Archive for ‘India alert’

28/01/2015

BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge

Three-quarters of the world’s homes have a fridge – an appliance that can revolutionise a family’s life. A tailor in one Indian village has just become the first person in his community to own one – something he has dreamed of for 10 years.

Santosh choosing a fridge

Santosh Chowdhury is pacing up and down speaking into his mobile phone.

“How much longer? It’s left past the auto-rickshaw stand, yes that’s right,” he shouts, and then continues his nervous pacing.

It’s a big day for him and indeed for the village of Rameshwarpur, just outside Calcutta in north-east India.

Santosh has bought a new fridge – not just his first but also the first in the entire community of 200 people. “Owning a fridge is quite rare in a village like ours,” he says.

The lack of fridges in Rameshwarpur reflects the situation across the whole of India. Only one in four of the country’s homes has one. That compares to an average of 99% of households in developed countries.

But change can be rapid when linked to an emerging middle class. In 2004, 24% of households in China owned a fridge. Ten years later this had shot up to 88%.

“Ours is the first generation to own a fridge in my family,” says Santosh. “No one in my father’s and grandfather’s time had ever seen one.”

Rameshwarpur has a distinctly rural feel. People bathe in a pond in the middle of the village, children fly kites in the dusty lanes. The homes are little more than simple huts, made of mud and brick. But the village has electricity and many houses have televisions.

Santosh works as a tailor. He lives in a modest, two-room hut which doubles as his home and workplace. “I don’t have a regular job as such,” he says. “Sometimes I also work part-time in a factory. I make about three to four dollars a day.”

Life is quite hard, especially for his wife Sushoma.

She cooks lunch, stirring a pot of rice on a wood fire outside their hut. It’s something she does every day because they have no way of storing leftovers. So Santosh has to go the market early each morning to shop for groceries.

He’s always wanted to make life easier for his wife and has been dreaming of buying a fridge for 10 years. “Owning one will be so convenient,” he says. “You don’t have to buy vegetables every day, you can store food – especially in the summer.”

So he’s been saving hard, putting away a bit of money every month for a purchase that costs more than a month’s salary. “I don’t make that much money, that’s why it’s taken me so long. But now I have enough,” he says, smiling.

At one of Calcutta’s high street stores, about 15km from his home, Santosh had several models to choose from. Peering inside, he ran his fingers along the side of a bright red model.

“It was quite confusing. It was my first time you know. I couldn’t figure out which one to get,” he says shyly. “My wife wanted a red one. I wanted one that will consume the least power. We need to keep our bills down.”

Finally, the deal was struck. Santosh got a discount because it was the final week of the winter sales. The price was 11,000 rupees (£120) – but more importantly, he was able to pay in instalments, having paid just under half the money up front.

“No one pays cash any more like they used to,” says store manager Pintoo Mazumdar. “Everyone can get a loan from the bank or the store – all you need is a bank statement and ID. That’s why so many lower income people can afford to buy a fridge these days.”

 

FRIDGEONOMICS

Fridge ownership around the world

76% Global average

65% Asia Pacific

99% Europe and North America

87% Latin America

63% Middle East and Africa

Source: Euromonitor

 

Santosh’s fridge finally arrives on the back of a cycle rickshaw. He walks along next to it with a broad smile. Many of the villagers come out on to the lane as well, craning their necks to get a better look.

“Careful, careful,” he cries out as a couple of them help carry the fridge into his house.

Then it’s time for a religious ceremony.

His wife applies a dab of vermillion to the fridge, to keep away evil spirits, and then blows on a conch shell to seek divine blessings and welcome the fridge into their home. The fridge has pride of place – next to Santosh’s sewing machine and their tiny television set.

They simply cannot stop smiling.

“We’ve dreamt of this moment for so long,” says his wife Sushoma. “Some of our neighbours have already asked us if they, too, can store some food in our fridge. “And I can’t wait to drink cold water in the summer.”

As Santosh shows off his fridge everyone crowds around, excited. “Imagine, they won’t have to shop for fresh vegetables every day,” says one woman. “I’m thinking of getting one too,” another man says.

It’s a special moment for the Chowdhurys. This acquisition could potentially transform their lives. “I can focus on finding more work and not worry about buying food for the family,” Santosh says. “My wife will get more free time and perhaps she can give me a hand as well.”

With those words, he opens his fridge and places the first contents inside – tomatoes, an aubergine, eggs and some milk.

via BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge.

28/01/2015

Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Indian Civilian Award – India Real Time – WSJ

Bill and Melinda Gates received one of India’s highest civilian awards for their work to promote global health and development. The Gates are among four foreigners and 16 Indians to receive the Padma Bhushan award “for distinguished service of high order,” according to a statement from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

“We are honored to receive the Padma Bhushan award for social work alongside so many distinguished awardees,” said Mr. and Mrs. Gates in a statement Wednesday

Their foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, started work in India in 2003 to prevent HIV/AIDS. It has since expanded its work to areas including vaccines, maternal and child health, sanitation and agricultural development and has an office in New Delhi. The foundation has an asset trust endowment of $42 billion.

“Our work is guided by the belief that all lives have equal value. We are excited to see the extraordinary progress that India is making in improving the lives of its people,” said the Gates’ statement. “We applaud the government of India’s commitment and look forward to continuing to partner with them to build an equitable system where women and children survive, thrive and reach their full potential.”

The Padma Bhushan is conferred on Jan. 26, Republic Day, each year by the president of India  for service in fields including  art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service.

Other winners this year include political commentator Swapan Dasgupta, Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve and filmmaker Jahnu Barua from the northeastern state of Assam.

The Padma Vibhushan, a higher award conferred on the same day, was awarded to nine people including Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and BJP co-founder L. K. Advani.

via Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Indian Civilian Award – India Real Time – WSJ.

27/01/2015

Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Honeywell CEO Dave Cote (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) laugh at a remark by U.S. President Barack Obama (R) during a CEO Roundtable and Forum at the India U.S. Business Summit in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS-Jim Bourg

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first U.S. president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism.

It rained as troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defence ties.

Both sides hope to build enough momentum to forge a relationship that will help balance China’s rise by catapulting democratic India into the league of major world powers.

The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio programme together and spent hours speaking at different events, but despite the bonhomie, Obama and Modi reminded business leaders, including the head of PepsiCo, that trade ties were still fragile.

India accounts for only 2 percent of U.S. imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of U.S. trade with China.

via Obama ends day of Indian pageantry with $4 billion pledge | Reuters.

26/01/2015

Five firsts at Republic Day 2015 – The Hindu

The 66th Republic Day saw many firsts. Here are a few:

1. All-women contingents of the Army, Navy and Air Force march through Rajpath for the first time

The Army contingent, led by Captain Divya Ajith from Chennai, wants to serve in combat roles. “We believe we are equal and second to none. We have already marched for the first time on the Army Day and now another first would be the Republic Day parade. So, yes, we do wish to be in the combat force,” she said.

2. The first time that a U.S. President is Chief Guest for the parade

“This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over…invited President Obama to be the 1st US President to grace the occasion as Chief Guest,” Narendra Modi tweeted in November last year.

3. The President and the chief guest arrived in different motorcades, a departure from the standard practice of arriving together

4. CRPF shows off Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) used in anti-Naxal operations

5. The long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter jet on display

via Five firsts at Republic Day 2015 – The Hindu.

26/01/2015

Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ

Even the pinstripes on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suit cannot escape scrutiny.

The yellow, almost-gold, stripes that appear against the navy blue wool fitted Indian jacket and pants he wore on Sunday were not simple stitching. They were Mr. Modi’s name embroidered into the fabric, said a person familiar with Mr. Modi’s wardrobe.

Over and over again the lines repeated the words: “Narendra Damodardas Modi.” His middle name is his father’s first name: Damodardas Mulchand, a tea seller.

Mr. Modi, wore the pinstriped suit to receive U.S. President Barack Obama at the Indian presidential palace on Sunday. Mr. Obama is on an official three-day visit to India.

He landed in the capital New Delhi on Sunday morning where he was greeted by Mr. Modi in a break with protocol. The pair also hugged.

Mr. Modi, who changed his outfit three times on Sunday, started with a cream colored shirt paired with a saffron shawl for the airport visit. He then changed into that pinstriped fitted Indian jacket with his name all over it for a luncheon he hosted in Mr. Obama’s honor at Hyderabad house. After lunch the pair walked in the garden and were photographed drinking tea together.

Later that evening, Mr. Modi donned a dove-grey fitted Indian jacket for a state banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s palace.

For the Republic Day parade on Monday Mr. Modi paired a black fitted jacket with an elaborate turban, a nod to his Gujarati heritage. The red, green and orange hand-tied turban, speckled with white dots, is a a tie-dye technique called Bandhani that is practiced mostly in the western Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mr. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat for more than a decade.

But the Obama visit’s wardrobe will probably be best-remembered for those stripes on Mr. Modi’s second outfit. They started a social media outrage especially on Twitter where some users described Mr. Modi as a narcissist for choosing to wear his name all over his jacket.

via Narendra Modi’s Suit and Its Message to Obama – India Real Time – WSJ.

22/01/2015

Now Is the Time to Start a Company in India says Pulse Founder – India Real Time – WSJ

Ankit Gupta, the co-founder of Pulse a news aggregating app that was purchased by LinkedIn, has spent the past two weeks traveling across India meeting startup founders and trying to find out what is behind the recent surge in acquisitions of Indian companies by U.S.-based firms.

His conclusion? Now is the time to start a company in India, but if that sounds too risky, here are a few other ways he suggests you can contribute to the startup ecosystem.

Work for an Indian startup. There is a huge demand for good talent, especially at senior levels. Salaries over $200,000 aren’t unheard of.

Invest in startups. Your college network can be very effective in finding them. Angel list and termsheet.io are good resources as well.

Use Indian products and send them feedback. Help Indian products get distribution in your country.

Signup for this newsletter Mr. Gupta started to stay informed about new products launching in India.

via Now Is the Time to Start a Company in India says Pulse Founder – India Real Time – WSJ.

22/01/2015

India wants to reduce subsidies to cut expenditure – Jaitley | Reuters

India wants to reduce its subsidy bill, estimated at near two percent of its gross domestic product, to cut down state expenditure and transfer funds to other sectors, the finance minister said.

“Subsidies for the poor will remain, but we intend to rationalise it,” Arun Jaitley said at an event in Davos on Thursday.

“Elimination of subsidies in India, where one-third of the people are still living in poverty conditions, is not possible, is not desirable.”

Jaitley will present his first full-year budget for 2015/16 fiscal year on Feb. 28.

via India wants to reduce subsidies to cut expenditure – Jaitley | Reuters.

21/01/2015

India’s Poor Are More Upwardly Mobile Than You Think – India Real Time – WSJ

Despite India’s reputation as a country where millions of families are stuck in grinding poverty, a new World Bank report shows that a surpassingly large portion of the South Asian nation’s poor population has been finding its way out of poverty.

The report titled “Addressing Inequality in South Asia,”– which looked at the gaps between the haves and have-nots in India and its neighbors– looked at different income groups and how they changed over the five year period up to March 31, 2010.

Over that period close to 40% of the people that had been classified as poor had clawed their way above the poverty line. Of course, the income mobility went both ways, but was not as bad on the down side. Around 15% of the people that had been previously classified as middle class or just above the poverty line fell into poverty over the five years.

via India’s Poor Are More Upwardly Mobile Than You Think – India Real Time – WSJ.

21/01/2015

India’s Tiger Population: Reading Between the Lines – India Real Time – WSJ

India this week cheered figures that showed it now has the largest tiger population in the world.

A 30.5% jump in the big cat headcount since the last census in 2011 means there are now 2,226 tigers in India – that’s 70% of all the tigers in the world.

“That is a huge success story,” Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar said. “We must be proud of our legacy and we must be proud of our efforts.”

But what the minister didn’t say was that the rate of tiger poaching has been increasing over the same time, according to figures from the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

The government says that between 2011 and 2014, there were 274 tiger deaths. Most of them –192 — lost to poaching or unexplained causes.   Authorities said poaching caused 83 of the total number of tiger deaths and acknowledged that they have not identified causes for 109 other deaths.

The WPSI says that those figures are an underestimate. According to data it has compiled, 110 tigers were killed by poachers between 2011 and 2014. Even that may be understating the actual number, says Tito Joseph, program manager at WPSI. “Because of demand for tiger products from other countries, we can only assume that some cases go undetected,” Mr. Joseph said. Those deaths that are unexplained could be as a result of poaching, he added.

via India’s Tiger Population: Reading Between the Lines – India Real Time – WSJ.

21/01/2015

As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters

When Sri Lanka unexpectedly turfed out President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an election this month, it was the biggest setback in decades for China’s expansion into South Asia – and a remarkable diplomatic victory for India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a campaign rally ahead of state assembly elections, at Ramlila ground in New Delhi January 10, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Despite New Delhi’s protestations, diplomats and politicians in the region say India played a role in organizing the opposition against pro-China Rajapaksa.

His successor, President Maithripala Sirisena, has said India is the “first, main concern” of his foreign policy and that he will review all projects awarded to Chinese firms, including a sea reclamation development in Colombo that would give Beijing a strategic toehold on India’s doorstep.

India has pushed back against China elsewhere in the region since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May, improving ties with Japan and Vietnam, both locked in territorial disputes with Beijing, and contesting a port project in Bangladesh that could otherwise have been a cakewalk for China.

The new robust diplomacy, which Modi calls “Act East”, has delighted Washington, which has been nudging India for years to dovetail with the U.S. strategic pivot toward the region.

When President Barack Obama makes a landmark visit to India starting Sunday, he will be the chief guest at New Delhi’s showpiece Republic Day military parade, and rarely for a presidential trip, is not scheduled to visit any other country before returning to Washington.

“What is appealing to me and my colleagues is the fact that Prime Minister Modi has undertaken to build from what has been a ‘Look East’ policy to an ‘Act East’ policy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel said in Washington last month.

“He has shown in word and deed his interest in involving India in the thinking and the affairs of the broader region. That’s very much to be welcomed.”

Washington made no bones about its distaste for Rajapaksa, who critics accuse of war crimes, corrruption and nepotism. But until last year India was indecisive, perhaps afraid of pushing the hero of the war against Tamil separatists even closer to China.

That changed in September, when Rajapaksa allowed a Chinese submarine to dock in Colombo, without informing India, as it was bound to under an existing agreement.

“That was the last straw,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters.

“He told Modi: “the next time I will keep you informed,”” the diplomat said, a promise that was broken when the submarine visited again in November.

In the build up to the Jan 8 election, India played a role in uniting Sri Lanka’s usually fractious opposition, for which the station chief of India’s spy agency was expelled, diplomatic and political sources say.

“At least that was the perception of Mahinda Rajapkasa,” said M.A. Sumanthiran, a prominent member of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of parties close to India. “He managed to get one of their top diplomats recalled.”

The Indian government denies any of its officers was expelled. But Sumanthiran said Modi had in a meeting encouraged the Tamil alliance to join forces with others in politics.

“The Indians realized that you can’t do business with this man and they were hoping for a change,” he said.

“FAMILY MATTER”

On Friday, Sri Lanka said it would review a $1.5 billion deal with China Communication Construction Co Ltd to build a 233 hectare patch of real estate on redeveloped land overlooking Colombo’s South Port.

In return, China was to get land on a freehold basis in the development. This is of particular concern for India, the destination for the majority of the trans shipment cargo through Colombo.

“The message is clear, that you do not ignore Indian security concerns,” said the Indian diplomatic source.

Modi is looking for similar good news elsewhere in South Asia. He has already visited Nepal twice, becoming the first Indian prime minister to travel to the Himalayan buffer state with China in 17 years, and signing long delayed power projects.

India has muscled into an $8 billion deep water port project that Bangladesh wants to develop in Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal, with the Adani Group, a company close to Modi, submitting a proposal in October. China Harbour Engineering Company, an early bidder, was previously the front-runner.

“Modi is willing to engage on long-term issues that stretch beyond India’s border, including maritime security in the South China Sea, as well as North Korea and Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria,” said Richard Rossow at policy think tank CSIS.

“That’s when we start to think about India as a regional global provider – or as a global provider of security.”

However, the bonhomie has limits – India and the United States do not see eye-to-eye on Pakistan, New Delhi’s traditional foe that enjoys substantial funding from Washington.

Tricky conflicts over trade and intellectual property hold back business, and India has limits to its ability to project force outside its immediate neighborhood.

But Modi’s policies mark a departure from India’s traditional non-aligned approach to foreign power blocs.

“Having the U.S. president at the Republic Day celebration is a good thing, he is blessing Modi,” said Mohan Guruswamy, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank.

“And that is a lesson to the Chinese that you have to mend your fences with us.”

via As Obama visits, signs that India is pushing back against China | Reuters.

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