Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Solve Water Sharing Problem, Bangladesh Urges India

November 12, 2010

Dipu Moni banglaAgartala, Nov 12 : Bangladesh is keen to resolve the problems of water sharing and basin management of 54 common rivers and to sign an extradition treaty with India, its Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said here Thursday.

“We have no problems in signing an extradition treaty with India. The existing law also permits handing over of any wanted person or prisoner to each others country,” Moni told reporters before leaving for Dhaka after a two-day Tripura visit.

She said that her government has been asking India for basin-wise management of all the 54 common rivers. “In 40 years we have signed agreement for one river (Ganges), (and) are on the verge of doing another one — an interim treaty on Teestas waters.”

“At this rate the two neighbours would need a millennium to sign deals on 54 common rivers,” Moni said adding that both the countries should have to protect the lives and properties of lakhs of people leaving alongside these rivers in the two countries.

“In view of the climate change, we have to protect the rivers also for the protection of our environment and future generations.”

Regarding use of Bangladeshi territory by terrorists of northeast India, she said: “Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had already announced the Bangladesh governments policy that not even an inch of its territory would be allowed to be used by any forces detrimental for our neighbours.”

Moni, who came here Wednesday, addressed a business summit and laid the foundation stone of India-Bangladesh Maitri Uddan in south Tripura.

She said that both New Delhi and Dhaka had already agreed last year to resolve the problems of 162 disputed enclaves – 111 enclaves fall in Indian side and 51 in Bangladesh.

According to the minister, the Joint Boundary Working Group (JBWG) of Bangladesh and India is holding two-day talks in New Delhi to address the long-pending boundary disputes.

“I have learned that the JBWG meeting was very fruitful and we want to resolve the undemarcated borders problem at the earliest,” she added.

About the stand by the Bangladeshi opposition parties against providing transit by that country and allowing India to use the Bangladeshi ports, Moni said: “Every political party should have realistic approach. In the era of globalisation, connectivity and mutual cooperation is urgently needed.”

Moni said China has expressed its willingness to provide all out support to Bangladesh in building Coxs Bazar Sonadia deep-sea port and constructing a highway from Chittagong port city to Kunming in China via Myanmar. “Talks are on in this regard.”

“We want all our neighbours including India should help to build this port and take advantage of the logistically important port,” Moni added.

In a Major Shift, Indian DRDO Looks at Building Arms With US

November 11, 2010

In a major shift, DRDO looks at building arms with USAs DRDO notches up successes in high-tech fields like missiles, aerospace, electronic warfare systems and command networks, senior officials are confident laboratories have much to offer

New Delhi, Nov 11 : India is co-developing and building missiles and military aircraft with Russia; it is co-developing missiles with Israel. But targeted American sanctions, and a Washington licence raj that stifles the outflow of military technology, has ensured that India’s Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has never co-developed weaponry with the world’s most evolved and high-tech defence industry – that of the United States.

The US, in turn – even while selling billions of dollars worth of military aircraft to India – has failed to mine the richest lode of the Ministry of Defence (MoD): Joint development contracts like the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which will be signed next month with a corpus of $12 billion, which could rise to over $20 billion. Or, like the $2-billion partnership between DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries to co-develop an anti-aircraft missile.

But that seems likely to change with Washington agreeing, during the run-up to President Obamas just-concluded visit, to relax controls on technology and defence exports. Top DRDO officials now believe that, given the growing closeness between the US and India, the two defence establishments would be jointly developing high-tech military weaponry by 2020.

DRDOs chief controller, Prahlada, told Business Standard just ahead of the US presidents visit: “Within a decade, we will have major joint collaboration. Maybe in aeronautics, maybe radars… something will click. We are working with Israel and Russia in missiles; with the US, we may work on something else. Both countries are moving towards that.” DRDO, aware of the US defence industry’s technological self-sufficiency, believes India’s key attraction would revolve around lowering the cost of a product through cheaper development and testing costs. And, as the US defence budget plateaus and even reduces, the assured custom from India’s military would add significant economies of scale.

In a major shift, DRDO looks at building arms with US

DRDOs chief, V K Saraswat, is explicit about the military projects the US and India could undertake jointly. He says: “We have discussed this many times. India has an excellent base in IT, especially computer simulation, virtual reality, and robotics. In any contemporary military platform, you need command and control and communications software. We have some of the best brains in this area and we can develop these systems for both India and the US. If these Indian strengths are harnessed with American technologies, we could build the best and the cheapest military systems in the world”.

As DRDO notches up successes in high-tech fields like missiles, aerospace, electronic warfare systems and command networks, its senior officials are confident that their laboratories have much to offer.

Prahlada says: “American and European companies earlier believed that the Indian defence R&D was at some lower level. But now they listen and observe because they know we have developed systems of complexity and that… if they do not work with us, we will somehow find a solution. So, that is not there. Definitely there is an improved way of looking at India.”

While the Indo-US Defence Policy Group (DPG), a joint deliberative body that meets regularly – has long provided a forum for exploring research areas, Saraswat complains that US legal restraints have hamstrung its work: “We have identified areas where we can work together. But the US legal framework – regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR); and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) – require permissions and raise legal issues on dual-use technology.” Now, after Obamas unambiguous promise to reform export controls, DRDO expects that many of these difficulties will ease.

According to Saraswat, the US technology regimes have permitted cooperation in fundamental research, but not in developing specific technologies or military systems. The DRDO chief explains: “If we wanted to do research on, say, bio-medical engineering, then it is okay (with the US). But there would be hesitation on their part for research on, say, hypersonic technology, which is used in missiles.” Washington’s technology safeguard regimes have hindered not just joint military R&D, but also Indian academics researching in US institutions. Saraswat says: “A large number of Indian scientists go and work in the US universities, etc, but when it comes to really doing research in application areas, these US laws are not permitting cooperation in application-oriented research.”

Source:Business Standard

Sex + Drugs = Goa

November 11, 2010

Goa: Sex & Mafia on Cocaine Coast

goa beachesYaniv Benaim aka Atala, the most colourful of Goa’s Israeli drug dons, made headlines with a video on YouTube. His Swedish model-girlfriend named Lucky Farmhouse alias Amori posted the grainy, shaky video clip that became an instant Internet must-watch.

An Israeli drug peddler revealed that policemen supplied him drugs stolen from a police godown. His arrest led to Goa’s first drug-related gang war.

In the video, Atala speaks about his drug operation and how Goan police on his payroll advised him of ways to avoid getting caught – don’t buy a cellphone in your own name and change phone numbers frequently because your calls are monitored. “This is the mafia,” is how Atala describes the confederacy of crime between the police, politicians and the drug cartels.

The amateur video shows him speaking candidly about his arrangements with Anti-Narcotics Cell policemen, including Senior Inspector Ashish Shirodkar. “Nobody can touch me because I pay a lot of money,” said Atala. He was arrested immediately. So were six policemen, including Shirodkar. Twenty-four kilos of hashish had disappeared from the anti-narcotics warehouse on their watch. Atala confessed that the police had sold the drugs back to him. Goa’s Home Minister Ravi Naik explained that the vanished drugs were “eaten by white ants”.

In the wake of the Atala scandal, skeletons tumbled out of Goa’s political closet. The Opposition alleges that Naik and son Roy are linked to the drug mafia – a charge both deny. Amori claims she possesses a tape of her lover bribing a powerful Goan politician’s son. The state is yet to send an investigator to Sweden to interrogate her and is resisting all opposition demands for a CBI enquiry. Atala was convicted of drug possession in 2006, but managed to avoid deportation by going underground.

The side effect of Atala’s arrest was the first gang-related murder in Goa. The police say a local bar owner at Anjuna, Sanprit Malvankar, was killed by a gun-for-hire for helping them trap the Israeli gangster. Things got murkier when police later caught a criminal who was allegedly given a ‘supari’ by a south Goa politician to kill Roy. More than the politics of drugs, it is the economics that is mind-boggling.

The Enforcement Directorate is currently probing 400 cases of real es tate purchased illegally by foreigners,mostly Russians, using dirty money.

Goa has become a principal hub of the international drug trade, apart from being a known centre of consumption. The happy-drug addict-syndrome that has made it a haven for tourists is a minute part of the story. Those in this lucrative trade estimate that drugs flowing out of AfPak are worth over Rs 5,000 crore. Most of it now lands on the comparatively unprotected Goa coastline. Mumbai and its hinterland are no longer a favourite landing area since the checks by the Coastguard, Navy, customs patrols and internal security have become more stringent post-26/11.

As a result, Goa has turned into the favoured transhipment point for drug markets in South-east Asia, Africa and Europe. The police say that a large number of foreigners- mostly Russians arriving on chartered flights – bring in the drugs to Goa. However, 70 per cent of the drugs still arrive by sea.

Foreigners who stay back manufacture synthetic drugs locally. The heady party drug, the CK1 pill, has become a craze in Goa. It is a combination of cocaine and Ketamine. Sold on North Goa beaches under the pseudonyms ‘Blizzard’ and ‘Calvin Klein’, CK1 is readily available in Candolim, Baga, Calangute, Anjuna, Vagator and Arambol. These synthetic drugs are also exported back to India at higher rates; the traffic controlled by drug dons like Atala who enjoy political patronage.

The Opposition accuses the state police of being hand in glove with drug dealers. Compared to the size of the drug trade, drug hauls by law enforcement agencies are infinistimal in volume. In 2008, Goa’s Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) seized drugs worth Rs 77.43 lakh. Last year marked the biggest haul ever – 64.28 kg of drugs worth Rs 1.17 crore was seized and 22 foreigners arrested.

Sinful pleasures are available at Goa’s rave and dusk-to-dawn beach parties, most of which take place at the 320 beach shacks along a three-km sandy stretch in north Goa.

This year 46 kg of hallucinogens, including charas, ganja, cocaine and Ecstasy tablets, worth Rs 76 lakh was apprehended. “Goa isn’t exactly a haven for drug trafficking because it is nowhere on the scale of Punjab or even Delhi’s Paharganj,” says Veenu Bansal, superintendent of police, ANC, Goa. Political sources in Panjim say that the insignificant size of drug busts is because gangsters like Atala have powerful political links.

The residents of Goa whisper that the real scandal is the political mafia they vote for. Edwin Nunes, a local political heavyweight is one example of the politics-drugs network. He owns Curlies, a flourishing restaurant on south Anjuna beach.

The double-storied shack restaurant-bar-hookah joint played a part in the sordid Scarlett Keeling rape and murder saga. Keeling had e-mailed a Spanish friend that boys at Curlies had showed her porn on their cellphones and tried to rape her. A few days later, her body was found near another shack Luis, which was later shut down as it was unable to face the heat.

Curlies, however, continues to hold rave parties, play loud music late into the night and people openly peddle and consume drugs inside – activities legally banned in Goa. Owner Nunes was the sarpanch of Anjuna panchayat when the Keeling tragedy happened. He is still a powerful panchayat member.

In this tiny state of 13 lakh people, panchayats exercise considerable clout over local police and politicians. It is next to impossible to isolate the politicians from the drug scene in Goa. In some cases, they are semi-owners of illegal nightclubs. Some, like the Congress MLA from Calangute, Agnelo Fernandes, owns part of the land on which the Paradiso night club in Anjuna stands. Popular for its rave parties, it is built on encroached land owned by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC).

Questions have been raised in the Goa Assembly many times, but Paradiso continues to party on. The court passed an eviction order on the club for not having paid rent arrears of Rs 25 lakh to GTDC to no effect. “Foreigners are just a convenient front for the mafia within the Government to carry on their business,” says Vikram Varma, a Goa-based Supreme Court lawyer.

Yet foreigners play a significant role in Goa’s politician-drug cartel nexus. Until the first part of this decade, British and Israelis controlled Goa’s drug trade. Nigerians are minor players, mainly as couriers with local connections. According to drug dealer Tony (name changed), the Russians have taken over the trade in a big way in the past five years. “Israelis are still active and more visible than the Russians, but are now getting edged out of the business,” he says. Tony admits the Russians have changed the rules of the game. “We are facing the heat because of that,” he adds.

Russia is now the narcotic superpower of the world and the Russian mafia (Russkaya Mafiya) organised enough to face the Russian narcotic juggernaut. This tourist season, more than 55,000 Russians are expected on 800 chartered flights – even from small cities like Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. This month, Aeroflot starts its first direct flight to Goa expecting custom from well-heeled Russian tourists.

Hundreds of tourists from Kazakhstan are also coming to Goa. Last year, there was only one chartered flight from Astana, the Kazak capital. This time, the number will go up to 30. The scale of the drug trade in the state is evident by the watch being kept on passengers and crew of chartered tourist flights that land in Goa during the October to March tourist surge. Many of them stay back and are either peddlers or users.

The police say a major reason why Russian criminals flourish in the state is due to a favourable narcotic ecosystem that combines lax law enforcement and corrupt authorities. Russian druglords also lose themselves in the anonymity of the crowds of Russian tourists thronging Goa. In Morjim and Palolem, nearly 10,000 Russians live in small enclaves that are dubbed ‘Little Russia’ by the locals.

Real estate is the front behind which the Russian mafia hides in Goa. They try to legalise their presence by setting up companies in partnerships with locals. Recently, True Axis Resorts, a firm with Russian and Indian partners, was found guilty of violating the Reserve Bank of India rules and the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) fined them Rs 6 crore. Their four holdings totalling 22 lakh sq m- the size of 204 football fields – were seized and the buildings sealed.

A senior ED official discloses that they routinely track huge amounts of money moved by Russianbacked real estate companies to Goa from tax havens like Cyprus, Mauritius and Cayman Islands in order to purchase realty in coastal villages. “We can only catch them through their property transactions,” he adds. ED investigations found that these companies had conducted no stated business or filed income tax returns. Tasha, a Russian pimp and drug dealer in Goa, confides that he has invested “a lot of money” in real estate along the northern coastal belt, particularly near Arambol. Locals are angry that foreigners occupy large tracts of Goa. “These land deals are facilitated by the Government and Goans are losing ownership of prime agriculture land to the Russian mafia who want to turn Goa into a global prostitution hub,” alleges Rajan Ghate, a local politician and activist.

But why aren’t these Russians getting caught? An African drug dealer explains that it is because Russians guard their privacy fiercely; avoid mingling with others and supply only to their own kind. Again, these are not the only reasons why Russians favour Goa. “It is not only a foreign tourist magnet but also a favoured tourist getaway for well-to-do travellers from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore,” says Mumbai-based drug dealer Vikas (name changed).

In the past four years, Russian gangs have virtually sewn up the Goan market for high-quality drugs like cocaine. He says Indian and Nigerians adulterate their stuff with boric acid and talcum powder, but Russians offer pure coke. “Customers will pay more if it is a Russian who is selling,” Vikas says. “You can stay high on their stuff for two days.”

Drugs are not the only high on offer in Goa. Sex is an organised market run by the mafia and women traffickers from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The state Government shut down Baina – Goa’s original redlight area that catered to locals – five years ago. The trade is now taken over by girls from Russia and the ‘Stans’.

On Anjuna beach, Valentina, a slender 23-year-old Russian ‘tourist’ is willing to play white girlfriend. For $1,000 a day she will party, skinny-dip and sleep with you. “You will not regret it,” she promises. “I will get you a 15 per-cent discount on dope. And a 2-by-2 inch tattoo free for a two-day stay.” She has a simpler deal too. “Pay $600 for a night. Get a friend, too, if you want.” There is a price tag for everything. Even if it’s a cuddly photograph of you with a wet bikini-clad blonde on the beach. “Fifty dollars,” says 22-year-old Galina from Tashkent. She is here with her sister to party -“lot of drugs and sex”. Tall, with broad cheekbones, Galina says she is in Goa to make some serious money. It is her first week and she is already booked for five nights by an Italian man in his late thirties.

The rate for sex goes up depending on the duration, quality and requirements. To avoid the complex currency conversions, all prices are in dollars. Curly haired Hami, a Russian girl wearing a tight short outfit that shows off her toned figure, is ready to mingle. “Goa is confusing. Everybody is boringly nice; you need someone who can take care of you here and make sure you have a party going,” she utters memorised clichés in broken English. Hami is in Goa on a tourist visa and is expecting her cousins and friends from Moscow and Almaty to join her soon. All of them plan to take rooms in Morjim. She says she can deal with five clients on a good day. The Israelis haven’t completely given up. In Anjuna, a 55-year-old Israeli pimp and drug peddler named Marques hawks girls from his country with a unique sales pitch. “At $200 to $300, my women are cheaper than the Russians but a lot sexier in bed,” he grins.

But the Israeli pales in comparison to flamboyant Russians like Sergei. “I’m a Goan,” grins the 55-year-old six-foot-tall muscular Russian who thunders around on a Royal Enfield motorcycle along north Goa’s picturesque Anjuna beach. He claims to be a former KGB operative and a onestop shop for drugs and girls. “I have imported around 1,000 girls from Russia and Uzbekistan,” he brags. An unbuttoned half-sleeved jacket reveals a spider web of tattoos, including a Griffin on his chest. “I don’t like big cities; they have big problems,” he says in thickly accented English why he loves Goa. At a beach shack, he guides a group of five boys to an open party in near Vagator beach where “girls are waiting to get pampered”. Afandee, an Israeli tourist in her late twenties, has been a regular visitor to Goa for five years. “Sex for cash, gambling, orgies, drugs and homosexuality, we do it all,” she says, puffing a hash pipe. “Sin is our way to salvation.”

Sinful pleasures are available at Goa’s raves and dusk-to-dawn beach parties. These are the retail haven for drug pushers. Most such big parties take place at the 320 beach shacks on a three-km sandy stretch of north Goa. Many who overdose on drugs are rushed to Dr Jawaharlal Henriques’ rehab clinic in Siolim, not far from the Anjuna beach.

He gets around 80 to 90 cases every tourist season. Once, three tourists – a Swede, an Italian and a British woman – were brought in dead. The latest arrival was a young Mumbai businessman who snorted too much coke and was brought to the clinic frothing at the mouth. Unable to cope with the steady flow of patients, the 62-year-old psychiatrist has added another wing with 70 beds to his clinic. “Some foreigners are so big in size that they create problems,” he sighs.

Once a drug-addled Russian, who happened to be built like a boxer, flew into a paranoid rage in his clinic. It took 20 policemen to subdue him. Along with violence, Goa is also laden with irony. Seventy-seven-yearold British national Paul and his 65-year-old wife Janet hold ration cards that introduce them as the children of their landlords, Jose and Albertina Periera. The Perieras are in their early thirties. The British couple continues to live in a village in Bardez as bonafide ration holders but with UK passports, untroubled by the administration. They are the least of the worries for a state firmly in the grip of drugs and organised crime.

source: India Today

India Following Soft Policy on Myanmar

November 11, 2010

Indo myanmarNew Delhi, Nov 11 : India has adopted a soft policy towards Myanmar because of its close proximity with the Northeastern States and security concerns, besides growing interest of China in the neighbouring country.

A day after US President Barack Obama snubbed India over its ‘silence on Myanmar’, highly placed sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said that India and US have different concerns.

“A country north of us (China) is taking a lot of interest in Myanmar. We have 1,600 km of border with Myanmar and most of the Northeastern States are connected to this country,” sources said.

“We have border movements, we have security concerns and it is a strategically placed country. We can’t close our eyes,” the official stressed.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama criticised India for failing to condemn rights abuses in Myanmar, saying democracies with global aspirations could not ignore “gross violations” in other countries.

“When peaceful democratic movements are suppressed, as they have been in Burma (Myanmar), then the democracies of the world cannot remain silent,” Obama said in an address to the joint session of Parliament.

“Faced with such gross violations of human rights, it is the responsibility of the international community, especially leaders like the United States and India, to condemn it,” he said. “If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often shied away from these issues,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a Lok Sabha reply Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, M Ramachandran confirmed that militants belonging to various insurgent outfits of the North Eastern Region maintain camps in remote bordering areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh. The camps located on both sides of the border are often used for training and harbouring of insurgents, he added.

Indian Behind $20mn Fraud

November 11, 2010

Indian behind $20mn fraudThe secret cult Opus Dei in Dan Brown’s epic novel “The Da Vinci Code” was invoked by an Indian-origin computer repairman to defraud a Grammy-winning pianist. In another case, Coimbatore police shot dead the kidnapper of two kids who were killed; people celebrate ‘instant’ justice. Read on

Vickram Bedi and his girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir after they were arrested in Chappaqua, New York.


Punjabi man uses Da Vinci Code to fleece Grammy winner

New York: The secret cult Opus Dei in Dan Brown’s epic novel “The Da Vinci Code” was invoked by an Indian-origin computer repairman in the US to defraud a Latin Grammy-winning pianist and oil-family heir to the tune of $20 million.

Vickram Bedi, 36, and his girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir, 39, of small town of Chappaqua in New York State were arrested last week and have been charged with grand larceny for duping Grammy-winning pianist and jazz composer Roger Davidson.

Their scam began in 2004 when Davidson took his virus-infected laptop computer to Bedi’s computer shop at Mount Kisco in Westchester County in New York State.

Soon Bedi and his girlfriend came to know that their high-profile client is actually the great grandson of the founder of Schlumberger oil company in Houston which reported revenue of $23 billion last year, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

When Davidson asked Bedi to remove the virus from his laptop, the Indian American began the game of brainwashing by telling Davidson that his computer had actually been attacked with a virus so strong that it even damaged Bedi’s Datalink’s computers, the paper quoted the prosecutors as saying.

Indian behind $20mn fraud

Bedi tricked Davidson into believing that he had tracked the virus to a remote village in Honduras and that Bedi’s uncle, purportedly an officer in the Indian military, had travelled in a military aircraft to Honduras and retrieved the suspicious hard drive, the journal said.

Then Bedi told Davidson that his uncle had also uncovered an assassination plot against him (Davidson) by Polish priests linked to the murderous cult Opus Dei – made famous by Dan Brown in his novel “The Da Vinci Code”.

After charging thousands of dollars from Davidson to secure his computer, Bedi and his girlfriend went on to charge about $160,000 per month for providing 24-hour bogus protection for Davidson and his family, the journal quoted the police as saying.

Police found $6 million in Bedi’s bank account and $1.6 million in his girlfriend’s account. They also seized several cars, commercial properties and $150,000 in cash hidden under Bedi’s bed.

Indian behind $20mn fraud

“They did it very systematically and infiltrated every aspect of his life. It was almost a brainwashing technique,” the area police chief said.

The scam came to light when the couple were investigated in connection with another criminal complaint against them.

“The systematic method with which they continued the larceny over a period of more than six years is nothing short of heartless,” the report quoted Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore as saying.

Bedi and his girlfriend are being held on a $3 million bail.

Raja Of All Scams: Rs 1.76 Lakh Crore

November 11, 2010

CAG submits report on 2G spectrum to govtCAG submits report on 2G spectrum to Govt

New Delhi, Nov 11 : The Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Wednesday said it has submitted to the government the report on the 2G spectrum allotment that is presumed to have caused a revenue loss of up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

“Yes, we have submitted the final report to the government. I cannot disclose the findings of the report. It is up to the government when it will be tabled in Parliament … may be within a fortnight or it may take long,” Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai told reporters here.

Sources in the know say that the CAG has accused the telecom ministry for undervaluing 2G spectrum, sold to new players in 2008, and held that the allotment price was not realistic, which has caused a revenue loss of up to Rs 1,76,700 crore to the government.

The report is also believed to have castigated telecom minister A Raja for ignoring the advice of finance and law ministries on allocation of 2G spectrum to benefit a few operators.

It is also believed to have criticised telecom regulator TRAI for standing as a helpless spectator when its recommendations were being ignored or misused.

However, no confirmation on CAG’s reported comments could be obtained.

CAG submits report on 2G spectrum to govt

The report is believed to have said that the telecom ministry took arbitrary decisions while allotting 2G spectrum, bundled with licences in January 2008.

Sources said a copy of the report has been sent to the finance ministry and to the President. The process usually takes 10-15 days to finalise and then it would be tabled in Parliament. The month-long winter session of Parliament began on November 9.

Nine firms were issued licences, bundled with start up of 2G spectrum, in January 2008 at Rs 1,658 crore for pan-India operations.

The CAG report said the price at which the spectrum was alloted in 2008 was based on 2001 prices, which was quite low and has resulted in a loss to the government exchequer.

CAG submits report on 2G spectrum to govt

The report also said that Raja ignored the advice of the law ministry and Prime Minister and advanced the cut-off date for giving the Letter of Intent (LoI).

The telecom ministry had, however, hit at the CAG saying the policy decisions cannot be “assailed” as arbitrary and debunked CAG’s assertion that 2G spectrum was allocated in an arbitrary manner.

“Decisions (on spectrum) taken on the basis of New Telecom Policy of 1999 and the Cabinet decision of 2003, coupled with periodic and respective TRAI’s recommendations.

“(This) cannot be assailed by the audit as arbitrary or cause of exchequer loss until and unless the entire policy devised with legislative backing is changed or modified by the same authorities concerned,” DoT had said in its reply to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

CAG has reportedly put the revenue loss to exchequer at up to Rs 1.40 lakh crore, in addition to another Rs 36,700 crore on allocation of spectrum beyond contractual limit to existing nine operators.

Source: PTI

Bamboo Mission Has Tall Ambitions

November 9, 2010

bambooAn Indian IAS officer hopes to link small bamboo-processing units with research labs to conjure innovative products

By Jacob P. Koshy

New Delhi: A visit to Sanjiv Nair’s office can be, well, bamboozling. The floors are made of bamboo, the furniture, some of the walls and even the frame of an ornamental microscope is crafted out of the grass.

Nair, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and head of the New Delhi-based National Mission on Bamboo Applications (NMBA), says that even after four years with the mission, he can still be surprised by the incredible variety of uses that bamboo can be put to.

“Typically, it’s well known as a source of pulp, mats, handicrafts,” says Nair. “But several research institutes in India have, over the years, figured out new uses—activated carbon, body oil, composites of plastics. It’s capable of supporting an industry of its own.”

Nair is not a scientist. He says his role at NMBA is to link the small-scale bamboo-processing industries scattered across north-east India, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh with the research laboratories that conjure innovative products out of bamboo.

NMBA, an initiative of the department of science and technology, aims to develop a viable industry around bamboo products. Some 85 units spread across India manufacture a clutch of bamboo products, employing 100,000-150,000 people and generating Rs. 500 crore in annual revenue.

Nair hopes that one day, bamboo will replace wood as the material of choice for building houses.

This isn’t too ambitious a dream to come true, he adds. “In the US, there are several varieties of plywood that are specially treated and then used to build houses. The bamboo that we now have is as strong, is cheaper to process and as durable as brick and mortal houses. So all we need is a change in mindset.”

To bring about this change, NMBA has associated itself with relief operations running from the Maoist-hit districts of Chhattisgarh to Leh, where a cloudburst on 7 August left thousands homeless.

In Leh, NMBA has constructed bamboo buildings on 40,000 sq. ft of land left ravaged by the flood after August that now house at least 10,000 people.

Nair says the project followed a request from local authorities. “Typically, those affected by natural disasters would either shift to tents or (shelters made from) tin sheets. But in a place like Leh, where the winters see temperatures go below –10 (degrees Celsius), tin sheet houses are going to be extremely uncomfortable,” he says.

A team of workers from one of the NMBA-supported units in Kolkata was involved in the construction. The bamboo houses were well-received by locals as well as the district administration.

The structures are built to be used as permanent residences. But if people opt to move into concrete houses, they can easily become schools and hospitals, a practice that was followed in several villages of Chhattisgarh, Nair adds.

In Chhattisgarh, at least 10,000 children attend schools inside bamboo-crafted buildings. “The Naxalites (Maoists) destroyed several buildings. But these (bamboo) buildings ensure that our children continue going to schools,” says Ambesh Kumar, a schoolteacher at Kontha in Dantewada district, in a film showcasing the bamboo buildings.

Ajay Kumar, a chemical engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, and the mission’s director, says bamboo works because it’s a cradle-to-grave solution. “From infant cribs to coffins, bamboo is used extensively. So why shouldn’t it be used more frequently by mainstream society,” he reasons.

On a still night in dense forests, Kumar swears, one can actually hear bamboo grow. “It can be that easily grown,” he says.

The key hurdles to bamboo proliferating as the building material of choice lies in its availability. Bamboo needs humid conditions to thrive. Also, several environmental policies classify bamboo as a tree and not a grass.

“These issues are being looked into,” says Nair. “However, the Central government now has plans to make the programme bigger and hopefully we shall have a full-fledged dedicated centre that will exclusively look at promoting bamboo.”

U.N. Mishra, former director at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, says NMBA’s efforts were commendable, but required continuous state support to succeed. “It’s a good initiative. However, being able to reach out to a wide disparate audience is a challenge. Traders must be given financial initiatives—probably in the form of tax concessions or state support—to build this sector.”

As India engages with processes that will take it from emerging-market status to that of a developed nation, an enormous effort will be required. In this next phase, setting goals won’t be overly difficult, less easy will be doing the things that need to get done. One of the themes of the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit this year is India’s Implementation Imperative. In the run-up to the summit, we showcase some of India’s implementers who surmounted the odds to make the change agenda work in their respective fields.

jacob.k@livemint.com

Obama Backs India’s UNSC Bid

November 8, 2010

Look forward to a UNSC that has India as permanent member: Obama

US President Barack Obama on Monday told Parliament he backed New Delhi’s case for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, a copy of his prepared speech showed.

Look forward to a UNSC that has India as permanent member: Obama

“I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” Obama said his address to both houses of the Parliament on Monday evening.

He added: “The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate.”

In another significant remark, Obama said “terrorist safe havens in Pakistan are not acceptable”.

”Terror safe havens in Pakistan is unacceptable and we will continue to insist on Pak leadership to bring Mumbai attackers to justice,” he said.

Look forward to a UNSC that has India as permanent member: Obama

India had expected broad support in its bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council during the US President’s maiden visit.

At Parliament, Obama increased power comes with increased responsibility. “Increased responsibility of nations especially those wanting to lead 21st century implies preserving peace and security globally, advancing human rights,” he said.

Just days before his visit, the President had described India as a “cornerstone” of US engagement in Asia, but had held out no assurances on key issues, among which was the US’ support for India’s bid for permanent membership.

At Parliament, he said: “the last three days my wife Michelle and I have experienced the beauty and dynamism of the people of India”, adding, “India and the US are bound by common interests and values.”

Look forward to a UNSC that has India as permanent member: Obama

He then paid rich tribute to Mahatma Gandhi by saying: “I not be standing in front of you as President of the US had it not been for Mahatma Gandhi and his message that inspired Americans.”

He also said India did not resist global economy, but became one of its growth engines.

India and US can together create hi-tech and high-wage jobs, he said, adding, “Together India-US can resist protectionism that stifles growth.”

President Obama also sought the extension of cooperation in agriculture, research, weather forecast, food processing and allied sectors for making green revolution sustainable.

Look forward to a UNSC that has India as permanent member: Obama

Earlier in the day, Obama held a 75-minute meeting with Manmohan Singh. The two discussed the India-Pakistan ties and other range of issues covering bilateral and global matters and announced a number of new initiatives, including cooperation in homeland security, removal of Indian entities from the US sanctions list and setting up of a research centre in India in the civil nuclear field.

Though Obama had said – at an address to the media after the meeting – that he would be happy to play any role in reducing the Kashmir tension between the two neighbours, the Prime Minister made it very clear that India would not talk to Pakistan unless the country dismantles the twrror networks that operate out of its soil against India.

Singh had also welcomed the US move to end export control on dual-use technology to India and support for its membership of multilateral groupings in the nuclear field, like the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Source: Indian Express

Congress at 125

November 8, 2010

Mahatma Gandhi thought he would live up to be 125. Alas, that was not to be. But the Indian National Congress to which he devoted the last thirty years of his life has reached that landmark number. Whatever is good and bad about India can be laid at the door of the Congress.

Congress at 125

Winston Churchill once boasted that history would be kind to him. He added, ‘That is because I intend to write it.’ The Congress has fashioned much of modern India’s history. But it has also written India’s history in such a way that no one gets any credit for any of the big successes India has witnessed. It would have us believe that single-handedly it delivered India’s independence and no other group made any contribution. It then delivered the Constitution and made India into a vibrant democracy. Then of course it established a secular polity and gave India stability against its enemies, both internal and external. Then almost as an afterthought it gave us liberal economic reform which has now made India a great economic power.

This is, of course, a gross distortion of the truth. The Congress did do a lot of good no doubt but many others helped as well. Before Independence, there were many idealistic patriotic men and women who rejected Congress’s moderate non-violent strategy and took up arms. They may have failed but they did make an impact. So did the Constitutional wing which collaborated with the British. After all, the Constitution derives largely from the Government of India Act 1935. The Congress played no part in its construction since it did not go to the first Round Table Conference and then rejected the Act after its publication. It was under this Act that the Constituent Assembly was elected and gave the Congress the chance to fashion the rest of India’s Constitution after 1946.

Congress at 125

The one major contribution of the Congress has to be India’s democratic polity. Without Jawaharlal Nehru’s democratic behaviour, India would not have retained its democracy after Independence. Neither the RSS nor the Communists championed democracy. But after his death, and especially after 1969 when the Congress split, the democratic culture was abandoned within the Congress. Soon all Indian parties abandoned any democratic practice internally. To this day, leaders of parties are not elected but enthroned. How long can democracy last in a polity where the leaders do not subject themselves to any democratic challenge?

But perhaps the most galling aspect of the Congress record is its failure to tackle poverty. Having been in power for fifty out of the sixty-three years, the Congress makes no apology for the appalling record of poverty it has presided over. For the first forty- two years after independence except for two years of the Janata, Congress had total command over the economy. It failed to generate economic growth, or employment or eradicate poverty or pursue land reforms, or educate the masses of India or look after their health. All this was called Socialist Pattern of Society. In the meantime, neighbours of India like Malaysia and Sri Lanka, to say nothing of Asian tigers like Taiwan, South Korea surged ahead of India. India, which was the best endowed and most industrialised country in Asia in 1947 (Japan did better before the War but by 1947 it had its economy bombed out) fell behind steadily. It neglected its industrial base in textiles and consumer industries and went on to build monuments of folly since the Soviet Union was our model. Generations of Indians paid the cost for the grandiose structures of machine building.

Congress at 125

India’s real progress dates from the period when Congress monopoly of political power ended. That is when the backward castes at last got their voice heard in politics. Mandalisation is wasteful but it is the only way the downtrodden could get anywhere within the Hindu social order, which the Congress had failed to reform.

The real economic breakthrough came in 1991.Three things helped. The Congress did not have a commanding majority. The Prime Minister did not belong to the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Finance Minister was a non-Congress technocrat.

The winning formula then is Congress in power but without a majority and the Prime Minister from outside the family and preferably not a Congress veteran.

Source: Indian Express

Get Ready to Ride a Low-Cost Harley-Davidson Bike

November 4, 2010

After setting up shop, American cult bike maker Harley-Davidson is planning a low-cost model for India.

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

“We give inputs on the basis of market insights and consumer preferences to our global product development team to make our future product line-up relevant to our growing customer base here. Going ahead, we may look at developing a low-cost product for Indian consumers,” said Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India.

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

Harley-Davidson, which reported a two per cent drop in global revenues from motorcycles at $1.09 billion for the September quarter, is betting big on India and China. Chief Financial Officer John Olin has been reported saying, “We believe the long-term prospect (in China and India) is extra-ordinary.”
The company expects to sell 200-250 bikes by the end of 2010, within six months of its launch in India. “Last year, as many as 1,000 superbikes were sold in India. The market is growing at over 20 per cent every year and strong double-digit growth rate is expected to sustain at least for the next 8-10 years,” said Prakash.

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

To strengthen its foothold in India, the company has set up an assembly facility at Bawal in Haryana. The move would help Harley to save on import tariff and re-work pricing of its products for the Indian market. It is the company’s second assembly unit outside its homebase, US, after Brazil.

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

Import duty and local taxes on completely built-up units amount to as much as 100 per cent of US prices of models offered by the company. Once the proposed assembly unit becomes operational in the first half of 2011, the impact of import tariff will be reduced to nearly 40 per cent. “We will announce the revised prices of our models in January. The intention is to make our bikes more accessible to people here. The potential is good and I expect India to become our largest market in Asia in the coming decade.”

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

Worldwide retail sales fell by 7.7 per cent to 58,849 units during July-September, compared to 63,729 units in the year-ago period, on weak consumer spending in the US. The company expects 40 per cent of its revenues from motorcycle sales to come from international markets by 2014, compared to 27 per cent at present.

Get ready to ride a low-cost Harley-Davidson bike

Harley-Davidson sells 12 models belonging to five families — Sporster, Dyna, Softail, V-Rod, Touring — priced between Rs 6.95 lakh and Rs 34.95 lakh, in India. The bike maker has four authorised dealerships in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Source: Indian Express