31.10.09

GST may miss April 1 deadline

The rollout of goods and services tax is likely to miss its April 1, 2010 deadline, dealing a blow to the government’s efforts to create a unified national market for goods and services in the country. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted for the first time that there could be a few months delay in the implementation of the UPA government’s major indirect tax reform. “I am trying to stick to the time schedule, but I will not be surprised if there is delay of a few months,” Mr Mukherjee said here. The GST, which is a consumption tax, seeks to create a seamless pan-India market by allowing both manufacturers and service providers to offset state taxes paid on inputs sourced from another state. However, there is no letup in the preparations for the new tax structure as both states and the Centre look to roll it out in the next financial year itself. The alternative dates that are being considered for the rollout are July 1 and September 1. The Centre is keen on moving a constitutional amendment in the winter session of Parliament to pave the way for states to tax services. But, Mr Mukherjee clarified that legislative measures will follow their own pace. Asked about Mr Mukherjee’s comments, Asim Dasgupta, the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers and West Bengal finance minister, said, “Our collective target is April 1, 2010, and on this we will have discussions with the Union finance minister.” The Centre and states are yet to converge on the rate of GST and the items that will be taxed, the most crucial aspects of any tax structure. Although, the Centre has given up on its demand for having a single rate structure and agreed to a dual rate structure to make the new tax more acceptable politically, the nitty-gritty remains to be finalised. The draft discussion paper, which is being given finishing touches, will be published for public comments on November 10, after the Union finance minister meets the empowered committee. Incidentally, states such as Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and other stakeholders had earlier cautioned against rushing into implementing GST from April 1, 2010 in absence of a robust IT infrastructure and extensive debate on the tax framework.
Dual GST: Central and state GST and integrated GST for inter-state transactions. Both centre and state GST to have two rates, exemption for some essential items and a special rate of 0.5 or 1.0 % for precious metals GST to subsume excise duty, service tax, countervailing duty special additional duty, value-added tax, luxury tax, entertainment tax, purchase tax, entry tax GST to be levied on imports, zero-rate for exports A rebate mechanism instead of area-based exemptions Uniform turnover base for taxation of Rs 10 lakh Input tax credit mechanism, no cascading of tax

Somewhere in Ahmedabad....


BJP workers perform a maha aarti at Bhadra Temple in Ahmedabad for the speedy recovery of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi who tested positive for H1N1.

Bangalore Monorail snippets

The proposed 59-km monorail, conceived to act as a feeder service to the Metro project, is seeing some sparks of light. Though the project is pending before ABIDe for approval, two infrastructure majors inked a joint bidding agreement for the monorail proposal in Bangalore. Malaysian-based Scomi Group Bhd and city-based Geodesic Techniques Private Limited, an engineering design and structural company, signed an agreement to submit a joint proposal to the Karnataka government to design, build, own, operate and transfer three monorail lines at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, for the first phase. Kanesan Veluppillai, president of Scomi International said that the agreement was a show of commitment towards taking up the project. The proposal will be given to the government in the next 30 days. The project will have over 50 elevated stations along three corridors, with depots. The stations would connect several schools and hospitals, and other important public offices and institutions. While Scomi will do the designing and planning, Geodesic will provide civil and structural support. The stations will also have several amenities, but those details have been left to the final planning stages. The proposal to start a monorail in itself is an old one. But during the Kumaraswamy government and after, it failed to chug along. For now, the project is before ABIDe for approval, before being placed before the cabinet. Monorail was conceived as a feeder to the Metro and is to work with BMTC, the Railways and other modes of transport, under an integrated model. The total of the proposed three corridors would be 59 km. Work on the monorail would be completed by three years, once the government gives it the final go-ahead.
Scomi is already in a project with L&T to build a 19.54-km monorail in Mumbai. Veluppillai said they were also looking at expanding operations in Kolkata, Delhi, Kerala and was waiting for the mobility plan announcement in Tamil Nadu, where they were “very keen”. Bangalore is also being considered as a core city. There were likely to be at least nine monorail tenders in the country in the next two years, worth an estimated total of Rs 20,000 crore, he added.

No pre-paid mobiles in J&K from Nov 1

Pre-paid mobile connections are banned in Jammu and Kashmir from November 1 and the government may decide to extend the ban to the northeast sooner rather than later. The move comes as the government found that such connections were being given out without verification in the insurgency-hit areas. Home minister P Chidambaram said pre-paid connections were banned because they were ‘‘prone to misuse’’. He added that service providers were in the loop and any individual who was capable of paying for his connection in advance (pre-paid) should be able to do so later in the month . About the north-east, he said, “Not yet. But it may be necessary to do the same in NE also.’’

Remembering India's Iron Lady



25 years ago Indira Gandhi was assasinated in 1984.

30.10.09

Core sector growth slips to 4% in Sept


After showing a healthy expansion of 7.1% in August, the growth in core infrastructure sector dropped to 4% in September, making analysts wonder whether robust industrial recovery can be sustained. The coal and cement which had led the chart in August by showing an impressive growth of 12.9% and 17.6% respectively, slipped to 6.5% each in September, according to the official data released On year-on-year basis, the September growth this fiscal of the six sectors - cement, coal, steel, electricity, crude, oil and petroleum refinery products — remained unchanged at four per cent. The index of the core industries, which account for a quarter of the nation's industrial production, had helped the factory output reach a robust 10.4% growth in August. With infrastructure growth slipping again, it is a matter of debate if the August performance of the total industrial production can be repeated in September.

Tikona


Is this WiMax or what?

Top of the charts


Global consumer confidence is rebounding, and in the US has risen for the first time since 2007, amid signs the world economy is picking up although spending is still restrained, a survey showed. Confidence was highest in India, followed by Indonesia and Norway, and was weakest in Japan, Latvia, Portugal and South Korea, although in Korea it had improved markedly, according to a quarterly survey by The Nielsen Company, conducted between September 28 and October 16. “Consumer confidence is rising faster in BRIC countries than other markets, driven by increasing job prospects,” Oliver Rust, managing director of Nielsen Hong Kong, said. In the United States and Europe, high unemployment continued to discourage spending on big-ticket items although confidence had improved as the worst appeared to be over for those economies, New York-based Nielsen said.

Somewhere in Jaipur....


Oil tankers on fire at the IOC depot at Sitapura Industrial Area in Jaipur on Thursday night

Somewhere in London....


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II presents President Pratibha Patil with the baton to launch the 19th Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay for the Delhi 2010 Games outside Buckingham Palace in London on Thursday. The baton will travel across 70 other Commonwealth countries to reach Delhi on October 3, 2010

Exports dip 14% in September

India’s exports dropped by 13.8% in September, but the decline was the lowest this fiscal, giving hope of a rebound of a year-old negative trend from the third-fourth quarter of the current fiscal. Exports during the month were $13.6 billion compared to $15.8 billion a year ago.

Versova Bandra Sea Link snippets

The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has invited global bids to appoint consultants to finalise the alignment and prepare design and estimates for the Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL) project. An official from the MSRDC said, “We had shortlisted three possible route alignments—along the coast, in the sea and partly through sea-partly through land—to connect Bandra to Versova. The successful bidder will study all three routes and suggest the most viable option.’’ The distance between Versova and Bandra is approximately 11 kms. The MSRDC plans to construct a four-lane VBSL in the first phase of the project. The remaining four lanes will be constructed some years later, depending on the traffic flow. The official said, “Apart from recommending the best possible route, the consultant will have to carry out an environment impact assessment study, get environmental clearance and no-objection certificates from various authorities.’’ The estimated cost of executing the project, at the prevailing rates, would not be less than Rs 5,000 crore. VBSL will work as the fourth corridor (SV road, Western Express Highway and Link road being the other three) for north and south bound traffic in the western suburbs. Unlike the Western Freeway and Bandra-Worli Sea Link, that are aimed a reducing traffic on the city road, the VBSL will help decongest the arterial road network in the Western suburbs.

The PMs peace overtures

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there should be no pre-conditions for talks with Pakistan, but firmly linked his readiness to take forward the peace initiative to Islamabad’s ability to prevent Pak-based terror groups from attacking India. Asked if his Wednesday’s statement calling on Pakistan to destroy terror camps on its soil was a pre-condition, he said, “It should not be a precondition.’’ But he underlined that domestic support for peace with Pakistan—essential for the government’s efforts succeeding—would be markedly absent if terror attacks did not stop. At a press conference in Srinagar, the PM signalled his readiness to take forward the peace initiative with Pakistan while emphasising that although India was ready to engage on all issues, acts of terrorism could not go hand in hand with talks. “India is a democracy, we can’t create an atmosphere for negotiations if terrorism continues,’’ Singh said, drawing his political red lines. Singh elaborated by saying that though he may not insist on the immediate dismantling of terror camps in Pakistan, “there is a practical way of looking at (things). Negotiations can’t make headway unless Pakistan brings under effective control these terror groups’’. He added, “If day in and day out terrorists continue the attacks and take precious lives, we cannot create an atmosphere for talks.’’

28.10.09

Rupee near 47 to $

The Indian currency ended 28 points weaker against the US dollar at 46.93 mainly on the back of weakness of Asian currencies against the greenback and continuous selling by foreign funds. Rupee’s close was near its four-week closing low. Despite the day’s losses, the rupee is still stronger than the 48.11 level it was at a month ago

Sensex snapshot

Across-the-board selling on Dalal Street shaved off nearly 400 points from the BSE sensex . Real estate stocks led the fall after RBI indicated there were signs of an unwarranted price rise in the sector and decided to rein in banks’ exposure to the commercial real estate sector by hiking risk weight for loans to this segment. Metal and banking stocks also witnessed strong profit taking as foreign funds continued to sell. The sensex opened the day weak on the back of a 100-plus points fall in the Dow Jones Index on Monday night. But the selling started after RBI’s policies were made public at 11.15 am, which indicated the central bank was slowly on track to exit the easy money policy that it had embarked on about a year ago, including tightening of money flow to the real estate sector, dealers said. At close, the sensex was down 387 points at 16,353, a six-week closing low. Since the Diwali-day high, the index is now down 1,100 points. Investors were left poorer by Rs 1.5 lakh crore with BSE’s market capitalisation now at Rs 54.9 lakh crore. Among the real estate majors, DLF lost 6.6% to Rs 402, Unitech was down 7.7% to Rs 86, while HDIL shed 8.7% to Rs 340. The panic selling in real estate stocks led BSE’s Realty Index ending 6.2% off. FIIs continued to sell with the day’s net outflow at Rs 549 crore. Domestic funds, however, were net buyers at Rs 142 crore. In the last five sessions, on a net basis, FIIs have taken out nearly Rs 2,050 crore from the market. With the dollar appreciating against most major currencies, institutional dealers said.

Interest rates set to rise

Interest rates are likely to start rising soon. This was indicated by the second quarter review of the monetary policy, 2009-10, unveiled by RBI governor D Subbarao . He said in the light of rising inflationary pressure, which is projected to touch 6.5% by March 2010, the monetary policy’s priority would be to contain the inflationary expectation. The RBI left policy rates like repo and reverse repo—the rates at which it lends to and accepts money from banks—and CRR—the percentage of deposits banks are supposed to keep with it—unchanged.

Naxal terror in West Bengal

Signalling their aggressive intent,armed cadres of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) as well as Maoists laid siege to the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express at a nondescript station called Banstala,8 km from Jhargram town, on Tuesday. Security forces rushing to the site were ambushed by the ultra-Leftist guerrillas, triggering a fierce gunfight that left a policeman injured and two PCPA men dead. Some passengers were also injured in brick-batting. The incident comes just a week after the Maoist assault on Sankrail police station. The Maoists held the train drivers hostage and kept a trainload of passengers in panic for about five hours at Banstala, between Kalaikunda and Jhargram, about 175 km from Kolkata. The drivers—initially taken to a building near the station—were later released. The incident came on a day when WB chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti and five senior secretaries were in Midnapore to take stock of the Maoist threat. The 2443 Up Rajdhani was running on schedule when the driver noticed logs on the tracks and a large mob rushing towards the train. It was 3 pm and the superfast was nearing Banstala. The driver quickly braked. Without warning, the mob, waving red Maoist flags, began hurling stones at the train, hitting some passengers in the process. The next instant, the drivers were bundled out by the guerrillas. “We could see them from a distance. There were about 300-400 of them. When we slowed down, some rebels climbed into our cabin and ordered us to disembark. They said they were holding up the train because the state had ‘waged a war on tribals’. We followed them and sat by the tracks,’’ driver K Ananth Rao and his assistant K G Rao said. The armed tribals then took away mobiles and walkie-talkies from the drivers and the guard. Soon, some PCPA men started painting slogans on the compartments with red ink demanding the release of their leader Chhatradhar Mahato. The passengers were told to get off the train and sit on the platform. Bewilderingly, there wasn’t a single RPF jawan in sight. Some passengers managed to place frantic calls to relatives, while the news of the hijacked Rajdhani triggered frenetic activity in the administrative machinery.
Train Terror:
W Midnapore court sends People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities chief Chhatradhar Mahato to police custody
Around 3 pm, train stopped at Banstala near Jhargram, where trees were felled onto tracks Tribals armed with axes, bows and arrows smash glass panes, tell passengers to disembark Activists abduct two drivers of BBSR-New Delhi Rajdhani Express
PCPA chief demands dialogue with railway minister Mamata Banerjee on demands
After a few hours, outfit releases drivers, apparently without negotiations

26.10.09

Inflation at a 20 week high

The annual rate of inflation, as measured by the wholesale price index (WPI), touched a 20-week high of 1.21% for the week ended October 10 after a marginal increase in the costs of food and manufactured items, a government release showed. Inflation was 0.92% the week before. However, the inflation’s steady climb should not worry the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), only days before its monetary policy review on October 27, as it has already accommodated a yearend 5% mark in its policy. The central bank is likely to tinker with its policy stance only if there is some dramatic change. Some economists, however, think the RBI may have to raise its inflation forecast, given the recent spike in the index. “We expect the RBI to revise up its WPI inflation projection from ‘around 5.0%’ by end-March 2010 to ‘around 6.5%’. Apart from a low base effect, firm food prices, rising oil and other commodity prices, strong money supply growth and rising demand are setting the base for higher inflation,” said Sonal Verma, an economist with financial services firm Nomura. Within the government too, there is growing concern over the rising inflation. While releasing the economic outlook for 2009/10 on Wednesday, C Rangarajan, chairman of the prime minister’s economic advisory council (EAC), said an unambiguously spelt-out strategy and a clear time frame for returning to more normal monetary and fiscal times will curb inflationary pressures. Despite the warning, the EAC ruled out any need for any change in fiscal or monetary policy. The government is a slated to release the WPI inflation data on a monthly basis from November 14. But clarity is yet to emerge on when India will move to a new WPI. ”It has not been decided when can we do the updating of the base year and widening of the product basket for the new WPI,” Pronab Sen, the country’s chief statistician, said in the capital while talking to the media on the sidelines of the India Forecasting Forum. The government will continue to report weekly numbers for primary articles, which includes food items and fuels.

25.10.09

Catamaran snippets

Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy said his new venture capital (VC) fund will be called ‘Catamaran’, and will help entrepreneurs across sectors such as healthcare, retail, technology with early stage investments. “I have always believed that entrepreneurship is an instrument of creating jobs, and is the best way to solve poverty of a country like India,” Mr Murthy told media in an early morning conference call on Friday. In a statement to the stock exchanges on Thursday, Infosys said Mr Murthy had sold eight lakh shares, some 0.13% of the company on October 21 and 22, raising around Rs 174.30 crore. “I have obtained permission from the CEO, and will perhaps expand the capital at an appropriate time,” he added. He declined to elaborate about the size of investments he would make in shortlisted companies, but said will never be a limiting factor. “We will not be in a hurry to finish the fund, there’s no time limit for spending,” he added. Catamaran derived from ‘kattumaram’ in Tamil is a multi-hulled boat, which moves very swiftly. “It’s like a small boat that is very agile,” said Mr Murthy. “Ideally, we’ll start investing in a year or two, and would like to do early stage investments.” In order to ensure the agility of his new venture fund, the Infosys founder will initially hire some 3-4 young, smart individuals to be based in Bangalore. “I am already 63, so we will have smart people who know more than I do.” Mr Murthy would also mentor companies and will help them flesh out their ideas by connecting with other partners. “VCs will have to help entrepreneurs in crystallising ideas, they will have to do this.”

Orissa joins name-change club

It's a christening that has the blessings of Lord Udisanatha himself. Orissa will soon be known as ‘Odisha’ and Oriya, the language, will from now be referred to as Odia. It was only on Thursday, though, that the Union Cabinet gave its stamp of approval to the state government’s proposal for a much-waited name change. The state Assembly resolved to change both names in August last year in deference to the manner in which the name of the state is pronounced in the local language. But this required an amendment to the Constitution in order to take effect. The proposed amendment is likely to be introduced in the next session of Parliament. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in Orissa has been urging the central government to change the name of the state to Odisha. The state was spelt “Orissa” in the Indian Constitution adopted in 1950. BJD, though, espoused the view that this wasn’t the correct spelling for the name of the state. In the local script and language, the name of the state is spelt as it is pronounced: “Odisha.” In Schedule I in Devanagari, the name of the state and its language is mentioned as Udisa and Udia, respectively. BJD’s own convictions on the manner in which the name of their home state and language had to be spelt and pronounced were, no doubt, derived from regional literature from the 15th century onward, when the land of the Oriya people was referred to as Udisa or Odisa. In the Tantric literature of the mediaeval period the word Udisa has been frequently used and in Tantrasara, Jagannath has been referred to as Udisanatha. Poet Sarala Das mentions both the words Odra Rastra and Odisa in his famous treatise Mahabharata while Gajapati Kapileswaradeva (1435-1467 AD) in his proclamation inscribed on the temple walls of Jagannath calls his territory as Odisa Rajya. In Sanskrit, the region was referred to as Odra Vishaya or Odra Desa. Both Pali and Sanskrit Literatures mention the Odra people as Oddaka and Odrah, respectively. In the Mahabharata, the Odras are mentioned along with the Paundras, Utkals, Mekalas, Kalingas and Andhras.

Sebi nod for 9-5 trading day


Indian stock market will soon witness longer hours and higher volumes. In a move that will give investors more flexibility but make life in the dealing room and back-office far more demanding, capital market regulator Sebi has permitted stock exchanges to begin the day as early as 9 AM and keep the market open for trading till 5 PM. Currently, trading in stocks and equity derivatives take place between 9:55 AM and 3:30 PM. While the exchanges are yet to fix the timings, the decision to align the timings of the stock markets with other financial markets like currency, bonds and call money may boost volumes in stocks and equity derivatives. More interestingly, if the local market opens at 9 AM, it may drive a slice of the trading volume from Singapore, where the Nifty futures are traded, to India. Since operators shorting a stock often use the shallower Singapore market to drag down the scrip in India, an early opening will lower the scope of such manipulations. A senior NSE official said that the exchange is likely to extend the trading hours ‘soon’. “The exchange is conducting a review to ensure that systems are compliant with Sebi requirements. We do not anticipate any issues in starting soon,” the official said. A BSE spokesperson said the exchange welcomes the Sebi directive on extension of trading hours, though he declined to comment on when it plans to implement it. Extended hours may benefit only day traders, feel analysts . The origin of the proposal to extend trading hours has its roots in an increased interest among FIIs and overseas arbitrageurs in Singapore Nifty futures. Nifty futures on the Singapore Exchange are available to global investors at least a couple of hours before trading starts in Indian markets. This has resulted in overseas investors gaining an upper hand over local investors, who do not have access to Singapore Exchange, to react to global events and volumes shifting from NSE’s equity derivatives segment to Singapore. The move is seen benefiting NSE the most in the foreseeable future, as it already enjoys a healthy lead over rival BSE in volumes, thanks to its robust equity derivatives segment. Market watchers fear this may widen the gap between the two exchanges. Even as brokers are enthused about the prospects of higher business, there are some concerns over the extra burden that the additional trading hours will exert on their post-trade infrastructure and client servicing. Derivatives analysts dread the extension of trading hours, as it may result in further delay in receiving the bhavcopy for equity derivatives, which is the list of the final details of trading in a day, from the exchanges. The bhavcopy is released by exchanges by around 6 PM, after which, the data is analysed and sent to clients.

3G spectrum auction deferred to Jan 14

The Department of Telecommunications has announced revised guidelines for auctioning third generation (3G) spectrum with a new deadline of January 14, 2010, even as a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum gathers steam. The earlier deadline for auctioning the spectrum was December 7, 2009. The reserve price for a pan-India 3G spectrum has been set at Rs 3,500 crore, revised upwards from Rs 2,020 crore, while the minimum bid amount for WiMAX is fixed at Rs 1,750 crore. The telecom department has also permitted foreign operators to participate in the bidding process on their own, but they would be required to acquire a telecom licence before rolling out services. While DoT had set a base price of Rs 2,020 crore for a pan-India 3G spectrum, the finance ministry had demanded that the base price for 3G be doubled to Rs 4,020 crore and that for WiMax to Rs 2,020 crore. Later, the matter was referred to a group of ministers, which concluded the base price as Rs 3,500 crore for pan-India 3G spectrum. Accordingly, the base price for Delhi, Mumbai and category A circles will be Rs 320 crore, for Kolkata and category B circles, it will be Rs 160 crore and for C circle will be Rs 80 crore. The new entrants in the telecom space who will be standalone 3G service providers will have to share 3% of their annual revenues with the government as spectrum usage fee while existing operators will have to pay an additional 1% of their revenue. Existing players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular currently pay up to 6% of revenues to the government as spectrum usage charges. The spectrum charge would be payable on total revenue of 2G and 3G services taken together. DoT has allowed exemption on payment of spectrum usage fee for one year for the standalone 3G service providers. The government has said that a total of 4 blocks of 20 MHz would be auctioned in each circle. However, with shortage of spectrum in the Delhi and Gujarat circle, only three slots would be auctioned, while one out of three has already been reserved for state-owned telcos, BSNL and MTNL. Although the DoT has said that foreign operators would be permitted to participate in the 3G auction process on their own, the existing policy requires them to either apply for a fresh telecom licence here or transfer it to a company incorporated in India. Applying for a fresh UASL licence would cost the entity an additional Rs 1,651 crore. DoT hasn’t clarified if participants including the foreign operators who win 3G bids would be eligible for 2G spectrum. Currently all telecom services in the country are offered on the 2G platform. The document also says that DoT after consulting the finance ministry may extend tax sops to successful 3G bidders.
4 blocks to be auctioned in each circle, wherever available.
Only 3 slots in Delhi & Mumbai
Reserve price for pan-India 3G spectrum fixed at Rs 3,500 crore, up from Rs 2,020 crore set earlier
Foreign operators allowed to bid, but would have to acquire telecom licence before starting operations
Standalone 3G providers to pay 3% of revenues as spectrum usage fee, after 1 year of operation Existing operators to pay additional 1% of revenue as spectrum usage fee.
Players already paying up to 6% of revenues towards the fee for 2G spectrum
Permission sought for ECBs:This implies that the amount each telco pays towards 3G bids would be treated as expenditure over the period of licence and would not be taxed. Permission has also been sought to allow telcos and internet service providers to raise funds for auctions through the external commercial borrowings (ECB) route. Earlier this year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had allowed telcos to raise up to $500 million through ECBs for 3G auctions.

Lavazza to make India coffee hub

Till now it was just software and small cars. But if Italian coffee giant Lavazza S.p.A has its way, India might soon become the hub for coffee in Asia. In 2007, Lavazza walked into the country by acquiring the Barista coffee house business and Fresh & Honest Cafe, a company that specialises in serving corporate clients with vending machines and ground coffee products, for a reported sum of 100 million euros. And now, it’s time to expand, according to Gaetano Mele, CEO at the Italian Lavazza Group. On the cards is Lavazza’s first coffee plant outside home and an ambitious plan to expand its business in the Asia-Pacific region. About 60% of Lavazza’s revenues come from Italy and rest from foreign markets. Asia contributes a mere 5% to its coffers. So, it is no surprise that Italy’s biggest coffee maker wants to use India and its relatively cheaper raw coffee beans as a base to expand into other markets. “We are making fresh investments in building a coffee processing plant in Chennai on the lines of the one that we have in Turin,” says Mele. “It is our first factory outside Italy and should be operational by the first half of 2011.” Mele is banking on the country’s young population and its potential disposable income. China is also a budding market. In the pipeline is a range of designer cafes, such as the popular Lavazza Espression where d├ęcor and service make an exciting proposition to coffee lovers.

Second coming for Dorjee Khandu too

Dorjee Khandu, who led the Congress to a spectacular win in the assembly elections, will be sworn in as Arunachal's chief minister for a second consecutive term on Sunday. The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) unanimously elected the incumbent chief minister as its leader on Saturday. At a six-hour-long meeting attended by AICC observers V Narayanswami, L Faleiro and Sanjoy Bapna, it gave the party high command the authority to choose its leader. “Madam Sonia has decided that incumbent Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu should continue in his post for the fifth legislative assembly, too,” Narayanswami said. The Congress chief has congratulated Khandu and asked him to continue as CM in the greater interest of the state and the party, he added. Khandu first became chief minister on October 9, 2007, succeeding Gegong Apang following a revolt against the latter by a majority of party legislators. After the CLP meeting, Khandu went to the Raj Bhavan to stake claim to form a new government. It is still not clear if he will take the oath of office alone or along with other ministerial colleagues. Some party insiders said Khandu will be sworn in alone as the Congress high command was yet to clear the names of other members of the council of ministers. Earlier in the day, Governor Gen (retd) J J Singh asked him to continue in office till a new ministry was formed. Khandu said the new government will work for the fulfilment of the promises made by the Congress in its election manifesto. He exhorted party MLAs to help him take the state forward on the path of development.

Somewhere in Ahmedabad....


On the banks of the Kankaria lake, birds of a feather.....

Somewhere in Delhi....


Devotees offer Chhath Sandhya Arghya on the banks of Yamuna

India - Asean snippets

While stating that the conclusion of the India-Asean trade-in-goods agreement in August 2009 is a major first step in India’s objective of creating an India-Asean regional trade and investment area, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proposed a fivepoint programme to further strengthen the India-Asean links at the 7th India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Thailand. These included establishment of an India-Asean round table comprising think tanks, policy makers, scholars, media and business representatives to bridge the knowledge gap further. He also proposed simplification of the visa regime to encourage business and tourist travel, holding an Asean trade and industrial exhibition in India in October 2010 or January 2011, enhanced cooperation in the agriculture sector and cooperation in the application of space technologies. “We attach high importance to the early conclusion of negotiations on the trade in services and investment agreement and we should direct our officials accordingly,’’ he stated. After signing the free trade agreement (FTA) Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in August, the two regions have started negotiations to broadbase the pact to include investment and services. The FTA is now limited to trade in goods. With services contributing 55% of its economy, India is quite keen on tapping the growing services market in Southeast Asia. Singh also offered to help southeast Asian nations in management of natural disasters by sharing satellite data with them and launching small satellites made by them. Singh also had a “good discussion’’ with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama on the future of the East Asia Summit (EAS) process and on the importance of evolving an open and transparent regional economic arrangement. According to the foreign ministry, the two prime ministers agreed to work to gether in a positive and constructive way on the climate change issue.

Hooda's back too....

The Congress announced Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the CM-designate in Haryana, choosing to maintain status quo in the state where it managed to cobble up the numbers with the help of seven Independents. The decision was taken by party president Sonia Gandhi after she held several rounds of consultations, lasting well past midnight, with senior party leaders who, as central observers, interacted with the newly-elected party MLAs in the last two days. Sources said Hooda is likely to be sworn in on Sunday morning. This sets at rest all speculation that had been triggered about Hooda’s continuance after the Congress failed to secure a majority on its own. In a positive sign for the Congress, Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress has conveyed that it would support the government and has not put any condition to his offer. “I cannot forget the commitment made to the people of Haryana during elections. Now, the people’s interest comes first, when we support the Congress,’’ Bishnoi said.

Ashok Chavan's back as Maha CM

Ashok Chavan, who was retained as Maharashtra CM for a second stint, said he would also strive to implement the Congress manifesto in letter and spirit. “The manifesto will not be just another document. We assure the people of Maharashtra that we are serious about our commitment and will deliver the results,’’ he said. In the CLP meeting, while the overwhelming majority of party MLAs wanted the matter to be left to the leadership, Rane and a few others recorded their preference for one aspirant or the other. Later, the CLP, in keeping with the custom, authorised Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to decide the leadership issue. Sonia's decision is being viewed as a setback for both Rane and Deshmukh, who had reportedly been lobbying for the coveted post since the declaration of assembly results on Thursday. The decision on chief minstership will pave the way for discussions with the NCP amid a demand within the Congress to reopen the terms of engagement as the party views it as heavily tilted in its favour. Sources said the Congress was keen on redistribution of portfolios between the two allies, with the home ministry leading the pack. It has been felt that the chief minister should retain the home ministry in view of the new security scenario in the state. A section in the party also feels that the absence of the home ministry from the CM’s jurisdiction dwarfs his stature. What went in Chavan’s favour is the Congress’s electoral performance since he took over the hot seat from Deshmukh following 26/11. The party managed to win a handsome tally in the Lok Sabha polls and increased its strength in the assembly too to return to power. The results have also widened the gulf between the Congress and the NCP in the former’s favour.

Somewhere in Hua Hin....

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the border issue with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in Thailand’s resort town of Hua Hin, with the two leaders stressing the need to maintain peace and narrow the differences. While the two refrained from discussing the discord over Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to the state that has been the source of the recent tension in ties, they agreed that it was imperative to maintain peace along the disputed border area. Wen stressed that China wanted to have a “steady and healthy’’ relationship with India and the two leaders agreed not to allow differences to act as an impediment against “functional cooperation’’ between them. Singh and Wen had a “productive meeting’’ for almost an hour along the sidelines of the Asean and East Asia summit in which they, as both sides stated, agreed to further build trust and understanding. “We want to have a healthy and steady relationship with India. I hope we can use this opportunity to exchange our views on all related issues,’’ said Wen. However, the contentious issue of Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal remained unaddressed, leading analysts in India to state that Saturday’s meeting is unlikely to result in a softening of Beijing’s tough stance toward Delhi. “In June, for example, no sooner than Hu Jintao and Manmohan had appeared hand-in-hand at the first-ever BRIC summit, than the Chinese state-controlled media ran vituperative attacks against India,’’ said strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney. “India, in this decade, has hyped the outcome of every bilateral meeting with China,’’ he pointed out. Asian leaders discussed plans to “lead the world’’ by forming an EU-style community. Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama pressed them to move towards the creation of an East Asian bloc and take advantage of the region’s rapid recovery from the global slump. He said the group would involve Asean with regional partners like India, China, Japan, S Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

16.10.09

India China pow wow continues

India raised the pitch of an increasingly testy row with China over disputed border areas warning Beijing about its involvement in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. "The Chinese side is fully aware of India's position and our concerns about Chinese activities," foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in response to a Chinese statement that it would remain engaged in Pakistan. "We hope that the Chinese side will take a longterm view of the India-China relations and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan," Prakash said.
India and China traded diplomatic jabs a day before over a recent visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh, which is at the core of a longstanding dispute between the neighbours. Singh had visited Arunachal Pradesh on 3 October to campaign ahead of state assembly elections, but refrained from saying anything on China or the border dispute. Last month, China offered financial help to Pakistan to build a multibillion dollar dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which led New Delhi to complain to Islamabad.
The planned $12.6 billion (Rs58,212 crore) Diamir Bhasha dam on the Indus river in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is set to produce 4,500MW of power, aimed at overcoming major electricity shortages in the region.

Gold prices on Dhanteras 2009


Gold prices hit a high on Dhanteras.....

Pak Taliban chief says India next target

As his militants wrought havoc in the country by a series of attacks and suicide blasts, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has threatened to dispatch terrorists to fight India, once an Islamic state had been created in Pakistan. “We want an Islamic state. If we get that, then we will go to the borders and help fight the Indians,” Hakimullah said in footage aired by a TV channel. The channel said it recently acquired the footage of Hakimullah, who claimed responsibility for several attacks across Pakistan over the past week, including a terrorist assault on the Army’s General HQ in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. “We are fighting the military, police and militia because they are following US orders. If they stop following their orders, we will stop fighting them,” said Hakimullah, in what was seen as desperate last minute efforts to stop Pakistan army’s offensive into his group’s stronghold of Waziristan. Hakimullah was named the new chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack.

It's Diwali....



In an expansive gesture to Indians worldwide as much as to showcase his and America’s multi-cultural affections, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday lit a ceremonial Diwali lamp at the White House to “symbolize victory of light over darkness’’. Although it was the Bush administration that began celebrating Diwali in the White House in 2003, Obama became the first president to personally grace the ceremony. “This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by lighting diyas, or lamps, which symbolize the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,’’ Obama said. “And while this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need,’’ the president added, in a sober caveat to what is usually a riotous festival of excess.
The half-hour celebration was attended by India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Ambassador Meera Shankar, while several Indian-Americans in administrative positions milled around with their East Asian-American colleagues. The White House kept it simple. A box of mithai was kept on some 150 chairs for guests who filled the east room, but there was no food fest or song and dance. There was a single lamp with a single wick for Obama to light. Wishing everyone a “Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak,’’ Obama listened intently as the priest ended his prayer with Om Shanti Shanti.

India notifies N-separation plan

India has notified its separation plan in the IAEA, which formally separates India’s civilian and military nuclear establishments. The plan, announced in March 2006, has passed muster at the IAEA and India’s safeguards pact is now officially operational. This is likely to help along the negotiations for the reprocessing agreement that is currently under way between India and the US. But more than that, this will silence many non-proliferation critics in the new US administration, who have been looking at the delay as an example of Indian dithering.

11.10.09

A paisa saved is a paisa earned

Indians spend less and save more is well known. For example, on an average an Indian saves Rs 37.70 of every Rs 100 earned against Rs 4.2 by a US citizen. What’s not that well advertised is that thanks to schemes like NREGS, poor, rural Indians are also jumping onto the savings bandwagon. In fact, we’re saving more than ever: the saving rate just the previous year was Rs 36 for every Rs 100. Also, the recession has made Indians save even more. The saving rate among Indians has gone up from 30% in 2003-04 to 37.7% in 2008-09 with a 1% increase coming in the past two years alone. An assessment of savings done by the National Savings Institute has thrown up interesting revelations: Savings are more with regional rural and public sector banks. Dip in interest rates have increased investment in post offices. “Women labourers in NREGS ares 58% of the total in AP and a majority of these women are also members of Self-Help Groups. Because of NREGS, most are able to open a bank account. This has also reduced their dependence on chit funds. Since withdrawal in post offices is generally at maturity, this constraint on frequent withdrawal has also contributed to increasing the saving rate,’’ NSI, regional director, B Rajubabu said. Most proactive states in saving are: West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. “In West Bengal, small savings department exist from block level with more agents and this has encouraged saving habits among them. In some low performing states like Karnataka, small saving units are at district level and have not appointed new agents for past three years and are less proactive,” said B Rajubabu. Internationally, the US saving rate is lower principally because Americans on an average retire later and according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 4.2% is personal saving rate, while in India, as per NSI, personal saving rate is 31%. Here, the saving rate is higher because proportion of people of working age is higher and people are credit constrained and have low social security coverage. While 80% of the savings are from urban areas, 20% is from rural areas in India. And, 90% of saving is from middle income group and from household savings. With Self-Help Groups authorised to collect money, banking has literally come to the doorstep and legally. That NREGS payments are made through post offices has also increased saving awareness among people. In Andhra Pradesh, 95% of the NREGS payments are made through post office.

Somewhere on facebook....

A slight to India in FarmVille, a game in which users play farmer and mark their territory with national flags, has stirred a patriotic crusade on the networking portal, with Indians from Bathinda to Barcelona and Kolkata to California asking the developers one angry question — why is the Indian Tricolour missing? Facebook owes a huge share of its popularity to the Indian GenNet. With the number of protesters touching 10,000 by Thursday midnight —increasing by around 1,000 every day — it’s a movement that cannot be ignored, even if the platform is virtual. FarmVille is the flagship application of San Francisco-based social gaming company Zynga that has 35 million users, a huge chunk of them Indian. Several countries, including the US, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Japan and many smaller nations have their own flags. There is even a FarmVille flag and a Zynga flag. But if Indians want to play under their own flag, they cannot. There is a deluge of complaints on Facebook.
FarmVille allows Facebook users to own a virtual plot of farmland, sow seeds, harvest, and gather points. Users can add friends as neighbours. They can also exchange gifts. Seeds and animals can be bought at a market, which has several countries’ flags
Pritam Bijlani, a 26-year-old MBA graduate working in Mumbai, has started the Indian Flag in FarmVille Cause. “FarmVille is one of the most interesting games ever. Fifty of my friends and cousins are playing it but they have to use flags of other countries — many of them much smaller than ours. So, I started the Cause and, to my wonder, 1,000 people joined in the first couple of days. I have written to Zynga and they have promised to ‘discuss’ and ‘review’ the ‘suggestion’. I hope they will soon give us our Tricolor,” said Bijlani. Sai Thakur, a 26-year-old businesswoman from Belgaum, is one of the pioneering campaigners. “I hope our movement pays off and we have an Indian flag in FarmVille soon,” she says. “It’s really disappointing to see that in spite of so many Indians playing this game, the developers haven’t given us the option to flaunt our own flag. I do hope they consider our petition,” says Nashik accounts executive Dipika Shrisunder. The Zynga community forum is not barren either — while Judebinoy (username) has put up a fluttering ‘gif ’ image of the Tricolour and got a thumbs up, London’s Sallly (username) asks “it’s the only major flag that is missing, so Zynga, please, can it be added?” So far, they’ve only been met with silence. Is it an oversight which will be rectified, or is it something more deep-rooted? A fluttering Ashok Chakra might be a small step for the US developers, but it’ll be a bumper harvest for thousands of Facebook farmers.

Lend a helping hand



After the drought in most parts of India...there has been a deluge in certain states as the monsoon receeds.........Karnataka,Andhra Pradesh,Orissa and Maharashtra need your help.....

All-out offensive against Naxals

The government will now go the whole hog against the Red ultras. Plans have been set in motion to deploy around 70,000 paramilitary personnel in Naxal-affected states, which in conjunction with the state police forces will soon take the battle to the Maoist rebels in their jungle and other hideouts. A day after home minister P Chidambaram issued an ultimatum to Maoists to jettison their armed struggle or face full-scale action, sources said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave the green signal to the major step-up in operations against the rebels in consultation with the respective state governments after the Maharashtra assembly polls later this month. ‘‘Full-scale security offensive, coupled with equitable development, will be the guiding principle, while taking the state governments fully on board,’’ said a top official. The planned major offensive will revolve around the ‘‘complete domination of affected areas’’ till civil and police administration is fully restored. ‘‘It might take two to three years but it will be done. The beginning has already been made in Lalgarh in West Bengal and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh,’’ said a senior home ministry official. Even as the over two-hourlong CCS chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the security as well as economic options to take on the red menace, IAF announced its own plans to deploy its Garud commandos and mount machine guns on its helicopters to protect its aircrew and aircraft. That Naxalism has swiftly emerged as the biggest internal security challenge in recent years can be gauged from the fact that while less than 90 security personnel have been killed in counterterrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir this year, over 270 of them have already lost their lives battling the ultras in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This represents the highest toll for security forces in anti-Naxal duties in a single year, with the killing of 18 policemen by Naxals in Gadchiroli region of Maharashtra on Thursday only reinforcing the huge challenge ahead. While 33,000 security personnel are already deployed in these states, another 37,000 will be drawn from various paramilitary forces like CRPF, ITBP, BSF, SSB and CoBRA as part of the stepped-up drive against Naxalites. The armed forces will not directly join the battle. Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said the Garud special forces would be deployed in IAF helicopters — engaged in reconnaissance, logistical and casualty evacuation duties in the ongoing anti-Naxal operations — to ward off any Naxal attack on them.

10.10.09

Sena - BJP's Pune vision

The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance released its ‘vision plan’ for Pune, promising a slew of development initiatives including the long overdue development plan (DP), a metropolitan regional development authority, river clean-up, slum rehabilitation and tackling public transport issues, among other things. Almost all issues raised by the saffron alliance through the ‘vision plan’ relate to longstanding issues afflicting the city, irrespective of the elections gone by. What makes the alliance optimistic this time is its supreme confidence that the Sena-BJP will be voted to power in the state in the October 13 assembly polls. The leaders promised “honest” efforts at solving the years of unresolved problems. Anil Shirole said, “Pune’s population has grown by manifolds in the recent years and was bound to touch the 1 crore mark over the next two decades. The growth has given way to several issues and calls for a planned approach towards promoting horizontal growth for the city through development of selfsustained suburbs. We will seek to realise this through the proposed PMRDA.” Similarly, he said, 42 per cent of the city’s population resides in slums and their apt rehabilitation through a redevelopment authority was badly needed. Tackling public transport problems and pursuing an independent 1,500 MW power project for Pune city will be other priorities.” Shyam Deshpande said, “The alliance will strive for the setting up of a Mula-Mutha river board for effecting the long overdue river clean up action.” ‘ The city may not have an independent airport of its own — a demand that remains unresolved for last one decade. But, that hasn’t stopped the Sena-BJP from promising a spirited effort towards renaming the existing Lohegaon civil enclave (which is part of the Indian Air Force fighter base), after Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak.

Of globe trotting Indians....

Indian citizens are today permanent residents of all but three countries in the world. The ministry of overseas Indian affairs has registered the presence of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in 180 of 183 countries of the world. The numbers may vary from just two in Lebanon to almost a million in the United States of America but the fact is that Indians call the whole world their home. It is only in North Korea, Pakistan and Bhutan that not a single NRI is to be found. NRIs are Indians, who like steel tycoon Laxmi Mittal, proudly hold on to their blue Indian passports while living in another country. They are also different from ordinary Indian citizens who obtain visas and go abroad to work or study for a limited period of time. NRIs remain citizens of India but enjoy the right to live and work permanently in another country of their choice. Indians can now be found in the remotest corners of the Earth. Go to the Republic of Palau, a speck of an island nation in the Pacific Ocean which is one of the world’s youngest sovereign states, and you will find five NRIs there. And don’t be surprised to find 20 of them living in the mountains of Bolivia or a 375-strong Indian community living in tiny Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. Historically, Indian communities have had a major presence in several parts of the world. Be it Gujarati merchants who settled in East Africa, Tamil Chettiars who lived in south-east Asia or indentured labourers taken from Bihar to work on plantations in the West Indies, Indians have been migrating to other countries for centuries. During the two World Wars, they fought for the British army and settled down in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The NRIs were a post-independence addition to this long list of migrants. The largest number of NRIs are in Saudi Arabia (17 lakh) followed by the United Arab Emirates (14 lakh) and the US (90 lakh) but what is more fascinating is they can also be found — albeit in minuscule numbers — in Slovenia (10), Montserrat (10), Iceland (21), Bosnia and Herzegovina (30) and Burkina Faso (150). Experts also point out that, if People of Indian Origin (PIOs) — a term for citizens of other countries who have an Indian ancestry — are included, then both Pakistan and Bhutan would also find it difficult to shake off the Indian links to their populations.

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....


The Supreme Court stopped construction work going on at breakneck speed at Rs 685 crore Noida Park project, extending the freeze that covers other schemes launched by the UP government to construct memorials of Dalit icons, including CM Mayawati. Taking a serious view of Central Empowered Committee’s finding that the project needed environmental clearance from the ministry of environment and forests, a bench ordered stay on construction work at Noida Park. The bench rejected the argument of the state government whose counsel gave the example of Lodhi Garden in the capital to say that there was nothing improper about having structures inside a park. “Lodhi Garden was built when environmental clearance was not required. Moreover, it was built by a monarch. What do you want to say, you can also do the same,” asked the bench, which appeared to echo the sentiment in certain quarters that the construction of statues, particularly of the chief minister, was an arbitrary exercise and waste of taxpayer’s money. The Mayawati government lumped Nandan Kanan Park, Nature’s Trail, Children’s Park, Smriti Van and Navgrah Park spread over 75 acres (33.5 hectares) to lay out Noida Park— home to statues of a procession of Dalit icons. The contention of the UP counsel, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, that the court could order demolition of the construction if rules were found to have been violated also failed to move the court. “Is demolition a solution? If so, then why should money from public exchequer be wasted in this manner and why can’t construction work wait for two weeks,” the bench asked. Rohtagi was responding to the court’s poser: “What will happen if it is found later that construction was without proper environmental clearance?” Last week, the SC had lambasted the UP government for spending huge amount of money from the public exchequer on such projects and stayed construction work and installation of statues at all 24 memorials in Lucknow. The court, however, permitted plantation work in the park. The court said the stay on construction would operate till October 26 when the matter would be taken up for further hearing. Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out that Salve had on Monday appeared for the state defending similar projects in Lucknow. But the bench reposed full faith in Salve saying he was discharging his job as an amicus curiae to assist the court and there could be no two views that he was doing a good job.

8.10.09

More of the Maha print campaigns....





Somewhere at an Indian airport....


Fly Air India...enjoy free brawls in the sky at 30,000 ft !

Random Snapshotz


Random snapshotz from across the country...campaigning in Maharashtra to Karva Chauth to the country gearing up for Diwali next week......

Tourism of the other kind




Maharashtra hops on the pilgrimage tourism platform....while UP may have other ideas......

The DGH ad response


Against the backdrop of a CBI inquiry into the alleged nexus between Reliance Industries Ltd(RIL) and director general of hydrocarbons (DGH) VK Sibal, the oil regulator launched an advertisement campaign saying the exchequer would get $16.57 billion compared to $9.5 billion for the company .
Capital expenditure at RIL's KG-D6 field had gone up from $2.47 billion to $8.8 billion due to a three-fold rise in plant capacity, doubling of output, 16 additional wells and a host of other facilities, the full-page advertisements said.
KG-D6 cost ranks among the lowest in the world, the DGH said, citing a Goldman Sachs report of 32 similar projects. The DGH noted that apprehensions of inflating cost are therefore misplaced unless the operator siphons off money through transactions with affiliates. The DGH justified the advertisement saying it was for the benefit of investors who may be interested in bidding for the 70 oil and gas blocks offered under Nelp-VIII and 10 blocks under fourth round of coal bed methane (CBM), the last date for which is October 12.
Since CAG did not have the mandate to audit the books of a private company, the auditor scrutinised the records on KG-D6 available with the petroleum ministry and DGH. "This process was carried out by the CAG audit team during the period of about t a year and the CAG audit team returned back about six months before.CAG has now been given access by RIL" to its books, DGH added.
At $4.20 per million british thermal unit (mmbtu) price, the government will earn Rs 77,879 crore in profit share, taxes and royalty while net revenues to the RIL Niko combine would be Rs 49,961 crore.
The DGH refrained from naming Anil Ambani Group firm Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) but mentioned that the production sharing contract (PSC) provides only actual expenditure to be accounted for and subject to multiple levels of audit.
On Wednesday, RNRL filed a petition in the Supreme Court accusing DGH head V K Sibal of colluding with RIL in approving the "gold-plated" costs.
At the government-approved gas price of $4.2 per mmbtu, the total revenues over the life of the field would be $38.30 billion (Rs 187,670 crore).After deducting capital and operating expenses, the total profit over the field's life would be $25.30 billion, the DGH added The rise in KG-D6 cost was due to increase in place gas reserves from 7.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf) to 12.59 tc which included reserves in deeper water and more complex subsurface conditions. "The recoverable reserves were initially estimated at 5.3 tcf with a peak production rate of 4 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd). The recoverable reserves have now been revised at 10.0 tcf with a peak production rate of 8 mscmd," DGH added.

Somewhere in Kaziranga....

A rhino and a tiger were found dead in Kaziranga, barely a fortnight after the national park suffered three casualties. With the latest deaths, the tiger toll has reached 12 since November 2008 while the rhino toll has risen to six this year alone. The rhino carcass, with its horn missing, was found floating in a water body in the Bagori forest range. The animal was fished out from near Bimoli camp of Bagori range. The carcass of a female tiger was retrieved from the Mikirjan area in the Kohra forest range of the park. Preliminary investigations revealed that the tiger was suspected to be poisoned by villagers residing on the park fringes. The postmortem report is awaited. Park officials said poachers were not directly involved in the latest rhino death. ‘‘This is not a case of poaching as no bullet or any other injury marks were found on the body during examination. The rhino was old and might have died of age. Its carcass was found inside the core area where poachers don’t tread. Hunters generally target rhinos when they come out of the core area,’’ DFO D D Gogoi said.

Sam Pitroda made adviser to PM


IT czar Sam Pitroda, the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission , has been appointed as the adviser to PM Manmohan Singh on infrastructure, innovation and information. Pitroda (68), who will have the rank of a cabinet minister, will advise Singh on integrating information communication technology (ICT) in infrastructure, health, justice and information. “We’ll look at organising the integration of the national knowledge network and broadband connectivity for better service delivery to citizens,” Pitroda said. “We will also develop an action plan for the next decade which will be a decade for innovation and infrastructure.” Pitroda’s appointment is the second high-profile one made by the PM, who has roped in former Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani to head the Unique Identification Authority of India. As chief of the knowledge panel, Pitroda, considered to have played a major role in India’s communication revolution, had submitted a series of reports for reforms in higher education, elementary education, health, agriculture, traditional medicine and ICT.

Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan wins Nobel prize in Chemistry


An India-born structural biologist whose quest for scientific excellence took him from undergraduate schools in India to graduate and post-doc studies in the US and research in the UK was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on proteins that control life. Dr Venkatraman ‘Venky’ Ramakrishnan, 58, who had his early education in the temple town of Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu) and Vadodara (Gujarat), before he made tracks to the US, joined the long list of peripatetic Indians who had early education in India but thrived in the western academic eco-system, to have won the Nobel. Also with a chemistry Nobel, Indians or those with an India-connect figure in all prize categories. The Swedish Nobel Committee awarded the prize to Dr Ramakrishnan, who is currently affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, for his work on protein-producing ribosomes, and its translation of DNA information into life. He will share the prize with Dr Thomas Steitz of Yale University, Connecticut, and Dr Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. In a statement following the announcement of the award, Dr Ramakrishnan expressed gratitude to “all of the brilliant associates, students and post-docs who worked in my lab as science is a highly collaborative enterprise’’. He credited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the University of Utah for supporting his work and the collegiate atmosphere there that made it all possible. “The idea of supporting long-term basic research, like that at LMB, does lead to breakthroughs, the ribosome is already starting to show its medical importance,’’ he said.
Other Nobel prize winners include Rabindranath Tagore (Lit, 1913) C V Raman (Physics, 1930) Hargobind Khorana (Medicine, ’68) Mother Teresa (Peace, 1979) S Chandrashekhar (Physics, 1983) Amartya Sen (Economics, 1998) and winners with an India connection include R K Pachauri - 2007 for peace, heads UN panel on climate change; V S Naipaul -2001 for lit, Trinidad born of Indian origin; Dalai Lama - 1989 for peace. Leader of Tibetans in exile; Rudyard Kipling - 1907 (Lit). Born in Bombay; Ronald Ross - 1902 (Med). Born in Almora

7.10.09

Somewhere near the Hindon Airbase....


ALHs doing a dress rehearsal for Air Force day.

Of broadband growth


Somewhere in Maharashtra....






What a lacklustre campaign in Maharashtra.....

Pak's Jail or Jihad ploy

In a new shift in tactics, Pakistan is planning to push as many as 60 “surrendered” Taliban into Jammu and Kashmir to become part of the “jihad” against India. The ISI is said to have offered the extremists the option of either going to jail or crossing the Line of Control. The “jail or jihad” option offered to the Taliban seems a useful diversion for ISI. The Pakistan military establishment has had to fight the Taliban, once close allies in Afghanistan, but is looking to turn the situation to its advantage. Pakistan’s war against terror was seen as a last resort after the jihadis turned their guns on the Pakistani state. Now, apprehensions in Indian security circles that the crackdown by the Pakistan army on Taliban could mean trouble in Kashmir are being proved correct. Not only have infiltration attempts by regular jihadi outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba gone up, the presence of Taliban poses a new threat. Highly placed sources said BSF and the Army had been alerted about the developments after intelligence intercepted talk about infiltration bids in the next 15 to 20 days. “Although the Taliban is yet to successfully infiltrate into India, the coming days will pose a challenge as their attempts to sneak in are expected before the onset of winter,” said a senior official. The infiltration is closely controlled and monitored by the ISI and Pakistani army which is often involved in the crossings. The issue cropped up as a major security concern during the two-day visit to Srinagar by a high-powered central team led by cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar and comprising home secretary G K Pillai, defence secretary Pradeep Kumar and other senior officials.Top security and intelligence officials deliberated over the move by state actors in Pakistan to utilize the Taliban for their objectives in Kashmir.
Enemy At The Gates
60 battle-hardened Taliban men looking to cross LoC
ISI asks surrendered men to choose between jail and jihad
Intelligence intercepts hint at infiltration bids in next 15 to 20 days
Taliban men can use experience of fighting US troops, in Kashmir
Pakistani Air Force choppers used to evacuate injured infiltrators along the LoC
250 to 300 more jihadis poised at launch pads along LoC

Reliance starts tariff war


I wish Etisalat and Du reduce their prices...they seem such a rip off!

Rupee rallies to 46.60

The Indian rupee surged further by 28 paise to 46.60 against the greenback in early trade today on sustained dollar selling and weakness against a basket of currencies.The rupee also strengthened on a smart rally in local stocks in early trade. The domestic currency resumed higher at 46.82/83 a dollar against its last close of 46.88/89 a dollar and later surged to a high of 46.60 before being quoted at 46.70/71 a dollar in late morning deals. Dealers at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market said the rupee is expected to remain stronger against dollar that remained under pressure on expectations of steady US interest rates. They said the Indian unit may face pressure due to likely central bank intervention in the later part of the day.

Karva Chauth....aaj kal


Lugging four shopping bags, Tanmay is glowing. Wednesday is his big day when he will fast for his partner’s well being. The 26-year-old belongs to the growing breed of gays in Ahmedabad who are quietly gearing up for Karva Chauth—a ritual ususally performed by a wife for her husband. Only, the men will have a different prayer to chant—they’ll ask god to make them a woman in next life. While most are going to make it a no-food affair, some have decided to follow the traditional ‘nirjal’ (without water) fast to pray for long lives of their boyfriends. From applying homemade face packs to buying new clothes, they are going about it just like women. Says Dipak, a 29-year-old engineer, “I am going to fast for my boyfriend’s long life. Though I won’t apply henna on my hands, I’ll eat only after I see his face against the moon.’’ For some, hiding their orientation from their families is a hindrance to following the tradition in toto. Jatin rues that, unlike women, he won’t get a ‘sargi’, a platter of eatables and a few gifts from a mother-in-law. “Last year, I woke up before sunrise and ate what I had prepared the previous night. Although I keep a rigid fast, I wish I had a sargi,’’ he said. Jatin got an expensive branded watch last year as a gift and Hitesh, who is fasting for the first time, is looking forward to the promised gold bracelet. The fast, they say, is an expression of love but they confess that it requires a lot of patience. “Unlike women, we don’t get to rest and end up working without food or water. I hope the moon rises early,’’ says Dipak. For Hitesh, it will be a dream fulfilled. “I have always wanted to do this fast and look at him through the strainer. I have seen it in many movies and am looking forward to do it. I hope that in next life, I am born a girl,’’ he said.

Mumbai elevated rail corridor snippets



The technical feasibility study of the ambitious elevated rail corridor between Churchgate and Virar shows that the entire 60 kmstretch will not be above ground as initially planned. Instead, it will be underground for 6 km between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi. For two stretches — 4 km from Santa Cruz to Andheri, and 8 km from Vasai to Virar — the corridor will be a surface track, using the existing network. The remaining 42 km covering the stretches from Mahalaxmi to Santa Cruz, and Andheri to Vasai Road will be elevated, said highly placed sources in the railways. “In the Santa Cruz-Vile Parle section, we will build extra lines on the surface. An elevated corridor may interfere with flights as the airport is situated there,’’ said the source. The corridor of two slow lines, in an ideal situation, will come at a cost of Rs 100 core per kilometre, bringing the estimated burden to around Rs 6,000 crore. Starting at Churchgate, the train will stop at Charni Road, Mumbai Central, Dadar, and then all stations till Virar. According to officials, the maximum height of the elevated corridor will be 20 metres — rail to rail level — and will reach its highest point at Andheri. The initial blueprints of the project include an elevated concourse and booking office with stairs and escalators taking commuters to platforms situated at a higher level. The entire structure will be at three levels: the existing railway system, the concourse and the elevated corridor. The service will be closed-door, air-conditioned broad gauge trains with a maximum length of 15 coaches. When operational, it will take a capacity load of 90,000 passengers off the existing lines, per hour, during peak commuting periods. What makes this project unique, said the official, is that the construction technology has never been used in India to date, and until recently, was “considered impossible”. It will have a capacity that is eight times more than that of the Metro rail. The ministry of railways has awarded the feasibility and financial consultancy to RITES and the French company, Systra. “The technical feasibility study is being scrutinised at the Railway Board (RB) level. Dialogue between Western Railway and the RB is continuous and certain observations will arise,’’ he added. The project is on the fast track and talks on the design feasibility is on the cards. “We will hire a consultancy for financial and legal feasibility studies. Only after all studies are completed can tenders to carry out the project under Public Private Partnership be opened,’’ said the official, adding that it will take six months to wrap up all the studies. The Indian Railways is looking at multilateral funding, as there will be eight to ten government bodies involved in the project. “The company may run into losses, and we will decide who bears them,” the official said. Discussions with stake holders like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are going on as the underground parts of the project will call for an alteration of pipelines, sewer line and power cables. The railways will provide logistics like land and power supply and viability gap funding. But officials have a massive ‘problem’ on their hands, crowd dispersal. “The purpose of the system will fail if we cannot tackle crowd dispersal. As all exits will ultimately be the same, a concrete dispersal system is a priority,’’ said the official. He added that the project should gel with the overall master plan of Mumbai. “You cannot add any new kind of infrastructural transportation system on the surface.’’ Commuters, however, will have to wait a while as the project is still in its nascent stage. It will take two to three years for work on the corridor to begin, and another decade to complete it.

Maharashtra orders shutdown on polling day

On polling day, October 13, the state will witness an unprecedented closure of shops, malls, multiplexes, offices, commercial establishments, residential hotels, restaurants, theatres and industrial establishments so that citizens can go out and exercise their franchise. Essential services like the police, fire brigade, press and continuous process industries are exempted. Mumbai has a particularly bad record when it comes to voting. The 2009 Lok Sabha polls saw 41.24% Mumbaikars queuing up to vote; the figure was only a shade better, but still less than 50%, in the last assembly polls in 2004. Acting on the advice of the Election Commission, state labour commissioner Arvind Kumar issued orders on October 1 to the above-mentioned establishments to give their employees a holiday on October 13. The labour commissionerate has formed 28 special squads to keep an eye on offices, and employers failing to comply with the order could face arrest under Section 135-B of the Representation of People Act (1951). The labour commissioner’s circular adds that the Election Commission has noticed that certain employers do not give staffers a day off to vote. The particularly bad turnout—a little over 40%—this Lok Sabha poll seems to have come as a wake-up call for the government. Suburban collector Vishwas Patil had then said that a slew of holidays around April 30 had prompted many Mumbaikars to leave town, which resulted in the low turnout. A control room (23515969, 23521122) will be set up in the labour commissionerate to receive complaints from voters.

6.10.09

A rice variety that needs no cooking !

Indian scientists claim to have developed a rice variety that requires no cooking, only soaking in water. The rice variety developed at the government-run Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) at Cuttack in Orissa is characterized by low amylase content and becomes soft on soaking in water, institute director Tapan Kumar Adhya said. Production of rice in India is extensive and last year's production figure stands at 98.5 million tonne. The present variety, he said, can serve specific niche consumers and make rice cooking a hassle-free affair. The new variety, named Aghanibora, tested by the institute is of 145 days duration with a yield of 4-4.5 tonne per hectare and is at par with the currently grown rice varieties in the country, he said.
"One can get ready to eat rice after soaking it for about 45 minutes in ordinary water, and 15 minutes if soaked in lukewarm water, whereas other rice varieties need cooking,"Adhya said. The rice is a local, improved land variety of Assam under the `Komal chawal' category and is not genetically modified rice. It is like any other rice variety grown and consumed in India. "However, this variety is usually prepared as parboiled rice and then it can be used for consumption after milling," the researcher said. The initial experimentation was to test whether the rice variety could be grown in the hot and humid climate of Orissa and still retain the property of softness. Scientists at the institute have done extensive research over the past three years and tested its nutritional properties and other biochemical parameters, he said.
"We are glad that our experiment has proved successful, and from our knowledge we believe it could be grown in the eastern states of India," he said.
According to the institute director, the rice variety can be grown in all the eastern states of Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and coastal Andhra Pradesh. "As such there is no technical barrier in cultivating it in any part of the country," he said. "We do not have knowledge of any other country developing such rice variety as rice is a cereal with huge diversity. We do not have specific data about the average household requirement of fuel.But this variety of rice will help in saving fuel, at least for cooking of rice. Moreover, it will be a relief to housewives,"he said.

Government unveils new plan to clean Ganga by 2020

The Ganga might just flow clean by 2020. The newly created National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) will take up the task on "mission mode", according to Jairam Ramesh, minister of state, ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The exercise will cost the government Rs15,000 crore over the next 10 years, of which the Indian government expects the World Bank to lend $1 billion for the first phase. "By 2020, no municipal sewage or industrial effluent will flow into the Ganga without complete treatment," said Ramesh at a press conference. The decisions were taken at the first meeting of the NGRBA, which was set up in February.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over the meeting, which was attended by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman, Planning Commission; Jaipal Reddy, urban development minister; Pawan Bansal, minister of parliamentary affairs and water resources, and Ramesh. Chief ministers of the concerned states and eight non-officio members were also present.
The Ganga basin covers Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. In terms of its importance, the basin constitutes 26% of the country's land mass and provides water for drinking and irrigation to 43% of its population.
The new authority's precursor, Ganga Action Plan (GAP), which was started in April 1985 has been a failure in cleaning the river, in spite of Rs20,000 crore being spent over the years.
Though the Centre has suggested that the total estimated cost be shared by the states and the Centre (70% by the Centre and 30% by the states), the chief ministers of Bihar and Uttarakhand opposed the idea in the meeting. "Therefore, the PM has decided that the Planning Commission will take the decision later," added Ramesh.
The environment ministry has also submitted a proposal for the grant of Rs1,320 crore as a one-time allocation to the 13th Finance Commission for operation and maintenance needs of sewage treatment plants for five years.
On the issue of dams on the river, which has been controversial as environmental activists from Uttarakhand have claimed that dams will restrict the river's natural flow, Ramesh said that a 130km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand might be declared as a no-project area. Such a move is pending a joint report to be prepared by the MoEF and the power ministry.
Ramesh said the mistakes that were made by the GAP will not be repeated in this phase."One difference is that the GAP took up work on a town basis but NGRBA will be on basinwide basis. Two, GAP stressed on sewage treatment and this one will be on sewage treatment as well as catchment area treatment," he added, A comprehensive river basin management plan will be ready by December 2010. Before that, ongoing sewage treatment projects will be put on the fast track and states will finalise detailed reports on new such projects in heavily polluted stretches and major towns on the Ganga and its major tributaries by 30 November.