What Is India News Service
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

India News Summary



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Business and Economy
  • On the eve of the much anticipated budget, the Government economic survey called for large investments in agriculture, energy, and infrastructure and called for fiscal discipline and economic and labor reforms. Predicting a 2.3% growth to 209 million tons of food in agriculture, the survey called for a shift from the inefficient and expensive public distribution system procurement mechanism to develop alternate markets to transfer more profits to farmers. The survey highlighted the yearly 12% power shortage costs a USD 70 billion in lost opportunity amounting to a non-cumulative loss of a USD 1 trillion in a decade. Generally, economic growth if managed has an exponential effect, which would make the combined anticipated losses into several trillion USD. Noting that India needs an investment of USD 60 billion in the next 6 years for its infrastructure, the survey pointed out that infrastructure investment dipped from 6.4% to 4.5%. It said that lack of fiscal discipline such as in re-pricing oil and gas depletes public sector utility cash reserves and lowers their value making them unattractive investments. Further, unlike China, lack of reforms in protective and inflexible labor laws is affecting economic competitiveness of Indian industry.

  • Economic Strategy Institute President Clyde Prestowitz said that investing in China is only good for the short term and the long-term payoffs will come from investing in India. While the Chinese economy is twice the size of India's and is growing faster than India, its lack of rule of law and due process that is allowing it to grow fast will weigh it down in the long run. The so-called disadvantages of India such as a lumbering democracy lack of central planning, and unbridled population growth will actually help the country in the future. Unlike China, India has a well-developed banking and financial institutions and has long history and experience of lending based on independent market analysis and data.

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The controversial Sachar Committee sent out a fax to all district collectors asking them to provide information on Muslims, scheduled class, and scheduled tribe populations within their jurisdiction. The Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that this was a "well thought of, deep-rooted, totally divisive and dangerous move by the Congress, initiated to garner Muslim vote bank." The Committee was ostensibly chartered with undeclared objectives to determine the socio-economic status of Muslims in public sector utility companies, defense, and Government institutions. Many political parties question the motives of the Government saying that if the Government wants to study the socio-economic levels of communities they should evaluate all of them and not just Muslims.

  • The controversial judgment that involved the acquittal of Manu Sharma and 8 others in the public murder of Jessica Lal several years ago turned into a national campaign to reopen the case. There is a serious petitioning sponsored by a news channel that has started asking the President to reopen the case. Many found it appalling that someone who had killed a woman in public before scores of witnesses could walk away triumphantly in a Government-owned car. They say that he was let off the hook because he is the son of a former Federal Minister. Several are quick to fault the judge who delivered the verdict and his coincidental promotion to the High Court. The Supreme Court tersely and angrily dismissed a petition by an advocate saying, "you cannot override the collegiums of High Court and the Supreme Court, the Law Minister, the Prime Minister, and the President." Several Parliamentarians belonging to all opposition and arms-length allies of the Government have demanded that the Government reopen the case. While the Government has promised to do all it can, the sheer lack of independent investigative bodies, witness protection programs, and timely justice, it is impossible to change the verdict any more than what has been delivered

Environment, Health and Education

  • Another set of charges were filed against actor Salman Khan and 4 other actors in a Jodhpur court for poaching a black buck in 1998. Khan, who has already been convicted and sentenced in a different poaching case, is also facing charges of vehicular manslaughter for driving in an inebriated condition and running over sidewalk sleepers. Key witlessness and co-conspirators have been systematically cajoled, threatened, or motivated to back off or not show up for hearings. One of Khan's bodyguards has a non-bailable warrant against him after he did not show up for several successive summonses. Often, police collude with well-known personalities or those who wield power and influence feigning to be unable of arresting or producing witnesses for the case. One of the co-accused in this black buck poaching case is Saif Ali Khan who is son of 'Tiger' Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a former cricketer who was also recently arrested for poaching the endangered species. The other actors are all women who allegedly encouraged or dared Khan to kill the black buck. Actors, cricketers, and political actors often get a lot of latitude from the police or law enforcement officials; they exploit this latitude with impunity.

  • At the end of a two-day meeting of the Asia Pacific Advisory Committee on Influenza (APACI), AIIMS Department of Medicine representative Randeep Guleria speculated that the H5N1 virus will die as the summer peaks. However, he warned that it may resurge in the winter and that a detailed epidemiological study is necessary to find out the reasons for the outbreak in India. APACI Chairman Jane Jennings said that originally H5N1 bird flu virus spread with trade of infected birds in unhealthy environments and now it is through migratory birds. After studying the pattern of the spreading disease in the last few months, Guleria speculated that the virus had come to India from Europe. He said that migratory birds probably carried the disease from South East Asia to Russia, which then spread to Kazakhstan, Turkey, Europe, and Nigeria. He did not explain how the disease spread from France to Nigeria skipping Algeria, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and sub-Saharan Africa and showed up in Nigeria. It is also not clear how Southern European countries Greece and Italy reported incidents before France and Germany. Jennings pointed out that only a detailed epidemiological study would show the pattern. Meanwhile, the Indian Railways has restarted its chicken dishes that it had suspended with the outbreak. While the poultry industry has suffered large losses because of the virus, maize farmers have been collaterally impacted as 90% of the produce in Northern Karnataka was used in the preparation of chicken feed. Despite collapsing prices by over 20%, several thousands of tons of maize have not takers.

  • Editorial : Regulate Ship Breaking Business

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Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • Days after the bold bid to attack the largest Saudi processing facility in Abqaiq, security forces shot dead 5 suspected terrorists holed up in an upscale locality of capital Riyadh. Police said that they tracked the terrorist down based on surveillance camera footage taken minutes before the attack at Abqaiq. When the house they were hiding in was besieged, the occupants opened fire and the resultant 2-hour shootout left all residents dead. The Al Qaeda had taken responsibility for the incident on the facility that processes 2/3 of Saudi exports. Located in the majority Shia east, Abqaiq has been described by security strategists as "the most spectacular target." Although oil production has not been affected, prices have gone up by 10%. Security experts have warned of more attacks on oil and economic targets to puncture global economic growth.

  • Pakistan has been redrawing the map of Jammu & Kashmir showing the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir as one entity but leaving out the Northern Areas. Pakistani missions in Europe started distributing a book claiming to give information about their country with this controversial map. The new map does not show the Line of Control (LoC) and instead has a fine print below Kashmir as "disputed areas" and the Northern Areas as a separate entity. Around the time of Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947, a British Major handed over the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan illegally to Pakistan. Pakistan has consistently tried to isolate the two areas as distinct entities. PoK's highest court ordered Pakistan to hand over administrative control of Northern Areas to Pakistan in 1995; Pakistan has never fulfilled that order.

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  • On the eve of US President George Bush's visit to India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India would never place its indigenous fast breeder reactors (FBRs) in the civil nuclear list. He said that while India has agreed to have 65% of total installed thermal power capacity under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) purview, it would not affect its "credible minimum deterrent" nuclear weapons strategy. He asserted that only Indian can make a decision on civilian and military separation and the decision will be made in line with its nuclear doctrine. Revealing details of the deal for the first time, he said that the deal called for "reciprocity" and pointed out that "guarantees" made by the US on supplying nuclear fuel to Tharapur "remains to be fulfilled." The bone of contention between India and the US is the inclusion of FBRs in the nuclear deal. FBRs are strategic to India because it may provide a way for India to use Thorium as an alternate fuel and not only become energy self-sufficient but could also become a net energy exporter.

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