Visa on arrival

The government on Thursday extended the visa-on-arrival (VOA) facility to four Asean countries, including Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia. The VOA facility will be applicable from January 1, 2011. It will allow travellers single entry facility with a validity of 30 days. Initially, it will be introduced at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata airports. A fee of $60 will be charged for each passenger. The VOA facility will be allowed for a maximum of twice in a calendar year to a foreigner with a minimum gap of two months. The facility is non-extendable and non-convertible. The facility is offered by several south-east Asian countries and is popular with tourists looking for a break. This is in addition to the existing five countries –– Japan, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg and New Zealand ––which were extended the facility in January 2010.

Sahara acquires Grosvenor House

In the first crossborder deal for the Indian hospitality sector this year and also the first one for Subrata Roy’s Sahara India, the Lucknow-based financial services-to-real estate conglomerate has acquired UK’s iconic Grosvenor House hotel for a knock-down price of £470 million (Rs 3,275 crore) from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The UK has been a favourite shopping destination for Indian companies, with several well-known assets like Tetley and Typhoo in the tea category, Cuticura, Erasmic and Nulon in cosmetics and premier auto brands Jaguar & Land Rover having been snapped up. The 494-room luxury property on London’s Park Lane, which was once home to the Duke of Westminster, is Sahara India’s second acquisition in the hospitality sector after its 2006 buyout of Sahara Star hotel, earlier known as Airport Centaur, in Mumbai. “This acquisition is part of the major expansion plans of the group. In addition to the acquisition of Grosvenor House, London will be the gateway for Sahara to introduce some of its new business ventures internationally,” said Subrata Roy Sahara, managing worker & chairman, Sahara Group. RBS took over Grosvenor House in 2001 after Le Meridien collapsed into administrative receivership. The bank had been looking for a buyer for Grosvenor House for the last three years. At that time, the hotel was “valued for more than £1 billion.” However, unfavourable economic conditions hit valuations hard. Roy said, “The valuation, even today, is quite high but due to a highly satisfactory due diligence by RBS and after long and strict negotiations, we have purchased it for £470 million.” Richard Lewczynski of Blandford Goldsmith put the deal together for Sahara India, which has acquired the property through Amby Valley Ltd. Grosvenor House, which has the largest banquet hall in London, is managed by the US-based Marriott International and is positioned as a JW Marriott hotel since September 2008. However, following the change in ownership, Sahara and Marriott will jointly manage the property.

Carrefour makes an entry in Cash & Carry

Shahadara is an unlikely place for a multinational supermarket chain but the world’s second largest retailer, Carrefour, has chosen the chaotic, not up-market but vibrant east Delhi neighbourhood as its entry point to the vast Indian wholesale retail market. The French retail group on Thursday announced the opening its first cash-and-carry or wholesale outlet in Shahadara. Government regulations only allow foreign retailers in the wholesale segment and prohibits FDI in the multibrand retail. There is stiff opposition from small shop owners and kirana stores and political parties to further open up the retail sector to foreign players. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion had recently floated a discussion paper on the issue of opening up of the retail sector and some policymakers have backed the idea of allowing greater foreign participation in the retail sector. The worlds largest retailer, Wal-Mart, had entered into a joint venture agreement with Bharti Enterprises and opened its first wholesale store in Amritsar. It plans to open other stores in the next three years. Germany’s Metro entered the country's wholesale retail segment in 2003 and has stores in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata. The Carrefour outlet, which will function under the brand name Carrefour Wholesale Cash & Carry, will be spread over an area of 5,200 square metres (56,000 sq ft). It will have food and non-food sections and cater to professional businesses, institutions, restaurants and local retailers. Most of the foreign retailers, who have opened wholesale outlets have opted for sites away from city centres due to the availability of large space at a relatively cheaper prices in the suburbs. This opening of the store is in line with the Paris-based group’s strategy to be present in major emerging markets that offer significant expansion and medium- and-longterm growth opportunities. “The opening of this first store marks Carrefour’s entry into the Indian market and will be followed shortly by the opening of other cash & carry stores,” Carrefour CEO Lars Olofsson said. The Indian retail landscape presents a positive outlook for American and European retail companies. The Indian retail sector is expected to double to $556 billion by 2014. According to a government report, India continues to be among the most attractive countries for global retailers. FDI inflows between April 2000 and April 2010, in single-brand retail trading, stood at $ 194.69 million. Robust economic growth of over 8% has attracted global attention and strong domestic demand has helped the economy withstand the slowdown. Growing spending by the country's expanding middle class has helped domestic retailers and foreign brands to notch up impressive sales. Shopping malls have sprung across small, medium and large towns to cater to growing consumption in Asia's third-largest economy.

Infrastructure growth at a low

Growth in key infrastructure sectors dropped to a 21-month low of 2.3% in November over the same month last year, raising fears about the momentum of expansion in the country’s total factory output. In October, these sectors had recorded an impressive growth of 8.6%. The lacklustre growth of the 6 infrastructure sectors, which have a weightage of 26.68% in the overall industrial output, was largely on account of dip in petroleum refinery and cement output. The core sectors—crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel—had expanded by 5.9% in November 2009. Petroleum refinery output contracted by 3.7% and that of cement by 11.6% in November. Coal production witnessed a sluggish growth of 0.7% this November whilegrowth in the finished steel sector expanded by 4.4%. However, crude oil production expanded by 17%. Economists said the slower growth in core sectors would impact Index of Industrial Production (IIP) badly.

Food inflation at a 10 week high

Food inflation rose to a 10-week high of 14.44% in the week ended December 18 on the back of soaring onion, vegetable, fruit and other commodity prices, prompting the government to raise its year-end headline inflation forecast to 6.5%. Food inflation was 12.13% in the previous reporting week. There could be more bad news in store, with economists saying that poultry and milk were likely to further exert pressure on food inflation, though vegetable prices are expected to moderate in the coming weeks. During the week ended December 18, rising onion price was the main culprit, recording a 40% hike from a year ago, while vegetable prices jumped 29.26%. Fruit prices rose 21.97% and egg, meat and fish went up by 20.34%. However, cereal inflation declined significantly, and economists attributed it to the improvement in supply due to the good monsoon.


Patan solar park

Several international players have shown interest in setting up solar equipment manufacturing units in Gujarat Solar Park, to be launched by chief minister Narendra Modi on December 30 at Patan in north Gujarat. Japanese MNCs Sharp, Panasonic, Mitsui and TMEIC, Swiss major Oerlikon Corporation and Germany’s Schott Solar have evinced interest in setting up units in the park, say sources. “State government officials met senior executives of these companies during their recent Vibrant Gujarat campaign trips to Japan and Europe,” a senior bureaucrat in the CM office said, adding, “Some of the executives from these companies will be attending the Vibrant Gujarat business meet on January 13.” The official said, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), USA, provided the initial boost by selecting the site spread over 2,500 acres of land at Santalpur in Patan district for setting up the park. This “particularly impressed” the international giants. The CCI in its report for setting up the park at the north Gujarat site found that, at 5.6, solar irradiation here is highest in the country. Rajasthan has a comparable advantage, but its dusty climate discouraged CCI,” an official said.
While the CCI was not in picture post initial study, the initiative for setting up the
park has gone to the Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd — nodal agency to ensure systematic implementation of the project. “The 2,500 acre land piece identified for the park is government wasteland, hence has no acquisition hassles,” the official said. “80% of the units in the park will be setting up shop based on photo voltaic solar technology.” Gujarat government has already signed power purchase agreement with 17 solar companies to set up solar power generation units for the Rs 150-crore project, for more than 200 MW. Power purchase agreements (PPAs) with these firms have been signed, obliging these companies to commission units by December 2011.
The PPAs offer Rs 15 per unit as subsidy for first 12 years, after which the subsidy will go to down to Rs 5 for next 13 years. “Our aim is to ensure grid parity price for solar power generation, which is Rs 4-5 per unit, within a decade so that the technology becomes viable,” an official said.


Somewhere in Srinagar....

A man poses on the frozen surface of the Dal Lake .

Somewhere in Bangalore....

Passers-by gawked as the Bangalore Metro made its first test run on Monday. The journey from Byappanahalli depot to CMH Road and back had people waving at the those travelling on the train.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

The country’s first seaplane, a Cessna 208A, being taken out of the Pawan Hans hangar . It will operate amphibian flights between Andaman & Nicobar islands .


The Smile Factor

The Wen visit

Nothing major....just business.

Somewhere in Vizag....

Fisherfolk offer prayers to Goddess Gangamma for the safety of their kith and kin from natural disasters on the sixth anniversary of the tsunami in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

A total of 2,800 dancers perform Kuchipudi, a traditional dance form of Andhra Pradesh, to set a new Guinness World Record at the GMC Balayogi stadium in Hyderabad on Sunday

Of offshore outsourcing....

MNIK is Bollywood’s first global blockbuster

As 2010 draws to an end, Karan Johar — whose February release My Name Is Khan has been Bollywood’s first global blockbuster, is sitting op top of the world and says proudly, “I am overwhelmed, the film was made by Dharma Productions with a global perspective to connect with audiences in India and overseas in a way that no film has ever done before. And it has exceeded expectations and broken box office records in most markets.” Of this, there is no doubt; not after MNIK released in 70 countries over nine months and across 2,600 screens, to also become the first Indian film to make inroads in China and Italy. In China, its theatrical release in over 350 screens in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dalian since its launch on November 30, is a landmark achievement. And Shah Rukh Khan as Rizvaan Khan – a man affected by Asperger’s syndrome, made his way into the hearts of the Chinese. Of Fox Star Studios’ phased distribution strategy, its CEO Vijay Singh explains, “This is in unique contrast to existing Bollywood practices where the theatrical life of a film is limited to four weeks. MNIK has opened many new territories for Bollywood. This success would not have been possible without the amazing connect of global audiences with SRK and Karan, coupled with our worldwide distribution strength.” It is true, MNIK is the first Bollywood film to have a theatrical release in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Puerto Rico, Russia, Dominican Republic, Syria, Taiwan and South Korea. Apart from doing film festival circuits in Berlin and Rome. Veteran trade analyst Taran Adarsh says, “I think the universal theme connected with audiences across the world and then you have Shah Rukh’s enviable international fan following. But credit must also go to the distributors who pushed it into new markets. The film was dubbed in several foreign languages (Spanish, German, Russian, Italian and Chinese) too, which meant that people across the globe were watching it in their own mother tongue. That’s quite an advantage for any film.”

Infra sector lags

Several infrastructure sectors, led by roads, have failed to meet the targets set for April-October 2010, a government report has revealed. While ports, coal and electricity sectors have missed their targets, the biggest gap is in case of roads, where the deficit is 26.5%. According to the report prepared by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, against the ministry’s resolve under Kamal Nath to accelerate highway development, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) widened or upgraded only 859.93 km of roads, against a target of 1,168.97 km. The progress was 33% lower than 1,283 km achieved during the corresponding period last year. The next biggest shortfall is seen in the shipping sector, where the cargo handled was 8.8% lower than the target of 351 million tonnes for April-October. While overall goods traffic carried by railways was 516.91 million tonnes, 1.9% lower than the target set for the period, major ports handled cargo around 30 million tonnes less than what was expected. It seems the fight over ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ areas is making its impact on coal production, which can hit other sectors too. Coal production was 7.3% lower than the target set for the period and actual production was down by 21.65 MT against the target. Overall power generation during April-October 2010 was 480.234 billion units, 2.5% lower than the target for the period, according to the report card. Another area of concern is fertilizer production, which was 5.7% below the target. While crude oil production was 0.7% below the target, the production of natural gas was 1.1% below the benchmark set by the petroleum ministry. Sriprakash Jaiswal, the statistics and programme implementation minister, said, “The report has reflected the sectors which need immediate course correction for overall higher economic growth. “Shortfall in coal production is potentially a serious issue. There is a large shortfall from the private sector. Coal India has also fallen short-—they only managed 4.5% growth against their target of 6%,” said Pronab Sen, adviser in the Planning Commission. He said the shortfall in roads was already known. There are large investments going into the roads sector so the multiplier effect of all the investments will only add to growth, he added. Sen said the slowdown in the port sector reflected the performance of the trade segment. “We have not reached the precrisis level of growth in exports and that is being reflected in the ports data,” he said.

India works on Myanmar plan

Despite the pressure from the US to tighten screws on the ruling military junta in Myanmar, India has gone ahead and started work on the crucial Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, which seeks to augment trade ties between the two countries. The project—named after the Kaladan river and will enhance connectivity between India's east coast and northeastern states—comprises construction of a port in Myanmarese town Sittwe, another waterway terminal and a highway. Expected to cost over Rs 500 crore, the project linking Sittwe with Mizoram is being funded fully by the ministry of external affairs, and is likely to be completed by 2013. The two neighbours envisaged the project more than 12 years ago, but work kept getting delayed as relations between the two countries worsened steadily in the past decade. Work has commenced more than two years after a final agreement for the project was signed with Myanmar's military regime. With the government now displaying a renewed commitment to reach out to the military junta —not least because of the growing Chinese influence in the region -- sources said the emphasis is going to be on completing the project at the earliest. Once completed, India will use the Sittwe port to transport goods from its port in Kolkata to the northeastern states. When Senior General Than Shwe visited India in July, the two sides had reiterated their commitment to the project. Than Shwe and PM Manmohan Singh had welcomed the expansion of trade and commerce between the two countries “manifest in the increase in the volume of trade to over $1 billion per year”. They had said it was important to enhance trade at border trade points to boost bilateral trade. It's a win-win situation for India because of the benefits this initiative is likely to yield to northeast states. While US President Barack Obama came down hard on India during his November visit for not speaking out against the military junta, New Delhi made it clear almost immediately that it is not going to change its Myanmar policy because of strategic and security reasons, keeping in mind not just the Chinese influence but also the insurgency. Officials believe that India has already lost out to China in tapping Myanmar’s rich energy reserves. Foreign ministry officials have conveyed to the US that for India any attempt to push Myanmar into a corner would only be counter-productive.


India-Russia set $20-b trade target

India and Russia have set a target of more than quadrupling the bilateral trade to $20 billion in five years. The two countries identified pharmaceuticals, energy, IT & communication, chemicals & fertilisers and banking & finance as thrust areas in a protocol on trade and investment signed on Monday. An ambitious trade target and renewed focus on key sectors could help both countries increase presence in each other’s markets, which has fallen to low levels after disintegration of the USSR. “We need to make concerted efforts to reinvigorate our economic cooperation and integrate it with market forces,” commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said at the fourth India-Russia forum on trade and investments organised by CII and Ficci. Russian deputy Prime Minister Sergei Invanov admitted that $20 billion was a difficult target to work on, but said that both countries were experiencing sustained development under strained circumstances of global economy and hence there was great potential. Bilateral trade in 2009-10 was at $4.7 billion, with India’s exports at less than $1 billion. Mr Ivanov is leading a high profile business team from his country and is part of the official delegation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who reached India Monday evening for a two-day visit. One-fourth of the world’s generics (off-patent pharma) were produced in India, and there is scope of huge cooperation between India and Russia in the area, Mr Sharma said. A number of memorandum of understanding were signed between Indian and Russian pharmaceutical companies for joint production of medicines.

The Sky Bus update

The ambitious sky bus project may finally see the light of the day with the Konkan Railway Corporation (KRCL) scouting for players to implement the unique transport project through public private partnership (PPP) mode, six years after the project suffered a major setback following a fatal accident during its trial run. KRCL recently floated a global expression of interest seeking participation from eligible private players after a series of feasibility studies to ensure that the safety norms are strictly adhered to. The sky bus metro technology is seen as a solution to the inadequacy of other means of urban mass transportation. Running as a pair of air-conditioned coaches on an elevated rail track, sky bus can accommodate 300 passengers per trip. The tender has, however, elicited a lukewarm response till now with only three agencies showing their willingness to be part of the project. The deadline for submitting the application is January first week. Companies that are eligible to bid for the project should have a minimum average networth of 200 crore in the last three years. "Three agencies had attended the pre-bid meeting held in Mumbai recently," said Bhanu Tayal, managing director of KRCL. One of these firms is BEML (formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited), which is also responsible for manufacturing the Sky Bus coaches. Mr Tayal, declined to reveal the names of the other two firms interested in implementing the project, saying that doing so will jeopardise the bidding process. The company is yet to finalise the business model under which the project would be implemented. The options being considered by the company are licensing, revenue sharing and the sweat equity model where the holder of the intellectual property is given a share in the revenue earnings. The sky bus has been patented in the US for its unique qualities. The comprehensive studies highlighted the commercial viability of the project, as it would not just decongest city traffic but also is cheaper as compared to constructing a metro line. "It would cost about 100 crore to construct a km long Sky Bus track while the cost would be 165 crore for the same length of track for Metro operation," said A K Bhardwaj, chief electrical engineer, KRCL. Konkan Railway, which has already spent about 60 crore in the project, is exploring the possibility of forging a strategic business alliance for the project. Compared to tramways and ropeway abroad, the sky bus technology is based on the two rail system of railways. The major difference being that the coach is suspended instead of riding over rails. Besides handling passenger traffic, the sky bus can be used for handling freight and container traffic at ports and even mountain regions, much the same as Konkan Railway's roll-on-roll-off service for trucks and containers. KRCL is open to implement the sky bus system outside Goa. "It depends on who is interested. If other states express interest in getting sky bus, we will be more than happy to implement the system there," Mr Tayal said. Among major cities in India where traffic congestion is very high, Pune has strongly supported the sky bus project, while Maharashtra is the first state to approve the technology for use as public transport. The other cities that have shown interest in the sky bus project include Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kochi. One person was killed and three were injured during a trial run of sky bus in September 2004 when coaches of the sky bus hit the piers of the track during at the Madgaon railway station in Goa, forcing KRCL to stop the process of developing the system at that time.

PM speak

As Prime Minister of this great country for last six-and-a-half years, I may have made mistakes but I have tried to serve my country to the best of my ability... I sincerely believe that like Caesar’s wife, the Prime Minister should be above suspicion .....MANMOHAN SINGH

Air traffic up 25% in November

The aviation sector continues to fly high with air traffic for November growing close to 25% compared with the same month last year. This is the eleventh straight month to witness an uptrend in domestic air traffic. Between January and November this year, domestic airlines have flown 46.8 million passengers, up 19% compared with the same period in 2009, monthly data released by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) showed. Naresh Goyal-owned Jet Airways maintained its position as the leading carrier with a 26.2% market share, while Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher Airlines came second with 19.1% share. Low-cost airline IndiGo pipped national carrier Air India in November from the third spot, by retaining 17.3% share. November being a traditionally high-demand month recorded good seat factor too. Seat factor or load factor (PLF) refers to capacity utilisation of an airline. Delhi-based low cost carrier (LCC) IndiGo registered the highest seat factor at 91% for November. Another Delhi-based LCC SpiceJet had the second-highest load factor at 87.5%, while Kingfisher Airlines came third with 86.7% occupancy.

The GSLV flops again !

Casting a shadow over India’s immediate space programmes like Chandrayaan-2 and manned mission, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on Saturday came a cropper for the second consecutive time in less than nine months. The GSLV-F06, carrying the GSAT-5P satellite which was to boost India's television broadcasting and telemedicine facilities, had to be destroyed 63 seconds after it lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, near Chennai. Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) chairman K Radhakrishnan attributed the failure to a problematic connection which was to take signals from onboard computers to the strap-on motors. “I am extremely sorry to say that the GSLV-F06 mission has failed. The GSLV-FO6 lifted off normally at 4.04 pm . All the strap-on motors generated normal pressure before the solid core was ignited. The performance of the vehicle was normal up to 50 seconds. But soon the vehicle lost control and we had to detonate it at an altitude of eight kilometres,” he said. As the computer commands ceased to reach the first stage, the range safety officer triggered the detonation, sending the debris plunging into the Bay of Bengal. The explosion was visible as far as the Marinabeach in Chennai. Isro will analyse the failure in detail. “What happened after 47 seconds has to be studied in detail. We will be doing it from now,” Radhakrishnan said. The weather was fine and the lift-off was perfect. There was applause and cheer all around as the majestic GSLV rose with a thunderous sound. Three of the seven GSLV launches have been failures . The monetary loss was pegged at around Rs 325 crore, including the Rs 175 crore that went into the making of GSLV and Rs 150 crore for the satellite. On losing the GSAT-5P satellite which was carrying 36 transponders to augment communication systems, Radhakrishnan said the agency had to find an alternative. Turning philosophical at one point, the Isro chairman said, “We have to learn from failures; such failures lead to success.” Isro has planned four launches in 2011, including PSLV 17. “Chandrayaan-2 will take place in 2013-2014 in collaboration with Russia,” he said, adding that Isro was doing ground tests on the indigenous cryogenic engine. The previous GSLV launch on April 15, 2010 was also a failure. While the problem during the last launch was with the third stage indigenous cryogenic engine, this time trouble started in the first stage itself. This time Isro used a prepurchased Russian cryogenic engine. The Indian space body has had a troubled past with the GSLV, with only two of the seven launches so far claiming total success. Though Isro claims that four launches had been successful, independent observers agree with only two, the rest being branded either failure of partial success.


Food inflation spikes

Hitting the aam aadmi the most.....

Karunakaran dies

Veteran Congress leader and four-time chief minister of Kerala K Karunakaran died on Thursday after battling a lung disease. He was 93. Popularly called “the leader”, Karunakaran had been ill for a long time and was admitted to a private hospital on December 10 following a lung complication. His condition improved briefly but he was soon back on ventilator support. Doctors said he died at 5.30pm of a brain stroke. Born into a community of percussionists from the Marar caste, Karunakaran was trained to be a painter but found his calling in politics.
K Karunakaran’s tryst with painting came after he had to discontinue studies in Class VIII following a rare health condition — tears welling up whenever he read or wrote. It was the illness which brought Karunakaran to Thrissur — for treatment — from Kannur where he was born. Subsequently, the temple town became his political fiefdom. He entered politics through the Prajamadalam, a regional party formed in then Cochin in 1941. At 26, Karunakaran was elected unopposed to the Thrissur corporation from Chembukavu ward on its ticket. The fiery young man then went on to organise plantation labourers in the district, much to the chagrin of Marxists who claimed proprietary rights over working class issues. They gave him the sobriquet “black leg”. But Karunakaran’s nemesis, his critics said, was the desire to promote his children K Muraleedharan and Padmaja Venugopal in politics. The father-son duo had floated the Democratic Indira Congress (K) in 2005. In 1971, Karunakaran became home minister in the coalition government headed by C Achuta Menon of CPI. The tenure that lasted till 1977 would later continue to haunt him forever, accounting for the alleged custodial death of engineering student Rajan during Emergency. It was due to Karunakaran’s skills that even as Indira Gandhi lost in 1977 after emergency, the Congress combine won 111 of 140 assembly and all 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.


New desalination plants for TN

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it plans to set up two more desalination plants in the state, one to augment drinking water supply in Chennai and another in Cuddalore, Villupuram and Ariyalur districts. The two plants would meet the long-term water requirements of Chennai and other nearby districts, an official release said. These are in addition to the existing operational desalination plant in Minjur and another under construction at Nemmili. Consultants would soon be appointed to prepare detailed project reports, it said. While Metrowater would be involved in identifying a consultant for the new Chennai desalination project, the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board would handle the other one.

20480 chess players create Guinness record

On Friday, Vishwanathan Anand -the chess champion anchored Ahmedabad to a new Guinness record — where the highest number of chess players congregated to play the game. A smiling Anand who rang the bell to start the proceedings, and was in the thick of things all through the mega event, was visibly thrilled to see Ahmedabad create the new record. In all 20,480 players got together to play chess against 1,024 masters and break Mexico’s existing record of 13,446 players created in 2006. There was a thunderous roar of approval from the crowd when Guinness adjudicator Tarika Wala announced that Ahmedabad holds the new record. She also applauded the fact that there were 140 blind players in the line-up. “One can’t imagine how incredibly proud I am today. I have never been involved in something so big and I am thrilled to be part of this event today. This event will be as close to my heart as all my world championship titles. It is a very important day in my life,” said Anand. Chief minister Narendra Modi, who helped facilitate the world record-breaking event, thanked all the participants.


Somewhere in Tamil Nadu....

HC rejects Gujjars job quota

In a major setback to the agitating Gujjars, the Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday said the community can’t be given special reservation in government jobs. The court also pointed out that the Act passed by the state assembly in 2008 for giving them reservation benefits has no substratum of quantifiable data that could justify the reservation. A bench comprising Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Mahesh Bhagwati directed the state government to carry out an exercise within a year to establish the backwardness of Gujjars, Raikas, Raibari and Gadiya Lohar communities in education and government jobs. The court order stoked the fire with the agitating Gujjars threatening to intensify their protests. The state is already facing trouble in the peak tourism season as violence spread to the Gujjar-dominated areas in the eastern parts and Ajmer region.

Crude oil breaches $90 a barrel

Crude rose for a fourth day, advancing past $90 a barrel on signs that economic recovery in the US is eroding excess inventories. Futures climbed as much as 0.5% before a government report forecast to show US crude stockpiles declined for a third week. On Tuesday, industry data showed a reduction in supplies. The Commerce Department will probably say on Wednesday that the world’s biggest economy expanded more than estimated in the third quarter. Crude for February delivery rose as much as 55 cents to $90.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the strongest since the two-year peak of $90.76 reached on December 7. The US GDP grew 2.8% in the third quarter, up from an estimate of 2.5% last month, based on the median forecast of economists in a survey.

Prithvi-II... finally bang on target

After a spate of bad luck with the Prithvi-II missile, the armed forces, in collaboration with DRDO scientists, succeeded in testing two nuclear-capable Prithvi-II missiles within an hour from two mobile launchers at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off the Orissa coast on Wednesday. Equipped with state-of-the-art guidance system, both the missiles were launched from the launching complex III (LC-III) of the ITR in Chandipur-on-sea, nearly 15 km from Balasore at 8.15 am and 9.15 am. Mounted on two Mobile Tetra Transporter-Erector Launchers (MTL), the indigenously developed surface-to-surface short range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) were launched one after the other. The entire launch procedure was carried out by the Strategic Force Command, while DRDO provided logistic support. “It was a fantastic launch. Two missiles aimed at different targets from the launch point, met all their mission objectives. It was a by the book success,” ITR director S P Dash said. “The tests were conducted as part of the operational exercises. Two naval ships, located at the impact points, tracked and monitored both the missiles hitting the targets very accurately. All the radars and other sensors along the East coast also monitored the missiles’ trajectory parameters,” he said. Defence sources said, both the missiles were taken from the production lot. “The missiles used for the test were randomly picked from the assembly line after production and were launched with inertial navigation system. It has achieved single digit accuracy reaching close to zero circular error probability (CEP),” said a source.

J&K lifts ban on SMS

The J&K government on Wednesday lifted the ban on short messaging services (SMSes) on all post-paid mobile phone subscribers in the state but refrained from withdrawing it on pre-paid cell phones. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Omar Abdullah, which was attended by state police chief Kuldeep Khoda, home secretary B R Sharma and senior officials of central intelligence agencies, an official spokesman said. A decision was taken to revoke the ban on SMSes in J&K on all post-paid connections after reviewing the overall security situation in the state. However, the ban on post-paid bulk messages will continue. According to the order issued to mobile service operators, SMSes to post-paid subscribers only shall be permitted. “Bulk message services of licensed telecommunication operators and public utility agencies like the railways, airlines, scheduled banks and electricity boards shall be permitted for post-paid subscribers only,” the order said. However, the order made it clear that bulk messages generated from various internet portals, Short Message Peer to Peer clients of various telecom service providers should be disallowed by all licensed telecom service providers. The ban was imposed in June this year following widespread unrest in the Valley, which was further fuelled by bulk messages sent in by antinational forces.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Several roadside stores now sport a festive look with all their Christmas decorations on display

Navi Mumbai Airport update

Exactly a month after the union environment ministry gave a green signal to the proposed Navi Mumbai international airport, another milestone was crossed by the ambitious project on Wednesday. Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) cleared a proposal for environment and CRZ clearance for offsite physical infrastructure required to be developed around the airport site. Cidco, the project’s implementing agency, has approached the authority for ecoclearance to set up roads and other infrastructure to improve connectivity to airport. Apart from road connectivity, the authority plans to set up physical infrastructure that would facilitate connectivity to a proposed metro rail network and other transport modes. The clearance was sought as setting up of the facilities would have affected more than 10 hectares of mangrove land. Besides, the site is also located on the CRZ zone. Following the MCZMA clearance, the proposal will now be forwarded to the union environment ministry in Delhi for final clearance. Officials said the issue was taken up on a priority basis as it was in “public interest”. The authority also accorded clearance to two MMRDA projects planned for decongesting vehicular density in the city. Permission was given to MMRDA to cross the Mahul creek and mangroves near Bhakti Park in Wadala and the adjoining BPT pipeline area while constructing the Anik-Panjrapole Link Road, which is an ongoing infrastructure project aimed at decongesting traffic along the Eastern corridor. Another project for setting up car depots in CRZ areas at Mankhurd and Charkop for the Charkop-Mankhurd metro route, along with its alignment through CRZ-affected areas on the route, was approved too. The MCZMA has asked all project-implementing authorities to ensure that adequate afforestation is carried out to make up for the lost green in all the three projects. It has also asked them to adhere to norms. An MCZMA member said clearance to the two MMRDA projects was a mere formality as these had received an in-principle nod.


10 best drives

50th Liberation Day

6 Hindu temples in line for Unesco heritage site tag

Six Hindu temples in Indonesia, Thailand and Nepal have been nominated as Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sukuh Hindu Temple and Penataran Hindu Temple Complex in Indonesia, Temples of Phanomroong and Muangtam in Thailand, and Rishikesh Complex of Ruru Kshetra and Ram Janaki Temple in Nepal are on the “Tentative List” of Unesco World Heritage Convention nominated by their respective countries. At present, the World Heritage List is made up of 911 properties “having outstanding universal value”, which includes only three Hindu temples: Hampi and Pattadakal temples in Karnataka (India) and Prambanan Temples in Indonesia.

Cirus : End of an era

On New Year’s Eve, when most Mumbaikars will be partying, a small group of scientists will be inside the control room of an atomic reactor at BARC in Trombay, focusing their attention instead on a historic event. There will be a different sort of countdown inside the control room of the reactor. At an appointed time, a shift-incharge will open the valves which will bring down the level of heavy water. This in turn will reduce the reactor’s power. What does this exercise signify? It will lead to the final and permanent shutting down of the reactor Cirus, acronym for Canada-India Research Reactor which attained criticality on July 10,1960. This 40 mw reactor, which had played a major part in the “Smiling Buddha” project—India’s first nuclear weapon test at Pokhran on May 18,1974—will be permanently shut down after 50 years of successful operation on December 31, 2010. Though this reactor still has a 20-year life span, its shutting down is a part of the Indo-US nuke deal. Scientists attribute the move to political factors. BARC director, R K Sinha, told mediapersons that postclosure, the fuel from Cirus will be transferred to a reprocessing plant at Trombay. “The process of defuelling and decontamination will take about a year,” he explained. Regarding the future plans for Cirus, the BARC chief said: “The options include making it a neutron production centre, using it for demonstrating decommissioning capability, converting it into an exhibition hall to highlight the achievements of India’s nuclear programme for students and having it as a facility with more than one role.”

Why cannot Maha emulate Gujarat on development?

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had a word of appreciation for the development model in Gujarat where, according to him, the ruling party, the Opposition and the media have come together to take the state forward. During an informal interaction with reporters in Pune on Friday night, he said, “When it comes to the development of the state, the ruling party, the Opposition and the media there join their hands to ensure that the state procures various important projects. Why does it not happen in Maharashtra?”
Pawar was responding to the queries about the stiff opposition being put up against the nuclear power project proposed to be set up at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri. The protesters contention is that if the plant comes up there, it will serve a major blow to environment. “Similar objections were raised when Enron power plant was set up, when the protesters had claimed that it would damage the horticulture of the Konkan belt. Nothing of the sort happened,” Pawar said, adding that Maharashtra suffered from deficit in power supply and needed additional plants to make progress in the industrial front and to generate employment. “If every project in the state is opposed, how will it develop?”

India gets a Hollywood HD channel

The Congress @ 125

Obviously conscious of the toll, a series of scams and controversies have taken on the credibility and image of the Congress and the government, Sonia Gandhi on Sunday announced a multipronged war on corruption and directed ministers and partymen to tackle the menace head-on. The Congress plenary, which met against the backdrop of 2G, CWG and Adarsh, was turned by Sonia into a platform to claim that the Congress—which has recently been rocked by a series of scams—would actually lead the fight against corruption. She sought to give this fight an institutional character by calling for fast-tracking corruption cases against politicians and other public servants, abolishing the government’s discretionary powers to allocate land (which she dubbed as the top source of corruption), transparent auctioning of mining leases and state funding of elections. Sonia Gandhi’s 5-point agenda for probity in public life also included transparency in public procurement processes and protection to whistleblowers. She told her partymen that simplicity, restraint and austerity must be our chosen way, called upon them to avoid vulgar displays of wealth and waste, and lamented that austerity couldn’t be made into a law.

Two decades of unshackled growth

An article by Surojit Gupta.

Walk into any shopping mall in any small or large city and you will see top global brands jostling for space. The liberalization, which began in 1991 and will complete two decades next year, has completely transformed the Indian economy, pushing it into the league of the fastest-growing economies of the world and providing consumers a wide choice. The trigger, however, was a balance of payments crisis when, with barely $2.2-billion dollar foreign exchange reserves (enough cover for 15 days’ imports) in its coffers, the government unleashed wide-ranging reforms. Over the years that followed, the so called “Licence Permit Raj” was dismantled. Despite heading a coalition government, the then PM Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh slowly lifted the iron grip of the state on industry and liberalized trade policy. Successive governments have carried forward reforms, strengthening the private sector, which now contributes almost 80% to the country’s economy. “Unshackling entrepreneurship in India—this is the greatest achievement of the liberalization process,” Planning Commission adviser Pronab Sen said. The once competition-shy Indian corporate sector has come into its own and taken on global players. That’s not all. Indian firms have gone ahead and acquired global companies, such as Tata Steel’s acquisition of Corus and, earlier this year, Bharti Airtel’s $9-billion buyout of the African operations of Kuwait’s Zain. Liberalization of trade policy and abolition of import licensing has led to an increase in trade. The reduction in import tariffs from as high as 400% has gone a long way attracting foreign investment. Foreign exchange reserves now stand at $295 billion, which puts India among the top ten countries holding such high reserves. The most visible impact of liberalization has been the rapid growth in the Information Technology (IT) and ITenabled business and the telecom sector. Virtually non-existent in 1991, the IT and business process outsourcing sectors reflect the impressive gains from the opening up of the economy. The sector’s revenues as a proportion of GDP are expected to rise to 6.1% in 2010 from 1.2% in 1998. It has created 2 million jobs in a very short span. The success of the outsourcing sector has been possible due to the telecom revolution, which has completely transformed the communication landscape of the country. Owning a telephone two decades was a status symbol, but policy changes and reforms have meant that it has now emerged as a common man’s necessity. Latest data shows that India has nearly 700 million mobile phone connections. The telecom sector was liberalized in 1992 and the private sector was allowed to participate, but it was only in 1995 that mobile telephones arrived in India. “We had to go to our neighbour’s house to receive telephone calls from my cousin in London. We had to wait for almost an hour for her to call and we would all be in a hurry to finish the call,” 50-year-old housewife Sandhya Singh said, pointing to the difficult days of communication before the telecom revolution. Economists say opening up the economy and dismantling of controls and restrictions helped in rapid economic expansion. The Indian economy has come a long way from the so-called Hindu growth rate of 3.5% in the 1950s to 1980. GDP growth was below 6% in the 1990s but shot up to above 7% in early 2000s and hovers around 8-9% now. The new benchmark for growth is 8%-9%. Anything below that is now considered a weak performance,” said DK Joshi, principal economist with ratings agency Crisil. Another striking aspect, according to Joshi, has been the rise in the savings and investment rates. Economists say in the period 1971-2002, the investment rate was between 15% and 25% but between 2002-2010 it ranged between 25% and 37%. The savings rate now stands at around 35%. Rapid economic growth as a consequence of reforms has led to the emergence of the “the Great Indian middle class”, which all multinational companies cite as reason for their focus on the Indian market. While the size of this middle class varies from 50 million to 350 million according to various estimates, it definitely has spurred consumption. Demand for automobiles, healthcare, televisions and other consumer goods has zoomed and almost every major global brand is present in the country now. A far cry from the random smuggled versions, which actually was a neighbour’s envy as was travel abroad. Now Indians are said to be one of the biggest spenders on holidays abroad, a reflection of the growth in prosperity of its people. The reforms in the financial services sector, although slow compared to others sectors, has seen a proliferation in demand for banking and insurance. Banking reforms have led to low non-performing assets. Similarly, opening up of the insurance sector to foreign participation in 2000 has led to more competition and efficiency in the space. On the other hand, reforms in the capital markets and setting up of the stock market regulator has attracted massive global attention. Foreign Institutional investors have poured $28 billion in the Indian stock market so far this year. In 2009, they had invested $17 billion. Rapid economic growth has also led to a significant reduction in poverty, although a large segment of the 1.2 billion population still remains in abject poverty. Robust economic expansion has also meant that there has been a structural shift in the economy. From a largely agriculture-dominated economy, India now relies heavily on the services sector for growth. This crucial sector now accounts for more than 50% of the country’s GDP. The services sector, which includes trade, hotels, transportation, insurance, financing, business services, real estate, among others, accounted for 15% of GDP in 1950 and about 44% in 1991. It’s not as if every sector has grown exponentially. Though much better than 1991, infrastructure is still considered to be a weak link. Economist say the failure of infrastructure to catch up with strong growth has meant that large manufacturing industries have not come up, tilting growth in favour of services such as knowledge-based industries. However, the two-decades of economic reforms have also been bumpy with political opposition holding up progress and skeptics questioning the need for any further opening up of the economy. “India’s reforms have been piecemeal and incremental, giving a casual observer the impression that nothing has been happening. If one takes the totality of reforms over the last decade, however, the change is unmistakable,” noted economist Arvind Panagriya wrote in a 2001 Asian Development Bank policy paper. The visible success of economic reforms over the 20-year period now seems to have won over the skeptics. The recent victory of Nitish Kumar in Bihar, who fought the elections on the development plank, shows that there has been a paradigm shift in the attitude to reforms and it appears that there is more acceptance of the concept among the political class. Sustained strong economic growth, robust domestic demand and a huge market has translated into global economic clout for the $1.3-trillion economy. India now is a leading voice in almost all leading global economic bodies, ranging from the International Monetary Fund to the World Trade Organization. “India has grown in stature on the global stage. Two decades ago nobody looked at India. Now no foreign investor can afford to ignore India because of the growth and market potential,” said Crisil’s Joshi But despite rapid strides that the economy has made, analysts say the next 20 years would need more deep reforms in governance, administration, social sectors and infrastructure to help wipe out poverty and push India into the developed nations’ league. Some of the social sector indicators though still remain grim. Many cite the data that shows there are more mobile phones than toilets in India. The Planning Commission says school dropout rates remain high with 43% of the children dropping out before completing school. The quality of education, too, is a reason for worry. The planning commission quotes a survey that in 2009 as many as 38% of children in Standard V could not read text meant for Standard II and 37% could not do simple division. India ranks 119 among 169 nations in the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures countries on the basis of health, education and income. According to the Planning Commission, urbanization is expected to accelerate and the urban population’s share may reach 50% in the next 25 years adding up to 400 million people to the existing urban population of 350 million. This is bound to add pressure to the already stretched services such as sanitation, water supply, waste disposal and urban transport. “We have moved slowly but we have done well in terms of growth, financial markets, capital markets, savings and investments. But much more needs to be done on infrastructure and investments,” says Bimal Jalan, former Reserve Bank of India governor and eminent economist.

Of 5 digit train numbers

All passenger trains will move to a five-digit numbering system from today in place of the existing four-digit system.. The new numbering system will be more scientific, logical, uniform and computer-friendly and “will go a long way in monitoring the movement of trains more effectively on an all India basis and in facilitating dissemination and management of train information more scientifically, benefiting the public”.

FGFA snippets

It will take a decade for India to begin inducting the first lot of the 250-300 advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) it is going to jointly develop and manufacture with Russia. As per the detailed roadmap finalized between India and Russia, the “series production” of FGFA will be launched in 2019, with the actual deliveries to begin in 2020, sources said. The stage for the entire FGFA programme, which will see India spending upwards of $35 billion over the next two decades in its biggest-ever defence project, will finally be set this week. With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in town, New Delhi and Moscow will ink the $295 million preliminary design contract (PDC) for FGFA on Tuesday. Then, over the next 18 months, the two sides will work out the detailed design and other agreements to kickstart the actual building of FGFA. “Forty Indian designers and scientists will be stationed in Russia, with a similar number of Russians here. A secure data link will also be set up to ensure both sides are fully in the picture all the time,“ said a source. The total cost of designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development, flight testing and the like has been pegged at around $11 billion, with both sides chipping in with $5.50 billion each in the “50-50% partnership”. India, for instance, will spend $2.50 billion of its $5.50 billion share in setting up infrastructure for manufacturing plants, tooling facilities and hangars. Each “swing role” FGFA, with a deadly mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities, will cost an additional $100 million or so. Cash-strapped Russia is already flying the prototype of its single-seater FGFA called Sukhoi T-50. While the Indian FGFA will basically be based on this fighter, it will “be tweaked to meet IAF requirements”. With IPR (intellectual property rights) being “equally and jointly vested”, India and Russia may also decide to sell the FGFA to “third countries” by mutual consent.

Tendya does it

A collective gasp resounded around Mumbai when Morne Morkel’s delivery cut back and missed the inside edge of his bat. It was around 7.30pm and the Master Blaster’s scorecard stood precariously on 97. Two overs later, Sachin pushed Dale Steyn to midwicket for two. 99 runs. In the next delivery, he drove the fast bowler to deep cover. Another collective gasp could be heard in Mumbai. A gasp of awe. The cricketing god had reached his 50th Test century. On the historic day, Mumbaikars felt this was an unmatchable feat, long awaited and well deserved. Once again, with his heavy bat in hand, the Mumbaicha mulga had silenced his detractors who tirelessly snap at his heels. Many believe that the ton was a pitch-perfect answer to all of Tendulkar’s critics who gladly wrote him off after his out-of-form phase about two years ago. Mumbaikars were delighted that Tendulkar is still going strong twenty years after his international debut in Karachi in 1989. Many said that the feat will remain unmatched for years to come.


Telecom policy flipflops

Kannur International Airport snippets

The Leela group that runs the eponymous chain of luxury hotels and lender Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) are close to becoming the biggest shareholders in a new airport to be built in Kannur, a town in north Kerala that is also the hometown of the hotel company's founder C.P. Krishnan Nair. He had first proposed an airport project in Kannur nearly 20 years ago. The Kannur airport project ran into bad weather because of government regulations that prohibit a second airport coming up within 150km of an existing one. Kannur is less than 150km away from Kozhikode and Mangalore, two cities with airports. This rule has now been waived for the private sector Kannur airport project.

V. Thulasidas, special officer and director of Kannur International Airport Ltd (Kial), the company formed by the Kerala government for the construction of the airport, said the board of directors of the airport company is yet to take a final decision. He did not divulge any details. “However, the foundation stone for the airport would be laid on 17 December in the presence of Kerala chief minister and Union civil aviation minister (Praful Patel). The preliminary work for the airport will start following that,“ Thulasidas said.

Hotel Leelaventure Ltd's vice-chairman and managing director Vivek Nair confirmed the development, adding the funding is being tied up.

The equity is being raised by his company and debt by co- promoter IL&FS, he said. “We are planning to build the airport in 30 months from 17 December. This will give a fillip to the tourism industry in the north Kerala. Already, six resorts are coming up in this area,“ he said.

Nair also said a dedicated rail line, to be built by the Indian Railways and Kial, is planned to connect Kannur with Bekal, a popular tourist town in north Kerala. The journey from Kannur to Bekal will take 50 minutes instead of three- and-a-half hours from the Mangalore airport.

“This airport is unlikely to affect other airports in Kerala or the New Mangalore airport, as the plan by Kannur airport is to develop the tourism belt in north Kerala, which is untapped. However, the passenger growth estimated in this airport is not attractive and, therefore, tourism-linked promotions are critical for the airport's success,“ said an aviation industry consultant on the condition of anonymity.

Nair of Leelaventure said that upfront development costs will be low--an estimated `850 crore--though the airport would expand passenger capacity in the future.

The final cost of the project Source: Companies and the capital structure of the company has not yet been finalized. IL&FS is working on a detailed project report, said Nair.

“Initially, the airport would be able to handle jumbo jet Boeing 747. In a later stage, it would be able to handle Airbus 380,“ he added.

Apart from Leela group and IL&FS, with a combined stake of 32%, other private companies that would have a stake include Mumbai-based Mennen Group, that runs several financial services firms and Mennen Aviation and Hos- pitality Ltd. It will own 16%.

Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, a state-run agency, will own 26% of Kannur airport in lieu of part of a value of land acquired for the project.

Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and other state-run public sector units will own 3%, while state- run oil marketing companies Hindustan Petroleum Co. Ltd (HPCL) and Indian Oil Corp.
Ltd (IOCL) will own 1%. The Airports Authority of India and Changi Airport Services Pte Ltd of Singapore will hold 15% in the project.

Haryana plans a new highway

The Haryana government has decided to construct a 156km-long north-south corridor in Haryana to connect states on its south, including Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, with those on its north such as Punjab, HP and J&K to decongest Delhi. The four-lane corridor would start from Kotputli in Rajasthan after taking off from Delhi-Jaipur NH-8 and terminate at Rohtak in Haryana connecting Delhi Fazilka National Highway No 10, Haryana PWD minister Randeep Surjewala said. The proposed highway would be the biggest road project to be undertaken by Haryana since its inception 44 years back on November 1, 1966, Surjewala added. The project to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1201.70 crore would be undertaken on a DBFOT (Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Transfer) pattern. Union planning commission has approved this project and has agreed to give 20% of total project cost as viability gap funding that is Rs 240.34 crore. The project has a total length of 156km starting from Rai Malikpur (Rajasthan Border) — Narnaul-Mahendergarh-Dadri-Bhiwani-Kharak. The entire process of allotment of the project — involving construction of a fourlaned road with a divider, which shall vary from 1.5 metres and 3 metres — to successful bidder is likely to be completed by mid-2011, after which construction is scheduled to be completed in 30 months.

Ayodhya verdict goes to SC

The Sunni Wakf Board of Uttar Pradesh moved the Supreme Court challenging the controversial verdict of Allahabad High Court dividing the 2.77 acres of disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in equal parts between Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara.
“We have challenged the verdict on the ground that the high court has erred both in law and facts in holding that the land over which Babri Masjid stood was the place of birth of Ram,” the Board said after its counsel filed the petition in the apex court. Exactly a month ago, the first appeal against the landmark verdict was filed in SC by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), which was plaintiff No. 2 before the HC. JUH, which had filed the original suit in 1961 before the HC claiming ownership over the disputed area then housing the disputed structure, in its petition through advocate Anis Suhrawardy assailed the Allahabad HC verdict on the ground that by ordering partition of the area, it travelled beyond the pleadings of the parties as none of them had argued for it. “The permission to perform puja cannot change the undisputed character of the structure, which has been consistently recorded in official records as a mosque,” JUH had said.
On the other hand, the second petition filed by the legal guardian of the idol, Ram Lalla, had claimed that the entire land should be given to him for utilizing it for the worship of the idol. The JUH, however, had said, “The HC has re-written history with its judgment by substituting its role from an adjudicatory body in law to that of the role of historian.”

Inflation November 2010 snapshot

The headline inflation eased in November to its lowest level in 2010, bringing relief for policymakers and fuelling expectations that RBI will hold interest rates in its scheduled mid-quarter monetary policy review on December 16. Data released by the commerce and industry ministry showed the wholesale price index rose 7.48% in November. It stood at 8.58% in October and was at 4.5% in November 2009.
Soaring inflation has been a headache for the government for several months and has led to protests. The RBI has raised interest rates six times this year to calm prices and has said controlling inflation remains a key policy challenge in the months ahead. But Tuesday’s data brought some cheer for policymakers. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said the latest inflation data showed that India had done well in its monetary and fiscal policies but cautioned that it was important to stay on the planned path. “These numbers take us another step towards our forecast of 6% inflation by March 2011,” Mukherjee said.
Economists said the latest inflation data will take pressure off from RBI. Although the upward revision in the inflation rate for September is a cause for some concern, it is unlikely that the RBI would revise policy rates in the December mid-quarter review of monetary policy. The government revised the September inflation number to 8.9% from the earlier provisional estimate of 8.6%.