Crazy politics on drought aid

An angry Prithviraj Chavan slammed Narendra Modi for indulging in‘politics over aid’,and said the Rs 22.5 crore that Gujarat has demanded from the state-controlled Mahananda Dairy for providing cattle feed was a “small amount” that will be paid immediately.
Chavan said the state had already distributed around Rs 10,000 crore to the drought-hit people and won’t haggle over another Rs 22.5 crore.
“The aid was provided by a milk cooperative in Gujarat (Dudhsagar, Asia’s largest milk cooperative based in Mehsana, which is controlled by the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation) to the Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Dudh Mahasangh. Now, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s contention is why the aid had been extended to Maharashtra when Gujarat was also facing a drought. We have spent nearly Rs 10,000 crore for drought relief and Rs 22.5 crore is a small amount, which we will pay to Gujarat on behalf of the Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Dudh Mahasangh,” the chief minister said.
The battle lines were drawn recently when Gujarat demanded Rs 22.5 crore from the state-controlled Mahananda Dairy for the cattle feed it provided last year when Maharashtra suffered one of its worst droughts ever, and faced a severe shortage of cattle feed
The Mahananda officials said the Gujarat officials going back on their word was “shocking and unexpected”. The Mahananda chairperson, Vaishali Nagawade, said: “A function was organised at Pune where Vipul Chaudhary, the chairman of Dudhsagar, distributed 22,500 metric tonnes of cattle feed. Sharad Pawar had also attended the event. The cattle feed packs bore stamps that said the feed was part of the aid package and was not for sale. We are shocked that Mahananda is being made to suffer because of this politics between the BJP and the UPA.”

Somewhere in Lucknow....

Somewhere in Delhi....

Pollster's Predictions

Pathetic campaign !

The Congress candidate from Saharanpur Imran Masood, who threatened to chop the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi into pieces, was arrested early on Saturday morning.
He was later produced before a Saharanpur court, which remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days.
Mr. Masood was caught on video saying, “If Modi tries to turn Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat, then we will chop him into tiny pieces... I am not scared of getting killed or attacking someone. I will fight against Modi. He thinks U.P. is Gujarat.”
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi disapproved of his intemperate remarks.
At a rally in Saharanpur on Saturday, Mr. Gandhi, without naming Mr. Masood, said the Congress did not believe in the politics of anger.
“A few months ago, our candidate used harsh words for the opposition candidate. That’s not our tradition. No matter what the Opposition says about us, we always respond respectfully,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Election campaigning touched another low with Baba Ramdev equating Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to demoness Taadka (a figure from Hindu mythology), and describing Congress leaders as Kansa and Ravana. Ramdev’s diatribe did not stop there, he went on to dub Sonia Gandhi as a“Videshi Looteri Bahu”.
When asked what was stopping him from defeating Sonia, he said, “Sage Vishwamitra was also powerful enough to kill Taadka, but he opted for Lord Rama and Lakshman. Similarly, the demon prowess, which has gripped the country, would be given a befitting reply by Modi and Rajnath Singh.”
Reiterating his earlier promise of not contesting polls, Ramdev further said he would be following ‘Rashtra Dharma’ and ‘Sanyaas Dharma’. He also mentioned that if BJP fielded strong names from Amethi and Rae Bareli, it would have a good chance of turning the tables in the Gandhi bastions.

BJP expels Jaswant Singh

The BJP has expelled its veteran leader Jaswant Singh, who is contesting the Lok Sabha poll as an Independent from Rajasthan’s Barmer constituency against the party’s official nominee, after he refused to withdraw his candidature on the last day of withdrawal of nominations.
The decision to expel the 76-year-old Singh for six years was taken by BJP president Rajnath Singh, a party statement said.
Jaswant Singh is contesting as an Independent against the party’s official candidate Sonaram Choudhary who had recently joined BJP after switching over from Congress. The party statement said the action was taken against Singh, former external affairs and finance minister as the BJP constitution does not allow partymen to contest as independents against its official candidates. 


Somewhere in Pune....

Virar - Alibaug Multi Modal Corridor update

The land acquisition process for the Virar-Alibaug Multi Modal Corridor has begun with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) initiating the documentation process with the urban development department. The plan is to have seven growth centres at Virar, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Dombivli, Panvel, Taloja and Uran.
“The project will be a crucial step towards development and creating job opportunities at these growth centres. Work has also begun to widen roads in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region at the Bhivpuri-Karjat belt, which will eventually help in connecting the Multi Modal Corridor,” said an MMRDA official.
However, currently, the state is in a fix about which law to adopt to start taking possession of 1,250 hectares of land needed to implement the project. When the project was first conceptualised in 2008, the consensus among state officials was that Land Acquisition Act, 1894 would be followed. But now, they have not been able to decide after Union government’s Land Acquisition Act, 2013 came into effect on January 1 this year. “We have referred the issue for legal opinion... on which law is applicable for the project,” said UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA. The estimated cost for land acquisition has been pegged at Rs.1,838 crore. Moreover, the state has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea for the preparation of a master plan to develop the eastern parts of Mumbai Metropolitan Region along the Virar-Alibaug Multi Modal Corridor. Despite the legal issue that has come to light, MMRDA has already started focussing on the development growth centres, the first of which will be in Kalyan.
The other growth centres will be taken up at a later stage in the coming years depending upon the progress of the project. As per the present plan, the Rs.12,975-crore corridor will not be constructed right from Virar to Alibaug initially; but as part of the first phase, it will be implemented between the 79 km route between Virar and Chirner (Rs.9,326 crore). The balance 47 km between Chirner to Alibaug (Rs.3,649 crore) will be constructed at a later stage. 

Maha tops Annual Survey of Industries

Karnataka has overtaken Gujarat to become the second-best state in industrial performance behind Maharashtra, says the latest Annual Survey of Industries done by the Central Statistics Office.
Maharashtra continued to lead the tables of net value added in 2011-12, according to the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), while Gujarat slipped to third position for the first time in more than decade, possibly because of the slowdown in exports. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are fourth and fifth on the list.
Gujarat’s economic performance has been subject to much scrutiny after the BJP named the state’s chief minister Narendra Modi as its prime minster candidate and has unleashed a campaign promising to take the Gujarat model of development to the national level.
Gujarat’s industrial performance as measured by the net value added fell by 2.5% between 2009-10 and 2011-12. The state’s contribution to the all-India industry performance fell to 10.48% in 2011-12 from 12.7% in 2010-11 and 15.2% in 2009-10.
While it comes with a lag of two years, ASI is regarded as providing more reliable data compared with the index of industrial production (IIP), as it’s based on the audited numbers of companies. Karnataka improved its position considerably from sixth place in 2010-11 to second in 2011-12, with its net value added growing nearly three folds since 2009-10 to Rs.10,310 crore.
The all-India net value added expanded by 18.6%, down from 19% of the previous fiscal.
Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal had recently raised various questions on Gujarat’s performance on various issues including, health, education, farmer suicides, land acquisition among others, condemning the development claims.
Pronab Sen, chairman at National Statistical Commission, said that ASI net value added was a fair way of looking at the states’ industrial performance and Gujarat’s falling performance could be partly attributed to the tax incentives in other states.
“Gujarat has had its problem where its industry has been dominated by pharma and petrochemical firms and due to tax breaks given in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Gujarat’s pharma firms are opening units there. So some of the effect could be coming from there,” Sen said. Former Planning Commission member YK Alagh said Gujarat benefitted in periods of high global growth (2002-2008 in the last decade), but it correspondingly suffers in periods of recession-2009 onwards.
“Also the backbone of its industry is small and medium scale like pump sets in Rajkot, diamond polishing in Surat, ceramics in Surendranagar and so on. Many of these are export based,” said Alagh, chancellor of Central University of Gujarat.
Incidentally, India’s overall exports crossed $300 billion for the first time in 2011-12, registering a massive growth of over 17%.
Alagh said that apart from bidding for new investments in festivals like Vibrant Gujarat, serious policy work was needed to lobby for industries in recession in terms of trade and tariff policies, technology and finance.
“In the long-run, Gujarat has also to build up its skill base by higher enrolment in technical education and research so that it can diversify like Karnataka,” he said.
Economic performance is generally measured in value added terms to avoid double counting. In terms of total output, however, Gujarat was second to Maharashtra in 2011-12, while Karnataka was fourth.
ASI covers units registered under the Factories Act with 10 or more workers on any day of the previous year, where manufacturing is carried out using a power source of some kind and 20 and more workers in case where power is not used.
Tamil Nadu had the highest number of factories in 2011-12 at 36,996, followed by Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Rupee : not a Senior Citizen anymore

The Rupee strengthened past the 60 to the dollar mark for the first time in eight months on election cues and a wider regional groundswell as China indicated it would take steps to protect economic growth.
Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have been pumping funds into the Indian capital markets, anticipating a push in economic reforms after the April-May election. Gains in Asian and European stocks also boosted sentiment on the domestic bourses. Market sentiment has been buoyed by opinion polls that have put Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead in the race.
So far in March, Rs.20,700 crore has gone into Indian equities from overseas, the highest monthly inflow in a year. The Sensex gained 125.60 points, or 0.57%, to 22,339.97 while the Nifty rose 54.15 points to 6,695.90.
Both BSE Midcap and Small-Cap indices, which rose more than 1% each, outperformed the Sensex.
The Sensex gained in four out of five sessions in the week ended March 28. Broadly, cyclical stocks such as capital goods, infrastructure and state-owned banks found favour even as defensives such as IT, FMCG and pharma underperformed the market.

The Sensex is up 5.4% this quarter, beating indices in Brazil, Russia and China, according to Bloomberg data. Investors are going to be watching what the central bank does on April 1, when it’s scheduled to make its next monetary policy announcement.
Pressure on RBI has eased as retail inflation has slowed to a two-year low in February while wholesale inflation is the lowest in nine months. Also, the current account and fiscal deficits for the fiscal year have been successfully reined in, according to the government.

The local currency gained nearly 13% from its record low of 68.80 per dollar on August 28 last year before Raghuram Rajan took over from Duvvuri Subbarao as the RBI governor. Rajan’s direction and government measures have been credited with helping the rupee recover.
It ended Friday at 59.93 to the dollar against the close of 60.13 on Thursday. The last time it was below 60 was in July 30, 2013, when it was at 59.40.

RBI mobilised more than $34 billion between September and November last year through a special swap window introduced by Rajan within days of his assuming charge in September. India’s forex reserves are within striking distance of the $300-billion mark, thanks to heavy dollar buying by the central bank. Reserves stood at $298.636 billion at the end of March 21, $1.348 billion more than the preceding week. Forex reserves have risen about $28 billion since August 30 last year.

IAF's Hercules crashes!

A recently-acquired C-130J transport aircraft of the IAF crashed in the Chambal region during an exercise around 11am on Friday, killing all five personnel on board. The crash has baffled the force. Experienced pilots said an accident of this nature was almost improbable unless something very unusual happened aboard the aircraft. A pilot speculated that either the crew was incapacitated or a fire may have broken out in the aircraft.
The five who died are Wing Commanders P Joshi and Raji Nair, Sq Leaders K Mishra and A Yadav, and Warrant Officer Krishna Pal Singh.
The C-130J transport aircraft of the IAF crashed in Maharajpur village near the Chambal river in Rajasthan’s Karauli district. The aircraft took off from Agra along with another aircraft at 10 am. Around 11am, it nosedived into Gola Ghat near an alligator breeding area in the Chambal. Sources said the aircraft seemed to be on fire, and the pilots probably diverted the plane from the village towards the river to avoid casualties on ground.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said it was a sad moment for the IAF and incidents like this were “painful reminders of the inherent risks which our brave air warriors face in the execution of our daily mission”. He said the IAF would conduct a thorough inquiry. “In the last three years of its operations, we have exploited capabilities of this aircraft during the Uttarakhand floods and landing at Daulat Beg Oldi, which is the highest landing ground in the world. Needless to say, the best pilots have been chosen to fly these aircraft,” he said.
The accident has sent shockwaves through the IAF and the government as the C-130Js are among the latest aircraft with the force and among the most agile and safe planes in the world. The C-130J, which is meant for operations like movement of special forces and difficult landings, has an impressive safety record. Starting sometime in the 1950s with the US military, the C-130 is among the world’s most recognizable military aircraft and has participated in numerous military campaigns. Last time South Asia saw a C-130 crash was when an aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force carrying dictator General Zia-ul-Haq and the US ambassador Arnold Lewis Raphel crashed on August 17, 1988.
There have been only two C-130J crashes since it joined service — British operated C-130J rough-landed but there was no casualty, while a Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J crashed in March 2012 killing all five on board. 

Mumbai Metro One


Route : Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar
Length : 12 km
Stations : 12 Stations en route |Versova, DN Nagar, Azad Nagar, Andheri, Western Express Highway, Chakala, Airport Road, Marol, Saki Naka, Asalpha, Jagruti Nagar, Ghatkopar
Train timings : 5.30am to midnight
Frequency : 2.5-3.5 minutes
Approved speed : 80 kmph
Commuter movement : 45,000 passengers per peak hour per direction
Coach capacity : 375
Fare : Yet to be finalized
Ticketing : Automated fare collection system comprising smart cards, tokens. No season tickets
Rake : 4 coaches initially. 6 coaches later on
Quality of ride : Smooth and noise-free


Somewhere in Navi Mumbai....

The hills of Kharghar – currently scarred and scoured by quarry owners and scalped of its green cover by tree-fellers – are going to be turned into an idyllic nature park complete with hiking paths and biking trails. A massive afforestation drive is afoot here by CIDCO and the state forest department to create a second nature park for the metropolis. At present, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali is the only city forest in the country. When CIDCO develops the Kharghar hills, Navi Mumbai too can boast of a city forest, a CIDCO official said.
The hills belong to CIDCO and the state forest department. “We will create nature trails and have a group of mountaineers to take people around on hikes. Tracks for mountain bikes will also be created,” Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary of the state forest department told Mumbai Mirror.
The Pandavkada waterfalls in the area, where many a picnicker has met his death, will be made safer and flanked by three shallow pools, while a check dam will ensure the waterfall itself does not dry up by December, and keeps going until at least March.
The financial model for the forest is yet to be worked out, he said. But Chief Conservator of Forests K P Singh said indigenous fruit-bearing trees would be planted in the blank patches so that tribals residing in the hamlets in the area can earn a living. 

WHO officially declares India Polio Free

India was officially declared ‘polio free’ by the World Health Organisation on Thursday.
India is one of the 11 countries in the south east Asian region which have been certified as being free of the wild polio virus.
The Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad received the official certificate at a function here.
This achievement makes the south-east Asia Region, the fourth WHO Region to be certified as polio-free, after the Region of the Americas in 1994, the western Pacific Region in 2000 and the European Region in 2002.
“India has been polio free since January 2011. India embarked on the programme to eradicate polio 19 years ago in 1995, when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year,” Azad said.
“This achievement has been possible with resolute will at the highest levels, technological innovations like the indigenous bivalent polio vaccine, adequate domestic financial resources and close monitoring of polio programme, with which immunization levels soared to 99% coverage and India achieved polio eradication. A 2.3 million strong team of polio volunteers and 150,000 supervisors worked day and night to reach every child,” he said.
The health minister expressed gratitude towards WHO, Unicef, Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others stakeholders, including the parents of the children, for their strong technical and operational support to this collective effort in this region. 


Eastern Freeway update

Googling this poll season....

Sharad Pawar replies to EC notice

Union Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar sent his clarification to the Election Commission of India on his "double voting" remarks which had created furore.
Pawar’s reply said he deeply regrets the confusion and misunderstanding caused due to his statement made in zest and requested the poll body to treat the issue as closed.
In its notice, the EC said Pawar prima facie violated the model code of conduct by his "ink" remarks and asked him to explain by 5 PM on Thursday, failing which it will take a decision without further reference to him. Addressing Mathadi workers (head loaders) in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, Pawar asked them to take advantage of the multi-phase polling in the state by voting twice, first at their home towns and then at places of work and also asked them to "erase the indelible ink applied to the forefinger".

Congress releases it's manifesto

The Congress manifesto stuck to the party’s time-tested path by promising several reformist steps to revive the economy and achieve broader inclusive growth, while seeking to restate its commitment to social uplift through a series of ‘rights’ that it wants to legislate. It vowed to provide equal incentives to three key stakeholders in India’s larger growth story — business, the youth-driven middle class and the poor.
The manifesto, released by party chief Sonia Gandhi,, promises to restore growth to 8%- plus over the next three years.
The document said the “risk of retroactive taxation” should be avoided, while at the same time promising a clear policy to ensure that taxes are paid by overseas entities in the jurisdiction where profits are earned when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, a reference to the cases involving Vodafone and other companies. The manifesto also pledged the appointment of a special envoy on black money. It showcased half-a-dozen new ‘rights’ on the social sector side. These include the rights to health care, housing-cum-sanitation, entrepreneurship, social security and dignity-cum-humane working conditions.
The manifesto took a bold stand on subsidies and said these must be given only to the deserving.
On the reservation front, the manifesto hinted at quotas for economically weaker sections among the upper castes. The manifesto “promises to find a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections of all communities without affecting existing reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs”.
While spelling out its agenda for youth and students, the manifesto promised, to create 10 crore skilled jobs by boosting the manufacturing sector over the next 10 years as well as cheaper educational loans for poor students. Significantly, the party adopted a pro-gay stance, underscoring Congress’ opposition to the Supreme Court ruling making homosexuality a criminal act and promised legislation to rectify the situation.
Maintaining that “Congress is the only party that believes economic growth and communal harmony, and economic growth and social justice, are two sides of the same coin and must always go hand-in-hand,” the manifesto laid out “a 15-point agenda for India’s economic and political transformation.” Part of the agenda is a promise to “bring two-thirds of India’s population — the skilled hands that build the country — into the middle class through a package of basic rights for all formal, informal, organised, unorganised, regular and contractual workers”.
It said the six new rights “will supplement other rights such as rights to food, information, education, employment and the right to fight corruption”. The manifesto made efforts to woo back the business community and middle class. It promises to act, “within hundred days of forming the next government”, to bring to Parliament the GST Bill and the DTC Bill, besides announcing a detailed jobs agenda to create 10 crore new jobs for the youth.

NaMo fires AK-49

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s constant sniping at Narendra Modi finally hit bull’s eye, successfully drawing the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate into a war of words and heralding what promises to be a rambunctious season in the electoral battleground of Varanasi in the weeks ahead. After ignoring Kejriwal for months, often in the face of withering attacks, Modi hit out at the AAP leader, derisively labeling him AK-49 and conflating him with Pakistan, while his Gujarat government issued a statement seeking to rebut the attacks by the former Delhi chief minister on the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and his record in Gujarat.
Much like his term ‘shehzada’ for Rahul Gandhi, Modi in his characteristic style called Kejriwal AK-49 at a rally in Jammu & Kashmir and repeated the attack at another rally in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh.
The moniker contains the initials of the AAP leader’s name and the number refers to the number of days his government in Delhi lasted.
At a rally in Jammu, Modi said, “Three AKs have emerged as a unique strength for Pakistan. One is AK-47, which has been used to cause bloodshed in Kashmir. The second is AK Antony, who informs Parliament that people wearing the dress of Pak Army beheaded our soldiers while our Army says Pakistanis had come. Who do you want to benefit with your statement?”
Kejriwal was targeted for the Indian map on his party’s website, which a few weeks ago showed parts of J&K to be in Pakistan. “Third AK is AK-49, who has just given birth to a new party. The map on his party’s website has shown Kashmir in Pakistan. A senior member of his party is shouting himself hoarse demanding plebiscite in Kashmir. Pakistan is dancing over their statements. These agents of Pakistan, enemies of India, you are speaking the language of Pakistan,” he said.
Kejriwal responded to this frontal attack by calling Modi’s language unbecoming of a PM aspirant and repeated his allegations of crony capitalism and Modi’s links with certain industrialists. “He (Modi) will not respond on gas prices and false claims of Gujarat development. Why? He refuses to talk about farmer suicides in Gujarat...on his compulsions to keep corrupt people like Babubhai Bokharia and Purushottam Solanki in his Cabinet,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.
Accusing Modi of evading issues and instead “bad-mouthing” opponents, Kejriwal said: “He refuses to respond on his compulsions to give tickets to corrupt people like Yeddyurappa, Sriramulu and Ramvilas Paswan...He refuses to respond on his compulsions to give tickets to Muzaffarnagar riot accused. Why?”
The spat between the two seemed to have a positive impact on daily donations to AAP, which crossed the Rs 1-crore mark on Wednesday. The fledgling party later cheekily thanked for Modi for the surge in collections.
At his maiden rally in Varanasi in which he announced his intention to contest against Modi, Kejriwal had slammed the Gujarat government for presiding over farmer suicides, forcible land acquisition, closure of small-scale industrial units and supporting foreign direct investment in retail.

Somewhere in Assam....

Forest officials inspect the body of a rhinoceros which was killed and dehorned by poachers at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam. The officials shot the two poachers to death inside the sanctuary after they had killed the rhino but a third poacher managed to escape with the horn

Somewhere in Vadodara....

Congress’s Vadodara plan went wrong when BJP announced Narendra Modi would contest from there. Narendra Rawat had cleared the Congress’s primaries and was picked as its Vadodara candidate.
And then Modi happened. Sources said Congress after realizing that a complete rout awaited Rawat, coaxed him to pull out and para-dropped senior party leader Madhusudhan Mistry to take on Modi. Mistry is Congress’s general secretary and a Rahul Gandhi confidant.
But in doing so, the party realized it was being seen as making a mockery of its primaries, a brain child of the party vice-president. Rawat provided the face-saver by saying he himself wanted out to pull out of the race and be replaced by a heavyweight Congress leader to take on Modi.
This carefully crafted script, however, was trashed when a group, claiming to be Rawat supporters, burnt Sonia Gandhi’s effigies in Navayard area near Sangam Crossroads late on Tuesday night to protest against their leader being replaced by an outsider.
A red-faced Congress had to then come up with what is being seen as a unique twist, claiming that those who burnt the effigies were actually BJP supporters, not Rawat’s men.


Rupee snapshot

Somewhere in Varanasi....

Arvind Kejriwal takes the plunge quite literally in Varanasi!

IB finally decimates IM?!

The back of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been broken by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) with nabbing of IM’s 23-year-old chief Tehseen Akhtar from Nepal on Monday night in a re-run of the successful operation involving Yasin Bhatkal last August.
All top four IM men in India — Bhatkal, Tehseen, Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas — are now behind the bars even as IB is pursuing a country-wide operation with the help of Delhi Police and Uttar Pradesh Police to nab second-rung associates of the IM.
Coming on the eve of the general elections, the UPA government is expected to tout this as a testimony of its strong resolve to stamp out terrorism — a point on which BJP has labeled UPA as a weak government so far. “In the last one year or so, we have dealt a severe blow to the IM with major arrests being made due to a sustained pursuit by our security agencies. The arrest of Tehseen is a spectacular success,” Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its charge-sheet against Bhatkal, had said disgruntled Muslim youths had come together after the 2002 Gujarat riots to form the IM.
A home ministry official said that interrogation of Waqas, who was arrested on March 22 revealed that Tehseen was hiding in Nepal. Tehseen, a native of Darbhanga in Bihar, took control of the IM after the Intelligence Bureau launched a covert operation in Pokhra in Nepal last August to nab Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar and hand them over to the NIA.
The IB nabbed Tehseen from Nepal on Monday night and brought him across the border where Delhi Police team took him under custody. The official refrain from the Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Special Cell) SN Srivastava, however, was that Delhi Police arrested Tehseen from Darjeeling near the Indo-Nepal border as he was trying to cross over into India.
Delhi Police officials said the arrested IM module did not have any political personality or Narendra Modi as a target but were instead looking at retaliatory strikes.
Tehseen has been brought to Delhi by a special flight on Tuesday night.
Till last December, Tehseen was staying in Jodhpur with the three men from Rajasthan who were arrested along with Waqas last week.

Congress' faux pas

Contrary to expectations, the Congress’s central election committee has declared the candidature of controversial former CM Ashok Chavan for the Nanded LS constituency. Chavan’s nomination assumes significance since it was believed his alleged involvement in the multi crore Adarsh scam would scupper his candidature, especially after Rahul Gandhi’s declared stand against politicians accused of corruption.
Congress leader Ajay Maken, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, justified Chavan’s candidature saying he hasn’t been convicted or banned by the EC from contesting polls. “Under the circumstances, there was nothing wrong in nominating the former CM,’’ Maken said. Chavan’s wife Amita had earlier filed her papers but in view of Chavan’s nomination is now expected to withdraw.
It was a strong pitch from Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan that the party’s election commission agreed to nominate Ashok Chavan, despite the fact that he was himself not keen on contesting and was insisting on nominating his wife. Thakre and Prithviraj told the high command that after Vilasrao Deshmukh’s death, there was no Congress face in the Marathwada, and it would be help the party to nominate Ashok Chavan.

Ashok Chavan had resigned as CM in November 2010 after his name figured in the Adarsh scam. His successor Prithviraj Chavan set up a judicial panel to probe the alleged scam, which submitted its report saying Ashok Chavan did allot flats to his relatives, which amounted to a quid pro quo. While the commission passed strictures against the former CM, the CBI filed a criminal case against him and 13 top bureaucrats, politicians and military personnel. CBI’s contention was that Chavan had misused his position for the benefit of his relatives.


Sensex closes @ all time high!

Mangalyaan update

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM), which is on its way to planet Mars, could see some operational corrections next month if Isro conducts trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM) of the spacecraft. This will be the scheduled TCM, with the first trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM) conducted on December 11, 2013. In total, three TCM are planned in April, August and September respectively.
The mid-course corrections are planned for the orbiter, which may become necessary if it strays from it’s planned course towards Mars. Isro sources said that the date for the TCM has not been decided as yet.


The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS-1 B) satellite on April 4. The IRNSS-1 B is the second navigation satellite of the seven satellites constituting the IRNSS space segment. It’s predecessor, IRNSS-1, was launched in July 2013.
Isro said the IRNSS-1B has a lift off mass of 1,432 kg. The configuration of IRNSS-1B is similar to that of the IRNSS-1A. The satellite has been realised in less that seven months after the launch of its predecessor.
IRNSS would provide standard positioning services (SPS), which provided to all users and restricted services (RS), provided only to authorised users (military). The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to completed by 2015-16.
Application of IRNSS: Terrestrial, aerial, marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

Time to Change the Tweet

A tweet by Rajnath Singh seeking votes for a BJP government momentarily generated ripples of excitement.
“Times for Change, Time for BJP. Abki Baar, Bhajapa Sarkar”, Rajnath tweeted at 12.47 pm. While this read like a standard appeal for votes, it became the subject of commentary with some stressing that Rajnath had sought support for a BJP government without specifically spelling out that it would be led by Narendra Modi.
With suggestions furiously doing the rounds that it marked a deviation from the party’s stand to form the government under Modi, the BJP president was constrained to tweet again, this time seeking support specifically for a Modi-led dispensation at the Centre. “Time for Change, Time for BJP. Bahut hui Mahangai Ki Maar, Abki Baar Modi Sarkar (a government under Modi is necessary to tackle inflation),” said the fresh tweet at 1.20 pm, nearly half an hour after the earlier tweet.
Sources in the party cautioned against “over-interpreting” what they called innocuous tweets. “We all use Modi government and BJP government alternatively,” said a senior source who is a close supporter of Modi.

Controversial chief of right wing outfit Sri Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik, claimed it was Congress' “conspiracy” that had stalled his entry into BJP, which quashed his party membership within hours after opposition from within and severe flak from other parties.
Muthalik, who is facing some 45 cases, including those relating to promoting enmity between two communities, was welcomed into the party fold on Sunday and hours later dumped following severe flak from within the BJP and opposition parties, including Congress.
A red-faced BJP central leadership had set aside the membership of Muthalik, linked with the attack by his outfit activists in a Mangalore pub in 2009 that had sparked national outrage, as the state leaders' move backfired.
In spite of the “unfortunate development”, Muthalik said Ram Sene will work toward strengthening BJP from outside.


Airport privatization grounded again

Bidding process for privatization of the Ahmedabad airport has again been deferred till mid April, raising question on the privatization of six major airports, including Lucknow, Kolkata and Chennai, which are developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
This is the fourth postponement since November, when the process of privatization had formally begun. The due date of application for the request for qualification was pushed earlier from January-end to February 17 for four airports at Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Guwahati and to February 12 for Jaipur and Ahmedabad. These dates in February were further postponed to March 17. Now, it has been extended till April 15.
According to sources, there are still issues pertaining to agreement, which is to be signed between selected private party, AAI and civil aviation ministry. “The response by private companies to the privatization has not been very encouraging, especially for Lucknow and Guwahati, which is delaying the process. Also, with general elections coming up, the bidding will be taken up only by the new government,” said an AAI official.
More than 15 companies had shown interest in taking up operations and maintenance of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, including Gujarat-based Adani SEZ Private Ltd and Sadbhav Engineering. .
Minister of state for civil aviation had informed the Rajya Sabha last month that the government is planning to bring 14 more airports, including Bhubaneshwar, Varanasi, Indore, Udaipur, Bhopal and Vadodara, under the PPP mode. 

BJP disowns "Har, Har Modi"

Responding to Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati’s criticism that the slogan “Har, Har Modi” was an insult to Lord Shiva, the BJP clarified that the slogan—a modified version of “Har, Har Mahadev”—was not endorsed by the party.
In a statement, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the BJP’s slogan was “Ab ki bar, Modi sarkar” and media reports suggesting that “Har, Har Modi” was a party motto were incorrect.
In a bid to quell the controversy that the BJP was looking to exploit a religious slogan for political purposes, Narendra Modi also tweeted that while he respected the enthusiasm of supporters raising the “Har, Har Modi” slogan, he would request them not to do so in future.
The Dwarka Shankaracharya, who is a guru to Congress leader Digvijay Singh, said he had protested to Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat about the use of a religious incantation for “vyakti puja (worship of an individual)”.
The Shankaracharya’s intervention follows criticism of the slogan by local Congress leaders like Ajay Rai who also said the poll cry was an insult to Lord Shiva and religious sentiments.
According to the Shankaracharya, the RSS chief said the slogan shouting was due to over enthusiastic supporters and that the Sangh did not promote individualism.
The view in the BJP was that the slogan was kicking up an unnecessary controversy as it was being seen as an attempt at religious mobilization in the backdrop of Modi’s decision to contest from Varanasi. The Hindutva strains to Modi’s campaign are understated so far though he made it a point to visit the famous Sankatmochan and Kashi Vishwanath temples ahead of his Vijayshankanath rally in the temple city on December 20 last year.

It's Kejri vs NaMo in Varanasi

Arvind Kejriwal will take on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Varanasi. “I have decided to contest against Modi from Varanasi and I am going there on March 25 to start my campaign. The referendum will be decided later,” the AAP chief and former Delhi chief minister said during a road show in Faridabad and Gurgaon.
Later in the day, addressing a large gathering in Punhana, which comes under the Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency, Kejriwal ended his speech by reiterating he would contest against Modi and appealing to the people to support him.
He denied that there was a Modi wave in the country, saying there was instead an “air of anger” against the Gujarat CM. Farmers in Gujarat, Kejriwal said, were weeping tears of blood. Blaming Modi for spiralling food prices, he said, “For the past four years, the media has been speaking lies and has been claiming that there is a lot of development in Gujarat. The fact is that in the past 10 years, 5,000 farmers have committed suicide in Gujarat.” 


MDMK chief Vaiko has called for revoking the ban on LTTE and strengthening the country’s federal structure on the lines of the USA, a demand which is unlikely to go down well with his national ally, the BJP. Releasing his party’s manifesto in Chennai, Vaiko said India should be called “United States of India”, and “there is a need to review the Constitution”.
The party,in its manifesto, vowed to revoke the ban on LTTE and work towards a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Vaiko said the controversial Sethusamudram project should be implemented after addressing the concerns of local communities and environmentalists. He said the party will strive for the closure of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
“To safeguard unity and integrity of the country and strengthen federalism by giving powers to the state,there is a need to review the Constitution,” he said. BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said parties could have their own manifestos. “But a common minimum programme for any coalition government will be worked out on the basis of which the government will function,”she said.

AirAsia India gets it's first plane

AirAsia India has moved a step closer to starting its domestic operations as its new plane, an A320, arrived at Chennai airport on Saturday. This is the first aircraft the new airline has taken delivery of from Airbus. The flight was flown in by a crew of pilots and flight engineers and did not carry passengers.
The aircraft, which arrived at 9.25 am from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, is the first one to be delivered to AirAsia India. Powered by CFM engines, it is configured in an all economy layout with 180 seats.
A statement from Airbus said that, “The Chennaibased airline will take delivery of an additional nine aircraft for its initial fleet of 10 A320 planes.”
The new airline floated by AirAsia in association with Tata Sons and Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace will have its base in Chennai. The airline is waiting for air operator permit to start domestic services from Chennai. Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already allotted space for the airline in the old domestic terminal to setup its offices.

All past FMs out of the race!

Never has the economy cast such a looming shadow over any election. Jobs have become a huge concern. A large number of voters may not understand the theory of economic growth, but they sense that the slowdown has severely shrunk employment opportunities. That, coupled with inflation, appears to be dominating public mind space in this Lok Sabha election.
The irony is that regardless of which party comes to office, the next finance minister is likely to be a new face (not that that is necessarily a negative).
Since 1991, when the economic reforms process began, the finance ministers have been Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh. For one reason or the other, they are all now out of the poll race.
While it is not necessary to win a Lok Sabha election or even be an MP to become a minister, chances are that the new government which assumes office after the general elections may hand over the job to a politician who has never handled such a crucial portfolio before.

JUNE 21, 1991 - MAY 16, 1996

MAY 16, 1996 - JUNE 1996

JUNE 1, 1996 - APR 21, 1997

APR 21, 1997 - MAY 1, 1997

MAY 1, 1997 - MARCH 19, 1998

MARCH 19, 1998 - JULY 1, 2002

JULY 1, 2002 - MAY 22, 2004

MAY 22, 2004 - NOV 30, 2008

NOV 30, 2008 - JAN 24, 2009

JAN 24, 2009 - JUNE 26, 2012

JUNE 26 - JULY 31, 2012 


Tesco forms JV with Trent

British retail major Tesco has announced forming of an equal joint venture with Trent Ltd, a part of the Tata Group, by picking up 50% stake in Trent Hypermarket Ltd for about 85 million pounds.
“Following its previous announcement and receipt of approval from the Indian Foreign Investment Promotion Board, Tesco has today entered into an agreement with Trent Ltd, a part of the Tata Group, to form a 50:50 Joint Venture in Trent Hypermarket Ltd (THL),” the company said in a statement.
THL operates the Star Bazaar retail business in India.
Tesco’s investment will be around 85 million pounds, it said.
“On completion of the transaction THL will operate 12 stores retailing a range of merchandise, including food and grocery, personal and home-care products, home and kitchen, fashion and accessories etc,” Tesco said.
The stores are operated under the ‘Star Bazaar’ and ’Star Daily’ banners, and spread across the Southern and Western regions of India, it added.
Last December, Trent and Tesco had announced they have sought regulatory approval to enter into a partnership where each would own a 50 per cent stake in THL, owned by the Tatas.
Tesco became the first global retailer to apply for multi-brand retailing after the government allowed 51 per cent FDI in the segment in September, 2012. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board had cleared its proposal on December 30.
Since 2008, Tesco has had a wholesale supply and franchise/technical service agreement to supply merchandise and provide technical knowhow and support to THL in India

Mumbai Metro III snippets

Not satisfied with the public-private partnership (PPP) model of functioning, the Maharashtra state government has decided to award a contract for the construction of Metro III. The tenders for the service connecting Seepz and Colaba will be issued in July.
The decision was taken after CM Prithviraj Chavan expressed displeasure with Reliance, which is working with MMRDA to develop Metro I connecting Ghatkopar and Versova. Citing cost escalation, the firm had asked for a fare hike before the work even started.
MMRDA commissioner U P S Madan said, “PPPP model (on which Versova–Ghatkopar metro was built) is not successful worldwide. It is not the right approach. We will complete the next metro on a contractual basis.”
The contract will be awarded by October 2014 for the 32.5-km underground stretch and the work will begin by July 2015. MMRDA officials said 14 firms have responded to the pre-qualification bids till now.
Sanjay Sethi, managing director of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, said, “Bids for the first underground metro in the city have evoked good response from all the consortiums. At present, we feel the detailed tenders can be issued by July 2014.”
The funding for the project, estimated to cost Rs.23,136 crore, will come from Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), Government of India and Government of Maharashtra through MMRDA. Sethi said the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) will also provide Rs.777 crore, as the metro will pass through the MIAL aiport area.

The Colaba-Seepz metro will comprise 27 stations; all of which will be underground except the one at Aarey Colony, Goregaon. The construction will done be at an average depth of 15-25 meters.It will be carried out in seven packages at 14 different locations. As much as 30 hectares of land in Aarey Colony will be acquired for a car depot. The corridor is expected to cater to 39,000 commuters per hour per direction in 2021 and 42,000 commuters per hour per direction by 2031.

Of Kudankulam #3 & #4....

India and Russia are set to sign the much delayed techno-commercial agreement for Kudankulam 3 and 4 reactors later this month. Government sources said all differences, resulting from India’s contentious Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act, 2010, had been taken care of with Moscow finally agreeing to bring the pressurised water reactors under the purview of the law.
Confirming that the techno-commercial agreement is likely to be signed next week, Russian sources, too, said the liability issue had been sorted out.
Russia had until now maintained that the liability law, which makes suppliers of equipment financially accountable in the event of an accident, was a recent and an unnecessary invention in its civil nuclear partnership with India.
Unlike Kudankulam 3 and 4, the first and second Kudankulam units will function independent of the liability law. India had officially conveyed to Russia in 2012 that both the units will have to operate under the liability law.
Russia had responded by saying that the 2010 law was not in keeping with the spirit of the 2008 civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries and that the cost of the supplied equipment would increase significantly if the suppliers were made accountable.
India and Russia had in 2013 signed an agreement for a $ 3.4 billion Russian line of credit for the reactors. The cost for the two reactors is expected to be more than $ 7 billion.
While the details of the agreement are not known, sources here said the agreement addresses Moscow’s demand for increasing the equipment cost. 

BJP's bumblings

A day after BJP veteran L K Advani gave up his bid to contest from Bhopal and stick to Gandhinagar, the party axed the candidatures of two leaders — Jaswant Singh and Harin Pathak — seen to be close to him.
BJP gave the Barmer ticket to Jat leader Sona Ram instead of former finance minister Jaswant Singh and denied Pathak — who has been at odds with Narendra Modi — a re-nomination from Ahmedabad (east).
The decisions are seen as setbacks to Advani. He was instrumental in ensuring Jaswant Singh’s return to BJP after his expulsion following a controversy over his book’s critical references to Sardar Patel and his assertion that Muslim League leader M A Jinnah had been demonized in India.
In Harin Pathak’s case, Advani’s intervention in 2009 had saved the senior MP’s candidature after the Modi-dominated Gujarat BJP unit had decided to deny him a ticket from Ahmedabad (east).
BJP sources said party chief Rajnath Singh explained the decision on Barmer to Jaswant Singh but the senior leader remains unhappy amid reports that he might consider standing as an independent.
The choice of Sona Ram, a locally influential leader who recently joined BJP, is seen to be driven by the calculus that fielding the feisty Jat will suit the party interests in consolidating the community in the constituency and the area that borders Pakistan.