INR snapshot

The Rupee is expected to show a slight weakness till the Dubai story stabilises.

Somewhere in Ahmedabad....

An all lit up Kankaria Lake

Somewhere in Gujarat....

Some 45,000 Patidar farmers in Unjha have taken a collective pledge to switch over to drip irrigation to conserve water. The pledge was taken on Saturday evening at the massive 18th centenary celebration of Umiya Maa temple at Unjha. Another 45,000 are expected to take the oath soon, taking the number to almost a lakh. The pledge assumes significance given that the monsoon has left many parts of Gujarat high and dry this year. At present, barely five per cent of Gujarat’s irrigation needs are met by drip irrigation, a system which helps conserve precious resources by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants through a network of pipes. “The pledge will hopefully start another green revolution in Gujarat,” says Narayan Patel, local BJP MLA and one of the organizers of the Patidar meet. “Drip irrigation uses 50 per cent less water than the traditional methods. Farmers in Deesa, who supply potatoes to MNCs, have already reaped the benefits of this system.” Experts say the Patidars are sending out the right message. “This is welcome news when you consider that only four districts in the state have received normal rainfall this year,” says Anand Agricultural University vice chancellor MC Varshneya. “Apart from saving water, drip irrigation improves yield and lowers labour cost.” “More than two-third of the state’s cultivable land is semiarid or arid. This year we have limited water to cover the 18 lakh hectares under the Sardar Sarovar Project Command Area. The answer to the problem is drip irrigation. I hope more farmers are inspired from Unjha,” says RB Maraviya, executive director of agriculture, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. The organizers are also holding an exhibition on drip irrigation at the event.

Restoring the Red Fort

The ugly tin sheds, toilet blocks and hutments which were built by the Indian Army during its stay in the Red Fort from 1947 to 2003, are finally on their wayout. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to demolish the structures as part of its conservation plans for the citadel. It also plans to reopen the drains along Red Fort’s walls which had been closed by the British. Over 100 structures that have no archaeological or historical merit have been identified in the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) prepared for Red Fort. ‘‘These structures were built by the Army while they lived inside the Red Fort complex from Independence to December 2003. They will be phased out in the next few weeks,’’ said a senior ASI official. Two canteens within the fort grounds will also be removed. According to conservationists, spaces like these have been an eyesore for tourists visiting the complex, which boasts of buildings from three different eras — including the Mughal and British periods. ‘‘The Army built many structures — small hutments, tin sheds, toilet blocks — to house soldiers in the fort. For conservation purposes, these structures need to be removed and the space they are occupying opened up,’’ said a senior official. Once the structures have been removed, the Diwan-iam and Rang Mahal will be renovated and the fort’s museums will be shifted to the British-era barracks. ASI also plans to open the six-foot deep drains that run along the citadel’s outer walls. According to sources, they were blocked by the British when they took over the fort after the 1857 uprising. ‘‘The water trapped in the drains is stagnating at various points, triggering capillary action in the fort walls. During the Mughal era, drainage ensured that not a single drop of water entered the Red Fort. However, the British wanted huge lawns so they had the drains blocked,’’ said an official. ASI officials say the blocked drainage has also damaged the two gateways to the fort — Lahore Gate and Delhi Gate. ‘‘The blocked drainage causes water to seep inside the foundation of the fort wall and the two gates. This weakens the structure and the problem had to be addressed urgently,’’ said officials. Conservation work on the Red Fort — the second most visited city monument after the Qutub Minar — is expected to kickstart once CCMP gets the final nod from the SC-appointed expert

Bid to speed up work on infrastructure in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra state government will be setting up a war room at Mantralaya to monitor various infrastructure projects in the state. According to Narinder Nayar of the Citizens’ Action Group (CAG), the war room will keep details of all the infrastructure projects and their progress on a day-to-day basis so that tracking them becomes easier. Nayar, who is also the chairman of Bombay First, said CM Ashok Chavan who met the CAG along with senior officials recently agreed to the suggestion as an effective way of tackling the delays in the progress of infrastructure projects. The concept of a war room was recommended by experts at an international conference on city infrastructure organised by Bombay First. The room would function by tackling infrastructure construction on a war footing. The head of the city transformation unit of the All India Institute of Local Self Government, U P S Madan said another proposal accepted by the chief minister was the speeding up of five ‘iconic’ infrastructure projects for the city which would be undertaken on priority basis. Listing the projects, Madan said they were the nine Metro rail and four monorail projects, the Sewri-Nhava Sheva transharbour link, the sea link from Versova to Nariman Point and the Eastern Expressway. In addition, there are sea transport projects for the Western and Eastern coastlines of the city and a low cost rental housing plan which is intended to make five lakh housing units available in the next five years, Madan said. He added that some missions would be initiated to address issues like health and education.


More on the Sand storm

I think Abu Dhabi will back Dubai...and there will be no bankruptcy.

Core grows 3.5%

Key infrastructure industries that account for over a quarter of the country’s industrial production grew a modest 3.5% in October 2009, the lowest in three months, indicating possibly a lower overall industrial growth for the month. Industrial production had grown 9.1% in September 2009 when core sector growth was somewhat better at 4.1%. In August 2009, industrial production was up 11% as the core sector had pitched in with a 7.8% growth. Industrial production data for October will be released on December 12. Despite the moderate core sector growth, economists are confident of a sustained recovery in the coming months. Crude oil was the worst performer and turned out to be the biggest drag on the index in the month under review. The core sector has a near-27% weightage in the index of industrial production (IIP) and is seen as an advance indicator of the trend in industrial production growth. Annual growth in domestic refinery production was the highest in 16 months and the overall production in October was 112.7% of installed capacity. The fall in crude oil production is attributed to the decline in output from ONGC as some its facilities were under maintenance in October. But with production from Cairn’s Mangala oil fields in Rajasthan going onstream, this segment is expected to put up a better show in the coming months. Steel production is also expected to remain buoyant on back of sustained recovery in the economy.

October exports dip 6.6%

India's exports are recovering faster than estimated earlier by the government as the revised figures for October 2009 have showed a much lower decline than initially estimated, but the commerce ministry has said it may still provide selective sops to the exports sector in December. The year-on-year decline in exports in October 2009 is down to 6.6% from 11.4% estimated earlier this month, the commerce minister said on Friday. Following the improvement, the government now expects exports growth to turn positive in the third quarter (October-December 2009), commerce & industry minister Anand Sharma said. Exports were expected to show a net positive growth only by the fourth quarter. India’s exports have been falling for the past 13 months with the steepest dip of 39.2% in May. The recovery could, however, be affected by the debt crisis in Dubai, which has emerged as the largest destination for India’s exports. Addressing a press conference prior to his departure for the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Geneva beginning Monday, Mr Sharma said the sectors that are still not doing well could get additional sops in December. When queried on non-tariff measures being resorted to by a number of countries to stop India’s exports, Mr Sharma said he would take up the issue. “Protectionism is not good for global recovery. I will urge against non-tariff barriers and protectionism,” he said. Trade ministers from 153 countries will meet in Geneva to review the functioning of the WTO in the backdrop of the global slowdown. They are also expected to discuss ways to conclude the ongoing Doha Round on a multilateral trade deal by 2010. The minister said it was not possible to point out exactly how well the exports sector is expected to perform in the coming months since even at this point global consumption is weak. “We have succeeded through policy interventions and incentives to arrest the steep decline (in exports). The government, which is carefully monitoring the developments, will intervene, if required,” he said. The commerce department is carrying out a sectoral review of the effect of the stimulus package. “The sectors which need special attention will get it. It will be announced in the first half of December,” he said. On the textile sector’s demand for a ban on cotton exports, the minister said if there is no exportable surplus, there will be no exports.

Monorail to link Thane, Kalyan

MMRDA, the nodal agency for Mumbai's monorail plan, has now proposed a new route connecting Thane Bhiwandi and Kalyan. Tenders for the project, estimated to cost Rs 3,750 crore, could be invited by the end of December, a spokesperson for the MMRDA said. The 30-km-long route, which will have a station at every kilometre, would be implemented through public-private partnership, he said. A feasibility study found the project feasible. The MMRDA, whose jurisdiction runs up to Mumbai’s distant satellite townships like Khopoli, Vasai and Uran, has tied up with the municipal corporations of Thane and Kalyan-Dombivli for the project. MMRDA, which is the nodal and implementing agency for transport network projects worth $32 billion between 2008-2016, is trying to integrate the larger metropolitan region with the island city in an economical way. Joint metropolitan commissioner Ashwini Bhide said the exponential rise in the population of the metropolitan region in the past few decades has necessitated faster development of transport systems. “The Metro and the monorail will act as support capillaries to the lifeline of Mumbai, the local trains,” said Ms Bhide. The work on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro and India’s first monorail, which will run from Chembur to Jacob Circle, is already under way. The second Metro project — from Charkop to Mankhurd — has been awarded to a consortium led by Reliance Infra, while the feasibility study for the third Metro — from Colaba to Bandra — is in progress. A consortium of Larsen & Toubro and Scoomi Engineering, Malaysia, is constructing the first monorail corridor, an 11.28 km route connecting Jacob Circle, Wadala and Chembur. The project cost is estimated at Rs 2,460 crore and the date of completion is April 2011. In the next phase, the MMRDA plans to extend monorail to Badlapur.

Eid Mubarak

Bakr-Eid is being celebrated across the country.

Somewhere in Chennai....

Cattle class check in.......at the Chennai Airport

Telecom tariff war enters SMS turf

After fighting a price war in the call tariff arena and finally lowering cellphone tariff to 1 paisa per second,the telecom industry is now pushing the battle territory to SMS.Reliance Communications on Friday slashed SMS charges,both local and national,to 1 paisa.The company has decided to charge 1 paisa for roaming SMSs too, the move is expected to further heat up the ongoing price war. The company also launched another plan where customers can send unlimited text messages by paying Re 1 a day. Currently operators charge between 50 paise and Rs1 for local and national SMSs.RComm has said that with this scheme the company expects to capture market share for heavy users of SMS services.


MROs in India

Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are exploring MRO opportunities in India EADS, which owns Airbus is also planning to set up $40-million MRO centre in Delhi Air Works India Engineering is also planning to invest $120 million in MRO in next three years .AS TOP aviation companies such as Boeing and Airbus intensify efforts to leverage India as their maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub, experts say it will create around 600,000 new jobsfor skilled professionals in the country over next 10 years. Plane servicing costs in India are $30-35 per manhour in India, almost half of around $60 in other locations, attracting more companies to expand and establish their MRO centres in the country. However, despite an exponential growth projected for MRO business in India, the country has still not sorted out certification issues related to training of the required workforce. The certification, given by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), is not yet comparable with mandatory European standards. DGCA is now in the process of making its certification equivalent to European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is mandatory for MROs to serve the international airlines.

Haagen-Dazs coming to India

Haagen-Dazs, a super premium global ice cream brand, will open its first branded cafe in India in the capital next month. “We are setting up our first branded cafĂ© in Delhi shortly, and as is the case in most global markets, the ice creams will be imported,” said Arindam Haldar, director at Haagen-Dazs, owned by General Mills of the US. The cafe will be opened in the first week of December at Select City Walk at Saket through a franchisee deal with RTC Restaurants, which runs restaurant chains Ruby Tuesday and Italian Sabarro in India. RTC is the exclusive franchisee rights holder for America’s most-loved super premium ice cream in India. “Depending on the response we get with the first Haagen-Dazs branded cafe, we would like to set up similar such cafes in the country,” said Gaurav Jain, director at RTC. Mr Haldar declined to comment on the brand’s expansion plan. A person close to the company’s plans said Haagen-Dazs could be setting up a combination of large-format cafes and smaller kiosks, with a national footprint of 30-40 such outlets over the next few years. As of now, the brand is available in limited select stores such as Sugar & Spice in Delhi, and Nature’s Basket in Mumbai, apart from few 5-star hotels. It sells ice cream bars, sorbets and frozen yogurt. Its existing prices range from Rs 185 for a 100-ml serving, to Rs 625 per 500-ml carton. The super-premium ice cream segment has not yet been tapped in India. In fact, Nestle, which owns the premium Movenpick ice cream brand globally, has not brought the brand to the country on account of the limited size of the category. But Haagen-Dazs is confident, after its grand success in China where it operates 80 stores across 20 cities to huge fanfare particularly among young professionals. When it debuted in China in 1996, the market there could have been similar to today’s India. Established by Polish immigrant couple Reuben and Rose Mattus back in 1961, Haagen-Dazs is today one of the largest super premium ice cream brands in the world. It’s the market leader in the US with about 45% share and is present in 54 other countries. Starting with only three flavours — vanilla, chocolate and coffee — the company opened its first retail store in Brooklyn, NY in 1976. Today, Haagen-Dazs produces ice cream, ice cream bars, ice cream cakes, sorbets and frozen yogurts. The $16-billion General Mills markets Pillsbury atta and Betty Crocker cake mixes in India, apart from Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Interestingly, Nestle subsidiary Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc, makes Haagen-Dazs ice creams in the US and Canada although the brand is owned by General Mills. Haagen-Dazs ice cream is kept at a temperature that is substantially lower than most ice creams in order to keep its intended firmness.

....and Sheroo's doing fine

Sheroo almost didn’t make it on 26/11. The stray who had always called CST his home, was badly injured the night Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail came calling there. “It is a miracle of sorts that the dog survived even after the serious injury. A bullet had gone through under his shoulder blade and come out from the other side,’’ said the secretary of Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA), Colonel J C Khanna. It was the BSPCA staff who named the canine “Sheroo” (lion), impressed by his steely will to survive that helped him pull through. The stray has in fact now made himself at home in Parel, and does not show any signs of missing CST. Several dog lovers come to visit him, eager to meet the “survivor” and many leave behind contributions for his upkeep, but the BSPCA has decided to take care of him for life. Sheroo does get a little anxious in the company of strangers or on hearing a loud noise. However, the 11-yearold has not forgotten his saviour. Shripad Naik, 29, a photojournalist, had rushed to CST on 26/11 with his camera on learning of the terror attacks. “Some of the railway staff told me a stray dog was injured in the firing and was lying in the parcel room on the ground floor. I went close to the bleeding stray and saw he looked stunned but did not get aggressive as I touched him,’’ recalled Naik. He gently picked up the dog with the help of two other persons and took him to the animal hospital in Parel in an ambulance. When Naik approached Sheroo at the hospital on Tuesday, the grateful dog immediately started wagging his tail in recognition. “I am visiting Sheroo after nearly five months, but he still recognises me from a distance. I am very happy he is hale and hearty,’’ said Naik.

India unites on 26/11

Random snapshotz from across the country marking the 26/11 anniversary.

MEGA snippets

Ahmedabad could be getting closer to its dream of riding a metro train after the Gujarat government agreed to bear 50 per cent of the project cost on lines of the Chennai metro project model. The wholly-elevated metro rail project is expected to cost Rs 7,000 crore. The state government has recently set up a Rs 200-crore company for the execution of the project which is likely to be called Metro Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA). Sources said the formalities for the formation of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) MEGA have already been cleared. On an average, some 50,000 people commute between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar daily. The project had failed to make any headway because the state government wanted the Railways to entirely fund the project. At a recent meeting of state government and railway officials, the Rs 14,600-crore Chennai Metro Rail, which is a joint venture between the Centre and Tamil Nadu, was adopted as a model. Minister of state for transport Amit Shah admitted that the state government had called for details of the Chennai model. He said the government was keen to go ahead with the project. The 100-km metro route will be totally elevated and has been approved in principle by the Union government, according to Gujarat Industrial Development Board sources. The north-south corridor will start at APMC in Vasna and go up to Gandhinagar. The eastwest corridor will start from Kalupur station and will be extended up to Thaltej.

Somewhere in Nalgonda....

Ten Roman Age gold coins of second century BC have been unearthed in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh state department of Archaeology said . Director of state Archaeology department P Chenna Reddy said ten Roman gold coins were received from tehsildar, Nakrekal in Nalgonda district. The coins weigh 7.5 grams each. The images of the Roman kings belonging to 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD have been found on the coins. “The availability of Roman coins in Andhra Pradesh confirms the cultural and trade relationship of India and Roman Empire. Detailed study has to be done on the coins to ascertain more details,” he said.

Kolkata riverfront snippets

Indonesia-based businessman Prasoon Mukherjee has shown interest in developing Hooghly’s riverfront along both its eastern and western banks. Mukherjee met senior government officials and expressed his intent to amalgamate various blueprints prepared by different agencies in the past to spruce up the waterfront and add sheen to the city’s image. Mukherjee met officials of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, Kolkata Port Trust and Kolkata Police. Derelict warehouses and crumbling ghats on the eastern bank of Hooghly and closed factories on the western bank have led to the river’s dissociation with Kolkata and its twin city Howrah. Incidentally, the earlier initiative on waterfront development had fallen through as port authorities had felt slighted at being persistently ignored by other agencies involved in the project. This time round, the government did not make the mistake. Chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said that concerted planning was required on both sides of the river. There are several legal tangles to be overcome, particularly reclaiming land from owners of closed factories and illegally occupied godowns. While officials have assured Mukherjee that they would go through his proposal in detail, sources said the government isn’t decided on whether the public-private partnership project would involve only Mukherjee as the private partner or form a consortium of interested parties. Mukherjee himself remained mum on the proposal when reporters confronted him. The proposal includes restoration of warehouses along Strand Road and to establish hubs of commercial and entertainment activity to draw citizens to the waterfront.

Food inflation tops 15%

Food inflation shot up to 15.58% for the second week of November on the back of potato prices, which have more than doubled in the past one year. Other essential items like pulses and onion rose by more than a quarter in the wholesale market, government data on inflation for the week ended November 14 showed. With inflationary pressure building up, the RBI in its next policy review may take steps to check easy money. It is likely that the RBI in its January policy might go for monetary tightening measures and raise Cash Reserve Ratio or policy rates. According to the inflation data, potato prices rose by 111%, pulses by 35% and onion by 27% in the one-year period ending November 14. Staple items like wheat and rice rose by 12% each during the period. Vegetables too continued to stalk consumers registering a 12% rise during the same period. However, among fuels petrol prices fell by 12%, cooking gas by 7% and diesel by 6%.

An IPO in the making...

Godrej gets ready for an IPO - Godrej Properties

Videocon launches mobile handsets

Increased vigil

Mumbai may soon get a network of CCTV cameras, owned and controlled by the government but funded by the corporate sector, on the lines of London. The move was announced during a memorial service for 26/11 victims organised by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC). IMC will soon present Mumbai Police a blueprint of the project; 5,000 CCTVs will be installed at strategic locations to increase vigil against terrorism and routine crime. Chief minister Ashok Chavan, who unveiled the foundation stone for IMC’s memorial at Churchgate, said the project would go a long way in helping Mumbai tackle terror. “The government will ensure that this plan is immediately cleared by the bureaucracy. With this, let’s take a pledge that we will not only fight terror but even win the war against it,’’ Chavan told a select gathering of international dignitaries and corporate honchos. The IMC has based the project on London’s CCTV network. London has 10,000 crime-fighting CCTV cameras, which were set up at the cost of £200 million. “Working on the same lines, we will instal cameras at major traffic signals, public places and places of worship. This is part of our corporate social responsibility programme. We will even organise training programmes and prepare the model with the help of defence experts from Israel,’’ IMC president Gul Kripalani said.

Standstill and a Perfect Storm ?

Dubai is shaking investor confidence across the Persian Gulf after it sought a six-month reprieve on debt payments that risked triggering the biggest sovereign default since Argentina in 2001. The move caused a drop in world markets on Thursday and raised questions about Dubai’s reputation as a magnet for international investment. In Europe, the FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the CAC-40 in France opened sharply lower. Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai index sank 119 points, or 3.6%, in the biggest one-day fall since August 31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.8%. Wall Street was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday and most markets in the Middle East were silent because of a major Islamic feast. Stocks, bonds and currencies fell across developing countries. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index of stocks dropped 1.1%, led by declines in China and Russia. The fallout came swiftly after Wednesday’s statement that Dubai’s main development engine, Dubai World, would ask creditors for a standstill on paying back its $60 billion debt until at least May. The company’s real estate arm, Nakheel—whose projects include the palmshaped island in the Gulf—shoulders the bulk of money due to banks, investment houses and outside development contractors. In total, the statebacked networks nicknamed Dubai Inc are $80 billion in the red.

The Emirate of Dubai needed a bailout earlier this year from its oilrich neighbour Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. “Nakheel is now standing on the brink of failure given the astonishing amount of cash Dubai would have to inject into it in order to see the enterprise survive,’’ said Luis Costa, emerging-market debt strategist at Commerzbank AG in London. “Events like this are a perfect storm.’’ “Dubai’s standstill announcement...was vague and it remains difficult to discern whether the call for a standstill will be voluntary,’’ said a statement from the Eurasia Group, a Washington-based research group that assesses political and financial risk for foreign investors interested in Dubai. “If it is not, Dubai World will be going into default and that will have more serious negative repercussions for Dubai’s sovereign debt, Dubai World and market confidence in the UAE in general,’’ the statement added. “There is nothing investors dislike more than this kind of event,’’ said Norval Loftus, the head of convertible bonds and Islamic debt at Matrix Group Ltd in London, which manages $2.5 billion of assets including Dubai credits. “The worst-case scenario will of course be involuntary restructuring on the Nakheel security that brings into question the entire nature of the sovereign support for various borrowers in the region.’’ Moodys Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s cut the ratings on state companies on Wednesday, saying they may consider state-controlled Dubai World’s plan to delay debt payments a default. The sheikhdom, ruled by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, borrowed $80 billion in a four-year construction boom that reduced its reliance on falling oil supplies and created the region’s tourism and financial hub. “Dubai is the most indicative of the huge global liquidity boom and now in the aftermath there will be further defaults to come in emerging markets and globally,’’ said Nick Chamie, head of emerging-market research at Toronto-based RBC Capital Markets. “It’s very important to resolve this in a way that will minimise contagion across the region,’’ Matrix Groups Loftus said. The moot question is whether that will be possible.

Seems like there is more pain left in the recession..all's not well.....


26/11....a year later

A day that changed India.....

Somewhere over Pune....

President Pratibha Patil made history when she became the first woman head of state to fly in a Sukhoi30 MKI. The 74-year-old President was the co-pilot of the commanding officer of the Sukhoi squadron at the Lohegaon Air Base, Wing Commander S Sajan -- thereby becoming the only Indian woman to fly in an IAF fighter jet. Unlike former President Kalam's flight in June 2006 three years ago, Patil's sortie did not enter the supersonic realm.
Minutes after she reached the cockpit, President Patil turned and flashed a "thumbs up" to the watching "Rhinos" squadron, other IAF personnel and spectators. She took every opportunity to wave -- as the aircraft taxied along the runway before takeoff and during takeoff. Two other Sukhois took off just before Patil, and the three jets staged a simple formation during the 25- minute sortie.
Patil's flight took off at 11 am; she flew at over 8,850 feet, at speeds ranging from 600 to 850 km per hour ­ a little less than the speed of sound. "I was familiar with the manoeuvring of the aircraft -- which is very sophisticated -- and I was instructed by the pilot on how to handle it," she said.
Ten minutes after landing, a cheerful Patil was seen waving again, also posing for photographs while shaking hands with Wing Commander Sajan, and patting him on the back.
Calling it a "unique and wonderful experience," she said, "We flew over a water body in Rajgurunagar and Shirur; we also saw the Baramati airbase."
Patil has been on a fitness regime. "I usually do yoga and treadmills. They also told me what precautions to take. I was quite confident."
Patil said the Sukhois would send a message that the country was well protected.


18th nuclear power plant begins operation

India’s nuclear programme crossed a milestone at 12.51pm on Tuesday with fifth unit of the 220 megawatt Rajasthan Atomic Power Project (Raps-5) attaining criticality. With this, the number of operating nuclear power reactors in India has gone up from 17 to 18, increasing the total atomic power generating capacity from 4,120 mw to 4,330 mw. In simple terms, attaining criticality in the jargon of the atomic scientists means the start of self-sustaining nuclear fission chain. Nuclear Power Corporation chief engineer N Nagaich said after conducting some tests, Raps-5 will be sychronised with the state electricity grid in a month, and would be ready for commercial operations.

Nano update

The upcoming Gujarat factory for the Nano will start trial production in the fourth quarter of this financial year, Tata Motors said .PM Telang, India MD for Tata Motors, said work was on at the new factory site for the Nano at Sanand (near Ahmedabad) where the company decided to move late last year after it had to vacate the Singur land in West Bengal, following protests over land acquisition spearheaded by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. Telang said full-scale production at Sanand could begin in six to eight months. The company plans to set up an initial annual production capacity of around 2.5 lakh units at Sanand, which can be expanded to 5 lakh units. Telang said the current makeshift production site for the Nano, at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand, was churning out around 3000-4000 units per month. The company had moved to Sanand in October last year where it will set up a mother plant for the budget car, apart from vendor park, on an area of about 1100 acres.

Record cell connections in October

Cellular operators added a record 16.67 million new subscribers in October, the highest ever, largely driven by the newly introduced per-second billing plans by several telecom majors. According to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the total telephone subscriber base increased to 525.65 million at the end of October,as compared to 509.03 million in the previous month, registering a 3.26% month-over-month growth. Despite the low subscriber base in both Mumbai and Delhi, data shows that the metros have generated higher revenues than other states with larger number of subscribers. For the quarter ending September 30, 2009, revenues from the Delhi circle, including both wireline and wireless subscribers, were at Rs 2,438.07 crore.This was the highest for any circle in the country. The combined subscriber base for both services in Delhi is pegged at 27.47 million. Mumbai recorded revenues of Rs 2,052.81 crore, with a subscriber base of 25.35 million. Incidentally, Tamil Nadu together with Chennai generated revenues of Rs 2,177.19 crore with a subscriber base of more than 49 million. As for new subscribers, Tata Teleservices ( TTSL), which is ranked sixth in terms of market share, led the overall additions for the third straight month with 3.87 million new users, followed by Vodafone at 2.98 million. TTSL added 4 million subscribers in September with its per second billing plan, and 3.4 million new customers in August, a 52% increase over July. However, in terms of market share, Airtel, which added 2.7 million new users in October, continued to be numero uno. RCom was left behind in the race as it managed only 2.1 million additions for the month.

The Liberhan Commission

In a scorching indictment of the entire Sangh Parivar, the Liberhan commission that probed the demolition of the Babri Masjid, has said the BJP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and VHP hatched an elaborate conspiracy to not just demolish the Babri Masjid but bring the country “to the brink of communal discord.’’ In a voluminous report running into almost 1,000 pages, Justice M S Liberhan has spared no saffron leader, not even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is termed as a “pseudo-moderate’’, pretending to keep a distance from the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign when he was actually aware of the conspiracy. The report has dismissed all the arguments of the BJP leadership and its saffron allies denying any pre-planned plot behind the destruction of the Mughal era mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The report, which took 17 years and 48 extensions to write, says that the demolition was a result of the RSS-led conspiracy,rather than the spontaneous expression of the sentiments of Hindus favouring the construction of a Ram temple on the disputed site. This was despite the fact the report lists not just L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as being culpable, but also mentions Vajpayee as one of the persons who misled the people with his pretence of detachment from the movement. The Liberhan panel has not spared the Muslim leadership for its role in the Babri dispute. In scathing words, the report said “selective communal Muslim leaders” chose to remain bystanders during the controversy for lure of building personal influence or enhancing their poiltical influence and for self gain.

‘Ours Will Be A Defining Partnership Of the 21st Century’

From the time he opened his remarks saying “Namaste” and announced “happily” that he would be visiting India in 2010, US President Barack Obama hit all the right buttons in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to erase any impression that he had downgraded ties with New Delhi in deference to China. Calling India a “rising and responsible global power”, Obama ran through such an exhaustive and expansive agenda between the two countries that any suggestion that New Delhi had been relegated to the margins was pretty much dispelled. A cold, bleak day in Washington that dampened the ceremonial welcome on the South Lawn of the White House and drove it inside was cozied up by warm remarks and sentiments. It was a love-fest alright. Lavishing praise on PM Manmohan Singh, standing next to him at the White House press conference, Obama said India would play a “pivotal role” in Asia and the world, and US-India ties would be the defining partnership of the 21st century. The word China was hardly uttered in the two appearances Obama and Singh made (before and after their one-on-one talks) in the aptly named East Room, but the inference was obvious. US ties with China was entirely different from its dynamic with India, which was based largely on a ideals that are foreign to Beijing. In course of the reassurance, Obama also acknowledged implicitly, probably for the first time by Washington, that the United States historically may have erred in its approach towards Pakistan. “There were probably times when we were just focused on the (Pakistani) military...instead of (engaging its) civil society,” he admitted, when asked about the US policy that had allowed Pakistan to become a heavily armed adversary of India. Pakistan, he said, had to make sure it dealt effectively with extremists in its territory and it seemed Islamabad had realized this. The only wrinkle in an otherwise happy engagement was that the two sides were unable to wrap up the residual issues in the nuclear deal, which Prime Minister Singh admitted still had some Ts to be crossed and Is to be dotted. But the two leaders also announced a raft of agreements, including what the US President joked would be a “Obama-Singh or Singh-Obama” education partnership. With just two weeks left for the climate change meeting in Copenhagen, both sides made “progress” on the issue. “Both President Obama and I have agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which will cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology,” Singh said. “We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end, bilaterally and with all other countries.”