Chai pe charcha

Starting sometime in the first week of February, senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party such as Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley as well as the party’s heavyweight chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, will start frequenting tea stalls to discuss politics with locals. The unusual stopovers will be part of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s new campaign, Chai Pe Charcha, which is hoping to stir up a political tempest via tea stalls. Modi will address and take questions during the high-tech campaign that will be broadcast live at 1,000 tea stalls across 300 parliamentary constituencies. BJP is expected to contest in less than 400 constituencies in the upcoming general elections. The campaign centred around tea stalls is meant to take Modi’s message to the hub of local political chatter in India and remind people of his own humble origins as a tea vendor. The campaign also aims to turn the classist jibes made about Modi’s tea-boy background by rival politicians in recent weeks to his advantage.
The initiative is also inspired by the ground-level engagement provided by Aam Aadmi Party’s Mohalla Sabhas. Modi’s interactive sessions will follow a ‘share-ask-suggest’ format. In a typical two-hour session, Modi will speak for 25-30 minutes, listen to suggestions on constituency-specific or policy-specific issues for 45 minutes, and interact with the widespread audience for the next 45 minutes.
To enable a distributed videoconferencing experience, the organisers, Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), are deploying a hybrid technology that combines DTH broadcast, high-speed Internet and satellite uplink. CAG is a volunteer organisation managed by key Modi aide Prashant Kishor.
In every tea stall, there will be two stand-mounted flat screen televisions. Videocon’s DTH-integrated television sets are being used for the service. So the company will get a marketing slot below the TV sets. A webcam and high-speed Internet dongles will provide interactivity at most places.
In locations where the audience will get to ask pre-selected questions, an entire TV crew, complete with an outdoor broadcasting van or other live satellite uplinking facility, will be present. In each session, questions will be taken from 15-20 locations. The entire session will also be webcast on Modi’s official website.
In some of the sessions, Modi will ask the audience to suggest solutions to public policy issues such as education, healthcare or transportation. Modi will also request people to continue to interact with him through Facebook. For this, 316 constituency-specific pages have been created. These pages, with the format ‘With NaMo, for X constituency’ will act as a hub for live polls, discussions on candidates, etc. Modi will also subsequently interact on these pages, the person familiar with the plans said.
The 316 constituencies where Facebook pages have been created are those with at least 50,000 social media users. Currently these pages appear to have each reached a few hundred users, but that might change as Modi stirs the pot with the campaign.
The audience will also be encouraged to share suggestions through SMS and WhatsApp messages, which will also scroll on the screen live during the sessions. With Congress launching its media initiatives and AAP cornering a lot of media attention, the Modi camp will be hoping that the tea stall strategy can boost the conversations around BJP’s PM candidate.

RBI hikes rates

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan raised the key repo rate on Tuesday, choosing once again to confound expectations while renewing focus on inflation as also the threat stemming from the weakening of the rupee amid a sell off that has rippled through emerging markets. The Indian currency recovered sharply after the policy announcement.
“The gravest risk to the value of the rupee is from CPI (consumer price index) inflation which remains elevated at close to double digits, despite anticipated disinflation in vegetable and fruit prices,” Rajan said. If RBI can bring inflation down, “that will give us some room on the monetary front which can then be passed through. But first let’s fight the fight that needs to be fought”, he said.
The repo rate, at which banks borrow short-term money from RBI, was raised by 25 basis points, or 0.25 percentage point, to 8%. The reverse repo, at which RBI borrows from banks, was raised 25 basis points to 7%. The marginal standing facility, the penal rate of interest for banks, was raised 25 basis points to 9% to maintain the corridor. The cash reserve ratio was unchanged at 4%.
Rajan may be done with rate increases for now, although he said the central bank’s policy decisions will be dependent on data.
This is the third time that Rajan has raised rates after taking over as governor in September last year — an increase of 75 basis points in four months. RBI’s decision came amid a worldwide market turmoil sparked by fears of the US scaling back its stimulus programme more sharply than expected, concerns that the Chinese economy may falter and a devaluation of Argentina’s peso raising the prospect of a contagion effect. Turkey’s lira fell for 10 days in a row before the central bank stepped in to call ameeting on the issue, leading to the currency recovering on expectations that the country’s central bank will raise rates effective midnight.
The rupee posted its biggest one-day gain in a month to close at 62.51 to the dollar, up from Monday’s close of 63.10. The yield on the benchmark bond fell two basis points to 8.75%, ending a five-day rise, having risen to 8.77% on Monday, the highest in more than two weeks. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions. The benchmark Sensex was little changed, declining 0.12% to 20,683.51 points, suggesting that the market had either factored in the changes or took comfort from Rajan’s statement that he was finished with rate changes for now. The governor said the “slowdown in the economy is getting increasingly worrisome”. Growth slumped to a 10-year low of 5% in FY13 and shows little sign of reaching even that level this year. But tighter policy action aimed at puncturing the inflation balloon will help revive growth, he argued, although industry has been pushing for the opposite. 

DMIC snippets

In a major boost to Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, UP cabinet gave its nod for setting up an integrated industrial township, a model transport hub and a multi modal logistic hub in Noida and Greater Noida region. The cabinet also approved setting up of five modern police stations in the region to strengthen security paraphernalia in UP part of NCR.
Briefing media about the development, chief secretary Jawed Usmani said while the integrated industrial township will come up on 760 acres in Greater Noida, the model transport hub will be established in Budaki region on 400 acres. The development of industrial township comes 18 months after chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had directed the Greater Noida Development Authority (GNDA) and Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation to identify a site for setting up of a hi-tech integrated industrial township in the region. The CM had said that land would be acquired with the consent of farmers. The multi modal logistic hub, spread over 1,200 acres, will come up in Dadri. The three will carried out as early bird projects, i.e, first come, first served for developers.
The three projects will be carried out on an equity basis, with DMIDC and Noida/Greater Noida authorities sharing 50% of the total cost. The authorities will also be required to pass on the land parcel to the companies showing interest in developing the project.
DMIDC envisages setting up of seven investment and 13 industrial regions between Jawaharlal Nehru Post in Mumbai and Dadri in Greater Noida.
The corridor passes through two investment regions in UP -- Greater Noida and Meerut-Muzaffarnagar. The ambitious project also provisions setting up of a dedicated fret corridor upto 150 to 200 km on both sides of the investment region. The project becomes even more crucial for UP because the proposed east-west corridor merges at Khurja, which lies in the state.
In the first phase, the GNDA had decided to develop Bodaki railway station, Greater Noida-Noida Metro rail link, Dadri Vallabhgarh railway station Noida, Greater Noida-Faridabad expressway, Logistic park/ township and an auto-mart The authority has also indentified setting up of a power plant in the region as a crucial feature.

Of Life Expectancy in India....

Data released by the Union ministry of health shows that life expectancy in India has gone up by five years, from 62.3 years for males and 63.9 years for females in 2001-2005 to 67.3 years and 69.6 years respectively in 2011-2015. Experts attribute this jump — higher than in the previous decade — to better immunization and diet, along with prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.
Average life expectancy which used to be around 42 in 1960, climbed to 48 in 1980, 58.5 in 1990 and around 62 in 2000.The World Health Organization defines life expectancy as “the average number of years a person is expected to live on the basis of the current mortality rates and prevalence distribution of health states in a population”.
The overall health indicators have also shown significant improvement across the country in the past 10 years. Infant mortality ratio has come down to 42 in 2012 from 58 per 1,000 live births in the 2005. “Maternal mortality ratio has declined from 301 per 100,000 live births in 2001-03 to 212 in 2007-09,” the health ministry said. 

Somewhere in Kashmir....

The National Conference (NC)-led ruling alliance seems to be on the verge of collapse with chief minister Omar Abdullah digging in his heels over the creation of new administrative units despite Congress’s opposition to it.
Sources said Omar might quit as a result, paving way for NC and Congress to contest the Lok Sabha elections separately. In that case, the assembly polls, due by the end of the year, may be brought forward to coincide with the LS polls.
Though the two parties have had an unhappy history of alliances, many believe the split could be part of NC and Congress’s strategy to retain support in respective strongholds — the Valley and Jammu — and go for a post-poll alliance. The fresh trouble is said to have started with Congress’s opposition to Abdullah’s plan to create 700 new administrative units, which it argues would lead to a financial burden of Rs.800 crore. The bulk of finances to run the state comes from the Centre.

SC refuses to review Section 377 order

The Supreme Court dismissed a bunch of petitions seeking a review of its December 11 ruling upholding the validity of Section 377 of the IPC, closing a small window opened by the Delhi high court to permit consensual gay sex between adults in private.
If the gay community and its supporters had criticized the December 11 order of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya, Tuesday’s dismissal of the review petitions filed by the Centre, Naz Foundation, Voices Against Section 377, Shyam Benegal and others will leave them with no option but to look to the government to take the legislative route to amend the penal provision to give them succour.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya passed a terse order, “We have gone through the review pleas and the connected papers. We see no reason to interfere with the order impugned (under challenge). The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed.”

Petitioners can file curative petition, but may find it hard to establish grounds of breach of principles of natural justice or palpable reflection of bias in the judgment
Or, Parliament can legislate to amend the provision. But this looks unlikely in an election year, with the BJP having already supported Section 377, which makes gay sex illegal

Senior advocate Harish Salve tweeted, “SC has dismissed a review petition against the Sec. 377 petition. Unsurprising. Why did the govt which felt so strongly not change the law? Cases that affect questions of constitutional law of monumental importance HAVE to be heard by 5 judges. Govt did not raise this when the case was being heard. The wisdom of the constitution envisaged 5 judges so that five minds in the least were applied to such issues.”


Somewhere in Hyderabad....

Kiran Kumar, the 23-year-old man who cleaned out a jewellery showroom and decamped with gold and gems worth Rs.6 crore last week walked into a local TV channel office late on Sunday and told the receptionist that he was “thief” who had carried out the heist.
“If given a chance, I can serve society better than any politician,” said Kumar, who has four brothers and a widowed mother to feed from the paltry money he earned working as a mason. “If you’re poor, no one cares about you. No one gave a damn about what I wanted to do in life,” said Kumar, underscoring how in India, the rich-poor divide has widened to an all-time high in urban areas, according to National Sample Survey findings.
“My cousin Anand needs money for a surgery. We tried to get help, but no one cared,” he told cops. Ten special teams of Hyderabad police were searching for professional offenders across the country, and were at a loss for words when asked about how two rookies pulled off a heist in a high security area close to the CM’s camp office.
Kumar took police to his house and showed them the booty, neatly packed in a travelling bag. “Kumar first claimed he alone committed the burglary to expose loopholes in the security apparatus and society in general. But when confronted with CCTV evidence, he confessed to the involvement of his cousin, Anand,” Hyderabad police commissioner Anurag Sharma said. During interrogation, a smiling Kumar said he too like thousands of youth had landed in Hyderabad to pursue his dreams. “We were desperate for money to fulfill our dreams,” Kumar said.
The two had reconnoitred the branded jewellery store a few times and on January 22 began chiseling at the rear wall. The next day, Kumar again went to the store and found no one had noticed the drilling and returned there with Anand on January 24 night for the burglary.
After entering the shop, Anand broke shelf locks and stole 15.5 kg of gold ornaments and gems worth Rs.5.98 crore. After putting the loot in a bag, they quietly walked all the way back to Rasoolpura, as they had no money to pay for an auto.

A-380s swagatam !

India is no longer out of bounds for the world’s biggest commercial airliner — Airbus A-380. Aviation minister Ajit Singh has allowed the double-decker aircraft to fly to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The move could end the over four-year wait of airlines such as the Emirates, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines to fly the A-380 to India and bring it to the doorstep of the great Indian globetrotter, who currently has to travel overseas to fly in the super-jumbo.
The aviation ministry said foreign airlines will be allowed to deploy the A-380 within the existing flying rights or bilaterals that India has with their parent companies. This means flying this 580- (in three class configuration) to-850-seater (in all economy seating) plane could mean cutting down frequency of their flights to India. Sources say airlines will seek more flying rights to deploy this plane to India.
India had been sitting for long on airlines’ request to bring this plane here as Indian carriers felt this could affect their fortunes. They feared the “wow factor” of the big bird would wean away traffic from their bread and butter routes like Delhi to Dubai, Frankfurt and Singapore.
While Delhi’s newest runway and terminal 3 have been ready since 2010 for this aircraft, Mumbai has recently got an A-380-compliant terminal. The Hyderabad and Bangalore airports too have infrastructure for this aircraft. 


Viva la republica

For manufacturing Electronics....

Aadhaar calling !

Coffee statz

Tall ! Taller !! Tallest !!!

The Maharashtra state government has engaged the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) to examine the stability of the rock formation on the islet in the Arabian Sea where it intends to build a grand statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
This is necessary in the context of the state’s revised plan to build a taller statue than was proposed earlier that could go up to 200 metres, making it the tallest in the world. The earlier design proposed a height of 98 metres.
The new design will make it even bigger than the proposed statue of Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat which at 182 metres was touted as the world’s tallest.
The IIT-B group has been asked to prepare a report and submit it to the state government as early as possible.
The new plan will not require any landfill work as instead of a connecting road from the shore, it is planned to set up a boat service to the memorial that would make the experience for visitors more pleasurable.
According to official sources, the state government will spare no efforts to ensure that the Shivaji memorial is not less magnificent in design and size than the Statue of Unity planned by the Gujarat government.
Officials in charge of the project are closely watching what their Gujarat counterparts are planning for the Statue of Unity. One of the aspects they are studying is the metal cladding for the statue.
“We are considering bronze cladding for the equestrian statue that will be made of iron,” said an official. “We have to ensure that the structure survives for centuries, for which it must be able to withstand the vagaries of nature, whether it is an earthquake, cyclone or tsunami. So, it will be planned and built taking into account these requirements.”
The concept plan was prepared by the JJ School of Architecture and this will be circulated to various agencies, including the Ministry of Environment and Forests, for their study and approval. The process to appoint project management consultants will also be initiated shortly.
The islet in the sea on which the memorial is planned is about 1.5 km from Raj Bhawan and 2.5 km from Nariman Point. The state government had previously sought proposals from across the globe for this monument, the cost for which could now exceed Rs.1,000 crore.

Of "Populist Anarchy" & a "Charity Shop"....

A day after President Pranab Mukherjee’s reference to “populist anarchy’’, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said it would consider his views and was happy that a debate had been generated on whether an elected government sitting on dharna was constitutional or not.
When asked about Mukherjee’s remark on “populist anarchy’’ not being a substitute for governance, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said, "I am happy that this is being debated now.”
The President had also said that government was not a “charity shop’’, an indirect reference to the recent subsidy given to power consumers by the AAP-led Delhi government. Kejriwal said, “It is the President's or the Centre's point of view and we will consider it. But I am happy that at least a debate has kicked off on whether a dharna by chief minister leads to a constitutional crisis or not."
"Please look at the newspapers. Some are in favour and some are critical and a healthy debate is always very good in a democracy," Kejriwal added.
These statements are in contrast to the line taken by the party on Saturday night. Hours after the President’s RDay address, chief spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said, "I have full belief that President must have greater things on his mind. When he talks about anarchy, he looks towards the nation. He must be thinking about what is happening in Gujarat, Punjab and the entire country.’’
He also tweeted, “Surely a gross misreading to imagine that President's address refers to AAP. His Excellency is above petty, partisan politics!’’
Asked whether he was undermining the importance of institutions like the police by staging protest, Kejriwal said, "All I want is that the people in the national capital should feel safe. Now, this is not an unconstitutional demand that I am making. I am more bothered about safety and providing basic amenities to my people."

Somewhere in Andhra Pradesh....

Congress remains unfazed by the increasingly rebellious chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy seeking a resolution against the creation of Telangana, saying it does not in any affect the legislation on statehood.
Senior Congress sources said the party was only concerned about the timeline to wind up the discussion on the central bill for division of Andhra Pradesh. “The resolution, even if it is passed by the assembly, will not impinge on the bill,” a key party manager said.
Reddy has strongly opposed the bill in the fractious assembly in which Congress members from Seemandhra region have come together against the motion. The division within Congress along regional lines has Telangana and non-Telangana members facing off.
With the President extending the discussion on Telangana bill by one week, all eyes in the Congress are on the assembly returning the legislation. A negative vote will not in any way disturb the official line for creation of Telangana as the views of the assembly have little bearing on the central project. The CM has stepped up the ante by seeking a separate resolution against the division of Andhra Pradesh. Congress is likely to go ahead with the plan to table the bill in Parliament in the coming session that will the be the last of the present Lok Sabha. However, the rebellion within party ranks has raised the headache of a split in the party ahead of Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

Mumbai Monorail

Somewhere in Karnataka....

He’s often criticized for not being industry friendly enough, but on Saturday, on the eve of a major business event in Karnataka, chief minister Siddaramaiah listed several fresh investments coming into the state.
Two-wheeler manufacturer Hero Motocorp will set up a facility in Dharwad with an investment of Rs.1,700 crore to manufacture 4 million units annually. Asian Paints is investing Rs.1,700 crore in Mysore to set up a 125-acre facility with an annual capacity of 70,000 tonnes.
Toshiba Electric is investing Rs.290 crore in Vasantha Narasapur, Tumkur district.
Japanese automotive component manufacturer Nippon Piston Ring is setting up a Rs.170-crore facility at Malur in Kolar district.
Swedish auto manufacturer Volvo is looking forward to setting up a passenger car plant between Hoskote and Narsapura.
Siddaramaiah said the State High-Level Clearance Committee, chaired by him, has met thrice since he took over in May last year and cleared projects worth Rs.44,000 crore.
“Karnataka will take progressive steps to make it the most preferred business destination in the country. The new industrial policy will extend support to investors. There’s plenty of skilled and unskilled manpower in the state and investors will benefit from the policy,” chief minister Siddaramaiah said at a conference to announce a two-day Partnership Summit 2014 organized by CII to be held from Monday.
Karnataka is the partner state for the 20th edition of the summit at which 45 countries and over 1,000 delegates will participate. Siddaramaiah said the new policy will focus on, among other things, automobiles, textiles and other manufacturing. He said a Global Investors’ Meet will be held this October. The biannual event was held in June twice.
Karnataka was recently categorized as a ‘less developed state’ by a panel headed by RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, alongside Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal. A push for manufacturing, especially in the under-developed northern parts of the state, may be essential to improve the overall ratings.
Siddaramaiah said the state had identified four industrial nodes – Bidadi, Chitradurga, Kolar and Tumkur – on the Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor project evaluated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The first interim report by the Centre has been sent back with the state’s consent. The final report is expected in June, after which the state will float a tender to develop a cluster-based approach in the four industrial nodes.

Thoughts to ponder about :#Sec377

An article by Leila Seth

My name is Leila Seth. I am 83 years old. I have been in a long and happy marriage of more than sixty years with my husband Premo, and am the mother of three children. The eldest, Vikram, is a writer. The second, Shantum, is a Buddhist teacher. The third, Aradhana, is an artist and film-maker. I love them all. My husband and I have brought them up with the values we were brought up with — honesty, courage and sympathy for others. We know that they are hardworking and affectionate people, who are trying to do some good in the world.
But our eldest, Vikram, is now a criminal, an unapprehended felon. This is because, like many millions of other Indians, he is gay; and last month, two judges of the Supreme Court overturned the judgment of two judges of the Delhi High Court that, four years ago, decriminalized homosexuality. Now, once again, if Vikram falls in love with another man, he will be committing a crime punishable by imprisonment for life if he expresses his love physically. The Supreme Court judgment means that he would have to be celibate for the rest of his life — or else leave the country where he was born, to which he belongs, and which he loves more than any other.
I myself have been a judge for more than fourteen years — first, as a judge of the Delhi High Court, then as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. Later, I served as a member of the Law Commission, as well as the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which resulted in the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 being passed. I have great respect for legal proprieties in general, and would not normally comment on a judgment, but I am making an exception in this case.
I read the judgment of the Delhi High Court when it came out four years ago. It was a model of learning, humanity and application of Indian Constitutional principles. It was well crafted, and its reasoning clearly set out. It decided that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code infringed Article 14 of the Constitution, which deals with the fundamental right to equality. It infringed Article 15, which deals with the fundamental right to non-discrimination. And it infringed Article 21, which covers the fundamental right to life and liberty, including privacy and dignity. The judgment of the High Court ‘read down’ Section 377 in order to decriminalize private, adult, consensual sexual acts.
The government found no fault with the judgment and did not appeal. However, a number of people who had no real standing in the matter did challenge it. Two judges of the Supreme Court heard the appeal in early 2012. Then, 21 months later, and on the very morning of the retirement of one of them, the judgment was finally pronounced. The Delhi High Court judgment was set aside, Section 377 was reinstated in full, and even private, adult, consensual sexual acts other than the one considered ‘natural’ were criminalized again.
As the mother of my elder son, I was extremely upset. But as a lawyer and a former judge, I decided to reserve my views till I had read the judgment. When I read it, it would be true to say that I found it difficult to follow its logic.
A host of academics and lawyers have critiqued the judgment in great detail, including the non-addressal of the Article 15 argument, and have found it wanting in many respects. I do not intend to repeat those criticisms. However, I should point out that both learning and science get rather short shrift. Instead of welcoming cogent arguments from jurisprudence outside India, which is accepted practice in cases of fundamental rights, the judgment specifically dismisses them as being irrelevant. Further, rather than following medical, biological and psychological evidence, which show that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range not only of human sexuality but of the sexuality of almost every animal species we know, the judgment continues to talk in terms of ‘unnatural’ acts, even as it says that it would be difficult to list them.
But what has pained me and is more harmful is the spirit of the judgment. The interpretation of law is untempered by any sympathy for the suffering of others.
The voluminous accounts of rape, torture, extortion and harassment suffered by gay and transgender people as a result of this law do not appear to have moved the court. Nor does the court appear concerned about the parents of such people, who stated before the court that the law induced in their children deep fear, profound self-doubt and the inability to peacefully enjoy family life. I know this to be true from personal experience. The judgment fails to appreciate the stigma that is attached to persons and families because of this criminalization.
The judgment claimed that the fact that a minuscule fraction of the country’s population was gay or transgender could not be considered a sound basis for reading down Section 377. In fact, the numbers are not small. If only 5% of India’s more than a billion people are gay, which is probably an underestimate, it would be more than 50 million people, a population as large as that of Rajasthan or Karnataka or France or England. But even if only a very few people were in fact at threat, the Supreme Court could not abdicate its responsibilities to protect their fundamental rights, or shuffle them off to Parliament. It would be like saying that the Parsi community could be legitimately imprisoned or deported at Parliament’s will because they number only a few tens of thousands. The reasoning in the judgment that justice based on fundamental rights can only be granted if a large number of people are affected is constitutionally immoral and inhumane.
The judgment has treated people with a different sexual orientation as if they are people of a lesser value.
What makes life meaningful is love. The right that makes us human is the right to love. To criminalize the expression of that right is profoundly cruel and inhumane. To acquiesce in such criminalization or, worse, to recriminalize it, is to display the very opposite of compassion. To show exaggerated deference to a majoritarian Parliament when the matter is one of fundamental rights is to display judicial pusillanimity, for there is no doubt, that in the constitutional scheme, it is the judiciary that is the ultimate interpreter.
 A review petition is now up for hearing before one of the two original judges plus another, who will replace the now-retired Justice Singhvi. It will be heard in chambers. No lawyers will be present.
I began by saying that Premo and I had brought up our children to believe in certain values. I did not mention some others which we have also sought to inculcate in them: to open their hearts and minds; to admit their errors frankly, however hard this may be; to abjure cruelty; and to repair in a willing spirit any unjust damage they have done to others. 

India-Japan bonhomie grows

PM Manmohan Singh and his visiting Japan counterpart Shinzo Abe have agreed to further deepen the strategic and global partnership between the two countries. Singh said Japan was at the heart of India’s Look East policy.
The meeting saw Abe, who is the first Japanese PM to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations as chief guest, emphasize on the need for the two countries to contribute jointly to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world taking into account changes in the strategic environment, a joint statement issued after the meeting said.
While China has so far refrained from making any adverse comment about Abe’s decision to accept India’s invitation to grace R-Day, Beijing’s likely response has been a subject of much speculation by international media. India has already clarified that the R-Day parade is as much civilian as it is military.
The two countries signed as many as eight pacts, including one for promotion of tourism and several others for Japanese soft loans and official development assistance to India.
In a statement, Singh expressed satisfaction over the political engagement and expanding defence and security cooperation between India and Japan. The PMs said they were happy with the launch of regular consultations between the secretary-general of National Security Secretariat of Japan and India’s national security advisor.

Japan is sailing in where China fears to tread. As India and Japan ramp up their bilateral relationship, India has invited Japan to invest in and build overland infrastructure in areas which are generally out of bounds for Chinese investments.
India and Japan used the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dramatically expand the scope of bilateral cooperation to include the politically sensitive northeastern states of India, areas where Chinese investment or projects are actively discouraged. Japanese companies will have the opportunity to help the development of the northeast specially to build roads, and aid agriculture, forestry and water supply and sewerage in these states.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory, which has aggravated border tensions between India and China. Security agencies have also long tracked Chinese weapons assistance to militant outfits in northeastern states. It has taken India many difficult years to calm down these hills, but China remains a significant security threat.
For India to invite Japan to build infrastructure here is a huge political statement.
In 2007, China opposed an ADB loan for development works in Arunachal Pradesh describing it as “disputed territory”.
The last time the Japanese were in India’s northeast was during the second world war, when they worked with Netaji Subhash Bose’s INA to confront the British in Nagaland. Japanese companies have also been invited to help develop a new port in Chennai, which would be used to improve India’s sea-route connectivity.

Abe considers Singh as his mentor or guru, Tomohiko Taniguchi, a close aide of the visiting Japanese leader and a councillor in Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat said. Under the economist turned-politician who is not seeking a third term as Prime Minister, India’s relationship with Japan has grown into a strategic partnership, with wariness towards China’s increasing global clout playing a catalyst to the expanding ties between New Delhi and Tokyo. Japan is the only country after Russia with which India holds annual summit meetings. The growing relationship was also visible from recent high-level visits – Japan’s Emperor Akihito visited India last year, while Singh had gone to Tokyo before that. Abe was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Sunday.
Abe was very keen to undertake this visit to take forward from where he had left after his last trip to Delhi as prime minister in 2007, Taniguchi said. In between, he had come to India in 2011 as an opposition leader and at that time, Singh had organised a meeting between some of his ministers and Abe at short notice, Taniguchi said, explaining the warm ties between the two leaders.
According to Taniguchi, the joint statement that India and Japan issued after the annual summit on Saturday is exhaustive and can withstand any changes in political equations after the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The statement covered energy partnerships, economy and investments with Japan promising continued support for India’s infrastructure projects. But defence was the main focus of the statement. While it covered maritime security and India-US-Japan naval exercises, India and Japan have also agreed to have meetings at the level of their national security advisers.Japan’s NSA,who is accompanying Abe on this trip,will hold discussions with his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon on China’s military rise as well as situation in N Korea, South China and East China Sea,Afghanistan,Iran and Iraq.
Meanwhile, a Japanese official speaking on condition of anonymity described Narendra Modi, BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister, as “energetic, good at engaging and one who has experienced advisers with him”.

High Speed Rail : Mumbai-Ahmedabad update

In a few years, high-speed bullet trains may be able to take commuters from Mumbai to Ahmedabad in two hours flat. A proposal is under consideration to link the corridor via Thane and Virar. The feasibility study for the high-speed train that will traverse 534 km—to be done by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)—is expected to be complete by May 2015.
The JICA team was in Mumbai to meet officials of the state government and railways to discuss the project, which is estimated to cost Rs.63,000 crore.
 Western Railway’s divisional railway manager Shailendra Kumar said, “The train is likely to originate from Bandra-Kurla Complex.” Besides, the team has chosen Bandra Terminus and LTT as alternatives for the originating station here.
The high-speed train will run at a maximum speed of 320 kmph.
As of now, the fastest train to run on this sector is Duranto and it takes close to seven hours to reach Ahmedabad from Mumbai Central. Duronto runs nonstop between these two cities at a maximum speed of 120 kmph.
According to the tentative alignment finalized, the train will originate via BKC or Bandra Terminus and will have halts at Thane and Virar, from where it will run parallel to existing WR alignment up to Ahmedabad.”
The official said, “The idea behind linking the route via Thane is to keep the option open to link this high-speed train to Pune. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route will primarily benefit Gujarat more as three of its premier cities, including Vapi, Surat and Vadodara, get connected, while none of Maharashtra’s major cities, except Mumbai, gets the benefit.”
A pre-feasibility study for the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad route was conducted by French consultancy firm Systra. Indian Railways has, however, decided to abandon the Pune-Mumbai leg of this stretch as it could turn to be loss-making proposition due to poor patronage.
An official said, “The project is likely to be implemented on PPP model with Maharashtra and Gujarat as stakeholders. Maharashtra would definitely look at the cost-benefit ratio before committing to the project.”
Former Railway Board member VN Mathur, who has been roped in as advisor by JICA for the project, said, “The details of feasibility study are being worked out.”
The cost of the study, for which an agreement was signed in October 2013, will be shared 50:50 between India and Japan.

Length : 534 km
Estimated cost : 63,000 cr
Estimated travel time : 2 hours
Maximum Speed : 320 kmph
Stations : 11
Status : Feasibility study to complete by May 2015
Tentative routes (stations)
Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Dahanu, Vapi, Valsad Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand and Ahmedabad

The Prez speaks....

President Pranab Mukherjee’s comments on the eve of Republic Day on the significance of the 2014 elections saw him pitching for a stable government not held to ransom by “capricious” regional parties. He added that voters have a responsibility to discharge and should not let the nation down. “2014 is a precipice moment in our history. We must re-discover that sense of national purpose and patriotism which lifts the nation above and across the abyss, and back on to the road of prosperity. Give the young jobs and they will raise the villages and cities to 21st century standards. Give them a chance and you will marvel at the India they can create,” he said.
Mukherjee warned that all this would not be possible if India did not get a stable government. “This year, we will witness the 16th general election to our Lok Sabha. A fractured government, hostage to whimsical opportunists, is always an unhappy eventuality. In 2014, it could be catastrophic. Each one of us is a voter; each one of us has a deep responsibility; we cannot let India down. It is time for introspection and action.” He continued, “Some cynics may scoff at our commitment to democracy, but our democracy has never been betrayed by the people. Its fault-lines, where they exist are the handiwork of those who have made power a gateway to greed. We do feel angry, and rightly so, when we see democratic institutions being weakened by complacency and incompetence. If we hear sometimes an anthem of despair from the street, it is because people feel that a sacred trust is being violated.”
Mukherjee said while political parties needed to be realistic about what they promise to people, they had to deliver development expeditiously. “This rage will abate only when governments deliver what they were elected to deliver — social and economic progress, not at a snail’s pace, but with the speed of a racehorse,” he said, adding, “The aspirational young Indian will not forgive a betrayal of her future. Those in office must eliminate the trust deficit between them and the people. Those in politics should understand that every election comes with a warning sign—perform, or perish.” He further said, “ I am not a cynic because I know that democracy has this marvellous ability to self-correct. It is the physician that heals itself, and 2014 must become a year of healing after the fractured and contentious politics of the last few years.”

Elections 2014

A nearly 81 crore strong electorate will decide the outcome of the 2014 general elections, as against 71 crore voters who were on the electoral rolls during 2009 polls.
The 10-crore rise between two successive general elections is “massive”, going by the Election Commission’s own account, particularly when contrasted with the 4-crore rise between the 2004 and 2009 elections. Of the 10 crore voters, at least four crore are aged between 18 and 22 years and will vote in a general election for the first time.

Interestingly, the biggest chunk of new voters, totalling 3.91 crore, was enrolled in the last three months alone, as part of summary revision of rolls supervised by the EC. Speaking to reporters on the eve of National Voters’ Day, observed by EC on January 25 every year, commission director general Akshay Rout said the 3.91-crore figure was provisional and might see a slight revision.

Rumblings in the DMK

DMK on Friday suspended party chief Karunanidhi’s son M K Alagiri from all party posts and primary membership, telling him that his opposition to DMK DMDK alliance is not going be taken lightly. In a veiled warning to his son on January 7, Karnunanidhi had said those going against party diktat will face action.

Continuing his defiant stance, DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s older son M K Alagiri, who was suspended from the party on Friday for indiscipline and airing views against the DMDK, a possibly ally, said on Saturday that the DMK’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections were rather dim.
Asked whether he would contest the polls or field rebel candidates against the DMK, he told reporters at his residence in Neelankarai here that the party would “lose on its own”.
The future course of action would be chalked out at his birthday celebration meeting, scheduled in Madurai for January 30, he said and added that it would be intimated to the media the following day. His supporters were working towards making his birthday a gala celebration, and say it would be a muscle-flexing exercise for Alagiri to display his sway over sections in the party.
While controversial posters on Madurai city walls contributed to the stringent action against Alagiri and his supporters, a new set sprung up in the temple city, stoking the fire further. One poster with a huge portrait of Alagiri declared January 30, his birthday, as ‘Ulaga Uthamar Thinam’ (World Righteous Person Day). It said, “Annane! Nee kaattum Vazhiyil nangal’’(We will travel in the path you show).
Another poster punned the honorific ``Anjanenjar’’ used by his supporters to address Alagiri and coined the term ``Kenjanenjare’’, meaning the one who doesn’t plead. Yet another poster calling him ``Kazhagathin uthirame,’’ (blood of the party) also said cadres were ready to fulfill his wishes. One poster that had a lot of unfamiliar faces of partymen said ``Vaazhnthalum Veezhthalum endrum Anjanenjarin Vazhiyil (Life or death, we follow the path of the brave heart).
In his interaction with reporters on Saturday, Alagiri reiterated his charge that democracy was dead in the DMK. He wondered why when action was taken against him and his supporters for airing views about the party leadership, the same yardstick was not followed for younger brother and party treasurer M K Stalin or his supporters for projecting him as the future president of the party and future chief minister of the state. He alleged there was large scale irregularities in DMK’s organisational polls and claimed he would expose it. Though the party high command promised him to probe the charges, nothing was done, he said.


Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services set to roll out

The Maharashtra state government, on Sunday, will launch its 24X7 ambulance services offering assistance to road accident and other medical emergencies in the ‘golden hour’. Experts have repeatedly stressed on how care in the first 60 minutes of a medical emergency is critical to save lives.
The Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services will provide free pre-hospital emergency medical service to citizens across the state. People can access this service by dialling the toll-free number 108. “The objective is to reduce mortality and morbidity caused by accidents and other emergencies where patients die or suffer disability due to delay in treatment,” said state health minister Suresh Shetty.
The project’s first phase with 156 ambulances will be rolled out in seven districts of the state on January 26.


Of 9 airports for Uttar Pradesh....

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, at one go, has conferred nine airports to Uttar Pradesh (UP), his home state, which also sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. Of the nine planned airports, the one in Fursatganj in Amethi, the constituency of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, costs Rs.750 crore. The remaining eight airfields which will come up in the cities of Meerut, Moradabad, Bareilly, Faizabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra and Etawah and will cost Rs.1,280 crore to the exchequer.
The proposal for eight airports was cleared by the ministry a fortnight ago, whereas the one for Fursatganj got the nod last week. Four of these airports are in western UP, the electoral battlefield of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), led by Ajit Singh.
Ajit Singh said airports do not get you votes. “Airports help in improving the GDP of states and do not get votes. My focus is to uplift the state,” the minister said. The nine places are small cities; some even without proper road connectivity.
The ministry of civil aviation said the approval for airports was granted after conducting a detailed study. “A nationwide study was carried out by an independent agency and 100 sites were identified. The eight airports were given the go ahead on the basis of the report,” said a senior officer of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The airports of Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur and Bareilly are currently with the army or the air force. The rest are brownfields of the AAI. “All the four airports will come up at an estimated cost of Rs.150-175 crore each,” the officer said.
The ministry has also given its approval for the expansion of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy into a full-fledged airport. The first national Aviation University is also set to come up at Fursatganj.
Ajit Singh had been pursuing the matter with the state government since 2012. “It has taken me almost two years to get the approval. I have done my bit for the state, the rest is for the state to do,” the minister said.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

A dozen professional high-rise climbers affiliated to Greenpeace protested against Essar’s coal mine project in Madhya Pradesh by unfurling a giant 36×72-foot banner on the 180-ft tall building’s facade in Mahalakshmi.
As the company struggled to get the banner, which read  We kill forests: Essar, a dozen Greenpeace activists dressed in tiger costumes hung on to ropes for over five hours.

Mumbai Local statz

Multi-lingual RaGa is here!

The Congress has set the ball rolling......Elections 2014.

GDP may Sink Below 5%

India’s statistics office is likely to say in two weeks that growth this year will slump further to an 11-year low, undermining the government’s optimism that it would at least be flat at 5% on the back of a recovery in the second half. The advanced estimate for FY14 is set to come in below that level. The economy expanded 4.6% in the first half and would need to rise 5.4% in the second for growth to come in at 5%, which doesn’t look likely.
A reading below 5% is consistent with most private estimates that peg growth at 4.6-4.8%. Over the first eight-nine months, industrial production has turned negative, steel consumption growth has declined and auto sales have remained muted, indicating that the official growth forecast would hover at 4.5-4.7%.
Industrial growth went from 0.4% in the first six months to a negative 0.2% in the April-November period. Steel consumption growth has declined from 0.8% up to September to 0.5% between April and December. Auto industry data suggests that car sales remained under pressure, having recorded negative growth in 2013 for the first time in 11 years, at -9.6%.
Commercial vehicles, capital goods and freight, the early indicators of a recovery, have shown no signs of an uptick.
A normal monsoon and the resultant pickup in rural income is expected to boost the economy to some extent. Agriculture and banking will be the silver lining in the data.
In the first half of the fiscal, agriculture grew 3.6%.
Also, increase in government expenditure in the third quarter could help.
Though the government would look at curtailing expenditure in the fourth quarter to meet the fiscal deficit target of 4.8%, a large double-digit growth in government spending in the third quarter could lift up the GDP. The plan expenditure, which goes into community, social and personal services, grew by 35% in October and November against 16% growth in the first six months of the fiscal.
If the number is below 5%, the FY 2014 figure will be the lowest since 4% growth in FY03. Last year’s 5% growth was the lowest in a decade.

Somewhere in Parliament....

Veteran BJP leader L K Advani turned out to be the only member of Parliament on Thursday to pay tribute to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Parliament’s Central Hall on his 118th birth anniversary. None of the central ministers were present on the occasion, raising brows.
The only others present at the brief ceremony were officials of the Lok Sabha secretariat. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who usually leads parliamentarians on such functions, was conspicuous by her absence.
Advani, who hardly misses any parliamentary function if he is around in Delhi, found it odd that even parliamentary affairs minister was absent to pay tribute to Bose, who was a frontline Congress leader during the freedom movement till he fell out with Mahatma Gandhi and formed his own Forward Bloc.
It was also surprising that no minister or MP from West Bengal, were present while Bose’s birth anniversary is celebrated in a big way in his home state and observed as a state holiday. 

BJP's economic vision is same as that of the Congress :CPM

The CPM has said that ‘RSS/ BJP’ PM candidate Narendra Modi’s economic vision is fascist demagoguery whose hallmark is high rhetoric and zero content.
CPM weekly ‘People’s Democracy’ in its editorial said Modi’s economic blueprint revealed at BJP’s national council is a reconfirmation that there is virtually no difference on matters of economic policy between Congress and BJP.
“Does this sound any different from the UPA’s objective of Bharat Nirman along with inclusive growth,” CPM asked.
The editorial said that just like international capital hailed Hitler and actively supported his rise and, hence, of fascism as a way out of the Great Depression, India Inc is hailing BJP’s rhetoric.

A Shocker in West Bengal!

Cops in Bengal’s Birbhum district on Thursday arrested 14 men, including a village headman who had ordered the gang-rape of a 20-year-old tribal woman for alleged sexual relations with a man from outside her community. As tempers flared and another anti-Mamata wave over rising gender crime swelled, the chief minister replaced district police chief C Sudhakar with Darjeeling SP S N Gupta.
Even as the administration claimed it had acted promptly , more details emerged. Villagers said on Thursday that after the kangaroo court ordered her to be sexually savaged, the woman was placed on a raised bamboo platform so that the rape was viewed by the entire village, children included.
“If the family does not pay up, go and enjoy yourselves,” is what headman and now prime accused Boloi Murdy allegedly told the men.

Media reports on the brutal gang-rape of a tribal girl on a village headman’s order shook the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognizance of the incident on Friday and order the Birbhum district judge to conduct an on-the-spot inquiry and send a report to the apex court within a week.
In what could send a tough message to the West Bengal government, a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and M Y Eqbal said it would take up the case on January 31 after getting the report from the district judge.
The incident in Subalpur village in Birbhum district was reported in almost all dailies. The bench headed by Justice Sathasivam took note of the news items and took it on record. In its order, the bench said, “The district judge, Birbhum deistrict, West Bengal, is directed to inspect the concerned place and submit a report to this court within a period of one week from today.”
The CJI-headed bench asked the apex court registry to “communicate this order to the district judge immediately”.

INS Vikrant to turn to scrap

The Bombay high court on Thursday cleared the decks for turning decommissioned warship INS Vikrant, to scrap. The court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed to prevent the government’s proposed plan to auction the country’s first aircraft carrier, a part of national history, as scrap.
The HC bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha accepted defence ministry’s stand that the foremost aircraft carrier decommissioned since 1997, that had served India well in two wars is ‘completely unsafe’ and unfit for preservation as museum. The Centre said that it was not feasible to retain the ship as a permanent museum and the decision taken last year to scrap it was based on government policy. The ship at present stands docked off Mumbai coast as a defence museum. But additional solicitor general Kevic Setalvad said it had lived out its “life’’ and several efforts were made earlier to preserve it. J S Saluja, Centre’s lawyer said “even cadets are not allowed to aboard for training, it is that corroded and dangerous for human life.’’
Besides, he said, “the project estimate in 2010 was Rs.500 crore with Rs.350 crore required alone for recreating its base. The costs would now have escalated.” 

It's National Voters' Day

5 TN cities want BRTS

With roads choked with private vehicles and demand for better road infrastructure growing, civic bodies of five cities in Tamil Nadu — Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Salem and Tirupur — have sought help from the state government to introduce exclusive BRTS (bus rapid transit system) corridors and better traffic management systems.
The initial study undertaken to improve public transport, non-motorized transport and travel management plans for the next five years has estimated an expense of Rs.3,974 crore. The commissioners revealed ambitious plans that included colour-coded pavements for heritage sites, cycle-sharing stations, footpaths, exclusive pedestrian zones, parking zones, greenways and cycle tracks and additional buses to improve public transport. The plans have been evolved with the support of ITDP, a non-profit advocacy, research and project-implementing agency.
“Upon prioritisation, some of the projects can be introduced in the coming budget,” municipal administration secretary Phaninadra Reddy later told media persons during a workshop on sustainable cities through transportation.
Coimbatore roads have 38% share of private vehicles, which is likely to shoot up to 46%. The city has insufficient bus services at peak hours and poor bus terminals.


The BJP and the MDMK have announced an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections, becoming the first to do so in Tamil Nadu. The declaration at a press meet in Thayagam, the MDMK office here, was preceded by two hours of talks between state BJP chief Pon Radhakrishnan and MDMK chief Vaiko.
With the Congress and the main Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK still working out alliances, the BJP and the MDMK have stolen a march on them. The contours of alliances in the state would not be clear until the Vijayakanth-led DMDK makes up its mind on feelers sent by the Congress, the BJP and the DMK. The understanding between parties for the February 7 Rajya Sabha polls would also indicate the nature of the alliances in store. 

Somewhere in Bangalore....

Patriotic Bangaloreans watched with pride as the tricolour fluttered atop a 207-foot flagmast at the National Military Memorial. The flag, termed a ‘monumental flagpole’ and will hold a huge flag: 72 ft long, 48 ft wide and weighing 31 kg.
Governor HR Bhardwaj hoisted it in a fitting tribute to freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on his birth anniversary. Thursday also marks the 10th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court judgment declaring hoisting of the tricolour a fundamental right of citizens of the country. The initiative, by Flag Foundation of India (FFI), aims to inspire young Indians to take pride in displaying the national flag, and instill in them a sense of nationalism.
Hailing the flagpole as a landmark, Bhardwaj elaborated the role of the armed forces and their sacrifice in making India a free nation. “This flagmast will remind us of the duty towards our motherland. People were beaten up everywhere merely for uttering ‘Vande Mataram’ during the freedom struggle. Some restrictions were put in place to ensure a citizen respects the flag and preserves its sanctity,” he said.

Sensex snapshot

The sensex on Thursday scaled a new high of 21,374 by gaining 36 points on buying in select stocks in an otherwise lacklustre trade. This is for the second successive day that the key index is hitting record high level. On Wednesday, the index rose by 87 points to close at all time high of 21,337.67.
The 30-issue bellwether index initially dipped to a low of 21,264.71 on weak Asian cues, but gradually recovered after mid-session and crossed 21,400-mark.
It was just 74 points short of its life-time intra-day high of 21,484, recorded on December 9, 2013. Finally, the sensex closed higher by 36 points or 0.17% at 21,374.
L&T, which posted a 22% rise in standalone net profit for the December quarter, was the top sensex gainer at 2.8%.

Telangana Bill deadline extended

President Pranab Mukherjee has allowed the AP assembly a seven-day extension till January 30 to give its opinion on the Telangana bill.
The extension falls way short of the four weeks sought by the state government, and is meant to keep alive the possibility of Parliament considering the legislation when it meets on February 5. The Centre had earlier recommended an extension of no more than 10 days to the state government to send back the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill.
“We are clear in our mind that the Telangana bill will be brought in this session of Parliament. It’s a commitment that we have made,” home minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters. “Let’s see if Andhra Pradesh assembly passes the resolution by January 30.” 


AAP snapshotz

The Road Ahead....

India International Coffee Festival

RBI to Withdraw Pre-2005 Currency Notes

Anybody with currency bundles stashed under the mattress may need to check them. The Reserve Bank of India has said that banknotes issued before 2005 will be completely phased out after March 31 and replaced with new ones, in a move that could counter black money and help weed out fake currency circulating through the system.
Starting April 1, “the public will be required to approach banks for exchanging these notes,” the central bank said in a release on Tuesday. “Banks will provide exchange facility for these notes until further communication.”
This doesn’t mean notes issued before the cut-off date won’t continue to be legal tender, the Reserve Bank clarified. “Banks are required to exchange the notes for their customers as well as for non-customers,” the central bank said. From July 1 onward, however, things could get more interesting at bank counters. “To exchange more than 10 pieces of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes, non-customers will have to furnish proof of identity and residence to the bank branch in which she/he wants to exchange the notes,” RBI said.
The central bank has helpfully urged the public not to panic and to “actively co-operate in the withdrawal process.” RBI said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the measure. “Globally, it is a practice across central banks to phase out banknotes at regular intervals,” said an RBI official requesting anonymity. “The design and security features of the notes have been changing regularly. These are old series notes which need to be phased out of the system.”
Identifying the notes to be withdrawn is easy – they are those that don’t have a year printed on them. “The notes issued before 2005 do not have on them the year of printing on the reverse side,” the central bank said. The move should help in catching counterfeits. As of March 2012, as many as 5 lakh fake notes had been detected in the banking system, a 31% jump from the year before.
In its annual report, RBI asked banks to ensure that the notes they receive over the counter are sent back into circulation only after they being properly authenticated.

VK Singh again fails to appear before Kashmir panel

Former Army chief V K Singh failed to appear before the Jammu and Kashmir legislative council for a second time in connection with the privilege motion against him, even as the assembly rejected his plea for quashing it. A major face-off took place between ruling National Conference (NC) and Congress members over the issue of the legality of the privileges committee of the council.
The ruling NC staged a walkout from the proceedings of the committee in protest and demanded issuance of non-bailable warrant against Gen Singh for non-appearance.
“During the proceedings of the committee, Ravinder Sharma (Congress) termed constitution of the committee as illegal because he said it is supposed to have five members and not six,” said Devender Singh Rana, member of the privileges committee. “The committee was in operation for last over one year. Why has Ravinder Sharma (Congress) suddenly found it illegal? We will discuss the matter in the Party (NC) and chalk out further course of action.”
Meanwhile, the Assembly has rejected Gen Singh’s plea for quashing the breach of privilege motion against him and referred it to the privileges committee for further examination.

LPG number portability

Cooking gas consumers can now change their LPG dealers or service providers on the lines of the facility available in mobile telephony after oil minister M Veerappa Moily  approved inter-company number portability throughout the country.
But while switching to a distributor of the same company would be seamless, transferring the connection to another company could still be difficult. Since LPG equipment is not compatible across companies, consumers have to surrender cylinders and pressure regulators, collect refund, transfer documents and then approach the distributor of their choice for a reconnection.
Once an online confirmation is given, they can approach their agency of choice to get cylinders. No transfer fee or additional security deposit would be charged. The portability option will be available in 480 districts, the oil ministry said, adding that the districts “cover all possible markets which have multiple LPG distributors” and be available to over 8.2 crore LPG consumers. 

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Two lionesses, one of them pregnant with three cubs, were run over by a container train near Pipavav port in Amreli district, around 40 km from the Gir sanctuary, on Wednesday morning.
The two were part of a pride of five lionesses and were crossing the railway track between Bherai and Bhachadar villages, when the accident took place around 6.30 am. Forest department officials said that the pregnant lioness was around seven years old while the other was aged two. Deputy conservator of forests (Amreli) JK Makwana said they will discuss the matter with railways and port managements. In a similar accident, a speeding truck ran over a male leopard in Assam’s Jorhat district on Wednesday. 

Somewhere in the Nilgiris....

A tigress that killed three people and brought life to a standstill in a section of the Nilgiris was shot dead by a team of forest and police officials near Kappachi village, around 15 km from Ooty, around 8 pm on Wednesday.
The tigress had entered the village and killed a cow an hour before it was shot. Villagers alerted a search team that rushed to the spot and launched combing operations, and finally shot it.
The tigress, aged nine years according to unconfirmed reports, had kept forest officials and residents of nearly 40 villages and hamlets on their toes for the past many days. Search teams had been combing the Doddabetta-Snowdown forest stretch for two weeks after the feline was confirmed a man-eater by forest officials. It is not yet clear why it turned a man-eater though.
The government had deployed nearly 150 people, divided into four teams, to trap or kill the animal. Kumki elephants were deployed to help them, and cameras mounted at numerous spots to track down the animal, which kept evading the foresters.
According to the search team, the tigress was found in a bushy area outside the village and tried to flee into the forest as they fired tranquilizer shots. “We shot several rounds. The animal was hurt but seemed to be moving for about 10 minutes before it died,” one of them said. 

Somewhere in Kashmir....

The only train that connects Kashmir with the rest of India continued to run on Wednesday, but heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures brought the state literally to a standstill. The Srinagar-Jammu NH had to be closed, air traffic was hit and power supply was disrupted across the Valley. University exams were also postponed as people stayed indoors

Of Top IT Hubs....

Bangalore remains by far the most attractive IT/ITeS outsourcing location in the world, and six Indian cities are part of the top 10 most attractive outsourcing locations, says the latest annual ranking by consulting firm Tholons. The other cities are Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.
But the 2014 edition of this survey, which ranks the top 100 locations, also points to some interesting trends – several Indian tier-2 cities, as also cities in the Philippines, Poland, and South America, have significantly improved their attractiveness over the past year.
Chandigarh (at No 23), Kolkata (25), Jaipur (38) and Ahmedabad (63) have all improved their rankings. Ahmedabad rose the most, by six ranks, compared to last year’s ranking, suggesting that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s economic initiatives are paying off even for the IT/ITeS industry. It is seen to be particularly good in finance & accounting BPO and in certain aspects of IT. However, Coimbatore (31), Bhubaneswar (55) and Thiruvananthapuram (68) slipped a little.
Manila, capital of the Philippines, has risen to the No. 2 spot, dislodging Mumbai, which is down to No. 3. Other cities in the Philippines, including Davao City, Santa Rosa (Laguna) and Bacolod City, all rose up the ranks, while Cebu City maintained its No. 8 position.
The Philippines’ close cultural ties with the US has helped, but it has less than a tenth of India’s population, so those established centres there are looking at building strengths of 1,500-2,000 people over three years. That’s unlike in India where companies are able to scale quickly to many thousands of employees.
Industry analysts say India has no reason to have any immediate worries about the Philippines.
Tholons ranks cities based on six parameters – scale & quality of talent; cost; business catalyst (economic profile of city); infrastructure; risks (political and social risk, risk of natural disasters etc); and quality of life.
As many as 39 of the top 100 locations in the latest survey are from Asia Pacific. But other continents too are seeing more action now.


Airlines in Discount war

Consumers flying between now and April 15 — typically a lean period for airlines — can save on bookings made till midnight on January 23. Hours after SpiceJet announced a three-day super sale of air tickets on Tuesday, offering a 50% discount to spot fares, Air India, IndiGo, GoAir followed suit, with Jet Airways expected to do the same.
Among the offers, SpiceJet has offered 50% off on limited seats on all direct flights when booked at least 30 days prior to travel. Meanwhile, GoAir has also slashed prices by 40-50% with the discount depending on whether bookings are made 30 days or 60 days prior to travel. Seats on Air India are also available at a 50% discount with the bookings to start on Wednesday — base fares start at Rs 1,357, a release from the carrier said.