FY 2011-12 snapshot

31st March..end of a financial year.

Dharavi makeover

India's BoP

India’s position of commercial transactions with the rest of the world, known as Balance of Payments, fell to a deficit in the December quarter for the first time since the Lehman Brothers collapse, as imports far exceeded exports and capital flows slowed, stoking fears the currency may wobble again. But it may improve in the fiscal fourth quarter ending March because of a surge in overseas fund flows since January at $9 billion, and slowing gold demand, a substantial portion of the imports, due to high prices and taxes. Balance of Payments, a record of trade in goods, invisible services and capital flows into and out of the country, ended in a deficit of $12.8 billion in the December quarter. Slippery Ground: $53.7billion Current account deficit in April-December. It stood at $39.6 billion a year ago $47.5billion Net inflows under Capital & Financial account. The yearago figure was $52.9 billion $7.1billion Reserves drawdown Current Account Deficit at $19.4 b The current account deficit, the excess of imports of goods and services over exports, touched $19.4 billion, or 4% of the gross domestic product which is considered inimical to economic growth by economists, provisional figures from the Reserve Bank of India show. With reserves enough to just feed about 5 months of imports and repay one year debt, the deficit number is probably the worst the country is facing since 1991 when India pledged its gold to avoid defaults. Net capital inflows in the December quarter fell to $8 billion, from $17.2 billion in the previous quarter as corporates borrowed less from overseas markets due to European banks shutting doors. The Indian rupee moved to the best performer position in Asia this year, from the worst last year due to portfolio flows and central bank curbs on speculation. But the gain is fast eroding with renewed concerns about government finances with fiscal deficit of 5.1% forecast for next fiscal. India’s external economic position has been deteriorating with exports slowing substantially due to the European economic crisis, leading to lower US dollar earnings. But import bill is soaring, thanks to excessive demand and a surge in prices of crude oil, which India imports for more than three-fourths of its requirement and sells petroleum products at subsidised rates. Foreign portfolio flows that had been funding high imports, is also slowing as global investors fear that obstacles to economic growth could lower corporate earnings and thus, returns from stocks. An analysis of various components of balance of payments indicate that the trade deficit rose by more than 50% to $47 billion during October-December ’11 compared to $31 billion in the year-ago period. As a result, despite a rise in invisibles which includes current transfers such as remittances and services income such as software services, the currency account deficit rose sharply to touch almost 4% of GDP.

Judicial Bill cleared in LS

The Lok Sabha on Thursday cleared the judicial accountability legislation that seeks to set up a credible mechanism to probe complaints of misbehaviour by judges. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010, and Constitutional 114th Amendment Bill, 2010, Law aims to aid setting of new probity standards in higher judiciary. The bill seeks to establish credible and expedient mechanism for investigating into individual complaints for misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court. It also provides to regulate the procedure for such investigation and for the presentation of an address by parliament to the president in relation to proceeding for removal of a judge and for matters connected with such matters. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2010 and was then sent to the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, law and justice, which made a crucial recommendation that seeks to ‘restrain’ judges from making “unwarrantedcomments” against other constitutional bodies or persons. According to the bill, any judge who makes oral comments against other constitutional authorities and individuals would render himself/herself liable for judicial misconduct. Making a brief reply on the bill, law minister Salman Khurshid said the legislation seeks to set up a mechanism to inquire into complaints against a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court. The minister said the bill aims at striking a balance between maximizing judicial independence and laying down accountability at the same time for members of the higher judiciary.

BRICS Summit outcome

BRICS nations have decided to examine the viability of a development bank for developing countries, besides agreeing to make life a little simpler for those trading within the grouping by settling transactions in local currency. But in both cases the outcome fell short of expectations as four members — India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa — seemed to fear the clout that China would enjoy if the proposal to set up a bank and move to a single currency went through. As a result, finance ministers have been tasked to study the feasibility of a multilateral agency modelled on the lines of the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank to generate resources for funding infrastructure and core sector projects in the BRICS nations as well as other emerging economies. The idea is also to ensure adequate financing during a period of global economic uncertainty. The joint working group will submit a report at the next meeting, a joint declaration said. The five countries signed a master agreement to ensure that purchases from the other members of the groups are settled in local currency. The move is being seen as a step towards replacing dollar as the main currency of trade. Once the arrangement is in place, funds routed through the five designated banks, an Indian buyer can make the payment to a Chinese supplier in yuan instead of first converting the rupee into dollars and then reconverting it into the Chinese currency. Although the summit may have ended a little short of expectations on the overall substance, the five countries were not short of words. They blamed the US and Europe for generating excessive liquidity in the global financial system as part of their strategy to boost local economic activity. On Wednesday, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff had said that the steps taken in the developed countries had created “monetary tsunami” as most BRICS nations had to initiate measures to check excessive volatility in capital flows and commodity prices. “...it is critical for advanced economies to adopt responsible macro-economic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs,” the Delhi Declaration said.

EC scraps RS elections in Jharkhand

In an unprecedented move, the Election Commission countermanded the Rajya Sabha polls in Jharkhand on Friday. In a late-night development, the EC requested the President to “rescind notification issued for the RS poll in Jharkhand”. Earlier in the day, the EC had stopped counting of votes after tax officials recovered Rs 2.15 crore from an SUV belonging to one Suresh Agarwal, allegedly a cousin of R K Agarwal, who is in the fray as an Independent.

Simhadri Super Thermal Power Project

The 500 MW unit 4 of Simhadri Super Thermal Power Project was successfully synchronized with the grid at Parawada here on Friday afternoon. The unit attained full load by 7 am with the successful synchronization of the fourth unit. With this, the total installed operational capacity of NTPC-Simhadri has now gone up to 2,000 MW. Sources said the total power of this unit would be given to the AP grid as NTPC-Simhadri would charge only fuel cost and not the capital cost in the next 2-3 months. The entire power generated from Simhadri stage I (2 x 500 MW) is being supplied to Andhra Pradesh, while power from stage II is being supplied to Andhra Pradesh – 384.4 MW, Karnataka – 176 MW, Kerala – 80 MW, Tamil Nadu – 197 MW and Puducherry – 10 MW. Simhadri Super Thermal Power Project is the first coastal based thermal power project of NTPC. The Simhadri plant is one of the most modern power plants in India with state-of-the-art control and instrumentation systems.

India gets to keep polio free tag

India has heaved a sigh of relief. A suspected case of polio from West Bengal has tested negative, keeping the country’s “polio free” tag intact. Both samples of 18-month-old Sumi Naskar have tested negative for polio. The Institute of Serology, Kolkata, submitted its report on Friday. Sumi is one of the many cases with acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and polio is only one of the several causes of AFP. In 2012 so far, around 9,000 AFP cases have been investigated. India, therefore, has now recorded only one vaccine-derived polio case. India has not reported any case of polio since January 13, 2011.


BRICS Summit New Delhi

GAIL's new pipeline

Aviation snapshotz

TN tattle

Maha musings


Somewhere in West Bengal....

Economic confidence

Indians have emerged as the second most confident people about their economy across the world on easing inflationary pressure and increased foreign investments, says a report.
According to global research firm Ipsos, India's economic confidence jumped by 9 points to 74 per cent in the month of February compared to the previous month, becoming the second most economically confident country after Saudi Arabia which tops the chart with 90 per cent.
Sweden is the third most economically confident country, where 73 per cent are optimistic about their economy, followed by China (72 per cent), Germany (71 per cent), Australia (66 per cent) and Canada (65 per cent).
“The Indian economy has continuously recorded high growth rates and has become the second most preferred destination for foreign investments and business. India’s economic growth is expected to remain robust in 2012 and 2013, despite likely headwind of double-dip recessions in Europe and the US,” Ipsos India CEO Mick Gordon said. More than half of Indian citizens (51 per cent) believe their local economy, which impacts their personal finance is good and 56 per cent people expect that the economy in their local area will be stronger in next six months, Ipsos said.
Mick further noted that inflationary pressure eased as the wholesale price index fell, making daily consumption items relatively affordable and giving hopes that Reserve Bank of India will ease its monetary policy stance by reducing the policy rates in the coming months which will further fuel economic growth of the country.

Kochi Metro update

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will be the implementing agency of the Kochi Metro project. “The cabinet meeting formalized the proposal today,” said chief minister Oommen Chandy at a post-cabinet press briefing. The decision will ensure the leadership of E Sreedharan in the project. Later, Chandy announced the decision at the board meeting of the Kochi Metro Rail Limited and said he would convey the decision to the DMRC soon. At the KMRL board meeting, it was decided to speed up land acquisition for the project. The chief minister has asked the district collector to ensure that reasonable price is given to land owners whose land is acquired and that the acquisition is completed without any complaints. The meeting also reviewed the report on the preliminary work presented by KMRL managing director Tom Jose. The managing director informed the meeting that the number of Metro stations would be reduced to 22 from the 23 originally planned. He also said Cusat had been asked to conduct a detailed study on the possible parking facility at each of the stations.

Year of friendship

Trying to overcome the perception of strained ties and mutual mistrust, Indian and Chinese leaders will flag off a yearlong celebration of friendship and cooperation when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday evening. The most eagerly awaited bilateral meeting between the two Asian leaders will end with them lighting a lamp to start the celebrations that are likely to include economic and cultural interaction, and exchanges throughout this year. Hu arrived on Wednesday evening, accompanied by foreign minister Yang Jiechi, special envoy Dai Bingguo and a host of senior business people. The government has also “counseled” Tibetan refugee groups to refrain from self-immolation bids in the national Capital during the BRICS summit because it diminishes the “Indian government, Prime Minister and the Indian people”. The communication was made to the Tibetan groups after Jamphel Yeshi, a Tibetan activist, set himself ablaze during a protest against the Chinese President’s visit. Yeshi died on Wednesday morning with 98% burns. Government representatives told Tibetan groups that setting themselves on fire in India would not achieve much more than embarrassing India — their host country —rather than China, their country of origin. Tibetans have been setting themselves alight in the Tibetan provinces of China for the past few months, an occurrence that has invited the wrath of Beijing.

Balwant Singh Rajoana

Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for the assassination of Punjab CM Beant Singh, received an extraordinary reprieve three days before his death sentence was to be executed, with the Centre buckling under the high-pressure advocacy of the Akali Dal government. President Pratibha Patil accepted a clemency petition from Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal on Wednesday, a move that is seen to have the Centre’s concurrence. The Badals came to Delhi at the behest of the Akal Takht, the temporal seat of the Sikhs that directed the Punjab government to stall Rajoana’s hanging.

India 2050

India will outpace China to become the world’s largest economy by 2050, boasting a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $86 trillion, forecasts a report by global property firm Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank. Leading the elephant’s charge will be Mumbai and New Delhi, which will feature in the list of top 20 cities globally within the next ten years. “China will overtake the US to become the world’s largest economy by 2020, which in turn will be overtaken by India in 2050. The Indian economy will reach a size of $85.97 trillion in terms of purchasing power parity by 2050 while the Chinese GDP would be $80.02 trillion during the same period,’’ said the report. The US—currently the world’s largest economy—is expected to have a GDP of $39.07 trillion by 2050. In terms of growth from 2010-2050, India would be the second fastest, with its economy growing at a rate of 8% annually during the period after Nigeria which will grow at 8.5%.


Uttarakhand shocker !

Close proximity to Nepal has turned Uttarakhand into a hub for tiger poaching with 49 to 54 tigers -one fourth of the total big cats in the state -killed in less than a year (2010-11), an internal government memo had revealed. The memo was based on confession of three tiger poachers -Tota, Balram and Balku Bawaria -caught in separate raids in the state. They were caught with tiger and leopard skins allegedly killed in the state.
According to NGO Wildlife Protection Society of India, 61 tigers were killed in 2011 and 18 till end of February 2012 in the country. This does not take into account the alleged killing of tigers by these poachers. The three reportedly hired locals to kill tigers in different forest ranges of the state, including in Corbett Tigers Reserve, which has the highest density of big cats in the world.
“For each tiger an initial amount of R10,000 to R15,000 was paid,“ said a senior state forest department functionary.Once the animal was killed and handed over, another R15,000 to R20,000 was paid.
Though the poachers operated separately, their modus operandi was similar. They visited Uttarakhand to order the killing in three to four locations and thereafter, the entire operation was run using mobile phones. “For the first time, mobile phones were put on surveillance and it helped us to crack the racket,“ a senior state forest department functionary said.
Then arrangements were made to transport the body parts to Uttarakhand-Nepal border. “All the tiger body parts were smuggled to a woman named Aarti in Nepal, who ensured it reached possible clients in Tibet,“ he said.
The internal memo sent to then CM Ramesh Pokhriyal, who was also in-charge of forest department, also highlights the fact that saving tigers in Uttarakhand was a difficult job considering highly open forests and easy access of poachers to areas with big cats.
The memo by vice-chairperson of forest advisory committee Anil Baluni during the BJP government, surfaced after the change in the state government and highlights apathy of forest management in the state.

Petty politics

In a bizarre turn, the state government of Punjab, which prosecuted the assassin of former chief minister Beant Singh, is now doing its best to save him from the gallows even as a local court on Tuesday ordered that he be hanged on Saturday. The Akali Dal ramped up its campaign to save Babbar Khalsa terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana with CM Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir flying to Delhi to meet the President with a clemency plea. The Patiala Central jail SP refused to accept the death warrant, citing “legal infirmities in the procedure”. Rajoana, who launched the attack that killed Beant Singh and 15 others in 1995, however, demanded to be hanged, saying politicians were trying to get mileage by offering mercy. In a letter released from Central jail, Patiala, on Monday, Rajoana (40) termed Akali leaders as “cheaters” and criticized Congress and BJP for “trying to politicize my mission. Punjab remained on the boil with radical Sikh organizations having given a call for a statewide bandh on March 28 against the impending hanging of Rajoana. According to the court’s orders, Rajoana has to be hanged on Saturday at 9am inside the Patiala jail premises. Rajoana also wrote that the Akali leaders failed to secure justice from Delhi for innocent Sikhs and should not now throw their turbans before Delhi. Beant Singh was killed on August 31, 1995. Other than Rajoana, another accused Jagtar Singh Hawara had also been awarded death sentence but that was commuted to life imprisonment. The CBI has challenged this commutation in the Supreme Court and sought capital punishment for Hawara. Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, who was also involved in the assassination, was awarded life imprisonment and he has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court for his acquittal. Meanwhile, the Akal Takht has urged Sikhs to maintain ‘sankoch’ (refrain) from work and to sport saffron turbans and duppattas besides unfurling saffron flags to mark their protest against the impending hanging.

PM on Pakistan

On Board Air India One: Welcoming Pakistan's move to liberalize trade with India, PM Manmohan Singh said he could visit that country if there was “something solid” to celebrate. On his meeting with Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Singh said he thanked him for the trade concessions his government had made to India recently. “He (Gilani) asked when are you coming there (Pakistan)? So, I said let us do something solid so that we can celebrate,” Singh said.

Reds strike in Maharashtra

In the first major offensive by the Maoists in Gadchiroli district in three years, 12 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and at least 28 injured when the rebels remote-triggered a powerful landmine in Dhanora tehsil, blowing up the mini-bus the jawans were travelling in on Tuesday afternoon. Four among those injured are critical. Officials said the exact number of personnel travelling on the bus was not immediately known and the toll could go up. The mini-bus was part of a convoy carrying troops of 192nd CRPF battalion. The landmine exploded in Dhanora, about 38km from the Gadchiroli divisional headquarters. The area — between Karwafa and Fulbodi Gatta — is considered an insurgent stronghold. The security personnel were bound for security operations when the mini-bus drove over the remote-controlled improvised explosive device. The rebels had threatened the security forces in the district with a repeat of the Laheri massacre of October 2009, in which 17 policemen were massacred. In threats issued through pamphlets, the Maoists vowed revenge for the killing of their comrades. The blast, which was heard in nearby villages, took place a day after Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s visit to the district. According to intelligence inputs, Jairam is on the list of their targets. One intelligence source said that the blast could have been triggered by villagers. Senior officials have cautioned security forces about more landmines in the region. Rescue and reinforcement teams were rushed after the news of the attack reached Gadchiroli district headquarters. Security forces immediately searched the adjoining forests and launched a combing operation in the area. CRPF DG K Vijay Kumar, who is touring Maharashtra, was in Gadchiroli after he started from Nagpur on Tuesday morning, sources said, indicating that he would visit the blast site on Wednesday. According to police in Nagpur, several civilians were also injured in the blast. Two helicopters were deployed for evacuating the troops. While some injured jawans were airlifted to Nagpur and admitted to Wockhardt hospital, others were taken to Civil hospital in Gadchiroli.

RoRo Ferry Service

After years of talk, there is some cause for cheer for water transport on Mumbai's eastern coast with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) pushing ahead with plans for passenger and roll-on/roll-off ferry service to be ready by 2014. MSRDC officials said that the initial project will mean passenger and roll-on/roll off transport ferries plying from Ferry Wharf to Mandwa and also to Nerul. Both trips will take approximately 25 minutes, the officials said. The ferries will be a boon to city residents and it will cut off more than 90 minutes from the usual travel time by road. “Tenders for building the terminals have been floated and we expect work to commence in June and be finished in 18 months. The project will cost a total of Rs 475 crores,’’ said senior MSRDC officials. MSRDC has decided to build the terminals through a cash contract and then let private parties ply ferries by paying a licence fee. “Initially we will build jetties at Ferry Wharf, Mandwa and Nerul and later expand the route as the passenger and car traffic goes up. The passengers will have to pay Rs 100 per person one way and the fare for cars will be from Rs 280 to 300,” the official said. MSRDC officials said there would be separate ferries for vehicles and passengers. The cost of building a modern terminal facility at Ferry Wharf and Nerul is estimated to cost Rs 209 crores while the construction of a terminal at Mandwa would cost Rs 68 crores. There will be an elevated road from Ferry Wharf to P D’Mello Road and the eastern freeway at Orange Gate will cost Rs 79 crores.


Faridabad Metro link

The Delhi Metro’s extensions into the national capital region got a shot in the arm with the Haryana government signing an MoU with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the extension of the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line. The 13.8km corridor, which is part of the Phase III of the Delhi Metro network, will have nine stations and will terminate at YMCA Chowk. Work on the extension has already started, with DMRC awarding the tender for the construction in February this year. The fully-elevated corridor, the longest Metro line in the NCR, will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 2,494 crore and is expected to be commissioned by 2014, said a DMRC spokesperson. According to the detailed project report (DPR), the daily ridership of the 13.875 km metro corridor is expected to be 2.14 lakhs in 2014 after commissioning of the corridor. The corridor will be a standard gauge corridor, that is of 1435 mm. The stations on the corridor are Sarai, NHPC Chowk, Mewala Maharajpur, Sector 27 A, Badkal Mor, Old Faridabad, Ajronda, Faridabad New Town and YMCA Chowk. Added the DMRC spokesperson, “The funding pattern of the corridor is such that the Haryana government will give Rs 1,472.4 crore, which is excluding the cost of land. The government of India will pitch in with Rs 536.6 crore while DMRC will put in Rs 400 crore in the form of rolling stock.”The required land for the construction of the project is being provided free of cost by the Haryana government to DMRC on lease basis, the official added. A train maintenance depot will also be constructed near Sector 20 A in Faridabad and will be called Ajronda Depot. The work has commenced for the boundary wall, added the Delhi Metro spokesperson. The corridor will cover a distance of approximately 43.40km from Kashmere Gate to YMCA Chowk in Faridabad.


National Payments Corporation of India—a Reserve Bank of India initiative—is set to replay the ATM revolution in the cards business with the launch of RuPay debit cards, which undercut Visa and Mastercard on processing fees on transactions. Coinciding with the launch, the central bank has also directed banks to cut charges levied on shopkeepers for facilitating debit card payments. On Monday, four large public sector banks State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India and Union Bank of India launched the first set of RuPay cards in India. The RuPay card is meant to be on the lines of China Union Pay—a Chinese government promoted payments and settlement platform for card transactions that broke the Visa-Mastercard stranglehold. Two years ago, NPCIL cut the charges for facilitating customers use their debit cards in ATMs of other banks. It has now promised the same in the card space. First in debit cards where processing fees will be 40% lower and later in credit cards which will be launched from 2015. Although shops will be the initial beneficiary of lower debit card charges, it will ultimately benefit customers as it will make it viable for shops to accept card payments for even low-value transactions. Also low-margin businesses which refused to accept cards because of charges of around 1.8% at present will be incentivized to accept card payments. G Padmanabhan, ED, RBI, said while RBI did not interfere in pricing the interchange fee debate had become louder after the United States recently intervened to ask banks to bring down interchange fees on debit card transactions. According to A P Hota, MD & CEO, NPCI India will also save hundreds of crores in foreign exchange by having a domestic payment system as Visa and Mastercard are paid in foreign currency.

Somewhere in Goa....

Petrol in Goa will be cheaper by Rs 11 from April 2, housewives with annual incomes below Rs 3 lakh will get a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 and the price of cooking gas has been fixed for the next five years. Chief minister Manohar Parrikar presented the annual budget stating that the common man would not be burdened. “Our government will stand behind the common man like the Rock of Gibraltar. I have managed to keep all my promises without putting a single burden on the common man,” Parrikar told reporters at the post-budget briefing. He said the budget was aimed at “all-round development of the state; not only physical development, but also human resource development”. Asked how he would implement the budget proposals, Parrikar promised his “personal supervision” to ensure their implementation. “Every proposal has been provided for in the budget. I don’t need to look at any documents. All the figures are in my head,” he said. The total budget size for the year 2012-13 was estimated at Rs 9,549 crore as against Rs 8,022 crore in 2011-12.

Tatra scandal

In General VK Singh’s latest interviews to an English daily and a television channel, in which he claimed he was offered a Rs 14 crore bribe, Gen Singh lamented that the Army bought over 7,000 vehicles at exorbitant prices without any questions being asked. Many retired officers felt Gen Singh has in a single sweep raised questions about the integrity of all officers who have handled the purchase of Tatra vehicles. Gen Malik, the Army chief during the 1999 Kargil conflict, said, “They should have immediately investigated the matter and the company which made the offer should have been blacklisted, and stringent action should have been taken against the person who offered the bribe.” “Here the integrity of senior officers including that of the office of the Army Chief is involved. They should take action, ruthless action,” Gen Malik said. Corruption was “still an aberration and not rampant” in the Army. “The matter should have been taken to the logical conclusion,” he added. Over 7,000 Tatra trucks in service with Army. They are all-weather trucks that operate in all terrains Used for carrying tanks, artillery, mounting various guided missiles, BrahMos. Used also for carrying personnel No trucks made in India matched Army’s general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs) for trucks, so Tatra ended up getting monopoly .Defence PSU BEML has exclusive marketing tie-up for India. First deal between Omnipol of Czechoslovakia and BEML in 1986 to manufacture Tatra trucks under licence agreement—the agreement continued until 1996 .In 1997, a new agreement was signed with Tatra Sipox of UK, which carried on. Army has now modified its GSQR. So, India has issued the first request for proposal under competitive bidding. Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), the Bangalore-based PSU supplying Tatra trucks to the army, has said it doesn’t have any middlemen even as a senior defence ministry official said there has not been any complaint from the force about the vehicles’ quality. On March 5, the Army headquarters had issued a statement saying Lt Gen Tejinder Singh had “offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML”. Tatra vehicles are manufactured in Czech and Slovakia Republics and imported to India through BEML. They are supplied to the army after further value addition and 7,000 Tatra vehicles are currently in service. Reacting to questions on whether the the Army had complaints about the quality of Tatra vehicles, joint secretary (land systems) in the MoD Rashmi Verma said, “As far as the quality of Tatra trucks is concerned, we have received no complaint from the armed forces. We did get some complaints about after sales service and maintenance, which were resolved.”

Team Anna v/s tainted MPs

Comments by Team Anna members labeling MPs as criminals guilty of crimes like murder and rape sparked a row in the Parliament on Monday, with political parties condemning the remarks and some leaders suggesting that Lok Sabha pass a resolution condemning the allegations. Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal’s comments about criminals sitting in Parliament caused a furore. The demand at Sunday’s rally for FIRs to be registered against 14 Union ministers and taunts that MPs could never legislate a Lokpal law to check corruption united Parliamentarians on Monday, with lawmakers lashing out at the activists. Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj set the tone saying that Team Anna must not lose sight of maintaining decorum while pressing its demands. JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav said the chair could move a resolution censuring the activists for levelling unsubstantiated charges. Yadav asked the chair to consider a resolution condemning the “uncivil” language used against MPs during Anna Hazare’s day-long fast on Sunday. “We stood up to speak for Hazare, but this language is not acceptable,” the JD(U) leader said. Swaraj argued intemperate attacks were harming institutions and this could be read as an attempt to encourage or back dictatorship. While no MP has as yet sought to move a notice against Team Anna members, privilege committee chair P C Chacko said that remarks made at Sunday’s rally “were a fit case of privilege.” Faced with backlash from the political community Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal remained defiant, saying that the Parliament faced a crisis of credibility with 162 sitting MPs facing criminal charges. Kejriwal, who has two privilege notices against him, sought to shift the blame on the elected representatives. He argued that it “tainted’’ ministers and elected representatives with dubious antecedents had insulted the Parliament and not activists. “We are willing to be punished if we have insulted Parliament. However, nation and Parliament’s respect will increase not by punishing me, but by bringing in clean candidates,’’ he said.

Somewhere in New Delhi....

Tibetan activist, Jamyang Yeshi (26), runs through the crowd after setting himself ablaze at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday, during a demonstration against Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit later this week. Sources said Yeshi ran nearly 50 yards before collapsing and protesters doused the flames with Tibetan flags. He suffered 90% burn injuries and is in a critical condition at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. He had escaped from Tibet in 2006 and had been living in the city for the past six years, activists said. Jintao is arriving in Delhi on Thursday to attend a summit of Brics nations. In Dharamsala, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said the Dalai Lama is “neither encouraging self-immolations in Tibet nor advocating expulsion of Han Chinese from Tibet”. The CTA said 17 people have reportedly killed themselves this year in Tibet for the cause. Some incidents of immolation have been reported from Andhra Pradesh too for the creation of Telangana.


INS Chakra

INS Chakra, the nuclear-powered Akula-II class submarine taken on lease from Russia for 10 years, will reach Indian shores in the next few days. It will formally be inducted into the Navy, in the presence of defence minister A K Antony, at Visakhapatnam on April 4. With this, the country’s protracted wait for a nuclear submarine, which can operate underwater for months at end, is finally over. But this does not mean India now has an operational nuclear weapon triad – the capability to fire nukes from land, air and sea – since INS Chakra is not armed with nuclear-tipped missiles due to international non-proliferation treaties. The triad will be in place only when the indigenous nuclear submarine, the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, equipped to carry a dozen K-15 (750-km) or four K-4 (3,500-km) nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, becomes fully operational next year. The 8,140-tonne INS Chakra, which makes India the world’s sixth country afterUS, Russia, France, UK and China to operate nuclearpowered submarines, of course, has boosted India’s underwater combat arm that is currently grappling with just 14 ageing conventional diesel-electric submarines. Armed with the 300-km range Klub-S land-attack cruise missiles as well as other missiles and advanced torpedoes, INS Chakra will be potent ‘hunter-killer’ of enemy submarines and warships as well as provide effective protection to a fleet at sea. INS Chakra will also be used to train sailors in the intricate art of operating nuclear submarines. Incidentally, the ‘Charlie-I’ class nuclear submarine India had leased from Russia from 1988 to 1991 was also named INS Chakra but the expertise gained on it was steadily lost since Indian Navy did not operate any other nuclear submarine thereafter. The new 10-year lease flows from the January, 2004, agreement, with India funding a major part of Nerpa’s construction at Komsomolskon-Amur shipyard after Russia stopped it midway due to funds crunch. It was slated for induction much earlier but technical glitches delayed the process, which included a toxic gas leak in November, 2008, that killed 20 Russian sailors.

India & South Korea

South Korea has offered to build nuclear reactors in India and sought land for the project. The move is significant on another count too — it indicates a renewed interest in the Indian nuclear power sector with the impending resolution of the Kudankulam crisis. New Delhi, in turn, is likely to launch Korean satellites, adding South Korea to a clientele that includes Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Algeria. Emerging from talks with president Lee Myung-bak in Seoul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “India has offered to launch Korean satellites on Indian space launch vehicles.” A joint statement said, “The two leaders proposed that the concerned agencies of both countries study the possible cooperation in future space activities, including launching a nano-satellite developed by Korean students on an Indian launch vehicle.” Korea, in many ways, rewrote nuclear history a few years ago by winning a contract to build reactors in the UAE, undercutting French giant Areva. Given the delays in working out a nuclear deal with Japan, which is holding up deals with France among others, some quarters in India feel Korean reactors could be the answer.


Jaya's Vision 2023

TN Chief minister J Jayalalithaa has unveiled a 11-year roadmap, which pitches Tamil Nadu as a global investment destination with potential for projects worth Rs 15 lakh crore. The ‘Vision 2023’ document stresses on high levels of private participation in sectors ranging from roads and ports to agriculture and manufacturing in a bid to boost economic output and ensure that the state tops the human development index in the country. The strategic release of a 11-year plan, a day after her party’s landslide byelection victory, is seen as a move by the AIADMK chief to seek a mandate that goes beyond her present five-year tenure. Although political fortunes in TN have swung every five years in recent decades, the CM promised that she “will not rest or give up till she realized her dream”. Jayalalithaa made it plain that her ambitions go beyond making Tamil Nadu the most attractive destination for investments in India. “Attaining one among the top three positions in Asia would be tantamount to benchmarking Tamil Nadu with countries such as South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, which are ranked 8, 17 and 18 in the world by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in its study on ‘Ease of Doing Business’,” she said at a gathering attended by industrialists and heads of chambers of commerce.
Vision 2023:
TN as a global investment destination with potential for projects worth 15 lakh crore
An economic boom that will raise the GSDP growth rate to 11%
Increasing the annual per capita income by six times to 4.5 lakh
20,000MW of additional power generation capacity
Training 20 million people for job skills, building cold chains and grain storage complexes, setting up medical hubs, and eight-laning of roads.
Given the present investment climate and shortage of power, the state would find it a challenge to meet the deadline. “I am aware that the state government alone cannot meet the resource requirements. A substantial portion of the financing for infrastructure has to be mobilized from nongovernmental sources, including private sector organizations, banks and foreign direct investment,” Jayalalithaa said. Commenting on the strategy, Madras School of Economics director D K Srivastava said, “Sectoral priorities are alright. The competitive edge that Tamil Nadu can build is totally dependent on the infrastructure facilities the state can provide. The vision is quite achievable, and it will allow it to take advantage over other states.”

Rupee at a 3-month low

The rupee saw its steepest drop in three months over demand from oil companies and concern that exit of foreign institutional investors from equity markets could see an outflow of dollars. The rupee closed at 51.22, down 56 paise from Wednesday’s close of 50.66. A sharp fall in the value of the rupee would increase pressure on the government to hike fuel prices. The rupee mirrored the fall in the sensex, which declined 2.3% following a series of bad news. The rupee opened weak at 50.75 and plunged to an intraday low of 51.27 before recovering marginally to close at 51.22. After a smart recovery in January, the rupee has fallen by 4.3% against the dollar in March, which makes it the worst performing Asian currency for the month. In the offshore market, three-month non-deliverable forwards were traded at 52.44 on Thursday, down from 51.68 on Wednesday. Since the rupee is not fully convertible offshore contracts are settled in dollars without delivery of the rupee.

Railway rollbacks

Mamata Banerjee’s new nominee in the railway ministry, Mukul Roy withdrew the hike in passenger fares for all classes except AC-II tier and first class, virtually rewriting the budget presented by his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi just eight days ago and which was praised by PM Manmohan Singh. Rolling back the fare hike, Roy invoked the UPA’s concern for the “aam aadmi” to reject Trivedi’s argument that an increase in fares was necessary to improve passenger safety. Roy, who replaced partyman Trivedi after the latter defied Mamata to hike fares, also tossed out of the window the “reforms” proposals announced by his predecessor—setting up of an independent tariff regulator, restructuring of the Railway Board on professional lines and creation of posts of member (PPP) and member (safety).



Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announced in the state assembly that state’s total annual revenue has gone up to Rs. 1,21,000 crore this year (2011-12) compared to Rs. 1,06,000 crore in the previous year. Chavan said Maharashtra received an investment of Rs. 82,386 crore in 77 new projects that have been set up since April 2011 in the state. Replying to the debate on governor’s speech during the budget session of the state assembly, Chavan said over 54,000 new jobs will be created in projects that have come to the state in the past one year. Maharashtra received a share of 33% in the total foreign direct investment (FDI) that has come to the country in this period. The chief minister claimed that the government was doing its best to achieve the target of zero load-shedding (power cuts) in the state by December 2012 as Khaparkheda and Bhusawal power-generation stations are expected to provide 1000MW of extra power by March 2012. He said the singlephasing policy had worked in rural areas, where water pumps were being provided power separately. State finance minister Ajit Pawar will present the annual budget next Monday. Opposition parties have targeted the government over poor fiscal management. The state faces a debt of Rs. 2,38,000 crore and almost 30% of the state’s revenue has to be kept aside to service this debt. Chavan admitted that the state faces a challenge in regional imbalance in development. Government sources have already indicted that the new industrial policy which is soon to be rolled out will focus on this aspect.


Come next year, filing of FIRs at police stations will no longer be a cumbersome exercise. Efforts are on to implement online registration of FIRs across the country, beginning 2013. Home minister P Chidambaram spoke about the possibility, banking on the implementation of his ministry’s flagship project — the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) — that aims to link over 14,000 police stations across the country. “The CCTNS is a project that is under implementation. It would be completely implemented by the end of this year or early next year, and then, online registration of FIRs will be possible,” Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha. Responding to a question by Trinamool Congress member D Bandyopadhyay whether FIRs can automatically get registered at ‘thana’ level, the home minister said, “That is the goal. When the CCTNS is fully implemented, all FIRs can be registered online.” At present, the Delhi Police has a system of “uploading and viewing” FIRs registered in the capital within 24 hours of registration — except those declared sensitive by additional commissioner of police or DCP of the district concerned. This system has been in place since February 1.

Somewhere in the Sunderbans....

The deeper you go into the Sunderbans, the more mysterious it is. The camera traps that have snapped 18 Bengal tigers outside the core area of the mangrove forests also captured two photos of a never-before seen cat. It could be another species altogether, a eureka moment for conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. Forest officers scanning through a bunch of pictures of the wild stopped in their tracks when they came across a small, black cat with a long tail. Nothing of the sort had been seen in decades of documentation and exploration in the Sunderbans. The Sunderbans is the only tiger reserve in India where leopards have never been seen. Its Bangladeshi side reported the last sighting of a leopard in 1931. The cat spotted in the camera traps is bigger than a wild cat and smaller than a leopard, say sources. It’s not yet known whether it’s a new species but forest officials believe it is a melanistic leopard-cat, a rarity in the animal world. In leopards, two genes determine whether the animal’s colour will be yellow with black spots or completely black. The black panther gets its colour from the black recessive gene. “We have never seen any animal like this in the Sunderbans. Apart from the 18 tigers, scores of other cats, including jungle and fishing cats, were found during the exercise, which was done outside the reserve area for the first time. Most of them were expected till we came upon two sightings of a black cat with a long tail,” said Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve director Pradeep Vyas.

Dust haze hits Maximum City

Mumbaikars experienced a rare phenomenon when the city was enveloped in layers of dust. Called dust haze, the phenomenon saw suspended particulate matter in the air rise from 200 units per cubic metre to an unprecedented and dangerous 1,200 units. Scores of patients, especially the old and those prone to respiratory ailments, complained of breathlessness.

Somewhere in Russia....

A Russian court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagawad Gita for being “extremist”, bringing cheers to followers across the world months after the issue threatened to strain Moscow’s strategic ties with India. “The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea,” Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow Iskcon said after the verdict. State prosecutors in Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court's dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on “Bhagawad Gita As It Is”, written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon). They had claimed that the text was “extremist” literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord. The higher court in Tomsk “kept the verdict of the lower court intact”, Das said. As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said. In a statement, the Tomsk district court said after Wednesday’s verdict that it had decided “to leave unchanged” a lower court's December 28 ruling that the book did not contain extremist material.

Tech Mahindra

The $14.4-billion Mahindra Group unveiled the widely anticipated merger of its two IT services firms, Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Satyam, creating a $2.4-billion entity, which is poised to be India’s fifthlargest software outsourcing company by revenue. The development comes three years after the group acquired the scandal-rocked Satyam Computer Services, later branding it Mahindra Satyam. As part of the merger, investors will get two Tech Mahindra shares (of Rs 10 face value) for every 17 shares of Mahindra Satyam (of Rs 2 face value). The group will own 26.3% in the combined entity while British Telecom, a strategic partner of the group in Tech Mahindra, will hold 12.8%. Since Tech Mahindra currently holds 42.65% in Mahindra Satyam (through Venturbay Consultants), 10.4% equity of the new entity that will come in existence because of this crossholding, post merger, this equity will be held as treasury stock in a trust, said the management at a press briefing in Mumbai on Wednesday. Following the announcement, Dalal Street gave its stamp of approval to the plan with Tech Mahindra stock closing up 5.5% at Rs 684 while Mahindra Satyam (still listed as Satyam Computer on the bourses) closed 4.6% up at Rs 78. At the day’s closing levels, the two entities together are valued at a tad over Rs 17,800 crore (about $3.5 billion). The new entity, the branding of which will be decided over the next few months, will compete with the likes of Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro for bagging big international outsourcing contracts. Tech Mahindra will issue 10.34 crore new shares, increasing its number of outstanding shares to 23.08 crore and its equity capital to Rs 230.8 crore, said the management. This values Satyam at Rs 76.3 a share ($1.8 billion), according to Bloomberg. “This merger does not bring about any cost savings. Instead, it’s driven by the proposition of delivering better value to our customers, and project the power of one,” said C P Gurnani, CEO, Mahindra Satyam. The management said there will be zero redundancies post merger but did not rule out some redeployment at the leadership level across functions. Mumbai will be the new headquarter for the merged entity. “We did the merger when Mahindra Satyam reached normalization and was in a steady state so that it’s a merger of equals,” said Vineet Nayyar, vicechairman & MD, Tech Mahindra and chairman, Mahindra Satyam. The joint entity will have a unified go-to-market strategy with revenues spread across telecom, manufacturing, media & entertainment, banking and insurance, along with retail and healthcare. The new entity will leverage Tech Mahindra’s expertise in the mobility vertical while Mahindra Satyam’s diverse clientele will come in handy to widen the client base of the company.

Section 377

Attorney general G E Vahanvati told a SC bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya, which is hearing a bunch of appeals against the July 2, 2009 verdict, that the Centre accepted the correctness of the ruling. The Delhi HC had in 2009 ordered decriminalizing gay sex in private between consenting adults, which was feted by gay activists and liberals as a breakthrough for the struggle for the recognition of alternative sexuality. The activists should also be pleased with the attorney general’s submission since the Centre never opposed the judgment. However, Vahanvati’s statement in the SC may appear to mark a shift from passive acquiescence into the HC verdict towards concurrence with it. Interestingly, it took an embarrassing message mix-up for the Centre to clarify its position on endorsing the 2009 verdict. Vahanvati said lack of communication between the home ministry and the law officer led to the confusion and reiteration of the old view before the apex court. This was immediately corrected by filing of an affidavit by the home secretary, he added. While giving the clarification, the top law officer did not forget to address the court’s serious concern about the legal ramifications of an important expression—“carnal intercourse against the order of nature” —contained in Section 377. Vahanvati said it was an important issue, but the HC did not attempt to fathom the legal width of its play in the personal lives of people contrasting with the changing social ethos and values.


Gujarat roadways

Even as announcing that it would initiate road projects worth Rs 5,900 crore in the next financial year, Gujarat government gave special emphasis on the high-profile Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar state expressway. To cost coffers Rs 2,500 crore, starting with the coming financial year, 2012-13, the new expressway will pass through the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), and among the main spots it will touch is the proposed Dholera airport, in the south of Ahmedabad. State roads and buildings minister Anandiben Patel told the state assembly that “preliminary work for the project like measurement, road alignment, land acquisition and utility shifting will begin in the coming financial year”. A senior government official added, “Measurement work is already over. Now, the process of land acquisition will start for 120 km land road. A 150 metre wide corridor will be acquired all through. Along the state expressway, the proposal is to have a tube railway line.” The minister also announced in the House that the World Bank-supported project for building 1,577 km long roads at the cost of Rs 2,000 crore would be started in the coming financial year. “Based on a techno-feasibility report, the World Bank proposes to the rank roads and choose from those that the report has identified”, the official added. Among the roads that are being considered include for the World Bank project include Himatnagar-Mehsana-Radhanpur road, Sevalia-Umreth-Vasad road, Junagadh-Dhoraji road, Jamnagar-Khambhaliya-Dwarka road, Dabhoi-Bodeli-Alirajpur road, and Vansda-Dharampur-Vapi road. “The World Bank team has made four visits to Gujarat for the project, and we expect it to provide funding starting with October”, the official said, adding, “While the first three roads are proposed to be turned into four lanes, the other three will be widened to 10 metres.” A third project the state government proposes to take up is resurfacing of 5,800 km long roads which, the state minister admitted, were not resurfaced for the last seven years. “The work is proposed to be completed in three years, and would cost Rs 1,400 crore”, the minister said.


PM getting squashed

Facing stiff opposition from allies over various measures, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said difficult decisions were getting “more difficult“ because of coalition compulsions and pressed for eschewing narrow partisan approaches in the interest of the country. Singh made a strong pitch for the NCTC (National Centre for Counter Terrorism), saying it was an important step to fight terrorism but made it clear that no further action would be taken on it without consultations with states.
Replying to debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address, he spoke about the opposition to the NCTC and responded to the demands by Tamil parties for supporting UN resolution against Sri Lanka by saying that India was “inclined“ to do so if it meets its “objectives“ with regard to the future for ethnic Tamils “based on equality, dignity, justice and self respect.“
He also talked about the difficult situation in the economic field and expressed commitment to reforms to push growth. “I am sure members re alise that difficult decisions we have to take are made more difficult by the fact that we are a coalition government...We need to have consensus,“ he said.
PM noted that the issue of NCTC has been discussed at various fora and Multi-Agency Centre was set up in 2001 as a precursor. “A number of chief ministers have expressed concern after the order (on setting up of NCTC) was issued (in January),“ Singh said, adding he had responded to these. “A meeting of chief ministers took place on March 12, another meeting will take place on April 16.“
He also spoke on the issue of a resolution against Sri Lanka at UNHRC, which ally DMK along with other Tamil parties want India to support.DMK, with 18 members in Lok Sabha, has even threatened to consider pulling out of the government.
Emphasising the need for faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth, the PM said credible steps in this regard would be unveiled in 12th Five Year Plan to be presented to the National Development Council this year.“I wish to remind the honourable members that our path is not easy. I am sure that the members also realise that the difficult decisions that we have to take are made more difficult by the fact that we are a coalition government and have to evolve policy while maintain a consensus,“ he said.


That Bihar under Nitish Kumar grew at over 10% between 2004-05 and 2009-10 is now wellknown. But data released on Monday shows that in the same period, the number of poor in the state actually grew. During this five-year period, Bihar added 50 lakh people to the number of its poor, by far the largest number of any Indian state in this period. A look at Planning Commission numbers for 2009-10 and 2004-05 shows that poverty has declined at a negligible rate in Bihar, so much so that the absolute number of people living in poverty has actually increased. In 2009-10, 54.4% of Bihar was under the poverty line as compared to 53.5% in 2004-5. This period coincides almost precisely with Nitish Kumar’s first term as chief minister, raising a big question mark over the real impact of his administration and the high growth the state has seen on the lives of the common Bihari. “Reduction of poverty is brought about by agricultural transformation, but Bihar’s growth was construction-centric,” says Shaibal Gupta, social scientist and founder-member secretary of the Patna-based think-tank, the Asian Development Research Institute. “Construction-based growth does not address the problems of poverty in a constructive manner,” he added. However, Gupta, who has worked closely with the Nitish administration, is positive. “The government is in the process of chalking out a techno-managerial strategy to bring about a new green revolution,” the social scientist said. Bihar is one of three states — Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh being the other two — in which poverty has declined, but so slowly that the absolute number of people living in poverty has actually increased in the five years. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have between them 128 million poor people, over a third of all of India’s poor, and roughly a tenth of the world’s poor. In five other states, the proportion of poor as well as the absolute number has risen. These are Delhi, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, with Nagaland’s performance being by far the worst; the proportion of people living below the poverty line has more than doubled over five years in this tiny state, going from 8.8% in 2004-5 to 20.9% in 2009-10.

Railway unions back Trivedi's fare hikes

In a desperate bid to save the bleeding railways, employees’ unions are planning to hold rallies in the capital and across the country if the new railway minister rolls back the increase in passenger fares. Though the federations lauded the “bold” step taken by Dinesh Trivedi, they are comfortable with any politician in Rail Bhavan and possible rollback if the government provides a matching grant to the railways from the general exchequer. “We just want to save railways which is facing a huge financial crisis,” said Shiv Gopal Mishra, general secretary of All India Railwaymen’s Federation, the biggest association of railway employees. Though Mishra denied any proposal to go on strike, he hinted that they could launch protests if their demand was not met. After making two public appeals to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since the fare hike was announced in the rail budget, the unions have sought time from him on Tuesday to press their demand. The associations, which are meeting on Tuesday to chart out their future strategy, are worried about the looming financial crisis. They claimed that many allowances to employees like travel allowance and medical reimbursement were delayed and overtime payments were restricted due to poor finances. The federations are also roping in customers’ associations like MST Association and freight operators’ bodies, arguing that revenue earned from the fare hike will help the ailing transporter provide efficient service with safety and security.

TN to use Israeli technology

The sight of farmers in Tamil Nadu watching anxiously for the arrival of monsoon may soon be a thing of the past. Israel is in talks with Tamil Nadu for improving water supply for agriculture by recycling sewage water. “We have planned for three such recycling projects in Tamil Nadu. While two are meant for better growing methods for cut-flowers and vegetables, one is aimed at re-using waste water for agriculture. The investment for this will come from the state government,” said Orna Sagiv, consul general of Israel during an Israeli Agriculture seminar. According to Sagiv, Israel ranks highest among all countries for re-use of waste water. “Over 80% of the water that we use is recycled for agriculture,” she said. “Israel being a desert state with few water resources, recycling has become extremely crucial to agriculture. We plan the same recycling here, but the plan is still in its initial stage and will be a government-to-government dealing rather than a business dealing.” Israel also plans to set up several agro excellence centres for transfer of knowledge in Tamil Nadu. “We had earlier signed an agreement with the National Horticulture Mission to set up such centres and fine-tune agriculture, pre and post harvest in Maharashtra and Haryana. After seeing the impact, now other states too have approached us,” added Sagiv who also met the chief minister on Monday to invite her to AgriTech Israel 2012. Although maintaining that all these projects are still in their infancy and details still needed to be worked out, Uri Rubinstein, counsellor, International Cooperation for Science and Agriculture, added that these will likely be started in May. “We shall first be targeting fruit orchards, primarily mangoes,” he said. “While the exact area for implementation has not been decided yet, we shall look for mango orchards close to existing sewage treatment plants here. The government here, has so far, subjected sewage and waste water to two levels of treatment. This does not completely remove impurities,” he added. According to Rubinstein, water in Israel is subjected to three levels of treatment, making it good enough to drink, but is used in agriculture. “We are planning something along those lines here, to begin with,” he said. “In the next three years, 28 projects involving cut flowers, mangoes, dates, oranges and olives shall be carried out in eight states.” Elad Gafni, trade attaché to the embassy of Israel in Mumbai who was also present at the seminar added that Tamil Nadu offers much business opportunities for Israel by way of agriculture and irrigation solutions. “We intend to harness upon that soon,” he said.

Jayalalithaa's U turn on Kudankulam

The long stand-off between the Centre and Tamil Nadu government over the Kudankulam nuclear power project ended on Monday with the state cabinet giving approval for early commissioning of the plant. The decision was followed by a crackdown on anti-nuclear protesters who had held up the plant’s commissioning for over six months. “Immediate steps will be taken to facilitate commissioning of the plant,” said chief minister J Jayalalithaa in a statement, which added that the report submitted by an expert panel led by former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, M R Srinivasan, had given the plant a clean chit. Srinivasan told reporters that he had explained the difference between the Kudankulam and the Fukushima reactors in Japan to the CM, and she was satisfied that the one in Tamil Nadu was safe from tsunamis. The Centre was pushing Tamil Nadu for early completion of the 2,000-MW project on which Rs 14,000 crore has been spent. Russia, which is providing technical assistance, had last month threatened to withdraw its scientists if the impasse continued. With the state facing a power deficit of more than 4,000MW, public opinion too was building up in its favour. Russian officials in India said that Moscow stood vindicated by Jayalalithaa’s decision. “We welcome the decision by the CM. If local authorities guarantee security, a team of Russian scientists will be sent to the plant on Tuesday itself to start the commissioning work,” Russian embassy senior counselor Sergey Karmalito said. The two pressurized water reactors at the plant are almost complete. “Despite not being allowed to access the site, more than 80 scientists have stayed put in India,” he added. About 195 agitators, including leaders of the group heading the protest, ‘people’s movement against nuclear energy’, were arrested, the police said. Although over 180 cases have been registered against the agitators in the last seven months, no arrest had been made until Monday. Following Tamil Nadu government’s approval for the Kudankulam atomic power plant, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is confident of making the first reactor operational within four to six months. NPCIL director S A Bharadwaj said, “We are confident of producing 1,000MW from the first reactor by mid-August or end of August. We will have to speed up work on reactor 1, which was 99.4% ready when the protests stopped work in October last year. The second reactor will take at least six to eight months more.” Clearance will be sought from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board for initiating fuel loading operations and mobilizing the work force, the Atomic Energy Commsion chairman Srikumar Banerjee said on Monday. He expressed hope that the plant will start operating before August. Chairman of AERB, S S Bajaj, said on Monday some inspections have to be carried out prior to the fuel loading operations. “All systems at Kudankulam were in a preservation board and the plant should be in an okay condition,” he said.

Shivaji statue controversy continues

Chhatrapati Shivaji’s statue will come up in the Arabian sea only, said Maharashtra's chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, putting an end to the controversy sparked off by his deputy Ajit Pawar. On the eve of the budget session, Pawar had told the media that an alternative site was finalized as CRZ norms would not allow a statue in the sea. Chavan told the state legislative council on Monday the state government would obtain all the necessary clearances from the Centre within a year and over the next five years it would strive to complete the project.

MTHL update

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has received six proposals for developing the Rs 8,800 crore, 22-km trans-harbour link between Sewri and Nhava in Navi Mumbai. MMRDA commissioner Rahul Asthana, who opened the bids on Monday, said they would examine the bids submitted by the six consortia and then evaluate them by November before the final bidding process begins. “I assure you that the project will begin next year,” he said. . This is the third attempt to build the trans-harbour link. The project was transferred to MMRDA last year.The six consortia are Cintra-Soma Infra and Srei consortium, Gammon Infrastructure Projects-OHL Concessions-GS Engineering consortium, GMR Infra-L&T- Samsung consortium, IL&FS Transportation Networks–Unity Infrastructure–Navayuga Engineering–Rizzani DE Eccher consortium, IRB Infrastructure Developers–Hyundai consortium and Tata Realty & Infrastructure–Autostrade Indian Infrastructure Development–Vinci Concessions Development consortium.


Britain to end aid to India from 2015

Britain is preparing to end its aid programme to a booming India and is unlikely to renew its commitment after 2015, a media report said .Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, has made it clear that his department’s £1.6 billion programme for the former colony is in its final phases and will be wound up as the Indian economy booms and its own efforts to alleviate poverty become increasingly effective, according to the British press. “We are walking the last mile with them,” he said. At present the government has publicly committed to funding aid programmes in India until 2015. “The fact is we didn’t mess around. . . We won’t be there for ever,” he was quoted as saying.

Didigiri continues

Looks like the UPA 2 continues to face death by a thousand cuts...with truant allies like the TMC and DMK.
Dinesh Trivedi paid for his adventurous decision to raise passenger fares in the railway budget 2012-13 -- a decision his populist predecessors Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad dared not to take for the past eight years. Known to be erudite and affable, Trivedi (61) has been with Banerjee since the inception of Trinamool Congress and was rewarded with a cabinet berth for his loyalty to her, but differences were said to have cropped up between them for quite some time. Things came to a head when he proposed a stiff across-the-board hike in passenger fares in the railway budget on Wednesday to net Rs 4,000 crore extra a year. He effected increase in suburban and non-suburban fares, ordinary second class mail and express fares, sleeper class, 1st class, all AC class travel and Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duranto and Janshatabdi trains

A missile hub in Andhra

India’s missile power is set to get a boost with a surface-to-air missile unit ready to come up at a cost of Rs 30,000 crore at Ibrahimpatnam in Andhra Pradesh’s Rangareddy district. The foundation stone for the project, undertaken by Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), was laid by chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on Sunday. The infrastructure for the project, spread over 630 acres, will be ready in three years. Once ready, an estimated 6,000 missiles are expected to be produced at the unit. Moreover, missile production will go up as project capacity is expanded to keep up with the demand for missiles. M Pallam Raju, minister of state for defence, said that the project cost would be allocated in the 12th and 13th Plans. Project developer BDL’s turnover is also expected to go up from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore once production begins at the unit. The new unit will also help create 1,000 officer-level jobs. Manpower from educational institutions, Pallam Raju said, should be churned out as per industry requirements to enable the local population to benefit from the project and find employment at the unit.


Black Money

Income Tax changes

DTC probably will come in next year in tandem with the GST.

India now & tomorrow

Random information on the state of the nation