Rupee snapshot

Hovering around 45 to the US Dollar.

Bharti is third time lucky

Bharti Airtel took a big step towards fulfilling its international ambitions with a deal on Tuesday to acquire most of the African assets of Kuwait’s Zain Telecom. Sunil Bharti Mittal, the founder and CMD of India’s largest mobile phone firm, described the acquisition as a “pioneering step towards South-South co-operation” as he started laying the groundwork for the more important tasks that lie ahead — winning regulatory approvals in 15 countries and replicating Bharti’s successful low-cost model of operations in Africa. The $10.7-billion deal, including $1.7 billion of Zain’s debt, was signed in Amsterdam, the base of Zain’s African unit. With Zain Africa’s 42 million customers, Bharti Airtel will have 179 million subscribers, making it the world’s fifth-largest mobile phone operator. The Bharti stock closed almost unchanged at Rs 310.95 on BSE before the deal was signed.The newly-acquired business, Mittal assured, would be an operation led by Africans and supported by the Indian team. Mr Mittal also said his company is committed to partnering with African governments to take “affordable telecom services to the remotest geographies and bridging the digital divide” Winning regulatory approvals will be an important hurdle for Bharti Airtel to cross. Twice, political sensitivities scuppered its attempts to merge with South Africa’s MTN, the largest mobile phone company in Africa. The Nigerian unit of Zain is embroiled in tussles over ownership and Reuters reported on Monday that the Gabonese government “disapproves” of the sale of Zain’s assets in the country. Bharti Airtel, the pioneer of the low-cost outsourced model of operations has started discussions with partners to transplant the successful example in Africa, Mr Mittal said. Bharti was the target of criticism from analysts who said it may be overpaying when the deal with Zain was first unveiled in the middle of February. Ratings agencies S&P and Fitch have put Bharti’s long-term credit rating on watch with negative implications, citing a likely heavy debt burden. Bharti will be inheriting an operation that made a net loss of $112 million in the nine months to September 2009. Seven of Zain’s African units are lossmaking, including its highest revenue earner, the Nigerian arm. Zain’s profitability is lower than Bharti’s despite average higher spending by its users.

Per Capita Income : Maharashtra

There is a huge disparity in income across the state.

Namma Metro update

Pune Metro snippets

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) standing committee has resolved to begin building a metro railway on the proposed 14.925 km metro corridor from Vanaz to Ramwadi. The project will cost Rs 2,281 (including taxes), towards which the PMC plans to contribute 10 per cent, get 40 per cent from the state and Centre and the rest from private players. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had recommended that its model for a metro railway be incorporated jointly in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. The DMRC had also suggested that a company be formed to run the project. “The DMRC has suggested execution of the project on two corridors. The first corridor is from the PCMC to Swargate, while the second corridor is from Vanaz to Ramwadi. The first corridor will run within PMC and PCMC limits but the PCMC is dragging its feet about moving ahead with the project,” said standing committee chairman Arvind Shinde, speaking to reporters on Tuesday. “Pune needs a metro as soon as possible. We cannot wait for the PCMC to decide its stand. The standing committee approved the resolution that the PMC should start the metro project on the second corridor,” he said. The project cost for the phase-II corridor between Vanaz and Ramwadi is Rs 1,948 crore (excluding taxes) and Rs 2,281 crore (including taxes), said Shinde. “As per the detailed project report (DPR), the PCMC and the PMC were to contribute 5 per cent each to the total project cost. However, now the PMC will contribute 10 per cent, while the state and Centre will contribute 20 per cent each. For the remaining 50 per cent contribution, the PMC will approach private companies. We will later decide on the model for private participation,” said Shinde. The standing committee also resolved that the metro corridor be extended to Kharadi/Chandannagar as per convenience and availability of funds. It also decided to appoint a special officer to co-ordinate the project. The DMRC had suggested that for execution of the project a special purpose vehicle named the ‘Pune Metro Rail Corporation (PMRC)’ be formed as per the Company Act 1956 and representatives of the state and central government be appointed as directors of the special purpose vehicle. “We will decide later on the formation of the PMRC,” said Shinde. “As of now the PMC itself will initiate the project. After approving the proposal, the standing committee has forwarded it to the general body which will forward it to the state government for sanction. We will ensure that the project starts immediately as the metro is one of the main solutions to the city’s traffic problems,” he added.
Underground: 5.019 km
Elevated: 11.570 km
Total: 16.589 km
Stations: Nine elevated and six underground
Status: Put on hold by the PMC
Underground: Nil
Elevated: 14.925 km
Stations: 15 elevated ones
Status: PMC standing committee approves the project

3G auction update

All the nine players who had applied for participating in 3G spectrum auction, have been cleared for the financial bidding, making the competition for bagging for 3-4 slots on offer pretty intense. According a DoT notice, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Telecom, Vodafone Essar, Etisalat DB, Idea Cellular, Stel, Tata Teleservices, Aircel and Videocon are the operators who are in the fray.In another 10 days, nine companies will be neck-and-neck in the bidding ring for the precious 3G spectrum valued at between Rs 30,000 crore and Rs 40,000 crore.Six of them — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular and Aircel — will bid for all 22 telecom zones in the country. The remaining three — Etisalat India telecoms venture, Videocon Telecommunications and S Tel — will bid for 3G spectrum in selective zones. While the competition for bagging the 3-4 slots on offer is expected to be intense, if past record is any indication, Bharti and Vodafone could be the frontrunners as they possess resources, a national network and a voracious appetite for winning bids.Tatas and Idea are also strong contenders, supported by funding ability and a critical requirement to remain in top four, though past success is not a plus. Bharti has been perhaps the savviest bidder across all the telecom spectrum auctions held in India so far. In 1993-94 it won Delhi in a beauty contest and Himachal Pradesh in 1995. Bharti cleverly expanded through M&A’s between 1995 and 2000. In 2001, Bharti picked up eight 2G mobile licences at a bargain price of Rs 690.67 crore. This was the maximum number of licences won by any company during any auction and helped Bharti to become India’s first pan-India operator. Vodafone beat several global rivals to buy 67% of Hutchison Essar in 2006-07 for $12 billion, which is an excellent price in hindsight. It won all of eight 3G auctions held between 2000-07 and additionally bagged 3G licences in ten beauty contests in other countries during the same period. The Tatas have a mixed track record in winning mobile auctions. In 1995, it won Andhra Pradesh but stayed away from the fourth mobile licence bidding in 2001 preferring the limited mobility route. However, Tatas did beat stiff competition to win VSNL in a bid against Reliance in 2002. Its recent partnership with NTT Docomo — a pioneer in 3G/data services — could add value to its 3G bidding strategy and funding capabilities. Idea, (then Birla AT&T) is in the same boat, having picked up Gujarat and Maharashtra in the 1995 auctions and Delhi in 2001. Idea bought out several properties from RPG and Escorts to reach its current status. Its strategy shows the ability to bid aggressively but only in key markets and follow the M&A route for others. Reliance has a feeble record in winning auctions but boasts of a formidable war chest. In 1995, it won seven circles mostly C category by paying roughly Rs 56 crore. At that time, this strategy was considered a failure. However, today, C category circles are demonstrating maximum growth potential. Finally, Etisalat and Aircel could emerge to be dark horses.

Census kicks off tomorrow

The gigantic 2011 Census exercise will begin on April 1 with President Pratibha Patil being the first person to share details, including information on the number of mobile phones, computers and internet connections in Rashtrapati Bhavan. The officials will, thereafter, record the status of an estimated 1.2 billion people across the country in the next one year. It will be the first time when census officials will record details of modern-day amenities—mobile phones, computers and internet connections —available to the people in their households. Besides data on demography and economic activity, the Census will also provide figures on literacy, fertility, mortality, language, religion, migration, and SC/STs. The entire exercise, which will begin with houselisting and housing census on April 1, will be done under statutory provisions of the Census Act, 1948. Under the Act, if anyone fails to cooperate in the exercise, he or she “can invite adverse consequences, including fines and punishments”. Registrar general and Census commissioner C Chandramouli said: “The information collected about individuals will be kept absolutely confidential. In fact, this information is not accessible even to courts of law. This provision is there to encourage people to give correct information in the Census without any fear.” Home secretary G K Pillai said the government has also decided to prepare a National Population Register (NPR)—an identity database of all residents—which will pave the way for providing a Unique Identity Number to individuals above the age of 15 and eventually making a National Register of Citizens. Besides carrying details on all residents, the NPR data will also contain a photograph and 10 fingers’ biometry of those above 15. ID cards will be provided to citizens above the age of 18 years after weeding out illegal immigrants who might have got entry into the NPR by any means. Pillai made it clear that no information will be collected on castes as no caste-based census has ever been conducted in independent India.


Gujarat plans the father of all airports

The proposed international airport at Federa could well be the biggest in India. The Gujarat government has earmarked a massive 7,500 hectares of land, mostly wasteland, for the new airport at Navagam village near Dholera special investment region (SIR). The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already cleared the site last month. Earlier, the state government had identified 1,700ha for the upcoming airport in Pachham-Valinda-Pipli stretch of Dhandhuka taluka. The new site falls under the influence of DMIC and is also close to three SIRs planned at Dholera, Sanand and Changodar. “The 1,700ha site notified for the project was not contiguous and had a large number of small land holdings. Hence, the new site has been shifted towards nearby Navagam,” said a senior official. The land would be handed over to Gujarat Industrial Corridor Company Ltd, a nodal agency for Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Though the government is planning to use 2,800ha initially, additional land has been earmarked for future expansion of the airport as well as other aviation activities. Two different runways are part of the first-phase development. “A third runway would also be added as the need arises,” the official said. There is also a plan to connect the present Sardar Patel International Airport to the new one near Dholera through metro rail network. The state government has also carried out technical feasibility report for the Ahmedabad-Wataman-Dholera-Bhavnagar expressway.

US, India reach reprocessing pact to advance N-deal

India and the United States have concluded a nuclear fuel reprocessing agreement to advance their bilateral civilian nuclear deal, the Obama administration announced on Monday. The agreement, a key step in the full realization of the Indo-US nuclear deal reached some 18 months ago, will enable Indian reprocessing of US-supplied nuclear material under safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nuclear reprocessing typically involves separating and managing components of spent nuclear fuel, potentially including weapons-grade fuel for nuclear bombs; Washington’s insistence on an internationally overseen reprocessing arrangement arose from the condition in the nuclear deal that India not divert US-supplied nuclear fuel to its military programme. The US fuel-supply guarantee involved an Indian commitment to separate and firewall its civil and military reactors and set up of a dedicated reprocessing facility, which would function under international (IAEA’s) safeguards. The just-concluded arrangement details the nuts and bolts of the inspection regime. Reactors designated as military facilities and nuclear fuel that India has produced up to now will be exempt from inspections or safeguards in this unique and exceptional arrangement. Disclosing that the two sides have ‘‘taken an important step towards implementing civil nuclear cooperation by completing negotiations on ‘arrangements and procedures’ for reprocessing US-origin spent nuclear fuel’’, the state department in a statement on Monday said that ‘‘completion of these arrangements will facilitate participation by US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector’’. The reprocessing arrangement was one of three residual issues the two sides were grappling with since the conclusion of the nuclear deal in October 2008. India is also required to establish by way of legislation a civil liability for nuclear damages regime to limit compensation by American nuclear companies operating in India in case of nuclear accidents. Washington, and US nuclear companies, are waiting for New Delhi to pass such a bill, which the government is expected to navigate through Parliament. A final requirement is for a written Indian ‘‘assurance’’ on non-proliferation under an obscure US energy department rule, which is considered more of a bureaucratic fine print issue. Resolution of these residual issues and fully operationalizing the deal will lift a three-decade US moratorium on nuclear trade with India.

Bigger, Bolder, Better

Hope the infrastructure story comes alive...It's now or never !

Japan has committed over Rs 10,000 crore in six infrastructure projects in 2010-11. The projects include the second phase of Delhi Metro, the East-West Corridor of Kolkata Metro and the Railways’ Dedicated Freight Corridor. Japanese ambassador Hideaki Domichi and senior finance ministry officials signed an agreement in this regard. Japan has pledged an investment of 215 billion yen or Rs 10,535 crore. With this, India becomes the highest recipient of Japanese aid crossing Rs 1.55 lakh crore. The money pledged for the second phase of the Delhi Metro is about Rs 1,648 crore, the allocation for Kolkata Metro’s second phase is Rs 1,146 crore, Rs 2,932 crore for the second phase of the Chennai Metro project and Rs 4,422 crore for the first phase of the Dedicated Freight Corridor project of Railways.

Sonia back as NAC chief

Sonia Gandhi is back at the helm of the National Advisory Council . The NAC’s sharp focus has ensured that key programmes are not only not diluted but, as in the case of the NREGA, expanded through the country. It can be expected to deal with development issues in areas like Bundelkhand which also coincide with the Congress’s political priorities. There has been a sense in the Congress that the pace of governance could be speeded up, and better aligned with the party’s priorities. Crucially, after Sonia turned down the premiership and brought in Manmohan Singh, the NAC helped give the party a primacy it would have lacked otherwise. Apart from the food security act, another bill that the NAC may like to see piloted by the government soon is the communal violence bill and possibly the whistleblowers bill as well. To that extent, the NAC, which will draw its powers from Sonia’s leadership, can influence the legislative and political agenda of the government. The tenure of the NAC members will be for one year, showing that the chairperson wants to keep elbow room for changes in view of her previous experience. The chairperson’s term is expectedly coterminus with the panel itself. The advent of the NAC holds a special place in the Congress attempt to reinvent itself as a left-of-centre party since it returned to power in 2004 after a barren eight-year spell. With the aam admi campaign pipping the BJP’s ‘India Shining’ triumphalism, the Congress has been convinced on the need to ensure that those who are not immediately seeing the fruit of reforms do not turn against it. The party decided to ensure that aam admi remained its governance theme, with the NAC giving a welfarist philosophy the pride of place. At the same time, the co-option of civil society activists ensured that the scope for dissent against the Congress-led Centre stayed at a minimum as the party moved to the left. It marked a shift in the business-as-usual governance identified with the Congress and gave the party the political talking points it was looking for. RTI, NREGA, social security for unorganised sector, domestic violence bill, forest rights act, right to education have added a new halo to the party even though implementation has remained patchy. While the NAC was very much on the minds of the party brass, the leadership did not move with alacrity in UPA-2 as it was wary of the legal challenges to the ‘office of profit’ law which exempted certain offices including the NAC chairperson from its ambit. It was only when the SC gave its nod to the OoP law that the party moved to revive the NAC.


Anti - Naxal campaign

Besides action on the ground, the government launches a print campaign against the naxals.

The stigma of poverty

Guesstimates all...

Pune, Kochi join the IPL party

IPL gets bigger....two new teams join in next year.

PM sets 10% growth target for XIIth Plan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India could return to 9% growth trajectory by 2011-12, but cautioned that uncertain global environment could still play spoilsport.He said demand creation by expanding investment in infrastructure should act as a counterweight to any weakness in export sector. “A positive feature of developments in recent years is that the growth performance across states shows definite narrowing of dispersion,” Mr Singh said, adding that the previous poor performing states were also accelerating. The prime minister directed the plan panel to prepare an integrated water policy. Speaking at a function organised by the commission, he said the country must target 10% growth for the Twelfth Plan period to eliminate poverty and create jobs. He said power sector will be crucial to achieving double-digit growth. Operationalising open access, or the permission to sell power to any buyer, is important for creating a vibrant market that would help attract investment and lower tariff through competition, he said. The Indian economy grew at over 9% in 2007-08, the first year of the current plan, but the global financial crisis pulled down growth to 6.7% in 2008-09. The government expects the economy to grow at 7.2% in the current year. Emphasising the need for greater investment in infrastructure including for the rural India, the prime minister said private participation in infrastructure development has been shown to be feasible and could help expand infrastructure much faster. Private investment in infrastructure had gone up to 2.42% of the GDP by 2008-09 in a total of 7.18%.

DTH going HD

Nearly three decades after the Delhi Asian Games touched off a revolution in colour televisions in India, direct-to-home (DTH) TV service providers are hoping another sporting event will turn out to be a similar game-changer. DTH television service operators such as Dish TV, Reliance Big TV, Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky are bracing to launch high-definition (HD) set-top boxes to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October, looking to woo consumers with content that is superior in audio and video quality to traditional TV systems. HD set-top boxes, which offer wideangle viewing, are considered particularly suitable for watching sporting events and action movies. For DTH firms, HD set-top boxes promise a lucrative revenue stream as they will be priced higher than traditional devices and carry higher monthly charges. DTH companies currently charge Rs 137-210 for services. Market leader Dish TV and Reliance Big TV will launch HD-ready boxes by June while Airtel is looking at a date just before the Commonwealth Games begins. Tata Sky is yet to decide on a date, though its products will hit the market this year. Currently, Sun Direct is the only player offering HD content. The company is beaming Indian Premier League matches in this format. Though companies said these are still early days for deciding prices, a senior DTH company executive said HD boxes would cost up to 30% more than standard set-top boxes that carry a tag of Rs 1,000-2,000. The only sop for the consumer now is that the standard set-top-box is cheaper than its cost. In contrast to the standard offering of Rs 2,000-4,000, Sun Direct’s HD connection for a year is nearly Rs 10,000. Dish TV’s Kapoor says his company would like its services to be 25% cheaper than the competition. Still, marketers say the eventual pricing of HD-ready boxes will depend on how aggressively DTH operators push products. An HD-compliant set-top box aside, consumers must have an HD television set to experience the service. Airtel Digital TV chief marketing officer Sugato Banerji says by next year, nearly 3 million HD-ready TVs will hit the market. There are also five channels, including Discovery, Colors and National Geographic, which are available in HD format.

Bharti - Zain :Snapshotz

Bharti seems to be lucky this time around.

Dairy industry 2011 :Snapshot

Broadband wireless access snippets

The broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction may ring in the entry of a new technology — long-term evolution (LTE). LTE, a fourth generation super-fast wireless communications technology, is a successor to 3G. With the universal service licence being technology-neutral, and the 2.3 Mhz BWA band being compatible with LTE, it is a matter of time before operators roll out 4G services, a quantum leap for India’s telecom sector. 3G auctions will start on April 9 and BWA auctions will start two days after 3G spectrum sale ends. LTE will be ready for commercial deployment in around 18 months, while spectrum winners have three years to roll out services. Those with existing WiMAX operations, such as Tata Communications (TCOM), may opt for LTE to avoid future upgradation costs. Also, players such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar are expected to overlay BWA networks over 3G. This will allow users to latch on to 2G or 3G for making voice calls and on BWA for data applications, said industry analysts and officials. TCOM has been implementing WiMAX, another BWA technology, since 2008, using the spectrum it received under an ISP licence. It is now planning to expand those services and also switch to LTE at a later date. According to Alok Shende, principal analyst at technology research firm Ascentius Consulting: The 3G and BWA auctions provide an excellent opportunity for savvy bidders to launch 4G services in the next two to four years, much ahead of Trai’s schedule. Trai has invited comments for a consultation paper on 4G launch. LTE offers tremendous increase in capacity and speed of mobile telephone networks The main advantages of LTE are high throughput, low latency and plug and play. Eleven players including Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, Qualcomm and TCOM have bid for two BWA slots. It is believed that 3G spectrum, being offered in blocks of 5 Mhz each, will be used for easing voice congestion and will not be adequate for offering data services. Qualcomm is already working on a technology that will allow consumers get access to 3G, GSM and LTE services using a single chipset. Mr Shende said a facilitator for the adoption of this model will be the availability of handsets that offer seamless blend across frequency bands between 3G and LTE.

Core grows 4.5% in February

Six core industries that account for more than 26% of the country’s industrial output expanded 4.5% in February, the slowest pace in the last four months. In fact, poor core sector growth could also reflect in the country’s industrial growth, which has been showing double digit increases since October 2009. Economists said the fall was triggered by an unexpected decline in steel production. “A sharp fall in steel production does not gel with the recovery story that is playing out in the country,” said DK Joshi, principal economist at credit ratings agency Crisil. “We can expect an upward adjustment in steel production data,” he said. Steel is a key input in construction and automobile industry, industries that are leading the revival in economic activity. Core sector comprises crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel. The slowdown in production of cement, another indicator of the strength of economic activity, could also be a suggestion that the growth story is beginning to lose momentum due to inflation. High inflation has the potential to derail growth by undermining the investor sentiment and increasing risk perception. Annual wholesale price inflation for February stood at 9.6%. Even if February IIP growth figures fall to single digit levels, the Reserve Bank of India is likely to raise interest rates in the monetary policy review on April 20. Economists say even with a 25-50 basis points (one basis point is one hundredth of a percentage point) hike in the key policy rates in the April review, the economy can clock high growth rate.

India's urban dreams

Independent India has had the curious—if not unique—distinction of creating large new cities usually when new states are carved out. After all, the four planned entirely ‘new’ metropolises India has developed so far, have come about thus: Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Gandhinagar and Naya Raipur. Forty years ago, the great steel plants also forged Bokaro, Bhilai and Rourkela, successors to older industrialisation-led agglomerations such as Jamshedpur, Burnpur, Durgapur and Modinagar, but they could not possibly absorb the influx from rural areas. Today petroleum, steel, cement, infotech, auto and other industries are spurring town-to-city transformations, conurbations and extensions, if not always new cities. Noida, Gurgaon, Navi Mumbai and New-Town (Rajarhat) are some indicative examples; new ports and extensions at Paradip, Kandla, Mundra, Pipavav are also part of this trend. Most important of all, though, is that the government has realised it must take a primary role in facilitating a crying need for new cities in India. And not a moment too soon. In going slow on large greenfield cities, India was in line with global trends, says J David Foster, an urban affairs expert formerly with USAID, who lists new capitals like Brasilia, Canberra and Abuja as the few exceptions. Indeed, more new cities worldwide were stymied by the mixed track record of countries like Egypt and Britain on that front. But as Indians move on from Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of village-centred utopias — and pile into India’s existing urban agglomerations — international failures can no longer be a disincentive. Thus in the past five years the government has made a provision for a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore to bolster infrastructure in 63 major cities in India under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, it has pushed for SEZs and then, inevitably, greenfield cities. And if HCC’s under-construction Lavasa, India’s first post-Independence hill station near Pune, is evidence of the private sector’s interest, the Centre’s plan to build six brand-new cities in the next five years may be the catalyst India desperately needs for more such initiatives. The greenfield cities on the anvil—Dholera in Gujarat, Manesar-Bawal in Haryana, Indore-Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, and Dighi and Nasik-Igatpuri in Maharashtra—have been conceived on a grand scale, along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). For example, at 900 sq km, Dholera is envisioned to be six times bigger than Chandigarh. The success of these cities, however, hinges on DMIC getting private sector investment and the Central government facilitating soft loans from multilateral agencies with a 10-year moratorium at least. Amitabh Kant, CEO of DMIC Development Corporation, a private company formed with 49% government equity, said the master plans for three cities are ready,plans for the two other cities in Maharashtra are at an advanced stage. According to the initial plans, Dholera has a four-year target of completion, with four-laned roads (provision for 10 lanes), a 100 m road corridor, improvements to the NH8E, a broad guage rail line and more. If everything goes according to plan, most of these cities would be privately owned. “The model is such that a large part of the new cities would also be owned by private sector though there would be a mechanism to give the local people a voice in the management,” says Mr Kant, who is excited about the project’s potential to also create 8 lakh jobs. “These will be industrial cities but we want to create them as living organisms,” he avers. “The model will be quite different from the West where people drive 100 miles to work. Ours will be walkable cities. The master plan ensures that anywhere you live, you should be able to get the nearest public transport in 7 minutes. That will make these cities environment-friendly too!” The road ahead is anything but smooth. First, the project will require Rs 17,000 crore as the initial capital, for the trunk facilities alone. Add to that a break-even level possible only in the 11th year, little wonder that the DMICDC has been discussing initial funding with finance ministry officials. A Japanese government official says companies that have shown a keen interest in the DMIC mega-project include Toshiba, NEC, Mitsubishi, Itochu among others. Significantly, Japan is the partner country for the project though India expects investments from US, Europe and South East Asia too. “The Japanese government has given a loan for feasibility study of the DMIC project,” says an official. “We are partners in the process of building this corridor. It would be difficult to estimate how much investment is likely to come from Japanese companies for the corridor though it was earlier estimated to be about $10 billion.” “Massive amounts of capital and the ability to make fast and objective decisions are not the only challenges,” says Mr Foster, putting India’s dilemma in an international perspective. “Unlike China and Brazil in which most of the development is concentrated along the East Coast, India has two coasts and has long had a more even distribution of cities than most other countries. As a consequence, there are relatively few suitable totally undeveloped sites still remaining in India.” That highlights the second hurdle, apart from financing: acquisition of land. On paper, Dholera has an advantage, as 300 sq km of land (35% of the total proposed area) has already been acquired by the government. Also, there is a proposal to make the farmers stakeholders. But acquisition of the rest of the land remains a challenge. These new cities shows are to be modelled on the few global success stories like Shanghai-Lingang satellite city (positioned as a trading hub with an annual industrial growth rate of 48%), Iskandar of Malaysia and the Amsterdam-Rotterdam corridor. The 2,000 sq km Iskandar city, for example, is projected to grow nearly six times in 20 years from a GDP of $6 bn in 2005 to a $28 bn projection for 2025. But as Mr Foster says, even in countries like the US, the development of new cities has been extremely slow. The private sector comes forward, but cannot proceed fast due to land acquisition. “James Rouse, the most successful of new town developer in the US, has concluded that future such developments by the private sector would be virtually impossible without government assistance in acquiring land,” says Mr Foster. A pro-active government of India is therefore a must if millions of migrants are to find decent jobs, accommodation and proper civic amenities and infrastructure in India’s brand new cities.

After Vibrant Gujarat, here is Advantage Karnataka

The BJP government in Karnataka following Narendra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat.

UP's Nirmal Ganga operation

UP brims with a new hope for a ‘clean Ganga’ after getting a formal nod from Union environment ministry for launching its Nirmal Ganga operation. The projects being finalised in this connection are worth Rs 1,689 crore to be implemented in a phased manner over a period of next two to three years. A deal to this effect was clinched by the state government at a highlevel meeting held in New Delhi between Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and a high-power delegation of UP led by Satish Chandra Mishra, chairman, state advisory council. Other members of the delegation included UP’s urban development minister, Nakul Dubey and principal secretary, urban development, Alok Ranjan. This comes as a major boost to UP where Ganga has virtually become a dumping ground for a variety of pollutants, including chemical wastes, sewage and even the remains of human and animal corpses, making the river unsafe for drinking as well as bathing. Roughly 800 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated sewage are directly discharged at present into the river from 26 cities situated at its banks in the state. By 2025, this is likely to be more than double. The capacity of existing sewage treatment plants (STP) are around 385 MLD and according to a proposed plan, this would be increased further to 1,039 MLD in the next 15 years. So, going by it, still around 600 MLD sewage will be left untreated by 2025. The reality, however, is grimmer, as the STPs are often out of work at present due to frequent power breakdowns. The projects being finalised are worth Rs 496 crore for Varanasi, Rs 403 crore for Kanpur and Rs 305 crore for Allahabad. Other projects awarded in this series are Rs 44 crore for Garhmukteswar, Rs 51 crore for Kannauj and Rs 28 crore for Moradabad. When asked to comment, Alok Ranjan said that these projects would help mitigate the pollution problem of Ganga to a great extent. As for the implementation of these projects, he said, the state had urged the Centre to make the funding in the ratio of 90:10 instead of the present 70:30 ratio. Describing the meeting a ‘success’, Ranjan said that the minister had also asked the state government to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for working out the modalities to meet the maintenance cost of the projects after their execution on the basis of the PPP model. The clearance of these projects brings new hope for Varanasi, Allahabad and Kanpur, which are the worst in term of pollution despite being famous pilgrimage sites for millions of devotees. A large quantity of sewage is discharged directly from these cities into the river, as they have STPs with inadequate capacities. For instances, Varanasi has STP with capacity of 89 MLD as against the discharge of 228 MLD and Allahabad has a sewage treating capacity of of 102 MLD as against its discharge of 292 MLD. Likewise, Kanpur, which is a hub of leather and a variety of chemical and jute-based industries, can treat only 162 MLD sewage as against total production of 409 MLD. The remaining goes directly into the river. Apart from these, there are 23 other big and small cities responsible for contaminating the Ganga. Projects for these cities, Ranjan said, would also be prepared and and submitted before the Centre soon.

From INS Vikrant to IMS Vikrant

A full-fledged maritime museum aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier IMS Vikrant will finally see the light of day, with the Maharashtra state government likely to finalise the bids for the project by April. The government had announced a proposal to convert the Old Lady of the Indian Navy into a museum on the very day she was decommissioned, on January 31, 1997. Manukumar Srivastava, secretary, urban development and special projects said, “Five bidders—HCC Infrastructure Ltd, Srei Infrastructure Ltd, Kalpataru Power, Dhoot Developers and Zoom Developers— were asked to submit financial bids after they qualified in the technical bids round. The project is being executed on the build-own-transfer basis and financial bids will be finalised before April 2010.’’ Maharashtra Urban Infrastructure Development Company Limited (MUINFRA) is implementing the project. Ajay Saxena, public-private-partnership expert and officer on special duty, MUINFRA, said, “The successful bidders will be given six months to achieve financial closure. We will give a time-frame of 36 months to the succesful bidder to complete work on the project.’’ The ship will grouted off Oyster Rock near the Radio Club alongside the Gateway of India. “A 1.5 km road, including the jetty, will be constructed to provide access to visitors to the museum which will be located on Deck 3 of the ship. The project has been designed in such a way that the visitor will be straightway led to the maritime museum once he enters the ship,’’ an official said. The entire project is expected to cost approximately Rs 450 crore. And if all goes according to plan, the state government will not have to shell out any amount as viability gap funding for the project. Saxena said, “The bidders have been asked to submit two separate bids—for 35 years and 50 years. Bids for the 35-year-period will be opened first. A bidder willing to pay highest premium to the government, will qualify first for the project. If the bids are not satisfactory then bids for the 50-year-period will be opened. A bidder quoting a premium or seeking least sum of money as viability gap funding will have an edge in the qualification process.’’ The bidders are also expected to provide a modern security system, including a team to help evacuate people in an emergency or terrorist attack. The IMS Vikrant has 2.60 lakh sq. feet of space, of which 50,000 sq feet has been earmarked exclusively for the museum. The remaining space can be commercially exploited by the bidder. Artefacts for the museum will be provided by the Indian Navy. “The navy have agreed to upgrade their artefacts every three years so as to keep visitors interested in the project.’’ A study carried out by the CRISIL estimates nearly 2,500 visitors may visit the museum daily. Saxena further said, “The bidders will be allowed to commercially exploit the premises to earn revenue by opening retail outlets and eateries, with permission from the concerned department.’’ However, he clarified that the operator will not be allowed to open a casino or dance bar or anything prohibited by the law of the land.

The Old Lady’s Grand Journey: ‘IMS Vikrant’, formerly the British royal navy ship ‘HMS Hercules,’ formally joined the Indian fleet at Mumbai on November 3, 1961, when she was received at Ballard Pier by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other highranking dignitaries. The ship was bought by India in 1957, but for four years had to undergo refitting before being commissioned in the Indian Navy. Vikrant was India’s only aircraft carrier for over 20 years, but by the early 1990s she was effectively out of service because of her poor condition. Often referred as the Old Lady of the Indian Navy, Vikrant was decommissioned on January 31, 1997. The proposal to convert her into a museum was mooted by the state govenment on the day she was decommissioned. The 20,000-tonne aircraft carrier played a glorious role during liberation of Goa in 1962, Kutch operations in 1965 and the Indo-Pak war in 1971 that led to the liberation of Bangladesh.

New Uses For Old Warhorse:

Helipad Besides gaping at artefacts in the museum, tourists can get a taste of flying at the IMS Vikrant. Ajay Saxena, officer on special duty, MUINFRA said, “There are plans to start helicopter rides to add thrill quotient to the museum. Moreover, the government also intends to construct a heliport in South Mumbai. The flight deck on the ship can also be converted to provide parking facilities to firms keen on providing such services to corporate honchos and VIPs.’’ The operator will be allowed to fix the rate

Retail The operator can rent a section of the space on board of the ship for retail. High property prices and a space crunch have deprived South Mumbai of the mall boom. The abundant space on the ship could be ideal for retailers, especially those selling high-end goods. Says Saxena, “The population with perhaps the biggest purchasing power in India is located this side of town. But there is an absence of a proper shopping outlet in the vicinity. A large number of visitors to the museum may surely turn out to be potential customers, thus making this place even more vibrant’’

Entertainment A visit to the museum is an event people would like to make the most of. The ship provides options to start a theatre/auditorium onboard. Besides, the bidder could also cater to a young clientele by opening a gaming centre or a theme park. Another option to draw in the crowds of varied interests would be an art gallery, officials said

Luxury Clubs & Cafes Many Mumbaikars are keen to enrol as members of prestigous clubs but high membership fees and long waits have made these highprofile clubs virtually out of bounds. To address this need, the ship could host high-end clubs. Moreover, a part of the ship can be earmarked to provide recreating facilities like health spa, cafes, restaurants and lounge bars

Luxury Hotel & Multi-Purpose Hall There are few heritage luxury hotels in Mumbai, a market that begs to be explored. The government thinks there a large number of people who will be keen on staying in a warship at sea. Saxena said, “Occupancy levels are almost above 70% in South Mumbai hotels, so setting up a hotel on the ship can surely work. The bidder can also make use of the space for conventions, weddings and other parties. The flight deck is often used for hosting corporate events, dinner parties in many international warships’’

Shore based Radar system snippets

The pilot project on installation of shore-based radar system on Indian coastline to beef up external security has now reached a crucial stage after three months of its trials in Gujarat. If the remaining few deficiencies in it are removed then in all likelihood the shorebased radar system will be ready to be installed along the Indian coast by year-end. The government of India had decided to install shore-based radar system after the attack on Mumbai from the sea on 26/11 by Pakistani terrorists. The system will help identify ships and boats and capture their images up to 80 km from the shore even when poor visibility condition prevailed during night and amid inclement weather. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a public sector unit which is developing the system, is conducting trials of the pilot project at two lighthouses in Nabhadra and Dwarka in Gujarat. As part of the project, BEL engineers have set up huge frames on the two lighthouses. A high resolution electric optical system — camera — is also a component of the shore-based radar system. A control room has been set up at Porbandar station of Indian Coast Guard, which monitors the functioning of the system, which is capable of tracking the vessels of varied sizes and catch visuals with great details. Any number of moving vessels will be on the radar screen and anyone or anything that looked suspicious will be snapped with its minute details by the camera. Commander, Coast Guard region (North-West), Inspector General Satya Sharma, a communication system expert,said “The shore-based radar system when installed will improve the surveillance system. It will help us to physically scan the entire coast and spare some workload on the Coast Guard aircraft and ships which can be then used for a role as interceptors also. Though the trials of the pilot project are still on and satisfactory, Coast Guard has sought improvement in its certain features and in its range.”

Somewhere in Gujarat....

In a bizarre incident, a lion was axed to death by some villagers in the greater Gir concept area of Junagadh district . Before it was killed, the lion had attacked seven people, including three of its attackers, who were hospitalised after the incident, forest officials said. “It appears to be an act of self-defence,” said in charge deputy conservator of forests Anita Karne of Junagadh Sasan Gir. The lion, aged between three and five years, was first spotted near Chorvadi village, 4 km from Gir sanctuary. Deputy sarpanch Mahesh Baldaniya, 65, was attacked and injured on his leg by the lion, which then walked into a farm in Mandalpar village. On way, it reportedly attacked Chandu Chovadiya, 45, a farm labourer, Gopal Mor, 70, and a forest beat guard PD Gharsanda before it was found dead at 11am in the farm. Karne said, “Foresters found a felled tree next to the lion’s carcass. From the wounds it appears to have been attacked by a sharp object, possibly an axe, which cut the blood stream to the brain.” The attackers — Karim Pathan, 42, Salim, 32, and Abdullah Pathan, 45, all residents of Junagadh — are woodcutters. “Preliminary investigation suggests that these persons — labourers hired to fell trees before monsoon — were working when the lion attacked them,” Karne said, adding that the spot falls under the revenue area and not the sanctuary. It’s not yet certain how many woodcutters were present. In charge conservator of forests Sudhir Chaturvedi said, “This kind of a multiple attack on humans by a lion is extremely rare. It needs to be studied as to whether there was any provocation”.

Tree cover in Pune & Maharashtra

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) will launch a programme to plant saplings on the open plots owned by public institutions for free.Chief garden superintendent Bhanudas Mane said that the civic body has planned various initiatives to enhance the greenery in the city. “The garden department will plant saplings on the vacant plots of public institutions for free. In return, the institution has to protect the saplings and nurture them till they are full-grown trees,” said Mane. He said the civic body will issue an appeal where public institutions will be asked to participate in the drive. “The civic body will rope in various mandals and organisations to help its staff planting saplings. We will appeal to educational institutions to participate in the drive and tell the civic body about vacant plots available for plantation,” said Mane. The city has about 2,500 acres of land available for plantation. Of this, around 70 per cent is reserved and allocated for the joint forest management project. Around 987.5 acres belong to the forest department, while 812.5 acres is with the civic body. Much of this land has been encroached on. Green activists have sought action against illegal constructions on lands identified for bio-diversity parks with Green Pune Movement members urging the civic body to curb the illegal constructions. They are also concerned about the loss of green cover if mass transit projects like the metro rail are pushed through. The Environmental Impact Assessment and Management (EIAM) survey for the metro estimates the lopping off of about 685 trees in the first first phase of the project. “Development should not take a toll of the city’s lungs. The civic body should ensure that the green spaces in the city are protected. The city is already experiencing a rise in temperature due to heavy tree-cutting,” said Vijay Kumbhar of Surajya Sangharash Samiti . “The civic body is prepared to launch new programmes to protect the greenery in the city. At present, the tree census is on and by Mayend we are expecting a full report. We will then decide on the new policies and plans to increase the green cover in the city,” said civic tree officer Balasaheb Jagzap.
• Pune has 11.07 per cent of forest cover.
• Land available for plantation is 2,500 acres
• 70 % land reserved under joint forest management project
• 987.5 acres are under forest department control
• 812.5 acres are with the PMC
• The total area under forest cover in Pune is 1,732 sq km and includes 757 sq km of moderately dense forest and 975 sq km of open forest.
• Forest cover in Maharashtra is 50,650 sq km, that is 16.46 per cent of the total geographical area of the state. Vidarbha: 56% Western Maharashtra: 39% Marathwada: 5%

Dell starts PC exports from India

Dell has started exporting PCs from its plant in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Sources close to the company said Dell would be exporting several thousand desktop computers every quarter to the Middle East. Its Sriperumbudur plant has the capacity to make 1 million units a year. Vinnie Mehta, executive director in the hardware body Manufacturers Association of IT (MAIT), said if Dell indeed had started exports, this would be the first large PC brand to go into overseas markets. Other companies like Delhi-based Simmtronics Semiconductors have been making efforts to export PCs.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Chief Minister M Karunanidhi inaugurated the 1.1-km flyover at Perambur on Sunday. It is the longest flyover built above railway tracks in the city, besides being the tallest. The flyover will serve as a vital link between north Chennai and the rest of the city.

Agni-I test successful

The Agni-I ballistic missile, which has a strike range of 700 km, was test-fired from the Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast on Sunday morning. The test of the nuclear-capable Agni-I, which is capable of being fired from both road and rail mobile launchers, was significantly conducted by the tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC). Designed specifically for Pakistan, the Agni-I bridges the gap between the already-inducted 150-350 km range Prithvi missiles and the 2,000-km-plus Agni-II missiles. First test-fired in January 2002, Agni-I has already been inducted into the armed forces. Sunday’s test was described as “a training trial’’ to ensure the SFC can fire the missile on its own, without help from scientists. The missile, which is powered by a single-stage solid fuel rocket, was equipped with a new navigational technology which helps it to home on to the target with precision. Since Agni-I can be fired from both rail-based and road-mobile launchers, it gives the armed forces greater operational flexibility in its use. India hopes to test its most ambitious ballistic missile, the 5,000-km range Agni-V, by early next year.

Mumbai plans ahead

City planners are pushing to get several hundred acres of land for use, for low-cost housing, gardens and recreational spaces in a concept plan. They intend to accomplish this by utilising land of the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) and large industries like the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers at Chembur. According to senior government sources, now that a concept plan is being readied for the next 40 years, it is time that the BPT land is used. “The RCF, a large polluting industry, was set up on the outskirts of the city in 1961. But it is now time to relocate it to a rural area and use the land for low-cost housing as well as for garden spaces. The city should have service-oriented establishments and not huge industrial complexes.’’ The state government’s planning agency for the city—the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority(MMRDA)—had recently appointed a Singapore firm to chalk out the concept plan.”We have held discussions on this issue and under the broad framework, land should be utilised to promote holistic growth in the city. We have put up the issue before top officials of both the state and central governments as many large institutions like the BPT and RCF are centrally controlled.’’ The BPT is the city’s largest landlord with 46.30 hectares of land under its control and has a 135-year-old tradition. City planners and citizens’ groups have been talking of putting up the BPT land for public use for over a decade, but all attempts have been in vain. BPT chairman Rahul Asthana said he is opposed to such a move as over 50 million tonnes of cargo go through the port. According to government sources, with the development of the JNPT port and other smaller ports in the region, there is no need for Mumbai port to expand. Instead, its land can be used to address more pressing concerns of residents. Chairman of Bombay First, Narinder Nayar, who is on the empowered committee of the state government has been pushing for using land to keep the city green.”We have been asking the government not to allow the BPT to expand. Instead, its space should be used for recreational purposes and to create green areas,’’ he said. According to BPT officials, all the promises made by the state government to use port land for green spaces are unreliable.” Look what happened to the mills in Parel, how much of the space is going to be used for green areas or low-cost housing?,’’ they said.

Biometric Ration Cards

Maharashtra will be the first state in the country to introduce biometric ration cards this year. This move will hopefully restrict the use of bogus cards. “Maharashtra will be the first state to have biometric ration cards. It will help us curb the problem of bogus cards,” food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh said. The cards will have photographs and fingerprints of all members of a family so that only they can use it at rationing shops, the minister said. The state government is going to float the tender for the biometric system soon and within a year, 2.5 crore ration cards holders in the state would get biometric cards, Deshmukh said. Earlier, the state government had decided to computerise all ration cards with bar codes and had even invited tenders. However, these tenders have been cancelled to make way for the biometric system, which is more foolproof, he added. Last year, through a special campaign, the government weeded out 19 lakh bogus ration cards across the state. The campaign had been extended till March 30, Deshmukh said. The BPL (yellow card) and above poverty line (orange card) card holders are being scrutinised. White card holders or those who do not avail of foodgrain from the PDS have been excluded.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Indian laburnum can be seen blossoming throughout Mumbai. There’s even a road named after the tree.


Blaze in Kolkata

A woman is helped down after a fire broke out in Stephen Court, a 150-year-old six-storey building on Kolkata Street on Tuesday; fire tenders battle the blaze.Kolkata's iconic Flury’s confectionery house is located in this building.

Common metro network for NCR cities proposed

Much on the lines of the high-speed rail links between European cities, the National Capital Region (NCR) may soon get a common metro system covering Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP. The government has ordered a feasibility study for the Regional Rail Transit System (RRTS) and detailed project reports (DPRs) for two stretches — Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat and Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut. For the RRTS, the plan is to lay new railway lines parallel to the existing lines on which inter-city and long-distance trains operated by Northern Railways run. The lines will break near important cities and connect to the business centres, bus stations and other important points before joining back the main track. The trains running on the lines will be special too — designed for these corridors to give a fast, comfortable and smooth journey. The corridors will be linked to Delhi Metro, buses and cycles as feeder systems. ‘‘A special company will be formed by the ministry of urban development (MoUD), National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB) and the state governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan to implement this project. Of the three corridors planned, Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System (DIMTS) is making DPR for two corridors while Urban Mass Transit Company limited (UMTC) will be carrying out the study for the Delhi-Gurgaon-Rewari-Alwar corridor. The studies will be completed by March 2011,’’ said a DIMTS spokesperson. RRTS will be a dedicated suburban rail-based transit system like the EMUs. Said Rajeev Malhotra, chief regional planner, NCRPB: ‘‘It has been decided to undertake preparation of feasibility study and detailed project report (DPR) for the three corridors namely — Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut (67km), Delhi-Gurgaon-Rewari-Alwar (158km) and Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat (89km) — on priority basis. Total estimated length of the proposed three corridors is 314km. The project cost has been estimated at Rs 5,000 crore.’’ The routes were decided after MoUD and NCRPB conducted a study on Integrated Transportation Plan for the NCR, with a 2032 horizon. The study recommended a rail-based rapid transit system to solve the inter-city transportation issues.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Amitabh Bachchan on Wednesday graced a Congress function for the first time in quite some time when he turned up as the special guest at a ceremony to inaugurate the second leg of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Bachchan has been perceived to be close to the Samajwadi Party — his wife, Jaya, is still an MP of the party. More recently, he has shared the dais with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. On Wednesday, however, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, his deputy Chhagan Bhujbal and a host of state ministers rubbing shoulders with the superstar. In the evening, Chavan, wary of the fallout in Delhi, insisted he did not know Bachchan was the special guest. “I found Mr Bachchan there when I reached the venue,” he said.

Assam Rifles turns 175

The country’s oldest paramilitary force marked its 175th Raising Day at the Assam Rifles headquarters in Shillong on Wednesday. Assam Rifles is set to raise 26 new battalions this year, which will help build roads and infrastructure in the region. A document release on the occasion said: “The valiant saga of Assam Rifles is seamlessly intertwined with the unfolding history and development of India’s northeast frontier region. Since its humble birth in 1835 as a civil protection force, known as the ‘Cachar Levy’ during the British colonial rule, the Assam Rifles has metamorphosed into the country’s toughest paramilitary force, providing peace and political stability in the insurgency-ravaged region, as well as safeguarding its tenuous frontiers.”

Maharashtra gets a wishy washy budget

The bad performance of the Congress - NCP government continues.

Somewhere in Bengaluru....

It's election time...

Videocon rings in mobile services

The Videocon Group became the 13th mobile operator in India with launch of its GSM services in Chennai on Thursday. The group plans to roll out services in 100 cities and towns in the next 100 days and be a pan-India player by the end of September. “Although it may seem that the market is flooded with new players, the truth is that teledensity in India is still only 46%. So there is a large untapped market that we plan to target with our attractive plans,’’ said Venugopal Dhoot, chairman, Videocon Group. “With our target customer base of 100 million consumers, we want to be among the top three players in this market in the next three years.’’ Dhoot said the group “will invest Rs 14,000 crore over the next three years — Rs 7,000 crore has been allocated by SBI and the balance will come from equity and suppliers credit’’. The burgeoning mobile industry added 250 million subscribers in the last three years and is expected to touch 800 million by 2015. Playing on the price factor, Videocon plans to roll out a sub 1 paise tariff plan, the details of which are yet to be announced. “In this industry, you don’t make profits from day one. It’s a volume-driven business where value-added services too plays a significant role. Besides, the Videocon brand has always stood for value for money,’’ Dhoot said. “We hope to attract new users and once number portability comes in, we’re sure more people will migrate to our service.’’ Dhoot also said that the company has applied for 3G licence in about 20 circles. The company has access to around 70,000 towers in India — some company-owned, some shared — and eight call centres where customers can receive help in 15 languages. “We put our back-end in place before we launched. We will ramp up as our customer base increases,’’ said Dhoot. “We hope to break even in two years and then, we expect an internal rate of return of 20%.’’ The company has partnered with a host of companies like Nokia Siemens, Cisco, IBM, Wipro, Oracle, Unisys, Huawei, Amdocs, Gemalto, Avaya, Comverse, Acision and Comviva. The brand plans to set up 50,000 outlets within one year, including the group’s retail chains Next and Planet M. Videocon is eyeing the rural market: “That is where the numbers are. Besides, our brand recall is very high in these areas. We already have a strong network of service centres there,’’ said Dhoot. He is also open to the idea of doing a Sunil Bharti Mittal. “We are a strong company and when we spot an opportunity, maybe in two years or so, we would certainly consider it,’’ he said.

Food inflation at a 4-month low

Food inflation dropped to 16.22% for the week ended March 13, the lowest in four months, but the Reserve Bank of India could still raise rates for the second time in as many months in April to curb the impact of high food and fuel prices from spilling over to non-food items. Food inflation had last slipped to below 16% in the week ending November 15, 2009, when it had dropped to 15.58%, according to the provisional figures. It declined as the pace of rise in prices of potatoes slowed and other vegetables such as onions became cheaper. It came down 0.08 percentage points from the previous week’s level but is unlikely to prevent the headline inflation hitting the double-digit mark in March, up from 9.89% in February. During the week, petrol prices rose 16.82% while diesel turned costlier by 14.99% year-on-year, as the government restored customs on crude and raised excise duty on petrol and diesel.

Somewhere in Srinagar....

Srinagar’s tulip garden, Asia’s largest, was thrown open to the public.

Terror truth

David Coleman Headley has identified 5-6 Pakistan Army officers among the leaders of Karachi Project , which is aimed at organising attacks on India through fugitive Indian jihadis being sheltered in Karachi by ISI-Lashkar. Sources said that besides serving Majors Samir Ali and Iqbal of the Pakistan Army, Headley has told his FBI handlers about the role of one Colonel Shah and at least two other officers of the Pakistan Army in the Karachi Project. This disclosure demolishes Pakistan’s claim that terror against India being directed from its soil was limited to non-state actors. This came on a day home ministry sources disclosed that an NIA team preparing to leave for the US to question Headley will be accompanied by a magistrate. The magistrate will be sent when the US grants permission for direct access to Headley to record his statement under CrPC 164, which is admissible in an Indian court of law, sources said. The statement would be crucial when a chargesheet is filed against Headley.

Rupee surges to an 18-month high

The Indian rupee on Friday surged by 26 paise to touch an 18-month high against the US currency on persistent selling by banks and exporters amid sustained capital inflow into the domestic equity markets. In early trade, the rupee resumed lower at 45.52/53 per dollar, against its Thursdays closing level of 45.49/50 on some demand for dollars from banks following overnight rise in New York. However, it recovered sharply towards the fag end of the day to close at 45.23/24 per dollar, the highest in over 18 months, due to heavy selling of dollars.

Of Delhi & Mumbai....

Of all the big cities of the world, the rise of Delhi and Mumbai is the most dramatic growth story. By 2025, the two urban agglomerations will have 54 million residents between them. While Delhi did not even feature in the top 30 cities of the world in 1950, it is now the world’s second largest. Between 2000 and 2005, Delhi leapfrogged over Mumbai to become India’s largest urban agglomeration. Mumbai, which was the 17th largest city in 1950 will go from the world’s 4th to 3rd largest, overtaking Sao Paulo, over the next five years. The ‘UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Divisions 2009 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects’ shows that just as the 75 years between 1950 and 2025 are a story of the growth of cities in the developing world, particularly in India, they are also the story of the decline of Western cities. New York-Newark, the world’s biggest urban agglomeration in 1950, is now only the sixth largest and will drop to seventh by 2025. While the United States had eight of the world’s 30 largest cities in 1950, it now has three, Chicago and Los Angeles being the other two. The trend is even more pronounced in western Europe. London, the world’s third biggest city in 1950 now does not feature in the top 30 list. Paris is the only western European city still in the list, a far cry from 1950 when nine cities of the UK and western Europe were among the top 30. Tokyo, meanwhile, has consistently maintained its top positions.

Dhanush and Prithvi II test fired successfully

It was a red-letter day for the country on Saturday. Adding another feather in its cap, India for the first time successfully test-fired nuke-capable Dhanush and Prithvi-II missiles from two separate locations off the Orissa coast in the dawn hours. Earlier trials on the two missiles were either conducted during forenoon or afternoon. Defence sources said, while the ship-launched Dhanush missile was test-launched at 5.30 am from INS Subhadra positioned about 50 nautical miles from Puri coast, the surface-to-surface Prithvi-II was flight tested a few minutes later from the launching complex III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea. Both the indigenously developed missiles were tested in Salvo mode by the armed forces as part of the regular training exercise. The trajectories of both the missiles were monitored by a widespread tracking network consisting of radars, telemetry and electro-optical systems spread over land and sea. Both were text book launches and met all the mission objectives. All the mission sequencing events occurred as expected. “Advanced navigation and guidance systems were flight tested in this exercise,’’ said a defence official. Both the missiles are under production after successfully completion of developmental trials and have been inducted into the Armed Forces. The tests were carried out by Armed Forces while the DRDO scientists only oversaw the operations, the official said. Dhanush, the indigenously developed naval version of the Prithvi short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), has a striking range upto 350 km and can carry single warhead, conventional or nuclear up to 500 kg. Developed by the DRDO, the missile is about 8.53 metres in length and 0.9 metre in diameter besides its launch weight is about 4.4 tonnes. This single stage missile uses liquid propellant. It can be used as an anti-ship weapon as well as for destroying land targets depending on the range. The Prithvi-II is however the first missile developed under Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. It has the capability to carry 500 Kg of warhead. It has a length of nine meters with one metre diameter and launch weight about 4.6 tonne and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engine.


JAN 27, 1996: India conducts the first test flight of the Prithvi-II ballistic missile from the ITR at Chandipur-on-sea

MAR 2004: India test-fires an “improved’’ version of its Prithvi-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile with an extended-range of 250 km and “much higher accuracy,” according to a defence ministry official

NOV 19, 2006: Indian Army tests Prithvi-II missile from LC-III of the ITR

MAY 23, 2008: First Limited Stock Production (LSP) series test of Prithvi-II conducted from LC-III of the ITR OCT 12, 2009: Armed forces for the first time successfully test two nuclear capable Prithvi-II missiles in quick succession in salvo mode from two mobile launchers stationed in the ITR


APR 11, 2000: India conducts first test of the medium-range Dhanush missile, a naval version of the Prithvi from INS Subhadra, a Sukanya class patrol craft in Bay of Bengal. The missile was tested for 250 km range

NOVEMBER 2004: India test-fires the 350 km-range Dhanush missile, marking the induction of the system into the Navy. Dhanush is the naval version of the Prithvi-II

MAR 30, 2007: Navy personnel test Dhanush missile from a warship in Bay of Bengal to gauge the performance accuracy

DEC 13, 2009: Sixth test of the Dhanush missile conducted from INS Subhadra anchored in the sea


India gets Russian N-sub for 10 yrs

India will soon have a nuclear-powered attack submarine prowling deep under the seas. Away from the spotlight on nuclear power reactors, aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and MiG-29Ks, India and Russia quietly firmed up the 10-year lease of the K-152 Nerpa submarine during Russian PM Vladimir Putin’s visit here last week. With the final lease and training agreements now in place, India is dispatching a 50-member submarine crew, including 8-10 officers, to Russia to train on the Akula-II class nuclear submarine. The lease flows from a secretive agreement inked between New Delhi and Moscow in January 2004, with India funding part of Nerpa’s construction at Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard in Russia with an initial $650 million. Nerpa was to be inducted in Indian Navy as INS Chakra by mid-2008 but technical glitches delayed the process. Then, just as it began its sea trials in November 2008, 20 sailors were killed on it due to a toxic gas leak. After repairs, Nerpa is fully-operational now. India had also leased a ‘Charlie-I’ class Russian nuclear submarine from 1988 to 1991. That submarine, too, had been named INS Chakra but the expertise gained was steadily lost since India did not operate any other nuclear submarine thereafter. The over 12,000-tonne Nerpa in itself will, of course, not fulfil India’s long-cherished aim to have a credible nuclear weapon triad — the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea. While Nerpa is nuclear-propelled, it will not come armed with its long-range nuclear-tipped missiles due to international treaties like the Missile Technology Control Regime. But it will contribute in other ways. For one, it will train Indian sailors in the fine art of operating nuclear submarines. This will be useful when India’s own nuclear submarine, the over 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, becomes operational by 2011-2012. Two, Nerpa will be used to provide protection to INS Arihant, which will be the launch platform for nukes after it becomes operational. Armed as it will be with torpedoes and and 300-km Klub-S cruise missiles, Nerpa will be a silent, lethal hunter of enemy submarines and warships. Three, Nerpa will help India in its objective to have three SSBNs (nuclear-powered submarines with longrange missiles) and six SSNs (nuclear-powered attack submarines) in the long-term. Unlike conventional diesel-electric submarines which have to frequently surface to replenish oxygen to recharge their batteries, a nuclear-propelled submarine can operate underwater for virtually unlimited periods of time. Consequently, a SSBN or a ‘boomer’ is considered the most difficult-to-detectand-target platform for launching nuclear strikes.

India 2018

India will overtake China to become world’s fastest growing economy by 2018, says the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research arm of London-based Economist magazine. A higher percentage of working population gives India a demographic edge over China and this will ensure that India’s growth rate will continue to remain on the higher side, said Anjalika Bardalai, senior analyst at EIU. At present, China is the fastest growing economy in the world. Bardalai said considering strong fundamentals, “our long-range forecast suggests that India will sustain an average annual growth rate of 6.4% to 2030.’’ India will take the lead not because its growth rate is likely to attain doubledigit level, but due to the fact that China’s growth rate will moderate with development of its economy, she added. However, for the current financial year, Bardalai said Indian economy would only grow at 6.8%. But this is not comparable with the figure of 7.2% projected by the government as EIU has adopted a different methodology to calculate the rate. “Our projection is based on expenditure in the economy and is not on factor cost as done by the Indian government,’’ she explained. She said growth will pick up to 7.7% in 2010-11 and 8% in 2011-12. “Continued strong domestic consumption, spurred by rising income and a growing middle class, will be the primary drivers behind India’s growth. At the same time, high savings and investments will also help India achieve the higher growth rate.’’

PDS in shambles

The sale of foodgrains through the public distribution system (PDS) to poor families throughout the country at highly subsidised prices is stinking of corruption, hoarding and black marketing, the Supreme Court-appointed central vigilance committee said in its damning reports. After touring various states and scrutinising the operation of PDS system through fair price shops, the committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice D P Wadhwa used the following terminology for different states:
PDS in the state has collapsed (Rajasthan)
PDS system is glaring example of what the system ought not to be (Jharkhand)
Beneficiaries get ration of a month after a delay of 3-4 months (Bihar)
Fair price shop owners admitted they bribe officials concerned even to get FPS licence and pay monthly bribe (Gujarat)
Appointment of grain storage agents susceptible to political influence (Orissa)
Enforcement lax, collusion between officials, investigating agencies, dealers, wholesalers and other vested interests (Karnataka)
Foodgrain sold at excessive prices at the fair price shops (Uttarakhand)
But the most damning comments were reserved for Delhi, the national capital. Apart from terming the PDS as inefficient and corrupt, the committee said in its report to the apex court that “there is largescale diversion and black marketing of PDS foodgrain’’. “Subsidised PDS foodgrain does not reach the poor who desperately need the same. These poor people never get PDS foodgrain in proper quantity and quality. The fair price shop owner is aware of bogus/fake ration cards and uses these for black marketing of PDS foodgrain,’’ it said. It slammed officials of Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation and said there was rampant corruption in it. “Can anyone believe that the department is unaware of such gross malpractices and illegalities? The only explanation is all round complicity of fair price shop owners, transporters and corrupt officials of the department/ DSCSC,’’ said the reports, a compilation of which was handed over to a bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and K S Radhakrishnan by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves. Citing several first-hand instances of malfunctioning and corruption in the system, the committee said, “There is a thriving nexus between transporters, fair price shops and officials of the department including anti-hoarding cell and DSCSC.’’ Having read the report, the bench asked Gonsalves to suggest whether there could be an alternative to the existing PDS system or if it could be made efficient through corrective measures.


Facebook to setup shop in Hyderabad

In what is a major thumbs up for Brand Hyderabad’s image as a global IT destination, social networking site Facebook has announced plans to set up a centre in the city. Facebook, which at last count had more than 400 million active users globally including over 8 million in India, said it was setting up shop in Hyderabad in a bid to support the growing number of its users, advertisers and developers in India and across the globe. The Hyderabad centre, which incidentally will be Facebook’s first presence in Asia, will house online advertising and developer support teams and provide round-the-clock, multi-lingual support to the social networking sites users and advertisers globally, the company said. Though Facebook did not specify its India investment, hiring figures or the location of its office in Hyderabad, buzz has it that the company is set to log into a swanky address in the Hi-Tec City area that houses global IT giants like Google, Oracle, Dell and Computer Associates. On the other hand, the city’s Gachibowli area is home to biggies like Microsoft as well as homegrown IT biggies like Wipro and Infosys. However, the company said recruitments had already begun for a director of operations and other key positions in Hyderabad, which would supplement its operations in California, Dublin in Ireland as well as the recently announced location at Austin in Texas. Facebook’s global online operations director Don Faul said in a statement: “We expect our new office in Hyderabad to tap into the region’s strong pool of talented people who understand operations and technology and help us more effectively serve the needs of our users, advertisers and developers around the world.” Meanwhile, in his blog about Facebook’s India foray Faul wrote: “We are proud to call India’s ‘City of Pearls’ home. The new offices (Hyderabad and Austin) come at a significant time in our international growth. Seventy per cent of the people using Facebook are outside the US and are accessing the service from more than 70 languages. By having multiple support centres in a variety of time zones we can provide better round-theclock, multi-lingual support.” “In India alone, we’ve seen rapid growth and now have more than 8 million people there actively connecting on Facebook with their friends, family and other people they know, both within India and around the globe,” he blogged. Started in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg along with college roommates Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Huges and Eduardo Saverin from their dorm room in Harvard University, Facebook is currently headquartered out of Palo Alto, California and employs over 1,000 people. Apart from various US cities, Facebook also has centres in Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Sydney and Toronto. Incidentally, Microsoft had picked up a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million in October 2007.

It's Gudi Padva, Ugadi, Cheti Chand....

Perched high on a long bamboo stick, with a shining inverted copper pot decorated with a ‘swastik’ in vermilion, adorned with garlands of ‘gaathi’ (sugar crystals), mango and ‘neem’ leaves, silk cloth, the modest ‘gudi’ will herald the beginning of the Hindu New Year on Tuesday. The auspicious day of ‘Gudi Padwa’ gives much reason for families to come together and celebrate. People, young and old, set up the ‘gudi’ before sunrise, symbolising the beginning of the Hindu New Year,” says Dhruv Apte, a student, who makes it a point to attend the rituals related to ‘Gudi Padwa.’ “My family puts up the ‘gudi’ before sunrise. A prayer and ‘prasad’ follow. A feast of ‘shrikhand’ and ‘puri’ mark the gastronomic delights. Finally, the ‘gudi’ is taken off before sunset,” says Dhruv. Celebrated in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, among other states, ‘Gudi Padwa’ also marks the end of one harvest season and the beginning of a new one. It’s a common sight to see people buying sweets, ‘gudis’ and other paraphernalia to deck up their homes for the big day. And out come powdered colours to decorate the doorsteps with beautiful ‘rangoli’. “There’s no hard-and-fast rule related to ‘Gudi Padwa’ that my family follows. We get ‘neem’ and mango leaves from our neighbours. Each year, we hang a new saree my mother buys for the occasion. We also invest in some fixed asset every year, on this special day,” says Amruta Patwardhan, a resident of Kothrud. The ‘neem’ tree holds special importance because of its myriad medicinal properties. “It’s often advised to plant a ‘neem’ tree in one’s garden, as it a very good disinfectant and drives away pests,” says a resident of Sadashiv Peth. What Gudi Means
The long stick: Inspires you to think big, aim for the best
Silk cloth: Uphold values, keep reputation clean
Gathi: Talk sweet without ego hassles
Neem twig: Blend sweetness in speech with apt tartness
Flowers: Spread the essence of your integrity
Inverted vessel: Think wise, think logically

Nisha Chilaka remembers tying mango leaves and putting them up as well as making jaggery from sugarcane for Ugadi. “I grew up in Kolhapur in Maharashtra, and since both Marathi new year, Gudi Padwa, and Telugu new year, Ugadi, fall on the same day we celebrated both at home,” says the senior manager with Kailash Shipping Services. Today, after years of living in Chennai, Ugadi is no longer a melange of cultures. “I just go to the supermarket and buy the jaggery and other ingredients off the shelf,” she says. Though they may be away from home, Telugus and Kannadigas make sure they follow the customs, whether its greeting each other in a particular way or making traditional dishes. Both Telugus and Kannadigas prepare a sweet and sour mixture — bevu bella in Kannada and pachhadi in Telugu — which is the first thing they eat. “We greet each other, wishing that we only speak and act well during the rest of the year, and then eat the bevu bella made of neem and jaggery,” says Shubha Anand, a teacher from Mysore. The Telugu pachhadi is more elaborate, with neem flowers, jaggery, raw mango, banana, tamarind, salt and green chilli. “These different tastes signify the various emotions we will experience in the coming year,” says Jansirani, a housewife, who grew up in Vijayawada and has been living in Chennai for 33 years. This is followed by a huge lunch — for Kannadigas it includes a masala rice made with raw mango called mavinkaya chitranna, while Telugus have pulihora (tamarind rice), bobatlu (sweet poli), gaarul (jaggery vada) and attukulu payasam (rice flakes payasam). The panchagam or horoscope for the new year is read after the pooja and lunch. “This gives the forecast for the zodiac signs and the entire country,” says Nirmala Suri, who lives in Hyderabad but is in Chennai for Ugadi. “It’s a family festival but a really jolly one,” says Jansirani.
Cheti Chand or Chetti Chand is the Sindhi New Year Day celebrated on the second day of Cheti month (Chaitra month). Cheti Chand 2010 date is March 16, 2010. In 2010. This festival is similar to other Hindu New Year festivals like Ugadi (Telugu New Year and Kannada New Year) celebrated in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and Gudi Padwa (Marathi New Year) celebrated in Maharashtra. Cheti Chand is celebrated as a commemoration of birthday of Sindhi patron saint Jhulelal. On Cheti Chand Sindhi people celebrate their special rituals with utmost pomp and gaiety. Sindhi devotees carry Jhulelal devta to nearby lake or river along with Baharana Sahib (consists of Jyot, Mishri, Phota, Fruits, and Akha). On Cheti Chand day, when you want to wish a Sindhi a Happy New Year, then say ‘Cheti Chand jyon Lakh Lakh Wadayun Athav’, which means lacs of wishes for Cheti Chand.When he wants to reply, he says ‘Tohan khe bhi Cheti Chand jyon Lakh Lakh Wadayun Athav’, which means I wish you the same.