IIP June

With electricity and steel showing healthy production growth, the eight core infrastructure industries expanded by 5.2% in June as against 4.4% in the same period last year. The industries — crude oil, petroleum refinery products, natural gas, fertilizers, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel — have a weight of 37.90% in the overall index of industrial production. With addition of two sectors —fertilisers and natural gas —the number of key infrastructure sectors, picked up separately for measuring performance has now gone to eight. Electricity and steel grew by 8.2% and 12.5% in June from 3.8% and 4.3% in the same month in 2010, according to the provisional data released on Friday. Crude oil production grew by 7.7% in the month under review from 6.8% in the comparable period of last year. Petroleum refinery products too grew by 4.7% from 2.9%. However, natural gas, cement, coal and fertiliser showed a negative growth of 11.7%, 0.8%, 3.3% and 2.4%, respectively. During the April–June quarter of 2011-12, the growth of core industries slowed down to 5.0% from 6.8% in the same quarter previous year. The growth of eight core infrastructure industries slowed down to 5.3% in May against 7.4% a year ago.

New NSG norms

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has published new guidelines tightening rules for transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology to countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). While the decision to put out new guidelines was taken at the NSG plenary meeting in Noordwijk on June 23-24, the new guidelines were published only on Thursday. The new rules restrict the transfer of ENR equipment and technology to countries that have signed the NPT and have implemented comprehensive safeguards. India has not signed the NPT and does not want to sign it as a non-nuclear weapons state. As a result of the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008, the government signed an Indiaspecific safeguards agreement with the IAEA which allowed India to implement a “separation plan”, putting all its civilian nuclear reactors under safeguards, while keeping the strategic nuclear weapons programme outside its ambit. The new guidelines expect the recipient state to sign the “model” Additional Protocol — India has signed an Additional Protocol but it’s India-specific as well. Due to the new norms India will find it very difficult to access ENR technologies. The government will be forced to answer uncomfortable questions on the quality of the nuclear waiver when Parliament meets next week. However, when India got the waiver in September 20-08, the NSG exemption said, “Participating governments may transfer trigger list items and/or related technology to India… provided transfers of sensitive exports remain subject to paragraphs 6 and 7 of the guidelines.” At the time, paragraph 6 said: “Suppliers should exercise restraint in the transfer of sensitive facilities, technology and material usable for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Paragraph 7 said:“For a transfer of an enrichment facility, or technology therefore (sic), the recipient nation should agree neither the transferred facility, nor any facility based on such technology, will be designed or operated for the production of greater than 20% enriched uranium without the consent of the supplier nation, of which the IAEA should be advised.” India could make the case that it would only confine itself to the 2008 waiver but if that would be the understanding among supplier countries is very debatable. The US, France and Russia have all issued statements after the new ENR decisions that they would abide by their “full civilian nuclear cooperation” with India. Nuclear analyst Mark Hibbs of US-based Carnegie Endowment said that neither of the three main nuclear suppliers ever intended to supply ENR to India.

Land Acquisition Bill draft

The government has released a draft of Land Acquisition Bill that seeks to enhance compensation for landowners by up to six times, provides annuity-based payment for 20 years and limits the use of urgency clause to “rarest of rare cases”. The draft, prepared by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh against a looming political deadline for the Congress to wrap up the legislation, has detailed the type of land and the process that should be followed for acquisitions. To begin with, even for public purposes, multicrop, irrigated land will be out of bounds. The land acquisition and relief & rehabilitation (R&R) provisions will apply when the government takes over land for its own use, or for transfer to private companies for stated public purposes, or for declared use by private companies. As a safeguard against misuse, the central government proposes to ensure that the public purpose once stated is not changed. The draft land acquisition bill combines land acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation under one law . Multi-cropped, irrigated land will not be acquired under any circumstances. Urgency clause to be used in rarest of rare cases . In case of direct acquisition of 100 acres or more by private players, only R&R policy will apply. 80% families have to agree to acquisition if govt acquires land for private players .

Compensation : Draft specifies compensation of at least twice the market value of the land in urban areas. In rural areas, this has to be at least six times the value

R&R Policy To cover landowners and those who lose livelihood .Subsistence allowance of 3,000 a month for displaced family and transportation allowance suggested. Annuity of 2,000 a month for 20 years .Mandatory employment or compensation of 2 lakh for displaced landowners .They will also get 20% of developed land if acquisition is for urbanisation .Offer of shares up to 25% of compensation amount also proposed. For those losing livelihood, resettlement allowance of 50,000 recommended .Scheduled tribe families to get additional sops

SC orders halt to Bellary mining

The Supreme Court on Friday stopped iron ore mining in Karnataka’s Bellary district after its environmental panel cautioned that forest cover over the region would be completely destroyed because of the unlawful operations of mining barons, whom the Centre and the state government had failed to stop despite warnings. The report of the apex court’s central empowered committee (CEC) said both the central and the Karnataka governments had done nothing to curb the illegal mining operations despite the Union environment ministry’s decision way back in 2001 not to allow fresh iron ore mining leases or renewal of existing ones in the Bellary-Hospet region without a detailed environment impact assessment (EIA) of the area by the state.


A 20k Crore broadband plan

Panchayats across the country may soon be connected through a Rs 20,000-crore optical fibre network, as the government works towards achieving its target for broadband penetration. The Telecom Commission cleared the project, but it will have to be approved by the Union Cabinet. The commission has proposed the project to provide broadband connectivity to all villages in the next three years. Telecom minister Kapil Sibal said the Universal Services Obligation Fund, or USOF, would finance the national optical fibre network, or NOFN. All mobile phone companies contribute 5% of their annual revenues towards USOF, which is used to support rural telephony. “The Telecom Commission has approved the project that will be funded through the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund. We will take the proposal to the Cabinet soon,” Sibal said. State-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam has been asked to work towards forming a special purpose vehicle for building the network, which will be owned jointly by the government and USOF, Sibal said. Other institutions such as RailTel may also be roped in at a later stage. “If necessary, at a later stage, we will involve the private sector also to ensure that the project is completed within the stipulated period of three years,” Sibal said, adding this would help bring in e-education, e-medicine and e-governance. Creating this network will help the government achieve its target of broadband penetration, which is much less than the mobile phone penetration.

Bees saal baad

Vastanvi loses Deoband job

Darul Uloom Deoband’s controversial Vice-Chancellor Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi was on Sunday removed from the coveted post for praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental policies. The decision to terminate Vastanvi’s services was taken by the Majjis-e-Shoora, Darul Uloom’s governing council, at a meeting that concluded at Deoband on Sunday noon. “Maulana Vastanvi has been removed from the post of Vice-Chancellor by Majlis-e-Shoora (management body of India’s leading Islamic seminary) with immediate effect,” said Maulana Abdul Qasim Nomani, the new V-C. It is interesting to note that the decision came even after the three-member inquiry committee, appointed by Majlis-e-Shoora to go into the charges against Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, held him “not guilty”. Reacting to the development, Vastanvi termed as “arbitrary” the decision of the Darul Uloom governing council to remove him as the Vice-Chancellor. Vastanvi asked how he could be removed as the decision of a three-member committee that had studied the issue had gone in his favour. According to agencies, Vastanvi said: “Let me make it loud and clear that I had never promised anybody that I would step down; I was always very very explicit that I would abide by the decision of the three-member committee and the Shoora; what surprises me is that despite the committee granting me a clean-chit, the Shoora has chosen to arbitrarily do away with my services,". Meanwhile, the Deoband governing council has decided to appoint a three-member inquiry committee to go into the charges against Vastanvi. After the Deoband decision, a strong pro-Vastanvi lobby stood up for him. He too emphasised that he never gave Modi any clean-chit for the latter’s role in the Gujarat riots. The report submitted by the three-member governing council on Sunday morning went in favour of Vastanvi. “While two members of the committee opined in favour of Vastanvi’s continuance as Vice-Chancellor, one of the members gave a dissenting note against Vastanvi,” a Darul Uloom official said. However, the 14-member Majlise-Shoora remained divided on the issue. After a heated debate, five Shoora members voted in favour of Vastanvi while the majority of nine preferred his ouster. The MBA degree holder Vastanvi was elected as Darul Uloom Deoband V-C on January 10 this year, following the death of his predecessor Maulana Marghoobur Rahman. Soon, he attracted criticism for reportedly saying that Muslims in Gujarat should look beyond the riots of 2002 and there was growth and employment opportunities in Gujarat.

Thank you Indira

Bangladesh has conferred its highest state award posthumously on former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her outstanding contribution to the country's 1971 Liberation War. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the daughter-in-law of the assassinated prime minister, received the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sanmanona from President Zillur Rahman at a grand ceremony attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and nearly 1,000 top dignitaries. Indira Gandhi is the only recipient of the honour. “By her (Indira Gandhi) political wisdom and vision, she influenced the course of history and the fate of generations,” Rahman said while handing over the posthumous award. “I recall with highest gratitude her strong support for the independence of Bangladesh... by honoring Srimati Indira Gandhi for her noble contribution for our freedom, we honor ourselves and revisit the epic of our war of liberation,” he said. The crest weighing three kg is designed on 400-year-old terracotta of a 'Kadam tree' made of gold. Sonia, who arrived here on Sunday on a 24-hour visit, said the award bestowed on the former Indian premier was an honour for India too. “The honour is not hers (Indira Gandhi) alone, it’s India’s,” Sonia said receiving the award. The UPA chairperson said she was humbled to accept the honour on behalf of the former prime minister with a very full heart. "I know she would have been overwhelmed by the high honour you have bestowed on her," she said. In a visibly nostalgic tone, Sonia said "memories and emotions flood my mind." She paid rich tributes to her late mother-in law as well as Bangladesh's founding leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Sonia ended her brief statement on the occasion with: "Joy Bangla", the Bangladeshi slogan during the historic 1971 independence struggle. Indira Gandhi made crucial contribution to the independence of Bangladesh. She traveled across the world to mobilise support for the people of East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh, amid a massive crackdown on civilians by the Pakistan Army. Rahman said Indira Gandhi had inspired millions of Bangladeshis and Indians to fight against oppression and injustices. “Even after 40 years, she remains as a beacon of hope and strength to all of us who aspire to make Bangladesh a true Sonar Bangla, dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” he said. Hasina paid tributes to Indian soldiers of Bangladesh-India Friendship Forces as well as to Indira Gandhi for their sacrifices for Bangladesh's liberation movement. "I personally (am) grateful to the Indian government and Indira Gandhi for providing shelter to my sister Sheikh Rehana and my family after the brutal assassination of my father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, along with our most of the family members," a visibly moved Hasina said. “That was really an invaluable support of Gandhi like a guardian extended to us during our time of distress,” she added.

Of FDI in retail

While consumers can look forward to more choices from an entire host of retail chains that are expected to enter the Indian market, the industry will be able to fund large scale expansions when retail is finally opened up to FDI. These prospects became brighter as a result of the committee of secretaries recommending 51% FDI in multibrand retail formats. Apart from opening up doors for the likes of Wal-Mart and Carrefour, which have been waiting in the wings for years, it would eventually also benefit small and marginalized farmers as well, industry experts said. According to Thomas Varghese, chairman, CII National Retail Committee and CEO, Aditya Birla Retail, “The move will bring in the required funds from all kinds of foreign investors into modern retail which was till date stymied for funds.” Varghese said that once the funds come into India through the FDI route, it will usher in a phase of expansions. Once cleared, the move would offer Indian companies the option of selling a part of their stake to foreign companies enabling them to become debtfree. “For us as a company, the option to sell a stake comes into play in order to make ourselves debt-free. The FDI will throw open opportunities which will enable us to sell a stake and raise funds,” said Kishore Biyani, chairman, Future Group, India’s largest retailer which operates stores like Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar. “For us, categories like home, electronics will gain immensely if we bring in a partner. The industry has the potential and, with the opening up of the sector, can grow faster,” said Biyani, who hoped that closure on the much-awaited policy change was just a step away. “This has been ongoing for the last four years so I am not surprised. But now we are more positive that this will be a reality soon. As far as the opening of multi-brand retail goes, we as a retailer think it will speed up the business prospects of the overall industry,” said Biyani.
Decision : Panel of secretaries approves 51% FDI in multi-brand retail
What Next? : Plan will go to the Cabinet for final nod
Risks : Opposition from small shop owners. Some political parties also oppose move. Retailers could have difficulties in finding and training talent
In Queue : Walmart, world’s largest retailer, already in JV with Bharti Enterprises. Carrefour, French hypermarket chain, opened wholesale outlet in 2010. Tesco, global general merchandise retailer, has a presence in India, Metro AG, Germany’s biggest retailer, first overseas retailer to open wholesale store in 2003
Opportunities : Current retail market about $28bn (Rs 1.26 lakh crore). Estimated to grow to $260 billion by 2020. May help farmers get higher remuneration, has potential to add 3-4 million new jobs. Consumers could save 5-10%. Govt revenues could go up

RIL -BP deal gets the nod

The government on Friday gave its consent to UK energy major BP Plc taking 30% interest in 21 out of 23 acreages, including India’s gas bowl off the Andhra coast, being operated or explored by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd for over $7 billion. This will be the single-largest foreign investment in the country’s history, oil minister S Jaipal Reddy said while announcing the decision taken by the Cabinet’s panel on economic affairs. The consent for the remaining two acreages has been held back over technical issues and the government will approve stake transfer in these once the issues are sorted out, Reddy said. BP will have to give performance and bank guarantees according to the contract, he said. The approval to the farmout deal will bring some cheer to RIL shareholders who have seen their holdings battered since government auditors last month said the oil ministry and its regulatory arm had granted favours to the firm in its Andhra offshore gas field. As a business strategy, the farm-out deal with BP is Ambani’s master stroke. At one go, it will reduce RIL’s exploration risk burden and balance the company’s funds outflow to US shale gas ventures. Huge boost to RIL’s LNG ambitions Apartnership with BP will give RIL access to the UK’s major’s expertise in finding and pumping oil and gas from deep below seabed. RIL needs such frontier technology to arrest the sharp fall in volumes from the Andhra offshore field, which has left the exploration regulator fuming and the government in a quandary over a long queue of industries clamouring for gas. For BP, the deal marks an easy entry into India’s exploration sector. With a strong domestic player such as RIL, BP will not be exposed fully to the risks of going solo in a geography not seen as highly prospective. But the long-term upside lies in India’s growing market for gas, particularly the variety imported in ships (LNG, or liquefied natural gas). It is not clear whether RIL will have to pay capital gains tax on the transaction since under the acreage auction policy, the company is a contractor for an asset owned by the government. One option for tax authorities would be to treat the $7.2 billion that BP will pay to RIL as the latter’s business income. But even here, RIL can claim a set-off for the expenditure incurred on the acreages. The cash from BP will offset, at least partially, the $10 billion or so RIL is expected to invest in the US shale gas venture. RIL has committed nearly $1.5 billion in acquiring stakes in shale assets of Eagle Ford and Carrizo in the US. A new find in any domestic concession or higher returns from improved Andhra offshore volumes will make up the icing on the cake for RIL. But the real play of the partnership will be seen in LNG and retail marketing of gas. RIL has ambitions of expanding into the market for gas as automotive and piped kitchen fuels. Reliance Gas Transport Infrastructure Ltd, a company promoted by Ambani, has in place a major east-west pipeline and plans more such infrastructure. But domestic volumes are inadequate and BP can fill the gap by bringing in LNG from its overseas facility to feed the gas retail venture with RIL. The added volumes will improve utilization of RIL-Ambani’s gas infrastructure. Building an LNG import terminal may not be a priority, at least in the near term. There is enough spare capacity in existing import terminal on the west coast. With new ones proposed in south and east, this capacity will increase apace with demand. RIL-BP can import shipments through a tolling arrangement in the existing facilities. BP too appears to have got its maths right. While announcing the deal five months ago, its global head Robert Dudley had told reporters in London that BP was divesting assets at around $12 a barrel but buying into RIL’s acreages at $7-8 per barrel. With $8 billion cash in the fourth quarter, an acquisition with potential of 125,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent on staggered payment makes sense at this rate. On Friday, a company statement quoted Dudley as saying, “We welcome the Indian government’s approval for our alliance with Reliance Industries, partnering with India in its quest for energy security. This transaction is part of BP’s strategy of creating long-term value through alliances with strong national partners, taking material positions in significant hydrocarbon basins and increasing our exposure to growing energy markets. We will now work to complete the commercial agreements for the deal in the next few weeks.” BP is no stranger to India, having been around for long in the Indian lubricants market with its Castrol brand of products. It is the second-largest manufacturer of lubes in the country. There are other ventures in the oil sector such as the stake in an exploration acreage in RIL’s bouquet. It had in 2005 made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the oil refining and marketing business with state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corporation. In October 2005, BP had signed a letter of intent with HPCL for forming an equal joint venture for setting up a refinery and roll out a retail network. Then BP chief executive Lord John Browne had said the joint venture’s first major project would be building the $3-billion refinery with 9 million tonne capacity at Bhatinda in Punjab. But BP pulled out of the deal shortly thereafter. Before HPCL, BP had also been in talks with IndianOil Corporation for a stake in the Indian major’s proposed 15 million tonne refinery in Orissa and Bharat Petroleum’s 6 million tonne Bina refinery in Madhya Pradesh. But those talks too had failed since BP refused Indian companies access to any of its markets or stake in oilfields as part of the deal. BP’s overtures to flagship explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corporation too bore no fruit since it refused to give the Indian explorer share in its oilfields but insisted on operational control in Indian fields. The Indian companies had told BP that a partnership would be meaningful for them only if it came with access to BP's markets and oilfields. This was because the state-owned companies had enough cash of their own and were not looking at funding. Second, BP had no refining technology of its own and the Indian firms will anyway have to source it from elsewhere. The company is the leader in the solar power market through Tata-BP Solar, a joint venture with the Tatas. All these, however,pale in comparison to the deal with RIL.


In what is a diplomatic triumph for India, Beijing recently wrote to New Delhi saying it would like India to play a bigger role in SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), the six-nation body which holds the key to not just resource-rich central Asia but also the security situation in Afghanistan as the US drawdown starts to take effect. The government is looking upon this development as China’s support at least “in essence and in principle” for India’s bid to become a full member of the body, which is dominated by China and Russia, and play a more important role in the region. Russia has in the past declared support for India’s attempts to become a full member.

The Granny of all deals

The “mother” could well become the “granny” of all defence deals in the years ahead. India is likely to go in for another 63 fighters after the delivery of the first 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) if the “timelines” for its other fighter development projects are not met, say top defence officials. This would be the biggest overhaul of any air force in the world in such a short period. When the MMRCA selection process was initiated by the defence ministry in mid-2007, the overall project cost was pegged at 42,000 crore, or $10.4 billion, for 126 fighters. But it will zoom well beyond $20 billion if India eventually decides to opt for 189 jets since inflation is also being factored in. Even with 126 jets, this is the biggest such fighter contract going around the world as of now. The overhaul of the air force comes even as the defence ministry is all set to open the commercial bids of the two jets left in the MMRCA fray —French Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon — “within a week or two”. Eurofighter Typhoon is backed by the UK,Germany, Spain and Italy,MoD has already rejected “any scope for comeback” by the other four jets, including the American F/A-18s and F-16s, ejected out of the MMRCA race in April on technical grounds after gruelling field trials. “We are looking for only 126 fighters. The first 18 jets will come from abroad, while the rest will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd after transfer of technology (ToT) from end-2016 or early-2017 onwards,” said a senior MoD official on Monday. “But yes, if the timelines for the Tejas LCA(Light Combat Aircraft) and the stealth Indo-Russian FGFA (Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft) projects are not met, we will go for more MMRCA to retain IAF’s combat edge,” the MoD official added.

India , South Korea sign N pact

India and South Korea signed a nuclear agreement that will allow the latter to bid for the export of atomic reactors. The pact, the ninth one to be signed by India with a foreign country, provides South Korea with a legal foundation to participate in India’s nuclear expansion programme. The other nations with which India has nuke pacts are Russia, US, France, Mangolia, Argentina, Kazakhstan, UK and Canada. Korean firms can now bid to build nuclear power plants in India. The deal was accorded priority during President Pratibha Patil’s visit to South Korea, which began on Monday. She is accompanied among others by Srikumar Banerjee, the chairman of atomic energy commission. Patil said during her trip she will “push for a civil nuclear co-operation with South Korea.’’ Indian experts said that this collaboration is significant as it comes at a time when a pact with Japan is facing roadblocks. Seoul’s staterun Korea Electric Power Corporation has been trying to join hands with Nuclear Power Corporation to build reactors in India.

The Damanganga - Pinjal link

The detailed project report (DPR) of the Damanganga-Pinjal link, a project to share water of two river basins across Maharashtra and Gujarat is likely to be ready by the end of this year. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) central region, one of the agencies involved in the project, has begun geological studies for constructing dams and tunnels to connect the two rivers. GSI has already completed the surface mapping for the two dams and tunnels involved. Though GSI had done the feasibility study for the project from 1997-2003, a formal agreement between chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Narendra Modi was signed only in May last year. Since then, the first phase of work has been completed by the GSI. The director and head of engineering geology department M P Srivastava said they would begin the drilling work soon for assessment of rock types for dam and tunnel constructions. The other agencies involved in the project like the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and the Central Water Commission (CWC) are also doing their jobs simultaneously. Work on the project was halted for six-eight months due to localproblems at some sites but the issues have been resolved now. However, construction of two tunnels from two dams may take anything between five-seven years after the report is read. “It is basically a trans-valley diversion project aimed at transporting 1,000 million cubic metres water from the Damanganga basin in Valsad in Gujarat to Pinjal basin through the Vaitarna basin in Nashik. From there, the water will go to Greater Mumbai by taking it to Tansa river. It is to meet the drinking water demand of Mumbai city by 2020. Along with it, there is another project Par-Tapti-Narmada link that would take water from Maharashtra to Gujarat,” said I K Mishra, the NWDA executive engineer based in Nashik. The geological study work for the Par-Tapti-Narmada link is being done by GSI (western region) headquartered in Jaipur. Besides providing drinking water for Mumbai, the project also includes a large number of irrigation facilities. The 16.85-km-long first tunnel from the Damanganga dam will take water from the dam to Vagh river near Nashik while the 25.5-km-long second tunnel will take water from the Vagh dam to Khargi hill. GSI Nagpur has identified one landslide-affected zone in the Bhugad reservoir. The project authority NWDA is yet to complete the demarcation of ‘full reservoir level’ in Bhugad and Khargi hill sites which is necessary for zonation mapping. Srivastava said that for making the tunnels geologists have to thoroughly study the entire path to identify shear or weak zones. The Damanganga-Pinjal is one of the 30 link projects, including 16 inter-basin links, planned in peninsular India and three in central India. It involves construction of a 72.27-metre-high dam across the Damanganga near Bhugad, a 79.82-metre-high dam across the Vagh near Behadpada, and another 70-metre dam across the Pinjal near Khidse. The first two dams will be constructed by the agencies chosen by the NWDA and CWC while the Pinjal dam will be made by the Maharashtra government.

DMIC snippets

Pune is set to be connected with the Dighi seaport in Raigad district as part of the proposed $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. Pune district collector Vikas Deshmukh said, “The Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor was proposed for setting up manufacturing units, which can access sea routes for better communication. Located in Raigad district, the Dighi port will be accessed through Pune. The government will also widen the existing ghat regions for speedy communication between Pune and Dighi, for which either Tamhini or Varandha ghats will be used. Another major industrial hub is set to be developed at Shendre industrial area, near Aurangabad. Pune could be the only city, where industries will enjoy three-way connectivity via sea route, road and railways as well.” Deshmukh recently attended a meeting with MIDC officials and district collectors in Mumbai to discuss further procedures of land acquisitions and government clearances. The proposed industrial corridor would cover Raigad, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and Dhule districts where major industrial hubs would come up. These industrial hubs would be developed on the smart city concept, which will hold industries, commercial properties and residential zones. The blue prints are inspired by industrial hubs in China and South Korea where hubs will be developed with the help of modern town planners. Another feather in city’s industrial growth would be the proposed multi- modal logistic park, which will help the existing industrial establishments - including floriculture, automobile giants and multinational engineering companies in the Talegaon MIDC located near old Pune-Mumbai highway. The dedicated freight corridor between Delhi and Mumbai covers 1,483 km and passes through Uttar Pradesh, National Capital Region of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The corridor will be almost parallel to the Mumbai Delhi golden quadrilateral national highway which was proposed during the National Democratic Alliance regime. It is planned to ensure speedy transportation of goods and industrial materials. Along with industries, planned cities by urban town-planners will be developed.

BJP opposes FDI in retail sector

The BJP national secretary, Murlidhar Ra0 said that the party opposes the Central government’s move to bring in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector. Addressing a press conference at the Rajasthan BJP headquarters on Wednesday, Rao said the Central government’s move to bring in FDI in the retail sector highlighted the lack of creative ideas on its part to deal with inflation and shortage of concrete measures it is expected to take. He said the Opposition will continue to raise corruption and black money issues against the UPA. Lashing out at the Union home minister P Chidambaram, Rao said that the home minister was deliberately misleading the investigating agencies in terror-related cases. With reference to FDI in retail sector, Rao said that the UPA government works only under the influence of big money and it is only this big money which is attracting the government. “The move reflects bankruptcy of ideas on part of the government as it has failed to control inflation and has not been able to generate employment opportunities,’’ Rao said.

Kesar Mango & Bhalia Wheat

Gir Kesar mango and Bhalia wheat from Gujarat have been accorded the geographical indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indication’s Registry in Chennai. Officials of the GI registry here said Junagadh Agriculture University and Gujarat Agro-Industries had applied for the tag on behalf of Junagadh farmers. The new status would help prevent sale of ordinary Kesar mangoes, grown mostly in Junagadh and Amreli districts, as Gir Kesar. The entire area around the Gir sanctuary would be home to this variety and only those grown in this area would be known as Gir Kesar. Mangoes from other parts of the state would be called Kesar though. The GI officials said the taste of Kesar mango from the Gir area was different from the varieties grown elsewhere. Once the GI certification is accorded, anyone passing off any other variety of mango as Gir Kesar can be jailed for a term extending up to two years or fined. The fine ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh under the Geographical Indication of Goods (registration and protection) Act, 1999.
Bhalia is a long grain of wheat grown without irrigation for centuries in the Bhal region of Gujarat. The wheat has high protein content and has a sweet taste. Bhal region is spread across Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad districts. The Gujarat government has been informed of the GI status, an official of the Geographical Indications Office here said.

The Rupee rallies

The Indian rupee rallied to a three-year high in intra-day trade on Wednesday, a day after RBI hiked the key policy rates by 50 basis points (100 basis points = 1%), but closed off that mark as the share market weakened, triggering fears of foreign fund selling. The rupee opened at 44.09 to a dollar on expectations that the higher rate in the economy will attract foreign funds to buy more bonds, which in turn would help the rupee strengthen. In intra-day trade, after breaking the 44 barrier, the rupee strengthened further to 43.85, but again came down sharply in late session to close at 44.08. Compared to this, on Tuesday, the rupee had closed at 44.18. The high volatility during the day’s session also led to record turnover in the currency derivatives segment with the total turnover on the three bourses—NSE, MCX-SX and USE—crossing the Rs 1 lakh crore mark for the first time ever. At close, the total turnover was Rs 1.09 lakh crore. Market players said a combination of reasons led to this record turnover. For one, it was the day of expiration of the July contracts, and usually on such days turnover tends to shoot up. Additionally, “with the rise in turnover, the depth and liquidity in the currency derivatives market is also increasing, which is attracting more trading”, a former currency trader pointed out. The increasing acceptability of currency derivative products as a good asset class is also leading to higher volumes, market players said. In the spot market, the strength of the rupee in early trades were mainly on the back of huge arbitrage opportunity between the non-delivery market in Singapore and the Indian market, dealers said. But as the rupee strengthened to trade at the 43.85 level in the second half, there was buying from some of the PSU banks, which dealers suspected to be on behalf of RBI. Going forward, local dealers said that despite the current weakness in the equity market, there could be some strength in the rupee because now FIIs have much higher limit than ever to invest in the debt market.

Of India - Pakistan ties

“India-Pakistan relations is off life-support. It’s breathing on its own now.” This observation by government sources here captures the essence of the achievement of completing an entire A-Z round of talks between the two countries. The modest deliverables of LoC trade and travel between the two Kashmirs should not be the focus. Instead, it is significant that since the resumption of dialogue, two terror attacks in India — Pune on February 13, 2010 and Mumbai on July 13, 2011— did not derail the talks. On both occasions, India played a more mature game of not instantly assigning blame to Pakistan, which went a long way in smoothing the path between the two countries. Pakistan achieved a key tactical objective in its relations with India. The delinking of dialogue and terror attacks is almost complete, though the jury is still out on what India will do if a really big terror attack comes out of Pakistan-sponsored groups. This delinking was the core promise of the 2009 Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement which was overwhelmingly rejected by India then. Two years down the line, most of India is resigned to the fact that not talking to Pakistan does not mean less terror attacks. On India’s part, the emphasis on confidence-building measures and people-to-people contact has prevailed. The visa regime is likely to be eased. Under the SAARC rubric, categories A and B will be exempted from visas throughout South Asia, including India and Pakistan. Pakistan is also likely to move to a negative list trade regime with India by October 2011, from the restrictive and mindless positive regime at present. That’s MFN by a different name, said government officials “but will smell just as sweet”. Hina Rabbani Khar’s meeting with the Hurriyat was a nod to the power-brokers in Rawalpindi. It was avoidable and foreign minister S M Krishna did not mince his words about it. Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma has invited his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Amin Fahim for talks in September to improve trade ties between the two nations. The movement on trade comes even as Pakistan is expected to notify a negative list of products on which it would not allow trade with India, which is a departure from the present practice of having a positive list that enables trade only in specified items. Having a negative list and grant of most favoured nation status has been a longstanding demand from New Delhi.

Erasing the scars of last July, when the foreign ministers clashed in public view, India and Pakistan on Wednesday managed the rare feat of speaking in one voice. They agreed to invest in a relationship of “trust and mutually beneficial cooperation’’. It wasn’t easy, given the differences over the usual blocks that cropped up during the meeting between foreign minister S M Krishna (78) and his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar (34), but the two sides worked around them for foreign secretary Nirupama Rao to later declare that the “fog has now lifted” over the relationship. A number of confidencebuilding mechanisms (CBMs) to enhance cross-LoC trade and travel were announced after the talks between Khar and SM Krishna. “It is our desire to make the dialogue process uninterrupted and uninterruptible,” Khar said after the meeting, summing up the determination to stay engaged. The restraint was evident at the press conference of the two foreign secretaries where neither rose to the bait of provocative questions. The talks did not start on a very promising note, though. The meeting started with Krishna strongly expressing displeasure to the Pakistani delegation over Khar’s meeting with separatist Hurriyat leaders on Tuesday evening, ahead of the official talks. Krishna wanted to know what was the locus standi of the Hurriyat as it was not a representative of the people of India. He also took exception to the press statement Pakistan high commission had issued after the meeting with separatists. But Khar promptly assured him that she did not intend to offend India. The two sides did not let the issue overshadow the talks even in public. Rao confirmed that India had expressed concern over the meeting, and that it reflected divergences. She also emphasized that the neighbours had the political will to work together. Rao’s counterpart Salman Bashir also spoke in a conciliatory vein. He said the meeting with Hurriyat should not be construed as an attempt to cast a shadow over the talks.

Food inflation eases

Food inflation eased to its lowest since February 2009 on the back of a softening in prices of pulses, milk, eggs, meat and fish, but analysts say risks still persist that will maintain the pressure on prices. Data released by the commerce and industry ministry showed food inflation stood at 7.33% in the week to July 16, easing from the previous week’s reading of 7.58%. Food inflation, which shot up to double digits last December, has been softening as supplies have picked up. Pulses prices declined 8% in the week to July 16 from a year ago but prices of onions, fruit and vegetables rose. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee did not read too much into the easing of food inflation in mid-July, and said inflationary pressures were still there in the economy. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has identified several risks to growth and inflation in the months ahead and has said there are risks to food inflation stemming from the monsoon performance, higher minimum support prices and inadequate supply response pertaining to protein-rich items. The RBI on Tuesday raised interest rates for the 11th time in nearly 15 months and said inflationary pressures in the economy were still strong. It also raised its March-end inflation forecast to 7% from its earlier estimate of 6%.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Mill workers take out a protest rally in Mumbai on Thursday to push their demand for free houses in the city. Estranged cousins Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray also joined the march, though not together. Uddhav warned of a Mumbai bandh on August 1 if the state failed to consider the demand.

Gurgaon court recognizes marriage between lesbians

Same-sex marriages are not legal in India. But that did not stop a Gurgaon court from effectively recognizing a marriage between two lesbians. While granting police protection to a runaway lesbian couple from Khekada village in Baghpat, additional sessions judge Vimal Kumar recorded matter-of-factly that Beena and Savita claimed to be married to each other. Their statements were recorded in the order without any indication that such a marriage had no legal status. “We have married each other on July 22, 2011 of our own free will without coercion, duress, fraud, misrepresentation etc,” it stated. The court also recorded that one of them, Savita, had earlier been married to a man and that the marriage had been dissolved by a khap panchayat in Baghpat district.

Yeddy to quit at last !

Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa had got away without a scratch on at least three occasions, but was mauled this time by the mining report. The Lingayat strongman didn’t flinch when a section of MLAs revolted a couple of times, when land denotification was exposed, and when the governor sanctioned his prosecution in January 2011. This time, the party had to trust Lokayukta Santosh N Hegde’s findings on illegal mining. This because Hegde had withdrawn his resignation last year at the request of L K Advani and party chief Nitin Gadkari. Also, party veteran Arun Jaitley confirmed the charges against Yeddyurappa were, indeed, serious. B S Yeddyurappa has said he’d quit on July 31 as per the party’s directive. “I’ve toiled for 40 years to build the party. It’s my desire to work for the party in future too,” says a late-night press statement issued by the CM.

Ford to set up $1bn plant in Gujarat

US auto giant Ford on Thursday chose Gujarat over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to set up a $1 billion (over Rs 4,000 crore) car plant next to Tata Motors’ Nano factory in Sanand, about 25 km west of Ahmedabad. Ford India, Indian subsidiary of the Detroit-based carmaker, will manufacture 2.4 lakh cars and 2.7 lakh engines every year from its Sanand facility which will come up over 460 acres of government land. The plant will be operational by 2014, when it will provide direct employment to 5,000 people besides helping 40,000 persons in an indirect manner. While government land has been given to Ford India for about Rs 1,100 per sq m, at par with the current market rate, the company has also been offered electricity duty and value-added tax exemptions for the next five years. The current ‘jantri’ rate, or the government benchmark of realty rates, is Rs 700 per sq m in the area. The concessions are similar to those offered to Tata Motors, say officials. This is a shot in the arm for the state vying for the title of ‘India’s Detroit’ — while GM and Tata Motors run car plants here, Maruti Suzuki and PSA Peugeot Citroen are at advanced stages of talks with the state government.

Lokpal Bill update

The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to keep the office of the prime minister outside the fold of the proposed Lokpal, overruling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself. The deliberations spread over two hours saw Singh make a strong argument for the inclusion of his office in the Lokpal’s ambit, only to run into resistance from the overwhelming majority. The government’s decision met with a sharp attack from civil society activist Anna Hazare who announced that he would go ahead with his fast from August 16 and demanded that the government bill be withdrawn. The revised draft provides for the majority of the 9-member Lokpal to be drawn from among people with a legal background: a concession to the argument that the quasi-judicial body will require people with understanding of law and legal practices. In another significant addition, any trust or body, including NGOs that receive public funds, will come under the Lokpal’s scrutiny. Four ministers—defence minister A K Antony, I&B minister Ambika Soni, telecom minister Kapil Sibal and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh—supported the PM, stressing the need for the government to send the right message about its intent to fight corruption. But the group found itself overwhelmed by the argument of the majority that putting the PM within the Lokpal’s jurisdiction would be a recipe for destabilization, and would leave his office hobbled. “It is not a matter of an individual but that of an institution,” was the dominant refrain. Interestingly, three ex-CMs of Maharashtra in the Cabinet—agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and science & technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh—were among the most vocal in opposing the PM’s suggestion.


Demand for new states

Pak mints Indian currency

FICN = Fake Indian Currency Notes

Somewhere in Delhi....

Pune stats

Pune District stats

Legalize bribes : NRN

A pioneer of India’s outsourcing industry and leader of one of the country’s biggest IT firms has argued that legalizing paying bribes would help reduce endemic corruption in India. N R Narayana Murthy, chairman of Infosys, said he fully supported proposals from economist Kaushik Basu to make paying bribes legal because this would help members of the public blow the whistle on corrupt officials. Under Basu’s proposals receiving a bribe would remain illegal. “If bribe giving, and not bribe taking, is made legal then the bribe giver shall indeed cooperate with the authorities to expose the bribe taker,” Murthy said in a speech in the western city of Ahmedabad on Tuesday. “This seems to be an interesting idea and I think it should be implemented,” he added. He said graft had damaged India’s growth prospects, adding that “the double-digit growth that has eluded India could have been ours if we had combated corruption.” Transparency International, the global anti-graft body, puts India 87th on its corruption perception index — 10 places below China— with a 3.3-point rating, out of a best possible score of 10.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

On the face of it, the FBI investigation into “Kashmiri” activist Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai has resulted in a criminal complaint charging him with “conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign principal”. But the US affidavit in the case is, even more, a devastating indictment of the Pakistani government and its spy outfit ISI, and the nefarious and illegal means they employed in the US in an effort to highlight the Kashmir issue. In fact, so severe is the Department of Justice/ FBI expose of Pakistani government and the ISI that some analysts are wondering if this is the Obama administration’s response to Islamabad fingering US spooks and diplomats in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Pakistan prevented seven US personnel from entering Peshawar because they did not have a “no-objection certificate”, a day after federal authorities arrested the prominent activist associated with the Kashmiri separatist movement. He was picked up from his Virginia home and charged with being part of a conspiracy to act on behalf of the Pakistan government and military without disclosing his affiliations. Back here, a 45-page affidavit filed in a Virginia courtroom offers a withering scrutiny of ISI shenanigans as it funnels millions of dollars through a Washington DC-based frontman, including through hawala transactions, to try and manipulate the debate on Kashmir. Fai is just a tool, the frontman. The FBI affidavit records the role of Pakistan and the ISI (leaving little wiggle room by naming them both) in trying to subvert US systems and processes. The document also identifies and names senior ISI officials—unlike in Headley case—though they have not been charged as defendants. The Fai/Kashmir/ISI/Pak case was probed by FBI’s counterterrorism division. The star of the probe is special agent Sarah Webb Linden, who (according to the affidavit), is trained in “identifying terrorist activity directed at the US, as well as in identifying the support network for terrorists who seek to target the interests of the US and its allies”. Linden was earlier a professional staff member of the 9/11 commission. In the FBI affidavit, Linden says the Washington DC-based Kashmiri-American Council is one of three “Kashmir Centers… run by elements of the Government of Pakistan.” This investigation, she adds, “has revealed that elements of the Govt. of Pakistan, including the ISI, have been directly involved with activities of defendant Fai and that Fai has acted at the direction and with the financial support of those elements… including ISI.” The affidavit names Fai’s primary supervisor within the ISI as Brigadier Javeed Aziz, who also goes by the nickname ‘Rathore’ and three others, including Touqeer Mehmood Butt, Sohail Mahmood, and an individual nicknamed ‘Abdullah’. It also reveals telephone and e-mail coordinates of the handlers while observing that “Fai has been in contact with his handlers over 4000 times since June 2008”. In a devastating para, Linden says, “Fai has received approximately $500,000 to 700,000 per year from the Government of Pakistan,” through another frontman named Zaheer Ahmad, a Pak-American co-accused now in Pakistan. Fai hails from Kashmir, did MA from Aligarh Muslim Univ, PhD from US. Ensnared by ISI in late 1980s, given up to $4m by ISI to push Pakistan’s position on Kashmir in Washington. FBI affidavit says his Kashmiri-American Council is one of 3 such organizations “run by elements of the govt of Pakistan”. Prominent Pak-Americans in US issued cheques to Fai, claimed tax exemption on “donations” to KAC, and were reimbursed through ISI slush funds

Mangalore air crash compensation

The Kerala high court on Wednesday ordered Air India to pay Rs 75 lakh to the families of each of the kin of those killed in last year’s Mangalore air crash. Justice P R Ramachandra Menon said Air India was liable to pay the compensation equivalent to one lakh Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a kind of International Monetary Fund currency. The bench was hearing Abdul Salam and Ramla’s petition. Their 24-year-old son, B Mohammed Rafi, was killed in the crash. The petition challenged AI’s Rs 35 lakh compensation and said the victims’ families were entitled to damages of Rs 1.5 crore for the carrier’s liability as per international law. The HC noted that India was a party to the Montreal Convention meant to ensure parity in compensation. The compensation would be distributed over a period of one year and will cost the cash-strapped carrier about Rs 118 crore. The compensation in rupees varies as SDR value is based on a basket of currencies and fluctuates between Rs 70-75 lakh. An Air India Express flight from Dubai carrying 166 people overshot the Mangalore tabletop runway and fell off a cliff while landing on May 22, 2010. The crash killed 158 people. Eight survived with injuries. Serbian pilot Captain Zlatko Glusica piloted the Boeing 737 that had flown from Dubai. The flight’s cockpit voice recorder data showed that the instrument had picked up snoring sounds indicating that the pilot had dozed off for about 90 minutes and failed to pull up the plane after it lost control. He also ignored advice of his co-pilot. A Court of Inquiry blamed pilot error for the mishap. Mangalore Air Crash Victims’ Families Association President Mohammed Beary welcomed the judgment. “We will call for a meeting shortly. When Salam filed the petition, pilot error was not established. “Now that it has been established, we will ask our members for their opinion. We will file petition in the Kerala high court for those who want one lakh SDR,” he said. “For those who want more than one lakh SDR, we will ask the Swedish law firm Advokaterna Liman & Partners to negotiate with the underwriter at London.’’ The petitioners’ lawyer, Kodoth Sreedharan, said,“The court has given a direction (to Air India) to pay no fault liability of one lakh SDR with the balance compensation (whatever is claimed) within a month.’’

The tricolour's 64th birthday

A unique birthday celebration, initiated by a group of 33 people from all walks of life, will be observed at a few places in Mumbai and Thane tomorrow. Sixty-four years ago, on July 22, 1947, our national flag was adopted in its present form. However, few are aware that the day is also marked as the National Flag Adoption Day. Little wonder then that the day has never been celebrated. Ad film-maker Jaiprakash Bhande took the onus of making people observe the day by setting up a group —Project Tiranga Trust—during the Ayodhya verdict on September 30, 2010, along with some like-minded persons. To observe the day, the Indian flag will be hoisted at hospitals and housing societies. Besides, the tricolour and sweets will be distributed at railway stations. “The aim is not only to ensure that July 22 is celebrated across the country with patriotic fervour, but also to extend the celebration of this spirit on every single day. Thanks to the efforts of Naveen Jindal, today anybody can hoist the national flag, provided its dignity is maintained. For example, a housing society can fly the flag 24x7, given that every evening, the flag is lit up with special illumination. And yes, it has to be hoisted on a tall flagpole,” says Bhande. A Bohra Muslim and a founding member of the Project Tiranga Trust, Saifee Sapatwala, takes pride in the fact that both his housing complex and his community-initiated Saifee Hospital will be hoisting the flag permanently from Friday onwards. “There will be distribution of flags and sweets at Thane station on Friday. At least, four housing societies in Thane will be initiating the flag hoisting,” says Bhande. Unfortunately, because of the recent blast, to ensure security to the community by detracting any public limelight, the only synagogue in Thane district will not be having flag hoisting on Friday. Instead, on August 15, Indian Jews will be hoisting the flag, complete with night illumination for the first time in their synagogue, says Ezra Moses, the managing trustee of Shaar Hassamaim synagogue and a member of the Project Tiranga Trust. Our national flag was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947, when it became the official flag of the Dominion of India. It was subsequently retained as that of the Republic of India. The flag is based on the Swaraj flag of the Indian National Congress designed by Pingali Venkayya.

Government trims GDP outlook to 8.6%

The finance ministry admitted that there was a need to revisit the growth outlook for the current financial year and said it would be around 8.6%, lower than the earlier projection of 9%-plus expansion. A ministry note said that inflation would remain persistently high between August and December and then start easing, but the impact of high global commodity prices would still keep it in the 6%-7% range by March 2012. The finance ministry has launched an image makeover exercise to dispel doubts about the strength of the economic expansion in Asia’s thirdlargest economy after a slew of data pointed to a moderation in growth.
In the Economic Survey, a report card of the economy released ahead of the budget in February, the finance ministry had said the growth would be 9% (plus/minus 0.25) in 2011-12, based on the performance over the last five years and analysis of the trends of critical variables. But the impact of the stubbornly high inflation on growth as a result of the consistent interest rate tightening by the central bank seemed to have prompted the ministry to revisit its estimate. The RBI has said it is ready to sacrifice some short term growth to calm price pressures. “Thus, we could see a cyclical slowing in the first two quarters (8.4%), before growth picks up in the last two quarters (8.8%). Overall, growth is estimated to be marginally higher at 8.6% this year over 2010-11 levels of 8.5%,” a finance ministry document said on Wednesday. It said the signals on the demand and investment side were mixed and cautioned against making any generalization that the economy had entered a slowdown phase. “On the demand side, private consumption and exports are strong, but corporate investment is moderating. Here again the signals are mixed and given that demand numbers are subject to considerable revisions, any generalization needs to be made with caution,” the ministry note said, adding that it expects foreign direct investment to pick up. The RBI has raised interest rates 10 times in the past 15 months or so to tame inflation, and is widely expected to raise rates when it reviews monetary policy later this month. The impact of the rate increases has started kicking in as evident in slowdown of industrial and manufacturing growth and moderate car sales. Economists have also pared their growth estimates given the spate of data, which has pointed to a moderation in growth. The ministry said the government and the RBI were closely monitoring the price situation closely and would like to bring inflation down to 6 to 6.5%. It did not specify the time frame. Inflation has emerged as a policy headache for the past two years and has remained stubbornly high and currently hovers around 9.44%.



Rural roads

Of glittering Gold

Delhi Metro

Differences emerge on the Food bill

Hillary in India

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton used a public library in Chennai as a platform on Wednesday to emphasize India’s rise as a global power with a speech that, in particular, underlined the port city’s emergence as a knowledge and investment hub. The 40-minute address at the Anna Centenary library, south Asia’s largest public library, focused on India’s cultural and historical role in the Asia-Pacific region and its post-reforms growth, which in her own words, made it a natural choice to assume a greater role in regional affairs. “ Much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia. And much of the future of Asia will be shaped by decisions not just by the Indian government but by governments across India and by the 1.3 billion people who live in this country,” said Clinton. Clinton is the first highranking US official to visit Chennai in recent decades. Clinton said she chose the coastal city as she admired “what has been accomplished in the country in the last 18 years. “There is no better place to speak about Asia-Pacific than Chennai, which looks out onto the Bay of Bengal. Indian traders have sailed these waters for thousands of years and their influence can still be seen across the region – in the Tamil influences in the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia and in the Ganesha gods that guard homes in Indonesia”. “We are betting that the advances in science and technology made here will enrich lives everywhere. We are betting that India’s vibrant pluralistic society will inspire others to follow a similar path of tolerance. We are making this bet because we have watched your progress with great admiration,” she said, raising cheers and applause from the audience.

A new identity

As the RPG splits....

A bumper harvest

The government's latest estimates show that foodgrain production in the crop year 2010-11 rose sharply by 10.75% to a record 241.56 million tonnes (mt), a move that could potentially have a dampening effect on inflationary expectations. The impressive increase led by wheat, maize and pulses is revealed in the final estimates for 2010-11, and is partially explained by the fact that 2009-10 was a drought year.The crop year extends from July to June and covers the two main crop seasons, kharif (summer crop) and rabi (winter crop).
The agriculture ministry puts out four estimates: the first advance estimate around September (based on kharif projections), the second one around December-January (based on rabi projections), the third one around March (before the rabi harvest) and the final one in July.
“Despite a setback in the production of kharif rice due to drought in some of the major rice-producing areas in the country, significant improvement in production of rabi rice, wheat, pulses and coarse cereals has resulted in the highest-ever production of foodgrains,“ the press release issued by the ministry of agriculture stated.
Two experts hailed the achievement of the agricultural sector, but said there were challenges ahead as India needs a higher food and commodities growth for the sake of its rising population.“We are in a tunnel and this is a little ray of light we are seeing,“ said P.C. Kesavan, distinguished fellow at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. “We have a long, long way to go.“Kesavan said stagnating yields in the absence of proper technology, diversion of land for industrialization and depletion of ground water were just some of the issues hurting agriculture.
India is more or less sufficient in major foodgrains and sugar cane, but it has to depend on heavy imports of cooking oils and pulses, which are items of everyday use. Poor foodgrain management and an insignificant position in international agricultural trade are some other setbacks for this sector.
“We have a bumper production, but we also have foodgrains rotting on the side of the roads,“ said T.K. Bhaumik, chief economist and adviser with JK Group. “We need to privatize foodgrain management and increase productivity.“ Bhaumik said the high production for 2010-11 was expected because the monsoon of last year coupled with the unseasonal rains this year were broadly beneficial for the crops.
The data showed estimated production of wheat, coarse cereals, maize, pulses, oilseeds and cotton would be the highest ever.
Wheat production was estimated at 85.93 mt in 2010-11, against 80.8 mt in 2009-10.Coarse cereals were estimated at 42.22 mt, up from 33.55 mt in the previous year. Pulses were estimated at 18.09 mt, up from 14.66 mt in the previous year.
The earlier record for foodgrains production was at 234.47 mt in 2008-09, the release said.
Food inflation has been persistently high in the last one year, putting pressure on headline inflation and keeping it well above above the central bank's comfort level of 5%.However, foodgrain inflation is but marginal, rising by little over 1%. The food inflation of 8.31% for the week ended 2 July was caused by higher prices of fruits and vegetables.

Tourism numbers

Somewhere in Pune....

A dozen vehicles float in the swollen waters of the Mula river after the Khadakvasla irrigation officials released 19,000 cusecs of water from the dam.

The Monsoon session

The monsoon session of Parliament provides ashort window of opportunity to clear the backlog of pending legislations but experts say progress may be limited as proceedings are expected to be stormy given the political situation. And the mountain of legislations is staggering with nearly 81 bills pending before Parliament, some of them for several years. Parliament convenes for the monsoon session from August 1 and is likely to meet for about 26 days which analysts say should provide enough room to the Centre to get some key legislations approved. But it may not be all smooth sailing as several bills have been referred to standing committees which are examining them while others have been returned for consideration. Only 12% of the budget session was spent on legislation in the Lok Sabha and 6% in the Rajya Sabha, according to PRS Legislative, a private think tank. Of the 13 bills announced by the government in its 100-day agenda, only one has been cleared so far. “There is a cost for not passing a bill. The pension bill, for instance, has not yet been passed by Parliament but we already have a regulator and a pension fund that is functioning without statutory backing. This is not the best situation,’’ said M R Madhavan, head of research at PRS Legislative. A reason for the delay in getting legislations approved is the lack of consensus among parties. “We usually see that the parliamentary standing committees do a lot of work but it is the last mile where the government, for whatever reasons, is unable to pull off,’’ Madhavan said. Of the eight bills that were part of UPA-2’s 100-day agenda, only RTE has won parliamentary approval.Investors are keenly awaiting the fate of several financial sector legislations. The string of scandals in the past one year has led to a policy paralysis and stalled legislative business as the government has been caught up fending off allegations of corruption. “The government inaction on crucial financial and other key reforms has weakened the investment climate, and will soon start taking a toll on the economy. As a result, it has heightened the uncertainty, and there is genuine fear of a slowdown. The government needs to do take some corrective steps soon,” said Rajeev Kumar, director general of Ficci. At least 10 key financial sector reform bills await parliamentary nod. Some have been vetted by parliamentary standing committees but others have been pending for several years. They include the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, the Companies Bill 2009, Constitution (One hundred and fifteenth amendment) Bill, 2011, Direct Taxes Code Bill, 2010 and Pension Fund Regulatory.

Somewhere in Siliguri....

The Man V Animal conflict :The residents of Prakash Nagar village near Salugara on the outskirts of Siliguri woke up to the entry of an unexpected guest in the wee hours of Tuesday. Forest guards, after being alarmed, put up a brave fight and tranquillized the full grown leopard, but not before it managed to maul six persons in its bid to escape

HC scraps UP land acquisition again

The Mayawati government received another jolt on Tuesday when the Allahabad HC has cancelled acquisition of 589.13 hectare land by Greater Noida in Dewla Patwari villages—putting in jeopardy the investments of 30,000 buyers. The acquisition was done using the urgency clause in the name of industrial development but was handed over to builders for residential purpose after changing the land use. On the other hand, the government has transferred the Noida chairman and chief executive officer following criticism over acquisition in the area. The order came a fortnight after the SC struck down acquisition of 156 hectares of land by the state in Shahberi village . This is the sixth acquisition by the state which has been quashed by the HC on the petition of farmers since March. Verdict on the acquisition of land in Roja and Yakubpur villages in Noida is expected on Wednesday. In all these cases, the land was acquired by the state using urgency clause of the Land Acquisition Act denying farmers an opportunity to register their protest or negotiate for the deal. On Tuesday, the Allahabad HC bench comprising justice Sunil Ambawani and justice S S Tiwari quashed the acquisition order on the petition of over two dozen farmers of the two villages—Dewala and Patwari. Nearly 1500 farmers in villages were affected by the acquisition in 2008.


Somewhere in Jaipur....

Jaipur's skyline is set to acquire a new dimension with the national flag being hoisted at a height of 206 feet throughout the year. An initiative of Flag Foundation of India, the flag itself would be of 48 feet wide and 72 feet in length and weigh about 27 kg. The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) has received a letter from the state government to identify the land where a pole of the required height can be installed, said sources. A direction was given to the authorities after the Flag Foundation of India, of which Member of Parliament from Kurukshetra, Naveen Jindal is the founder president, has showed eagerness to install the flag in the city. Flag Foundation India CEO, Commander (Rtd) K V Singh, said: “The letter was written to the Government of Rajasthan in December 2010, to install national flag in the capital. FFI plans to install national flags at all the district headquarters of the country.” “The cities which have these poles installed will have national flags fly 24 hours throughout the year. The 206 feet flag mast will have a decorated crest and a high voltage light falling on the flag at night making it more beautiful.” The FFI has installed such flag poles in Kurukshetra, Orissa, Kanyakumari, and Bangalore.

Of many Metros planned

Many cities across India are racing to build metro rail systems to ease traffic congestion. In the Metro Rail World 2011 meet held in May 2011, it was said that 4000km of new subway tracks would be added in India. In all in the country, metros would be running in eight more cities. While the metro is under construction in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, metro rails are being planned in Pune, Lucknow, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Ludhiana, Kochi, Indore and Chandigarh. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief E Sreedharan had earlier mentioned that the Kerala government had cleared the metro rail project in Kochi and handed it over to DMRC on a turnkey basis. On Hyderabad metro, he said the state still wanted to go for a build, operate and transfer (BOT) mode involving the private sector. Under a turnkey project, a developer constructs the project and is sold or turned over to a buyer in a ready-to-use condition. Punjab government in June 2011 had approved the detailed project report for the Ludhiana metro rail project. The cabinet had permitted the execution of the project through public-private partnership or BOT model. The metro projects that are under construction include Delhi Metro that has completed 65 km of phase one and when both phase 1 and 2 are ready, Delhi Metro will stretch to 120km. In Bangalore, 42.3 km kilometers of metro rail is under construction under phase 1 of the project and another 51km is planned under the phase 2. While Mumbai Metro line 2 (Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd) of 32 km is under construction, 21.14km of metro rail project is being planned for Navi Mumbai Metro (phase 1, 2 and 3). The other cities where metro projects are under construction include Jaipur (28.5km) and Hyderabad (71km). Nearly 40km length metro rail is planned for Pune, 25km for Kochi, 24km for Lucknow. On the other hand, metro in Gujarat will provide link between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad of 100km length. Plans are afoot to have 15.79 km of metro rail in Ludhiana.

Somewhere in Rajasthan....

Post Fukushima, India’s nuclear programme crossed an important milestone on Monday with the beginning of the nation’s construction of the 25th and 26th nuclear power reactors at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. Both pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) have capacity of 700 mw each. The construction is expected to be completed in 2016-17. On completion, 1,400 MW capacity will be added to the northern electricity grid, of which 700 MW will be allocated to Rajasthan. The construction began with the first pour of concrete on Monday, which is a milestone in building a nuclear power plant and signifies the start of the construction (zero date). According to the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), the indigenously designed 700-MW PHWR is the latest, state-of-art technology reactor, which has been designed by NPC by scaling up its 540-MW PHWRs at Tarapur in Maharashtra. Two more 700-MW PHWRs are also under construction at Kakrapar near Surat in Gujarat. The 700-MW reactors have advanced safety features, including passive safety systems that work on natural principles like gravity, natural convection. They do not need operator intervention or what is called “motive power” to ensure reactor safety under any state of operation. There are two independent and diverse systems to shut down the reactor — a passive decay heat removal system to ensure cooling of the reactor core even in during total loss of power, and steel-lined inner containment to contain the entire radioactivity within the reactor building even in a severe accident scenario. Currently, there are 20 nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 4,780 MW and seven reactors with a capacity of 5,300 MW are under construction in the country. On completion, the installed nuclear power capacity will reach 10,080 MW by the year 2017. More reactors are planned to take the installed capacity to 20,000 MW or more by the year 2020.

Ahmedabad - Mumbai - Pune bullet train snippets

To get a bullet train zooming on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune route will cost Rs 56,000 crore for the 634 km distance. The project report submitted to the railway board says that of the Rs 56,000 crore, close to Rs 50,000 crore will be for laying tracks and other infrastructure. The train, which according to reports is capable of running at speeds up to 350 km per hour, aims to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune to less than three hours. Officials in the western division said that once the detailed project report is cleared, fund sharing will also be worked out between Maharashtra and Gujarat governments. Officials said the pre-feasibility study by a French rail transport company stated that travel time will be around two hours between Ahmedabad-Mumbai without any stops.The same from Mumbai to Pune is estimated to be around 40 minutes. The pre-feasibility study has stated that around 26.6 million passengers would travel by bullet train every year by 2021. Officials said that the railways have already made it clear that the project model would be a public-private-partnership. However, the single bone of contention between the two states will be sharing of funds for the Mumbai-Pune corridor. Gujarat government wanted the bullet between Ahmedabad-Mumbai only, while Maharashtra wants to add Pune to the line. Gujarat did not concur as there were not many travelers between Ahmedabad and Pune.

Semi high speed rail corridor ?

Japan is studying the feasibility of running high speed trains along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) on the existing tracks to save on costs. The study will look at whether regular trains can hit a maximum speed of 200 kilometres per hour on the existing railway network. The fastest trains today are Shatabdi and Rajdhani whose top speed is 130 km per hour. The study aims at pitching use of the existing network against the bullet train network and focusing on the economics of running them. Officials said setting up a bullet train network was turning out to be a costly affair. A bullet train would cost about Rs 50-65 crore per km, while upgrading the existing network would be at just Rs 5 crore per km. Laying the present type of track costs around Rs 1.5 crore per km. Officials said that the study was dual-purposed. First it would provide faster service to passengers and secondly the same technology could be used for the Dedicated Freight Corridor between the two cities. Senior Divisional commercial manager, Vadodara Udayshanker Jha said that said the main aims of the study was better utilization of the existing network and cutting down travel time. If the project went through, travel time between Mumbai-Delhi would be overnight. Presently, the Rajdhani connecting the two cities takes about 17 hours while other trains taken over 22 hours. He said the intention is that a person starting from Mumbai at 10 pm should reach Delhi early in the morning the next day. He said that the a delegation from the Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry, Japan was in Vadodara to explore the feasibility of semi high-speed rail development. The delegation decided to take up the study on the Surat-Godhra stretch. Officials said that the study was sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry, Japan and will be taken up by Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc. Officials said that as per the railways this would be a semi-high speed study as the top speed was less than 250 km per hour. Trains with top speeds of 250 kmph are termed high speed trains while those of 200 to 250 kmph are semi-high speed trains. Officials said that once the study was completed it would be taken up along the Mumbai-Delhi route only. He said that three routes have been shortlisted. These routes include Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Palanpur-Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Surat-Mumbai, while the other route was Delhi, Mathura-Kota-Ratlam-Godhra-Vadodara-Surat-Mumbai. The third shortlisted route is Delhi-Jaipur-Kota-Udaipur-Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Surat-Delhi.

Gorkhaland Territorial Administration created

Peace got another chance on Monday in the volatile Darjeeling hills with the signing of a tripartite agreement that attempts to meet the Gorkhas’ century-old quest for self-rule while keeping the geographical unity of Bengal intact. The accord is well-timed for chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had promised to resolve the Hills crisis within three months of coming to power, and could also help the Centre in creating options for Telangana and other statehood movements. At Pintail Village, the epicentre of the Gorkhas’ campaign for ethnic identity in the Terai, the central and state governments and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) signed an agreement to pave the way for the creation of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The new arrangement will replace the 1988 Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council that was created after a similar accord signed between the Centre, the Left Front government and Subash Ghising’s Gorkha National Liberation Front. The GTA pact was signed in the presence of Union home minister P Chidambaram, Mamata and GJM chief Bimal Gurung.
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Accord Signed on Aug 22, 1988 between Centre, state & GNLF
Name: Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council
Status : Autonomous council 42 members—28 elected, 14 nominated by state
Area : 3 hill subdivisions: Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, and 13 village clusters in Siliguri subdivision
Powers : Land allotment etc. No new govt posts or taxes

Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Accord, 2011 Signed on July 18 by WB govt, GJM and Centre
Name : Gorkhaland Territorial Administration
Status : Maximum autonomy. 45 councillors to be elected, 5 to be nominated by govt
Area : Existing areas under erstwhile DGHC. Joint panel to examine inclusion of areas in the Terai and Dooars
Powers : Over industry, IT. Can create govt posts and levy fees

Thousands of Gorkhas turned out in their traditional attire to celebrate the creation of a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration on Monday. Contrary to expectations, the GJM chief didn’t sign the accord and GJM state general secretary Roshan Giri did it on his behalf. The two other signatories were Bengal home secretary G D Gautama and Union home joint secretary K K Pathak. Aware of the Left Front’s criticism that the accord would divide Bengal, Mamata told the gathering that Darjeeling would remain an integral part of the state. “Development of the Hills is crucial if the plains are to prosper. The GTA will receive all help from the Centre and the state,” she said. “People have raised questions about the GTA’s name. The draft, which was prepared on August 17, 2010, had the name Gorkhaland Regional Authority. I didn’t change anything apart from the word ‘Regional’. The Hills and plains are like two sisters, who have to develop and prosper together.” The CM added that a committee was set up to determine whether any part of the Dooars and the Terai should be included in the GTA. “Everybody will get what they deserve. What is the confusion in this? Just like Darjeeling, the Dooars and the Terai are very dear to us,” Mamata said. The GTA will comprise the Hills sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Elections to the posts of 45 members will be held within six months after which it will start functioning. A committee has been set up to look into the GJM’s demand for inclusion of several mouzas (village clusters) from the Terai and Dooars in the GTA. Chidambaram hailed the agreement, but had a word of caution for Gurung and GJM. “You have a stupendous task ahead and will have to build brick by brick. Both the Centre and the state government will be by your side. You will also have to bear in mind that the area under GTA will be a plural society. People living here belong to different communities, religions, cultures and races. The new administration will have to respect this plurality. We shall be watching you carefully as you rebuild Darjeeling,” he said. Chidambaram attributed the signing of the treaty to two “wise” persons — Mamata and Gurung. “I would like to compliment both of them for their wisdom, sagacity, foresight and love and compassion for the people. There will be many hurdles but none that can’t be sorted out through dialogue and determination,” Chidambaram said. Gurung thanked Mamata and called the accord a victory of the people’s struggle. He asked the government to pay attention to the committee that will demarcate parts of the plains that are to be brought under GTA. Subhas Ghising was on Monday a lonely man at his rented house in Jalpaiguri district as the new Gorkha Territorial Administration replaced the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council he headed for over 23 years. Ghising, the founder of the Gorkha National Liberation Front and who had once ruled Darjeeling with an iron hand, did not respond to reporters’ queries about the new hill council. It was Bimal Gurung who took the wind out of the sails of Ghising and drove him out of the Hills in 1998, a year after he floated the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.