Maha tiger numbers on the rise

The number of tigers in Maharashtra are increasing, says the latest census. The numbers are either stable or rising in other states too. But wildlife experts still see red over conservation efforts, which are hampered by rampant poaching and construction of infrastructural projects in forest areas.
While the source population has been better protected in most states including Maharashtra since 2006, the offspring dispersing to areas beyond the core sanctuary fall prey to poaching and human development, said experts.
The latest tiger census data released in 2011 shows that the average number of tigers in Maharashtra grew from 103 in 2006 to 168 in 2011. Other states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam and the Western Ghats region too saw a rise in the tiger population , reveals new surveys conducted by using camera traps. “This is primarily due to some measures taken by the various states governments. For instance, Maharashtra has declared five new tiger sanctuaries in last three years and brought 620 sq km area under legal cover.
These new sanctuaries are in strategic locations for the breeding and safe dispersal of tigers. “No other states have declared so many sanctuaries for the tigers.
The government has also relocated over 17 villages from core areas of tiger sanctuaries. ,” said Kishor Rithe, member, national board of wildlife. Rithe, however, points out that these figures are only a mirage as bigger perils still threaten the survival of tigers.
According to experts, poaching is a crime more ignored and undetected. Independent estimates show that only 2-3% poaching cases are detected, of which only a miniscule reach the conviction stage. The new population of tigers which move out of the core area to look for its own territory is always at peril in the corridors which are monitored more closely by poachers than by the forest officials. “There is a complete lack of intelligence network to prevent poaching.
The poachers are more aware of the movement of tigers and the exact time when they would appear at a specific water-hole than the forest officials,” said Nitin Desai of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).There are very few safe corridors which link reserves in Tadoba, Pench and Mehghat to other states.

CM Prithviraj Chavan is all set to announce a CBI inquiry into tiger poaching cases unearthed in Vidarbha between October 2012 and May 2013.
Gang of tiger poachers arrested in June first week by the forest and police officials in Mansar near Nagpur have confessed that their separate teams killed at least 11 tigers in the eight months. However, forest officials have recorded killing of only five tigers. All the tiger skins were sold to Sarju Bagdi, a tiger skin and body parts trader from Haryana/ Delhi in April and June by the poachers. First deal for six skins was struck in April in Bhandarbodi near Ramtek while another five skins were sold in June near Amdi.
The number may be even more if the 16 poachers whose names were revealed by poachers Chika and Mamru are nabbed. The 11 tigers were killed in Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh.

Somewhere in Pokhran....

The Pinaka Mark II Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System has undergone successful trials at Chandhan area in Pokhran field firing ranges. The trials which started on Friday were witnessed by officials of DRDO and Army trial teams. “Pinaka Mark II trials were sucessfully conducted at the Pokhran field firing range. The target was successfully destroyed in Keru area which was located 30 km from the firing point. DRDO officers and Army officers have shown satisfaction on successful trials,” DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said.
“The state-of-art weapon for destroying and neutralizing enemy troop-concentration areas, communication centres air terminal complexes, gun and rocket locations and for laying mines by firing rockets with several warheads from launch vehicles has been developed by DRDO. High operational mobility, flexibility and accuracy are its major characteristics, which give the weapon an edge in modern artillery warfare for the Indian armed forces, the spokesperson said.
Pinaka could fire a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds from a launcher.

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Chief minister Narendra Modi has asked officials to expedite the issuing of Aadhaar cards and take up this campaign on mission mode.
At a review meeting, it was also decided to create a ‘state resident data hub’ with details of Aadhaar card holders who are beneficiaries of various multi-purpose welfare schemes.
Earlier, the chief minister had asked a cabinet sub-committee to prepare a report with a view to assuring maximum benefits to the Aadhaar card holders in a planned manner while complying with central government guidelines. Following the suggestions of the sub-committee, Modi also gave inputs on expediting Aadhaar registrations and issuances, to expand its reach in as short time as possible.
Modi pointed out the importance of Aadhaar cards to identify true beneficiaries of Garib Kalyan Mela.
He also suggested using MMS and m-governance technology to acquaint people with the entire process of getting an Aadhaar card and availing of its benefits.

Gomti Riverfront Project

The Lucknow Development Authority said the beautification and landscaping project of Gomti riverfront may start by September end. The first phase would cover 1.7 km stretch of the riverbank from Hanuman Setu to Daliganj Pucca pull (bridge).
The appointed consultants ‘Urban Aqua-ANB Consultants-Tech Pro’ consortium have submitted the design and lay-out plan of this stretch to LDA about ten days back. LDA is currently reviewing the cost factor of various items proposed by the consultants for this route.
The beautification of this stretch may require about Rs.300 crore. But before the plan is executed, the mammoth task is to cleanse the river and add more water to make the project feasible. The river is severely contaminated with pollutants which flow in from drains across the city. Irrigation department has been given the responsibility to clean the river and replenish it with the required quantum of water.
The project endorses usage of water-steamers for ferrying passengers to the adjoining areas of the river. The stretch would see deployment of specially designed cruisers in river which can navigate in shallow waters. Experts, however, claimed that piers of old bridges still remain in the river-bed which could be hazardous during the cruise, hence the remnants need to be removed by irrigation department as it cleans the river.
Between Hanuman Setu and Daliganj Bridge, LDA plans to build ‘Awadh Haat’ –an art and exhibition centre which would have stalls showcasing Lucknow’s handicraft. There is also a proposal to erect an iconic structure ‘Lucknow Eye’ of about 70-80 metres on the patterns of London Eye on the riverbank. Near Shaheed Smarak, a hanging bridge would be suspended across the river for pedestrians.
In front of Mankameshwar Mandir, a small pond would be created on the river bank for idol immersion and other rituals. Since idols contain chemicals they pollute the river. The pond would be separated from the river and its water would be released in the river only after thorough cleaning.
A hydrological study of the river was conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee team some time back to review the project’s feasibility. Its draft report came out only a month back which cautioned the consultants not to construct any thing within 250 metre range of both side banks. The consultants accordingly made a few variations in the plan where they had proposed structures within 250 metre range. A senior official said, “A retaining wall would be made along the river stretch to strengthen its banks. Only then, would the above mentioned structures be constructed beyond 250 metre range of the river. A major part of the riverbank would be covered under landscaping which has least impact on the river’s heath.”
The project recommends construction of pathways and cycle-tracks along peripheral embankment. The landscaping work includes theme-based parks, pathways, joggers' park, cycle tracks, water sports, greeneries, promenades, kiosks and other recreational amenities on both sides of the river.

Kudankulam #2 snippets

After the successful commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant recently, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is working towards operationalising the second 1000 MW unit in March. The crucial dummy fuel loading process in the unit has been completed.
With the countdown beginning for power generation from the 1000 MW first unit, Atomic Energy Commission secretary Arun Srivastava said as per the latest schedule that was conveyed to the commission, the second unit is likely to go critical in March. The dummy fuel bundles are similar to the actual fuel in dimension and weight, except that they do not have uranium.
Currently, preparations are in progress for the strength test of the reactor containment in unit II. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman S S Bajaj said the board will give clearances upon receiving requests from the NPCIL. “After dummy fuel loading, hydro testing of the nuclear steam supply system circuit will take place,” he said. During hydro testing, the entire circuit will be tested for strength and integrity at very high pressure to ensure ultimate safety.
Hot run tests, similar to that of unit I, will be conducted, Kudankulam nuclear power project director R S Sunder said. During the hot run phase, the entire nuclear steam supply system circuit, including the nuclear reactor, steam generators, pressuriser, reactor coolant pumps, main coolant piping, and main steam lines to turbine will run continuously for more than 200 hours.
After the tests, the dummy fuel will be removed from the reactor and final inspection of the internals of the equipment and piping will be carried out and the reports will be sent to AERB. Upon getting final clearance, the actual fuel loading of the uranium nuclear bundles will be done, which will pave way for criticality.

Katju's musings

Press Council of India (PCI) chief, Justice Markandey Katju called for unification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh into one secular state while coming down on Narendra Modi in a oblique reference to the Gujarat chief minister’s ‘Hindu nationalist’ remark.
Delivering a lecture on the role of media in promoting secularism, Justice Katju said, “We must not be a Hindu nationalist, or even Muslim, Sikh or Christian nationalists. We must all be Indian nationalists. India is a country of diverse people and could not be run for a single day without secularism.”
The former Supreme Court judge said any of type of fundamentalism should be uprooted. “Look at the state of affairs in Pakistan. They wanted to have an Islamic state but it has turned into a Jurassic park. There are schisms between Punjab, Sindh or Balochistan provinces. Sometimes I feel it is not a country at all but just a creation of the British to divide Hindus and Muslims. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh should reunite into one secular country,” said Katju.
He also accused a section of media persons of becoming ‘kar sevaks’ during the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. “They became part of the incident instead of covering it. Although I would not like to name them,” Katju added.
He also charged the media with negative portrayal of the Muslim community. “Whenever a bomb blast occurs, within a short time many TV channels start reporting that an email or SMS has come from some Muslim organization like Jaish-e-Mohammed or Indian Mujahideen claiming responsibility. This demonizes the entire Muslim community. An e-mail or SMS can be sent by any mischievous element,” he said.
He termed Mughal king Akbar as the first secular leader who laid the foundation of modern India through his policy of universal tolerance.

Insat - 3D

India’s advanced meteorological satellite, Insat-3D, which will help improve weather predictions, was launched by an Ariane-5 rocket at 1.24am on Friday from the European spaceport in French Guiana.
Thirty-two minutes and 48 seconds into the mission, the spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and was placed in an elliptical geosynchronous orbit. In a recorded message to a gathering of Indian and European space scientists at Kourou’s Jupiter Control Room, Isro chairman, K Radhakrishnan said that Isro’s master control facility in Karnataka had acquired the signals from Insat-3D. With a lift-off mass of 2,060 kg and a mission life of over seven years, Insat-3D carries four payloads — imager, sounder, data relay transponder and a satellite-aided search and rescue system.

Isro officials said that a unique aspect of the satellite is that the sounder is a new type of equipment that will study the atmosphere. It will be the first geostationary sounder system over the Indian Ocean. Insat-3D will help IMD provide more accurate data for rainfall, thunderstorms and viability conditions for the aviation industry.



Lucknow Metro snippets

The construction work for the first phase of North-South (N-S) corridor of Lucknow Metro rail from Amausi airport to Munshipulia would start within the next six months and will be finished by March 2018. The high-level committee headed by chief secretary Jawed Usmani released the final plan after a meeting held with the principal secretaries of finance, housing and urban development, transport, home and planning department.
Likewise, the work on the East-West (E-W) corridor from Lucknow railway station at Charbagh to Vasantkunj on Hardoi Road would start after a gap of about one year and be complete by March 2019.
Though each corridor would take about 5-6 years to complete, senior officials predicted that the first train may start plying anytime around 2016, essentially on the N-S corridor which would be made partially operational by then.
The North-South Corridor will cover 22.878 km with three underground and 19 elevated stations while the East-West Corridor will cover 11.098 km with seven underground and five elevated stations.
Officials said till the time next phase starts, metro feeder services would be given to passengers of the left out areas on that route and their feeder fare would be inbuilt in the metro fare.

The high level committee on Metro rail headed by chief secretary Jawed Usmani has revealed the blueprint of the mass rapid transit project which is planned keeping in mind 28 years of traffic forecast till 2041. It is estimated that both corridors extending up to 42 km including the loop links (alternative routes) would easily help about 4 lakh passengers commute daily.
A significant move in the direction was that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation submitted the revised DPR (detailed project report) to the committee which would now discuss it in detail and forward it for cabinet approval.
The committee gave a green signal to the construction of the North-South Corridor. The metro tracks would be designed to sustain a maximum speed of up to 80 kmph. However, the scheduled speed for metro on N-S Corridor would be 34 kmph and for E-W Corridor would be 32 kmph. Total estimated completion cost (including cost escalation factor and Central taxes) for N-S Corridor would be Rs.6,757 crore and for E-W Corridor would be Rs.5,396 crore. Hence, the total estimated project cost is Rs.12,153 crore.
The fare collection system would be automatic through smart cards and POM. Metro rail would have two maintenance facilities—at Transport Nagar for N-S Corridor and at Vasnat Kunj Depot for E-W Corridor. To execute the project, an SPV (special purpose vehicle) – ‘Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation’ is to be formed regarding which a proposal of memorandum of association and article of association was floated. A committee has been formed under the chairmanship of principal secretary of finance to review the proposal and submit its report to the high level committee over next 15 days.
The committee also approved conducting a techno-feasibility study of about 42 kms of the first phase of the project including the loop links (alternative corridors) namely Gomtinagar link, Tulsidas Marg, Subhash Marg, Mill Road and Ring Metro line by DMRC based on its terms of reference.
It has formed a committee comprising principal secretaries of all related departments to inspect a proposed site at 32 battalion of PAC to create the depot for N-S corridor and give its approval in the next 15 days. Also, the options of financial assistance through alternative resources presented by the subcommittee formed under the chairmanship of housing secretary and chairman of metro cell Rajiv Agarwal were discussed at the meeting. The subcommittee proposed that the stamp duty of all properties lying within 500 metre of metro track on both sides shall be increased by 1% to avail necessary funding for metro’s operation. Also, UP Bridge corporation has been deployed to carry out geo-tech exploration of the project at a later stage.

Bangladesh seeks BJP's support for Land Agreement

As New Delhi continues to rue lack of political support for the land boundary agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh, the neighbouring country’s foreign minister Dipu Moni arrived here seeking to muster support from Opposition leaders.
Moni on Friday will meet BJP’s Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha where a Constitution Amendment Bill will be introduced in August for the ratification of the agreement. This is necessary because of exchange of territories (enclaves) involved.
The Bill needs to be passed by a majority in each House of no less than two-thirds of the members present and voting. She will also meet her counterpart Salman Khurshid.
Moni is in India for an event organized by the ORF. Her visit is also expected to prepare the groundwork for Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India next year.
The main opposition BJP, along with other parties like the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which prevented the government from introducing the Bill during the budget session, continues to oppose the agreement insisting that India is ceding too much territory to the neighbouring country. The additional protocol for the 1974 LBA was signed in September 2011 during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka.

Of Direct Benefit Transfer....

As the Centre stitches together its plan to roll out the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh seems all set to achieve full coverage of some benefits through the scheme.
The scheme has been touted as a game-changer for the Congress in the lead-up to the 2014 polls. Ironically, a BJP-ruled state seems to have taken the lead. “We have achieved 100% rollout on DBT on MGNREGS and Rs.350 crore has already been paid,” Aruna Sharma, additional chief secretary (panchayat and rural development department) and development commissioner said.
The state has achieved the milestone through its electronic financial management system. Through its Samagra Samajik Suraksha Mission, the state has been able to map families in all its 53,000 villages and has identified 7.5 crore beneficiaries.
The programme of transferring pension through this system is already in place in 15 districts and more areas would be added soon.
Sharma said more benefits would be moved to beneficiaries through the DBT scheme soon. The system would also be linked to Aadhaar, she added.
MP’s readiness to embrace a scheme the Congress launched with a populist “aapka paisa aapke haath” slogan comes amid indications that the Centre is yet to get a fix on how to roll out the ambitious plan nationally. On Wednesday, the PMO said the responsibility for the scheme’s implementation was being taken away from Planning Commission to be assigned to the finance ministry: an acknowledgement of getting banks on board.
The lead that MP hopes to acquire will be in line with the pattern of non-Congress ruled states faring better, much to the chagrin of the Congress, which has lamented the way governments belonging to opposition have profited politically by successfully implementing central schemes.

The Batla House Encounter Judgement

A sessions court held suspected Indian Mujahideen militant Shahzad Ahmad guilty of the murder of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who was killed during the controversial 2008 Batla House encounter in which two suspected terrorists were also shot dead by the Delhi Police raiding party.
Additional sessions judge Rajender Kumar Shastri also put to rest allegations that the shootout was a “fake encounter”, noting that even the defence counsel had never tried to argue that it was staged.
The minimum punishment Shahzad can expect is life imprisonment while the maximum is death. His sentence would be read out on July 29. The court also found him guilty of attempt to murder as two police officers were injured in the encounter.
This is the first conviction of any suspected IM member in the case that is connected to the 2008 Delhi serial blasts. Shahzad is also facing trial in the blasts case. The court, however, preferred not to delve into the alleged affiliation of Shahzad with the banned IM, which is accused of carrying out a number of terror strikes in the country since 2007.
“There is no evidence on record to establish that fact… This court cannot be expected to endeavour in giving any finding about it. For the purpose of this case, it hardly matters as to whether the accused was affiliated to Indian Mujahideen or not,” the judge said.

Of Domestic & Foreign Tourists....

Buniyaad's back on DD

TP schemes cleared for Dholera, Dahej

The Gujarat government has cleared town planning schemes for Dholera special investment region (SIR) and Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) at Dahej.
The decision was taken at a board meeting of the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) and special investment region authorities chaired by chief minister Narendra Modi.
Development plans of the two regions have already been declared. The meeting on Tuesday approved the proposed town planning scheme of Dholera SIR and Dahej PCPIR.
The chief minister also reviewed the ongoing agitation of farmers who are against giving their lands for the SIR but stressed the need for SIRs in state’s industrial development.
The SIR’s development master plan covers 879.33 square km area, while Dahej PCPIR is being developed on 452 square km area.
Government officials claim that the town planning schemes will give a development fillip to the both the regions, especially Dholera.
Official said that there are 22 villages in the notified area and none of them will be disturbed in the new plan.
Sources added that the town planning has ensured that locals remain the land owners. Only for the trunk infrastructure — drainage, sewage, solid waste networks — will the land be bought.
Once the area is developed they can sell their land or use it according to plan.
Of the total 91,970 hectares earmarked for the SIR, 38 per cent falls under Coastal Regulatory Zone-1, where no construction or development work is allowed.

CM postpones LBT implementation in Mumbai

CM Prithviraj Chavan deferred local body tax (LBT) imposition in Mumbai in view of election season, feel traders.
“It may be a while before LBT is implemented in Mumbai,” said a trader, whose association had joined the LBT bandh a few months ago. Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM) president Mohan Gurnani said protests would go on till LBT was “abolished”. FAM vice-president Arun Doshi slammed the “divide-and-rule” policy.Viren Shah, president of Federation of Retail Traders’ Welfare Association, agreed LBT should be withheld until traders are “taken into confidence”.


Of Declining Poverty....

The number of India’s poor fell to less than a quarter of its population in 2011-12, according to a Planning Commission estimate, giving the government a reason to cheer amid the recent raft of disappointing macro economic data.
The commission said the number of those below the poverty line declined to 21.9% of the population in 2011-12, from 29.8% in 2009-10 and 37.2% in 2004-05.
The estimate, based on a survey of household consumer expenditure, showed rural poverty declined to 25.7% from 41.8% in 2004-05, while in urban areas it fell to 13.7% from 25.7%.
The sharp drop was attributed to the high real growth in recent years, which raised the consumption capacity.
The data showed that nearly 2 crore people were pulled out of poverty every year from 2004-05 onwards, which resulted in a sharp drop in those below the Tendulkar poverty line to 27 crore in 2011-12 from 40.7 crore in 2004-05.
The national level poverty ratio is based on Suresh Tendulkar methodology, which uses the mixed reference period after National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) tabulated expenditure of about 1.2 lakh households across the country. The national poverty line has been fixed at Rs.816 per capita per month for rural areas and Rs.1,000 for urban areas.
“Thus, for a family of five, the all-India poverty line in terms of consumption expenditure would amount to about Rs.4,080 per month in rural areas and Rs.5,000 per month in urban areas,” the Planning Commission said.

The government has set up a committee under C Rangarajan to review the Tendulkar methodology that has been criticised in the past for fixing poverty lines that were too low at Rs.22.42 per person in rural areas and Rs.28.65 in urban areas.
“Since the data from the NSS (National Sample Survey) 68th round (2011-12) of household consumer expenditure survey is now available, and the Rangarajan committee recommendation will only be available a year later, the Planning Commission has updated the poverty estimates for the year 2011-12 as per the methodology recommended by Tendulkar committee,” the Planning Commission said in a release.
The release showed there would still be a decline in the poverty rates from 2004-05 levels even if a method other than the Tendulkar methodology was used to determine the poverty line.
Data from the survey in 2009-10 has not been used for comparison as the year was a drought year. In 2004-05, 37.2% of the country’s population was below the poverty line with ratios for rural and urban areas at 41.8% and 25.7%.
The rate of decline was 0.74% per annum during the 11-year period from 1993-94 to 2004-05.
Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of poor people at 598.19 lakh, which is 29.4% of the state’s total population followed by Bihar at 358.15 lakh (33.7%), Madhya Pradesh at 234.06 lakh (31.6%), Maharashtra at 197.92 lakh (17.3%) and West Bengal at 184.98 lakh (19.9%).
Prime minister Manmohan Singh had last week highlighted the UPA government’s record in poverty reduction, contrasting with the lower fall in the NDA regime and earlier.
“The percentage of population below the poverty line declined at 0.75 percentage points per year before our government came to office in 2004-05. It has fallen more than 2 percentage points per year between 2004-05 and 2011-12,” Singh said at an industry association function last week.

Air India hops to Australia

Somewhere in Madhya Pradesh....

Delhi Police's Safe City Project

For more than six months, Delhi Police has been working on the Safe City Project with a simple motive—effective policing. But the system itself is complex, built on four components. The two most important parts are its Integrated Intelligent Surveillance Systems (IISS) and the Automated Traffic Management Systems (ATMS), followed by capacity building and initiatives for upgrading. The IISS at the ground level will mean that all officers on the road will use hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA) devices that are no less than a computer. The PDAs will have online access, enabling an officer to check whether the car he has hailed for inspection is stolen or the driver has a crime record. These single checks will help police secure the city.
The project will multiply police’s surveillance capabilities with CCTV cameras. At present, Delhi has CCTVs installed in 26 markets and at five border points. Installation work in 28 other markets and 10 border points is 65% done. CCTV installation at the Supreme Court, high court and district court complexes is also over. All these steps will bring the total number of surveillance cameras up to 5,333.
Once the Safe City Project gets rolling, another 6,625 cameras will be installed at 479 locations while the traffic police are expected to install 5,000 cameras at important intersections, taking the total to 16,928.
Delhi Police’s cyber cell led by joint CP Sandeep Goel, the special cell led by joint CP MM Oberoi and the traffic police led by additional CP Anil Shukla will oversee implementation of the project in the next two years.
The ATMS will be a unified solution for traffic problems. It will be able to track e-challans, check speeding at night with night-vision speed detectors. It will also analyze the peak loads and junction management.
Other initiatives under the project include a PCR upgrade, cyber security, training of field officers, data integration with private entities like hotels at the local level and disaster fighting authorities like fire brigade and National Disaster Management Authority. Besides the police’s C4i control room, there will be two data centres, two mobile command centres, 800 mobile terminals for PCR vans and 6,000 handheld devices.
Experts, however, say the project alone cannot make Delhi safer. “It is important that Delhi Police customize the software. For example, fog and monkeys—common Delhi problems—can play havoc with video analytics,’’ said Dipankar Ghosh, director of a firm that deals in such security solutions.

Sebi's powers get upgraded

In a major upgrade of Sebi’s powers, the government has allowed it to pass orders like search and seizure, attachment of properties, arrest and detention of defaulters and pass disgorgement directions to recover wrongful gains made in contravention of laws.
At the same time, the government has allowed Sebi to seek information from other regulators within India and abroad with retrospective effect, paving the way for collection of details pertaining to cases pending for over 15 years.
In another retrospective change, which forms part of the Securities Laws Amendment Ordinance promulgated last week, individuals and companies being probed by Sebi can settle their pending investigations. Such settlements can be undertaken in cases that are currently pending for more than six years.
To tackle ponzi schemes being floated as collective investment schemes (CIS), rules have been amended to classify any collection of Rs.100 crore or more as a CIS operation.

Amartya Sen does not want NaMo as PM

Coming out strongly against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said he does not want him to become India’s Prime Minister as he does not have secular credentials.
The prominent economist also criticized Modi's model of governance saying he did not approve of it.
“Yes, I don't want him,” Sen told a television channel in reply to a question on whether he wanted him as his PM. “As an Indian citizen I don’t want Modi as my PM... He has not done enough to make minorities feel safe,” he said.
On being asked why he did not want so, Sen said, “He could have first of all been more secular and he could have made the minority community feel more secure.”
“No, I don't approve of it... I don't think the record is very good. I think I don't have to be a member of the minority in order to feel insecure... We Indians don't want a situation where the minority feel insecure and could legitimately think that there was an organized violence against them in 2002. I think that is a terrible record and I don't think Indian Prime Minister as an Indian citizen... Of who has that kind of record. No, I do not.”
Sen said physical infrastructure in Gujarat may be good but Modi has not done enough for minorities or for the majority. He also said that the Gujarat model needs to do much more on the health and education sectors and bring equity.
He said Modi could have made the majority community feel that they are not maltreating the minority and going against the long Indian tradition of being tolerant.
“He could have also taken both of the facts that Gujarat record in education and healthcare is pretty bad and he has to concentrate on that... as much as he is concentrating quietly as it has happened on physical infrastructure,” the Nobel laureate said.


Aviation : June 2013

Food Security Bill : Snapshotz

Of Poison in a plate....

The spot report by a senior HRD ministry official on the midday meal tragedy in Gandamal village of Bihar’s Saran district has blamed the school principal for the death of more than 20 children and pointed out a systemic failure of the state government in monitoring the flagship programme.
The report — prepared after talking to parents and students — has also said there were serious problems with the storage of grains and other food items.
Ministry sources said it was likely that the cooking medium used for the soyabean subzi was predominantly pesticide. “Earlier, it was thought oil was put in a pesticide container. But it seems that the lady cook used pesticide,” a source said. According to him, the subzi looked black and even smelt differently. “But the school principal insisted the cooking medium cannot be bad since it had come from her husband’s shop. When students refused to eat, the principal scolded and forced them to eat,” the source said. Worse, he said, when children started falling sick, the principal instead of reaching out for help, panicked and fled. “Crucial one and half to two hours were lost. Had these children been rushed to hospital immediately, a few lives could have been saved,” he said, adding that the forensic report released on Saturday confirmed unusually high level of pesticide content.


Team NaMo

The BJP announced an 11-member campaign committee headed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 20 campaign panels to deal with manifesto drafting, vision document, new voters and media management among others.
The campaign committee includes BJP chief ministers Shivraj Chauhan, Raman Singh and Manohar Parrikar besides central leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu. Party veteran L K Advani who had vehemently protested Modi’s appointment as head of the panel at the BJP’s national executive in Goa, has apparently been left out due to his seniority.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide Amit Shah will be part of the BJP’s media management committee, alongside Sudhanshu Trivedi, political advisor to BJP chief Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
Party veteran L K Advani, who was not named to any campaign panel, is part of election-related discussions as a member of the BJP parliamentary board which on Thursday cleared the 20 campaign panels and 11-member campaign committee headed by Modi.
The manifesto committee is headed by former party president Murli Manohar Joshi and includes senior leaders Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha.
BJP’s vision document will be drafted by Rajnath Singh’s predecessor Nitin Gadkari. Others on this committee include Gadkari’s associate Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and O P Kohli. Karnataka leader Ananth Kumar will be in-charge of the committee entrusted with planning of rallies, while devising strategies to connect with “new voters” has been assigned to Amit Shah with others including Amritsar MP Navjyot Sidhu and Poonam Mahajan, daughter of late Pramod Mahajan.
BJP general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan is in-charge of public outreach. Reaching out to different sections of professionals will be overseen by RSS appointee Murlidhar Rao and Vinay Katiyar. A committee for “special contact” will be headed by Gadkari and election-related organization is the charge of Ramlal.
RS MP Mukhtar Naqvi is incharge of logistics like travel and programmes while Bihar leader Rajiv Rudy has been given charge of booth management.

Justice P Sathasivam is CJI

Exactly 40 years after having his first brush with the judiciary as an advocate, Justice P Sathasivam took oath as the 40th Chief Justice of India and began his nine-month-stint with the heavy task of lessening a monstrous pendency and large vacancies in high courts.
President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office to Justice Sathasivam at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Darbar Hall. Those present included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, PM Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP leaders L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Justice Sathasivam rushed from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Supreme Court to preside over a three-judge bench, which had several matters on the hearing list.
The primary task for anyone at the helm of affairs of the three-tier justice delivery system is to free it from the pendency of three crore cases. “Backlog of cases is the bottlenecks for delivering prompt justice,” he says.
Justice Sathasivam has radical ideas to tackle the problem. He wants to categorize cases based on the year of filing and assign them to courts with instructions to clear them within a specific time span. During the period of tackling backlog, these courts would not be assigned new cases. For this, he will soon hold discussions with judges of the Supreme Court, high court chief justices, CMs and the Union government for creation of more courts and appointment of judges.
With a large number of posts of judges in HCs lying vacant, the new CJI will get a chance to implement his idea of giving adequate representation to women and members of backward classes, who he says must meet the minimum criteria, in the higher judiciary.

Bounty for UP

The SP government’s tough stance saw the finalization of a massive plan size of Rs.69,200 crore for Uttar Pradesh for financial year 2013-14.
The plan size, which is 19.72% higher than approved outlay for 2012-13, included Rs.11,225 crore as Central assistance. In addition, the state is expected to get about Rs.18,000 crore from the UPA through various Centrally-sponsored schemes despite UP’s poor performance on most of the socio-economic indices.
Ahluwalia later said that going by money actually spent by UP in the last fiscal, the increase was a whopping 40%.
The generous support from the Centre was imminent as the UPA government’s survival depends on outside support of SP after both the Trinamool Congress and the DMK walked out. UPA has since repaired bridges with DMK somewhat and can look to Janata Dal (U), but SP remains a key factor in the Lok Sabha arithmetic. 


N-Power stats


MCZMA gives approval for coastal road reclamation

A coastal road in Mumbai is a step closer to becoming a reality after the Maharashtra coastal zone management authority (MCZMA) approved reclamation of 160 hectares for the project and recommended the amendment of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification, 2011, to facilitate its implementation.
The MCZMA made this suggestion to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) in a meeting on June 10 “to decide on the increasing issue of traffic congestion”. The proposed reclaimed area would be almost half the length of Marine Drive.
The coastal authority has based its remarks largely on the recommendations of the joint technical committee, appointed by the state through a government resolution in June 2011. Amendments will be needed in the CRZ notification, 2011, as reclamation is banned in CRZ-I areas. Several key sections of the coastal road pass through mangroves and CRZ-I areas, forcing the civic body, the project proponent, to consider building the road on stilts or as a sea link. In its remarks on the joint technical committee’s recommendation, MCZMA said, “A coastal road based on reclamation having an average width of about 100m is a cost-effective option compared to others.”
The state had approved the technical committee’s proposal to use the reclamation option as it reduced the cost of the project by one-sixth, compared to constructing a sea link, and also reduced the construction period.
“We have made the remarks based on the committee’s recommendations. It is up to the MoEF to gauge the impact of reclamation on the local ecology and to make amendments in the CRZ notification to accommodate this project,” said AT Fulmali, member secretary, MCZMA.

Of MIG-21s....

Delhi Metro update

The Delhi Metro will be opening sections of the Phase III network over the next three years, with the entire network becoming operational in 2016.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief Mangu Singh said, “The new corridors will be opened in sections, while the extensions — to the Jehangirpuri and Badarpur lines — are expected to start operations by 2015.” The first stretch to become operational will be the Central Secretariat to Mandi House section. It will be commissioned in March 2014.
The other two extensions — to Badli and Ballabhgarh — will be commissioned by 2015, Singh said. While the Jehangirpuri-HUDA City Centre corridor will be extended by another 5 km to Badli by adding three stations, the Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor will be extended to Faridabad and to Ballabhgarh by adding two more stations, an addition of 3.5 km. These extensions will approximately be commissioned by March and May 2015 respectively.
Regarding the tentative timeline for Mukundpur to Shiv Vihar and Janakpuri (west) to Botanical Garden, Singh said that the official deadline for commissioning these corridors was 2016. For example, the Mukundpur-Shiv Vihar corridor has been broken into 4 sections — Maujpur to Indrapratha Extension, IP Extension to Nizammudin, Nizammudin to Dhaula Kuan and then, Dhaula Kuan to Mukundpur.
On the Janakpuri (west) to Botanical Garden corridor, the sections are divided into Kalindi Kunj to Ishwar Nagar, Ishwar Nagar to RK Puram, RK Puram to Indira Gandhi Airport, IGI to Janakpuri (west). “Usually, the sections near depots open first as the trains can easily run from depots to nearby stations,” said Singh. Both Mukundpur and the IP Extension have depots nearby — at Mukundpur and Vinod Nagar — and these are expected to become operational before the others, he added. In line 8 (Janakpuri to Botanical Garden), the depot will be in Kalindi Kunj.
According to Singh, elevated sections are likely to be finished earlier as work is faster on those sections. “Underground sections take longer to construct,” added Singh. A significant part of the two new corridors, especially line 8, is underground. In Phase III, DMRC will have underground corridors of 53 km with 34 underground stations spread across the three corridors – Mukundpur-Shiv Vihar, Janakpuri-Botanical Garden and Central Secretariat-Kashmere Gate. 

Kempe Gowda International Airport

Bengaluru International Airport will be named after the city’s founder Kempe Gowda. The Union government has approved a civil aviation ministry proposal to this effect.
Hiriya Kempe Gowda, a ruler during the Vijayanagar empire in the 16th century, administered most parts of Karnataka.
Having built the Bangalore Fort and moved his capital from Yelahanka, he is widely accepted as the founder of Bangalore. The IT capital’s airport would be called Kempe Gowda International Airport after the founder whose 503rd birth anniversary was celebrated this year.

ArcelorMittal scraps Odisha steel project

The world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal has decided to scrap its planned 12- million-tonne steel project in Odisha citing “significant external delays” in acquiring land and ensuring captive supply of iron ore.
The decision comes a day after South Korean steel giant Posco pulled out of a $5.3-billion steel project in Karnataka due to similar problems of delay in land acquisition and other clearances. But Posco has vowed to continue with its 12-million-tonne steel project in Odisha. ArcelorMittal had planned an investment of Rs.40,000 crore for the Odisha project. The company said it will continue its projects in Jharkhand and Karnataka. The two moves come close on the heels of the government’s decision to open up nearly a dozen sectors, including defence, to greater foreign participation in a bid to attract capital and plug a yawning CAD.
Indian industry is in the midst of a prolonged slowdown hit hard by sliding demand, high interest rates, stubborn input costs and a slowing global economy. Experts said that the steel sector globally is facing a slowdown due to declining demand. They said the pulling out of Posco and ArcelorMittal from the two projects is unlikely to have a major impact on the sector. 

Cabinet approves Mountain Strike Corps

The cabinet committee on security (CCS) gave its approval for raising a mountain strike corps along the China border. This would be India’s fourth strike corps, meant chiefly for offensive operations into enemy land, as well as India’s first dedicated corps for offensive mountain warfare.
This ambitious plan requires over Rs.64,000 crore spread over the next seven years.
The proposal has been hanging fire for the last several years, and had been delayed primarily because of financial considerations. CCS is not believed to have discussed the Army proposal for two other independent infantry brigades and two independent armoured brigades to plug its operational gaps along the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. If all the proposals are approved it would result in a total financial outlay of over Rs.81,000 crore during the 12th Plan period.
By the time India woke up in the late 90s to China’s modern infrastructure across the LAC, as well as rapidly modernizing military, it was too late to even play a catch-up game. Now, India is trying to build several strategic road links to the border, and to create a formidable military capability that can match up with the Chinese side. Many observers have said that it would take India several years before there is any parity with the Chinese PLA along the border.
The proposed mountain strike corps would be headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal. It would, for the first time, give India the capability to also launch offensive action into the Tibet Autonomous Region. The corps will have two high-altitude divisions for rapid reaction. India has raised two new infantry divisions at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. They are operationally tasked to defend Arunachal Pradesh. 

Maharashtra Industrial Development Bill, 2013

The Maharashtra legislative assembly passed a bill to create special integrated areas in special economic zones (SEZ). The bill will pave the way for 40% residential townships in SEZs.
Replying to a debate on the Maharashtra Industrial Development Bill, 2013, industries minister Narayan Rane allayed the Opposition’s fears that the legislation would hurt the interest of farmers in the state.
Rane said residential townships will help make SEZs feasible, especially in view of the ongoing economic meltdown.
Pointing out that many SEZs were in a state of limbo despite strident efforts by the state government, Rane said 40% residential townships will firm up these zones.
It will also help create housing stock in the state, he added.
Of the 146 notified SEZs in the state, only 17 areas were functional, while 22 SEZ areas were de-notified or withdrawn because of changes in the Centre’s policy.
Opposing the bill, Shiv Sena-BJP legislators described it as “anti-farmer”. Girish Bapat and Sudhir Mungantiwar of the BJP demanded that the bill be referred to the joint select committee, but Rane turned it down. The Opposition also demanded that 12% of the SEZ area be given to farmers.
The House finally cleared the bill after Rane’s reply.


PM clears raft of FDI proposals

The government delivered on its promise to relax the foreign direct investment (FDI) regime, allowing 100% foreign ownership in the telecom sector and in defence on a case-by-case basis, but fell short of expectations raised by the Arvind Mayaram committee.
Limits in aviation and multi-brand retail remained unchanged and there appeared to be considerable discretion in defence, where even 100% FDI seemed to have been allowed in theory but only if the investment resulted in state-of-the-art technology coming into the country. The defence ministry will determine what is state of the art.
Billed as one of the fastest decisions on the policy front, from conceptualisation to final implementation, the government hopes to give effect to the decisions taken on Tuesday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his colleagues after the cabinet formally approves the new FDI norms within the next few days. In sectors such as petroleum and natural gas and stock, power and commodity exchanges, the limit remains unchanged at 49% but approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will not be needed. The FDI limits have been raised for asset reconstruction and credit information companies at a special meeting convened by the prime minister on Tuesday after a series of deliberations held by Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Sharma, who discussed the new norms with cabinet colleagues to achieve consensus before the crucial meet. The government did not bite the bullet on multi-brand retail — a political hot potato that even tested the government’s strength through a vote on the floor of Parliament last year — refusing to raise the limit to 74% as suggested by Mayaram committee.
However, Sharma promised to come out with clarifications on the norms governing investment in multi-brand retail, such as sourcing requirements, which have deterred foreign retail companies.
The government has relaxed norms for single-brand retail by allowing automatic approval for foreign investments up to 49%, but its approval would still be needed for investment over 49% to 100%. Unlike the multi-brand sector, lot of single-brand retailers have shown interest in setting up operations in India.
The reforms, part of the government’s efforts to attract stable capital flows to fund the record high current account deficit at 4.8% of GDP last year, will benefit the telecom sector the most, which has been stagnating over the last two years after the cancellation of 22 licences by the Supreme Court following the 2G spectrum scam.
Multinationals like Vodafone could now acquire 100% ownership of their ventures and the upcoming telecom spectrum auctions could see a much higher level of interest.Experts say it could attract close to $10 billion worth of investments in the long term.
The sector has so far attracted FDI worth $13 billion since early 2000. The government also approved higher 49% FDI in insurance against 26% at present, but that decision will have to be approved by Parliament, where the UPA may find it difficult to build consensus. FDI inflows fell 38% last year to $22.4 billion from $38.1 billion the year before, but Sharma said they were 25% higher in the first quarter of the current fiscal.

The government is looking for stable flows to fund its current account deficit, wiser from the recent bout of upheavals that saw foreign institutional investors pull out over $10 billion in June and July so far.
The impact on defence could be far reaching or amount to little depending on how the new FDI policy is implemented on the ground. Briefing the media, Sharma said all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) proposals beyond 26% would be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Security, indicating it could even go up to 100% if it allowed India to access state-of-the art technology. Indian private companies can invest 100% in some areas of defence production.
The cap for civil aviation, one of the keenly watched sectors given the recent spate of investment proposals, has been retained at the same level of 49% for now given that related issues like seat sharing and control of companies are still under discussion.
The proposal to allow higher foreign investment in media and television companies have been held back for now.
A decision will be taken after due consultations with Trai and Press Council of India. The lack of action on some of these crucial sectors seems to have taken the sheen off what has been billed as a big bang change.
Opposition parties were not impressed.

POSCO to pull out from Karnataka

South Korea’s Posco said it will pull out of a $5.3-billion steel mill development in Karnataka, but will proceed with another $12-billion project in Odisha, billed as the country’s largest foreign direct investment.
Posco said in a regulatory filing that it had agreed to cancel the project with the government of Karnataka because of delays in receiving iron ore mining rights and opposition from residents, which had held back land acquisition. A senior Karnataka government official said Posco took the decision to exit three-four months ago, and had then asked to return the Rs.60 crore it had deposited for land acquisition.
In 2010, following an invitation from the Karnataka government, Posco signed a preliminary agreement to construct a mill capable of producing six million tonnes of steel a year. The agreement was signed at the Global Investors Meet that saw several massive steel projects being proposed, led by two of the world’s biggest manufacturers, ArcelorMittal and Posco.
The government offered Posco four locations to choose from, and Posco chose Halligudi in Gadag district because of its relatively good rail and road connectivity.
The government issued a preliminary notification to acquire 3,382 acres for the project, but the move immediately led to big protests by farmers and seers of powerful Lingayat mutts of north Karnataka, who argued that fertile land should not be acquired for a steel plant. The Supreme Court’s rulings on mining leases also restricted the state government from allotting mines to Posco. “The BJP government did not take any proper decision, and Posco closed its Bangalore office in October last year,” said a former executive of Posco India.
The pullout from Karnataka could provide fresh impetus to Posco’s main steel project in Odisha. Already eight years in the making, it has recently gained momentum with the clearing of legal obstacles to the granting of an iron ore exploration licence. “We will proceed with a steel mill project in Odisha, which is making progress. The latest move will make us more focused on the project,” Posco spokeswoman Kim Ji-young said.

Dharavi revamp update

The Dharavi revamp project got a new management consultant.
To avoid a 2009-like fiasco, the state government is considering inviting phase-wise bids to redevelop the 13 sub-zones in which Dharavi has now been divided, instead of the four big sectors.
The plan, which is in the initial stage, is based on an analysis of the current sluggish market, said an official. Bids may be invited after November.
Breaking up the project into phases will facilitate the bidding process while the outline and core norms will continue to govern it as a township.
A single developer can bid for all phases or a cluster. “Monitored by a regulator, these smaller phases will be integrated, in terms of amenities and infrastructure. The regulators will ensure essential similarity in these phases,” said an official.
Ernst and Young, which won the bid to be the project’s management consultant, will look after the revamp of four sectors; the fifth sector is being handled by Mhada.
But the government has been unable to finalize the criteria for slum-dwellers who are eligible to get a free home in the rehabilitation scheme. As per rules framed for Dharavi, the government had set January 1, 2000 (against January 1, 1995) as the cut-off date for slum-dwellers to be residing in a surveyed tenement to get free housing. But barring 15%-20% slumdwellers, a survey, by a Dharavi Redevelopment Authority (DRA)-appointed NGO, found the remaining are ineligible.
The DRA has completed hearing 765 suggestions and objections to the Dharavi Development Plan, spread over 152 hectares, received from 59,000 tenements.
The DRA has recorded 2,015 demands and it will now present a report to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, which will send it to the urban development department.


ADB's GDP forecasts

Slow progress of economic reforms is expected to pull down India’s growth to 5.8 per cent in 2013 from 6 per cent projected earlier, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report has said.
“In India, slow progress in pushing through the reforms needed to ease business bottlenecks means growth is likely to be 5.8 per cent this year, slower than the previously forecast 6.0 per cent,” the report ‘Asian Development Outlook Supplement’ said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in Jaipur said that India was likely to clock over 6 per cent growth in the financial year 2013-14, in the backdrop of government taking host of steps to boost sagging economy.
India’s growth fell to a decade’s low of 5 per cent in fiscal 2012-13.
ADB in April had projected a growth rate of 6 per cent for India in 2013.
It further said the projected growth at 5.8 per cent in 2013 will be “higher than the 5.0 per cent posted in 2012, growth remains constrained by supply-side bottlenecks, as reflected in the continued slowdown in fixed capital formation, weakness in the industrial sector, and sluggish progress in pushing through badly needed structural reforms.”
The growth rate, it added, is expected to accelerate in 2014 as slower inflation provides some scope for monetary easing that could boost investment and consumption.
“Growth will be further boosted by pre-election spending, and the pickup in US growth will support Indian tech companies and related service sectors”, ADB said, adding, the US was likely to grow at 2 per cent in 2013 and 2.6 per cent in 2014.
Elsewhere in South Asia, it said, Sri Lanka will continue to grow strongly, while other parts of the region will see softer-than-anticipated growth.
South Asia, it said, is expected to grow by 5.6 per cent in 2013 and 6.2 per cent in the following year.
As regards China, ADB said, the country was likely to see 7.7 per cent growth this year and 7.5 per cent in 2014 after growth of 7.8 per cent in 2012.

The Uttarakhand tragedy

The Uttarakhand government has declared that 5,748 people are missing in the flash floods that struck the upper reaches of the state’s Garhwal hills on the night of June 15-16 but refused to accept that they had died.
The Congress government headed by Vijay Bahuguna had said recently that it would consider the missing persons as dead a month after the calamity — by July 15, that is. This would have given an official figure to the number of people — most of them pilgrims and tourists from other states — who died despite the state government having received alerts about the impending disaster on which no action seems to have been taken.
The state government, however, said it was bowing to the wishes of the missing people’s families, who still live on the hope that their loved ones are still alive and will be found one day. Many of them have been putting out ads offering rewards for information about their missing relatives in local papers here.
Along with 924 locals, as many as 4,824 people from other states are missing after the disaster. Most of them belong to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi. 

Of Private Universities in Maharashtra....

The Maharashtra government has given its final approval to set up private universities in the state. State minister for higher education Rajesh Tope made this announcement and declared that five proposals have already come to the government, seeking permission to open private universities.
“Some of the tricky issues, which delayed the process, have now been resolved and the private universities will be asked to keep close to 50% seats in the reserved category for socially-backward classes, just similar to government-controlled educational establishments,” Tope said.
This means private institutions will be able to enter the field of higher education in Maharashtra, the state cabinet has already approved model guidelines for opening private universities.
The proposal to allow private universities in the state got mired in controversy over caste reservations. Reservation of a fixed percentage of seats for socially-backward class students was not stipulated in the Act. This led to opposition from leaders and representatives of backward classes.
“Bharat Forge, DY Patil Group and Rai University have already put in proposals to set up their private universities in the state. We expect some more proposal from big corporate houses in the future,” Tope said. In order to push the process, the government decided to imbibe a model adopted in some other states by framing guidelines. Senior officials of the education department said that a separate bill would now be drafted for each such private university, which will have to submit a proposal on the basis of model guidelines.
The new guidelines allow a private organisation to set up a university on a no-profit, no-loss basis, along with any trust or society. Officials said top corporates were interested in setting up universities.
Infrastructure requirements needed to set up universities in a district and rural centre were also relaxed. While the Act had stipulated that a minimum requirement of 50 acres and 100 acres to set up universities in district and rural areas, these have been relaxed to 25 acres and 50 acres, respectively.

Datsun Go unveiled

Striding on to the stage with a hands-free microphone behind his ear, Carlos Ghosn shone under the arc lights as he unveiled the ‘Datsun Go’, the first Datsun label to hit the roads since 1981. The president and CEO of Nissan Motor made some big claims at the hatchback’s launch. He promised a “significantly sub-. 4 lakh” price tag and outlined plans to grow the market share of the Renault-Nissan-Datsun combine from 5% to 15%.
Ghosn, who admits he was deeply involved in reviving the brand after a three-decade hibernation, believes the car will be lapped up by young buyers looking for value. Away from the glare of Ghosn’s arc lights, India’s car sales declined for the eighth consecutive month, and manufacturers have just announced production shutdowns to avoid inventory pileups. “Hey come on! My god,” Ghosn exclaimed, dismissing the slump. “You just wait for a few months and it will be over-…What we are seeing is a correction, not a slowdown…it will be over by the year-end.” The Datsun Go was developed for emerging markets, which Ghosn believes would make up 60% of the world car market by 2016. In India, it will compete head-on with value-for-money cars from Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. “Our strategy is not against competitors. Our strategy is for Indian consumers,” he said. Ghosn, who famously steered Nissan from bankruptcy to profitability early last decade, still believes an ultra-low cost car for the masses is possible. “There’s a huge need for this car that nobody has addressed yet,” he said, discounting the Tata Nano. “I hope we would answer that in the future. We’ll continue to work on it.”

Fast & Furious

The 4th hike in Petrol prices in 6 weeks !

Drought ends in Karnataka

Drought is officially over in Karnataka. With water levels in all major dams almost to the brim owing to heavy rains this year, it brings an end to the two-year drought period in the state.
In the summer before the 2013 assembly elections, drought had officially hit 70% of Karnataka. State government had declared 142 of the 176 taluks as drought-affected and had sought Rs 4,500 crore relief from the Centre.
But the latest weekly update from the Drought Monitoring Cell shows drought in less than 13% of the state, while another 14% is seen as abnormally dry.
Of the 15 major dams, four, including Almatti dam across Krishna in Bagalkot district, are on high alert. Three more are on alert warning. According to data by state water resources department, 55 small and medium sized dams received 100% of their storage capacity, a first in two years.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Around 180 passengers of an IndiGo flight to Singapore checked in and boarded their plane from the new international terminal as part of a trial run conducted by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The terminal is expected to be opened by the end of this month.
Passengers who landed up at the airport to board the flight were not happy when they were told that they will have to use the new terminal. The displeasure soon turned into glee when they spotted the brightly-lit, steel and glass terminal. But, their relatives and friends returned disappointed because visitors were not allowed into the building. 

TN PSU's to buy stake in Neyveli Lignite

The AIADMK government scored a political victory as the stand-off over disinvestment in Neyveli Lignite Corporation ended and the unions called off their strike. In a move facilitated by the Centre, TN is now set to buy a 3.56% stake in NLC for Rs.500 crore and stall the entry of private investors.
In a first-of-its-kind transaction, the Centre and the Securities and Exchange Board of India made a departure from the normal divestment route and gave their nod to Tamil Nadu to acquire NLC shares through five state-run public sector undertakings.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and thanked him for his cooperation in resolving the crisis. An official press release said Singh told the CM that he had always enjoyed a cordial relationship with the TN government. The alacrity with which the Centre responded to TN’s unusual proposal to buy NLC shares set off speculation that the UPA government is cozying up to the AIADMK to build a relationship in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
Responding to a call from Jayalalithaa, NLC employees ended their strike and returned to work.

Short Term Pain for Long Term Gain....

In its toughest step to defend the rupee after the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2008, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has moved to push up short-term rates in the money markets which will choke speculators and attract dollars to India. But these measures will cause collateral damage to the economy by pushing up short term borrowing for companies by a couple of percentage points and cause huge losses for bond investors.
In a late-evening statement, the RBI said that it would limit its lending of overnight funds to banks to Rs 75,000 crore. If banks need more they will have to pay a higher interest rate of 10.25%.
Bankers say an immediate outcome of this will be that the cost of overnight funds will cross 10% as their current overnight borrowing is over Rs 93,000 crore.
This, in turn, will translate into higher short-term borrowing for companies. The sensex which crossed 20,000 points on hopes of a rate cut triggered by lower inflation could lose its gains as hopes of a rate cut have vanished.

The measures were announced after RBI governor D Subbarao rushed to Delhi on a day when the Prime Minister and finance minister held meetings, ostensibly to address the exchange rate issue amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
Despite stringent trading restrictions by the RBI, the rupee lost 27 paise to close at 59.90 after touching over 61-levels last week.
“The market perception of a likely tapering of US quantitative easing has triggered outflows of portfolio investment. Consequently, the rupee has depreciated markedly in the last six weeks. Countries with large current account deficits, such as India, have been particularly affected despite their relatively promising economic fundamentals,” the central bank said in a statement.

Overnight banks borrowing from RBI capped at 75,000 crore
Additional borrowing to be at 10.25%
RBI to sell bonds worth 12,000 crore to make rupees scarce
Bank rate raised from 8.25% to 10.25%
Hopes of an interest rate cut dashed as RBI sacrifices short-term growth for rupee stability
Rupee-$ exchange rate may stabilize
Cost of overnight funds in money markets could cross 10%
Bond prices will crash as investors expect better returns
Mutual fund schemes that invest in bonds will take a hit
Cost of short-term borrowing for corporates to rise
Widespread speculation in forex, especially dollars, could be curbed


Of Retrofitting Local Trains....

The first retrofitted fully alternating current (AC) local train will run in Pune. The Central Railway has commissioned the first retrofitted fully alternating current (AC) local train made by Sanpada Car Shed from an old rake. The rake is fit for operation in 25 KV AC section and will be used in Pune-Lonavala services soon.
The cost of the retrofitting work for this 12-car train, which includes electrical equipment, mechanical modification in coaches and replacement of old passenger seats, coach partition with stainless steel with improved ventilation, and new fans and lights, is approximately Rs.3.5 crore.
A brand new train costs around Rs.24 crore. Fifteen such 12-car trains are planned to be converted from old to new AC retro rakes in near future.
The conversion from 1500 DC to 25000 V will not just increase the capacity of the suburban network, but enable suburban trains to run at a faster speed of 100 kmph as compared to the present 80 kmph. It will also give seamless connectivity to outstation trains which will not need to change locomotives when they need to enter Mumbai.

Ambedkar Memorial snippets

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has floated bids to appoint consultants for preparing master plan for ‘Urban Design for Grand Memorial of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’ at Indu Mill.
“It is proposed to engage consultants of international repute for preparation of detailed master plan with due consideration for urban design aspects for the memorial for which MMRDA has called for request for global expression of interest,” said Dilip Kawathkar, spokesperson of MMRDA.
The development authority has planned to even hold a competition among the short listed consultants on the basis of their technical capacity and work experience. The consultant will have to submit a conceptual plan and eventually winning consultant will be awarded the consultancy contract.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial is planned on the Indu Mill premises at an area measuring 4.84 hectares. Back in March this year the state government appointed MMRDA as the Special Planning Authority for development of the memorial. Once the layout master plan is finalised, deadlines and estimates will be worked for the memorial apart from obtaining administrative approval, tendering, etc.
In December last year, the Centre had given clearance to transfer 12 acres of the mill land to Maharashtra government. Indu Mill is situated next to Chaityabhoomi in Dadar. Developing a memorial has been a long pending demand of Dalit groups.

Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment update

The much-awaited redevelopment of Bhendi Bazaar will take a while longer. Holding back the Rs.1,500-crore project is mandatory ownership of all properties marked for cluster redevelopment. The trust that has taken up the project on a no-profit, no-loss basis has asked the government to modify one of the cluster clauses of the Development Control Regulations (DCR) so that it can start work.
“There are 280 buildings spread over 16.5 acres, including religious structures. In all, we need to buy 249 buildings, but have purchased 212 so far, which is 85% of the requirement,” said Abdeali Bhanpurawala, secretary, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT). “Acquiring the remaining is proving to be a hurdle. Landlords are demanding a price far in excess of the market rate, which is an unreasonable demand.”
The trust has asked the government to allow it to redevelop clusters where they have 100% ownership or reduce the ownership clause to 80% for the entire area. It has asked the government to amend DCR’s clause 33(9), give powers to Mhada to buy out the remaining landlords by giving them 50-100% more than the ready reckoner rates for their properties.
Urban development department officials say clause 33(9) of the Development Control Regulations (DCR) needs to be modified to give impetus to redevelopment of clusters like Bhendi Bazaar. “The scheme under the present policy—100% ownership of properties by a body redeveloping a cluster— has failed to take off. We have received very few proposals for cluster redevelopment and many are still on the drawing board,” a senior official said.
The Bhendi Bazaar cluster of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) is on the west of JJ Flyover, with Ibrahim Rehmatullah, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Maulana Shaukat Ali roads and part of Mutton Street forming the main grid for the redevelopment. A majority of the residents belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community, whose spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin has taken up the project on a no-profit, no-loss basis.
Any forcible acquisition would invite legal challenge, said Janhit Manch secretary Utsal Karani. “Cluster redevelopment should be in the interest of the city and there must be an amicable solution. It would be best if redevelopment is allowed in phases where consent and ownership is 100%. This will blunt the opposition.”
There are 3,200 residential tenements and 1,200 shops in the area.
The trust, along with Mhada, has certified tenants of 175 buildings. “We have shifted 1,074 families to Anjirwadi and Gorabhdev in Mazgaon and 20% have moved out on rent in the vicinity. About 500 tenements will be shifted in the next two or three months,” said Murtuza Ali, who is in charge of obtaining consent from tenants.
Bhanpurawala said that while a few landlords are refusing to budge, those who have shifted are becoming impatient. “We are being constantly asked by these families when they will be able to return.”
Shifting of tenants is also an issue as there are not enough transit tenements. The trust has asked for an FSI of four so that it can accommodate all residential tenements. As for commercial transit, the municipal corporation granted permission last week for constructions on the trust’s land in Dongri.
At present, the SBUT has begun the demolition of empty, old and dilapidated buildings in clusters one and three. “If granted permission, we can immediately start construction in clusters one, two, three and six,” Bhanpurawala said.