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Thursday, January 19, 2006




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Business & Economy

  • The National Commission for Women (NCW) has issued guidelines for call centers around the country regarding the safety of women coming and going to their place of work. The NCW was spurred into action by the recent gruesome rape and murder of a female employee of a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in Bangalore. Women form 40% of the BPO/call center workforce who often have to work night-shifts. Usually, they are picked and dropped off by their employers in rented taxis. While employers verify the antecedents of their staff, scant attention is paid to those of their drivers. These guidelines require employers to investigate and verify the background of their drivers, schedule pick ups so that women are the first or last to be picked up, provide tracking mechanisms in taxis, communication gadgets in vehicles, and emergency hooters that can be operated from the back. The NCW said that these guidelines will become part of the Factories Act. 

  • Fitch Ratings said that with absence of fiscal correction, the Indian economy will increasingly have to depend on external financing. The disadvantages posed by the present current account deficit of 1.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is somewhat offset by continuing capital inflows, a foreign exchange reserve of USD 140 billion. These will balance out in the near term and help the Indian economy withstand external fiscal crisis like oil price escalations. However, he also warned that India is highly debt leveraged--Governments borrow heavily on long-term notes in local currency to fund populist programs necessitated by coalition politics. With a debt to GDP ratio of 85% even with a 7-8% growth rate indicates that India is unlikely to outgrow this debt burden. Fitch recommends stronger fiscal discipline, wider tax base, more efficient use of public sector funding, and reduction of populist programs.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Supreme Court in consultation with the National Commission for Women (NCW) will be requiring, irrespective of religious disposition, the mandatory registration of marriages. Fully endorsing the SC's efforts the NCW said that mandatory registration will prevent child marriages, bigamy/polygamy, enable windows from claiming inheritance, prevent husbands from deserting women after marriage on flimsy grounds, and help women exercise their matrimonial rights. The NCW also wanted a central legislation making it easy to register marriages and also without punitive actions for non-registration. Currently, India allows Hindus, Muslims, and Christians to marry under independent religious laws some of which do not help women.

Environment , Health and Education

  • National English newspaper The Hindu reported that Egyptian authorities did not contact the Indian Government to obtain latest documents regarding the acceptance of Clemenceau in India. Instead, what it got were four old documents issued by various Government bodies allowing the ship to Alang, the ship breaking waste yard in Gujarat. It did not get the report of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee saying that the ship should not be allowed into India. The owners of the ship paid a hefty USD 1.3 million to transit the Suez Canal and will have to pay an equivalent amount if the ship is not allowed in India.

  • A national study of 506 rural districts has revealed that over 14 million children still do not go to school. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa account for 71.2% of this number. While states like Kerala, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and Gujarat have only 4% out of school, states like Bihar and Rajasthan of children in the 6-14 age-group who are out of school. The study said that 93.4% of children in the 6-14 age groups were enrolled in schools with Government schools accommodating over 75% of them. Facilitated by Non-Government Organization (NGO) Pratham, the study revealed "alarming" trends in what the children were learning. It says that irrespective of age, class level, or type of school, "the level of arithmetic is weak and needs serious improvement." It urges the Government to address these issues if it wants to make good the promise of making education a fundamental right of the child. The Government has set 2010 as the deadline by which it will achieve quality universal elementary education..

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • The Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) police investigating the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) plot to kill former J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed expressed disbelief to the extent of their penetration of the state apparatus. They revealed that a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) councilor Abdul Wahid Dar and husband of a Congress councilor Shahzada Beig, both LeT operatives met PDP party chief Mehbooba Mufti seeking protection from investigation. Wile he is not under suspicion, Dar's elder brother works as an assistant in the PDP office. Mufti says that she asked Dar to leave immediately, but police say that Dar was given sanctuary and he made calls to Srinagar. Police have asked Mufti to get Dar to surrender. Mufti may have perjured herself and violated national criminal laws by protecting a wanted criminal and the consequences of these actions are not known. In a major morale booster for the police, a Delhi trial court convicted 2 Pakistani LeT men for 37 bombing incidents in 1997 in various North Indian cities killing 17 and injuring 300 civilians.


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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.

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Make the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal more transparent
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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.


  • An improvised explosive device (IED) placed in an abandoned push cart, exploded as a convoy carrying Sri Lankan navy men went by. The explosion blamed on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was planted near Trincomalee and killed 2 civilians and injured 11 sailors. The Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that monitors the ceasefire has suspended operations in Eastern Trincomalee. This district with equal Sinhalese and Tamil population is considered a major flashpoint in the rapidly crumbling ceasefire. Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim facilitating the dialogue between the Government and LTTE will be visiting Sri Lanka in the near future. LTTE's chief negotiator and British national Anton Balasingham will also visit the area to assist LTTE commander Vellupillai Prabakaran in upcoming negotiations. 

  • India and Pakistan met for the third time to continue its composite dialogue process. At the end of the first day, India has expressed its unhappiness with Pakistan on the lack of progress on two issues critical to India. Pakistan's failure to contain official sponsorship of terrorism and failure to make any progress on legal and consular processes to extradite criminals are two issues that are affecting Indian perceptions. Pakistan has expressed displeasure at Indian reference to the near civil war situation in Baloachistan. The Pakistan delegation repeated allegation of their President about Indian material and financial support for insurgency in that province. India dismissed these allegations as "unfounded" and rebel leaders have called the Pakistani President a liar while rejecting the notion that they received external support. In fact, they said they are using weapons provided by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and others procured for a low price from black markets operating with impunity in Pakistan. India has also presented Pakistan with a proposal that no defense posts or work be taken up along the Line of Control (LoC) and regular brigadier-commander flag meetings between the two armies. However, both sides expressed happiness with the continuation of this dialogue.

  • In a sure sign of lack of consensus among the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, Russia and China insisted that negotiations is the best way to deal with Iran. Russian expressed frustration with Iran's escalations but also pointed out that years of sanctions against Iraq did not achieve anything but hardship for the civil population. China, with deep economic relations with and oil dependence on Iran, also counseled patience and encouraged the EU-3 of Germany, France, and Britain to resume dialogue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the "ideal outcome is a diplomatic solution" but wanted Iran abide "by its international obligations." Iran accuses the West of dual standards saying that the US has extensive relations with India, a recent nuclear power, while denying Iran its fundamental right to develop nuclear technology. India reacted cautiously saying that every country had sovereign rights to enter into international agreements but once committed they cannot wiggle out of them. In an obvious reference to Iran's violation of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, India also said that it has not violated any international agreement. In another veiled reference to Iran's clandestine procurement of nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, India said that it was a responsible nuclear power with a stellar record on proliferation.

  • Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf restated his allegation about India's "involvement" the insurgency of Baloachistan. Although he maintained that he has proof to support his allegation, he did not furnish it. He called the tribal leaders "selfish" and said his Government was determined to squash the rebellion. Tribal leaders in Baloachistan call Musharraf a liar and reject his allegation of India's involvement. Pakistan says that only the constabulary is involved in the current strife in that province. However, it is hard to explain the air force combat planes, helicopter gun ships, and artillery being deployed in an obvious use of excessive force to quell the rebellion. Pakistan wants to proceed with its economic projects in the region including gas pipelines and dams to harness water and power. The controversial Kalabagh dam expected to be complete by 2016 will cut off water to Baloachistan, which is mostly a desert thus threatening the very existence of Baloach. Although the killing in Baloachistan has not reached the levels of erstwhile East Pakistan, the lack of sensitivity of the army to local populations seems to be a pattern of behavior.

  • Nepal initiated a crackdown on pro-democracy parties determine to boycott the municipal elections on February 8. Nepal arrested at least two dozen activists of a seven party alliance opposing the monarchy. They were arrested as they defined the Government's order banning demonstrations. The Government had requested the opposition to keep demonstrations off specific vulnerable areas in the capital Katmandu so they do not provide a cover for Maoist terrorist infiltration.

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