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Wednesday, February 15, 2006



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Business and Economy

  • Despite allocations of money, award of contracts, and public claim of success, the North-South and East-West road corridor project, connecting the corners of India remains a distant team. Meant to be a larger dream than the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) project that connected the four metros, this project is dogged by administrative; land acquisition, legal, and political delays. Only 232 kilometers have seen a four-lane completion in the last two years but Rs. 34 billion has been spent making it one of the most expensive roads at Rs. 147 million a kilometer. A district level road costs Rs. 400,000 per kilometer. While the GQ project needed 8,362 hectares, this project requires more than double this area.  For a project that is supposed to be completed by 2008, only 14.9% is done. In Andhra Pradesh, where the largest chunk, 2,641 hectares, is required, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has acquired only .2%. Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu boasts that 132 contracts for 5,565 kilometers have been awarded in 588 days versus the previous Government's 122 contracts for 5,053 kilometers in 1257 days. These events raise questions on how projects are being measured by the Government--should they be measured by the number of issued contracts or by the percentage of completion. 

  • An Assocham (IT association) study estimates that leading foreign exchange (forex) income generator, the Information Technology (IT) and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) sectors, will become a net forex spender by 2010. It said that the industry needed USD 77 billion hardware by 2010 against income projections of USD 60 billion. Additionally, the study predicts that the increased domestic demand for electronics will rise from the current USD 11.2 billion to USD 159 billion by 2015. However, the current punitive taxation policies are suffocating local production making it more expensive than imports. Sales tax, value added tax, and inverted excise duty foreclose the creation of an estimated 7 million direct and 14 million indirect jobs. Current electronics production, valued at USD 11.2 billion, is about 1.7% of India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • An important Constitutional debate on the judiciaries right to question, investigate, or pass judgment Parliamentary decisions on its members went a step further. The Supreme Court transferred all cases before High Courts on the "cash-for-query" cases to itself to consider this important Constitutional question. Several Members of Parliament were caught in a sting operation accepting cash to raise questions in the Parliament. When the video aired, the Speaker of the Parliament initiated a resolution, backed my other Parliamentarians, to expel those who have been caught on tape. The expelled MPs filed cases with many courts seeking justice to the violation of their rights to a fair hearing. The SC issued notices to the Speaker who refused to acknowledge it saying that the judiciary is over-stepping its authority. The Speaker claims that since there is no specific law to govern Parliamentary expulsion, the British law enacted over 100 years ago will apply. He also points to a previous case where the SC had refused to interfere with a Speaker ruling. The important questions in this issue are whether the expelled MPs have rights to appeal, relief during the appeal process, and who the appellate authority will be. The SC has declined to stop the Election Commission from releasing vacancy notices for the constituencies occupied by these MPs. They also deferred stopping the Parliament administrator from evicting these MPs from their official residences. The next hearing is towards the end of the month.

Environment, Health and Education

  • The Supreme Court extended the ban of entry for Le Clemenceau into India and asked for a new monitoring committee to investigate pending issues. It has also asked the importer of the ship to file a Bill of Entry with the customs but not enter the exclusive economic zone. Taking umbrage to protests and opinion articles that appear in the media both for and against the entry of the ship, it issued a gag order restraining any form of publishing opinions on the issue. The judges fear that a media trial was happening when the public interest litigation was being considered. The bench also criticized some members of the monitoring committee who discussed the issue and debates within the committee with the press.

  • Editorial: Regulate Ship Breaking Business

Terrorism, Defense, Security

  • The Jammu & Kashmir police have created solid legal cases against Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed ideologues and leaders to obtain Interpol arrest warrants. The warrants will limit their movement to West Asia, especially Saudi Arabia for Haj, where they gain financial support or within Pakistan where they get military and personnel support. Once they crossed a border, they could be arrested and expatriated to India for trial. Notorious gangster Abu Salem was captured with this strategy.  

  • The Army Chief General J.J. Singh reacted angrily to a controversial Government survey that seeks to sample Muslims in the defense forces, Indian Administrative Services, police, and medical services. There are reports that the survey would include public sector companies too. He said "our system of enrollment looks at merit" saying that the army picks the best person for the job irrespective of places or origin, language, caste, or religion. While, the Center's objective is not known, the survey sparks fear that politicians are bringing in vote-bank politics to secular and functioning bodies of the Government. The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has accused the Government of pursuing divisive politics. The Government says that this data could be used to ensure proper disbursement of funds for minority welfare.

 

Hot Topics

GQ Project  

Cash-for-Query corruption

Clemenceau & the Environment

Terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir

Iran Nuclear Program

Hamas victory in Palestinian Election

Danish Cartoons

Featured Analyses

National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme : Making Panchayat Raj Institutions Effective

The Bill on National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme seeks to provide guaranteed employment to one member of every rural household for at least 100 days a year for a minimum wage of Rs.60 per day.  Out of 260 million poor people in the country, about 200 million poor people are in rural areas. People in 45% rural India do not get work for six months in a year. 

The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah
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

Featured Edits

Washington's ever-shifting goalpost
Imperilled nuclear freedom
India marches together
Self-governance proposal
Come clean on nuclear deal
Preaching to captive audience
Next steps in peace process
"India must speak up on human rights and rule of law"
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.

Neighbors

  • Iran crossed the "Red Line" by injecting uranium feedstock gas Uranium Hex fluoride (UF6) into the centrifuges it illegally and clandestinely procured from disgraced Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. The centrifuge procurement without reporting to the International Atomic Energy Agency is a breech of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The infusion of gas at Natanz is the first step towards enrichment of nuclear fuel that could be used in a nuclear reactor to generate electricity or make an atom bomb. Diplomatic sources say that only one machine was being used and not a whole cascade. The commencement of enrichment is a violation of the Paris Agreement between Iran and EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany). The IAEA will be meeting in March to determine whether to refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or not. Meanwhile, Iran said that its scheduled meeting with Russia on a joint venture proposal to enrich uranium in Russia has been "postponed." Unless an agreement is achieved with Russia before the March meeting, this escalation will most certainly result in the transfer of the case to the UNSC. In India, domestic politics made very inconvenient noises for the Federal Government. Its "allies" battered the decision to vote against Iran with one of them saying that it would go for a no confidence motion that if successful will bring down this Government and result in national elections. 

  • Ahead of talks in Geneva, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said that he does not favor a separate country for the Tamils in the North and East. Asserting the "one country" theme, he promised that there is scope for power sharing. He also promised to reign in paramilitaries whom the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam accuse of human rights violations. He denied accusation that the Government is supporting a breakaway faction of LTTE led by Karuna to make gain leverage over the LTTE.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

World

  • European Union Foreign Minister Javier Solana is on a damage control mission in West Asia to soothe anger over Danish cartoons that depicted Prophet Mohammed in a distasteful manner. Meeting with the leaders of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), which groups 57 Muslim countries, he stressed the importance of "needing each other." Highlighting a EU initiative to develop a moral code of conduct for the press that would control publication of offensive material, he doubted if this will happen again. After meeting Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, he will then travel to Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian territories, and Israel. Danish and Norwegian missions have been under attack in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. 

  • Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserted that Israel has the backing of the international community on its Hamas isolation policy but said it is open to peace talks with Palestinians but not the terrorist group Hamas. He said Israel "will not conduct any negotiations with Hamas or with anyone who is part of it or depends on it." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he might take up diplomatic avenues of Palestinian Territories leaving domestic issues to Hamas. Israel is critical of Russian invitation of Hamas leadership to Moscow saying that this will break international resolve in isolating Hamas. However, France, Spain, and the US administration seem to be backing Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to open dialogue with Hamas. The group is responsible for dozens of suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent Israelis. Writing in a Russian journal, Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal said that his organization will give up violence if Israel vacates West Bank and East Jerusalem-- areas it occupied after the 1967 war.   

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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