Navi Mumbai airport update

The City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) has received a permission from defence authorities for proposed airport at Navi Mumbai. With several military and sensitive installations in and around the area, defence’s permission was required for the airfield. “We have got permission from defence authorities as well as consent for the Rs 1,300-crore plan for road and rail connectivity for the new airport,” said a senior bureaucrat. The state and the Centre last week approved the rail-road connectivity project. The decision came up at the meeting of officials from Cidco, Jawaharlan Nehru Port Trust-led road corporation, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and PWD at New Delhi. The move will help facilitate building Metro and suburban routes. The authorities plan to convert Uran-Panvel highway, Belapur-Panvel state highway and Belapur-Uran highway (Amra Marg) into eightlane expressways. Besides, the official said, the state PWD is now in the final stages of commencing the work on Sion-Panvel highway expansion project, which was stuck due to delayed tendering process. The projects are expected be over by June 2013. Cidco has appointed Lea Associates to design the rail –road network to the airport, which includes planning of Metro and suburban rail routes connecting the upcoming as well as the existing airport and south Mumbai via the Nhava-Sewri sea link. “The final blue print of the design is expected by March,” said the official. Cidco sources said the US-based M/s Lee has been appointed to work out mangrove replantation in and around the airport. Cidco officials met project affected persons (PAPs) last week.

Somewhere in Delhi....

Modern retail develops in India .......

ICC World Cup 2011 is here

The hype, the hoopla......Cricket is going to take our minds off the scams and scandals for the next 3 months.The World Cup will be followed by IPL 4 in close succession.

Kallen Pokkudan

You don't feel the blazing sun here; there's always a cool breeze sweeping across Pazhayangadi river, even at noon. The lush greenery is overwhelmingly soothing. The mud road along the riverside is deserted, and the only sound you hear is the gentle hum of the light wind and the rustle of life in the mangroves. Walk further, you see a board proclaiming the name of the man who fought a long and lonely battle to preserve the mangrove forests in Kerala – Kallen Pokkudan, a name synonymous with mangrove conservation. The sleepy village, Pazhayangadi, nestled in the rich wetlands of north Kerala shot to fame thanks to this crusader. “Mangroves are my life. I will protect them as much as I can.” The grit and resolve of this man is unwavering even at the age of 73. “My health doesn’t permit me to plant saplings any more, so I collect seeds and hand them over to people who are interested,” says Pokkudan, who has been conserving mangroves for more than two decades now. A dalit farm worker, Pokkudan had formal education only till class II. He has planted more than one lakh mangrove saplings himself and now conducts awareness classes in schools and colleges across the state. It all started in his village in 1989, when even environmentalists were ignorant of the alarming rate at which mangrove forests were being destroyed. “Those days, schoolchildren walking alongside the Pazhayangadi river used to lose their umbrellas to the strong winds blowing from Ezhimala side. I started planting mangrove saplings to reduce the intensity of the wind,” says Pokkudan, sparkling waters of the Pazhayangadi reflecting in his eyes. He planted some 300 saplings near the riverbank, and two years later, they grew into thick green foliage spanning a kilometre. But the number of people critical of his initiative grew. “Every morning I would see the saplings plucked and thrown into the river. Grown plants would be destroyed which pained me a lot,” says Pokkudan. Never one to give up, he filed a police complaint with the help of a CPM local committee secretary, who also warned the miscreants and paved the way for a greener future for Pokkudan. It was a local research centre that first spotted Pokkudan who used to carry a bag of seeds wherever he went. “Scientists those days couldn't find another person who planted mangroves. Though my enemy circle was active, this time I got support from environmentalists, who took the matter to Kerala high court which ordered six months imprisonment and Rs 2,000 fine for whoever destroyed 'kandal' plants,” says Pokkudan. ‘Kandal’ is the local term for mangroves. By then, he was known as Kandal Pokkudan, and his efforts started bearing fruit when the then Kerala government allotted Rs 15 lakh to develop mangrove forests in Kannur district. “The area of mangrove forests in Kerala which was 700 sqkm in 1975 had shrunk to just 17sqkm by 1991,” says Pokkudan who had to face stiff opposition from villagers and even from his own family. Some even threatened him with legal consequences as he was planting the mangroves on panchayat land. However, it did not take long for his opponents to acknowledge his efforts. “For people of my (backward) community – pulaya – the mangroves have always been a source of food, fuel, fodder and medicine. There was a type of fish that could be cooked or kept aside for times of famine, and the berries and tubers that could be eaten both raw and cooked. Many of these had medicinal properties. The fish, the birds and the people, all depended on the mangroves,” says Pokkudan. They are also home to several species of birds and marine creatures. Migratory birds also find place in the calm and rich mangrove forests. Addressing the mangrove trees as jawans who safeguard the earth, he says floods in coastal areas can be averted to a great extent by planting mangroves. Pokkudan’s fame soon spread. Once, a Hungarian ornithologist who was in Coimbatore, came to see Pokkudan and his mangroves which by then had spread to other districts. Attila Bankovich, director of the Hungarian Institute of Ornithology, was surprised to see the variety of life in Kannur’s mangroves. Pokkudan proudly displays the newspaper report that quotes Bankovich as saying: “This much biodiversity you cannot see anywhere else in the world. This should never be destroyed.” Several recognitions also came Pokkudan’s way, including the Kerala forest department’s Vanamitra Award in 2006, Bhoomi Mitra Award in 2003, P V Thampy Memorial Endowment Award in 2001. Real recognition, however, is the care my trees get from people, says a proud Pokkudan. “I cannot plant trees any more. I am old. I conduct awareness classes for children. So far I have gone to 200 schools and colleges. Creating awareness in children gives me great satisfaction as it is something our politicians never have time for. I always carry seeds with me wherever I go, and I cooperate with local clubs and government projects,” says a once-loyal Communist who broke away from the party due to caste discrimination within. “My only wish now is that the government takes efforts to preserve the dwindling mangrove forests. They wrongly think developing forests is dead investment, that it fetches no returns,” he rues. “After decades of effort, people now realize the blessings these trees can bring. The mangrove trees in private lands also should be preserved,” he says.

Somewhere in Ahmedabad....

Five persons were killed and seven injured when a five-storeyed under-construction building collapsed on Friday.

The Supreme Coat is here

Rahul speak

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday called for repatriating Indian black money stashed in foreign banks and other tax havens overseas but rejected accusations that the UPA government wasn't doing its best in this direction. The Supreme Court had recently pulled up the government for restricting names of those with black money overseas. A bench had said that the government was wrong in treating black money as a tax issue and criticised it for not making public the names on the list. “We must ensure that Indian money which belongs to the poor comes back. The UPA government is making efforts in this direction,” he told reporters on the last leg of his two-day Marathwada tour. “The short-term approach is quick punishment within six months for those apprehended after a corruption case is unearthed. The long-term measure would be to delve deeper to understand and eradicate it.” But he ruled out a quick-fix. “This is possible only if we bring change through democratic means. Give me 10 years and you will see this change,” he said. “Funds meant for development are being stolen by vested interests,” he said, adding that this was why he wanted young people to join politics. “People now feel corruption is common to all political parties. However, Youth Congress is encouraging organisational democracy. No one is nominated or recommended to a post. Everyone has to stand for the election even at the gram panchayat-level,” Gandhi said. All political parties are infested with corruption, he said. “We are not happy about the situation and feel the problem is in the system with the current political structure based on family and relations, even while making appointments. However, only a few want change.” The MP from Amethi described the brutal murder of additional collector of Nashik Yeshwant Sonawane by the oil mafia on Tuesday as unfortunate.

Somewhere in Lucknow....

A deepdan being done on the banks of the Gomti on Martyr’s Day. Bapu’s death anniversary is observed as Martyr’s Day.

Chennai airport update

Flying from Chennai airport is going to be a delightful experience when the two new terminals under construction are thrown open to the public by the end of the year. Getting stuck in a traffic block on the airport campus and lugging of baggage all the way from the road to the terminal buildings are going to be a thing of past as Airports Authority of India (AAI) has worked out an efficient passenger flow pattern for the new terminals. A departing passenger can drive up to the top floor of the three-level domestic or international terminal, alight from the car and enter through an all-glass entry door where CISF personnel will scrutinise the tickets and identity documents. Then the passenger will enter a vast departure area of the terminal, which has twin wing-like hovering roofs that provide 300-meter long, column-free space. Those who reach the airport by Metro Rail can walk into the terminal through a tube that will connect the station and the departure terminal. As the overarching roof of the terminal is going to be interlaced with glasses, light and shade will keep moving across the room with time. Instead of brick and mortar, the walls will be made of glass. Passengers will be able to see a lot of green inside the terminal. “Unlike other traditional airports in the world, lush gardens will be visible throughout the terminal which will create a unique bonding between engineering and nature, interior and exterior spaces,” said S Bhaduri, executive director of airport project. A row of check-in counters —52 each for domestic and international terminals—that run on Common User Terminal Equipment System (CUTE) will allow airlines to use any counter to check in passengers. Those who wish to do an e-check in can do that using four counters at each of the terminals. The Flight Information Display System (FIDS) monitors imported from Korea will flash status of flights while a CCTV monitoring system will be constantly monitoring every movement inside the whole of the terminal and also conveyor belts at arrival halls. After check-in, passengers proceed through the centre of the building for security check and further to the security hold area which is on the air side portion of the terminal building. Passengers will not miss announcements as the terminal will be equipped with latest public address and voice alarms imported from Singapore. If the boarding is through one of the seven aero bridges, passengers will use elevators to come down to reach the aerobridge. And if the aircraft is parked on the remote bay, passengers will climb down to the ground floor from where they will be taken by shuttle buses to the plane. Arriving passengers who enter the airport through aero bridges will walk to the arrival hall on ground floor and pick up their baggage from the conveyor belt before leaving the building. No where the passenger from arrival and departure could mingle with each other, Bhaduri said. Baggage unloaded from the aircraft will be brought to basement through a ramp. After screening, the bags will reach the conveyor on the arrival hall of the ground floor. “Both the terminals will be equipped with a sophisticated inline baggage handling system. This system consists of four departure conveyors. There are four arrival carousels in the domestic and three arrival carousels in the international terminal. The total length of conveyor will be approximately 3,500 meters and can handle 1,200 baggage per hour.” On the conveyor belts, baggage that were screened at the basement floor will be lifted automatically to the conveyor belts on the ground floor for the passengers to collect. Transit passengers will not have to walk all the way across the terminals. Airports Authority of India will install a glass tube to accommodate two travelators. The tube will connect domestic and international terminals. The entire terminal will be fire-proof as VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection & Alarm) that sounds an alarm much before a fire can break out is being installed at Departure level. The rate of failure of facilities are going to be very minimal as a building management system will control and monitor electrical, mechanical equipment, including water management system, escalator, elevators and lighting system.

Somewhere off the Mumbai coast....

A naval warship, INS Vindhyagiri, collided headon with a Cyprus flag merchant ship, M V Nordlake, near Sunk Rock Lighthouse off Mumbai harbour on Sunday evening. There were no casualties or oil spill, but shipping ministry officials said the incident was serious as it involved an Indian Navy ship and occurred in broad daylight. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust officials blamed personnel on board the naval ship for the accident. Director-general of shipping S B Agnihotri has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Apart from naval personnel, Vindhyagiri also had on board their families and some civilians. Shipping ministry officials said it was surprising that the crew of the ships did not spot each other on a sunny afternoon.

New telcos fail to connect

Telecom regulator Trai has found that despite a three-year run in the telecom sector, new entrants have failed to make any competitive impact. Trai’s data on market position at the end of November 2010 shows that the combined market share of six new entrants has barely crossed 5% after nearly three years of receiving their licences. On January 10, 2008, the DoT had issued 122 LoIs, mainly to non-telecom firms. Companies that received maximum licences with bundled 4.4 MHz spectrum include Loop (22 circles), Sistema (22 circles), Uninor (22), Videocon (22), Etisalat —earlier Swan (15 circles, including Bihar and MP acquired from Allianze) and S Tel (6). According to Trai’s, at pan-India level, Uninor has only 2.2% share of mobile subscriber market, while Sistema has 1.1%, Videocon (0.9%), Loop (0.4%), S Tel (0.3%) and Etisalat (0.02%). Mobile number portability (MNP) was seen as an opportunity for new entrants to attract high paying subscribers from existing operators, based on the promise of improved service, customer care and lower tariffs. However, early data belies this hope, as Videocon, Sistema and Loop have lost subscribers so far. Uninor is the only exception with mild gains. With subscriber base and market share at such low levels, it is clear that India’s telecom market is likely to prove impregnable for new entrants. Even before these 122 LoIs were given, India had six to eight operators per circle—th e highest level anywhere in the world. The evidence suggests that issuance of new licences has failed to impact the competitive landscape, improve quality of service or even lower tariffs. In fact, the most attractive per second pricing was launched by incumbent operators like MTNL, Tata and Reliance with others following suit. The total telecom subscriber base at the end of November 2010 was 764 million, of which 95% or 729 million were mobile subscribers.


RBI hikes key rates by 0.25%

Home, auto and loans to corporate may become costlier as RBI today hiked short-term lending and borrowing rates by 0.25 per cent each, though bankers felt there may not be an immediate increase in interest rates.These initiatives (hike in rates) are aimed at checking price rise while retaining the growth momentum, RBI said while raising the year-end inflation projection to 7 per cent and retaining the economic growth forecast for the financial year at 8.5 per cent.The short-term lending (repo) rate has been increased to 6.5 per cent while the borrowing (reverse repo) rate has gone up to 5.5 per cent. RBI also extended the additional liquidity support facility to banks till April 8, 2011.It has retained the cash reserve ratio (CRR) — a portion of deposits that banks are required to maintain in cash with the RBI — at 6 per cent to ensure that the system had enough liquidity to meet loan requirements. The RBI will constantly monitor the credit growth and, if necessary, will take necessary steps, according to third quarter monetary policy review announced on Tuesday.The Reserve Bank projected an economic growth of 8.5 per cent with an upside bias.It also warned that inflation is a matter of concern and revised its projection for FY 2011 to 7 per cent from 5.5 per cent earlier.The central bank in 2010 raised the key policy rates six times to contain inflation which shot up to 8.43 per cent in December on high prices of food items, from 7.48 per cent in November.While the food inflation for the week ended January 8 stood at 15.52 per cent. It had soared to 18.32 per cent in the end of December on high prices of vegetables, including onion.

This Republic Day....

Bursting at the seams

Maha gets a think tank

The Democratic Front government led by Prithviraj Chavan has tagged 12 issues as top-priority and set up a think-tank comprising senior IAS officers to work on it. The think tank, headed by Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad, will handle issues such attracting investment, develop infrastructure, and eradicate malnutrition in the state. Other items on the agenda of the panel’s top priority list will be simplifying rules of business and administrative reforms, e-governance, improvement in human development index, special component plan and tribal sub-plan, supply of clean and potable water, development of tourism, ports and allied facilities. The think tank is for comprehensive planning and speedy implementation of various schemes. “It is to take help of senior officials who have expertise in specific sectors for planning and implementation,”said Gaikwad, while sharing the idea with his colleagues from the state administration. The 19-member panel comprises departmental heads such as additional chief secretaries Umesh Chandra Sarangi (home) and J K Banthia (public health), principal secretaries Swadhin Kshatriya (revenue), Sudhir Kumar Goyal (co-operation), A K Jain (CM’s office), K P Bakshi (GAD), UPS Madan (project director, Mumbai transformation project), Malini Shankar (water supply), Ajay Bhushan Pandey (on Central Govt deputation for Aadhar – the UID project), secretaries Ashishkumar Singh (CM’s office), Mahesh Pathak (higher & technical education), Valsa Nair Singh (environment) and Sudhir Takre (rural development). Sales Tax commissioner Sanjay Bhatia, additional commissioner MMRDA SVR Srinivas will also be a part of the panel of which additional commissioner of MMRDA Aswini Bhide will be the member secretary. Notably, two of its members are former IAS officers who had resigned to join private sector. While Sanjay Ubale is associated with a Tata Group enterprise, V K Jairath is active in investment management and infrastructure, sources said. According to Mantralaya officials, inclusion of the two IAS officers was surprising and their involvement in formulating government policies on crucial matters will be a conflict of interests.

Somewhere in Lucknow....

An illuminated Vidhan Bhawan ahead of the Republic Day celebrations

Voters' Day

Of 15-car local trains

The much touted 15-car train of the Western Railway (WR) will make its debut at Churchgate on Wednesday, Republic Day. The local train, which can accommodate 6,000 people during rush hour, had been on trial run between Dadar and Virar with halts at Bandra, Andheri and Borivli, and all stations between Borivli and Virar except Naigaon and Dahisar. On January 26, the service will be extended to WR’s southern terminus. After two-day tests, the service will be regularised on Friday. As with Dadar-Virar, there will be 12 Churchgate-Virar services daily by one train. But within the year, the number of trains would be increased to three, with the number of services going up to 50. Work to extend platforms three and four at Churchgate is almost complete.


Mahindra Aero to roll out first aircraft this year

Mahindra Aerospace, the first Indian private firm to manufacture small civil aircraft for the domestic aviation market, is likely to roll out its first aircraft by March this year. “We are hopeful of rolling out our first indigenous small aircraft by March this year. But we should make sure that the aircraft is properly certified for airworthiness standards,” Mahindra & Mahindra’s president (Systech Sector), Hemant Luthra, said . “We will provide the aircraft at a price at least 20% lesser than a Cessna aircraft,” Mr Luthra said.

Face Off

Both the national parties seem out of sync with the mood of the nation at the moment.The Congress needs to get cracking against corruption within the UPA and get a grip on the uncontrolled inflation.They should go in for a total revamp of the cabinet.The BJP needs to act against Yeddy in Karnataka, not resort to mindless bandhs and let peace prevail in Jammu & Kashmir.The Parliament should function in the World's largest democracy, maybe the Congress should agree to a JPC on the 2G scam.The Left has to rethink its opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail.We need to get our back end infrastructure in place for the farmers and consumers to benefit.

Somewhere in Bangalore....

The Metro has a glitch free test run.


Pune's BDP hope rests on MoEF

Pune environmentalists who maintain that the city needs the Bio Diversity Parks have pinned their hopes on Union minister for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh. Supporters have already approached Ramesh seeking assistance to acquire the land. "The government is on a spree to convert hilltops/ hill slopes into residential areas and every citizen must speak out to protect the greenery in the city," said Aneeta Gokhale-Benninger, professor of Sustainable Development Planning.
With the World Bank willing to partner India’s green-growth agenda and extend support for biodiversity conservation, according to the Press Information Bureau, there is still hope for the biodiversity project in Pune. The India project will demonstrate conservation measures in various ecosystems, catalogue India’s rich biodiversity in hotspots, and support livelihoods of communities living within biodiversity-rich areas and enable them to benefit from investments in these areas. “The PMC can seek funds under the World Bank project. The civic body should forward the proposal to the state and union government,” said a state urban development department official. The partnership between the World Bank and the Government of India will support programmes that help the country achieve fuel-efficient transport infrastructure, clean energy hydropower plants, efficient water supply and wastewater systems, programmes that help farmers, fishing communities and people in other vulnerable communities safeguard their livelihoods. The World Bank will also strengthen the capacity of the pollution control boards and set up new monitoring and data management mechanisms. The bank has financially supported three environment management and protection projects which include Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, Industrial Pollution Management Project and the National Ganga Project with $220 million, $65 million and $20 million respectively.
One way, as suggested by Pune’s promoters and builders, is to have corporates, individuals and NGOs be a part of the greening exercise
* Under the 74th amendment's 12th schedule, the central government can help the city develop urban forestry
* With the World Bank supporting biodiversity projects, Pune could seek funds for the proposed BDP
* As per the national action plan for climate change, prepared by the Government of India, Pune could claim funds under the JNNURM to develop the BDP.
* In 2009, responding to the PMC's appeal for suggestions to raise funds to acquire BDP land, Credai, the promoters and builders association of Pune had suggested that corporates, individuals and NGOs be asked to adopt a part of a hill and allow them advertising in prescribed form without disturbing the greenery. * They can also develop their own nature parks. Deposits taken from them could be used for acquisition. Hills could also be leased out to educational institutes as they need open spaces

Haji Ali - Girgaum Chowpatty Link Road snippets

The Maharashtra state government on Friday gave the go-ahead for a coastal link between Haji Ali and Girgaum Chowpatty. The government is convinced that even if the Pedder Road flyover is a necessity, the coastal link up to Nariman Point from Haji Ali will have to be built simultaneously, taking into consideration the grim traffic scenario in the city. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) managing director and vice chairman Vipin Shrimali said on Friday that tenders to appoint developers for the two links will be floated in October. After the Worli-Haji Ali sea link, construction of which will begin by March, the state has upped the execution plan for the next link from Haji Ali to Girgaum Chowpatty. Shrimali said that this was because the nod had been given by the infrastructure sub-committee of the state cabinet a few months ago.


10 years on....

The desert has bloomed after the dance of death and destruction. Kutch is a story of a decade of Gujarati resilience and enterprise etched in the sands of time. The earthquake on January 26, 2001, helped Narendra Modi become chief minister a few months after some shoddy rescue, relief and rehabilitation work threw his predecessor Keshubhai Patel out of power. But before Modi arrived on the scene, a five-year tax holiday had been offered by the A B Vajpayee-led NDA government to boost Kutch’s economy — a move that has now transformed Kutch into an industrial hotspot and a feather in Modi’s vibrant cap. What was once a vast, arid desert is now a business hub, which manufactures almost everything under the brilliantly shining sun — cement, trucks, bikes, biscuits, ceramics. Kutch is emerging as a power hub with Adani and Tata planning to generate over 8,000MW in next few years. Since 2001, 296 projects have been made fully operational with investment of Rs 17,097 crore, while 467 projects are under implementation for Rs 2.04 lakh crore. In the past decade, Rs 2.22 lakh crore worth of industrial entrepreneurs memorandums (IEM) have been filed for setting up projects in Kutch, which is 26 per cent of Gujarat as a whole. “The tax holiday transformed Kutch. Development in the last decade has been faster than the whole of the previous one century,” says Vidyut Buch, vice-president of Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). Many feared the concessions would bring in fly-in and fly-out operators who would pack up once the tax holiday ended. But, two growing ports – Kandla and Mundra — proved the apprehensions wrong. “When they saw profit through easy exports, they stayed invested here,” said Ashok Chawla, former president of GCCI. One of the most glowing examples of the enterprise that a new Kutch has bred is an auto company born soon after the concessions were offered. Asia Motor Works, the maker of large trucks, was drawn to the quake-ravaged land in 2002 because of the incentives. “When we came in here first, there was hardly any infrastructure. But, in the past five years, the state government has created excellent infrastructure — airport, roads, power and even water,” says Anirudh Bhuwalka, MD & CEO of AMW, which has lined up future investments in and around Bhuj. The steady stream of investments gave a big boost to local industries as well. Ashok Sharma, 50, had raised huge debts to build a hotel in Gandhidham. The newly-built property came crumbling down on January 26. Some assistance from the government and loads of courage has seen Sharma construct a larger resort in the same town. “Traffic increased phenomenally and we get much more business than what we used to get pre-earthquake,” he says. Many investors clearly identified Kutch as the location for new projects during the Vibrant Gujarat meet earlier this month. The district was promised the maximum investments. investment of Rs 1.13 lakh crore has been pledged in projects worth Rs 5,000 crore or more. Of the major projects planned in Kutch, the most important are by the Adani Group, which has invested Rs 30,000 crore in Mundra port, special economic zone and power. Tatas are setting up an ultra mega power plant for Rs 20,000 crore. The project is under construction and the first phase is nearing completion. Adani is building world’s largest terminal to import coal. The Rs 2,000-crore terminal has a capacity to handle 60 million metric tonnes a year. Work is on to expand its capacity up to 100 million metric tonnes. Coal will land here from all over the world, including Adani’s newlyacquired mines in Australia. Three big-sized cement plants have been put up in Kutch district – by Sanghis for Rs 3,000 crore, ABG Cement for Rs 1,200 crore and JP Corporation for Rs 1,500 crore. Reliance plans to set up a plant here. Kutch accounts for 10,000 million tonnes of limestone deposits, which is more than 10 per cent of the country as a whole – 93,623 million tonnes. Other important projects include those by Welspun in textiles and engineering for Rs 5,000 crore; Asia Motor Works for Rs 2,000 crore in heavy commercial vehicles; Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation in power and lignite mining for Rs 2,000 crore; Jindal in pipes and pig iron for Rs 1,000 crore; Ajanta Group in ceramics and electronics for Rs 900 crore; and Eletrotherm for Rs 800 crore.

Mumbai's Powai lake gets a facelift

The beautified Powai Lake is all set to be inaugurated on Saturday, giving Mumbaikars yet another improved green space. It is the first revamped waterfront in the eastern suburbs. It’s been four years since the project began, during which time the cost shot up from Rs 8 crore to Rs 34 crore. A 2-km-long waterfront has been created along the 120-year-old lake, which has a Ganesh Ghat at the west end and the Powai Garden on the east. The beautification is 90% complete, according to additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta, who till recently was in charge of water supply. Though the lake does not supply potable water to the city, it is part of the hydraulic engineering (HE) department’s assets and has been beautified with its funds. The 2-km stretch, which is yet to be completed, is being developed as a seamless walkway. It skirts a children’s play area, then passes between the lake and landscaped slopes as it snakes upwards and runs parallel to the main road, where visitors can enter a park that again leads to the lakefront. Along the way, there are several viewing decks for visitors to relax and watch the lake. The biggest viewing deck is inside the park. It is semi-circular and has grassfilled stairs on which people can sit and watch the fountains set up in the lake. A low retaining wall has been built along the lake to prevent visitors from stepping into the water and becoming potential food for the 70 resident crocodiles there. While the city can rejoice in getting yet another public space, something stinks, and that’s the lake itself. Though the lakefront looks beautiful, the lake itself has not been cleaned. One may not have to exactly hold their nose, but the water is filled with sewage. “The remaining beautification work won’t be taken up till the 13 sewerage outlets that empty into the lake are closed,” said Gupta. The sewage lines had been shut as part of the lake-cleaning process, but they were opened after the MMRDA, which was widening Adi Shankaracharya Marg, damaged existing sewer lines. The damaged lines have not been repaired though the roadwork is complete. Gupta said the BMC would do the sewer repairs, estimated to cost Rs 4 crore. “HE department will spend the money,” he said. Environmentalists added that Powai Lake was badly in need of desilting. The beautification has already begun to draw politicians looking for mileage before the BMC elections. The Shiv Sena-BJP is the ruling party in the BMC and the HE department has organized a formal inauguration on Saturday with Sena CEO Uddhav Thackeray as the chief guest. Several environmentalists and citizens have expressed dismay over the fountains in the revamped Powai Lake. They said the four fountains were an artificial addition that actually mar the natural beauty of the lake. Wetlands naturalist Rishi Agarwaal added, “It is a habitat for several bird species and crocodiles. It is being spoiled by artificial fountains.” Goenka agreed.


Motown data

The SC on Black Money

The Supreme Court took a tough position against the Union government on Wednesday, asking it why it was not disclosing the names of Indian citizens who allegedly stashed away large sums of unaccounted money in European banks from 2002 to 2006. The government has refused to make the names of such account holders public citing confidentiality obligations under international tax treaties.
Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar of the apex court refuted the government's claim and said it was restricting the scope of the case by arguing that it was only a taxation issue.
“It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are not on the niceties of various treaties,“ the apex court bench told the government counsel when the government contended it was a case of tax evasion and that it cannot make public the names of Indians with foreign bank accounts. Solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium said the government knew the names of 26 account holders in Liechtenstein's LGT Bank.
“This is all the information you have or you have something more?“ asked the bench.
The government has sought more time from the court and said it would respond at the next hearing on Thursday. It submitted that it would recover any monies stashed away in foreign accounts. The court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on black money being held in European banks by Indians, initiated by senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani along with some former civil servants, who want the court to examine the issue as well as the falling standards of administration on the part of the government.
The PIL claims this is a “colossal failure to enforce the law“ due to influential politicians in various parties being involved in the offences.
The apex court also took issue with the government's affidavit being filed by Priya V. K.Singh, a director in the finance ministry's department of revenue, although she said she was familiar with the facts.
The court said the finance secretary, a higher ranking official, should have been the one to respond on the part of the government given the “seriousness of the matter“.

Australia rejects India's request for uranium sale

Refusing to budge from its policy, Australia Wednesday rejected India's on request for the sale of uranium. “Regarding the export of uranium to India, the policy of the Australian government is clear, we will only supply uranium to countries that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have signed a bilateral agreement with Australia,“ Australia's resource, energy and tourism minister Martin Ferguson said after his meeting with visiting external affairs minister S.M.Krishna. “This is not a policy specific to India, it applies equally to all countries,“ Ferguson, who discussed with Krishna a range of energy sector issues, was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.

The Adarsh Scam timeline

Mumbai Metro One snapshot

MMRDA's Budget 2011-2012

Of IIP, Inflation and FDI Inflows

A tough situation at the moment.

The Lavasa Story so far....

Somewhere in Bangalore....

The trials of the Namma Metro would begin shortly.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

The CM and Deputy CM at an open house meeting on the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant.The Shiv Sena is opposed to India's largest nuclear plant.

PM does a minor reshuffle

The Reshuffled List. A major reshuffle has been indicated after the Budget session.

• Praful Patel: Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
• Sriprakash Jaiswal: Coal •
Salman Khursheed: Water Resources and additional charge of Minority Affairs

• Ajay Maken: Youth Affairs and Sports
• Beni Prasad Verma: Steel
• K V Thomas: Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

• Ashwani Kumar: Planning and Parliamentary Affairs, Science and Technology, and Earth Sciences
• K C Venugopal: Power

• Sharad Pawar: Agriculture and Food Processing Industries
• Virbhadra Singh: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
• Vilasrao Deshmukh: Rural Development and additional charge of Panchayati Raj
• S Jaipal Reddy: Petroleum and Natural Gas
• Kamal Nath: Urban Development
• Vayalar Ravi: Overseas Indian Affairs and additional charge of Civil Aviation
• Murli Deora: Corporate Affairs
• Kapil Sibal: Human Resource Development and additional charge of Communications and Information Technology
• B K Handique: Development of North-Eastern Region
• C P Joshi: Road Transport and Highways
• Kumari Selja: Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and additional charge of Culture
• Subodh Kant Sahay: Tourism
• M S Gill: Statistics and Programme Implementation
• Pawan Kumar Bansal: Parliamentary Affairs and additional charge of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences

• Dinsha Patel: Mines

• E Ahamed: External Affairs
• Harish Rawat : Agriculture and Food Processing Industries
• V Narayanasamy: Parliamentary Affairs and Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and Prime Minister’s Office
• Gurudas Kamat: Home Affairs
• A. Sai Prathap: Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
• Bharatsinh Solanki: Railways
• Jitin Prasada: Road Transport and Highways
• Mahadev S Khandela: Tribal Affairs
• R P N Singh: Petroleum and Natural Gas and Corporate Affairs
• Tusharbhai Chaudhary: Road Transport and Highways
• Arun Yadav: Agriculture and Food Processing Industries
• Pratik Prakashbapu Patil: Coal
• Vincent Pala: Water Resources and Minority Affairs

Of Indian Mutual Funds....

Eight domestic equity mutual fund schemes, including SBI Magnum Contra, HDFC Equity and Reliance Growth, are among the 25 best performing open-ended equity funds in the world of the last decade, according to investment research firm Morningstar. These funds benefited from the 10-fold growth in total value of India’s stock markets, led by a robust performance of one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The eight funds returned 31% to 38% on a compounded basis in the past decade. The Sensex returned 17.8% on a compounded basis during the 10 years. Russia’s RTS fetched 28.6% and Indonesia’s JSX Composite gave 24.4% returns during the period. Twelve equity mutual fund schemes from India figure among the 25 best-performing open-ended equity funds in the world over 15 years, Morningstar said in a note. India’s total stock market capitalisation grew to over $1.6 trillion in December 2010 from $148 billion early last decade. But no Indian fund made it to the list of best performing funds in the last five years or in 2010. China-focussed funds swamped the list for the top-25 performers during the last five years. The Sensex fetched 16.9% returns in the five years to December 2010 and 17.4% in 2010. China’s Shanghai composite rose 19.3% in the five years ending December 2010; in 2010 it had fallen 14.3% . The worst performing market in 2010 within Asia was China, whose benchmark Shanghai Composite index closed in the red, falling by more than 14% after registering an 80% gain in 2009, the Morningstar note said.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Work in progress on the elevated metro.

India's LCH

India’s first indigenous attack helicopter, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) developed by HAL and due for induction into the Indian Air Force by 2012-13, will make its first flight during Aero India from February 9 to 13. Its first test flight was in March last year. The second and third flights were in April and May 2010 and as of now, over 20 test flights have checked various parameters. These have paved the way for testing with weapons. While the first prototype could fly at the air show, the second prototype, which will be weaponized, is expected to be unveiled too. Two more prototypes are under construction. HAL commenced work on the LCH in 2006. The copter is an attack variant of the HAL Dhruv, which has been inducted into the armed forces. The copter was designed using a successful and proven helicopter as the base platform. HAL has tentative orders to deliver 65 LCHs to the IAF and over 100 to the Army. HAL will also showcase the mockup of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) which is being developed indigenously and the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) being done in collaboration with Russia. Two Chetak helicopters are expected to be handed over to a Third World country. While export orders are nothing to write home about, there have been occasional purchases by other countries. Chile signed a contract with HAL for about seven Dhruv ALHs.
The ALH is powered by HAL/Turbomeca Shakti turboshaft engine.
Has helmet-mounted targeting systems, electronic warfare systems and advanced weapons systems.
Has glass cockpit with multifunction displays, a target acquisition and designation system with laser range-finder and laser designator .
Fitted with data link for network-centric operations facilitating transfer of mission data to other airborne platforms and ground stations .
Two pilots sit one behind the other, compared to side-by-side in the Dhruv

MNP rolls out today pan India

Prime minister Manmohan Singh is slated to flag off the nationwide rollout of mobile number portability on Thursday, a move that will allow users to switch operators without losing their phone numbers and will force telecom providers to improve the quality of their services. MNP services were first launched in Haryana in November. Companies like Idea Cellular and Vodafone started marketing their services to subscribers in other parts of the country looking at switching operators even before services were rolled out.

IndiGo gets nod to fly abroad

India’s largest low-cost carrier (LCC) IndiGo has got permission to fly abroad this summer. The LCC will start flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai and Muscat in August when it completes five years of operation. IndiGo had shortlisted 15 sectors in the Gulf, south and southeast Asia as destinations it wanted to fly to. Since the airline becomes eligible to fly abroad in August and the summer schedule remains in force till October-end, the nod was given for four flights to begin with. The airline said the schedules and launch dates of the flights would be announced in the coming months. Sources indicated that when winter schedule kicks off in November, the LCC may be allowed more sectors as more planes would join its fleet. IndiGo currently has 34 aircraft and 14 more are slated to join this year. Keeping in mind the range of the A-320, the airline had shortlisted places like Maldives, Kathmandu, Dubai, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Bangkok and Singapore.


Delhi Mtro's Phase III snippets

The extension of the Metro network just got bigger. According to E Sreedharan, the head of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), phase III of the network will cover 105km now, instead of the proposed 70km earlier. “After incorporating suggestions from the Delhi government, we have realigned some of the corridors. Now, we will be going into outer Delhi areas like Bawana as well as touch Jamia Milia Islamia University,” said the Metro Man. Phase III, which will cost Rs 28,000 crore for the Delhi extensions, is expected to be completed by March 2016 and will include neighbouring localities like Faridabad and Noida. Said Sreedharan, “Funding for the extension into Faridabad will cost Rs 3,000 crore more while that into Ghaziabad and Bahadurgarh (the farthest station) will be an additional Rs 12,000 crore.” While the funding pattern for the project is yet to be decided, the majority of the costs will be borne by respective state governments. For Delhiites, the good news is that the work on phase III is expected to start within a few months. Added the DMRC chief, “There will be 23 interchanging stations in this phase, a huge jump from the three in phase II.” The changes in the corridors are going to connect the city in a circle, said Sreedharan. “The Kalindi Kunj line for instance, will be extended till Noida (Botanical Garden). The Noida extension will be paid for by the Noida authority,” he added. The major corridors in phase III include Yamuna-Mukundpur, covering 46km while the Kalindi Kunj-Janakpuri stretch will be 32km. The Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate will be covering 9.5km and the Jehangirpuri-Badli line will cover 5.5km. Perhaps the biggest addition is the line to Jamia Millia Islamia university, which will extend from Nehru Place and will cover outer Ring Road. Kalkaji will be the interchange station on this line. It is also expected to cater to a large catchment area of the university and neighbouring schools. The phase III extension starts off with connecting the various existing lines, said Sreedharan, starting with the extension of the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line on to Delhi Gate. This particular line is worth Rs 450 crore and includes others stations: Janpath, Mandi House and Delhi Gate.

Somewhere in Navi Mumbai....

A major fire broke out at the Indian Oil Corporation depot at Taloja in Navi Mumbai Tuesday early morning, destroying around 40,000 litres of lubricant oil. About 25-30 fire engines were rushed to the spot to douse the flames

Adyar Poonga snippets

The TN government is preparing for the inauguration of the Adyar Poonga and also, cautiously, making efforts to kick off the restoration of the sprawling estuary — about 300 acres up to the Thiru Vi Ka bridge near Dr MGR Arts and Science College. After the delay in getting environmental clearance for the Adyar Poonga, the Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT), in charge of the restoration of the ecologically-sensitive wetland, is keen on addressing such issues before jumping into the projectlaunch. “Unlike the Adyar Poonga, environmental clearance will be sought for the estuary from the relevant agencies before the foundation is laid,” said a government official. The CRRT has a master plan for the restoration prepared by IF&LS, Eco Smart in October last year. The consultant’s plan has four components — protection of bunds with appropriate plantation of species, removal of accumulated silt, improvements in sanitation and ensuring tidal activities. The plan suggests that the CRRT be involved in identifying the problems but adds that agencies like the Chennai Coporation and Metrowater will have to resolve the problems in a time-bound manner. With support from the department of environment, the CRRT is likely to get the necessary clearance. The Adyar river, which originates near the Chembarambakkam tank in neighbouring Tiruvallur district, is an important waterway for the city. The other is the Cooum. At its mouth (estuary), the Adyar takes a bend forming the creek. The estuary extends from the sandbar at the edge of the sea to the Adyar bridge, with small islands in between, and covers an area of about 300 acres. Along its 42-km-long journey to the Bay of Bengal, the Adyar is joined by the Mambalam and Buckingham canals and many stormwater drains. Over a period of time, the estuary has degraded due to sewage outflows, blocking of drainage channels with debris, silt in the creek bed, encroachments, dumping of garbage and landfills and encroachments by private properties, resulting in flooding during monsoon. There are also pockets of bio-diversity that require preservation. “Worse, waste from tanneries in Pammal and Naggelkeni near Pallavaram and raw sewage from residential colonies of Nandambakkam continue to be let out into the river,” said an environmentalist, associated with the restoration programme. In its continuous efforts to spearhead the campaign against water pollution, the CRRT has organised workshops and awareness programmes in the village panchayats and town panchayats falling near the Adyar river since August last year. The river which flows crystal clear between Agaram South, Malaimbakkam and Sirukulathur, becomes a sewage carrier later. It is influenced by sewage outlets from villages like Irandam Kattalai, Kollacheri, Kolumanivakkan, Chikarayapuram, Gerugambakkam, Tharapakkam, Thandalam, Moulivakkam and Mugalivakkam. The members of the various panchayats, including presidents and vice-presidents, self help groups and village health workers are brought to the Poonga in the afternoon as part of the sensitisation programme. “Each time they are brought to the Poonga, the villagers are awestruck by the amazing developments. The restoration of the creek, however, will succeed only on the restoration of the entire estuary and the members understand the hardships,” officials pointed out. Soon, representatives of the Mugalivakkam and Moulivakkam village panchayats will be sensitised on environmental degradation.

The Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act

If the Maharashtra Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Public Services Act, 2010 is passed in the forthcoming budget session, citizens will have to interact with government officials only on policy and business matters. Payment of bills, issuance of certificates, licences and registrations will be completely online. “In five years, we want to ensure that at least 100 services are offered online,’’ said Vijayalaxmi Prasanna, secretary, information technology. The idea for the system comes from South Korea, where government services are online and payment transactions with the government have to be through credit cards. South Korea is rated number one in implementing e-governance, followed by Singapore. If the act is passed, Maharashtra will be the first state in the country to do so. Officials said the Centre was seeking inputs from Maharashtra to frame a similar act. The move is aimed at curbing corruption and to eliminate the government official as a go-between in delivering certain services. “At present, citizens who do not wish to grease palms and want their work done, have to resort to the Right to Information Act. Here, the system will ensure that when an application is made and payment done, the service is delivered within a specified time,’’ the officials said. To make it binding for government departments to go online, the state government has framed the act, which is being vetted by the finance and law & judiciary departments. The act will enable citizens to demand services to be online. For instance, students can demand that results be declared online and certificates to be issued online. A government department that has been asked to provide a service will have to state the timeframe within which it will be provided. If the service cannot be provided, a reason will have to be mentioned. If the department fails to comply, the citizen can appeal before the electronic service delivery commissioner, a post that will be created under the act. If a government department is unable to give satisfactory reasons for not providing services online, the commissioner can fine its head for up to Rs 5,000, which will be deducted from her/his salary. “With the RTI Act, citizens can seek information, but with this act, citizens can compel the government to be proactive,’’ the officials said.

Narendra Modi gets a pat on his back

New Darul Uloom vice-chancellor Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi has said “all communities” are prospering in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, and there is “no discrimination against the minorities in the state as far as development is concerned”. This is arguably the most significant endorsement of Modi. Darul Uloom, based in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, is India’s leading Islamic seminary and the fount of Deobandi thought, which has adherents well beyond the country’s borders, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Vastanvi, himself a Gujarati, is an MBA and was instrumental in introducing modern subjects to institutions run by the Darul Uloom in Gujarat and Maharashtra, including medicine, engineering and allied subjects. He is from Vastan village near Surat, where he was first initiated into Islamic studies. His election as Darul Uloom chief is seen as a possible catalyst for change in the conservative seminary. It’s not easy for a man in his position to be charitable towards Modi, accused of persecuting Muslims during and after the Gujarat riots.


Somewhere in Darjeeling....

Although snowfall brought the life to a standstill in Darjeeling on Monday, these Children have a great time playing on the snow-covered terrain.

Surging crude puts pressure on rupee

Rising crude oil prices on Monday pushed rupee to a seven-week low of 45.3 against the dollar—16 paise below its previous close. A weaker rupee and higher oil prices heighten inflationary pressures and increase prospects for a rate hike. While traditionally higher interest rates provide support to the rupee, emerging markets on Monday saw their currencies fall versus the dollar on fears of interest rate tightening. Dealers said the overwhelming concern was that central banks may raise interest rates to combat inflation and in the bargain, trigger selling by foreign institutional investors. In the past, a strong rupee has helped cushion rising commodity prices. However, in recent weeks, the rupee has been under pressure because of weak market sentiments. FIIs have sold stocks worth $978 million since January 5. Forex dealers said that rupee was also under pressure because of a stronger dollar.

The INAS 343 squadron

Terrorists will find it difficult to sneak across the border into Gujarat with the western naval command commissioning its first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron here on Monday. This is the Navy’s second UAV squadron after the one set up in Kochi in 2006. The need for a UAV squadron in the strategically located Gujarat, India’s economic power house, was long felt. The commissioning of INAS 343 squadron, which has two Israeli-made Heron and two Searcher MKII UAVs, will now take the maritime reconnaissance in this region to a new level. The UAV squadron will help the Navy patrol the northern portion of Arabian Sea, sea lanes from the Gulf and provide surveillance cover to high-value assets on India’s western coast. The Searcher is a third-generation UAV. Heron is the bigger version of Searcher MKII and has a wingspan of about 16 metres. The Searcher carries a modern and sophisticated electro optic camera and a communication intelligence payload. Heron is equipped with a maritime patrol radar. Both the UAVs have long endurance capabilities, can operate before and after sunset and beam real time live pictures of maritime targets and thus strengthen the joint war prowess of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. Commissioning the squadron, Governor Dr Kamla said UAVs will help secure the country’s maritime boundaries and shipping lanes. She said Gujarat had many highvalue and critical national assets and therefore, it had become essential that appropriate steps were taken for their protection.