Somewhere in Mumbai....

The Wankhede Stadium getting a makeover before next year's World Cup.

Himachal to set up international airport

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has said that the first international airport in the state would be set up near Shimla under the PPP mode at an initial cost of Rs 1,000 crore. Speaking at an investment meet, he said that land for the purpose had been identified at three places in Shimla and Solan districts and a final decision would be taken soon. He also announced that that 10 more helipads would be set up in Sirmour, Kinnaur and Mandi districts thereby increasing the total number of helipads in the state to 70. He also said that heli-taxis services in the state would be started soon. The government had finalised the names of three heli-taxi operators and a formal MoU with them would be signed within a month. In the initial stage, all district headquarters would be connected by heli-taxis services. Dhumal said that the state government would also request the railway ministry to start heritage trains on the Unesco heritage Shimla-Kalka and Pathankot -Joginder Nagar lines for tourists visiting the state.

BJP exults over twin triumphs

As former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah secured bail in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and the Karnataka high court upheld the disqualification of BJP rebels, the Congress refused to term them as setbacks and pointed at the long road ahead. The bail to Shah, close aide of chief minister Narendra Modi, came despite the CBI opposing it on the grounds that if set free, he could influence the witnesses. The Congress had also thrown its weight behind the BJP rebels, who forced a floor test. BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay was quick to call it “a triumph in Gujarat and Karnataka”, while the AICC distanced itself from the Sohrabuddin case. AICC spokesman Manish Tiwari told reporters, “The fake encounter case is between the former home minister, court and CBI... The court will decide who is innocent and who is guilty.” He underlined that the case was lodged against Shah as per the directions of the Supreme Court. The judicial stamp on the disqualification of BJP rebels in Karnataka has come as a blow to the Congress as the change in the assembly strength nearly toppled the Yeddyurappa government. Tiwari hinted that the high court order would be challenged in the Supreme Court. This even as BJP’s Vijay said, “We are happy. This is a happy Diwali for all those who believe in law and in upholding the spirit of the Constitution.”

India, South Korea clinch civil N-deal

An agreement on civil nuclear cooperation between India and South Korea has been finalised and awaits signature, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon said after a meeting between leaders of the two countries. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who met in Hanoi on the sidelines of the Asean Summit, discussed their bilateral relationship and the progress made on issues since the South Korean leader’s previous visit. “In the meeting with the South Korean president, they again reviewed the bilateral relationship and the considerable progress that has been made in the relationship since President Lee visited India as the chief guest on Republic Day,” Menon told reporters. “Since then we have agreed on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement; we have also finalised an agreement on co-operation in civil uses of nuclear energy which now awaits signature,” he added. He noted that considerable progress had been made in cooperation in civil aviation and space, and several areas. “The economic relationship too is moving forward steadily.” Ahead of the G20 summit on November 11, the two leaders also discussed issues related to the event. The South Korean president emphasised on “a system of systematic implementation of decisions” taken at the meet. The issue of Posco, the $12 billion project in Orissa that has run into problems, did not come up.


FDI in multi-brand retail

What some of the other countries do....

India & Malaysia

India and Malaysia have concluded a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA). Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Tun Razak, announced in a joint statement that they would sign the CECA by January 31, 2011 and implement it by July 1, 2011. The CECA will go beyond the existing Indo-ASEAN free trade agreement by incorporating services and investment.
Sources described Malaysia's economic ties to India as being similar to that of a Persian Gulf state. While bilateral trade has grown from $1 billion in 2001 to $10 billion in 2008, the real shift has been the rise of investment. Indian firms have invested nearly $2.5 billion in Malaysia.
“Trade is still small, and overly dependent on palm oil, but investment is big,“ a Malaysian prime minister's office aide said. These include Reliance Industries Ltd, which spent $300 million on its largest polyester textile plant and L&T, which has a $200-million switching gearfactory. “In the next two or three weeks, few big investments will be announced,“ sources said.
Malaysian investment and work in India has been especially focussed in infrastructure in India. Malaysia has also sought infotech capabilities: 60 Indian IT firms have set up there and many of the 150,000 Indian resident workers are IT professionals.
Prime Minister Najib has made it a point to make India, China and West Asia are the future markets for Malaysia and has made a point of making these his first three overseas destinations since he was elected in April 2009.

Tigress poisoned, rescued in MP

A tigress at the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve was rescued after some villagers allegedly poisoned it. “The tigress is now fine and we are in the process of sending samples of her vomit for a test,” reserve deputy field director Mridul Pathak said. The tigress was found unwell near Mala-Kathali villages, close to the park’s fencing, on Tuesday morning, after it ate the remains of a prey it had hunted down a day ago, Pathak said.

Elephant calf beaten to death

Barely a day after the Centre declared the elephant a national heritage animal on October 22, people in Gobha, near the Sonaikuchi reserve forest of Morigaon district adjacent to the Assam-Meghalaya border, killed a three-year-old female calf. According to a report on Tuesday, the incident took place when a herd of elephants descended from the Meghalaya side and entered the tribal-dominated Gobha area, about 70 km from Guwahati, on Friday night. Fearing destruction of their paddy fields, villagers came out of their houses with fireworks and shooed away the herd. Unfortunately, a three-year-old female calf, which was suffering from septicemia, could not flee along with the rest of the herd. The following day, residents found her in a low-lying area. They attacked the calf with sharp weapons, including spears, to chase her away. By the time forest officials and a veterinary team arrived, people had fatally injured the calf. “We had a difficult time stopping the crowd from attacking the calf even though the veterinary team was ready to rescue the animal. The crowd was uncontrollable. We had to call the police,” said A Ahmed, Nagaon divisional forest officer. “By the time the police team arrived, the elephant was in a bad condition. We took away the calf but unfortunately it died,” Ahmed added. The postmortem found that the elephant had been suffering from septicemia. With the harvest season drawing near, Nagaon and Morigaon are witnessing an increase in cases of man-elephant conflict. Ahmed said every night jumbo herds enter paddy fields and destroy crops. Two persons have been trampled by wild elephants in Salna and Tarkup areas in Assam’s Nagaon district in the past couple of days. In the last two months, four people have been killed by jumbos in Nagaon alone.

Shattering some myths on Kashmir

Came across this article by E Jayakrishnan, India Syndicate, 27/10/2010.

Arundhati Roy says Kashmir was never a part of India. We look at why she is wrong & why India’s position is not as vulnerable as it is portrayed to be

Myth I
Kashmir has never been an integral part of India: Arundhati Roy
The Story
At the time of Indian independence, none of the princely states — Hyderabad, Gwalior, Mysore, Baroda and Kashmir, to name a few — were part of India. They were called princely states — quasi-sovereign states ruled by the Indian princes under the "suzerainty" of the British. There were as many as 568 states in India when the British decided to leave India.
In 1947, under the Mountbatten Plan, they were given two options — either affiliate with India or with Pakistan. Though most of the princely states thirsted for freedom, that option was closed at the insistence of the Congress party. Though the choice of which entity to join was left to the rulers of the princely states, it was largely understood that the religious denomination of the majority of the citizens and geographical contiguities of the states would be the preponderant determining criteria.
Kashmir fulfilled both these paramount criteria to join Pakistan — geographical contiguity with the newly-formed state and religious domination of the majority of its citizens.
However, there was a problem: The Hindu ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh wanted something which was not on the table — azaadi, or freedom from both India and Pakistan. He wanted Kashmir to remain independent. In spite of entreaties from various quarters including from the Governor General of India, Loius Mountbatten, the Maharaja continued to dither and remained non-committal. And the situation reached a stalemate.
Jinnah and Pakistan perceived this intransigence of the Maharaja to be a clever ploy by India and Mountbatten to pluck Kashmir surreptiously from Pakistan's grasp. So, in an operation that today can be seen as a precursor of the Kargil Operation, Pakistan launched a military invasion of Kashmir on October 22, 1947.
Pashtun tribals and irregulars, morally and logistically supported by the Pakistan army, were sent in to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. The invaders reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the capital. And threatened to besiege the city.
A frightened and panick-stricken Maharaja radioed Delhi for military help. The Indian leadership argued that it would not be legally possible to send in the Indian Army unless Kashmir acceded to India formally. After another bout of resistance, the Maharaja finally yielded and Mountbatten's aide V P Menon was sent to Srinagar to secure his signature on the Instrument of Accession. Once signed (on 26 October 1947), the Indian Army was airlifted to Srinagar and the Pakistani invaders were beaten back, but not before they controlled about one-third of Kashmir.
The Reality:
As soon as the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession, Kashmir's accession to India was complete in the legal and formal sense — the same Instrument of Accession that was signed by more than 500 other princely states. That is a fact of history, which cannot be disputed without stretching the truth. It's there is black and white. In fact, it can be argued that it was Pakistan's folly of invading Kashmir, overplaying its hand, which sowed the seeds of the Kashmir imbroglio.

Myth II
India refuses to uphold the UN-mandated plebiscite that gives the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people: Pakistan
The Story
When the irregulars from Pakistan invaded India on October 22, 1947, Prime Minister Nehru went to the UN in good faith to call on the world body to intervene and ensure that Pakistan pull back its troops. Based on the Indian complaint and the counter-arguments of Pakistan, the UN Security Council called for not only an immediate ceasefire, but also a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris.
Ignoring the advice of his Home Minister Sardar Patel and Indian Army commanders that India should not agree to a ceasefire before the area captured by the invaders was reclaimed, Nehru went ahead and not only ordered an immediate ceasefire but also agreed in principle to the plebiscite — a promise that has not been kept.
The Reality
This is the instance used to castigate India for not only breaking the spirit of the UN resolution but also ignoring the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
But just look at what UN Resolution 38 of 17 January 1948 actually says about the run-up to the plebiscite —
"The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours: To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purposes of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State".
Please read that again.
The much-bandied resolution, used to whip India with by the critics, clearly states that Pakistan will "withdraw" all "Pakistani nationals" and "tribesmen" who infiltrated on October 22, 1947 from the soil of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed then, without exception. This was the UN resolution's 'first condition' for the beginning of the process towards the plebiscite.
Has that condition been fulfilled by Pakistan? Has the land 'occupied' by the Pakistanis and the tribesmen in 1947 been vacated? Isn't the reality that Pakistan occupied and continues to occupy more than one-third of the territory of Kashmir?
As a way to fulfill the mandate and hold the plebiscite, will Pakistan be willing to vacate PoK now, 63 years after the resolution? The answer is written on the wall.
For all intents and purposes the UN resolution on Kashmir is as good as dead.
No wonder then that the wily but pragmatic General Musharraf gave up the usual Pakistani harping on self-determination in Kashmir for a more practical and doable out-of-the-box solution, which unfortunately is being disowned by the present Pakistani government.

Myth III
Pakistan has always stood by Kashmir, as against the brutality of the Indian security forces in the Indian side of Kashmir: Pakistan
Pakistan in Kashmir
a) Pakistan has carved out the Northern Areas (now called Gilgit-Baltistan, almost 72,971 Sq km) from Kashmir into a separate administrative and political unit. This area, which was part of the undivided Kashmir at the time of independence, has been 'annexed' by Pakistan, as it were, and separated from Kashmir.
b) In 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,800 sq km in the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China. The Tract was part of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir.
c) Pakistan actively encourages "other people" to settle in PoK and have even allowed the Chinese a huge presence in Gilgit-Baltistan, ostensibly for developing the infrastructure of the region.
In contrast:
a) Territorially, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is the same entity that existed in 1947, except for the portions gobbled-up by Pakistan/China.
b) The Freedom House Report, 2010, on the level of 'freedom' in PoK characterised it as "not free', while the Indian side of Kashmir was defined as "partly free".
d) No non-Kashmiri can buy as much as an inch of land in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. There has been no attempt by India to change the demographics or the state's ethnic character. The only demographic change that has happened in the state has been the "ethnic cleansing" of the Kashmiri pundits from the Valley. A mass exodus which has largely been ignored by the media and the powers-that-be.
Therefore, there is nothing much really that India has to feel defensive about. Whatever Arundhati Roy or others may put out on the air.


The Corruption Perception Index

Blackburn Rovers going Indian

Venkateshwara Hatcheries, a seller of poultry products based in Pune, has emerged as the rather unlikely buyer of Blackburn Rovers, a football club that plays in the English Premier League (EPL), for £46 million. Speculation has been rife for many months about the alleged desire of Indian industrialists to buy football clubs. But media reports on the subject had featured the two Ambani brothers and Subrata Roy, the owner of the Sahara Group. Clubs such as Liverpool, a giant of English football, are rumoured to have been on the menu of Indian buyers. On Tuesday, though, Venkateshwara Hatcheries (VH), popularly known as Venky’s, became the first Indian owner of an EPL team. “We expect to complete the formalities for the acquisition in the next three-four days although informally, the Premier League has conveyed its happiness over the proposed deal,” Anuradha Desai, chairperson, VH group said. She added that this was her first media interaction following the meeting last night between officials of the Premier League and VH group top officials , B Venkatesh Rao and B Balaji Rao, her siblings, who are currently in London to conclude the deal. Balaji Rao, better known as Bala, is the football lover in the promoter family, and he has taken the lead in the acquisition, Mrs Desai said. All the non-synergistic diversifications of the VH group, including film making under the banner of Bala Entertainment, are his ventures, Mrs Desai said, adding that the Premier League football club is being acquired by a VH subsidiary called Venkys UK. B Venkatesh Rao, joint managing director, VH group, said: “This is a very proud moment for India and the family that we have received the go-ahead from the English Premier League and we expect to conclude the deal in the next five-10 days,”. He added: “It is too early to say if we will make any changes either in the team or the management. We want the Club to do well and we intend to manage it properly.” She added: “Football is a global craze and as the VH group globalises, setting up feed plants and hatcheries around the world, we believe we can benefit from being owners of a major football club. It will help build our brand, too. Moreover, we are a protein company, in the health business and there is synergy with health and sports. We have been sponsoring tennis and cricket matches and tourneys here. Now that we are going global, we need a global sport, hence a football club.” While Blackburn Rovers FC, established in 1875, is among the three English football clubs to have been among the founders of both, the Premier League, and its predecessor the Football League, it has been facing financial difficulties. Mrs Desai brushed off the financial difficulties, saying, “We will pump in whatever is needed, but the main thing is to get the Club back into good shape. This is an investment and it will grow on its own strength.” The VH group will acquire the Blackburn, Lancashire-based football club, from its current owners, the trustees of the Jack Walker 1987 Settlement, a Jersey trust. Jack Walker, a Lancashire steel magnate, bought the Club in 1992 and followed it up with some high-profile acquisitions of players which took the Club win the Premier League in 1995. However, Mrs Desai said that while they will pump in an additional £5 million to ensure they get good players, she ruled out, at least for the present, any high-profile acquisitions. “We won’t need to buy expensive players, we can always lease them,” she said, adding, “We don’t expect to be in the top-five of the Premier League. We will be happy to be in the top 10-12.” She added that other Indian and multinational companies have already begun to ask for sponsorship of jerseys and at stadia, to which the VH group is “complexly open as we need to turn around the Club. But our first priority is to get the Club on a strong footing and back into the Premier League, for which we might need to put in more money. As of now, we have no plan to put the Venky's logo anywhere as this will be an independent business,” Mrs Desai said. The acquisition has been funded by ICICI Bank.

In 39 years Venky's has gone from a small family business to Asia's largest poultry group.
Its status today is a far cry from when Dr B.V Rao launched the business in 1971.
He started his working life as a poultry attendant on 40 acres of farmland in Hyderabad, tending to cattle and birds. But he was put on the road to success by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Dr Earl Neil Moore, on behalf of USAID, gave Dr Rao the task of establishing a poultry farm in Osmania University, Hyderabad.
At first there was success, with 2,000 eggs produced a day, but in what was described as a 'rude awakening' the university let Dr Rao go. He was left jobless and worked at a number of farms, growing increasingly disillusioned. But, unbeknown to him, his wife Uttaradevi had invested some of their money in a seven-acre plot near Hyderabad, enabling him to set up his own poultry farm. They ran it together and the firm quickly went from strength to strength, establishing a 70 per cent market share within a year, according to their official website.
The company has become known for embarking on new ventures, capitalising on technology and yielding high returns on investment. Its portfolio today includes animal health products, pellet feeds, processed chicken products and solvent oil extraction, and SPF Eggs. It now also manufactures nutritional health products for humans and is the preferred supplier to McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Dominos pizza in India.
It has a huge processing plant in Kamshet, between the commercial centres of Pune and Mumbai. The Forbes business magazine of USA ranked Venky's as 67th among the 100 best global small companies in 2000. The Economic Times of India, recently said Venky's had taken a 'silent route for its global foray'. In recognition of his efforts Dr Rao, referred to as the father of modern poultry in India, was made Padmashree in 1990 - India's highest civilian award.
He died in 1996, but he still dominates the firm. In the annual report he is described as 'beloved' and 'legendary' with the first page devoted to quotes outlining his philosophy.
The group is now run by his daughter Anuradha Desai, with the help of two brothers.
She is 47 years old and has been a director since 1998. According to the annual report, Mrs Desai has been instrumental in the firm's growth. She was the first woman to hold the post of President of the World Poultry Science Association in 1996. She is quoted as saying: "Being among the wealthiest women in India doesn't bother me at all. "On the other hand, it makes me feel responsible towards society and to the people who depend on our organisation — be it poultry farmers, shareholders or our employees." She adds that it has been tough to live up to her father's 'great reputation', but 'pleasant to get the road smoothened by the immense goodwill he enjoyed'. And there was extreme pressure on her when she took over.
News site Hindu Business Line reported that there were many doubters - both in and outside the company - that she could handle the responsibility. It said: "But take over she did and with a panache and grace that few expected from the soft-spoken young woman who was rarely seen or heard of before she took over the mantle. "Those who have watched her since her childhood and seen her as a not-quite-sure-of-herself young girl, will tell you that she has been replaced by a totally mature woman completely at ease with herself and her surroundings and in charge of everything that happens in the group.
"Not for Anuradha are the frills and trappings that corporate women in power sport, including clothes that make statements or orders that brook no argument. "Instead, she adopts what she says is a leadership style that she easily and naturally slipped into."
On her style, she is quoted as telling Business Line: "You have to invest in building up relationships with people, give them the freedom to work towards goals and when you spend time with them and understand them, they are ready to put in their best for you, be it man or woman," she says. "You can't hold a stick and frighten anybody into working for you.
"Instead, if you sit with them and work with them, you can be assured of results."
Rovers fans will now be hoping this approach brings results on the football field.

India to sign N-damages pact

India will sign the international agreement on nuclear damages, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, on Wednesday. The Manmohan Singh government has informed the IAEA that it’s ready for a signature, which will be done by Dinkar Khullar, India’s envoy in Vienna. The accession to the CSC is being seen as the last Indian commitment for the India-US nuclear deal to be ready for commercial agreements. It was part of a promise India had made to the US in September 2008. Though India had said it would sign on, the US had stepped up the demand for India’s accession after India’s nuclear liability law left US companies deeply unsatisfied. India will be the 14th country to sign on the CSC, and when it ratifies it, one of a handful. Along with the signature, India will also provide IAEA with a list of reactors it plans to bring under the CSC. The treaty will take many years to come into force, because it will need 400 GW of nuclear power within its ambit, which is a long way away.

MNP to roll out in November

Telecom minister A Raja said mobile number portability (MNP), which allows subscribers to retain their cell numbers even after changing service operators, will be launched in Haryana on November 1. The service is expected to be rolled out in the rest of the country in phases. According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI), it will take an average of 15 days for a consumer to change his operator and a minimum of 50 days before the same number can be ported. In March 2006, Trai had recommended that the MNP be implemented by April 1, 2007. In December 2009, the government set a deadline of March 31, 2010, for its implementation, which was further extended to June 30 and again to October 31. Consumer organizations have alleged that links between government and big businesses have subverted consumer interests by delaying the MNP. The delays were mostly on account of a backlog of pending decisions and investments that several operators would have to make. In the end, BSNL also dragged its feet. The implementation of the MNP will protect consumer interests by reducing prices and improving the quality of service.

Of high speed trains

Ahmedabad may soon be only two hours away from Mumbai, if Indian Railways’ Vision 2020 on high-speed trains becomes a reality. A two-day brainstorming workshop recently held in Mumbai on security and high speed trains, attended by top global railway officials, discussed nuances of the high-speed train corridor project. Vision 2020, a blueprint of what the Indian Railways should achieve by that year, identified six high-speed corridors one of which was Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune. Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai said a three-tier plan of Indian Railways was discussed at the workshop: covering 500 km in less than two hours, 1000-1500 km in four-five hours, and above 1500 km. A pre-feasibility study on high-speed trains —above 250 km/hr—in the corridor has already been successful. The fastest train in India now is the Shatabdi to Bhopal, at 150 kmph. Senior WR officials said these trains would have a socioeconomic effect. “People can stay at Pune or Ahmedabad and come to work in Mumbai,” said WR chief spokesperson, Sharat Chandrayan, adding, “Carbon footprints would be one-tenth of airlines, they will use one-third the land to transport the same volume of passengers and will be nine times more efficient than planes and four times than cars.” However even as the prefeasibility study is complete, the Railway Board’s in-principle approval is required to start the techno-economic feasibility. The pre-feasibility study estimates the total project cost at Rs 50,000 crore. Chandrayan said the cost of the project would hike the cost per ticket. “The passenger would have to pay between Rs 4-6 per km,” he said. Other problems he said, were land acquisition and that this would be a first of its kind for Indian Railways. “The project would have to be tailor-made for India to bring down costs. We may go for 250 km/h instead of 350 km/h,” he said. “We would need tilting technology for coaches for better negotiation (on curves) and the lines would be a pair (one in the Up and another in Down direction) which would be dedicated only for passenger traffic,” he said. There would be fewer stops, with lines in Mumbai expected to reach the central business area or at least the airport.


The Bihar poll schedule

Rent Control Act

The government is in the process of drafting a new rent control Bill. The Bill is a model law, which will be circulated to all state governments. Since housing is a state subject under the Constitution, it is individual state assemblies that must adopt it, with or without changes. The model Bill comes 18 years after the last one was drafted and circulated among the states. The 1992 model recognised, and attempted to deal with, the basic problem that rent control laws had caused: freezing of rents paid by tenants at absurdly-low levels. Such rents gave little incentive to landlords to invest in new property or maintain existing ones. Those who built new houses preferred to keep them locked rather than let them out, and risk long and costly court proceedings to get rid of tenants after the lease ended. The 1992 model Bill had decidedly mixed results. The authors of a 2006 study for the National Institute of Urban Affairs pointed out that ‘nothing of note’ has been done to reform existing state laws. For instance, despite the model Bill allowing for periodic increases in the rent, many state Acts effectively froze the rent at a given level for years. Many states didn’t exempt newly-constructed properties from rent control, a move the Bill had intended as an incentive for landlords to invest in housing. Basic rights, such as the tenant’s right to a rent receipt, were not universally recognised. Even incentives such as large transfers from central funds were not enough to get states to reform their rent laws. To be eligible for central funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, states must institute rent control reform. Yet, of 20 states that had committed to doing so by 2010, only nine have. In states such as Delhi, attempts at reforms in mid-1990s along the lines suggested by the model Bill, were effectively torpedoed by politically-powerful traders who, as tenants, reaped benefits of rent control. In such circumstances, can a new law really make all that much of a difference, especially if it is effectively optional for states? The new model Bill being proposed by the government is, in one significant respect, a major departure from the old one. While the 1992 Bill capped rents and regulated changes in rents, the new one may leave the level of rent entirely out of its purview and leave it to be negotiated between the landlord and tenant. One of the state-level laws being seen as a possible model for the new Bill is the Maharashtra Rent Control Act. The Act, passed in 1999, has some features of the old-school rent Acts, but by making a space for ‘licencees’ — rather than ‘tenants’ — it also effectively opened the door to a relationship between the landlord and the tenant where the contract reigned supreme, and the rent was set by the market. In a scenario where there is such a huge shortfall in supply, this effectively means that the tenant has few rights and landlords can dictate terms. “The problem with the Maharashtra law is that it makes no room for tenant rights,” says Kiran Wadhva, a former chief economist of Hudco who helped draft the model Bill of 1992. Perhaps recognising this, another principle underlying the new Bill, according to the government, is that a tenant cannot be evicted before the lease ends. However, a tenant will also not be allowed to stay once the lease expires. A minimum standard for the rights of both the landlord and the tenant in the Bill would be meaningless without some sort of fast-track, and easily-accessible, judicial process where such rights could be enforced. The new Bill could also provide for a separate tribunal to adjudicate disputes between landlord and tenant, like the previous model Bill did. But the real problem with the Bill lies in its relevance. Urban India faces a huge housing shortage — 24.7 million units in 2007 — according to a study undertaken for the 11th Five-Year Plan. The presence, or absence, of the kind of rent control legislation being planned by the government would almost certainly have no effect on the biggest problem of all: the disparity between supply and demand and the lack of affordable housing.


Looks like someone is growing horns !

Pune's Mula - Mutha revival project

Aquatic flora and fauna may thrive and cruising along the waterways may become a reality when this project to rejuvenate Pune’s Mula-Mutha river takes off. The Rs 600-crore project, to be implemented by the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) on a public-private partnership basis, promises to breathe new life into the river, which has long since been reduced to a virtual sewer. The project will be implemented on the 17-km stretch from Vitthalwadi to Kharadi and is expected to be completed in three years. Giving details of the project, Mukesh Malhotra, immediate past president of the MCCIA, said one of the basic objectives was to restore the flora and fauna of the river to its pre-1962 levels. Other objectives include using the river to transport vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, and the creation of water sports, recreation and tourism facilities. The project also aims at completely stopping any discharge of untreated sewage water, having a stabilised river bank, proper flood management and reducing the high floodline by more than one metre.The MCCIA, which has formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) titled ‘Pune Restoration and Navigation Company Ltd’, is seeking the approval of the central planning commission for the project. The project will be implemented in coordination with the state irrigation department and the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations (PMC and PCMC). While Rs 60 crore, which is ten per cent of the cost of the project, is planned to be raised by corporates and other sources, the remaining 90 per cent would be raised by way of soft loans from financial institutions like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank. Malhotra said a detailed study carried out over the last eight years by Naik Environment Research Institute Limited (NERIL) has resulted in an integrated master plan for the restoration of the river. NERIL chairman and managing director D D Naik said the project has been vetted by the central design office of the state irrigation department. An approval from the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation is expected, he said. During his visit to the city in June this year, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh was visibly upset at the deterioration of the river. Ramesh had even written to chief minister Ashok Chavan saying his ministry would extend support if the state government came up with a proposal to improve the condition of the river.
• Project along 17-km river stretch from Vitthalwadi to Kharadi
• No untreated sewage water to be released in the river
• A water level of 0.6 TMC will be maintained throughout the year
• Three bunds to be constructed at Sangam bridge, Kalyaninagar and Mundhwa
• Water-locking mechanism for allowing water transport
• Seven entry and exit points for water transport and other facilities
• Around 1.5 lakh two-wheelers can be ferried every day
• Water ambulances proposed as many hospitals are located along banks of the river

The PMC, incidentally, has started the work of channelising the river on two small stretches — from Mhatre bridge to Sangam bridge, and Sangam bridge to Bund Garden. This work is expected to be completed by March next year. Naik assured that slumdwellers living along the banks of the river would not be displaced. The irrigation department would not have to release water to maintain the level in the river. However, the PMC’s proposed multi-crore elevated road project along the river would have to be abandoned. Presently, the municipal corporation can treat only 71 per cent of the total sewage water. Of the 700 MLD (million litres per day) sewage water generated in the city, the PMC treats 567 MLD. There are 45 canals carrying sewage water which join the river. Several elected office-bearers and the civic administration have supported the river restoration project, Naik said. The detailed project report would be submitted to the central planning commission in the next one-and-a-half months.

Barabanki's Parijat tree

Barabanki’s famous Parijat tree has found the promise of protection from unexpected quarters. After concerns being raised over its survival from different quarters, a 5-member panel of experts from the Narendra Deo University of Agriculture and Technology (NDUAT), Faizabad, surveyed the tree . Leading the panel, head of department of crop physiology, NDUAT, Akhtar Hussain Khan, said: ‘‘We travelled to Barabanki to assess the tree and the extent of damage it has suffered due to various reasons. Now we will compile a report citing the problems that plague the tree and ways to protect and preserve the plant variety.’’ In his efforts to save the Parijat tree, Khan will work along with soil scientist TPS Katiyar, entymologist HN Singh, plant pathologist DK Chakravarty and AK Saxena from the department of forestry. The panel of scientists, which collected samples of soil and tissue will also present a report on the types of insects damaging the plant and mineral deficiency in the soil, if any. The Parijat tree, located in Barabanki district’s Kintur village, is believed to belong to the age of the Mahabharata. According to a popular legend, Lord Krishna uprooted the Parijat tree from the abode of Lord Indra after Krishna’s wife Rukmini demanded that the tree be brought to her. Another belief, however, says Arjun brought the tree, laden with fruits and flowers for his mother Kunti, who then offered them to Lord Shiva. Khan added: ‘‘It is believed that this is the only tree of this variety that exists. We will also try to see whether saplings of the tree can be planted elsewhere.’’ Khan and his team spent nearly four hours examining the tree in Kintur, on Monday. A report will be submitted to the vice-chancellor of NDUAT within a week.

Eco to grow 9% in 2011-12: PM

Committing to carry out reforms to facilitate higher investment flows, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed hope that the Indian economy will revert to high growth path of 9% from next fiscal and even achieve double digit expansion in coming years. “It is my expectation that we will return to a 9% growth path in 2011-12. I am confident that the strong fundamentals of the Indian economy will enable us to achieve our objective of double digit (growth) in the coming years,” Singh said. He, however, admitted that there are challenges to recording such a high economic growth. “I do not underestimate the many challenges we face in achieving such high levels of growth,” the Prime Minister said. Singh said his government is reforming both direct and indirect tax system. Besides, reforms in financial sector, capital markets, education, skill development are being carried out to create favourable climate for investment. “We are determined to continue the process of economic reforms that will create a favourable investment environment and facilitate higher investment flows,” he said. The Prime Minister hoped that there would be robust rebound in Indo-Japan trade and pegged it at over $20 billion by 2012 from $10.3 billion in 2009-10. Singh said the current trade between the two countries is low as well as unbalanced. India had trade deficit of over $3 billion during 2009-10 with Japan. Though global financial crisis did not have direct impact on India, its ripple impact slowed the growth to 6.7% during 2008-09 against 9% in the previous three years.

India - Japan N-deal delayed

Indicating a long haul ahead for the civil nuclear deal, PM Manmohan Singh said that India would not force the pact on Japan as he recognized the sensitivities involved. But the two countries also decided to maintain momentum and meet again next month to continue negotiations. “I recognize the sensitivity of the (nuclear) issue in Japan and therefore I would not force it on you,” Manmohan Singh said, while referring to negotiations for a civil nuclear deal with Japan. Dismissing speculation that the deal on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy could be off the table, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said after the meeting of the two leaders that the positive momentum would be maintained and the next round of talks would be held in November-end.

There has been considerable pressure from Japanese entrepreneurs for a successful conclusion of the talks for nuclear cooperation as it offers huge opportunities for Japanese companies. Marubeni, Mitsui, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi — are keen on slices of the pie of Indian nuclear commerce. As a matter of fact, these companies have been pushing the political establishment, wary because of the memories of the devastation atom bombs wreaked on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, to wrap up an agreement with India. But what can give an edge to their anxiety to open doors for business with India is the competition they are facing from South Korea. Koreans are proving to be quite a challenge, with Doosan Engineering threatening to undercut Japan Steel Works’ claim to be the most accomplished in building the core of nuclear reactors. The Koreans signalled their intent when they stole a contract to build nuclear reactors in UAE from right under the nose of the Japanese. Not being shackled by the sensitivity Japan has on the nuclear issue, the Koreans can hope to have an advantage in tapping India’s nuclear market, with chances of a bilateral agreement being inked during Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Seoul scheduled for early next year high. Given the hunger of the nuclear suppliers for contracts, India can hope to leverage its grand plans to tap nuclear energy to realise its aspirations for sustained double-digit growth. Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh had set the target of 20, 000 MW of nuclear energy by 2020. Nuclear Power Corporation of India has set its sights even higher, with its chairman SK Jain recently declaring that the country can hope to have a capacity of 63,000 MW by 2030. Both may sound unrealistic, but can be used by India as bait.

India tourism snapshot

MIAL's runway revamp plan

The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport revamp continues....

Another PSU IPO in the making

Unique ID for Bangalore property

By January 2011, all property owners of Bangalore will finally get their updated unique Property Identification (PID) numbers. The new PIDs will be a complete identity of your property — not just updating ward numbers. They will be ‘geo-tagged’ with the exact spacial dimensions of your property and have the latest photograph of your house. After January, one can access details on the BBMP website about any property in the city using the PIDs. Currently, only properties in core areas have PIDs — majority of them still have the old ward numbers and there’s no uniformity in digits. “We are now working on setting up a continuous updation process of these unique IDs. All PIDs in core areas will be updated with new ward numbers within the next 8-10 days. However, we are still working on other changes. Once updated, the PIDs can also be used for property registrations and even in bank transactions for loans. In later stages, the PIDs will also help in giving a scientific identity to streets,” a senior BBMP official said. Presently, the PIDs are all fixed at nine digits in three parts — ward number, street number and property number. The number of digits might be altered depending on field surveys that are being conducted now. The surveys for PID updation began last month and are expected to be completed by November-end.According to BBMP sources, there are two teams assigned per ward. Each team comprises engineers, a tax inspector and revenue inspector. These teams have been going around the ward, mapping properties and taking their photographs. With this, the property database for the city using Geo Information System (GIS) will also be ready by January. A total 13.87 lakh properties have been plotted on the GIS map till date and are now being verified and updated with other details based on these field surveys. A major problem of the Palike with tax collection has been the lack of tools to track property with accuracy. With GIS-based property survey finally reaching completion, it will now have access to a complete property database with details of dimensions, directions and land use. Even the number of floors in each building can be tracked.

Infosys prize

The Infosys Science Foundation announced Infosys Prize — which carries the highest purse of Rs 50 lakh each for scientific research in India — to six scientists. The PM will present the awards and gold medals to the winners in Mumbai on Jan 6.
Mathematical Sciences: Prof. Chandrashekhar Khare, University of California, LA;
Physical Sciences: Prof. Sandip Trivedi, theoretical physics department, TIFR, Mumbai; Engineering and Computer Science: Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, chemical engineering department, IIT-Kanpur;
Life Sciences: Dr Cheta E Chitnis, principal leader, Malaria Group, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Delhi;
Social Sciences: Prof. Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth;
Social Anthropology: Prof. Nandini Sundar, Delhi School of Economics.

September trade snippets

India’s merchandise shipments in September rose at its fastest pace in two years, clocking a rise of 23%, or approximately $18 billion, but the rate of increase in imports outpaced this growth to stir concerns over a widening trade gap. Exports aggregated $103.3 billion in the April-September period, marking a 27.6% increase from the year-ago period. Little wonder that commerce minister Anand Sharma said the country is on track to surpass the export target of $200 billion for the current fiscal. “In the first six months, we have done well. We are very much on track to cross $200 billion,” Sharma said. Releasing the figures, commerce secretary Rahul Khullar said the growth could be partly attributed to the low base in the previous year and increasing prices. He said September was the “first month in which exports were higher than (for a particular month) 2008-09”. Exports had recorded a 22.5% growth in August at $16.64 billion. Imports too jumped by a higher rate of 32.2% to $29.7 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $13.06 billion. Exporters, meanwhile, are hopeful of topping the target but say rupee volatility and high cost of credit are matters of concern. On Monday, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president A Sakthivel suggested that the RBI place restriction on the minimum period of investment by FII of at least 12 months as a measure to check volatility.


Aurangabad shows off growing wealth

For decades this central Indian city was vintage old India: crumbling Mughal-era ruins and ancient Buddhist caves surrounded by endless parched acres from which farmers coaxed cotton. A new residential development in Aurangabad, a city of 1.2 million people. As the small city's fortune's have grown, cultural mores that once made ostentatious spending unseemly have shifted. But this month Aurangabad became an emblem of an altogether different India: the booming, increasingly urbanized economic powerhouse filled with ambition and a new desire to flaunt its wealth. A group of more than 150 local businessmen decided to buy, en masse, a Mercedes-Benz car each, spending nearly $15 million in a single day and putting this small but thriving city on the map. Frustrated that the usual Chamber of Commerce brochures were slow to attract new investment, the businessmen decided to buy the cars as a stunt intended to stimulate investment in Aurangabad, one of several largely unknown but thriving urban centers across India's more prosperous states. "In and around Aurangabad there are companies worth a thousand crores," an amount of Indian rupees equivalent to about $225 million, said Sachin Nagouri, 40, a hyperkinetic local real estate mogul who came up with the idea. "But Aurangabad is not known even in this state. There is plenty of money here. We just need to show it." Economists and government officials have long acclaimed India's so-called second-tier cities as new founts of prosperity and incubators of India's growing middle class. Cities like Pune, a manufacturing and information technology hub a few hours outside of Mumbai, and Ahmedabad, the biggest city in India's wealthiest state, Gujarat, have shown that smaller cities can attract big business. But now even smaller cities in some of India's most prosperous states are booming, too. Coimbatore, a city of about one million in Tamil Nadu near India's southern tip, has expanded from textile manufacturing to software development and making auto parts. Aurangabad, with 1.2 million people and a stable base of automotive assembly plants, factories and agribusiness, has long attracted the attention of companies selling small appliances, cellphones and economy cars. But as the city's fortunes have grown, and cultural mores that once made ostentatious spending unseemly have shifted, companies selling luxury goods are also seeking out these newly flush consumers. A sprawling new mall just opened here, as well as new multiplex theaters and luxury hotels. "The story of Aurangabad is the story of India," said Debashish Mitra, head of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz in India. "There are many cities like Aurangabad, where Indians have money but were not indulging in luxury; they were always in a saving mode. But now that is changing. People want to spend, and feel they deserve luxury." That certainly describes Mr. Nagouri, Aurangabad's answer to Donald Trump. He has made a fortune buying and developing land in highly leveraged deals. He lives in a sprawling modern house kitted out with Italian marble floors and designer sofas. Four cars sit in his driveway, including the latest, a gleaming white Mercedes sedan with buttery chocolate leather seats. He was working out at the gym one day last spring with a friend, he said, when the idea for the group purchase of the luxury cars struck him. Perhaps, he wondered, if they could get enough people together they could generate publicity for the city. It started with a core group of 20 friends, but as word got out the number quickly grew. Eventually more than 150 businessmen signed up, most of them in their 30s and early 40s like Mr. Nagouri. These men could not be more different from their cautious fathers, who stashed every penny as a hedge against an uncertain future in India's economy, which until 1991 was heavily controlled by the government. In the land of Gandhi and the birthplace of Buddhism, grand displays of material wealth are still frowned upon. Older men like Ashish Garde, who runs Nirlep, a company that has made nonstick pots and pans here since 1968, declined to join the group. Mr. Garde said the nearly $15 million spent on luxury cars would have been better spent on investments in industries that would create jobs or donations to charity. He declared himself satisfied with his economy car. "Those of us who went through the hardships of the past know the value of money in a different way," Mr. Garde said. "Those who get quick money, their relationship is different. After globalization things happen very easily. The element of struggle is gone." Mr. Nagouri's family once had a small fortune in land holdings, but his father, a university lecturer, made a bad bet on a spring factory that went bankrupt. "We had no money even to take a bus," he said. In the 1980s Mr. Nagouri got a job as a clerk in a construction company and spent six years studying how the business worked. He made a bit of money on the side selling sand and bricks. Eventually he struck out on his own, borrowing $2,000 from friends and relatives to build a small apartment building. He said he sold it almost immediately. "I understood the gimmick," he said. Not everyone is cheering Aurangabad's new ostentatious wealth. Sanjeev Unhale, a local antipoverty activist and journalist, said that the money spent for the luxury cars could have gone a long way to help those left behind by Aurangabad's boom. The Marathwada region, of which Aurangabad is the capital, is cursed with perpetual droughts. Cotton farmers often assume huge debts to stay in business. Suicides by debt-ridden farmers are common, Mr. Unhale said. India's economy may be nearing double-digit growth, but the wealth is not widely shared, and hundreds of millions live on $2 a day. "Mercedes is for luxury," he said. "It is not the manner in which we should show our mettle. We should show it in the genius and quality of what we produce." The desire to flaunt new wealth, however, is a natural part of India's economic trajectory, said Ashutosh Varshney, a Brown University professor who has studied the social dimensions of India's economic rise. "It does show the burst of ambition in the small towns of booming states," Mr. Varshney said. "It is, deep down, a drive for recognition, an impulse known to be sociologically and psychologically important when those lower down rise." Pramod Khairnar Patil, a local builder who bought a Mercedes, said entrepreneurs like him deserved to enjoy their wealth. Initially he had planned to buy the least expensive model, which sells for about $50,000, but his daughter persuaded him to upgrade, which nearly doubled the cost. "It's more expensive, but we should step ahead," he said. Mr. Patil has seen Aurangabad's fortunes rise since he started out as a builder in 1990. Where he once built claustrophobic one-bedroom apartments for aspiring middle-class families, today he puts up airy townhouses and bungalows. "People's dreams are changing," he said. His own fortunes have grown, too. When his father built the modest house in which Mr. Patil lives, it did not occur to him that he needed more than one parking space. At that time owning even a single car was a distant dream. Now he has a problem deciding whether to park his sport utility vehicle or his shiny new Mercedes in the driveway. "Times have changed," he said. "The things that were luxury initially now are the need of the time."

Somewhere on the banks of the Ganga....

Hundreds of people are thronging Anoopshahr this sleepy town, about 50 km from Bulandshahr district and 100 km from New Delhi, to witness a mystical phenomenon at the Dinesh ghat on the banks of the Ganga. The centre of attraction is a ‘burning flame’ at the ghat. A rare phenomenon, which is yet to be explained scientifically, the flame is quite transparent and can be seen in full glow at night. Though channelled with the help of an ordinary water supply pipe dug into the sand, the heat of the flame burning on its top can be felt upto a height of two feet. The site has become popular for a variety of reasons and theories. The flame, which has been burning for more than a fortnight now, has become a matter of both curiosity and concern for locals. The inflammable gas can be seen right in the muddy water of the river in the form of bubbles. “We could also light up the flame right in the river water if it is channelled properly through some mechanism,” said a local. “This is indeed a serious matter with possibilities of far-reaching consequences,” said deputy director general, northern region (Lucknow), Geological Survey of India (GSI) Sumant Gupta. “It has already been referred to the GSI unit in Dehradun for a detailed examination,” he added. Gupta said the phenomenon can be explained only after an analysis by the team constituted to go into the reasons behind it. He, however, said: “It is a rarest of rare case. So far, no such episode has come to light along the 2,500 km-long course of the Ganga - from its origin in Gomukh in Uttarkashi district (Uttarakhand) to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal.” Anoopshahr, he said, has definitely become distinct for the ‘mystical fire’ among all other 26 districts of UP and four other states through which the Ganga passes.

It might be due to formation of methane gas following decomposition of solid waste deposits or organic substance dumped in the sand in the past or even due to underground coal or petroleum deposits.” A team, he said, has been set up to look into the matter and its report is awaited. The fire was discovered by chance during Durga Puja on October 8 by some locals who had come for a dip in the Ganga. While offering puja after the bath, they lit a ‘deepak’ and incense sticks at the river bank. During the course of the puja, they noticed flames emanating from a sand mound at the bank. The number of leaping flames, as people put it, was initially nine. The flames, according to them, appeared from the sides of a temporary sand pulpit made by an old woman to place a lighted ‘deepak’ in the morning. However, now only one burning flame is left, though similar ones can be lighted at some other places with some extra effort. For locals, it is no less than a miracle. The burning flame is now being termed as ‘Jwala Devi’ and described as one of the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga. Since the ‘event’ occurred on the first day of Navratri, the spectacle has lent credence to the belief of locals. Since then, a make-shift tent has been erected at the site, now dubbed a ‘sanctum sanctorum’. The flame is seen here constantly. For devotees, the site has become as sacred as any other Hindu religious site. While streams of devotees make a beeline at the ghat throughout the day, ‘aartis and pujas’ are being constantly held in the morning and evening. One Govind Swamy has even declared himself as the ‘pujari’ of the site. He has temporally cordoned off the site - 20 feet in diameter - and people are allowed to enter it only after taking off their footwear. Govind Swamy, who is associated with a nearby Nepali Baba Ashram, demands that a temple be built at the site. The coming festive season of Ganga Dussehra, he feels, will be the ideal occasion as a large number of devotees are expected to visit the site. The ‘phenomenon’ has also led to brisk business at the ghat as several shops selling ‘puja samagri’ now dot the site.

Telecom trivia

Telecom regulator Trai will examine a recent DoT proposal to merge all 22 telecom circles in the country into a single service area, a move that could lead to the end of costly roaming charges, a senior Trai official said. The government is considering the merger of the 22 telecom circles into either a single service area or four separate zones, the official said.

PM goes to Tokyo

With one eye firmly on China, PM Manmohan Singh left for Japan on what is probaly the most significant attempt to emphasise and implement its Look East policy. In what was a clear giveaway, moments before his departure, Singh said China blocking export to Japan of rare earth metals, which is crucial for Japan’s hightech industry, was an opportunity for other countries to cooperate in this field with Tokyo. Japan believes that China might be deliberately preventing such exports as ties between the two countries have hit rock-bottom owing to the crisis triggered by the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain by Japanese authorities near a disputed island in the East China Sea. “This should be added incentive for many countries which have a potential to produce rare earths to take advantage of that opportunity,” Singh told a group of Japanese journalists. China currently controls almost 90% of the rare earth global trade. India is among the top five producers of rare earth metals. According to foreign policy experts, India’s efforts to cement a strategic relationship with Japan couldn’t have come at a better time as Tokyo is only now realising that its China policy is in a shambles. While the deal for civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries will not be signed during the visit, Singh said it would be a “win-win” deal once it is finalised. He said India is committed to maintaining a “unilateral and voluntary” moratorium on explosive nuclear testing and has “no intention” of revising that commitment. The two sides are expected to announce the conclusion of talks for Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or CEPA.


Earliest lighthouse ?

Gujarat maritime history dates back to Harappan civilisation. A recent paper of National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR) has a traced the earliest lighthouse on the Indian coast at Mul Dwarka. An ancient structure, circular in shape and tapering upward was observed during a recent archaeological exploration at Mul Dwarka (Kodinar). The shape and placement at the highest point on the coast suggest the possible use of this structure as a lighthouse which might be the oldest one recorded on the Saurashtra coast so far. “This lighthouse, locally known as ‘Diva Dandi,’ in Gujarati, is 4 m high and 2 m in diameter and constructed with well-dressed limestone blocks. The construction pattern suggests a possible date between the 12th and the 15th century AD. The earliest lighthouse on the Indian coast may be the structure at Mul Dwarka (Kodinar),” says the paper. The paper titled ‘A Possible Medieval Period Lighthouse at Mul Dwarka (Kodinar), Saurashtra coast, India’ is jointly written by A.S. Gaur, Sundaresh, B.R. Rao, Sila Tripati, and V.D. Khedekar. This is the earliest evidence noticed along the Gujarat coast and is well preserved. Mul Dwarka, one of the claimants for the original Dwarka of Mahabharata period on the Saurashtra coast, is situated about 7 km from Kodinar town. Presently, Mul Dwarka serves as a fishing harbour and most of the residents of this village are fishermen. “In case of lighthouse at Kodinar, the wood fire or Mashaal (torch of a rag soaked in oil to be set ablaze) might have been used. The distance to which navigator can observe the light depends on the total height from the sea level and power of the light. The elevation of Kodinar structure is 9-10 m from high waterline, and with the help of above reference it may be safe to argue that light from this structure could be noticed 4 to 5 km from the sea. This may be the appropriate distance from the coast in which ancient ships or boats used to sail in this region,” the paper stated.

Disinvestment snippets

The bull run in the stock market will help government improve fiscal health of the country. The government is likely to exceed its target of Rs 40,000 crore revenue generation through disinvestment of its holdings in public sector companies. The government, it is learnt, has also finalized plan to divest 5% of its stake in ONGC to raise around Rs 8,000 crore. With this, the total proceeds in the current financial year through disinvestment would be over Rs 48,000 crore. With the success of Coal India IPO, the government has already raised over Rs 17,000 crore, which is highest ever in a single financial year. In 2003-05, the government had raised Rs 15,541 crore. It has completed divestment in Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam and Engineers India. Disinvestment secretary Sumit Mitra said that after CIL, the government will divest in Power Grid Corporation India (PGCIL) in the first week of January. Under this, the government will divest 10% of is holding, while the company will issue fresh shares, 10% of paid-up capital. A senior merchant banker said PGCIL issue can raise around Rs 8,000 crore, of which Rs 4,000 crore will go to the Centre. In December, three offers will be launched — MOIL, Shipping Corporation of India and Hindustan Copper (HCL). In MOIL, the Centre will divest 10% stake to raise around Rs 1,500 crore. In Shipping Corporation also, besides 10% selloff by government, there will be fresh issue of shares of 10% of paid up capital. The government expects to raise Rs 1,000 crore from SCI offer. In December, the divestment of HCL will be a big issue. The company is already listed with 5% float. At present, its market capitalization is Rs 40,348 crore. The government will divest 20% stake in the company. But, it is likely to be priced at discount. According to a merchant banker, the issue will be priced at around half of the current price of Rs 436 per share. A senior merchant banker said the government is likely to raise over Rs 3,000 crore.The first quarter of 2011 will witness a number of mega issues. The three blue chip companies - Indian Oil, SAIL and ONGC - will be taken up for sell off.

Somewhere in Pune....

A view of the evening sky from Dengle bridge near Shivajinagar court.

Geelani heckled @ meet in Delhi

Hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s presence at a seminar in New Delhi provoked noisy protests, forcing the cops to physically remove dozens of agitating activists from the venue. The seminar titled ‘Azadi: the only way’, organized by Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), started amid tight security with scores of cops manning the venue. The trouble started after Assamese human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, who was one of the speakers at the event, demanded right to self-determination for J&K and deplored alleged human rights abuses in the state. His comments provoked the activists, who rushed towards the podium shouting slogans and almost came to blows with the volunteers, who made a human shield around the octogenarian separatist leader. The sloganeering continued for around 15 minutes before the cops removed the activists from the venue. They tore hoardings, pamphlets and photographs depicting four-month street protests and alleged rights violations in the Valley. Roots in Kashmir activist Aditya Raj Kaul, who was among the protesters, maintained that the hardline leader can’t be allowed to preach secession and that he had no locus standi to speak on behalf of Kashmiris. “What azadi and for whom?’’ he asked and demanded inclusion of Kashmiri Pandits in any negotiations on settling the issue. Another activist, Lalit Ambardar, echoed Kaul and said he empathizes with the families of over 110 people killed in the Valley since mid-June. “But Geelani has no right to speak on their behalf. He is responsible for getting them killed,’’ he said. Ambardar said he wanted to get up and salute mothers of those killed in the Valley, but added he wasn’t allowed to do so. `There can be no solution to the problem till Kashmiri Pandits return to their motherland.’’ The seminar continued with repeated interruptions as Geelani, Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, author Arundhati Roy, pro-Khalistan and North-East activists spoke. Geelani in his address tried to reach out to Kashmiri Pandits, saying they were welcome to return. “It’s about human relations. I would welcome them and they can live there even if they differ with my ideology,’’ he said. He rejected the appointment of the Centre’s interlocuters on Kashmir and asked New Delhi to accept his five-point proposal.

Bay watch

Samudra Prahari, the first-ever pollution-control warship has sophisticated equipment to control oil spillage and pollution and it is the first such warship in Asia and the third in the world. This ship will help control oil pollution, provide deep-sea protection and security to the coast. The ship was commissioned on October 9.

GI tags

The Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai has accorded geographical status to a record 11 new products in just a month. A geographical indication (GI) tag is a name or sign used on certain products which mirror a specific geographical location or origin. The use of a GI tag may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin, thus enhancing its marketability. The 11 items granted GI status are champagne from France, Napa Valley Wine from the US, Central Travancore Jaggery, Wayanad Gandhakasala Rice and Jeerakasala Rice from Kerala, Champa Silk Saree and Fabrics from Chhattisgarh, Kota Doria (Logo) Handicraft from Rajasthan, Nashik Grapes from Maharashtra, Surat Zari Craft from Gujarat, Cheriyal Painting and Pembarthi Metal Craft from Andhra Pradesh. There’s a surge in applications at the GI office at Guindy in Chennai from people seeking a GI tag for their products. A record 45 registrations were received in 2008-2009. 31 in 2007-08 and 24 in 2005-2006. This year so far, 37 products got the GI status. Tamil Nadu has around 20 GI tags. “With GI certification, products stand apart and can be distinguished from fakes,” says GK Muthukumaar, partner of GMS Law Associates which has handled the most number of GI Registrations in the country. “Communities involved in growing or manufacturing such products are now aware that the protection given by law can help them fetch a premium price for these items’’ he said. Champagne, one of the products granted GI status this month, is claimed exclusively by the region bearing the same name in the north eastern region of France. No other wine, even if it is made from the same grape variety or manufactured by the same method and is identical in taste, aroma and other qualities, can be called ‘Champagne.’ In India, geographical indications are protected and governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Under the Act, an application can be made for registering a geographical indication by an association of persons or producers or any organization or authority representing the interests of the producers of the goods concerned under Section 11 of the Act.

Navi Mumbai airport update

A few hurdles still stand between Mumbai and its second airport and it may be at least a year before work even starts. The central team of environmental experts has set a new list of conditions that include channeling underground natural water streams into the rivers, creation of a canal between Gadhi and Ulve rivers and development of mangrove lagoon on Waghivali island village, before the state for clearance to the airport. While the government is ready to meet all of them, even if it gets environmental clearance the state will have to approach the Bombay High Court and Union forest department for clearances on mangrove hacking and regeneration. Later, the process to appoint developers will take a minimum of six months. This means actual airport construction is almost over a year away--- still a distant dream. The only ray of hope stems from the fact that the state government has agreed to unconditionally incorporate the Centre’s suggestions in the final plan. To meet the environmental conditions, the state has agreed to shift the runway, and thus the site, 350 metres south giving up 450 hectares of eco-sensitive land near Panvel creek mostly including Waghivali village and Gadhi river’s U-shaped course. However towards the south of the site, the state is in a position to accommodate only 300 hectares. To compensate the loss of 150 hectares the government has decided to make available 150 hectares of FSI to the developers to make the project commercially feasible. “There are riders. We will have to give even more depth and width to Ulve river while diverting it, ensure channeling of underground drainage system into rivers before flattening hills and filling up land for construction, build a canal connecting Gadhi and Ulve rivers, and create mangrove lagoon on Waghivali island and around. We will not be able to touch the Gadhi river at all and when diverting Ulve and constructing canals, we will have to build retaining walls,” revealed sources in the state government who were involved in discussions with the central team . After visiting the airport site on Wednesday, the experts’ appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union environment and forest ministry (MoEF) on Thursday held discussions with Cidco and state urban development department officials at Maharashtra Pollution Control Board office at Sion. This was mainly to remove doubts about the plan and help Cidco finalise the blueprint for environmental damage control. EAC members refused to talk to the media and will submit their report to the MoEF soon, based on which a decision is expected within a month or two. Chief minister Ashok Chavan said, “I am hopeful that the airport will soon be a reality and will meet the EAC on Friday in Mumbai.” State urban department principal secretary T C Benjamin said a presentation has been made to EAC and there are positive indications. “There were some minor objections but it looks good overall. Now we will wait for MoEF decision,” said Benjamin. Cidco MD Tanaji Satre said, “Every issue pertaining to the environment was discussed and there seems to be scope for some headway now. We have submitted all the reports and are hopeful about the environmental clearance.”

India's biggest IPO yet

The Indian capital market turned black into gold this week. The initial public offer of Coal India was set to be the largest in Indian history from the moment it opened on Monday, but even the biggest bulls in the ring were left stunned by the money it mined by the time it closed on Thursday: a mobilization of Rs 2.36 lakh crore, over 15 times the target of Rs 15,500 crore. It’s a mind-boggling testimony to the amount of money floating around in Indian markets,the hunger for good stocks, and the euphoria about the India story—also reflected in the sensex closing up 388 points at 20,261 on Thursday. The success of Coal India also sets an impressive benchmark for SAIL, Hindustan Copper and Power Grid which are lined up to tap the capital markets in coming months. It can be a little hard to get one’s head around all the zeroes in a figure like Rs 2.36 lakh crore (or $53 billion). So here’s some perspective. The amount that flowed into the offering by the ‘black diamond’ in four days is more than last year’s GDP of about 140 countries. It is more than Sri Lanka’s GDP ($42 billion) and four times that of Nepal ($12.5 billion), according to data on the World Bank’s website. It’s also almost 10 times India’s health budget of Rs 25,154 crore for 2010-11, nearly five times our education budget of Rs 49,904 crore and almost one-fourth the size of the Union budget itself. Here’s another fascinating comparison:FIIs have pumped in a record Rs 1.08 lakh crore into Indian stocks this year. For the Coal India IPO alone, they have put in bids worth Rs 1.20 lakh crore.

South side story

The battle for eyeballs is hotting up in Karnataka with more leading politicians launching vernacular news channels very soon. In any case, every major political party already has a channel run by a prominent member. Though advertising revenue is not very encouraging, that hasn’t deterred the netas. They also don’t see lack of experience in media management as hindrance. The latest to take the plunge will be the Reddy brothers of Bellary, who are all set to launch Janasri, a 24/7 news channel (the name is derived from Janardhana and Sriramulu). This was seen necessary because most other channels owned by politicians were stridently anti-BJP or anti-Reddys. They’ve been working for over a year to launch this channel, in Kannada and Telugu. Former PM H D Deve Gowda’s family owns Kasturi Kannada Vahini channel and also controls part of the distribution business. Anitha Kumaraswamy, JD(S) legislator and wife of former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, heads the channel which is, quite unsurprisingly, a party mouthpiece. Congress recently jumped into the fray with senior leader and former minister Satish Jharkiholi, a business magnate from Belgaum, launching Samay. Four years ago, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar’s Jupiter Entertainment Ventures acquired 51% stake in Asianet Communications, which runs a bouquet of Malayalam TV channels. Chandrashekar, who won the elections as an independent with the help of JD(S) and BJP, later started Suvarna 24/7 and an entertainment channel. The channel is providing serious competition to TV9, the leading channel in Karnataka, owned by Associated Broadcasting Company (ABCL) of Hyderabad. Another player soon will be Hubli-based transport tycoon Vijay Sankeshwar, a three-time MP and now BJP MLC, who plans to start Vijay TV early next year. Most politicians see news channels as an economical option to get favourable coverage and build up a public image.
Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of channels owned by political parties or their close aides. These include Sun TV (owned by DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s grandnephews Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi Maran) and Jaya TV (owned by Jayalalithaa). Captain TV is owned by actor-turned-politician Vijaykanth besides Mega TV and two Congressmen launched Vasanth channel while Makkal TV espouses the PMK cause. After DMK leaders fell out with the Marans last year, the party launched Kalaignar TV.
In Andhra Pradesh, the late YSR’s son Jaganmohan Reddy owns Sakshi TV and Sakshi newspaper.
In Kerala, Malayalam Communications runs a couple of channels which are CPM-backed, while Congressmen have their Jaihind channel. M K Muneer of Muslim League has started India Vision.

Kashmir interlocutors ready to talk to anyone

Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the Centre said they were ready to meet anyone, including separatists, who were willing to talk to them. The three-member team headed by veteran journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, which arrived in Srinagar on a four-day visit, plans to meet a cross section of people including students to address the political angle of the Kashmir dispute. "Our main focus is to address the political angle of Kashmir dispute. We are here to talk to every shade of opinion and we are here to listen to the people,” Padgaonkar told reporters on arrival.He said the team will be in the Valley for the next four days and will meet people from all walks of the society and would hear their point of view. “We have already fixed some appointments ... some more will be fixed in the course of the visit. We are planning to meet students on Monday,” Padgaonkar said. He said the interlocutors will be visiting the state at least once a month to continue the dialogue with the people of the state and they will submit their recommendations after each visit. Asked if the team would be meeting the separatist groups in view of rejection by hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the eminent journalist said they were ready to meet anyone who was willing. “I have said it earlier also that if they wish us to call on them, we will do it as well,” he said

HCC plans waterfront city in Dholera

Hindustan Construction Co is planning to build a Water Front City at Dholera in 2011. The project will come up in the proposed special investment region (SIR) at Dholera. The company plans to invest Rs 40,000 crore in the project in a phased manner. “The city will come up over 4,000-5,000 acres. We have prepared the master plan for the project… we are quite confident we will be there by next year. Currently, we are discussing site approvals,” said Rajgopal Nogja, president, HCC Real Estate & Lavasa Corporation. Dholera falls in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) influence area and Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB), the nodal agency for Dholera SIR, is expected to give the approval to the company for site options soon. The city will be modelled on the concept of India’s first planned hill city being developed near Pune by Lavasa Corporation, a subsidiary of HCC. Both Lavasa and Water Front City are based on a new concept, which “brings together residential and commercial spaces within walking distance of each other, facilitating connectivity, promoting diversity and creating environmental sustainability”. The company signed an MoU with the Gujarat government in 2009 to develop the Water Front City at Dholera. Earlier this year, the company announced that it received an extension of two years for the MoU. A second MoU had been signed with the Narmada Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpasar Department in 2009, for developing three water pipeline projects worth Rs 1,500 crore.

Modi hammers Congress in Gujarat

Call it the last nail in the Congress coffin in Gujarat. Chief minister Narendra Modiled BJP swept the local body polls, crushing the Congress completely in panchayats and municipalities, after having already won the six municipal corporations. The win clearly underlines the complete domination of the Gujarat CM on the political arena in Gujarat where the Congress has been decimated systematically during the nine years of his rule. The BJP has made clear dents in Congress’s traditional vote-banks — tribals, OBCs, Dalits and even Muslims. Out of 24 district panchayats, the Congress managed to win just two — Gandhinagar and Tapi. These are the smallest of all panchayats in the state. BJP won 21 and Bharuch did not throw up a clear verdict. BJP won 42 out of the 53 municipalities, four went to the Congress. Independents were in a position to capture four. There was no clear verdict in three municipalities. In the panchayat elections, the defeat in Anand is a jolt to Solanki and Dinsha. The loss in Valsad and Surat is a disturbing sign for Chaudhary. Congress retained Gandhinagar district panchayat, a big relief for battered Congressman Shankarsinh Vaghela, whose son Mahendrasinh managed to consolidate Rajputs and OBC Thakores. Insiders say much of the credit for Gandhinagar also goes to local leader CJ Chavda. Congress’s victory in Tapi is at best an isolated win in the eastern tribal belt — BJP performed rather well in all other districts along this belt, snatching Valsad and Surat and retaining Dahod, Panchmahals, Narmada and Sabarkantha. Fielding Christians in Dangs, it seems , also paid dividends to BJP.

ADAG plans to invest Rs.70,000 crore in MP

ADAG chairman Anil Ambani said the group would invest Rs 70,000 crore over the next five years in various sectors making it the largest investor in Madhya Pradesh. Speaking at a Global Investors’ Summit, he said that his group would invest in sectors like power, mining, cement, Coal Bed Methane (CBM) and telecommunication. The state’s plan outlay over the next five years would be Rs 1,00,000 crore whereas RADAG’s investment in the same period would be over Rs 70,000 crore, he pointed out. Giving details about the slew of projects the group has chalked up, the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group chairman said it would set up 12,000 MW power plant, using ultra super-critical technology. In case of coal, he said the group would develop the country’s largest private sector mine in the state with a production capacity of 25 million tonnes of coal per annum.

India will rise to 8th position in IMF ranking

India will improve its IMF rank by three notches to 8th position as G20 decided to increase quota of emerging markets in the lending agency by over 6%. India’s rank in IMF will rise to 8th position, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said. “What we have achieved is significant. The quota share (of India in the IMF) will improve to about 2.75% (from the present level of 2.44%),” Mukherjee added. Similarly, China will see an improvement in its ranking to the third position from the present sixth. Quota represents the relative position of members of the IMF. It is based on various parameters like country’s GDP, openness, forex reserves etc. The finance minister said the quota reforms will give legitimacy to the IMF in the new world economic order. India and other emerging market economies have been demanding reforms in the IMF to give more powers to them in line with their share in the global economy. Emerging market economies contribute around 47.5% to the global economy in terms of purchasing power parity, but have only 39.5% share in the IMF. Their share will now increase to over 45.5% in the 187-nation body IMF. Now next phase of reforms will start in 2013.