From Pakistan's point of view

Jaipur BRTS set to start

The much-awaited Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) “Jaipur Bus” will finally be inaugurated on Saturday. The service has gained a lot of public interest and a bit of protest during the trial run over the past few weeks. The project will be formally dedicated to the masses by the Union urban development minister Jaipal Reddy at a ceremony at Sikar Road in Muralipura. The project inauguration has been delayed by nearly two years following the change in government. The “in-principle approval” of Rs 469 crore was given by the Centre in August 2006 for the completion of 42 km of BRTS. The bus service was initially decided to be held on a public-private partnership basis. However, the urban development ministry decided to hand it over to the Rajasthan Roadways. Only a fraction of it has been developed while the dedicated corridors previously developed on Tonk Road were demolished and work on Durgapura elevated road has not progressed.“In the first phase, a dedicated corridor of 7.1 km has been developed from Sikar Bypass to Ambabari. Rs 65 crore has been spent for this stretch,” said the Jaipur development commissioner Sudhansh Pant. The urban ministry had sighted various flaws in the project sanctioned by the previous government and the scheme was “revamped.” As the project is funded under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the Central government officials have also compelled the state to implement the project as soon as possible. Previously, BRTS was expected to be ready by December 2008. After several “hiccups,” the low-floor buses began plying on the roads of Pink City since June 2010 under the banner of “Jaipur Bus.” The state government has constituted a special purpose vehicle, the Jaipur City Transport Services Limited (JCTSL) to implement the project. After introduction of “Jaipur Bus,” the JCTSL will takeover the scheme of government buses in the city. Nearly 200 buses are expected to be deployed on 10 routes in the city, a high tech tracking system will also be introduced to monitor movement of buses and provide better connectivity. Special plans have been made to develop busstops. To provide more information regarding the bus system, the JCTSL has organised an exhibition at the Central Park. This will be inaugurated by Reddy at 12:45 pm on Saturday.

TRS sweeps byelections

Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao has every reason to smile. The Telangana agitation spearheaded by his TRS received an overwhelming endorsement when his party swept to an epoch-making victory in 11 seats, while his new political ally, the BJP, won the Nizamabad urban constituency. As Rosaiah’s Congress and Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP nurse their wounds given the drubbing they received in the bypolls, the results of which were announced on Friday, it has emerged doubly clear that the nearly four crore populace of the region would settle for nothing less than a new Telangana state. While the impressive win of TRS would enhance KCR’s standing in the region as a satrap championing the T-cause, both Congress and TDP have much to ponder over. “It’s a vote for commitment more than the sentiment,” was how KCR’s son and Sircilla candidate K Tarakarama Rao put it after his victory. The ruling Congress suffered a major setback with the party state unit president D Srinivas losing the Nizamabad Urban seat by 11,981 votes to BJP’s Yendala Lakshminarayana. While DS was smarting under a second successive defeat in more than a year, TRS candidates scored impressive victories in Siddipet, Dharmapuri, Vemulawada, Chennur, Mancherial and Sirpur seats. KCR’s nephew and TRS candidate Tanneeru Harish Rao coasted to victory in Siddipet by a margin of 95,000 votes, while Ch Ramesh emerged victorious in Vemulawada by a big margin of 50,361 votes. The results in five seats — Warangal West, Yellareddy, Huzurabad, Sircilla and Korutla — where ballot boxes were used as there were more candidates than the electronic voting machine (EVM) could list trickled in late. In these seats also, TRS candidates scored emphatic wins. The TRS spared no effort to win the 10 seats it had resigned knowing well that any setback would severely dent KCR’s standing in the region. “This result is a big political boost for KCR,” a political analyst said. Before the votes were cast on July 27, the TRS chief had said: “All 12 Congress candidates, including DS, should lose their deposit. Only then will Sonia Gandhi realise the heat of Telangana sentiment.” Indeed, Friday’s verdict said it all as political pundits observed that the results cannot be passed off as a ‘TRS demand for separate Telangana’ only. The groundswell of support for TRS and separate statehood cause would do well pave the way for TRS to sell the T-line to the Centre that sentiment does run deep and that formation of separate Telangana is the larger aspiration of the people. “This is a victory of Telangana sentiment. We dedicate this victory to all those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of separate Telangana,” Harish Rao said. He added, “this should be a message to the Centre. They should immediately form separate Telangana state.”

Minjur desalination plant to open today

After an inordinate delay, the much-awaited desalination plant at Minjur, which will supply 100 million litres a day (MLD) of potable water to meet the growing water requirements of Chennai city, is all set to be inaugurated by Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi on Saturday.The Rs 600-crore desalination plant at Minjur in north Chennai, said to be the largest such facility in South Asia, will supply water to the Chennai Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Supply Board (CMWSSB) at a rate of Rs 48.74 per 1,000 litres. The plant will cater to the needs of the industrial belt and areas surrounding the Minjur aquifer in north Chennai.
The plant would be operated for 25 years on a DBOOT (design, build, own, operate and transfer) basis by Chennai Water Desalination Ltd (CWDL), a special purpose vehicle incorporated by IVRCL Infrastructures and Project Ltd in partnership with Befesa Agua, Spain, before it is handed over to the CMWSSB. A bulk water
purchase agreement was signed between the CWDL and CMWSSB in September 2005 for the implementation of the project. The plant, which was originally scheduled for commissioning in 2008, suffered a delay due to various reasons, including rough sea conditions, change of government in the state and cyclone Nisha. The delay had cost the company Rs 60 crore more, IVRCL managing director S Ramachandran said. The conversion rate of the plant, which uses reverse osmosis (RO) technology for desalination process, was 45%. The plant had already begun commercial operations on July 23, he said. Describing the project as “challenging,” Ramachandran said the Maharashtra government had evinced interest in setting up a similar plant in that state and had deputed a team of officials to the Minjur plant for a study.Though the project was originally conceived by the earlier AIADMK government, it gained momentum only after the DMK assumed power in 2006.
A second desalination plant with a similar capacity is being set up at Nemmeli on the East Coast Road by VA Tech Wabag in partnership with IDE Technologies, Israel. The plant is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2011. The CMWSSB has chosen public sector undertaking Mecon Limited for the management and supervision of the project till its completion.The process of desalination involves drawal of sea water by gravity from an intake tower erected 635 metres from the shoreline, and putting the sea water through pre-treatment, followed by a three-stage filtration. The main treatment involves pressurising the water and sending it through a sequence of membranes. The plant has a set of five reserve osmosis modules, each producing 20 MLD of desalinated water. The desalinated water is treated and disinfected before being supplied to the city.

China becomes world's second largest economy

China has overtaken Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy, the fruit of three decades of rapid growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Depending on how fast its exchange rate rises, China is on course to overtake the US and vault to the No.1 spot in 2025, according to projections by the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and others. China came close to surpassing Japan in 2009 and the disclosure by a senior official that it had now done so comes as no surprise. Indeed, Yi Gang, China’s chief currency regulator, mentioned the milestone in passing in remarks published on Friday.“China, in fact, is now already the world’s second largest economy,” he said in an interview with China Reform magazine.Cruising past Japan might give China bragging rights, but its per capita income of about $3,800 a year is a fraction of Japan’s or America’s. “China is still a developing country, and we should be wise enough to know ourselves,” Yi said, when asked whether the time was ripe for the yuan to become an international currency. China’s economy expanded 11.1% in the first half of 2010, from a year earlier, and is likely to log growth of more than 9% for the whole year, according to Yi. China has averaged more than 9.5% growth annually since it embarked on market reforms in 1978. But that pace was bound to slow over time as a matter of arithmetic, Yi said. If China could jack up an annual growth of 7-8% this decade, that would still be a strong performance. If China can keep up a clip of 5-6% a year in the 2020s, it will have maintained rapid growth for 50 years, which Yi said would be unprecedented in human history. The economic ascent, which saw China overtake Britain and France in 2005 and Germany in 2007, is translating into clout on the world stage. China is a leading member of the G20 rich and emerging nations, which since the 2008 financial crisis has become the world's premier economic policy-setting forum.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

A tree has taken root in the chimney of Swan Mills in Sewri

Navi Mumbai Metro plan finally on track

Finally, Navi Mumbai’s much-touted Metro rail project has been flagged off. On Thursday, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) floated the tender, seeking the participation of multinational agencies to monitor the planning of Metro as well as its designing, execution, operation and maintenance. The agency has decided to start the construction by January 1, 2011. A week earlier, the Cidco had “indicated’’ its plans to go ahead by putting up signages, demarcating the first Metro route in the satellite town. However, officials were taken aback by the promptness of the government ageny, which on Thursday unveiled the plans by making a global appeal through international media, inviting consultants to plan, execute, operate and maintain the first line of the Metro that will pass between Belapur and Pendhar near Taloja MIDC, a distance of 10.76 km. The total cost has been estimated at around Rs 1,800 crore. The Cidco will spend Rs 800 crore to lay the tracks and build the stations, while the rolling stock—trains and the signalling system—will be run and maintained by another company, which is an expert in Metro operations. The route will pass through 11 stations, most of which will be set up in Belapur and Kharghar, including the areas near the upcoming golf course and central park along the Pandavkada hills.“We plan to build the viaduct (the civil construction) as well as the stations and award the contract to run the trains to experts,’’ said Cidco’s acting managing director (MD) Tanaji Satre. According to him, the execution of the second 8-km phase between Pendhar and the proposed airport via Kalamboli, Panvel and Khandeshwar will also be started soon. “We want the MIDC to tie up with Cidco for the second line. Once they confirm their participation, we will start its execution,’’ Satre added. Cidco’s additional chief engineer Bipinchandra Mehta said the last date for receiving the bids from consultants for the first line has been fixed as September 14. “Later the planning and designing of Metro and selection of contractors for via-duct would be done. For now, we have decided to start the construction from October, but if it does not work out, we will surely begin work by January 1, 2011. The Metro operator will be decided upon later,’’ said Satre. According to Mehta, the number of passengers travelling in a particluar direction during the peak hour (peak hour per direction traffic) is expected to be around 11,000 and the tariff will be almost double the bus fare for the same distance. The trains, which will run at a speed of maximum 80 km per hour, will initially have three coaches with a capacity of 200 passengers and will be increased to six, depending on the commuter response. “Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) officials have told us that due to poor transport system in the area, the Metro will come as a huge help. It will help the development of the areas in future,’’ added Satre.

Eastern Freeway update

Mumbai's Eastern Freeway project connecting the island city with Anik in Wadala received a leg-up when the Centre allowed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to use a 3.26-hectare salt pan land for it. The decision was taken in the group of ministers (GoM) meeting in New Delhi on Friday. The project had earlier run into a road block when two salt pan owners refused to let MMRDA use their land for the construction of a 700-m stretch of the road link. Chief minister Ashok Chavan, who presented the MMRDA’s case at the GoM meeting said, “The GoM has cleared a stretch of salt pan land for the Eastern Freeway project.’’ However, the dispute over releasing salt pan lands for the rehabilitation of slum dwellers remained inconclusive, said a source. The 11.93-km Eastern Freeway, which starts at P D’Mello Road, passes through the BPT road that runs parellel to the docks. Most of the stretch is elevated. Once completed, the travel time from CST to Anik will be 20 minutes and it will mostly cater to dock traffic. Principal secretary of the urban development department T C Benjamin said, “A 700-m stretch of the freeway passed through Datkhudai and Hormuz salt pans. These salt pans had been leased by the salt commissioner (Union industrial policy and promotion department) and the lessees had obtained a permanent injunction from the high court against the acquistion of the land. So, after taking legal opinion, we decided to approach the Centre, which owns the land. The MMRDA needs a patch of 3.26 hectares for the project and we will soon get it,’’ said Benjamin. Officials said the salt pan lease expired in 1962, but the HC stay had permitted them to use the land. According to him, now that the missing link has been found, work on the four-lane road will be completed by June 2011. The project was estimated to cost Rs 350 crore when the MMRDA approved it, but now, it will cost around Rs 531 crore. Unlike the sea link, which costs at least Rs 50 as a toll, travelling on the freeway will not require any such charge.


Centre will overcome Naxal menace within 3 years

Amid unabated Naxal violence in states with certain reports even indicating the Maoists’ presence in urban areas posing serious threats to various cities, the Centre said it was confident of overcoming the ultra Left problem in the “next three years” through its existing two-pronged policy — development and police action — to deal with the menace in the affected areas.
Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee for the ministry of home affairs, home minister P Chidambaram said the government was confident that the problem of Left wing extremism would be dealt with “determination” and “overcome” in the next three years”.
After listening to the MPs — cutting across party lines — who are learnt to have unanimously endorsed home minister’s view on the two-pronged policy and pitched for “stricter” police action, Chidambaram said while the Central government acknowledged that the primary role and responsibility was that of states in enforcing law and order in confronting the challenge of Left wing extremists, it also recognised its responsibility in assisting the states in every way.Chidambaram said the Centre was assisting the states by providing paramilitary forces, sharing intelligence and funding both development schemes and security needs.

Food inflation in single digits

For the first time this year, food inflation shrunk to single digit at less than 10% in the week ended July 17, providing the government a much-needed shield to ward off concentrated Opposition attack in and outside Parliament over rising food and fuel prices.Continuing its downtrend for the second week in a row, the index slid 2.8 percentage points in the week under review from 12.47% in the preceding week. If the trend continues, it will also help headline inflation to cool and ease pressure on further tightening of key rates.The latest slide, greatly due to high base affect, has been driven by falling prices of vegetables, especially potato and onion. This is the first time food inflation has come down to single digit since the government started giving separate figures for primary articles in November 2009. Thursday's data still shows pulses, milk and fruits becoming costlier by 21.23%, 19% and 12.14%, respectively, from a year-ago period.


Fifth tiger relocated to Sariska reserve

Nearly a week after a tiger was relocated from Ranthambore to Sariska, yet another big cat was brought to the reserve on Wednesday. The two-and-a-half year old female tiger becomes the fifth occupant of the vast forest as two males and two females had already shifted there over a period of two years.Wednesday’s relocation took place amid rain just like the first relocation that took place nearly two years back.
This time, the relocation was not without any hitch. The female tiger, T-44, from the Gilai Sagar area in Khandar range of Ranthambore, was tranquillised around 11.30 am. Unlike the previous relocation — when officials preferred the route route — an IAF helicopter was used as was done in the three other shiftings earlier.
Inclement weather prevented the chopper from taking off in Jodhpur and later at Jaipur where it landed for fuelling. Later on its landing at Sariska, the wait for the tiger’s release at the temporary enclosure stretched on as weather played truant again. “She is the last one to be relocated in the first phase of this exercise. We will not be shifting any more cats to Sariska in the next two years. After that, a male and a female tiger would be relocated every two years,” said K Shankar, a scientist of Wildlife Institute of India (WTI) in Dehradun. According to him, two years later, the tigers to be brought to Sariska may not be from Ranthambore. Instead they might be from Madhya Pradesh. “What we might try out is to get male tigers shifted out of Ranthambore in a bid to stabilise the sex ratio which is currently a skewed one. We would send these males to Madhya Pradesh and get female tigers from there,” he added.
In the meantime, the five cats at Sariska will be closely monitored. Not only security has been increased at the park, all the animals are also wearing a radio collar. “If the tigers breed, the results should be out in the next three months. This reserve can hold about 15 tigers,” Shankar said.

Cameron arrives

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived with the biggest ever British delegation in independent India to engage with PM Manmohan Singh, on three ‘‘areas of priority’’ — security and terror, economic ties and global warming. A day ahead of his meeting with Singh, Cameron set the right tone in Bangalore when he warned Pakistan against promoting any ‘‘export of terror’’ to India or elsewhere. But he would be required to go beyond generalities in the talks and address the resentment in New Delhi. The British have a plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in the next five years.Still, by saying what he has said on Pakistan’s export of terror, according to officials in India, Cameron may have preempted Singh who is expected to make the same points forcefully in his meeting with Cameron who is seeking to build a ‘‘new special relationship’’ with India. Cameron’s remarks in his interaction with reporters on Infosys campus in Bangalore came against the backdrop of US documents leaked to Internet whistleblower site WikiLeaks accusing ISI of secretly helping the Afghan insurgency even while acception aid worth billions for fighting terror. Cameron also said he is going to discuss with Singh the “leakage” of funds given to Pakistan by the US and UK. Meanwhile, India said on Wednesday that the controversial UK proposal to restrict non-EU emigration to UK will also be taken up in Cameron’s meeting with Singh. On business, Cameron believes that India could ease up certain restrictions that still impede investments. He feels that companies like Vodafone, which have made huge investments here, are being hit by a skewed tax regime and this was discouraging British investors. The delegation will also make a pitch for opening up the retail sector. On climate, the British PM is expected to goad India to take on higher committments on emission control and point out that when the Kyoto protocol was signed a number of countries were still economic laggards. Now these countries have grown and, in aggregate terms, responsible for a large proportion of global emissions. He is also expected to pledge a serious cut-back on emissions by the developed economies. While India and UK have historical linkages spanning over 300 years, the two countries will for the first time sign an MoU on culture on Thursday. With two-third of Company Paintings in Britain both the countries would like to come together to digitise them so that the world at large can access the entire collection. Both the countries also want to come together to fill gaps in their Persian and library collections. Similarly, India Office Records, 1857 papers, diary of nationalist leaders and viceroys could be shared. Britain is likely to announce on Thursday a 45-million pound research grant that can be used by Indian research students.

Nuclear liability bill

With the fate of civil liability for nuclear damage bill getting enmeshed with stalemated ties with Left and fresh hostilities with BJP, the government is open to defining responsibilities for a nuclear accident more closely. The government is open to inserting clauses that will cover eventualities like accidents during transport of nuclear materials or in their handling at domestic and even foreign ports. It may also examine whether liability needs to be more carefully defined in case the operator of a nuclear power plant is a public sector joint venture where one may have a private equity. The standing panel on science and technology is expected to finalise its views on the bill by August 5 or so and it is bound to be accompanied by dissenting notes. The government is being careful over any commitments on increasing the compensation cap.Though it seems that section 17 (b) that deals with liability of a foreign supplier will be retained despite initial efforts to delete it, the government will not accept any fundamental changes in the bill.

Government gives ultimatum to Blackberry

India wants Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry, to address its security concerns or face closure. Essentially, the government wants the handset maker to allow it to set up a monitoring facility here with access to its encryption technology, which it needs for security reasons.This is the second time that the Centre has threatened to block BlackBerry’s operations. In the earlier instance, tensions were defused after RIM agreed to provide its encryption code to security agencies who have to monitor the chatter among increasingly techsavvy terrorists. The government’s fresh warning has come after reports that RIM was ready to set up a server in China to address Beijing’s security concerns.The home ministry has asked the department of telecommunication (DoT) to check the veracity of the China reports and press RIM to do the same in India. According to security agencies, the move will help India monitor email and SMS traffic on these popular phones. Under the current system, Indian agencies have to approach RIM every time there is a need for access, which is time-consuming and ultimately, they feel, counterproductive. Sources in the government say that security agencies have reasons to resent their inability to access the details of BlackBerry subscribers because of their experience with the satellite phone Thuraya. Thuraya’s refusal to share its codes with Indian agencies has encouraged J&K terrorists and 26/11 plotters to exploit the chink. The home ministry made it clear that RIM was addressing the security concerns of several other countries, including the US, where it operates and there was no justification in not complying with Indian norms.RIM is facing a similar problem in the UAE where authorities are asking for a similar access because their security legislation is incompatible with the firm’s encryption techniques.

Multidimensional Poverty Index


TN to issue biometric ration cards

Tamil Nadu will be the first state to introduce biometric ration cards in India. The state food department is gearing up for issuing biometric ration cards to all the 1.97 crore ration card holders in Tamil Nadu latest by June 2011. Through an external agency, it would carry out door-to-door data collection for this purpose, said a highly placed source in the government. These cards will have details like photos, prints of all fingers and high-resolution images of the iris (pattern-recognition techniques are used to identify high-resolution images of the iris, which is unique to every individual) of all the members in the family who are above three years of age. Iris identification technology is considered far superior to fingerprint technology in eliminating duplication. At present, ration cards carry only photos of heads of families.
Based on a request from the state government, the central government has also offered to fund 50% of the biometric ration card project, which is expected to cost roughly Rs 300
crore. Union home minister P Chidambaram, in a letter sent to chief minister M Karunanidhi recently, expressed Centre’s willingness to part-fund the state government project. A cost-sharing formula is being worked out because the Census Commissionerate and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) also need the same biometric database (of people above 15 years of age) for issuing unique identification number (UID) and citizen’s identity cards. Instead of duplicating the effort, these agencies have chosen to accept Tamil Nadu government’s offer to share the data.
But contrary to what other states — which would collect biometric data from the UIDAI and Census Commissionerate — would do, in the case of Tamil Nadu, the state would provide such data to the two central agencies.
Since the central government has engaged Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for collecting and processing biometric data for the UID, the state government is also working out modalities to entrust the works with the same agency, the official said.A formal agreement between the Census Commissionerate and the state food department to work jointly on the biometric data collection is expected to be signed early August.

India tests defence missile

India tested its fledgling ballistic missile defence (BMD) system once again taking another small step towards building a fully operational missile shield for vital areas and installations in the country. This was the fifth test of the two-tier BMD system, designed to track and destroy incoming hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth’s atmosphere. The test saw an “enemy’’ missile being “successfully neutralised’’ by an endo-atmospheric interceptor, or an antimissile missile, at a 15-km altitude over the Bay of Bengal off Orissa’s coast. But DRDO still has a long way to go. Before Monday, it had managed to conduct only four tests of the BMD system over the last four years. The first three tests in November 2006, December 2007 and March 2009 were dubbed successful, killing as they did “enemy’’ missiles at altitudes of 48 km, 15 km and 80 km. But the fourth, on March 15 this year, had to be aborted midway after technical glitches.For one, the BMD system will first have to be tested for a variety of flight envelopes. For another, it’s yet to be tested in an integrated mode, with both the two-stage exo and single-stage endo interceptors together. The aim, after all, is to obtain a kill probability of 99.8% by first intercepting the enemy missiles outside the atmosphere and then engaging the ‘leakers’ inside. But DRDO, as is its wont, proclaims Phase-I of the BMD system, with interceptors which can fly at 4.5 Mach highsupersonic speeds to intercept enemy missiles with a 2,000-km strike range, will be ready for deployment by 2012. DRDO says work on Phase-II has begun to develop capabilities to intercept even near-ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). As per plans, Phase-II will tackle 5,000-km range missiles with interceptors at hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach. The reality, however, is that it will take years for India to erect an effective missile defence shield. Even American, Russian and Israeli missile defence systems are not considered 100% foolproof as of now. But all this does not detract from the complex project undertaken by DRDO. With seamless networks of advanced early-warning and tracking radars, robust command and control posts, and land and sea-based interceptor batteries, BMD systems have to swiftly detect, track and destroy incoming missiles.

Ahmedabad BRTS a success story

Right from concept to the unique marketing strategy of giving free rides in the first three months, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) has been different. According to Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited(AJL) authorities, the free trial runs were part of a participatory development approach, a kind of social marketing strategy to let public adopt the transport project and it was successful in changing the travel pattern of the city. In a survey conducted by CEPT University on Janmarg in month of April, 2010, it revealed that 56.9 percent commuters use the BRTS service for travelling to their workplaces, 25.8 per cent passengers for social work and rest for educational purposes. Municipal commissioner IP Gautam said BRTS was put in public domain inviting people to participate and give their feedback. “The free trial runs for three months and idea of bringing professionals from different backgrounds for a test ride during initial phase did wonders,” said Gautam. According to him, the trial strategy was meant to popularise the project and get user response at the same time.During the initial months of operation, AJL authorities organised a dedicated BRTS tour especially for city-based industrialists, doctors, chartered accountants, religious heads, politicians, police officers, physically challenged children, among others. Chief planner of Janmarg and associate director, CEPT University, Prof Sivanand Swamy opined, “These tours gave people a chance to get a feel of the new mode of transport. The innovative exercise helped in creating word-of-mouth publicity about the service.” BRTS has broken the class barrier with an entire mix of people from different socio-economic backgrounds using it for commuting, he added. Now, Ahmedabad has joined the esteemed list of cities, including Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Santiago, Lima, Beijing, Taipei and Hanoi, which have a BRTS system, that has proved a hit with the masses.

SKS Microfinance IPO

The nation’s largest microfinance company SKS Microfinance fixed the price band of its IPO at Rs 850-985 per share. The Hyderabad-based microfinance firm expects to raise up to Rs 1,654 crore through the initial public offering, which opens on July 28.At the upper end of the price range, the issue is valued at Rs 1,654 crore, while at the lower it would be able to fetch about Rs 1,427 crore. SKS is coming out in the capital market with a total issue size of 1.6 crore equity shares of Rs 10 each. The IPO closes on July 30 for institutional buyers and August 2 for retail and High Networth Individuals.SKS Microfinance’s public issue will the first such offer by any microfinance company in the country.The proceeds from the IPO would be used for meeting the company’s future capital requirements. Founded by Vikram Akula, SKS Microfinance has a customer base of around 53 lakh. The non-banking firm is backed by several big private equity players, including Sequoia Capital-India.

Moody’s hikes local currency bond rating

Global ratings major Moody’s Investors Service upgraded India’s local currency government bond rating by one notch to ‘Ba1’ from ‘Ba2’, but left it just below the investment grade, ‘Baa3’. The move signifies greater confidence in the economy and is expected to give more comfort to foreign investors and funds looking to invest in India. This could also strengthen the rupee against other currencies and bring in more foreign capital. Moody’s also left the outlooks on the local currency rating and the foreign currency sovereign rating unchanged at ‘positive’ and ‘stable’, respectively. This comes at a time when a number of European nations are facing sovereign ratings downgrades due to weak economic condition. The move by Moody’s, although seen as long overdue by analysts, has a silver lining. The release from the ratings major said that if the inflationary pressure in India eases and the government is able to improve the current fiscal situation, Moody’s will consider upgrading India’s local currency ratings to ‘Baa3’, the same rating its foreign currency enjoys. “These developments would underpin the government’s structural reform programme and improve its local currency creditworthiness,’’ the Moody’s release said. Moody’s said there were four major reasons for the upgrade, the most important being a wide range of “institutional and structural reforms whose deepening, over time, will result in gradual improvements in the government’s financial strength, support fiscal credibility, and improve economic resilience.’’


GST update

It is now almost certain that goods and services tax, which is to replace existing VAT, service tax, excise duties and central sales tax among others, will be in place from April 1 next year. The Centre and states have arrived at a broad consensus on rolling out independent India’s biggest tax reforms that will simplify how goods and services are taxed for corporates, small enterprises and traders.
Under the GST regime, there will ultimately be a flat tax rate of 16% — 8% for central GST and 8% for state GST. Now, the combined state and central levies go up to 30% on some items. The unified rate will mean taxes on these will effectively come down, but service tax, now at 12%, will go up to 16%.

Flat Rate
GST to start as dual rate with components of central and state levies
In first year, 2011-12, central GST to be 10% standard rate, with 6% on essential goods. Services to be taxed at 8%. State GST likely to be at same levels
In second year, standard rate to come down to 9% each for Centre and state, rest unchanged
In third year, combined 16% GST for Centre and states
Current taxes on goods add up to 30% in some cases. So most goods should ultimately become cheaper
But services, now taxed at 12%, will attract higher tax

The proposed reforms will not only integrate the country economically but should also ensure cheaper goods once the multiple tax structure is abolished. Almost all states have agreed to the proposed GST implementation from April 1, 2011. This is to streamline the movement of goods and services across India with a single tax structure.FM Pranab Mukherjee has proposed a three-year timeline to fully implement the GST. FM has set a deadline of
August 20 for states to give their final consent on the new duty structure and all other pending issues.

The Centre and states have agreed on
Article 246A to be introduced through Constitutional amendment that would give Parliament & state assemblies power to levy GST
Constitution to be amended by introducing Article 279A that will provide for creation of a GST council. Headed by FM, council will have state FMs as members
Article 279B to be introduced through Constitutional amendment making a provision for dispute settlement authority. To consist of a chairperson and 2 members to be appointed by chief Justice
GST to be defined under Article 366(12)A

rchitecture :
IT architecture with a common GST portal: All taxpayers will now directly pay tax with the GST portal; existing structures to be used for audit &enforcement issues
To create a special purpose vehicle (SPV): SPV will be responsible for running the GST portal. State, Centre & a technology company will be partners in the SPV
National Information Unit to be technology partner and IT company NSDL, with VAT experience likely to be selected to rollout and run the GST architecture

The timeline

July 25, 2010 : A empowered group on IT to be set up with 5 members from states & 1 representative each from Centre & from tech partner
August 20, 2010 : Deadline for states to give final shape to all issues. FM to move GST Bill to Parliament on Aug 27

September 30, 2010 :
All SPV task groups to submit their reports to FM
December 1, 2010 : Trial begins for taxpayers’ interface on GST portal
April 1, 2011 : GST to be implemented

Somewhere in Kashmir....

Jawans celebrate ‘Vijay Diwas’ in Drass near Srinagar

The Sohrabuddin story so far....

1995 : Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s name figures in the Gujarat police records in connection with the recovery of firearms and explosives from MP’s Jharania for the first time
1995 : ATS arrests Sohrabuddin. Sentenced to five years of imprisonment
2004 : Firing at office of Popular Construction in Navrangpura. Investigations revealed Sohrabuddin and 11 others as accused
Dec 31 : Udaipur gangster Hamid Lala killed by Sohrabuddin and his men
2005 : Marble traders of Rajasthan hold a meeting and offer a hefty reward for putting an end to Sohrabuddin’s terror
2005 : Top politicians and senior cops of Rajasthan and Gujarat join hands for contract-killing of Sohrabuddin

Nov 26 :
Sohrabuddin killed in fake encounter
Nov 28 : Sohrabuddin’s wife Kauserbi killed
Dec : Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabuddin files an application with the CID (Crime), Gujarat, seeking to find his missing sister-in-law,Kauserbi
2006 : He files a writ petition in SC. CID (Crime), Gujarat, starts investigations into the case

Dec :
CID reports to the SC that Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter and his wife Kauserbi too was murdered
2007 : Gujarat CID arrests three IPS officers, along with 10 other cops, in connection with the fake encounter
Jan 13, 2010 : Angered by the Gujarat police’s lax investigation, the SC hands over case to the CBI
Feb 1 : CBI files a fresh FIR in the Sohrabuddin case
July 22 : CBI summons Gujarat junior home minister Amit Shah
July 23 : Shah goes into hiding
July 24 : Shah quits from Modi government
July 25 : After eluding the CBI for threes days, Shah surrenders, is arrested

India's population growth snippets

Silently, and without much sarkari fanfare, dramatic changes are taking place in the population indicators of some states that you won’t see reflected in country-level data. Crude birth rate, that is, the number of live births per 1,000 population dipped from 26.4 to 22.8 for the whole country between 1998 and 2008. That’s a 14% decline. But in eight major states, the decline was much more. In Punjab, birth rate fell by a whopping 23%, followed by Kerala and Maharashtra (both 20%) and West Bengal (18%). Countrywide, the crude death rate, that is, the number of deaths per 1,000 population, came down by 18% in a decade. Again, there were surprises in the toppers’ list. Both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan saw a 23% dip in death rates, closely followed by Bihar (22%) and UP (20%).
Subtracting deaths from births gives the natural growth rate of the population. For India, this key indicator declined by 11%, but in Kerala and Punjab, the rate of population growth slowed down by as much as 32%. In Maharashtra, it was down by 23% and in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, by about 18%. These astonishing figures are computed from the annual Sample Registration System (SRS) survey done by the government’s Census office for the years 1998 and 2008. The survey for 2008, which is
the latest available, covered a sample of 7.1 million people spread across the country.
There has been a significant decline in the infant mortality rate (number of babies up to one year of age dying per 1,000 live births) in India from 72 in 1998 to 53 in 2008. Although more than 5% of babies dying in the first year of birth is still shocking, there is a decline of 26% over the past decade.
Tamil Nadu has slashed infant mortality by an incredible 42%, West Bengal by 34%, Maharashtra by 33% and Orissa by 30%. A few smaller states have actually shown increases in infant mortality rates. These include Delhi (-13%), J&K, Mizoram and Meghalaya. However, SRS data for smaller states needs to be seen with caution because of the small sample sizes.
While all these are comparative rates, the absolute numbers are just as important. As of 2008, Kerala had the lowest birth rate of 15 per thousand, followed by Tamil Nadu (16), Punjab (17) and West Bengal (18). Death rates are lowest in West Bengal (6.2 per thousand) followed by Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab and Bihar (all around 7).

The natural growth rate was lowest in Kerala (8 per thousand) closely followed by Tamil Nadu (about 9), Punjab (10) and AP as well as West Bengal (both about 11). Infant mortality rate was again lowest in Kerala at 12 per thousand live births. Then came Tamil Nadu (31), Maharashtra (33) and West Bengal (35).
Experts believe a combination of factors is responsible for these positive changes, including more institutional deliveries, better sanitation and availability of life-saving drugs. Larger socio-economic factors like better rural incomes in West Bengal, high education levels in Kerala and better economic standards in Punjab are obviously contributing to state level changes in life conditions.
India is passing through a demographic transition to a society where population will grow slowly, and people will live longer, hopefully leading a healthier life.


US says it’ll veto Sino-Pak nuclear deal

The US has said it would vote against an exemption for China to sell two civil nuclear reactors to Pakistan at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting, in a new move to step up pressure to get the controversial deal annulled. Making US’s stand clear for the first time, a top Obama administration official told lawmakers that Washington would vote against the Sino-Pak deal when it comes before the NSG. Vann Van Diepen, acting assistant secretary of state for International Security and Non Proliferation, in response to a question from Congressman Ed Royce, at a Congressional hearing convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Royce, who is co-chair of House India Caucus, had questions about the Obama administration’s stand on the Sino-Pak nuclear deal. The State Department official said the US would vote against any exemption for China to sell two civil nuclear reactors to Pakistan. The NSG runs by consensus, but its decisions have no legal binding on its members. When the issue came up at the last NSG meeting in New Zealand, the US had sought more information from Beijing on this issue.


Mumbai planners discuss reclamation

Land from the sea might begin to be reclaimed again at select places in the city and suburbs for housing, recreation and green space development, thus generating huge revenues for the state government. Planners are discussing the use of reclamation for creating more land space for redevelopment in the concept plan for Mumbai being drawn up by the Singapore firm, Surbana International.
Reclamation was used in a major way to develop the city and suburbs during the British colonial period when Mumbai was being built. It was used again in the 1960s in areas like Bandra Reclamation and Nariman Point, generating much controversy. MMRDA commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad, said reclamation was being discussed as
one of the options for the city. “Reclamation done in a scientific manner will benefit the city and give the state government revenue to build more city projects,’’ he said. When contacted, the head of the Mumbai Transformation Unit of the All India Institute of Local Self Government, U P S Madan said, “Reclamation—if done in a proper manner—is useful and has been done in Singapore, Japan and in other countries in Europe,’’ he said.
Civic circles point out that the Bandra Reclamation work in the 1960s has deprived fishermen of their livelihood and blocked the mouth of the Mithi River, one of the causes of the river flooding its banks in the 2005 floods. Gaikwad said scientific reclamation would be done only after proper studies and a debate on the issue. “It will not be like the Nariman Point area which was reclaimed but without any proper studies,’’ he said. City civic circles said reclamation work in the city suffered a blow when in the 1970s, the Supreme Court instituted a series of injunctions protecting the shoreline and access to it for fishermen. These injunctions, along with the creation of Coastal Regulatory Zones in the 1990s and growing environmental concerns, put a stop to largescale reclamation projects in Mumbai.


Mumbai Metro 3

The Maharashtra state government has requested the Centre for financial help in building the third line of the Mumbai metro from Colaba to Bandra. The help will be in the form of the viability gap funding (VGF) for the Rs 9,400-crore metro project, half of which will be underground. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) officials said that a detailed proposal seeking in-principal approval to commence the bidding process for the Colaba-Bandra Metro Corridor has been sent to the department of economic affairs, ministry of finance, New Delhi. The officials said the project met with all the guidelines laid down for financial support to public private partnership (PPP), except that the expected demand for VGF would be more than the 40% prescribed for such projects. The demand for 50% VGF was mainly due to the fact that higher costs were incurred by the underground route which was needed to protect heritage sites and the limited road widths in most of the island city. The metro is expected to run underground from Colaba to Mahalaxmi. MMRDA officials pointed out that help was promised by the Centre some time ago and that several state governments were availing of the funding for the VGF for their metro projects. The first line of the metro from Versova to Ghatkopar is being built. The second line — Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd — has faced opposition from citizens groups in Vile Parle and Bandra who want an underground route. The state government proposal has also put forward suggestions to reduce the demands for VGF such as extending the concession period to the private party for operating the metro from the usual 35 to 40 years. It has also pointed out that commercial development of the elevated stations would amount to Rs 630 crore. They were also examining the commercial development of the car shed area for raising more funds. Regarding the progress of the other metro lines planned in the city and region, MMRDA officials said that detailed project reports are being prepared for the Charkop-Dhaisar route (Phase II) and the Andheri East - Dhaisar East route (Phase III) by SPAN Consultants. The Ghatkopar -Mulund route (Phase II) and the Ghatkopar -Hutatma Chowk (Phase III) by CES (I) and the Bandra Kurla Complex - Kanjurmarg via the domestic and international airports with an extension from BKC - Mahim route (Phase II) by RITES. The detailed report for the Sewri - Prahbadevi Metro Corridor has also been prepared.

Mithi clean up snippets

A Rs 1.2-crore experiment has not been able to rid the Mithi of its stink. So the MMRDA is back to its favourite olfactory laboratory in the city, the bed of the Mithi. The MMRDA will commission on July 23 a new experiment to stop the stench at the Vakola nullah. “Earlier, the Florida-based Environmental Consulting & Technology Inc (ECT) had installed two machines to purify a 300-metre stretch of the Mithi in BKC a year ago. Though it improved the water quality and removed the stink, it was not an effective solution to treat the massive quantity of flowing water,’’ said MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. The new method will diffuse the poisonous gases in the river to bring down the biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). This new method, Gaikwad said, would rapidly purify around 100 million litres of water every day. Gaikwad said the current experiment was working but the volume of water in the river was great and the process seemed expensive. “The new process will involve bottom level cleaning and can be done on flowing water. If successful, it can be used along the river and will not cost more than Rs 8 crore per year.’’ The new method has been developed by Raghavendra Rao, an engineer who runs STEPS, and the process has been used in China and Malaysia. “We will use rapid oxygenation and rapid flocculation methods to counter pollution. We will also tackle sulphides in the water, which give Mithi its bad odour and dark colour,’’ said Rao. “We will know if we are successful within a month,’’ he added. The MMRDA will also try to blast the rocky formation at the mouth of the river again.


IIP growth slows to 11.5% in May

India’s industrial output grew at the slowest pace in seven months, slipping to 11.5% in May from 16.5% in April, but the drop is unlikely to prevent the RBI from raising interest rates later this month. Finance secretary Ashok Chawla remained hopeful of the industrial output growing at a double-digit clip in the ongoing fiscal. Global financial research firms such as Citi, however, said industrial growth will taper to 8%-9% in the ongoing financial year. Nomura Research said it expects industrial output growth to slow down from an average of about 14% in the first half to 6%-9% by the end of the year, and to an average of 9% for the entire fiscal. It attributed the decline in growth in May to weaknesses in capital and consumer goods. Analysts said annual production growth has most likely peaked with the strong statistical base effect gradually fading and the latest Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ survey for June also indicating moderation. Others say the latest data will not have any bearing on the RBI’s review of the credit policy due later in the month as the central bank’s main task would be to contain inflation that is still in double digits. Those who expect the RBI to raise interest rates say headline inflation would have accelerated to 10.8% in June from 10.16% in May and wholesale price data on Wednesday would have a greater impact on the central bank’s decision. The government’s decision to deregulate petrol prices and raise other fuel prices is expected to further stoke inflationary pressures and immediately push up headline inflation by around one percentage point. Manufacturing clocked a growth of 12.3% and capital goods sector rose 34.3% to drive the Index of Industrial Production up by 11.5% in May, up from 2.1% last year. Industrial output for April, the first month of this fiscal, was revised downwards from 17.6% to 16.52%. The growth for April-May works out to 14% against 1.4% in the previous corresponding period. The mining sector posted a growth of 8.7% in May against 3.4% a year ago. Power generation increased by 6.4% against 3% in May 2009. Consumer durables output grew by 23.7%, while the consumer non-durables recorded a modest increase of 2.4% in May.

State of the states

Acute poverty prevails in eight Indian states (421 million people in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), which together account for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African nations combined (410 million), a new ‘multidimensional’ measure of global poverty has said. The research findings of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with UNDP support, were made available Monday. The MPI supplants the Human Poverty Index, which has been included in the annual Human Development Reports since 1997.


Tracking the monsoon

Of FDI inflows

Delay & detour for Mumbai's monorail

The Monorail seems to be delayed by atleast 6 months and may finally start only in May 2011 with a slight change in alignment .

Somewhere in the NCR....

IGI gets closer to Gurgaon.

Sometime during the FIFA World Cup....

The Mahindra Satyam logo seen in the World Cup semi final between Germany and Spain. Mahindra Satyam has been the main IT services provider for the tournament in South Africa.

PSLV rocket launch successful

India's space agency ISRO on Monday successfully launched its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket that slung into orbit five satellites, including the advanced high resolution cartography satellite Carosat - 2B. ISRO's 230 tonne PSLV - standing 44 metres tall - soared towards the heavens from the spaceport here, about 80 km north of Chennai. The five satellites together weigh 819 kg. Apart from its main cargo - the Cartosat-2B weighing 694 kg - the other satellites that the rocket put into orbit are the Algerian remote sensing satellite Alsat-2A (116 kg), two nano satellites (NLS 6.1 AISSAT-1 weighing 6.5 kg built by the University of Toronto, Canada and one kg NLS 6.2 TISAT built by University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland) and STUDSAT, a pico satellite weighing less than one kg, built jointly by students of seven engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Near-perfect fake currency

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan seems to have further perfected itself in the ‘art’ of fake currency making. The fake Indian currency notes (FICNs), supposedly coming from the ISI stable, and recovered recently by the Indian security agencies were so ‘genuine-looking’ that it has set alarm bells ringing across India. What has stunned the security agencies is the fact that the recovered FICNs have the latest strengthened security features that were introduced by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently. Designed by using the state-of-the-art technology and incorporated in recently introduced 2AQ and 8AC series, the features were so exclusive that they could only be copied at a well-equipped full-fledged currency printing set-up. It included use of optical variable ink (OVI) and colour shift security thread (CSST) apart from premier quality paper and printing that was far superior to the fake notes circulated earlier. Surprisingly, the seized copies of the Rs 1,000 denomination notes are said to be so close to the genuine ones that the RBI had to issue an advisory to all the government, private and foreign banks to thoroughly screen all notes of the 2AQ and 8AC series, for genuinety. The RBI has, in the advisory, stated that the seized FICNs were so close to the real ones that they were undetectable by the naked eye. They had to be passed through Currency Verification and Processing Systems (CVPSs) and Notes Sorting Machines (NSMs) which declared then “suspected” or “rejected”, the advisory stated.

Bihar to get its own Marine Drive

The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has given its go-ahead to a Rs 2,100 crore driveway project that will recreate Mumbai’s Marine Drive along the Ganga and serve as an arterial road for the city. The project will be dovetailed with the state’s plan for at least two large bridges on the Ganga in Bihar. Patna has only one viaduct over the river at present to help people cross over but it often gets choked due to traffic. “This driveway will be built on the public-private partnership model. It will me more than just a fancy boulevard. Many firms have expressed interest in this project,” said Bihar road construction department secretary Pratyay Amrit. “We have already conducted feasibility studies for the driveway. We are now in the process of preparing a detailed project report. Our estimate is it will cost around Rs 2,100 crore,” he said. The driveway will be built along a 21.2-km stretch between Digha Ghat and Didarganj in Patna’s north.

Somewhere in Srinagar....

Deserted Dal lake in Srinagar. Tourism has been hit hard in J&K following the recent violence and curfew. Most of the tourists have left the Valley and as a preventive measure, the government has imposed prohibitory orders in Baramulla, Anantnag and Pulwama districts besides some parts of Srinagar .CM Omar Abdullah has called an all party meeting today to discuss the situation while the PDP and Panther's party are boycotting it.Petty politics !

India’s population

India’s burgeoning population has seen a five-fold increase over the last 100 years and will surpass China’s by 2050. Projections made by the government show that while India’s population grew by 1.4% over the last five years, China saw only a 0.6% population growth for the corresponding period. India’s total population in 2009 was 119.8 crore, China’s 134.5 crore and Pakistan’s 18 crore. While India’s population will increase to 161.38 crore by 2050, that of China will only reach 141.7 crore. Pakistan’s population grew at the highest rate in the sub-continent—2.2% over the last five years. India will have to share an additional burden of 371 million by 2026. Of this, UP will have a share of 22% of the population, Bihar 8%, Uttarakhand 1%, the four southern states 13% and MP and Rajasthan 7% each. The ‘Janasankhya Sthirta Kosh’ report under the ministry of health and family welfare said if India continues at the current pace it will double its population in the next 50 years, making sustainable development unattainable. Individual populations of Indian states equal the population of many countries. Maharashtra’s 10.4 crore is equal to Mexico’s 10.4 crore, UP’s 18.3 crore nearly touches Brazil’s 18.7 crore and Bihar’s nine crore is over Germany’s 8.3 crore. Talking about family planning, the report says the rate of sterilisation was highest in Chhattisgarh at 74%.


It is sweeter than sugar and can be grown in your kitchen garden. Stevia, a herb native to Paraguay in Latin America, is coming to India to be used as a sweetener and flavour enhancer in food and beverages in place of sugar. “If you’ve ever tasted stevia, you know it’s extremely sweet. A white powder extracted from the dry stevia shrub leaves is approximately 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar,” Stevia Biotech Pvt Ltd MD Sourabh Agarwal said. “It is a zero calorie sweetener and without any side effects. It can replace sugar in every aspect,” Agarwal said.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Sheep grazing on grass at Worli during the bandh last week .