Our Heroes

Glimpses of the fight back....

Mumbai Terror Attacks Snapshotz

Lest we forget this mayhem in Mumbai.

Chindia slow down

Growth rates are dropping in the two Asian giants.


The airlines in the country have taken to it and the Indian Railways has started reaping rich dividends from this. But e-ticketing has so far bypassed the massive state road transport network in the country that plies 1,15,362 buses and carries 6.12 crore passengers every day across the country generating annual revenue of Rs 22,800.48 crore. An effort is being made for the first time to put these seats on buses of State Road Transport Corporations on to a portal www.busindia.com to offer bus reservations online within India. This ambitions project that will provide e-ticketing on bus routes will be launched in the first week of December 2008 and this could turn out to the largest such reservation system for bus transport anywhere in the world, director of Central Institute of Road Transport R Balasubramanian spearheading this project said.Some private bus operators in the country have experimented with this but not with this scale and size as far as routes and passengers go. According to Balasubramanian, so far state transport undertakings of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Harayana, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh have joined in while Rajasthan, West Bengal and Assam will be joining in soon.Maharashtra’s SRTC has opted to go on its own but could link to the portal. The project is being executed on a BOOT basis with Radiant Info Systems Bangalore that is providing the online reservation systems. Radiant, CIRT and the State Transport company will have a revenue sharing agreement for every ticket sold online. Radiant has already implemented some of this system in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu but now this is all to be brought under one portal with CIRT as the nodal agency for all the STUs that will facilitate consolidation of the routes, seats, fares and monitor it. This is estimated to be a Rs 70 crore to Rs 80 crore project. This way the STUs will not have to make any capital investment on their own and can benefit from the revenue gains, says Balasubramanian. Further, this portal could be linked to hotel reservation systems, travel companies and other service providers apart from being a good advertising medium,he adds.
If this can be pulled off,then it could be a saviour for the troubled transport undertaking reeling under massive losses.“Their financial viability are under threat due to rising operation costs. STUs need to venture innovative means and methods to control cost. One man operation and electronic fare collection system are some of the innovative measures to be adopted by STUs,” suggests a latest CIRT report on the State Transport Undertakings, Profile& Performance.
There are 23 State Road Transport Corporations 10 Municipal Transport Undertakings, 8 run by government departments and 11 government companies in public transport space.These together own 1,15,362 buses and generated total revenue of Rs 22,800.48 crore.
A fraction of this is a few hundred crore a year and this could be a blessing for the struggling STUs.

SEZ snippets

In a move that would help developers of special economic zones, particularly of IT/ITeS SEZs, enhance the commercial viability of projects,the government has allowed them to build more and larger housing facilities, offices and other required social infrastructure in the ‘non processing area’ and avail tax benefits for it. Half the total area of each SEZ comprises the non-processing area that houses only social amenities, while the other half is the processing area where industrial units are located. The ceilings on housing and office space in the non-processing area of SEZs were imposed to prevent SEZs from becoming a pure-play realty business. But the curbs were affecting the commercial viability of SEZs, according to the commerce ministry. The ministry had even mooted amendments to the rules saying developers should be permitted to build over and above the ceiling limits, but by forgoing the tax and duty exemptions for such extra constructions.After several rounds of interministerial deliberations and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) meetings in August and October this year, the government has now decided that theBoard of Approval (BoA) for SEZs can approve the construction of social amenities according to the enlarged overall ceilings in each category of social infrastructure. As per the new norms, developers would even be able to claim the duty drawback, and benefits of tax exemption or concessions, sources said. However,there are some riders. Construction of social amenities as per the relaxed norms would be permitted only in a phased manner and would depend on the employment generation, increased focus on exports and building of infrastructure in the area housing industrial units. Besides, the BoA will apply the new norms on a case-bycase basis,depending on the location of the zone and the projected number of employees. Earlier, due to the differences between the commerce and finance ministries on the easing of such norms, the government had asked Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for its expert opinion to help in arriving at a consensus. As per the suggestions of the DDA, the overall ceilings in each category will be revised upwards in proportion with the available area of land and the floor area ratio as well as the norms prescribed by the local town planning authorities.
The ceiling on social amenities has been causing problems to SEZ developers. For instance, an IT/ITeS SEZ, with a minimum area of 10 hectares, could allocate only 10,000 square metres (sq m) for housing and 1,000 sq m for office space. Since most IT/ITeS SEZ have around 15,000-20,000 employees, they would need much more floor area than these limits. The scene was no different for sector specific (with a minimum area of 100 hectares) and multi-product SEZs(minimum area of 1,000 hectares). While sector specific SEZs could allocate only a maximum of 750,000 sq.m (or 7,500 units) of housing space and 50,000 sq m of office space, for multiproduct SEZs it was 25 lakh sq m (or 25,000 units) for housing and 200,000 sq m for office space. “If all the employees of SEZ were to be settled inside the zone, then the permitted floor area for housing and other facilities should be much higher. These ceilings on the number and size of social amenities are limiting factors. Many employees who cannot be accommodated inside the zone will settle outside, creating a burden on the existing housing and infrastructure facilities,” a representative of the Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs Panel for SEZ Developers.
The commerce ministry had said the curbs on social amenities would prevent developers from fully using the permissible construction on the SEZ land as per individual state policies. More over, such restrictions would also result in higher prices of the available built up space, the ministry had said. But the revenue department had objected to allowing developers to build social amenities (like entertainment and recreational facilities, shopping malls, hotels, business and residential complexes, hospitals and educational institutions) in excess of what is permitted. The department had said removal of these restrictions would lead to increased real estate development activities in SEZs, which are mainly meant for boosting exports and generating employment.

India Post inks pact with Deutsche Post

India Post has inked a pact with Deutsche Post WorldNet Express, one of the leading international logistics group to provide international express delivery service to Indian businesses. The international express industry in India is valued at Rs 1,600 crore and is growing at 20% annually, informed a senior department official.
India Post is currently offering economical and international express mail service (EMS) to 97 countries. With the tie-up with Deutsche Post, the service would be extended to 220 countries. The official said the tie-up would enable them to make deliveries within four days and reliable logistics services to Indian businesses.

Prime coverage for 26/11

26/11, the multiple attacks and torturously long terror strikes in Mumbai will now be firmly entrenched in the global psyche as a sequel to 9/11 and 7/7, thanks to the international media coverage along with the magnitude and nature of the terror strike. Whether it was the International Herald Tribune,or its sister publication The New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, The Sun or The Guardian,TheWall Street Journal orThe Moscow Times,the Mumbai terror strike flashed as the lead story on the front pages on Friday even as events around Mumbai were still unfolding.
Even the electronic media globally devoted substantial hours of coverage to the Mumbai terror strikes with the BBC World sourcing feeds from Star Majha, the Marathi channel offering from the Star Group apart from NDTV, while CNN relied on footage of CNN IBN apart from creating direct interface with social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook.CNN got in touch with eyewitnesses who had shared their experiences and photographs on social networking sites and interviewed them telephonically to broadcast a first hand account.
Partly the international media spotlight was stronger primarily because the intended targets were westerners this time, point out analysts and the direction of coverage proves them correct to some extent. The International Herald Tribune decided to postpone its annual luxury conference, scheduled for first week of December to be held at New Delhi. “Following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, we felt it was inappropriate to hold the conference at such a difficult time for India,” said Stephen Dunbar Johnson, publisher of the IHT on their website.
“We plan to be back as soon as the situation is stabilised,” he added, noting also the sensitivity to safety concerns for all participants. IHT flashed “Commandos storm Jewish centre in Mumbai” on Friday along with other stories on how India’s suspicion of Pakistan will cloud US strategy on this part of the world among others. The Wall Street Journal’s front page said, “Terrorists paralyse India’s business capital of Mumbai” with the strapline-Death toll mounts as westerners are targeted. The other issues it focussed on included “hotel safety in question”, “Distressed markets expected to fall”;referring to the BombayStock Exchange,a setback to Mumbai’s financial ambitions to rise to higher global prominence.
The Sun flashed “Horror of India’s 7/7”with obvious reference to London attacks and reported about how the European tycoon was among the dead victims after his last call to BBC. Financial Times carried “India points fingers at Pakistan” alongside mulling on how Mumbai attacks will affect investments in India. This is exclusive of the regular updates and loads of video uploads that the websites kept posting throughout Friday.

BJP, Cong milk tragedy

The "united front" forged by the BJP and Congress in the interest of India's war on terror lasted precisely 24 hours. The crisis in Mumbai was far from over when the country's two biggest parties went back at each other's throats, unleashing vicious attacks that reduced their pious avowals of keeping "the issue of terrorism above politics" into a joke.The BJP put out large ads in newspapers centred around the Mumbai attacks, and the Congress reciprocating with ads invoking instances of terrorism in the time of the NDA government: the Kandahar hijack and the Parliament and Red Fort attacks.The Congress's M Veerappa Moily questioned the BJPs' "patriotism", and Kapil Sibal their "national commitment". The party cited "nonpayment of compensation to Gujarat police jawans during the 2002 Akshardham attack" to undermine Narendra Modi's commitment to "national security".The BJP's L K Advani said the recent "pre-occupation" of intelligence agencies with "so-called Hindu terror" had allowed the terrorist plot to go undetected in Mumbai. The Congress said Advani had declined the PM's invitation to accompany him to Mumbai to send out a message of unity — a charge that the BJP rubbished. "I was told that we would be informed about the venue of a meeting (with the PM) in Mumbai, but I received no word," Advani said.Sibal countered that the PM and Sonia Gandhi had avoided the site of attacks because it could hamper rescue operations". He reminded the BJP that "Akshradham was just 200 metres from the CM's residence, but Modi had taken 12 hours to reach there". The BJP ad said, against a red-blood background: "Brutal Terror Strikes At Will. Weak Government. Unwilling and Incapable. Fight Terror. Vote BJP." A second ad, released in the name of AB Vajpayee, began with "terror striking Mumbai", and ended with an "appeal to vote for the BJP". Asked why the BJP had issued the ad at a time when a grim encounter was still on, party vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: "I have nothing to say on this". Delhi CM candidate V K Malhotra said: "We have only said that there's been an all-round failure on the intelligence front." General Secretary Arun Jaitley argued: "We are a thriving democracy and the debate must therefore continue. How can there be a gag order on debate in a democracy?" The Congress ad, set to appear on Saturday in Delhi, reads: "Kandhar ka kaand, Sansad par hamla, Lal Quila par hamla, aur ab Mumbai mein aatank… yeh rashtra ka prashna hai, rajneeti ka khel nahin"
The Election Commission said it could not take suo motu notice of print ads, and nobody had complained so far.


Birdflu outbreak in Assam

About 30,000 chicken and ducks will be culled in Assam during the next four days as an outbreak of bird flu in poultry has been reported in the state, an official said. “The entire culling process is expected to be completed in three to four days as our teams are visiting each and every household in the area. We estimate there could be some 30,000 poultry birds in the area where culling is currently underway," said Manoranjan Choudhury, deputy director of the Assam veterinary department. The Indian health ministry on Thursday confirmed the outbreak of bird flu after laboratory tests confirmed strains of the deadly H5N1 avian influenza. Sale and purchase of poultry has been banned in the state. Choudhury said about 30,000 chicken and ducks would be slaughtered in about 40 villages of Thakurichuba village. The veterinary personnel involved in the culling process were being administered the antiviral drug Tamiflu as a precautionary measure. “The process of culling has already started, involving about 20 Rapid Response Teams with seven members in each group led by a veterinarian," he said. More than 300 birds died in the past one week in the state. Assam's veterinary and animal husbandry department sounded an alert and is maintaining a strict surveillance on farms in the state.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Chennai faces the brunt of Cyclone Nisha.

India feels Mumbai's pain

Snapshotz from across the country with people expressing solidarity with Mumbai...prayer meetings, candlelight vigils, anti-terror demonstrations....

On the Delhi Campaign trail

The poll campaign of the Congress and the BJP in the print media.Delhi goes to the polls today.