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Saturday, March 25, 2006

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Business and Economy
  • State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the largest phone company in India has issued a contract seeking bids for the supply of 45.5 million GSM lines in the next 3 years. Another 14.5 million lines will be delivered by public sector ITI in collaboration with French company Alcatel. The deployment will happen in 3 phases with BSNL insisting that the successful vendors will have manufacturing units in India for the 2nd and 3rd phases. The company has said that it will allow Chinese vendors to bid for projects, including Huwawei Technologies, which has defaulted on the CDMA offering and also blacklisted by Indian intelligence agencies as a company that may compromise national security because of its links with the Chinese army.

  • A national study commissioned by NASSCOM suggested that the domestic spend on Information Technology is expected to cross USD 1.5 billion mostly on salaries, training, and overheads. Outsourced expenditure accounted for 45% of total spend. The major concerns of the customers were price of service, quality of service, and the availability of quality labor. However, most customers seem to think that though the price is high, the nature of the job demands such price.

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  • Energy Deficit India Sparks Mega Projects  
    Energy deficiency in India is seeing large investments in mega projects in refinery, pipeline installations, new power generation projects, power line grid deployment, and even private sector nuclear plants.<More>

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • Law Ministry said that despite approved positions for High Court judges, there is a 15% shortfall in the number of judges in higher courts leading to delays in hearings even in high profile cases that sometimes extend beyond 7 years. Population increases, rise in income levels, and accessibility of courts to the common man have essentially worsened the situation with the number of cases rising by 50% before Supreme Court and by 30% in High Courts. After the shameful exist of Justice Ramaswamy from the Supreme Court, the judiciary is very careful to ensure that corrupt judges or those sympathetic to political parties do not occupy positions of power. Furthermore, the increased tensions with the legislative accentuated by current Speaker Somnath Chatterjee have increased fears of a broader agenda by the Legislative to subvert the judicial process for political gain. What India needs is an independent judicial council, separated from the legislature and do not consume the time of serving judges, which can perform backend investigative and screening processes and recommend or reject names that can be considered by the normal review process.

Environment, Health and Education

  • Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss announced that India would achieve its United Nations set targets for the control of Tuberculosis (TB) by April 2006.  The UN required India to be able to identify 70% of the TB cases and treat 85% of such cases by the end of 2005. He also said that country wills double its budget to USD 260 million (up by 56% from last year) to fight this disease. India has the largest number of TB patients amounting to 20% of the world’s total. The Government’s Observed Treatment Services program launched to cover 1 billion people is the largest health care program in the world and has brought the number of infected from 2 million to 1.7 million and the death rate from 425,000 to 400,000 annually.

  • The UN Environment Program (UNEP) says that the avian flu may affect over 80% of known bird species and 54 threatened species like fish eagles, rabbits, otters, etc. and be a larger risk than imagined. Since the only way to eradicate this virus from domestic poultry is widespread culling, protein starved societies may turn to “bush meat” and thereby increase the “unacceptable” pressure on wild pigs, chimpanzees, and apes. Predators losing their natural prey to human exploitation may resort to eating infected meat and the disease spread to rats and mice. When rats carry the disease, it could easy mutate with Leptospirosis and cause widespread havoc among humans. UNEP experts say that the highly evolved olfactory systems in some of these mammals may make them more susceptible to the H5N1 virus.

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Terrorism, Defense, Security and Science & Technology
  • Naxal terrorists set off several blasts at the National Mineral Development Corporation installation in Dantewada district badly affecting the transportation of iron ore in Andhra Pradesh. They destroyed mining equipment, conveyor belts, and looted arms and explosives from these facilities. In similar but separate incidents, 300 armed terrorists attacked two contractors near Kirandul, about 450 kilometers from Raipur and took the employees hostage after looting mining explosives and burning down three tractors. They also took many employees hostage to terrorize them and to extort money from the Government. Andhra Pradesh slipped back into chaos after Chief Minister Y.S.R. Reddy started negotiations with terrorists without expecting them to disarm. The Peoples War Group as it was called then, reorganized itself, redeployed cadres, and expanded operations during negotiations. Since Reddy had move most of the policemen with intimate knowledge of the area from their posts, newer police officials are still learning the terrain and setting up the intelligence network. Clearly, this is one more instance that bolsters the case of moving police out of the ambit of politicians seeking narrow gain for themselves.

  • War on the People

  • Researchers at Exeter University have isolated a gene in a deadly fungus in rice that has a debilitating effect on rice plants and production. More than 50% of the world’s population depends on rice and many varieties are incapable of fighting this fungus. The researchers found that rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe grisea, destroys plants by puncturing holes in leaves and inject proteins slowly breaking down plant tissues. This fungus prevalent in 85 countries is resistant to known fungicide but is reliant on one gene, MgAPT2 to do the dirty work. Researchers are now developing fungicide that will target this gene. The study published in The Nature said that future studies would focus on molecules that this fungus injects into rice plants. Last year, an international team decoded the entire genome of the fungus hoping that this will invite more research to reveal weakness of the fungus that can be exploited to protect rice.


  • The United States has informally asked Japan to not help build Iran’s refinery capability and to reduce oil imports from it. Japan’s Nippon Corp announced earlier that would reduce oil imports from Iran as the risk of supply from the country is becoming more risky. This is the first sign that Iran’s nuclear program is actually affecting its oil export capability and undoubtedly its economy. Iran’s economy is struggling to stay above ground even as it becomes increasingly isolated from many world powers. It has introduced a new Euro-based system of mercantile banking foregoing the US Dollar based and the British Pound based regimes operating out of New York and London respectively. Several members of the Other Oil and Petrol Exporting Countries (OPEC) organization are expected to participate in this new system. It is not clear if they will forego the other systems. Iran is the world’s 3rd largest oil producing nation and has the largest known natural gas reserves.

  • Editorial: Iran's Nuclear Program

  • Editorial: The Nepal Stalemate


  • Australian warplanes sank an impounded North Korean (NK) ship at an undisclosed target practice location to send a strong message to the despot regime against drug running. The Australian Navy for 1,100 kilometers chased down the ship before being captured with 150 kilograms of heroin with a street value of USD 115 million. Four members of the crew were sentenced to 22-25 years in jail for gun running. The ship captain and some crew were extradited to NK, as they were found innocent of smuggling drugs. Australia accuses NK of smuggling drugs to bolster its failing economy.

  • Editorial: Hamas's victory in Palestinian Territories

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