Maharashtra gets it's first Mega Food Park

Shirwal in Satara district, around 55 kilometre from Pune, will house the first mega food park in western India to be set up under the ministry of food processing industries' scheme in the 11th Five- Year Plan. The project is part of the central government's plan to launch 30 mega food parks in the country over the next five years. To be built at an estimated cost of Rs120 crore, the central government will contribute Rs50 crore towards the common facilities in the park, which is expected to leverage investment of about Rs500 crore in processing units. "The Western Agri Food Park is modelled on the lines of creation of a three-tier structure in food processing clusters in the country. It will cover activities related to backward integration like collection centres, primary processing centre, processing and market for agriculture products," upcoming food park's chairman Pradeep Chordia said.
Chordia Food Products Ltd is one of the main private partners in the project. The other partners are Pravin Masalewale, Akruti City, Ashoka Builders (Nashik) and Poona Dal and Besan Mills. While Chordia Food Products Ltd and Pravin Masalewale will have a 49% stake in the project, the rest would be shared with the other partners. The company is also planning to rope in farmers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as stakeholders. "We expect about 5,000 farmers to come under the mega food park venture. In the long run, we will even consider giving them a stake in the company," Chordia said, explaining that the park will be spread across 75 acres. "As per the plans, we will be setting up collection centres in Pune and Satara and have mobile collection centres for other locations," he said. Apart from benefiting farmers in the neighbouring districts, the park is expected to generate direct and indirect employment to over 15,000 people. Of the Rs120 crore investment, the company is investing about Rs20 crore for setting up a special knowledge centre of the Western Agri Food Park at Shindewadi on the outskirts of Pune. It would consist of a business centre, a conference incubation centre and a R&D centre. "Each year, our aim is assist 40 SMEs of the area in building their business through the incubation centre," Chordia said. At the incubation centre, farmers, women entrepreneurs and self-help groups (SHGs) will be trained to later start their own food processing units.
The food park will ensure value addition in terms of minimum post-harvest loss along supply chain and establish sustainable raw material chain. It will also help in reduction of wastages, providing additional income to farmers in the area and assisting them to shift to market-driven farming. Some of the farm produce to be processed at the mega food park will be strawberry, sweet corn, mango and tomato.

Exports falter

The gloom is all around....

Domestic Air Passengers : Snapshot

The figure for January 2009 is marginally better.

Praful can't stop blowing his trumpet

Abhi bas karo...bahut ho gaya!

Indian Youth Congress - Gujarat

The small aquarium fish is scouting for youth leaders in Piranha's backwaters.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Additional CCTV cameras get installed at the CST after 26/11.

MNS is now on the web

As he sounded the election bugle, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray noted that his political vision reaches far beyond mere electoral politics. Thackeray launched his website www.manase.org on Friday, which intends to make the youth aware of Maharashtra and about the agenda of his party and his stand on issues. Thackeray said, " It has been my mission to work for the betterment of Marathi Manoos, Marathi language, the State and the overall Marathi culture. My political vision reaches far beyond mere electoral politics". He said that the website would be in English and Marathi. "This website is dedicated to Maharashtra. It encompasses all aspects of life like culture, business and social spheres and will support Marathi businessmen, professionals and other Marathi ventures," said Thackeray. However, political sources observed that Raj would be using the website as a medium to campaign for the forthcoming elections. "Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray has decided to campaign for his party through its mouthpiece Saamna owing to his fragile condition. But Raj, who had earlier been banned from holding rallies to prevent him from making provocative statements after he launched a tirade against the north-Indians, would be free to express his views and campaign for his party through the website," the sources observed. Raj also made it clear that he had no plans to contest elections, even as his candidates would contest in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
When asked whether tickets would be given to celebrities, Thackeray said, "We will rope only those who spare their entire time serving the people. If celebrities are ready to agree to our terms, even they would be given tickets." He noted that he gave tickets to those who could put forth state's stand in Parliament.

BSNL launches 3G services in 12 cities

State-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) on Friday simultaneously launched its much-awaited third generation (3G) mobile services in 12 cities across the nation.
The services have been rolled out on a commercial basis in Agra, Ambala, Jalandhar, Jaipur, Dehradun, Shimla, Lucknow, Ranchi, Durgapur, Haldia and Patna and in Jammu as a softlaunch, a company statement said. The telecom giant also announced the 3G tariffs for both pre-paid and post-paid services. Voice calls on this service will be charged as low as 10 paise per minute under the full value Rs 1,000 plan, while video calls have also been priced very economically, starting from Rs 1 under the unlimited Rs 2,500 plan and Rs 2 for long-distance calls.
The 3G services will bring high quality voice services along with high-speed data and video services. The data speed is expected to go up to 2 Mbps or higher. Applications like video telephony, mobile broadband, mobile television and video-on-demand will be offered to consumers with immediate effect, a spokesperson of the company said.
Services like music downloads, video tones, instant messaging, online gaming and bill payment will also be rolled out shortly.
BSNL has invested around Rs 2,700 crore to roll out 3G services in the country. It has planned to cover all district headquarters and important commercial towns in the phase1 of its ambitious 3G roll-out plan.

Maharashtra No.1

The Maharashtra Government pats itself...

Rupee falls to 51.16

The rupee entered uncharted territory on Friday, breaching the 51-mark against the US dollar. The currency ended the day at 51.16, down from Thursday’s closing price of 50.45. Dealers forecast a further drop on Monday. The recent decline is being attributed to the dollar’s strength in global currency markets, renewed vigour in arbitraging between onshore and offshore contracts, and increased month-end dollar demand from importers played spoilsport for the local unit.

Sariska’s first couple gets a mate

Fresh company is on its way for Sariska’s lord of the ring. After a tiger and a tigress were relocated from Ranthambore to the poached reserve earlier last year, a second tigress took the relocation flight on Wednesday. An Indian Air Force helicopter brought the over three year-old tigress to its new home. The “transient” tigress was selected from the Gura area of Ranthambore, tranquillized and put into an enclosure at the Naya Pani area of Sariska. After about three days of observation, she would be released into the forest. According to chief wildlife warden R N Mehrotra, this tigress was a transient one shifting between Ranthambore and Sawai Man Singh sanctuaries attempting to curve out its own territory. “We had been observing it for the past four or five months and on Wednesday it was relocated. The tigress is healthy, has a good temperament and is acceptable,” he said. Mehrotra added that the relocation of a second tigress was necessary as the two existing big cats had already mated. “If the tiger wants to mate again and heads towards the same tigress, there may be a threat to its litters from him. But now, with the second tigress in, we have reduced this possibility,” he said.

Food for thought

More than 230 million people in India are undernourished — highest for any country in the world. More than 27% of world’s undernourished population lives in India. 43% of children (under 5 years) in the country are underweight compared to the global proportion of 25% and 28% in Sub-Saharan Africa .Every second child in the country is stunted .30% of babies in India are born underweight . Malnutrition accounts for nearly 50% of child deaths . Every third adult (aged 15-49 years) in the country is reported to be thin (BMI less than 18.5). 70% of children (under-5) suffer from anaemia . More than 80% don’t get vitamin supplements . More than 1.5 million children in India are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices . Foodgrain harvest during 2008-09 is estimated to be 228 million metric tonnes . The requirement for the national population would exceed 250 million mt by 2015 .

When a train arrived by plane

Delhi Metro’s decongestion plan kicked off with the arrival of the first of eight airlifted train coaches from Germany on Thursday. Incidentally, this is the first time a train has been airlifted into India. The coach was flown to IGI’s cargo terminal in an Antonov aircraft. The transportation is costing a whopping 1.4 million euros per train set, but ensures the trains arrive a good one-and-a-half-months before schedule. ‘‘We wanted the coaches urgently as the increase in ridership was not pre-empted. The trains will take about three months for commissioning and by June end, we are expecting all nine new trains to be operational. This will immediately provide relief from the congestion,’’ said E Sreedharan, managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The airlifted coaches will be taken to the Delhi Metro depot at Khyber Pass by road on specially designed trailers. With the first coach having arrived on Thursday, the corporation is expecting to receive one coach every alternate day till both trains arrive. The train sets will first be refitted at the depot and then put through oscillation and braking tests on the Noida stretch. After getting all the passenger safety certifications, the trains will be added to the system. ‘‘We expect the first train to be ready for use in three months after which one train will be added every week,’’ Sreedharan added. The plan is to add the first three trains to Line 2. The fourth train will be added to Line 3, the fifth to Line 2 again and the sixth to Line 3. Once the needed relief is provided, DMRC will wait for eight more trains to be ready for commissioning to start the Noida section. The manufacturers, who have borne the cost of airlifting also made the first coaches in record time. ‘‘Normally, a Metro coach takes about 20-22 months to be built but we managed to do so in a record 18 months,’’ said Stephane Rambaud-Measson, president, Passengers of Bombardier, which has set up a factory to manufacture the remaining coaches in Salvi, Gujarat. The coaches are being loaded on special trailers and placed inside the planes with adequate insulation to ensure that there is no damage in transit. Fresh orders for 424 broad gauge and 196 standard gauge coaches have been placed for Phase II Two train sets will be airlifted and another seven train sets of four coaches each will also be manufactured in Goerlitz, Germany. These will be brought to India by sea and commissioned by June The rest will be built at Bombardiers factory near Vadodara (Gujarat) .
Features of new trains include: CCTVs inside coaches ,Power connections in coaches for use of laptops, cellphone chargers ;Reduced noise levels inside by use of special sound absorbing cushions in walls ;Destination signboards in LED on one window of the side wall of each coach ;Better braking system with wheel mounted disc brakes

New Pension System

The PRDA gets set to launch the NPS soon

Elections 2009

Half the newspaper pages these days are devoted to advertisements relating to projects being launched / commissioned by the various parties across the country...

Shirdi gets connected

Can Lalu be left behind? Thousands of devotees who flock to Shirdi to catch a glimpse of Sai Baba will be blessed with a direct train from Sunday. The train will leave CST at 10.55 pm and reach Shirdi at 10.30 am the next day. The much-awaited service will be flagged off by Union railway minister Lalu Prasad. “The inaugural train will flagged off on Saturday at 3 pm. But it will be from Puntamba to Shirdi. Regular services will commence from Sunday,’’ an official said. “Putamba station is on the Manmad-Daund section of the CR. It is about 70 km from Manmad and about 20 km from Shirdi. Earlier, after reaching Puntamba the only way to get to Shirdi was by road. With the completion of the Puntamba-Shirdi rail project, pilgrims will be able to reach Shirdi without any break in journey,’’ said chief PRO, CR, S C Mudgerikar. Initially, there would be just one service per day. “But depending on the demand, we can increase services subsequently,’’ he added. Even though the project was sanctioned in 2000-01 at a cost of Rs 30.22 crore, its execution got delayed. “Getting land from the state government took longer than expected,’’ an official said. Shirdi station will include two waiting rooms and a dormitory. “The building is aesthetically designed with a touch of local architecture. It will have a 500 metre-long platform to accommodate a 22-coach train,’’ an official said. The entire project has been completed at a cost of Rs 78 crore.

Sonia shakes a leg

Reminds one of the Late Srimati Indira Gandhi....

Vadodara, Surat,Sikkim and Dibrugarh Airports

Praful Patel gallops from the West Coast to North East India.

Growth rate dives...

The Indian economy is now officially estimated to have grown at 5.3% in the October-December 2008 quarter over the corresponding months of 2007, making it the lowest year-on-year growth for any quarter since January-March 2003. The lower-than-expected growth in the third quarter (Q3) of 2008-09 makes it extremely unlikely that the 7.1% growth projected for the full financial year earlier this month will be met. It’s also likely to add to pressure on the Reserve Bank of India to take some monetary measures to boost growth for the rest of the year. The sharp dip in growth in Q3—from 7.6% for Q2—was largely due to a 2.2% decline in GDP from agriculture and a 0.2% decline in the manufacturing sector. The dip in agriculture will undoubtedly be worrying for several sectors which were expecting strong rural demand to help in tiding over the impact of a global recession. For April-Dec 2008, the first nine months of this fiscal, the growth rate is now put at 6.9%. That means the economy will have to record a growth of 7.7% in Q4 if the projected 7.1% growth for the full year is to materialise. Given the context of a global recession, that seems an extremely remote possibility. In fact, most analysts believe that if the growth rate in Q4 were to be 5%, we should be relieved. One reason for this apparent pessimism despite a series of stimulus packages by the government is that the services sector has continued to grow quite handsomely even in Q3, registering a 9.3% increase over the corresponding period of 2007-08. That trend could be difficult to sustain if industry and agriculture continue to be sluggish.


Wealth Creators : Snapshot

Interesting piece of information...

Market Mood Snapshot

Up and Down......What a see saw ride it has been !

TV & Radio January 2009 : Snapshot

Media rankings in January 2009.


New Terminal Buidings at Amritsar, Dehradun and Jaipur...

Death of a Lake

If still more evidence was required, here it is. A large lake, that till two years ago brimmed with water, has also dried up completely in Dhauj, just 3km from the Sirohi and Khori Jamalpur mines, ramming home yet again the correlation between mining in the Aravalis and the drought in the area. The evidence is there for anyone who cares to see. It’s there at the Dhauj Jheel, Badkhal Lake, Surajkund, Damdama Lake and scores of smaller water bodies in the region. But the Haryana government, which could actually roll back the water crisis, is looking the other way. Far from preventing mining in these ravaged mines, even after the expiry of a seven-year lease, it is set to set to extend mining there by two years. That is, unless the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is scheduled to take up the issue on Wednesday, rejects the state government and the miner lobby’s argument that construction material is getting scarce in Delhi and steps up to save the Aravalis.It had been reported how virtually all big projects in the Capital were sourcing their materials from Rajasthan and were tied into long-term contracts, which would not make an impact on prices. The high court would, in any case, be aware that the Supreme Court passed a status-quo order on February 13, which means the current situation, including expiry of lease on the these two mines, can’t be changed until the apex court has taken a view on the larger issue of the ecological devastation of this entire region. On paper, they are breeding fish here Faridabad: Dhauj Jheel, a large lake just 3km from Sirohi and Khori Jamalpur mines in Faridabad, has for the first time in its 70-year history gone completely dry with ugly cracks on its bed telling an eloquent story of water famine, claim locals. Satellite imagery, included in the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, shows that only last May the lake was full. Locals say the lake dried up in three months. Interestingly, the lake belongs to the Haryana fisheries department which has leased it out for fishing. But what’s really being ‘‘fished’’ out of here is sand — truckloads of it — that has damaged the waterretention capacity of the soil. All that remains of the lake that once spread over 100 acres is a tiny, dirty puddle on one side with truck marks all around. As per the records of the fisheries department, the dry bed has been leased out to a private agency for pisciculture. P V Singh director (fisheries) says: ‘‘There are prospects of good rains so there’s fish culture happening there.’’ On being told that there is no water and sand was being scooped out of the lake bed, he replied: ‘‘If there is no water then that is not my lookout, mining department will need to check that.’’ Mining officials claimed it was a ‘‘local problem’’ but promised to get it checked provided ‘‘it is not reported”. Irrigation department officials said that the dam was constructed to prevent the huge run off rainwater from flooding the agriculture fields and villages in low-lying areas and also to ensure a year-long supply of water and groundwater recharge. The water markings on the dam are an indication of how much water the reservoir once held. The unorganised mining has left small patches of exposed groundwater in some places (the water level is at 17 feet) — yet another means of ground water depletion in an area where countless tubewells have gone dry since 2002 when mining commenced. Locals have turned incidental profiteers with some charging trucks at the rate of Rs 100 per trip to let them pass through land they own. Locals and district administration officials said there were signs of alarming depletion of the water level over 7-8 years. A Central Ground Water Board report submitted to the Supreme Court in 2004 said: ‘‘... the drainage pattern of the area has been modified due to haphazard mining and dumping of waste material which has bearing on natural path of ground water flow in the area.’’ The effect on drainage pattern was mentioned in a Supreme Court order of 2006 too while delivering the judgement on a case filed by M C Mehta. A forest department official explained: ‘‘Since rainwater is the only source for such lakes in the entire Aravali region, till the time the rainwater catchment area remained intact, run off rainwater from 10 km around the dam filled Dhauj. The height of Dhauj Lake is more than the mining areas of Khori and Sirohi so depletion of groundwater from the mining pits affected the recharge rate here. Rainwater hardly reaches the lake now as because of man-made changes in the rock around, either the courses have altered or the water ends up filling only the mining pits.’’ Locals say there have been attempts to ‘‘mine’’ the rockclimbing site of Dhauj too but some local land-owners have resisted that. The situation, the official added is now so bad that even if all the natural rainwater courses are clear, it will take decades to fill the lake because of the havoc wreaked by mining and the altered soil character. In this situation, can mining for another two years be allowed here?

S&P revises India’s credit outlook

India faces the risk of having its credit rating lowered if its fiscal deficit deteriorates further, global rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said . S&P also downgraded India’s credit outlook to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, citing various policies that had put pressure on the country’s finances. “The outlook revision reflects our view that India’s fiscal position has deteriorated to a level that is unsustainable in the medium term. The government has implemented various policies that have increased the stress on its fiscal position,’’ it said. S&P, however, retained India’s long-term credit rating at ‘BBB-’, which is the lowest investment grade. The rating agency said the government’s total deficit—including off-budget items like oil and fertilizer bonds—would increase to 11.4% for 2008-09 from 5.7% in 2007-08. Due to financial turmoil and the economic slowdown, the Centre’s fiscal deficit has ballooned to 6.1% from 2.5% projected in the 2008-09 budget. The main reason for this surge is the slippage in revenue collections on the one hand, and the expenditure on sops to stimulate the economy on the other. Tuesday’s statement by S&P came just before stand-in finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announced the third stimulus package, which will cost the exchequer an additional Rs 29,000 crore in 2009-10. This will push the fiscal deficit to over 6% of the GDP against the projection of 5.5% in the interim Budget for 2009-10. The government’s ballooning deficit figures are a source of worry, said S&P .Apart from its big-ticket concessions, the government also funds deficits like the underrecovery of the oil and fertilizer sectors through bonds. But these items are not included in the government’s fiscal deficit. The total deficit will further increase when the deficits of state governments are included. “We expect the deficit to remain high at 11.1% in fiscal 2009-10. The fiscal deficit could widen if the next government implements another stimulus package,’’ S&P’s credit analyst Takahira Ogawa said. With the government’s high debt burden and deficits, the statement said, the weak fiscal profile was the single largest negative factor for the sovereign ratings on India. However, the country’s external position was expected to remain resilient.

Stimulus 3.0

Pranab Mukherjee may have left consumers disappointed with his interim Budget last week, but he made up for it in style on Tuesday, announcing cuts of 2% in service tax and excise duties on most goods that should help ease the household budget. In all, the sops announced during the standin finance minister’s reply to the discussion on the interim budget are estimated to cost the government over Rs 29,000 crore. While the government was at pains to portray the exercise as a third stimulus package for the economy, pressure on Mukherjee from his own partymen and allies to deliver some sops before the election is likely to have played at least as large a role in inducing him to loosen the purse strings. Announcing that the 4% cut in central excise duties made in December 2008 would continue for the next fiscal, the FM said excise rates at 10% would be cut by a further 2% to bring them down to 8%. Other excise slabs like 4% or 8% or items taxed at more than 10% would be unaffected by the cut. Experts said while only one slab had been slashed, it accounted for almost 96% of all items, which makes the cut almost across-the-board. There are a few exceptions to the excise cuts, broadly items that are considered worthy of having lower than normal tax rates, like lifesaving medicines, or those on which the tax policy deliberately imposes higher levies, like cigarettes or luxury goods. There are also cars, which are taxed at 8% if they are small and 20% if they are big. But most other goods should get cheaper if the producers pass on the benefit of the lower levies to the consumer. A more definite saving will come through the reduction in the service tax rate from 12% to 10%. Since this tax is levied and separately mentioned on bills for various services like credit cards, telephones, travel agents and insurance premia, the cut is bound to be passed on. Mukherjee also announced that the customs duty exemption given for the import of naphtha for power plants would continue in the next fiscal. The chairman of the Central Board for Excise and Customs (CBEC) later revealed that the various sops announced on Tuesday would involve a loss of potential revenue of Rs 29,100 crore—Rs 14,000 cr from service tax, Rs 8,500 cr from excise and Rs 6,600 cr from customs. Mukherjee said he was using the flexibility available within constitutional constraints to provide a further stimulus. He said this was necessary because the full impact of the recession in Europe and Asia, with which India had strong export ties, was still to be felt.


HIV rates soar among gay men in Asia

Unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men is fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Asia, public health experts said urging governments to do more to fight the problem. Discriminatory laws criminalising certain sexual behaviours, such as sodomy, ought to be repealed so these men can more easily obtain information on disease prevention, drugs and treatment, they told an HIV/AIDS seminar this week in Hong Kong. “Unprotected male to male sex is once again fuelling the spread of HIV infection in the Asia Pacific,” Massimo Ghidinelli, regional HIV/AIDS advisor at the World Health Organisation told a news conference . “The situation is likely to get worse unless we collectively undertake very urgent action,” he said.
One more reason for the Government to repeal outdated laws...

Shivratri Snapshotz

Shivratri was celebrated across the country yesterday.


Connecting with the young...many first time tech savvy voters.

Mega Food Parks

Another announcement by the UPA Government before the elections' code of conduct kicks in.