What Is India News Service
Monday, February 27, 2006

India News Summary



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Business and Economy
  • Government owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is planning to invite bids for 60 million GSM lines valued at USD 4.5 billion. Announcing the deal, Communications and Information Minister Dayanidhi Maran said that 30% of the bid would automatically go to the public sector equipment supplier ITI, which has technical collaboration with French vendor Alcatel. Growth of fixed and mobile connections in India is highest in the world and the mobile market has already eclipsed China. Maran says every month 1.75 million new subscribers are being added and that total Indian connections will exceed 250 million by 2007; it is not clear how he got the arithmetic, as the current subscriber base in India is 5.3 million. He urged Swedish company Ericsson to accelerate its plans to set up a manufacturing facility near Chennai, as competitors Finland's Nokia will inaugurate its plant on March 11. He also revealed US-based IEMC's plan to set up a semi-conductor manufacturing in India and that Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu were trying to woo the USD 3 billion investment. These investments would totally produce over 10,000 jobs.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • Minister Manmohan Singh convened a round-table meeting on Jammu & Kashmir. With the exception of the Hurriyat Conference (an umbrella group of separatist groups) most political parties and interest groups participated in the discussions. For the first time, the Government invited representatives of Kashmiri Pandits ("ethnically cleansed" out of their ancestral homes in Kashmir in 1989), Hindu groups from the Jammu, and Buddhist groups from Ladakh. The most significant outcome is the decision that Home Minister Shivraj Patil convenes a panel of senior officials to review the detainee list so that those without serious charges may be released soon. Referring to the recent shooting incident in which security forces shot down 4 youth, Singh reiterated the country's commitment to dealing with "terrorism and militancy" while ensuring that innocent people are not affected. The panel expressed hope that the Hurriyat will join the discussions in the scheduled May meeting at Srinagar. He highlighted the successes of the people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan that formed an important component of the ongoing peace talks between the two countries. Jammu & Kashmir has three major groups-- Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The Hindus are in majority in Jammu and Buddhists are in majority in Ladakh. In Kashmir Valley, the population can divided into Sunni groups that seek separation from India, Shia groups with strong ties to Sufism mostly engaged in farming and craft wanting stronger economic ties with India, and Gujjars & Bakerwals who want strong security ties with India. Because of the way the constituencies in the state are drawn and the Assembly set up, the Kashmiri Sunnis with a marginal majority in the Valley corner all the political space there. As an extension of this problem, the Valley with a marginally higher population than Jammu and with a much smaller land area than Ladakh gets a disproportionately higher number of seats.

  • The Uttar Pradesh Congress Party has asked for the arrest of senior member of Samajwadi Party Amar Singh. He cited interviews and CDs with telephone conversations of Singh in possession of NDTV, which show Singh's collusion with UP Chief Minister Maulayam Singh Yadav to remove an inconvenient High Court judge. The CDs also show that an industrialist in Mumbai advised by another to set aside USD 5.5 million for Singh if he wants to start a business in UP. The UP Congress also called on the Home Minister to start discussions whether Article 356 should be invoked to manage the behavior of an out-of-control State Government. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) needs the support of SP to stay in power. If the UP Government is sacked, the SP will undoubtedly bring down the Federal Government leading to national elections. Since the propensity of the UPA is to stay in power, this demand by the state unit will most likely be disregarded.

Environment, Health and Education

  • Royal Dutch Shell a target of increased kidnaps and attacks on facilities was ordered by a Nigerian court to pay USD 1.5 billion for polluting the Niger delta. The Ijaw community has been campaigning hard against the oil major accusing it of degrading their water supply affecting their farming and fishing. Rebels from the south have kidnapped Shell employees demanding a better share of the country's oil revenues. Communities have been consistently complaining against Shell accusing it of spilling oil from its oil stations. Shell says that the fault lies with saboteurs who, assisted by international criminal syndicates, try to steal oil. Rebels have blown up Shell's pipelines and loading platforms seriously affecting its output. Nigeria's oil output has dropped by over 20% in the last one week. Shell said it will appeal against the punitive damage amount but is not contesting the accusation.

  • In a first ever incident, Sikkim reported the mysterious death of 33 vultures and 10 kites at heights of 10-20,000 feet. Based on initial investigations, officials have ruled out bird flu but have sent samples to the High Risk Disease Investigation Center in Bhopal. Described as the fastest decline in the population of any species, over 97% of Indian vultures have died in the last decade because they eat dead cattle that have been administered with Diclofenac sodium, a common pain killer used in cattle. Despite strong reports and lobbying by the Bombay Natural History Society, the drug is banned only in Sikkim.

  • Delhi-based NGO Wildlife Trust of India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chhattisgarh Forest Department to initiate a 3-year program to revive and conserve the wild buffalo population.  Infringement of grazing area by cattle growers, scarcity of food and water, and hybridization with domestic breed has seriously their existence in the wild. Additionally, indiscriminate hunting by tribals during Parad festivities and introduction of parasites from domestic livestock into their environment has brought their numbers down from an estimate 4200 in 2004 to about 200 remain. Chhattisgarh has about 68 wild Asian buffaloes while the rest are in Assam. Historically, the wild Asian buffalo roamed from Eastern Nepal to Vietnam. However, the 1960s saw a large-scale elimination of the buffalo population. This project will identify the threats and conservation strategies in a 4,200 sq. kilometer area.

Hot Topics
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. <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 /> 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
Bush gets a lesson on Kashmir Quote
ISI has quite a presence in India: Ex-IB official
Aam aadmi’s expectations from the FM
Better Indo-US ties a historical need
Toxic cockpit fumes that bring danger to the skies
Bush and India’s insecurity
‘This nuclear deal really removes the last barrier between India and the US’
Get to the Truth
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.
  • The district bordering Maharashtra’s Navapur in Gujarat has reported incidents of chickens being infected with the dreaded H5N1 bird flu virus. As usual, the Government claimed that it has the situation under control ordering the culling of 68,000 birds. Besides, it is maintaining a watch on 5,000 backyard grown birds. Over the last 10 days, farmers have been reporting death of chicken due to "mysterious" reasons. At first, the Government asserted that this was the Ranikhet disease and later admitted that it was the bird flu. Samples are being sent to High Security Diseases Laboratory in Bhopal. The state has doled out Rs. 2.7 million as compensation to farmers who lost their stock of chicken. Meanwhile, organized poultry farmers and Poultry Welfare Association are campaigning to demonstrate that chicken, even if infected, are safe to eat when cooked. They are distributing free chicken, organizing chicken cooking fests, and eating them in public. Members of Parliament and state assemblies who count on support from the industry and who own poultry farms themselves were also doing the same in public.

  • Editorial : Regulate Ship Breaking Businesschnology

Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the failed attempt at the largest fuel processing facility at Abqaiq where 2/3 of Saudi's export is processed. Two suicide bombers in a car tried to force their way into the facility but were shot down by security gunmen. The al Qaeda notice on a website said that they will "rid the Arabian Peninsular of the infields." Although Saudi officials were at pain to point out that production has not been affected, prices jumped by 10%. Some analysts believe that the attack was timed to coincide with the pressure on Nigerian oil from terrorists in that country and increased tensions with Iran. Eighth largest oil producer Nigeria, has dropped production by 20% and if economic sanctions are slapped on Iran over its nuclear weapons program, the world oil supply will reduce even further. There is increasing fear among strategists that terrorists will target economic targets such as oil refineries and ships. There is increased international cooperation and awareness of these threats and countries are investing in security and surveillance products to counter such threat perceptions.

  • UK Minister for Science and Innovation Lord Sainsbury announced the formation of India-UK Science and Innovation Council to forge industry-oriented commercial research. This high-powered body, with participation by the Prime Minister's Science Advisory Council, will focus on scientific cooperation and research in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science, and mobile communication. He also highlighted a new UK-India Educational and Research Initiative with a seed funding of UKP 10 million and matching contributions from the industry. This body will encourage opportunities for Indian students to study in the UK and British students to study in India.

  • About 1,300 Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners, protesting against a uniform regime separating political and criminal prisoners, rioted in Afghanistan taking over the cont6rol block of the main jail at Pul-e-Charkhi.  Officials said that the prisoners broke through interconnecting walls, including those that separated the women and "joined together and organized a riot." The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said that the riot was staged by Taliban prisoners wanting to escape and called it a "political issue." Guards fired their guns to contain the riot from spreading.

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate
  • US Undersecretary of Political Affairs and chief negotiator of the Indo-US civilian deal returned to the US saying that "more work needs to be done." Burns and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran were working overtime to hammer out a deal before the US President George Bush comes to India on March 1. The toughest issue is the question of including the fast breeder reactor (FBR) programs in the deal, which will effectively stop all military and alternate fuel research in those sites. Efforts to include the FBR have met with strong resistance from the scientists of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the military, various opinion makers, and some of the Government's allies. A smaller anonymous group within the DAE issued a statement that inclusion of FBR will not affect the program but will only enhance it as technologies so far denied to India may take the research further. Another school of thought is since India's nuclear weapons program follows only a "credible minimum deterrence" model and India already has enough fuel in place to make more than required bombs, there should be no restrictions in including the FBRs. The proponents of this school say that India always has an option of starting a new FBR facility within the military complex if necessary and therefore not sacrifice much. Opponents to this theory counter those FBRs were never part of the deal and inclusion of those at this late stage amounts to "moving the goal posts." They also say that in the post nuclear deal era, technologies from civilians and military nuclear projects cannot be shared so they discount the plans of new nuclear military FBR projects as wishful thinking. India is a severely energy deficit country and needs more energy generating methods to sustain and propel its economy forward. The US plan is to substitute oil with nuclear fuel that will be supplied only by nuclear supplier group (NSG) of so-called "permanent" members of the United Nations Security Council. If India should develop an alternate form of energy using Thorium, which is available only in India, it will free the country of dependency on NSG and also provide an opportunity to export this energy form and generate revenue.

  • Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced the arrest of heads of two elite security forces groups and other right and left leaders to crush a coup attempt. In addition, an opposition Congressman has been arrested and a newspaper opposed to Arroyo has been sealed. Arroyo came to power in 2001 without winning elections when the then President Joseph Estrada was accused of corruption and is now under house arrest. Her opponents accuse her of election fraud during the 2004 elections and refuse to accept her as the President. Announcing a state of emergency, she has banned all protests against her rule.

  • Three years of failed rains have stripped vegetation and created the worst drought in Kenya in a decade. Devoid of food, shelter, and water over 50% of the 10,000 elephants strayed out of national parks grabbing whatever food and water it can. Apart from drought, increased cattle grazing have stripped the ground of grass and shrubbery creating dust storms.

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