special concern with those at the margins, has said it will ensure a comprehensive social security cover to all persons at “special risk”, including single-woman headed households, disabled and elderly, urban homeless, released bonded workers, members of primitive tribal groups, and members of designated “most backward” Dalit communities. The party proposes to reserve at least one-third of all central government jobs for women as well as endeavour to ensure that “at least half of the country’s rural women will be enrolled as members of self-help groups.”

An Indian Barbie

Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai may soon join the ranks of Hollywood beauties like Beyonce Knowles, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross, by becoming the first Indian face of the legendary doll ‘Barbie’. The representatives for the actress are reportedly in negotiations with the toy giant, Mattel, as it plans to transform the iconic doll into a Bollywood star and sell it throughout India. The former Miss World will have a Barbie modelled after her, titled “Bollywood Barbie”, reported The Telegraph. The company, which recently celebrated Barbie’s 50th birthday, is expecting to cash in on the popularity of the star to increase its sales in India. The 35-year-old actress will have the doll modelled on her with her striking green eyes, and the doll will wear outfits created by India’s top designers.

Bird flu antidote found in W Ghats

Shikimic acid, the most vital ingredient used to make Oseltamivir, (Tamiflu) the only known drug to combat the deadly bird flu, has been found in trees in the Western Ghats. A team of scientists from University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, has found at least seven plant species that yielded shikimic acid from the Western Ghat forests, one of the world’s 10 hottest biodiversity hotspots. Reporting their finding in the latest issue of medical journal Current Science, the scientists said they scanned through 210 plant species to shortlist “a few promising species whose leaves yielded shikimic acid level higher than 1%”. Currently, the majority of the acid’s global availability is met by China. The fruits of the Chinese star anise tree contain between 2% to 7% of the acid, the highest reported estimate from plants. But the tree attains seed-bearing stage after six years of growth, making it unlikely that the growing demand for the acid would be met by the single source alone. Interestingly, the trees discovered by Indian scientists have yielded 1%- 5.02% of shikimic acid, with a species called Araucaria Excelsa yielding almost 5.02%. The significant advantage of these new sources is that the estimates are from leaves and not fruits. In the face of the growing demand for shikimic acid, it is imperative that newer sources are identified, the scientists said. It is estimated that nearly twothirds of the requirement is sourced from plants while one-third is obtained from genetically engineered E Coli. The team said, “The leads presented here appear more promising than others. In few of these species, the estimates are comparable to those reported from star anise. As the estimates are from leaves, the sheer volume of the biomass offered by leaves would render it economically feasible. This finding of a new source of shikimic acid can potentially be used to meet the emerging needs of the domestic and international markets.”
Tamiflu, the drug which blocks the replication of the virus, is being stockpiled by most countries as a precautionary measure in case of an outbreak of bird flu among humans. So, the price of shikimic acid has skyrocketed. Pharma companies in India say the acid, which used to cost $40 a kg earlier, now costs around $1,000 per kg.

Pirated DVD buyers too face jail !

Catching the latest Bollywood release on a pirated CD or DVD may soon land you in jail. President Pratibha Patil has okayed a proposal that makes Maharashtra the first state where not just selling but even buying pirated CDs and DVDs can land one in prison. The state government had forwarded a proposal to the Centre suggesting that both buyers and sellers be booked under the stringent Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities (MPDA) Act. The act denies alleged offenders bail for the first three months. Movie pirates are now booked under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and the Copyright Act. State home department principal secretary Anna Dani said that the bill would be introduced in the state legislature in either the monsoon or winter session. “We hope to curtail video piracy drastically after the introduction of the law,’’ she added. The Hindi film industry can make an estimated Rs 5,500 crore a year,but loses 27% of this amount to piracy. The industry has been urging the state and Centre to take stronger action as existing norms have failed to curb piracy. Film and Television Producers’ Guild general secretary Supran Sen said, “We had put forth our grievances, including piracy, to the President.” A home department official said the new law would hit the underworld, which controls a big chunk of the piracy market.



Random shots of the runup to the battle of the ballot on the day when the usually soft spoken PM thrashed the PM-in-waiting in a war of words, taking the BJP by surprise.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

A sea of flamingos seen feeding and wading at the Sewri creek.

Shyam Sistema CDMA in Chennai, Kerala

Shyam Sistema Teleservices (SSTS), the joint venture between telecom equipment manufacturer and service provider Shyam Group and Russian telecom major Sistema SSA, will launch CDMA mobile services in two telecom circles, the Chennai-Tamil Nadu circle and Kerala, by this month-end, industry sources said. The company will launch the service in Chennai-Tamil Nadu circle on March 26, and most likely by March 30 in Kerala. Also, Shyam Sistema's CDMA services brand in Rajasthan, 'Rainbow', will be changed to 'MTS' (Mobile Telesystems), a subsidiary of the Russian partner. The joint venture will also roll out services in West Bengal and NorthEast circles in the next two months.

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