Bangalore - Mumbai Economic Corridor snippets

India and United Kingdom have decided to join hands to develop the signature Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor project in close association with private companies from Britain.
A decision on taking ahead the project, which had been outlined both by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and British Prime Minister David Cameron in February this year, was taken during the recent meeting that Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had with UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skill Vince Cable and UK’s Minister for Government Policy in Cabinet office, Oliver Letwin during his recent visit to London. Mr. Cameron is keen on developing a new economic partnership with India and has been making efforts to enhance the trade and economic engagement and take it to a new level.
It was decided that two senior Ministers of Britain would be travelling to India late this year to take a first-hand review of the project and work out the joint feasibility study details so that this project could be taken up for execution at the earliest. The Joint Study group, working on forging a close relationship for the project, would work out the details of execution of this prestigious project. Mr. Cameron is understood to be very keen to have Britain’s private sector take part in a big way in execution of this project. The Indian side has already sent to the British government broad guidelines for execution of the joint feasibility study and has also nominated Taleen Kumar, Joint Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) as the nodal officer for this project. In addition to this, India has also offered to UK investment or partnership opportunities in the National Manufacturing and Investment Zones. “Both sides have agreed to examine and evolve the modalities and content of a feasibility study of this project concept through mutual discussions and to work out a roadmap for a possible partnership in this area. Given the importance of Mumbai as financial centre, Bangalore as IT and Technology hub and Pune as automobile manufacturing centre, such a project could be potentially viable,” Mr. Sharma said.
The Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had announced in his budget speech that preparatory work on BMEC is underway. He followed this up with an offer to UK to be part of this crucial economic project during his visit to Britain in May this year. The new National Manufacturing Policy aims to create 100 million jobs and increase the share of manufacturing in India’s gross domestic product to 25 per cent by 2022, from 16 per cent now. India also offered to Britain participation in the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) and investment regions that will be autonomous self-governing township being developed in partnership with the private sector. NIMZs are proposed to be developed as green field industrial townships and benchmarked against the best manufacturing hubs in the world.
Mr. Sharma said he had also conveyed to Lord Letwin and Mr. Cable that the Indian side is looking at UK participating in the establishment and operation of NMIZs and ITIRs in Karnataka through UK companies participation via equity, technology, financing mechanisms and investment by private equity. He suggested that the consortium of UK companies should consider adopting individual NMIZs.
In a related move aimed at giving a push to investments in India, the Invest India and UK India Business Council (UKIBC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate for providing UK businesses information on investment opportunities and the accompanying regulatory environment in India. Invest India, the Investment Facilitation and Promotion Agency, is a joint venture of the DIPP, State Governments and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). UKIBC is the premier business led organization promoting trade and investment between the UK and India.

CEPT to help Pune BRTS get on track

The city public transport system is all set for a makeover on its Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) project. A special BRT cell will be soon formed by the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mandal Limited (PMPML) to focus on the BRT project. The Centre for Environmental Planning Technology (CEPT) University, Ahmedabad that designed the Janmarg Bus Rapid Transit System will be the sole advisor guiding its operations. They will co-ordinate with PMPML, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on the project in Pune.
Abhijeet Lokare, associate professor at CEPT, said, “For the next year, we will offer advice on the BRT project to PMC and PCMC. During our first meeting, we discussed many issues and have now decided to form a special BRT Cell within PMPML. We are structuring the cell and deciding who will work in it, what their selection criteria and qualifications will be. We need engineers, architects, designers, experts in urban transport and well-educated individuals aware of the BRT. We will send the structure to both the corporations in the next week and ask them to hire such people.”
“We had a long meeting with CEPT, during which we discussed our problems and areas that we need to improve upon, as we will benefit from their experience on the Ahmedabad BRT. They gave us suggestions on the operation, infrastructure, scheduled frequency and punctuality of buses,” said Ramchandra Joshi, CMD, PMPML.
A team of three professors headed by Shivanand Swamy came to Pune on June 19 and visited sites where BRT work was ongoing. They met with PMC and PCMC commissioners and Joshi.

• BRT cell formation in Pune and its structure
• Implementation of route rationalisation
• Organisation structure for BRT operations and maintenance
• Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) for Pune BRT
• Implementation of connecting feeder and express services on BRT routes
• Developing public awareness about BRT in the city
• Off-board bus ticketing management on BRT bus stations

EC slaps notice on Munde

The election commission has sent a show-cause notice to senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde asking why he should not be disqualified for failing to maintain and file a true account of his expenditure for the 2009 Lok Sabha election campaign.
The notice, served under Section 10A of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951, asked Munde to reply within 20 days, failing which he would face disqualification and would be barred from contesting an election to either houses of Parliament or to the legislative assembly/council for three years from the date of the disqualification order.
The EC’s decision to issue a notice came after it scanned the CD of his controversial speech in Mumbai on June 27, and verified his public admission that he spent Rs 8 crore on his last parliamentary poll campaign.
This, when he had shown an expenditure of just Rs 19,36,992 as his election expenses. “Whereas, it is evident... that, as per your own admission in public, you in fact spent Rs 8 crore... and thus did not maintain a true account of your election expenses as required under Section 77 of the RPA and therefore the account lodged by you under Section 78 of the RPA is not in the manner required by the law,” the EC said in its show-cause notice.

Bangladesh set to deport Chetia

Bangladesh has set the ball rolling to hand over Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia to India, with the fugitive militant leader being shifted from Rajshahi jail to Kashimpur Central Jail on the outskirts of Dhaka.
The development comes three days after India’s Union home secretary R K Singh told media at the end of the sixth round of talks with the pro-talks Ulfa group in New Delhi that Chetia is likely to be handed over next month.
On May 13, Chetia petitioned the Bangladesh government expressing his desire to withdraw his appeal for political asylum in the country and instead send him back to his home in India. He has also asked for deportation of his two colleagues, Lakhiprasad Goswami and Babul Sarma, who were arrested along with him in Dhaka on December 21, 1997 for illegally entering the country.

INS Trikand

INS Trikand, India’s most advanced stealth frigate built in Russia, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on Saturday at Kaliningrad.
The last of the three “follow on Talwar Class” frigates was commissioned by vice-chief of the naval staff Vice Admiral R K Dhowan. The other two “follow on Talwar Class” frigates, INS Teg and INS Tarkash, were commissioned last year and are already in operation with the Western Fleet.
The keel of INS Trikand was laid on June 11, 2008 and the ship was launched on May 25, 2011, while the acceptance trials were conducted in the Baltic Sea in April and May 2013.
A Navy statement said the INS Trikand carries a state-of-the-art combat suite, which includes the supersonic Brahmos missile system, advanced surface to air missiles Shtil, upgraded A190 medium range gun, electro-optical 30 mm close in weapon system, anti-submarine weapons such as torpedoes and rockets and an advanced electronic warfare system. The weapons and sensors are integrated through a combat management system “Trebovanie-M”, which enables the ship to simultaneously neutralize multiple surface, subsurface and air threats, the Navy said.
INS Trikand has highly advanced stealth features to reduce radar, magnetic and acoustic signatures and is capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots. It can also carry an integrated Kamov 31 helicopter that is highly effective in airborne early warning roles. INS Trikand is commanded by Captain Ajay Kochhar, a gunnery and missile warfare specialist, and has a complement of about 300 personnel. Navy said the ship will “soon undertake her maiden passage to India to join her sister ships in Western Fleet.”


GDP snapshotz

Low cost airports to be set up

The government has decided to set up 51 new low-cost airports with an aim to give boost to civil aviation sector and increase air connectivity to Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
The state-owned airport operator, Airports Authority of India (AAI), would set up the low-cost airports in 51 cities in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Apart from the low-cost airports, the government has decided grant new international airport status to Bhubaneswar and Imphal at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore.
Also, construction of eight greenfield airports this year would be awarded under public-private-participation (PPP) mode for Navi Mumbai, Juhu in Mumbai, Goa, Kannur, Rajguru Nagar Chakan at Pune, Sriperumbudur, Bellary and Raigarh, a statement from Prime Minister's Office said.
Also, the government was mulling operation and maintenance of airports at Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Guwahati, Jaipur and Ahmedabad through PPP contracts.

The low-cost airports would come up at Vijayawada, Nellore, Kurnool, Kadapa, Nizamabad, Tirupati, Anantapur and Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh, Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, at Muzaffarpur, Chapra and Sasaram in Bihar, at Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Firozpur in Punjab, at Agra, Allahabad, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Meerut, Aligarh, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
Tezu, Bomdila and Along in Arunachal Pradesh, at Silchar, Jorhat and Tezpur in Assam, at Gwalior, Singrauli, Burhanpur, Khandwa, Jabalpur, Sidhi and Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh, Brahmpur, Rourkela and Kendujhar in Odisha, at Ajmer, Kota, Bhilwada and Alwar in Rajasthan and at Kolhapur, Nasik, Jalgaon, Solapur and Amaravati in Maharashtra are also expected to have low-cost airports.

Of NaMo's trip to Mumbai....

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi held a closed-door meeting with industry leaders during his first visit to the financial capital after he was made the head of BJP's Lok Sabha campaign committee over a fortnight ago.
The meeting, which lasted for almost two hours at a five-star hotel, was attended by a host of corporate leaders including Shashi Ruia of Essar Group, Kris Gopalakrishnan of Infosys, Adi Godrej, Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank, R Mukundan of Tata Chemicals, Nilesh Kampani of JM Financials and Sunil Advani of Bluestar, among others. The Birla Group was represented by its Chief Economist Ajit Ranade.
Industry biggies like Ratan Tata and the Ambani brothers have in the past showered praises on the BJP stalwart in the context of Gujarat's economic development. While to reporters, Godrej said there was no specific agenda for the meeting."It was a general discussion," he said and declined to elaborate.
However, it is understood that issues such as GST (goods and services tax) implementation and economic reforms were discussed during the meeting.
In April, Modi had addressed a much-publicised gathering organsied by top industry body FICCI.
The leader also met the top brass of the state BJP to discuss strategy for next Lok Sabha elections. However, former party president Nitin Gadkari was conspicuous by his absence.
BJP general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Rajiv Pratap Rudy, party's national spokesman Prakash Javadekar, BJP deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde, state unit president Devendra Phadanvis, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Eknath Khadse and in the council Vinod Tawde were prominent among those present during the meeting. "BJP has to be voter-centric. We have to go the people now and highlight the corruption of the Congress and good governance of BJP ruled states," Modi told the party’s state core committee.
State BJP unit president Devendra Phadanvis said Modi spoke of the 'statue of unity' of Sardar Patel which will be made in Gujarat and how iron used by farmers from seven lakh villages all over the country will be brought to that state for its construction. Sources said Modi also discussed the prevailing political situation in the state and the party's organisational matters and alliance with Shiv Sena. 

Mumbai Metro III plans kick off

The government has approved the plan for construction of a 33.5-km Metro corridor in Mumbai, which will run from Colaba to Santa Cruz Electronics Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ) via Bandra.
The approval for the corridor, also known as Mumbai Metro Line 3, was given at a Union Cabinet meeting, held on Thursday evening.
The project will be completed at an estimated cost of Rs. 23,136 crore and the standard gauge line would be underground, stated the detailed project report (DPR). The project is scheduled to be completed in six years, by March 2019. According to an official statement, the Cabinet has also approved the conversion of the existing state-level special purpose vehicle (SPV) - Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) into a joint venture company. The Central and the state governments will have equity participation in the company on 50-50 basis. The joint ownership company will continue to be called MMRC.
It was decided that promoters of MMRC, government of India and the Maharashtra government would nominate five directors each to the board of directors of SPV, which will have 10 nominee directors. The secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, will be the ex-officio chairman of the board, the statement said.

CAD snippets

The current account deficit, the excess of spending overseas than earnings, fell to 3.6% of the gross domestic product in the March quarter, showed data from the Reserve Bank of India. That’s lower than the revised 6.5% in the December quarter, limiting the fiscal year deficit at 4.8% of the GDP.
The battered rupee rose to 60.15 to the US dollar, from a record low of 60.76 on Wednesday. The currency slide is due to the exit of some international investors who see better opportunities in the US, where yield on benchmark treasury has climbed a percentage point recently and stocks are at record highs.
The CAD at $18.1 billion is much lower than the consensus estimate of $21 billion and the previous quarter’s $31 billion. Unlike in the past, net invisibles largely comprising service incomes and remittances by Indians abroad declined 7.7% from a gain of 27.5% a year ago.
Overseas investors have sold at least $6.6 billion of Indian stocks and bonds in June. With the cost of funds rising in international markets, Indian companies’ overseas borrowing could fall and reduce the US dollar inflows.
The rising debt of Indian companies in relation to the overall foreign exchange reserves, which is at its lowest since 1997, also poses a threat to the rupee.

Government gets gutsy

The government has approved doubling the price of natural gas from the next fiscal year, giving a shot in the arm for Reliance Industries and ONGC, and encouraging a surge in investments in exploration, although cost of electricity, fertilisers and CNG will rise. After dithering over the decision for many months, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) finally overruled stiff opposition from gas customers and took the courageous decision, which analysts said will quickly raise India’s exploitable reserves of gas as higher prices will make more discoveries commercially viable. Government and industry officials said prices may also fall in the medium term as they are linked to international benchmarks, which move in both directions.

With the new formula, based on the Rangarajan Committee’s report, prices are estimated to rise to about $8.4 per unit from April. The government has not given details of pricing, but analysts have estimated the price would rise to $10 per unit and even higher in the following years — rising sharply from $4.2 per unit that Reliance is currently allowed to charge. Officials said that for the Cabinet, prospects of higher output, which would still be cheaper than the current LNG prices, and the need to attract more risk capital in Indian basins outweighed stiff opposition from the power and fertiliser ministries as well as Leftist politicians. The new pricing formula would be valid for five years and the price would be revised every quarter.

Somewhere in West Bengal...

April 1, 2013: SEC moves Calcutta high court
April 4: State informs court that it is ready to hold elections on May 5 and 8
May 10: Justice Biswanath Somadder orders three-phase voting and upholds the supremacy of SEC in holding free and fair elections
May 13: State moves a division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi, challenging the single bench order
May 14: Division bench orders the state to notify the poll dates in consultation with SEC and says forces from other states will be called in only in case of a shortfall of state police
May 20: State announces three-phase polls on July 2, 6 and 9. SEC issues notification
June 18: SEC moves the division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi, saying the state has failed to assure adequate security
June 26: SEC moves Supreme Court seeking its intervention on security
June 28: SC orders five-phase polls to end by July 25

Petrol price hiked again

State-run fuel retailers have decided to raise the price of petrol by Rs 1.82 a litre, excluding state taxes, to pass on the impact of the falling rupee and the fuel’s rising price in international trading hubs.
This is the third hike this month and the new prices would be effective from Friday midnight. The actual raise at petrol pumps would be higher due to incremental increase in state levies. In Delhi, petrol will now cost Rs 68.58 a litre instead of Rs 66.39. Sources said retailers are set to raise diesel prices by 40-50 paise a litre early next week.

PM pushes infrastructure projects

Mumbai’s infrastructure received a major boost with the Prime Minister asking the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to award two greenfield airports—one in Navi Mumbai and the other in Juhu. The decision came a day after the Union Cabinet cleared the Rs.23,000 crore first underground Metro line for the city that will improve connectivity between Colaba and SEEPZ in Andheri via Bandra.
The PMO also asked key infrastructure ministries to roll out at least Rs 1.15 lakh crore PPP projects in the next six months. Prominent among them is the proposed elevated rail corridor from Churchgate to Virar.
A government release said that the besides the two greenfield airports in Mumbai six others across the country would be bid out during this financial year. One of them will be in Maharashtra, in Pune (Rajguru Nagar, Chakan). Moreover, five low cost airports will also be awarded this year in the state and these are at Kolhapur, Nasik, Jalgaon, Solapur and Amravati.
These are part of the long list of 50 new low-cost small airports which the government plans to award this year. These airports will come up by upgrading the existing small airports the AAI has in these cities.

Giving a boost to the infrastructure sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directed Airports Authority of India (AAI) to award 50 low-cost airports in 11 states during the current financial year. PM also asked the key infrastructure ministries to roll out at least Rs 1.15 lakh crore PPP (private-public partnership) projects in the next six months.
In the port sector, PM set the target of awarding one of the two identified greenfield projects, involving Rs 10,000 crore investment, during the current financial year. Sources said the proposed Sagar port in West Bengal can be awarded this year, while feasibility study of Durgarajapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh is underway.
To boost investment in railways, the government decided to form an inter-ministerial group of railways, finance and plan panel to come up with a creative financing-cum-implementation mechanism in two months for clearing the backlog of sanctioned projects of over Rs.2 lakh crore in a prioritized and time-bound manner.
It also realized the need for setting up of a Rail Tariff Authority, besides awarding two loco manufacturing projects, elevated rail corridor in Mumbai, eastern dedicated freight corridor and station redevelopment in the next six months. In the road and highways sector, the government hopes a “reversal” in the awarding of projects after a large number of relaxations for PPP projects. The ministry has set the target of awarding 9,500 km, which includes at least projects totaling at least 3,500 km on build, operate and transfer (BOT) model.

Lucknow Metro snippets

Inching closer towards making Metro rail a reality in Lucknow, the UP state cabinet gave its nod to the first phase of the project which will cover North-South corridor from Amausi to Munshipulia. The construction work would begin by year end and a major chunk would be completed by the end of current financial year.
The cabinet meeting, presided by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, took the decision after discussing the recommendations made on the project by a committee headed by the chief secretary. The total cost of this stretch is likely to be around Rs.7,000-8,000 crore.
The first phase, which will cover a 23-km stretch, will have 21 stations on the route. The North-South corridor will have three underground stations while remaining 18 will be built on elevated platforms. The major stops of this corridor would include Amausi airport, Charbagh, Vidhan Sabha, Hazratganj, Lucknow University, IT Crossing, Polytechnic Crossing and Munshipulia.
The government has decided to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV)- Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation --to implement the project. The SPV would comprise members from all stakeholders while its managing director would be from UP government.
The North-South corridor will have 3 km underground stretch from Charbagh to Hazratganj.

The draft proposal report (DPR) submitted by the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) in April 2011 suggested 7.2 km of underground stretch in this part. After a series of discussions between DMRC and Metro cell headed by UP housing secretary Rajiv Agarwal, it was decided that out of 7.2 km stretch, 4.2 km would be converted into elevated track which would save up to Rs.1,000 crore in the project.
The government has also approved adoption of The Metro Railways (construction of works) Act 1978, amended in 2009 and Metro Railway (operation and maintenance) Act 2002 for construction, execution and maintenance of Metro Rail service in Lucknow.

Of autonomy for the CBI....

The cabinet has accepted the recommendations of a ministerial group enhancing CBI’s autonomy through a collegium system to appoint the agency’s director and instituting an oversight panel to ensure impartiality of investigations.
The collegium will comprise the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, besides the Prime Minister and the chief justice of India, a move that dilutes the monopoly of the government in the appointment process for the sensitive post of CBI director.
The collegium is similar to that proposed in the Lokpal bill that is yet to be legislated.
The oversight panel, expected to act as a referee, will comprise three retired judges. The panel is intended to be a check on political interference in the CBI’s functioning, a charge often leveled by the opposition.
The measures accepted by the cabinet should address several concerns raised by the opposition and will be part of the government’s response to the Supreme Court due to be filed on July 6.
The court had asked the government to explain what it would do to ensure that the CBI’s functioning is insulated from the political executive in the wake of a heated controversy over former law minister Ashwani Kumar vetting an agency report on Coalgate.


United Nations Public Service Award 2013

Kerala Chief minister Oommen Chandy achieved a rare distinction by receiving the United Nation’s public service award for his mass contact programme which saw him directly engaging with the people to solve their grievances.
The awardees are chosen from five zones around the world every year. Chandy bagged the first prize for the Asia Pacific region category. Chandy received the award from under secretary general in the United Nations department of economic and social affairs Wu Hongbo, at the UN public service day ceremony held in Bahrain on Thursday.
Chandy’s mass contact programme was widely lauded as a unique democratic movement in which the chief minister met thousands of people directly and solved about three lakh of the 5.5 lakh petitions he received. The second leg of the mass contact programme is about to begin on August 12.
The evaluation criteria for the award included transparency, mechanisms to increase public’s ability to seek and receive information in a timely manner and monitoring and analyzing government decision-making and processes. 

India's External Debt

India’s external debt rose by nearly 13 per cent to $390 billion in 2012-13, mainly due to rise in short-term trade credit and external commercial borrowings (ECBs) in the back of high current account deficit, the Reserve Bank said.
The increase in the debt during 2012-13 was primarily on account of rise in short-term trade credit. There has been sizeable rise in ECBs and rupee denominated NRI deposits as well, it said.
The total external debt was about $345.5 billion at end-March 2012.
RBI further said that excluding the valuation change due to the movement of U.S. dollar against major international currencies and rupee, the external debt as at end-March 2013 would have increased by $55.8 billion. However, the actual increase was lower at $44.6 billion.
As per the data, share of ECBs ($120.9 billion) continued to be highest at 31 per cent of the total debt, followed by short term debt (24.8 per cent) and NRI deposits (18.2 per cent).
Trade credit components of external debt (both long-term and short-term) showed an increase of $20.3 billion during the period.
The NRI deposits increased by $12.2 billion to $70.8 billion as at end-March 2013 primarily on account of increase in rupee denominated NRI deposits reflecting the impact of deregulation of interest rates on these deposits in December 2011, RBI added.
As far as the currency composition of the debt is concerned, the U.S. dollar denominated debt continued to be the largest component with a share of 57.2 per cent, followed by rupee (24 per cent), SDR (7.5 per cent), Japanese yen (6.3 per cent) and euro (3.5 per cent).
The ratio of foreign exchange reserves to external debt as at end-March 2013 at 74.9 per cent was lower than the level of end-March 2012 (85.2 per cent).

Rupee sinks below 60

The Reserve Bank of India’s refusal to defend the rupee at 60 — a psychologically important level for many — led to panic in the foreign exchange market on Wednesday afternoon.
Banks rushed to buy dollars after having shorted the US currency on the bet the RBI would continue selling dollars.
As banks covered positions to cut losses, the rupee, already under pressure due to dollar demand from corporates, oil firms and foreign portfolio managers selling Indian securities, plunged to 60.76 before ending the day at 60.73, a new closing low against the dollar.

The RBI’s absence has also emboldened exporters, who are holding back the sale of dollar receivables. Many small importers, operating on thin margins, have been badly hit while some of the jewellers have also taken a knock, having kept imports unhedged while selling exports earlier when the rupee was stronger.
The rupee has lost almost 11% since May and was lower 1.7% from its previous close of 59.67 on Tuesday.

ULFA talks

The government and Ulfa moved closer to a political solution to the decades-old insurgency in Assam as the banned outfit abandoned its key demand of ‘sovereignty’.
“Certain things are still under discussion. But we hope the working draft will be ready very soon,” joint secretary (northeast) in the home ministry Shambhu Singh said.
After an hour-long meeting with a 26-member delegation of Ulfa, headed by ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa, Singh said the government understood Ulfa’s concerns and demands and was trying to find a solution to the three issues on which there was no agreement yet. The three issues are protection of the political and cultural identity of the indigenous people of Assam, land rights and illegal immigration.
Both sides discussed various aspects of the group’s ‘charter of demands’, which seek a constitutional amendment for finding ‘meaningful’ ways to protect the rights and identity of the indigenous people of Assam. The ‘sovereignty’ demand was not discussed.
Home secretary R K Singh who chaired the meet, termed the talks “successful” and hoped Ulfa ‘general secretary’ Anup Chetia would be repatriated from Bangladesh soon.

What a shame !

Regional politics pushed the relief and rescue operations in Uttarakhand to the background with Congress and TDP leaders literally fighting it out between themselves in Dehradun to transport the stranded AP pilgrims from the hill state to Hyderabad.
The embarrassing drama took place at Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport on Wednesday afternoon. While the Congress’ state government had arranged a Jet Airways Boeing 737 aircraft to ferry 168 pilgrims to Hyderabad, the TDP also had a Boeing 737 aircraft with carrying capacity of 190 passengers on standby. Those present to oversee the transportation of pilgrims on behalf of the state government and Congress comprised Union minister Balram Naik, state ministers D Sridhar Babu, Uttam Kumar Reddy and Rajya Sabha member V Hanumanth Rao. The TDP team comprised its president Chandrababu Naidu, MPs Ramesh Rathod, Nama Nageshwar Rao and K Narayana Rao. Both groups also had a large group of supporters in tow.
The trouble started when a bus load of pilgrims was making its way towards the aircraft arranged by the TDP. On noticing this, the Congress leaders directed the security personnel to divert them to the aircraft hired by the AP government. At this point, the two groups got into an ugly verbal and physical fight. Hanumanth Rao and Ramesh Rathod argued, shoved and pushed one another, after which the Congress MP got into a fight with TDP’s Narayana Rao. TV grabs showed Union minister Balram Naik telling Narayana Rao that he would ‘cut him into pieces’ if he came in the way of the pilgrims.

Karnataka says yes to Multi Brand Retail

Karnataka has joined 11 other states and Union territories that have agreed to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.
The BJP government had ruled out implementation of FDI in multi-brand retail. The Congress reversed this stance after assuming office in Karnataka.
Big business welcomed the Karnataka government’s decision to allow foreign multi-brand retail to operate in the state, but small business expressed their wariness and indicated they may protest the move.
Any which way, nobody expects a rush of foreign retail into the state. The Central government is yet to receive a single application from multi-brand retailers to establish operations in India, thanks partly to the stringent requirements that it has put on them, and partly to the absence of clarity on certain requirements. The Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), whose members are mostly big corporates, has welcomed the state government’s decision, terming it as a ‘step in the right direction’.
The Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FKCCI), a local industry body that represents small and medium industries, has so far opposed FDI in retail.
One of the organizations that has been most vociferously opposed to foreign retailers has been the Bangalore Wholesale, Food Grain, and Pulses Merchants Association. Its members mostly operate out of the APMC yards.



Hectic activity is on at Sriharikota for the lift-off of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C22) at 11.41 p.m. on July 1, which will put the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, IRNSS-1A into orbit. A PSLV-XL version, which uses six powerful strap-on booster motors, will put the 1,425-kg IRNSS-1A into orbit.
The IRNSS will have a constellation of seven satellites and the IRNSS-1A is the first of the seven regional, satellite-aided navigation systems built by ISRO. The PSLV-C22 would put the IRNSS-1A into an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 20,600 km and a perigee of 280 km. “From there, it will be taken to a geosynchronous circular orbit of 36,000 km with an inclination of 29 degrees to the equator,” Dr. Radhakrishnan said.
The IRNSS-1A will provide accurate information on the position of cars/trucks, ships and aircraft vis-à-vis their destination, with the help of a receiver. It could be an independent receiver, or built into a mobile phone, a car or a ship. The satellite can provide precise information when the aircraft is about to land on the runway. The pilot will know how far he is from the runway or at what height he is above the runway, with an accuracy of 20 metres. Unlike the Global Positioning System (GPS) which can be used anywhere, this is called a regional navigation system because it is available to users in India and the surrounding region. A highly accurate atomic clock is part of the navigation payload of the satellite. Thus, the IRNSS applications include terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, tracking of vehicles, guiding hikers and travellers, and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said ISRO was gearing up for a tough schedule in 2013 with the launch of INSAT-3D slated for July 26 by Ariane-5 vehicle of the Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana; the lift-off of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D5) with an indigenous cryogenic engine in August to put a communication satellite, GSAT-14, in orbit; the launch of GSAT-7 from Kourou in August; and the orbiter mission to Mars in October/November. INSAT-3D had already reached French Guiana.

Bajaj launches KTM 390 Duke

Bajaj Auto has launched its premium bike from the KTM platform at a price of Rs.1.80 lakh.
The KTM 390 Duke is the second offering from the KTM portfolio as Bajaj Auto had launched the first KTM offering, KTM 200 Duke, in January, 2012. The Duke is the first mid-size sports bike from the Bajaj stable.
The premium segment accounted for 1,000 units a month and Bajaj commanded nearly 75 per cent share in it. The company had so far sold 11,000 KTM 200s since its launch, out of which 7,500 units were sold last fiscal, Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajeev Bajaj said after the launch.
“The KTM 390 Duke is conceived, designed and developed at the Chakan plant. With the new offering, we have created a new segment not only in the domestic market but globally as well. So, there will be no direct competition to this product,” Mr. Bajaj claimed.

Mercedes Benz's new E-Class

German luxury car maker Mercedes Benz said it expects India to be among its top ten global markets by 2020, as it continues to bring latest models and spread sales network in the country.
The company which launched the new E Class model priced between Rs.41.51 lakh and Rs.44.48 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) said it will look to reduce the time gap between global showcase of a new model and its launch in India as part of its aggressive business strategy for the country.
Mercedes Benz India Managing Director and CEO Eberhard Kern commenting on the potential of the Indian market, said: "The base on which we are working is that by 2020 the overall car market in India will be 7 million units, up from 2.6 million last year."Of the total, the share of the luxury segment will be 4 per cent by 2020, as compared to 1.2 per cent last year, he added.
"So the potential is huge in India and we are preparing ourself for the future although 2013 will not be a good year for the auto sector here," Kern said.
The E Class will be available in both petrol and diesel options. While the petrol version is powered by a 2 litre engine, the diesel has a 2.2 litre engine. The company is also offering a special launch edition of the new E Class at Rs.49.9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

Digitization Drive update

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) extended the deadline for the submission of consumer application forms (CAFs) on behalf of cable television subscribers by 15 days to 10 July after a meeting with cable companies, avoiding the disconnection of their services.
Multi -system operators (MSOs), or large cable network operators, had been required to file the forms containing details of customers and their choice of channels with the regulator by 25 June.
A senior Trai official confirmed that cable companies had been given the extension, adding that this would be the last one.
“Forms have started coming in large numbers now. The MSOs need time to get to 95% of coverage so disconnection inconvenience is minimized,” said the Trai official on condition of anonymity.
The forms need to be filed by cable TV subscribers in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, the cities covered by phase one of the digitization drive.
The rules stipulate that MSOs cannot deliver signals unless they have the viewers details.

DGCX to list Sensex Futures

The Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange (DGCX) has announced it will launch a futures contract based on Sensex, the benchmark index of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
The contract will be formally listed by DGCX on July 5, 2013. The DGCX Sensex Futures will be the first Indian index futures to be introduced to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Considered the most accurate gauge of the Indian market, the Sensex Index tracks the performance of 30 of the largest and most heavily traded stocks in the country, DGCX said in a statement.
Once listed, DGCX Sensex Futures will provide unique trading opportunities for international investors seeking access to India's economy. The contract, denominated in US dollars, will use the same settlement methodology and calculations as its underlying index, the Sensex.
The launch follows DGCX's extremely successful Indian rupee contracts, which continue to generate record trading volumes.
The listing of Sensex Futures also marks DGCX's introduction of Equities as a new asset class on the Exchange.

Ford launches the EcoSport

US auto major Ford today launched its much-awaited compact sports utility vehicle EcoSport in India.

Ford EcoSport has been finally launched at an introductory price of Rs.5.59 lakh.
Ford EcoSport Pricing- Ambiente 1.5L Ti-VCT (MT Petrol)- Rs.5.59 lakh.
Ambiente 1.5 TDCi (MT/Diesel)- Rs.6.69 lakh
Titanium 1.0L EcoBoost (MT/Petrol)- Rs.7.90 Lakh
Titanium 1.5L TiVCT with Powershift (AT/Petrol)- Rs .8.45 lakh (all prices are ex-showroom, New Delhi)
Ford EcoSport is available in 10 Variants across 4 trims, 3 engine options and 7 colours.

The company's wholly-owned subsidiary, Ford India is betting big on the new compact sports utility vehicle, which is the second generation version of the model that was developed in Brazil and first launched in South America in 2003.
The EcoSport will take on Renault's best selling SUV Duster which is priced at a range of Rs.7.99 lakh to Rs.12.18 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). It will also be in the same segment as Mahindra Quanto, which is available at a price of Rs.5.99 lakh to Rs.7.75 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).
The company has already started taking bookings of the vehicle and deliveries will start from today.Ford India has invested USD 142 million at its Chennai plant to manufacture the EcoSport.
The model was showcased at the 2012 Auto Expo in the Capital and the company had then said that it would sell the new SUV in around 100 markets worldwide and it would be produced at plants in India and Brazil initially.

Of John Kerry's trip to India....

US Secretary of State John Kerry headed for Saudi Arabia after his three-day official visit to India.
Kerry had arrived on Sunday to co-chair the fourth round of the India-US Strategic Dialogue. He held talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Monday as part of the annual dialogue and also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday evening.
On Tuesday morning, he co-chaired the India-US Higher Education dialogue with Human Resource Development Minister MM Pallam Raju during which he said India and the US have the capacity to lead global education.
New Delhi was the second stop on Kerry's two-week tour (June 21-July 2) to seven countries in the Middle East and Asia. He had flown in from Qatar. From Jeddah he will travel to Kuwait City (Kuwait), Amman (Jordan), Jerusalem (Israel) and Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei).
Mr. Kerry said improved India-Pakistan ties are a catalyst for promoting regional trade and connectivity, which in turn could turn around Afghanistan’s fortunes. Last year, India-Pakistan trade had gone up by 21 per cent, but Mr. Kerry said there was still a long way to go. Both countries have had an acrimonious past but there is a new leadership in place in Islamabad which has indicated that economical revival is its number one priority. This approach could mark the “beginning of a new era” and “hopefully improve trust.” While half of his speech was devoted to clean energy and how India needs to be proactive, Mr. Kerry also touched on Afghanistan. India and the U.S. differ on holding talks with the Taliban leadership.
Mr. Kerry sought to draw New Delhi’s attention to next year’s presidential elections in Afghanistan that could mark the first-ever peaceful transition of leadership in recent history. The U.S. wants Taliban to renounce violence, break its ties with Al Qaida and accept the Afghan Constitution before any settlement with the group could be taken up, he said.
 A Chinese expert has described US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to India for bilateral strategic dialogue as Washington's attempts to woo New Delhi to contain Beijing.
"The US purpose is to contain and balance China," Shi Yinhong, an expert on American studies at the state-owned Renmin University told China Central Television (CCTV). "But India has an independent foreign policy, and what New Delhi wants out of the relationship may be different from what Washington is looking for," he said.
"The relationship is a complicated one," Shi said explaining that India has been unhappy about Washington's traditional links with Pakistan. Reservations had been expressed in New Delhi's diplomatic corridors about Washington's approach to Pakistan and the offer of talks with the Taliban ahead of US troop pullout from Afghanistan by 2014.
Beijing believes US concerns about China have played a role in Washington's increasing interest in India. But weeks before his visit to India, the first as Secretary of State, Kerry had called for a "special relationship" with China.

Somewhere in Kashmir....

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi chugged through the 11-km long tunnel in the inaugural train journey between Banihal to Qazigund along with 12 girl students of a government high school.
The PM praised the engineers for the feat describing the tunnel as an example of engineering marvel that connects two regions of the state, Sonia reached out to the people with a salve saying, “I know very well that painful incidents happen here occasionally, but our democracy has enough scope to sort out issues through dialogue and negotiations.”
“The people are fed up with violence and eager to taste peace and development. The large turnout of people during the Panchayat elections is proof of their desire for peace and development,” she said. The people’s hardships, Sonia said, with the new rail link would become a thing if the past. “The inauguration of the all weather track between Jammu and the Valley is part of the UPA’s commitment to peace and progress,” she said.

IAF chopper crashes in rescue effort

Nineteen people, including Air Force and para-military personnel and rescued civilians, were feared killed  when an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter crashed due to bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy said eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivors among the 19 onboard were remote.
"There were 19 people onboard including National Disaster Response Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered," he said.
A senior Air Force officer in Gauchar said the ill-fated Mi-17 chopper had made two trips to Kedarnath area on Tuesday morning and was on its third trip when it crashed.
The crash occurred in ‘difficult’ weather conditions created by rains and fog, he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed grief over the death of the 19 people.
“We should look at how we can regulate religious tourism, if at all it is possible considering the sentiments of the people, we should do that," he said.
Helicopter rescue operations to evacuate over 9,000 stranded people had picked up pace after rain and fog hit Uttarakhand on Tuesday morning. Currently, the death toll has mounted to 830, with 127 more bodies recovered from Kedarnath.
Official sources said 127 more bodies were recovered since Monday from Kedarnath area. At least 15 bodies of flash-flood victims were found floating in Ganga in different districts of Uttar Pradesh including Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr and Bijnore. 

Statue of Unity snippets

The construction of proposed “Statue of Unity”, a monument of Sardar Patel, is expected to commence in the beginning of 2014. Gujarat government intends to construct this tallest statue in the world that would surpass the famous Statue of Liberty in the US.
Sources said that it will take at least four years to build this statue at Kevadia Colony, facing the Narmada Dam. The height of the statue will be 182 metres and the entire project will cost Rs.2,000 crore. The global tender for building the structure is expected to be floated by the end of July. All the clearances like those from the Union environment ministry and from civil aviation ministry have been taken.
The government was not averse to seeking financial support from the public for the project as this would lead to maximum involvement of the masses in the project. “There is a view that an online request for donations for the statue be made. This would help turn the project into a mass exercise,” said an official.
Asked about the potential of the project to become a political issue on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls next year, the official said, “Even if it becomes a political issue in the beginning, the project will be eventually a national monument. Even Statue of Liberty had become a contentious political issue when it was erected but ultimately it became a monument with global recognition.”
BJP workers plan to collect pieces of iron from peasants in 7.5 lakh villages across the country for building the statue. The iron will have to be rolled into steel which will be used along with reinforced cement concrete to build the statue that will have a final brass coating.
Sources said that there will be a lift inside the structure that will take people to a height of about 150 metres to provide them with a breathtaking view of the Narmada dam.


Wireless subscriber stats

Mahindra Satyam becomes Tech Mahindra

After the Andhra Pradesh high court gave a green signal for the merger of erstwhile fraud-ridden Satyam Computer Services (later re-branded as Mahindra Satyam) with Tech Mahindra, the management of the later has announced a formal amalgamation of the two companies.
Tech Mahindra had acquired Satyam as part of a government sponsored bidding process in April 2009 and the two companies were operating as separate entities pending legal hurdles.
The management has decided to not give a new name to the new entity, retaining the Tech Mahindra name for the joint company based on a ''majority view of employees, customers and analysts,'' said C P Gurnani, the chief executive and managing director of the merged firm.
''The only difference is that the Satyam name will cease to exist from today,'' Gurnani added.
Vineet Nayyar who will remain as the executive vice chairman of the company said that there will be no major change in the company's operations as the two companies had been operating as one company.
''There is no excess weight which has to be shed, only more bone and muscles which have to be added,'' Nayyar said.
The entity will have $2.7 billion in revenues and 84,000 employees, and will become the fifth largest IT services company in India.

Hotel stats

Of India & Gold....

Uddhav slams #Feku

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray lauded Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and blasted Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for their respective roles in the ongoing rescue operations in disaster-hit Uttarakhand.
In an editorial in party mouthpiece "Saamana" on Tuesday, Thackeray heaped praise on Chavan for adopting a broad-minded approach, and ridiculed Modi for his parochial attitude in dealing with the fallout of the disaster.
"Chavan has shown Maharashtra's large-heartedness and magnanimity in the face of such a massive disaster, not only for the people of this state stranded in Uttarakhand, but for victims from across the country," Thackeray said.
He pointed out how Chavan declared, while dispatching a planeload of relief material with a large team of officials, that though the aid was intended for people from the state stranded in Uttarakhand, other victims would not be ignored.
Maharashtra has placed two helicopters at the disposal of the Uttarakhand government and extended aid of Rs. 10 crore, among the first states in the country to react quickly to the disaster.
"This is Maharashtrian generosity and the right approach. Though Shiv Sena has been accused of parochialism, even my party members have dedicated themselves to the rescue and relief works there. When we are faced with such a major national calamity, the political party, state or religion do not matter, we are all united," Thackeray said.
Targetting the Gujarat chief minister, the Shiv Sena president said that now Modi has been given a national role to play by the Bharatiya Janata Party and he should not speak in narrow terms for only Gujaratis.
"Most of the rescue works are being carried out by the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. They don't discriminate on the basis of the victims' state of origin or religion, but rescue them as human beings," Thackeray pointed out.
Thackeray said that besides Chavan and Modi, even other state governments have contributed to helping the victims of the natural disaster. "Nobody is doing any favour, it's their duty in the face of calamity," he said.
Thackeray lashed out at the Gujarat chief minister's propaganda machinery for claiming that 15,000 people from Gujarat were rescued in a day, the day of Modi's visit.
"It would be better if Modi's propagandists exercise restraint in future," Thackeray said.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Metro rail’s elevated line on 100 Feet Road between Vadapalani to Koyambedu is almost ready. Metro rail is planning to complete work by end of this year so that trains can be operated by mid-next year.

Terror strikes J&K

A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s visit to the Valley, suspected Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists struck brazenly at three places in Srinagar, killing eight soldiers and wounding 13 others.
This was the second big ambush in Srinagar in three days, with the previous daytime terror strike killing two police constables at Hari Singh High Street in uptown Srinagar on Saturday.
Defence sources said terrorists fired from automatic weapons at a convoy of 35 Rashtriya Rifles on way from Sonmarg towards south Kashmir at Hyderpora Bypass around 4.30 pm. While most terrorists were in a car with tinted glasses, two others were on a motorcycle, the sources said. The convoy was their main target and all the eight jawans killed were at Hyderpora Bypass, close to Classic Hospital, in the firing and grenade attack.
The terrorists then split with the two motorcycle borne militants heading towards Airport Road where they fired and hurled a grenade at a police post at Bardala bridge, injuring a CRPF jawan and one police constable. Amazingly, they were not intercepted and reached a CRPF camp at Karanagar where they fired at will and fled towards Barzulla check post.Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack. One Baliguddin, identifying himself as a Hizb spokesperson, called up a Srinagar news agency and said his group has formed several squads and more attacks had been planned.
The terrorists were finally intercepted at Barzulla. In a brief shootout, another CRPF jawan and a policeman were injured. The terrorists then fled from the spot leaving behind their motorcycle. The area in Barzulla was cordoned off and a search launched, police said.
Inspector general of police A G Mir confirmed the attackers belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen. An intelligence officer said Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba has been told by ISI not to claim responsibility for such attacks. “The attacks are in fact launched by LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen has been asked to take responsibility to show that militancy is indigenous, a movement for Azadi,” he said.


PM's Relief Fund

Of Cheaper medicines....

Drugs pricing regulator NPPA has issued the second list of ceiling prices of 40 drugs, substantially bringing down prices of widely used antibiotics, anti-diabetics and blood pressure medication, in line with the national pharma policy.
According to the list, prices of medicines like antibiotic amoxicillin 500 mg will be capped at Rs 6.09 per capsule , gastro-intestinal omeprazole 10 mg at Rs 2.76, omeprazole 20 mg at Rs 3.02, while diabetic drug metformin 500 mg at Rs 1.56, and cholestrol-lowering medicine atorvastatin 10 mg at Rs 5.91 per tablet. Others like blood pressure medication atenolol 50 mg will be capped at Rs 2.07 per tablet, while anti-depressant diazepam 5 mg at Rs 1.32. In the June 17 notification covering 151 packs, ceiling prices of widely used medicines like painkillers, anti-infectives, anti-cancer, antibiotics and cardio-vascular would lead to a reduction of up to 50% by July-end.

Safe City Project snippets

Seven metropolitan cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad — will soon have individual air surveillance systems where helicopters with gun-toting commandos, balloons fitted with cameras and sophisticated sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will keep round-the-clock vigil over the cities.
The system, which was successfully used in the Capital during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, will now be replicated in all these cities under the ‘Safe City Project’ of the home ministry. It will be a permanent feature in all the seven metropolitan cities, unlike the one used in Delhi only during the Games period.
The ministry had, in February, approved Rs.432 crore for this purpose, which is an integral part of the mega-city policing plan of the government. The CCTV surveillance, command control centre, highway patrol cars and fusion centre (keeping all data having bearing on safety and security at one place) are other components of this project. The fund will be used to procure modern equipment like GPS/GIS (geographic information system) for the dial 100 system and patrol cars, CCTV systems, vehicle scanners, vehicle number plate identification system, cyber patrol and communication monitoring system and integrated GIS-based automated vehicle tracking and management system.
In its latest guidelines on the ‘Safe City Project’, the ministry said, “Air surveillance can be obtained by positioning various equipment i.e. balloons, UAVs, helicopters etc which should have gadgets like cameras, sensors etc to cater to specialized requirements on the occasion.”
The data (video, audio, text) collected from these devices would be fed to the command control centre (CCC) for necessary action for both preventive and post-incident operations.
It said the CCC – having a network of computer systems — would be the heart of the Safe City Project. Such centres — one each in every city — will have the capacity to store, analyze and disseminate data, wherever required, though a ‘fusion centre’. The fusion centre will keep comprehensive database from various fields like vehicle registration numbers, UID numbers of citizens, residential addresses, PAN card details and crime-related details. It will, eventually, be linked with the Centre’s NATGRID — National Intelligence Grid – project.

Forget post - Godhra riots : Rajnath

In a veiled reference to the 2002 post-Godhra riots, BJP president Rajnath Singh appealed to the Muslim community to “ignore it”.
“There may have been some incidents but can we not ignore them now? Incidents have been happening and 13,000 communal riots took place in the country before 2002. Rajasthan has seen the regime of Bhairo Singh Shekhawat and Vasundhara Raje but there had been no discrimination against minorities,” Singh said.
“I want to build confidence among you (Muslims) that there is no difference in our words and deeds. The British ruled with a ‘divide and rule’ policy, but after 66 years of independence, governments could not bridge the gap between Hindus and Muslims,” the BJP leader said at seminar on ‘issues before minorities’. Singh asked people to approach him if there was any case of discrimination against the community in BJP-ruled state. “If you find any discrimination with the community in any of the BJP ruled states, come to me with your complaint or write to me, I will reply and try to solve the problem,” Singh said. He also underlined the importance of paying respect to each other saying, “This is important to make the country and society sensible.” 


Chidu on the Rupee tumble

Finance Minister P Chidambaram tried to once again soothe frayed nerves of investors, saying there was no need to panic over the recent slide in the Indian rupee's value against the US dollar.
The finance minister also said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would take steps when necessary to control further slide.

The Indian rupee slumped to a record low of 59.98 against a dollar on Thursday, a day after the US Federal Reserve signalled an end to its monetary stimulus on signals of recovery in the US economy.
"I think Mr Bernanke's statements are being misunderstood. It is not just you all (Indian journalists) but your counterparts outside also," Chidambaram said on Friday.
The minister said the dollar has appreciated sharply against all major global currencies and not just the rupee.
"My request is we should not react and panic... It is happening around the world," Chidambaram said.
The Indian rupee recovered a little on Friday, closing at 59.27 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange market in Mumbai against its previous close of 59.57.

Shivaji statue update

Nine years after Congress-led government in the state made an election-time promise of constructing a 312-ft statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji off the Mumbai coast, the Centre on Thursday gave the project an in-principle approval.
Addressing a press conference, Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natrajan said the finalised site in the Arabian Sea, an 18-hectare rock, was a “safe place”.
She said, “Even during high tide, the rock stands three to four mts above sea level.”
The project,which will come up in Coastal Regulation Zone-4 (where no construction is allowed), was approved in principle as a special case, the union minister said.
“We have studied the case thoroughly and are satisfied. No commercial activity is being allowed,” she said, adding she was “honoured and privileged”to announce the approval for the project.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that as many as 40 clearances will be required to create a memorial to the Maratha King Warrior.

A drop in LPG usage

A tight vigil against diversion of subsidized fuel meant for domestic use seems to be paying off. The consumption of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), commonly called cooking gas, has started to dip since government capped sale of subsidized cylinders to every household.
For the first time ever, sales have also fallen for two successive months in comparison to the corresponding period of previous year. Consumption fell 0.7% in April 2013 over April 2012 while in May the fall was more pronounced at 5.2%.
The government capped the number of LPG cylinders for a household to six a year effective September 2012, but later enhanced the limit to nine per year in January 2013 under pressure from political allies.
During April-May 2013, cooking gas consumption in India fell to 2.4 million tonnes from 2.5 million tonnes in April-May 2012, a fall of 3.3%, according to provisional data from the three state-owned oil marketing companies. This includes both piped as well as bottled LPG. Oil planners had anticipated a 4-6% growth in LPG consumption for the 2013-14 fiscal. But, early figures suggest growth may be slower. LPG consumption grew around 10% in 2011-12 before it dropped sharply to 1.8% in 2012-13.
Interestingly, while sales of the 14.2-kg cylinder meant for domestic use has dipped, officials said consumption of the 19-kg cylinder meant for commercial purposes has grown around 10% since September 2012 (when the order to cap subsidized cylinder was announced).
While it is evident that diversion of subsidized LPG for commercial and automotive purposes has halted, some analysts also attribute it to a slump in industrial activity.