Archive for ‘India alert’

16/04/2014

India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek

India signed contracts to purchase solar power from companies building 700 megawatts of capacity awarded in a national auction.

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts...

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts peak near Thüngen/Bavaria Deutsch: Solarpark/photovoltaikanlage mit 19 Megawatt Spitzenleistung nahe Thüngen/Bayern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The government is waiting to sign purchase agreements for the remaining 50 megawatts from the auction in February, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said today in an interview in New Delhi. The agreements, which lock in rates for the power generated for 25 years, bind developers to complete the plants within 13 months.

Two developers dropped out after winning bids, including St. Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison Inc. (SUNE:US), which said last week it gave up a 20-megawatt project because local equipment shortages and prices make it unviable. The other developer that Kapoor didn’t identify forfeited its project after failing to get permission from its parent to proceed, he said.

via India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek.

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16/04/2014

Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight

Campaign season in India means it’s also promise season, and political parties aren’t short on pledges for what they would do if they come to power after election results come out in May. From the Tamil Nadu-based MDMK party’s pledge to rename the country “The United States of India” to the Odisha-based BJD‘s promise to “guarantee” development projects, there are plenty of promises floating around to help parties capture, retain or regain power.

There has been plenty of coverage of the manifestos from the biggest national parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, so here are some highlights from the others.

Lok Satta Party: This Andhra Pradesh-based party has promised to nationalise the sale of liquor and to limit the number of stores where people can buy it. Families of liquor “victims,“ meanwhile, would get pensions.

BJD: In power for more than 10 years, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha has promised to guarantee primary infrastructure needs in the state. It will also make it mandatory for industry to provide shares in projects to people whose land they buy for their projects.

DMK: The former ally of the ruling Congress party will oppose reservation, the setting aside of government jobs for members of groups recognized by the government as disadvantaged, based on economic criteria. It would, however, support caste-based reservation in the private sector. It also proposes that only qualified Tamil people be appointed as India’s envoys to the nations where Tamils live in considerable numbers. The party has also included not “bashing” other parties in their pitch.

AIADMK: Tamil Nadu’s ruling party says it would stop the sale and privatisation of state-owned companies. To stabilise the rupee, the AIADMK says it would not encourage short-term capital flows and will support long-term foreign direct investment.

CPI-Marxist: This Leftist party favours the production of goods for mass consumption rather than “unsustainable” luxury goods. It also would enforce a code of conduct for all elected representatives against sexist language. CPI-M favours revising the India-U.S. nuclear deal and will seek removal of nuclear weapons from the U.S. military base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

TMC: West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, has promised it will provide a stipend and medical insurance to artists and folk performers. It has also promised to form a court to try human rights violations.

TRS: With the new state of Telangana to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti says it will give a special “Telangana increment” to government employees to celebrate the state’s formation later this year.

JD(U): The Janata Dal (United) manifesto has promised legislation for the safety and security of migrant workers in India. It wants a commission to study the socio-economic condition of poor upper caste people to draft welfare measures for them.

MDMK: An ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, MDMK promises to rename the country “United States of India” to put emphasis on the federal structure. It wants to lift the ban on the LTTE, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party, or common man party, is interested in animal welfare as well as human. It wants to protect the dignity of animals used in industries “for food, clothing and entertainment.” To encourage young people to join politics, it favours allowing 21-year-olds to run for office (the current minimum age is 25). Apart from laws to deal with violence against women, it promises long-term public education programmes to end the culture of gender-based discrimination. It has some provisions to regulate media as well.

BSP: The Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh, which counts millions of Dalits among its supporters, did not release any election pitch. “We do not release manifestos as we believe more in doing real development work for the people rather than making hollow claims which are never realised,” party chief and former UP Chief Minister Mayawati declared at a rally.

via Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight.

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15/04/2014

As Growth Slows in India, Rural Workers Have Fewer Incentives to Move to Cities – WSJ.com

As a teenager, Ram Singh left this remote rural village and moved to fast-growing New Delhi to chase the spoils of his country’s economic boom.

For 14 years, he toiled in tiny, primitive factories making everything from auto parts to components for light switches. His wages barely kept pace with the cost of living and eventually he gave up on city life.

Today, he is back on the farm, scratching out a living from a small plot of land near his birthplace where he grows corn, wheat, potatoes and mustard.

“Whenever someone leaves his village for the city, he thinks, ‘I will earn money,’” says Mr. Singh, who isn’t certain of his age but says he is around 30 years old. “Everyone has dreams, but it’s not always in their power to turn them into reality.”

Just a few years after India was hailed as a rising economic titan poised to rival China—even surpass it—growth in gross domestic product has slowed to a pace not seen in a decade. The Indian economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.7% in the last quarter of 2013. That may be sizzling by Western standards, but it is a serious comedown for a country whose GDP growth peaked at 11.4% in 2010. Inflation is high, workers aren’t finding jobs, and industrialization and urbanization are stalling.

via As Growth Slows in India, Rural Workers Have Fewer Incentives to Move to Cities – WSJ.com.

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11/04/2014

India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist

LICK your lips: mangoes are coming into season in Andhra Pradesh, piled up on roadside fruit stalls. Hyderabadis claim theirs are the country’s sweetest. So too are the bribes paid by the state’s politicians to get people to vote. Since early March state police have seized more money from politicians aiming to buy votes—590m rupees ($10m)—than the rest of India combined. An excited local paper talks of “rampant cash movement”, reporting that police do not know where to store the bundles of notes, bags of gold and silver, cricket kits, saris and lorry-loads of booze.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state, is due to hold an impressive series of polls in the next few weeks—municipal elections and then both state-assembly and national ones. Many politicians keep up old habits by paying voters, especially rural ones, to turn out. A villager can stand to pocket a handy 3,000 rupees per vote. Economists predict a mini-boom in consumer goods.

If this is the lamentable face of Indian politicking, the hopeful side is that, increasingly, skulduggery is being pursued. A worker with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Hyderabad says police looking for illicit cash stopped and searched her car five times in a single drive one day last week.

This may be because in Andhra Pradesh, unusually, politicians are not currently running the show. The state is under “president’s rule”, with bureaucrats in charge, ahead of its breaking into two on June 2nd. Then, a new state, Telangana, will emerge to become India’s 29th, covering much of the territory once ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the fabulously wealthy Muslim dynasty whose reign India’s army ended in 1948. A rump coastal state gets to keep the name Andhra Pradesh. For a decade Hyderabad will serve as joint capital.

The split will have a bearing on the national election. In 2009 the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress, returned to national office on the back of two whopping southern victories. Congress scooped 33 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state. Its ally next door in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), got 18 seats. Both now face heavy defeats. “The south’s biggest impact nationally will be negative, in not voting for Congress”, says K.C. Suri of Hyderabad University.

via India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek

The results of national elections in India, expected to be announced on May 12, could mean good news for Japan and not such good news for China. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition party, has long been a favorite of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to foster military and economic ties with India. Modi, the front-runner in the contest to be India’s prime minister, and Abe also share an antagonism for China. Modi has criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being too accommodating toward China and has pledged to take a tougher line on issues such as the border dispute between the two countries that has festered for decades.

A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidate

Abe has clashed with China in a dispute over the ownership of several islands in the East China Sea. When it comes to the Chinese, “the Japanese are extremely apprehensive,” says P.K. Ghosh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “It doesn’t take a genius to say India can be the largest friend of the Japanese.”

Abe has long treated Modi as a kindred spirit. Even after the George W. Bush administration put Modi on a travel blacklist for his alleged role in the 2002 riots that killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat state, Abe welcomed Modi to Japan. The Indian politician, who was exonerated by the Indian courts, visited in 2007 during Abe’s first term as prime minister and then again when Abe was opposition leader in 2012. “Japan has worked very hard to improve relations with India,” says retired Indian General Vinod Saighal, author of Revitalising Indian Democracy. With a Modi victory, he says, relations “will get a boost, certainly.”

via India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

“Even assuming Modi has been responsible for XYZ, we don’t see an alternative,” Hegde said. Referencing a Twitter post by music director Vishal Dadlani, he said, “If I had to choose between a moron and a murderer, I’d probably choose the murderer.”

Not everyone states their case for supporting Modi in such blunt terms, but interviews with young professionals in Bangalore, the information technology hub known as India’s Silicon Valley reveals a calculation in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that omits the riots from the equation.

For many people in Bangalore’s highly educated workforce, Modi is a welcome alternative to what is seen as an ineffective and corruption-tainted Congress party. They are part of what some media organizations have called a “Modi wave” that opinion polls, however unreliable, say could bring the BJP to power and push out the Gandhi-Nehru family’s Congress party.

Many BJP supporters see Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader and the Gandhi family’s heir apparent, as ill suited for the job of running a country that is trying to revive its slowing economic growth and to provide opportunities for prosperity to its burgeoning middle class. (A note for people unfamiliar with this round of Lok Sabha elections: Indians will vote for members of Parliament in their local constituencies, and the winning party’s leadership names its ministers when it forms a new government.)

via Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight.

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09/04/2014

India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek

Indian elections aren’t known for their clarity. Messy, cacophonous affairs, they stretch across months and almost invariably result in fragmented verdicts. Political groupings are opportunistic, driven by personality rather than issues; competing party platforms are often indistinguishable.

A shopkeeper displays water sprinklers with portraits of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi in Chennai, India<br /><br />
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<p>This year’s parliamentary elections—the nation’s 16th since independence, running from April 7 to May 12—are proving an exception. The distinctions between India’s leading parties are unusually sharp; the race is shaping up as a genuine battle of ideas, a real debate over the direction of the nation.</p>
<p>India’s two main parties are led by men who in many ways couldn’t be more different. <a class=Rahul Gandhi, the standard-bearer for the ruling Indian National Congress party, is the scion of a distinguished family that includes three former prime ministers. At 43, he’s also the candidate of youth. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is ahead in most polls, is 63, a self-made man, and an experienced administrator who has served for more than 12 years as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Gandhi espouses a brand of secular, inclusive politics; Modi is viewed with suspicion by many for a series of bloody communal riots that took place under his watch in Gujarat. (The Indian courts exonerated him of personal involvement.)

via India’s Election Choice: Growth Economy or Welfare State – Businessweek.

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08/04/2014

Singapore Airlines to Start First-Ever A380 Superjumbo Flights into India – India Real Time – WSJ

Singapore Airlines Ltd.C6L.SG +0.68% will be the first commercial carrier to operate Airbus A380 superjumbos into India next month, after authorities there lifted a years-long ban on the world’s biggest jetliner.

The first A380 delivered to Singapore Airlines arrives at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse Blagnac, southern France, in this file picture taken October 15, 2007. Reuters

Singapore’s flag carrier says starting from May 30 it will deploy the double-decker A380, which seats up to 471 passengers, on daily flights to New Delhi and Mumbai, India’s two largest aviation hubs.

Those flights will replace two existing daily services currently flown by smaller Boeing 777 aircraft that are timed about 90 minutes apart, helping boost cost efficiencies for the airline. Another daily 777 service to both cities will remain unchanged, according to the airline.

Major airlines have been lobbying to fly the A380 into India since the aircraft’s commercial launch more than six years ago. Analysts say it will help alleviate worsening congestion at India’s major international gateways, particularly since the number of passengers is expected to rise in the coming years.

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India prevented the A380’s entry for years because the government feared that foreign carriers would gobble up passenger traffic from state-owned Air India and other domestic carriers using the large planes. None of India’s carriers operate the jumbo jet.

India’s civil-aviation ministry finally lifted the unofficial ban in January, permitting A380 flights to and from New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore as part of efforts to liberalize the aviation sector and revive growth.

Nine of the 10 airlines that currently operate A380s have scheduled flights into India, with at least five having expressed interest in flying the large jet into the country.

via Singapore Airlines to Start First-Ever A380 Superjumbo Flights into India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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07/04/2014

Two Visions for India’s Economy, Sort Of – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s national election, which kicked off Monday, is a contest of old-fashioned socialism versus market liberalism, of handouts to the poor versus pro-growth reforms that will benefit all. Right?

Sort of. At least judging by the two main contenders’ official platforms.

The Bharatiya Janata Party — out of power for a decade — looks set to win big this year, helped by its popular prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who promises to reboot India’s economy with a combination of smart policy and able administration.

But now that the BJP has at last released its election manifesto after multiple delays, it’s easier to see where exactly its economic policy ideas differ from the incumbent Congress party’s – and, perhaps more interestingly, where they don’t.

Both parties promise to revitalize India’s manufacturing sector, long a laggard amid the country’s economic rise. Both say they will implement a national goods and services tax, known elsewhere as a value-added tax. Both want to create a “single-window system” to expedite land, environmental, power and other approvals for investors. Both back the current system of food subsidies, though the BJP highlights that the program should be efficient and corruption-free.

And both parties want to build high-speed rail, stem inflation, modernize infrastructure, make housing affordable, create jobs, expand cities and make taxation more predictable. (Though the BJP wins style points for referring to retroactive taxes as “tax terrorism.”) The BJP even matches the splashiest item in Congress’s manifesto — a commitment to providing “universal and quality health care for all Indians” — with its own call for universal health care.

All of that said, the manifestos alone do give the BJP an edge in terms of structural reforms that many economists, businesses and investors have long craved from India’s government.

The party’s manifesto speaks of addressing “over-regulation” in business and “bottlenecks” in the delivery of public services. Its section on developing agriculture focuses more on investing in productivity-enhancing technology than on increasing government subsidies, which the Congress manifesto notes as a major achievement of its decade in office.

The BJP says it will “rationalize and simplify the tax regime,” which the party calls “currently repulsive for honest taxpayers.” The Congress manifesto merely reiterates its support for the Direct Tax Code, an earlier legislative effort to eliminate tax distortions and improve compliance that has stalled in Parliament’s lower house.

The BJP also says it will review India’s creaking labor laws, which it decries as “outdated, complicated and even contradictory.” The Congress manifesto, meanwhile, “recognizes the need for creating flexibilities in the labor market” while redoubling its commitment to “protecting the interests of labor through more progressive labor laws.” The World Bank said in a report last year that India’s “cumbersome and complex” labor policies “have unambiguously negative effects on economic efficiency.”

via Two Visions for India’s Economy, Sort Of – India Real Time – WSJ.

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07/04/2014

Facts and figures for India’s 2014 general election | India Insight

Voting in the 2014 election begins on April 7. More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — will be eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.

Voting will be held in nine stages, which will be staggered until May 12, and results are due to be announced on May 16. Elections to state assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously.

Around 930,000 polling stations will be set up for the month-long election using electronic voting machines, first introduced in 2004.

Uttar Pradesh has the most eligible voters (134 million); Sikkim the lowest (about 362,000). Male voters constitute 52.4 percent of the electorate but women voters outnumber men in eight regions — Puducherry, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Daman & Diu, Meghalaya, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh.

About 23 million eligible voters have been enrolled in the 18 to 19 age group, nearly 3 percent of India’s voters.

Of India’s 814.5 million eligible voters, 28,314 identify themselves as transgender and their gender is listed as “other”. There are 11,844 non-resident Indians registered to vote in the election this year.

Since introducing photo voter ID cards and electoral rolls in 2009, 98 percent of India’s eligible voters have the former, 96 percent have the latter.

Electronic voting machine security includes: transported under armed escort and stored in strong rooms, with a double lock system and guarded 24×7 by armed police, and CCTV coverage. Also, parties/candidates allowed to keep a watch on them.

Nearly 10 million officials (including police for security) will be deployed.

Uttar Pradesh has the most Lok Sabha seats (80) while the states of Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and the union territories have one seat each.

A candidate can spend up to 7 million rupees ($116,350) for his election campaign in Delhi and all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim. For these states and other union territories, the limit is 5.4 million rupees ($90,000).

A candidate for the Lok Sabha makes a deposit of 25,000 rupees ($415) at the time of filing the nomination. If the candidate fails to get a sixth of the total valid votes polled, this amount is forfeited. Nearly 85 percent of the candidates lost their security deposit in the 2009 election.

In the 15th Lok Sabha, around 78 percent of the members have a graduate, post-graduate degree or a doctorate.

Malkajgiri in Andhra Pradesh is the biggest Indian constituency in terms of voters with around 2.95 million electors; Lakshadweep is the smallest with 47,972 voters. In Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh, Hukani polling station has 22 registered voters. Officials travel 22 km on foot to get there.

In the 2009 election, 363 political parties took part. The Bahujan Samaj Party contested the maximum number of seats (500 out of 543), followed by the Congress (440) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (433).

The last general election had a voter turnout of over 58 percent. Nagaland (89.99 percent) had the highest turnout while Jammu & Kashmir (39.68 percent) saw the lowest.

Namo Narain of the Congress party beat his BJP rival by 317 votes in Rajasthan’s Tonk Sawai Madhopur constituency — the smallest margin of victory in the 2009 election.

“Basic Minimum Facilities” for polling stations include drinking water, shed, toilet, ramp for disabled voters.

Voters will have a “None of the Above” option on voting machines.

The indelible election ink that is applied while electors cast their votes is manufactured by Mysore Paints & Varnish Limited, a Karnataka government undertaking.

Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as the favourite in opinion polls, which reflect waning support for Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party that wrested power from the BJP in 2004.

Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, will also be challenged by a clutch of regional parties that are vying for power as part of a “third front” opposed to both the Congress and the BJP.

Also in the race is Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, which made a stunning debut in Delhi elections last year and is now eyeing a national presence on the anti-corruption plank.

via Facts and figures for India’s 2014 general election | India Insight.

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