Archive for ‘India alert’

22/07/2014

Armed bandits demand water in dry northern India – Businessweek

Armed bandits in drought-stricken northern India are threatening to kill hundreds of villagers unless they deliver 35 buckets of water each day to the outlaws in their rural hideouts.

Since the threats were delivered last week, 28 villages have been obeying the order, taking turns handing over what the bandits are calling a daily “water tax,” police said Monday.

“Water itself is very scarce in this region. Villagers can hardly meet their demand,” officer Suresh Kumar Singh said by telephone from Banda, a city on the southern border of central Uttar Pradesh state and caught within what is known in India as bandit country.

Though the number of bandits has declined drastically in recent decades, they are still common in the hard-to-reach forests and mountains of the Bundelkhand region. Banditry dates back some 800 years in India to when emperors still ruled.

The area is cut off from supply lines, leaving the bandits reliant on surrounding villages. Since 2007, it has been starved for rain, with the yearly monsoon bringing only half the usual number of 52 rainy days a year.

“A few bandits are still active in the ravines,” Singh said. “They ask for water, food and shelter from the villages.”

via Armed bandits demand water in dry northern India – Businessweek.

22/07/2014

BRICS Summit: A Show of Economic Might Is Nothing to Fear – Businessweek

As Brazilians were recovering last week from the World Cup, the country held another global event: the BRICS summit, a gathering of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The outcome was no doubt more pleasing to Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff than her country’s soccer performance. The countries agreed to set up a $50 billion “BRICS bank” to invest in development projects in the developing world, alongside a $100 billion pool of reserve currencies earmarked as “a kind of mini-IMF,” according to Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. It was a strong statement of the grouping’s growing global economic heft and a challenge to the order established by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

China President Xi Jinping being welcomed by President Rousseff at Planalto Palace in Brasilia

Some in the West have perceived that challenge as a threat. The U.S. has veto power over major decisions at the International Monetary Fund. Without European or American backing, it is almost impossible to get a loan through the World Bank. The North Atlantic powers will have no such say in the operations of the BRICS bank, another sign that the global balance of economic and financial power is shifting.

The BRICS do pose a threat, but their own development bank isn’t it. The more worrisome risk is that the BRICS won’t grow as quickly as they have in the past, that the grand plans hatched in Brazil will dwindle along with the economies supporting them. If pessimistic forecasts of Asian and Latin American economic performance turn out to be justified, that’s no reason for cheer in Washington or Brussels—collapsing growth in the developing world would be terrible news for the West.

via BRICS Summit: A Show of Economic Might Is Nothing to Fear – Businessweek.

17/07/2014

Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian – U.N. report – India Insight

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

People walk near a red ribbon sand sculpture created by Indian sand artist Patnaik on the eve of World AIDS Day in Odisha

The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the U.N. AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million.

Here are some facts and figures on India from the report:

India accounted for 51 percent of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8 percent of deaths worldwide.

via India Insight.

17/07/2014

Indian eatery run by murder convicts praised for politeness, hygiene – India Insight

As India’s capital baked under a heat wave this month, banker Gaurav Gupta sat down for lunch at a new air-conditioned restaurant, and was greeted by a smiling waiter who offered him chilled water and took his order — a traditional “thali” meal of flatbread, lentils, vegetables, rice and pickle.

Nothing unusual, except that the employee, like most of his co-workers, is a convicted murderer serving time in South Asia’s largest prison complex.

“Tihar Food Court” on Jail Road in west Delhi is part of a wide range of reform and rehabilitation initiatives undertaken at the Tihar prison. It opened in the first week of July on an “experimental basis” while waiting for formal clearances, and is located half a kilometre from the prisoners’ dormitories.

With a spacious interior lined with gleaming wooden tables and walls adorned with paintings by prisoners, the 50-seat restaurant is coming in for praise from customers, especially for being clean and for the polite behaviour of its employees, who were trained by the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, an autonomous body under the state government.

“The food is average. But the hygiene factor is really good, very clean. And it’s a good thing they are employing prisoners,” said Gaurav Gupta.

via India Insight.

16/07/2014

Hope floats for Delhi’s e-rickshaws after minister’s backing – India Insight

The office of the New Arcana India e-rickshaw company is not easy to find. It is in a nondescript building nestled among other nondescript buildings in West Subhash Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood of New Delhi.

If enthusiasm showed up on a map, it would be hard to miss the place. Inside on a recent Thursday, a meeting of Delhi’s Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association was in session. Steaming cups of tea were being handed out to members, mostly manufacturers of battery-operated rickshaws.

There are an estimated 100,000 such “e-rickshaws” working Delhi’s streets. Introduced in 2010 and operated by unlicensed drivers, they are a less environmentally harmful and cheap way to get around the city compared to traditional gas-powered autorickshaws and cars that are too expensive for many people to buy. They’re also easier on the operators than pulling a traditional rickshaw or riding a bicycle taxi. But transportation officials nearly made driving e-rickshaws illegal earlier this year in a bid to curb nightmarish traffic congestion and reckless driving.

via India Insight.

15/07/2014

In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ

In their first one-on-one meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about finding a resolution to the long-standing boundary dispute between the Asian neighbors, a goal that has eluded the two countries for decades.

In talks lasting 80 minutes, Mr. Modi told Mr. Xi that “it is necessary to resolve the boundary question,” Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said in a televised interview after the meeting in Brazil on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries. Pending that, Mr. Modi said, “peace and tranquility need to be maintained on the border,” according to Mr. Akbaruddin.

Mr. Xi called for “negotiated solutions” to the dispute at an early date, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. He also said the two countries “should join hands in setting global rules so as to raise the voice of developing countries,” Xinhua said.

China has reached out to the new Indian administration, led by Mr. Modi, at a time when its ties with other Asian countries including Japan and the Philippines have soured over territorial disputes. The Chinese foreign minister visited New Delhi last month, and Beijing’s premier was the first foreign leader to talk to Mr. Modi after his swearing-in as prime minister earlier this year, following national elections.

Ties between India and China have long been characterized by mistrust, and the sentiment appears to linger. More than seven in 10 Indians are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to military conflict, according a Pew Research Center survey published Monday.

Nearly half of all Indians think China’s growing economy is a bad thing for their country, and only 31% of Indians had a favorable view of China, the survey showed. By comparison, 55% of Indians had a favorable view of the U.S. and 43% had a favorable view of Japan.

Tensions between India and China boiled over into a brief war in 1962, following which China gained control of a 14,600-square-mile territory known as Aksai Chin. China claims another 35,000 square miles in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s northeast. Relations worsened last year when India alleged that Chinese troops had crossed into Indian-held territory in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, triggering a weekslong standoff.

On the campaign trail during national elections earlier this year, Mr. Modi promised to be tough on security issues. In a speech in February he warned China against having an “expansionist mindset.” In Mr. Modi’s first few weeks in office, his government has taken steps to boost infrastructure and connectivity on the Chinese border.

Mr. Modi’s China policy remains unclear, as does his ability and willingness to negotiate a border settlement, a process that has gone on for three decades. Special representatives appointed to work out a solution have so far held 17 rounds of talks.

The two countries signed an agreement last October aimed at easing hostilities on the disputed and ill-defined border, known as the Line of Actual Control, including commitments to ensure that patrols don’t escalate into military confrontations. But the agreement failed to impress security analysts in India, who said it was little more than a statement of intentions.

India is also worried about China’s growing influence in South Asia where New Delhi sees itself as the regional power. Mr. Modi has moved to revitalize India’s neighborhood ties, inviting South Asian leaders to his swearing-in and choosing Bhutan for his first foreign visit.  The government is also pushing to close India’s $40 billion trade deficit with China.

via In First Meeting, Modi and Xi Discuss Decades-Long Border Disputes – India Real Time – WSJ.

15/07/2014

Software products bring hot career choices as India looks beyond IT services | India Insight

When Zomato was setting up shop six years ago, the online restaurant search service had to woo engineers, but many weren’t interested in working for an unknown company. Instead, they wanted to work for larger and prestigious names. Slowly, that is changing.

Indian companies such as Zomato and Flipkart, which make their own technology products rather than provide services are becoming more attractive to the country’s engineering school graduates, and are hiring more people as they alter technology industry hiring patterns.

“We had to convince parents to let their kids work with us. Most people had no idea of what a products startup can offer,” said Gunjan Patidar, Zomato’s chief technology officer, talking about the company’s early days. “They know about Infosys and TCS because that’s where their cousins and friends have worked.”

Backed by Silicon Valley-based venture capitalists, these homegrown companies are not afraid to match salary packages offered by established foreign companies, and offer perks such as employee stock options.

Not everyone is born to be an engineer, but in India, many parents are determined to make it so for their children. India produces about 80,000 engineering graduates every year, according to Sandhya Chintala, vice president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies.

Engineering is considered a prestigious profession. In India’s close-knit family system, jobs can be associated with upward mobility, and can make a son or daughter a better marriage prospect. Children often have no say in the decision.

Working in information technology services with hundreds of thousands of employees, such as Tata Consultancy Services or Infosys, which handle other companies’ technology needs, has long been the easiest way for graduates to go abroad on job assignments, adding to their perceived social worth.

“I often say in India people first become engineers and then they decide what to do with their lives,” said Girish Mathrubootham, founder and chief executive of online customer support platform Freshdesk, which recently raised $31 million in funding from private equity firms Tiger Global, Accel Partners and Google Capital.

Freshdesk lost a potential employee in the early days to TCS because the employee’s parents wanted him to work for a well known company, Mathrubootham said. “Now we have an employee who went to work with Honeywell, but she came back within six months.”

via Software products bring hot career choices as India looks beyond IT services | India Insight.

11/07/2014

India’s ‘Plastic Man’ Chemist Turns Litter Into Paved Roads – Businessweek

For as far as the eye can see, there’s stinking, smoking, untreated garbage. It’s concentrated in the municipal dump, in the South Indian city of Madurai, but not contained by it. The surrounding fields are also piled with trash. Stray dogs nibble at mounds of rotting food. The trees are denuded and covered with shredded plastic, the blue and pink and yellow bags like some kind of sinister confetti.

India's 'Plastic Man' Turns Litter Into Paved Roads

The road to the dump, and beyond it to Madurai’s airport, is like a Hollywood vision of dystopian ruin: lifeless, black, choked with human refuse. And that’s why Rajagopalan Vasudevan’s enthusiasm is so jarring. As he makes his way through the rubbish, he’s like a child on a treasure hunt. “Wonderful resource,” he says, admiring a jumble of plastic bags, jerrycans, and torn food packets. “With all this plastic, I could lay the whole road to the airport.”

It is difficult to exaggerate India’s garbage problem. Jairam Ramesh, the nation’s former environment minister, has said that if there were a “Nobel prize for dirt and filth,” India would win it. As much as 40 percent of the country’s municipal waste remains uncollected, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Of the waste that is collected, almost none is recycled. Most of it sits in open dumps such as the one in Madurai, leaching into the soil and contaminating groundwater. Some of it is burned, releasing dioxins and other toxic chemicals into the air.

Much of India’s garbage is made up of plastic—a scourge of the nation’s new consumer economy. The country’s Central Pollution Control Board says more than 15,000 tons of plastic waste are generated daily. Although the nation’s per capita consumption of plastic is low compared with that of the U.S., it’s expected to double over the next five years as India continues to develop. This poses huge environmental, social, and economic challenges. As the Supreme Court of India recently observed: “We are sitting on a plastic time bomb.”

Vasudevan sees an opportunity. A professor of chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering, near Madurai, he insists that plastic gets a bad rap. Rather than an incipient environmental calamity, plastic, in Vasudevan’s opinion, is a “gift from the gods”; it’s up to humans to use it wisely. And he’s devised a way to transform common plastic litter—not only thicker acrylics and bottles but also grocery bags and wrappers—into a partial substitute for bitumen in asphalt.

In recent years his method has been gaining recognition. He’s become known as Plastic Man and travels throughout India instructing engineers how to apply it. The college holds a patent for his technique but often licenses it for free. To date, more than 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) of plastic roads have been laid in at least 11 states. The Central Pollution Control Board and the Indian Roads Congress, two leading government bodies, have endorsed the method.

via India’s ‘Plastic Man’ Chemist Turns Litter Into Paved Roads – Businessweek.

11/07/2014

Flipkart Fights to Keep India E-Commerce Lead Over Amazon – Businessweek

In 2007, when Indian software engineers Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal were starting their online bookstore Flipkart.com out of a two-bedroom apartment, they faced a challenge Amazon.com (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos never had: how to collect payment. At first the two, who aren’t related, accepted credit cards, but because few Indians use them, they needed a way to conduct e-commerce in cash. Payment-on-delivery was the obvious solution, but Flipkart didn’t want third-party couriers to carry large quantities of its money. So in 2010 the company decided to remake itself as a version of both Amazon and United Parcel Service (UPS).

A courier for Flipkart finishes loading his backpack as he prepares to deliver packages at a distribution hub in Bangalore

Becoming a delivery service brought a slew of infrastructure problems. India has no standardized street address system, and road conditions are rough. Often a building name, street, and series of landmarks are needed to locate a house. And customers have to be home to receive a package. “You cannot leave anything outside the door, because it will just disappear,” says Ashok Banerjee, Flipkart’s former vice president for logistics, now chief technology officer for e-business at Symantec (SYMC) in California.

The entrepreneurs looked at distribution as a technology problem. “The advantage we had was we were not a logistics company trying to do e-commerce,” says Mekin Maheshwari, head of human resources. “Because we were creating the systems completely in-house, we could actually solve it.” With venture funding from Tiger Global Management, Flipkart’s engineers developed systems to determine the best warehouse locations; it has six across the country. It alerts customers by text several hours before a scheduled delivery and has a lab dedicated to improving the final stage of deliveries, from local warehouses to buyers.

via Flipkart Fights to Keep India E-Commerce Lead Over Amazon – Businessweek.

11/07/2014

India to Spend $2.2 Billion on Water Supplies, Ganges – Businessweek

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government today pledged 131 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) in spending on water projects to improve supplies and the condition of the Ganges, India’s largest river.

Ganges .. India

Ganges .. India (Photo credit: Nick Kenrick .)

Asia’s third-biggest economy will develop watersheds, build more pumping stations and start to clean the Ganga, blighted by raw sewage along much of its 2,525-kilometer (1,570-mile) route, as India endures a year of “unpredictable” monsoons, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

The government will use 36 billion rupees to improve drinking supplies for about 20,000 villages and small towns affected by arsenic and fluoride contamination, Jaitley told Parliament in the minister’s annual budget speech. About 21.42 billion rupees will be spent on watershed development and 20.37 billion rupees on Ganga upgrades. About 42 billion rupees will go to developing inland waterways in the plan.

via India to Spend $2.2 Billion on Water Supplies, Ganges – Businessweek.

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