Archive for ‘India alert’

16/02/2017

India and Russia seek to revive stalled helicopter venture | Reuters

India and Russia are nearing a joint venture to make light helicopters in India, reviving a plan announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.

Delhi needs to replace hundreds of ageing utility helicopters deployed along its Himalayan border with China as well as in the disputed Kashmir region.

This means an initial order of 200 Kamov-226 helicopters, of which 140 will be built in India as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to build a domestic defence industrial base and cut imports, is expected to be increased.

And final documents relating to the $1 billion Kamov deal involving Russian Helicopters, Rosoboronexport and India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has been submitted to Putin, HAL’s chief T. Suvarna Raju, told reporters on Wednesday.

While India has sealed deals with the United States for 22 Apache attack and 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters at total cost of about $2.5 billion, plans to buy Russian helicopters and fifth generation fighter aircraft have been dogged by problems.

“There are issues between parties, but these are being tackled,” Sergey Goreslavsky, deputy director general of Rosoboronexport, said at India’s biggest air show in the southern city of Bengaluru.

A team will assess the Indian manufacturing facilities over the next few months. “We are keeping our fingers crossed about launching production this year,” an executive at Russian Helicopters said.

The executive, who did not want to be named, said the joint venture will be modelled along the lines of Brahmos, the India-Russia entity producing supersonic missiles, which which military analysts say are among the deadliest in their class.

Russia was long the main supplier of military equipment to India, but Delhi has turned to France, Israel and increasingly the United States for supply of hardware in recent years.

U.S. aerospace and defence firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing have both offered to set up production lines in India to make combat planes.

Source: India and Russia seek to revive stalled helicopter venture | Reuters

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15/02/2017

‘Follow one-China policy’: Beijing warns India over Taiwan delegation | This Week In Asia | South China Morning Post

China has lodged a strong complaint with India over a rare visit by a Taiwanese parliamentary delegation, warning New Delhi to follow one-China policy and refrain from any official contacts with Taipei.

Sharply criticising the visit, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shung said Beijing had lodged a “solemn representation” with New Delhi to not have any official contact with Taiwan.

Beijing has always opposed any kind of official contact between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic ties with China, he said.

Why Trump can’t ‘haggle’ over the one-China policy

Geng spoke against any proposal to upgrade India-Taiwan ties, and warned India to be strict about following the one-China policy and be “prudent” about its ties with Taiwan.India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The de facto Indian embassy in Taipei is called the India-Taipei Association and the Taiwanese maintain the Taipei Economic Cultural Center in New Delhi.

A three-member parliamentary delegation from Taiwan arrived in India on Monday for a three-day visit. The leader of the delegation, Kuan Bi-Ling, said Taiwan is “totally independent”.

“It (the one-China policy) is a de facto reality…We suffered a lot because of the one-China policy. We have crafted a pragmatic approach in our diplomatic engagement with major countries, including India, despite these difficulties,” Kuan told the Indian media.Hosting an official delegation from Taiwan appears to be a shift in Indian policy. In May last year, India had reportedly backtracked from sending representatives to the swearing-in ceremony of then Taiwanese president-elect Tsai Ing-wen. The visit of the Taiwanese delegation is a possible sign that both countries are attempting to increase political engagement without New Delhi moving away from the one-China policy.No country is exempt from one-China principle, says Beijing

In September 2015, before she became Taiwan’s first woman president, Tsai had spoken about India being in focus for her country to strengthen ties.“Asean and India are poised to become two of the world’s largest economic bodies. Strengthening our overall relations is a natural choice for Taiwan as we diversify our economic and trade ties. In the future, we will form a new task force to actively pursue this policy objective,” Tsai had said in a key speech at the time.

The New Southbound Policy Office, which directly functions under the president, will focus on strengthening all-round ties with Asean and South Asia, particularly India, Taiwanese diplomats had then told the Hindustan Times.

Earlier on Wednesday, nationalistic tabloid Global Times said India is playing with fire and will suffer if it challenges the one-China policy and increases engagement with Taiwan.

How a snub of the one-China policy almost led Beijing and US into war in the 1990s

“At a time when new US President Donald Trump has put the brakes on challenging China over the Taiwan question, agreeing to change course and respecting the one-China policy, India stands out as a provocateur,” it said. “Some Indians view the Taiwan question as an Achilles’ heel of the mainland. India has long wanted to use the Taiwan question, the South China Sea and Dalai Lama issues as bargaining chips in dealing with China,” writer Yu Ning wrote in an opinion piece for the newspaper.

“By challenging China over the Taiwan question, India is playing with fire,” Yu wrote.

The newspaper blamed Tsai for inciting India.“Tsai is exploiting India’s vigilance and strategic suspicions against China. The pro-independence leader came up with the ”new southbound policy” to ramp up trade and economic interactions in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania, in which India is considered “not one of the, but the most” important country…Tsai hopes to put pressure on the mainland by tying India and Taiwan closer.”

Source: ‘Follow one-China policy’: Beijing warns India over Taiwan delegation | This Week In Asia | South China Morning Post

15/02/2017

India Breaks Record for Launching Most Satellites From Single Rocket – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s space agency on Wednesday launched a record 104 satellites from a single rocket as it crossed another milestone in its low-cost space-exploration program.

The satellites from seven countries were carried by the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on its 38th consecutive successful flight.

The mission reinforces India’s emerging reputation as a reliable and cost-effective option for launching satellites. In 2014, ISRO put a satellite into the orbit of Mars, becoming the first Asian country to reach the red planet at fraction of the cost of a similar launch in U.S. and Europe.

ISRO has now put 226 satellites into orbit, including 180 from foreign nations. The global space industry was estimated to be worth $323 billion in 2015, the latest year for which data are available, according to the Space Foundation, a U.S.-based research group. Commercial space business comprised as much as 76% of the industry.

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, senior fellow in space-security studies at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank, said the launch was a “showcase of India’s growing capabilities.”

 

Spectators watched the launch of ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) at Sriharikota on Feb. 15, 2017.

“India’s space program has come a long way,” she said.

Ms. Rajagopalan said the trend for sending more small satellites–instead of fewer large ones–will benefit ISRO due to the cost advantages it offers over its American and European competitors. The Space Foundation said nano satellites comprised 48% of launches in 2015

Wednesday’s feat eclipses the record set by Russia in 2014 when it launched 37 satellites in a single mission. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration rocket carried 29 satellites in 2013.

The PSLV rocket blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh at 9.28 a.m. Wednesday local time (10.58 p.m. Tuesday ET).

The ISRO rocket hurtles through the sky after launch from Sriharikota, India, Feb. 15, 2017.

It first released its main cargo, ISRO’s 714 kilogram Cartosat-2 series satellite, which will be used for earth observation. It then released two smaller ISRO satellites, followed by the remaining 101 nano satellites, one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and 96 from the U.S. As many as 88 of the nano satellites belonged to U.S.-based company Planet Inc.

ISRO’s two smaller satellites are carrying equipment for conducting various experiments.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his congratulations. “This remarkable feat by @isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists,” the message said.

Mission Director B. Jayakumar said it was a challenge to “find real estate (on the PSLV rocket) to accommodate all the satellites.” He said a “unique separation sequence” was designed due to the large number of satellites.

ISRO chairman Kiran Kumar Rao, right, held up models of the CARTOSAT-2 and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) after the launch in Sriharikota, India, Feb. 15, 2017.

ISRO said the satellites went into orbit 506 kilometers from earth, inclined at an angle of 97.46 degrees to the equator–very close to the intended orbit–after a flight of nearly 17 minutes. In the subsequent 12 minutes, all 104 satellites were successfully separated from the rocket in sequence, it said.

After separation, the two solar panels of ISRO’s Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed and the space agency’s command center in Bangalore took control. In the coming days, the satellite will begin to provide start sending back black and white, and color pictures, ISRO said.

Source: India Breaks Record for Launching Most Satellites From Single Rocket – India Real Time – WSJ

10/02/2017

Banyan: Is India a country or a continent? | The Economist

IN A speech to London’s Constitutional Club in 1931, Winston Churchill poured scorn on the idea of India. “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator,” he spat, a slur that invites such uniform disagreement from Indians as to disprove itself. Less well known, but more worthy of debate, is the previous line of Churchill’s speech: “India is no more a political personality than Europe,” he contended.

The personalities of both India and Europe have changed a great deal since 1931. But in explaining India to outsiders, Banyan often finds it helpful to compare it to the European Union (EU) rather than to the United States. Neither parallel does India justice, of course. The frequent comparisons to America can imbue India with a false cohesion. The less common comparison to the EU suggests a false disunity. But if the two parallels are judiciously combined, the falsities may help to cancel each other out.

One obvious example is Indian politics. This month voters took part in elections for the state legislatures of Punjab and Goa. As is often the case, turnout was higher than in India’s national election in 2014. In comparison with the United States, where races for national office, especially the presidency, overshadow state-level contests, that is a puzzle. In comparison with the EU, where elections in member states command far more attention than races for the European Parliament, it seems less strange.

The composition of India’s legislature also looks more like Strasbourg’s multicoloured mosaic than Washington’s two-tone Congress. The Lok Sabha, India’s lower house, seats as many as 35 parties. With the exception of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, few of them have influence beyond one or two states. If America is the benchmark, the obvious question is why India’s voters have failed to coalesce around rival nationwide philosophies of government. But if the template is Europe, the fragmentation is easier to grasp. Few of Europe’s parties could appeal across national lines, however compelling their policies.

Another example is language. India’s constitution lists 22 “scheduled” languages. An American might wonder how it copes. But the EU, with 24 official languages, is even more polyglot. India’s national anthem had to be translated into Hindi from the original Bengali. But the EU’s anthem has no official lyrics, so as to leave open the question of what tongue to sing them in. Pick any two Indians at random, and the chance that they share the same mother tongue is less than 20%, according to data compiled by Romain Wacziarg of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues. But for the EU as a whole, according to Banyan’s calculations, the odds are less than 10%. Linguistically, then, India is neither as unified as the United States nor as divided as the EU.

National welding

The author of India’s anthem, Rabindranath Tagore, also saw value in comparing his country to both Europe and America. Like India, the United States faced the problem of “welding together into one body various races”. This challenge set both countries apart from Europe, which, Tagore felt, could take its racial unity for granted. Indeed, he saw Europe as one people divided into many states, unlike India’s many peoples “packed into one geographical receptacle”.

The gap between India’s many peoples remains large. The GDP per person of Bihar, India’s poorest state, is only a fifth of Haryana’s and little more than a tenth of Goa’s. That is a much bigger income gap than between Mississippi and Massachusetts, but comparable to the gulf between Bulgaria and Belgium.These gaps have motivated increasing numbers of Indians to move from one part of their geographical receptacle to another. The government’s latest economic survey, written by Arvind Subramanian, its chief economic adviser, calculates that interstate migration nearly doubled between the 1990s and the 2000s, yielding a migrant population of over 55m in 2011 (roughly 4.5% of India’s population). That may fall well short of American mobility, but compares favourably with the EU, where 13.6m citizens (2.7% of the total population) live in another member state.

The movement of goods tells a similar tale. In India, unlike America, state prerogatives often trump the imperatives of interstate commerce. Trade is distorted by a patchwork of local levies, which the central government is keen to replace with a new goods and services tax. The familiar sight of lorries queuing at state borders suggests an economy that is hopelessly fragmented. But again, the benchmark matters. Drawing on new data, Mr Subramanian shows that trade among India’s states is now equivalent to about 54% of GDP, rather higher than many suspected. That is low compared with America (78%), but impressive compared with the EU (20%).

Net trade is even more dramatic. India’s single market and currency allow some states to run enormous trade deficits with others. Four run deficits in excess of 20% of local output. That is far greater than the euro area has been able to sustain.

India’s divisions hamper it in its dealings with other nations. Its diplomacy has a reputation for parochialism and mal-coordination—an elephantine inability to “dance”. But perhaps it is not given enough slack. Compared with the EU, India’s foreign policy is positively twinkle-toed. India, lest it be forgotten, is as populous as 150 other countries combined. By encompassing all of these people in a single political entity, it dramatically reduces the complexity of global governance—even if it does not always feel like that. Had the republic not succeeded in refuting Churchill, had it disintegrated into multiple sovereign states, the world’s negotiating tables might have needed to accommodate dozens of additional quarrelling players. When the Americans want to talk to India, they know whom to call—however frustrating the conversation sometimes proves to be.

Source: Banyan: Is India a country or a continent? | The Economist

03/02/2017

In Punjab, jobless youth take a chance with anti-establishment party AAP | Reuters

Twenty seven-year-old Rupinder Kaur Ruby is a political novice but her message is clear: jobs for young people.

Grabbing the microphone, the law student tells a few hundred supporters in a dusty village square in the northwest Indian state of Punjab that the ruling parties have failed them.

“Punjab is not in a good place. And the youth are the most affected. They want to fight back,” she said, raising her fist to cheers, as the crowd covered her in garlands before heading off to canvass for votes in a state election on Saturday.

Ruby is one of several inexperienced candidates her Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party is fielding to tap anger among an increasingly aspirational but frustrated youth, and to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his party heads into five state polls over the next month starting with Punjab.

A strong showing by AAP, which won a handful of seats in Punjab in the 2014 general election and governs the city-state of Delhi, would serve as a mid-term warning for the still-popular Modi as the economy fails to fulfil expectations.

The young in Punjab have been hit hardest by factory shutdowns, amid allegations that corruption has hastened the economic decline of a relatively rich state of 28 million people bordering Pakistan.

Unemployment tops voter concerns there, according to a recent poll, and young people are less and less willing to work their parents’ fields in the state known as India’s “bread basket”.

GENERATIONAL SHIFT

Most recent opinion polls show Congress, India’s main opposition party, in the lead in Punjab, ahead of AAP which has been criticised by rivals for failing to flesh out how it would boost employment were it to come to power.

But Ruby’s party is most popular among the young, reflecting a generational shift in India that poses a problem for Modi as newer parties seek to capitalise on the lack of jobs.

Nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people are under 35 – a demographic “bulge” that will create the world’s largest working-age population before 2050.

Despite average annual economic growth of 6.5 percent between 1991 and 2013, India added less than half the jobs needed to absorb new entrants into the workforce.

The incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) party that rules Punjab alongside Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and Congress, have governed the state alternately for decades with a focus on Sikhism, the state’s dominant religion, and farm subsidies.

Those priorities resonate less among the young, and now all the main parties are promising free smartphones and 2,500 rupees ($37) a month for the unemployed.

“The other parties are all the same,” said 30-year-old Jaskaran Sharma, who works as a truck driver in the Middle East and was helping with Ruby’s campaign in between jobs.

“She is energetic, and young people understand the system,” he told Reuters in the village of Teona.

Punjab’s official unemployment rate in 2015/16, at 6 percent, was above the national average of 5 percent, according to the Labour Bureau, although economists say the figures do not reflect the true picture.

Levels of underemployment are higher; only 17 percent of Punjab’s population earns a regular wage.

VOLUNTEERSAAP, which scored surprise wins in local elections in Delhi in 2013 and 2015 on a broad anti-corruption platform, is led by 48-year-old Arvind Kejriwal, a former tax inspector who hopes to expand into other regions by channelling anger over unemployment.

AAP workers like Ruby, daughter of a local government retiree, have built young teams to fan out across villages and campaign door-to-door.

“We depend on our volunteers. This is a ground-up campaign,” she told Reuters over tea and biscuits, while young men snapped photos with her.

Ruby has the lowest declared wealth, at 175,000 rupees ($2,600), of any candidate in the state, according to reports. The 10 poorest candidates are from AAP, although the party has also chosen several well-off politicians as candidates.

“The youth are looking for change, and for that they are going to take a risk with AAP,” said Ashutosh Kumar, a professor of political science at Panjab University.

The ruling party, led by the wealthy Badal family, still commands support among older generations and better-off farmers, while Congress is attracting voters who see AAP as inexperienced.

Sitting outside the office of his SAD party in the Badal heartland of Lambi, landlord farmer Bagga Singh said Kejriwal was a “traitor” who had fooled people.

The protest vote boosting AAP would peter out, he predicted, because the Badals had established skill centres, curbed corruption and job creation would soon pick up.

Still, he acknowledged more needed to be done.

“Young people don’t want to work in agriculture. The margins are down and they don’t want the hard work,” the bearded 70-year-old said, wearing a pink Sikh turban. “They want to sit in an air conditioned office.”

($1 = 67.4900 Indian rupees)

Source: In Punjab, jobless youth take a chance with anti-establishment party AAP | Reuters

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03/02/2017

Apple Is Set to Make in India, State Official Says – India Real Time – WSJ

In a potential boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative, tech giant Apple Inc. is nearing a deal with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp. to start making products in the southern state of Karnataka, a senior state official said.

“The contractual agreement between the two companies is on the verge of being signed,” the Karnataka government official who has direct knowledge of the matter said.

The first phase of assembling iPhones will likely start as early as the end of March, and further expansion is expected over the next two to six months, the official said.An Apple spokeswoman said the company has nothing to share beyond a statement it made last week, which said: “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with [the] government about further expanding our local operations.”

A Wistron spokeswoman declined to comment. The company has a factory in the southern Indian city of Bangalore where it makes smartphone components, and has sought permission from the state authorities to expand the facility with additional power supply and fire-fighting facilities, the official said.

“What we are given to understand is that Apple is awaiting a final word from the government of India regarding tax and tariff concessions sought by the company, before signing up the contractual agreement,” the official said.

Making goods such as the iPhone locally may help the Cupertino, Calif., company to open its own stores in India, in turn building its brand in a country where it has less than a 5% share of a booming smartphone market.

Karnataka’s Information and Technology minister, Priyank Kharge, welcomed Apple’s proposal to consider Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, as the location for potential manufacturing.

“Apple’s intentions to manufacture in Bengaluru will foster cutting edge technology ecosystem and supply chain development in the state, which are critical for India to compete globally,” Mr. Kharge said in a statement Thursday.Apple is looking to ramp up revenues in India as sales stagnate in China, long an engine of growth. India should soon overtake the U.S. as the world’s second-largest smartphone market after China. Smartphone shipments in India grew 18% last year, compared with just 3% globally, according to Counterpoint Research.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a call with analysts this week confirmed the company is “in discussions” to open retail stores in the country, and said Apple intends to “invest significantly in the country and believe it’s a great place to be.” (http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2017/02/01/what-tim-cook-said-about-apples-big-plans-for-india/)

Last week, a team of executives led by Priya Balasubramaniam, an Apple vice president, met with senior Indian government officials in New Delhi as well as state officials in Karnataka to discuss the firm’s proposals. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-nears-deal-to-manufacture-products-in-india-1485340934)

Under Mr. Modi, India has been eager to attract foreign investment and create the manufacturing facilities and jobs the country needs to sustain long-term growth.

Source: Apple Is Set to Make in India, State Official Says – India Real Time – WSJ

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01/02/2017

The Economist explains: What is India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine? | The Economist

LAST week India celebrated its 68th Republic Day, the highlight of which is an elaborate parade to show off India’s military might (pictured).

Soldiers goose-stepped and tanks rolled down Rajpath, New Delhi’s main ceremonial thoroughfare, as India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee, and this year’s guest of honour, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, looked on. Fighter jets screeched overhead. The annual display was particularly pointed this year, coming barely three weeks after Bipin Rawat, India’s new army chief, acknowledged in an interview the existence of the country’s “Cold Start” military doctrine. What is Cold Start and why did General Rawat, who took office on December 31st, mention it in public?

Cold Start is the name given to a limited-war strategy designed to seize Pakistani territory swiftly without, in theory, risking a nuclear conflict. It has its roots in an attack on India’s parliament in 2001, which was carried out by terrorist groups allegedly used as proxies by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence services (ISI). India’s response to the onslaught was a flop: by the time its lumbering Strike Corps were mobilised and positioned on the frontier, Pakistan had already bulked up its defences, raising both the costs of incursion and the risk that it would escalate into a nuclear conflict. Cold Start is an attempt to draw lessons from this: having nimbler, integrated units stationed closer to the border would allow India to inflict significant harm before international powers demanded a ceasefire; by pursuing narrow aims, it would also deny Pakistan a justification for triggering a nuclear strike. Yet India has refused to own up to the existence of the doctrine since it was first publicly discussed in 2004. Nor was its rumoured existence enough to stop Pakistani terrorists from launching devastating attacks in Mumbai in 2008, killing 164 people.

One reason for India to keep its cards close to its chest is that it may not be capable of acting on Cold Start. Indeed, India’s army chief admitted to civilian leaders after the 2008 attacks that his battalions were “not ready for war” with Pakistan. It probably did not help that India’s political leaders never signed off on it either, as a leaked diplomatic cable from 2010 suggested. Yet things have taken a different turn since an assault last September on the Indian garrison of Uri in Kashmir, which left 19 dead. In a departure from India’s traditionally defensive posture, the government responded by authorising “surgical strikes” along the frontier, targeted at “terrorist launchpads” and “those protecting them”. By acknowledging the doctrine, which would demand a more potent retaliation than these commando operations, the army seems keen to signal that it has a range of strategic options, introducing an element of unpredictability in the seriousness of its response. Political leaders may have also come closer to embracing it. The government of Narendra Modi has shown keen interest in national-security matters, moving India into the world’s top-five defence spenders, addressing servicemen’s grievances and mulling a wholesale revamp of the armed forces’ structure.

Whether the strategy will prove effective remains to be seen. By pursuing Cold Start, the army may have reaped “the worst of both worlds”, says Walter Ladwig, a scholar at King’s College London. Should it come after a terrorist attack prepared with the ISI’s knowledge, India’s response would lack the element of surprise. That makes Cold Start a dubious deterrent. And Mr Rawat’s recognition of the doctrine’s existence provides further reason for Pakistan to develop “tactical” nukes—tiny warheads that could easily end up in inexpert or malevolent hands. The risk of overreaction on Pakistan’s side is heightened by India’s continued obfuscation about what exactly the concept means, making the whole premise seem misguided. Indeed, Pakistani officials have already threatened to use nuclear weapons, should India put Cold Start into action. In conventional war, confusing an enemy can lead to victory; when two nuclear powers are involved it is a surer step towards a disastrous draw.

Source: The Economist explains: What is India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine? | The Economist

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01/02/2017

India Budget 2017: Promise to boost rural spending – BBC News

India’s government has unveiled its annual budget, with promises to boost rural spending and pull more people out of poverty.

It comes months after the controversial withdrawal of high value banknotes which caused chaos in the economy, hurting farmers and the poor most.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated funds to bring more irrigation, roads, electricity and sanitation to villages.

Farmers would also have more access to credit, he said.

The government also plans to spend a record $7.09bn (£5.69bn) on a scheme which guarantees every rural household 100 days of work each year.

Overall rural and farm spending would be increased by 24% as part of the government’s plan to double farm incomes over five years, Mr Jaitley added.

Tax plan

The finance minister also revealed plans to halve income tax rates for people earning between 250,000 rupees to 500,000 rupees ($3700; £2945 to $7,400; £5888) annually, which Mr Jaitley said should also encourage more people to pay tax.

“The present burden of taxation is mainly on the taxpayer and the salaried employees who are showing their income correctly,” he told parliament.

“Therefore post-demonetisation, there is a legitimate expectation of this class of people to reduce their burden of taxation. Also an argument is made that if nominal rate of taxation is kept at a lower slab, more people will prefer to come in the tax rate.”It is not clear how many people the move would impact, but India has a long-running problem of collecting income tax.

In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, only 2% of Indians completed a tax return and only 1% paid tax.

Other proposals announced in the budget speech included:Cutting tax rates on small and medium-sized companies

Banning cash transactions for sums above 300,000 rupees ($4440; £3533)

Political funding reforms including a cap on the cash donated to a political party by a single source

Nothing for foreign investors: Analysis by Shilpa Kannan, BBC News, Delhi

Arun Jaitley had to do a balancing act between the need to stimulate India’s growth and ensuring that the country’s spending is under control.

But I’ve been at an event run by one of India’s biggest business groups, the CII, and the mood is one of general disappointment.

The finance minister had promised to gradually bring down corporation tax from 30% to 25% – but he didn’t do it last year and it didn’t happen this year either.

Many here are saying there was nothing in for foreign or domestic investors. They fear a flee of money from India.

‘Bright spot’

India’s economy is expected to grow by 6.5% in the year to March 2017, down from 7.6% the previous financial year, a key economic report revealed ahead of the budget.

However, the country was a “bright spot” in the world economy, Mr Jaitley said, adding that the impact on growth from the government’s cash crackdown would wear off soon.

He said the currency ban was a “a bold and decisive measure” and would leaded to larger GDP, more tax revenues and a cleaner economy.

The dramatic move to scrap 500 ($7.60) and 1,000 rupee notes was intended to crack down on corruption and so-called black money or illegal cash holdings.

But the Economic Survey, released on Tuesday and written by the government’s chief economic adviser, admitted the rupee withdrawal had been bad for economy. in the short term.

Source: India Budget 2017: Promise to boost rural spending – BBC News

31/01/2017

The Chinese man trapped in India for half a century – BBC News

In 1963 a Chinese army surveyor crossed into India and was captured, weeks after a war between the countries. Wang Qi has been unable to leave India ever since – and longs to see his family in China.

BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare met him.

Tirodi village is a nearly five-hour drive from the nearest airport in Nagpur in central India.

I am here to meet Wang Qi, a Chinese army surveyor who entered India in 1963 but could never go back. For over five decades, he has been longing to see his family back home.

Sporting cropped white hair, black trainers and a body warmer, Mr Wang, who is now in his eighties, hugs me when we meet. We are about to try and make video contact with his family more than 3,000km (1,864 miles) away in China.

Together we go to the government office, which is the only centre equipped with internet for miles around.

He watches in anticipation as I dial and then his eyes light up as the image of his elder brother Wang Zhiyuan, 82, appears on the screen, seated on a sofa in Xianyang, a city in China’s Shaanxi province.

The two brothers are seeing each other after more than 50 years. The conversation in Mandarin lasts 17 minutes.

“I couldn’t recognise him. He looked so old. He said he was alive just for me,” Wang Qi, also known by his Indian name Raj Bahadur, tells me in strongly accented Hindi as his three Indian-born children gather around to comfort him.

Mr Wang’s story is a long and sad one.

Born to a farmer family in Shaanxi with four brothers and two sisters, he studied surveying and joined China’s People’s Liberation Army in 1960.

Mr Wang says he was “tasked with building roads for the Chinese army” and was captured when he “strayed erroneously” inside India’s territory in January 1963.

“I had gone out of my camp for a stroll but lost my way. I was tired and hungry. I saw a Red Cross vehicle and asked them to help me. They handed me over to the Indian army,” he said.

Mr Wang’s mother died in 2006 before he could go back and see her

Indian officials said Mr Wang “intruded into India” and gave “false background and the circumstances” about his whereabouts to the authorities.

He spent the next seven years in a number of different jails before a court ordered his release in 1969.

Police took him to Tirodi, a far-flung village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. He has not been allowed to leave the country ever since.

It’s still not clear whether Mr Wang is a prisoner of war. But he has been denied official Indian documents or citizenship and also been denied permission to travel back. His family says Mr Wang needs a document to exit India.

Senior local official Bharat Yadav agrees that there have been “deficiencies” and a “lack of interest” in the case.

“There are no suspicions about his actions. If he wants to go back, we will try and help him,” he said.

An official at the Chinese embassy, which helped him secure a passport in 2013, acknowledged he was aware of the issue. A response to questions sent to India’s federal home ministry is still awaited.

It has been a long, excruciating wait for Mr Wang.

Wang Qi joined China’s People’s Liberation Army in 1960

Be it language, food or a vastly different society, Mr Wang has had to adapt every step of the way.

“I began by working in a flour mill. But I cried in the night as I longed for my family. I missed my mother,” he said.

“I wondered what I had got into.”

Mr Wang married a local girl, Sushila, under “pressure from friends” in 1975.

“I was livid with my parents for marrying me off to an outsider. I had trouble understanding his language. I tolerated him for a few months. Then I got used to him,” she says with a smile.

Mr Wang tried his hand at business but his undefined legal status meant visits by local police.

Mr Wang married a local girl, Sushila, under “pressure from friends” in 1975

“I remember Mr Wang being beaten by the police for not bribing them. He was an honest man,” says BB Singh, his neighbour for many years.

“He always talked about his home in China. His family lived in utter poverty. He would cycle for miles with no break,” another former neighbour Jayanti Lal Waghela says.

Mr Wang wrote letters home but received his first reply only in the 1980s. Family pictures were exchanged.

He spoke to his mother for the first time in more than 40 years on the phone in 2002.

“She said she wanted to see me as her last days were near. I said I was trying to return. I wrote letters to everyone who mattered to provide me with exit documents but nothing moved.”

She died in 2006.

Mr Wang’s family in ChinaMr Wang’s nephew met him when he came to India as a tourist in 2009.

It was he who helped him to get the necessary documents for his passport.It is still not clear whether Wang Qi will be able to go to China – and if he did, would he want to return to India?

“My family is here. Where would I go?” he says, playing with his granddaughter in his lap.

Sushila is worried though. “I hope he comes back.”

Mr Wang with his family

Image captionIt is not clear whether Mr Wang will leave his family and return to China
30/01/2017

Inside India’s first department of happiness – BBC News

On a crisp weekday afternoon recently, hundreds of men and women, young and old, thronged a dusty playground of a government high school in a village in India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

Hemmed in by mobile towers and squalid buildings, the ground in Salamatpur was an unusual venue for a government-sponsored programme to “spread cheer and happiness”.

Undeterred by the surroundings and egged on by an energetic emcee, children in blue-and-white school uniforms, women in bright chiffon saris, and young men in jeans and t-shirts participated in games and festivities all morning. Under a tatty awning, people sprawled and a DJ played some music over crackling speakers. People left some food and old clothes for donation near a “wall of giving”.

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On the field, children raced in gunny sacks. A dozen girls, hands tied to their back, sprinted to get their teeth into knotty jalebis, a popular sweet. Women, squealing with delight, competed in tug-of-war contests. Jaunty men from a dancing school vowed the crowd with hip-hop dance moves. A four-year-old girl provided a rousing finale with her Bollywood-style hip-swinging gyrations. At the end of it all, beaming participants received glossy certificates.

On the dais crowded with officials and village leaders, there was mirthful insistence that “happiness week” had kicked off well. Videos and pictures of festivities from all over the state poured into the phones of excited officials: these included grannies tugging rope and grandfathers running with spoons in their mouths, among other things.

A week-long ‘happiness week’ saw girls participating in jalebi races

…and older villagers running with spoons in their mouth

The fun and games were part of a week-long Happiness Festival, organised by the ruling BJP government in what is India’s second largest state, home to more than 70 million people. They also provided a glimpse of the rollout of what is the country’s first state-promoted project to “to put a smile on every face”.

“Even in our villages, people are becoming introverted and self-centred because of TV and mobile phones. We are trying to get people out of homes, come together, and be happy. The aim is to forget the worries of life and enjoy together,” said Shobhit Tripathi a senior village council functionary.

‘Positive mindset’

At the heart of this project is the newly-formed Department of Happiness – the first of its kind in India – helmed by the state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself.

The yoga-loving three-term 57-year-old leader of the ruling BJP believes the “state can help in ensuring the mental well being of its people”.

Under him a gaggle of bureaucrats and a newly formed State Institute of Happiness are tasked with the responsibility of “developing tools of happiness” and creating an “ecosystem that would enable people to realise their own potential of inner well being”. The department also plans to run some 70 programmes and develop a Happiness Index for the state.

Mr Chouhan, who taught philosophy in a local college before embarking on a successful career in politics, told me he had been thinking for a long time on how to “bring happiness in people’s lives”.

He then had an epiphany. Why couldn’t his government run programmes to help citizens have a “positive mindset”? One report said that he was prodded by a popular guru.

The tug-of-war games were keenly contested

Many village children participated in dances

There is more joy sometimes, Mr Chouhan told me, “being poor than being wealthy”.

But one wonders if people would be happy enough if the state was efficient in delivering basic services and be seen to be fair to all its people.

After all, Madhya Pradesh continues to be among India’s poorest states. More than a third of its people are Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribespeople, among the most underprivileged. The world’s worst industrial accident happened in the state capital, Bhopal, in 1984, killing hundreds of people, and thousands of survivors are still fighting for compensation.

Despite impressive strides in farming, infrastructure and public services in recent years, illiteracy, undernourishment and poverty remain major challenges. When Mr Chouhan announced his plan last year, critics warned that the state would have to first deal with several “unhappy areas to make people happy”.

Bureaucracy of happiness?

Mr Chouhan agreed that providing food and shelter remained the primary responsibility of the state. But he said he was also worried about “families breaking up, rising divorces, and the increasing number of single people”. He spoke about the anomie of modern life, and how unwieldy aspirations lead to “excess stress and result in high suicide rates”.

He said that the state, borrowing from religious texts and folk wisdom, can help spread the virtues of “goodness, altruism, forgiveness, humility and peace”.

“We need people to have a positive mindset. We will try to achieve this through school lessons, yoga, religious education, moral science, meditation and with help from gurus, social workers and non-profits. It will be a wide ranging programme,” he said.

I wondered whether all this would spawn another gargantuan bureaucracy of happiness and invite allegations of cultural indoctrination by a government run by a Hindu nationalist party.

n this picture taken, 04 May 2007, Indian malnourished child, Viru (R) is comforted by his mother outside their hut at a village in Shivpuri district some 113 kms from Gwalior.Madhya Pradesh is among India’s poorest states

Don’t worry, Iqbal Singh Bains, the senior-most official in the department of happiness assured me. He’s also the top bureaucrat in the energy department.

“This is not about officials delivering happiness. This is not about preachy governance. You cannot deliver happiness to people. You can only bring about an enabling environment. The journey will be yours alone, the government is there to lend you a helping hand,” he told me.

Lending a hand would be more than 25,000 “happiness volunteers” who have signed up with the government. Government workers, teachers, doctors, homemakers and assorted people will work in the state’s 51 districts, holding “happiness tutorials and programmes”. Some 90 of them have already been trained.

‘Inner demons’

Sushil Mishra is one of them. The 48-year-old school teacher, who lives and works in remote Umaria, has already conducted four hour-long happiness classes at a secondary school, a student’s hostel, and government offices.

The classes, as he tells me, essentially have turned into confessionals, where participants talk about their good and not-so-good deeds, and pledge to improve themselves. Mr Mishra says it’s a challenge to create a relaxing, informal environment, where people can “wrestle with their inner demons”.

“Then they can listen to the voice of their soul, they are in touch with inner feelings. Nothing is forced.”

Madhya Pradesh is not the first place to try to “spread happiness”. But the jury is out on whether the state can play the role of a philosopher-counsellor-evangelist and make citizens happy.

In this photograph taken on October 5, 2011, Chief Minister for the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan (R) poses with a child at a function to honour the 'girl child' in Bhopal

The ‘happiness programme’ is the brainhild of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Three years ago, Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay cast doubts on the country’s popular pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH), saying that the concept was overused and masked problems with corruption and low standards of living. In 2013, Venezuela announced a “ministry of happiness”, but it did not stop the country from descending into social and economic chaos. Last year, United Arab Emirates announced the creation of a minister of state for happiness to “create social good and satisfaction”.

Many like sociologist Shiv Visvanathan believe the state has no right getting into the business of spreading happiness. Happiness, they say, is no laughing matter and its relationship with ambition is complex.

“The state cannot start defining what exactly contributes to mental well being. The state cannot colonise the subconscious. What happens to dissenting imagination or civil society? Trying to impose something as abstract as happiness on its people is not only bizarre, but downright dangerous,” said Dr Visvanathan.

Mr Chouhan obviously believes otherwise. In November, 24 of his ministers were sent five questions to find out how happy they were. A score of less than 22 meant that the respondent wasn’t happy.

Nobody knows the answers yet.

Source: Inside India’s first department of happiness – BBC News

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