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Tuesday, February 07, 2006




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Business and Economy

  • An Ernst & Young industry survey in United Kingdom found that many senior managers believe that the center of gravity of wealth creation will shift to India, China, and Russia in the next 5 years. The 50 directors surveyed said that their directors are "sleep-walking" and not reacting fast enough. They predicted that some of the well-known UK companies will be bought by companies from these countries. Mittal Steel, the largest steel company in the world and owned by an Indian expatriate, made a bid for Arcelor, the second largest steel manufacturer and a European symbol; the buyout offer has been spurned with nationalistic overtones.

  • The Government came in for sharp criticism on its decision to import 500,000 tons of wheat from Australia. The opposition accuses the Government of mismanagement of buffer stocks, bad planning to procure such a large quantity on the more expensive spot market, and lack of analysis to track supply, demand, and pricing. Many independent trade experts say that the Government should have allowed private importers to import such a large quantity as it did to meet sugar shortages. The experts project that the Government will pay an extra 30% for the lowest quality grain. The other issue is that the large import will arrive when domestic farmers will be ready to sell their Rabi crop. With a projected lower price for the imported wheat and an abundant domestic price could create a reverse problem where farmers may not get a fair price for their crop. The Government buys only 1/3 of the wheat production and 2/3 is left to market forces; this makes farmers vulnerable to a Government-created glut.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Tribal Affairs Ministry Secretary Meena Gupta disclosed that the Scheduled Tribes Bill, also known as Recognition of Forest Rights Bill, would be tabled in the next Parliament session. She said that forest officials were treating tribal population living in the forests for millenniums as “encroachers” and is often harassed. The Draft National Policy prepared by the Ministry said that 8.5 million tribal people have been displaced from the forests till 1990 to accommodate some mega "development" projects. The tribal population makes up 55.16% of the total displaced population in India. Referring to a report from the Forest and Environment Department, she said that various tribes occupy 1.3 million hectare of 7.4 million hectare total forestland. She pointed out that of this, only 365,000 hectares of the "encroached" land has been grand fathered and "regularized." The cut-off date for claiming rights to live in the forest is October 25, 1980 and claimants can submit police case, forest case, or other documents to support their claim. The safety measures of this bill to protect the tribal population from land mafias, industrial encroachers, or from binami (front or fictitious names) transactions is not known. 

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology

  • An official of Pratt & Whitney, world’s leading aircraft engine manufacturer, described the Indian Kaveri engine as "truly world-class." The Kaveri engine project is 100% indigenous in design and prototype fabrication and has gone through several high-altitude tests. However, the Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) seems to have to hit some bottlenecks in taking this project further. Refusing to say what these bottlenecks were, DRDO floated a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking international partners on Indian terms. US-based Pratt & Whitney and French Snecma (of Safran group) are two companies who responded. Snecma feels it has an edge as it had helped the DRDO with previous technical bottlenecks in the Kaveri engine.

  • Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Director Robert Zeigler asked for visiting Indian President Abdul Kalam's support to start collaboration with Indian scientists. He wanted Indian help to develop a rice variety that can withstand climatic changes due to green house gas (GHG). The IRRI is also trying to popularize its "drummers" that it invented in 1980; a contraption that will reduce labor costs, save time for re-plantation, and increase production. Experiments in West Bengal saw a 300-350% profit over the USD 20 initial cost. Farmers in Philippines have seen a higher profit rate due to economies of scale. Vietnam has improved this invention by using plastic instead of iron so the weight, initial cost, and making the device more portable. With falling rice prices, farmers can still maintain margins through technology innovations such as drummers.


  • Bugti insurgents fired over 100 rockets in the South Western province of Baloachistan near the largest gas field killing 8 people, injuring scores, and damaging gas and water pipelines. Sui, the place of this incident, is about 700 kilometers from the capital Islamabad. Last month, Pakistan launched an intense attack on Bugti tribal villages using helicopter gun ships, artillery, and combat aircraft killing hundreds of civilians. Sustained international exposure has forced Pakistan to reduce the use of such excessive force in what the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) calls a race-based discriminatory campaign. The tribes themselves accuse Pakistan of unduly exploiting natural resources of Baloachistan, building the Kalabagh dam that would cut water to Baloachistan and threaten their existence, and administrative high-handedness. Pakistan has a history of fighting Baloach rebels. In the 1973 insurgency, 3000 army, 5000 insurgents, and innumerable civilians lost their lives. The province never truly integrated with Pakistan.


Hot Topics

Wheat Import Issue

Forest Rights Bill

Indo-Philippines Co-op.

Human Rights Violation in Pakistan

Election in Nepal

Peace process in Sri Lanka

Iran Nuclear Issue

Danish Cartoon Issue

Hamas victory in Palestinian Election

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

Featured Edits

Question mark over Indo-U.S. nuclear deal
Under a mushroom cloud
India’s vote at IAEA
It’s all about politics, Mr PM
Engage, don't enrage, Islam
Expulsion of MPs: the Speaker and the courts
Adjusting to the new textile order
Woman power
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.

  • Two days before the controversial February 8 mayoral elections in Nepal, Maoist terrorists killed candidates who dared to defy their order to stay away from democracy. A weeklong strike called by the Maoists created panic among people and forced vehicles off the roads. The administration alienated vehicle owners by forcing them, especially transport vehicles, to drive their vehicles. Very few vehicles ventured out on roads leaving Katmandu and those, which were forced to, did so with security escorts. A number of mayoral candidates have been declared unopposed winners while several others withdrew their names from the candidacy fearing the terrorists. While the election commission went ahead with groundwork to ensure free and fair polls, many people do not know whom their candidates are or even where to vote. The administration continued with its mass arrest strategy by arresting several journalists for defying prohibitory orders and trying to participate in a protest march. 

  • The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said that it would not be ready to participate in the Geneva talks by mid-February as previously arranged. Seen as a political stunt, the LTTE is protesting the abduction of 10 relief workers by, they allege, Government paramilitary troops. There is a lot of suspense over the identity of these relief workers and the abductors. The Government rejected this accusation.

  • Iran clarified that it has not withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, it will bar spot and unannounced inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials. Saying that the "era of bullying is over," the Iranian hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran will never back down from its resolve to develop. He mocked the western nations saying, "You can issue as many resolutions as you like and have fun with it.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program


  • Protestors in Syria and Lebanon burnt the Danish embassies in retaliation for cartoons depicting Islamic Prophet Mohammed in distasteful scenarios. Angry Syrians also burnt the Norwegian embassy in Damascus. While the Jyllands-Posten, which published these cartoons in September 2005, did not break any laws and is protected by freedom of speech covenants, the cartoons themselves have offended Islamic sentiments. Exacerbating this development, these cartoons were later reproduced by several Western papers to demonstrate support for freedom of speech. Several Islamic nations have recalled their Ambassadors and there is call to boycott Danish goods. Western nations have warned Islamic nations not to officially support such bans. Jyllands-Posten, after a lot of reluctance, has finally apologized for the cartoons.

  • The United States Administration is planning to ask for USD 120 billion for its war on Iraq and Afghanistan for 2006. With this allocation, which is expected to pass easily by the US Congress, the total cost of the war against terrorism is now estimated at USD 440 billion. The terrorism war, now called the Long War, was predicted to cost USD 50 billion by hard-line Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield. A formed economic adviser to US President George Bush was forced to resign when he predicted that the Iraq war alone would cost USD 200 billion. US Administration officials say that they need extra money for military equipment and training to retain the effectiveness of its troops against roadside bombs.

  • Hamas is coming to terms with its election victory and administrative responsibilities. A severe cash crunch created by Israel's block of tax money transfers and a halt in western nations' aid has left the Palestinian Authority (PA) without cash to pay salaries to its 137,000 workers. While the western nations lined up behind Israel and promised to cut aid of USD 1 billion, Hamas insisted that it would continue to work for the destruction of Israel. In the meanwhile, West Asian Islamic countries are trying to help PA tide over the crisis with special doles.

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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