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Tuesday, January 10, 2006



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Business & Economy

  • The Government authorized the creation of a strategic oil reserve project under the control of the federal Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB). The project is expected to cost the country Rs.110,267 million.

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear several cases filed in High Courts against the controversial Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT). The Government introduced this tax last year in an attempt to expand its direct taxation base and to curb disguised benefits paid to employees such as vacations, club memberships, etc. Businesses argued that while some companies indulged in such unscrupulous methods to avoid taxation, most did not and that business travel was not a benefit but a necessity. They also contest the Government assertion that this is a tax on income since such costs were really expenses. 

  • Although India attracted USD 5.5 billion last year and is expecting to net more than USD 6 billion this year in Foreign Direct Investment, state-level administrative barriers have reduced the flow to only 60% of the projected amount.  Delays in the grant of clearances is cited as the primary culprit. An industry body FICCI has advocated a stability in policy making, removal of administrative and implementation obstacles, enforcement of intellectual property rights, and introduction of value-added tax (VAT) by all states as means to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and to achieve double digit growth.

Democracy, Politics & Judiciary

  • In a major directive, the Appellate Authority under the Right to Information Act (RTIA) has ruled that the assets and liabilities document of Government servants were public documents available to all citizens.

  • The Supreme Court has directed all the courts in India not accept litigation against retired bureaucrats without a prior sanction from the Government. This ruling follows a spate of vindictive lawsuits against retired bureaucrats who opposed corruption and stopped irregularities. Several cases from Bihar targeted innocent and honest bureaucrats because they opposed the corruption in the previous Lalu/Rabri regime.

Environment, Society & Health

  • Dirty or scarce water, choking air, and toxic factory effluents are some of the common problems fouling China's environment and its neighbors. Pre-occupied with social and economic relationships, Chinese have traditionally discounted concerns about its shoddy environment record as bourgeois indulgence. However, the recent disaster when China took more than 10 days to alert the international community and its neighbors about an explosion in a petrochemical plant that sent 100 tons of benzene compounds down the Amur river has seriously dented China's ambition of being viewed as a responsible global power. Chinese leaders are yet to comprehend the impact of this incident that resulted in smog over western United States, acid rain in South Korea and Japan, and destruction of forests in Africa on international relations. While leaders have pledged to address the "grim" environment situation with a blueprint to bring down pollution levels, their often un-thought through measures have spelt disasters to its neighbors. For example, China brought in a ban on logging in the late 1990s after deforestation was identified as the main reason for large-scale flooding that affected one-fifth of its population. However, lack of follow-through such as afforestation and clean up continue to affect lower riparian states. Nearly half of the world's population depends on water that originate in areas controlled by China.

  • Federal Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss stated that companies manufacturing Ayurvedic drugs must certify that their products do not contain heavy metals. He said that the Government would invest Rs.1200 million in a program called the "Golden Triangle" to scientifically validate the manufacturing process. It is not clear if this move is to support a Communist political ally who is involved in a controversial and unsubstantiated fight against a popular Yoga teacher.

  • A study published in the British medical journal "The Lancet" says that 10 million fetuses may have been aborted in India over the past 20 years because of ultrasound sex screening. Canadian and Indian researchers analyzed data from a national survey that included 1.1 million households in 1998. They found that the certainty of a sex-based abortion increased if the preceding child was a girl. They surmise that based on natural sex ratios in other countries, around 13.6-13.8 million girls should have been born in India in 1997. However, the actual number was 13.1 million and the missing presumed aborted. An interesting finding was that the "girl deficit" was higher in educated mothers than illiterate women.

 

Hot Topics

Tiger Census

Patenting Indian Knowledge 

Recent Supreme Court Verdicts

Forest Management

IISc Terrorist Attack

Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations

Iran - Russia Talks

ASEAN Summit

UNSC Expansion Plan

Featured Analyses

The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah

Indonesia has continuously been embarrassed by the terror acts of a handful of terrorists from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a group with definite Indonesian origins and made up mostly by members of Indonesian nationality.

Will Kashmir go the way of Aceh?
A Cry for Help
Watch the Dragon
Cage This "Tiger"
Dalits in India
Was Jinnah a Secularist? 
Burying the Howitzer?
Smoking Out Smoking
The French Non

Featured Edits

Grow Up, General
Behind Bangalore: the long jihad today
Agriculture: striking a balance
South Asia in deep freeze
Muslim hopes and fears
A communal policy
Inscription
South Indian Inscriptions

Ancient Indian dynasties documented their administration, significant developments, grants, and milestones as inscriptions in temples. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has documented these inscriptions from 1886. These pages contain inscriptions from Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Western Chalukya, Eastern Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoyasala, Vijayanagara, Vishnukundin, Kakatiya, Reddi, Vaidumba, Chinda, Eastern Ganga, Gajapathi, Kalchurya, Qutb-Shahi of Golkonda, and Moghul,  dynasties.

  • Indebtedness, crop failure, non-payment of expensive loans drove scores of farmers to suicide. Between April and August of last year, 52 farmers in Karnataka, 86 from Maharashtra, 40 from Andhra Pradesh took the extreme step. The silver lining is that there is perceptible reduction of such deaths in Karnataka by over 200%. No reasoning was provided by the Union Ministry of Agriculture for the decline.

Science & Technology

  • The Indian Space & Research Organization (ISRO) expe4cts to earn Rs.400 million annually from the fourth generation indigenously designed and developed Insat4A. Last year, the organization earned Rs.1200 million primarily through leasing of a cluster of 30 KU band transponders from various 3rd generation satellites. With the scheduled launch of Insat4B and Insat4C, India hopes to become self-sufficient in transponders.

Neighbors

  • Iran announced that it will break more UN nuclear seals on some research sites. European Union officials warned that this further escalation by Iran could seriously jeopardize negotiations to find a diplomatic solution. Following national elections last year when an extreme right wing candidate became President, Iran has since opened nuclear seals of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency at its Ishfan plant in August 2005. Despite continued efforts from the EU-3 group (Britain, France, and Germany), Iran has become increasingly recalcitrant and bellicose in its negotiations. Last week, it unilaterally broke off negotiations without stating a reason. Its discussions with Russia yesterday is the only hope that a diplomatic solution is feasible. With this latest escalation, all of Iran's nuclear programs, much of which were suspended under negotiations, would been restarted including its unfinished Natanz facility that actually enriches uranium to weapons grade. The British newspaper The Observer reported that the UK had approved the shipment of nuclear material called Zirconium on August 31, 2005 to Iran. The truck with shipment traveled 2500 kilometers through Britain, Germany, and Romania before being stopped by Bulgarian customs. Experts say that zirconium can be used to both stop corrosion of rods in nuclear reactors and in nuclear warheads. This increases the suspicion of Iran's true intentions.

  • India's Foreign Secretary is visiting China for the second round of strategic dialogue initiated during the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo's visit to India in April 2005. Dubbed as the "India-China friendship year," these talks are significant to improve understanding, co-operation, and trust between the Asian giants. One major item on the agenda is expected to be the nuclear deal under the Indo-US Framework for Co-operation. China is opposed to this deal claiming that it dilutes global disarmament efforts. The third round is expected to be India.

  • Suspected Taliban gunmen burnt down a co-ed school in Khandahar. This attack preceded by several others are forcing the closure of many schools. The Taliban believe that educating girls is against Islam and even oppose Government aided schools for boys that teach subjects other than Islam. Last Tuesday, they beheaded the headmaster of another co-ed school.

  • The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a key ally of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has vocally protested against excessive use of force by the military to quell separatism in the Southwestern Baloach province. Although they have threatened to quit the coalition Government led by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, there is no imminent threat to the Government's stability. Following a rocket attack on the Pakistani President during his visit to the province on December 14, 2005, the army launched a violent crackdown using helicopters and air force jets to bomb civilian targets in the Kohlu and Dera Bugti districts. The operation has resulted in the death of 200 people, mostly civilians. The Government, while refusing to comment on casualty numbers, says that its paramilitary is operating mostly against fararis or absconders.

World

  • India and the United States announced the next round of high-level talks centering around the nuclear co-operation between the two nations. During this meeting, India will expect a response from the Americans on its earlier "outline" to separate military and civilians nuclear facilities as required by the July 2005 nuclear deal. Implicit in this agreement is an understanding that India will not place its fast-breeder reactors (FBT) in the civilian list.

  • India, Germany, and Brazil have re-tabled their draft resolution on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) expansion. Japan, the fourth member of the so-called "Group-of-Four" has already distanced itself from the proposal. The draft asking for an expansion of the UNSC by another 5 veto-wielding permanent and 6 non-permanent members faces major opposition from the African Union countries and barring France the other permanent UNSC members. While the G-4 does not have a problem supporting a AU proposal, it expressed doubt that the impending AU meet in Khartoum will arrive at a consensus. It said that the so-called "United for Consensus" group which includes Italy, Argentina, South Korea, and Pakistan is scuttling an African consensus. 

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