Archive for ‘Chindia Alert’

21/04/2015

Rahul Gandhi’s Speech: The Indian Media’s Surprise Verdict – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s punditocracy in recent weeks has loved to hate Rahul Gandhi.

Mr. Gandhi, the vice president of India’s opposition Congress party, was derided by some opinion-makers for taking a break from frontline politics in mid-February–and not returning until mid-April. But on Monday, in a speech before Parliament, Mr. Gandhi surprised many pundits.

Not by what he said — he attacked, as expected, the government’s proposed changes to India’s laws on purchasing land — but by the fact that he spoke at all.

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Mr. Gandhi, who is a member of Parliament, rarely speaks in India’s lower chamber, the Lok Sabha. In fact, this was only his first address since Congress lost badly in national elections almost a year ago.

Congress’s loss provoked deep soul-searching within the party about its future. Mr. Gandhi was Congress’s prime ministerial hopeful in that drubbing.

On Monday, Mr. Gandhi blasted India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his Bharatiya Janata Party, for proposed changes to the Land Acquisition Act that, among other things would make it easier for businesses and the government to buy land for defense, industrial corridors, affordable housing and infrastructure projects by removing a requirement to obtain the consent of more than two-thirds of landowners.

Mr. Gandhi’s Congress party argues these changes are bad for India’s huge population of farmers, who he described in Parliament as the country’s backbone. “Everything has been built on a foundation that has been provided to us by the farmer,” Mr. Gandhi told lawmakers.

Pictures of Mr. Gandhi, dressed in a close-fitting white kurta and flanked by some of the party’s youngest members of Parliament, filled television screens and set his name trending on Twitter on Monday evening.

It also put the ruling BJP on the defensive after months of relatively limited challenges from the Congress party.  A piece in the Indian Express newspaper said the government was pushed into “damage control after Rahul Gandhi’s attack over the agrarian situation.”

Sanjay Singh, who writes about politics for Firstpost, wrote that Mr. Gandhi’s “rather aggressive pitching in Parliament has surely charged up Congress’ ranks.”

Another piece, posted on the IBNLive website of the Indian news channel CNN-IBN, said Mr. Gandhi had shown “he is back and he means business.”

“Maybe it is the low expectations,” the IBNLive piece said, “but Rahul Gandhi was definitely on fire.” The article was published with no byline.

via Rahul Gandhi’s Speech: The Indian Media’s Surprise Verdict – India Real Time – WSJ.

20/04/2015

Xiaomi to Unveil its Newest Phone in India First – India Real Time – WSJ

Cheap smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. is set to unveil its latest phone on Thursday in Delhi – the first time it has held a global launch in India – and in typical fashion is drumming up interest by turning the event into a velvet-rope affair.

Xiaomi has released no details about the new phone or any of its features, but that didn’t stop over 6,000 people from applying for a limited number of tickets to attend the “global premiere” on the company’s Facebook page.

The Chinese firm hasn’t said how many public tickets are on offer, but a post by the company on Facebook said that “seats are very limited.” Siri Fort, where the event will be held, has four auditoriums and the largest can seat 1,865 people.

via Xiaomi to Unveil its Newest Phone in India First – India Real Time – WSJ.

20/04/2015

Chinese president to launch economic corridor link in Pakistan | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on Monday to launch $46 billion in projects linking the allies, a figure that would far exceed U.S. spending in Pakistan and underscores China’s economic ambitions in Asia and beyond.

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The infrastructure and energy projects are aimed at establishing a Pakistan-China Economic Corridor between Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and China’s western Xinjiang region.

The plan is part of China’s aim to forge “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe and reflects a shift of economic power in the region to China, said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistani parliament‘s defense committee.

“Pakistan, for China, is now of pivotal importance. This has to succeed and be seen to succeed,” he said.

The corridor, a network of roads, railways and pipelines, will pass through Pakistan’s poor Baluchistan province where a long-running separatist insurgency, which the army has again vowed to crush, will raise doubts about the feasibility of the plan.

The security of Chinese workers will be a prime concern for Xi. In his talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and military leaders, Xi is also likely to raise China’s fears that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are teaming up with Pakistani militants.

Xi has linked economic cooperation with security.

“Our cooperation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously,” he said in a statement to media on the eve of his two-day visit.

Xi is expected to call for greater efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where Pakistan is keen to restrict the influence of is rival India.

via Chinese president to launch economic corridor link in Pakistan | Reuters.

19/04/2015

Govt may offer visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese tourists – The Hindu

An intelligence agency expressed reservations and suggested a cautious approach before taking a final decision.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Mahesh Sharma, MoS, Tourism at the launch of the tourist e-visa facility in New Delhi. File photo

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to China, India may extend the e-tourist visa facility to citizens of that country, despite strong opposition from an intelligence agency.

The matter was discussed threadbare at a recent high-level meeting, chaired by Union Home Secretary L.C. Goyal, during which the intelligence agency expressed reservations and suggested a cautious approach before taking a final decision.

The Tourism Ministry has been strongly advocating extending the e-tourist visa facility to five more countries, including China. The other four countries are the U.K., France, Italy and Spain.

Home Ministry officials said the intelligence agency has red-flagged granting of the e-tourist visa facility to Chinese nationals due to various reasons.

Frequent issuance of stapled visa by China to people from Arunachal Pradesh was one of the key reasons for the objection, an official said.

There is a possibility of announcement of visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese nationals before Mr. Modi’s proposed visit to China in May.

via Govt may offer visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese tourists – The Hindu.

19/04/2015

The marriage squeeze in India and China: Bare branches, redundant males | The Economist

KHAPs are informal local councils in north-western India. They meet to lay down the law on questions of marriage and caste, and are among India’s most unflinchingly conservative institutions. They have banned marriage between people of different castes, restricted it between people from the same village and stand accused of ordering honour killings to enforce their rulings, which have no legal force. India’s Supreme Court once called for khaps to be “ruthlessly stamped out”. In April 2014, however, the Satrol khap, the largest in Haryana, one of India’s richest states, relaxed its ban on inter-caste marriage and made it easier for villagers to marry among their neighbours. “This will bring revolutionary change to Haryana,” said Inder Singh, president of the khap.

The cause of the decision, he admitted, was “the declining male-female sex ratio in the state”. After years of sex-selective abortions in favour of boys, Haryana has India’s most distorted sex ratio: 114 males of all ages for every 100 females. In their search for brides, young men are increasingly looking out of caste, out of district and out of state. “This is the only way out to keep our old traditions alive,” said Mr Singh. “Instead of getting a bride from outside the state who takes time to adjust, we preferred to prune the jurisdiction of prohibited areas.”

The revision of 500 years of custom by its conservative guardians symbolises a profound change not just in India. Usually dubbed the “marriage squeeze”, the change refers both to the fact of having too many men chasing too few brides and the consequence of it in countries where marriage has always been nearly universal. Sex selection at birth is common in China and India. The flight from marriage—with women marrying later, or not at all—is long established in Japan and South Korea. But until recently, Asia’s twin giants have not felt the effects of sexual imbalance in marriage. Now they are.

The marriage squeeze is likely to last for decades, getting worse before it gets better. It will take the two countries with their combined population of 2.6 billion—a third of humanity—into uncharted territory. Marriage has always been a necessary part of belonging to society in India and China. No one really knows how these countries will react if marriage is no longer universal. But there may be damaging consequences. In every society, large numbers of young men, unmarried and away from their families, are associated with abnormal levels of crime and violence.

via The marriage squeeze in India and China: Bare branches, redundant males | The Economist.

19/04/2015

Entrepreneurship in India: Ready, steady, go | The Economist

IN 2013, when foreign capital suddenly rushed out of emerging markets, India was one of the worst-affected countries. There were plenty of reasons for investors to panic. GDP growth had slumped. The public finances were a mess. And inflation was hovering around 10%. A year earlier a power cut had plunged hundreds of millions of Indians into darkness.

It is a testament to the country’s enduring promise that within a year investors were once again scrambling for a stake in its future—this time tempted by the pro-growth promises of Narendra Modi, who won a resounding victory in elections last May. India’s population rivals China’s in size, but has a far younger complexion. That India is so much poorer in most other regards seems only to add to its allure. Those who missed out on China’s boom might still catch the wave in India.

“Restart” by Mihir Sharma, a columnist for the Delhi-based Business Standard, is a reliable and readable guide to India’s stop-start economy. It is admirably clear on what has to change if India is to taste the high living standards enjoyed in other parts of Asia. Each year 13m Indians join the workforce. Jobs must be found for them. But the giant factories that hummed with baby-boomers in other places are scarce in India, because it is so difficult to do business there.

Mr Sharma applies regular doses of rueful humour as he explains why some of the toughest job-protection laws in the world have ensured that there are few decent jobs in India. The jokes are a necessary feature in a book that contains as many unpalatable truths as this one. They are also a mask for the author’s anger at India’s poverty, at the nation’s failure to match the development of its Asian neighbours and at the self-delusion of its policymakers. “It’s almost as if we genuinely believe all the lies about ourselves we tell foreign investors,” he writes.

Mr Sharma is at his funniest (or angriest) when listing the ludicrous regulations that business must adhere to. Complying with them all is impossible, so officials routinely extort bribes for breaches. Businesses are required, among many other things, to keep an abstract of the 1948 Factories Act to hand. Pass it to a visiting labour inspector, allow him a moment to reflect and “he will find a violation”, notes Mr Sharma. The wisecrack has a painful sting. To avoid a shakedown, businesses stay tiny and inefficient. And India remains poor and woefully short of decent jobs.

Where did India go wrong? Mr Sharma picks the leftward lurch in 1969—when Indira Gandhi nationalised banks to outflank opponents in her own party—as a moment when things shifted. Manmohan Singh’s famed budget of July 1991 was badly flawed because the reforms it contained were incomplete. Mr Singh opened up goods markets to competition but did nothing to free markets for land, labour and capital. A ban on selling farmland to industry remains; labour inspectors can still prey on factory owners; and without a bankruptcy law, capital stays trapped in dying firms. New factories could not readily spring up to compete with imports, and manufacturing has been in relative decline since the mid-1990s.

Mr Sharma thinks factories can still be India’s salvation. But manufacturing-led growth has become harder to pull off. Modern factories use more machinery and less labour than in the past. While India was making half-hearted reforms, China was securing its position in global supply chains. It is now tougher for aspiring nations such as India to break in. It is perhaps for this reason that others look for hope in India’s vibrant services sector. Hindol Sengupta is one such author. His “Recasting India” is a paean to the commercial flair of millions of hawkers and small shopkeepers plying for trade in India. Yet the small-scale service enterprises celebrated by Mr Sengupta are a developmental dead end. They are a sign of economic weakness and not vitality, as Mr Sharma rightly argues. Small traders seem less impressive in other countries only because the best entrepreneurs have been able to grow bigger.

via Entrepreneurship in India: Ready, steady, go | The Economist.

19/04/2015

Enforcing environmental rules: Saving fish and baring teeth | The Economist

ON TAKING over in February as China’s minister for environmental protection, Chen Jining said the country needed an environmental law that was “not a paper tiger” but rather a “sharp weapon with teeth of steel”. Early indications, among them the cancellation of a series of dam projects on the upper reaches of the Yangzi river, are that the former academic and university administrator intends to follow through on his fighting words.

State media have reported that the builders of the Yangzi’s Xiaonanhai dam—expected to cost 32 billion yuan ($5.1 billion) and to generate two gigawatts of electricity—were denied permission to continue because of the harm it would cause to a nature reserve that is the last remaining habitat for many species of rare fish. Work on its foundations began in 2012, but was halted while the environment ministry assessed the project. Two smaller dams on the same stretch of river were also rejected.

Activists in China welcomed the decision, saying it showed a new determination to enforce environmental rules. According to Ma Jin of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Chinese NGO in Beijing, the firms that applied to build the dams, led by the Three Gorges Project Corporation, had previously won permission for other dams that would endanger fish populations by arguing that the protected nature reserve near the Xiaonanhai project would guarantee their survival. That, he says, makes the project “particularly outrageous”.

via Enforcing environmental rules: Saving fish and baring teeth | The Economist.

19/04/2015

India issues fresh tax notice to Vodafone – report | Reuters

Tax authorities have issued a fresh notice to Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) seeking re-assessment of tax returns for assessment year 2009-2010, news channel ET Now reported on Saturday citing sources familiar with the development.

A man checks his mobile phone as he walks past a shop displaying the Vodafone logo on its shutter in Mumbai January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

The government in January said it would not appeal a regional court ruling in favour of Vodafone in a long-running dispute under which the taxmen had accused a unit of the British telecoms firm of under-pricing shares in a rights issue.

Vodafone has 30 days to respond to the fresh notice, the news channel’s report said. (bit.ly/1JUMvap)

However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in comments carried by Business Standard newspaper, said: “Barring a case that is pending under that law (Income Tax Act) or another case that has arisen now, I think we’ve put most issues to rest, as far as retrospective legislation is concerned.” (bit.ly/1EZM9Q7)

via India issues fresh tax notice to Vodafone – report | Reuters.

19/04/2015

E-commerce boom spurs record demand for VRL Logistics IPO | Reuters

A $75-million market debut for Indian parcel delivery firm VRL Logistics Ltd IPO-VRLL.NS has encountered record demand, drawing bids for more than 70 times the number of shares on offer late last week, as investors bet on an e-commerce boom.

Subscription levels were the highest in nearly eight years, stock exchange data showed, roughly the highest since the global financial crisis hit.

Analysts said strong demand was helped by the successful listing of renewable energy firm INOX Wind (INWN.NS), which has lifted primary market sentiment, and growing demand for logistics services as Indians buy more online.

The sale received bids amounting to 74.26 times the number of shares on offer by the last day on Friday, stock exchange data showed.

via E-commerce boom spurs record demand for VRL Logistics IPO | Reuters.

19/04/2015

U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters

The United States and China contributed most to record mountains of electronic waste such as cellphones, hair dryers and fridges in 2014 and less than a sixth ended up recycled worldwide, a U.N. study said on Sunday.

Overall, 41.8 million tonnes of “e-waste” — defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — were dumped around the globe in 2014 and only an estimated 6.5 million tonnes were taken for recycling, the United Nations University (UNU) said.

“Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’, a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials,” said David Malone, the U.N. under-secretary-general and rector of UNU.

The report estimated that the discarded materials, including gold, silver, iron and copper, was worth some $52 billion.

The United States led e-waste dumping with 7.1 million tonnes in 2014, ahead of China on 6.0 million and followed by Japan, Germany and India, it said.

The United States, where individual states run e-waste laws, reported collection of 1 million tonnes for 2012 while China said it collected 1.3 million tonnes of equipment such as TVs, refrigerators and laptops in 2013.

via U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters.

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