Khadi Mark

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Huge crowds greeted Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai on Monday. However, air passengers and road commuters bore the brunt of the enthusiasm as a massive snarl spilled over from the airport to a few kilometres on both flanks of the Western Express Highway (WEH). Massive jams were also reported from BKC, where Modi—accompanied by his cavalcade—went later.
Launching a fresh attack on the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, Modi accused it of misusing the CBI to target him and asserted that he would not be cowed down by such threats. “The government in Delhi wants to stop our march to power. They have fielded the CBI to threaten us. CBI can silence Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati but not me,” he said addressing BJP supporters at the airport.
The BKC show, ostensibly staged by the diamond merchants of Bharat Diamond Bourse, the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council and the Mumbai Diamond Merchants’ Association, turned into a show of strength and unity by the saffron alliance. Every BJP leader worth his or her salt, from Gopinath Munde to Jaywantiben Mehta, from Mahesh Jethmalani to Kirit Somaiya to Ashish Shelar, was there. But politically much more significant was the presence of Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, who was accompanied by his family, especially given the perceived closeness between Modi and MNS leader Raj Thackeray and the seeming initial frostiness between the Sena and Modi.

Modi urged Mumbaikars to vote for the BJP to facilitate the country’s overall development. Slamming the Congress-led UPA for lack of vision, he said, “In the next six months, India will be free of the inauspicious eclipse (the UPA regime) of the last nine years. The Congress gave empty promises to people. They kept saying that prices of essential commodities will come down and that the financial situation will improve. However, the rupee is in the ICU and the financial crisis is worsening by the day. People have shown great endurance in suffering the UPA. Now they want a change and the BJP will bring about that change.”
Accusing the Congress of fomenting communal trouble, Modi said the country’s youth could no longer be misled by communal or casteist agenda. “Those who trigger communal hatred or try to create social strife in the name of caste are caught in a time warp. They belong to the 1970s and ’80s,” he said. “The Congress has been maligning me. You browse Google and you will find reams and reams of hate campaign spearheaded against me by the Congress. But I have a positive mind. My agenda is India’s development and the BJP alone can take the country on the path of progress.”
Modi paid glowing tributes to Sardar Patel. He undertook the splendid task of unifying India after Independence but the Congress systematically ignored the role of the ‘Iron Man’ in modern India, he said. The Gujarat government will set up a Sardar Patel memorial near Sardar Sarovar. Modi urged countrymen to contribute a piece of iron for the memorial. The Gujarat CM was weighed in silver which he contributed to the Sardar Patel memorial trust. 

Somewhere in Kerala....

The Congress president reached Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday afternoon on a two-day visit which would be marked by the launch of a couple of state government projects. Gandhi would also meet leaders of Congress and its allies in Kerala.
IUML and Kerala Congress have already gone public that they would seek the Congress president's intervention in the affairs of the party in Kerala. Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani Sunday said Congress state chief Ramesh Chennithala should be included in the Cabinet.

MTHL update

After its failure to attract bids to build the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis, the MMRDA has sought financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), as the project is going to be developed on the cash contract model.
In the cash contract model, MMRDA will arrange for the required funds and then give a contract to a private player to build the project.
In a meeting held about 15 days ago, the planning authority sought a loan from JICA for the trans-harbour project, which has failed to take off for the third time. “We discussed the possible funding structure and financial assistance that JICA could offer and have sought around 80% of the funding from them,” said a senior MMRDA official.
At present, the MTHL project that plans to connect the island city to Navi Mumbai will cost around Rs10,000 crore.
JICA is an independent government agency that aims to aid economic and social growth in developing countries. JICA is also providing Rs 13,235 crore for the Rs 23,136 crore metro III project, planned between Colaba and Seepz via Bandra, at annual interest rate of 1.4%. MMRDA has sent a letter to the state urban development department seeking their opinion on the future course of the project.
According to MMRDA officials, once a formal approval is received from the UD department, the state government will approach the center, asking them to a loan from JICA.

PM meets Pakistani PM

Prime minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met in New York for the first time and discussed ways to normalise bilateral ties, in the grim backdrop of India’s concerns over continued terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
During the meeting on the sidelines of UN General Assembly, Singh raised the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil and asked Islamabad to do more to curb the cross-border terrorism.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid, national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh were also present at the meeting. From Pakistani side, Sharif ’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz was among those who attended the meeting.
The talks came days after twin terror strikes near Jammu that left 10 people dead, mostly security personnel, virtually threatening the highest level meeting between the two sides.
Singh, who was under pressure from opposition BJP to call off the meeting in the wake of attacks, went ahead with the talks, saying such strikes cannot derail the dialogue process.
However, in a hard-hitting speech yesterday at the UN General Assembly, Singh asked Pakistan to shut down “terrorist machinery” on its soil while making it clear that there can “never, ever” be a compromise on the territorial integrity of India of which Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part.
He virtually rejected Sharif ’s demand for resolution of the Kashmir issue on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, saying India favoured settlement of all issues on the basis of the Simla Agreement.
“India is committed sincerely in resolving all issues with Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through bilateral dialogue on the basis of Simla Agreement,” he said.
India considers the UN resolutions as outdated.

A Quiet Revolution ?!

In the UPA’s time, India has gone from 7 IITs to 16; from 6 IIMs to 13; from 1 AIIMS to 6; from 5,144 ITIs to 10,344. The minimum support price for paddy has gone from Rs 530/ quintal in 2002-03 to Rs 1,285/quintal in 2012-13; life expectancy is rising and infant mortality falling.
The enrolment of children between 6 and 14 in rural India is up to 96.5%. The NREGA has inspired an increase in rural consumption: 50% on food, 20% on clothing, 10-15% on education and 10% on health care.

CAD talk

Predictions of a balance of payments crisis in India similar to the one in 1991 may have been exaggerated. Based on the latest data, the finance ministry expects the current account deficit for the current year at 2.6% of GDP or $48.2 billion, much below its August estimate of $70 billion or 3.7% of GDP and a big improvement over the record 4.8% posted last fiscal. Finance minister P Chidambaram should not only be able to fund this deficit, as he has been repeatedly promising, but also add $20 billion to the foreign exchange kitty in the fiscal.

Some private estimates have also pointed to a dramatic improvement in this measure of the economy’s external health. A rapid slide in the rupee to an all-time low of 68.81 to the dollar at the end of August had raised concerns over a ballooning CAD. The rupee has since strengthened to 62 levels. A Credit Suisse note pegs the 2013-14 CAD even lower than the ministry estimates, assuming better inflow from invisibles, including IT exports.
The dramatic improvement is based on better-than-expected exports, compression in gold and other imports and tempered demand for oil. Exports rose 4% in April-August, against the ministry’s earlier estimate of 1.8% growth.
If this rate is maintained, and indications are it will be, the ministry expects exports for the full year at $319 billion against $312 billion estimated in the current account deficit break-up given by the finance minister in August that pegged the shortfall at $70 billion.
The robust order book position of exporters amid signs of a recovery in developed countries, their main markets, could actually see growth in shipments accelerate further.
The Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) lobby group expects a 25% rise in shipments in the September-December period. The rupee depreciation and steps to rein in imports are expected to slow down both gold and non-oil imports. The latest estimates peg gold imports at $35 billion against the previous estimate of $38 billion.
This assumes a sharp compression in gold imports to 800 tonnes in 2013-14. Gold imports have already come down, with April-August imports at 375.5 tonnes.
Preliminary estimates show imports have been much lower in September. Besides, the government still has the option of taking some more measures to contain non-oil imports such as raising duties on certain telecom and IT products.
Imports other than oil and gold had been pegged at $280 billion but are estimated to be lower at around $263 billion due to weaker rupee and a lower gross domestic product growth projection.
Tempering gold and non-oil imports will result in a saving of $15 billion. Oil imports are estimated at $172.9 billion.
However, the first-quarter balance of payments data, to be released on Monday, is expected to be an outlier. The current account deficit in the first quarter is likely to be around 4.4- 4.5% of GDP or around $19-20 billion on account of higher gold imports, according to another government official.

The country’s current account deficit or the difference between inflow and outflow of the foreign exchange for the quarter ended June 2013 moved up to $21.8 billion, or 4.9% of the gross domestic product, according to data released by Reserve Bank of India on Monday. This is sharply higher than the $18.17 billion deficit (3.6% of GDP) reported in the quarter ended March 2013 but lower than the 5% expected by markets.
With the deficit being more or less in line with expectations, foreign exchange dealers said that the exchange rate would now be driven by other factors such as fears of the US government shutdown, which is weighing on all global currencies. Earlier, before the RBI announced the deficit numbers, the rupee closed against the dollar at 62.62 – down 12 paise from Friday’s close of 62.50. In September, the rupee recorded its first monthly gain in five months and its best month in a year.
Bankers expect the deficit to improve dramatically in the quarter ended September 2013 due to a sharp drop in gold imports coupled with a pick-up in exports. In a statement on the balance of payments (BoP), RBI said that there was a slight drawdown in foreign exchange reserves of $300 million in Q1 to finance the deficit. In the quarter ended June 2012, there was an accretion of $500 million to the reserves.

Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

A Mahapanchayat in Meerut called in protest against the UP government charging the BJP MLA Sangeet Singh Som under the stringent National Security Act turned violent on Sunday when scores of his supporters clashed with the police in which one man was shot at and 20 people including cops injured. At least 12 vehicles were damaged in heavy stone pelting by mobs which also burnt down two police jeeps.
The panchayat was called defying prohibitory orders by Som’s supporters from 40 villages in protest against NSA slapped on the MLA for allegedly circulating inflammatory videos later found to be fakes. NSA is tough to shake off as once a person is booked under it, the matter is referred to an advisory board headed by a HC judge to pronounce on its validity. The process usually takes two months and bail cannot be granted in between.
Mahapanchayat leaders made provocative speeches and a delegation went to meet administrative officials who refused them audience. Authorities said the delegation wanted them to address the gathering and assure the people that NSA against Som will be withdrawn.

Now Government woos Chinese companies

After frowning upon investments from China, the government is now actively courting the likes of Huawei and ZTE that had earlier faced security hurdles.
Senior government officials said that the two telecom equipment vendors along with others such as Haier, China Power and China Railway will be in India to identify possible investment opportunities in a National Manufacturing Investment Zone (NMIZ) that is coming up in Maharashtra. The zone will be part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
Several Japanese companies have already started setting up plants along the corridor and now the government is focusing its attention on the Chinese. The team from across the border, which also includes officials from government agencies as well as financial institutions such as China Development Bank, will be in India over the next couple of weeks, said an official privy to the discussions.
This is the latest attempt by the commerce and industry ministry to generate interest in the NMIZs, which were approved a couple of years ago, and work on two industrial towns is expected to kick off with the government approving nine projects and hoping to leverage it to garner around Rs 1.1 lakh crore investment from the private sector.
The officials said that commerce and industry minister was keen to attract investment from China in the NMIZs, prompting his officials to get into action. They said that at least 10 government departments, including the home ministry, were roped in before the Chinese companies were invited to invest in India. “The home ministry representative had no objection to the participation of Chinese companies. So, we do not see any opposition for security reasons,” said an official privy to the discussions.
In the past, even telecom equipment from the Chinese companies has faced security scrutiny. Companies such as Huawei have also faced problems from the agencies regarding their offices and development centres in the country.
More recently, the home ministry had expressed fears about an increase in foreign direct investment cap in several sectors, including telecom and defence, but was overruled in the cabinet. The latest move comes at a time when the government is keen to increase FDI flows to finance the current account deficit that is at a record high of 4.8% of GDP last year. 



Aditya Thackeray's Mumbai 24 x 7 proposal

The general body of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has given its assent to Aditya Thackeray’s ambitious proposal to put Mumbai’s once-fabled nightlife back on track
On Saturday, the general body gave an in principle clearance to keeping restaurants and certain shops open through the night.
The proposal will now be forwarded by the municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte to the state government where it will be debated, chiefly by the department for Urban Development, the labour ministry and the home ministry.
Aditya Thackeray, leader of the Yuva Sena, who had sought support for the idea of Mumbai 24x7 with a tweet on September 13 (“Our aim is to have eateries, milk vending shops and chemists open 24/7 in non residential areas,and residential areas by permission of ppl. As a city, we need to have a bustling yet safe nightlife. Both, in the hands of the people. This will also roll in more economy, legally”) before bringing pressure on his party’s corporators to toe the line, was understandably delighted. “I am indeed very happy that the house has passed something that Mumbaikars wanted and needed. I will soon be meeting the mayor and asking him to call a joint meeting of civic and government officers to expedite the matter. If possible, I will ask an MLA to table a private members bill in the legislature. We will also write to all MLAs and ask them to then support it.’’

NaMo's mega rally in Delhi

Although the local BJP leadership is mum on the expenses incurred on Narendra Modi’s rally in the Capital, the arrangements have all the trappings of a great money binge.
A state-of-the-art sound system, an innovative stage design, CCTV cameras for surveillance, 50 LED screens for live projection in and outside the venue, fifty 1,000-litre tankers for water supply and a chopper to ferry the man of the hour are just a few examples of the preparation undertaken by the Delhi unit of BJP, which, according to party insiders, has run up a bill of over 50 lakh so far.
But it doesn’t stop at that. In its bid to ensure an impressive turnout for the rally, the party has hired 100 e-rickshaws for four hours (from 10 am to 2 pm) on Sunday and asked the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation to increase the frequency of trains running on the Rithala (read Red) line. Nearly five lakh people are likely to attend the event.
The extravagant arrangements for the Sunday rally have already been questioned by the Congress and Aam Admi Party (AAP). AAP’s leader Arvind Kejriwal has asked BJP to disclose the budget and source of funds for the rally.

BJP’s poster boy and PM candidate Narendra Modi mounted a frontal attack on chief minister Sheila Dikshit and her government on Sunday. Addressing a huge rally at Japanese Park in Rohini, Modi mocked Sheila by calling her a “ribbon cutting” chief minister who shrugs off responsibility by putting blame on other agencies. And without mincing words, he went on to call her government as one “suffering from work-related paralysis”, and a “sharabi (drunkard) addicted to corruption and totally drenched in it”.
Modi, who reached the venue at 12 pm upon landing at a nearby helipad, lost no time in ridiculing Dikshit. “Sometimes I think if there is a happiest chief minister in our country, then it is the Delhi chief minister. From morning to evening, she has no work to do except for cutting ribbons. She does not have to worry about a host of issues that her counterparts in other states have to take care of, but still she fails to fulfil her responsibilities,” said Modi.
The Gujarat CM cornered the Congress-led Delhi government on various issues, including alleged corruption in Commonwealth Games in 2010, power and infrastructure, and Nirbhaya gang rape. The attack, in fact, started with the Nirbhaya incident. “When cases like Nirbhaya happen, then this chief minister (Dikshit) comes out with advisories, saying that ‘being a mother of a daughter I suggest women should not step out late in the evening’. She should not forget that she is not just a mother but chief minister of a state and she cannot get away by saying this,” said Modi.
Shifting his focus to corruption, Modi said Dikshit and her government touched new heights of corruption during CWG. “Our loss due to CWG was not just monetary but also of pride and reputation. When other countries like South Korea and China were given the opportunity to host international games, they made a global mark. We, too, had an opportunity to show our strength to the world, but under Congress rule we lost that chance completely,” said Modi.
He next attacked Dikshit on her failure to generate power from plants like Bawana despite spending crores of money on their construction. “Just imagine there are power cuts in the country’s capital city. Even the Prime Minister’s house has a generator back-up. Despite having plants with huge production capacity, the government cannot give ample power supply; not because there is no coal but due to lack of vision and foresight. All you need is a willingness to make them functional,” Modi added.
He also questioned the existence of departments like agriculture, irrigation or animal husbandry, which do not hold much relevance in an urban place like Delhi. “She does not have to worry about irrigation nor the problems of the fishermen. And if there are any potholes on the roads of Delhi, she puts the responsibility on the municipal corporation. If there is a law and order problem, she just has to say the police forces in Delhi function under the central government. She does not have any responsibility.”

The Golden Chariot

Rajasthan set to implement Food Security Act

The Food Security Act (FSA), which promises heavily subsidized foodgrains to the poor, will be implemented in Rajasthan from October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti), chief minster Ashok Gehlot has announced.
From the state’s total population of 6.86 crore, 4.64 crore people will be benefitted by the Act as the government will provide wheat at Re 1 or Rs 2 per kg to them under the public distribution system. Incidentally, the state which is going to assembly polls in next two months has nearly 4.6 crore voters.
69.09% of the rural population and 53% of the urban population have been identified as beneficiaries. In this manner, another 50 lakh families have now been added to the scheme in addition to the beneficiaries of existing schemes such as the Antodaya Anna Yojana.
“Rajasthan will become the first state to implement the Act after completing the processes prescribed to identify the beneficiaries through gram panchayats and municipal wards. Appreciating our efforts, the Centre has now allotted us wheat for distribution,” Gehlot said at a press conference here. “The Act will ensure enough and quality foodgrain at low prices for the common man to live with dignity,” Gehlot said.
The Act will cover rural and urban poor as per Union BPL and state BPL lists, Antodaya families, Annapurna families, beneficiaries of various pension schemes and Mukhya Mantri Jeevan Raksha Kosh, those living in government hostels, construction and bonded labourers, domestic helps, small and marginal farmers and the poor included in several other state categories.
“The Act will also work towards women empowerment as the new ration cards will allow the senior most woman above 18 years to be identified as the family head. It is also dedicated to children as boys and girls between 6 months and 6 years of age would get nutritious food through Anganwadi centres,” Gehlot pointed out. 

BJP won't backtrack on Telangana

Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Saturday said the BJP will not backtrack on its stand on Telangana even if it enters into an electoral alliance with the Telugu Desam Party.
The UPA government should introduce the Telangana bill in the winter session of Parliament, she demanded, adding that the BJP would launch an agitation if the Centre backtracked on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
“The Congress will have to face severe consequences if it fails to introduce the Telangana bill in the Lok Sabha in the next two months. Though the Congress Working Committee had resolved the issue two months ago, it has not moved even an inch further since then,” Swaraj said.
The senior BJP leader made the statements in her address at a massive public meeting in Mahbubnagar. She said though she was happy that the Congress had resolved in favour of Telangana, she doubted the sincerity of the ruling party as it had backtracked on the issue earlier. “If the Congress fails to implement the CWC decision, it will face the wrath of people,” she added.
Referring to speculations in political circles about a possible alliance between the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party ahead of the general elections, Swaraj said “there is no talk of tie-up at this juncture.” She assured that if the alliance become inevitable, the BJP will not change its stand on Telangana. “We will vote for the Telangana bill in Parliament in full strength,” she maintained.
Swaraj also criticized chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy and other Seemandhra leaders for their united AP stance. She said the bifurcation may throw up problems like electricity and water sharing but it was not right on the part of the CM to oppose the division based on these apprehensions. The problems could be solved amicably through discussions and negotiations.
Without naming TRS leaders, Swaraj said it was not the right time to use objectionable language at public meetings against Seemandhra people. “The BJP is for the geographical division of Andhra Pradesh, not physical division of people,” she clarified. She promised that if the BJP was elected to power, it will give national status to Palamoor lift irrigation scheme in Mahbubnagar district. 

Kudankulam-I valve malfunctions

Unit 1 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant has once again run into technical problems.
Two months after the unit attained criticality, the authorities are finding it difficult to fulfill the necessary parameters to run the turbine and start generating power. Once again, authorities say, the fault is with the valve system.
This is the second time that malfunctioning of valves has occurred.
“After the unit attained criticality, we have been trying to start power generation. A few days ago we came very close to running the turbine, but the unit tripped and we got down to trouble shooting,” said an official in the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. “A team of Russian engineers is working with our engineers to rectify the problem,” said the official. It may take 15 days or more, the official said.
It was because of an earlier malfunctioning of valves that clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was delayed for the project. It had also resulted in a delay in the project attaining criticality.
The deadline for commissioning of the plant has once again been rescheduled owing to the present problem. It is likely to be commissioned only next month, said a source.
Many critics, including former AERB chief A Gopalakrishnan, have been accusing NPCIL of suppressing facts about the plant.
But NPCIL officials have denied all these charges. They said some problems were anticipated in commissioning the plant as Kudankulam was the first pressurized water reactor being set up in the country.
Tamil Nadu, which is facing a power crisis, is desperately in need of Kudankulam power. The state is expected to get 562 MW from the first reactor, once it is commissioned.

Of India & the US....

India and the US announced their decision to treat each other as closest partners with respect to defence technology transfer. The joint declaration, which came after the Manmohan Singh-Barack Obama meeting, said the US continues to support India’s full membership in the four international export control regimes, which will further facilitate technology sharing.
In the run-up to the meeting, there were searching queries on whether the US was pursuing a defence trade initiative (which implies merely hawking its military goods) as opposed to the defence technology initiative (which implies sharing and transfer) which India sought. The joint declaration indicates it will be both, and beyond, going into the collaborative sphere.
The two sides, says the declaration, will continue their efforts to strengthen mutual understanding of their respective procurement systems and approval processes, and to address process-related difficulties in defence trade, technology transfer, and collaboration. And to make sure that it is not all words, the two sides also put a time frame, saying they look forward to the identification of specific opportunities for cooperative and collaborative projects in advanced defence technologies and systems, within the next year. Recognizing the persistent differences on end-user agreements and other such wrinkles, the declaration said such opportunities would be pursued by both sides in accordance with their national policies and procedures in a manner that would reflect the full potential of the relationship.
Elsewhere, the declaration said the two sides will work to improve licensing processes and, where applicable, follow expedited licence approval processes to facilitate this cooperation. They are also committed to protecting each other’s sensitive technology and information, it added.
The defence declaration “emphasized the need for more intensive defence cooperation on both sides”, the joint statement said. The leaders reaffirmed their desire to further strengthen defence trade cooperation, endorsing a joint declaration on defence cooperation as a means of enhancing their partnership in defence technology transfer, joint research, co-development, and co-production, it added. Obama, it said, encouraged the further participation of US firms in partnering India’s efforts to enhance its defence capacities. There was no specific mention of the guns and planes—additional C-130Js, Chinooks, Apaches-—that New Delhi reportedly wants to buy from the US. But the joint declarations make one thing clear—everything is on the table, including hardware that some formal allies can’t get their hands on.

Five years after India and the US signed a landmark civil nuclear deal, the two countries have clinched the first commercial agreement on civilian nuclear power cooperation that was stalled over India’s nuclear liability law.
President Barack Obama announced the agreement after his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House Oval Office.
“We’ve made enormous progress on the issue of civilian nuclear power, and in fact, have been able to achieve just in the last few days an agreement on the first commercial agreement between a US company and India on civilian nuclear power,” Obama said.
Later in a joint statement, the two leaders noted that with government-to-government procedures agreed, commercial negotiations between India’s nuclear operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and US firm Westinghouse are proceeding. A fact sheet issued by the White House said this agreement should facilitate progress toward licensing the AP-1000 nuclear reactor technology in India.
Noting that the Indian government is planning to develop commercial nuclear power sites in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh using US nuclear technology, it said both governments also decided to complete discussions on the administrative arrangements at an early date. The two leaders urged NPCIL and US companies Westinghouse and General Electric-Hitachi to expedite the necessary work to establish nuclear power plants in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. “Both sides reaffirm their commitment to the full and timely implementation of the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement,” the joint statement said.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) intend to sign a memorandum of understanding for the exchange of technical information in nuclear safety matters, the fact sheet said. This arrangement should solidify close cooperation between the regulators, it noted.


Somewhere in Delhi....

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Somewhere in Uttarakhand....

Phata Nonsense Nikla RaGa

Rahul Gandhi jolted the UPA government on Friday by trashing a controversial ordinance designed to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification.“My opinion of the ordinance is that it is complete nonsense and should be torn up and thrown away,” the normally reticent Congress vice-president said of a piece of legislation steered by the PM and widely thought to have the backing of top Congress leaders.
Rahul’s condemnation of the ordinance, which now looks dead in the water, exposed divisions between ruling party and government and undermined the position of PM Singh at the worst possible time -- two days before talks with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and hours before a meeting with Barack Obama in New York.
The 43-year-old Gandhi scion strode into a media interaction by chief party spokesperson Ajay Maken at the Press Club of India and proceeded to demolish the controversial legislation before stunned partymen and journalists. “What the government has done is wrong,”, he said, adding that it was high time that political parties stopped taking decisions based on political considerations. The ordinance overturns a Supreme Court ruling mandating disqualification of convicted lawmakers facing at least a two-year jail sentence.
The Congress was trying to push it through despite a bill pending in Parliament, possibly to protect party Rajya Sabha MP Rasheed Masood and ally Lalu Prasad. But President Pranab Mukherjee, who has to sign the ordinance, is understood to have demurred, and sought clarifications.

AirAsia India gets NOC

AirAsia India announced it has received the crucial ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the civil aviation ministry, with the Malaysian parent company’s chief Tony Fernandes terming the development as “very exciting”. Though the ministry issued the certificate last week, this was the first formal statement by the AirAsia CEO on Twitter. “I am thrilled to announce that Airasia India has received NOC approval from the Government of India. Very exciting and highly profitable,” Fernandes tweeted.
With the NOC in hand, AirAsia India would now have to apply to the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) for its scheduled operator’s permit (SOP or the flying permit), which is the final step before it can start its flight operations.
The NOC would also enable AirAsia India to import the first of the three aircraft to Chennai, which would be its headquarters. At present, AirAsia operates in Thailand and Malaysia and connects Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchirappalli, Kochi and Kolkata in India. The parent company, AirAsia, had submitted a request to start the joint venture to launch AirAsia India in February this year. “This is the fastest an NOC has been granted and with this, we will focus on obtaining the Air Operating Permit. We will continue with our preparations and get ourselves ready for takeoff once the air operating permit is acquired,“ Mittu Chandilya, AirAsia India CEO, said in a statement. The statement said AirAsia India was “confident that it will be able to replicate the success of its counterparts in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, enabling people to fly affordably through superior operational performance, which will tremendously benefit the Indian consumers.“

Another Fidayeen attack in J&K

Terror returned with a vengeance to Jammu & Kashmir on Thursday, with the worst Fidayeen attack in a decade in Jammu killing 10 people and casting a dark shadow over the sputtering peace process between India and Pakistan.
By the end of the day, 10 people including four soldiers, four policemen and two civilians were dead in two attacks carried out by a group of three Fidayeen attackers. Among those killed is believed to be a Lt Colonel. The three militants, who authorities believe had come across the border from Pakistan, were killed by the Army. Explaining the sequence of events, police officials told reporters that the group of militants appeared at around 6:45 am on the main gate of the Hira Nagar police station in an auto rickshaw, which they had hijacked from Jindi, a village near the international border. After killing the guard at the main gate, they barged into the police station and resorted to indiscriminate firing, killing three other policemen including an assistant sub-inspector of police. The militants also attacked the lock-up in the police station, which had a Kashmiri truck driver and his cleaner who had been arrested by the police in some case. They killed the truck cleaner, took away the driver and asked him to drive them in a truck parked outside the station to Samba, where they let the driver to go.
The trio then entered the garrison housing the 16 Cavalry Armoured regiment though a loose fence and once in, went to the officers’ mess where the camp’s commanding offer and his deputy were present and were shot at close range. The deputy commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel BJ Singh, died of bullet injuries. The militants were killed in the afternoon in the ensuing assault by the Army.
A little known group called the Shohada Brigade (Martyr’s Brigade) claimed responsibility for the attack.
While the Samba attack dominated news, the Army was locked in another major confrontation deep inside the forests in Keran sector (Kupwara), where nearly a dozen infiltrators are presumed dead in an operation that has been underway since Tuesday.

SC allows NOTA

In a landmark ruling for India’s democracy, the Supreme Court empowered citizens to cast a negative vote to convey to political parties that none of the candidates in the fray in an election is worthy of their vote.
The order’s impact could be evident as early as the assembly polls due in November and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections since the apex court has directed the Election Commission (EC) to begin providing ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option in electronic voting machines (EVMs) in a phased manner. It has also asked the EC to carry out an awareness programme for voters.
But there could be complications given that in India, candidates securing far less than 50% of the votes cast get elected on the first-past-the post principle. In such a scenario, if negative votes exceed ballots secured by a successful candidate, it will mean the elected representative does not enjoy the confidence of a majority of voters.
The SC verdict is, however, a shot in the arm for voter rights advocated by activists and pro-choice campaigners who feel voters must have the option of rejecting candidates they are asked to pick from. This, it is hoped, will lead to more suitable candidates being fielded by parties.
Even if the NOTA option gets more votes in a constituency than any of the candidates, that will not nullify the elections. The candidate getting the most votes will still win. In that sense, this is a negative vote, but not a right to reject Indian voter’s hot new button

The combined effect of four landmark judgments from the Supreme Court, delivered in a span of just 80 days, has triggered a massive debate by touching crucial aspects of elections — from credentials and criminal antecedents of candidates to the right of voters.
The SC’s focus in these judgments — the first two delivered on July 10 by a bench of Justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya — was the voter.
The first verdict came on a petition filed by advocate Lily Thomas, which was argued by noted constitutional expert Fali S Nariman. Much to the discomfort of the political class, the court ruled that if an MP or MLA was convicted in a serious offence and sentenced to two years imprisonment or more, he would lose his seat immediately.
Through this judgment, the court took away the cushion provided by Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act that allowed netas to keep their seats in legislatures if they appealed in a higher court within three months of the pronouncement of order of their conviction and sentence.
The bill to nullify the judgment was referred to a parliamentary standing committee following differences between the ruling coalition and the opposition. Interestingly, the government lost patience and took the ordinance route to circumvent the SC order only to be slammed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
But the political class was unanimous in taking prompt steps to nullify the other July 10 judgment on a petition by Jan Chowkidar that had banned arrested persons from contesting elections. Politicians felt that the judgment would provide a handle to ruling dispensation to arrest potential winners from opposition on the eve of filing nomination to bar them from the contest.
In another important judgment on September 13, the court had ruled that no one could contest elections without making a full and honest disclosure about his/ her assets and educational and criminal antecedents. On Friday, the SC ruled that voters had an intrinsic right to cast a negative vote, telling parties that none of the candidates fielded by them were worthy of votes.

Of Desi Super Rich....

All isn’t doom and gloom for India’s economy, with some rare good news finally coming for it, especially for its real estate sector. A global wealth and investment report has found that India recorded the second highest increase in high net worth individuals (HNI) – those having investable assets worth over $ 1 million — in the world.
India, which witnessed a steep decline in its HNI population in 2011, saw it grow it by 22.2% in 2012, while their wealth rose by 23.4%. As against 84,000 HNIs in 2008 and 1,25,000 HNIs in 2011, India was home to 153,000 HNIs in 2012 . A further look at how these super-rich in India — together worth $589 billion — were investing their money will bring cheer to the real estate sector.
In line with the investing behaviour in the entire Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, Indian HNIs invested most in real estate (26.5%). The balance of HNI portfolios were allocated to cash and deposits (22.7%), fixed income (17.7%), equities (17.4%) and alternative investments (15.8%). Allocation to alternative investments at 15.8% was the highest in Asia-Pacific.
Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management’s 2013 World Wealth Report (WWR) said that the global MSCI benchmark index, which is a global equity benchmark, increased 13.2%, with robust performances by Germany (27.2%), Mexico (27.1%) and India (23.9%). The report said in India, reform measures and monetary easing helped equity markets gain by 23.9%.
Globally, Hong Kong experienced the most significant gains in HNI population and wealth in 2012, ahead of India. Hong Kong’s HNI population grew by 35.7%, and their wealth by 37.2%. Wealth growth was the strongest in Asia-Pacific at 12.2%. followed by North America at 11.7%. The WWR said: “The fastest-growing HNI markets are located in Asia-Pacific. Hong Kong experienced a 35.7% increase in its population of HNIs, propelled by a combination of relatively less conservative investing behaviour among many HNIs and strong equity markets.
India, with 22.2% growth, benefitted from positive trends in equity market capitalization, gross national income, consumption and real estate. Both Hong Kong and India, which are notoriously volatile, overcame their poor performance in HNI population growth in 2011 — Hong Kong lost 17.4% while India lost 18%.”
More than half the global HNIs population continued to be concentrated in three countries — the United States, Japan and Germany. For the past three years, individuals in these countries have accounted for roughly 53% of all HNIs, down from 54.7% in 2006. However, the market share of the top three countries is expected to erode over time as emerging markets increase in prominence.
The WWR added: “Asia-Pacific is expected to become the largest HNI wealth market as early as 2014. Asian markets are expected to expand annually by 10.9% and 9.7% respectively (in 2013 and 2014) through 2015.”
HNI population and wealth reached record levels in Asia-Pacific in 2012, propelling global growth. Since 2007, Asia-Pacific has increased its HNWI population by 31% and its wealth by 27%, well in excess of the rest of the world increases of 14% for HNWI population and 9% for wealth”.
Asia-Pacific built on this trend of strong performance in 2012, its HNWI population expanding by 9.4% to reach 3.68 million and their wealth by 12.2% to reach $12 trillion.
Jean Lassignardie from Capgemini Global Financial Services said “GDP growth of 5.5% which is more than double the global average, combined with strong equity market performance across the region and strong real estate market performance in some markets, drove robust growth in Asia-Pacific’s HNWI population and wealth in 2012”.

Development Index

A new development index has identified Gujarat as a less developed state, while ranking Odisha and Bihar along with eight others as “least developed” and Goa and Kerala among seven “relatively developed” states.
A panel headed by Raghuram Rajan, now the RBI governor, which submitted its report to finance minister P Chidambaram, also recommended a fresh approach to devolution of funds to states and moved away from the special category classification to devise three categories — least developed, less developed and relatively developed. According to the index, there are 10 least developed states, 11 less developed and seven relatively developed states in the country.
LEAST DEVELOPED: Odisha, Bihar, MP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal, Assam, Meghalaya, UP, Rajasthan
LESS DEVELOPED : Manipur, West Bengal, Nagaland, Andhra, J&K, Mizoram, Gujarat, Tripura, Karnataka, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh
RELATIVELY DEVELOPED : Haryana, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, TN, Goa Nitish happy Bihar on least developed list

The panel has developed a multi-dimensional index of backwardness based on monthly per capita consumption expenditure, education, health, household amenities, poverty rate, female literacy, percent of SC-ST population, urbanisation rate, financial inclusion and connectivity. The panel said less developed states rank higher on the index and would get larger allocations based on the need criteria.
“The committee has proposed a general method for allocating funds from the Centre to the states based on both a state’s development needs as well as its development performance,” Chidambaram said.
The panel was set up after persistent demand from Bihar CM Nitish Kumar who insisted a special category status to help access more funds for its development. This sparked off a demand from several other states such as Odisha for the special category state status. 


Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

Of BRICS' Competitiveness

Gold fever

RBI Puts Brakes on 0% Loans

The Reserve Bank of India has told banks to withdraw zero per cent interest rate schemes for purchase of consumer goods through credit cards, a move aimed at protecting consumers, but something that’s likely to dampen the festive buying. RBI has made the circular public on Wednesday, which was earlier kept ‘confidential’. The central bank has also told banks to divulge the details of benefits they get from retailers for offering interest rate discounts on loans provided to buy consumer goods. “You are advised to strictly desist from these practices henceforth,” RBI said in a circular issued on September 17 to all bank chief executives. It said banks should not resort to any practice that would distort the interest rate structure of a product as this vitiates the pricing mechanism. The central bank dubbed these as “pernicious practices of select banks deterring customer protection”. It went on to add that these practices breach fair and transparent pricing of products and violate customer rights and protection.
“Many banks have appreciated our concerns and have discontinued with the practice,” the central bank said, but added that there are some who haven’t fallen in line.
While the move is aimed at protecting unsuspecting customers, retailers fear that this is going to impact festive sales, since 20-30% of customers depend on zero interest or discounted bank loans for their purchases.
RBI said the interest element is camouflaged and passed on to customers in the form of processing fee. It has also directed banks to share the benefit they get from retailers. “If there’s a discount offered in the price of a product, the loan amount sanctioned should be calculated after taking into account the discount,” it said.

Somewhere in Bhopal....

For a moment, the BJP’s script for a show of unity bringing together its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and senior leader LK Advani on a common dais went a bit awry. When Modi touched Advani’s feet, the patriarch seemed to be looking elsewhere.
This was the first time the two leaders were sharing dais publicly after September 13, when the Gujarat chief minister was made the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate despite Advani’s reservations. Advani, who unsuccessfully led the BJP in the 2009 general election, had reluctantly endorsed Modi’s candidature three full days after the announcement by the party’s parliamentary board.
Almost the entire parliamentary board of the party was on the stage set to address a “Karyakarta Mahakumbh” (party workers’ mega conclave) at Bhopal’s Jamboree Ground on Wednesday when Modi caught Advani unaware diving at his feet. Advani appeared unimpressed. But, the senior leader, who had presented bouquets to both Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, did bestow his blessing on the latter. 

J&K never merged with India

Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah reiterated his party’s stand that the state’s accession was not a merger with the Indian Union in 1947.
“While all the states acceded to the Union of India and then merged with it, Jammu & Kashmir only acceded and not merged. That is why we have special status, our own constitution and the flag,’’ he said while talking to a European Union delegation.
He said the Kashmir issue was linked to the Partition when future of all states except Jammu & Kashmir was decided and underlined the need for a sustained dialogue with Pakistan and separatists.
Omar said there were diverse views regarding the issue. “While one extremist view is for cession, the other is total merger of the state with the Union of India,’’ he said.
“Unless the process of dialogue is started with a view to find out flexibility in both of the views and carve out a road map of addressing the issues, the position will not change.’’ He said the Constitution provides a framework for dialogue with separatists.

World's longest Railway Platform

After re-modelling of the station yard, Gorakhpur will have the world’s longest platform.
Till now, Kharagpur is the longest platform with its length of 1,074 metres. The length of Gorakhpur platform will be of 1,300 metres.
The doubling of railway lines between Lucknow and Chhapra will be completed by March next year, while an alternate rail route between Gorakhpur and Gonda will be available by year end after completion of gauge conversion between Barhni-Gonda and Gonda-Bahraich.

Aviation snippets

India’s largest domestic airline IndiGo announced its fifth consecutive annual profit on Tuesday and its president Aditya Ghosh said the LCC would remain in black this financial year too.

Another sop !

The Congress trumpeted the constitution of seventh pay commission as another of its welfare measures in line with land and food bills, in what appeared a thinly-veiled attempt to milk the olive branch to government employees at the upcoming state and Lok Sabha polls.
The surprise decision on the pay commission targeting the middle-class comes on the back of legislations to win over the poor and the sudden urgency in Congress establishment to facilitate new alliances: clear evidence that the ruling party has hit poll mode.
The belief is that tough reforms are over for good in UPA-II and the ruling camp would try the time-tested sops to win electoral favour.
Not surprisingly, Congress patted the leadership for bringing the pay panel just ahead of festivals while slamming NDA for not doing so in 2003 when the sixth commission was due. “It has brought happiness to lakhs of people,” AICC spokesman Raj Babbar said, adding it would benefit 80 lakh people.
With the Centre having rushed to pass the land and food bills as ‘aam aadmi’ sops earlier, the Centre has now picked on middle class — the pay panel coinciding with assurance from petroleum minister Veerappa Moily that there would be no hike in petrol prices.
The importance of the new step in bolstering urban constituencies is evident from how AICC general secretary Ajay Maken first made the demand for pay panel in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this March.
Besides the electorate, rural and urban, Congress has moved with alacrity to woo regional satraps — the Cabinet on Tuesday passed an ordinance to save convicted MPs from disqualification, aimed at appeasing Lalu Prasad who faces a final verdict in the infamous fodder scam on September 30. 


Shielding the tainted

Of Facts & Fiction....

A war of words erupted between P Chidambaram and the BJP over the country’s economic growth after the finance minister slammed BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s comments and accused him of “staging a fake encounter with facts”.
Chidambaram criticized Modi for his comments that economic growth rate during the NDA coalition headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was at 8.4%. This sparked off a furious exchange between Chidambaram and BJP which hit back saying the finance minister was indulging in “terrorism with facts” and accused him of statistical jugglery.
“Nothing can be further from the truth... I wonder why Shri Narendra Modi should stage a fake encounter with facts. Ultimately, facts will prevail,” Chidambaram said. The finance minister was reacting to media reports which quoted Modi as saying that growth rate during the Vajpayee regime was 8.4%.
Chidambaram reeled out data and said the average growth rate of the six year period of the Vajpayee coalition was 6% and the average for the last five years was 5.9%. “By contrast, the average for UPA-1 was 8.4% and for the first four years of UPA-2, the average has been 7.3%,” Chidambaram said.
The two worst years since the turn of the century were 2000-01 (4.3%) and 2002-03 (4%). If there was a golden period of growth, it was the five year period under UPA-1,” he added.
The BJP came out all guns blazing and said the finance minister was making unfair comparisons. Senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha said Chidambaram was indulging in “statistical jugglery” and citing different figures to back his claim.
“They are comparing nine years average with five years average of NDA,” Sinha said, adding that Chidambaram is “doing terrorism with facts”.
Congress spokesman P C Chacko attacked the BJP for what he said was the party’s “favourite pastime of mixing facts with fiction”.

Jagan gets bail

Nearly 16 months after he was arrested by the CBI in the disproportionate assets case and packed off to Chanchalguda Jail, YSR Congress party chief Jaganmohan Reddy was granted bail by a trial court on Monday.
The development is bound to alter the political scene in Andhra Pradesh — and specifically Seemandhra — bitterly divided over separate Telangana.
Although the CBI court granted bail before 5 pm, Jagan will be able to walk free only on Tuesday as the papers couldn’t reach authorities on time. Jagan submitted two sureties of Rs 2 lakh each as conditions for release and is not to leave Hyderabad to prevent “influencing witnesses” in the case. However, Jagan plans to tour Seemandhra and is expected to file a memo in the court seeking permission to do so.
The YSR Congress, which was quiet on the Telangana issue until the Congress announced its intention to bifurcate the state on July 30, is pitching for united Andhra. Jagan has made it clear that the YSR Congress will focus only on Seemandhra, which would make it virtually non-existent in Telangana, with the few YSR Cong leaders now seeking their political fortunes elsewhere.
Party sources said Jagan’s plan, once the court gives the green signal, is to undertake a campaign in Seemandhra, which has 175 out of 294 assembly seats and 25 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats. The party currently has 17 MLAs and sources said he has identified candidates for nearly 80% of the assembly and Lok Sabha seats. Analysts predict a fight in Seemandhra between the YSR Congress, the TDP and the Congress, with Jagan’s party likely to emerge as the single largest. In fact, it was TDP that feared his release the most, and did its best to foil his release from jail.
With the TDP left with no alternative but to ally with the BJP-led NDA, and the Congress-led UPA desperately seeking allies, the YSR Congress could come in handy for the Congress in a power-sharing deal by which Jagan can take charge as CM of Seemandhra and support the UPA at the Centre.
This way the Congress not only ensures it remains in power in Seemandhra, but also keeps Naidu out of power. In Telangana, the Congress in alliance with TRS can come to power. This way, the Congress will control both the states with its allies, giving it the much needed numbers in 2014.
At the moment, the YSR Congress is maintaining that it will have no truck with the Congress. But political compulsions and the fact that CBI cases against Jagan are far from over might force him to come to terms with the Congress.
It would make political sense for him to back UPA at the Centre even if he manages to secure a simple majority of his own in Seemandhra.


UP reinstates Durga with ‘full honour’

Two months after she was suspended for ordering the demolition of a wall surrounding a mosque in Gautam
Budh Nagar, the Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday reinstated IAS officer Durga Sakthi Nagpal with “full honours”.
The move came a day after Nagpal and her IAS officer husband Abhishek Singh met CM Akhilesh Yadav at his residence and offered an explanation about the events at Gautam Budh Nagar’s Kadalpur village on July 27 that led to her suspension. The additional inquiry initiated against her earlier this month was also called off. 

Govt to fast-track Tata-SIA airline

Desperate to shrug off charges of inertia, UPA II will fast-track the Tata-Singapore Airlines’ proposal to set up a full-service carrier. While top government sources say clearances will be given without any unnecessary delays, the attempt will be to make the proposed airline take off within the remaining tenure of this regime.
The Tata-AirAsia proposal was cleared in about eight months and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is expected to issue the licence by October-end and it can start flying by December. “If all documents are in place, Tata-SIA proposal will also be given the goahead by our government,” said a source, admitting an “unnecessary and avoidable” delay in the other aviation FDI of Jet-Etihad.
Sources close to aviation minister Ajit Singh say he is keen to have strong players in India’s otherwise cash strapped airline industry. Also, Tata-SIA and Air India will launch direct flights from India to far-off places and help the airports in metros develop into hubs.
The government is upbeat on Tata-SIA and Tata-AirAsia taking wing as these ventures have very strong international airlines as key partners. While budget airline AirAsia India’s 21% stakeholder, Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace, is reportedly upset due to the Tatas tying up with Singapore Airlines to form a full-service airline, the aviation ministry is not perturbed by the Tatas’ holding in both the airlines.
While the government has decided to expedite the latest proposal of a full-service airline from the Tatas, it hopes that the stiff competition between AirAsia and SIA does not sour both the proposed start-ups. The DGCA will begin working on AirAsia India’s licence as Ajit Singh gave it a no-objection certificate last Friday. 

Somewhere in Sri Lanka....

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) swept to victory in the historic Northern Provincial Council elections in Sri Lanka securing a twothirds majority on Sunday, signifying the beginning of a credible opposition in the island nation’s politics.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance, however, put up a face-saving performance in the Tamil dominated province winning 36 seats in the 58-member Central Province and 34 seats in the 52-member North Western Province. The elections were held on Saturday.
The TNA won 30 out of 38 seats (28 direct and 2 bonus seats), while the UPFA got seven seats and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) won one seat. While TNA got 3,53,595 (78.48%) of the total votes, UPFA secured 82,838 (18.38%) of the votes. SLMC secured 6,761 (1.5%) votes in the election. The elections, held after 25 years, recorded a 67.5% turnout.
While the TNA secured 14 seats in Jaffna district, it got three each in Mannar and Kilinochchi districts and four seats each in Mullaitivu and Vavunia districts in preferential votes.
The ruling UPFA has secured two seats each in Jaffna and Vavunia districts and each one in all other three districts. The SLMC won one seat in Mannar district.
Interestingly, two Sinhalese and three Muslims have been elected for the Northern Council in this election.
Ananthy Sasitharan, wife of former LTTE leader, is the only woman representative in the council and she is also expected to be inducted in the cabinet. The TNA will now form the first functioning provincial government in the northern Tamil heartland.
Former Supreme Court Judge C V Wigneswaran, 74, would assume charge as the first chief minister of Northern Province.
“The cabinet formation would be decided in few days,” senior TNA MP Sampanthan said.
The TNA won more than 84% of the votes in Jaffna, once the heartland of LTTE, 81% in Kilinochchi, the defacto capital of the separatists, and 78% in Mullaitivu, where thousands of civilians were said to have been killed in May 2009 when government forces moved in to defeat the rebels.

Gehlot steps on the gas