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Thursday, February 02, 2006




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Business and Economy

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that since the launch of cellular telephony, India added 4.5 million users in a month thus matching the "add-on" rate of China. China which currently has 388 million cell phone users, added only 43 million in the first 11 years compared to India's 76 million. TRAI said the average call rate in India is Rs.2.5 compared to China's Rs.3.5 a minute. It also pointed out the increased competition is decreasing the average revenue per subscriber to Rs. 344 a quarter for GSM and Rs. 244 a quarter for CDMA. Their study showed that a vast majority of the users used cell phones for local calls.

  • Indian Planning Commission members say that Agriculture needs to grow by 3-3.5% if India is to achieve a base target of 8% economic growth during the 11th financial plan. The agriculture sectors have received less investment in the last few years therefore resulting in 1-1.1% growth. However, increased investments the last two years are seeing this sector growing at 3-3.5%. The lack of growth of agriculture has been blamed as a drag on the Indian economy. Most investments in agriculture have been in the form of subsidies. The Planning Commission is arguing that subsidies must not be an entitlement or largesse but a seeding mechanism that will allow new markets to develop. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) says that Livestock is one sector that needs attention since a modest investment in vaccination and crossbreeding can result in huge returns. Experiments in the last few years have shown that Livestock sector has grown more than 25% providing higher income and employment in the rural areas. A national survey by ICAR found that a 20% reduction in farmer labor among the youth but compensated by a 20% increase in women farmers which is better suited for Livestock raising and marketing. 

  • Pakistan is to import 50000 tons of sugar from India to meet domestic demand and maintainable market prices. Pakistan is expected to produce 2.8-3 million tons of sugar this year (down from 3.2 million tons last year) to meet a demand of 3.8 million tons. Experts say that Pakistan has to import about 800000 tons of sugar to meet this demand. Reduced rain and productivity levels of sugar farms prompted farmers to switch to cotton. Pakistan had banned sugar imports from India fearing cheaper sugar from India will destroy its sugar production capacity. However, with the resumption of peace process and a large shortage of sugar from domestic producers seem to have changed the Government policy. The Indian Sugar Mills Association said that it could scale to exporting 800000 million tons to Pakistan; in 2000, India exported 300000 tons of sugar to Pakistan.

  • GMR-Fraport and GVK-South Africa Airports on Tuesday won contracts for modernization of Delhi and Mumbai airports, respectively, but the restructuring move immediately resulted in employees striking work at several airports. There were no reports of flight disruptions.

  • Ending 3 1/2 years of policy waffling, the Indian Government announced contracts to private companies to modernize Mumbai and Delhi airports. The losers to the bid include Indian conglomerate major Reliance accused the Government of irregularities in allotment of contracts. The Government refuted the charges saying that no rules were bent to accommodate any bidder. The labor unions, supported by communist allies of the Government, have been threatening a national strike to protest this privatization. They fear that there will be mass job shedding if private operators run airports. Government owned aviation and airports employ the highest number of personnel per airplane and airport in the world. The Government has place IAF and services on high alert to fill in for striking employees so the airports remain open and business does not shutdown. India has laws that ban strikes in critical sectors such as aviation and there is a Supreme Court verdict that bans state-sponsored or national strikes. However, the ban is only applicable if the Government asks for a ruling. It is not clear if the Government will invoke these provisions and incur the ire of their communist allies.

Terrorism, Defense and Security

  • After days of hard negotiations, the Government and NSCN (I-M) agreed on a truce for 6 months. The Nagaland group wants a "Greater Nagaland" that encompasses parts of Manipur and Mizoram. Citizens of those states disagree and even refuse to recognize minority Naga populations there. After several years of insurgency, a truce was brokered with the group in 1997 and has been extended every 1 year. This time around, the group was against renewal of the truce saying no change is happening on the ground. Last year, the group agreed for a ceasefire for only 6 months and this extension also seems to be for a 6-month period. A major controversy rippled through this state and area in the 1960s when Christian missionaries were found to be CIA agents. Almost all Nagas are Christians.

Environment, Health and Education

  • India has achieved a major milestone in containing the threat of leprosy by bringing down the number of cases to 107000 or about .95 for every 10000 people. This is the internationally acceptable level to claim eradication of a disease. The new target is to completely eradicate this disease that takes 20 to 25 years to incubate. Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal account for 41% of all cases.  Until 1950s, over 70% of leprosy cases world over came from India with the South contributing the most. With the implementation of the Leprosy Control Program in 1955, India achieved World Health Assembly targets by May 1991. All Southern states have a low prevalence rate of .60 per 10000 but the disability rate is higher. Meghalaya has the lowest prevalence of .11 per 10000.

  • Editorial: Regulate Ship Breaking Business


Hot Topics

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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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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.


  • In a major show of unity, all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have agreed to refer the Iran nuclear issue to the UNSC. This agreement ahead of the February 2 meeting to discuss this issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes after the last-ditch Belgium meeting collapsed. European Union (EU) officials said that Iran did not bring up any new ideas and thought this was a delay ploy. Russia said that Iran has proposed some changes to its proposal to enrich low-grade uranium through a joint venture in Russia. The only concession that Iran got was that Russia and China, with large economic and military ties with Iran, managed to delay the referendum to March. Meanwhile, Iran threatened to restart all nuclear activities and bar all IAEA surprise inspections if the matter is referred to the UNSC. India had positioned itself to vote against Iran on Thursday over-riding communist allies’ threats to the Government to either vote for or abstain from voting. After a meeting with the National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary, communist party leaders sheepishly announced the change of their positions after they learnt that China and Russia will be voting against Iran. 

  • The Nepal Government arrested the leader of an 8-group student union thought to be aligned to the 7-party alliance opposed to the February 8 mayoral elections. He had advocated placing black flags in all colleges to protest the elections which detractors call "a ploy to legitimize" the power-grab by King Gnanendra. Police also raided the offices of some local newspapers.

  • The LTTE strongly reacted to the abduction of five Tamil aid workers by unidentified men. It said that it could be "Sri Lankan forces or it may be the Karuna group." The Karuna group is a breakaway faction of the LTTE, which had only recently offered truce to the LTTE. Sometimes, terrorist groups use stress-creating situations to stall talks, buy time, plan attacks, or break dialogue.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program


  • The Amnesty International (AI) has accused the United States of killing mentally unfit prisoners on death row. AI says that 10% of the 3400 incarcerated and death row suffer from conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, brain damage, and post traumatic stress disorder. They also criticized the US for extra-constitutional measures such as forced treatments to patients to make them fit enough to be executed, allowing them to represent themselves, and accepting requests to be executed. 

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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