Archive for ‘India 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.

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

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.

16/04/2015

The Statesman: Roadmap for India-Canada free trade pact by Sept: Modi

India and Canada on Wednesday expressed commitment to have a free trade pact, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying a roadmap will be laid for the market opening agreement by September.

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Modi said the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) will also be concluded soon.

“I am confident that we can conclude the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement very soon.

“We will also implement the roadmap to conclude the Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement by September 2015,” he said at a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

He said Canada has the potential to partner India’s economic transformation and “it exists in a new environment in India which is open, predictable, stable and easy to do business in”.

Prime Minister Harper and I are absolutely committed to establishing a new framework for economic partnership. I am pleased that we have made rapid progress on long-pending agreements,” Modi said.

On the free trade pact, Harper said there are many issues in this to be resolved, but “we are committed to see it through”.

Harper further said there was no reason why Canada should not have a free trade pact with India which “is a vibrant democracy. Nothing precludes that”.

The Canadian Prime Minister said while the trade between the two countries has increased, “it is still not as much as it should be”.

He expressed confidence that nuclear agreement signed today with India will raise the bilateral trade volume further.

The bilateral trade increased to USD 5.18 billion in 2013-14 from USD 4.83 billion in previous year.

via The Statesman: Roadmap for India-Canada free trade pact by Sept: Modi.

14/04/2015

The Statesman: Let’s make India Ambedkar dreamt of: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday paid tributes to to BR Ambedkar on his 124th birth anniversary, and said, “Let us pledge to dedicate ourselves to creating India that Ambedkar dreamt of…an India that will make him proud”.

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“I bow to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary – Jai Bhim,” the prime minister said in a message.

“Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar is a yug purush (man of the era) who lives in the hearts and minds of crores of Indians. His life is characterised by unmatched determination and a firm commitment towards social justice. He made a mark as a bright lawyer, scholar, writer and intellectual who always spoke his mind,” Modi said.

He added: “Who can forget Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution in the making of our Constitution? He served the nation and the people tirelessly and selflessly.”

“Let us pledge to dedicate ourselves to creating the India that Dr. Ambedkar dreamt of…an India that will make him proud.”

via The Statesman: Let’s make India Ambedkar dreamt of: Modi.

14/04/2015

India will set Climate Change conference agenda: Modi – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has slammed developed nations for questioning India over global warming despite it having the lowest per capita emission of gases and asserted that India will set the agenda for the Climate Change conference to be held in France in September.

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser (centre) smiles as a trainee hands over a small Berlin TV Tower to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to the Siemens company in Berlin on Monday.

“I am surprised that the world is scolding us even though our per capita gas emission is the lowest…,” he said while addressing a reception for the Indian community here last night.

Underlining that preservation of nature was in the customs and tradition of Indians which they have done for ages, Mr. Modi said, “The whole world is posing questions to us. Those who have destroyed climate are asking questions to us. If anybody has served the nature, it is Indians.”

He asserted that India is “not answerable to the world” and will tell them that “you destroyed nature.”

Underlining that India should lead the way to deal with climate change, the Prime Minister said, “India will set the agenda for the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP)” meeting to be held in Paris in September.

Referring to India’s traditional practices and traditions, Mr. Modi said it is the only country which has served the nature the most as Indians even treat even river as mother and worship trees.

“Treating the nature well comes naturally for Indians and they (developed nations) are teaching us,” he said.

The Prime Minster said the solutions to the “crisis” on account of global warming are in India’s traditions and customs.

“We should go out with confidence,” he said, asking the Indian diaspora to contribute in this regard.

At the same time, he said India also wants solutions to the global problem of climate change. In this regard, he spoke about his government’s initiatives to tap clean and renewable energy for generating 175 Gigawatts of electricity from it.

One Gigawatt is equal to 1,000 MW.

“Earlier, we did not go beyond Megawatts but in 10 months, we have at least started thinking of Gigawatts,” he said.

via India will set Climate Change conference agenda: Modi – The Hindu.

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