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Saturday, January 31, 2009

8% interest on SBI home loan for 1st year

Sun, Feb 1

An interest rate, which may set a benchmark for short-term loans for the housing and SME sectors, India's largest bank State Bank of India (SBI) on Saturday decided to freeze interest rates on new home loans for a period of one year at 8%. The new scheme of 8% interest rate will be offered for loans taken during February 2 and April 30, 2009 and there will not be any cap on loan amount. According to a SBI release, the interest will be reset after the freeze period to the same rate as originally applicable.

The bank, ahead of a meeting between Pranab Mukheerji, who is in charge of the finance ministry, and public sector bank (PSB) chiefs on Monday, announced that along with home loan, SMEs will also be offered a term-loan product at 8%.

Existing SBI home loan customers also have been given some discounted offers. For them, the bank has launched a new product SBI Lifestyle Loan - a multipurpose loan to the extent of 10% of their home loan up to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh at an interest rate of 8% for a period of one year.

The borrowers with loans up to Rs 5 lakh and who are in the Rs 5 lakh to 20 lakh bracket would also be given loans at 8% for a period of one year, the bank said. The originally contracted rate will be applicable after the one-year period.

Earlier PSBs collectively as a part of stimulus package had launched a scheme to lend housing loans up to Rs 5 lakh at 8.75% and up to Rs 20 lakhs at 9.25%. These rates are frozen for five years.

The bank has also introduced a new package for SME borrowers—SME Care—under which an additional working capital facility of 20% of the fund-based limits will be extended.

Aviation fuel prices slashed 4%

Aviation fuel prices slashed 4%
1 Feb 2009,

NEW DELHI: Jet fuel prices touched a three-and-a-half-year low on Saturday. Oil companies reduced aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices by 4%, making it the ninth fall since the August 2008 record highs, barring a minor increase in January. ATF prices are now revised every fortnight.

Following the latest cut, ATF prices are now at the level of 2005 summer. In Delhi, for instance, the price per kilolitre is Rs 30,288 — a whopping 57% lower than the last August record price of Rs 71,028 per kl. The August record was set as global crude price that time was at a historic $147 per barrel.

Airlines, that had to hike fares due to higher oil prices last year, have slashed fares now. They have reintroduced low basic fares of Re 1 or Rs 99 that are topped by taxes and surcharge of nearly Rs 3,000. Some budget carriers are also offering all-inclusive fares of less than Rs 2,000.

"We may have lowered fares but the overall economic slowdown has meant that fewer people are travelling. The January-March period is anyway low travel season but this time it is even worse. We are trying to stimulate demand but with people unsure of their jobs and incomes, things look pretty bleak," admitted an airline CEO.

DLF Q3 net profit dips 670 crore - Recession Hit

31 Jan 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: The country's largest real estate developer, DLF Ltd, on Saturday said its third quarter net profit dipped to Rs 670.79 crore, less than one-third of the same in the year-ago period.

It had a net profit of Rs 2,138.87 crore in the quarter ended December 31, 2007, DLF said in a filing to the National Stock Exchange.

The company's consolidated net sales also plunged by more than half to Rs 1,366.67 crore in the quarter ended December 31, 2008, from Rs 3,598.42 crore in the year-ago period.

On a stand-alone basis, the net profit fell to Rs 178.06 crore in the latest quarter, from Rs 605.84 crore in the year-ago quarter.

The stand-alone net sales fell to Rs 424.41 crore in the quarter ended December 31, 2008, from Rs 1,676.51 crore in the three-month period ended December 31, 2007.

RIL regains Rs 2 trillion valuation turf

1 Feb 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: The country's 10 most valued firms witnessed an addition of over Rs 66,000 crore in their market capitalisation last week, with Reliance Industries regaining the Rs two trillion valuation turf.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries remained the numero-uno in the elite club of 10 most valued firms by adding Rs 27,077 crore to its market capitalisation.

Reliance Industries (RIL) regained the Rs two trillion mark after a gap of five weeks after its shares surged 15% on the Bombay Stock Exchange during the week.

At the end of trade on Friday, the market capitalisation of RIL stood at Rs 2,08,559.98 crore, while it was at Rs 1,81,483 crore in the week-ago period.

At the end of Friday's trade, the market-cap of top 10 firms, comprising six public sector units and four private sector companies, witnessed an addition of Rs 66,049.75 crore in their valuation to Rs 1,044,684 crore.

Last week, the market capitalisation of 10 elite companies was Rs 9,78,634 crore.

Mining giant NMDC was the second biggest gainer in the top 10 club. It climbed up to the ninth spot from earlier 10th after adding Rs 8,504 crore to its valuation.

Power utility NTPC remained the country's most valued PSU entity with a market capitalisation of Rs 1,56,251 crore. It had added Rs 8,328 crore to its valuation in a week.

Trading firm MMTC was the lone loser in terms of valuation in last week's market. The company, which saw its marketcap erode by Rs 309 crore in the week, slipped to the seventh spot from the last week's fifth rank.

IT bellwether Infosys Technologies moved up one place to the fifth spot after adding over Rs 5,800 crore to its valuation, and country's largest lender State Bank of India also moved up one notch to sixth place, adding Rs 7,012 crore in the week.

Similarly, state-run ONGC and Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel added Rs 2,652 crore and Rs 3,455 crore respectively to their valuation. Also diversified conglomerate ITC jumped up to the eight position, from earlier 10th, after adding Rs 3,508 crore to its valuation.

In the coveted club of top 10, RIL is followed by NTPC (Rs 1,56,252 crore), ONGC (Rs 1,40,780 crore), Bharti Airtel (Rs 1,29,319 crore), Infosys (Rs 74,758 crore), SBI (Rs 73,151 crore), MMTC (Rs 72,412 crore), ITC (Rs 67,781 crore), NMDC (Rs 66,032 crore), BHEL (Rs 64,639 crore).

Sania-Bhupathi win mixed doubles title

1 Feb 2009,

NEW DELHI: Indian pair of Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi won the mixed doubles title of the Australian Open, defeating Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram oSania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi in action at the Australian Open. (AFP Photo)
n Sunday.

The Indian duo defeated Dechy and Ram in straight set of 6-3, 6-1.

Thus, Sania Mirza has become first Indian woman to win a senior grand slam tournament.

Mahesh Bhupathi has made his seventh mixed doubles Grand Slam titles under his belt with different partners.

His last mixed doubles Grand Slam was incidentally the Australian Open in 2006 when he had partnered Swiss Martina Hingis.

In the semi-final, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi overcame a sluggish start to sail into the final for the second consecutive year as they beat Czechs Iveta Benesova and Lukas Dlouhy in straight sets on Friday.

Editorial: Jumping the gun on Indian ‘dossier’

Pakistan’s high commissioner to the UK, Mr Wajid Shamsul Hassan, told an Indian TV channel on Friday that Pakistani investigation into the Mumbai attacks has shown that they were “not planned in Pakistan”. The high commissioner said that “Ajmal Kasab’s nationality did not necessarily prove the hand of Pakistan in the attacks”. This, under international law is correct since the criminality of a state’s national does not make the state either culpable or complicit. While admitting that the investigation was still not final, the high commissioner insisted that Pakistan’s examination of the Indian dossier would show its “non-involvement” in the attacks. He also “questioned the veracity of the Indian information”.

For his part Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the press that Pakistan’s high commissioner in India had informed the government there that Pakistan’s investigation was in its final stages and its results would soon be presented to New Delhi. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also stated in Davos that “Pakistan is still investigating the Mumbai terror attacks”, and “we will share our findings with the world”. Then, when asked about high commissioner Hassan’s comments, he said, “The diplomat has spoken too soon”.

On the Indian side, Foreign Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee once again complained that Pakistan was relying on the media to communicate with New Delhi and not using the “official” channel. Twice in a matter of weeks, Mr Gilani has had to deal with people in his administration who jumped the gun on decisions to be made at the highest level. High Commissioner Hassan could have waited to see the final shape in which Pakistan formulated its comment on the India “dossier”.

Pakistan’s comment when it comes will be restricted to the Indian dossier. What if Pakistan’s conclusion that the Mumbai attack was planned outside Pakistan is contingent because Pakistan is unable to adduce new evidence to prove that the planning was done outside Pakistan? (Mr Hassan was glad it was done neither in Pakistan nor the UK!)

Already the discussion of the Mumbai attack has become muddied because of the nature of India-Pakistan relations and the technical difference between evidence and information. India’s veiled and not-so-veiled threats to use force also did much damage, forcing Pakistan to harden its stance. Nonetheless, Pakistan has taken steps necessary to address the issue including accepting that Kasab was indeed from Pakistan. At this stage both sides need to refrain from taking positions that could throw them back to square one. Simultaneously there is need for India to accept that cooperation cannot be a narrow agenda but must include the broader spectrum of relations and the disputes that remain unresolved.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pakistan probe will decide next turn in ties with India

New Delhi: When Islamabad reverts to India next week with the results of its initial investigation into the alleged involvement of Pakistani nationals in last November’s terror attacks in Mumbai, a lot more will be riding on its reply than just the fate of those who might be involved. At stake is the immediate trajectory of the bilateral relationship. Any sign that Pakistan is rejecting or stonewalling Indian claims of “elements” within its territory being involved in Mumbai would likely trigger a fresh cold wave in an atmosphere that is already dangerously frigid. But if Islamabad is able to demonstrate that its investigators are seriously pursuing investigative leads provided by India and other countries, the stage could well be set for the gradual easing of tension.

Despite the occasionally harsh rhetoric from both sides, India-Pakistan ties have been in a holding pattern of sorts over the past six weeks. The main reason for this was the lengthy transition period from the Bush era to the Obama presidency. If India did not wish to prejudice the tenor of its relations with the new dispensation by presenting it with an escalatory fait accompli, Pakistan had no incentive to provide an outgoing administration with the reward of cooperation with the Indian probe. The result was the trading of verbal barbs and threats. Behind the scenes, however, Indian officials told their Pakistani counterparts that New Delhi was prepared to give Islamabad time to conduct its own investigations. And in turn, Pakistan assured India that its Federal Investigation Agency would pursue the leads provided to it with utmost seriousness and urgency. Privately, Pakistani officials also said the initial internal dissonance in their establishment was over and that “all stakeholders” were on the same page on the question of getting to the bottom of the Mumbai terror conspiracy.

Indian officials told The Hindu they never asked for an immediate deadline and that it was Pakistan which said it would try and complete its initial probe in 10 days flat. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for both countries, that self-imposed deadline is coming to an end at the same time that the Obama team is moving quickly to establish Washington’s new South Asia policy. Stonewalling carries both costs and benefits for Islamabad. A deteriorating bilateral environment will likely goad President Barack H. Obama to demand more from Pakistan.

But it will also strengthen the hands of those in his administration who look at Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as being inter-connected parts of the same strategic puzzle.

Speculative reports from Pakistan about investigators there determining that the Mumbai attacks were planned elsewhere are not a good augury. Pakistan’s FIA may well have its reasons for concluding that about the ‘master plan’ but what the situation calls for at the moment is the uncovering of the evidentiary trail unearthed so far by the Indian side. Though India provided Pakistan an abbreviated dossier of evidence — more was shared with other countries — there is much in it that is actionable, say senior officials. For example, India would like Pakistan to confirm the identity of the nine deceased terrorists.

Some of the information given in this regard is vague eg. ‘Naser@Abu Amar (23 yrs) r/o Faisalabad’ but some of the men have been identified in the dossier as residents of specific villages. It should not be difficult for Pakistani investigators to find the relatives of ‘Shoaib @ Abu Saheb (21 yrs) r/o Shakkargarh Naroval, Sialkot’ or ‘Fahadullah (23 yrs) r/o Ujrashah Mukim, Rasur Road, Okara,’ especially when India has also provided them photographs of the dead men’s faces.

Other actionable leads in the Indian dossier include the status of the Al-Husseini, the large boat that the captured terrorist, Ajmal ‘Kasab,’ claimed was used to transport his group of gunmen on the high seas till the hijacking of the Kuber. The Pakistani FIA ought to be able to establish the whereabouts, ownership and trip records of the boat.

Islamabad could also provide India with information on Javaid Iqbal, the owner of Pakistani passport no. KC092481, who wired the money which was used to open the VoIP account from which the handlers remained in touch with the 10 terrorists during the Mumbai attacks.

Another trail to be explored is that provided by the registration number of the outboard Yamaha motor recovered from the inflatable dinghy the terrorists used to reach their final destination in Mumbai.

Indian investigators had been able to identify the Lahore company which imported it but who they sold it to might provide clues to the identity of the plotters.

All of this is besides the information Pakistani investigators can glean from Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives like Zarar Shah, who are in their custody. On December 31, the Wall Street Journal quoted an unidentified “senior Pakistani security official” as confirming that Shah had confessed to the LeT’s involvement in the attack “as India and the U.S. have alleged.” “Pakistani security officials say a top Lashkar commander, Zarar Shah, has admitted a role in the Mumbai attack during interrogation, according to the security official, who declined to be identified discussing the investigation,” the newspaper reported. “He is singing,” the security official said of Mr. Shah.

The admission, the official said, is backed up by U.S. intercepts of a phone call between Mr. Shah and one of the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the site of a 60-hour confrontation with Indian security forces. A second person familiar with the investigation said Mr. Shah told Pakistani interrogators that he was one of the key planners of the operation, and that he spoke with the attackers during the rampage “to give them advice and keep them focused.”

Against this backdrop, say Indian officials, they expect Islamabad to come back with some constructive information about the identity and links of the Mumbai plotters. Brushing aside the question of why India chose not to share all the evidence it had, a senior official told The Hindu that enough had been given to allow investigations there to begin. “If they are serious about a probe, they have enough material to go on. And if they are not, a thicker dossier would hardly have made any difference.”

'Mumbai attacks not planned on Pakistan soil'

30 Jan 2009, PTI

LONDON: In the first official word on the findings of Islamabad's probe into the information dossier provided by India on the Mumbai attacks, a senior Pakistani diplomat has said that his country's territory was not used for planning the operation.

"Pakistan's territory was not used so far as we know, so far as the investigators have made a conclusion. It could have been some other place but not the UK as well," Pakistan's envoy to Britain, Wahid Shamshul Hasan said.

To a question that people in India and some other parts of the world will not believe the findings, he said, "why are they not going to believe it if we say so and if we say that we will give the facts that it (Pakistani territory) was not used, it could be some other place".

He said, "We are not going to do any whitewashing business. We believe in going after facts and will try to satisfy India with whatever we find and our findings will be acceptable to the world because we were not addressing only Indian concerns".

The comments came as media reports in that country said that the outcome of Islamabad's probe into the Indian dossier was that Pakistani territory was not involved in planning the carnage in India's financial capital.

Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik on Thursday said that the preliminary report will be made public in "two to three days".

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

14 kg heroin seized from Samjhauta passengers

28 Jan 2009

AMRITSAR: In a major narcotic haul, Customs officials seized 14 kg of heroin and nabbed four passengers including two women of Samjhauta Express at Attari international railway station on Monday.

Interestingly, only Akhtar Abbas and Sadiqa, both residents of Muzaffarabad in Uttar Pardesh, have been arrested. The other two have just been detained as the authorities aren't sure if the luggage containing contraband worth Rs 14 crore in the international market belonged to them or not. Additional commissioner (Customs) JS Luthra said they recovered 28 packets of heroin concealed in hidden cavities of alarm clocks from the luggage of the quartet.

Giving details, he said preliminary interrogation has revealed that they were handed over the consignment at Lahore only to be deliver it someone near Jama Masjid, Delhi. "They appears to be petty couriers, as they had agreed to do the job for mere Rs 3,000 per person," he added.

Corroborating Luthra's statements, Akhtar said one Sabir in Lahore had delivered them the consignment which was to be handed over to someone in Delhi.

A case has been registered and investigations are on, he said.

President Rajapaksa invites Karunanidhi, Jaya to Sri Lanka

Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa told India's visiting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he has invited Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and AIDMK leader J. Jayalalitha to Sri Lanka to persuade the Tamil Tiger rebels to lay down their arms and enter into the democratic mainstream.

'After our conversation, President Rajapaksa was good enough to extend a personal invitation to an all-party delegation from Tamil Nadu led by Chief Minister Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha to see for themselves the situation on the ground and to persuade the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to lay down arms and join the democratic mainstream,' Mukherjee told Indian journalist here shortly before midnight Tuesday.

Mukherjee, who made an unscheduled visit to Colombo Tuesday, said the humanitarian situation in the northern war-zone was discussed and President Rajapaksa assured him that his government would work to minimise the civilian sufferings.

'We also reviewed the humanitarian situation as a result of the conflict. The Sri Lankan government has reassured that they would respect the safe zones and minimize the effects of conflict on Tamil civilians. As you know, India has extended its relief supplies to civilians caught up in the conflict zone and intends to continue doing so,' he added.

Pranab meets Rajapakse, seeks assurance for Tamils safety

Colombo: As India's fears mounted for Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone in Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tonight sought an assurance from President Mahinda Rajapakse that the innocents are safe and humanitarian situation will be taken into consideration.

Mukherjee, who rushed to Colombo, met Rajapakse for urgent talks during when the Indian minister was told that the President has extended an invitation to Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi and AIADMK supremo Jayalalaithaa to be part of a Tamil delegation to visit the war ravaged northern parts of the country.

Rajapakse told the minister that the Tamil leaders should see for themselves the situation in the conflict zone. 'We have requested that the basic effort should be to help the civilians and ensure their safety and security,' Mukherjee told reporters after his talks with the President immediately after his arrival.Mukherjee told Rajapakse he will convey to Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa his interest that the two leaders from Tamil Nadu visit the island nation.

He said the democratic process in Sri Lanka should expeditiously ameliorate the lot of the Tamil civilians in the country.
The minister said that Rajapakse has assured that Sri Lanka will act as fast as possible to implement the 13th amendment devolution package.

The talks took place as the LTTE fighters struggled to defend their last remaining strongholds in the northern part of the country.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed deep concern over the safety and well-being of civilians caught in intensified fighting.

Before leaving for Colombo, Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi that India has no sympathy for LTTE but wanted to see that civilian Tamils do not become victims of conflict. The meeting took place at a time when the military claimed to have captured Mullaithivu, the last bastion of LTTE, and that its offensive was 95 per cent complete.

Mukherjee said, 'We are for fight against terrorists and all sorts of terrorism. Therefore, we have no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, particularly LTTE (which) is a banned organisation in India.' At the same time, he said India is concerned over the plight of civilians and 'we shall have to see how civilians can be protected and they do not become hapless victims of the situation.'

Pranab's visit comes in the backdrop of repeated demands by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and other political
leaders that Mukherjee should be sent to Sri Lanka to ensure an end to military offensive against LTTE. PTI

Indian PM 'out of intensive care'

Mr Manmohan Singh is likely to be in hospital for at least a week after surgery
Indian PM Manmohan Singh has been moved out of intensive care at a Delhi hospital after undergoing heart bypass surgery at the weekend, doctors say.

The 76-year-old prime minister was making a "speedy recovery" at the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, they said.

Doctors said earlier that they expected Mr Singh to resume some official duties within two to four weeks.

But they said it would be up to six weeks before he was fully active.

During the 11-hour operation, surgeons performed five bypasses on the leader.

He is expected to remain in hospital for seven to eight days.


The ruling Congress Party said he would still lead the party in the forthcoming general election which is due by May.

"The entire country is rejoicing because our prime minister has come out successfully from the operation," Congress spokesman Veerappa Moily was quoted by AFP as saying on Tuesday.

Mr Singh, who previously had bypass surgery in 1990 and an angioplasty in 2004, had complained of chest pains earlier in the week.

He was admitted to hospital on Friday. The operation began at 0845 local time (0315 GMT) on Saturday and ended at 1930 (1400 GMT), his personal physician said.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences is India's top state-run hospital.

Congress has dismissed concerns that Mr Singh's health will interfere with its current election campaign.

But there has been widespread speculation that party chief Sonia Gandhi has been lining up her son, Rahul Gandhi, heir to India's powerful Gandhi dynasty, as the country's next prime minister.

Mr Singh has largely been in good health since he was sworn in as prime minister in May 2004, but he recently underwent prostate surgery and has also had cataract treatment.

Mr Singh, who studied economics at Cambridge and Oxford, became India's finance minister in 1991 when the country was plunging towards bankruptcy, and is widely regarded as the architect of the country's economic reform programme.

Indian Stocks Rise to Highest in More Than a Week

Jan. 28 - Indian stocks rose for a second day, driving the benchmark index to its highest in more than a week, on expectation the U.S. will form a so-called bad bank to absorb toxic assets, helping stimulate the world’s biggest economy.

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. gained 2.3 percent, leading software developers higher, as the Obama administration considers ways to help unlock the U.S.’s credit markets. The U.S. accounts for more than half of the software developers’ revenue.

ICICI Bank Ltd., the No. 2 lender, rose 7.1 percent on speculation the central bank will cut rates to revive slowing economic growth.

“The central bank’s prognosis for growth is very weak; that might force its hand to cut rates,” said Ajay Bodke, who helps manage about $1 billion in equities at IDFC Asset Management Co. in Mumbai.

The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensitive Index, or Sensex, advanced 253.39, or 2.8 percent, to 9,257.47. The S&P CNX Nifty Index on the National Stock Exchange rose 2.8 percent to 2,849.50. The BSE 200 Index gained 2.8 percent to 1,091.49. S&P CNX Nifty Index Futures for January delivery added 3 percent to 2,850.

Tata Consultancy, India’s largest software developer, rose 2.3 percent to 507.45 rupees. Infosys Technologies Ltd. climbed 2.8 percent to 1,286.70 rupees. Wipro Ltd., ranked No. 3, added 3.6 percent to 234.10 rupees.

The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is seeking to manage the bad bank that the government is considering setting up to help unlock credit markets, according to two people familiar with the matter. The institution would buy the toxic assets clogging banks’ balance sheets.

ICICI added 7.1 percent, the most since Dec. 18, to 408.05 rupees. HDFC Bank Ltd., the third-biggest lender, climbed 2.5 percent to 911.75 rupees. Housing Development Finance Corp. gained 4.1 percent, the most since Jan. 5, to 1,504.55 rupees.

Slowing Growth

India’s economy may expand 7 percent in the year to March 31, compared with a previous estimate of between 7.5 percent and 8 percent, the Reserve Bank of India said yesterday. The growth forecast has a “downward bias,” said the bank, which held interest rates steady.

The Reserve Bank will cut the repurchase and reverse repurchase rates by 50 basis points by April, and will reduce the cash reserve ratio requirement to 3 percent by October if liquidity tightens again, Mridul Saggar, an economist at Kotak Securities Ltd., said in a note to clients.

Tata Motors Ltd., the maker of Jaguar cars and Land Rover sport-utility vehicles, rose 4.5 percent to 146.65 rupees, its biggest gain since Jan. 1, after the U.K. government said it will offer carmakers 2.3 billion pounds ($3.2 billion) of loan guarantees to help them cope with the recession and adapt to new environmental rules.

Overseas funds sold a net 3.44 billion rupees of Indian stocks Jan. 23, according to the nation’s stock market regulator. They sold for a seventh straight day, the longest streak of net sales since the nine days ended Nov. 24.

The following were among the most active shares traded on the Bombay and National stock exchanges. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names:

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (GNP IN) dropped 46.70 rupees, or 25 percent, to 141.35, the most on record. The Indian drugmaker said profit in the quarter ended Dec. 31 fell 71 percent to 814.3 million rupees. The company also cut its profit and sales forecasts. The stock had its rating cut by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. after the earnings.

Gujarat Alkalies & Chemicals Ltd. (GALK IN) fell 1.65 rupees, or 2.4 percent, to 65.90. The Indian maker of caustic soda said third-quarter profit fell 55 percent to 324.5 million rupees.

Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC IN) climbed 20.10 rupees, or 3.2 percent, to 641.25. India’s biggest explorer said the subsidy it pays to state-owned refiners in the third quarter may have declined 19 percent from a year earlier after the drop in crude prices.

The oil producer reported profit fell 43 percent for the three months ended Dec. 31.

Satyam Computer Services Ltd. (SCS IN) added 8.35 rupees, or 18 percent, to 55.60. The software exporter at the center of India’s biggest fraud inquiry named Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Avendus Capital Ltd. to help it identify strategic investors and a possible buyer. Satyam also appointed Boston Consulting Group Inc. as an adviser to support the state-appointed directors and management team, it said in a statement sent to the stock exchanges yesterday.

Sesa Goa Ltd. (SESA IN) rose 7.9 rupees, or 11 percent, to 80.65. Sociedade De Fomento Industrial Pvt. and M/s. Prime Mineral Export Pvt. Ltd. have acquired more than a 5 percent stake in India’s biggest non-state iron-ore exporter, Sesa Goa said in a filing to the stock exchanges.

United Spirits Ltd. (UNSP IN) jumped 76.9 rupees, or 16 percent, to 572.90, the most since Oct. 31. Diageo Plc, the world’s largest liquor maker, is in talks to buy a stake in United Spirits. The talks with Diageo haven’t concluded yet, Bangalore-based United Spirits said in a statement to the National Stock Exchange today.

Five get life term for German girl's rape

28 Jan 2009

CHANDIGARH: Five people have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the rape of a German girl in September 2008.

Chandigarh police had filed for a fast trial in the case.

On Tuesday, additional district and sessions judge Raj Shekhar Attri said, "The charges have been proved beyond doubt. All accused are hereby convicted for gangrape, abduction and forgery.'' With these words the judge created a history of sorts as he decided the German rape case on only the eighth day of trial.

The court convicted five accused — Manveer Singh alias Jolly, Sukhminder Singh alias Sukhi, Harpreet Singh, Pankaj and Sompal — for gangrape, kidnapping, inducing a woman and forgery.

It was not a fast-track court, but Judge Attri heard the trial every day. The prosecution examined nine witnesses and the defence seven. Special public prosecutor Manu Kakkar cited 18 previous judgments to prove his point.

The 20-year-old victim, accompanied by her father, had deposed before the court on January 16 wherein she stated that she was forcibly taken from a five-star hotel and raped at a farmhouse in September 2008. The victim, a German citizen, said at the time of registration of FIR, she made repeated attempts to explain to the police, doctors and magistrate that she was raped, but owing to her poor English, they didn't get it right.

The woman, who suffered several injuries, was medically examined and the other evidence submitted to CFSL before the accused were arrested. The defence had pleaded that she had accompanied the accused on her own. The court, however, framed charges of gangrape against the five men in December 2008.

Special prosecutor Manu Kakkar said, "Our main plea was that the woman came to India for the first time and she would not falsely implicate anyone. Owing to hard work put in by the presiding officer, investigating officer and court staff this case has winded up so early.''

Monday, January 26, 2009

Microsoft cuts 5,000 jobs Where as TCS to hire above 15,000

23 Jan, 2009, A.P

SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp will make the first mass layoffs in its 34-year history, cutting 5,000 jobs as demand for personal computers falls and eve in one of the world's richest companies gets burned by the recession.

The company announced the cuts on Thursday as it reported an 11 per cent drop in second-quarter profit, which fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Microsoft shares plunged more than 11 per cent.

"We're certainly in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions," Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said during a conference call. With less access to credit, businesses and consumers are spending less and stretching the life span of their existing computers.

The biggest names in the technology sector have been no stranger to layoffs lately. Giants such as chip maker Intel Corp and even Google Inc are among the companies that have pulled back on jobs to hunker down in the recession.

Google also reported earnings on Thursday and said its quarterly net profit fell 68 per cent, its first such drop ever. The results were better than analysts had expected, however.

At Microsoft, the cuts appeared to reflect uncertainty about when times will get better. The company said it could not issue a forecast for earnings and profits for the rest of the year.

The software maker was already facing tough problems, among them its inability to snag a significant share of the lucrative Web search advertising market from leader Google Inc. It tried to fix this by buying Yahoo Inc and pouring money into its own technology, all the while relying on Office programmes such as Word and Excel, and on Windows to keep bringing home huge profits.

Now, with the recession pinching software earnings, Microsoft's problems seem even harder to fix. Microsoft, which has $20.7 billion in cash on hand, said its business prospects were hurt by the deteriorating global economy and lower revenue from software for PCs. The holiday quarter of 2008 was the worst for the PC market since 2002, with computer shipments declining about a half of 1 per cent, according to IDC, a technology research group.

Making matters worse, the one type of PC consumers have warmed to in tight times -- the low-cost, low-power "netbook" -- actually cut further into Microsoft's earnings. The tiny portable computers run on Windows XP, which is older and less profitable for Microsoft than Windows Vista.

TCS to hire above 15,000

23 Jan, 2009, REUTERS

SINGAPORE: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) said on Friday that the company expects to add 15,000-18,000 people to its headcount over the next 12 months, compared with nearly 8,700 in the three months to December. TCS currently has about 144,500 staff.

However, CEO S Ramadorai said in an interview that the company expects to slow its rate of hiring new staff this year, as a broad economic downturn affects its global clientele.

Ramadorai said some contracts and projects were being delayed or cancelled, but the company expected to achieve some earnings growth in 2009 despite the worsening global economic outlook.

"We are confident of some growth, but what that amount is difficult to say," he said. "Yes, we are winning some contracts, but then there are delays in the decision making on a number of contracts," he said, adding there were hold-ups in implementing deals that had already been signed as well as several project cancellations.

"The slowdown is very obvious and very visible, and we think it will continue for the foreseeable future."

TCS, part of India's Tata Group, posted a lower-than-expected 1.6 per cent rise in October-December net profit on January 15.

Google launching GDrive?

26 Jan, 2009

NEW DELHI: Is GDrive, Google's next salvo tapping cloud computing? So believes several industry watchers. Speculations are rife that the company is set to launch 'GDrive', which would allow people to store almost all their data on the internet and access it from wherever they are.

Says the US-based technology news website: "Throw your hard drive away, Google's Gdrive is arriving in 2009."

The GDrive is expected to allow people to access and update all their online data such as emails, photographs, music, documents and spreadsheets from any device with an internet connection.

Google has been working hard to convince computer users of the benefits of 'cloud computing', in which the web rather than the hard drive is used as the place to store information. GDrive is likely to bring together all of Google's existing web-based services.

TG Daily believes that GDrive could "cause a major paradigm shift in how we use computers and bring Google one step closer to dethroning Windows on your desktop".

However, according to certain analysts it may not be prudent to entrust Google with so much personal or commercial data. They argue that information is not as safe in the cloud as it is in a computer.

Google reportedly refused to comment on the topic.

Indiatimes Infotech

India goes for 'urgent' purchase of anti-tank missiles

27 Jan 2009,

NEW DELHI: With tensions with Pakistan yet to abate and the indigenous "Nag'' missile still not operational, the Army has gone in for an "urgent order'' of 4,100 French-origin Milan-2T anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

Defence ministry sources said the Rs 592-crore order for 4,100 Milan-2T missiles, pending for quite some time, was cleared after 26/11, with the government finally fast-tracking several military procurement plans.

Though tanks are slowly losing their relevance in the modern-day battlefield, and chances of face-to-face armoured confrontations diminishing, they will continue to play a critical role in the India-Pakistan context.

Both India and Pakistan, who share a long land border, are currently reorganising their mechanised forces to achieve strategic mobility and high-volume firepower for rapid thrusts into enemy territory.

India, of course, has plans to progressively induct as many as 1,657 Russian-origin T-90S main-battle tanks (MBTs), apart from the ongoing upgradation of its T-72 fleet.

But with Pakistan now looking to procure T-84 MBTs from Ukraine to bolster its already strong fleet of T-80UD, Al-Khalid and other tanks, India also wants its infantry battalions to have potent anti-armour capabilities.

This can be gauged from the fact that the latest order for 4,100 "advanced'' Milan-2T missiles with "tandem warheads'' to replenish the Army's dwindling ATGM stock comes barely a few months after the Rs 1,380-crore contract for a staggering 15,000 Konkurs-M missiles.

Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), incidentally, manufactures variants of the second-generation 2-km-range Milan and 4-km-range Konkurs ATGMs, under licence from French and Russian companies, at around Rs 4.50 lakh per unit.

As for the third-generation Nag ATGM, with a 4-km strike range, Army has already placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers). But the Nag is still to become fully operational almost two decades after it was first tested.

DRDO contends that Phase-I of Nag's user-trials were successfully completed last month, with Phase-II now slated for May-June. "Pre-production of Nag is underway at BDL. It's is a fire-and-forget missile, with potent top-attack capability to hit a tank's vulnerable upper portion like the gun turret,'' said an official.

Moreover, Nag's range will be extended to over 7-km in its airborne version named "Helina'', to be fitted on "Dhruv'' Advanced Light Helicopters, each configured to carry eight missiles in two launchers.

Incidentally, Nag is the only "core missile system'' of India's original Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), launched way back in 1983, whose development work is yet to be completed.

The IGMDP was "closed'' in December 2007 after DRDO declared development work on all other missiles ― Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Trishul ― was over. While work on "strategic'' nuclear-capable missiles like Agni-III (3,500-km range) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km) is being "undertaken in-house'', India is now increasingly look at foreign collaboration in other armament projects to cut delays.

Drug waste creates highest disaster zone in Andhra

27 Jan 2009, AP

PATANCHERU: When researchers analyzed vials of treated wastewater from a plant where about 90 Indian drug factories dump their residues, they were Drug waste creates highest disaster zone in Andhra Pradesh shocked. Powerful antibiotic was being spewed into one stream each day to treat every person in a city of 90,000.

And it's not just ciprofloxacin. The supposedly cleaned water was a floating soup of 21 different active
pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments. It is the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment, researchers say.

These factories, located on NH-9, just 28km from Hyderabad, produce drugs for much of the world. The result: Some of Andhra's poor are unwittingly consuming an array of chemicals that may be harmful, and could lead to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.

"If you take a bath there, then you have all the antibiotics you need for treatment," said chemist Klaus Kuemmerer, a German exper t on drug resistance in the environment. "If you just swallow a few gasps of water, you're treated for everything. The question is ― for how long?"

"We don't have any other source, so we're drinking it," said R Durgamma, a mother of four, sitting on the steps of her mud home, a few miles downstream from the Patancheru treatment plant. High drug concentrations were recently found in her well water.

"When the local leaders come, we offer them water and they won't take it."

Patancheru became a hub for largely unregulated chemical and drug factories in the 1980s, creating what is described locally as an "ecological sacrifice zone" with its pharmaceutical waste. Since then, India has become one of the world's leading exporters of pharmaceuticals, and the US which spent $1.4 billion on Indian-made drugs in 2007, is its largest customer.

Last year, it was reported that trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals had been found in drinking water provided to at least 46 million Americans. But the wastewater downstream from the Indian plants contained 150 times the highest levels detected in the US.

Some locals long believed drugs were seeping into their drinking water, and new data from the study by Joakim Larsson, an environmental scientist at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has confirmed their suspicions.

Ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic, and the popular antihistamine cetirizine had the highest levels in the wells of six villages tested. Both drugs measured far below a human dose, but the results were still alarming.

Munde criticises Shiv Sena for supporting Sharad Pawar as PM

Jan 26 Criticising the Shiv Sena's statement to support NCP Chief Sharad Pawar as prime ministerial candidate, BJP General Secretary Gopinath Munde today said the NDA partner is not adhering to the "Dharma of alliance".
"Sena's statement for supporting Sharad Pawar's candidature for premiership is deplorable," he said adding the NDA partner is not sticking to the basics of a political alliance.

Making the NDA stand clear to Sena, Munde said that the BJP leader L K Advani is the consensus candidate of the alliance for the coming Lok Sabha elections and no one should have any doubt over it.

"Opposition leader L K Advani is our prime ministerial candidate," he said.

Munde, who was here as a part of his "Shetkari Sangharsh Abhiyan Yatra", was speaking to the mediapersons.

He said that Shiv Sena has earlier also betrayed BJP and supported Congress-backed candidate instead of supporting BJP candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for the post.

Now they are making the same mistake by supporting Pawar, he added.

The BJP leader also criticised the Centre and state's loan waiver scheme to the farmers, saying the Congress led government at both the places are not addressing the basic problems of the farmers.

He demanded a separate loan waiver scheme for Dalits, tribals and landless labourers as well. PTI

Mukherjee rushing to Sri Lanka

New Delhi, Jan 27 External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will rush today to Sri Lanka where the military claims to have captured the last LTTE bastion of Mullaittivu two days back.
During the two-day visit, Mukherjee will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and discuss the latest situation in the northern part of the island nation, sources said.

Mukherjee is expected to impress upon Rajapaksa government the need for finding a political solution to the ethnic problem to ensure lasting peace.

He is also expected to press for early implementation of the devolution package to ensure that the ethnic Tamils get rights and privileges at par with others.

India has been maintaining that military victory will not address the ethnic problem facing Sri Lanka and that the government there needed to look for a political settlement wherein all communities, including ethnic Tamils, can live with respect and dignity within united Sri Lanka.

Mukherjees's visit comes in the back drop of strong demands by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and some other parties from the state that the external affairs minister should visit Sri Lanka and prevail upon Rajapaksa government to go for ceasefire.

During the recent weeks, Sri Laknan army has made rapid progress in its campaign to capture areas under the LTTE control. The military claimed on Sunday to have captured the garrison town of Mullaittivu, the last urban stronghold of the LTTE asserting that the 25-year-long ethnic conflict was now "95 per cent over". PTI

India celebrates 60th Republic Day

New Delhi (PTI):
Kaleidoscopic images of India's rich cultural diversity and the might of its military were on full display on the magnificent Rajpath here on Monday as the nation celebrated its 60th Republic Day amid an unprecedented security cover.

An impressive and colourful parade, a traditional attraction of the national event, marched down the thoroughfare connecting the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the historic India Gate as President Pratibha Patil took the salute from marching contingents.

Armed forces in battle regalia proudly marching before their supreme commander, scintillating show of air power, fascinating tableaux depicting the diverse culture and hundreds of colourfully-dressed dancing school children were part of the parade.

The march-past was watched by the Republic Day chief guest Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Defence Minister A K Antony and the country's top political and military brass, including UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, besides a large enthusiastic crowd that had gathered on either sides of the Rajpath.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is recuperating from his bypass surgery in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Antony performed all the customary duties of the Prime Minister during the Republic Day celebration.

Minutes before the parade began, Antony and chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force laid wreaths at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti', the British-era World War-I memorial at India Gate, where an eternal flame burns in memory of those who laid down their lives while defending the nation's frontiers.

Patil and her Kazakh counterpart arrived at the Rajpath escorted by the President's bodyguards riding well-trained, impeccably-bedecked horses.

Antony received the President and the nation's guest at the saluting dais in the absence of the Prime Minister.

A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital to prevent any 9/11-type terror attack, which the intelligence agencies had warned of. Snipers of the National Security Guards (NSG) were deployed at all high-rises all along the parade route.

The unfurling of the tricolour by Patil and the playing of national anthem by military bands followed by a customary 21-gun salute by 299 Field Regiment.

Gallantry awards

Maharashtra Police ATS chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner Ashok Kamte and four others killed fighting Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai were among nine security personnel who received the Ashok Chakra, the country's highest peace-time gallantry medal.

Following this, the parade began, as four Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force flew past with the national flag as well as those of the three defence services slinging below.

The first to appear in the parade were winners of the Param Vir Chakra and Ashok Chakra followed by mounted columns of the 61st Cavalry by Lieutenant Colonel Navjit Singh Sandhu.

Major General KJS Oberoi, General Officer Commanding of Delhi Area of the Army, led the parade.

Showcasing strength

The Army then showcased its impressive armoury before the nation including frontline T-90S battle tanks, indigenous Brahmos missile, OSA-AK system, the most modern and versatile air defence weapon.

The Chariot of Victory -- the state of the art infantry combat vehicle, the bullet proof vehicle Takshak Striker and the Network Operations Centre, which is capable of providing high quality information services in various terrains were also showcased.

The indigenously-built Advanced Light Helicopter 'Dhruv' of Army Aviation was also displayed.

Then colourfully-attired military contingents made their entry into the Rajpath.

The Army contingent included personnel drawn from the Parachute Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry Regiment, Rajput Regiment, Garhwal Rifles, Kumaon Regiment, Jammu and Kashmir Rifled, Ladakh Scouts, and Territorial Army (Punjab).

Smartly-dressed Navy personnel came along with a tableau depicting a model of INS Jalashwa, the replenishment vessel acquired in 2007 from the US to provide India major amphibious warfare capabilities.

The naval team comprising 144 men drawn from three Commands of the Navy was led by Lt Commander Anshul Awasthi.

The IAF displayed its air power in the form of a tableau showcashing some of its recent acquisitions including 'Hawk' Advanced Jet Trainer and SU 30 MKI air superiority fighter aircraft and the indigenous Rohini 3D radar. Its tableau was modeled on the IL-76 aircraft-mounted Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) that India purchased from Israelis. However, the system is yet to be inducted into the IAF.

The 148-strong IAF contingent, led by Squadron Leader Robinder Singh Zenda marched to the tunes of "Air Warrior".

The DRDO columns included Brahmos missile, advanced air defence missile, Akash surface-to-air missile and Agni-III ballistic missile.

Other contingents to march in the parade included veterans from the three services led by 85-year-old World War-II Flying Officer M M Shukla, Border Security Force's foot soldiers and their camel units, Assam Rifles, Coast Guard, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, Sashastra Seema Bal, RPF and the Delhi Police.

Bands from all these armed forces and paramilitary forces played martial tunes, as also the massed pipes and drums from several Army regiments.

Among the youth contingents were the NCC's senior division boys and girls cadets, along with their band, and the National Service Scheme.

Showcasing culture

The vibrant diversity of the country's traditional art and culture, industrial progress, scientific development and rich natural resources came alive when 18 tableaux, representing 12 states and six union ministries/departments rolled along the Rajpath, against last year's 26.

The colourful state tableaux were led by Andhra Pradesh which was a tribute to legendary saint Annamacharya followed by Assam which depicted the state's rich wildlife in its splendour.

Then came Madhya Pradesh which was a ode to a tribal leader, the local Robinhood, who was hanged by the British for being an anti-social.

Other states which followed were Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand Tripura, Orissa, Kerala, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharastra.

The department of Science and Technology in its tableau presented the advancements made by India in the field of astronomy.

As the tableaux turned the corner, the little heroes who won the national bravery awards made their entry on decorated jeeps instead of elephants. Twenty children, including one posthumously, have been honoured with the award for exemplary courage.

Indian Railways showcased the prestigious Jammu to Baramulla new rail link in its tableau while Ministry of Power will highlight village electrification.

Unlike previous years, there was no elephant ride for the bravery award winning children because of "security reasons".

A colourful tableau on women's empowerment followed this.

Then came song and dance performances by North East Zone Cultural Centre followed by the dare devil motorcycle team of the Corps of Signals which performed some breathtaking stunts.

As the dare devils left, all eyes were towards the skies as IAF fighter jets roared over their heads.

The stupendous fly past, with precision and high speeds, included the Mi-35 armed choppers, the IL-76 transporters along with An-32s and Dorniers, and the IL-78 air-to-air refuller that can extend the range of fighters midair along with its Su 30 MKI fighter components.

These flying machines apart other fighters to fly over the Delhi skies were deep penetration strike fighters Jaguars and MiG-29s, and Su 30 MKI's performing their signature 'Trishul' formation.

The year's parade went on for a curtailed duration of about one-and-half hours in view of the security situation in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. This year, the Defence Ministry allowed only two performances by school children.

Noida encounter linked to Pak-based terror : India

25 Jan 2009,

NEW DELHI: In an exclusive interview to Times Now, MoS External Affairs Anand Sharma on Sunday drew link between the encounter at Noida, in which two alleged Pakistani terrorists were gunned down, to the terror camps operating in Pakistan. ( Watch )

"Terror groups operating in Pakistan are trying to destabilize India," Anand Sharma told Times Now.

"Noida encounter shows that terror groups are still active in Pakistan, though we have repeatedly told Pakistan to dismantle terror infrastructure," the channel quoted Sharma as saying.

Earlier, averting a major terror attack apparently planned to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi, the UP ATS and Noida police in a pre-dawn swoop, shot dead two Pakistani terrorists following an ambush in Noida's sector 97 area on Sunday. An ATS sleuth suffered a gunshot wound during the exchange of fire.

Additional director general of police (ADGP) Brij Lal, briefing newsmen in Lucknow said that the ATS was working on a specific terror module that was believed to be active germinating in Western UP for nearly a month and a half now. "While pursuing this module, we got a specific lead about the movement of two suspects in a Maruti car from Lalkuan in Gaziabad. The car was tipped to be moving towards Delhi," Brij Lal said.

The ATS team started screening vehicles passing from the Amity police outpost towards Delhi around 2:15 am when they saw a Maruti 800 trying to steer clear of the police check. As the ATS commandoes tried to intercept the car, it took an adjacent road and tried to escape. As the exchange of fire continued from the two sides, the ATS commandos managed to hit the rear tyre of the suspects' car, throwing it off the road.

"It was here that the car occupants started firing from AK series rifles. The ambush left one of our sleuths Vinod Kumar with a bullet injury. While the exchange of fire was underway, back-up from Noida police arrived on the scene. Shortly thereafter firing from opposite side stopped. It was subsequently revealed that the car was occupied by two persons who had suffered bullet injuries. They were rushed to the hospital," Brij Lal said.

On way to the hospital, one of them identified himself as Farooq of Akara in Pakistan and his aide as Abu Ismail of Rawalkot in Pakistan. However by the time the two could reach the hospital, they succumbed. The doctors at the hospital pronounced them "dead upon arrival".

Two AK-47s, 4 magazines, 120 bullets, 5 hand grenades, Rs 18,000 cash, 3 detonators, 1.5kg of RDX and a rucksack were recovered from the car, police said. The materials seized from the car point out that the terrorists were trained in making plastic explosives and had planned to trigger three blasts, added the police.

The police are trying to find out the local contacts of the terrorists, Brij Lal added. The car's engine and chassis number had been erased, he said.

"The two terrorists were heading towards Delhi and the arms and ammunition which they had, surely indicates that they were not here for site-seeing and had some deadly plans with them," said Inspector General (IG) ATS AK Jain. "We don't rule out the possibilities that the slain militants were not the only two around," Jain said adding that extensive checking of vehicles entering or leaving Noida from all the 19 points dotting the district borders - particularly the 11 that connect to Delhi - has been launched immediately after the ambush took place and the security agencies in Delhi were informed about the development.

"Though it is too early to comment on the terror outfit to which they probably belonged to, but the manner in which they took on the ATS teams during the ambush clearly confirms that they were trained hands. They resisted the police action to the best possible extent," said deputy IG ATS Rajeev Krishna who is supervising the investigations into the case.

"We have recovered some documents and a diary which will surely help us to shed some more light on the two militants. This apart, a Pakistani passport which has the photograph of Farooq has also been recovered. But in the passport, his name is mentioned as Ali Ahmad of Rahimyar in Pakistan. It remains to be established as to which of the two identities was the real one. We have leads and we are working on them," Rajeev said. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) ATS Rajeev Sabarawal was set to fly to Noida take care of the investigations first hand, he said.

"Initial investigations have revealed that the registration number (UP 14 E 9531) on the Maruti car in which the militants were moving, has traced to be that of a Bajaj Chetak scooter belonging to one Pawan Verma of Shahpur area in Gaziabad. Though it appears almost certain now that the car is a stolen one, still we are trying to trace the actual number of the car and trace its real owner," SSP ATS Rajeev Sabarwal said commenting on the status of investigations into the case.

Top 10 cos lose Rs 44,000cr in a week; RIL, MMTC hit hard

25 Jan 2009, PTI
MUMBAI: The country's 10 most valued firms witnessed an erosion of nearly Rs 44,000 crore in their market capitalisation last week, with MMTC and RIL being hammered the most losing over Rs 10,200 crore from their valuation.

At the end of Friday's trade, the market-cap of top 10 firms—comprising six public sectors units and four private sector companies — witnessed an erosion of Rs 43,970 crore in their valuation to Rs 9,78,634 crore.

Last week the market capitalisation of 10 elite companies was Rs 1,02,260.4 crore.

Meanwhile, state-run MMTC suffered the worst blow among the top 10 firms. The stock market turmoil wiped out Rs 10,870 crore from its valuation.

The scrip plunged 13 per cent during the week to settle at Rs 14,544.30 on the BSE. At the end of trade on Friday the market-cap of MMTC stood at Rs 72,722 crore.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries was the second biggest loser in the elite group, with its valuation dropping by Rs 10,269 crore. At the end the Friday's trade, RIL's valuation stood at Rs 1,81,482.75 crore.

Meanwhile, RIL has posted a better-than-expected third quarter net profit at Rs 3,501 crore, a 10 per cent dip over the year-ago period.

Though the scrip gained some grounds during trade on Friday, it was volatile throughout the week and dipped 5.35 per cent at the end of Friday's trade.

While, public sector lender State Bank of India slipped to the seventh place, from the sixth position a week-ago, losing Rs 7,857 crore in its valuation.

The scrip which was beaten down nearly 11 per cent during the week, saw its valuation at Rs 66,139 crore at the end of trade on Friday.

IT bellwether Infosys Technologies, despite witnessing an erosion of Rs 3,682 crore in its valuation moved up in the ranking to the sixth spot. Infosys had a market-cap of Rs 68,942 crore at the end of last week's trade.

Power utility NTPC remained the most valued PSU entity in the country with a market capitalisation of Rs 1,47,923 crore, after losing a meagre Rs 371 crore.

State-run ONGC and telecom services provider Bharti Airtel saw an erosion of Rs 503 crore and Rs 3,265 crore from their market capitalisation, respectively.

Power equipment supplier Bhel and diversified conglomerate ITC saw a dip in their market valuation by Rs 3,786 crore and Rs 691 crore respectively.

Similarly, mineral giant NMDC, which lost over Rs 2,676 crore during the week, had its valuation at Rs 57,528 crore at the end of Friday's trade.

Apart from the companies in the elite club, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank lost Rs 6,641 crore and 2,323 crore from their market valuations during the week.

At the end of trade on Friday, ICICI Bank's market capitalisation stood at Rs 40,556 crore and HDFC Bank's valuation was at Rs 37,512 crore.

RIL, the numero-uno in the list of the most valued firm, is followed by NTPC (Rs 1,47,924 crore), ONGC (Rs 1,38,128 crore), Bharti Airtel (Rs 1,16,864 crore), MMTC (Rs 72,722 crore), Infosys (Rs 68,943 crore), SBI (Rs 66,139 crore), BHEL (Rs 64,631crore), ITC (Rs 64,273 crore) and NMDC (Rs 57,528 crore).

Nation celebrates 60th Republic Day

Kaleidoscopic images of India's rich cultural diversity and the might of its military were on full display on the magnificent Rajpath in New Delhi on Monday as the nation celebrated its 60th Republic Day amid an unprecedented security cover.

PM in recovery after heart surgery

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is recovering more quickly than anticipated after having a coronary artery bypass Saturday in New Delhi, the Indian government announced.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had coronary artery bypass surgery.

Speaking from his bed at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Singh said to the team of doctors and other staff attending to him: "I hope the ordinary citizen will receive the same quality of care as you have given me. I am most grateful to all of you for what you have done for me."

Doctors said the prime minister will probably remain hospitalized for the next week, and will be able to resume most of his duties in a month.

Singh, 76, also underwent a bypass in 1990 and an angioplasty in 2004.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

India Soft on Pakistan - L.K.Advani

India soft on Pakistan, say Advani, security experts
New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani and a select group of security experts feel that India adopted the "mildest" response to Pakistan after the Mumbai terrorist attacks and it was not befitting an "emerging global player", the party said Saturday.

According to a BJP statement, the participants in the closed-door meeting at Advani's residence Saturday said that "after Mumbai, any self-respecting government would have adopted a much more robust response" - referring to the terror strikes in that city in November.

Such a response "alone could compel Pakistan to not only bring to book those behind the incident but also to wind up the infrastructure of terror (in that country)," it said.

The statement said the participants felt that despite "Pakistan's involvement" in several terror strikes in India during the last three years, the government had adopted a soft policy. "(This) inevitably led to the Mumbai action."

The BJP statement listed out measures that the government should initiate to improve internal security situation. Among them is a "blueprint" proposed by Advani for security reforms containing 350 recommendations on intelligence, higher defence management, internal security and border management.

The statement did not clarify if the experts also agreed with Advani's "blueprint".

The meeting was attended by 35 people, including 14 retired defence officials and 13 retired civil servants.

Party leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitely participated in the discussion. Former chiefs of air staff, Air Chief Marshals A.Y. Tipnis, S. Krishnaswami and S.P. Tyagi, and former chief of naval staff Admiral Arun Prakash, were among the retired defence officials.

Among former civil servants at the meeting were home secretary Anil Baijal, defence secretary Yogendra Narain and director of Intelligence Bureau Ajit Doval.

Journalists M.J. Akbar, Chandan Mitra, Swapan Dasgupta and Brahma Chellaney were also present.i

Critics rave over 'Slumdog Millionaire,' Indian public mixed

MUMBAI (AFP) — "Slumdog Millionaire" received rave reviews from Indian critics on Saturday after it went on general release across the country, but got a more mixed response from the public.

The film, which has been nominated for 10 Oscars, hit screens here in English and Hindi on Friday amid massive interest and after sharp debate about its portrayal of the seamier, poorer side of Indian life.

Critics in the English-language dailies lauded the film, which follows a lowly Mumbai teaboy who wins the top prize on the Indian version of the gameshow "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"

The Hindustan Times gave the film five stars out of five, describing it as a "masterwork of technical bravura, adorned with inspired ensemble performances and directed with astonishing empathy".

Meanwhile, Vikas Swarup, who authored the novel that inspired the movie, said he was elated at the Oscar nominations for the film, calling it "amazing news."

"It only goes to show that small can be beautiful, that hope is contagious and that a story set in a slum in India can speak to our common humanity," he told AFP in Jaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan where he was attending a literary festival.

Daily News and Analysis (DNA) gave the movie 4.5 stars, praising everything from the performances of the child actors and Simon Beaufoy's screenplay to A.R. Rahman's score, the camera work and Danny Boyle's directing.

All these combined to "elevate this movie experience to a realm that's as close to magical as you can get in the cinemas," said its reviewer, one of many who praised the movie's feel-good vibes.

The Times of India also gave 4.5 stars, brushing aside questions about whether it was a realistic portrayal of slum life and instead calling it "just a piece of riveting cinema."

"Forget the Us versus Them debate. Just go for the pure cinema experience," the newspaper said.

The Mumbai Mirror tabloid gave the film 3.5 stars, but its critic said the rating was "immaterial" as audiences would go to see it because of the publicity and Oscar nominations.

Boyle's film was "exhilarating," it said and almost every shot was "a series of stills worth being framed forever."

Newspapers reported a good turnout for the film on its first day, receiving praise from cinema-goers for the strength of its story, cinematography and music.

Nevertheless, some expressed disappointment, saying it failed to live up to the hype, was not as good as Vikas Swarup's book "Q and A," on which it was based, or that it gave a foreigner's view of India and poverty.

Cinema managers were reportedly expecting attendance to pick up over the weekend, but one highlighted how the film was viewed in certain quarters in the home of Bollywood.

"'Slumdog' is big but it is essentially a Hollywood film," Joydeep Ghoshroy, general manager for marketing and sales at PVR Cinemas, told the Hindustan Times.

Singh 'fit to campaign after op'

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh successfully underwent heart bypass surgery yesterday, doctors said, adding that he would be fit to campaign for upcoming elections.

The 76-year-old Singh, who has held office since 2004, has been expected to run as the Congress party's candidate for prime minister in elections to be held before May.

Singh will be able to fully recover and resume his duties in six weeks, said Dr K Srinath Reddy, one of the team of 11 surgeons and doctors involved in the medical procedure.

"There won't be any restrictions on his campaigning," said Dr A Sampath Kumar, another doctor on the team, adding that Singh chose to have the surgery at this time to make sure that he was fit in time for the elections.

Also running as candidates for Singh's party are star campaigners Sonia Gandhi, chief of the Congress party, and her son Rahul Gandhi, both of whom represent the party in parliament.

The procedure, which lasted nearly 11 hours, began yesterday morning, said Reddy, adding that the prime minister was conscious and stable and being monitored in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee will take charge of the finance ministry, which was looked after by Singh and will chair any meetings of India's cabinet while the prime minister recovers from surgery

L.K. Advani on Saturday met security experts

BJP president Rajnath Singh along with L.K. Advani, during their meeting on national security with former defence and police officials, in New Delhi on Saturday.

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani on Saturday met security experts here to formulate the policy of a future BJP-led government.

Party president Rajnath Singh, general secretary Arun Jaitley and the former Union Minister, Arun Shourie, were present. Among the experts were retired armed services officers including Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis, Admiral Arun Prakash and Lt. Generals R.K. Sawhney and N.S. Malik. The former Intelligence Bureau Directors, Ajit Doval and K.P. Singh; the former Defence Secretary, Yogendra Narain; the former Home Secretary, Anil Baijal; and the former Director-General of Police, Punjab, K.P.S. Gill, were part of the team. A few journalists were also present.

Briefing journalists, Mr. Jaitley said one area of concern was the slow procurement of weapons. A speedier procedure needed to be put in place. In a crisis situation, decisions should be taken immediately, before a management committee met.

Coordination among different intelligence agencies and the need for one command structure were another area of concern.

Criticising the handling of the situation post-Mumbai terror strike, the participants pointed out that there was a “lack of India resolve and capability” reflected in the absence of a firm response. India had to appeal to the international community to pressure Pakistan, and this also lacked assertion. It was “futile to expect others to pull our chestnuts out of the fire,” said a press note.

Mr. Jaitley said “some” of the retired officers and bureaucrats might well join the BJP before the Lok Sabha election and some might even contest. However, not all of them were supportive of the BJP, nor all corporate heads who interacted with Mr. Advani earlier were BJP admirers or supporters.

Mr. Advani found fault with the United Progressive Alliance government for not implementing a 2001 ‘blueprint’ of recommendations of a Group of Ministers headed by him.

His complaint was that the Manmohan Singh government did not take forward the “reform of the national security system” begun by the National Democratic Alliance government

LK Advani woos voters on Internet

By Iftikhar Gilani / Dawn News

NEW DELHI: The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) will go to the polls with an action plan on “precise steps need to be taken in the first 100 days” if elected to power to dispel the gloom that has descended on the nation during the UPA rule, BJP candidate for prime minister Lal Krishna Advani said in response to a question in an Internet chat on on Thursday.

The BJP circulated the full text of his replies to about 35 questions he could take during the chat. “The first task before a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government would be to dispel the gloom and recreate the general climate of optimism and hope that was obtained in the six years of Vajpayee’s rule,” he said, pointing out that a group in the BJP was already working on the action plan for the purpose. Trying to be pally with the young surfers who flooded him with a volley of questions – over 5,000 as claimed by BJP – Advani even gave out his phone number to contact him at his residence on 23794124/25 through his website

He sought to convince one Vijesh not to hate all politicians as a class. “I think that politicians as a class are no better or worse than any other section of society. And, to dump them as being selfish, etc [is] not fair. Though the perception of the people about politicians as a class is not complimentary because they are always in the limelight and their shortcomings are talked about much more than the shortcomings of other sections.” Feeling “very sad” over India figuring very low in the Transparency International Report, Advani swung back to politics, talking about the Vajpayee government functioning in a “transparently honest manner” and then stressing that “what has been achieved in Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi has made this state a model for all others in the country as a corruption-free state”. “I believe this would be one of the principal objectives a new NDA government at the Centre would have in mind. The example of people at the helm of affairs, the necessary systemic changes that have to be made, and the setting up of the Lok Pal and Lok Ayukt would be steps taken very early during an NDA regime,” he stressed.

Hindus happy with Obama?

Hindus happy with Obama?
Thu, Jan 22, 2009
Jeffrey Weiss

Hindus world over have applauded American President Barack Obama for including "Hindus" in his inaugural address yesterday in Washington DC.

Obama said in this address, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers".

Obama: Tougher times for India?

23 Jan 2009,

C Mahapatra
Professor, American Studies, JNU
India likely to be off his foreign policy radar

Challenging days are ahead in Indo-US relations. First, the new Obama administration has so many difficult issues in its domestic and foreign policy plate that President Obama would have little time or interest to think about US-Indian relations at least during the first hundred days in office and may be beyond.

Secondly, India’s role in Obama’s efforts to tackle thorny issues, such as recession in his country, expected uncertainties in Iraq during and after troops withdrawal, enhanced vigour and newer strategy to hunt down Afghan militants and their patrons and handling the Palestinian problem is considered inconsequential in Washington’s policy making circles.

Thirdly, India rarely gives policy migraine to Washington. India is a recognised democracy with a creditable human rights record. It is not a state sponsor of terrorism. It is an acknowledged nuclear power with high reputation on export control. Indian scientists have never been accused of running international black market in dangerous weapons or equipment. India requires peace around its borders to keep its economy growing and so behaves with utmost restraint in the face of intolerable provocations, such as Mumbai terrorist attacks.

A country like India that neither helps much in tackling problems nor poses threats is bound to be off Obama’s foreign policy radar screen. There will be less White House attention to relations with India and even on routine matters, India may face tougher times in dealing with the Obama administration.

Obama’s predecessor ran a unipolar world with unilateralist tendencies. It sought to enhance India’s role in global affairs to counterbalance China. Obama’s priority will be stopping the fast erosion of US power and seek Chinese cooperation to fight recession.

While the Afghan situation makes Pakistan a persistent ally and economic crisis will make China a partner, Obama’s commitment to revive the CTBT may open old wounds in US-Indian relations. Pakistan will insist on Obama’s activism on Kashmir and recession will compel Obama to discourage outsourcing and the outcome would be disappointing to many Indians. The so-called ‘natural partners’ is likely to go through a rough patch during the first half of the Obama administration.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

World’s watching, don’t act smart: India to Islamabad

21 Jan 2009,

NEW DELHI: Keeping up the pressure on Islamabad, India warned Pakistan against trying to deflect attention from the core issue of terrorism and said that the whole world is watching Pakistan to see if it dismantles the terror infrastructure.

Minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma asked Pakistan to act tough against perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks a day after Islamabad launched its own diplomatic offensive by inviting envoys for a special briefing on the action taken by Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

Even though Islamabad has changed its tune in the last couple of days, New Delhi remains unconvinced about Pakistan’s intentions. This scepticism is reflected in numerous statements that have been made by the Indian government.

Mr Sharma said that Pakistan should not try to divert attention as India has enough proof of Pakistani links in the Mumbai attacks. “It would be better if there is no diversion or deflection at this stage,” Mr Sharma said and added, “I think we are talking here about what is firmly established about the dastardly attack in Mumbai carried out by organisations which have been identified and named and individuals who are nationals of Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistan has been using different tactics to divert attention from the issue of taking action against the terror infrastructure targeted against India. The latest has been to raise the possibility of Pakistan asking for the Samjhauta accused to counter India’s demand for handing over of fugitives.

“I have to say that the whole world is watching how effective actions would be to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and also bring to justice those who are responsible for masterminding the carnage in Mumbai,” Mr Sharma said.

His comments come a day after external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee did some tough talking saying that countries that do not follow a ``zero tolerance’’ policy on terrorism must be made to pay a heavy price. Mr Mukherjee also indicated that India expected the international community to ensure that countries that support or tolerate terrorism should be pushed to dismantle the terror infrastructure.

On Pakistan’s offer of a joint investigation, Mr Sharma said that Islamabad should first make a full disclosure of the investigations that it was conducting on the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan, which only recently acknowledged the existence of Pakistani links, has been pressing for a joint probe into the Mumbai attacks. However, India is against a joint probe. Sources said that sharing of information in past terror cases has only led to the disappearance of clues or leads. India is now waiting for the response from Pakistan on the terror dossier which is likely to take place in the coming days.

Indian IT Industry To Speak Out During InformationWeek Webcast

Jan 20, 2009

In explaining the more than $1 billion in phony revenue and profits he reported for years, former Satyam chairman B. Ramalinga Raju compared the fraud to "riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten." U.S. customers of Satyam and other IT outsourcers are wondering if they could get bitten, too.

They have lots of questions. What has Satyam and the Indian government done to ensure that the company can continue operations? Are U.S and other customers coming to Indian IT services companies seeking changes to their contracts in light of the Satyam affair? What are the first red flags an outsourcing customer should look for that its provider is struggling? Will we see significant industry consolidation amid the Satyam fallout? Will the Indian IT industry continue moving up the value chain with higher-end services? Is there the need in India for stricter corporate governance laws?

InformationWeek's editorial Webcast, which will go live online on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 11 a.m. Eastern time (8 a.m. Pacific, 9:30 p.m. Indian), is titled, "Offshore In India: What's Next?" Among the participants will be four captains of India's IT and business process outsourcing industry: Kiran Karnik, new Satyam board member and former president of the Nasscom trade group; Som Mittal, current president of Nasscom; Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and CEO of Infosys Technologies; and Pradeep Kar, founder and chairman of Microland. Also participating will be M.S. Krishnan, professor of business information technology at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

I'll be leading this hour-long discussion on the pressing company, product, industry, and governance issues tied to the Satyam turmoil. There will be ample opportunity on the Webcast for audience questions, so please join us on Jan. 22. Click here to register.

Satyam violated company law: RoC

New Delhi January 21, 2009

Hope for Satyam even as investigations reveal more skeletons.

The Registrar of Companies (RoC) in Hyderabad has said it found preliminary evidence that Satyam Computers had violated key provisions of the Companies Act in its controversial December 16 proposal to acquire two promoter-related companies.

The RoC’s report was submitted to the department of corporate affairs a few days before Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju’s confessions to a massive accounting fraud January 7 in India's fourth-largest software services firm.

Satyam was forced to withdraw the proposals December 16 following strong shareholder objections. Raju later said the acquisitions were an attempt to make good gaps in cash flows on Satyam's books.

The RoC’s findings — which it said will be made final after all documents are made available — suggest that in approving the acquisition of 100 per cent in Maytas Properties and 51 per cent in Maytas Infrastructure, Satyam’s board had violated Section 372A of the Companies Act.

Sub-section 1 of Section 372A stipulates that no company can acquire shares in any other “body corporate” through “subscription purchase or otherwise” for an amount exceeding 60 per cent of the acquiring company’s share capital and free reserves or 100 per cent of its free reserves, whichever is higher, after loans, guarantees and investments.

Doing so would require shareholder authorisation through a special resolution passed in a general meeting. The law also states that such a resolution has to be passed only through a postal ballot and with advance intimation to the RoC.

The RoC report pointed out that Satyam’s 2007-08 balance sheet shows total share capital and free reserves of Rs 2,136.37 crore; 60 per cent of this works out to Rs 1,281.82 crore and 100 per cent free reserves works out to 2,002.27 crore. As on March 31, 2008 the total amount of investments, loans and guarantees and outstanding amounts given by Satyam stood at Rs 493.80 crore. Therefore, Satyam could make further investments of up to Rs 788 crore without prior shareholder approval.

Satyam’s board — which included such prominent personalities as former cabinet secretary T R Prasad, Harvard Business School’s Krishna Paleppu, designer of the Pentium chip Vinod Dham, among others — approved a proposal to invest Rs 7,920 crore in the Maytas firms.

Violating Section 372A would make the officers-in-default (which include the managing director, company secretary and whole time director) liable for punishment, which includes a fine of Rs 50,000 or imprisonment up to two years.

The report also pointed out that Satyam has not filed any resolution as required by section 293 of the Companies Act regarding the nature and proposed acquisition of stakes in Maytas Infrastructure and Maytas Properties.

On the question of the alleged diversion of funds for the benefit of promoter companies, the RoC report said Satyam’s annual report reveals several transactions with subsidiaries and other group companies by way of investments, purchase of assets and other receivables.

The RoC has also raised questions on the applicability of sections 297, 299, 300 and 301 of the Act that deal with related party transactions like rules on broad sanctions for resolutions in which directors are interested. RoC said the books show that the Raju family and its holding companies own 36.4 per cent in Maytas Infrastructure and 100 per cent in Maytas Properties.

The RoC’s report added that the 2007-08 annual report of Maytas Properties also shows that the company had several transactions with group companies. The RoC said it looks apparent that the investments and loans made by Maytas Properties were far in excess of the limits laid down by Section 372A of the Companies Act

Against a paid up capital and free reserves of Rs 5 crore Maytas Properties had made an investment of Rs 90.25 crore and loans and advances to group companies of Rs 419.63 crore. Maytas Properties had received all the funds for these investments by way of unsecured loans (compulsory convertible debentures) of about Rs 600 crore.

The company also invested Rs 25.6 crore in 2 per cent redeemable convertible non-cumulative preference shares, and 10.5 per cent compulsory convertible debentures of Rs 3.6 crore in group companies at a rate of interest lower than the prevailing bank rate, which is also considered a violation of 372 of the Companies Act

Similarly, the 2007-08 annual report of Maytas Infastructure revealed that against a paid up capital and free reserves of Rs 301.417 crore , the company made investments of Rs 256.231 crore and advanced loans and advances to group companies of Rs 102.045 crore and guarantees of Rs 10 crore. The company received all the funds by way of a share issue of Rs 327.450 crore.

The report also pointed out that Satyam has not filed any resolution as required by section 293 of the Companies Act regarding the nature and proposed acquisition of stakes in Maytas Infrastructure and Maytas Properties.

On the question of the alleged diversion of funds for the benefit of promoter companies, the RoC report said Satyam’s annual report reveals several transactions with subsidiaries and other group companies by way of investments, purchase of assets and other receivables.

The RoC has also raised questions on the applicability of sections 297, 299, 300 and 301 of the Act that deal with related party transactions like rules on broad sanctions for resolutions in which directors are interested. RoC said the books show that the Raju family and its holding companies own 36.4 per cent in Maytas Infrastructure and 100 per cent in Maytas Properties.

The RoC’s report added that the 2007-08 annual report of Maytas Properties also shows that the company had several transactions with group companies. The RoC said it looks apparent that the investments and loans made by Maytas Properties were far in excess of the limits laid down by Section 372A of the Companies Act

Against a paid up capital and free reserves of Rs 5 crore Maytas Properties had made an investment of Rs 90.25 crore and loans and advances to group companies of Rs 419.63 crore. Maytas Properties had received all the funds for these investments by way of unsecured loans (compulsory convertible debentures) of about Rs 600 crore.

The company also invested Rs 25.6 crore in 2 per cent redeemable convertible non-cumulative preference shares, and 10.5 per cent compulsory convertible debentures of Rs 3.6 crore in group companies at a rate of interest lower than the prevailing bank rate, which is also considered a violation of 372 of the Companies Act

Similarly, the 2007-08 annual report of Maytas Infastructure revealed that against a paid up capital and free reserves of Rs 301.417 crore , the company made investments of Rs 256.231 crore and advanced loans and advances to group companies of Rs 102.045 crore and guarantees of Rs 10 crore. The company received all the funds by way of a share issue of Rs 327.450 crore

Local touch missing in Satyam board

21 Jan 2009

HYDERABAD: Scores of people gathered outside the Chanchalguda jail last week to register their support and express solidarity with the Satyam family. However, the fading clout of Hyderabad's `first' family or Satyam losing its credibility were not the only concerns of this crowd. What was bothering some the most was the absence of a Telugu member in the government-appointed board of directors.

That this feeling of resentment is rapidly growing among locals is obvious and even predictable given that Satyam was Hyderabad's first home-grown global firm and one that wore its Telugu identity on its sleeve.

"The Satyam fiasco is not just a certain company's personal problem anymore. It's a state problem. The issue has affected social and political situations in the state and, therefore, is no more related to corporate India alone. So the government should have taken care that somebody who is aware of the state's problems and local issues was part of the new board. I would not call it a bias against the Telugu community but the non-appointment of a local representative is surprising and disappointing," said Sudhish Rambhotla, film producer.

While the local community does not question the competence of experts like Deepak Parekh, Kiran Karnik, C Achuthan and others, they fear that the people of Andhra Pradesh might develop a sense of insecurity, due to the absence of a local representative. "If there was someone from Andhra Pradesh on the Satyam board it would have made the locals feel that there was someone to highlight their concerns and safeguard their interests. They would have felt more secure. And it is not like we do not have competent people here. There are a lot of them who could have been assigned the job," said D N Reddy, vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University.

Agreeing with Reddy, K Rama Devi, president of the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of Andhra Pradesh added that the presence of a person familiar with the local conditions would have helped in the smooth functioning of the board and in safe-keeping of the local population's trust. "Their faith in the company would have increased had there been even one board member from the local community," she said.

Along with the fear of insecurity, there is also the fear of losing their identity. With the home-grown IT firm going into the hands of 'outsiders', locals feel that they will soon have nothing to boast of anymore. "If a board with no member from the state takes over Satyam we can no more call it an Andhra company. We can no longer be proud of housing the country's fourth largest IT firm. It is going to be a terrible loss for Hyderabad especially," said IT professional Kiran V.

However, there are some who feel that such concerns are not just justified at this point.

"Who cares whether the board members are Telugu or not. They are doing a fantastic job and trying hard to get the company back on track. We must not forget that they all have other jobs to keep too and this is just an added headache for them. Yet they are doing all they can to save the lives of thousands of employees and shareholders attached with Satyam," says E Sudhir Reddy, vice chairman and managing director of IVRCL, a construction firm.

That the matter of local representation is rather trivial at this stage when there are so many other important issues waiting to be addressed, is something that C K Shastri, managing director of Intense Tech (a listed IT firm) also agrees with. "At present, Satyam needs a panel that can raise the image of corporate India that has seen a beating worldwide, over the past few weeks. Whether the board members are Telugu or not is hardly an issue right now," he said.

So while some are still skeptical about the credibility of Satyam being restored by a board sans a local leader, others are confident that the government-appointed 'visionaries' will bring back the firm's past glory. "When so many efficient professionals are at work, to bring up such issues of regionalism is not right. Their being non-locals in no way makes them less capable of pulling Satyam out of this crisis," said Prof P L Vishweshwar Rao from the department of journalism and communications, Osmania University.

India brings up Miliband again

NEW DELHI: India on Monday reiterated its displeasure at British Foreign Secretary David Miliband observing last week that the Kashmir dispute was one of the “main calls to arms” for the terrorists. On a visit to the country, Mr. Miliband also urged India not to insist on extradition of the Mumbai terror attack suspects.

At a meeting here with a delegation of the British nuclear industry led by Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Peter Mandelson, Minister of State for Commerce and Power Jairam Ramesh did some plain speaking.

He said that after consulting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee he had first decided not to attend the meeting as a mark of protest against Mr. Miliband’s observations.

But Mr. Mukherjee later advised him to go to the meeting and mark India’s protest. Mr. Ramesh said India had been hospitable to the British for 400 years. In spite of the diplomatic spat caused by the “boorish behaviour” of the British Foreign Secretary, India would not put a cloud on the rest of the partnerships, especially in the civil nuclear arena, because of its centuries-old tradition of treating a guest like god.

Mr. Mandelson appreciated the Minister’s “honest” observations and said the U.K. stood fully with India in the fight against terrorism. The U.K. had no doubt that the Mumbai attacks were an act of unmitigated terror.

Mr. Mandelson said his country would work with India in “every possible way” to bring to book the perpetrators of the attacks and that there would be no compromise in this endeavour.

During his visit to the country, Mr. Miliband’s comments had led the External Affairs Ministry to state that India did not need “unsolicited advice” on its internal issues.

YSR says won’t cancel Satyam land allotment ?

21 Jan 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, which is experiencing a free fall on the integrity index after media expose of undue favours to Satyam, said that it will not cancel the allotment of 50 acres of land to the tainted firm in Visakhapatnam for setting up a SEZ.

“It was for an institution and not an individual,” chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy said in Hyderabad while defending the deal. The “let’s brazen it out” approach of the Congress seems to stem from the realisation that a cancellation of the deal at this juncture would be seen as an admission of wrong doing.

Throwing ethics to the winds, the chief minister had last month got the government allot land to Satyam at a throw away price of Rs 10 lakh per acre when the ruling market price was Rs 5 crore per acre. The sweetheart deal cost the state exchequer Rs 195 crore. The government order issued on December 4, 2008 had said that the land was allotted under “instructions from the chief minister”.

The Raju taint will be difficult to erase as the Congress government went to the extent of snatching land from the elite force Greyhounds to help Satyam. Of the 50 acres, 25 acres were taken away from land allotted for the construction of a commando centre. The other 25 acres came from the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA).

The development demonstrated that the Congress government led by Mr Reddy has been conducting governance in a questionable manner. This cannot but be distressing for the Congress as the Satyam scandal is threatening to dent the image of the party.

Chief minister Reddy has been dismissing charges that he was responsible for the phenomenal rise of Satyam’s tainted founder Ramalinga Raju. He has also been claiming that his government did not go out of the way to help the software company or Maytas firms. But the order books of Maytas Infra — it shows projects worth over Rs 62,000 crore, covering sectors such as irrigation, power, oil, roads and even railways — clearly indicate that it enjoyed “good rapport” with those in power.

The Congress’ rivals can be expected to use the issue in the coming polls. The TDP-led alliance has been alleging that the chief minister “personally negotiated with some companies the possible takeover of Satyam Computer Services” before B Ramalinga Raju made his confessional statement admitting the fraud. They have been describing it as a Rajaskehara Reddy-Ramalinga Raju joint scam.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire becomes the biggest ‘Indian’ blockbuster

Even before its release in India, the film has also had its share of brickbats

Mumbai: Even before its release in Indian theatres on 23 January, Slumdog Millionaire has become the biggest film about India, to be filmed in India—and its early international success has emboldened its local distributor to plan a bigger release in India.
Winning ways: Dev Patel (left) and Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire.The film has so far earned $50.4 million across the world.As of 19 January, the film was running in 601 theatres in the US, and had collected $42.7 million (Rs207 crore today) in gross box office earnings.
Across the world, the film, made on a budget of $15 million, has already earned $50.4 million, including £1.75 million (around Rs12.65 crore) in the UK in the first week of release there in January.

In its ninth week in America, its reach is much wider than that of Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.’s Chandni Chowk to China, which is the biggest Indian film release worldwide, running in 125 screens across the US and Canada.
Going by these figures, and following four awards at the Golden Globes given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association including one for A.R. Rahman (best music), its India distributor, Fox Star Studios India, decided to rethink its strategy in the last week.

Initially, it was planned as a staple multiplex release with 250 prints across 50 or so cities in two versions—the original English, and Slumdog Crorepati in Hindi. Vijay Singh, chief operating officer, Fox Star Studios India, said, “We want to promote Slumdog Millionaire as a Bollywood/Indian film because it deals with Indian people, it has great Bollywood-style music and drama.
The initial plan was to have 250 prints out in 50-plus cities, but considering its new importance, we are going with a little more than 400 prints in 80-plus cities across India.” Of 400, about 320 prints will be in Hindi. Singh says a series of paid previews are also scheduled on Thursday in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

But considering the hype and laurels that Slumdog Millionaire has already received the world over, why didn’t the distributors follow the precedent of Ghajini? The Aamir Khan starrer recently broke new release records for an Indian film, with 1,550 prints worldwide; it had grossed Rs227 crore by 18 January.

Singh says these two films can’t be compared. “In the US, Slumdog worked largely through word of mouth. Within two weeks, it picked up momentum—its journey has been similar to that of Sideways (2004), Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Juno (2007). It comes to India after being in the news, and there’s no reason why 400-plus prints shouldn’t be enough for it to be successful in India,” Singh said.

In October, Slumdog Millionaire almost became a DVD-only film. Warner Independent, a part of Warner Brothers, which was supposed to distribute the film, was closed down. But later in the month, Fox Searchlight picked it up and it was released in the US on 12 November.

Shekhar Kapur, director of Bandit Queen (1994) and Elizabeth (1998), who has worked with both Hollywood and British producers, has keenly followed the fortunes of Slumdog Millionaire ever since it was released in November.
Kapur speaks highly of the film’s artistic merit, but says that its importance in India lies elsewhere. “What’s most relevant is that Slumdog is the most successful ‘Indian’ film ever.
The novel Q&A on which it is based was written by an Indian diplomat. The cast is Indian as is the style and the story. It was directed by a British director and funded by a European company, but so what? Chandni Chowk to China is also funded by Warner Brothers; Hrithik Roshan’s forthcoming Kites is going to be substantially in English; foreign crews are very common in Indian films now,” Kapur said.

The film has surpassed the record held by Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2002) as the highest grossing film shot in India. It made close to $35 million worldwide. Earlier Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) grossed $52.7 million, which included the cost of DVD rights and television broadcast rights.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, who grows up in a slum in Juhu, Mumbai, and braves the worst kind of urban poverty and adversity to win the Indian version of the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Anil Kapoor stars as the show’s host and Dev Patel, a UK-born Indian actor, and Freida Pinto, a Mumbai-based model, play the lead roles of Jamal and Latika. With music by Rahman, and a sensibility which is very Indian and Bollywood, industry watchers predict it is going to be received well at the box office. “People will be curious to see what the hype is all about, and the first weekend should reap good returns at the box office,” says Komal Nahta, trade analyst and editor of The Film Street Journal.

But even before its release, the film has also already received its share of brickbats in India, most notably from film star Amitabh Bachchan who criticized the film in his blog, saying it portrays India in a poor light. Bachchan wrote: “...if SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”
Given that everything that Bachchan says makes news in India, it will fuel curiosity about the film. The film premieres in India on 22 January. Major members of the film’s crew, including British director Danny Boyle, who received the Golden Globe for best director, drama; writer Simon Beaufuoy; music director Rahman and co-director, India, Delhi-based Loveleen Tandan, arrive in Mumbai on Tuesday to celebrate the premiere.