Somewhere in Bangalore....

It’s been two years since India’s heart was scarred by a group of terrorists. The country came together once again on Friday to pay a tribute to the victims of the terror attack that ripped through Mumbai on 26/11. In Bangalore, a group of people united by social networking sites took the initiative to organize a tribute to the martyrs. Police officers also paid homage to the bravehearts at the National War Memorial site.

India @ the Asian Games 2010

Lavasa gets a showcause notice

The Rs 2,153-crore Lavasa project has been served a show-cause notice by the Union environment ministry (MoEF) asking why the illegal structures on the 25,000 acre complex in Pune district should not be demolished for violation of the Environment Protection Act. The ministry also ordered Lavasa to stop all construction on site till the Centre takes a decision on the show cause notice, and demanded that Lavasa’s promoters back up their explanation by photographic evidence and satellite imagery.Lavasa has been given a fortnight to reply to the show cause notice. The ministry has noted that the luxury township had got clearance in 2004 to construct only over 2,000 hecatres and that too on lands ranging less than 1,000 metres above sea level.However,investigations by the Pune collector showed that 47.30 hectare of the land on which the promoters had undertaken construction was above 1,000m. In a media release,Lavasa said it was yet to receive the notice and that it would respond to it as soon as it got it. The notice has been put on the ministry’s website. Significantly, NCP boss and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, in a recent newspaper interview, said he had selected the site for Lavasa. He also said his daughter Supriya Sule and her husband Sadanand were prominent shareholders in the project in the earlier stages, but had since sold their stake. He said the promoters should be held responsible for any irregularities that may have been committed. The ministry also noted that deviations were made from the approved plan during the first phase of construction that began in 2004, and that the developers did not obtain clearance from the MoEF as they were required to after an amendment to the environemnt regulations the same year. Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL), the project developer, is a subsidiary of the Hindustan Construction Company. In its order, environment ministry said environmental clearances are mandatory for township and construction projects of this size. The National Alliance of People Movement complained to the environment ministry about the violation, leading the Centre to ask for a report from the Maharashtra government in June 2010. The Maharashtra environment secretary replied in August stating environmental clearance had been given in March 2004 for construction over a 2,000 hectares stretch. The Centre responded by asking the Maharashtra government in September 2010 to reexamine the project and take action in case of any violations. LCL, in its response to queries by the state department, admitted that some construction had been made above 1000 metres — which under law would have required prior central government environmental clearance. The Centre has also recorded in its show cause notice that it had asked the Maharashtra government to ensure the clearance process was in order as far back as in 2005.

Pune airport update

Two days after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said that local leadership needs to sort out issues relating to Pune’s international airport, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the airport project will be pushed ahead with the help of private players, if the issues of land allotment and acquisition are not resolved through the government machinery. Pawar also assured the much-needed impetus to the pending projects in the city, including the metro, monorail, PMRDA and the BRTS projects. A series of meeting will be held to discuss the projects soon after the Nagpur session of the assembly, he said. “I have a stand that we should find a way out to resolve the airport issue,” Pawar said. Talks are on at various levels and also with the civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, over allocation of land and inclusion of private players in the project, he added. Pawar was speaking at the ‘meet the press’ event organised by the Pune union of working journalists. Pawar said projects like airport require huge stretches of land. Issues like rehabilitation of the affected people, too, have to be addressed. If the government acquires the land, the airport will come up on the left side of the Pune-Nashik highway. In case private parties are involved, it will come up on the right side.
Speaking on issues relating to the city, the deputy CM said, I know many city issues have been pending for long. “I assure that every issue will be resolved within a certain time frame,” Pawar added.

Somewhere in Lucknow....

Participants enjoy the picturesque setting during a boat race organised in the Gomti .

India’s 20th N-reactor operational at Kaiga

India’s 20th nuclear power plant on Saturday became operational at Kaiga taking the total installed atomic power capacity in the country to 4780 MW. The indigenously-developed 220 MW capacity Unit 4 of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station attained criticality at 8.07.22 am making India the sixth country in the world to have 20 or more nuclear power plants in operation. A nuclear reactor is said to have attained criticality when it is ready to maintain stability of the chain reaction indicating that the unit is has achieved a steady output of power. The Kaiga-4 was built a few years ago but was unable to start power production for want of fuel. India’s exemption from the NSG guidelines in 2008 that facilitated its return to global nuclear trade made the access to fuel possible. The announcement of Kaiga-4 attaining criticality was made by Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee in the presence of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited chairmancum-managing director Shreyans Kumar Jain and a number of officials at the site. “I announce that Unit 4 has attained criticality,” said Banerjee. He said that it would be the endevour of the department to ensure that the new unit is connected with the grid as early as possible which could be followed by commercial production of power.

Gharials return to Hooghly

It’s being termed a miraculous revival that has taken wildlife experts and conservationists by surprise. And raised hopes about the survival of species that is now seriously threatened. The gharial — the long-snouted fresh-water crocodile — is back in the Hooghly. They have been spotted in numbers that are larger than had been expected when the reptiles were spotted after a gap of 60 years in downstream Hooghly two years ago. Now, a team of researchers has identified a breeding group at Purbasthali in Burdwan which signals that the gharials are finally multiplying.
A young gharial , about three feet in length, was trapped in a fishing
net at Purbasthali on Saturday. About a half-a-dozen more followed it into the net. They were all pulled up, examined and released back into the river. “By last count, the number of gharials had shot up to around 180. Now, it seems the number is actually more than 250 since they are breeding. We have spotted even smaller ones, new-born gharials merely six inches long. This is great news for conservation since the reptile was taken to be extinct in eastern India for six decades,” said Tanmoy Ghosh, president of iRebel —an NGO that has been researching on gharials with support from the West Bengal Bio-Diversity Board and the Hooghly Zilla Parishad.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNNR), less than 200 breeding gharials now survive in the wild. They started disappearing from their original habitat — the Ganges and the rivers of Bangladesh in the first half of the last century. Unrestricted fishing is held to be one of the major reasons behind this. Cultivation along the banks — where they lay their eggs — destroyed their breeding habitat.
A study carried out in two phases since 2008 suggests that the reptiles are flocking back to Hooghly. It was carried out over an area of 500 km along the Hooghly from Farakka to Tribeni. “We have been spotting them off and on but not in large numbers. Now that bigger groups have been seen, it is clear that they are returning to the Hooghly. Perhaps even more encouraging is the fact that they are breeding here,” said Pranabesh Sanyal, conservationist and former field director of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
The iRebel team has now stationed itself at Purbasthali. Fishermen and locals have been involved in the study.

Somewhere in Delhi....

Somewhere in the Pench Tiger Reserve....

Two tigresses have given birth to eight cubs in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench Tiger Reserve in a span of just two months. “Last month, a tigress with five newly born cubs was sighted and this month our ground duty officials have spotted another feline with three cubs,” Pench deputy field director O P Tiwari said. He said both the tigresses have given birth to cubs under Karmajhiri range of the Pench reserve, spread over an area of 411 sqkm in eastern Madhya Pradesh. Tiwari said the tigress, with five cubs, seen in October had shifted to another place from the spot where it gave birth — a practice common among felines. This tigress is around six-year old, he said. The tigress spotted with three cubs is around nine-yearold, Tiwari said, adding that they were trying to take photographs of the new guests in their park. With the news of the eight new-born cubs in the reserve, the monitoring in and around Karmajhiri has been increased, officials said.

Chitradurga's synchrotron plan

This district of dry boulders will be home to a Rs 2,000 crore gigantic circular magnetic facility with electrons travelling at the speed of light. Fundamental science was never synonymous with parched Chitradurga but this is the new truth. The circular facility known as the synchrotron will witness fundamental experiments that would ultimately prove useful in developing better medical imaging equipment, aid drug discovery and research, develop therapies to treat cancer, help understand the reaction of our living cells to drugs etc. The synchrotron being planned by IISc will cover approximately an area of 100 acres and have a circular tunnel. “It will be a very huge facility and will have electrons go round and round close to the speed of light emitting Xray radiation. This radiation or X-rays can then take the form of beam lines or be channelled into equipment which will ultimately have uses in biological and structural analysis and in materials science as well,” M Vijayan of IISc explained. The facility can be deep within the ground or above. Synchrotron facilities in Paris and UK are above the ground, while a circular tunnel that also has protons and electrons clashing at speeds of light lies deep beneath the ground in Geneva covering an area of 27 km. “The facility at Chitradurga will have some similarities with the CERN facility in Geneva. The CERN facility deals with high-energy physics while the Chitradurga synchrotron will look at materials science, biology and the like. It will be in the range of 2.5-6 Giga electron volts,” said Vijayan. China’s Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, for instance, is 3.5 GeV. “The absence of a next-generation synchrotron is acutely felt and the country needs to have its own facility reducing our dependence abroad,” Vijayan said. The institute has received an in-principle approval to prepare a detailed project proposal for the synchrotron, which will be operated through, and funded by, the Union department of science and technology.

Rajkot's BRTS update

The much-awaited 10.7 km pilot project of Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) from Gondal Road chowkdi to Jamnagar Road chowkdi on 150-feet Ring Road is finally gaining some momentum. Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) officials have set June 2011 as the deadline for running BRTS buses on the dedicated corridor. The project is being carried out under the central government-sponsored Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Senior RMC officials said the total length of blue corridor (part-1) pilot project from Gondal Road to Jamnagar Road junctions on the 150-feet Ring Road is 10.7 km and will have 13 bus stops on the route. “As per the original design of the BRTS corridor, foot overbridges were designed on the dedicated corridors to reach the bus stops, but now we plan to have an underpass to reach the BRTS bus stops. We will first construct an underpass as an experiment near the Big Bazaar junction on the BRTS route. We will see which would be more convenient from all aspects and then take a final decision,’’ said a senior RMC official. Sources said the underpass will be around 18 to 24 meters in length and 5 to 7.5 meters in width. “In all, there will be 14 junctions on the 10.7 km BRTS route. If this experiment goes well, we will decide whether to go for a foot over-bridge or an underpass at all the junctions,” sources said. RMC officials have also been learning from the successful BRTS experiment in Ahmedabad.
“We will soon have a meeting of all the stake holders regarding the BRTS project where in everybody concerned will be invited to discuss the plan. The issue of the underpass will also be discussed. Common people will also be invited for putting in their suggestions,” said the RMC official. The BRTS project in the city has already been delayed. Earlier, RMC had planned to start running BRTS buses on pilot corridor from January 2011. Now, the deadline has been extended till June 2011.
The entire project will be implemented in three corridors — blue, green and red — in a phased manner and cover 104.86 sq km area in the city. The total length of BRTS project is 63.50 km.

Jaitapur N-power unit

The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has given environment clearance to the controversial Jaitapur nuclear power project slated to come up in Madban village (Ratnagiri district) along the Konkan coast. This is the second major project, after the Navi Mumbai airport, to be cleared by minister Jairam Ramesh in a week. The 9,900-mw Jaitapur nuclear power plant, the country’s largest, will be set up in collaboration with the French firm Areva. The final contracts are scheduled to be signed in the first half of 2011.
The project has elicited a huge outcry, with mass protests by local fishermen and environmentalists who fear that it will not only destroy the rich marine biodiversity of the Konkan belt but also destroy the livelihood of the local
population. “The true impact of the project of this scale will never be known unless one decides to do a comprehensive bio-diversity assessment. The thermal discharge of this scale is bound to cause an eco-system shift in a large area. Even a 0.5 degree of continous thermal stress will lead to mortality of marine species. And here we are talking about a 5 degree shift,” said Deepak Apte, marine biologist and deputy director of the Bombay Natural History (BNHS) said. Incidentally, the environment clearance for Jaitapur project was given in just 80 days from the time the final environment impact assessment (EIA) report was submitted by the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL). An agreement between Areva and NCPIL is expected to be signed during French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to India next month.
While approving the project, MoEF has prescribed 35 stringent conditions and safeguards, of which 23 specific conditions would have to be met within a year’s time. These include the preparation of a comprehensive biodiversity conservation plan, with the BNHS and the state forest department, to maintain the health of 150 hectares of mangroves in the area. Stressing the need for cleaner technology, Ramesh said nuclear energy was a cleaner option compared to coal. “From
the environment point of view, a nuclear project is land-intensive and greener. Today 38% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity generation sector. If we wish to maintain a GDP growth rate of 9% every year, then our power sector needs to grow at 7% annually,” he said. However, Ramesh admitted that there were serious concerns about the large number of coal-based and mining projects that are coming up in the eco-fragile Konkan belt. Apart from the Gadchiroli-Chandrapur area, the western ghats are the sole remaining green zone in the state. The proposals of many new coal-based power plants in this area (which generate a total of 33,000 mw power) will add up to huge environmental problems, Ramesh warned.
Elaborating on the conditions laid down for the Jaitapur project, Ramesh said that a special plan to mitigate the adverse impact on the fisherfolk community will have to be implemented. The cooling water system will be designed to discharge into marine areas beyond 2.2 kilometres. It shall also be ensured that the temperature differential of the discharged water with respect to intake does not exceed 5 degree celsius at any given point of time, he said. Ramesh added that the radioactive level in different com
ponents of the environment, including the food chain and quality of air, water and soil, shall be monitored regularly as per Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) standards.
State chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is also a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Dr S Banerjee, chairman of AEC, were present at the function on Sunday. Chavan said that though compensation has been awarded to the displaced families as per the law, the state will see to it that the 2,335 farmers get a handsome package from NPCIL. “We will pay them more and also provide them permanent jobs,” Chavan said.


November rain

The Rajabai Tower as reflected in a puddle on the Oval Maidan. Mumbai is experiencing a spell of unseasonal showers .

It's the pits !

Gadkari and Yeddy celebrating another scam ?

The BJP blinks

Embattled Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa stared down the BJP’s central leadership and retained his seat on the back of a threatened revolt by a majority of party MPs and the possibility of a politically debilitating Lingayat backlash. Faced with an unrepentant Yeddyurappa, the BJP chose to put the continuance of its government in the southern state above probity concerns and backed away from its Sunday’s decision on his ouster over allegations of land being allotted to firms linked to his sons. While Yeddyurappa’s exit had looked on the cards, Wednesday saw an about turn by the party. The decision to retain Yeddyurappa came after meetings that stretched well into Tuesday night, with BJP president Nitin Gadkari holding consultations with the CM and other senior leaders. Panchayat polls, leaders’ views on scams helped BSY . By dawn, Yeddyurappa seemed to have scripted a great escape for himself, beating the odds and the will of party leaders. The CM seemed to have also been helped by some leaders taking a less serious view of corruption cases against him. With the BJP facing a Hobson’s choice, the leaders were more inclined to take the view that the CM should be asked to be wary in the future. Yeddyurappa has argued that the role of in-house rivals like Ananth Kumar must not be ignored and his supporters have pointed to leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj’s proximity to the Reddy brothers. The BJP brass has in the past acknowledged the role of the mining barons in helping the party in the assembly election. In Delhi, the central BJP leadership maintained that the party took the decision on Yeddyurappa in the context of the panchayat polls. Senior leader Arun Jaitley said, “We are in the process of taking a final view and the matter is being dealt with by party chief Nitin Gadkari.’’ In a nerveless encounter, the chief minister was riding on reported resignation threats from 14 of 19 party MPs from Karnataka, the Lingayat factor, a divided national leadership and influential mutt chiefs lobbying for him. The MPs are said to have harped on the TINA (there is no other alternative) factor and cited the upcoming zilla and taluk panchayat elections as the immediate challenge facing them. Surviving the second major crisis in his 30-month tenure, Yeddyurappa’s defiance underlined the BJP high command’s loss of authority and its inability to get state satraps to fall in line. While Yeddyurappa claimed mass support, his example might well be emulated by others, including more sedate leaders like Shivraj Chauhan and Raman Singh. In October, the Reddy brothers had armtwisted the leadership into agreeing to their conditions to call off the rebellion marshalled by them. Sources said the CM, apart from threatening to dissolve the assembly, also sought action against Ananth Kumar.


Victorious Nitish Kumar says Bihar has won

Chief minister Nitish Kumar said that the sweeping victory of his alliance was a vote for Bihar's continued development. "This is a victory for the people of Bihar," Nitish Kumar said in his first reaction after his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) crushed the opposition in assembly elections. "The people had a clear choice: do they want development or do they want Bihar to return to its old days... "The people have decided... we want development. Development has won in Bihar," Nitish Kumar said in his usual soft tone.
Thanking the people of Bihar he said that he does not have a magic wand but their people's support. Kumar promised to work hard for the next five years too. "We will work in the same way, probably we will work harder...I can give one promise. I will not hesitate to work hard."
He added that political competition should be about who works harder and also said that people who based their strategy on caste calculations have lost.
He congratulated the Election Commission for the successful elections but urged it to show more trust in Bihar saying that the six-phased polls were tough on the state.

A Tiger is shot dead !

The day Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao joined other world leaders in St Petersburg to work out a deal to save the remaining 3200 tigers in the wild, Indian security personnel and forest officials botched a rescue operation and ended up gunning down a healthy eight-feet male member of the endangered species. The tiger had strayed into Nagabandha village in Morigaon district of Assam early Tuesday morning. It was hiding in a paddy field, when a 40-year-old woman crossed its path. She was badly mauled and died on the spot. Soon after, a police team reached the spot and even as the cops were inspecting the area, the tiger attacked again, seriously injuring a policeman. The twin attacks triggered huge alarm and angry villagers poured out of their homes and began surrounding the paddy field. As the crowd swelled, the tiger panicked and started running frantically. A large rescue team comprising forest officials and vets also reached the spot and began shooting darts to tranquillise the big cat. The villagers added to the chaos by chasing the tiger in all directions. “Whichever direction the tiger moved, the crowd followed. So even as we kept our darts ready, the crowd came between us and the target. It was horrible,” said one of the vets. Around 1pm, the team managed to fire a dart but it failed to tranquillise the tiger and the animal entered a hut. “The crowed rushed in and chased it out. In a moment of panic, the tiger pounced on a man and mauled him to death,” said Ranjan Barthakur of NGO Green Guard, who was present at the spot. After the second casualty, security forces didn’t want to take any more chances and shot the animal. “It was unfortunate that the tiger had to be shot down. Our personnel maintained maximum restraint. But the crowd was so large that there was no other option. If we had not killed the tiger, there would have been more casualties,” said Morigaon SP Anurag Agarwal. Chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand, however, said he had not issued any order to kill the tiger, nor was he contacted. “The team was on the spot and doing its best to tranquillise the animal. But no order was issued to kill the tiger. An inquiry has been instituted,” he said. Chief conservator of forests, D M Singh, will head the inquiry team. However, wildlife conservationists said the killing of the tiger could have been averted.

Chennai going green

Semmozhi Poonga, which has come up in an area of seven acres in place of the erstwhile Woodlands Drive-In restaurant on Cathedral Road, will be thrown open to the public by chief minister M Karunanidhi on Wednesday. Over 500 species of flora will be grown in different patterns in the area. The garden will also have artworks dotting its landscape

Chennai plans more metro corridors

More neighbourhoods are set to join the Metro rail bandwagon. A high-level committee that is looking into the feasibility of constructing more corridors plans to take the metro network to neighbourhoods that are not covered under Phase 1 of the project. A detailed study has been carried out for one more corridor (in addition to the 2 corridors under Phase I) that will be constructed under phase II of the metro expansion. A senior official of the Metro Rail said the third corridor under consideration was from Ambattur to Tiruvanmiyur via Ring Road, Arcot Road, Panagal Park, Eldams Road, Luz Church Road, R K Mutt Road, Adyar bridge, Lattice Bridge Road. According to the official, in the next couple of years, 70% of the commuters would be using public transport. Currently, the share of public transport — buses and suburban trains — in moving commuters is only 33 % while 71% of the residents use private vehicles. The share of public transport had grown inversely with passing years — 60% in 1992, 53 % in 2003, 41 % in 2008 and 33 % in 2010, the official said. “Ideally, the share of public transport should be 70 % for a city with a population of 8 million. It is this gap that the Metro Rail is trying to fill up. The number of commuters travelling suburban trains has risen but not in tune with population growth,” he said. So, the future corridors also aim to link the neighbourhoods to the existing mass transit network. Another Metro Rail official said the high-level committee would decide on Phase II expansion and the state government would select which corridors were to be constructed first. “We will have to identify the corridors, apply for Union government approval and arrange funds before finalising a plan for construction. The whole exercise may take three or more years,” he said. The Metro Rail is also planning to stretch its corridor under Phase 1 from airport to Pallavaram or Tambaram. The first two corridors under Phase I — Washermenpet to airport via Anna Salai and Central to St Thomas Mount via Koyambedu — have been given priority because of heavy traffic density. Alignment for these corridors link other modes of transport: Bus stands, mofussil bus terminus, railway stations, MRTS and airport. “This is the first time in any city that all modes of transport are being linked with Metro Rail in the first phase itself. The subsequent corridors too will be selected in such a way that commuters can switch from Metro to suburban trains or MRTS without any hassle,” said an official. The future solution to eliminate commuting woes lies in Metro Rail because of two reasons: Widening of roads with large scale land and building acquisition is not feasible in the heart of the city and dedicated expressways or bus bays are not feasible because of numerous existing flyovers. “Monorail or light rail can also be considered as feeder services to link with metro corridors”, says a source.
St Thomas Mount is being planned as a major hub where you can switch over from Metro Rail trains to MRTS or suburban trains. To accommodate the three avatars of the rail transport, a huge multi-level station is being planned by Metro Rail at St Thomas Mount. The four-layered hub will help a smooth changeover for commuters from suburban trains to MRTS or Metro without much hassle. Suburban train commuters from Tambaram will be able to change over to MRTS to proceed to Velachery or Mylapore or hop on to Metro to travel to Koyambedu without getting out of the station complex. The MRTS line from Velachery to St Thomas Mount, Metro line from Central to St Thomas Mount via Koyambedu and the Tambaram-Beach suburban line will converge at St Thomas Mount. As per the design, the elevated station will have a Metro Rail station on the top floor, followed by an MRTS station a level below and then a vast concourse area for commuters to switch over to these two modes or to step down to the ground level, which will house suburban trains. The state government is also planning a bus terminus near the proposed Metro Rail station complex for commuters who wish to travel by bus to other parts of the city. “A bus terminus is being planned so that commuters can also travel to places not connected by rail-based mass rapid transit system,” said an official. Suburban commuters are waiting for the Metro Rail project to get over so that they can enjoy a hassle-free travel to commercial districts in Anna Salai and Nungambakkam High Road. With Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority Bill being okayed in the state legislature, the government is working towards putting in place a common ticketing system for suburban trains, Metro, MRTS and buses. Other locations that Metro will integrate with either suburban trains or buses are Washermenpet, Fort, Central, Egmore, Chindadripet, Guindy, Koyambedu and Vadapalani.

DD, AIR go blank

Audiences across the country were caught unawares when national and regional stations of Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) went on a blink or ran old recorded programming on Tuesday. In a rare strike action, 38,000 Prasar Bharati employees struck work. And even more surprising was that they are not agitating for work related issues. The employees, who are on a 48-hr strike, are protesting against CEO B S Lalli’s alleged involvement in CWG broadcast fiddles. The strikers are also demanding repeal of the PB Act. The National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees enjoys the support of 21 organisations including camerampersons, engineers and producers among others. With most employees boycotting work, the broadcaster had to depend on contract employees and skeletal staff.

Chitradurga, Karnataka

Chitradurga is best known for its huge boulders and picturesque valleys. But that’s all set to change. Chitradurga could be the science hotspot of the country as four of India’s most prestigious institutions are set to strike root at Challakere in Chitradurga, 200 km from Bangalore. The Indian Institute of Science, Indian Space Research Organization, Defence Research and Development Organization, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre will be located side by side in an integrated township spread over 8,000 acres. Such a concentration of space, defence, nuclear and pure science research will be the first of its kind and create one of India’s largest science hubs. The establishment of these institutions will generate a new equation between Bangalore and Chitradurga. “There will be a great number of scientists, research scholars and academicians travelling between the two cities, changing the profile of Chitradurga. The city and district will acquire a knowledge-city profile,” city-based scientists said.

The facilities in Chitradurga will be path-breaking — DRDO will be housing the cutting-edge unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme, in which it will be building and testing the latest class of UAVs for the country’s defence establishment. Additionally, it will have an airstrip that would enable UAVs to operate and potentially, even manned aircraft that are small. The BARC facility will be a key national resource in the country, where material enrichment will be undertaken. Major minerals like uranium, thorium etc which are related to national security are enriched to fuel nuclear plants. After Kaiga, Chitradurga BARC facility will be the second major nuclear centre in the state.Isro’s focus on communication and remote sensing is expected to match and supplement the national remote sensing agency at Hyderabad. The centre will be linked to space centres in Europe and USA, and high volume data transmission is expected between them.

Policy planners also say that “infrastructure and the civic get-up of Chitradurga will improve, which will see not only see better roads within the city but between Bangalore and Chitradurga” by the arrival of the science institutions. “Once a place is identified as a hub, economic activities also tend to pick up. We are hoping that Chitradurga will benefit a lot from this. The MP of the district has been at the forefront in trying to get academic institutions to the city and district,” planners said.

M&M seals Ssangyong deal for $463m

Utility vehicle major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) moved closer to acquire Korean SUV maker Ssangyong and signed a definitive agreement to buy the company for $463 million (around Rs 2,100 crore). The acquisition is likely to be wrapped up by February-March on approval of a revised corporate rehabilitation plan from creditors in January. Ssangyong has been under restructuring since February 2009 when global recession hit car sales. However, M&M is optimistic on the deal and has said the deal would drive in “immediate synergies” and help fulfil its ambition of becoming a global player in SUVs. M&M said it will buy 70% in Ssangyong by issuing new shares worth $378 million while purchasing $85 million of Ssangyong’s bonds.

Japan may fund Mumbai Metro III

The MMRDA has initiated talks with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in a bid to raise funds for the Rs 10,000-crore Metro III line from Colaba to Bandra. MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, who held talks with JICA’s senior representative Hiroshi Suzuki, said the outlook for funding is positive. “We have also had a talk with the central urban development ministry in New Delhi and will be forwarding our request to the agency through the state government. We are keen on following the Delhi Metro Model for the third line,” he said. JICA, which had financed the Delhi Metro, has shown an interest in the Mumbai Metro.

Somewhere in New York....

The family of the young Moshe Holtzberg is suing the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in New York, accusing it of aiding and abetting the Lashkar’s diabolical 26/11 plot. Moshe’s American parents, Rabbi Gavriel Noah and Rivka, were killed in the ambush at Nariman House. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
It's going to be two years since that incident day after tomorrow.


Mumbai Monorail update

The DMK katha

Venky's London Ltd acquires Blackburn Rovers

The deal has been done.Blackburn Rovers is now Indian......

Nitish to be back as Bihar CM : Exit Polls

Official results post counting are due tomorrow.

Indira, Teresa among century’s top 25 power women

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Albanian nun Mother Teresa, who made India her home, are among Time magazine’s “25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century”. The US news magazine’s survey of “the women who have most influenced our world” is topped by Jane Addams—an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage who was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize—and includes United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the sixth place. Indira Gandhi, ranked ninth, figured on the Time cover, when she was elected the prime minister in 1966, with a line reading, “Troubled India in a Woman’s Hands.” “Those steady hands went on to steer India, not without controversy, for much of the next two decades through recession, famine, the detonation of the nation’s first atomic bomb, a corruption scandal and a civil war in neighbouring Pakistan that, under her guidance, led to the creation of a new state, Bangladesh,” the magazine said. “By the time she was assassinated, in 1984, Gandhi was the world’s longest-serving female Prime Minister, a distinction she holds to this day.” Of Mother Teresa, who is ranked 22nd, the Time said: “Her iconic white garb with its blue stripe trim is now equated with her ideals of service and charity among the poorest of the poor.” “Sometimes criticized for lacking adequate medical training, not addressing poverty on a grander scale, actively opposing birth control and abortion and even cosying up to dictators, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize nonetheless inspired countless volunteers to serve, and will wear her white habit all the way to Catholic sainthood,” it said.

Rich Minister , Poor Minister

Picture perfect

3,550 silver lamps were lit on the third Karthik Somavara to celebrate Sri Vishnu Deepotsava at Sri Karanji Anjaneya temple in Basavanagudi .

Gujarat, AP woo Foxconn

When Gujarat’s additional chief secretary Ravi Saxena led a trade delegation in August this year to the Taiwan headquarters of telecom component maker Foxconn seeking investments in the state, not many eyebrows were raised. However, it is increasingly becoming apparent that labour unrest at Foxconn’s units near Chennai is prompting other states to pitch for the company’s future investments in India. Later this week, senior Foxconn officials will meet Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah although company officials were not willing to disclose the agenda for the talks. “We are in discussions with everybody—from spinning mills in Coimbatore to MNCs. But our intention is not to take investments away from TN,” said a Gujarat state government official. Foxconn has three units in the Sriperumbudur-Sunguvarchatram belt on the outskirts of the city which employ over 5,000 workers to assemble mobile phones. Recent attempts by labour unions to mobilize them has sparked off a series of agitations, resulting in shutdowns. Both Left and DMK-affiliated unions have been stepping up efforts to gain a foothold in factories in the SEZ belt around Chennai. Late last week, reports suggested that Hyundai Motor India, Tamil Nadu’s largest FDI investor, was looking at Gujarat to house its third plant—the first two are in Sriperumbudur-—largely due to lack of support from the government on labour issues. A Hyundai spokesperson, however, denied this on Monday. The increasing differences between managements and unions have also led to disruptions in Nokia, Salcomp, BYD and Sanmina SCI’s factories in the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam belt. Foxconn recently signed a wage agreement with the Labour Progressive Front (LPF) —the trade union arm of the ruling DMK. The terms of the agreement had to be renegotiated after LPF representatives reneged on the original terms and demanded more wages when left-wing CITU also entered the scene.

Maytas renamed

In an obvious bid to wash off the Satyam taint and the legacy of the disgraced Satyam founder B Ramalinga Raju, Maytas Infra has decided to drop Maytas from its name to embrace the identity of its new owners—IL&FS—by rechristening itself as IL&FS Engineering and Construction Company. Maytas, which is nothing but Satyam read in reverse, was earlier promoted by Raju’s elder son B Teja Raju. The company, which has got the green light from its board of directors to change its name, will soon seek shareholders’ approval for it, the company informed the bourses on Monday. By January 2011, the company hopes to be back in the reckoning in its new avatar. According to Kaushik, the rechristening would help the company start on a clean slate with the positive backing of IL&FS and Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) brand names. Maytas Infra is promoted by IL&FS and co-promoted by SBG, which was roped in via a preferential allotment of 20% stake in June this year.

MTHL back on track ?

Environmental clearance to the Navi Mumbai airport has set the 22.5-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) plan between Nhava and Sewri, rolling again. Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh announced his ministry has already given eco-clearance to the project. The announcement will now put the onus on the state government for getting the project, which has been discussed for over three decades, from the drawing board to the ground. The Rs 8000-crore project, that will reduce travel time to Navi Mumbai by almost half an hour, has been stuck due to intense lobbying between state infrastructure agencies. According to top sources in the government, competition between the NCP-dominated Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Congress-dominated Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to bag the project has stalled the bidding process. The cash-rich MMRDA claims that since its new plan incorporated the metro rail, it was a more comprehensive design. However the cash-starved MSRDC, which recently received Rs 2,100 crore, has drawn up a plan where the metro will run below the road. “Both plans will be discussed by the cabinet, especially chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, only then work could be allotted to either of the agencies. Former CM Ashok Chavan had favoured the MMRDA but in the new scenario things might change,” said a senior official, pointing out that the airport might lead the state to decide on MTHL soon. Government officials said on Monday that state PWD minister Jayant Shirsagar is likely to approach the chief minister with an appeal that the project be undertaken by the MSRDC. For around 40 lakh residents of South Mumbai, the MTHL, a 22-km sea link between Nhava and Sewri, will help avoid use of the Sion-Panvel highway to reach the airport or Pune and thus bring down air pollution and also save time. “This will help even the overall plan to decongest Mumbai and avoid pollution on roads,” said Patel. Navi Mumbai is also hosting the special economic zone close to the airport. It may be recalled that developers had refused to buy the MTHL project following the recession in late 2008. The link was first proposed by the late JRD Tata in the late seventies. Later late Dhirubhai Ambani urged for its construction but frequent bid failures marred the plan.

Mumbai's second airport : Vital stats

The Navi Mumbai airport will be built through public-private partnership on 1,160 hectares of land between Panvel creek and Karnala hills . Estimated to cost more than Rs 9,600 crore, it will cater to 10 million passengers per annum (MPPA) by 2015, 45 MPPA by 2025, and a total of 60 MPPA by 2030. The greenfield airport will have two runways with independent operations and full-length taxiways capable of handling aircraft as large as Airbus 380 .It will have parking space for about 104 aircraft, and provide aerobridges to 77 of them. The cargo apron will have the capacity to host 15 wide-body aircraft There will be more than 150 counters for ticketing and visa clearance .Buses will be run to the airport from the nearest metro, suburban, hovercraft and bus stations. A special Bus Rapid Transit system will be created on the proposed Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link .The project will create 2 lakh new jobs, with one lakh people being employed directly.
Under the new plan, non-essential airport facilities will be moved away, sparing 245 hectares of good quality mangroves. The need to divert Gadhi River has been eliminated by reducing the distance between the two runways from 1,800 metres to 1,555 metres. About 310 hectares on the northeast of the airport site will be declared a ‘no development’ zone and converted into a green area by CIDCO .
Around 98 hectares of what is said to be low quality mangroves will be lost to the runways. The ‘tidally-influenced’ Ulwe River will be diverted, although the government has promised to put in a number of safeguards to minimize environmental impact .A 90m-high hill will be blasted away to enable smooth access to the runaways .
The state has vowed to lessen the environmental impact by installing noise-absorbing boundary walls .The rock strata will have special engineering material to reduce noise levels to permissible limits .A system to monitor pollution in creeks and channels will be evolved. All structures in the area will be made energy efficient to cut power consumption by 20% .

Navi Mumbai Airport : Timeline

Nov 1997 : The Centre starts studying the need for a second international airport for Mumbai Oct 2000 : State tells the Union civil aviation ministry that the airport should come up in Navi Mumbai and not in Rewas Mandwa
Dec 2000 : The civil aviation ministry asks the state to carry out studies on the Navi Mumbai site
Sep 2001 : Cidco submits a technoeconomic feasibility study on the airport
Aug 2006 : The International Civil Aviation Organisation green-lights the site, saying it is aeronautically feasible
Feb 2007 : Cidco submits a revised project feasibility and business plan report to the Central government
July 2007 : The Union Cabinet gives in-principle approval for the Navi Mumbai airport
Aug 2007 : MoEF rejects a Cidco proposal for the airport on the grounds that it violated CRZ norms
Oct 2007 : Civil aviation ministry and Cidco appeal to the Centre to amend CRZ Notification, 1991, to make way for the new airport
May 2009 : The Bombay High Court allows changes to CRZ Notification, 1991
June 2009 : Union minister Jairam Ramesh writes to Maharashtra chief minister, highlighting the environmental impact of the airport, including the loss of mangroves, diversion of Gadhi and Ulwe rivers, and removal of a hill
Dec 2009 : The Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF visits the site and calls for more studies July 2010 : Cidco submits its final environmental impact assessment of the airport to MoEF
Oct 2010 : The civil aviation ministry and CIDCO consider changes in project design to address environmental concerns
Oct 2010 : The EAC visits the project site and discusses the final design with CIDCO
Nov 2010 : Cidco and MoEF hold another meeting on the project
Nov 2010 : Ramesh gives ecoclearances to the airport in the presence of CM Prithviraj Chavan and civil aviation minister Praful Patel

Navi Mumbai airport gets MoEF Green Signal

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and civil aviation minister Praful Patel came together on Monday in New Delhi to announce the clearance. As part of the grand bargain, the environment ministry dropped its green objections on several fronts while, Cidco changed its plans to meet the environmental norms halfway. The ministry has put 32 conditions on the building of the project, which include shifting out of all the non-essential elements of the airport away from the mangroves. As per the agreement among stakeholders, one of the two rivers—Ulwe, flowing through the airport site, will be diverted to accommodate the airport runways. The other, Gadhi, will remain untouched though one of its channels will be filled up. The fallout for the two rivers was a major issue with the environment ministry which cited the havoc caused by the diversion of Mithi river to insist that the course of the two streams should not be changed. Ramesh said he was 85% satisfied that the environmental concerns had been met. The environment ministry has allowed Cidco to cut 98 hectares of mangroves on the location but the project developers will have to plant 615 hectares of mangroves as biodiversity parks as compensation. The environment ministry also backed off on the levelling of a 90-metre high hill. Ironically, the climbdown was facilitated by rampant mining on the hill that had brought down its ecological significance considerably. The minutes of the meeting of the expert appraisal committee show that though Jairam Ramesh was initially bent upon sticking to the law, the ministry softened its position for the sake of the airport project. The environment ministry has turned many of its concerns into conditions that Cidco has to meet. The requirements include preparing a new environmental impact assessment report and a detailed traffic management plan, setting up of a highlevel advisory and monitoring committee reporting to the airport management authority and a review of impacts on biodiversity along with the Bombay Natural History Society. “I have also asked the state government to set up a high-level advisory and monitoring committee to oversee the implementation of the environmental conditionalities at various stages,’’ Ramesh said. Chavan said that the state government would expedite rehabilitation of the 3,000 families along with securing of the land for the site still in private hands.

For an airport slated to be born in the 2010s, Navi Mumbai airport doesn’t really pack a punch in terms of capacity. Going by current projections, the city will actually need a third airport by 2030 as the second airport does not present long-term solutions to the city’s ever-increasing air traffic demands. In 2015, when it will be ready for use, Navi Mumbai airport will have a passenger handling capacity of only 10 million/year. This is less than Bangalore (13 million/year) and Hyderabad (12 million/year) airports started with when they began operations a few years ago.Navi Mumbai airport will reach its saturate at 59 million passengers/year in 2030. For Mumbai airport, the saturation point is 40 million in 2015.


India summons Iran envoy

Angry at the critical statements by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Kashmir, India on Friday summoned the charge d'affaires of the Iranian embassy on Friday to lodge a formal protest. In retaliation, India also, for the first time, abstained from a UN vote on human rights violations in Iran (every year, India votes in favour of Iran). The Iranian diplomat, Reza Alaei, said sources, was told that India was “deeply disappointed” (by Khamenei’s statements). India’s demarche against Iran came after at least three comments by Khamenei in the past few months on Kashmir that have appeared to challenge Indian sovereignty. Senior government sources said, “When our territorial integrity is questioned, you do what you have to do.” Since July, Khamenei has talked about the struggle of Muslims in Kashmir, and this week, asked the “elite” of the Islamic Ummah to protest against “Zionist regimes” that rule the “nation” of Kashmir.
However, the Iranian government, called to task by India, has said time and again that their position on Kashmir hasn’t changed. Which means that either the Iranian government has been speaking in different voices or
there are different centres of power in Iran. The Indian vote in the UN General Assembly will inevitably be connected to US President Barack Obama’s remarks on Iran in India, as an example that New Delhi might be succumbing to Washington’s influence. MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said, “Our decision on the vote was made after due deliberation.” In the UNGA, the human rights resolution got 80 votes in favour, 44 against and 57 abstentions. India is still far away from voting in favour of such a resolution at the UN.


Airtel sports a new look

A new logo and signature tune .....

Pune International Exhibition and Convention Centre

The architect’s master plan for the ambitious Rs 600 crore Pune International Exhibition and Convention Centre (PIECC), which is to come up over a sprawling 240 acre land at Moshi off the Pune-Nashik highway, was unveiled on Thursday. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had cleared the project at a meeting with senior officials from Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, which was held in Mumbai on Wednesday. The project, which envisages a global convention centre, surrounded by seven exhibition halls, a couple of iconic 28-storeyed commercial towers, hotels, retail, business and leisure space and an eco-friendly nine-hole golf-course, among other things, promises to alter the way international conventions and exhibitions are to be conducted in the country.
“As of now, there is a dearth of international exhibition and convention centres, which can hold global events like the India Auto Show,” said Abhay Firodia, president, Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), which is playing the role of a catalyst in the project. Firodia said, “Existing venues like the Pragati
Maidan in New Delhi were proving inadequate to hold mega expo events while the convention centre at Bangalore doesn’t compare with what has been proposed for the PIECC in terms of size, scale and modernity.”
Pune divisional commissioner Dilip Band said it would take at least five to 10 years for the entire project to be completed in phases. However, the Phase I, which would involve an investment of Rs 150 crore, would be completed by end of 2012, he said.
The Phase I involves establishment of the convention centre and two exhibition halls, the main entrance gate and allied infrastructure. The remaining open space will be used for international exhibitions and will undergo gradual development, he said. The land earmarked for the project is currently in possession of the Pimpri-Chinchwad New Town Development Authority (PCNTDA). Although, the project will be implemented by a special purpose vehicle (SPV), headed by secretary to the state urban development department and comprising representatives of other stakeholders, said Band. “Eventually, the PCNTDA’s stake in the project will go down to 26 per cent after the land is handed over to the SPV,”
said Suhas Divase, chief executive officer of the PCNTDA. According to Band, the PCNTDA will hand over Rs 100 crore to the SPV for the Phase I works while the remaining Rs 50 crore will be given by the central government. “Once, the project comes up, the SPV plans to appoint a professional operator on a public-private partnership basis. The operator will be responsible for marketing the entire project and bringing in business including, exhibition events from India and abroad,” he said.
International architecture firms Alliance Architecture and BBG-BBGM were engaged for preparing the master plan. Marc L Gross and Gregory Cranford, both partners in BBG-BBGM, and Nitin Kulkarni of Alliance Architecture gave a power-point presentation on the PIECC project. Close to 120 acre land has been marked for the main convention centre, which will be in the form of an oval-shaped dome, and the seven exhibition halls surrounding the centre. Another 60 acre will cover a nine-hole international standard golf course and the remaining 60-odd acre will be used up for the commercial district that will have two iconic towers, residential and allied facilities, said Cranford.


Iran is a close friend of India, but that has not prevented its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, from asking the world’s Muslims to support the “struggle” in Kashmir against ‘ Zionist regimes’. In his Haj message to pilgrims earlier this week, Khamenei said, “Today the major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathise and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime, to safeguard the solidarity of Muslims and stop tainted hands and mercenary voices that try to damage this unity, to spread awakening and the sense of responsibility and commitment among Muslim youth throughout Islamic communities”.
In the 1990s, India had registered its gratitude to Iran for helping it out diplomatically on Kashmir on human rights. But despite it all, Iran continues to play the Kashmir card in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, as do other Islamic countries even as they privately tell the Indian foreign office that they did not mean it.

Sarkhej Roza

Gujarat's Chief minister Narendra Modi is expected to unleash a string of development activities around the Sarkhej Roza located on the fringes of Juhapura, often described as the largest Muslim ghetto in the country. The roza, once described by celebrated architect Le Corbusier as the ‘Acropolis’, is where the roots of Ahmedabad were sown. The roza is dedicated to Sufi saint Khattu Saheb alias Ganj Baksh, the person who directed Ahmed Shah to set up a city here in 1411 AD. It is visited by believers of all faiths. The chief minister’s visit is said to be significant, coming on the first day of the World Heritage Week, and is seen to be in tune with his recent overtures to the Muslim community. Although it is a nightmare for securitymen as Juhapura has always been a target for anti-terror raids, the chief minister will be the chief guest at a Sufi concert on Friday evening when everyone in the neighbourhood would like to be. The last Modi had visited the roza was with Abdul Kalam when he was President. Officials of the AMC and AUDA have been proactive in recent days drawing up final plans to turn the Sarkhej Roza into the jewel of Ahmedabad, which is bidding for World Heritage City status from Unesco. Details of the town planning schemes in the vicinity of the roza are eagerly awaited, but the most important one will be on how the central tank, which has been lying bone dry for the last three years, will be filled up again. The tank is the soul of the roza and unless Modi pumps water into it, it won’t quench the thirst of Ganj Baksh, a great-hearted saint who fed everyone, including birds, who came to him.

Pak finally admits role in Kargil war

Eleven years after the Kargil War, the Pakistan Army, which has been denying its role in the conflict, has quietly included the names of 453 soldiers and officers killed in the battle on its website. Proof of the involvement of regular Pakistani soldiers in the 1999 war has come from the Pakistani army, an institution that spent years denying its role in the hostilities with India. The 453 Pakistani soldiers were shown killed in the Batalik-Kargil sector in J&K. Their names are tucked away on a list of thousands of personnel killed on duty, which has been posted in the “Shuhada’s Corner” (Martyrs Corner) of the website.
The very first page of the long list of martyrs includes the names of Capt Karnal Sher and Havildar Lalak Jan, who were both killed on July 7, 1999, in Kargil and awarded Pakistan’s highest military award, the Nishan-e-Haider. Several others were posthumously given other gallantry awards like the Tamgha-e-Jurat (Medal of Courage). The army also reveals the code name—“Operation Koh-e-Paima” or Mountain of Resolve —given to the operation to occupy strategic mountains and heights on the Indian side of the LOC. In some cases, the campaign is also referred to as “Operation Kargil”. A majority of those who died in Kargil were soldiers from the Northern Light Infantry, a formation that was made
a regular regiment of the Pakistan Army because of its performance in the 1999 conflict. It was earlier a paramilitary force formed by the amalgamation of several militias from the Northern Areas or Gilgit-Baltistan. Several causes are cited for those who died in Kargil—“killed in action”, “enemy action”, “enemy firing”, “enemy artillery shelling” and even “road accident”. The list gives the name, rank, unit, and location and nature of death of each casualty. During the Kargil conflict and in subsequent years, the Pakistan Army insisted that none of its regular soldiers was involved in the hostilities.

Missing Sariska tiger located

Days after one of the five tigers translocated to the Sariska reserve in Rajasthan was found dead, another big cat which has been missing for about a week was today located through radio signals, an official said. “A team succeeded in establishing link with the missing tiger through signals and the location was near Akbarpur,” district forest officer (Sariska) Y K Sahu said. He said the tiger, ‘ST-4’, was not visible yet but efforts are on to find it. The carcass of the other missing tiger, identified as ‘ST-1’ was found by a forest department team near Rajaugarh on Sunday night.


Black money snippets

A new study by an international watchdog on the illicit flight of money from the country, perhaps the first ever attempt at shedding light on a subject steeped in secrecy, concludes that India has been drained of $462 billion ( 20,556,848,000,000 or over 20 lakh crore) between 1948 and 2008. The amount is nearly 40% of India’s gross domestic product, and nearly 12 times the size of the estimated loss to the government because of the 2G spectrum scam. The study has been authored by Dev Kar, a lead economist with the US-based Global Financial Integrity, a non-profit research body that has long crusaded against illegal capital flight. Mr Kar, a former senior economist with the International Monetary Fund, says illicit financial flows out of India have grown at 11.5% a year, debunking a popular notion that economic reforms that began nearly two decades ago had tempered the creation and stashing away of black money overseas. If capital outflows were a child of the independence era, the problem came of age in the years after the reforms kicked in. Nearly 50% of the total illegal outflows occurred since 1991. Around a third of the money exited the country between 2000 and 2008. “It shows that reforms seem to have accelerated the transfer of black money abroad,” says Mr Kar, whose study titled ‘The Drivers and Dynamics of Illicit Financial Flows from India: 1948-2008’ sifts through piles of data on the issue over a period of 61 years. The study, which Mr Kar says is the most comprehensive one yet on illicit financial flows from India, will be made public on Thursday. His report comes amid a renewed government push in recent months to pursue black money stashed abroad. In late August, the government signed an agreement with Switzerland — its banks top a list of usual suspects — that will enable exchange of information on tax evaders. New Delhi is also in talks with at least 20 tax havens, particularly Mauritius, to extract similar information. The government is also attempting to gain a measure of the total unaccounted money circulating in the economy. The finance ministry last week approached the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy to get a fix on such money. But M Govinda Rao, director of the institute, says his think-tank is yet to decide on going ahead with the exercise because it is not an easy task. “A study on this subject is a huge challenge because one is dealing with a very big problem that covers hordes of money from many sectors,” he says. Black money turned into an election issue during the 2009 general elections, with the BJP harping on the issue throughout its campaign. Its leader LK Advani has been the most vocal critic of the government on this issue, time and again questioning the government’s resolve to chase illegal funds. Mr Advani recently urged the government to publish a white paper on the issue. While Mr Advani was unavailable for comment, the government’s detractors on this issue say there is more talk than action to address this issue. The government has, however, received praise from Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has been at the forefront of the fight against tax evasion. OECD, whose relentless offensive is largely credited with lifting the veil of secrecy over umpteen tax havens, hailed India’s efforts to crack down on tax evasion and sign information exchange agreements earlier this year. These are but short-lived answers, say experts, adding that an overhaul in the global financial system is central to a lasting solution. New tax havens will spring forth when pressure mounts on existing ones. That is not to say there are only a few tax havens out there. Indeed, at least 91 such hotspots flourish across the globe. Asian countries, particularly Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, too are emerging as new destinations for parking illicit funds. Besides Switzerland and Mauritius, Indian money is also said to end up in Seychelles and Macau. Due to the illicit nature of these deposits, pinpointing the journey’s end of the bulk of India’s black money is tenuous at best. The GFI study gives a measure of the amount of money that the government is chasing, but it is only a fraction of the $1.4 trillion that the BJP claims is the illegal stash. GFI acknowledges as much, saying its figure is conservative and hasn’t taken into account smuggling and certain types of trade mischief. It also admits to gaps in available statistics, lamenting the lack of data on the consolidated fiscal balance with the government, which has hampered research. If these indicators were counted, India’s total illicit outflows would well be half a trillion dollars. But Mr Kar says the $1.4 trillion figure was an “estimate”, while the numbers in the latest report are based on real data. Still, GFI says that by no stretch of imagination is its calculation insignificant, more so when viewed against the country’s existing external debt at nearly $230 billion. “It means India could not only have contracted less debt or even paid it off, but another half would also have been left over for poverty alleviation and economic development,” says Mr Kar. “There is no question that this huge loss of capital has set India back in its struggle to eradicate poverty and illiteracy.” The study has based its findings on the World Bank Residual Model that tracks illicit outflows by measuring the disparity in a country’s recorded source and use of funds. It also delves into IMF’s ‘trade-mispricing’ model that compares a country’s recorded imports to what the world says it exported to the country as well as the recorded exports against its global imports. The gaps tell the story. The perpetrators of illicit outflows, says the study, are wealthy individuals and private companies. Black money is also abetted by the existence of an ’underground’ economy that emerged out of illegal activities and assets spawned by such activities. The unabated growth of slush funds is borne out of a growing affinity of culprits for offshore financial centres, or tax havens, at the expense of banks in developed countries such as the US, France and the United Kingdom. The study finds that the share of deposits in offshore tax havens grew to 54.2% in 2009 from 36.4% in 1995. The study is as much an indictment of feckless government action as it is about shedding a light on the nature of illicit financial flows. “The sharp rise in illicit flows means that tax evasion (which is part and parcel of such flows) is also increasing sharply,” says Mr Kar. “In the absence of good governance and poor institutional oversight, the desire for the hidden accumulation of wealth drives more of such transfers,” he adds. Though India cannot end its black money problem alone, there are challenges it must address by itself, says the study. Legal institutions and procedures need to be strengthened and streamlined. The guilty should be punished --the architects of the Commonwealth Games scam, for example -- swiftly. And tax policies must be rationalised. “Sure, black money is there in most countries but if it worsens poverty, robs human rights and drives centrifugal forces such as naxals, it becomes a problem that can no longer be ignored,” says Mr Kar.