Rassegna della stampa internazionale sull’India
A cura di Giulio Carminati
Political and Current Affairs
Caste in doubt
The perilous arithmetic of positive discrimination
June 10th 2010 | FROM THE ECONOMIST PRINT EDITION
New Delhi .Asking some uncomfortable questionsSIXTY years after India’s constitution banned
caste discrimination, Hinduism’s millennia-old hierarchy retains a tight grip. Lonely-hearts ads in
the newspapers are classified by caste and sub-caste. Brahmins, at the top, dominate many
professions. There are still hundreds of “honour killings” by which families avenge inter-caste
marriages and liaisons. Caste discrimination is still drearily evident in the wretched lives of dalits,
formerly “untouchables”, who remain India’s poorest and least educated people. It is not surprising,
then, that India is considering the inclusion of caste in its ten-yearly census, the next of which is due
The proposal has caused a storm of controversy. India has not counted caste in its census since
1931. Many argue that its inclusion would buttress a system that independent India’s first leaders
railed against. The Congress party, which led the independence struggle, struck caste from
government forms and has resisted calls for a nationwide caste count.
However, now heading a coalition government, Congress needs the support of smaller parties,
including a number of caste-based groups that have sprung up in recent years, to push through
important legislation. A system of affirmative action has given caste greater potency. In 1990
“reservations” in government jobs and university places for dalits were extended to a group of
castes slightly higher-up the pecking order, the “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs). Reservations
are based on data from the 1931 census. Caste politicians are not alone in arguing that this makes a
nonsense of the system.
Counting caste in the census, however, would be difficult, or even impossible. Besides the four
main varna, or castes, India has uncounted thousands of sub-castes, few of which census officials
will recognise. More worryingly, the count would surely lead to a flood of demands for more
reservations; already, the government is battling quota demands from non-OBC castes, Muslims
and Christian converts from Hinduism—and a call for reservations to be extended to India’s private
Six decades of reservations have done little to better the lot of low-caste Indians. But recent
economic growth has been more transformative. As millions have moved to urban areas in search of
work, they have left the rigid social groupings of their villages for the relative anonymity of cities,
and swapped hereditary trades for jobs in which family background is largely immaterial. Many
Indians are becoming caste-blind, and marrying across caste lines. Anidhrudda, a 30-year-old
software engineer in Kolkata (Calcutta), says his inter-caste marriage was no big deal. But even he
concedes there are limits. If he had married a dalit, he says, “my family would not have been able to
Technology and complexity
In praise of techno-austerity
The technology industry seems to be coming round to the idea that less is more
June 10th 2010 FROM THE ECONOMIST PRINT EDITION
AUSTERITY is a word much found on the lips of politicians and economists at the moment; but it
is seldom heard from technologists. And although the idea that “less is more” has many adherents in
architecture, design and fashion, the technology industry has historically espoused the opposite
view. Products should have as many features as possible; and next year’s version should have even
more. As prices fall, what starts off as a fancy new feature quickly becomes commonplace—try
buying a phone without a camera, or a car without electric windows—prompting companies to add
new features in an effort to outdo their rivals. Never mind if nobody uses most of these new features
(this article is being typed into word-processing software from 1997, for instance, but it seems to
work perfectly well). In an arms race, more is always more.
But now there are signs that technologists are waking up to the benefits of minimalism, thanks to
two things: feature fatigue among consumers who simply want things to work, and strong demand
from less affluent consumers in the developing world. It is telling that the market value of Apple,
the company most closely associated with simple, elegant high-tech products, recently overtook that
of Microsoft, the company with the most notorious case of new-featuritis. True, Apple’s products
contain lots of features under the hood, but the company has a knack for concealing such
complexity using elegant design. Other companies have also prospered by providing easy-to-use
products: think of the Nintendo Wii video-games console or the Flip video camera. Gadgets are no
longer just for geeks, and if technology is to appeal to a broad audience, simplicity trumps fancy
Another strand of techno-austerity can be found in software that keeps things simple in order to
reduce distractions and ensure that computer-users remain focused and productive. Many word
processors now have special full-screen modes, so that all unnecessary and distracting menus,
palettes and so on are disabled or hidden; rather than fiddling with font sizes or checking e-mail,
you are encouraged to get on with your writing. If the temptation to have a quick look at Facebook
proves too much, there are programs that will disable access to particular websites at specified times
of day; and if that is not draconian enough, there are even some programs that can block internet
access altogether (see Technology Quarterly). A computer on which some features are not present,
or have been deliberately disabled, may in fact be more useful if you are trying to get things done.
There are no distracting hyperlinks on a typewriter.
And then there is the phenomenon of “frugal” innovation—the new ideas that emerge when trying
to reduce the cost of something in order to make it affordable to consumers in places like China,
India and Brazil. The resulting products often turn out to have huge appeal in the rich world too,
especially in an era of belt-tightening. The netbook, or low-cost laptop, was inspired by a scheme to
produce cheap laptops for children in poor countries, but has since proved popular with consumers
around the world. Tata devised the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, with India’s emerging middle
classes in mind; it is now planning to launch it in Europe, too, where there is growing demand for
cheap, simple vehicles.
All this offers grounds for hope. If the feature-obsessed technology industry can change its tune,
perhaps there is a chance that governments—which have also tended to be inveterate believers in
the idea that more is more—might also come to appreciate the merits of minimalism.
Europe and India Push to Seal Free-Trade Deal
By RAPHAEL MINDER and TOM REDBURN
June 22, 2010 The
New York Times
MADRID -With global trade negotiations stalled, India and the European Union are pressing to
complete a bilateral free-trade agreement in the autumn that is intended to triple their 53 billion euro
($66 billion) trade flow within five years.
After nine rounds of negotiations, India and Europe are closing in on such a free-trade agreement,
Anand Sharma, the Indian minister of commerce and industry, said in an interview. Mr. Sharma
said that he would meet with the European trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, in September and
that “we hope that both of us will be able to reach an agreement.”
Both sides are aiming for a framework agreement in time for a Europe-India summit meeting in
Brussels, scheduled for October.
Europe and India started their trade negotiations in 2007, but talks initially made only slow
progress. Given the impasse in the Doha world trade talks, however, countries have renewed their
focus on bilateral deals as a less ambitious but useful proxy for increasing trade flows. Europe
signed separate free-trade agreements last month with a group of Central American countries, as
well as Peru and Colombia.
Mr. Sharma was speaking on the sidelines of an India business conference in Madrid sponsored by
Horasis, a global networking group based in Geneva.
His speech coincided with the start of a visit to India by Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s
new foreign policy chief, also meant to prepare the ground for the summit meeting in Brussels.
“The willingness is definitely there, and both sides are now putting a lot of effort into completing
the work on the remaining issues so that the E.U.-India summit in the autumn can give the final
push for concluding this deal, which we do think is possible,” said John Clancy, a trade spokesman
for the European Union.
“We won’t reach a multilateral agreement this year, but the E.U.-India bilateral agreement is much
advanced,” Rajan Bharti Mittal, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and
Industry, said at the Madrid conference. Such an agreement, he added, would be “beneficial to both
European companies are increasing their presence in emerging markets like India in part to offset
sluggish domestic growth. That is also true for Spanish companies that have traditionally focused
on former Latin American colonies rather than on Asia.
“If an industrial group thinks that it doesn’t have to be in India, it’s making a real strategic
mistake,” said Germán Lorenzo, the Asia-Pacific managing director of the Mondragon Corporation,
a Spanish conglomerate that recently bought land in India. “Our domestic market is shrinking so our
boys have to go for Asia, particularly India.”
Silvia Iranzo, the Spanish secretary for trade, conceded that her country’s trade and investment
exchanges with India had so far “not been at the height of our economic scale.”
She added: “Spain is going through economic difficulties so we are putting in place policies of
internationalization to help our companies overcome the crisis, and these policies inevitably involve
India is expected to spend as much as $50 billion in the next five years to modernize its military
equipment, but barriers to foreign investment in this sector were underlined recently. The Indian
government blocked an electronics joint venture between European Aeronautic Defense and Space
and Larsen & Toubro, an Indian engineering company. The concern was that EADS would breach
the 26 percent equity ownership limit for foreign investors in the sector.
But Thomas Homberg, vice president of EADS, insisted Tuesday that “definitely we haven’t given
up” on the joint venture. Facing such hurdles in the “sensitive field” of military contracting did not
preclude EADS from developing commercial aircraft manufacturing in India, as EADS has done in
China by setting up an Airbus assembly line. “I would not say that this is impossible in India, not at
all,” he said.
European and other investors also want India to loosen foreign ownership curbs in sectors like
insurance and retail. Other concerns include India’s manufacturing of counterfeit drugs and its
unwillingness to include procurement in a trade deal.
Among outstanding issues for India is greater access to Europes’s highly subsidized agricultural
market, which also was a major obstacle in the Doha talks. India also wants to make it easier for its
work force to work temporarily in Europe.
When asked whether the euro’s decline could influence the pace of Indian corporate investment in
Europe, Mr. Sharma said, “I don’t think these decisions are taken because of currency fluctuations.”
Letter from India
Prying Open India’s Vast Bureaucracy
By AKASH KAPUR
June 17, 2010 The New York Times
PONDICHERRY, India — P.M.L. Kalayansundaram calls himself a human rights worker. He runs
an organization that provides a variety of services to villagers in this area — legal aid, financial
assistance to help them organize marriage and death ceremonies, and free refrigerated coffin boxes
that they would otherwise have to procure at exorbitant rates from private merchants.
On a recent afternoon, he told me that he had been determined from a young age to do social work.
He remembered being harassed by the traffic police as a boy. Though just 14 years old, he felt even
then that government was supposed to work for people, not against them. He was determined to
increase the responsiveness of local officials.
Recently, Mr. Kalayansundaram has been making use of a new tool in his efforts to improve
governance. He has been filing a growing number of requests for information under India’s Right to
The act, passed by Parliament five years ago this week, aimed to introduce greater transparency in
governance. It requires all authorities to appoint public information officers and to respond to
requests for information within 30 days.
When the act, modeled on similar freedom of information laws in other countries, was first passed,
many were doubtful that it would prove effective. Skeptics predicted that officials would find a way
around it. Officials themselves worried that they would be swamped by trivial and vindictive
requests that would dilute the original purpose of the law.
It is true that the implementation of the act has been uneven at times. But half a decade after its
passage, it is generally acknowledged as landmark legislation that is changing the relationship
between citizens and their representatives; and that has the potential to transform governance in
The experience of men like Mr. Kalayansundaram suggests just how that potential could be
achieved slowly, information request by information request. Sitting on a lawn under the hot sun, he
told me of the various ways in which he had used the act, and of the small but significant changes
that had resulted.
He told me, for instance, of the information request he had made that revealed excessive spending
by local officials on fuel and office snacks. When he publicized the information in newspapers, the
expenses came down.
He told me, too, about an information request he made that revealed that some politicians were
paying rent for houses in their or their relatives’ names. This practice, too, had diminished.
One of his greatest successes came recently, when he used the act to help solve a homicide case that
had lain dormant for months. Based on information Mr. Kalayansundaram received through an
information request, the police were able to identify a suspect.
Mr. Kalayansundaram emphasized that his efforts have not always gone smoothly. He talked of
recalcitrant officials who held up requests for information and of the death threats he had received.
Some opponents had put up posters around his house questioning his sources of income and
accusing him of illegal activity.
Still, his overall sense was that the law was improving governance. “All the officials are scared of
R.T.I. now,” he said, speaking of the information act. “They move more quickly. If they don’t
answer within 30 days, they know they can be suspended.”
One of the chief benefits of the law, Mr. Kalayansundaram said, is that it confers something of an
administrative weapon that responsive officials can use against less responsive colleagues. It
permits, in effect, what the political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta called “institutional competition,”
a way for different branches of government to maintain oversight over each other, which is an
essential component of good governance.
Using the information act, for example, a person can provide information to a judge that allows the
judiciary to challenge police inaction. Likewise, the law permits honest officials to act on
information collected by citizens against corrupt officials in their own department.
Over the years, the act has been hailed as revolutionary and emancipatory. Last year, President
Pratibha Patil said that it had “created a virtual Parliament of People.”
Such praise seems to be borne out by the many stories of people across the country using the act to
uncover corruption and improve public services. According to a recent survey conducted by a
coalition of civil society groups, more than two million information requests were filed in the first
two and a half years after the law’s inception.
But one of the law’s primary limitations remains the relatively low level of awareness among
citizens and activist groups. Another survey on the law’s impact conducted by the consultancy firm
PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that only about 15 percent of the public knew of the law’s
existence. This figure was even lower among traditionally marginalized sections of society, like
women and rural residents.
Such findings are echoed by Mr. Kalayansundaram, who said that the chief obstacle he faced was
the public’s lack of familiarity with the law.
To remedy this, he has been writing articles about the act in a magazine published by his
organization. Once a year, on Dec. 10, internationally recognized as Human Rights Day, he drives
around in a van with a loudspeaker attached to the roof, touting the law’s benefits.
Such campaigns, he told me, were starting to show results. “I’m no longer the only person doing it,”
he said of his frequent information requests. “This is going to grow and grow. It will definitely
change the country.”
I asked him how long he thought it would take to achieve that change. “Five years,” he answered
“Ten years, or maybe more,” he added.
“But however long, this country will definitely change.”
G.M. Ends Electric Car Partnership With India’s Reva
By JERRY GARRETT
May 27, 2010 The New York Times
An announcement this week that Mahindra & Mahindra, a maker of utility vehicles in India, had
acquired a controlling interest in the Reva Electric Car Company, has set off something of a domino
effect in the region.
General Motors said on Thursday, according to Reuters, that it is ending its partnership with Reva
to develop electric cars in India. Reva and G.M. India were working jointly to produce an electric
version of the new Chevrolet Spark.
G.M. said it would instead offer the Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric vehicle in India late this year.
Karl Slym, head of G.M. India, said the company had no specific timetable for starting a pure
electric vehicle in the country. No estimates were given of potential India sales for the Volt, which
is expected to go on sale in November in the United States at a price of around $40,000.
G.M. will, however, begin introducing in India in late 2011 a line of small commercial vehicles
developed in a new partnership with the Chinese automaker SAIC; small passenger cars from the
joint venture will be introduced the next year, Mr. Slym said.
Price competition in India’s car market has been fierce since the introduction last year of Tata
Motors’ Nano subcompact, which sells from $2,700 to $3,800, depending on options.
Clogged Rail Lines Slow India’s Development
Indian Railways, often called the backbone of the nation’s economy, moves seven billion passengers
a year. But its expansion and modernization is not keeping pace with India’s needs.
By VIKAS BAJAJ
June 15, 2010 The New York Times
MUMBAI, India — S. K. Sahai’s firm ships containers 2,400 nautical miles from Singapore to a
port here in four or five days. But it typically takes more than two weeks to make the next leg of the
journey, 870 miles by rail to New Delhi.
For most of that time the containers idle at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai because railway
terminals, trains and tracks are severely backlogged all along the route. Counting storage and rail
freight fees, Mr. Sahai estimates the cost of moving goods from Mumbai to Delhi at up to $840 per
container — or about three times as much as getting the containers to India from Singapore.
“They don’t have any physical space,” Mr. Sahai, who is chairman of SKS Logistics of Mumbai,
said about the government-owned Indian Railways. “And all their trains are booked.”
As the world looks to India to compete with China as a major source of new global economic
growth, this country’s weak transportation network is stalling progress.
Economists say India must invest heavily in transportation to achieve a long-term annual growth
rate of 10 percent — the goal recently set by the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But whether
measured by highways, airways or — particularly — far-reaching railways, India’s transportation is
Critics say the growth and modernization of Indian Railways has been hampered by government
leaders more interested in winning elections and appeasing select constituents, rather than investing
in the country’s long-term needs. It is one of the many ways that the political realities of India’s
clamorous democracy stand in contrast to the forced march that China’s authoritarian system can
dictate for economic development.
A 40,000-mile, 150-year-old network, Indian Railways is often described as the backbone of this
nation’s economy. And in fact it is moving more people and goods than ever: seven billion
passengers and 830 million tons of cargo a year. But its expansion and modernization is not keeping
pace with India’s needs.
“If it has to serve as the backbone of the Indian economy, the leaders of the Indian Railways have to
think big, and they need to have a larger vision,” said S. Ramnarayan, a professor at the Indian
School of Business and co-author of a book about the railways. “Thinking in terms of
incrementalism — a little extra here, a little extra there — doesn’t solve anybody’s problem.”
The crash on an eastern rail link late last month that killed 151 people and injured hundreds of
others underscored the vital nature of the railroads, as well as their vulnerability. The crash, which
authorities have attributed to Maoist rebels, was particularly disruptive because it disabled a busy
east-west line that, along with many others, was already stretched thin.
Traffic between big cities like Mumbai and Delhi, for instance, often runs at more than 120 percent
of planned capacity, which means trains travel more slowly and tracks wear out faster than
And because the railways’ tracks are too lightweight and the locomotives underpowered, Indian
trains can haul no more than 5,000 tons of cargo, compared with 20,000-ton capacities in the United
States, China and Russia.
India’s fastest passenger services, the Rajdhani and Shatabdi, have top speeds of only 160
kilometers (100 miles) an hour, while even the Amtrak Acela in the United States can hit 150 miles
an hour in a few stretches. China’s bullet trains, meanwhile, zip along at an average speed of up to
215 miles an hour.
Political analysts say that the current railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, has been distracted by her
party’s campaign to win elections in her home state of West Bengal. Those political ambitions, they
say, have inspired populist policies by Indian Railways that are at financial odds with
modernization and capital investments.
Even though Indian law allows the railways to acquire land quickly through hearings before
magistrates, for example, Ms. Banerjee has promised farmers and other landowners that the
ministry will negotiate with each landowner whose property must be acquired for two large freight
projects. While popular with landowners, the process could add years to the projects.
An assistant to Ms. Banerjee said she was not available for an interview because she was busy with
recently concluded municipal elections in West Bengal.
Ms. Banerjee is hardly the first railway minister with a political agenda, though. And most of the
ministers who preceded her have funneled the railways’ limited resources into subsidies for
passengers at the expense of freight service.
Even though passenger services lost about $4 billion last year, the government has not increased
fares for seven years. And it has even lowered some prices, in the face of inflation that has ranged
from 3.8 to 13 percent a year.
A Rail Minister Distracted by Parochial Issues (June 16, 2010) As a result, migrant workers, for
example, can travel from Mumbai to their homes in Bihar, 1,050 miles away, for 500 rupees ($11).
Last year, Ms. Banerjee introduced a new monthly ticket good for travel up to 100 kilometers (61
miles) for 25 rupees (54 cents).
“It’s very difficult to run a business on that,” a senior railway official said, insisting on anonymity
because of the sensitivity of the issue.
But, he added, Ms. Banerjee is helping the “large number of poor in the country who are eking out a
To subsidize passenger travel, the railways levy some of the highest freight tariffs in the world.
India charges four times what American companies charge for rail freight and twice as much as in
Business executives say their best hopes for improving the railroad’s costs and capabilities may ride
on solutions not wholly reliant on Indian Railways.
Four years ago, the government began allowing private companies to operate container trains. One
of the new carriers is IndiaLinx, which buys rail cars and leases tracks, locomotives and workers
from the Railways.
Amitabha Chaudhuri, chief executive of IndiaLinx, said his company would carry about 95,000
containers this year, up from 55,000 last year. The company, which is owned by APL Logistics of
Singapore, has seen strong demand for refrigerated containers, which are in short supply in India.
Analysts and officials also hope that plans proceed for dedicated freight corridors that would greatly
increase capacity along the country’s most congested stretches of rail: Mumbai to Delhi in the west,
and Punjab State to Calcutta on the east coast. The 1,700-mile network is expected to cost more
than $9 billion.
For the western corridor, Japan has agreed to provide about $5 billion in low-interest loans to help
India buy equipment and services from Japanese suppliers. And the World Bank is considering
loans of up to $2.4 billion for the eastern corridor. Construction is expected to begin next year and
be completed in 2017.
Analysts say India will be able to execute ambitious projects when it appoints competent managers
and frees them from political interference.
A former railway bureaucrat, Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, for instance, is known for completing two
major initiatives on time and on budget — the Konkan Railways, a 472-mile line on the
mountainous western coast, and the Delhi Metro, a 118-mile subway system.
And in recent years, another bureaucrat, Sudhir Kumar, helped bolster rail profits by making trains
longer and heavier, and by turning them around faster.
But broadly speaking, India does not have a stellar record of executing its plans. The backlog of rail
projects runs 10 pages and is short $17 billion in required financing.
The oldest incomplete project, a 46-mile line in West Bengal, began in 1974 and has been delayed
because the state government has not handed over some land.
Many of the projects were added to the planning list at the behest of politicians currying favor with
voters back home.
One 37-mile line in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is meant to give a direct rail route
between the state capital and Mainpuri, a city with a population of about 200,000. The project was
added to the railway budget in 1997, but it still needs $13 million in financing — money for which
it has to compete against dozens of similar lines.
Analysts said it would be more efficient to connect such towns to main rail lines by buses. But Ms.
Banerjee has said that the railways must build lines to help spur development in remote areas and
“We cannot and should not have a myopic view of viability,” she said during her annual budget
speech in February.
“What is not viable today, if connected, will become viable tomorrow.”
Right-to-Know Law Gives India’s Poor a Lever
By LYDIA POLGREEN
June 28, 2010 The New York Times
A goat herder and her children in Jharkhand, a corrupt state where the poor use India’s right-toknow law to solve basic problems. More Photos »
As an impoverished day laborer from a downtrodden caste, she was an ideal candidate for the grant.
Yet she waited four years, watching as wealthier neighbors got grants and built sturdy houses, while
she and her three children slept beneath a leaky roof of tree branches and crumbling clay tiles.
Two months ago she took advantage of India’s powerful and wildly popular Right to Information
law. With help from a local activist, she filed a request at a local government office to find out who
had gotten the grants while she waited, and why. Within days a local bureaucrat had good news:
Her grant had been approved, and she would soon get her check.
Ms. Devi’s good fortune is part of an information revolution sweeping India. It may be the world’s
largest democracy, but a vast and powerful bureaucracy governs. It is an imperial edifice built on
feudal foundations, and for much of independent India’s history the bureaucracy has been largely
unaccountable. Citizens had few means to demand to know what their government was doing for
But it has now become clear that India’s 1.2 billion citizens have been newly empowered by the farreaching law granting them the right to demand almost any information from the government. The
law is backed by stiff fines for bureaucrats who withhold information, a penalty that appears to be
ensuring speedy compliance.
The law has not, as some activists hoped, had a major effect on corruption. Often, as in Ms. Devi’s
case, the bureaucracy solves the problem for the complaining individual, but seldom undertakes a
Still, the law has become part of the fabric of rural India in the five years since it was passed, and
has clearly begun to tilt the balance of power, long skewed toward bureaucrats and politicians.
“The feeling in government has always been that the people working in government are the rulers,
and the people are the ruled,” said Wajahat Habibullah, the central government’s chief information
commissioner. “This law has given the people the feeling that the government is accountable to
Rajiv Gandhi, a former prime minister, once said that only 15 percent of spending on the poor
actually reached them — the rest was wasted or siphoned off.
That figure may have changed in the decades since he uttered it, but few Indians doubt that a good
chunk of the roughly $47 billion budgeted this fiscal year to help impoverished citizens is lost.
India’s Right to Information law has given the poor a powerful tool to ensure they get their slice of
that cake. The law, passed after more than a decade of agitation by good-government activists, has
become embedded in Indian folklore. In the first three years the law was in effect, two million
applications were filed.
Jharkhand is an eastern Indian state where corruption and incompetence are rife, fueled by mineral
wealth and the political chaos that has gripped the state since it was carved out of the state of Bihar
in 2000. Here the rural poor are using the law to solve basic problems. Their success stories seem
like the most minor of triumphs, but they represent major life improvements for India’s poorest.
In one village near Banta, a clinic that was supposed to be staffed full time by a medical worker
trained to diagnose ailments like malaria and diarrhea and provide care to infants and expectant
mothers had not been staffed regularly for years. A local resident filed a request to see worker
attendance records. Soon the medical worker started showing up regularly.
The worker, Sneha Lata, an assistant midwife whose government salary is $250 a month, denied
that she had been neglecting her post. She said the information law was a nuisance. “Because of this
law I have to listen to all these complaints,” she said. But with villagers now watching, she dares
not miss work.
In a nearby hut, Ramani Devi sewed a blanket for a grandson born nine days earlier. In years past
she would have been in the fields, toiling for a handful of change to make ends meet. As an elderly
widow, Ms. Devi (no relation to Chanchala Devi) knew she was entitled to a $9 monthly
government pension. That may not sound like much, but in a rural village, it is the difference
between eating and starving.
Times Topic: IndiaMiddlemen at the government office demand bribes of $20 to direct applications
to the right bureaucrat, and many people ineligible for pensions were collecting them. When a local
activist filed a request to find out which villagers were receiving pensions, Ms. Devi, who is a Dalit,
formerly known as an untouchable, finally got her pension. Now she proudly shows off her savings
Simply filing an inquiry about a missing ration card, a wayward pension application or a birth
certificate is nowadays enough to force the once stodgy bureaucracy to deliver, activists here say.
But a more responsive bureaucracy is not necessarily less corrupt.
Sunil Kumar Mahto, 29, an activist in Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital, said he quickly learned that
using the law to expose corruption was pointless. He gave the example of a road project. “The
money was spent, but there was no road,” Mr. Mahto said.
When he applied to find out what had happened, new money was allocated and the road was
ultimately built. But no action was taken against whoever had pocketed the original money.
“The nexus of politicians, contractors and bureaucrats is very strong here,” Mr. Mahto explained.
“To get action against someone is very difficult.”
Some critics wonder if the law is simply a pressure valve that allows people to get basic needs
addressed without challenging the status quo. “It has been very successful in rooting out petty
corruption,” said Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. “But our
accountability mechanisms are weak, and transparency has no purpose without accountability.”
But Shekhar Singh, an activist who fought for passage of the law, said that in a nation recovering
from centuries of colonial and feudal oppression, fighting corruption was secondary.
“Our main objective was to empower citizens,” Mr. Singh said. “This law has done that — given
the people the power to challenge their government. That is no small thing.”
India Cuts Subsidies for Fuels
By VIKAS BAJAJ
: June 25, 2010 The New York Times
MUMBAI, India — The Indian government on Friday reduced popular fuel subsidies, a longdelayed change that will help policy makers reduce a big budget deficit but one that will also
worsen already high inflation.
Policy makers said the government would stop subsidizing gasoline. Diesel, kerosene and
natural gas would continue to receive support at a slightly lower level. India spent about $5.6
billion to subsidize fuel in the last fiscal year, which ended in March. State-owned energy
companies added the equivalent of an additional $4.4 billion by selling fuel below its cost.
India and other big countries committed to eliminating energy subsidies at a Group of 20
meeting last year, but policy makers here had repeatedly put off the politically difficult change.
Heavily subsidized fuels like kerosene, for instance, are used by many poor Indians for lighting
and cooking. Moreover, opposition politicians have criticized the government for not doing
enough to bring down escalating prices, especially for food. Consumer prices jumped 14.4
percent in April from a year earlier.
The opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) called the subsidy cuts a “cruel blow
against the people who are already suffering.”
The G-20 meeting in Toronto this weekend might have played into the timing of the decision.
But the reductions in subsidies also signals that Indian leaders have become more confident
about their political mandate a year after they won a new five-year term in office. The Congress
Party-led government also appears to have gotten more serious about reducing the federal
deficit, which is estimated to be 5.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Still, policy makers are moving cautiously. Prices for diesel, kerosene and natural gas, which
are the most heavily subsidized fuels, will increase only moderately and remain under
government control for the time being.
By comparison, gasoline is not subsidized as much, and its retail price is already much higher
than in the United States because of high taxes. Prices for it will increase 3.5 rupees a liter, or
29 cents a gallon, to about 55.7 rupees a liter, or $4.58 a gallon.
The increase in gasoline prices should bolster the profits of state-owned oil companies, which
were not being fully compensated by the government for the subsidies. It should also help
private energy companies like Reliance and Essar that sharply scaled back their fuel retailing
businesses in recent years because they could not compete against the subsidized fuel sold by
Even after the increase, analysts at Citigroup estimate that the government and state-owned oil
companies will spend about $11.5 billion on fuel subsidies this fiscal year, down from a
previous estimate of $16.7 billion.
Reliance Natural Resources, owned by Anil Ambani, has revised a purchase agreement for
natural gas with Reliance Industries, Bloomberg News reported Friday from New Delhi.
Reliance Industries, controlled by Mukesh Ambani, Anil’s brother, won a favorable ruling from
the top Indian court in May on natural gas sales from the country’s biggest field, which holds
$38 billion worth of reserves. The estranged brothers subsequently scrapped agreements that
prevented them from competing with each other in business.
India fury over US 'double standards' on BP and Bhopal
Barack Obama's tough stand on Gulf oil spill contrasts with lack of action on Bhopal, campaigners
Jason Burke in Delhi
Wednesday 23 June 2010 The Guardian.
Indians have reacted with fury to President Barack Obama's tough stance against BP, accusing the
US of double standards over industrial accidents after the failure to convict Americans involved in
the Bhopal disaster of 1984 or to obtain what many view as adequate compensation for victims.
The anger goes beyond that of campaigners or activists with some of India's best-known writers and
journalists weighing in.
"It looks like Indian children's lives are cheaper than [those of] fish," Chetan Bhagat, the country's
best-selling writer, said. "Obama should bang his fist on the table. If he can do that for fish, how
about our kids? Or are they only Indians?"
The Pioneer and Hindustan newspapers ran headlines last week repeating the charge that the US
reaction to the Gulf Coast disaster, which has killed 11 people, and to Bhopal, where at least 15,000
died as a result of exposure to toxic gases leaking from a US-owned pesticide plant, was evidence
of double standards.
"Everything that Obama has said about BP and the spill was what the US should have said about
Bhopal," said Suhasini Haider, one of India's best-known TV journalists who chaired a prime-time
discussion comparing reactions to the two disasters. "There is the question of compensation, the
way Obama has gone after senior executives personally. This is the exact opposite of what
happened with Bhopal."
One reason for the anger lies in the timing of the Obama's address to the American nation on the oil
spill, which came a week after the first verdicts in a criminal trial related to the Bhopal disaster.
Seven Indian managers at the plant were sentenced to two years in prison and immediately bailed
by a court in India. Warren Anderson, the then chief executive of Union Carbide, the American firm
which owned the plant through an Indian subsidiary, has never faced trial and attempts by Indian
governments to extradite him from the US have failed.
"It seems ridiculous that there are such small punishments for [Bhopal] and at the same time we are
watching the US getting so agitated about the spill," Haider said.
Attention in India has focused on continuing investigations by campaigners into the identity of the
senior figure who ordered the release of Anderson, arrested when he returned to Bhopal
immediately after the disaster. Opposition politicians have sought to blame senior figures in the
Congress party, who lead a coalition government in India.
There is also a fierce domestic debate about who was responsible for the downgrading of charges
against officials investigated after the disaster, the failure to clear the site of the plant of toxic waste
and the level of compensation, which has reached only a fraction of the victims.
"It's the Indian government that must answer why it allowed the US those actions," Haider said.
Local news reports have claimed that senior American politicians put pressure on the Indian
government not to pursue claims for further compensation against Union Carbide, which was
eventually bought by another US firm, Dow Chemicals in 2001.
Bhagat told the Guardian that "nothing [in the US] compared to what had happened in India" where
"politicians and industries are much too close".
India has legitimate interest in Afghanistan: Petraeus
June 30, 2010 THE HINDU
AP General David Petraeus has been confirmed as President Obama's choice to take control of
forces in Afghanistan.
Strongly refuting the Pakistani claim that India has no role in Afghanistan, new U.S. Commander
General David Petraeus has said that New Delhi has a legitimate interest in the region.
“India has legitimate interests in this region,” General Petraeus said in response to a question at his
confirmation hearing for the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services
The Senate Armed Services Committee later in the day confirmed him by a voice vote. His
nomination now goes to the full Senate for confirmation.
Currently Commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Petraeus was nominated as the new
U.S. Commander for Afghanistan after General Stanley McChrystal was sacked from the post
following the appearance of his interview in the Rolling Stone magazine in which he was highly
critical of the Obama Administration.
General Petraeus’s remarks on India came in response to a question from Senator Kay Hagan who
said that it’s has been reported that Pakistan wants to be a channel to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan
and wants to utilize reconciliation as the mechanism to influence Afghanistan and overt Indian
“How will you work with the Afghan government and military to manage Pakistan’s strategic
interests?” he asked.
“We can certainly facilitate that dialogue, participate in the dialogue, be perhaps an honest broker in
that dialogue. We are friends to both. We are enormously enabling both, you know, Pakistan is in a
tough fight,” he said.
“One if its fights, by the way, is to keep our lines of communication open. You enable us to provide
substantial amounts of coalition support funding to them, well over $ 1 billion for the course of the
past fiscal and calendar year, and then another somewhere well up into hundreds of millions in
foreign military financing and other mechanisms, plus the $ 1.5 billion of Kerry-Lugar-Berman for
each of the next five years,” General Petraeus said.
“That’s very important, and that’s a symbol, again, of our sustained, substantial commitment. It
shows that we do not want to do to them what we did after Charlie Wilson’s war, which was having
achieved the outcome that we wanted, washed our hands of it, and left. And I think it’s very
important,” he observed.
“They’ve seen that movie before, as well. I think it’s very important that they realize that we are in
this with them, with both of them, and, by the way, with India, as well.
India has legitimate interests in this region, without question, as do others, if you want to extend it
further,” General Petraeus said.
“So I think we can facilitate that. This would be again, a civil-military effort very much. But we’ll
use those relationships that we have developed to that end,” he said.
Give cash to the poor to solve world poverty
There's a revolution in aid afoot: it's all about giving money straight to the poor, and it started with
June 30, 2010
The most exciting new idea for tackling poverty and feeding billions around the world has got
nothing to do with hydroelectric dams or back-slapping summitry. Instead, this one begins with a
story about kung-fu movies.
In the mid-90s, Claire Melamed was working in a village in the far north of Mozambique. Nacuca
had no electricity, nor running water, and precious few distractions. As the development economist
recalls: “Villagers would ask, ‘We have to live here, but how come you've chosen to stay?'” Then
one day visitors came, bearing entertainment.
They were former soldiers from Mozambique's long civil war and, like the other 90,000 or so
demobbed men, they were getting $15 a month from donors, along with some funding to start
businesses. This lot had pooled the hand—outs to buy a TV, a video recorder and a generator.
Oh, and a few old Bruce Lee tapes.
The former soldiers toured villages across Mozambique showing copies of Enter the Dragon and
Fist of Fury for cash or, failing that, maize and cassava. And they went down a storm in the remote
rural yawn of Nacuca, staying for days and playing the same films over and over.
New idea in aid
What Melamed saw in Mozambique was one of the first major exercises in what is now among the
most talked—about new ideas in aid, called cash transfers — or, as a new book title puts it, “Just
give money to the poor”, as those donors did to the former soldiers. The authors, Joseph Hanlon,
Armando Barrientos and David Hulme, count 45 countries that hand cash to more than 110 million
families. In Brazil, poor families can collect money from lottery shops. Pickup trucks drive across
Namibia, bearing safes with cash machines welded on the front, used by old ladies to take out their
It sounds forehead-smackingly obvious: isn't giving cash to the poor what we do every time we
shovel change into an envelope, or pledge a donation to a fundraising telethon? But when that
money — whether from individuals or governments or big international institutions like the World
Bank — gets to Africa or Asia, it's typically turned into new roads, schools, even community radio
stations. The idea is to give poor people the infrastructure and training they need to lift themselves
out of destitution.
Or perhaps I should say that was the idea. Looking back over the last few years, we see in retrospect
a brief golden period for aid. It was marked in Britain by turning Clare Short into the new secretary
of state for international development, and defined internationally by the 2005 pledge at Gleneagles
of the G8 richest countries to give more money to Africa. And it appears to be drawing to a close.
Academics and writers such as Bill Easterly and Dambisa Moyo now gain plaudits for books with
titles such as Dead Aid. Recession—hit politicians at events such as last weekend's G20 summit in
Toronto avoid even mentioning the Gleneagles promises. And when official money is handed over,
it often ends up on the most useless projects. In 2008, Berlin spent half a million dollars on what it
called a “basic nutrition project” but which turned out to be a scheme to reduce unpleasant smells
from food—processing factories in China and (naturally enough) Germany. That would be called a
joke, if it was only remotely funny.
Against all that, the idea of just handing over a hefty chunk of the world's $100bn aid money
directly to the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day is pretty attractive. Less funny
business from donors, and far less waste. And what makes this most remarkable of all is that while
the rich countries squabble over how much money to give and in what form, this initiative has
sprung largely from the poor nations — usually under pressure from some of their poorest people.
This is the world of aid turned upside down. A couple of years ago, Oxfam tried the idea out in a
few villages in Vietnam. Charity workers gave the equivalent of three years' wages in one go to
more than 400 families. When they returned they found that poverty had dropped through the floor,
with most of the money spent sensibly on food or fertilisers, seeds and cows. But older people had
put some cash towards coffins, explaining that funerals were a major expense. And one group had
built a communal house, to practise yoga.
It takes a village to raise a child, Hillary Clinton once wrote; on this showing, it takes just a few
million Vietnamese dong to raise a village into a bijou Notting Hill.
Findings such as these have led the author Joe Hanlon to call for most of the Gleneagles millions to
be shovelled into poor people's pockets. That's going too far: individual donations cannot replace
schools or hospitals. It may be that giving cash works best when there are amenities and
opportunities — and people who can use both.
As Richard Dowden at the Royal African Society points out: “Village communities are often tightly
controlled by elders, chiefs and kings. Just handing over dollars to a rural community — even to the
supposedly poorest people — risks reinforcing that hierarchy.” But, qualifications aside, the
concept is only going to get more popular. Indeed, New York recently tried the idea with its poor
citizens, handing over money if they successfully sent their kids to school.
Cash transfers may first have been made in a poor country, but the idea travels well. A bit like those
Bruce Lee films. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010
For friendship across the border
June 1, 2010 THE HINDU
The Hindu Aziz Memon: Pakistani businessmen have always felt that both countries can benefit
from a partnership. Pakistani businessmen are forever urging their government to improve trade and cultural ties with
India, while politicians take their own time to resolve bilateral issues, says Aziz Memon, chairman
of the $100-million Kings group of Pakistan, which deals in textiles, water and medical services
among other sectors. The Rotarian was in Chennai to participate in the inauguration of an icemaking unit, community centre and school built with aid from Rotary International in the Pulicat
region near Chennai, hit by the tsunami of December 2004. Excerpts from an interview:
What do educated, liberal Muslims with international exposure feel about the monster of
terrorism in Pakistan?
For us, it is very sad… Now this young boy who was trying to blow up this van at Times Square,
Faizal Shahzad, he comes from a good family. He was not poor and did not go to a madrasa. He
was the son of an Air Vice-Marshal and went to a very good American university. His getting
brainwashed is something for which I can't find an explanation.
How do you see the Pakistan Taliban issue?
Gradually the Swat region and South Waziristan have been taken by the Pakistan administration,
but North Waziristan is a problem. The tribal terrain, their stronghold, is difficult and the Pakistani
Army and Air Force, supported by U.S. drones, are fighting them. But as these terrorists take shelter
behind the local population, carpet-bombing is not possible. Also, how do you distinguish one
Taliban from five locals? Our polio eradication [programme] has also been affected in that region
where we got 20 polio cases this year; not a single one from Punjab or Sindh. Our polio workers too
And your economy is in the doldrums?
A lot of money is being pumped into the war against the Pakistan Taliban. If we put our relationship
right with India, the troops from the Indian border can be put to better use. Our economy is going
through a difficult phase; again we have started borrowing from the World Bank and the IMF. In 10
years of the Musharraf regime power generation didn't increase by a single kilowatt; industry is
suffering from severe power shortage and we need to improve power generation. Law and order,
targeted and ethnic killing, are major issues, and people's lives have become miserable. All this has
to come to an end if business needs to flourish. I feel we can do it together because nowhere is it
written that the two countries have to live in animosity for all time.
The Mumbai attacks were such a huge blow…
We know that and have condemned it. Pakistanis don't approve of such attacks, but you have to
understand that we're also victims of terrorism.
Are you happy with the present government?
They're doing a great job and should be commended because they took over at a very difficult time.
On Indo-Pakistan relations, Pakistani businessmen have always felt that both countries can benefit
from a partnership. Pakistani businessmen are not shy of India's better technology and [do not fear
that] it would swallow us up. We're confident that if an opportunity is given to us we can compete.
That's why businessmen have been saying, let trade and commerce, cultural exchanges and peopleto-people contact grow. It will strengthen the relationship. And leave the politics to politicians who
will take their own time to resolve bilateral issues.
[L]et's not do it for our generation but the coming generation. Do we want our children to grow up
in this atmosphere of suspicion and lack of trust? A flight from Mumbai to Karachi is little more
than an hour. Trade and tourism can flow. Our hotels are lying empty; there are no tourists. Under
these circumstances we can't expect tourists to come from the U.S. or New Zealand. But Indians
will come; there are family and cultural ties.
Do you think some of the recent initiatives are making a difference?
Definitely... Surgery for newborns with cardiac problems is not possible in Pakistan. Last year we
sent about 100 children to Bangalore and Delhi for surgery.
Do they get Indian visas easily?
For medical cases there is no problem… the Indian High Commission is very generous about it…
Besides cardiac problems, even our cancer detection facilities are not good and people have to come
to India for screening. For liver transplants Pakistanis would like to come to India. The quality of
healthcare is very good here. Next we are trying to send 200 children by a chartered aircraft to
Kolkata for heart surgery; hospitals there have come forward to do the operations. If 200 children
land together, it becomes a media event, otherwise the media are not interested.
Justice, What’s That?
June 2010 OUT LOOK INDIA
I have nothing new to say on the Bhopal gas tragedy, except to reiterate one glaring fact: of the
four Estates allegedly protecting our democracy, three (the executive, the legislature and the
judiciary) were working relentlessly to ensure that UCC/Dow got off lightly. Simultaneously, they
were working relentlessly to ensure that the victims of the disaster were scandalously shortchanged. Despite the crocodile tears and belated muscle-flexing to nail the culprits who made sure
Warren Anderson got VIP treatment when he entered and exited India, both the UPA and the NDA
regimes, aided and abetted by almost every well-known Supreme Court lawyer and judge, stand
guilty of monumental betrayal and gross inhumanity. (The lawyer who emerges with the greatest
dishonour is the late Nani Palkhivala. He persuaded the US courts, on behalf of UCC, not to
entertain compensation demands by the victims in American courts; if the cases had been tried in
New York, Warren Anderson’s company would have gone bankrupt paying damages.) I would not
like to believe that these otherwise patriotic legal and political worthies sold out for monetary
The past three weeks have once again shown up the ugly face of Indian democracy. There is one
law for the rich and another for the poor. The shame of Bhopal, which we all share, is not so much
of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, but the fact that, in 2010, India is still two countries.
A caste census will only reinforce a reality we’re trying to outgrow
Balbir K. Punj
June 2010 OUT LOOK INDIA
We are trapped in a caste cage 60 years after independence, but we still seem eager to lock
ourselves further—in the divisive politics of caste. So intense are the feelings across the political
spectrum for reintroducing a caste-based census that most parties (except caste-based ones) are
divided on the issue.
Every politician who supports caste enumeration swears that caste is a reality in our country. True,
that reality cannot be denied. But the question is whether we want such divisions to gather strength.
Don’t we want an Indian identity that’s beyond caste to evolve? Look at what cricket has done for
us. Do we have quotas in our cricket team? Or look at Bollywood. Nobody asks what religion or
caste the big stars or directors belong to. Nobody even cares where they come from. Open
competition in Indian cricket and Bollywood has resulted in the best talent coming to the fore—as
Indians first and last. So it’s not as if Indians do not look beyond caste; they do, and indeed feel
proud about what could be called a pan-Indian identity.
The last few weeks have seen the announcement of the results of various examinations—from
school-level board examinations to entrance tests to the IITs and IIMs and the civil services
examinations. Many who figure in the top ranks have made it through talent and hard work, without
availing themselves of caste-based reservation. The Super 30 group of Patna has put all its
trainees—most of them from poor backgrounds—into the IITs. It’s focused coaching that has
helped them. Does it not show that what is needed is the right education and the right environment?
Over the years, caste-based quotas have increased and are pushing the 50 per cent limit set by the
Supreme Court. The Congress and some other parties are even calling for religion-based quotas.
These tendencies are bound to get rooted in the political landscape once the census enumeration
becomes caste-based. Divisive agendas will tear the national fabric apart. And as political parties
compete, caste data will be used as a weapon. The danger of this sort of politics is that it congeals
caste into something permanent, for privilege—such as job and college quotas—will accrue only so
long as one retains one’s caste identity. There will be no incentive to break away from that mould.
Affirmative action is a necessity for peoples who have suffered social discrimination for ages, like
the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. It is also important to remember that caste issues are
often conflated with untouchability, which is unacceptable in any civilised society.
There are enough examples from both history and mythology to prove that caste was never a static
phenomenon. There was sufficient room for inter-caste mobility. None of the gods—Rama, Krishna
or Buddha—or our rishis—Valmiki and Vyasa among them—are known by their caste. Shivaji and
Hemu, both from humble origins, were accepted as rulers. The royal Scindias of Gwalior and the
Wodeyars of Mysore are “backwards” by the present classification. This glaring contradiction only
underlines the extent to which the present interpretation of the caste phenomenon is disconnected
from the reality that existed in pre-British India.
The present distortions in the caste system have their origins partly in British imperial policies and
the divisive politics pursued by so-called “secular” politicians like V.P. Singh. The British were
shaken by the joint struggle put up by the Hindus of various castes and Muslims during the 1857
uprising. A commission of inquiry followed. Lord Elphinston, the then governor of Bombay, sent a
note to the commission that said: “Divide et impera was the old Roman motto and it should be
ours.” The then secretary of state, Sir Charles Wood, in a letter to the viceroy, Lord Elgin, said:
“We have maintained our power by playing off one part against the other; and we must continue to
do so. Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.” Following this
paradigm, the British introduced a caste-based census in 1871, a practice discontinued in 1931
following widespread public opposition.
The British exploited and widened caste and religious divides to perpetuate their empire. Thanks to
increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, space for caste has been shrinking in social and
economic life since independence. Especially over the last couple of decades. But against that
positive development, efforts are on to put the clock back.
With the idea of India being sought to be dented by many forces from without and within—from the
jehadis to Naxals—the question is whether we should declare to the world and to ourselves that we
are a people organised along caste lines rather than as a single integrated economic and emotional
force wedded to pluralism and democracy?
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[email protected]:Why the prince is reluctant to be king
[email protected]:Why the prince is reluctant to be king Revamping the Youth Congress and building the party at the grassroots
level are positives in Rahul Gandhi's political graph. But on more serious issues facing the country and on foreign policy,
his views and leanings are almost unknown.Rahul needs more perspective and experience before he moves on to bigger
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
June 2010 HARDNEWS
Just a few days after Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi spent a night in a socially and economically depressed
Dalit village of Uttar Pradesh, a group of local Congress party leaders accompanied by some mediapersons trooped
down to this hamlet to ascertain for themselves the impact of their leader's visit.
They were in for a rude surprise.
A journalist asked the head of a Dalit family about the identity of the person who had spent time with them. "I don't know
his name, but he was a sahib who came from the city. He seemed to be a good man." The response of the villagers
threw off the Congress leaders who wanted to learn first hand how Rahul's politics was being received on the ground.
Enveloped in a haze of calibrated spin doctoring about the great impact Rahul was making amongst the Dalits, the
constituency of UP Chief Minister Mayawati [ Images ] and her Bahujan Samaj Party, these local leaders did not really
know how to convey their feedback to the central leadership about the manifest dichotomy between hype and reality, and
also the limits to Rahul's politics in a depressingly poor and caste-ridden state where Congress has been out of power for
True to their wont, the Congressmen kept to their volition. In the process, valuable feedback about how Congress was
squaring with the BSP and other political parties was lost in this display of sycophancy. An impression that the Congress
juggernaut had begun to roll and it was a matter of time when the party squelched all opposition was allowed to prosper
Such an attitude gained impetus after party's remarkable success in 2009 parliamentary elections when it managed to
win 21 Lok Sabha seats in May 2009.
Due to this reason, facile and perfunctory assessments about the prospects of the party are routinely palmed off as
authentic feedback from the ground leading to some serious setbacks in by-elections to the UP assembly.
Repeatedly, it was stated that the collapse of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party
would make it easy for the Congress to earn easy success in the state. These projections have been proved wrong time
For instance, in the recent by-election for the Domariaganj assembly seat in eastern UP, the Congress came a poor fifth.
This, despite the fact that the party did not leave a stone unturned to make its candidate win. Actress Nagma, actor and
MP Raj Babbar, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh all showed up. Rahul's posters were stuck all over the
place. A colossal amount of money was spent, but it did not really save the party from such an unedifying performance.
More than anyone else, Rahul knows how uphill the task is of reviving the fortunes of the party in UP and other states
where it is not in power.
The manner in which he makes light of the noisy chatter in the party and outside to takeover from Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh stems from an important realisation that first he is not ready, and secondly, he would not like to head
a coalition government that has to lean on allies for survival or lead a party, which is still animated by the old guard.
His ambitions are also circumscribed by the reservations that he has expressed about giving precedence to merit,
internal democracy in the organisation. When he raises these issues, it also brings to the fore the contradictions in his
own persona: He is a Congress general secretary due to the fact that he is the progeny of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi and if
merit is the criteria then surely there would be many in the party who would be superior to him.
From the standpoint of intellectual merit, Dr Singh has no peers.
Rahul Gandhi though is manfully interrogating that space where merit jostles with feudalism. If his actions can be
interpreted then he is trying to ascertain whether he can be the harbinger of change in a party, where ad hocism and
reasons of birth take precedence over merit.
However, gentlemen general secretary that he is, he has not gone about destabilising anyone. This has created an
impression that he does not enjoy the mandate to change or chop intermediate leadership of his party till his mother,
Sonia Gandhi and her lieutenant, Ahmed Patel, control the organisation. His conservative approach has made him look
weak and ambivalent. Sample this chaos!
In UP, where Rahul spends copious time nursing his constituency and battling Mayawati, he still has to work with the
likes of Pramod Tewari and Jagdamika Pal -- hardly the kind that can afford a fight with the state government that is
always willing to reveal the content of its patronage to them.
Worse these state leaders are allowed to rubbish the state party boss, Rita Bahuguna, without incurring any censure
from the young leader. The intent of giving this example was to state that Rahul does not want to upset the status quo
and worse he does not have, too, many people in the state unit that he can lean on.
Rahul's approach to rebuilding the Congress party sharply differs from the one adopted by his late uncle, Sanjay Gandhi.
Sanjay was a bully who had an army of friends and supporters, whom he parked in the party and later in the government.
If we use Hannah Arendt's construct then power was wielded by Sanjay like a music conductor of an orchestra. This
analogy implies that you should have your people in the right places and they should be working in unison.
Sanjay had chief ministers, party general secretaries and roughnecks. Anyone who made a contrary noise was shouted
down, hustled and forced to submit to the diktats of the leadership. Although some of these methods were unsavoury,
fascistic and disreputable, in a party where loyalty means keeping your mouth shut, Sanjay's rough and ready approach
Rahul is different. Inherently decent, he is not known to throw his weight around. Ministers like P Chidambaram and
Kamal Nath, who have seen Rahul grow up, don't mind shouting his name out and beckoning him. Something that is
perfectly acceptable in a flat democratic party, but would not have been entertained by his imperious uncle or even his
Rahul displays clarity when it comes to articulating his vision about the party. He believes that the Congress should come
to power with a clean and stable government. As he does not have friends like his father and uncle or cadres, he has to
resort to HR devises like talent hunts and campus recruitment. It is unclear whether this is the right way to beef up a
political party, but Rahul's efforts have resulted in bringing in talent from different fields, which would have otherwise
shied away from politics. Some of those whom Rahul selected won in the 2009 general election.
Rahul's manifest minimalism is visible in the way he has gone about organising Youth Congress elections. To ensure
that they are free and are not skewed in favour of the money bags, he even had a former Election Commission official to
supervise the polls. For the first time in many years, the Youth Congress elections created great excitement all over the
At times it used to be unusual to find senior Congress leaders worried about the outcome of youth elections. "We have
little control over the results of these elections and it worries us," claimed a Congress leader from a southern state.
Besides rebuilding the party from below, Rahul is trying to plug himself to global network of young leaders. He took then
British foreign secretary David Miliband to his Amethi constituency. Similarly, he took Microsoft boss Bill Gates to parts
Despite this, he is yet to acquire a more nuanced view of foreign policy.
There have been very few occasions that he has been seriously interrogated on country's troubled neighbourhood. Last
year he had kicked up storm by stating that his family was responsible for the break up of Pakistan. He has also said a
few times that India stop paying inordinate attention to our western neighbour. But he has remained silent on other
foreign policy matters including the happenings in Iraq, Afghanistan or for that matter the Gaza flotilla controversy. It
would be interesting to know what his views are on these subjects.
Rahul would have to go through a serious scrutiny on issues of corruption dogging his party's government, the telecom
scandal for instance, climate change and most importantly about what his vision for India's development is.
Is he in favour of mining companies that are displacing tribals? Or is it more inclusive? And what about the Maoist
challenge to the Indian State? The Congress party and the country would like to hear more from him rather than Digvijay
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Amidst the Bhopal gas tragedy, a former bureaucrat recalls the night of horror and how individuals
staked everything to save the lives of others
June 2010 HARDNEWS
I came out of my house at around 1am on December 3, 1984, when I heard people running and shouting that the gas
has leaked. I rushed to the hospital where I saw people trickling in with complaints of eye irritation and difficulty in
breathing. I returned home immediately to caution my wife to take care of the children and headed back to the hospital.
By 6am it was clear that the gas tank in the Union Carbide factory had leaked out a deadly gas, the nature of which was
not clear till about two hours later. People had already started dying by then. I saw a patient talking intelligently one
moment and, the next moment, he was dead. Many more died at the medical college hospital as it was close to the site
of the incident. Doctors were doing whatever they could in the absence of any idea of what the antidote was for methyl
isocyanate (MIC), the gas that had leaked.
I rushed to the state secretariat. As secretary of finance and planning I had no direct role to play in the rescue operations.
But I thought I had to do something in the wake of the horrendous tragedy. On the spur of the moment I decided that
people required financial help. So I ordered the withdrawal of Rs 1 crore from the state government's account.
I called all the young IAS officers posted in the secretariat and asked them to come with their briefcases. Each one of
them was given Rs 2 lakh and asked to go from house to house, distributing cash to the injured and the relatives of those
who had died. I conveyed my decision to NR Krishnan, secretary to the chief minister, and asked him to get the ex post
facto approval of Arjun Singh, which he did.
Arjun Singh was in the field, also consulting the chief secretary and others on rescue and relief operations. He provided
the best possible leadership under the circumstances when people were dropping dead all around. This was not 9/11
when New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had only to tackle a tragedy that had ended in a few minutes. This was a
horrendous tragedy that was unfolding before the eyes of the chief minister. There was no enemy to pursue here.
While it was necessary to book those who were responsible in the factory, there was a more urgent need - to save the
people from sure death. The chief minister had to do a thousand things. To the credit of the government and the people
of Bhopal, peace was maintained.
When hundreds were dying, there were many things to be done. First, treating the injured and saving those who could be
saved when there was no known remedy to the gas. The dead had to be buried and cremated, but there was
overcrowding. One secretary to the government was in attendance at the cremation grounds and another at the burial
grounds. Other senior officers were moving from house to house, removing the injured and the dead. The commissioner
of Bhopal was on his feet coordinating the field operations. My room was used to keep account of the dead and establish
the identity of those who could not be identified. Messages had to be sent to the neighbouring states with photographs of
the unidentified dead.
The fact that the entire governmental machinery rose to the occasion without fear of suffering is a tribute to those
hundreds of officers and others who worked with passion and commitment. They were doing the best they could in those
Dr MN Nagu, the director of health services, Dr Dhoot, the doctor-in-charge at the TT Nagar Hospital, and scores of
doctors and nurses in the Hamidia Hospital - does anyone remember them today? I saw many of them collapsing due to
exhaustion after relentlessly tending to the injured and those mentally tormented by the deaths all around.
The government had an immediate problem on its hands. There was another tank full of the deadly chemical and there
was panic that it might explode any moment. The chief minister had to ask the government of India to get top scientists to
rush to Bhopal to neutralise the gas. Dr S Varadarjan, an eminent scientist and secretary to the government of India,
soon arrived with his team. They stayed in the factory without caring for their own safety and evacuated the gas into safe
When the town panicked again, I went with my nine-year-old son to the area close to the factory tank and spent hours
with the fear-ridden people to give them confidence that it was not necessary to evacuate the city.Not everything could
be perfect in that chaotic situation when the antidote to the killer gas was simply not there. Two days after the tragedy, a
German scientist landed in Bhopal and said he had brought sodium thiosulphate injections which could be an antidote to
MIC. I saw some officers becoming guinea pigs, but the so-called antidote had no positive impact, according to the
doctors; some victims took the injection but there was no improvement in their condition.
When normalcy returned to Bhopal, people were asked to file information relating to the injuries and deaths suffered by
them and their families. Claim forms were filed and processed in computers across the country as the planning
department's facility was inadequate to deal with the sheer volumes. Later, the government decided to ask all the
residents of Bhopal to file damage claims as it was becoming clear that Union Carbide India Limited would be forced to
compensate the victims. This was a big mistake because the real victims got much less than what they deserved. There
were several conscientious objectors (like me) who refused to file any such claim and persuaded many others not to do
The tragedy occurred in 1984. The court took 26 years to decide the criminal case. Is our higher judiciary so powerless
that it could not have expedited the case?
The recent case involving the spat between the Ambanis was decided in just a few months. Why didn't this happen in a
case that involved the death of thousands as a result of gross negligence by the factory management in maintaining
safety at the plant?
It seems successive state governments did not bother to file any petition in the higher courts asking for a special fasttrack court to decide the matter. The culpability for this delay, if any, must be laid at the doorsteps of the bureaucracy.
For it is they who should have advised the government to opt for a fast-track court. When they found that the
compensation was inadequate, they could have immediately taken it up with the courts again.
However, as it happens always in this country, no one does anything with commitment to the people. When will this
nation's bureaucracy and political executives wake up to the urgency of helping the common man? Will the nine per cent
economic growth only benefit nine per cent of the population - as is commonly perceived? Bureaucrats must realise their
responsibilities towards the nation. Or else, one day, they will be swept away by angry and frustrated citizens of India.
The writer is a former secretary, government of India, and executive director, IMF
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If the situation in Afghanistan is so desperately serious, why is the US running away from the bitter
realities on the ground?
Shrinivasrao S Sohoni
June 2010 HARDNEWS
"How is the situation there?" is a question one is not infrequently asked about Afghanistan - outside Afghanistan. The
situation being grim, the answer - "quite serious" - often works to shut conversation on the subject. Sometimes, there are
further queries, and then, time and mood being suitable, a discussion could ensue involving geopolitics, regional and
superpower aims and policies, the international narcotics trade, Afghan domestic politics, Islam. Also, radical militant
Islam, NATO military strategy, tactics and operations, and Taliban guerrilla warfare and propaganda, et al.
The fact is, things are quite serious, and getting worse each day. This, as seen from the viewpoint of someone interested
in peace in Afghanistan - not the icy peace of a morgue or a 'peace' enforced by the edge of the sword - but a meaningful
peace engendering progress and human happiness.
Almost nine years since October 2001, when it expelled the Taliban regime of Mullah Omar from Afghanistan, the US,
leading a 43-nation coalition, appears unable to suppress Al Qaeda or the Pakistan-based armed insurgency - funded by
Saudis and the narcotics trade. Even as insurgency has grown and stalks all of Afghanistan more than ever, and is
making inroads into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, public opinion in the countries forming the coalition is turning
increasingly averse to continued military involvement in Afghanistan.
As a possible complication, a Kuchi-Hazara armed conflict is apprehended in the near future over grazing rights in the
central Hazarajat highland region of Afghanistan. This involves potential internal ethnic and sectarian strife - Kuchis
being nomad Pashtun Sunni Muslims whose movement of sheep flocks to grazing areas in the highlands is resented and
opposed by the Shia Hazaras.
Kabul itself is getting populated on tribal and ethnic lines and the possibility exists of consequent tension and ethnic
conflict in Kabul as well. Yet another complication is that the Uzbek community, known for its ferocious fighters, is said to
be aligned with the Hazaras. The situation lends itself to exploitation by the armed opposition and its sponsors, and
equally by elements in Iran supporting Shias in Afghanistan. Various factors are cited for the worsening state of affairs.
Routinely, western media carries critical reviews of the government not eliciting enough popular local support to pit the
people of the country against the armed opposition; it is criticised for being unable to implement the latter two
components of the 'Clear, Hold and Build' approach of the iconic International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
commander, General McChrystal.
Indeed, faults are regularly found with the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and other security agencies
for lacking the necessary efficiency and commitment. Sub-national governance authorities are pilloried for inadequacies
in local administration. The truth is, such reports are neither completely unbiased nor an adequate representation of the
factual position on the ground.
Significant governmental achievements in Afghanistan - seven million children now go to school, including millions of girl
children (who the Taliban would prefer as illiterate, sequestered and walled-in at home) - are achievements claimed by
foreign donor agencies and governments, and not attributed to the Afghan government to which credit is in all fairness
due for executing the difficult task of such an important social sector reform.
Similarly, given the constraints in face of severe challenges, Afghan security authorities have performed commendably to
thwart and combat terrorism. Interior Minister Hanif Atmar, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, and Director General
of National Security Directorate Amrullah Saleh, are exceptionally capable leaders under whom no effort is spared by the
security authorities to exercise utmost vigilance round the clock. The sheer bravery, alacrity and fighting qualities of even
ordinary policemen, let alone special anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency commando units, is to be seen to be
There is much to be learned from Afghanistan in the matter of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactical
operations. However, scarcely is credit assigned by the international community to the yeoman services of Afghan
security forces. In contrast, the international media and visiting leaders of foreign governments routinely shower praise
on the performance of the coalition forces. It is also not rare for these quarters, in the event of a breach of security, to
quickly blame Afghan security services, rather than admit any fault on the part of the much better equipped international
Much hue and cry is raised about corruption in Afghanistan's public administration, but few reports are carried by the
international media of undeniable corruption in the working of international organisations and NGOs which handle an
estimated 80 per cent of expenditure on public works in Afghanistan. There is the case of an auditor of an international
agency's operations, whose services were terminated because he persisted in investigating a substantial fraud detected
during inspection of accounts. Auditors of expenditure of international agencies are often staggered by the scale of
It is a moot point whether observers in the coalition remain unaware of the stark realities or prefer to stay in denial. The
operative policies concerning investment and use of military and developmental resources are only superficially effective
in dealing with the challenges of insurgency and under-development in Afghanistan. This is because the measures
merely treat outward symptoms of the problems, rather than acting against deeper, underlying causes.
The roots of the insurgency in Afghanistan, now endemic and infecting countries to its immediate north as well as further,
are to be found in the ambitions of those who promote, and cooperate to spread, extreme fundamentalist militant Islam Wahabism. This includes its incitement to violence with the aspiration for global Islamic conquest and a worldwide
The generic causes for the situation in Afghanistan are transparent: the strategic conviction and commitment of the
regime in Saudi Arabia in nexus with Wahabism to proliferate radical Islam; massive Saudi funding of the madrasa
movement spawning Islamic fanatics in the entire region from Saudi Arabia across Pakistan and Afghanistan into Central
Asia and the subcontinent of India; Pakistan-based jehadi recruitment, training, deployment, tactical guidance, and safehaven facility. All this supported by active collusion of the ruling military elite in Pakistan - the latter sustained by colossal
military and financial aid from external sources and political cover from powerful capitals and chanceries.
Thus, notwithstanding the stupendous scale of resources deployed in Afghanistan, the coalition effort is proving to be
futile, indeed counterproductive. Despite prolonged engagement and the avowed cause of upholding international law,
peace and security, the NATO coalition is far from being a popular entity in Afghanistan. There is palpable alienation on
account of incidents of 'collateral non-combatant casualties', and perceived violation of deeply-held traditional cultural
mores and sensibilities of the local populace. Some instances of wrongful and excessive use of force that have come to
light are shocking to a degree, and merit specialised criminal investigation by military authorities. Such inflammatory
cases provide violent incitement to Islamic radicalisation and militancy.
With the background of years on end of futile coalition operations, the US, to the detriment of its image in Afghanistan as
a military power, is now widely perceived to be preparing to abandon the field. This is seen as a public admission of
failure by yet another superpower in face of the indomitable Afghan fighting spirit. Suspicions are rife in the Afghan public
mind of the US intending to entrust Pakistan's military rulers with a certain sway over the country. It is equally widely
presumed that with the US withdrawing from the theatre, other NATO partners will not lag behind in leaving too.
Such a departure from the regional theatre of operations will only embolden the forces of international terrorism that pose
a threat to not just Afghanistan and the region but indeed to world civilisation. The recent Times Square incident in New
York shows that radical Islamic terrorism should never be underestimated.
President Hamid Karzai, the one Afghan leader with an inclusive 'big tent' approach in respect of the myriad ethnicities,
has initiated steps towards holding a 'Jirga' - Afghanistan's traditional consultative process to decide important issues.
This is intended to evolve a national consensus on interacting with the armed opposition eventually to end the insurgency
and achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The initiative serves a great cause - of peace in the region and the
world. Interests that withhold support or undermine this exercise appear poorly advised. The urge to meet, to consult in
the traditional way, and to evolve a national consensus; the resolution of conflict through dialogue; and the security
measures underway to combat the armed opposition - these should be seen as mutually reinforcing and complementary.
Meanwhile, an international conference in Kabul of donors and governments - a follow-up to the London Conference of
January 2010 - is on the cards. Parliamentary elections are scheduled on September 18, 2010, and need financial
support from the international community. A distinguished personality, respected for his exceptional ability and
impeccable integrity, Abdullah Ahmadzai, has been appointed by President Karzai to be the CEO of the secretariat of the
Independent Election Commission. The appointment will raise the credibility of this important institution - reviled
endlessly in the western press during the last elections. Support of the US, the European Community, Japan, India,
China, Pakistan, the Central Asian States, the CIS, and the UN, is crucial to all these initiatives. It is in such a context
that Karzai's visit to the US was scheduled.
Among other objectives, an unfulfilled US interest remains the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline. The potential
guarantors of its security will be those with the wherewithal to wield local kinetic dominance in the terrain that the pipeline
will traverse - Afghanistan and Balochistan up to the sea ports. However, self-reliance is the best option.
Can guarantees of support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia be treated as credible? Will US investment in the project to
build and operate the pipeline not risk being just another major hostage to Pakistan-based and Saudi-funded insurgent
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have their own reasons not to be enthusiastic about the pipeline. The Saudis view with
disapproval any purchase of hydrocarbon resources by the US outside Saudi Arabia, and hence the diminishing US
dependence on Saudi oil supplies. It also disapproves of the emergence of any competitive oil exporter that potentially
may resist falling in line with Saudi preferences concerning worldwide pricing of oil. The Saudis view with disfavour any
prolonged perpetuation of US influence in the region, which they apprehend will interfere with its policy of radicalising
Central Asian States using tenets of Wahabi Islam. They see US involvement in Central Asia as creating the basis for
American entrepreneurial entrenchment in Balochistan and leading to US domination and blockage of a key region in the
focus of Saudi aspirations.
The Pakistanis - acutely aware that a key US interest requiring Pakistan's oversight or support will always induce
substantive US financial and military backing to Pakistan - are also aware of the consequences of doing anything
disapproved of by the Saudis, or the Chinese, and have independent additional reservations regarding the TAP pipeline
Ideally, the Pakistanis would like themselves to exploit not just Turkmenistan's but all of Central Asia's natural resources.
However, sorely lacking the capacity to do so, they are anxious not to rub Saudi Arabia and China the wrong way - the
latter having its own designs so far as Central Asian natural resources are concerned.Far preferable it will be for
Pakistan if the US and its allies leave Afghanistan. Or else the paradox: the region 'outsourced' to Pakistan's
management, costs and profits on account of doing so generously underwritten by the US; or, the US remaining mired in
Afghanistan, and dependent on Pakistan for regional logistic, political and military cooperation.
The Chinese have plans for extension of rail, road and strategic communications from the Karakoram region south-west
through Pakistan to Gwadar and Karachi ports, and to expand communications between Gwadar and Karachi. This is
related to the coveted aim of connecting consumption and manufacturing capacities in China with a sea port near the
Straits of Hormuz, as well as to exploit mineral and other natural resources in Afghanistan and Balochistan, besides
building a strategic naval facility adjoining the mouth of the Gulf region, compassing the Arabian Sea and its rim, the
coastlines of Africa, peninsular India, and Sri Lanka, and gaining access to the southern Indian Ocean region.
The Chinese have a long-range vision towards building China's rise to superpower status, displacing the global
economic, political and military preponderance of the US. Afghanistan and Balochistan are key pieces in Chinese policy
Hence, the US has to arrive at and execute the right strategy in and around Afghanistan. The right strategy involves
clarity and fullness of perception. The key to drive world events in the immediate future as well as in the unfolding
decades of this century is not principally Afghanistan, but centered in controlling Balochistan and crucial locations in the
border districts from Chitral to Balochistan. (Incidentally, this is the territory which the great freedom fighter and Pashtun
hero, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, cherished as, 'Pashtoonistan'.)
The right strategy involves rejecting appeasement of all forces that propagate Wahabism or cooperate with and connive
in doing so. Purposeful, inexorable and practical action must be taken firmly to curb and suppress Wahabism. Irresistible
and implacable pressure should be asserted on the military elite in Pakistan as well as the Saudi regime, with
unambiguous warnings of the action that will follow if there is any form of support to terrorism.
Come mid-July 2011, the US, as announced by President Barack Obama - intent, no doubt, on fulfilling past campaign
pledges - may well begin withdrawing forces to non-combat locations. However, it is essential to locate appreciable
forces in selected encampments in Balochistan, and at places on the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier region, including the
newly named 'Khyber Pakhtunkhwa' province of Pakistan. Doing so will confer vital, decisive, strategic and tactical
leverage in the entire region and concentric spaces around it.
It is in this area that the US-led coalition should have operated in the first instance to tackle and eliminate the menace
posed by Al Qaeda and Taliban. Any refusal by Pakistan to cooperate in this respect should be viewed and declared as
complicity with the enemy, and it should be heavily penalised for this. It is to be noted that the US has maintained military
bases in the region from the early years of Pakistan, and has added to these - not the least now being the Shamsi base
in Balochistan, stationing US drones.
In 1893, the British imposed upon Afghanistan's then ruler, the tenacious but beleaguered Amir Abdur Rehman, the socalled 'Durand Line', named after Sir Mortimer Durand, the then foreign secretary of British India. The Durand Line is an
unsurveyed and undelineated boundary, marked without expertise in smudgy blue chalk on a defective map. In 1947, the
British government, led by Prime Minister Clement Atlee of the Labour Party, operated again as per British strategic
interests, and manoeuvred the configuration and coming into being of 'Pakistan', and Pakistan's inheritance of the chain
of vital border districts - from Balochistan to Chitral - on the British side of the 'Durand Line'.
All things considered, the US is the world's paramount power, the ultimate arbiter of aggregate equities. It must comport
itself in international affairs, especially relating to critical world crises - for a better future for all.
The author is a senior advisor in the office of President Hamid Karzai, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Australia
keen on scientific research with India
New Delhi: Australian scientists will work with their Indian counterparts on cuttingedge research in fields ranging from agriculture to health.
June 30, 2010
The Hindu Business Line
Australia's Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr, on Monday announced that the Australian Government would provide
A$2.7 million (Rs 11 crore) for nine joint projects through the fourth round of the Indo-Australian Science and Technology
Fund, a component of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF). India's Department of Science and
Technology will provide matching funding.
“These projects will further strengthen what is a very important bilateral relationship between Australia and India. India is
a leader in science and technology and an important partner for Australian scientists,” Senator Carr said.
The projects being undertaken include development of a cancer targeting system using the latest advances in
nanotechnology to deliver anti-cancer agents directly to the cancer site , use of adsorption engineering to produce lowcost, high- efficiency water-free biogas and development of social media technologies for rural and remote communities
with limited access to broadband internet. Other projects focus on earth systems science, astronomy and astrophysics,
and renewable energy.
With a total Australian commitment of A$65 million (Rs 260 crore), matched by the Government of India, the AISRF is
Australia's largest fund dedicated to bilateral collaboration in science with any country. It is also one of India's largest
sources of support for international collaboration in science.
Photon Energy to set up solar desalination plant at BARC
June 30, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
Hyderabad: Solar energy is now being deployed to convert seawater into potable quality on a pilot scale in India at the
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai.
Hyderabad-based Photon Energy Systems (PES) has commenced work on setting up a 1,000-litres-a-day plant using
solar thermal energy. Once proven, BARC has plans to establish more such units, said Mr Gautam Nalamada, Executive
Director and CEO of PES.
“We will make it operational in four months. PES has forged collaboration with a German company – Mage – for use of
its patented technology for purification called MEH (multi-effect humidification),” Mr Nalamada told Business Line here.
“The advantage of MEH is that we can use any type of water as input (seawater, brackish water, industrial used) and
achieve a good degree of conversion to fresh, drinking water. The process uses low temperatures for evaporation with
no moving parts within the desalination chamber. No chemical pre-treatment of the raw water is also needed.”
This will be the country's first desalination plant based on solar thermal energy. “Though we are using German
technology for this plant, we also have developed capabilities to use our own process in later plants,” he said.
On the economics, Mr Nalamada said the initial costs are high, but maintenance is low and the plant will run for 20-25
years and there are environmental benefits, when compared to reverse osmosis, which is at present the most used
technology for desalination.
BARC itself recently announced a small solar energy-based desalination system, which will meet the needs of small
numbers at the community level. There is more work needed to establish larger units and make it more cost-effective.
In technology terms, there is scope for improvement in efficiencies of conversion of Sun's radiation into electrical energy
by photovoltaic modules. The Government is also offering subsidies that could make the solar-based desalination system
PES has established itself as an important player in the solar water heating systems at the domestic and industry level. It
has 50 MW production capacity for modules and is implementing solar power and heating systems on turnkey basis, Mr
Gautam said. It has recently commissioned the 3-MW solar photovoltaic plant in Karnataka.
Core industries register 5% growth in May
June 29, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
New Delhi: The six 'core' infrastructure industries have registered a 5 per cent year-on-year growth in May, compared
with 3.2 per cent in the same month of the last fiscal.
For the first two months of the current fiscal, the overall annual core sector growth worked out to 5.1 per cent, against 3.5
per cent during April-May 2009-10.
Among individual industries, cement grew by 8.6 per cent in May (over and above a year-on-year increase of 11.8 per
cent in May 2008), while these amounted to 6.4 per cent (3 per cent) for electricity, 7.7 per cent (minus 4.3 per cent) for
refined petro-products, 5.8 per cent (minus 4.3 per cent) for crude petroleum, 2.5 per cent (2.8 per cent) for finished steel
and 0.1 per cent (10.4 per cent) for coal.
For the April-May 2010 period, cement production went up by 8.7 per cent year-on-year (11.8 per cent in April-May
2009), while being 6.6 per cent (4.8 per cent) for electricity, 6.5 per cent (minus 4.4 per cent) for refined petro-products,
5.5 per cent (minus 3.7 per cent) for crude oil, 3.6 per cent (0.8 per cent) for finished steel and minus 1.4 per cent (12.3
per cent) for coal.
During the first two months of the current fiscal, production of cement stood at 37.55 million tonnes (mt), against 34.56 mt
in April-May 2009.
Output of steel similarly rose from 9.248 mt to 9.58 mt, while going up from 5.513 mt to 5.816 mt for crude petroleum and
23.471 mt to 25.007 mt for refined petro-products, and declining from 80.10 mt to 78.99 mt in the case of coal.
Electricity generation, too, was higher (135.0846 billion units versus 126.6776 billion units) during the period under
RSB acquires 70% stake in Belgian engineering firm
June 25, 2010
Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar: RSB Transmissions, engaged in manufacturing of automotive, construction and farm equipment,
has acquired, through its Netherland based arm RSB Europe BV, 70 per cent stake in the Belgium based construction
equipment aggregate manufacturer MSI (Mechanical Supplies International) for an undisclosed sum.
RSB currently has 10 manufacturing plants spread over 7 locations in India and the USA.
While the turnover of MSI stood at 21 million Euro in the pre-recession period, its new owners now hope to take the
turnover to 28 million Euro by 2012 without any additional investment.
The Belgian company, situated in the city of Tessenderlo, manufactures heavy fabrication aggregates for excavators, offhighway machines and windmills which are similar to the products of RSB manufactured in its Jamshedpur, Dharwad
and Chennai plants.
A company release said, the acquisition of majority stake in MSI will provide immense synergy benefits to RSB and MSI
as both companies have identical technology, process and machines. The Caterpillar Belgium and Caterpillar France are
the major customers of MSI, just as Caterpillar India is one of the prime customers of RSB.
Through this acquisition, RSB, which exports substantial heavy fabrications to Europe, can now have a front-end
presence in Europe to consolidate and grow its exports. The heavy fabrications which were otherwise logistically
impossible to ferry from India to Europe can now be offered by RSB – MSI combine, said the release. RSB-MSI
association will also leverage each other’s capabilities and add new customers to their respective businesses both in the
European and India geography.
This will be beneficial for both to expand their top line and improve their bottom line.
It may be recalled that in November 2006, RSB Transmissions had acquired the Michigan based Miller Brothers
Manufacturing – since rechristened RSB NA – a specialty auto transmission component manufacturing company.
The Group has successfully managed this acquisition and hence even during the last two years of deep recession RSB
NA has been both PBT and PAT positive.
In the closely held RSB Transmission, IL&FS Investment Managers Limited (IIML) and Evolvence Limited are minority
RSB Transmissions had a turnover of Rs 750 crore in FY10 and is aiming to hit Rs 1000 crore in FY 11. The company is
planning to go for an IPO sometime in the last quarter of 2010 to fund its ambitious growth plans.
L&T Infotech to set up development centre in Ireland
June 28, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
Mumbai: IT services company L&T Infotech said on Friday that it will set up a new development and maintenance centre
in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The company, which has the backing of regional economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland, expects to
create 85 new jobs in the next one year.
“We see tremendous opportunities in providing leading companies in the UK and Europe with our world-class solutions
and will be looking to grow our business rapidly in the coming years. This new centre will support both European and
other global clients,” Mr Sudip Banerjee, Chief Executive Officer, L&T Infotech, said, in a media statement.
Financial details pertaining to the investment were not disclosed by L&T Infotech.
More Indians join the elite rich
June 24, 2010 The
Hindu Business Line:
Mumbai: The number of millionaires in India grew by more than 50 per cent in 2009, after having witnessed a sharp fall
in 2008, according to a global wealth report.
Last year, India's high net worth (HNI) population rose to 1.26 lakh, from 84,000 in 2008, the World Wealth Report
released by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth management, said.
An individual is considered a HNI if the person has $1 million in investable wealth.
“India's GDP grew at almost 7 per cent, an exceptional number compared to the rest of the world. The Indian markets
also gave more than 100 per cent returns reflected by the doubling of the stock market capitalisation,” said Mr Pradeep
Dokania, Chairman-Global Wealth and Investment Management, DSP Merrill Lynch.
The world HNI population was up 17 per cent to one crore in 2009 despite a contraction in world GDP.
Asia matches Europe
The HNI population in the Asia-Pacific region grew around 26 per cent to 30 lakh. Their total wealth increased 31 per
cent to $9.7 trillion. Among the Asia-Pacific markets, Hong Kong and India led the pack, rebounding from mammoth
declines in their HNI bases and wealth in 2008, amid an outsized resurgence in their stock markets, the report said.
This was the first time that the size of the HNI population in Asia-Pacific was as large as that of Europe. This was
because even though HNIs in Europe gained, their gains were less compared to those in Asia-Pacific, where the
economies saw robust growth, the report said.
According to the report, China and India will continue to lead the way in Asia-Pacific, with economic expansion and
growth likely to outpace more developed economies.
The region's HNI growth is likely to be the fastest in the world as a result, the report said.
In 2009, China's HNI population grew 31 per cent to 4.77 lakh.
Mr Atul Singh, Head-Global Wealth and Investment Management, DSP Merrill Lynch, said investors across the world are
looking to invest in safe investment avenues such as fixed income instruments.
However, with an improvement in sentiment, investments in equity may go up. Investors are diversifying their portfolios
and looking to invest outside the US and Europe, he said.
IITE, Georgian college launch automotive manufacturing course
June 22, 2010
Mumbai/ Ahmedabad: Ahmedabad-based Indus Institute of Technology and Engineering (IITE) has collaborated with
Georgian college, a leading college in Canada, to provide a unique Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering
Technology — Automotive Manufacturing for Indian students.
The three-year, full time, university-accredited program includes one cooperative work term of four months duration
each, with semesters divided between India and Canada. The Indus-Georgian collaboration will provide international
education at reduced costs. Besids, those who wish to shift to Canada can work and earn their living costs plus the
tuition fees. Students earn in the range of 450-500$ (Canadian$) per week of their co-op term.
Gerorgian college has now planned on conducting series of seminars at different locations of Gujarat which aims at
intensifying the awareness a
Hinduja BPO arm acquires UK-based company
June 22, 2010
Mumbai: Hinduja Global Solutions (HGSL), a business process outsourcing company and part of the Hinduja Group,
today announced that it had bought UK-based customer relationship management company Careline Services. The
financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition will act as a launch pad for HGSL to enter the UK and European markets and will also be a platform to
cross-sell its global delivery model to Careline’s European clients. Ashok P Hinduja, chairman of Hinduja Group India,
recently told Business Standard that the group was looking to acquire BPO units in the UK and the US as part of its plan
to deploy idle cash. HGSL had a cash and cash-equivalents of Rs 648 crore as of March 31, 2010, of which Rs 577 crore
was with Pacific Horizon, a wholly-owned Mauritian subsidiary.
Hinduja had said that the BPO deals were expected to be finalised over the next few weeks. While the BPO outfit in the
UK, with which the Hindujas were in talks, had sales of around 25 million pound (around Rs 170 crore), the US company
had revenues of $250 million (around Rs 1,000 crore).
Careline Services is a contact centre provider, serving more than 20 customers across verticals such as government,
fast moving consumer goods, financial services, automobiles, telecom and retailers. It has over 1,000 employees across
three sites in the UK. It handles in excess of 50,000 customer interactions every day across multiple channels and in 14
languages. The chief executive of Careline Services, senior management team and key employees of Careline Services
will continue in their roles after the acquisition.
This is HGSL’s first acquisition in the UK and it expects to grow its business rapidly in the next few years. With the
acquisition, HGSL will have a presence in 29 delivery centres across the USA, India, Philippines, Canada, Mauritius and
the UK, and its global headcount will cross 16,000 people. “Careline is a strategic fit as it opens up a new geography and
provides access to new clients. This enhances our ability to meet customers’ expectations of delivering services across
different geographies,” said Partha Sarkar, CEO of HGSL. Charles Cooper-Driver, the managing director and co-founder
of Careline Services, added that the acquisition marked the next phase of growth for Careline and strengthened its ability
to act as a strategic business partner to clients.
Toyota now plans rural foray in India
June 21, 2010
The Economic Times:
Kolkata: Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), in which Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp holds an 89% controlling stake, is tweaking
its marketing strategy to make deep inroads into heartland India.
Toyota Kirloskar, which till date focused mainly in metros and urban areas, has drawn up plans to sell 40% of its cars in
the rural markets. In calendar 2010, the company has set a sales target of 70,000 vehicles compared to 55,000 vehicles
in calendar 2009.
The company is also weighing the option of exporting its small car Etios, which will be available in India from January
2011. While Etios is in its product basket, TKM aims to achieve a 150,000 car sales in 2011 and subsequently increase
the volume to 300,000 - 350,000 cars by 2015.
Talking to ET, Mr Hiroshi Nakagawa, managing director of TKM said: “Japan, the US and the EU are facing difficulties
while India is emerging as the most promising market in the world. India is a very attractive market for Toyota. Currently,
India has only 16 cars per 1,000 people while Japan has 593 cars per 1,000 people. The company believes the car
market in India will grow in the range of 10% against the global growth rate of 5%. Our small car Etios will drive our sales
volumes in India in the coming days. We are also looking at exporting Etios but nothing has firmed up yet.”
“To achieve this scale of volume, we have to enter India’s rural markets in a big way. We are aggressively expanding our
dealership footprint in India and quite a significant portion of this will be in country’s heartland. By end of 2010, we plan to
have 150 dealers across the country,” said Mr Nakagawa . This apart, Toyota Kirloskar will invest Rs 3,200 crore in a
second plant in Bidadi. “This new plant will create jobs for 2,000 people,” the TKM MD said. The company now employs
Commenting on the company’s plans to set up an engine manufacturing plant in the country, Mr Nakagawa said: “The
proposal is under active consideration and we are now studying the market in India.” He also indicated that the
company’s plan to set up a research and development unit in India is also being examined by the company.
Toyota Kirloskar has drawn up plans to sell 40% of its cars in the rural markets This year the company has set a sales
target of 70,000 vehicles compared to 55,000 vehicles in 2009 TKM aims to achieve a 150k car sales in ‘11 and
subsequently increase the vol to 300k - 350k cars by 2015.
Consumer durable industry witnesses 30% growth
:June 14, 2010
Chennai/ Bangalore: The Indian consumer durable industry is witnessing a growth of 30 per cent owing to increase in
summer sales which further lead to highest growth of 50 per cent in sales of refrigerators and air conditioners.
According to a statement from Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association, (CEAMA), the last
quarter also saw phenomenal sales especially of displays which include conventional flat panel displays (PDPs, LCDs
and flat screen TVs). The industry also witnessed a 40 per cent growth in home appliances business.
Y V Verma, President, CEAMA, said, “The consumers nowadays prefer to use devices and products in-built with smart
technology and design innovations which are more advanced that makes their life easy and consume less time. The
consumers not only focus on the functional benefits of the products but also on the aesthetics added with the product.”
The Indian consumer durables industry has witnessed a considerable change over the last few years. Changing lifestyle,
higher disposable income coupled with greater affordability, boom in the real estate and housing industry and a surge in
advertising has been instrumental in bringing about a sea change in the consumer behavior pattern.
CEAMA expects increase in sale of consumer electronics during festival season. The Southern India will witness a
considerable increase in sale from July onwards owing to Onam, one of the main festivals in Kerala. Also, the industry
foresees the upcoming FIFA world cup as a huge opportunity to contribute to a significant rise in TV sales. With the onset
of monsoon season it is predicted that demand for washing machines will also increase.
The industry has also witnessed some interesting upcoming trends. Due to early advent of summer, March and April saw
an unprecedented sale of AC. Earlier, most households used to buy a single AC. Now, on an average, there are two to
three air conditioners per home.
Consumers are more aware of energy efficient appliances as they are proactively asking for star-rated refrigerators and
air conditioners. The demand for LCD televisions is also huge as consumers are replacing CTVs for an LCD or LED.
Rural markets and small towns have shown promising demand for durables. There are pockets of prosperity in rural India
that are drivers of rural growth.
April industrial output zooms 17.6%
June 11, 2010
New Delhi: The country’s industrial output grew by 17.6 per cent in April, rekindling the debate whether the Reserve
Bank of India (RBI) would increase interest rates during its policy review next month, as focus shifts towards inflationcontrol.
The manufacturing sector that accounts for 80 per cent of the index of industrial production (IIP) grew 19.4 per cent in
April, as against 0.4 per cent a year-ago, according to official data released on Friday.
Capital goods production grew by 72.8 per cent against a contraction of 5.9 per cent a year -ago, reflecting higher
investment by corporations as they expand capacities to meet rising demand.
Consumer durables output continued to grow at a fast pace of 37 per cent, mirroring higher purchase of goods such as
televisions and refrigerators.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee exuded confidence about a sustained turnaround in the industrial sector.
“My appetite is infinite. I would have been happier, if it was 20 per cent," Mukherjee told reporters.
“Capital goods (growth) I think, we are having it for quite some time", Mukherjee said.
All eyes are now on the RBI that will meet on July 27 and is expected to increase policy rates as focus shifts towards
While food inflation has been hovering around 17 per cent, prices of manufactured goods have shown a steady increase
in recent months.
Copyright © 2010, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
UAE, Africa show way to diversify trade: Sharma
June 11, 2010
The Times of India:
Dubai: INDIA is hopeful of growing the country’s bilateral trade with the gulf countries to $120 billion in the current
financial year, up 20% from the $100 billion registered in FY09. Union minister of trade and commerce Anand Sharma
told mediapersons here that India was also looking at Middle East and North African countries to ‘deepen and diversify’
trade to meet the shortfall in external demand from the West.
Attending the India Show here on Tuesday evening, Mr Sharma said Dubai has established itself as the gateway to the
Gulf region that serves the crescent region, from Northern Africa to the Middle East and the CIS countries. “We are
looking at exploring more opportunities in financial, automobile and education sectors to do well in the region. We would
like to see the expansion of our pharmaceutical and automobile industry through joint ventures for establishing their
manufacturing bases to serve the region,” said Sharma. Lauding the role of Indian pharma industry on the global map,
Sharma said India has emerged as the pharmacy of the poor.
UAE has already invested over $45 billion in Indian. A number of Indian companies such as Tata, Reliance, Wipro, L&T
and Punj Lloyd have also set up shop in UAE. The two countries will also be exploring opportunities in the tourism and
education sectors. “Hotel management and construction is a strength of the UAE and we welcome Arab investment into
our country for promotion of tourism,” added Sharma.
Asked about the progress report on FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ), Mr Sharma said such agreements
were long drawn-out processes and required consensus among various stakeholders. He was quick to add that India
was close to clinching an in-principle free trade agreement with the European Union after nine rounds of extensive
discussions. “Hopefully in September this year, we shall be able to finalise the pact,” he said.
Citing a recent world bank report, the minister said India was among the three most favoured destinations for foreign
investment and today it had the resources to invest in innovation, infrastructure and even space sciences.
Copyright © 2010, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
US-based firms announce solar venture in India
June 10, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
New Delhi: US-based solar integrator American Capital Energy, Inc (ACE) and MSM Energy, a subsidiary of MSM
Industries Inc, US, have announced a solar energy joint venture for the Indian market.
The new entity, ICE Solar, will offer photovoltaic technology-based solar engineering, procurement and construction
Speaking about the venture, Mr Madhav Muvvala, President, MSM Energy, said: “ICE Solar, is uniquely positioned to
capitalise on this growth opportunity through MSME's significant business development efforts and American Capital
Energy's considerable engineering, procurement and construction experience.”
Mr Walter Borden, Member, Board of Directors, and Managing Director, Asia-Pacific for ACE, said the company has
experienced teams with project development and execution capabilities in areas that include commercial and utility-scale
installations, rooftop systems and utility-scale ground mounted projects.
Rs 1,400-cr green urban transport project launched
June 09, 2010
The Hindu Business Line
New Delhi: The Urban Development Ministry has launched a Rs 1,400-crore green urban transport project called the
Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).
The Global Environment Facility, The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme are providing both
technical and financial assistance for its implementation.
Under the project, green urban transport will be introduced in select cities to overcome pollution and other hazards of the
existing urban transport system, including traffic impediments for pedestrians.
Four such demonstration projects have commenced in Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune, Indore, Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh
Launching the project, the Union Minister for Urban Development, Mr Jaipal Reddy, said there was an urgent need to
shift from personal to public transport and the project has been initiated with this objective.
The Government has given high priority to improved urban transport since the launch of the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru
National Urban Renewal Mission). More than 12,000 buses have been sanctioned for 60 cities under the mission for the
improvement of public transport, while capacity building efforts for better public transport were also being made.
Independent transport body
Mr Reddy said an independent transport authority should be set up in each major city for better governance and planning
of public transport.
The SUTP aims at arriving at a long-term strategy to empower planners, decision-makers and other professionals by
building their capacity in planning and implementation of the Green Urban Transport Project.
Both the World Bank and UNDP provide loans and grants for SUTP, which is also co-funded by the Government, the
respective States and the cities.
This is the first time that such multiple international funding agencies have come together for a transport project in India.
Ranbaxy launches generic Lipitor in S. Africa
June 08, 2010
The Hindu Business Line
New Delhi: Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd has launched the generic version of the world's largest selling drug — Pfizer's
Lipitor — in South Africa. Ranbaxy is the first generic pharmaceutical company to launch the blockbuster anti-cholesterol
drug South Africa.
Atorvastatin, the generic equivalent of Liptor, is the second largest molecule in South Africa after esomeprazole. The
current market size in the South African market for atorvastatin as measured by IMS is $26.1 million.
Lipitor, the Pfizer originator brand, has 33.2 per cent market share of the atorvastatin market. Pharmacia, a Pfizer
company, also markets an authorized generic, Aspavor. Ranbaxy's drug will be available under the brand Lipogen.
“The launch of Lipogen provides patients, a high quality generic alternative, at an affordable price. Favourable
reimbursement terms to encourage generic substitution have also been worked out while special distribution
arrangements have been made with wholesalers and distributors to improve patient access.
Lipogen is also the first generic in South Africa to carry information in blind friendly Braille format on its packaging. This
has been welcomed by all customers as well as the blind society of South Africa,” Ranbaxy said in a statement.
Last month, Ranbaxy had announced the launch of Lipitor's generic version in Canada. The biggest competition will be
for the US market in 2011 when Pfizer's exclusivity for marketing the drug lapses.
Indian firms cash in on global N-market deals
June 07, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
New Delhi: Indian nuclear firms are making inroads into the global market for specialised nuclear contracts.
The Heavy Water Board (HWB) has bagged one of its biggest export orders of 11 mt of heavy water from South Korean
state-owned power firm KHNP in 2009-10.
This comes on the back of orders for 4,400 kg of nuclear-grade heavy water from US firm Spectra Gases Inc. and 4.6
tonnes of high-quality heavy water from US-based Cambridge Laboratories IncHyderabad-based Nuclear Fuel Complex
(NFC) has also successfully executed an order received from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against
global competition for manufacture, supply and commissioning of the fuel element end-cap welding unit to Turkish
Atomic Energy Authority.
India has also readied a reactor prototype targeted at the export market, which has generated interest in Kazakhstan and
among some Asean countries.
According to DAE sources, the HWB - a constituent unit under the Department of Atomic Energy that is primarily
responsible for the production of heavy water for the pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) - has established its
visibility in the international market by exporting nuclear grade heavy water to South Korea, China and the US against
HWB has also developed similar capabilities in areas such as speciality chemicals and other stable isotopes.
Heavy water is a sensitive ingredient used mainly as a moderator and coolant in nuclear power stations as well as
research reactors. It contains a higher proportion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium. Chemically the same as regular
water, it is mostly used as a moderator in nuclear reactors that use non-enriched uranium and helps in stabilising volatile
While India had exported some quantities of heavy water in the late 1990s to South Korea and China, prior to the May
1998 nuclear weapons tests, the exported quantities were quite insignificant and there were no repeat orders. It is only
now that the orders are picking up and, more importantly, importers include global nuclear powers such as the US and
The fuel element unit order bagged by NFC is being seen as big breakthrough as it came amid stiff global competition.
According to DAE sources, there is considerable scope for specialised contracts , especially those called by the Viennabased IAEA.
India has already marked its entry into the nuclear export market, with a new reactor model christened `AHWR300-LEU'.
The prototype uses low enriched uranium along with thorium as fuel and is being marketed for countries with small grids.
India has held preliminary discussions on the possibility of setting up a nuclear power reactor in Kazakhstan based on
Indian reactor design.
Several Asian countries are also reported to be eyeing the nuclear option. Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and
Thailand are among those that have announced plans to tap atomic energy in the future.
PM to sign India-Canada civil N-deal by month-end
June 04, 2010
New Delhi: Canada and India will be signing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement during the forthcoming visit of Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh to Toronto. The agreement will be the high point of a bilateral meeting between Singh and his
Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, on June 27.
India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and
The agreement will allow Canadian firms to export and import controlled nuclear material, equipment and technology to
and from India.
“Negotiations have been concluded. There will be a bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear agreement. We are the biggest
exporter of uranium in the world. Equally important is that we (India and Canada) are using the same technology,”
Canadian high commissioner to India Joseph Caron told reporters here.
Besides uranium exports, Canada is pitching its 1200-MWe class Advanced CANDU reactor as a good fit for the Indian
nuclear programme due to its size and localisation potential. Caron said given India’s energy needs and the global
realisation for the need to have nuclear power plants in view of climate change concerns, the potential for cooperation
was huge. “We believe that India and Canadian cooperation will be most competitive.”
Mercedes plans to enter city bus market in India
June 04, 2010
Chennai: German auto major Mercedes-Benz plans to enter the city bus market in India. The company said this
segment offers huge opportunity and it will be a major focus in India. The company is also betting big on the luxury bus
segment, expected to grow by 20 per cent, year-on-year.
Speaking to reporters after handing over the keys for multi-axle coaches to a local firm today, Wilfried Aulbur, managing
director and chief executive officer, Mercedes-Benz India Pvt Ltd, said: “The company is planning to enter the city bus
market, which offers huge potential.”
While declining to give any time frame for the proposed foray, he said “Soon, we will come out with an announcement.”
City buses refer to the low-floor buses, sold at a price of around Rs 65 lakh each, where currently major players,
including Ashok Leyland, Tata Motors and Volvo, are competing.
The German luxury vehicle maker, which has 13 per cent market share globally in the luxury bus market, says India is an
important market for the company to sell its luxury buses. The company introduced 2-axle coaches in 2008 and 3-axle
coaches in the beginning of 2010 and has a current order book of 43 buses here.
US SMEs plan Rs 1,500 cr investment in AP
June 02, 20 10
The Hindu Business Line:
Hyderabad: The Small and Medium Enterprises Consortium (SMEC) of the US has announced that its members are
planning to invest Rs 1,500 crore in Hyderabad in three phases.
The SMEC proposes to set up an incubation centre with 2,000 employees in the next two years. “This would be followed
up with a campus near Hyderabad that could provide jobs to 40,000 people. The Rs 1,500-crore campus would be built
in three phases. The first phase would come up in the next two years,” a State Government release said.
Mr Mahender Musuku, Chairman of SMEC, made this assurance to Mr Komatireddy Venkata Reddy, Andhra Pradesh
Minister for Information Technology, during his ongoing visit to the US. “Hyderabad would be our first choice for
operations provided the companies get a level-playing field,” Mr Mahender said.
Responding to the SMEC proposal, Mr Venkata Reddy said he would discuss the proposal with the Chief Minister, Mr K.
Rosaiah, soon. “We are coming out with an IT Policy soon. It is going to have detailed list of sops for investors,” he said.
Coffee Day buys Czech chain
June 02, 2010
The Hindu Business Line
Bangalore: The Café Coffee Day chain has acquired a Czech Republic-based café chain Emporio for Rs 15 crore.
The company is also open to other acquisition opportunities in the East European region, West Asia and the Asia-Pacific
“We already have a presence in Vienna and were actively looking for acquisitions in the region and this one fell in
place,” said Ms Swetha Shetty, President, International Operations.
“Large investments in Central and Eastern Europe, together with the birth of a strong new private sector has had a
positive impact making East European countries attractive emerging economies,” she said.
The company is also open to other acquisition opportunities in the East European region, West Asia and the Asia-Pacific
region, she added.
Café Emporio, which is present across 11 locations in the Czech Republic with seven of them in Prague, belonged to
Oreo Hotels. “Initially, we will co-brand the chain as Café Coffee Day Emporio and transition it to Café Coffee Day in
about 18 months,” she said.
The company intends using the existing manpower for now, but will station a couple of its brew masters and operations
personnel to enable free flow of the best business practices from its India operations.
“Over the years, we have managed a large chain in India (about 950 stores) and acquired efficiencies in supply chain
that we will use in running the Emporio chain,” she said.
Emporio has both the formats that Café Coffee Day operates in: regular and premium (Coffee Day Square and Lounge).
The plan is to develop both the formats in the Czech Republic too, she said.
Café Coffee Day recently concluded a $200-million funding exercise, with private equity player New Silk Route investing
$75 million in the coffee chain.
The company is on an expansion mode in India too, planning to take the number of outlets to 1,100 and revenues to Rs
840 crore by the end of the current fiscal.
Per capita income rises by 10.5%
June 01, 2010
The Times of India:
New Delhi: The average income of Indians has grown by 10.5% to Rs 44,345 in 2009-10 as against Rs 40,141 in 200809, at the current price.
The average income at the current price, which is also termed as per capita income, rose higher than GDP at fixed price
because of inflation, which almost get added to the economic growth rate at fixed price (2004-05 price).
The per capita income in the latest estimate was slightly higher than Rs 43,749 calculated by the Central Statistical
Organisation (CSO) in its advance estimate for 2009-10 in February.
Per capita income at fixed price grew by 5.6% in 2009-10, which is a better way of comparison and broadly factors in
inflation. Per capita income stood at Rs 33,588 in 2009-10 against Rs 31,821 in the previous financial year, according to
national income data released on Monday.
Per capital income means income of each Indian, assuming national income is evenly divided among the country's
population of 117 crore. At market price, size of the economy rose to Rs 62,31,171 crore in 2009-10, up 11.8% from Rs
55,74,449 crore in 2009-09. At 2004-05 prices. the size of GDP stood at Rs 44,64,081 crore in 2009-10 as against Rs
41,54,973 crore in 2008-09.
Copyright © 2010, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
India-UAE trade may jump to $96 bn in 5 years
June 09, 2010
The Economic Times:
Dubai: Having replaced China as the UAE's largest trade partner in 2008-09, India now expects to further bolster its
bilateral trade with the West Asian emirate to $96 billion over the next five years.
This was stated by Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president A Sakthivel at the inauguration ceremony
of The India Show here.
Over 250 businessmen are participating in the trade festival, which aims to not only showcase India’s prowess in
manufacturing and services but also position itself as an attractive investment destination.
Mr Sakthivel said India became UAE’s largest trading partner in 2009 with exports reaching $24 billion, a growth of 56%
on a year-on-year basis.
“The pace at which the trade with UAE is growing, we expect it to double in the next five years. Dubai is the gateway to
West Asia and North African countries and its importance has to be tapped in showcasing our position,” said Mr
Sakthivel, adding that the non-oil trade between the two countries stood at $50 billion during the last fiscal.
The three-day business bonanza was inaugurated by UAE’s trade and commerce minister Sheikha Lubna on Tuesday.
“There is high amount of interest in the show. It is a good platform for exporters and we expect good business from
here,” Mr Sakthivel said.
The over 250 representatives from small, medium and large sectors include those from sectors like garments, textiles,
home products, food and gift items, auto parts, fashion accessories, and information technology. According to FIEO, the
buyer profile includes importers, distributors, retailers, manufacturers and suppliers.
Talking about the opportunities that Dubai offers in terms of trade, MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador to UAE said, “It
would be a modest target to have a growth rate target of 20-30%. We are exploring opportunities in fresh areas as well.
Besides meat, spices and other items of business, we are planning to promote public-private-partnership in education,
financial services, IT and real estate.”
As UAE’s largest trading partner, India accounts for almost 15% of country’s total commodity exchange. The main items
of export from India include mineral fuel, gems and jewellery, cotton yarn, marine products and meat.
Copyright © 2010, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Michelin sees more business rolling in from emerging markets
June 08, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
Bets big on tyre segment in India.
Rio de Janeiro: French tyre maker Michelin believes that the coming years will see more business generated from
markets in Asia, Africa and South America in addition to Eastern Europe.
“We expect these regions to contribute to 50 per cent of our revenues while Europe and North America, which will grow
at a slower place, will take up the balance,” Mr Michel Rollier, Managing General Partner, told journalists here recently.
At present, Michelin has over 70 plants across the world with at least 50 in Europe and North America. In contrast, Asia
and Eastern Europe have eight facilities apiece with four in South America and one in Africa.
The fact that a new global order is in place has not been lost on the company which has big investments planned in
Brazil, China and India over the next three years. In India, a Rs 4,000-crore facility is being commissioned near Chennai
which will kick off operations in 2012.
“We could have come to India earlier with our plans but it is still not too late. It is one of the largest markets in the world
and there is no reason why we should not be successful,” Mr Rollier said.
Russia completes the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) picture but Michelin is not as bullish on this country though
it already has a plant here. Indications are that Russia will get supplies from the other facilities in Europe which means
the pace of producing locally could be slower than India, China and Brazil.
Michelin is betting big on the truck segment to grow its radial tyre business in India before it takes a call on entering other
vehicle categories. The company already has unused land in Ranjangaon near Pune which is one of the country's key
auto hubs. This region is home to Tata-Fiat and not too far away from the General Motors and Volkswagen facilities.
Even though the tyre maker has not indicated what it plans to do with this land, speculation is rife that the location will
help its cause when it decides to enter the passenger car radial space. And even if this were to happen, it will not be until
2014 since it would first like to see its truck tyre business stabilise before shifting focus to cars.
Experts believe that the Michelin business model in India will benefit from free trade agreements in the Asean region
which could get on to the fast-track in the coming years.
“This will help the company in a big way from the viewpoint of keeping costs in check especially with raw material imports
from countries like Thailand,” they add.
Equally, India would also emerge a vital hub for tyre exports to Africa and other parts of Asia.
Ramky Enviro, GE arm team up to offer water treatment solutions
June 08, 2010
The Hindu Business Line:
Hyderabad: Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd and GE Power & Water have signed an agreement, to work together and offer
environment management solutions, including waste-water treatment and recycling.
Under the agreement, the Hyderabad-based Ramky Enviro, part of the Ramky Group, will introduce the concept of
mobile water treatment plants in the country.
Ramky will utilise GE's ultra-filtration (UF) and membrane bio-reactor (MBR) technology to come up with waste-water
treatment and recycling solutions for the industrial sector.
The Managing Director of Ramky Enviro, Mr Raman Nanda, in a statement said, “This agreement with GE combines our
strengths and capabilities in EPC and wastewater management, with GE's latest technological solutions. With the
industry facing major challenges in managing water, together, we will be able to address some of the industry concerns.”
GE and Ramky have started collaborating on solutions for sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles, automotive, heavy
metals and tanneries.
So far, they have set up effluent treatment plants (with MBR and UF technologies) and at several sites for Pharma
Common Effluent Treatment Plant, Patancheru near here, NTC and the Volkswagen India plant at Pune.