Somewhere in Mumbai....
Kolkata's new Airport terminal delayed
If you hoped to fly for your Puja vacation from the glitzy new terminal at Kolkata, be prepared to be disappointed. It’s unlikely to be ready before the year-end because airlines have refused to move until the aerobridges are in place.
The recent honeybee invasions at parking bays in front of the new terminal may have played a role in the airlines’ insistence on aerobridges. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) was keen to inaugurate the terminal on the eve of Puja by getting at least one carrier to begin operations, but it looks like the wait may stretch to early next year.
The Airlines Operators’ Committee (AOC) — a forum of domestic and foreign carriers that has operations in Kolkata — has informed airport director B P Sharma and other senior officials that they won’t move before the aerobridges are ready.
Aerobridges are a vital component of any modern airport system because they cut down boarding and alighting time, save costs and protect passengers from the elements and unexpected incidents like bee attacks.
Airlines officials also felt that if they gave in to the persistent requests of the AAI and moved into the “unfinished terminal”, there was no telling when the aerobridges would finally be installed.
Home ministry’s belated decision to bar Chinese firms from supplying aerobridges delayed tender process by two years
Indonesian firm BT Bukaka Teknik Utama, which is to supply the aerobridges, has a poor track record in meeting deadlines
It will take at least a fortnight for the cargo to sail from an Indonesian port to Kolkata. Moving it to Kolkata airport and its subsequent installation will take another fortnight. The aerobridges will be tested before being commissioned.
All narrow and widebody jet aircraft, starting from the Boeing 737 to the Airbus 319 series, will be able to dock at aerobridges. A bay has also been reserved for A-380, the largest plane in operation at present. Only smaller aircraft like ATR and regional jets will have to be parked at remote bays and boarding and alighting will be done using step ladders and passengers ferried in coaches.
India's 39th CJI
Justice Altamas Kabir took oath as the 39th Chief Justice of India (CJI) signalling a change of guard that many expect to lower the barriers that hindered interaction among higher judiciary during the 16-month tenure of his predecessor Justice S H Kapadia.
As CJI, Justice Kabir has less than a year as he retires on July 18, 2013. But many hope he could use the brief tenure to making judiciary more litigant-friendly. His experience as chairman of National Legal Aid Services Authority, which devises practices to make justice accessible to the poor, could help. His amiability helped Justice Kabir deal with situations where litigants became unruly and went on to berate judiciary for corruption in its ranks.
His ancestors came from an affluent Bengali Muslim family in Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. Although his father Jehangir Kabir was also influential in Bengal politics, the clan was made famous more by his uncle, Humanyun Kabir, a renowned academic. His branch of the clan chose to migrate to India after the partition in 1947. Justice Kabir, who was born on July 19, 1948, is known for his patience: a trait which helps him engage better with lawyers and litigant.
As a lawyer, he practised law, beginning 1973, in district courts and, then, in Calcutta high court. He became a Judge of the Calcutta HC on August 6, 1990. In March, 2005, Justice Kabir became Chief Justice of Jharkhand HC. Six months later, he was appointed an SC judge.
Justice Kabir’s wife Minna is a child right activist and their two children, too, have studied law. But, there are many challenges before the new CJI. If a huge pendency of three crore cases stunts the justice delivery system’s efficiency, there are large number of vacancies in HCs allowing pendency to grow.
Greater Noida - Ghaziabad link
Work on completing the 22 km link road between Greater Noida’s Zeta sector and NH 24 is likely to start next week as Greater Noida Authority (GNA) and Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) claim to have cleared the remaining encroachments on the way. A 1.5 km portion of the alignment has been pending for almost nine years now due to various reasons.
GDA said it would relocate the 50-odd farmer families who have their residential plots on the road alignment to land provided by GNA in Chipiyana village, Greater Noida, in the next 10 days. GNA had allotted 7.71 acres to GDA in July for rehabilitating the affected families.
The 130m wide signal-free road, when completed, will cut down travel time between Greater Noida and Ghaziabad to just 20 minutes. The road begins at the New Holland factory in Greater Noida and meets NH 24 at the Vijay Nagar bypass in Ghaziabad. It will be extended later to the Meerut highway.
While anticipating that elections may be held earlier than scheduled, BJP has been trying to soften its “hardline Hindutva” image in what appears to be a move to blunt the hostility of Muslims, and reassure its existing allies while reaching out to new partners.
The three-day session of BJP’s national executive saw both party president Nitin Gadkari and veteran leader LK Advani condemning the anti-Islam film that has triggered violence in different parts of the globe.
Gadkari has cited Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary is being plannedby the party in a big way, to condemn the film that denigrates Prophet Mohammad.
“It’s wrong to spread disrespect towards anybody who is revered by members of a faith. We should with full conviction reassure our brethren belonging to the minority communities that we brook no discrimation or injustice in dealing with different sections of our diverse society,” Advani said in a speech that was well received by the audience.
He suggested that doing so would help reassure party’s potential allies that “they have nothing to be apprehensive about partnering with BJP”. Advani also emphasized the need for broadening the NDA, saying that the grouping has to be transformed into“NDA Plus”.
The remark acquires significance in view of the apprehension of an existing ally, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, as well as the recognition that the fear of losing Muslim support forces some of the anti-Congress players to maintain a distance from the saffron outfit.In fact, Advani’s advice that party should undergo an image makeover to appear “secular” appears to articulate especially Kumar’s anxiety.
The Bihar CM is apprehensive that the projection of his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi as BJP’s choice for the PM will deal a setback to his assiduous attempts to woo Muslims away from his rival Lalu Prasad.
Surat & Vadodara Metro snippets
Its not only Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar that will be connected via the new metro rail. In the long run, the Gujarat government plans to have metro for Vadodara and Surat as well. The concept is to form a multi-modal transport grid that will ensure speedy as well as affordable commuting between major cities in the state. The government had previously announced the setting up of multi-modal affordable transport authority (MATA) which will design a transport grid involving tram way, high speed rail and bus.
However as per the present plans, the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar metro will also have one Automatic People Mover System(APM) a driverless cab which will move commuters between specific destinations. A similar system is present at Hong Kong International Airport. The total length of the city metro after all its phases are complete, will be close to 120 kms. In the first phase, the state government has already declared a plan for 76 km. The declared route passes through parts of western and eastern Ahmedabad. This metro train system will be the fastest in the world with an average speed of close to 45 kms per hour.
As of now, a provision of Rs 500 crore has been made in the state budget 2012-13 while the funding of the project will be through a low cost debt and state equity.
Rupee @ a 5 - month high
The rupee rose to a five-month high, helping it gain the most in 13 quarters, as global risk sentiment improved, and the government stuck to its original borrowing plan, showing further signs of fiscal discipline.
The government said after trading hours on Thursday it will stick to its scheduled Rs 2,00,000 crore borrowing plan for October-March and will not borrow more via bonds.
While the market was expecting the government to stick to its borrowing plan, a Reuters poll showed economists expecting Rs 50,000 crore of extra bond sales this financial year.
Global investors have been wary about the rupee, primarily due to the country's twin deficits -fiscal and current account, with ratings agencies threatening a downgrade to junk status.
Thus, the government's recent measures to keep the fiscal deficit to a minimum, by raising subsidised fuel prices and keeping spending in check has been received well by investors.
The rupee's gains were further aided by a strong global risk sentiment after Spain unveiled a crisis budget, which many saw as a precursor to the country seeking a bailout.
The partially convertible rupee rose to 52.49, a level not seen since May 1. It ended at 52.85, up from Thursday's close of 53.01.
In the process, the rupee has notched up a fourth successive week of gains and its best quarter since June 2009.
It is also the rupee's biggest monthly gain since January, rising 5.1 per cent, in a month where the government unveiled a raft of reforms including opening up multibrand retail and aviation to foreign investors.
Brajesh Mishra dies
Brajesh Chandra Mishra, arguably India’s most powerful principal secretary to a prime minister, died in New Delhi . He would have been 84 on Saturday. Mishra was the first National Security Advisor and principal secretary to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
A principal secretary in classical mode, Mishra was instrumental in Vajpayee’s big-ticket foreign policy initiatives like the Lahore bus yatra and re-engagement with the United States after India’s nuclear tests. Mishra played a pivotal role in the Pokharan 2 tests that announced India’s arrival into the nuclear club.
On the domestic front, Mishra steered Vajpayee government’s reform initiatives. He was the arbiter on critical issues such as disinvestment and telecom policy. Mishra shared a proximity with Vajpayee and was believed to be the cause of the rift between the PM and his deputy, Advani. After the Tehelka expose, there was a concerted effort by a section of the BJP to force Mishra to resign but with Vajpayee standing by his friend, Mishra was able to withstand the pressure and continue in his position till the NDA government lost power in 2004.
Born on September 29, 1928, Mishra was the son of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Dwarka Prasad Mishra, who belonged to the Congress.
Somewhere in Kolkata....
Traffic didn’t move in central Kolkata for four hours on Thursday leaving citizens fuming as protestors marched to the American Center to protest a 14-minute trailer of a film depicting Prophet Mohammed in poor light.
Traffic came to a standstill in the city’s main arterial roads from 12 noon to 4.30 p.m. The cascading effect was felt as far as 20km radius of metro channel. The protestors were demanding a ban on the controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, made by a US filmmaker. They said that the film has insulted Prophet Mohammad and demanded an apology from the US officials in the American centre in Kolkata and a ban on the film.
A strong crowd of about 25,000 people marched into the heart of the city. Though the venue was the Y Road at Curzon Park, the crowd started spilling over in the all direction in the vicinity. As the crowd swelled, the gathering finally shifted to the Metro Channel around 12 noon. Around 3 pm, the crowd started marching towards the American Centre.
SC grants Amit Shah bail
The Supreme Court rejected the CBI’s plea for cancellation of former Gujarat minister Amit Shah’s bail in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case but transferred the trial to Mumbai to prevent apprehensions of an unfair trial.
The court also hauled up the Narendra Modi government and the Gujarat police for their “trenchant refusal” to see the connection between the Sohrabuddin case and the extra-judicial killing of gangster Tulsiram Prajapati and attempts to mislead the court.
SC on Kudankulam N-Plant
The Centre asserted that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant was safe enough to withstand a Fukushima-type disaster but the Supreme Court said it would not hesitate to stop the project, irrespective of the amount of money spent on it, if the installation was found wanting in safety aspects.
During the hearing on a petition filed by G Sundarrajan alleging that 17 safety recommendations by the Centre’s own task force had not been fully implemented, the petitioner’s counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench that the government’s only concern was to make the nuclear power plant operational as it had spent a huge amount of money on the project.
The bench said, “Spending of huge money is not a constraint for the court to stop the project if it finds that the installation posed a threat to the lives of people.”
When Bhushan raised safety issues, additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran said the Madras High Court had considered these concerns in detail before allowing commissioning of the plant. But the bench said, “It is a serious matter and we have to consider all the issues related to the safety aspects.” It posted the matter for further hearing on October 4.
In an affidavit, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, which runs the plant, said, “The plant is completely safe when it comes to washing away of the safety units due to flooding, as it happened in the case of Fukushima.”
SC on natural resources' allocation
The Supreme Court has said auction could not be the sole method for allocation of natural resources.
A constitution bench held that auction could be one among several methods for distribution of natural resources, and it was for the government to choose the mode that best served the “common good”. It said it would not interfere with the executive’s prerogative to select the means for distribution of such resources unless it was found to fail the twin tests of “fairness and non-arbitrariness” in the light of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The opinion, celebrated by the Centre as a vindication of its decision not to auction 2G spectrum or coal blocks, came in response to a presidential reference seeking to know if the SC’s order in the 2G case made it mandatory for the allocation of all natural resources only through auction. The bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices D K Jain, J S Khehar, Dipak Misra and Ranjan Gogoi said the 2G order was not meant to be an “auction only” order for allocation of natural resources other than spectrum. Auction too can be abused, says SC
The recommendation of auction for alienation of natural resources was never intended to be taken as an absolute or blanket statement applicable across all natural resources, but simply a conclusion made at first blush over the attractiveness of a method like auction in disposal of natural resources,” the bench said.
The court did hold that auction should be the preferred mode in case the objective of allocation of natural resources was revenue maximization. However, it should not take away from the relief in government circles. The UPA leadership has defended its decision not to invite competitive bids on the ground that it was guided by considerations other than revenue maximization—cheap telephony in the case of 2G spectrum and cheap power and infrastructure in Coalgate.
There also, the court said holding auctions could sometimes be contrary to economic logic as “very often, exploration and exploitation contracts are bundled together due to requirement of heavy capital in the discovery of natural resources”. It further said the auction method was also susceptible to abuse as it could be manipulated through cartelization. The SC said more than the method itself, it was the manner in which it was implemented that counted. “Therefore, potential abuse cannot be the basis for striking down a method as unconstitutional. It is the actual abuse itself that must be brought before the court for being tested on the anvils of constitutional provisions,” it said.
The court did not get into the question of what could be the best method of allocation for natural resources, saying the judges were not experts. However, it warned that the higher courts were free to test a policy decision on allocation of natural resources on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution and strike it down if it failed to meet the twin criteria of fairness and non-arbitrariness.
In the 2G case, the court had scrapped spectrum licences given by the telecom ministry under A Raja on the ground that they were distributed in a tainted manner. The court directed the government to allocate spectrum afresh by holding auctions, leading the government to seek clarification through the presidential reference.
The bench said the court, in its 2G judgment, could not have mandated auction as the only route for the simple reason that there were a plethora of laws prescribing numerous methods of allocation for natural resources, which had been in the past held to be valid by the apex court. “If the (2G) judgment is to be read as holding auction as the only permissible means of disposal of all natural resources, it would lead to the quashing of a large number of laws that prescribe methods other than auction, for example Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act,” the bench said accepting attorney general G E Vahanvati’s arguments on behalf of the Centre.
After clarifying that the 2G judgment did not direct the government to adopt auction as the sole method for allocation of natural resources, the court examined whether the Constitution mandated such a method as the best possible way of distribution of natural resources as per Article 39(b), which provided that “ownership and control of natural resources should be so distributed so as to best subserve the common good”.
The SC bench said, “Economic logic establishes that alienation/allocation of natural resources to the highest bidder may not necessarily be the only way to sub-serve the common good, and at times, may run counter to public good. Hence, it needs little emphasis that disposal of all natural resources through auctions is clearly not a constitutional mandate.”
Referring to a plethora of Supreme Court judgments which legitimized allocation of natural resources other than auction, the bench said, “It is manifest that there is no constitutional mandate in favour of auction under Article 14. The government has repeatedly deviated from the course of auction and this court has repeatedly upheld such actions.
From Gloom to Glee
Seldom has in the history of judiciary a single case like the 2G scam has been the cause for such despair and delight for the ruling party in the Supreme Court.
The transformation of mood in the corridors of power within a brief span of seven months — between February and September, 2012 — was painful, pyrrhic yet meaningful.
The hammer fell straight and hard on the UPA government, when on February 2 a two-judge SC bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi cancelled the 122 spectrum licences ruling that these were arbitrarily allocated to cellphone service providers during A Raja’s tenure as telecom minister.
Worse, the bench’s judgment tested the government’s nerves when it said auction was the best and only route for allocation of natural resources to weed out possible mischief of corruption and favouritism.
The February 2 judgment sent out two messages. First, the PM’s annoyance over the manner of allocation of spectrum did not deter a minister from doing what he wanted. Second, the executive needed to scrap a whole range of statutorily provided allotment process it had traditionally and historically been using for distribution of scarce natural resources.
The legal brains among the Cabinet knew that the SC could not have intended to extend its auction mandate from the tainted spectrum licences to other natural resources. But, the multiplicity of scams had robbed the government off its moral fibre to work out a studied strategy to counter the perceived “auction only” mandate.
The government hurriedly filed a petition seeking review of the 2G judgment. But as is the norm, the review petition came up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice Singhvi, who said the court understood the anxiety of the executive on issues relating to mining and other natural resources but wanted to know whether the Centre was serious to seek review of the direction to auction cancelled spectrum licenses.
The government blinked as the India Against Corruption (IAC) agitation was at its peak and gave an undertaking to implement court’s direction for auction of spectrum licences in letter and spirit. Later, the Centre withdrew the review petition finding it to be a procedural impediment in approaching the court to seek comprehensive review of the 2G judgment through Presidential Reference.
The President, under Article 143 of the Constitution, raised a doubt whether there was a direction by the apex court in 2G judgment for auction of all natural resources and if so, whether it resulted in intruding into the executive’s exclusive domain for formulation of policies.
The reference served two purposes. First, the issue shifted from the two-Judge bench to a five-Judge constitution bench, which did not include the Judges who had rendered the 2G judgment. Second, it gave a fresh opportunity to the government to explain in detail the pitfalls of “auction only” route for all natural resources.
When the arguments were going on and the way the five-Judge bench was questioning, it appeared to be a tough call which was the court would answer the President’s doubt. But, as it happened, on September 27 the constitution bench not only accepted every argument of Attorney General G E Vahanvati, but also importantly said that the 2G bench did not direct “auction only” route for all natural resources.
A“didn’t-I-tell-you-so” high fives went up in the circles of Cabinet ministers, who had braved a lot of criticism to suggest the Presidential Reference route for emerging out of the 2G abyss.
The success typically erases the past follies and generates a confidence, which the government is experiencing. So much so that, it says except for the 122 spectrum licences, which had to be auctioned as per the mandate of the 2G judgment, there is nothing to bind the government to the auction route for future allocations of spectrum, be it 3G or 4G.
NCP okays Ajit Pawar's resignation
NCP chief Sharad Pawar brought the curtains down on the 72-hour drama that rattled the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra by asking the chief minister to accept Ajit Pawar’s resignation. He also directed the 19 other ministers who had offered to quit to return to work on Saturday.
“I have no differences with my nephew Ajit, we are a united family. So no masala on a family rift for the media,” Pawar said after the NCP legislature party meeting. Sharad Pawar also obliquely defended the huge cost escalations in irrigation projects during Ajit Pawar’s stewardship and called for a white paper on the issue as early as possible. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said there would not be any adverse impact on the coalition.
Mumbai to get India's first Starbucks
Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks, which entered into an equal partnership with Tata Global Beverages early this year, said it will open the first store in south Mumbai at Horniman Circle by October-end.
The company also said its Delhi rollout will happen by early next year.
The company also announced the appointment of Avani Saglani Davda as the chief executive for Tata-Starbucks.
The Current Account deficit
A sharp drop in imports has narrowed the country’s current account deficit for the quarter ended June 2012 by 24% over the previous quarter and returned the balance of payment (BoP) into positive territory. The dip reflects the self-correcting feature of the exchange rate where a weaker rupee leads to a drop in imports, leading to an easing of pressure on the exchange rate.
According to data released by Reserve Bank of India, the current account deficit — the shortfall in forex inflows arising out of the country’s total imports being more than its exports — shrunk to $16.5 billion for the first quarter of the fiscal, 24% lower than $21.76 billion in the preceding quarter.
The improvement in the current account position was because of merchandise imports dropping from $131.6 billion in March 2012 to $119.18 billion in June 2012.
Numbers for the first quarter show that there is a surplus of $500 million in the overall BoP — a record of all financial transaction, which includes capital flows in addition to current account transactions. The BoP position was negative in the previous two quarters.
While portfolio flows recorded a net outflow of $2 billion compared to a robust inflow of $13.9 billion in the previous quarter, the decline was compensated by higher net inflows on account of FDI, loans and banking capital.
The government should step up the process of stake sale in state run firms, sell minority holdings in Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India (Suuti), Hindustan Zinc and Balco, and take steps to monetize under-utilized land resources of public sector enterprises, port trusts and railways, a panel set up to chart out the roadmap on fiscal consolidation said.
The panel headed by former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar also outlined a series of policy steps to repair the battered public finances and help promote growth against the backdrop of a difficult global situation. The committee examined various measures which are needed to be undertaken by the government for fiscal consolidation in the medium term. These include raising the tax-to-GDP ratio, policy measures for pruning expenditure on subsidies and other items of expenditure, rightsizing of plan support, and steps for increasing disinvestment proceeds. The report said an additional source is the disinvestment of minority government equity stakes in private entities, such as the holdings in Suuti, HZL and Balco.
The panel said that over the next 24-36 months, there is yet another policy instrument for raising resources for development and that is monetizing government’s unutilized and under-utilized land. These resources can finance infrastructure needs in urban areas.
The panel also said central public sector undertaking holding large cash balances should be urged to look for sound investment in key area. It said that in the base year of 2012-13, it is possible to achieve a fiscal deficit target of 5.2% with various policy initiatives, which involve limiting expenditure on subsidies, meeting the tax receipts and disinvestment targets set at the budgetary estimates stage and effecting savings in plan expenditure by rationalizing expenditure.
THE KELKAR ROAD MAP
Suggested measures for fiscal consolidation
Complete review of Direct Taxes Code Bill, 2010 before it is implemented to plug revenue losses
Set up a datawarehousing and datamining unit for tax profiling
Make quoting of PAN or UID mandatory in all economic transactions
Set up a Directorate of Risk Management within IT department for improving tax administration
All pending refunds should be issued at the earliest
Create a national portal to help taxpayers file applications seeking rectifications and appeal
A 360 degree profile of all tax paying individuals and institutions should be created to help decrease tax evasion and tax fraud
Union excise duties and service tax must be reformed for smooth integration into GST
Negative list of services introduced in 2012-13 budget should be reviewed for further pruning
CBEC should put in place robust information system to increase the deterrence level and the cost of evasion
Expedite the implementation of GST
Disinvestment of minority government stake in private entities such as holding in SUUTI, HZL and BALCO
Expedite sound investment in key areas for cash rich PSUs. If it is unable to identify suitable investment outlets then the govt should call for a special dividend
Monetize govt’s unutilised and under utilised land resources such as prime lands of PSU’s, port trusts, railways
Raise the tax-to-GDP ratio
Policy measures for slashing expenditure on subsidies and other items of expenditure
Rightsizing the size of plan support Panel seeks revamp of tax administration Move Aimed At Improving Compliance
PM pushes Cash transfer system
In a bid to accelerate the creation of a cash transfer system for major subsidies that would cover the entire population, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set up several committees, including a ministerial panel, to ensure a swift rollout.
A cash transfer system linked to Aadhaar — a biometric database of residents of India — is at the heart of the government’s attempt to target subsidies efficiently and reduce elimination and wastage in programmes like the public distribution system, cheap cooking gas and fertilizer subsidy.
The announcement was billed by the PMO as a major step to improve government finances and tackle burgeoning subsidies, long seen as a bane on India’s economy by international rating agencies as well as domestic public policy experts and economists.
“This is to be done in a fast-track, accelerated mode to be achieved in a time-bound manner. The idea is to move to a completely electronic cash transfer system for the entire population,” an official release said.
Such a system can be used for transferring cash benefits such as MNREGA wages, scholarships, pensions, income support and health benefits.
Activists and a section of policy planners have opposed cash transfers in schemes like PDS, arguing that beneficiaries may not able or capable of accessing bank accounts and may also divert the money towards social ills like drinking instead of buying food grain.
Bhendi Bazaar makeover begins
The Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment project -- one of Mumbai's most ambitious attempts to reconfigure a crowded residential-commercial area to provide for better housing, improved business environment, wider roads and ample open spaces -- kicked off with demolition beginning on two buildings.
The project, the brainchild of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), aims to move 3,500 families into 350-sqft apartments from their current smaller, dilapidated flats; create modern, better equipped spaces for 1,200 businesses; and free up nearly one-sixth of Bhendi Bazaar's 16.5 acre sprawl for open, recreational areas.
The Rs 2,900-crore project, launched in 2009, could provide a blueprint for cluster redevelopment across the city and provide an ideal for how high-rises must not only aim at accommodating more and more people, but also help create more space on the ground.
The Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment will involve demolition of 249 four-to-six storied buildings and will impact the lives of close to 20 000 people. Care will be taken to retain existing religious structures and the township's centre piece will be the Raudat Tahera, the tomb of the previous Syedna, the current Bohra community leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin's father.
While Bhendi Bazaar today is just a maze of concrete, once the project is completed it will have over 700-odd trees, congestion-free roads and the city's longest shopping corridor.
Of the 249 buildings that would be demolished under the redevelopment plan, SBUT has already acquired 200. These will be replaced with a yet-unspecified number of towers, each averaging 40 stories. Sixteen such buildings will be sold in the open market to recover the project costs.
Demolition work on the first two structures of the cluster, Mohammedi building and Ebrahim Nuruddin Chawl, began early on Monday morning. Nearly a dozen odd buildings have already been vacated and close to 400 residents have moved to a transit camp at Mazgaon.
The work on the redevelopment project was stalled for nearly three years as SBUT struggled to secure clearances from the BMC, MHADA and other state agencies and faced stiff resistance from residents not willing to leave their dwellings of years and move to a transit camp.
Things started moving a few months back when SBUT managed to get three major buildings vacated. The project has picked up pace since.
The redevelopment project has been divided into eight clusters.
Work on other seven clusters will not wait for the completion of the first phase.Work will start parallely.
In the next six to eight months, construction work on new buildings will also begin.
Built to decongest the Fort area in 1803, Bhendi Bazaar today is one of the most densely populated areas of south Mumbai. Nearly 70 per cent of the residents here are Bohri Muslims, a closely-knit business community.
Pune Metro snippets
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will prepare a revised report for construction of a metro rail project between Swargate and Nigdi.
While the original report of the DMRC was for the route between Swargate and Pimpri, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) has sought an extension of the route from Pimpri to Nigdi.
Municipal commissioner Shrikar Pardeshi said the metro rail route between Nigdi and Swargate has principally been approved. The revised metro rail route was discussed at a meeting of DMRC and PCMC officials..
About 11 km of the proposed metro route will be along the Mumbai-Pune highway stretch from Phugewadi to Nigdi within the PCMC limits. A fresh survey and a revised report will have to be prepared for the route because the municipal corporation has widened the Mumbai-Pune highway stretch to eight lanes and constructed underground subways (grade separators) for vehicles at three locations. Moreover, the PCMC is also constructing a multistoried flyover at Nashik phata near Kasarwadi and has also proposed to construct a flyover near the Empire Estate at Chinchwad.
Last week, the PCMC general body meeting approved DMRC’s detailed project report for the metro rail project for Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Two routes were suggested in the detailed project report which was prepared in 2009. The first route was between Pimpri and Swargate and the second route was between Vanaz and Ramwadi. Since some issues had cropped up between the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the PCMC regarding sharing of costs for the metro project, there was a delay in approval of the report. The PMC had later sent a proposal to the state government for implementing the metro route between Vanaz to Ramwadi. This proposal has been approved by the state cabinet.
At last week’s general body meeting, Pardeshi said the proposal for the Pimpri-Swargate route has taken a back seat. He told the general body that the DMRC’s detailed project report prepared in 2009 needs to be approved first and it should be sent to the state government for approval to ensure that the Pimpri-Swargate route is also developed. While approving the DMRC report, the general body gave a supplementary proposal to extend the Swargate-Pimpri route up to Nigdi.
UP plans Mega Leather Clusters
UP Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has sanctioned over 900 acres of land for setting up two leather parks, in Sandila, Hardoi and at Ramaipur in Kanpur. Expected to attract an investment of Rs 2,000 crore, the state-of-the-art leather clusters, government officials say, will be completed in approximately four years.
Clearing the two greenfield Mega Leather Cluster (MLC) projects after meeting a delegation of leather industrialists from Kanpur, Akhilesh Yadav asked Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) to make available land for these projects.
Infrastructure and Industrial Development Commissioner Anil Kumar Gupta said the proposed integrated leather parks will be equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure, technology and production chain to meet the demands of domestic markets and standards for export. In a bid to promote the small and medium scale leather processing units, the government has also said 50 per cent space will be set aside for units in this category, to carry out their production activities at the leather clusters.
To mitigate pollution and ensure environment conservation, leather clusters will also be given facilities for treating effluents generated in the parks. Provisions for rain water harvesting, warehousing, raw material banks, exhibition centre, design centre and human resource development are also proposed in the clusters. A government release said each park will have to attract an investment of Rs 1,000 crores and create employment for nearly 10,000 persons.
Singh also said the mega leather clusters would be implemented through special purposes vehicles (SPV) under a Government of India scheme for development of mega leather clusters. Under the scheme, 70 per cent contribution is made by the Government of India while the remaining facilitation is done by the state government. Ordinarily, the SPV is a corporate body promoted by a group of entrepreneurs engaged in leather industry willing to set up units in proposed MLC.
Trinamool's super left turn
In its bid to outdo the Left in opposing FDI in multibrand retail, the ruling Trinamool Congress has put together a strategy that may just end up putting the Mamata Banerjee government in a spot.
Industries minister Partha Chatterjee is all set to table in the assembly a resolution similar to the one he had introduced as leader of opposition in 2007 opposing entry of both domestic capital and FDI in the retail sector. The Left and the Congress had then ganged up to defeat the resolution by 46 votes. Chatterjee, who is also the parliamentary affairs minister, believes a similar joining of hands this time would corner the Congress and expose the Left.
What the Trinamool leaders have not bargained for is that if passed, as it is likely to be with the party now in majority, the resolution would mount pressure on the government to cancel licences under the Shops and Establishment Act as also KMC trade licences to retail outlets like Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaar, Pantaloons, Spencer’s, More as well as German retail giant Metro Cash & Carry engaged in wholesale business, all of which do roaring business in the city.
Besides, it would become imperative for the state agriculture marketing department to review the sourcing of potatoes by Pepsico that has a contract with farmers.
Moody’s sticks to stable
Moody’s will retain its ‘stable’ outlook on India, expecting economic growth to improve on back of consumer demand, although the country is still constrained by its fiscal deficit, an analyst at the ratings agency said.
The views stand in contrast with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, both of which cut their outlook on India to “negative” this year, citing concerns about the pace of reforms and the government’s fiscal deficit among some of the key factors.
Recent actions by the government to undertake key reforms showed some determination to take unpopular steps. The government announced a series of reforms this month, including a rise in diesel prices, the liberalization of retail trade, and a bailout for the power sector.
Moody’s still expected the country to overshoot a fiscal deficit target of 5.1% of gross domestic product for 2012-13 fiscal year ending March.
Moody’s, which has a ‘Baa3’ rating on the sovereign, expects growth to turn around in the medium term as private investments pick up, driven mostly by domestic consumption. The country’s quarterly GDP growth of 5.5% for April-June was its slowest in nearly three years and a far cry from near double-digit growth seen before the 2008 global financial crisis. The slowing economy along with India’s wide deficits, including in its current account, sparked the downgrade threat from S&P and Fitch. All three agencies currently have the country at the lowest investment-grade rating. The proposed government measures sparked a rally in Indian markets, but investors still want to see signs of fiscal discipline by the government.
India will likely borrow an additional Rs 50,000 crore for the year ending in March and post a fiscal deficit of 5.8%, a Reuters poll showed.
Of Pakistan's tactical nukes....
Pakistan is developing non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons to check the asymmetry with India in conventional capabilities, noted nuclear expert Hans M Kristensen of Federation of American Scientists said.
Kristensen and his partner Robert Norris have just published a report identifying Pakistan and China as among the five nuclear powers which either have, or are developing nonstrategic nuclear weapons.
The other three countries identified are Russia, US and France. “On Pakistan, the picture is clearer in the sense that it is developing the Nasr that it claims has nuclear capability,’’ Kristensen said. “As for the role of a nuclear Nasr, it appears intended for use against invading Indian troop formations that Pakistan doesn’t have the conventional capabilities to defeat,’’ he added. About the short-range ballistic Nasr though, Kristensen said despite Pakistan’s claims that it was already nuclear-capable, he was yet to witness any assessment by the US intelligence community to prove this. With Pakistan already building its fourth reactor at Khushab military facility, a plutonium producing unit, there have been speculations for over a year now that Pakistan is manufacturing low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons. These weapons, according to Indian experts, are meant to be used along the border in case of any skirmish with the Indian Army.
Kristensen and Norris described Pakistan’s “new weapon’’ in the report as a 60-km ballistic missile launched from a mobile twin-canister launcher. “Following its first test launch in April 2011, the Pakistani military news organization, Inter Services Public Relations, described the Nasr as carrying a nuclear warhead ‘of appropriate yield with high accuracy’, with ‘shoot and scoot attributes’ that was developed as a quick response system to ‘add deterrence value’ to Pakistan’s strategic weapons development programme ‘at shorter ranges’ in order ‘to deter evolving threats’,’’ they said in the report.
The Indian security establishment was shocked last year after news broke out, as confirmed by satellite images, that Pakistan had already completed much work on the fourth reactor at Khushab.
“It will add to their stockpile of low-yield weapons which, they believe, will help them dominate any low-intensity conflict with India,’’ said S D Pradhan, former chief of joint intelligence committee, adding that Pakistan was following the Chinese in acquiring such weapons.
More Coal block allocations to be cancelled
Stepping up action, the government has decided to cancel six more coal blocks allocated to private companies and deduct bank guarantees of seven others for failing to develop the mines within the time-frame.
Bhaskarpara allotted to Grasim Industries and Electrotherm; Dahegaon Markardhokra IV given to IST Steel & Power; North Dhadu allotted to Electrosteel Castings; Choritand Telaiyaallotted to Rungta Mines and Gondkhari block allotted to Maharashtra Seamless were among the blocks whose deallocation was approved on Wednesday, the sources said.
The seven blocks approved for deduction of bank guarantees include Seregarha block given jointly to rcelorMittal and GVK Power; Moitra block allotted to Jayaswal Neco; Dumri block given to Neelachal Iron & Steel and Durgapur II/ Sariya block allotted to DB Power,the sources said.
With this, the government has accepted all the recommendations by an Inter-Ministerial Group, which had recommended de-allocation of 13 mines and deduction of bank guarantees of 14 allottees after scrutinising 31 coal blocks allotted to private companies.
Among the de-allocated blocks, Dahegaon-Makardhokra IV block was given to IST Steel and Power, along with cement firms Gujarat Ambuja and Lafarge India, in June 2009. The block has a total of 48.84 million tonnes of extractable reserves. The IMG, which has concluded the scrutiny of 31 blocks allotted to private companies is likely to begin review of 31 more allotted to PSUs from October 9.
Earlier, a total of 58 mines were given show cause notices for failure to develop blocks within stipulated timeline. IMG recommended the exercise of review of blocks on September 6.
TN says no to FDI in multi-brand Retail
The TN cabinet decided not to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail trade in Tamil Nadu.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa had earlier expressed the AIADMK government’s opposition to the Centre’s decision to allow 51% FDI in multibrand retail. The Centre had left it to the states to decide whether they want international retail chains like Walmart, Carrefour and Metro to open shops in their cities.
However, the industry feels the government’s decision will curtail the growth of the retail sector in Chennai and other major cities in the state. Chennai was considered the Mecca of retail space development in India till a few years ago. But today, other metros have overtaken Chennai by miles. Now there may be a further decline in standards of organised retail business in the state, feel experts.
The BJP on FDI in Retail
Clearing the party line on FDI in multi-brand retail, BJP totally opposed the move at the party’s national executive being held here in the backdrop of stiff opposition to the government’s decision to bring 51% FDI in the retail sector from parties across the political spectrum.
Party chief Nitin Gadkari in his opening speech at the executive “categorically opposed” FDI in retail and said, the party will oppose it till the government rolls back the decision.
When pressed further, party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said, BJP is of the view that, “51% FDI in retail is not in the interest of the country or our own farming community.” On further questions on whether BJP’s opposition was to the quantum of FDI, he clarified by saying, “wait for our manifesto… 51 or no per cent… ” implying that the party is clearly against FDI in the multi-brand retail sector. The BJP-ruled states have already decided to reject FDI in retail sector, Prasad said, adding, “we are against FDI in retail… when we come to office the consequences will follow,” in reply to a question on whether BJP will scrap FDI in multi-brand retail if it is voted into power at the Centre.
Somewhere in Assam....
Poachers killed and chopped off the horns of two one-horned rhinos that had strayed out of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park to escape floodwaters on Wednesday.
A large part of the world heritage site, about 250km from Guwahati, remains submerged.
Poachers chopped the horn of a male rhino along with its ear while it was still alive. The carcass was later found at Parkupahar in Karbi Anglong hills adjoining Kaziranga. Forest officials found the carcass of the other rhino on Wednesday, with the horn missing, at Gotonga area in Bagori range of the park. Poachers attacked the rhino while the animal was moving to an elevated place to escape the deluge inside the park.
The killings occurred four days after a rhino was shot dead in the periphery of Kaziranga.
The park has lost four rhinos in a week. Poaching has claimed 14 rhinos this year. In June, poachers killed two rhinos that had strayed out of the park during the first wave of floods.
This time, Kaziranga experienced the worst floods in the past eight years. Nearly 700 animals, including 19 rhinos, perished in the first wave of the deluge in June this year. The floods have also disturbed the anti-poaching mechanism, making patrolling difficult. Almost 80% of the 430 sq km park is still under water. About 114 of 152 anti-poaching camps have been submerged and 14 camps had to be shifted following the rise in the water level in the park.
Raghuram Rajan, the newly-appointed chief economic adviser to the finance ministry, has said that a period of rapid economic growth in which governance capabilities did not keep pace has allowed sections of the private sector to “make a killing”.
Elaborating on this comment, he said that natural resources such as spectrum or coal, which were plentiful earlier, had become much more valuable today because of the growth not only of India but of other countries like China. Yet, the process of allocating these resources had not changed to take account of this fact.
“The private sector to some extent took advantage of this gap—some of them through means that were fair, some through means less fair—and has made a killing,” he added.
Rajan said what was urgently needed was to bring the level of governance on a par with the level of the economy, a process that “is under way”. Acknowledging that it was difficult to improve governance mechanisms in areas like coal allocation, he stressed that India would have to do it because “if we don’t then we are going to stagnate”.
Pointing out that various parts of the global economy were in the grips of a structural crisis, Rajan acknowledged that it would constrain India’s growth. Yet, it would also mean that if India’s slowdown bottoms out and growth starts rising to about 6-6.5%, “we will create a positive dynamic that will serve us very well”.
CWC backs Manmohanomics
The Congress Working Committee fully endorsed UPA-II’s reform measures with party chief Sonia Gandhi saying that the decisions were very necessary and finance minister P Chidambaram saying a stagnant economy would endanger key welfare programmes.
The party’s backing comes in the wake of the decision to raise the diesel price and permit foreign direct investment in multibrand retail, leading to the Congress’s largest ally in Lok Sabha, the Trinamool Congress, withdrawing support to the ruling coalition.
The CWC’s support to the government’s initiatives came even as some members said there was a need to explain the decisions in order to blunt criticism that the government was insensitive to the aam aadmi’s concerns. One member said that the party should have been taken into confidence.
But with Sonia setting the tone, there were no serious objections raised to the government’s initiatives to cut fiscal deficit and spur investment so that India’s slide into a low growth trajectory is reversed.
Chidambaram, who explained the fiscal situation in some detail, said there was no trade-off between growth and politically crucial flagship schemes. If the economy did not do well, the government would suffer or lose on both counts.
Elaborating on the political situation after the exit of Trinamool Congress from UPA-II, Sonia said the government was stable.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to the BJP blockage of Parliament over Coalgate, saying the government’s record was clean and it had nothing to hide. He said he had not been allowed to speak in Parliament otherwise he could have answered his critics.
Singh also reiterated that measures to cater to the needs of the disadvantaged will continue apace as some members pointed out that the decision of Congress governments to increase the cap on cheap cooking gas cylinders to nine from six had not been amplified.
Singh supported the finance minister’s argument that without a strong economy, welfare schemes would suffer. Chidambaram said that the government was working to insulate India to the extent possible against the turbulence in the world economy.
Chidambaram pointed to the limited options before the government and while the members did not disagree, they pointed to the need to counter the opposition campaign.
Somewhere in Arunachal Pradesh....
A tigress at Itanagar Zoo was killed by poachers who sneaked into a high-security area and broke into the animal’s enclosure.
“The incident took place when the three on-duty guards had gone for dinner,” said deputy chief conservator of forest (wildlife) P Ringu.
According to zoo in-charge Zoram Dopum, the tiger was killed between 8 and 10 pm on Monday night.
The five-year old tigress was among six big cats kept in the zoo. “The poachers tried to cut the tiger into pieces, but they could not take her away,” Dopum said. A post- mortem was conducted on Tuesday and an FIR has been lodged at Itanagar police station. An investigation is on to nab the culprits. “The forest department is also initiating a separate departmental inquiry into the matter,” he added.
Oni was born in the zoo in 2006.
Forest officials said the tigress was shot in the forehead and that the miscreants chopped off its abdomen before fleeing from the spot. Two empty cases were recovered from its skull during autopsy on Tuesday.
“This is a very unfortunate incident. What has baffled us is the fact that all vital organs of the tigress such as its tail, paws, eyes, teeth, liver, etc were intact,” said BS Sajwan, the state’s chief conservator of forest.
Ajit Pawar quits over irrigation scam
Maharashtra deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar resigned from the Democratic Front government , in a dramatic development which brought to the fore his party’s simmering tension with the Congress but which should not lead to a life-threatening crisis for the coalition, at least not in the near run.
The entire NCP team of ministers also put in their resignations, although they were meant to be more of a mark of solidarity with Ajit Pawar rather than signalling a real intent of sacrifice for the deputy CM’s sake. Unlike Ajit who sent his resignation to CM Prithviraj Chavan, NCP ministers submitted their papers to state party president Madhukar Pichhad, showing their willingness to be cajoled into taking their resignations back.
Ajit’s resignation came in the wake of a series of exposes of scams in the Maharashtra irrigation department on his watch, and is meant to be an angry protest against CM Chavan. The deputy CM holds Chavan, who has had a tough time imposing his status as head of government, responsible for the “leaks” about his performance as irrigation minister.
All you needed to know about Maharashtra’s Rs 35,000-crore irrigation scam and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s alleged role in it
Around four months ago, a whistle-blower — chief engineer Vijay Pandhare from Water Resources Dept — wrote a 15-page letter to department secretary Eknath Patil, saying Rs 35,000 crore was skimmed off dud irrigation projects in the past decade.
The letter, which was marked to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Governor K Sankaranarayanan, said crores of rupees were paid as false claims.
The govt did nothing about the letter, but the media exposed the role of Ajit Pawar, water resources minister between ’99 and ’09. It was revealed that between ’06 and ’09, tenders worth thousands of crores for Vidarbha projects were allegedly awarded at exorbitant rates.
Pawar has been accused of "hurriedly" granting project approvals worth Rs 20,000 crore during an eight-month period in 2009 alone, without the clearance of the governing council of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
Advances of Rs 614 cr were made despite a ban on such payments. Official documents show clearances were allegedly granted by only Pawar and VIDC's then executive director D P Shirke. Pawar allegedly tweaked rules to have a complete say in the tender process.
Official documents show that between June and August 2009, 32 projects worth Rs 17,700 crore were sanctioned, some of them just weeks before the state election code of conduct came into force.
The Vadnare Committee, appointed by the government to look into the irregularities, said that in the Jigaon lift irrigation project, pipes which cost Rs 80,000 a tonne were quoted at Rs 1.60 lakh a tonne.
It has also come to light that the cost of Lower Penganga project in Yavatmal district, one of the projects allegedly approved by Pawar and Shirke, was raised from Rs 1,402 cr in 1997 to Rs 10,429 cr in 2009.
In a parallel movement against illegal cost escalation in govt projects, Mumbai doctor Anjali Damania found that the cost of Kalu dam in Thane district had jumped from Rs 640 cr to Rs 1,400 cr and that of Balganga dam in Pen from Rs 420 cr to Rs 1,320 cr.
Akali Dal's flip flops on FDI in MB Retail
Punjab's Akali Dal government may have agreed to toe the NDA line and oppose FDI in multi-brand retail but Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said the state could do an about-turn and welcome the move if the Centre builds a consensus and addresses the fears of farmers and small traders.
“Our opposition is to the way the reform has been forced upon the country by the UPA. If the Centre had not acted as a dictator, we may have welcomed FDI in retail,” said Badal junior, who has supported the change in the past and had, in fact, written to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma in 2011 welcoming FDI in retail.
The state government’s position and Badal’s comments come amid growing pressure in support of reform in the agrarian state. The Punjab Farmers’ Commission, the government’s advisory body on agriculture, says FDI is an opportunity for Punjab to look beyond paddy.
Another important voice in the government supporting FDI in retail is that of Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, BKU (Lakhowal) president who was appointed head of the Punjab Mandi Board by Badal.
What Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy CM wrote to Anand Sharma:
“We strongly believe that opening FDI in multi-brand retail will bring in the expertise, experience and resources of foreign retailers. A major beneficiary of back-end investments would be farmers, who will gain substantially through agricultural best-practices of international retail companies, thus improving the quality and quantity of their yield, and will also get better remuneration. Investments in supply chain infrastructure and stores would also generate hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for rural and urban youth. An efficient supply chain will also help decrease inflation. Considering these benefits, I offer my complete support to you and your government for taking this major step that will benefit millions of farmers and youth in our stat”.”
Power Discom bailout
The Centre has approved of a financial package for state power distribution companies. The main objective is to restructure their debt amounting to Rs 1,90,000 crore.
The centre will provide grants totalling Rs 25,000 crore as part of the package. States can access the grants only if their power distribution firms reduce their losses by 25 per cent each year.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) cleared the package on Monday. In the restructuring of debt, loans extended by state-run banks will be retired.
Half the short-term debt of the distribution companies will be taken over by state governments over a two to five-year period.
The modus operandi will be: first the debt will be converted into special bonds. The distribution firms or electricity boards will issue the bonds to their creditors which are banks and financial institutions.
The bonds will have state government guarantee.
Later, the debt will be transferred to states. On their part, the states have to ensure that the bonds are issued within the targets prescribed in the Financial Restructuring and Budget Management Act and also within their net borrowing ceilings set by the 13th finance commission.
The remaining half of the debt will have a three year moratorium on repayment of principal. But the distribution companies cannot use fresh loans to repay the loans.
The centre will create a transitional finance mechanism to the support states with cash grants in their task to restructure the power distributors' debt. On their part, the states have to ensure that the distributors cut their losses by a quarter ever year.
The states will be reimbursed by way of capital equivalent to 25 per cent of principal repayments they make on power liabilities they take over.
The scheme will be implemented in all states except Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Haryana, for whom separate deals will be worked out.
Pune citizens send telegrams to Maha CM for BDPs
Ecologist Madhav Gadgil joined the list of over 400 activists and citizens who have sent telegrams to the chief minister demanding implementation of the expert committee report on bio diversity parks (BDP) in the district.
“The expert committee’s report, which was sought under the Right to Information Act, has endorsed BDP proposal and its reservation. The report was kept under the wraps by the state government but now there should not be any excuse for not implementing it,’’ said Gadgil.
“Around 1,600 hectare is earmarked for the proposed BDP. Construction of buildings is increasing on the hills which leads to unnecessary energy and fuel consumption when water is pumped on the hills and vehicles take this route. So BDP is desirable,’’ he said.
Members of the Green Pune Movement, who want the state to implement the expert committee report on biodiversity parks, have encouraged citizens to send telegrams to the CM. They collected the telegrams from various housing societies and individuals and sent them from the Central Telegraph Office.
Satish Khot, a member of the Green Pune Movement, said citizens can continue to send telegrams, phonogram by calling 1585 from a BSNL landline or send a postcard. “We will continue to do so till we get a positive response from the chief minister. The expert committee report on bio diversity park is pending for quite some time now. We want to create awareness for its implementation,’’ he said.
Aneeta Benninger, a member Green Pune Movement, said, “The state had set up an expert committee headed by the chief minister to decide about BDP. The expert committee submitted its report on May 10 and wholeheartedly supported the concept. It also said that it should be the civic body’s mission to preserve such parks.’’
Sarpanch killings in J&K
Mohammed Shafi Teli, the 42-year-old deputy sarpanch of Nowpora Jageer in Baramulla district, had no chance of survival as he stepped out of his home at around 8.30 pm on Sunday.
Terrorists arrived at his doorstep and pumped four bullets into him from close range, including in his head. He was killed instantly.
Mohammed Shafi, affiliated with the ruling National Conference, is the fourth panchayat official killed in the last one year or so, apart from four who’ve been injured in firing ever since the panchayat were re-started in the state in 2011 after a gap of 23 years.
This was the second killing of a panchayat member in the last two weeks. On September 10, militants had shot dead sarpanch of Palhalan village, Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo, also in Baramulla.
Terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been issuing death threats to the panchayat officials, asking them to resign from their posts for past several months. After Yatoo’s killing, over two dozen panch and sarpanch in Palhalan and adjoining areas resigned fearing for their lives.
In fact, over 400 such panchayat officials—of the 2000-odd elected—have resigned following attacks since last year. Two weeks ago, the police claimed to have arrested a hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Nasir Ahmad Ganie alias Nasir Molvi for plotting to kill Yatoo.
No roaming charges from next year
National roaming charges will end next year. “From next year... our secretary has told you it will be free from next year,” communications minister Kapil Sibal said on being asked when roaming charges would end, as promised in the telecom policy.
Mobile users pay around 60 paise a minute in their home market while shelling out Rs 1.25 to 1.50 a minute while roaming in another telecom circle. Although you can make calls at the same rate once roaming charges are dropped, telecom operators who would lose revenue may end up jacking up local call charges to recoup some of the losses, a company executive said.
While the government has promised to end national roaming charges from next year, telecom regulator Trai is yet to kick off consultations since a change in norms are required. The process requires a discussion paper followed by open house sessions with stakeholders before the rules are firmed up. One of the trickiest issues that the regulator will have to deal with is interconnect charges that operators have to pay one another to connect a mobile user from the roaming circle to his home circle. Sources said the consultation process could take a while, especially on the inter-connect, which is a source of revenue for telecom operators.
S&P slashes India's GDP growth forecast
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s has slashed India’s growth forecast to 5.5% from 6.5%. This is sharply lower than the 6.5% estimated by the Reserve Bank of India and multilateral agencies such as World Bank and ADB but higher than that of investment banks such as Morgan Stanley which has forecast a 5.1% growth.
“The lack of monsoon rains has affected India, where agriculture still forms a substantial part of the economy. Additionally, the more cautious investor sentiment globally has seen potential investors become critical of India’s policy and infrastructure shortcomings. The latter was recently highlighted by the power outage in early August that affected 20 of India’s 28 states,” S&P said in a statement.
The lowering of growth estimates is part of a review of Asian economies which has resulted in half percentage point cut in estimates for China to 7.5%; Japan to 2.0%; Korea to 2.5%; Singapore to 2.1%; and Taiwan to 1.9%. India’s slower growth is a combined result of a 15% deficit in rainfall for June-September and the worsening Eurozone crisis.
Cash transfer of subsidies by 2017 planned
The success of pilot studies in three states has given the Centre hope to completely switch over to cash transfer of subsidies to millions of beneficiaries by 2017 with an aim to improve the efficiency of its welfare schemes and fiscal consolidation.
Cash transfers hold the key to the government’s aim of reducing its subsidy burden to 1.5% of the GDP by 2017 from 2.08% of GDP ( R2,33,000 crore) in 2011-12. In the current financial year, its social sector budget is around Rs.5,41,000 crore.
“Subsidies can increase in absolute terms as the GDP grows, but they must be reduced as a percentage of the GDP. It is possible to do so without hurting the poor,” said the 12th plan document being circulated for the Cabinet’s approval.
Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said a shift to cash transfers linked to Aadhaar numbers is designed to “reduce the scope” of leakages and “empower the beneficiaries”.
“The efficiency gain and reduction in leakage will also help reduce the deficit but that is a secondary objective,” he said.
Studies on direct cash transfers conducted in Delhi, Karnataka and Jharkhand showed better use of subsidies by the beneficiaries in terms of the products and services they buy with it. In Delhi, the beneficiaries not only bought wheat and rice — normal PDS items — but also other products, such as vegetables and eggs, through the subsidy money they got in their bank accounts.
In Jharkhand, the beneficiaries, for the first time, got their MGNREGA wages and PDS subsidy at their doorsteps. “They felt empowered. Cash transfer helped many people get a bank account,” said RS Sharma, director general, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
Buoyed by the success, the finance ministry has asked the plan panel to make UIDAI an integral part of all schemes where people are getting direct benefit from the government.
“Eventually the common man will benefit," Ahluwalia said.
GSAT - 10
India’s much-awaited advanced communication satellite GSAT-10 will be launched from Kourou, French Guiana on September 29. The launch will take place at 2.48 am (IST) into a geosynchronous transfer orbit by Ariane-5 launch vehicle.
The GSAT-10 weighing 3400 kg at lift-off is configured to carry a total of 30 communication transponders in normal C-band, lower extended C-band and Ku-band, as well as a GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) payload operating in L 1 and L 5 bands. GSAT -10 is the second satellite to carry GAGAN payload after GSAT-8.
Arun Shourie backs FDI in Retail
At a time when BJP has stepped up its offensive against the government over FDI in multibrand retail and hike in diesel prices, former party leader Arun Shourie said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had “for the first time shown his strength”. He justified the Centre’s decision to increase the price of diesel by Rs. 5 per litre. “Increasing diesel prices was the need of the hour,” Shourie told reporters in Bhopal . On FDI in multi-brand retail, the former Union minister said a lot of hue and cry was being raised “unnecessarily” on the issue and that this would neither lead to profit nor losses.
Samajwadi Party's unbelievable flip flops !!
UP Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, holding him responsible for India’s economic crisis. He also said that though the SP has extended its support to the UPA government to keep communal forces out, the party is ready to face Lok Sabha elections any time.
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Friday on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail, Akhilesh on Saturday said “his party is opposing FDI because it is not good for small farmers and traders”.
He said that Manmohan Singh is a renowned economist and has been the Prime Minister since 2004, but now the PM is saying that India’s economic situation has gone from bad to worse. “The question is who is responsible. The ruler or the people?” Akhilesh said.
When asked about SP chief ’s flip-flop on supporting the UPA-2 and third front, Akhilesh told reporters that the SP does not want the communal forces to take advantage of the present crisis. But, at the same time, the party cannot overlook the interest of small farmers and traders on the issue of the FDI in multi-brand retail.
Regarding early Lok Sabha elections, he said that the SP is ready for polls whether they take place now or later.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was quoted by a news channel as saying that he would back a resolution against FDI that Trinamool Congress has announced to bring in Parliament.
However, he later told reporters that the issue would be decided when the resolution comes up.
While TMC and SP are both opposed to FDI, Yadav said, “We are protesting against FDI. She is protesting in her own way.”
Though not confirming that SP would throw its lot with opposition, even the open-ended statement was enough to interest the anti-UPA forces, which have decided to move its battle against FDI to Parliament.
While Trinamool, which exited the UPA in protest, has said it would try to show that government lacks majority support on the move to bring in foreign retailers, BJP has said it would bring in a special resolution.
The Left bloc may be for voting for the resolution as could be BSP since the resolution would not bring down the government. The resultant opposition unity would form a potent anti-FDI bloc in Parliament as was evident during Thursday’s protest. In such a scenario, SP, along with BSP, can tilt the balance in favour of the government.
The CPM scotched speculation of renewed efforts to form a Third Front with non-Congress, non-BJP parties. Given their past experience, CPM is wary of a Third Front including regional parties. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said, “We will have joint movements and cooperate with non-Congress and non-BJP parties on an issue-to-issue basis both in Parliament and outside. We can have united actions on people’s issues to widen the movement (as in the case of opposition to FDI and diesel price hike).”
Congress' Ministers quit Mamata's Cabinet
Six Congress ministers in the Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet in Bengal submitted their resignation on Saturday evening in Kolkata. Unlike the grim atmosphere when six Trinamool Congress ministers handed their resignations to PM Manmohan Singh in a terse 10-minute meeting at his residence in Delhi, there were smiles, backslapping, fish fry and sandesh.
At the Writers’ Buildings, the six Congress leaders — Manas Bhunia, Abu Naser Khan Chaudhury, Sabina Yasmin, Abu Hena, P N Roy and Sunil Tirkey — received a warm welcome. Trinamool ministers Partha Chatterjee and Amit Mitra were waiting for them in the CM’s chamber.
Barfi!....India's entry to the Oscars
Anurag Basu’s Barfi! has been selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars this year. The movie was chosen from the 20 entries sent from the country.
The others in the running were Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Paan Singh Tomar, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2, Heroine, Ferrari Ki Sawari, Gattu and Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan (Punjabi). Three Marathi films— Kaksparsh, Deool and Tukaram—were also sent.Balaji Sakthivel’s Vazhakku ENN 18/9 and Rajmouli’s Eega were shortlisted as well.
CJI on Coalgate
Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia joined the debate on the CAG’s estimate of “windfall gains” for private players in Coalgate, suggesting such assessments may not be accurate.
“People should be educated on economics as well to understand that these irregularities should be understood from the point of loss, which is a matter of fact, and not from profit angle, which
is a matter of opinion,” the CJI said in a remark lapped up by a government reeling under the charge that its failure to prevent the scam had helped private players fatten their purses by Rs 1.86 lakh crore. “Valuation adopts very different criteria. If we understand these concepts properly, then we will know where the shoe pinches,” the CJI added.
The government, led by PM Manmohan Singh, has questioned the CAG’s estimate. The auditor has said that the government’s failure to implement its own decision to auction coal blocks helped business houses walk away with the precious resources.
Welcoming PM Manmohan Singh’s recent measures on economic reforms, the CJI warned that the efforts to pull the economy out of the woods would be meaningless if the well-connected continued to grab an unfair share of economic benefits. In what he called his “swan song” before he retires, the CJI said, “Our leaders must know that without the rule of law, well connected people can grab an unfair share of the economic benefits which will affect inclusive growth.”
Delivering his address before the PM, Justice Kapadia said the rule of law never impeded economic growth and it must go hand in hand with the decisions taken by the government to attract foreign direct investment to lift the damp sentiments in the market and the manufacturing sector.
He said one of the singlemost important factors for economic growth was the respect of the government for the rule of law, which enforced minimum standards of fairness and helped in improving the country’s governance. He said an 8% GDP growth rate generated 12 million new jobs per year, but when the growth rate falls to 5.5%, the employment generation dips to 8.25 million. “India has a 30 million youth population needing 10 million new jobs every year. If the growth rate falls, then unemployment will increase. That’s where the investment comes to bridge the gap,” he said. Over the PM having initiated reforms to fight the doomsday, he said, “But be it domestic or foreign direct investment, I have always given importance to investment if it generates employment.”
But he also cautioned the PM about the flip side of reforms. “It should not be that 300 million prosper and 700 million suffer. That is why the need of the hour is inclusive growth and economic democracy,” the CJI said. Justice Kapadia said the Constitution framers wanted that natural resources should be allocated to serve greater common good.
M&M drive in the Quanto
The Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) Quanto, which was launched on Thursday, will be ready for exports in three to four months.
Placed in the range of Rs 5.82 lakh to Rs 7.36 lakh, the car is likely to trigger price war and further boost sales of the SUV segment.
The Quanto is powered by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre diesel mHawk engine, generating 100 bhp power with 240 Nm torque. Transmission is taken care by a fivespeed manual gearbox.
Based on the Xylo platform, Quanto has a spare tyre on its rear door and is designed to seat 5+2 passengers, The two butterfly seats in the boot area can be folded up in case to put additional luggage.
M&M has launched four variants of the vehicle, C2 (base model), C4, C6 and C8 (top model). Airbags will be found in the top variant only (driver + co-passenger).
Front wheels have disc brakes while rear one’s have drum brakes. Safety features include, child lock, fog lamps, reverse park assist, rear wiper, and digital immobiliser. The Quanto will compete with the newly launched Renault Duster in the SUV segment in addition to the Ertiga forecast experts.
Ahmedabad - Mumbai in a double decker
The fully air-conditioned Ahmedabad-Mumbai double decker train made its inaugural run and reached Mumbai Central around midnight on Thursday. The train was around 50 per cent full and also had a team of Western Railway maintenance to study the performance of the train in terms of speed, air-conditioning and other general passenger amenities.
The new train will run on all days except Sunday. With an average speed of around 120 kmph, the train will complete the journey in around seven hours and will halt briefly at Borivali, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara and Anand.
Agni III test fired
The 3,000-km range Agni-III missile was test fired successfully by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) from the Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha on Friday. All mission objectives of the ballistic missile were achieved, according to Ravi Kumar Gupta, scientist ‘G’, and director of directorate of public interface of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It may be mentioned here that in the last five months, all the Agni class of missiles were tested successfully. Agni-I, Agni-II, Agni-III, Agni-IV and Agni-V with different ranges were successfully test fired.
According to sources, in the last 11 months, there were as many as 12 test launches of different missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, apart from the Agni class missiles.
Fuel loading starts @ Kudankulam
Loading of uranium fuel in the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant started on Wednesday, the Vinayaka Chaturthi day, as the controversial project took a major step towards becoming operational. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had given its final clearance for loading fuel on Tuesday night.
“Fuel loading has started and it will take at least 10 days for the process to be completed,” said a Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) official. Each of the two Russian-made VVER reactors in the plant is capable of generating 1,000MW power.
“The nod for loading uranium-235 fuel was given on Tuesday and the plant authorities must have started loading the next day. There is nothing that could have stopped them from loading fuel in the first unit,” AERB chief S S Bajaj said from Vienna. The loading process was started without any publicity as per advice from central and state governments.
The fuel supplied by Russia was moved to the reactor room by scientists last week. Apart from an AERB team, NPCIL officials and Russian engineers witnessed the crucial event, the last major step before commissioning of the plant. Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency are likely to visit the plant before the reactor vessel is closed after loading fuel, NPCIL sources said.
Once the fuel loading is complete, the AERB will give clearance for closing the reactor vessel and it would take another 10 to 15 days for the unit to attain criticality, when power generation will start, said an NPCIL official.
The unit is likely to be synchronised with the power grid by October-end. Though plant officials are confident of meeting the deadline, there are some apprehensions as the Russian reactor is the first of its kind in the country and it may take some more time to fully operationalise the unit.
The AERB had given its approval for loading fuel on August 11, but laid stringent conditions to be fulfilled before beginning the process. “After the nod, we also sent a team of officials to give clearance, if required, then and there,” said Bajaj. The project, which has faced several problems since being launched, finally cleared the legal hurdles when the Madras high court and later the Supreme Court refused to stop loading of fuel.
This is the first time that a nuclear reactor capable of generating 1,000 MW is being operationalised in the country. As of now, the biggest operational reactors in India are the two 540MW reactors at Tarapur in Maharashtra. All other reactors are smaller in size. The Russian abbreviation VVER stands for water-cooled, water-moderated energy reactor. Apart from Russia, China also has similar reactors.
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