The face of a tragedy

A kid rescued from a derailed coach of the Jnaneswari Express at a hospital in Midnapore

BWA spectrum bid touches Rs. 6,300 crore

The price for pan-India broadband wireless auction (BWA) spectrum on Saturday touched Rs. 6,300 crore, with Delhi, Mumbai and Karnataka remaining the most-valued telecom circles at Rs. 812.96 crore each. Interestingly, the government has fixed Rs. 1,750 crore as reserve price for pan-India BWA spectrum.
With this, the Centre's earnings from BWA spectrum auction has crossed Rs. 19,000 crore, while it got over Rs. 67,000 crore from 3G spectrum auction. Against the estimated earnings of Rs. 35,000 crore from spectrum auction, the Centre's revenues are likely to touch a whopping Rs. 1-lakh crore.

NIA team heads to US to grill Headley

A four-member National Investigation Agency team will fly to US on Sunday with the decks being finally cleared for unqualified access to 26/11 accused David Coleman Headley so that the Mumbai plotter can be interrogated thoroughly about his knowledge of terror links targeting India. Headley, who has pleaded guilty on 12 counts, nine of which related to the terror attack on Mumbai so as to avoid being extradited to India and escape capital punishment, will also be questioned on certain missing parts of the 26/11 conspiracy as also the Pune blast. Interrogating Headley on what he knows of the pan-Indian terror agenda that was envisaged by the “Karachi project” will be a team headed by IG rank official Loknath Behera and two other superintendents of police. Accompanying them is special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan to sort out any legal road blocks.During the eight-day stay in US, the team will focus basically on finding out details of Headley’s undercover trips to several places in India and links with sleeper terror cells.

Somewhere in Kashmir....

For those who still think a plebiscite will tilt the status of Kashmir and that most Kashmiris yearn to wave the Pakistani green, there are now numbers for the first time to contradict these claims. A survey carried out across both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, that its author claims is the first ever of its kind, shows that only 2% of the respondents on the Indian side favour joining Pakistan and most such views were confined to Srinagar and Budgam districts. In six of the districts surveyed late last year by researchers from the London-based thinktank Chatham House, not a single person favoured annexation with Pakistan, a notion that remains the bedrock for the hardline separate campaign in Kashmir. However, the study by Robert Bradrock, a scholar from London's Kings College, that involved interviewing 3,774 people in both parts of Kashmir in September-October 2009 showed that 44% of people on the Pakistani side favoured independence, compared to 43% in Indian Kashmir. Bradrock says in the 37-page report on the survey that this would put an end for all times to come to the plebiscite route as a possible way to resolve Kashmir, since the only two options envisaged under the UN resolutions proposing plebiscite in 1948/49 were for the whole of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan; azadi was not an option. But in the Valley, the mood for azadi still remained strong, with 75%-95% respondents favouring that as a final resolution. The poll showed no support either for joint sovereignty or for maintaining status quo. However, more than 58% of those surveyed were prepared to accept the Line of Control as a permanent border if it could be liberalized for greater people-to-people contact and trade. Only 8% voted against making the LoC a permanent boundary, with the highest level of opposition in Anantnag district, the report said. Few people in Kashmir, compared to many more in PoK, believed that violence was likely to resolve the Kashmir issue. In J&K, only 20% thought that militant violence would help solve the problem, compared to nearly 40% who thought it was coming in the way of a resolution. In PoK, 37% of those surveyed held the view that violence was a possible route to resolution. That both the state legislative elections in 2008 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 had helped bring about a change in mindsets was seen in the increasingly high turnouts that Kashmir has posted in recent years. The survey too demonstrated that trend, with more than half the respondents saying the elections had improved chances for peace. "The results aren't surprising at all. I feel they re-emphasize the need to look beyond traditional positions and evaluate the contours of a solution grounded in today's realities," said Sajjad Lone, a former ally of the Hurriyat who unsuccessfully contested the 2009 election. Peoples Democratic Party chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar said the azadi aspirations must be factored into any solution. "It can't be wished away and has to be configured into the future strategy on Kashmir. We've always been pleading to provide an alternative to the azadi sentiment."


Rupee falls to an 8 month low

The global rush for risk aversion is sending the US dollar from strength to strength against most other currencies, and the Indian rupee is no exception. On Tuesday, the rupee weakened against the greenback by a whopping 72 paise to 47.70, an eight-month low, with economist and analysts expecting some more slide for the Indian currency. On Tuesday, the dollar strengthened against the Euro to about 1.22 level and chartists say its very close to a crucial technical level of 1.21. The US currency strengthened came because of the fresh jitters in the Spanish banking system that has the potential to further weaken the Eurozone. As a rub-off effect — besides the fact that the rupee is also one of the weaker assets in the global set-up — the Indian currency dipped to a low of 47.75 per dollar, its weakest level since October 1, 2009, and closed 1.5% off from its Monday close of 46.98. Rupee weaken against the Euro too, closing at 58.31 compared to 58.04 on Monday .Market players fear further weakness for the rupee, at least against the dollar. But economists feel that the fundamentals for the Indian economy are strong and once the markets stabilise, the rupee will strengthen again.

Wadala land deal is India’s biggest

A six-acre government plot in Wadala fetched the highest bid of Rs 4,053 crore from the Lodha Group on Tuesday, setting not only an all-India record, but once again reaffirming land-starved Mumbai’s numero uno position in the property market. While Mumbai has a negligible amount of open spaces like parks and playgrounds compared to other leading global cities, its real estate is one of the most expensive in the world. Analysts had predicted that this tract of land was all set to create a record after the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which controls the land, tweaked tender conditions to allow multiple towers instead of a single ‘iconic’ tower. It also permitted 100% residential construction instead of the earlier stipulation of just commercial. MMRDA officials said this bounty would be redeployed for the city’s transport projects. In 2008, a Delhi-based developer, BPTP, had bagged a 95-acre plot in Noida for Rs 5,000 crore, but the deal was later called off. Till now, DLF’s bid of Rs 1,750 crore for 350.7 acres in Gurgaon last year was considered to be the highest in the country. But on Tuesday afternoon, the Lodha Group beat this record by several times after it outbid three other developers for the Wadala plot by quoting double the reserve price. The MMRDA had set a minimum rate of Rs 40,000 per sq m (Rs 1,980 crore) and Lodha put in its bid for a hefty Rs 81,818 per sq m.
The six-acre sprawl sold for over Rs 4,000 crore on Tuesday is located in the Wadala Truck Terminal. It will also allow the developer for the first time ever to utilise an unheard floor space index (FSI) of 20. The average FSI—the ratio of the permissible built-up area vis-avis the plot size—in Mumbai is between 2 and 4. The FSI here is high because the entire FSI available for the Wadala truck terminal is being used up on this six-acre portion. “Clearly, the location is great with the upcoming Metro and monorail projects in close vicinity. This site will be by far the most well-connected in the city. With the plot offering a saleable area of close to 80 lakh sq ft, we plan to utilise about 70% of it for residential purposes,’’ Lodha Group’s managing director, Abhisheck Lodha said minutes after he emerged from the bidding process held at the MMRDA headquarters in the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Lodha Group is mainly into constructing high-end apartment buildings in the city. Other developers in the fray were Piramal Sunteck Realty (Rs 3,465 crore), Indiabulls (Rs 3,327 crore) and Dosti Group (Rs 2,251 crore). Perhaps the biggest advantage of this jaw-dropping transaction is the easy payment schedule laid out by the MMRDA. Lodha will have to shell out this humungous amount over five years with a 10% annual interest (which takes the figure to over Rs 5,700 crore). Of this, barely 30% of the amount will have to be paid in the first three years. “The money will come for internal accruals and from the sale of apartments once the booking commences,’’ said Lodha, who is the son of BJP MLA from Malabar Hill, Mangal Prabhat Lodha. The developer has already calculated his profit at Rs 3,036 crore. MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad said, “I am happy that the plot has fetched twice the amount we had asked for. We hope to get high prices for our other plots and the money will be used for Mumbai’s infrastructure.’’ A property expert said that Lodha should now launch the project quickly after procuring all permissions. “They must start the bookings early and receive advances from buyers so that it will be easier for them to pay off MMRDA,’’ the expert said. MMRDA is to lease out the 25,000 sq m Wadala land for 65 years to the highest bidder. According to the tender document, the land could be used for commercial offices, business centres, shopping malls, star hotels and restaurants, entertainment centre, health, sports facilities and residential. “The maximum permissible height of the building shall be subject to limitations, if any, set out from time to time by the civil aviation department. Subject to the provisions of the BMC Act, the allottee will have full discretion to organise inner spaces, both horizontally and vertically, to suit his requirements,’’ it said. The plot is situated near the inter-state bus terminal in Wadala and falls along the upcoming monorail line between Jacob Circle and Chembur via Wadala and is close to the Eastern Express Highway. It was initially planned as a 101-storey commercial tower, but the MMRDA had to scale it down after it found no takers, besides facing objection from the civil aviation department.

500-yr-old Srikalahasti gopuram collapses

The entire ‘Rajagopuram’ of the 500-year-old Srikalahasti temple — popularly known as ‘Dakshina Kaasi’ — in Chittoor collapsed on Wednesday night. There were no human casualties, but at least 100 monkeys living on the temple premises perished. Locals and experts attributed the collapse to unbridled drilling for borewells in the area. Cracks on the 136-ft gopuram were noticed a week back and timely intervention could have saved the historic monument. But it was only on Tuesday that an expert team of three from Chennai inspected the temple and declared the area around the gopuram extending up to 150 metres as a “danger zone”. Thirtysix families living in the vicinity were evacuated on Tuesday night. By Wednesday a portion of it crumbled at around 8.10pm. Twenty minutes later the entire structure built by Srikrishnadevaraya collapsed. But, miraculously, as the debris fell, Krishnadevaraya’s statue right in front of the gopuram was left unscathed. The architectural marvel was built by Vijayanagara ruler Srikrishnadevaraya in 1516 AD to celebrate his victory over Gajapathi kingdom. The incident created panic among pilgrims, who blamed the negligence of officials and temple board members for the mishap. While the cracks became prominent in the past four days, it is learnt that narrow crevices had started appearing almost a month ago. According to sources, vibrations from borewell digging in the temple vicinity directly contributed to the collapse. Though some temple officials said the cracks were due to heavy rains and constant soaking, experts largely attributed it to the rampant borewell digging. “The temple had developed cracks in the late 80s too. In 1996, TTD had helped in renovation to fill the breaches,” a temple official said. The temple rakes in an annual revenue of nearly Rs 100 crore.

MNP update

The much-awaited mobile number portability (MNP) has come a cropper once again, with officials from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) insisting that it may not take off before September 30. Given that the benefits of the 3G spectrum are set to become even more pronounced once MNP is implemented, officials of telecom majors said that it would not be feasible to start MNP before the anticipated 3G rollout at the end of the year. Following a series of deferrals, DoT had asked mobile telecom players to implement the MNP by June 30. However, some telcos, including MTNL and BSNL, had maintained that they were not ready with the equipment to offer MNP and had asked for more time.

Maya’s wealth grows 67% in 3 years

She came to power on the call of sarvajan hitaye (for the benefit of all). But in three years as Uttar Pradesh CM, Mayawati has proved that, rhetoric aside, she has industriously ensured her own benefits. The BSP chief, who loudly claims to represent the poorest of the state’s poor Dalits, keeps getting richer. Her net worth at present is over Rs 87 crore, a gain of at least Rs 35 crore over her 2007 declaration, when she had shown Rs 52 crore. With more than 67% returns in three years, her performance could beat the best investment deals. This came to light when Maya filed an affidavit along with her nomination papers for the vidhan parishad seat here on Wednesday, before principal secretary Pradeep Dubey. Dubey also happens to be the returning officer for parishad elections to be held on June 10. The Dalit queen is yet again preferring a backdoor entry to the UP legislature. Her current term as Vidhan parishad member ends next month.


Somewhere in Delhi....

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, son-in-law Robert Vadra and daughter Priyanka Vadra walk after paying tributes at a memorial service of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary, in New Delhi on Friday


Fitch rates local bodies

According to global rating agency, Fitch Ratings, Pune Municipal Corporation has stable financial credentials that make the civic body attractive for long-term investments. In its latest performance review of the civic body, Fitch has assigned AA - rating to PMC. This is for the third consecutive year that PMC has been assigned AA - rating. PMC officials are quite happy to hear about the latest rating, and they said that it will be helpful for attracting investment for new projects. The Fitch website indicates that the Fitch Ratings has “affirmed PMC’s national longterm rating at AA - . The outlook remains stable.” The latest rating reflects PMC’s moderately strong financial performance over the financial year 2008-09, notwithstanding a five-per cent dip in octroi collection due to economic slowdown, Fitch reported. Fitch noted that the PMC’s financial health will not be affected even if octroi is abolished, provided alternative revenue-generating streams make good the octroi loss. It reported, “Government of Maharashtra (GoM) has proposed to replace octroi with local body tax in 15 D-class municipal corporations, though PMC is not covered under this proposal. If octroi is replaced by some other form of taxation, the actual realisation from the alternative tax will be key to the PMC’s financial performance given its strong dependence on octroi.” The rating agency predicted that even a higher outgo in the form of salaries for employees won’t affect PMC’s coffers. Fitch said, “PMC has partially revised salaries of its employees in line with recommendations of the sixth central pay commission in 2009, and plans staggered full implementation over 2010-12. However, based on PMC’s current debt and investment position, Fitch expects that a full pay revision will not have much impact on its financial profile. As per the financial analysis done by the renowned agency, PMC’s debt position too remained comfortable.
1) Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC):A -
2) Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC):AA -
3) Kalyan-Dombivilli Corporation (KDMC):A
4) Municipal Corporation of Jabalpur (MCJ): BB +
5) Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC): BBB

Indian Railways looks for a new logo....

The Reliance Row

The Government & Big brother are the winners. Random information on the biggest corporate battle India has seen as yet.

The greenest building on earth

Navy to get a dedicated satellite this year

India’s first dedicated military satellite should be up in space well within a year. Indian Space Research Organisation has fixed the “launch window’’ of the naval communication and surveillance satellite between December 2010 and March 2011. The defence establishment was slightly worried ISRO might not be able to stick to the planned launch window after the failure of the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-D3) in mid-April, which was launched with the new indigenously-developed cryogenic engine. “But ISRO has assured us the naval satellite, with an around 1,000 nautical mile footprint over Indian Ocean, will be launched as slated... The project cost is Rs 950 crore. IAF and Army satellites will follow in a couple of years,’’ said a senior MoD official . This comes even as the top Navy brass, led by Admiral Nirmal Verma, is currently discussing the intricacies of “navy-wide network-centric operations’’ and “maritime domain awareness’’, both of which hinge on dedicated satellite capabilities, during the ongoing naval commanders’ conference here. Coupled with induction of eight P-8i long-range maritime patrol aircraft between 2013 and 2017 under a $2.1-billion deal inked with US, the geostationary satellite will ensure a quantum jump in Navy’s C4ISR (command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) capabilities.

Bangalore infrastructure update

Maharashtra's electricity woes

April 2010 trade snippets

The economic crisis-worn exports sector posted a staggering 36.2% growth in April to $16.9 billion, but the government tempered the euphoria saying growth appeared large due to low base effect on account of last year’s poor showing. Last April, exports had shrunk nearly 30% to $12.4 billion as a result of a worldwide financial crisis. Imports, too, increased in April by 43.3% to $27.3 billion from $19.1 billion a year ago. Trade deficit for April was $10.4 billion against $6.7 billion in the year-ago period.

Somewhere in Lakshadweep....

India is all set to get its first bridge-on-sea runway. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has proposed to extend the runway at Agatti island by building a 1,000-footlong bridge on the sea and link it to the existing 4,500-feet-long runway of the airport. This technological marvel, along with a new terminal building, is expected to be built at a cost of Rs 150 crore within two years of getting the Lakshadweep administration’s nod. At present, ATRs operate to Agatti. But the small airstrip means there’s a load penalty, or in simple terms the 70-seater plane cannot have more than 48 passengers to remain light enough and operate on the available 4,500 feet. Once the runway is 5,500 feet, ATRs can operate to capacity and Canadian Regional Jets can also fly in, said a senior official. In fact, the bridge-on-sea has emerged as the greener option to the original AAI plan of linking Agatti with the next island by connecting the sea in between in the direction of the runway. The idea then was to make the runway long enough to accommodate the big Boeing 737s and Airbus A-320s. This plan did not get environmental clearance as there’s a turtle colony in the direction of the runway where land was proposed to be reclaimed, said sources.

Mumbai Metro may go upto airports

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is planning to extend the Metro network to improve connectivity to the city’s domestic and international airports. The MMRDA officials have proposed a special line that would start at Mahim and go up to the domestic and international airports with stops at Dharavi as well as Vidyanagari Campus in Kalina. The line will have a stop on the Western Express Highway near the Vile Parle station to give citizens easy access to the international airport. Senior officials in charge of the Metro planning said that this special line would be connected to the Mumbai Metro’s third line. The earlier plan of connecting the two airports through the monorail has been shelved. This special line would move from Mahim onto Dharavi and then cross over to the Bandra-Kurla Complex. From there, it would go to the University of Mumbai at Kalina, domestic airport at Santa cruz, international airport at Sahar and a spot next to the Western Express Highway near Vile Parle station. “There is a need to serve the airport area more effectively,” said a Metro rail official. “Dharavi is also a developing area. Moreover, we need to provide connectivity to students and academics who regularly visit the university. The special line would also connect to SEEPZ which has large commuter potential,’’ the official added. According to officials involved in the Metro planning, the inclusion of all these spots in the special line is commercially viable owing to the growing commuter traffic there. The first Metro line—Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar, is being constructed by Reliance Infrastructure led consortium. Work is yet to start on the second line—Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd. The Colaba-Bandra line will be underground till Mahalaxmi and will then go on elevated tracks to Bandra. While MMRDA officials claim that this line would be ready in five years, the final details of the project are yet to be approved by the Centre. “We have been talking to the airport officials and feel this will be the most effective way of connecting the airport. We have indicated the spots where stations may come up, but a final decision has not been taken,’’ said the official. The airport will also be served by the large elevated road being built by the MMRDA from the Western Express Highway to the international airport.This elevated road should be ready by the end of the year. Initially, the monorail was supposed to connect the two airports. Following a series of discussions, officials concluded that a Metro line would best serve the purpose.


3G auction ends

After the tremendous hype, hoopla, 34 days and 183 rounds of aggressive bidding by nine players, the 3G auctions drew to a close on Wednesday after raking in a whopping Rs 67,719 crore for the government. The 3G bounty is almost double the original estimates of Rs 30,000 crore by telecom minister A Raja and more recently,Rs 36,000 crore by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Effectively, this translates into Rs 16,750.6 crore for a single pan-India slot of 3G spectrum. The government auctioned three pan-India 3G slots with additional spectrum in Punjab, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and J&K. BSNL & MTNL were already allocated 3G spectrum a year ago. They did not bid, but will now have to pay the 3G auction price for their spectrum holding. Vodafone, Bharti and Reliance bagged the plum Mumbai and Delhi circles for a whopping Rs 3,247.1 crore and Rs 3,316.9 crore respectively. Bharti, Reliance and Aircel won 13 circles each, Idea 11, and Vodafone and the Tatas 9 each. S Tel got three circles while Etisalat and Videocon did not win any. Spectrum will be allocated to operators in September and it is likely the 3G services will be rolled out by Diwali. So, by Diwali, cash from 3G and the ensuing broadband auctions should be flowing into government coffers. The consumer also gets to be king, with additional choice and superior voice quality.3G services,for the most part, will be used for voice, as is the case with 2G spectrum. They will also be used substantially for SMSes. It is in large cities like Mumbai and Delhi that 3G is expected to first deliver advanced services, multimedia, videos and other hitech offerings whose biggest consumers are expected to be from the business community and educated youth.

If there is peace....

Improved trade with friendly neighbours will help India increase its GDP by an additional $1.5 trillion by 2025. Former Pakistan finance minister, who has also worked as vice president of The World Bank, Shahid Javed Burki, said that free trade in the region will add about two percentage points to the rate of growth of the region. Burki said that easing of tensions among the countries of South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan, will have many positive consequences for the region. That means, the economic growth of India, which is at present 8% without having good relations with Pakistan, will achieve a double digit growth rate if trade between them flourishes. The improved ties between the neighbours will be a win-win situation for everybody. Burki is a supporter of granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India by Pakistan. India has extended MFN status to its neighbours. When Burki suggested to the then President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, to grant the MFN status to India, Musharraf expressed his inability to reciprocate saying that the Urdu press will make his life miserable if Pakistan accorded India the status of ‘‘Nihayat Pasandida mulk". Burki even suggested to the Pakistani president that he could change the nomenclature and assign it some new name. But it did not materialize. Burki said greater intra-regional trade will have a significant impact on structure of the economies of smaller countries as they develop linkages with large enterprises in India.

PC makes fresh offer for talks

A day after Maoists killed civilians, including women, in an attack on a bus in Dantewada, home minister P Chidambaram threw down the peace gauntlet before the ultras, calling on them to cease violence for at least 72 hours so that a dialogue could be initiated. The “challenge’’ came as the home minister looked keen to drive home the point that while the government has not shunned dialogue—something a section of civil society activists have accused it of doing—it was for the Maoists to demonstrate their sincerity to any sort of a peaceful resolution. With the BJP attacking him for appearing “martyred and injured’’, Chidambaram appealed to all political parties to maintain a bipartisan approach in dealing with the Red ultras. On dialogue, he told a TV channel, “Maoists should say we will suspend violence and actually suspend violence from any date they fix for 72 hours...We will get the chief ministers on board. We will respond. We will fix a date, time and place for talks and let the Maoists come and talk on anything they wish to talk (about).’’ Chidambaram had made a similar offer three months ago, with no response. Instead, from February, the Naxalites had stepped up their attacks, killing over 140 people, including civilians, in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal.

UID snippets

All 10 fingerprints, an iris scan and a photograph of the person will be used for unique identification (UID) of individuals, the cabinet committee on UID decided on Tuesday, giving its in-principle clearance to guidelines for setting up the UID database. With a billion-plus population, a mix of biometric and photographic record is considered necessary to ensure fidelity of the information collected. With the UID intended to help identify beneficiaries of welfare schemes, children between the ages of 5 and 15 will be included in view of the ambitious right to education law. UID chairman Nandan Nilekani said the cabinet approval followed a presentation on the project. In keeping with the government’s efforts to improve services like PDS and MNREGA, the priority will be the poor and children eligible under the Right to Education Act. Admitting that the technological challenge of building such a database was not inconsiderable, Nilekani said the process would be wholly voluntary. He, however, did not think that the UID being nonmandatory would dilute its purpose as nine states have agreed to use the data to improve delivery of social welfare schemes. The cabinet approval means that the UID rollout will actually get underway, with Nilekani saying that the government was aiming at 600 million users by 2014. He said the numbers would help facilitate “no frills’’ bank accounts for the poor who receive payments through schemes like the MNREGA and the proposed National Food Security Act. They will also help check the disbursal of benefits like old age pensions. The IDs issued under the scheme will be 12-digit numbers and they will be verified by authentication machines that can read fingerprints and send the information to a central database. The principle is not unlike credit card readers and Nilekani said the UID would use mobile networks to send the information to and fro. A draft UID bill to give the authority statutory powers and form has been readied and is expected to be cleared by the cabinet in a few weeks, which could mean that it will be brought to Parliament in the monsoon session. A wellconsidered legislative framework is also needed in view of the privacy and legal issues raised by some sections of civil society.


Chinese perceive India backwards....

India may be the fastest growing economy after China, but most Chinese still don’t know that.
Findings from a 2009 survey of 4,500 Chinese reveal that the Chinese still have an outdated view of India and Chinese parents don’t encourage their children to study and travel across the border because they assume India is ‘not advanced’.“Very few Chinese know that India is a rising power. They don’t perceive India as a rising economy,’’ Yuan Yue, CEO of Horizon Research Consultancy Group, that tracks the Chinese view of India with annual surveys since 2000. Yuan told a seminar in Beijing on Friday that ‘Chinese people don’t believe India has good leadership’.
The two largest Asian nations mark their 60th year of diplomatic ties this year. But in 2009 India scored the third rank as the most threatening nation to China according to the Chinese surveyed. The US and Japan topped the list with worse scores.
The Indian view of China is a positive contrast. “Indians think that China is a rising power that will surpass the US,’’ said Yuan. “More Indians are willing to travel to China than the Chinese are willing to travel to India. The Chinese feel India is not advanced for travel and education.”
The findings are significant feedback as New Delhi urges Beijing to expand education, business and tourism ties with China, and change the standard Chinese view of India as a nation of Buddhism and Bollywood more than technology.
At the seminar, ambassador S Jaishankar said India and China have a ‘blue skies’ relationship this year, but he cautioned against complacency to guarantee that the tension of 2009 will not recur. More Chinese feel that Pakistan is China’s partner than India, but mass opinion on both sides is improving.
In 2009, about 45 per cent Chinese had a ‘good attitude’ toward India, compared to 35 per cent in 2003. About 46 per cent Indians have a positive view of China.
As expected, Indians score a plus for their English skills. “Indians’ English is difficult to understand,’’ said Yuan.

Sanatan Sanstha linked to Goa blasts

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed charges in a court against 11 activists of a Hindu right-wing organization for the 2009 Diwali-eve blast that killed two people in Goa’s Margao town. The accused are facing charges of conspiring and collecting arms for waging a war against the state and mischief. All 11 people named in the chargesheet are members of Hindu right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha, whose members were also linked to several low-intensity explosions in Maharashtra some years back.The chargesheet, running into about 3,000 pages, was filed before sessions judge U V Bakre. The investigating agency also listed among the accused two Sanatan Sanstha members who were killed in the accidental blast that took place while they were ferrying explosives to a festival gathering in Margao, 35km from here on October 16, 2009. The two accused who died in the blast were Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik. The chargesheet names 250 witnesses, who are likely to be examined by the local court during the trial. Those named as accused include Vinay Talekar, Vinayak Patil, Dhananjay Ashtekar, all residents of Goa, and Dilip Mangaonkar, a resident of Maharashtra. They all are at present in judicial custody. Other accused named in the charge sheet are Prashant Juvekar, Sarang Akolkar, Jayaprakash, Rudra Patil and Prashant Ashtekar, all residents of Maharashtra. They all are absconding. Giving details of the sequence of events before the blast, the NIA said Ashtekar rigged 12 electronic detonator circuits in Pune and out of these he set aside five for the intended explosion in Goa. The chargesheet said a dry run was also carried out by the accused a couple of months before the Diwali-eve blast. The investigation into the Margao blast was initially conducted by a special investigation team (SIT) of Goa Police, but was later handed over to NIA. Apart from facing charges for waging war against the state, they have also been charged under the Explosive Substance Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Agni-II test fired successfully

After two failures in a row last year, India tested its nuclear-capable Agni-II ballistic missile successfully from Wheelers Island off the Orissa coast on Monday morning. The tri-service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) testfired the 2,000-km-plus Agni-II, which carries a one-tonne warhead, in a “user training trial’’ towards making the two-stage, solid-fuelled missile fully operational in the country’s nuclear arsenal. “Agni-II, which is around 20 metres tall and weighs 17 tonnes, was tested for the full range and met all mission objectives. With this launch, the SFC has carried out launches of Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II and Agni-III (3,500-km) within a time span of five months,’’ said a defence ministry official. DRDO officials, incidentally, have blamed the two Agni-II failures last year, on May 19 and November 23, on manufacturing problems rather than any design and development defect. At present, the only ballistic missiles which can be said to be “100% operational’’ are the shortrange Prithvi missile (150-350 km) and the 700-km-range Agni-I. Both Agni-II and Agni-III are still in the process of being inducted by the SFC. India’s most ambitious strategic missile Agni-V, in turn, will be ready for its first test only by early-2011. With a proposed range of 5,000-km, Agni-V will have near ICBM capabilities (strike range in excess of 5,500-km) and give India’s “dissuasive deterrence posture’’ against China some credible much-needed muscle. Agni-V will be a canisterlaunch missile system to ensure it can be swiftly moved closer to the border with China to bring the entire country within its strike envelope. As reported earlier, DRDO is also working on MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) technology for the Agni series of ballistic missiles. An ‘MIRVed’ missile can carry a bunch of nuclear warheads in a single payload, each of which can hit different targets along separate trajectories.

Red attack in Dantewada again !

Just over a month after the Maoists gunned down 76 CRPF personnel in Chintalnar, the red extremists struck again, blowing up a bus carrying around 50 people, including 18 special police officers (SPO), around 4.15 pm on Monday near Sukma in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Only six persons—all seriously injured—are learnt to be alive, with the rest, including women and children, killed. Among those admitted to hospital are four civilians and two SPOs, said a senior police officer. The Naxalites triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) on a black-top road at Chingavaram between Dantewada and Sukma as the bus wound through a 40-km stretch of dense forest. The massive explosion, which left a 10-feet-deep crater, took place within two days of Maoist spokesman Azad issuing a statement congratulating the Maoist ‘army’ for “wiping out 80 CRPF mercenaries’’ and threatening more such attacks. Dantewada SP Amaresh Mishra and a few other police officers had a providential escape as they crossed the stretch about 10 minutes before the incident. Rescue operations were on till late in the evening with teams from Kirandul reaching the spot with gas-cutters and searchlights. “Bodies are lying trapped, these have to be extricated,’’ said a source in Dantewada. Chhattisgarh home minister Ram Vichar Netam said, “Our jawans were in the bus. It seems the bus was targeted because of the jawans, although the number of civilians inside it was higher.’’ It’s learnt there were around 32 civilians and 18 SPOs in the bus. The SPOs are tribals—belonging to Salwa Judum—who assist the police in fighting Maoists.


Retail realty in the pipeline

Somewhere in Punjab....

IIP March 2010 :Snapshot

Centre bans 100 terror outfits

Armed with an amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the government has, in one stroke, formally banned over 100 outfits — linked to al-Qaida — from across the globe by declaring them “terrorist organizations” in India. Though India had been keeping tabs on these outfits in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, a formal decision to put these 100-odd entities — along with 33 other terror organizations — in the list of banned organisations is seen as a move “to avoid any legal ambiguity” in case Indian cops lay their hands on anyone associated with these bodies. These outfits include all the big Islamic terror outfits like Jemaah Islamiyah (Bali bombing fame) of Indonesia, Islamic Jihad Group of Libya, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, International Islamic Relief Organization of Philippines and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan among others. The ministry of home affairs has put these entities together (at entry number 33) in its ‘revised’ list of banned outfits as “Organisations listed in the Schedule to the UN Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007”. “The number of these outfits will increase or decrease as amended from time to time. We have put them together under one head so that we do not have to revise it (the list) whenever it is amended at the UNSC level,” said a senior home ministry official. The home ministry’s revised list of banned outfits — which is to be made public on its official website soon — also for the first time includes the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) as one of the terrorist organizations under the UAP Act. Though names of three pro-Khalistan terror outfits — Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Comando Force (KCF) and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) — have been on the list for long, the move to include KZF in the revised list is seen in the light of increased activities of the outfit in India in the past couple of years. Officials believe that the revised list will help the cops in pursuing cases against the terrorists belonging to these organizations in courts more effectively. Prominent in the list of banned outfits in India include: Lashkar-e-Taiba; Jaish-e-Mohammad; Tahrik-e-Furqan; Al Badr; Jamiat-ul-Mujahidden; Al-Qaida; Harkat-ul-Mujahideen; Harkat-ul-Ansar; Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami; Hizb-ul-Mujahideen; Al-Umar-Mujahideen; Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front; Ulfa; NDFB; LTTE, SIMI, Deendar Anjuman; Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist-People’s War); Maoist Communist Centre; and CPI (Maoist).

Somewhere in the North East....

Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh’s strong protest lodged with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress leadership against the Centre’s attempt to facilitate Naga separatist leader T Muivah’s visit to the state seems to have fallen on receptive ears. The chief minister’s plea that Congress was in a politically strong position and Muivah’s proposed visit to his native village of Somdal in Manipur would create problems are seen to have some merit. Ibobi Singh’s success in consolidating his position as undisputed leader as compared to the flux before he became CM has also helped his cause. The political uncertainty before his tenure as CM was seen to have been exploited by Muivah for the Nagalim cause. Now that Ibobi Singh is in control of things, he does not want Muivah to play a disruptive role and the CM appears to have successfully stalled the home ministry’s initiative to bring the NSCN (I-M) leader to Manipur. While the home ministry on Saturday expressed its “disappointment” over BJP’s criticism of the Muivah initiative, it is clear the doubts are shared within Congress as well. The move to inject Muivah into Manipur has boomeranged and with Singh sticking to his guns, the resultant blockade organised by Naga groups protesting the CM’s action has created a serious headache for the Centre. It is felt that Muivah need not have been accomodated to such an extent without keeping Singh’s sensitivities in mind. Though talks with NSCN are crawling, the separatist outfit’s influence has been waning. In Nagaland too, Neiphiu Rio of the Nagaland People’s Front, is a second term CM. But as he could not but criticise Manipur for not allowing Muivah’s visit, it has created avoidable friction. The home ministry has said Muivah had been told that his visit could be facilitated in consultation with the Manipur government. The statement notes Singh’s objections and his visit to Delhi to meet home minister P Chidambaram, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister A K Antony. “After his return to Imphal, the CM reiterated his stand that visit of Muivah could not be allowed at this stage,” the statement added.

Desi vaccine against swine flu developed

In a major advancement in influenza science, India is ready with its first indigenous vaccine against swine flu. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has developed an H1N1 vaccine—not a painful syringe shot but a harmless nasal spray—which can be taken by anybody above the age of three except pregnant women. To cost around Rs 150, SII will apply to the drug controller general for licensure of its product next week. Scientists, who are presently completing tabulation of results from the vaccine’s phase-III clinical trial, say it is safe and effective with side-effects being runny nose and a bout of sneezing. Interestingly, the breakthrough comes exactly a year after India reported its first case of swine flu (May 15, 2009). SII’s executive director (operations) Adar Poonawala said, “Our nasal mist vaccine is now ready. We will apply for licensure next week. It had no side-effects which are synonymous to injectible vaccines like fever, swelling or convulsions.” Poonawala added, “India now has the capability to make its very own seasonal influenza vaccines. With the technology now in place, all we have to do is switch the pandemic H1N1 strain with the seasonal flu virus.” The vaccine will be delivered into your nose through a device fitted on top of a syringe. A quick spray in each nostril, the major route that the flu virus takes to enter, and the body develops antibodies to protect against H1N1. “It is a live vaccine containing weakened forms of the H1N1 virus designed not to cause the flu. The strain was given to us by the WHO once H1N1 was declared a pandemic,” said SII’s H1N1 vaccine project director Dr Rajeev Dhere. “We are tabulating the final results. But the vaccine has passed both the safety and immunogenecity trials,” SII’s additional medical director Dr Prasad said. “Usually a vaccine test takes years. But as this was a pandemic virus and we needed a vaccine urgently, Indian companies were given permission for Phase 1 to Phase 3 trials at one go,” drug controller general of India Dr Surinder Singh had earlier said.

India to get first runway on a river

An engineering marvel is getting ready at the Chennai airport — a runway bridge across the Adyar River that can even take the weight of an A380 aircraft. The bridge is being built so that the secondary runway can be extended over the bridge to the other side of the river. The country’s first bridge over which a runway will be laid, will be supported by 477 pillars. Around 2,440 prestressed concrete girders will be placed over the pillars to make it an integrated structure. The bridge will be 200m long across the river and 462m wide. About 50% of the work on the bridge has been completed. Airports Authority of India (AAI) is hoping to complete the works by November this year. ‘‘This bridge is different from the regular bridges built over roads. This is going to be an integrated structure consisting of piers, girders and concrete embankment so that load of aircraft will be distributed evenly across the structure,’’ said airport director Hareendranathan E P. The bank of the river has been widened from 140 metres to 200 metres after an hydraulic study was done to calculate the future water flow requirement. ‘‘We’ve taken a no-objection certificate from the public works department and has widened the banks so that there will be ample space for water to flow under the bridge,’’ an AAI official said. These steps are being taken to prevent flooding of the runway. ‘‘We’ve kept the height of the runway and the bridge a couple of metres above the 2005 flood level,’’ he added. “During the summer, the river bed is dry. So, works are progressing rapidly to construct the pillars and to place girders over them before the rains set in. There will be nine rows of 53 pillars. The prestressed girders are fabricated in a separate unit set up near the work site. The concrete is set using steam,’’ an official said. Consolidated Construction Consortium Ltd (CCCL) is building the bridge while a joint venture of KGL and BCPL is building the secondary runway extension. AAI started works to extend the 2,035m secondary runway by 1,400 m, including 835 m on the northern side of the river in January 2009. Most of the work on the extended portion of the runway has been completed. Once the construction of the bridge is over, the runway will be laid over it across the river. The airport has started to increase the level of the existing secondary runway to make it align with the extended portion, said an AAI official.

A lost world

Satyanand is a young patriot who just cannot tolerate the British Raj any longer. Responding to the Mahatma’s call for satyagraha, he scales up the flagpole at a government office one day and tries to pull down the Union Jack. The young revolutionary faces the wrath of the white cops, and the lathi blows he gets on his head send him into a coma. The country subsequently gets its freedom at midnight, but, to borrow poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous description, the dawn, accompanied as it is by the horrors of Partition, is sooty and dark. Like millions on both sides of the Radcliffe line, Satyanand’s family gets uprooted. Still in a coma, he is brought to Mumbai where his wife and son work hard to build life anew. Forty years later, Satyanand gets his senses back. But much water has flowed under the bridge since his family left its beloved “Sindhu desh’’. Sindh is now part of Pakistan, and nobody in Satyanand’s neighbourhood speaks Sindhi, his mother tongue. Few among his fellow Sindhis care to know that they trace their roots back to the basin of the mighty ancient Indus river which cradled a great civilization. This, in sum, is the message of “Haath Na Lagaye” (“Don’t Touch Me”), a Sindhi film released last month, which articulates the collective dilemma of a community which lost more than a geographical area many summers ago. It depicts, albeit in the genre of comedy, the identity crisis Sindhis in India suffer from. Deprived of the patronage of a state, the biggest victim, as the film powerfully hammers in, is the Sindhi language and culture. “Hindus from Sindh, after losing their land, fought bravely and prospered. But the Sindhi language in India is on a ventilator, gasping for breath,’’ rues T Manwani, the film’s writer-director. “We want a landless Sindhi state with a budget which will protect our language and culture.’’ Manwani isn’t alone in his concerns. The one-million strong Sindhi community in Mumbai and its neighbouring Sindhi hub, Ulhasnagar, are equally pained at the erosion of the Sindhi language, culture and ethos. “Sindhi medium schools downed shutters a decade ago. The new generation isn’t keen on learning the language,’’ says Subhadra Anand. As former principal of the RD National College, Anand made the learning of Sindhi mandatory for those students who came through the minority quota. However, she admits, this rule is not followed in many of the 24 educational institutions run by Hyderabad Sindh National Collegiate Board, the umbrella body of Sindhis’ educational initiative in Mumbai. If few learn Sindhi, fewer speak it. Playwright-poet Anju Makhija, though not fluent in Sindhi herself, is acutely aware of the great cultural loss the community is witnessing. And she doesn’t blame indifferent youngsters alone. “The many moneybags in the community who have bankrolled hospitals and housing colonies must share the blame, as they seldom loosen their purse strings to promote Sindhi culture,” says Makhija, who has translated iconic Sindhi saintpoet Shah Abdul Latif into English with the help of a Sindhi scholar. “Building hospitals and colleges is good and necessary, but these rich Sindhis have done precious little to preserve Sindhi culture.’’ Sindhis’ art scene is bleak also because it attracts very few buyers. “Whether you write books, stage plays, make films or cut albums in Sindhi, you are destined to lose money,’’ says singer Ghanshyam Bhaswani who crooned the evergreen “Itni shakti hamein dena daata...” for “Ankush”. Bhaswani, like many others, also blames the void on the lack of a Sindhi channel in India. “There are three channels in Sindhi in Pakistan, but we don’t have a single one here. How can we expect Sindhi to flourish?’’ he asks. There are, however, optimists who believe that Sindhi will survive the tides of time. Baldev Matlani, head of the Sindhi department at Mumbai University, is one such. “Every year, we get 15 to 20 students for the Masters course,” says the academic who has supervised the publication of several tomes, including a history of Sindh, through his department. “Many may not know it but Sindhi is alive and kicking in literature.’’ That may be a trifle overoptimistic, say community members. But if not a reality, it’s certainly a fervent wish for the future.


Auto sales : April 2010

The automobile industry has begun the new financial year where it left off the last with another spectacular leap in sales in April, but a severe capacity crunch is threatening to be a blight on growth. Passenger car sales overlooked price hikes to rise 40% while two-wheeler sales increased 22.07% in April. Likewise, commercial vehicles rode a swell of investments in infrastructure to jump more than 64%. But the industry is in no mood to celebrate because of stresses and strains on capacity. Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) says the sector will clock 10-14% growth in 2010-11 compared to a 26% growth a year ago. Consultants, industry experts and auto CEOs say demand forecasts have halved because of capacity troubles. Leading carmakers such as Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai Motor India and Tata Motors are already facing this problem. Maruti, which has already hit peak capacity of 1 million units a year, has announced a Rs 1,700-crore plant. Till its launch early next year, the country’s largest carmaker has to make do with existing capacity. Top company officials say it can manage 2 lakh units more this year by making its factories more efficient. Rival Hyundai too has barely enough to pull by. The company sold around 5.6 lakh units last year, but is targeting sales of around 6 lakh cars this year including exports because of capacity troubles. A spokesman said the company can produce nearly 6.3 lakh cars a year. Maruti and Hyundai have issues in both assembly capacity as well as supply chain capacity, says Ernst & Young automotive sector national leader Rakesh Batra. In the case of Tata Motors, the bottleneck is limited to non-car segments. Its production of the Ace mini-trucks in Pantnagar is facing a capacity strain because of diverting an assembly line of 50,000 units for the Nano. Similarly, in the two-wheeler market, motorcycle market leader Hero Honda has launched plans to build a fourth plant though the new capacity will not come on stream this year. Auto analysts say the only companies smiling are new volume players like Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford, which have launched small cars. But even here, capacity could play spoilsport. Although the new hatchbacks will have a smoother entry due to capacity worries of rivals, a crunch at the supplier end could pose problems. Even so, companies will take heart from the robust sales of April, the highest in a decade after the record 50.29% growth in April 1999.

Infrastructure monitoring plan

The government will unveil a monitoring plan for infrastructure sectors next week, as it looks to improve the performance of ministries and address delays in implementation of projects. Planing Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is expected to unveil the plan on Monday after a meeting with officials of key infrastructure ministries governing sectors such as power, telecom, road, shipping, highways, airport and ports. As per the plan, a committee on infrastructure (CoI) under prime minister Manmohan Singh will oversee the performance of ministries and suggest corrective measures. The infrastructure ministries will be asked to prepare a quarterly report card and publish it on their websites. The CoI will review the performance on physical targets and revenue generation targets for public-private partnership (PPP) projects. The government is building pressure on its constituents to ensure that growth momentum is not lost due to sluggish performance of the infrastructure sector. It is also concerned that the country may fall short of expected investment level of $500 billion in the sector for the 11th Plan (2007-12) period. It is also keen to ensure that the $1 trillion investment target for the 12th Plan will be achieved. Despite the talk of an infrastructure boom in the country, only about $200 billion have been invested in the first three years of the current plan. This also, as per Mr Ahluwalia’s admission, has been mainly on account of a spurt in the telecom sector. The performance of other sectors has been less than encouraging. In the power sector, capacity addition target for the 11th Plan has been scaled down from 78,700 mw to 62,000 mw. This revised target may even be missed as only 23,000 mw of generation capacity has been added so far. The case is similar in road and airport sectors. In the road sector, against the target of constructing 20 kms of roads per day, the government is building only 9-10 kms a day. The port sector is expected to see 40% shortfall in capacity addition during the current Five-Year Plan. The shipping and ports ministry had set a target of taking total capacity at major ports to 1000 million tonnes by adding about 500 million tonnes by the end of 2011-12. In airports, bidding process for city side development of 35 metro airports is yet to begin even though the government expected to complete works at some of the airports by March 2010. The construction work on freight corridor is yet to be started by the railway. Only now the process of survey and land acquisition has started.


Karunanidhi government completes 4 years in TN

The DMK government, headed by M Karunanidhi, completed four years in office on Thursday amid tough challenges on the political and economic front. The patriarch, who weathered many storms in his long political career spanning over five decades, continues to remain the face and strength of the party. By his tactical moves and strategies, he has sought to defuse crisis and handle ticklish issues relating to his family, party, opposition and allies. No doubt, for the 2006 assembly poll, DMK retained the rainbow alliance forged at the time of 2004 Lok Sabha poll. But, for the first time, the party could not manage a comfortable win in the assembly polls. It got only 96 seats — short of 20 seats for a simple majority. Since then, DMK’s tally has improved to 100 after wins in the bypolls. The DMK front got 163 seats in the 234 house while AIADMK got 61 and its ally MDMK, six. In fact, in his first press meet after the poll results, Mr Karunanidhi himself referred to the significant victory scored by AIADMK in Chennai by winning more seats. Still, the DMK formed Government with the support of Congress (34 seats then), besides PMK, the two left parties and others. In the first three years, Karunanidhi had daunting tasks. He had a strong rival whose leader J Jayalalithaa kept on nailing his regime as a minority government and predicting its downfall any time. While DMK maintained a cordial tie with Congress high command, the state Congress was more demanding, with a section of its leaders and MLAs clamouring for sharing power and joining the government. After UP, Rahul Gandhi turned his attention on TN to strengthen the party by holding elections for Youth Congress. Karunanidhi faced a big challenge when there was a bitter family feud involving his elder son MK Azhagiri and sons of the late Murasoli Maran. This led to the exit of Dayanidhi Maran from the Union ministry and Karunanidhi’s family launching Kalaignar TV channel to counter Sun TV.

$11b push to infrastructure planned

The government plans to create a Rs 50,000-crore ($11 billion) dedicated fund to set right the country’s creaking infrastructure and could raise 40% of the corpus from overseas investors, launching yet another assault on a problem that has defied solution for long and cramped India’s growth potential. The government plans to raise Rs 20,000 crore, or $4.4 billion, from foreign pension, insurance and sovereign wealth funds, and the remainder from domestic institutions. The decision to create the fund was taken at a high-level meeting in the Capital on Wednesday chaired by Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The government plans to constitute a committee to chalk out modalities in the next two weeks for the fund-raising exercise to start at the Indo-US CEO forum next month. Deepak Parekh, the chairman of Housing Development Finance Corp, and often a top troubleshooter for the government, will head the committee. Despite strong economic growth, factories across the country face power shortages, ports experience high turnaround time and travel time in urban centres can take hours even for covering short distances. Construction of physical infrastructure has been lagging in India, unlike China. The absence of a strong bond market and worries about project delays and returns have been holding back private investment. Power generation, road building, port construction and airport modernisation have fallen behind targets for years. Consultants McKinsey recently forecast that India needs to spend $2.2 trillion by 2030 to build city infrastructure alone where three-fourths of the country’s population is expected to live. Ratan Tata, chairman of the tea-to-telecom Tata Group and civil and military avionics maker Honeywell’s chairman, David Cote, cochair the Indo-US CEO forum. This is the second attempt by the government in about four years to raise a global infrastructure fund. When former Citigroup chief Charles Prince Jr was in India, a $5-billion fund was announced along with buyout firm Blackstone and Infrastructure Development Finance Co, or IDFC. But it failed to take off.The government subsequently began to rely on IIFCL to fund roads and ports. Although it has been lending, it is nowhere near what the nation needs. It disbursed Rs 9,000 crore in fiscal 2010 and aims for Rs 10,000 crore this year. It has limitations on capital and could lend mostly to government-backed projects. With the western business community looking to invest more in emerging markets such as India after a demand slowdown in home markets, this could be the right opportunity for the fund. A key selling point for this fund could be that IIFCL may provide a safety net to investors who choose to exit the fund before its maturity with a haircut of 5% of the residual nominal value. For global investors who have been losing money in various countries, including Greece, India may be a golden opportunity with sovereign backing for the fund.

Outer ring road around A’bad soon

A new ring road around ever-growing Ahmedabad is taking shape. National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is planning to lay an ‘outer’ ring road to keep heavy traffic out of the city. A study for the project, under phase VII of Centre’s National Highway Development Project, is to start early next year. In addition, a similar project is being envisaged for Surat as well. The second ring road will circle around the existing Sardar Patel Ring Road of Ahmedabad. While the existing stretch is 76 km long, the new ring road may go up to 130 km, said an NHAI official. Similarly, SP Ring Road encircles an area of about 400 square km, while the new stretch will cover 600 sq km. “When state urban development department had planned the four-lane road for SP Ring Road, they did not think it would turn into a normal city road so soon. This has also pushed us to act faster. Though our focus is on projects under phase III and V, the ring road project would start soon too,” said the official. The project is at conceptualisation stage and the feasibility study shall start early next year, according to the official. SP Ring Road project had cost state government well over Rs 1,000 crore. NHAI is looking to spend double the amount for new ring road. “Initially, the ring road was being planned around 3-4 km away from the SP ring road. But, given the pace of city’s growth, it has been pushed 5-10 km away,” a state government official said. It will go behind Bopal and all such newly developing areas, he added. A project is expected to take off on similar lines for Surat city as well. However, as the city has sea on one side, a complete ring road shall not be needed. It would therefore be a major bypass, encircling the city on one side.

April air traffic up by 25%

Thanks to the economic resurgence, domestic travellers are flying again. Last month saw 41.9 lakh people flying within the country, 24.7% higher than April 2009’s figure of 33.6 lakh. This April’s figure is even higher than preslowdown April 2008’s tally of 37.8 lakh. Since April is the beginning of travel season after the traditionally slow quarter of January-March, the industry is expecting huge growth in coming months. The massive shift towards budget flying – even by corporates – during the slowdown has helped LCCs complete their domination over Indian skies. Pure budget carriers lead the load factor charts, followed by Jet and Kingfisher that now have a majority of their flights in LCC avtars. Air India, that does not have a domestic LCC, saw the lowest occupancy – 73% in April. Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways, which enjoys almost 26% market share, followed by Kingfisher at 21.4%, admitted that good times are back.

Somewhere in Thane....

Dead fish float on the surface of Makhmali Lake in Thane . The Thane Municipal Corporation has been pumping out water from lakes to clean the water bodies


Delhi's ISBTs to be upgraded

After the bus fleet of the capital has been augmented, it’s now makeover time for major bus terminals. In keeping with the governments agenda of giving public transport a fillip, the three major bus hubs — Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT) Kashmere Gate, Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar — are soon going to be converted into multi-modal transit centres of international standards. Delhi government is in the final stages of creating an independent company for the purpose which will independently handle the upgradation and upkeep of the ISBTs. At present, ISBT Kashmere Gate, one of the busiest bus terminals in Asia, runs from a dilapidated building which lacks even basic facilities like clean toilets, drinking water, waiting lounges and eateries for passengers. The other two terminals are running from temporary sheds and are in an even more deplorable condition. The temporary sheds are soon going to give way to swanky buildings which stateof-the-art facilities for bus commuters. The new bus terminals will sport an international look and will have facilities like shopping areas and food courts where passengers can wait while their buses arrive. A three-star hotel will also come up at ISBT Kashmere Gate in the second phase of renovation. This commercial development will help generate revenue for the uplift and upkeep of the terminals. The buildings will all be state-of-the-art, which will be constructed as per international standards. The terminals will all be green buildings — all modes of energy conservation like heat proof design, proper lighting and ventilation are being incorporated in the design itself. The ultimate plan is to develop ISBTs as independent multi-modal transit centres, which will offer seamless connectivity across different modes like buses, Metro, railways, taxis and autos, and form major hubs for the public transportation system of the National Capital Region (NCR). The renovation work has finally kicked off with work orders having been issued for the first phase of restoration of ISBT Kashmere Gate this week. Last month, Delhi governments Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) had sanctioned Rs 74.16 crore for the purpose. Work on restoration of the facade, creation of facilities like toilets, waiting areas, food courts, parking lots, etc is going to be undertaken in the first phase, which will be completed before the Commonwealth Games. ‘‘We are making a separate company under Delhi government with the sole mandate of carrying out speedy upliftment of all the ISBTs. The company will be headed by a senior bureaucrat who will be empowered to take decisions and look into all aspects of upgradation of ISBTs,’’ said Arvinder Singh, transport minister. The independent company will decide the modes of investment for the renovation, whether PPP or BOT, and also look into revenue generation of the upkeep of the ISBTs. Sources said that the matter will soon be discussed in the Cabinet. The decision was reportedly taken after the initial plan to renovate ISBTs, conceived two years ago, ran into rough weather due to lack of funds. The government has revived a part of its work starting with ISBT at Kashmere Gate now. Transport department SPV Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) has already finalized plans for modernization of the three ISBTs.
Established : 1976
Total Cost : Rs 125 crore
Deadline : Sept 30,2010 (Phase I)
Multi-modal transit : The oldest and largest ISBT in India is located in the heart of the city. It is an important hub for interstate & local buses
Capacity : 384 cars, 78 buses (to be increased) and 847 two-wheelers
Building revamp in Phase I :Earthquake proofing
Upgradation of toilets
Food court
Escalators & elevators
3 level parking
Security : The premises will be secured by CCTVs
Commercial development : Retail space & a 3-star hotel
Established : 1993
Cost : Rs 200 crore
Deadline : July 2012
Area : The terminus will be developed on a 9.2 hectares. The main building will have a 500-metre facade visible from the main Ghazipur Road
Multi-modal transit : A brand new Metro station and railway station opened in the complex last year
Capacity : The complex is being designed to house 207 buses, 171 autos ,27 taxis , 438 two wheelers and 1,438 cars
Established in : 1996
Total Cost of renovation : Rs 200 crore
Completion of deadline : Aug 2012
Total Area : 10 hectares + 500m facade along the Outer Ring Road
Multi-modal transit : The busy bus terminus is located near the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station and a new Metro line is coming up in the vicinity. After renovation, it will be an important transit point for residents of south & east Delhi, along with those from Noida and Faridabad
Green Building : The bus terminals will be green buildings, and have been designed to conserve light & reduce generation of heat. They will be fitted with energy-saving fixtures, rainwater harvesting facilities and effective waste disposal systems
Security : The complexes are being secured with CCTVs and BMS
Facilities : While waiting for your bus, you can eat at a restaurant, cafe or food court, or shop at the arcade that is proposed to be built inside the complex. There is also a provision to build a hotel. These avenues of commercial development will allow the terminals to generate their own revenue
Aesthetics: A well-planned network of footoverbridges, escalators and elevators will allow easy & safe movement of pedestrians between the terminals, Metro & railway stations. The new designs are disabled-friendly. There will be separate entry/exits for buses, autos & taxis in order to avoid a clash between the different modes of transport. The open spaces will be landscaped

Somewhere in Panna Tiger Reserve....

A translocated tigress has for the first time given birth to three cubs in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna reserve, from where the big cats had disappeared. It’s a big boost to efforts to revive the tiger population in the country. The tigress was translocated from Bandhavgarh to Panna last March after the reserve lost its tiger population, Panna reserve field director R S Murthy said. The cubs were believed to be 20 days old and were spotted by forest officials when the tigress was taking them out of her den. “The tigress and its three cubs are in fine condition,” he said. It is for the first time that a translocated tigress has given birth in the country. Two tigresses and a tiger were translocated to Rajasthan’s Sariska in 2008 after it lost its tiger population but the animals have not been able to breed till now. There were reports that the tigers brought from Ranthambore could be siblings. Panna reserve, which had more than 30 big cats four years ago, lost all its tigers by last year after which two tigresses—one from Bandhavgarh and another from Kanha in Madhya Pradesh— were translocated there. A tiger from Pench reserve was also translocated on November 14. In more good news from Panna, officials said the second translocated tigress could also be expecting. Security has been beefed up in the area and entry of tourists banned for the safety of the tigers. “We will not allow tourist entry into the region to ensure safety of the tigress and its cubs,” Murthy said. Due to security reasons, officials were tightlipped over the location of the tigress. The Panna reserve is spread over 543 sq km in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of eastern MP. “The cubs have opened their eyes. It usually takes place after 10 days of birth,” Murthy said. The translocated tiger had disappeared on November 26 and it was only after much effort that it was brought back to the park on December 25. The tiger has now settled in the new environs in Panna and this is evident from the birth of the three cubs, an official said.

Somewhere in Mumbai....

Marine commandos have been patrolling the sea off the Gateway of India since the past week.


DMIC update

The Central government has agreed to develop in Gujarat two of the four eco-townships to be built in the high-profile Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development (DMIC), which is to take shape with Japanese funding in six states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. To be developed at Dahej and Changodar, a tripartite agreement for this has been signed at a high-level meeting in Delhi by Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) and the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry. The other two locations where the DMICDC will develop ecotownships are Manesar in Haryana and Shendra in Maharashtra. The deal was clinched in Delhi on April 30, where principal secretary, industries, Maheshwar Sahu and officials from the GIDB were present. “The Japanese have agreed to fund all four eco-township projects. A consortium of companies headed by Hitachi will be developing the eco-township in Dahej, while another consortium headed by Mitsubishi will be developing ecotownship in Changodar,” a senior official said. The deal to develop eco-townships at Dahej and Changodar was clinched after METI advertised in Japan for developing one ecotownship each in Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. A state official said, “The Japanese have begun to study on how to develop eco-township at all four places. The area to be taken — anywhere between 300 to 1,000 hectares — also will be decided by them. It will take five months”. The decision to set up ecotowns in DMIC was taken during Japanese Prime Minister Y Hatoyawa’s meeting with PM Manmohan Singh in Mumbai in December 2009. CM Narendra Modi also met the Japanese PM in Mumbai to discuss eco-townships. Based on Kitaykyushu ecotown model in Japan, these townships will use latest technology to recycle and recover 90 per cent of industrial waste.

Delhi BRT update

After a delay of almost two years, the intelligent signalling system (ISS) has become operational on three intersections — at Pushp Vihar, Pushpa Bhawan and Krishi Vihar — on the pilot Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor. The rest of the stretch up to Moolchand will be equipped with the technology by June. This is the capital’s first tryst with intelligent signals. But commuters using the stretch still find themselves getting caught in endless jams. The traffic police say that treating only the brief stretch is not going to help contain the congestion. All the signals connected to the ISS are synchronized with each other, with the signal cycle (green time given to each arm of an intersection) computed automatically by a computerized system. To do this, the system takes inputs from a vehicle-detection system installed at an intersection and assesses traffic volume on each arm of the crossing, according priority to the arm that has the maximum number of vehicles waiting on it. If there are no vehicles on a particular arm, the signal on that side does not turn green as it does with normal signals. That particular side will stay red, and the time saved will be distributed among the other arms. In this way, signal cycles will be shortened and vehicles will be processed faster. But in keeping with the BRT mandate, the signal system has been designed to accord priority to buses. The ISS control room has come up at transport department SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS), which is executing the project. Intelligent signals were proposed as a solution to the traffic jams and long waiting times commuters came up against at intersections on the pilot BRT corridor between Ambedkar Nagar and Moolchand. When trial runs started on the stretch in April 2008, they were hit by massive traffic snarls, with waiting times at some intersections like Chirag Dilli, Siri Fort and Pushp Vihar even going up to 40 minutes during peak hours. The transport department had then proposed installation of ISS at all intersections on the stretch. But the traffic police are sceptical about the efficacy of installing ISS on only a small stretch. After that, the BRT problem might also be mitigated. The new signals will also help save power since the ISS controllers work with a voltage of 48 volts instead of the regular 230 volts and can increase and decrease the intensity of light emitted from the signals depending on whether it is night or day.