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Wednesday, January 18, 2006




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Business & Economy

  • In the largest ever rural sop, India plans to launch the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in April. When legislation goes through, it guarantees rural residents Rs.62.5 per day that the Government pays directly for work in the rural areas. Residents who need to commute will be given an extra 10%. It is unclear how the Government plans to maintain accounts, ensure that money is not siphoned to party favorites, account for work done, or monitor execution. With a ballooning fiscal deficit and crumbling infrastructure, it is also unknown how the Government plans to fund this project. However, active support from all political parties is expected.

  • The Federal Minister of State for Coal and Mines Dasari Narayana Rao said that a Group of Minister (GoM) has recommended allowing 100% Foreign Direct Investment in mining. Anticipating that the demand for coal is expected to triple this year to 1260 metric tons (mts), the Government has allocated 35 coal blocks to about 60 private companies for captive consumption and another 10 for Government companies. These allocations amount to about 15 billion tons of coal and equivalent to 15 years of India's current production. He disclosed that India has also recently allocated 20 new blocks for private captive consumption with 2.5 billion mts of reserves and 8 lignite blocks with 800 mts of reserve. The main beneficiaries for these allocations will be power, steel, and cement sectors. He did not disclose any environmental or labor protection and monitoring plans to cover such active mining by private companies.

  • To get a fair share of India's growing global trade engagement, Britain has mooted a plan to create a Free Trade Agreement between India and the European Union. The sticking points for the EU are access to banking segment and reduction of customs levies on wines and spirits. India pointed out non-tariff barriers such as treating Indian whisky as gin, non-recognition of Indian law, accountancy, and medical degrees. The UK is India's the largest trading partner within the EU which is worth USD 7 billion. The second round of Indo-UK joint economic and trade negotiations will happen in London later in January 2006 and will focus on substantive measures to increase trade.

  • The Federal Power Ministry unveiled ambitious plans to create several ultra mega power plants that can generate 4000 mega watts (mw) at the cost of Rs.150 billion each. These plants are expected to generate power between Rs.1.50 to Rs.1.80 per unit. Two plants located in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will use domestic coal. Two others located in coastal Karnataka and Gujarat will use imported and domestic coal. A fifth project at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra is also being considered. These plants are expected to use the efficient 800 mw supercritical boilers which Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd will import through foreign collaborations. Boilers from French Alstom, turbines from German Siemens will provide the technology. Other companies from Russia and South Korea are also being considered. Leading financial institution, PFC will invite "expressions of interest" for these plants by February 2005. The plan is to parallelize the process by getting independent clearances for these companies and make the deal open to investors by end of 2006. PFC will also initiate company registration, invitation of bids, and complete all necessary studies by end of next month. Pre-qualification of potential investors is expected to be out by March.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Parliament Speaker Somnath Chatterjee seeking clarification on the Constitutionality of the expulsion of several Members of Parliament after a TV sting operation caught them on camera taking bribes. The speaker had already said that he will not respond to court summons and risks contempt proceedings if he follows through. The Legislature under Chatterjee has been on a collision course with the Judiciary over the last year when controversial ordinances from the Government have been struck down for breach of Constitution.

Environment and Health, Science & Technology

  • The Supreme Court on Monday instructed the company that owns Clemenceau, the condemned aircraft carrier with tons of asbestos, not to include the exclusive economic zone of 220 nautical miles. Counsels appearing for the Clemenceau accepted that 150 tons of asbestos is still present on the ship. The French Government has been saying that only 45tons was left on the ship and that all ships have this level of hazardous waste. The SC asked the customs department to submit its views on the subject before taking a final decision on the ship meant for the Alang ship waste yard in Gujarat. It disempowered the high-level committee on hazardous waste management from reversing its verdict. India has previously accepted a Dutch ship "Ricky" for dismantling and the Basel Convention was not invoked at that time. India allows the import, manufacture, and use of asbestos and most often used by the poor for roofing. Netting Rs.20 billion and growing at 12% annually, the industry gets various benefits from the Government such as massive reduction of import duty of this cancerous substance. A Hindustan Composites study says that 6000 directly and 100,000 workers indirectly are exposed in India every year although only 30 cases received compensation. 13 Indian companies and 650 small operations employing 100,000 workers produce all of India's asbestos. The World Health Organization says that it takes 15 to 40 years for cancer to manifest.


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

Bofors is dead, long live Bofors
Bullet-proof ‘monks’
A dangerous incoherence at the core
Bhardwaj must go
India and Taiwan: moving closer
Maha farce
Musharraf’s demilitarisation balloon
Musharraf is bluffing
Rebranding of Bihar
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.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • Karnataka police busted a Lashkar-e-Toiba module in the state that meant to blow up economic targets such as reservoirs and power stations and cause maximum civilian damage. Police arrested Habeeb (alias Mehboob Ibrahim) and Abdul Rahman, Lashkar's so-called "commander" of South India. Both Abdul and Habeeb had been in Saudi Arabia where they were indoctrinated into radical Islam and recruited by Lashkar. Police say that they recovered gelatin sticks from where Habeeb was arrested. Analysis of Abdul retrieved names of operatives in Andhra Pradesh who were conspiring to attack economic targets, national monuments, and spread communal harmony. Police are also investigating Habeeb's role in the IISc terrorist incident. Police in Karnataka are seeking help from counterparts in AP and Gujarat as they have more experience dealing with terror and have more intelligence data. The LeT typically take South Indian recruits from Bijapur, Gulbarga, Udupi, Mangalore, Kolar, and Ramnagar through their cells in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bangladesh, and Uttar Pradesh to training sites in Bangladesh via Kolkata. After training them in weapons, explosives, attacks, and handling police interrogation they are taken to Baloachistan for intensive practical training and then returned to India and await orders for attacks. Meanwhile, 'Imam' Maulana Ghulam Yaya Baksh arrested in Mumbai recently has revealed the involvement of most-wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim's with the LeT. He said the Dawood wanted a repeat of 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai using three to four small groups who are accumulating bombs and bomb making material. According to him, the RDX has already been smuggled in from Pakistan and the arrested group was the one who was responsible of putting the bomb together. Saudi Arabia is turning out to be a major training and recruiting ground for terrorism. Coincidentally, the Saudi King will be the Chief Guest of the Indian Republic Day parade.


  • The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said Iran has "crossed the threshold" when it unilaterally resumed nuclear research and uranium fuel generation at its Nantz plant. She said that the US and European nations are working with other IAEA member states to show a strong consensus of disapproval to Iran. Asking for an emergency meeting of the IAEA, she said the world cannot wait till the scheduled meeting in March as this will grant Iran time to "obfuscate" its nuclear plans. Meanwhile, the permanent veto-bearing members of the United Nations Security Council will meet in London to discuss options on Iran. Referring the matter will mean a sure set of sanctions on Iran which will cripple its economy. The US and EU accuse Iran of trying to make nuclear bombs and unilaterally abrogating international agreements. Iran denies the charge and says that its research is for power generation alone. The IAEA chief Elbaradei has said that he would not "stamp" Iran's nuclear program as peaceful. Iran had clandestinely acquired nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q Khan. India had voted against the Iranian nuclear program in September 2005 and is under intense pressure from the US to continue its opposition and also terminate its planned gas pipeline from Iran. Domestic politics, especially opposition from communists who support the minority Government from the outside, is however hampering the Government to take a firm decision on Iran.

  • India and Pakistan resumed the third round of composite dialogue in News Delhi. Talks would include Jammu & Kashmir and peace and security, confidence building measures, Siachen, Sir Creek, Tulbul navigation project, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial co-operation, and promotion of friendly exchanges. Two rounds of composite talks have already taken place in which the Kashmir issue was widely discussed. The composite dialogue process began after initiation of peace process in 2004.

  • Nepal imposed curfew in Katmandu after Maoist terrorists attacked police outposts 10 kilometers from Katmandu. The order restricted movement in the capital between midnight and 4 am. People fear fresh Maoist attack in the capital while opposition leaders fear that the Government will institute martial law and curb civil rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Opposition parties have called for a mass protest on January 20. In the meanwhile, the Royal Nepal Army has launched a huge combing operation to search and destroy terrorists..


  • Chile and Liberia both elected women as its Presidents. Chile elected Michelle Bachelet, a politician with strong socialist leanings, making it only the second woman to lead a Latin American nation. Bachelet won 53% of the votes and takes Chile along with other Latin American nations towards the left. Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becoming Africa's first elected woman to head a state. Thousands of Liberians witnessed her swearing in ceremony. Liberia has been devasted by 14 years of internal strife. Senior world leaders including US First Lady Barbara Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the ceremony. 

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