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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

India to zero in on Swiss accounts: FM

25 August 2009,

NEW DELHI: A day after the Swiss Bankers Association said they wouldn't divulge details of their Indian clients, India said it was not interested in a ``fishing expedition'' of details of money stashed with them but will work on specific cases.

``They (Swiss Bankers Association) have not refused (to divulge information). They have suggested they are not for fishing and we are also not interested in fishing their whole list (of bank accounts),'' Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters late Monday night.

Mukherjee said India would like to follow the pattern set by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and work on specific information with the Swiss banks. India is currently engaged in negotiations on double taxation avoidance treaties with a large number of countries, including Switzerland, he said.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee said he had read newspaper reports on SBA's statement and that he would look into the matter.

SBA's head of international communications, James Nason, had said, ``Swiss law and even OECD's model tax convention do not permit fishing expeditions, that is, indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting.''

``This means India cannot simply throw its telephone book at Switzerland and ask if any of these people have a bank account here,'' he added.

Following the statement, the government faced criticism from opposition parties for not
properly pursuing efforts to unearth illegal money stashed away in Switzerland. Both BJP and CPM said it was the government's job to get details of Indians who have stashed away illegal money there.

India to seek info on some cases from Swiss banks

New Delhi, Aug 24 (PTI) A day after Swiss banks said it will not allow India to 'fish' for details about illegal money stashed in their banks, Government of India Monday night said it was not interested in getting information on all secret accounts held by Indians but will pursue specific cases.

The Indian response to the stand by the Swiss Bankers Association(SBA) that it will not allow "name-fishing expeditions" came from India Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee even as the government came under attack from the opposition for not "properly" making efforts to unearth black money parked in Switzerland.

"They (Swiss Bankers Association) have not refused (to divulge information). They have suggested they are not for fishing and we are also not interested in fishing their whole list (of bank accounts)," Mukherjee told reporters.

Wockhardt agrees to sell 10 hospitals to Fortis

25 Aug 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The Habil Khorakiwala-promoted Wockhardt Hospitals on Monday said it has agreed to sell 10 of its hospitals to Fortis Healthcare for Rs 909 crore, in one of the largest healthcare deals in the country. The deal also narrows the gap between two leading players and will help Wockhardt Hospitals reduce its debt burden.

The deal, which was first reported by ET on August 22, includes eight functioning hospitals of Wockhardt and makes Fortis, the second-largest healthcare provider in the country after Apollo Hospitals. It would also enable Wockhardt Hospitals to clear loans totalling Rs 500 crore that it had borrowed for expansion.

“We will use the funds to clear our debt and the remaining will be used for the 10 hospitals which we still have under our control,” said Wockhardt chairman Habil Khorakiwala. “We also plan to add five more hospitals to the network.” The deal also includes Rs 190 crore towards capital work-in-progress for two under-construction projects.

The healthcare deal will give Fortis additional 1,902 beds, increasing the Delhi-based company’s capacity to 5,180 beds across 38 hospitals. The acquisition is considered vital for Fortis, as it gives the company a pan-India presence which is beneficial in the large, diversified healthcare market in India.

Monday’s acquisition is the latest in Fortis’ inorganic expansion spree that commenced in 2005, when it bought Delhi-based Escorts Hospitals for Rs 585 crore, and followed it up two years later by acquiring Chennai’s Malar Hospitals for Rs 34 crore.

“We have signed the business transfer agreement, but it will take a few months for us to finish the formalities,” said Fortis Healthcare managing director Shivinder Singh. “We expect to execute the deal by December,” he added. Fortis would fund the acquisition through a mixture of equity and debt — of which Rs 350 crore would come from the company’s proposed rights issue. Fortis is awaiting Sebi approval for its Rs 1,000-crore rights issue.

The deal between Habil Khorakiwala — whose family owns 93% in Wockhardt Hospitals — comes more than a year after the firm dropped a public issue plan due to adverse market conditions. Monday’s deal was lower as per the 2008 IPO price band of Rs 280-310 per share, that would have valued Wockhardt Hospitals between Rs 2,900 crore and Rs 3,232 crore.

The hospitals being divested under the deal are spread across three metros (2 in Mumbai, 5 in Bengaluru and 3 in Kolkata). They comprise 85% of the company’s revenue and more than 70% of the total number of beds. The Mumbai-based hospital chain is now left with approximately 650 beds in its remaining facilities. Fortis will also get three nursing colleges — two in Bengaluru and one in Mumbai.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

India, Nepal agree to review 1950 treaty

23 August 2009

NEW DELHI: India and Nepal have agreed to review the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which has been the subject of considerable criticism in the Himalayan republic.

According to a joint statement issued by the foreign ministry on Saturday on the completion of four-day visit by Nepal PM Madhav Kumar Nepal, the two countries also agreed to review other bilateral agreements "with a view to further strengthening the bilateral relationship''.

Earlier in the day, the two countries completed negotiations and initialed the revised Treaty of Trade and Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorized Trade, which would contribute to further enhancing bilateral trade.

The trade treaty, which has been negotiated for the last two years, aims at enlarging the scope of the existing institutional framework, under which India gives duty-free access to its market to goods manufactured in Nepal.

Madhav Nepal and PM Manmohan Singh discussed security concerns relating to the open border between the two countries. The Nepalese side assured that it would not allow its territory to be used for any activity against India and the Indian side also gave the same assurance to Nepal.

"It was agreed that the Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues and the home secretaries of the two countries will meet within two months to enhance bilateral cooperation to effectively address all issues concerning security, including cross-border crime, and establishing effective communication links between and along the bordering districts to further facilitate the exchange of information,'' said the official spokesperson.

"The two sides agreed to consider steps to further facilitate cross-border arrangements in order to resolve border related issues and to assist local populations in the border areas on both sides. The two sides also stressed on the need for strengthening the legal framework, in order to counter their common cross border security challenges,'' he added.

India, Nepal firm up political, trade ties

NEW DELHI: After a five-day official visit, Madhav Kumar Nepal left India on Saturday, secure in the knowledge that the growing dissonance inside and outside his coalition government in Nepal will not affect the Indian commitment to underwrite his leadership in the difficult months that lie ahead. For the moment, at least.

India remains concerned about divisions between Mr. Nepal and the Koiralas — the first family of his principal coalition partner, the Nepali Congress — and within the Prime Minister’s own Unified Marxists-Leninists. But on the principal faultline that divides Nepali politics — the Maoists vs. the UML-NC combine — New Delhi reiterated its strong support for the latter, weighing in behind the coalition’s tough new stand against integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army. Even though the message on integration was not conveyed in so many words, Mr. Nepal and his advisers took the Indian insistence on the need to preserve the “professional character” of the Nepali Army to mean precisely that. On his part, Mr. Nepal went out of his way to assure his hosts that his country would not be used against India in any way.

Apart from the political significance of the visit, India and Nepal on Saturday initialled the revised Treaty of Trade and Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorised Trade, which will contribute to further enhancing bilateral trade. At present, India accounts for 70 per cent of Nepal’s external trade and about 44 per cent of foreign direct investment.

India has also promised to beef up Nepal’s road and rail links in the underdeveloped Terai region and agreed to the utilisation of the Visakhapatnam port for the movement of transit traffic to and from Nepal. It will also favourably consider the request for usage of an additional sea port on its western coast. India will invest Rs. 1,485 crore in strengthening Nepal’s rail and road linkages in the Terai region.

Further trade promotion measures will be examined by the Commerce Secretary-level Inter-Governmental Committee, which has been asked to meet in two months. In a joint statement issued following the visit of the Nepali Prime Minister, which concluded on Saturday, both countries agreed to wrap up a new Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and sign it at an early date.

Taking note of the concerns expressed by Indian businessmen, Nepal said it would foster an investor-friendly and enabling business environment and was ready to sign a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

On the security side, given the open border, each side said it would not allow its territory to be used for any activity against the other country. The Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues and the Home Secretaries will meet within two months to address all security-related issues. India agreed to Nepal’s request for building a Police Academy at an estimated cost of Rs.320 crore, besides doubling the number of slots for training government of Nepal officials, including police personnel.

India in must-win situation against Kyrgyzstan

New Delhi, Aug 21 (PTI) Injury-plagued India face a litmus test of character to stay on course for their title defence in the Nehru Cup international football tournament when they take on Kyrgyzstan in a crucial round-robin match here tomorrow.

India began their campaign with a 0-1 loss to Lebanon and Bob Houghton's boys need no less than a win in tomorrow's fixture at Ambedkar Stadium under floodlights.

A draw against Kyrgyzstan, ranked four places down India at 160th in the FIFA chart, may still not send Bhaichung Bhutia-led side out of the five-team competition but the hosts fate would then hang on other teams hand as they play Sri Lanka on August 25 and Syria on August 28.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Almost half of India under drought: Pawar

20 August 2009

NEW DELHI: With the government declaring that almost half the country is already under drought, the Union cabinet will on Thursday consider a proposal to increase the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy to Rs 1,000 per quintal from the existing rate of Rs 850. The government will also mull whether to increase the support price for arhar (tur) dal from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,300 and of moong dal from Rs 2,520 to 2,760.

The move on paddy is being considered in reaction to a severely hit crop. Not only has the sowing been substantially lower than last year but the low rainfall of August is estimated to have had a substantial impact on production as well. The situation on the pulses front has been as dismal with imports rising.

With these moves, the government would expect to convince farmers to invest more in the crops with the promise of a higher support price delivering a comparable price at harvest.

For a government that has reacted slowly to the drought, this would be but one of the arrows in its quiver to use.

Speaking to state food ministers on Wednesday, Union food minister Sharad Pawar said, "The shortfall in monsoon may result in shortfall in area coverage of paddy by about 5.7 million hectares as compared to last year and production of rice may reduce by 10 million tonnes. Some shortfall in production of oilseeds and sugarcane is also expected."

Sensex closes 228 points up

21 August 2009

MUMBAI: Equities markets closed in the green on Friday, with a key index ending trade 228 points higher than its previous close.

The 30-scrip sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which opened at 14,951.49 points, ended at 15,240.83 points, up 228.51 points or 1.52%.

The broader-based Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) also closed in the positive terrain at 4,528.8 points, up 1.69%.

Broader market indices also ended in the green, with the BSE midcap index closing 1.5% higher and the BSE smallcap index ending 1.61% up.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Highlights of PM’s Independence Day Speech – 2009

A confident Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh sent out a positive Independence Day message that India had self faith, political stability and economic strength to march towards “a golden future.”

The Prime Minister calls for a “new era of cooperation and harmony in our national life.” Asserting that people had rejected in the last election sectarian politics and have “chosen a political arrangement which is secular,” the Prime Minister promises to take every one along and to create “an environment of consensus and cooperation in the country.”

Spelling out his philosophy and priorities the Prime Minister asserted that his government will pay special attention to minorities. He insisted that caring for minorities is not appeasement.

Highlights of PM’s speech

• PM warns hoarders and black-marketers

• No one will go hungry

• No need to panic in the face of H1N1 flu. No disruption of daily lives.

• Effort to ensure that benefits of development reach all sections of society and all regions and citizens of the country.

• That every citizen of India is prosperous and secure and is able to lead a life of dignity and self respect.

• Restoring our growth rate to 9% is the greatest challenge we face. We expect that there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year.

• Appeal to businessmen and industrialists to join in effort to tackle difficult situation and fulfill their social obligation.

• This year there has been deficiency in the monsoons. We will provide all possible assistance to our farmers to deal with the drought.

• Date for repayment of farmers bank loans postponed. Additional support given to farmers for payment of interest on short term crop loans.

• We have adequate stocks of foodgrains. All efforts will be made to control rising prices of foodgrains, pulses and other goods of daily use.

• Country needs another Green Revolution, the goal is 4% annual growth in agriculture. Achievable in the next 5 years.

• Food security law under which every below poverty line family will get a fixed amount of foodgrains every month at concessional rates.

• Special care to be taken of needs of women and children. To extend the benefit of ICDS to every child below the age of six years by March 2012.

• NREGA program to be improved to bring more transparency and accountability into it.

• Right to Education Act enacted, funds will not be a constraint.

• We will give special attention to the needs of disabled children.

• Secondary education will be expanded through a program that will ensure that every child in the country gets its benefit.

• Will provide bank loans and scholarships to the maximum possible number of students to support their education.

• New scheme to help students from economically weaker sections get education loans at reduced interest rates. Will benefit about 5 lakh students in technical and professional courses.

• The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to be expanded to cover every family below the poverty line.

• Additional funds allocated for Bharat Nirman - the programs for development of rural and urban areas to be speeded up.

• Accelerated efforts to improve physical infrastructure in the country. Construction of 20 Km of National Highways every day.

• Railways have started work on the Dedicated Freight Corridors.

• Road, Rail and civil aviation projects being implemented in J & K and the North Eastern States will be specially monitored.

• In a step to make the country slum free new scheme Rajiv Awas Yojana being launched.

• India will meet the challenge of climate change through 8 National Missions.

• The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, aimed at increasing the use of solar energy and making it affordable will be launched on 14th Nov. this year.

• We need a new culture of energy conservation.

• More attention to programs for water collection and storage. "Save Water" should be one of our national slogans.

• Every government should be sensitive to people's complaints and dissatisfaction. But nothing is achieved by destroying public property and indulging in violence and the government will deal firmly with such people.

• To root out terrorist activities, our security forces and intelligence agencies are being constantly upgraded. With cooperation from all sections of society we will succeed.

• Redoubled efforts to deal with militant activities. Will extend all help to the State Governments to make their police forces more effective.

• Those who think that they can seize power by recourse to the gun do not understand the power of our democracy.

• Will endeavour to remove those causes of social and economic dissatisfaction which give rise to problems like Naxalism.

• Seek active partnership of the our Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe brothers and sisters in our development process.

• The schemes for the welfare of the minorities to be taken forward.

• Funds enhanced substantially for the special schemes for development of minority concentration districts.

• A Bill to prevent communal violence has been introduced in Parliament and efforts will be made to convert it into a law as soon as possible.

• Female foeticide is a shame on all of us. We must eliminate it as early as possible.

• Our government is committed to the early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill.

• Working on a legislation to provide 50% reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies.

• National Female Literacy Mission to be launched, Aims to reduce female illiteracy by half in three years.

• Have accepted the recommendations of the committee on the issue of pension of ex-servicemen. This will benefit 12 lakh retired jawans and JCOs.

• Will take care of the special needs of the backward regions with redoubled efforts to remove regional imbalances.

• Government constantly endeavours to make the North Eastern States equal partners in the country's progress. Without their well-being the country cannot move forward.

• There have been two elections in J& K in past year with people participating vigorously. Proof that there is no place for separatist thought in the state.

• Endeavour to ensure that human rights are respected J&K and all its citizens are able to live in peace and dignity in an environment of safety and security.

• As far as our neighbours are concerned, we want to live with them in peace and harmony. Will make every possible effort to create an environment conducive to the social and economic development of the whole of South Asia.

• Benefit of good programs will not reach the people till the government machinery is not corruption free. Public administration to be more efficient.

• Need to improve delivery systems to provide basic services to our citizens.

• Renewed efforts to decentralize public administration through the Panchayati Raj Institutions and to ensure greater involvement of people.

• Initiative will be taken for a new partnership between the civil society and the government so that tax payers' money is better spent.

• Right to Information Act to be improved to make it is more effective and enhance accountability and transparency.

• Special efforts to strengthen administrative machinery for rural programs

• Unique Identification Authority of India set up. First set of identity numbers expected to be available in the next one to one and a half years.

• Nation building will be our highest duty.

Sensex loses 107 points as investors book profits

15 Aug 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Equities retreated on Friday as investors booked profits on the hunch that the market may have peaked out in the short term. Key benchmarks were weighed down by a 3% fall in index heavyweight Hindustan Unilever. Market players are worried that deficient rainfall this year will hurt the profits of fast-moving consumer good companies, which earn a good chunk of their revenues from the rural segment.

The Bombay Stock Exchange’s (BSE) 30-share Sensex ended the day at 15,411.63, down 106.86 points over the previous close. The index has risen 1.7% over the past one week, led by gains in metal, banking and automobile segments. NSE’s 50-share Nifty closed at 4580.05, down 24.95 points over Thursday’s close.

Recent macro data — both local and global — have been encouraging. But most investors feel shares are fairly valued for the time being.

Key markets in Asia ended higher, ignoring the weakness in US equities the day before. All European markets ended in the red, with losses ranging between 1% and 2%. “Markets are unlikely to cross the highs made last month any time soon, as valuations are a bit on the higher side,” says Dilip Bhat, joint managing director, Prabhudas Lilladher.

“Foreign fund flows coming into the country are now getting divided between the secondary and the primary (IPOs, QIPs) markets, and this trend is likely to continue for some time. Also, the recovery in some key European markets could promote portfolio investors to cut exposure to some of the expensive emerging markets and deploy that money in Europe,” he said.

Despite the weakness in key indices, market breadth on BSE was positive with gainers outnumbering losers 7:6, as investors continued to buy into mid- and small-caps. After keeping low profile over the past few days, domestic institutions stepped on the gas on Thursday, net buying shares worth Rs 444 crore. Foreign institutional investors were net sellers to the tune of Rs 126 crore. The BSE Realty index was the worst performer among sectoral indices, falling 1.7%. The BSE FMCG index was next, declining 1.3%.

“Our base case revenue growth forecast for the FMCG sector is 11.4% and 12% for FY10 and FY11, respectively,” said a note by brokering house Morgan Stanley to clients.

Colonial BancGroup becomes biggest bank failure of 2009

Aug 14, 2009,

BB&T takes over after FDIC shuts Alabama lender at cost of $2.8 billionExplore related topics

SAN FRANCISCO -- Colonial BancGroup Inc. became the largest bank failure this year Friday after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seized the struggling Alabama-based lender and sold it to BB&T Corp.

The deal will knock roughly $2.8 billion off a pool of money, known as the Deposit Insurance Fund, which the FDIC maintains to guarantee bank customer deposits.

BB&T /quotes/comstock/13*!bbt/quotes/nls/bbt (BBT 28.63, +0.40, +1.42%) agreed to assume all of Colonial's deposits, which totaled about $20 billion at the end of June, the FDIC said. Depositors of Colonial will automatically become depositors of BB&T and customers can continue accessing their money by writing checks or using ATMs and debit cards, the regulator stressed.

Colonial had $25 billion in assets at the end of June. That makes it the largest bank failure this year, exceeding the collapse of Florida's BankUnited Financial /quotes/comstock/11i!bkunq (BKUNQ 0.30, -0.01, -1.64%) , which had less than $13 billion in assets. See full story.

BB&T agreed to buy about $22 billion of Colonial's assets. The FDIC said it will hold on to the rest - about $3 billion worth - and will try to sell them later.

The FDIC and BB&T will share losses on $15 billion of Colonial's assets. Loss-sharing deals have become common since the financial crisis struck last year, as the FDIC tries to encourage more stable banks to take over failing institutions.

This year, 74 banks have failed this year as a lingering recession and surging unemployment leaves the industry nursing heavy loan losses. More than 1,000 banks may fail during the next three to five years, RBC Capital Markets estimated in February. See full story.

The FDIC estimated Friday that the Colonial deal will cost its Deposit Insurance Fund about $2.8 billion. The regulator recently imposed a one-time assessment on banks to top the fund up. However, the surge in bank failures has increased concern about the fund, despite the fact that the FDIC can borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from the Treasury Department if it needs to.

"Today, after protecting almost $300 billion in deposits since the current financial crisis began, the FDIC's guarantee is as certain as ever," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a statement late Friday. "Our industry funded reserves have covered all losses to date. In fact, losses from today's failures are lower than had been projected."

Shares of Colonial /quotes/comstock/13*!cnb/quotes/nls/cnb (CNB 0.41, -0.06, -11.94%) dropped 12% to 41 cents before trading was halted Friday morning. BB&T shares jumped more than 9% to close at $28.43.

BB&T, with more than $150 billion in assets, is seen by some analysts as a beneficiary of bank failures. Many closures have happened in the Southeast of the U.S., where BB&T is a dominant player.

Colonial Bank "is probably a manageable purchase although we expect some losses from the purchase," said Egan-Jones Ratings, a rating agency that's paid by investors rather than issuers, in a statement Friday.

Colonial wasn't the only lender to fail on Friday.

Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Dwelling House Savings and Loan Association was closed by federal regulators. Dwelling had total assets of $13.4 million and $13.8 billion in deposits at the end of March, the FDIC said.

PNC Bank N.A., owned by PNC Financial Services /quotes/comstock/13*!pnc/quotes/nls/pnc (PNC 41.50, -0.35, -0.84%) /quotes/comstock/13*!pnc/quotes/nls/pnc, agreed to purchase about $3 million of the failed bank's assets. The FDIC estimated the failure will cost its Deposit Insurance Fund $6.8 million.

In India swine flu panic spreads faster than virus

NEW DELHI, India — The streets of the western city of Pune were half-empty, schools in Mumbai were ordered closed, and people suffering aches flooded hospitals across the country as India confronted dueling outbreaks of swine flu and swine flu panic.

Twenty one people have died from the flu here, the government said Friday, and 1,390 have been confirmed infected in this nation of 1.2 billion people. But fear of the flu has outpaced the virus itself.

"The amount of frenzy or hysteria is totally disproportionate to the overall reality of the disease," Dr. Jai Narain, the head of the regional communicable disease office for the World Health Organization, said Friday.

Breathless reports of swine flu have dominated India's 24-hour news channels desperate for stories amid the August doldrums. That in turn has helped whip the public into a frenzy, even in cities with relatively few cases of flu.

In New Delhi, where no deaths have been reported, people have begun wearing surgical masks in the street. In Lucknow, parents demanded their children be tested.

"Over 1,000 people lined up at different hospitals. ... Eleven of them tested positive," Dr. R.R. Bharati, a top health official in the northern city of Lucknow said earlier this week.

In Mumbai, the country's financial capital, the government closed all schools and movie theaters, hammering the Bollywood film industry over the long Independence Day holiday weekend. The government also asked malls in Mumbai to tone down their traditional holiday sales to keep away crowds.

The nearby city of Pune is India's worst affected, with 13 of the country's 21 deaths.

There, the streets were half-empty, the usual crowds shunned the shopping malls and many workers stopped showing up at offices. With schools closed, worried parents kept their children shut inside.

Many who did venture out wore surgical masks, despite a shortage that sent the price of a single mask skyrocketing from 5 rupees (10 cents) to 150 rupees ($3).

"The situation in Pune is alarming considering the number of ... positive cases and deaths. We are augmenting the resources in the city to handle the situation. However, we appeal to people not to panic," said Chandrakant Dalvi, a city official.

In response to the outbreak, India's government has set up testing centers around the country and plans to increase its stock of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to 30 million doses, the government said. But officials have also asked people to stop wearing surgical masks in the street unless they or a family member are infected.

"I cannot see anything to panic about," said Dr. Jayaprakash Muliyil, a professor of epidemiology at Christian Medical College in Vellore. "These kinds of rumors are not good for the health of the nation."

The fatality rate from the virus is relatively low, though scientists worry it could eventually mutate into a more deadly strain, he said.

Yet the flu has garnered far more attention than India's raft of other health problems, including tuberculosis, which kills nearly 1,000 Indians every day, according to World Health Organization figures.

In Pune, more than 11,000 people lined up to be tested for the swine flu virus Thursday and 73 tested positive, Mahesh Zagade, a city official, told reporters.

"I think we are suffering a psychological disorder. We keep asking each other if we feel sick, cold, have a body ache, fever or breathlessness," said a 25-year-old man waiting to be tested in Pune who identified himself as Aditya. "I called up my doctor this morning and told him that I felt like I was suffocating."

The entire staff at one pharmacy donned gloves and masks after hearing a pharmacist was among those killed by the virus.

"We were planning to shut down, but we know we can't do that because people here need medicine," said Anand Agarwal, the 42-year-old pharmacist.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 177,457 cases of swine flu and 1,462 deaths across the world as of August 12.

After more than a week of feverish coverage of India's outbreak, some news organizations are now counseling calm.

Lalu: RJD-LJP can dislodge Nitish

15 Aug 2009,ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: After the Samajwadi Party, it was the turn of RJD leader Lalu Prasad to target the Congress. Angry with the Congress efforts to ‘sideline’ its allies, RJD chief said the grand old party should stop nurturing the belief that it has the wherewithal to take on NDA in Bihar.

“A section of Congress leaders do not value our support. It is reflected in their arrogance. We are not a spent force and my party’s alliance with the LJP is formidable enough to dislodge the Nitish Kumar government,” reports from Gaya quoting Mr Yadav said.

Last week, the Congress had ruled out reviving its alliance with regional outfits in Bihar. “There will be no alliances in the future in Bihar. The party is going to fight elections on its own strength,” the AICC leader in-charge of party affairs in Bihar, Mr Jagdish Tytler had said. In an interaction with the media, Mr Tytler had said that the association with RJD had adversely affected Congress growth. “Previously there was hardly a family in Bihar which did not have members who were Congress supporters. We are going to reclaim the lost ground,” he had said.

Congress leaders seem to believe that contesting solo would bring it major electoral dividends. Although there are still no tangible signs of dominant caste groupings leaving the fold of established political players, Congress is hoping to wean Muslims away from the RJD camp, and the upper castes from JD(U)-BJP combine.

In the Lok Sabha polls held earlier this year, Brahmins, angry with the JD(U)’s refusal to give a ticket to any member of the community, expressed their disaffection by staying aloof from the party. In a few other constituencies, sections of other upper castes such as Bhumihars and Rajputs too voted for candidates of their choice.

But as the verdict of the Lok Sabha polls showed, Mr Nitish Kumar continues to enjoy the respect of the great majority of the people, who have endorsed the developmental initiatives undertaken by his government in the last three years and nine months that it has stayed in power. Mr Kumar’s personal ratings continues to be high, and is held in esteem by the Muslims too.

Moreover, the combine has consolidated its support base during this period by expanding their reach to include the EBCs and the poorer among the Dalits, or Mahadalits.

Congress, on the contrary, faces a bigger challenge. In the Lok Sabha polls, it could not even find suitable candidates in many constituencies, and had to rely on discards on other parties to keep itself afloat. Besides, a faces a severe leadership crunch.

23 dead, 107 new swine flu cases in India

14 Aug 2009,

NEW DELHI: India's swine flu toll rose to 23 on Friday and 107 new cases were detected positive for the viral infection, taking the total number of those affected by influenza A (H1N1) virus to 1,390.

At least "6,897 people have been tested so far, out of which 1,390 are positive for influenza A (H1N1). Of the positive cases, 648 have been discharged, while 742 are at various stages of recovery," the health ministry said in a statement.

As Maharashtra, where educational institutions and public places have been closed for a week, has reported the maximum number of cases as well as deaths, a central health team is stationed in the state to assist the state government in instituting appropriate public health measures.

On Friday, the worst hit Pune city reported only four positive cases, but Mumbai had 29 confirmed cases.

The other new cases were from - Osmanabad (4), Nanded (2), Nagpur (2), Dhule (1), Nasik (1), Latur (1), Delhi (13), Bangalore (9), Mangalore (2), Hyderabad (13) Kolkata (6), Ahmedabad (5), Surat (5) Gurgaon (5), Goa (2), Srinagar (2) and Panchkula (1).

Of the 29 cases reported from Mumbai, 28 are indigenous and one case is of a seven-year-old boy who had traveled to Britain.

All the other cases in Maharashtra are indigenous, the ministry statement said.

of the 13 new cases in Delhi, 11 are indigenous while a 14-year-old boy and a 19-year-old boy had traveled abroad.

In Gurgaon and Bangalore, all cases are indigenous cases with no foreign travel history.

Of the 13 cases from Hyderabad, eight are indigenous cases with no overseas travel history, the rest have history of having traveled abroad.

In Kolkata also all cases are indigenous cases. The same was seen in Gujarat where the 10 cases - five each from Ahmedabad and Surat - are indigenous.

In Goa, a 41-year-old man contracted the infection locally, while the other case is of a 35-year-old man who had come from Dubai.

Two cases were reported from Srinagar - first time for Jammu and Kashmir - and both are indigenous cases, while in Haryana's Panchkula, a 14-year-old boy was tested positive.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 177,457 swine flu cases have been reported till Aug 6, while 1,462 deaths have occurred worldwide, mostly in Mexico, where it originated, and the US, the ministry said.

It's panic flu in India

Aug 14, 2009

Swine Flu: 5 more die in Pune, nationwide toll rises to 24

We Indians tend to panic easily. Another national trait is scare mongering. When you combine the two together, you get the current hysteria over the swine flu pandemic. There were barely two dozen deaths all over the country till the weekend. But our frenzied response is as if an apocalypse is at hand.

Mumbai has shut down its schools, colleges and cinema theatres. Delhi has imposed the antiquated 1887 Epidemic Diseases Act, compelling private hospitals to prepare special wards for infected patients. The Tamil Nadu authorities have advised residents not to visit Maharashtra. Ten thousand queued up outside one Pune government hospital alone to get themselves tested for the disease.

A PIL as been filed demanding that festivals not be celebrated in pubic this season in Mumbai. Every second chemist shop in Delhi is selling masks. Every person with a slight sniffle is convinced that he or she is in the grip of a deadly disease. Most of the Capital's schools have been closed, partly because of pressure from agitated parents who refuse to send their children to school.

Infant, two women die of swine flu, India toll 20

13 Aug 2009

PUNE/BANGALORE: A nine-month-old child and a woman died of the H1N1 virus in India's epidemic epicentre Pune and a woman school teacher was Bangalore's first swine flu victim, officials said on Thursday, as India's toll climbed to 20 amid hectic efforts to curb the spread of the contagious virus.

Nine-month-old Swabhiman Kamble died at the Sahyadri Munot Hospital in Pune late Wednesday, an official said.

An official at the Maharashtra Swine Flu Control Room told IANS that the infant had been hospitalised early this week with flu-like symptoms. In between, he had also been taken for a check-up to the Sassoon Hospital, which has been handling very serious cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection.

Archana Kolhe, 37, died in a private hospital, Shri Nursing Home, around 3.45 pm, the Maharashtra Swine Flu Control Room officials said.

This was the 15th swine flu death in Maharashtra and 12th in Pune. Two people have died in Mumbai and one in Nashik.

Maharashtra's neighbouring Karnataka state saw the first H1N1 death late Wednesday.

A 26-year-old school teacher identified as Rupa died at Bangalore's St. Philomena Hospital. Her test results, received Thursday, confirmed she died of swine flu.

"Her throat and nasal swabs tests have confirmed that the patient was suffering from the influenza A (H1N1) virus," hospital director Shankar Prasad told reporters Thursday.

She was admitted in the hospital on August 7.

"The patient was admitted with breathing problems coupled with pneumonia. Her condition started deteriorating Tuesday and she died Wednesday afternoon. We got the confirmation that the woman was suffering from swine flu only Wednesday night," added Prasad.

According to hospital sources, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), where the test was done, confirmed that Rupa was suffering from H1N1 virus late Wednesday night.

Rupa worked as a teacher in the Sudarshan Vidya Mandir at Jayanagar in Bangalore

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sensex slips to day’s low; auto, banks down

7 Aug 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian markets failed to pull back and slipped lower to day’s low in line with Asian markets. All the sectoral indices were in the red led
by losses in auto, banks and realty space. Investors were worried that the below average rainfall would hamper Indian economy. ( Watch )

Meanwhile, monsoon rains back home dipped for the second straight week at a crucial period for oilseeds and sugarcane, and raising concerns of rising food prices. Last week's rainfall, 64 percent blow normal, was the worst since mid-June, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday. The government is worried that the weak monsoon will hamper growth making revival of the economy a daunting task.

At 11 am, Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 15334.71, down 179.32 points or 1.16 per cent. The index touched an intra-day low of 15310.54 and high of 15501.94.

National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 4531.85, down 53.65 points or 1.17 per cent. The broader index hit a high of 4591.90 and low of 4520.65.

BSE Midcap Index was down 1.26 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index declined 0.92 per cent.

“The intermediate trend still remains up unless Nifty breaks below 4410 but going forward its very necessary that Nifty maintains above 4710 for a fresh development. We have seen for the last four trading sessions that Nifty has been trying to sustain above the 4700 mark but couldn’t manage even after positive move from the global peers. This clearly suggests that markets are waiting for a fresh trigger which could drive the Nifty above 4700.

Even FIIs have turned negative of Rs 690 crore in the cash segment on Wednesday. We are seeing that the trend is slightly getting weaker and we could take some more time to cross the 4700 mark and consolidate at lower level and create a base before giving a breakout on the higher side.

The 50-day moving average is placed at 4412 which should act as a strong support area. This intermediate trend will get in danger only if nifty breaks below 4380, till then every fall should be a buying opportunity keeping a strict stop-loss.
For tomorrow’s intraday trade 4550 should act as a strong support and a trade below could again create a panic selling and we could test 4495, resistance is at 4660,” said Nirmal Bang report.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Auto Index was down 3.16 per cent, BSE Bankex declined 1.85 per cent and BSE Realty Index slipped 1.82 per cent.

India - SKorea ink market opening pact; trade may double

Aug 07, 2009

India and South Korea signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would enable duty free trade in goods and services between the two countries and help double bilateral trade to USD 20 billion.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon signed the agreement in Seoul. This is India's second comprehensive deal with any country after Singapore.

"Under the agreement, tariffs will be reduced or eliminated on 93 per cent of Korea's tariff lines and 85 per cent of India's tariff lines," an official statement said.

The CEPA would come into force after it is ratified by the Korean National Assembly and the notifications to bring it into effect are made by the two countries.

It would facilitate trade in services through additional commitments made by both the countries to ease movement of independent professional and contractual suppliers.

Wipro may soon bag big-ticket outsourcing deals

6 Aug 2009,ET Bureau

KOLKATA: Wipro, the country’s third-largest software services exporter, expects to close a clutch of big-ticket outsourcing deals — each valued upwards of $100 million — in the second quarter of 2009-10.
The company claims it has a good funnel of potential clients who prefer end-to-end solutions in areas like IT services, consulting, remote management and BPO.

Confirming this, Wipro executive director & CFO Suresh C Senapaty said: “We expect to win some good clients this year despite the slowdown. It is true that bids are getting complex and taking longer time to conclude. However, we are optimistic of closing few large deals, especially in the $100-million plus range,” Mr Senapaty told ET.

Wipro had added 26 new clients in the first quarter (April-June 2009). “The total value of the new deals bagged in Q1 is around $700 million, with quite a few in the $30-million plus range. Clients are now looking for long-term deals and prefer end-to-end processing,” Mr Senapaty said. The company also indicated that hiring could become robust in the months to come.

“The newer spate of deals are much more stabilised on pricing and are volume-oriented. By virtue of their nature, we would require more people for servicing them. However, we will go for just-in-time hiring,” said Mr Senapaty. Wipro will also focus on near-shoring as a future strategy.

“Clients now prefer near-shoring as a concept. Bulk of our people outside India are working at customer premises. We plan to open several new near-shore centres in Latin America, eastern Europe and the APAC region. The idea is to expand into low-cost destinations,” said Mr Senapaty.

As part of this, Mr Senapaty said Wipro plans to double headcount at China from the present 400-odd people and also open a facility at Russia.

“The future growth verticals will include energy, utilities, telecom, healthcare and government. We intend to expand business in India and Middle-East, which currently contributes less than 10% to our revenue,” he said.

Wipro is also eyeing acquisition opportunities in Japan, Australia, Latin America and Europe, Mr Senapaty added