Sealink to open at last !

This modern architectural marvel built over the Arabian Sea adds an element of stark beauty to Mumbai’s skyline. The photogenic Bandra-Worli Sea Link has been making headlines ever since it was an idea—inviting ire as well as hope. Finally, after four years and eight months of frenetic construction, it opens today.
Bridge basics : The what, howand how many of the Sea Link
The 5.6km-long cable-stayed bridge with eight lanes is 63 times the height of the Qutab Minar. It is made with 90,000 tonnes of cement and 40,000 tonnes of steel .
The cost of illuminating the bridge will be Rs9 crore per year .
The total cost of the project is Rs1,650 crore .
Conceived in the 1990s, and plagued by a series of public interest litigations from fishermen and environmentalists,work on the project could not take off till October 2004 .
The height of the central towers is 126m .
The company which executed the project is Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd, with consultants fromthe UK-based Dar Consultants .
The total length of the high-tension steel wire used for the bridge is 38,000km, equivalent to the earth’s circumference .
It has 2,353 precast segments, eachweighing 150 tonnes .
3,000 peopleworked on the bridge every day.
Tidal information during its construction came fromthe Netherlands .
Among the various kinds of equipment used to build the bridge was the Asian Hercules, a 1,260-tonne steel structure thatwas imported in 2006 to lift .
One of the first visitors to go for a trial trip on the Sea Linkwas actor Amitabh Bachchan .


She also makes roads & highways....

Mayawati does not just build statues of herself.....

India and homosexuality

Snapshotz of the Rainbow rise in Bangalore , Delhi and Chennai.....
If the government musters courage to decriminalise homosexuality, or if the Delhi high court effects such a change on the petition challenging Section 377 IPC, India will shed the dubious honour of being among the 10 countries that can impose life sentence for gay sex. This category of homophobic countries includes Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone—not exactly the kind of company that a liberal democracy wants to keep. It can’t draw comfort from the fact that there is a category of eight countries that are even more illiberal as they impose capital punishment for the same offence, which is variously described as “unnatural offence”, “buggery”, “sodomy” or “serious indecency”. Not surprisingly, those that put their homosexuals to death are essentially hardline Islamic countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria. India would do well to be conscious of the big picture, which shows that more than half the countries in the world have by now decriminalised homosexuality and that it is among the 85 countries that have clung to the archaic ban, accompanied by various degrees of penalty. Its great rival, China, has left India behind in breaching this cultural barrier. For all its draconian laws, China lifted its ban on gay sex in 1997. In the much touted combine of BRIC nations, India is the only one that punishes homosexuality as, besides China, Brazil and Russia too have long crossed the rubicon. The situation is no less embarrassing in its south Asian neighbourhood. For, Nepal, despite all its political turmoil, turned gay-friendly in December 2007 when its Supreme Court ordered its government to scrap laws that discriminate against homosexuals. It’s a precedent worthy of being followed by the Delhi high court should the Manmohan Singh government fail to take the initiative. India could also draw inspiration from the activism displayed by the Obama administration in March in reversing its predecessor’s decision to withhold US support to a UN General Assembly declaration calling for decriminalisation of homosexuality. Thus, US joined 66 other countries which had supported the declaration in December 2008 condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Though all the states of US legalised homosexuality by 2003, the outgoing Bush administration refused to sign the declaration in December citing concerns that it would encroach on the autonomy of states to legislate on matters involving discrimination. On reviewing the policy, the Obama administration concluded that the declaration did not create any new legal obligations for US and would therefore have no effect on the existing laws in its states. India is out of sync with the worldwide trend of homosexuality being legalised in developing countries as well. Look at the some of the examples: Vietnam, Phillipines, Thailand and Kazakhstan in Asia, South Africa, Chad, Congo and Madagascar in Africa, Peru, Chile, Columbia and Bolivia in South America. The 27-nation EU has been in the vanguard of the movement to recognise the rights of LGBT (lesbians, gays, bixesuals and transgenders). France has the distinction of legalising homosexuality way back in 1791, as a sequel to its famous revolution. Its neighbour, England, lifted the ban much later in 1967. In the four decades that have lapsed since then, India has however shown little signs of doing away with the colonial relic of Section 377 IPC. Homophobic nations include Pak, Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone Those which order death for homosexuals are hardline Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria India only one out of the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to punish homosexuality Even Nepal, ravaged by political turmoil, turned gay-friendly in December 2007. Even nations like Vietnam, Phillipines, Thailand & Kazakhstan in Asia, Chad, Congo & Madagascar in Africa, Peru, Chile, Columbia & Bolivia in S America have legalised homosexuality .
Was Indian society tolerant of homosexuality before the colonial administration proscribed it in 1860? The government has taken conflicting positions on this within the country and outside. On a petition pending before the Delhi high court seeking to decriminalize homosexuality, the government said in its counter affidavit that that there were “no convincing reports to indicate that homosexuality or other offences against the order of nature mentioned in Section 377 IPC were acceptable in the Indian society prior to colonial rule.” But when it was being reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council last year for the first time ever, India distanced itself from that provision when Sweden, arguably the most gay-friendly country in the world, questioned its record in ensuring equality irrespective of a person’s sexual orientation. This is how Goolam Vahanvati, who was then solicitor-general and is now attorney-general, tried to save India’s face before the council as part of its official delegation. “Around the early 19th Century, you probably know that in England they frowned on homosexuality, and therefore there are historical reports that various people came to India to take advantage of its more liberal atmosphere with regard to different kinds of sexual conduct. “As a result, in 1860 when we got the Indian Penal Code, which was drafted by Lord Macaulay, they inserted Section 377 which brought in the concept of ‘sexual offences against the order of nature’. Now in India we didn’t have this concept of something being ‘against the order of nature’. It was essentially a Western concept, which has remained over the years. Now homosexuality as such is not defined in the IPC, and it will be a matter of great argument whether it is ‘against the order of nature’.” Vahanvati’s admission on the international forum that the ban on homosexuality was a western import and its relevance was debatable flies in the face of the government’s unabashed efforts before the Delhi high court to retain Section 377, complete with its colonial baggage and archaic notion of unnatural offences. Whatever the politics behind this glaring contradiction, there is ample evidence placed before the high court by petitioner Naz Foundation substantiating in effect Vahanvati’s view that in the centuries prior to the enactment of section 377, India was rather accommodating of homosexuals. While the penalty imposed by Section 377 goes up to life sentence, there is nothing close to it in Manusmriti, the most popular Hindu law book of medieval and ancient India. “If a man has shed his semen in non-human females, in a man, in a menstruating woman, in something other than a vagina, or in water, he should carry out the ‘painful heating’ vow.” Thus, this peculiar vow, involving application of cow’s urine and dung, was meant not only for homosexuals but also errant heterosexuals. The penalty is even milder if the homosexual belongs to an upper caste. As Manusmriti puts it, “If a twice-born man unites sexually with a man or a woman in a cart pulled by a cow, or in water, or by day, he should bathe with his clothes on." Since Manusmriti was written at a time when bath generally meant taking a dip in a river or a lake with other members of the same gender, the penalty of making a homosexual bathe without taking off his clothes was probably designed to avoid the embarrassment of his being sexually aroused in public. In another indicator of the liberal Hindu heritage, Kama Sutra, a classic written in the first millennium by Sage Vatsyayana, devotes a whole chapter to homosexual sex saying “it is to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts.” Besides providing a detailed description of oral sex between men, Kama Sutra categorizes men who desire other men as “third nature” and refers to long-term unions between men.

New states....?

Demand for a separate state continues to be the focus of several political organisations which see sovereignty as the solution to ethnic, regional or cultural differences as witnessed by the demands for creation of at least 10 new states over the years. These include a separate Mithilanchal in Bihar, Saurashtra in Gujarat and Coorg in Karnataka, among others. A senior home ministry official said the demands were mostly received from voluble organizations like Telangana Rashtra Samiti and Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and some other outfits and individuals. “Some political groups are more agitational in their demands. These include demands for Harit Pradesh carved out of UP, Telangana and Gorkhaland,” the official said. The most vocal organisation TRS had first raised its demand for creation of Telangana state in Andhra Pradesh a few years back while the GJM has been putting pressure to carve out Gorkhaland out of Darjeeling and its adjoining areas in West Bengal. The demand for creation of Bundelkhand, comprising districts like Banda, Chitrakoot, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Sagar of UP and MP, have been pending for long with the ministry, the official said. He added that while no state government had given any recommendation, which is mandatory for carving out a new state, the demands continue to pour in. A demand for creation of Bhojpur comprising areas of eastern UP, Bihar and Chhattisgarh has also been received by the ministry. The creation of a separate state of Saurashtra from Gujarat, one of the most prosperous states, has also been pending with the ministry for several years now. The Centre has received representations for creation of Harit Pradesh or Kisan Pradesh consisting several districts of western Uttar Pradesh, the official said. The home ministry has also received demands for creation of Mithilanchal or Mithila state comprising territories in Bihar, Greater Cooch Behar out of parts of West Bengal and Assam, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and a state for the Coorg region of Karnataka. However, no decision has been taken by the ministry in any of the demands. “Government takes decisions on the matter of formation of new states after taking into consideration all relevant factors,” the official said.

Tata's roll out Jaguar , Land Rover

The niche, but growing, club of luxury car owners on Sunday got a booster shot with Tata Motors ushering in the British auto icons—Jaguar and Land Rover—after almost a year of acquiring them from Ford. A Jaguar or any of the three Rover models (Discovery 3, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport) would cost anything between Rs 65 lakh to a crore. A Tourbillion, the most expensive watch from the Dior stable, too, comes at the higher end of that range. Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata said, “This launch heralds the entry of Jaguar Land Rover brands in India. The brands in days gone by were well received in India. However, in the last few years, they had been disconnected with consumers here.’’ The India foray comes at a time when worldwide sales of luxury cars are falling. The global meltdown dragged JLR into huge losses as consumers halted purchases. Sales, after the $2.5 billion takeover by Tata Motors last June, dropped a third to 1.67 lakh vehicles. “Jaguar Land Rover had been condemned in the downturn but they are terrific brands with terrific products. As we come out of the downturn, we should be able to say it was a terrific decision to own them. “As an Indian, I am proud to have these brands and we will bring back to its lost glory,’’ Tata said. JLR, whose top management, including CEO David Smith, Jaguar MD Mike O’ Driscoll and Land Rover MD Phil Popham, were in the city for the launch, declined to speculate on sales numbers for India—one of the world’s growing luxury market that has been insulated from the global meltdown to a large extent. In China, which it had entered five years ago, JLR saw a 63% growth with 12.5 lakh vehicles sold in FY09. The JLR range is comparable to Mercedes S class, Audi A6, BMW 7 series and Porsche’s Cayenne. Luxury car sales in India were up 34% at 10,000 units. With JLR in its arm, Tata Motors caters to various customer profiles and price points—from selling the common man’s utility vehicles to the Queen’s fancy toys. While Tata looks to sustain JLR through the downturn, the UK government’s support is crucial as JLR wants it to guarantee a pound 340 million European Investment Bank loan sanctioned in April. Although JLR has the option of getting guarantees from private banks, it may work out to be an expensive proposition. To get the government’s help, Tata may have part with some equity interest in JLR, besides giving board representation. “We are negotiating at the moment and if there was a large financial package from the UK government to the company then there should be a commensurate level of representation on the board. It is fair and just for them.’’ Meanwhile, he said Tata Motors and its UK subsidiary would work together and share intellectual properties over time. “We have our own range of vehicles. But over time, family resemblance of facilities, sophistication of spares will be commonalised.’’

India Post takes to the skies

A mechanical pigeon will soon come to the aid of the Indian postman. Around the first of July, two new aircraft bearing the logo of India Post will take off from Mumbai and Chennai. These freighters have been leased from Air India by India Post, under the ministry of communications, so that your stamped mails, sealed parcels and other expressions of sentiment can get to their destination faster than ever before. “The aim is to have a more reliable service,’’ says Manjula Parashar, Chief General Manager, mail business, at the postal directorate in Delhi. For this purpose, two of Air India’s old Boeing 737-200s, have been converted into freighters, says Jitendra Bhargava, spokesperson of Air India. With a capacity of 15 tonnes each, the planes will connect cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Surat and Nagpur. The cue for launching this service came from the success of India Post’s first such aircraft which flies everything from handicrafts to foodgrain on the Kolkata-Guwahati route. As a result of this aircraft, which was launched in August 2007, birthday gifts reached the same day, businesses prospered, and the seven North Eastern sisters were brought that much closer to mainstream India. The services of this existing aircraft will be extended from next month to cover Delhi and Nagpur. Three cities—Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata— will act as hubs for overnight transmission of mail. Every night before the freighters leave their centres at around 11:30 pm, all mail from nearby cities will reach them. The three Boeings will then converge at Nagpur and exchange palettes (metal sheets which carry mails sorted according to destination cities). The aircraft will then fly back with their respective palettes. When they touch down at their centres early next morning, local distribution services like trucks, trains and other airlines will take over. With these new wings, the Indian post which had to rely on other airlines for distribution, “will now have control over its means,’’ says M S Bali, chief postmaster general, Maharashtra and Goa. Earlier, the post was subject to delays if flights didn’t take off or mail was offloaded to accommodate passengers. “Also, our mails move by train, so the transit time is much higher. With the planes we hope to cut that down by half, say. what would take four days will now take two,’’ says Charles Lobo, postmaster general, mail management, Maharashtra and Goa. Dry runs for these aircraft will begin later this week. Right now, plastic trays that facilitate sorting of mail, are being organised. Soon, the term speed post will get a whole new meaning. The mail will come with wings, “other than the pincode which we officials refer to as wing,’’ laughs Lobo.


Somewhere in Pakistan....

The Pakistan supreme court on Wednesday dismissed a review petition filed by Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh and upheld the death sentence given to him for his alleged involvement in the Lahore blasts of 1990, which killed 14 people. Ironically, a three-member bench, headed by justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, gave the order exparte and rejected the review petitions because Sarabjit’s lawyer, Rana Abdul Hamid, failed to appear before the court for the second time in a row. Three review petitions had been filed in the apex court after Sarabjit was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorist court in 1991 based, as they claimed, “on the original confession he had made before a magistrate”.

Kurien’s Kiwi dream gets real

When India gained Independence, it largely relied on New Zealand to meet its milk requirement in cities like Mumbai. Milk powder was imported from New Zealand and converted into liquid as the then Bombay Milk Scheme did not have adequate milk. Six decades on, the dream long cherished by India’s milkman Dr Verghese Kurien to see that India one day exports dairy products to New Zealand, is coming true. Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets Amul brand of products, is all set to export dairy products to New Zealand, the global dairy capital and home to Fonterra, world’s largest dairy firm which controls almost one-third of international dairy trade. Though Amul’s first consignment to New Zealand is only of 20 tonnes, the symbolism is causing excitement in the Indian dairy sector. Dr Kurien, who underwent training at New Zealand on a senior fellowship, in his memoirs ‘I Too Had A Dream’ has stated: “New Zealand did not want India to produce milk powder as India was a major market for them. Now, India produces 1,65,000 tonnes of milk powder more than what New Zealand produces.” The federation already exports packaged milk to markets like Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait and Philippines among other countries. With annual exports in excess of NZ $6.3 billion, the dairy industry in New Zealand is still the biggest export earner for that country. Amul is now among top 25 milk brands of the world. The International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN), a global dairy research network has ranked Amul 21st in the list of top dairy companies. Officials of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which markets Amul brand claim the IFCN has released the analysis based on 2007 data. If it takes into account the rise of procurement Amul’s milk collection which stood at 3.1million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2008, the ranking can well go up. With 2.7 MMT worth milk procurement, Amul enjoys 0.4% market share in the world.

Panna tigers were poached

Most of the big cats in MP’s Panna tiger reserve were killed by poachers, a special investigation team set up by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has said while trashing state officials’ claim that the endangered animals died natural deaths. “The tigers wouldn’t have mysteriously disappeared had they died due to natural causes. Poachers were highly active on the park’s periphery and killed all the big cats,” said a member of the SIT, led by former NTCA director P K Sen. The team, which recently said there was not a single tiger left in Panna, has investigated the reasons for the tigers’ disappearance from the park which, two years ago, had a healthy tiger population. The report was submitted to the environment ministry on Monday. “While the poachers were on a killing spree, the officials were in denial mode about their existence,” Sen said. “What’s worse, the poachers seem to be active till today as they have killed a lone tiger roaming outside the park.” This means the two tigresses that were relocated to Panna in March from Bandavgarh and Kanha sanctuaries are under threat. Meanwhile, Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, who got the report on Wednesday, said “accountability would be fixed” for exaggerated projections of the tiger population and their disappearance from Panna.

Rs 5,200cr boost for Konkan belt

A multi-crore financial package which Narayan Rane wanted for his Konkan region a decade ago will finally be delivered. The only difference is that the monetary support he couldn’t provide as Shiv Sena CM in 1999 is coming under the Congress government where he is now the industries minister. The Ashok Chavan-led cabinet has cleared Rs 5,232 crore for Konkan development, which is politically significant for the Congress-NCP combine as the assembly election is just a few months away. When the Sena-BJP combine was at the helm between 1995 and 1999, Konkan was expecting a financial boost as the region was Sena’s turf. But, they failed to draft a development plan. For embattled Rane, it’s a big achievement as it will help him retain his hold over the region. Under the package, schemes worth Rs 3,915 crore will be implemented in Konkan in three years, while the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has been entrusted with the task of implementing projects worth Rs 1,317 crore in one year. To boost tourism, a Konkan tourism development corporation will be set up. A senior official said a provision of Rs 1,550 crore has been made for 39 new irrigation projects, while Rs 820 crore has been earmarked for the completion of pending irrigation plans. For roads, a provision of Rs 244 crore has been made, Rs 60 crore for the development of ports, Rs 150 crore for water conservation and Rs 116 crore for the development of khar lands. “Since coastal highways are significant for the development of the Konkan region, a provision of Rs 67 crore has been made,’’ the official said. The cabinet also approved a proposal for setting up a Konkan education board for Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg and a greenfield airport at Chipi-Parule in Sindhudurg on 271 hectares. “Construction will be completed in 18 months from the date of possession of land,’’ the official said.


Western Freeway snippets

A Consortium of Reliance Infra and Hyundai Engineering is tipped to bag a contract to connect Bandra-Worli Sealink with Haji Ali at an estimated Rs 1,500 crore. The consortium led by Reliance Infra, an Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) company, is the only bidder in the fray for this corridor called Western Freeway, which would connect the newly-built Bandra-Worli Sealink to Nariman Point. The four-lane and 3.6-km long Worli-Haji Ali Sealink will be the next leg of almost completed Bandra-Worli Sealink. MSRDC officials said the Bandra-Haji Ali section of the corridor is estimated to cost Rs 3,200 crore, of which Rs 1,640 crore has been spent on Bandra-Worli Sealink. The 5.5-km long Bandra-Worli Sealink has been built by Hindustan Constructions Company for MSRDC. The entire Western Freeway is going to be an eight-lane sea bridge of which four-lane link has been built up between Bandra and Worli. In the next phase, the bidder will add another four lanes to the sealink connecting Worli to Haji Ali. Sources said the next section of Western Freeway is based on a buy-back arrangement between the MSRDC and the bidder. According to this, the successful bidder will have to pay around Rs 1,700 crore upfront to MSRDC as the cost of Bandra-Worli Sealink. The bidder will recover this cost through toll on this section of the corridor to be levied for 30 years. Meanwhile, the Bandra-Worli Sealink is likely to be opened to traffic this month or the first week of July, sources said. The project was conceived by the BJP-Shiv Sena government between 1995 and 2000, but saw monumental delay under the Congress-NCP rule. In fact, the work orders were issued in 2001, but the actual work could start only in 2004.

Inflation slips to sub-zero levels

The wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation went sub-zero for the first time in 35 years for the first week of June, but top policy makers and economists dismissed it as a short-term statistical phenomenon, with no real implications for either the country’s growth or its monetary policy. The inflation index fell by 1.61% for the week ended June 6 over the year-ago period, after gaining 0.13% in the previous week. Finance secretary Ashok Chawla described the trend as “unusual”, but ruled out any major policy shift. “Our assessment is that the WPI-based inflation is likely to be in the negative region for sometime to come,” he said. Deflation, an indicator of falling prices, would normally signal economic contraction. Hence, instead of rejoicing that each rupee of their income will now be worth more than a year ago, consumers may start worrying about the loss of jobs and incomes. This, plus their expectation that prices could fall further, would make them postpone purchases, depressing demand further and deepening the economic stagnation. Falling prices also mean bad news for borrowers. The real rate of interest is the nominal rate less than the rate of inflation, and deflation means a real rate of interest that is higher than the nominal rate. Hence, each rupee that you use to repay a loan would be worth more than the rupee you borrowed. Retail inflation in India, as measured by various consumer price indices, still hovers around 8% while in economies such as the US, it has dipped into negative territory, currently at-1.3%.

Mumbai's iconic tower update

In a major climb down, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has decided to relax pre-qualified conditions for developers who have evinced interest in construction of the ambitious tower at Wadala. According to the earlier decision, the lead partner needed to have 75% of the net worth and turnover. But the revised condition has brought down the limit to mere 26%. “The lead partner should hold majority equity of not less than 26% and the joint venture partners should have the net worth and turnover proportionate to the equity,” the revised condition says. Earlier, one of the eligibility criteria for the developers included that they should have track record of constructing a building of at least 400 meters height in the past five years. This condition has been relaxed to 300 meters, he said. The date for submission of the pre-qualified documents too has been extended till July 31. The ‘iconic’ building, with a height of 526 metre or 1,725 feet, will come up on a plot ad-measuring 1.4 lakh sq metre and is estimated to cost Rs 4,000 crore to match the majesty of the Petronas Twin Towers (88 storeys in each tower) in Malaysia and the Taipei 101 (101 storeys) in Taiwan. Once, and if, completed, it will be the third-tallest building in the world after Burj Dubai (over 2,000 feet) and Freedom Tower in New York (1,776 feet) — both are under construction. So far, 12 prospective developers have shown interest. These builders met MMRDA officials and requested them to relax some of the pre-qualified conditions, the authority official said. “We agreed to the request of developers as we want better competition,” metropolitan commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad said. In view of the revised eligibility criteria, the sale of pre-qualified document has been extended up to July 2, Mr Gaikwad said. According to MMRDA, a Maharashtra government undertaking, the building would have a built-up area of about 60 lakh square metre. The proposed building will come up alongside an inter-state bus terminal. The bus terminal and the building will be on design, build, own, operate and transfer (DBOOT) basis under public-private partnership format. “Considering the growing demand for premium built-up space in Mumbai, the state government desires to develop an iconic building that will acquire the status of among 10 tallest buildings in the world,” MMRDA said in its global invitation for pre-qualification of bidders for the project.

Last and final call?

Will the 3G and WiMax auctions go through this time?

India to grow fastest in 2010: World Bank

The World Bank has projected an 8% growth for India in 2010, which will make it the fastest-growing economy for the first time, overtaking China’s expected 7.7% growth. The multilateral lender has revised upwards the growth rate for the Indian economy this year to 5.1% from an earlier projection of 4%, according to its Global Development Finance Report released on Monday. India has consistently outperformed growth forecasts by the World Bank in the past. The prospects for the global economy remain ‘unusually uncertain’ despite recent signs of improvement in some parts of the world, the report points out. Barring a few countries, including India and China, the bank has cut 2009 growth projections for all other economies and expects the world economy to contract by 2.9% this year. "Developing countries are expected to grow by only 1.2% this year, after 8.1% growth in 2007 and 5.9% growth in 2008. "When China and India are excluded, GDP in the remaining developing countries is projected to fall by 1.6%, causing continued job losses and throwing more people into poverty," the report said. The report calls on governments around the world to be vigilant when drawing up strategies to reverse the recent expansionary monetary and fiscal policies once the world economy takes off. The bank has urged rich countries to boost the flow of credit to developing nations to help speed up economic recovery. “Developing countries can become a key driving force in the recovery, assuming their domestic investments rebound with international support, including a resumption in the flow of international credit,” said Justin Lin, chief economist at World Bank. Despite the gloomy picture for this year, the bank says growth in developing countries, led by India and China, could reach 4.4% in 2010 and 5.7% by 2011. Since global growth will only return to its full potential by 2011, the gap between actual and potential output, unemployment and disinflationary pressures continue to build, the report adds. This World Bank report compares with a more upbeat assessment by the International Monetary Fund, which said last week the decline in global output has moderated and it may raise its 2010 growth forecast for the world economy.

World Bank growth forecast for 2009

5.1% INDIA
7.2% CHINA
-3% US
-6.8% JAPAN
-4.5% EU

Bandra Worli Sea Link snapshotz

Mumbai's new sealink should open in about a week, four lanes would be inaugurated out of the eight.The state government would never like to recall the cost and time overruns behind the Bandra-Worli Sealink project. One of the most delayed and desperately awaited infrastructure projects of the massive Mumbai makeover programme, the sealink opens to traffic this week. The inauguration ceremony promises to be as monumental as the project itself. It will be marked with laser shows beginning June 24. The Congress-NCP government has planned a grand show in the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to open the bridge. Having successfully taken the 15-year old plan to its logical conclusion, the ruling parties are naturally banking upon the work, which can be showcased ahead of the assembly elections. A bird’s eye view of the history of this project shows how much the Congress would benefit by getting the credit for this work. Considering certain facts of the project should also convey the gravity of delay in building this 5.6 km-long bridge that connects Mumbai’s two islands in the Arabian Sea. Mumbai was Bombay when the project was conceived in the mid-90s. Narasimha Rao was in the last year of his tenure as the prime minister. The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was raring to have a go at dethroning Sharad Pawar’s Congress government in Maharashtra. And it was all in the family for Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray, and Raj Thackeray. When the Sena-BJP did beat Pawar’s Congress government in 1995, it promised to build a new Maharashtra and thought of connecting Bandra with Worli over the sea. By 2000, when the project concept note was ready for action, the Sena-BJP government was gone and Congress, along with Mr Pawar’s NCP was back. It took a year for the new government to revive the project. In 2001, the project cost was pegged at Rs 420 crore. The cost, however, almost doubled by 2004 when the actual work began. Mr Manmohan Singh, who was a finance minister when the sealink was conceived, unveiled a Rs 40,000-crore Mumbai makeover programme after he became PM in 2004. Five years later, Bandra-Worli Sealink becomes the first project of this programme to see completion, much beyond its deadline. But, when Congress president Sonia Gandhi inaugurates Bandra-Worli Sea Link this week, the total cost of the project stands at Rs 1,640 crore. Yet this will not tell the full story. In between the change of governments and in Mumbai’s political profile, the project has also been witness to controversies between the government and the contractor Hindustan Construction Company over delayed payments, cost escalations, protests by environmentalists and the Koli community members, and changes in alignments. At 5.6 km, the Bandra-Worli Sealink is going to be one of the longest in the world. The MSRDC has not so far come out with the toll structure but it is tentatively fixed at Rs 50 for a single journey (for cars and SUVs), Rs 75 for a day-pass both ways, Rs 125 for multiple journeys in a day, and Rs 2,500 for the monthly pass. The sealink is expected to take away 80% of 1.4 lakh cars which pass through the Mahim Causeway per day and reduce the journey time from 60 minutes to mere 8 minutes.

Banana boom in Maha's sugar bowl

As the uncertainty over sugarcane prices plays havoc with growers, an increasing number of farmers in the state’s sugar bowl of western Maharashtra are turning to banana plantation since it offers more consistent returns. Maharashtra is the country’s leader in banana production with an estimated 87,000 hectare area under cultivation. The Union government has declared eight districts in the state as part of a banana agri-export zone (AEZ). These districts are Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani and Pune. Jalgaon district alone, with an estimated 60,000 ha under banana cultivation, accounts for more than 50% of the area under this crop in the state. Recently, sugarcane farmers from Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pune and Satara districts have gone in for banana plantation. “These farmers use modern techniques like tissue culture and drip irrigation in banana which gives them good yields,” said a senior official of the state’s horticulture department. Added an official from the state’s agriculture department, “Unlike sugarcane, there is seldom wide fluctuation in banana prices. With adoption of tissue culture, the cost of re-plantation has substantially come down for banana.” A multinational fresh fruit company Unifrutti, which has set up its India head office in Gurgaon, has begun large-scale export of bananas from Akluj in Solapur district, a nontraditional banana area. In some Asian countries, Unifrutti operates in a joint venture with Chiquita Brands, the global banana and fresh fruits company.

Dharavi redevelopment update

Financial bids for the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) will be opened on July 20, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and Maharashtra government’s housing department decided at a meeting . The cost of the project, which got delayed by over 10 years due to several factors, escalated to Rs 15,000 crore. The project was initially estimated at Rs 9,350 crore. Despite the delay, the state government wants the SRA to go ahead with the Dharavi makeover plan before the election code of conduct comes into force for the assembly polls. The SRA had shortlisted 19 consortia in the technical bids round in December last year. After the final presentations in February, five major consortia fell out of the race leaving 14 bidders, who have submitted financial bids. Each consortium comprises three companies. The 19 consortia which initially evinced interest in taking up the project included global names apart from big infrastructure companies in India like Dubaibased Limitless, DLF, Housing Development and Infrastructure with Lehman Brothers Real Estate Partners as financial partner, Magarpatta Township Development & Construction, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Engineering Associates, Larsen and Toubro, Indiabulls Real Estate and Emaar MGF Land. The project seeks to rebuild the sprawling slum zone of Dharavi, spread over 263 hectares, into several multi-storeyed residential towers with modern civic amenities. The entire slum area will be divided in five sectors for redevelopment and an independent developer will be selected for each sector. A state survey has identified 57,000 slum units in Dharavi as beneficiaries of rehabilitation. The state, however, has not taken any decision about 25,000 other sub-units which exist on the mezzanine floors in the slums. The SRA rules provide for rehabilitation of only those who are residing on ground, officials said.

Post poll BJP snapshot

Hope they can get their act together and start acting as a responsible party in opposition.

April FDI grows 19.3% over March

India received $2.34 billion FDI in April, a rise of 19.3% over the previous month of March when total FDI inflow was $ 1.96 billion. This clearly indicates foreign investors are returning to the country, while most part of the world is reeling under recession. However, considering year-on-year, FDI inflow in April dipped by 37% this year as against $ 3.74 billion in the same month last year. As the economy was booming and the money was cheap world over, India received FDI of $27.30 billion in the first six months of the last year as against $24.50 billion in the same period of the previous year. As FDI is linked with the global economy, which is still in turmoil, achieving the same level of FDI like last year would be challenging. With revival of stock markets, the foreign investment inflow is likely to improve. Economists feel that as Indian economy is likely to continue with its high growth of around 7%, foreign companies would continue to invest in India to contain the impact of global slowdown. Particularly if the government increases the cap on FDI in insurance sector and allows that in the retail sector, total FDI inflows can witness a sudden spurt in 2009-10.

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati is all set to unveil 40 statues — including six of her own — on July 3, along with the Kanshi Ram Memorial and the Gautam Buddhasthals, which has cost the state exchequer dear. According to the reply of an RTI filed in the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), statues of Mayawati and Kanshi Ram at various places in Lucknow and erected by LDA, cost Rs 6.68 crore. And, the 60 marble elephants at the Ambedkar memorial cost Rs 52 crore, according to the reply. If the figures in the Uttar Pradesh budget are anything to go by, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Uttar Pradesh culture department’s budget for 2009-10 shows that in 2008-09, the department had allocated more than Rs 194 crore for building statues of ‘‘great leaders’’ — the entire amount was spent.

Terror groups in India

The CPI (Maoist) swells the list of indigenous terror groups operating on our soil to 27, making India home to the largest number of domestic terrorist organisations in the world. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) named the CPI (Maoist) as 34th terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act; seven of these are transnational terror groups. CPI (Maoist) joined ranks with Ulfa and SIMI and lesser known entities such as Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council of Meghalaya, Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup of Manipur and Akhil Bharat Nepali Ekta Samaj, which though virtually unheard of are considered deadly enough by the government to be designated as terrorist organisations. Of the seven transnational terror groups, only two — al-Qaida and LTTE — are truly global names. The other five are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Harkatul Mujahideen, Al Badr, Jamat-ul-Mujahid and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) which are all Pakistan based terror outfits fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir.
From within, agents of death :
United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in Assam
Peoples Liberation Army (PLA)
United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
Peoples Revolutionary party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)
Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup (KYKL)
Manipur Peoples Liberation Front (MPLF)
Revolutionary Peoples Front (RPF) in Manipur
All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF)
National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) in Tripura
Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)
Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) in Meghalaya
Babbar Khalsa
International Khalistan Commando Force
International Sikh Youth Federation
Jammu And Kashmir Islamic Front
Students Islamic Movement Of India
Deendar Anjuman
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)- Peoples War Group
Maoist Communist Centre (MCC)
Dukhtaran-E-Millat (DEM)
Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA)
Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT)
Akhil Bharat Nepali Ekta Samaj (ABNES)

Somewhere in Brazil....

High in the cool hills of eastern Brazil, this tourist hot spot also known as the Imperial City is attracting worldwide attention thanks an innovative scheme to recycle human sewage. It has fostered a relatively simple idea now gaining traction in other parts of Latin America, as nations struggle with the impact of burgeoning populations compounded by dwindling supplies of fuel and water. Here bio-digesters — specially designed organic enzymes and bacteria — are used to break down waste water and turn it into an alternative energy sources such as gas. During three fermentation processes, the bio-digesters are unleashed on human effluent and as they break it down they produce a bio-gas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, which can then be piped into homes for use in heating or cooking. “In fact this is a greenhouse gas, which is harmful to the atmosphere when it is unleashed, but can be collected to be useful,” said Jorge Gaiofato, technical director at the Environmental Institute, the NGO behind the scheme. Today there are more than 80 such bio-digesting ponds in Petropolis, a town some 65km from Rio de Janeiro.

Bangalore high-speed rail link snippets

The government-owned Karnataka State Industrial Investment Development Corporation (KSIIDC) is likely to float tenders in the next three months towards a Rs 5,767 crore high speed rail link (HSRL) project, which will connect Bangalore city with Bangalore international airport (BIA). Thus far 27 companies including railway infrastructure majors Bombardier, Siemens, Alastom and L&T have expressed their interest in the project. “They have all participated in the pre-bid meeting conducted by us recently,” said V Madhu, principal secretary of the department of infrastructure, Karnataka. Madhu said the companies have been asked to submit their request for qualification (RFQ) documents on August 8. “We hope all 27 companies will submit RFQs,” he added. The bidders will be short-listed in a months’ time and the final tender is expected to be floated by September while the work order is likely to be awarded to the successful bidder by January-February 2010. Excluding cost of government land, the project cost, as per June 2007 estimation stood at Rs 4,313 crore but this estimation has been increased to Rs 5,767 crore, KSIIDC informed the participating companies in a recently held pre-application conference. The key technical and operational parameters of the project include a fully elevated highspeed line. The semantics also involve a single column carrying both the tracks located in the median of road. The maximum speed limit of a train plying on a high-speed track will be 160 kmph (km per hour), the maximum operating speed however is 145 kmph and the commercial speed of the train is 85 kmph. Initially the HSRL will have 10 trains and each train will have six coaches. To start with, train frequency will be every 10 minutes. This will later be reduced step by-step to eight minutes, six minutes and three minutes. The length of the HSRL is about 34 km from Bangalore city to BIA and will be implemented on a ‘built, operate and transfer’ (BOT) basis. The time line for transferring the project to the government was fixed at 30 years (including construction period). Additionally, the Karnataka government has appointed Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (DMRCL) as the consultant / project advisor for HSRL project. Currently the primary connectivity to BIA is through NH-7, which is a divided dual carriageway with three lanes in each direction. NH-7 is a busy highway also connecting Bangalore to Hyderabad. The traffic volume on the road was registered at around 50,000 vehicles (each way every day, with peak hour traff being about 5,000 vehicles per hour each way. This along with recent reports on air traffic just fies the HSRL. Air traffic is forecasted to be 17.2 million passengers per annum in 2010-11, 40 million in 2021-22 and 50.2 million in 2025-26. The air travellers’ traffic in the new Bangalore international airport on per day basis, will increase from 52,876 in 2011-12 to 1,09,86 in 2021-22 and 1,37,534 in 2025-26. As per the ridership forecast about 40% of this figure will be using the HSRL. The proposed HSRL will reduce travelling time from BIA to Bangalore city to 25 minutes from the current time taken by road of 70 -100 minutes.

India’s per capita income could cross Rs 10 lakh by 2039

India could go from poverty to affluence in one generation. By 2039, India too would be rich with a per capita income in excess of $22,000 ,adjusted for inflation and real exchange rate movements, says a report by the Emerging Markets Forum. This means, the annual income of an Indian citizen after 30 years could be over Rs10.56 lakh In other words, India would no longer be a poor country with a small global economic footprint—it would become an average economy,with a large global footprint.This would be a phenomenal jump by any yardstick as India’s per capita income in 2007 was just $940 (aroundRs45,000) “India has the potential to go from a relatively poor, developing country to an advanced (affluent) economy within 30 years—a single generation,”the Forum said in its report ‘India 2039.An affluent society in one generation’. The Emerging Markets Forum is a not-for-profit venture of the Centennial Group, a Washington-based strategic advisory firm specialising in emerging market economies,with University of St Gallen, Switzerland as its intellectual partner. According to the report, if India becomes affluent, it might be the world’s second largest economy before 2039 second only to China and surpassing the US.India has the potential to overtake the US within a generation, even though it is only one-fourteenth the size of the US economy today “Under our scenario, 2039 would have a world very different from the one we see today with per capita incomes averaging $23,400 (in 2007 dollars), nearly three times the $8,500 today,” it said.“Our model suggests that India could accelerate its real GDP growth over the 30 years to around 9.5 per cent a year. At this rate, the Indian economy would increase by a factor of 19 to reach $20 trillion in real terms.” India has already started down the track of repeating other Asian growth experiences.Comparing India’s per capita income for 1991-2008 shows it has closely tracked China’s experience with a 10-year lag. If history repeats itself, and if India then goes on to track the experience of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, it will realise the promise of becoming affluent within a generation, it said.
● Taiwan had a per capita GDP of $1,442 in 1965. In 1995, its per capita rose to $ 17,500, with an average annual growth rate of over 8.7 per cent over these 30 years
● In 1993, China’s per capita income was $530, but in 2008 it rose to $2,720, with an average annual growth of 11.5 per cent
● In 1965, South Korea’s income level was $700. By 1996, just before the Asian crisis, its income had risen to $16,230, thanks to an average annual growth of 10.7 per cent over 31 years


Doing up downtown Srinagar

Downtown Srinagar. Five lakh people, living in chaotic congestion along the banks of the winding Jhelum, in a 2.58 sq km area. This is where the Kashmir storm rages, where ‘‘azadi’’ slogans rent the air and stones are thrown at policemen and government vehicles almost every day. This is where journalists go looking for ‘‘hard news’’. Downtown Srinagar shapes the perception of Kashmir outside the Valley. It gets disproportionate media attention considering that the Valley has more than 54 lakh people spread out over 15,500 sq km. But now, this perception game is joined. Chief minister Omar Abdullah has readied an ambitious makeover plan for ‘‘downtown Srinagar’’, as the older parts of the city are called. Abdullah said that he will soon roll out the plan, which aims to clear the choked waterways, restore heritage homes, rebuild gardens and walks and basically restore its ‘‘traditional beauty’’. But beautification may not win over the area’s restive, often unemployed youth — the vanguard of the protest movement fanned by separatist leaders such as Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq as they compete for youth support. Abdullah appears to have realized this and has consequently made reviving Srinagar’s old commercial hub a key feature of his makeover plan. Its bustling bazars — with shops laden with dry fruits, saffron, papier mache dolls, ‘‘namdas’’ of rough wool and ‘‘kaleens’’ of the finest silk — once attracted every visitor to the city. Can they ever be brought back?

The Fiat Punto

After the Honda Jazz, here comes another premium hatchback.

26/11 post mortem

Fading roar

Will the tiger in India become extinct?

Satyam is now Mahindra Satyam

Satyam is no longer Satyam. It has become Mahindra Satyam as per the demands of the business. In fact, it’s an irony that ‘What Business Demands’, which was the tagline below Satyam’s original logo, is now missing. Perhaps, the new management saw the futility of stating the obvious. According to the company, this strategic move paves the way for the emergence of a robust brand, which draws from the core values of the Mahindra Group and the inherent strength of the Satyam brand. Speaking on the rebranding initiative, Anand Mahindra, V-C & MD, Mahindra Group, said customer centricity, high standards of corporate governance, unimpeachable ethics form the cornerstones of the Mahindra Group. This rebranding exercise symbolises an amalgamation of the Mahindra Group’s values with Satyam’s fabled expertise, even as it retains that part of Satyam’s identity which signifies commitment, purpose and proficiency of the organisation and its people.

ET Now is here

Got a glimpse of ET Now on cable in Mumbai...

Where are the rains?

The Monsoons have payed truant so far this year.Hopefully the coming weeks will see a revival...

Somewhere in Kashmir....

Pilgrims on their way to the Amarnath shrine. The Army on Monday foiled an attempt by terrorists to target yatris by defusing a bomb planted on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Terrorists had planted a high-intensity IED in the Panthal area .


Ganga turtle sanctuary snippets

A 7 km stretch in Ganga from Rajghat to Ramnagar Fort near Varanasi has now been given a permanent status of a tortoise sanctuary as per the provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972. Capturing, killing or selling freshwater turtle is punishable under the Act. It is one of the innovative ideas of the Ganga Action Plan to revive the use of turtles to keep the river clean. Traditionally, turtles and crocodiles act as scavengers consuming the corpses and other debris in the water. The once-plentiful the number of soft-shelled turtles in the river has greatly reduced and the steep drop in their number had resulted in filth accumulating in the river. This scheme plans to restore the river’s turtle population. After being incubated in breeding centres at Varanasi and Kukrail, near Lucknow, the hatchlings are reared for a year or so and then released in the river. Nearly 2,000 tortoises are released annually in the river. The sanctuary created in 1989 as a part of the clean Ganga plan only had a temporary status, the forest officials said “The existence of tortoise sanctuary has its own importance to clean the river,” the officials added. Meanwhile because of the new notification issued last month about the sanctuary the ambitious plan for river cruise over Ganga between two holy cities- Varanasi and Allahabad by the Uttar Pradesh tourism directorate appears to be in jeopardy. The directorate would now need permission of the Centre to clear the hurdle. The tourism department, in collaboration with a private player, earlier had plans to begin a cruise service in Varanasi with an innovative concept of water tourism. A luxury vessel was to be arranged for ferrying tourists but it had to be dropped because of the objection of the forest department due to the presence of tortoise sanctuary in the route. The changed situation makes it more difficult. Any decision regarding a relaxation can be taken by the Central government only, officials said.

India continues to be an attractive Retail destination

Some foreign retailers may be calling it quits but India is still ‘red-hot’ when it comes to attractiveness as a retail market. India has reclaimed the top position amongst 30 nations in the results of the 8th Annual Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) revealed on Monday by global consulting firm A T Kearney. Low inflation and rent reductions in smaller cities helped push India’s score (68) above Russia (60), China (56), UAE (56), Saudi Arabia (56), the study shows. For the fourth time in five years, India has been ranked the most attractive for retail investment as global retailers including Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco continue to expand in the country. The GRDI helps retailers prioritise their global development strategies by ranking the retail expansion attractiveness of emerging countries on a set of 25 variables including economic and political risk, retail market attractiveness and the difference between GDP growth and retail growth. In 2008, Vietnam toppled India to become the most attractive retail market but tables changed as recession swept through continents. AT Kearney now believes that ‘larger and resilient developing countries’ such as India are most likely to lead the economic recovery. With declining sales in home markets and consumer spending still tight, global expansion increases in importance as a strategy for growth. The global recession has made prime real estate locations increasingly available and affordable in many developing markets. It also has made acquisition valuations of many local-market retailers very attractive, says A T Kearney. In India, slower retail sales are causing Indian retailers to delay expansion plans and restructure their operations. But this has opened the window of opportunity for global retailers and many, including Wal-Mart, are continuing expansion plans as Indian consumers grow increasingly affluent, brandconscious and familiar with global retail formats.

India in super cyclotron club

India has joined the exclusive club of nations with superconducting cyclotron capability. Recently, the director of the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), Bikash Sinha, announced the successful completion of the Rs 100 crore project—only the fifth in the world—that had been stalled for years due to sanctions following the Pokhran nuclear tests. The four other set-ups are in America and Europe. The device accelerates charged particles close to the speed of light and is vital for frontline basic and applied research in nuclear sciences. The radio isotopes and proton beams it generates can be used in critical medical applications like treating brain tumor and eye cancer. At present, there is no healthcare facility in India that offers non-invasive proton beam surgery, which pinpoints and destroys cancerous cells. The device has a 100-tonne ironcore superconducting magnet with a magnetic field of 5 tesla (about 100,000 times the Earth’s magnetic field) and an 8 tonne superconducting coil that is kept cooled at -269°C. This has given the VECC the capability to develop futuristic energy storage and transport systems. It can be used to ensure uninterrupted power supply by releasing energy stored in coils. It can also lead to transport systems that make travel lightning quick, in excess of 500 km/hr using magnetic levitation. “The successful commissioning of the superconducting cyclotron is a huge achievement for Indian science as there’s no such facility in Asia, Australia, South America or Africa. Nearly 70% of the component and systems were indigenously developed. The embargo after the 1998 nuclear blasts delayed the project by three-four years but it also led to a lot of learning,” said VECC executive director Rakesh Bhandari. “India now has the knowhow to create magnets required for magnetic resonance imaging devices. It will also generate radio-isotopes used in gamma cameras for tumour and cancer diagnosis. Such isotopes will be generated commercially at the medical cyclotron being built at Rajarhat.” The scientists at VECC are now keen to build a fixed energy cyclotron that will emit proton beams to treat cancer.

Somewhere in West Bengal....

In perhaps the first significant climate responsive project in South Asia, an abandoned thermal power plant has been converted into a mega solar power generating station. It’s quite likely the world’s only high carbon power unit being replaced by a zero-carbon one. The 2-MW project, the first in solar sphere to cross the megawatt threshold, is poised to give a huge fillip to India’s renewable energy ambitions and marks the culmination of “solar man’’ S P Gon Chaudhuri’s dream. Six years ago, the diminutive man won the Ashden award, popularly known as the Green Oscar. “This is India’s empowerment in green energy and demonstrates the country’s intent and ability to be climate responsive in the energy sector. It has already catalysed commercial interest in solar power that has been shunned by private companies due to high capital investment and longer break-even period,’’ said Gon Chaudhuri, who is also the MD of West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC). At present, capital investment in a solar plant is Rs 15-18 crore per mega watt—four times that of thermal at Rs 4-5 crore/MW. The cost is expected to reduce by half and efficiency double when nano technology is integrated in solar cells in about five years. The project, located in Jamuria, 20 km from Asansol and 210 km from Kolkata, is in the heart of India’s coal belt. A 6 MW coal-based thermal power plant of Dishergarh Power Supply Co (DPSC) once stood on the eight-acre plot that is now the site of the solar project comprising 9,000 crystalline type solar modules of 230 watt each. The plant will generate three million units of electricity a year, enough to light 2,000 rural or 500 urban households. The facility will save seven lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide emission a day. That’s as much CO2 as 2 MW thermal projects emit daily. The power that the solar plant will generate will be fed into DPSC’s grid for distribution to customers in the Asansol-Raniganj belt. The unique project could help Bengal reclaim its pioneer status in the power sector after nearly a century. Way back in 1897, the country’s first hydel project of 600 KW was set up at Sidrapong in Darjeeling. At present, half the project has been completed with the 4,500 solar modules generating 1.25-mw electricity. WBGEDC is vetting proposals from several firms who have shown interest in setting up the other half of the project. DPSC will buy power at Rs 5 per unit and the ministry of new and renewable energy resources will pay Rs 10 per unit as generation incentive. WBGEDC can earn a further 97 paise per unit through the sale of carbon credit that the project will accrue. Annual revenue is pegged at Rs 4.8 crore. The project is expected to play a crucial role in achieving the solar mission of 15,000 MW under the PM climate action plan. That is imperative with the Planning Commission projecting a capacity addition of 6.5 lakh MW from thermal, nuclear, hydel and gas by 2030, leaving a deficit of 1.5 lakh MW that only solar energy can meet.

Bhendi Bazaar makeover

As the car ascends the J J flyover and heads towards CST, it’s difficult to miss the chaos on the street below, even if in a fleeting glimpse. To the right is Bhendi Bazaar, one of the most densely populated localities in the city, with creaking buildings standing cheek by jowl and a mass of humanity spilling all around. For any town planner, this is an urban nightmare. Now, one of the biggest-ever redevelopment projects is ready to roll. And spearheading it is no builder but the spiritual head of the one-millionstrong Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. At an exclusive briefing ,the Dawoodi Bohra headquarters in the Fort area of downtown Mumbai, his representatives said the project, which is expected to cost over Rs 1,500 crore, involves redeveloping 270 buildings and 2,000 commercial establishments spread over 18 acres, almost the size of the Oval Maidan. Over 25,000 people are expected to be rehoused in the new buildings. Interestingly, one lane of the landmark Chor Bazaar also falls under this plan. The trust has submitted a proposal to the state government under the recently introduced cluster redevelopment policy, popularly known as 33(9). The scheme applies to dilapidated cessed properties as well as BMC and state government buildings in the island city. It encourages builders to take up a minimum area of 4,000 sq m (about one acre, which could hold five to six buildings) and offers a higher-than-standard floor space index (FSI) of 4. The 98-year-old Syedna, currently in Germany, initiated the plan recently after witnessing the pathetic living conditions of Bhendi Bazaar’s residents—mainly Muslims of various sects, 80% of whom belong to his community. It will involve 18 acres, 270 buildings, 4,000 homes, 2,000 commercial establishments and 25,000 people. 80% of the project involves rehousing the existing tenants free of cost in brand new buildings. The other 20% will include four residential skyscrapers to be sold at the market rate to recover the project costs . Each rehab building will have one floor dedicated to services, provision for recreational facilities and two basements for parking . Almost 50% of the area will be reserved for open spaces and green areas. There are plans to broaden the narrow roads to up to 60 feet. 50% of bldgs bought, new look in 5 years .
Syedna Mohamed Burhanuddin, the spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohras, has launched a makeover plan for the dingy, dilapidated buildings that house the community members in Bhendi Bazaar. “The Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project has already bought over 50% of the buildings from the landlords. Once permissions come through, it will take five years to implement the project,’’ said Abdeali Bhanpurawala, executive secretary to the Syedna. In the last three months, representatives of the trust have held public meetings in the area, explaining the benefits of this mega-project. The trust is identifying transit accommodation for the residents. Murtuza Ali Rajkot Wala, a member of the Syedna’s planning team, claimed, “This is going to be a philanthropic project and will be entirely funded by the trust based on a no-profit, no-loss model.’’ According to him, most of the buildings in Bhendi Bazaar are dilapidated and date back to the turn of the last century. “This 18-acre stretch of Bhendi Bazaar is more popularly known as Bohri Mollah. Besides residential buildings, there are restaurants, offices of travel agents, sweet shops, tailoring and electronic shops and a foam mattress market,’’ said Rajkot Wala. Although the state government rule for cluster development stipulates a minimum tenement size of 300 sq ft for each household in the redeveloped building, the Syedna has directed that in his project the minimum size will be fixed at a carpet area of 350 sq ft. Tenements in the existing chawls are barely 150 to 200 sq ft large with common toilets. Currently, the area is serviced by infrastructure that is nearly 100 years old. The existing roads were laid for transportation belonging to an earlier era and can hardly accommodate the volume or size of modern vehicles. The Syedna’s representatives said the idea was not only to provide better homes and roads, but a “milieu that supports human development to its fullest potential’’. Said one, “The residents should flourish socially, physically, mentally, spiritually and economically.’’ So are the residents giving their consent for this project? “There has been no opposition. People ask us for clarifications. But there is no arm-twisting. We are a peaceful community,’’ said Bhanpurawala.


Somewhere in Lucknow....

A lion munches on a plastic bottle thrown in its enclosure at the Lucknow Zoo by some roguish visitor on Friday afternoon. Onlookers told our photographer that the king of beasts had already feasted on a similar bottle which eventually could choke it to a slow and painful death. And mind you, all this was within a span of 30 minutes only. With thousands of visitors thronging the zoo daily, the animals’ daily consumption of such deadly articles is anybody’s guess. Will the blissfully unaware zoo authorities and an equally capricious citizenry have some mercy and put a check on such indiscreet acts ....

Rumblings in the BJP

The post-poll crisis in BJP deepened on Saturday with senior party leader Yashwant Sinha unfurling the banner of revolt on Saturday even as the party struggled to put a lid on the festering faction feud by issuing a gag order. The former foreign minister and vice-president of the party quit all his party posts and mounted pressure on all office-bearers to follow suit. The eruptions have put paid to the effort to sweep the demand for a stocktaking of the debacle under the carpet, by forcing Rajnath Singh to announce that there would be a comprehensive inquest into reasons for the poll defeat.Coming immediately after Jaswant Singh raised the banner of revolt against the party’s decision to “reward” those responsible for the poll defeat, and not going in for a proper “review” of the reasons why, Sinha seems to be raising the same issues as Jaswant.