GST rollout to miss April deadline

The UPA government’s proposed comprehensive indirect tax reform, goods and services tax (GST), will miss its scheduled rollout from April 1, 2010, a temporary setback to creation of a unified national market for goods and services in the country, but experts say this will give more time to the centre and states to prepare a more robust framework. “Because of the difficulties in passing the required constitutional amendment bill in the budget session, it will not be practical to introduce GST on April 1, 2010 . New dates for GST implementation will be decided in April”, chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers and West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta told reporters after an hour-long meeting of the panel with the union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday. The GST, which is a consumption tax, seeks to create a seamless pan-India market with both manufacturers and service providers having the right to adjust taxes paid on inputs sourced from another state. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had in October at a summit in the capital city hinted at a delay of few months in implementation of the proposed tax, but later maintained that efforts were on to keep the schedule. Mr Dasgupta’s admission is a clear indication that the implementation of the new regime may be postponed by an year to April 1, 2011, as a number of states may not be willing for even a mid-year roll-out. Even tax experts agree that it was better to delay the launch and come out with a good product than hurry with a patchwork complicated structure. “This will give time to prepare a flawless model”, said R Muralidharan, executive director, PwC .However, Pratik Jain, executive director, KPMG, wanted the government to provide a clear roadmap. “This (missing the deadline) has not come as a surprise. This will give time for preparation but we now need to have a clear roadmap in place,” he said. The centre and states are still debating some of the crucial elements of the new tax structure such as the rates, items that will be taxed and exempted, turnover threshold the most crucial aspect in any tax structure. The centre has pitched for a single rate structure and a uniform turnover threshold of Rs 10 lakh annually. The empowered committee has on the other hand suggested two rate structure and lower turnover threshold for state level GST and higher turnover of Rs 1.5 crore for central GST. The legislative measures for the new tax regime will also require further time.

Chennai Metro update

Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has won the contract to construct 9.73 km of an elevated corridor for the Chennai Metro Rail project, which promises to make commuting in the city faster and hassle-free. Except for the stretch from the Officers Training Academy (OTA) to the airport, which the Airports Authority of India wants constructed underground, builders have now been identified for almost the entire elevated stretch. L&T will design and construct the 4.56-km elevated viaduct from Ashok Nagar to St Thomas Mount at an estimated Rs 141.13 crore and the 5.17-km stretch from Saidapet to the OTA at Rs 173.30 crore. The company was awarded the two contracts on Monday, said Chennai Metro Rail chief public relations officer S Krishnamurthy. A senior official said discussions were on with the AAI on building an elevated corridor between the OTA and the airport as the AAI had requested that this corridor be built underground to prevent it from coming in the way of flight operations on the secondary runway. “The stretch will be an elevated corridor but the tender process will start only after discussions with airport officials,” he added.

Builders identified for almost all of the elevated corridor From Officers Training Academy to the airport, Airports Authority of India wants an underground corridor to be constructed This will not come in the way of operations on the secondary runway, says AAI

Separate tenders to identify builders to construct stations along the elevated stretch and also at St Thomas Mount Metro rail to have two corridors

The Metro Rail plans to issue separate tenders to identify builders to construct stations along the elevated stretch and also at St Thomas Mount which will be a hub of Metro Rail, MRTS and suburban railway line. “Metro Rail will occupy level two while MRTS will occupy level one of the elevated station that will be built at St Thomas Mount,” sources said. A pre-qualification bid meeting was held at the Metro Rail office on Thursday to brief companies about the requirements to bid.

Work on Metro rail began on June 10, 2009.

Metro rail will have two corridors with a combined length of 45 km — one from Washermanpet to the airport and the other from Central to St Thomas Mount via Koyambedu. The total cost is estimated at Rs 14,600 crore.

Gurgaon will see its first Metro train today

That day is not far when Gurgaon residents can keep their cars at home and simply take a Metro to their desired destination. Delhi Metro’s first train will chug into Gurgaon as trial runs on the new line from the train depot at Sultanpur to Huda City Centre metro station begin on Friday. The trial run is a signal that the line will be opened for the public soon, giving residents of the satellite township a reason to rejoice. ‘‘Trial runs on the 7.05-km stretch in Gurgaon will be flagged off by Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Friday. This is the first step towards fullfledged Metro operations in Haryana,’’ a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson said. The stretch forms part of the 27-km long Central Secretariat-Gurgaon metro line, which will connect with the existing Line 2 (Central Secretariat to Jehangirpuri).DMRC plans to open the Gurgaon line in two parts — first Qutub to Huda City Centre and later the remaining portion from Central Secretariat to Qutub. The opening of the Gurgaon portion will provide intra-city connectivity to residents of the satellite town, where people rely on private cars in the absence of any mode of public transport. Once the entire stretch is operational, Gurgaon residents will get direct connectivity to important locations in Delhi such as AIIMS, IIT, DU (North Campus), New Delhi Railway Stations, and Kashmere Gate ISBT and besides getting indirect Metro connectivity to the Delhi railway station and other parts of Delhi and Noida. ‘‘The travel time between Connaught Place (Rajiv Chowk) and HUDA City Centre will reduce from one-andhalf hours by road to about 50 minutes by Metro. The total travel time from Jahangirpuri to HUDA City Centre will be approximately 90 minutes once this line is fully operational. The expected daily passenger traffic on Qutub Minar-HUDA City Centre metro corridor is 1.6 lakh commuters in 2011,’’ the spokesperson said. The Haryana portion has been completed at a cost of Rs 688 crore, the bulk of which was provided by the Haryana government. All metro stations in Gurgaon will have parking facilities. The AFC gates have slots where faulty tokens will be returned back to the commuters. All the metro stations have lifts and escalators on both sides for easier access and will double up as foot overbridges even for non-Metro users.

Delhi Monorail snippets

With Mumbai about to get its first monorail, the focus is back on the three monorail lines planned in the capital before Commonwealth Games which are still at the feasibility study stage. The proposals have not been junked but there is no certainty on when Delhiites can zip through congested lanes of the Walled City on a sleek monorail link. According to the transportation masterplan prepared by Delhi government, the capital was supposed to get three monorail lines before Commonwealth Games this year which would have served as effective feeders to main transport modes like Metro and buses. The monorail links have been planned for congested areas in Walled City, east and north Delhi with lines between Delhi University and Pul Bangash (via Shakti Nagar, Anand Parbat, Ajmeri Gate, Delhi Gate, Red Fort, SPM Marg), Daryaganj and Kondli (via Yamuna river crossing, Geeta Colony, Scope Tower, Vikas Marg, Patparganj, Kondli Road) and Budh Vihar to Shakti Nagar. The networks will stretch over 41.5 km in total. Transport department’s Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit Limited) was entrusted with the task of carrying out a feasibility study of the proposed corridors. ‘‘The formal report was submitted about one year ago in which monorail was found to be highly feasible on all the proposed corridors. There are some minor technical problems which can easily be overcome but there has been no movement on this ever since. The government needs to give a final go-ahead now,’’ said a senior DIMTS official. It is understood that after the BRT fiasco, the government wanted to initiate the new project only after elections. But with the other Commonwealth projects running behind schedule, the plans for monorail and light rail transit (LRT) lines have been put on hold for now. The projects will eventually come up as monorail is being planned on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, which doesn’t need too much investment from the government. Also, reducing congestion levels in the Walled City is a priority. According to officials, construction of a monorail link typically takes about two years from the time the routes have been decided. The project here would have a ridership of about 5 lakh persons daily and would come up at a cost of about Rs 7,000 crore. The biggest advantage of monorail is that it can be constructed on roads with Right of Way (ROW) as little as 18 metres and a turning radius of 50-70 metres, making it ideal for congested city roads. The corridors, senior DIMTS officials said, have been identified by consultants, including RITES, based on transport demand, population and projected employment distribution.

RBI revises GDP growth to 6.9%

Inflation for primary articles, which include food and non-food items, stood at 14.66% for the week ended January 16. Potato prices have increased 57.56% over the last year, followed by pulses that have become dearer by 46.87%. The annual rate of inflation for fuel, power, light and lubricants eased to 5.7% over the week ended January 16 from 6.34% for the previous week. Meanwhile, the central bank, in Thursday’s macroeconomic and monetary developments report, revised its GDP growth rate estimates to 6.9% for this fiscal, up from its earlier forecast of 6%. “The pace and shape of recovery continue to remain uncertain,’’ the RBI said, adding that its biggest anxiety was about the recovery losing momentum once the props of fiscal stimulus and monetary accommodation were withdrawn. In view of the dominance of food price inflation, balancing the policy needs of supporting a durable return to the high growth path while avoiding inflation through monetary policy has emerged as a delicate challenge for the RBI, the report said. The revision in GDP growth estimates was based on the RBI’s Professional Forecasters Survey conducted last month.


Republic Day 2010

Sixty years of the Republic and am in the National Capital.


Somewhere in Mumbai....

India’s first monorail coach is put in place for its Republic Day trial run of around 300 metres between Wadala Anik Depot and Bhakti Park


SCs in four metros?

The UPA government is closely examining a recommendation of the Law Commission five months ago to set up four Supreme Courts in metros and a Federal Court in Delhi exclusively for constitutional issues, as a way to reduce the huge backlog of cases. The recommendation to set up Supreme Courts in the four original metros and a Federal Court was recently endorsed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan. Sources said the CJI’s advocacy has been the goad for taking a fresh look at the nearly-forgotten recommendation. The idea to set up four Supreme Courts, or more appellate courts is seen as being in harmony with the Constitution, for Article 130 provides that “the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place...as the CJI may, with the approval of the President from time to time, appoint.” However, creation of a Constitutional or Federal Court in Delhi to hear only matters of grave constitutional importance would require an amendment to the Constitution, the sources said, adding the law ministry wanted to examine the Law Commission’s recommendation and the suggestion made by the CJI. In its report submitted to law minister Veerappa Moily, the Commission had said: “Whether the Supreme Court should be split into Constitutional Division and Legal Division for appeals, the latter with Benches in four regions — North, South, East and West — is a subject of fundamental importance for the judicial system of the country.” It recommended that “a Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues and four Cassation (final appeal court) Benches be set up in the Northern region at Delhi, the Southern region at Chennai/Hyderabad, the Eastern region at Kolkata and Western region at Mumbai to deal with all appellate work arising out of orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region.” However, the Full Court of the Supreme Court had till date rejected all proposals for setting up Benches of the Supreme Court in the South or any other region of the country.

Somewhere in Bangalore....

Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan, Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya admire the newly opened elevated expressway from Central Silk Board junction to Electronic City. The four-lane toll road, opened by Union surface transport minister Kamal Nath on Friday, will help employees of technology companies to zip to and from their workplaces.

Core sector clocks 6% growth in Dec

The six core sectors grew 6% in December, which is likely to drive up industrial growth and make up for any loss of farm production to sustain the Indian economic growth story. In December 2008, the core sectors had grown by 0.7% only. The high growth in the six core sectors — crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel, having a weight of over 26% in the industrial production index, may take the Industrial growth to 9% this fiscal against just 7.6% so far. Finished steel and crude oil turned the table, expanding by 9.6% and 1.1% respectively, against 8% and 0.3% contraction in the same period last year. Cement remained at top of the chart growing by 11%, though it was less than 11.6% in December, 2008. However, oil production — both crude and refinery — and coal output remained sluggish. For the first nine months of this fiscal, these sectors grew by 4.8% compared to 3.2% a year ago. When these six industries grew by 5.3% in November 2009, industrial production expanded by more than 11%. "This growth is because of base effect. But I think some momentum is picking up in the economy and also in the core sector," Crisil principal economist DK Joshi said. Coal output, however, declined by 2.5% to 48.79 million tonne, while crude production expanded by a paltry 1.1% at 2.9 million tone, and refinery output grew by a meagre 0.9% at 12.6 million tone during the month under consideration.

26th January....

No political campaign in history has ever succeeded without symbolism. India’s freedom movement was no exception. Its careful adoption of many potent symbols helped unite a large, diverse land to fight for freedom in singular fashion. January 26 was one such symbolic choice, a selection made to recall a distinct moment in the long march to Indian independence. That choice of date was made at the 1930 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress, where the Tricolour as we know it was raised for the first time. It was decided there that January 26 would from then on be marked by all freedom fighters as ‘Purna Swaraj Day’, a call for complete selfrule. This was an Independence Day before the actual event. August 15 was not a matter of choice given to the Congress, as events hurtled to make the British transfer power to Nehru’s provisional government on that day in 1947. India gained freedom to become a dominion then, still formally owing some allegiance to the British Crown — it’s why coinage and stamps of that period still retain a bust of George VI. A constituent assembly was formed soon after to rectify that, and a drafting committee was given the responsibility of coming up with a Constitution. It did that job admirably by the middle of 1949, and the assembly approved a new constitution on November 25. It was signed by all members on January 24, 1950 and came into effect two days later, as Rajendra Prasad took office as President of the new ‘Republic of India’. Almost by design, it appeared, January 26 had returned to the national consciousness, always to be celebrated as Republic Day.


Ahmedabad BRT a winner

The three-month-old BRT corridor introduced in Ahmedabad had all that Delhi lacked — it was started with Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled buses, a passenger information system (PIS) and closed bus shelters with smart-card based ticketing at the bus-stops and not inside buses. The first corridor was planned in ‘‘lowdensity areas’’ and operated free for people for the first two months. When Delhi’s tryst with BRT began almost two years ago, with trial runs on the pilot 5.8-km stretch between Ambedkar Nagar and Moolchand, the irritants were congestion in the car lane which was squeezed to just two lanes, signal cycles going for a toss with long waiting time at intersections, bus shelters located at crossings adding to the chaos and a long waiting time for buses. In Ahmedabad, the BRT corridor stretches over 16.5 km in an area which, unlike congested south Delhi, is still being developed by the government. “There are large tracts of open space along the corridor and offices are being developed along them. This is a transit-oriented model of development where transportation has come first and development later,’’ said an official. The average traffic counts at intersections are just 3000-4000 PCUs hourly as against Delhi BRT where some intersections have counts as high as 20,000-30,000 PCUs per hour. It is a closed BRT system. So, the buses don’t go out and other buses are not allowed in. The buses are fitted with devices which signals can read and give them free passage. The Intelligent Traffic Signals (ITS) system planned for the Delhi corridor is yet to come up. The bus-stops are located 200 metres before the intersections and have platform screen doors operated by sensors to prevent people from getting hit by buses passing by. The doors open when a bus arrives and all buses, standard floor ones, stop in perfect alignment with the bus shelters. Delhi spent much more on buying low-floor buses to provide stepless entry to people, but even two years later, drivers seldom stop the bus in alignment with the platform. ‘‘We started with a ridership of 17,000 people daily in October last year. This has grown to 35,000 in three months,’’ said Prof Shivanand Swamy of CEPT University, Ahmedabad, which conceptualised the BRT model. It recently got the Sustainable Transport Award by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in Washington.

Vidarbha shuts down for statehood

The emotionally charged and sometimes-violent Telangana movement may be holding the country’s attention, but a quieter yet equally spontaneous response seems to be growing in demand for Vidarbha. In one of the biggest recent shows of popular will for a new state, a bandh—couched in a hartal to avoid legal hassles—pressing for Vidarbha saw a surge of popular participation across the region on Wednesday.It was called by the Vidarbha Rajya Jagran Samiti, a rainbow coalition of the Congress, NCP, BJP, RPI, SP, Shetkari Sanghatana and Swatantra Bharat Paksha, among others. Some of the local units of these parties went ahead with the agitation though their upper echelons are yet to back the statehood call. The spontaneous support took the Congress leaders by surprise as the state leadership is said to have warned its Vidarbha partymen against joining the strike. It has also embarrassed the party as MPs Vilas Muttemwar and Datta Meghe are key protagonists of the green-shoot movement.The local leaders are acting on the fears that the BJP, which backs smaller states and has been supporting the creation of a separate Vidarbha for two decades, could extract political mileage. Its only comfort would rest in the fact that the BJP, too, has a crack that threatens to rock its boat as its ally Shiv Sena has openly opposed the statehood call. Along with the MNS, the Sainiks stayed away from Wednesday’s strike in which stray incidents of violence were reported in some parts. Over 200 people were detained for violating orders. Business establishments have already announced support for the statehood demand and ensured that the bandh was a success. The Congress brass is trying to ensure the agitation doesn’t spin out of control. Vidarbha leader Jambuvantrao Dhote’s threat that he would rope in Naxalites has the leadership worried. But senior leaders from the region are gung-ho and have decided to call on UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh. The rumblings are there in the NCP, too, which is playing it safe after openly supporting the separate statehood call.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

A defunct textile mill Goldmohur mysteriously catches fire.


Jyoti Basu : Final Farewell

It was grand. It was humbling. It gave a measure of the man. And that of the people whose destinies he had controlled for 23 years—and beyond. The send off that Kolkata gave Jyoti Babu revived memories of the lion in summer, the zenith of Marxist rule, and, most of all, the megahuman emotions that only this city can summon. From stations, bus depots and swanky garages, all roads led to the assembly hall from Tuesday’s dawn. Whether they made it inside is another matter. For, shortly after noon, the heritage square flanked by the Eden Gardens, high court, assembly and treasury building was a mass of vehicles and snaking lines converging on the various gates of the building where Jyoti Basu’s frail body lay. The VVIPs came and went in a whiz of motorcades. The advocate general of the state haltingly made his way along a broken pavement holding the hand of a policeman, and followed by an entourage of barristers. But it was clear that the day belonged to the masses. In death as in life, it could have been no other way. To native and visiting exile alike, it was clear that Kolkata could still feel, remember, smile, weep and think nothing of time once it had set its mind to register its emotions. Whether it was marching in a belligerent procession, or waiting patiently in a grieving one. Indeed, the melange of emotions is so seamless in this city, that as the tempo-loads of cadres roared past the Shahid Minar in a flutter of hammer-and-sickled flags, the cries of ‘Bhoolbo na!’ sounded uncannily like ‘Cholbey Na’. Maybe they were telling whichever deity the CPM deigns to address that they would not tolerate the taking away of their own Great Helmsman. As clearly, this was no rent-a-rally. Yes the Left parties may have brought in their workers from the mofussil, but the lines of people queuing up were clearly there of their own accord. Notably, they were in their 50s and 60s, the men and women whose youth and passion had coincided with that of the man and perhaps the party—they had come to mourn. They stood in dhotis and starched red-bordered saris, photographs of their beloved leader hung like a placard-pendant from their necks. Their mufflers shielded their heads from the sun, and yes in full force were displayed the ear muffs which seem to be the newest weapon in the Bengali’s winter arsenal. It had been cold and grey the past two days, but even the sun came out on Tuesday to bid goodbye to Jyotibabu. Once the cortege left the assembly hall, and was mounted on the gun carriage which had been parked unobtrusively near the back gate of Raj Bhavan, the ambience became electric. The dam burst. It was another kind of mingling, the solemn controlled march of the army and the unwalled emotions of the crowds. They seemed to segue into each other and it was difficult to realize that cordons separated one from the other. The final vehicle moved down the majestic avenue of Red Road, pulled it seemed by the sheer force of the feelings that charged the atmosphere. Looped with marigolds, piled with the wreaths, the gun carriage crept forward. As reluctantly, as inexorably, as death. And came to rest at the gates of the SSKM hospital. As the sun began to sink, the Last Post was bugled; as the rays slanted, arms were reversed. And in the ochre light of fading day, it was over. All passion spent, the hysterical crowds took over the road. The maidans were overhung with a pall of dust. Placards lay trampled underfoot. It was the last hurrah, the last salaam. It was Jyoti Babu’s last and greatest rally.It was a scene that the people of this country have rarely witnessed: the who’s who of Indian politics coming down to a state capital to pay homage to a communist leader. From UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to BJP veteran L K Advani, leaders like Chandrababu Naidu and H D Dewe Gowda—everybody turned up at the West Bengal assembly where the mortal remains of Jyoti Basu were kept for those who adored him. Even leaders from Bangaldesh, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former president H M Ershad had come down to pay their last respects to the departed leader.


Hyderabad Metro update

Minutes after the last date for submitting prequalified and technical bids for the Hyderabad Metro Rail Project ended on Saturday, the state government announced the names of the eight Hyderabad-based and Indian companies that have submitted bids as part of an international consortium for the Rs 12,132 crore project. Municipal administration minister A Ramnarayan Reddy said the companies are L&T-Lanco-OHL (Spain); Reliance; Essar-Leighton (Australia); Gayatri-VNR consortium; GVK-Samsung (South Korea);GMR-Transstroy-OJSC (Russia)-CR 18 (China); BEML consortium and Soma-Strabag (Austria) consortium. He said that the government would complete the verification of the bids in the next 12 days and names would be shortlisted by Jan. 28. The firms would have to submit the financial bids by April 9. The central and state governments are providing 40 per cent Viability Gap Funding for the project which got derailed after the B Ramalinga Raju family-owned Maytas Infra plunged into a crisis after the Satyam scam in Jan. 2009. The state later cancelled the pact with Maytas Infra-led consortium as it could not secure financial closure by the deadline of March 2009. While the minister said the groundwork would begin in October this year and the project would be completed by 2014, HMR Project MD NVS Reddy claimed there would not be any cost escalation as prices of cement and steel have come down. The MD also said that as per the request for qualification (RFQ) conditions, the companies/consortia to be pre-qualified to compete for the project should have a minimum net worth of Rs 3,000 crore and that they should have executed projects/contracts worth Rs 18,000 crore in the past 10 years. In case of consortium, the technical and financial credentials of only those companies which invest a minimum of 26 per cent of the equity and 5 per cent of the total project cost would be considered.


UID snippets

With an ambitious task of registering one billion people, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has decided to have details of the face, both iris images and all ten fingerprints as necessary requirement for issuing unique numbers to residents of India. With “enroll once and get an identity for life” task, UID authority aims to check fraud or impersonation by collecting multiple identification details of a person on a biometric system. The decision was taken after a committee constituted by UIDAI under chairmanship of B K Gairola, DG, NIC, suggested parameters for biometric details based on prevailing standards. In its report to UIDAI, the committee recommended standards for face, fingerprint (including the minutiae formats) and iris image. “UIDAI, after taking all relevant factors into consideration, has decided that three biometric attributes of residents — face, all ten fingerprints and both iris images — will be collected during the enrolment process into UID system,” an official statement said. UID authority, which has maintained that providing a unique identity number to every Indian resident was the “first stage” in the creation of a Citizenship Registry, had called for enactment of privacy laws to ensure security of data.

Bandra-Versova Sea Link snippets

The extension of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is likely to be partly through the sea and partly along the coast. The state administration believes implementing this option for constructing the Bandra-Versova bridge would help the government save crores of rupees. Constructing a complete bridge on the coastal area or a bridge completely in the middle of the sea are the other options. These three options were given by the engineering consultant in a report submitted last year to the state government. The proposed Bandra-Versova Sea Link will connect to the existing Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Once this connectivity is complete, the distance between Worli and Andheri is likely to be covered in less than 25 minutes. The bridge will be of eight lanes and there will be traffic exit points at Khar and Andheri. According to the feasibility report, a bridge measuring over 10 km—partly through the sea and partly along the coast—would cost around Rs 2,260 crore. If approved, the portion of the bridge on the coastal area will be 3 km in length and remaining will be in the middle of the sea. Other options—one constructing a bridge in the middle of the sea and measuring around 10.15 km would cost around Rs 3,155 crore, secondly constructing a bridge measuring 10.63 km completely on coastal area would cost Rs 2,372 crore. Before going ahead, the state government has sought an economic feasibility report on the project.


Aviation December 2009 snapshot

Jet Airways grabs the number one spot.

Festive snapshotz

Celebrating the harvest and the Sun God....snapshotz from across the country.


Somewhere in Punjab....

Students celebrate Lohri

Railways vision 2020

PPP Expressway segments planned in Phase I

PMRDA snippets

The state government is mulling over various financial models for the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA), including transfer of government land in the Pune region to the authority. Urban development department (UDD) principal secretary T C Benjamin said, “The state government is working extensively on various financial models for the proposed PMRDA. The objective is to make the PMRDA self-sufficient enough to implement mega infrastructure projects.” Members of the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), the planning authority for the PMRDA, have demanded that the state emulate the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) model. Under this model, the state transfers its land in the region to the authority, which in turn exploits it to raise funds and implement infrastructure projects. “This is the best model available, whereby the PMRDA will be capable enough to implement its own projects and would not have to depend on other sources of income. Without any strong financial model, the PMRDA will be a fruitless exercise,” said MPC member Ujwal Keskar. MPC member Chetan Tupe said that all MPC members should be taken into confidence, before the state government announces the financial model. “There is no other option but to transfer the government land in the Pune region to the PMRDA. Once the PMRDA has its own land, then it will not have to depend on the state government’s help. The MMRDA model should be emulated to make the PMRDA work,” said MPC member Siddharth Dhende. Some of the other models being considered by the state include a model where initially the local governing bodies will have to bear and also share the cost of projects implemented under the PMRDA, till the state government implements the MMRDA model, where the state will procure land and use it to generate funds. The state government is also looking forward to getting funds from the central government under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for the Pune agglomeration. The MPCs can prepare integrated development plans and seek funds from the JNNURM, which was earlier restricted to municipal corporations only. For claiming funds under the JNNURM, it is compulsory for the state government to form MPCs for cities with a population of over 30 lakh people. It may be noted that as per an ordinance promulgated recently by the state government, the Area Development Authority’s powers and functions include undertaking preparation and execution of town planning schemes — with regard to the draft development plan prepared by the metropolitan planning committee, carry out surveys in the development area to prepare town planning schemes and controlling the development activities. Besides these, the authority can levy or collect scrutiny fees for proposals submitted to the authority for permission for development. It can also execute water supply and sewage works, and make provisions for other services and amenities. The state government would be determining the amount which has to be contributed by local civic bodies for the expenses incurred by the Area Development Authority. Chief minister Ashok Chavan will soon make a formal announcement about the formation of the PMRDA. “The nitty-gritty of a financial model has been looked into and Chavan will make an important announcement soon,” said urban development department principal secretary T C Benjamin. The state recently approved an amendment to the MRTP Act to form the much-awaited PMRDA. Also, the chapter of Area Development Authority was added to the MRTP Act.
What is the MMRDA model?
Sale of plots under its jurisdiction as the primary source of revenue, supplemented by development charges for these plots
Mumbai Urban Development Project — Revolving Fund (MUDP – RF) was established in the MMRDA in 1988, with the object of co-financing projects similar to the Mumbai Urban Development Project (MUDP) — particularly projects for sites and services as well as slum upgradation by public bodies. Projects and programmes for improvement in local government services could also be financed from the MUDP-RF. It can be used for equity participation in remunerative projects
The MMRDA established a reserve fund in 1992. Out of this fund, shortand long-term loans are granted to local authorities in the MMR for financing infrastructure works
MMRDA generated about Rs 1,700 crore from disposal of plots in the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai
The MMRDA has created a corpus to finance developmental activities

PMRDA fundamentals:
Total area under PMRDA — 2,200 sq km ( approx)
Municipal corporations— Pune, PCMC
Municipal councils — Lonavla, Talegaon, Bhor, Shirur and Saswad
Cantonment boards — Pune, Khadki and Dehu Road
Gram Panchayats: 100

Somewhere in Pune....

More than 2,750 singers from across India and abroad sang in unison compositions based on Hindustani Classical music at Antarnaad, a musical programme organised by the Art of Living Foundation. The performance may enter the Guinness Book of World Records.

Makara Sankranti & Pongal

Sun is the source of life on Earth — be it physical, mental or spiritual. The closest image to mankind with a divinity, people worship Sun as the God of Light on Makara Sankranti day. Sankranti (Sankramana) means movement. The festival is considered to be the festival of the movement of Sun. When it enters 12 Zodiac signs in each month, it is called Masa Sankranti. Of these 12 Masa Sankranti, two of them are considered auspicious as they represent the movement of Sun to two different ayanas — Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. Movement of Sun from Karkataka to Dhanu is called Dakshinayana and Makara to Mithuna is known as Uttarayana. Both are auspicious as they bring good results. This festival is celebrated for a period of 3 days in some parts of the country. It is also associated with agriculture since this comes during the period of harvesting in the countryside. Bhogi (Pausa Krishna Tritiya) which falls on January 13, is the previous day of the festival when people cook delicious food and sweets at home and the whole family gets together to enjoy the same. Makara Sankranti (Pongal — Pausa Krishna Chaturhi) falls on January 14. This day morning, people get up early in the morning, take bath and light the lamp with gingelly oil. It is also the festival of sesame and jaggery. Mixture of white sesame, groundnut, fried gram and pieces of dry coconut is made. Along with this, sugarcane, banana and sugar blocks are offered to the God and later distributed among the family members. A sweet called Pongal — rice cooked with jaggery along with dry fruits and ghee — is also prepared. They also bake the new harvest of raw groundnut, raw ballar (avarekayi) and sweet potato. In the evening, all in the family wear new clothes and distribute sesame mixture to neighbours, friends and relatives. It is a practice to cultivate the habit of giving in the minds of children and also to lead a better social life. People also pay oblations to their ancestors on this day. Mattu Pongal (Pausha Krishna Panhami) is on January 15. On this day, farmers wash their cattle and bullocks and decorate them with colour papers and ribbons. They also adorn them in colourful clothes and worship them.

Bharti buys 70% stake in Warid

Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecom services provider, said it has agreed to acquire a 70% stake in Warid Telecom, Bangladesh, currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dhabi Group, for a nominal but undisclosed consideration. Bharti Airtel will also make a fresh investment of $300 million to expand the operations of Warid Telecom, which is also the largest investment in Bangladesh by an Indian company. The company declined to give details of the acquisition value which gives the Bharti Airtel management and board control of Warid Telecom while allowing the Dhabi Group to continue as a strategic partner with 30% shareholding and some Board representation. The acquisition by Bharti Airtel would be done partly by purchase the existing shares held in Warid Telecom International by Dhabi Group for a nominal consideration and the balance by way of issue of fresh shares at par. Grameenphone, which is owned by Nordic firm Telenor, is the largest mobile operator in Bangladesh with over 23 million subscribers and a 45.5% market share. Warid Telecom is the fourth largest operator with a total customer base of over 2.9 million across Bangladesh. The new funding of $300 million will be utilised for expansion of the network, both for coverage and capacity, and introduction of innovative products and services. As a result of this additional investment, the overall investment in the company will be in the region of $1 billion. Airtel clarified that this figure includes $700 million of existing investment by Warid Telecom. Sunil Bharti Mittal, CMD, Bharti Airtel, said, “This landmark deal underlines our intent to further expand our operations to international markets where we can implant our unique business model and offer quality and affordable telecom services. At the same time, it is a symbol of the growing economic cooperation between the South Asian countries and we would like to thank the Government of India and Bangladesh for their support and encouragement. “Bangladesh, with a population of over 160 million and teledensity of 32% is a very promising market for telecom services. Bharti is keen to work in Bangladesh and contribute to achieving the vision of Digital Bangladesh even sooner than 2021".

Factory output rose 12% y-o-y in November

India’s factory output expanded 11.7% in November year-on-year, marking the fastest growth in two years and strengthening the debate whether it is time for the government to start pulling back the stimulus package and the RBI to tighten purse strings. This is the 11th consecutive month that manufacturing has been growing. In November 2008, industrial output had expanded just 2.5%. The November 2009 growth is the highest since October 2007 when industry had expanded 12.2%. The latest growth figure far exceeds South Korea’s 1.4% but fell much short of China’s 19.2%. The spurt in consumer durables output continued, expanding at a scorching pace of 37.3% year-on-year in November. Manufacturing activities increased 12.7%, mining output was up 10% and electricity generation went up 3.3%. The growth is being driven by a revival in retail demand in the wake of interest rate cuts and tax breaks during the global slowdown. Payment of a second instalment of salary arrears aggregating Rs 1,800 crore to Central government employees in October also helped push demand for consumer durables. As an indicator, car sales in December rose over 40% year-on-year. The economy had posted an annual 7.9% growth rate in the second quarter, the fastest in 18 months. This prompted the government to raise the growth forecast for the current fiscal year to around 8% from 7%. But rising food prices have cast a shadow, with annual food inflation hovering over 18% in the last several weeks on supply shortages. The annual wholesale price inflation is also being seen in excess of 7.31% in December against 4.78% in November. The robust growth with rising inflation has strengthened the case for the RBI to tighten monetary policy to avoid inflationary pressures on overall economy. The RBI is widely expected to increase the cash reserve ratio, the level of deposits that banks must keep with it as cash. There is a debate on whether the government should start pulling back some of the stimulus measures. Many economists warn the growth may stumble if the stimulus is withdrawn now.

Another tiger found dead in Corbett park

Days after a dead tiger was found in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) area, the carcass of another tiger has been recovered near Kanda ward under Dhikala range, officials said. CTR sources said the carcass of the five-year-old tiger was found around 6.30 pm on Monday when a team of CTR officials, led by wildlife warden D S Rawat, was on a routine round in Dhikala range, which has maximum number of tigers and other big cats. CTR director R K Mishra has ruled out the possibility of poaching on the grounds that the vital organs of the tiger were found intact. “Let the post-mortem examination report come, it is not fair to jump to any conclusion,’’ said a forest official. Sources alleged that senior CTR officials had been trying to hush up cases of poaching. “While the average life span of a tiger is 12 years, how could a five-year tiger die a natural death?’’ wondered a forester. This is the second case of tiger death in a week this month. The carcass of a three year-old tiger was found on January 5.

BRTS is a success in Gujarat

Making the Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) work in Ahmedabad was not about getting there first, but getting it right. “The concept of BRTS was conceived in Gujarat and its proposal to the Centre was followed by other states who wanted to get there first. We learned from their mistakes,” Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi said. Incidentally, Gujarat has just won an international award for the project’s success. Modi did not comment if Mumbai has turned to it for advice or if Mumbai could accommodate such a project in the first place. “We are successful because we learned from others’ mistakes. We are looking at water transport and metro now to ease congestion,” he said and added that the route, which earlier took 40 minutes, now takes around 11. Ahmedabad is the only city in the country to have successfully implemented BRTS. It has already completed 16.5 kilometre of the total 88 kilometre planned. Once the project is complete, it will touch railway and bus stations, the civil hospital, three industrial estates and six schools. Some 80% of the lanes are wider than 30 metre. The lane width varies from 24-60 metre. Officials said the project in its pilot stage was free and attracted just about 18,000 people a day. But today, it carries more than 35,000 persons. Incidentally, officials said they haven’t seen any reduction in traffic as yet and said a survey showed that there has been a 4-5 minute time reduction in the sector.

Mumbai Airport expansion moves at a crawl

The township being readied in Kurla for airport evacuees.

The airport modernisation and expansion project involves one of the biggest urban displacements in Mumbai’s history affecting as many as 80,000 families—nearly four lakh people—spread over three assembly constituencies, Vile Parle, Kalina and Kurla. But two years after the state initiated the land acquisition process, there is no clear rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) plan, and the future of the affected families is uncertain. In fact, barely two weeks ago, Baliram Pawar, additional collector of Housing, asked Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) to come clean on the R&R plan for the Project-Affected People (PAP). Over the last two years, Pawar and his team have been unsuccessfully trying to survey the 276 acres of airport land that is to be repossessed as part of the modernisation and expansion plans. Determined opposition from residents and encroachers has meant that repeated attempts by the government to carry out the survey have failed. “We have made it clear that unless the R&R plan is clarified to the public or their elected representatives, it will not be possible to carry out the survey,’’ said Pawar. At the heart of the matter for the 7,000 East Indian families in one of Mumbai’s oldest villages, Sahar Village—which is part of the Vile Parle assembly constituency—is the disputed ownership of land. The community contends that while the British took over their agricultural lands, it had spared the gaothans on which their houses stood. They argue that they are the legitimate owners of their houses and the land on which their buildings stand. Senior MIAL officials, however, insist that the land already belongs to the Airport Authority and those residing there are encroachers. The church is spearheading the people’s agitation. ‘Do not sell, do not buy, do not repair,’ is what the parishioners of Our Lady of Health Church are being repeatedly exhorted to do. The reason is simple: Do not sell the land to the authorities as the money being offered is below the market rate. Do not purchase land because those who buy now may get nothing as they may not be covered by the 2000 cut-off date for rehabilitation. And do not repair as the bulldozers could come anytime.
In 1942, the British had acquired 1,875 acres of agricultural land belonging to East Indians residing in 12 villages in the vicinity. With no land, the agrarian community could not take advantage of Mumbai’s growth despite being the original inhabitants of the city. Recently, the state accorded East Indians the status of an Other Backward Class. This time around, though, the community is determined to fight for its dues. In November 2007, the state issued a notice to residents for land acquisition. Uniting under the banner of Sahar Citizens Forum, residents demanded that the government reveal its R&R plan. Krishna Hegde, Congress MLA from Vile Parle, said that he and MP Priya Dutt have made it clear that affected residents must be rehabilitated in the vicinity. “Unless that happens, there will be huge upheaval. We are identifying plots for rehabilitation,’’ he said.
Lack of transparency on the part of the authorities is another problem, said families. N Sureshan, general secretary, Airport Authority Zopadpatti Sangharsh Samiti, said: “The government has been unable to carry out the survey because the residents are fighting the non-transparent methods. We want homes in the vicinity. The area is our source of livelihood.’’ Alice Therratil, Congress corporator from Kalina, concurred and claimed that despite agitations carried out by affected families in her consituency, they are no closer to knowing the R&R plans.
Another bone of contention is that the state is carrying out the R&R plan under the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme (SRS), though with a more relaxed 2000 cut-off date. Residents are demanding that the more humane National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007 (NRRS) be used, as it has no cut-off date and offers PAPs a better deal, including a good grievance redressal mechanism.
The SRS, according to Amita Bhide, chairperson of urban planning and governance, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, deals primarily with housing and fails to meet the expectations of a project of this magnitude. “We have a comprehensive R&R plan for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project. It can be used here too. The NRRS will also help, as it will minimise the circle of impact and help monitor the impact of resettlement on people,’’ she said. M Rameshkumar, additional chief secretary, rehabilitation, Maharashtra, said the NRRS policy is applicable in this case. He added that the project has not been notified under the state’s Rehabilitation of Project Affected Persons Act, 1999.


As part of the ongoing exercise to clean up higher education, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the ministry was planning to create a national database of academic qualifications in electronic format which would authenticate and reissue certificates. The ministry is planning to bring a bill for the creation of a depository which would store certificates issued by school boards and universities in an electronic format for any future use. “Forged certificate is a major problem. There is no verification process with the employer. The credibility of our institutes come under question. We are contemplating establishing a national database in an electronic format by an identified registered depository,’’ Sibal said. All institutes, including school boards, IITs, NITs, polytechnics and state school boards will have direct linkages to the depository. The certificates could be stored in electronic format. “It would be a secured depository. Anybody who loses his certificate can get an authentic one. Anybody who wants to verify the authenticity of a certificate can do so by contacting the depository,’’ Sibal said. For verification or reissue of certificates, the applicant would have to pay a fee to get the service. The depository could be in place from 2011. The government has set up a task force headed by IIT-Kanpur director Sanjay Dhande to prepare a roadmap for its implementation. As per the plan, anybody who has passed out before 2011 can also update his certificates in that depository. The technology-based solution would ensure security and authenticity and enable online verification and easy retrieval of academic qualifications.


Somewhere in Ahmedabad....

The International Kite Festival gets going....

Somewhere in Bangalore....

Gowda redirects his expletives to the Chinese....

Rupee snapshot

The rupee rose to its highest in more than 15 months as demand was triggered by the dollar’s fall on weak US payrolls data and expectations of steady rates in the United States. The partially convertible rupee ended at 45.34/35 per dollar, off an early high of 45.2850, its strongest since September 2008, but still 0.90 % above Friday’s close of 45.75/76. The dollar fell broadly after data on Friday showed US employers cut 85,000 jobs last month and St Louis Federal Reserve Bank president James Bullard said rates may remain low for quite some time. The index of the dollar against six major units was down 0.7%. Foreign fund investments into local shares are a key driver for the rupee. Last year inflows of more than $17 billion helped the rupee climb more than 12% from a record low of 52.2 in March, and it rose 4.7% on the year as a whole. So far in 2010, foreigners have bought about $800 million worth of Indian shares and the rupee is up about 2.6%. One-month offshore non-deliverable forwards contracts were quoted at 45.27/37, little changed from the onshore spot rate.

Suresh Tendulkar panel on poverty

Conventional wisdom holds that poverty is more widespread in India than the government cares to admit. And so, when the Planning Commission suggested that poverty had declined sharply to 27.5% in 2004-05 from 36% in 1993-94, it was greeted with a lot of scepticism. After all, the economy’s growth in the decade up to 2004-05 had not been that much better than in the decade prior to that. Agriculture continued to suffer, save for sharp growth in some years. The expert group to review the methodology for estimation of poverty chaired by Suresh Tendulkar has now suggested that the poverty ratio at the all India level was actually 37.2% in 2004-05. Rural poverty was projected at 41.8% and urban at 25.7% by the committee, as against official estimates of 28.3% and 25.7% for rural and urban population, respectively. Sure enough, the response has been mixed. So how did the expert group arrive at a figure that is at variance with the official estimates? In the past, the poverty line was defined in terms of per capita consumer expenditure at 1973-74 market prices and adjusted over time and across states for changes in prices keeping unchanged the original 1973-74 reference poverty line baskets of goods and services. The all-India rural and urban poverty line baskets were derived separately, assuming per capita daily calorie intake of 2,400 for rural people and 2,100 for urban population. The Tendulkar panel made four major departures from the past practices. It moved away from the calorie intake criteria for determining poverty line. Instead, it tests for adequacy of actual food expenditure near the poverty line to ensure aggregate nutrition, rather than just calories. Two, it has recommended adoption of uniform PLB for the urban and rural population, breaking away from the past practice of two separate baskets. This has been done to get rid of the problem of outdated PLB, a major criticism of the existing poverty line. Three, it has suggested a new price adjustment procedure based in the same data set as the one used for poverty estimation, rejecting the earlier practice of using price indices that are generated externally, specific to population segments and were outdated. And four, it incorporates explicit provision in the price expenditure on health and education, which in any case has been rising. The official poverty estimate, in contrast, assumes basic health care and education services would be provided by the state, and although the 1973-74 base takes note of the private expenditure on these items, it does not take into account the increase in the proportion for total expenditure over the years. The Tendulkar panel has also recommended that 365-day mixed reference period be used to collect data instead of the past practice of using 30-day uniform reference period. The advantage of using MRP is that data integrity is better when respondents are asked about their expenditure in the 365 days prior to the survey, particularly on items of low frequency consumption such as clothes, footwear and durables, than when they are questioned on expenditure on the preceding 30 days.

Navi Mumbai & Pune airport updates

The proposed Navi Mumbai airport is on track and, despite the three-year delay, the first phase of the airport will be operational in 2013, said Union aviation minister Praful Patel in Pune on Monday. Mr Patel added: “I am meeting the state chief minister and other ministers next week and asking them to start the tendering process which should be completed this year. CIDCO has acquired 75% of the land needed and is waiting for the final clearance from the environment and forest ministry. It has already appointed technical, legal and financial consultants. While ecological issues need resolving, they will not come in the way of building the airport.” According to Mr Patel, the ministry had cleared the setting up of greenfield airports in areas that fall under the coastal regulation zones or CRZ, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held charge of the aviation ministry before the Lok Sabha elections. The CRZ norms came into force in 1991 to conserve the state’s sea coast and Mumbai’s mangroves. However, the minister was not so confident about the proposed airport at Chakan, near Pune. “The project at Chakan is alive but not kicking,” he said. He was reiterating Pune MP Suresh Kalmadi’s views that the Chakan airport is a decade away. Mr Patel said he felt “sad” that Maharashtra has not taken advantage of the Centre’s policy on setting up greenfield airports. Unless the state government got moving, Delhi and the northern region would by pass Maharashtra. “The Mumbai-Pune region can do with six airports, in a hub-and-spoke configuration. We need many smaller airports,” he said. He was responding to a question of viability of each airport with so many located close to one another. Should the two new projects get off the ground, there will be four airports within close proximity of each other in the Mumbai-Pune belt.

PM Launches Solar Mission

As part of efforts to combat climate change, PM Manmohan Singh advocated creation of Solar Valleys in India on the lines of Silicon Valleys and asked industrial houses to view the Solar Mission as a huge business opportunity. Launching the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission “Solar India”, he said its success has the potential of transforming India’s energy prospects, while contributing to national as well as global efforts to combat climate change. The role of industry in this mission that set an ambitious target to generate 20,000 MW of solar generating capacity by the end of 13th Five Year Plan, would be critical. “Eventually, if the ambitious roll out of the Mission is to become a reality, we will have to create many Solar Valleys on the lines of the Silicon Valleys that are spurring our IT industry across the four corners of the country,” Singh told the gathering which included Union ministers Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah and Jairam Ramesh. Noting that these valleys would become hubs for solar science, engineering and research, fabrication and manufacturing, the PM urged Indian industry to see the Solar Mission for the “huge business opportunity that it is”. “I am convinced that solar energy can be the next scientific and industrial frontier in India after atomic energy, space and IT”, he said. Singh said though the Mission’s target of 20,000 MW was ambitious, it was “doable and we should work single-mindedly to achieve it”.

3G auction update

The government is learnt to have decided to allow only three private players to offer 3G mobile services but Rajasthan, Assam and the north east, which were not on the 3G map earlier due to unavailability of spectrum, will also figure in the bidding process. “The government has decided to assign by auction up to 3 blocks of 5x2 mhz of paired in the 2.1 ghz band in each of the 22 circles,’’ according to the draft notice inviting application, which also said the auction is being planned for February 12. The draft also said efforts are on to vacate more spectrum from defence. “It is to be made clear that some of the 3G spectrum that is being offered for auction is in the process of being vacated by the present user and it has been decided that successful bidders in the auction will be allowed to launch commercial operations using the spectrum from September 2, 2010,’’ it said. For the avoidance of doubt, successful bidders will be allocated specific frequency blocks within 15 days from the date of payment of the bid amount and will be allowed to import equipment and conduct testing, the draft added. Further, efforts are being made to make one more block of spectrum 2x5 mhz spectrum in 2.1 ghz band available by January 2013, it said. The successful bidders would be asked to pay 100% of the bidding amount in March this year. 3G spectrum is also available for Rajasthan, Assam and north east which was not earlier on the list of auction due to unavailability of the radio waves, the draft said.

Exports hit 15-month high

Growing for the second straight month, India's exports touched $14.6 billion in December, the highest in the past 15 months, helped by an uptick in demand for merchandise in the western markets. "We have registered exports of $14.6 billion in December," commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma told reporters. The December growth is about 16% from a year ago, while the expansion is about 10% compared to shipments in November this fiscal. The two straight months of growth comes after exports fell for 13 months in a row since October 2008. Sharma said going ahead the momentum would be maintained. He, however, added that exporters are yet to recover from the setback of the past 13 months. Sectors like engineering, auto components and pharma helped exports rise again. Analysts said December growth has come about on a low base last year when the global demand dropped sharply due to the global recession. The December figure reflects the best ever performance since August 2008 when exporters shipped goods worth $16 billion.

NCP jumps onto Vidarbha bandwagon

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) officially declared its support to the agitation for Vidarbha’s statehood. Civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh told the media that their party president Sharad Pawar had always maintained that if people of Vidarbha wanted a separate state they should have it. Deshmukh had convened a meeting of NCP leaders from the district on this issue. After seeking their views he and ex-minister Ramesh Bang made the party decision public. The statehood agitation has started with renewed vigour ever since Centre announced that Telangana state would be carved out from Andhra Pradesh. All parties except Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have supported it. Congress, BJP, NCP and Dalit parties have formed the Vidarbha Rajya Sangram Samiti (VRSS) to launch an agitation for Vidarbha on a common platform. They have called a Vidarbha bandh on January 20. Deshmukh also stressed on the fact that all parties had come together on the Vidarbha issue.
Babasaheb Ambedkar had favoured formation of four Marathi speaking states.

Delhi’s $1bn credit to Dhaka

Taking the current bonhomie with the Sheikh Hasina government to a new level altogether, PM Manmohan Singh on Monday announced a $1 billion line of credit for Bangladesh. This is the highest one-time line of credit assistance to any country by India and was described by authorities as an apt gesture to reciprocate the cooperation received from Bangladesh in dealing with terrorism and insurgency since Sheikh Hasina came back to power. The credit will, among other things, aid infrastructural development in the country including building railway bridges, supply of locomotives and assistance in dredging. Sheikh Hasina assured that no anti-India acitivity would be allowed to be carried out from the country. Sources said security was one of the most important issues to be discussed and the two sides agreed to actively cooperate on the issue. During his meeting with Hasina, Singh told her that her visit had opened a new chapter in India-Bangladesh relations leading to “complete unity of heart and mind”. In yet another goodwill gesture, India conveyed to Sheikh Hasina that it has decided to stop work on the contentious Tipaimukh dam project which had caused a lot of resentment in Bangladesh. India had earlier announced construction of a 1,500 mw hydroelectric dam on the Barak river in the north-east. The river flows into Bangladesh before emptying into Bay of Bengal. Apart from that, India will also supply 250 MW of electricity to Bangladesh over and above the 100 MW agreed to last year. New Delhi sought to address Dhaka’s concerns with regard to non-tariff barriers by agreeing to remove these on many more items. At the wide-ranging talks here between Singh and Hasina, the two sides reached a number of decisions to revive the traditional links of connectivity, which included Akhaura-Agartala railway line. As announced earlier, the two sides signed five agreements, three of them a nod to India’s primary concerns on security and terrorism. They were on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, agreement on transfer of sentenced persons and an agreement on combating international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking. On Monday, Sheikh Hasina and Singh met for delegation level talks in the evening, with the two leaders meeting in a one-on-one basis before the talks. In a banquet speech, the Bangladeshi PM said, “I can give you this assurance that Bangladesh is committed to eliminating all forms of terrorism from within its territory.” The talks focused on terrorism, security, trade and investment, boundary and particularly water sharing. At the banquet held in her honour, Sheikh Hasina stressed on a water agreement, reminding India of the Ganges water treaty of 1996 which made water relations more peaceful between the neighbours. Expressing gratitude for India’s role in its liberation war, Hasina said there had been “commendable progress” on talks on the land boundary. Hasina met President Pratibha Patil, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, external affairs minister S M Krishna, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj before holding wide-ranging talks with Singh.


MF AUM snapshot

The top Mutual Fund Houses in India

Realty Track

New automobiles on the block

Maruti launches a Versa replacement...a highly affordable Eeco while Jaguar launches its XJ

Of educational loan disbursement

The south takes the honours....

Airtel welcomes Bangladesh PM

Obviously their Bangladesh deal has gone through after the failure of the MTN deal

Mall Management

A mall advertises on the front page of the Economic Times....