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Friday, October 30, 2009

Thousands throng Hadshi to see Sai Baba

31 October 2009,

PUNE: Thousands of people thronged the village of Hadshi, about 60 km from here, on Friday for a darshan' of spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba,
who has been in the village for the last three days.

The spiritual leader's appearance on the stage near the village led to loud shouts of Sai Ram'.

Chief minister Ashok Chavan's wife Amita Chavan and former Union minister Shivraj Patil were among the politicians and eminent personalities who have come to the little village on Friday to visit Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

During the three-day discourse, other politicians, including ministers Patangrao Kadam, Harshvardhan Patil and Dilip Deshmukh also sought darshan'.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba is expected to leave for Mumbai on October 31.

On Friday, people began gathering at the venue hours before the actual programme started, wherein child stars of a reality show performed a few devotional songs. There were also a number of foreigners among the crowd, who clapped and hummed bhajans along with others.

For Yamuna Deodhar, a resident of Mahad, the trip from her town about 100 km away was one she would always remember simply because she got what she wanted. "A darshan' of Swamiji was something I had never expected to take place, so this is definitely a dream come true," she said.

For Mukund Mule, a financial consultant from Sangamner, it was the social work of Sathya Sai Baba that inspired him to become his devotee. "He and his followers are working for the betterment of the society and the deprived class. I respect that," he said.

Echoing the same sentiments Sunil Ahire said that he has come for the spiritual discourse after hearing about the work carried out by Sai Baba's various organisations. "I have come to this spiritual discourse for the first time. I wanted to listen to the thoughts of Baba and this was a good opportunity for me since the programme is taking place very close to my village," said Ahire, a resident of Paud village.

Some politicians had come along with their families and were staying near the venue for the last three days. "I had heard his spiritual discourse in the late eighties for the first time. Since then I have been following Baba's discourses for more than 20 years. I regularly visit his ashram in Puttaparthi," said Dayanand Londhe, sarpanch of Malad, Baramati, and a former member of zilla parishad.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba to visit city tomorrow

30 October 2009

MUMBAI: Spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba will bless his devotees in the city on a visit scheduled from October 31 to November 2. Sri Sathya Sai Baba will be staying at his divine adobe `Dharmakshetra' in Andheri (E).

The schedule for the Mumbai trip includes bhajan and darshan at these locations: Bombay Exhibition Centre in Goregaon (E) on October 31 at 4 pm ; Jamboori Maidan in Worli on November 1 at 10 am and Brabourne Stadium in Churchgate on November 1 at 5 pm.

He visited Mumbai for the first time in 1967 and laid the foundation for Dharmakshetra, which was inaugurated in 1968. Dharmakshetra is an initiative involved in many social activities like education and medical care among other things.

Satya Sai Baba will bless Bandra-Worli sea link

October 29, 2009

Mumbai: Spiritual leader Satya Sai Baba will be on a two-day visit to Mumbai this weekend. Coming to the city after a gap of nine years, the Baba will bless the Bandra-Worli sea link at the behest of his devotees, and drop in at Varsha, the official residence of chief minister Ashok Chavan.

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link"Devotees want Mumbai to prosper, so they want him to travel via the sea link," said Rajeev Nambiar, member, Sri Sathya Seva Organisation (SSSO), adding that children from Balvikas Sanstha, where

actor Aishwarya Rai had enrolled as a child, will release balloons in the air to welcome him on the stretch.

The Baba has a huge following in the city, from the common man to the celebrity. Politicians Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ashok Chavan, DY Patil and Jayant Patil, and musicians like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Hariharan and Suresh Wadkar, are ardent devotees, and will be meeting him during his visit. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar has informed DNA that he will pay his respects to the Baba when he comes to the city.

Sources in SSSO said Ashok Chavan has invited the spiritual leader for lunch at Varsha. Chavan had made a special trip to Pune to seek the Baba's blessings on his birthday on October 28.

The Baba, however, is making a transit stopover in the city. He is on his way to inaugurate a temple complex called Sri Satya Sai Pandurang Kshetra and do a moorti sthapana in Hadshi via Pune in Lonavala. He will be put up at Dharmakshetra near Mahakali Caves in Andheri (E).

Govt working on consensus to pass reforms bill:FM

New Delhi, Oct 30 (PTI) The government today sought broad political consensus to clear the crucial legislations, including the labour and the insurance bills, to push forward the reforms for returning to 9 per cent economic growth.

"We don't have the required majority in the two Houses (of Parliament) to clear the bills ... a broad political consensus is needed," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here today.

He said fiscal deficit must be contained and brought back to 5.5 per cent by 2011-12 from 6.8 per cent now.

Stressing on fiscal consolidation, he said the target must be to "bring back fiscal deficit within prudent limits

Equities pare gains; telecom stocks drag

30 Oct 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Equities pared early gains as key index heavyweights took a plunge into the negative terrain. Telecom stocks were the worst hit after Bharti Airtel’s disappointing quarterly earnings. However, the broader market continued to hold onto gains.

At 12:50 pm, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was trading at 4803.80, up 1.12 per cent or 53.25 points from the previous close. The index trimmed gains from a high of 4853.65 to a low of 4748.95.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was up 0.70 per cent or 111.86 points to 16,164.58. The index slipped from a high of 16,360.88 in trade so far.

The broader market was abuzz with buying activity. The BSE Midcap Index climbed 2.44 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index surged 2.03 per cent.

Sectorwise, the BSE Metal Index surged 3.9 per cent, followed by BSE Realty Index up 3.67 per cent and BSE Bankex up 2.73 per cent. However, the BSE Oil&Gas Index was down 1.35 per cent.

Losses were led by telecom stocks like Bharti Airtel (-6.27%) and Reliance Communications (-5.67%). This comes after Bharti Airtel declared a disappointing performance in the September quarter. The company posted a net profit of Rs 2296.94 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2009 as compared to Rs 1604.78 crore in the same quarter previous year.

Tata Power (-2.26%), Reliance Industries (-2.2%) and Wipro (-0.86%) were the losers in the 50-share index.

Sensex gainers were Sterlite Industries (6.04%), Tata Steel (4.14%), Hindalco Industries (3.77%), Grasim Industries (3.56%) and State Bank of India (3.42%).

Market breadth on BSE was strong with 1828 advances outnumbering 673 declines.

US alerts its citizens travelling to India

PTI 30 October 2009

WASHINGTON: Days after the FBI busted Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba's plot to carry out terrorist attack in India using an American national, the United States asked its citizens to stay alert during their travel to India.

"The US Government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India," the State Department said in its latest travel alert on India. This replaces a similar travel alert issued by the State Department before the start of the festival season.

"Terrorists and their sympathisers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans or Westerners are known to congregate or visit," the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the State Department said.

Stating that the latest travel alert remains valid till January 28, next year, the department said the Mumbai terror attacks in November last provided a vivid reminder that hotels and other public places are targets for terrorist groups.

"US citizens are urged always to practise good security, maintain a heightened situational awareness and a low profile," the alert said.

"Americans are advised to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues," it said.

FBI had said yesterday that 49-year-old David Coleman Headley, who was arrested early this month along with a Canadian of Pakistan origin, was in close contact with LeT leaders and helping the outfit in planning a terror attack in India.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to visit Mumbai

Final Programmes

Mumbai is once again gearing up to welcome the Lord at Dharmakshetra. It was in June,2000, when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba last visited Dharmakshetra.

In Mumbai, devotees have been were praying fervently that Bhagawan visits the city and it seems that Bhagawan has accepted the heartfelt prayers of the people of Mumbai. Bhagawan too is eager to visit Mumbai and bless and embrace all His children in His loving fold.

Thus, it is with great joy and bliss that we wish to share our happiness with one and all l that Mumbai will once again be blessed by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's Divine Visit from 31st October,2009 to 1st November ,2009.

1968 - Sai Baba's Visit to Dharmakshetra, Mumbai

Hectic preparations are underway round the clock and the sanctum sanctorum of Dharmakshetra including Swami's Lotus Residence "Satya Deep", at Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri East, Mumbai 400 093has has been painted and spruced up for the Divine Visit.

Bhagawan’s visits to Pune, Hadshi and Mumbai are gifts of His immense Love and Grace for the devotees of Maharashtra. The stupendous village work (Grama Seva) undertaken by the devotees of Maharashtra in the last couple of years ,particularly in the field of educare, sociocare and medicare under the Village Integrated programme is one reason prompting Bhagawan out of His sheer Love and Mercy to undertake a trip at the end of this month.

Bhagawan’s Programme At Hadshi:
Sri Sathya Sai Baba's Program

(schedule/ itinerary )

Wednesday, 28th October 2009

12.00 Noon – Welcome to Swami at Sri Sathya Sai Pandurang Kshetra Hadshi, Paud-Lonavala Road, by Dindi Procession From Ganesha Temple

13.00 Hrs – Mahaprasad

18.00 Hrs – Bhajan and Darshan Devotional Musicial Programme by: Smt. Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shri Nitin Mukesh and Ms. Sapna Mukherjee.

Thursday, 29th October 2009

9.00 A.M. Murthi Sthapana and Pranprathistha of Lord Siddhivinayak, Sri Shirdi Sai Baba and Sri Vitthal Rukmini by the Divine Hands of Bhagawan.

17.00 Hrs . Bhajan, Darshan and Public Meeting

Friday, 30th October 2009

9.00 A.M. Bhajan and Darshan

17.00 Hrs Abhang Vani by Little Champs

Saturday, 31th October 2009

8.00 A.M. Bhajan and Darshan

Departure to Mumbai.

Three more ambulances are being added to the already existing Eighteen mobile medicare vans, already on the move. The Mobile Medicare project which was launched in June, 2008 with Bhagawan's blessings has provided free medical aid to over four lakh patients, free of cost and is creating a tremendous impact in spreading Swami's message of love , all over the villages in Maharashtra.

Hence, by the time Bhagawan returns to Puttaparthi, the State of Maharashtra will be vibrant and recharged and will be fully geared to spread Bhagawan's Love to each and every home in the entire state of Maharashtra.

Everything Bhagawan does is a treat to watch if one has the inner eyes to observe and the heart to follow; and once one is tuned, there come lessons galore to imbibe and practice. The perfect Master that He is, He never leaves any stone unturned. Every programme during the visit is being planned meticulously and those whom He wishes to confer Grace upon will eventually be drawn by Him.

Bhagawan's car anticipated to pass over the Bandra-Worli Sea link Mumbai (bridge)

As per Sai Baba's "travel plans" Bhagawan's car may pass over Mumbai Worli Sea Link, this 2.9-mile long, eight-lane $400m bridge aims to reduce the journey time between the city and the northern suburbs from the current 45 minutes to just seven minutes by taking motorists across the mouth of Mahim Bay. The Mumbai Bal Vikas children are planning to release balloons as Swami's car pass over.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba Mumbai Travel updates

Two programmes have been chalked out for the public in Mumbai. On 31st October, Bhagawan will give darshan to the accompaniment of bhajans at NSE Exhibition Grounds in Goregaon (East) around 4 pm. This ground is situated in North Mumbai and has a capacity of 30000 people with an inbuilt central air-condition system. The other programme will be held in South Mumbai at Gandhi Maidan, (Jamboree Maidan), B.D.D. Chawls, Worli Naka, Mumbai 400 018 at 10.00 a.m. on 1st November, 2009.

Bhagawan's car will also definitely grace the new Bandra-Worli sea link where balloons will be released by the Balvikas children of Mumbai. South Mumbai being the financial hub of city, many of the top businessmen and corporate leaders will grace the occasion at both the venues in Mumbai.

We look forward to having a supremely blissful experience during this visit of our beloved Lord Sai to our city.




Wednesday, 28th October 2009

12.00 Noon Welcome to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Sri Sathya Sai Pandurang Kshetra (Hadshi, Paud-Lonavala Road, Taluka-Mulshi, District-Pune), by Dindi Procession From Ganesha Temple

1.00 P.M. Mahaprasad

5.00 P.M. Bhajan and Darshan

Devotioinal Musicial Programme by:

Smt. Kavita Krishnamurthy,

Shri Nitin Mukesh,

Ms. Sapna Mukherjee

Thursday, 29th October 2009

9.00 A.M. Murthi Sthapana and Pranprathistha of Lord Siddhivinayak,

Sri Shirdi Sai Baba and Sri Vitthal Rukmini at Divine Hands of

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

5.00 P.M. Bhajan, Darshan and Public Meeting

Friday, 30th October 2009

9.00 A.M. Bhajan and Darshan

5.00 P.M. Abhang Vani by Little Champs

Saturday, 31th October 2009

8.00 A.M. Bhajan and Darshan

Departure to Mumbai



Saturday, 31st October 2009

Bhajan and Darshan at 4.00 p.m. at Bombay Exhibition Centre, N.S.E. Complex, Hall No.1, Western Express Highway, Goregaon (East), Mumbai – 400063.

All are welcome

Sunday, 1st November 2009

Bhajan and Darshan at 10.00 a.m. at Gandhi Maidan (Jamboori Maidan), G. M. Bhosle Marg, Opp. B.D.D. Chawls, Worli Naka, Mumbai – 400018.

All are welcome

Banks with lower provisioning face earnings downgrade

28 Oct 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India’s advice to banks to augment their provisioning for the non-performing assets is expected to dent the performance of banks with low provision coverage ratio. Brokerages are considering earnings downgrades for such stocks as profitability could be impacted on account of this.

According to the Reserve Bank of India, banks must keep at least 70% provision coverage ratio, including floating provisions. Banks should achieve this norm by end of September 2010.

“The RBI's monetary policy has indicated a phased exit from the stimulus measures. This also included measures to strengthen the banking system by way of increased NPA coverage of 70% and higher provisioning for lending to builders. This could in the short term have a negative bearing on banks' profitability and hence selling pressure on banks was significant since Tuesday. Those banks with lower provisioning like - SBI, ICICI & Canara Bank will suffer more as they need to provide more in next four quarters to meet the deadline for higher NPA coverage,” said DD Sharma, senior vice president-retail at Anand Rathi Securities.

On the other hand, those with already higher coverage like Punjab National Bank or Bank of Baroda may not be affected. Similarly pressure is being seen on reality stocks as cost of funding for reality will go up due to restoration of higher risk provisioning from 0.4 per cent to 1 per cent. The RBI also reinstated the SLR to 25 per cent from 24 per cent in an effort to phase out the special liquidity support measures for banks. Banks' investment book would have to be marked-to-market. This is again a potential negative for banks.

“We conclude that this move will impact the performance of banks which have lower coverage including SBI (currently at 45%), Canara Bank (28%), and ICICI Bank (52%) based on the latest reported figures. However, financial institutions including Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, and Federal Bank have a provision coverage ratio of more than 70%. Therefore, banks with higher coverage ratio will not be impacted by the increase in provision coverage ratio,” said Nirmal Bang Securities.

The brokerage firm has recommended investors to sell shares of State Bank of India on every rise with a stop-loss of 2270, with a near term target looks 2125-2085. The stock would show positive strength only if it maintains above 2340.

Echoing similar views, Sharekhan’s research firm is advising investors to shift from banks with low provision coverage to those with higher coverage ratio. “Banks with considerably low provision coverage ratio (lower than 50%) such as State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and IDBI Bank will have to make higher provisions for NPAs. This will impact their profitability and result in earnings downgrades by the street. Thus, we advise shifting out of these banks to large banks with good provision coverage ratio, such as Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank and Union Bank of India. We are also removing IDBI Bank from our top picks list with immediate effect.”

Sensex ends lower as global selloff continues

October 28, 2009

Indian markets ended lower for the third straight session amid continued selloff in global markets. But losses were kept in check as some buying emerged at lower levels.

The Sensex ended a volatile session lower by 70 points, at 16,283, after trading between 16,411 and 16,144. On the NSE, Nifty ended 20 points lower at 4,826, after slipping below 4,800 in early trade.
Gaurang Shah, AVP of Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services, sees the market nearing its bottom. “They are likely to go only 2-3 per cent lower from these levels. At 5,000-5,100, markets were appearing a bit stretched. Infrastructure, capital goods, engineering and banking counters are looking good at this stage,” he added.

Banking, auto and power stocks led the decline in today’s trade. The BSE bankex fell 1.5 per cent and the BSE auto index was down 0.9 per cent. Among the banking stocks, IDBI, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank fell more than 3 per cent each.

In the auto space, Apollo Tyres fell 5.3 per cent to Rs 47. Maruti Suzuki also shed 4.5 per cent to close at Rs 1,415.

The BSE power index was also down 0.8 per cent. GVK Power & Infra, NHPC and Reliance Infra lost over 2 per cent each.

Among the Sensex stocks, Maruti Suzuki was the biggest loser. Tata Steel, HDFC, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank were the other main losers, down more than 3 per cent each.

Bharti Airtel and Wirp were the major gainers in the group. The stocks ended up over 3 per cent each.

Global stock markets dropped on Wednesday as more signs American consumers were struggling undermined hopes for a stronger turnaround in the world's largest economy.

Major Asian markets fell by about 1.5 per cent or more, with European shares shedding about 1 per cent in early trade.

The losses followed another choppy session on Wall Street, where an unexpected drop in consumer confidence gave investors few reasons to venture further into a market that's run massively higher in the last eight months.

The news was the latest evidence that US shoppers, their budgets tightened by the economic crisis and rising unemployment, aren't likely to return to their spendthrift ways anytime soon. It was all the more unsettling in Asia, coming ahead of the vital Christmas holiday season, when major export companies rely heavily on Americans to increase their spending on electronics, toys and other goods.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SEBI permits extension of trading by 2-1/2 hours a day

24 Oct 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian stock market will soon witness longer hours and higher volumes. In a move that will give investors more flexibility but make life in the dealing room and back-office far more demanding, capital market regulator SEBI has permitted stock exchanges to begin the day as early as 9 AM and keep the market open for trading till 5 PM.

Currently, trading in stocks and equity derivatives take place between 9:55 AM and 3:30 PM. While the exchanges are yet to fix the timings, the decision to align the timings of the stock markets with other financial markets like currency, bonds and call money may boost volumes in stocks and equity derivatives. More interestingly, if the local market opens at 9 AM, it may drive a slice of the trading volume from Singapore, where the Nifty futures are traded, to India. Since operators shorting a stock often use the shallower Singapore market to drag down the scrip in India, an early opening will lower the scope of such manipulations.

A senior NSE official told ET that the exchange is likely to extend the trading hours 'soon'. "The exchange is conducting a review to ensure that systems are compliant with SEBI requirements. We do not anticipate any issues in starting soon," the official said. A BSE spokesperson said the exchange welcomes the SEBI directive on extension of trading hours, though he declined to comment on when it plans to implement it. ET had first reported about SEBI's intention to allow extended trading hours in its edition dated December 12, 2008.

Brokers said institutional investors will benefit from the advancing of trading time in the morning, while day traders will have more time to react to European markets.

Also, retail investors are likely to get more time to track their portfolio and even book trades after finishing their regular work. However, analysts tracking corporate developments may have to wait longer, as most companies make market sensitive after trading hours.

"Given the fact that volumes have been increasing on SGX (Singapore Exchange) where the Nifty is traded, this was anticipated and is a positive move," said Rashesh Shah, CMD, Edelweiss Capital.

The origin of the proposal to extend trading hours has its roots in an increased interest among FIIs and overseas arbitrageurs in Singapore Nifty futures. Nifty futures on the Singapore Exchange are available to global investors at least a couple of hours before trading starts in Indian markets. This has resulted in overseas investors gaining an upper hand over local investors, who do not have access to Singapore Exchange, to react to global events and volumes shifting from NSE's equity derivatives segment to Singapore.

"This step will help Indian investors manage the risk better, as Singapore starts trading in Nifty ahead of NSE," said CJ George, managing director of Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services.

Maruti Suzuki second quarter profit zooms

NEW DELHI: Maruti Suzuki India on Saturday reported an impressive increase in its net profit at Rs. 570 crore for the second quarter of 2009-10 against Rs. 296.12 crore in the same period a year ago. “During the quarter, we had good festival season sales and response to our new models was good. Moreover, we also saw robust exports,” Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer S. Nakanishi said here. Net sales grew by 47 per cent during the quarter ended September 30, 2009, at Rs. 7,049.58 crore against Rs. 4,806.26 crore in the same period last year.

Domestic sales grew by 22 per cent at 2.09 lakh units, while exports jumped to 37,105 units from 17,745 units in the year-ago period.

“The A-Star had good sales in Europe as we benefited from the scrappage scheme (incentives given on purchase of new cars for exchange of old cars). We are looking out for newer markets to keep exports momentum,” Mr. Nakanishi said. Talking about the first six months, he said the net profit stood at Rs.1,153.50 crore against Rs.761.97 crore in the same period a year ago, while net sales stood at Rs. 13,389.80 crore against Rs. 9,537.29 crore. The company is investing Rs. 150 crore to raise production capacity at its Gurgaon facility by up to 90,000 units by de-bottlenecking and modernisation.

Investors slip again on primary offerings

24 Oct 2009, ET Bureau

It seems to be another case of investors losing money in primary market offerings. However, the impact seems to be much higher in case of Euro Multivision’ IPO. The newly-listed Euro Multivision seems to be another case of pumping up a stock and then dumping it.

The stock has almost halved from its peak on the listing day, witnessing a downward spiral since its debut on the bourses. It closed at Rs 39 on Friday, down 1% over its previous close after touching a high of Rs 81 on the listing day barely a week ago.

The issue price for the shares was Rs 75, and the company raised Rs 66 crore from the public. The firm has offered 88 lakh shares. On the first day alone, it witnessed over four crores shares changing hands and about two crore the next day on both the exchanges.

Invesco eyes Morgan Stanley’s India MF unit

The market is rife with talks that Invesco may take over the Indian mutual fund arm of Morgan Stanley. Invesco had bought out a major portion of Morgan Stanley’s retail asset management business last Tuesday for $ 1.5 billion.

According to sources, Morgan Stanley Investment Management (MSIM), the Indian mutual fund business of Morgan Stanley, has also been bundled into the Invesco deal. MSIM officials, however, denied possibilities of any such development.

“Invesco has only acquired the Van Kampen division (Morgan Stanley’s North American retail asset management segment) in a big way. The deal has nothing to do with Indian operations and it will not impact MSIM in any manner. MSIM is planning to launch a few funds over the next few months,” said a senior Morgan Stanley official.

MSIM currently manages six funds out of which two are equity funds. Net assets under management of the fund house stood at Rs 2,311 crore at the end of September,

Friday, October 23, 2009

Roaring tiger turns into cowering kitten

23 October 2009,

MUMBAI: The Congress Party, which has often been accused of promoting the Shiv Sena against the 1970s’ Communist-led trade unions in Mumbai, has put the genie back in the bottle. The Thursday poll results show that the Sena has been relegated to the fourth position in legislative assembly.

Worse, the BJP has bagged more seats than the Sena and the latter will have to face the ignominy of giving up the office of the leader of the opposition in favour of its poll ally. However, the unkindest cut is that the Raj Thackeray-led MNS has won six assembly seats in Mumbai, two more than the Sena’s single-digit tally of four, while the Congress has won 17 seats.

The MNS gave a body blow to the Sena by annexing Parel and Dadar, the two Thackeray bastions since the 1960s. Little wonder that Matoshree wore a desolate look on Thursday.

Clearly, the Sena has lost its 40-year long suzerainty over Mumbai, the city which Bal Keshav Thackeray could bring to a halt at the click of his remote control.

If that were not all, his estranged nephew’s fledgeling party, the MNS, is quietly worming its way into the city’s underbelly.

Several factors have contributed to the Sena’s decline, say political observers.

First, as principal Opposition party for nearly a decade, the Sena failed to make an impact in the Vidhan Sabha. Chhagan Bhujbal, the lone Sena MLA in the 1990s, could give tough moments to the treasury benches with his acerbic speches and a bit of histrionics.

However, over 50 Sena legislators in the 2004 assembly couldn’t grill the Congress-NCP ministers on farmers’ suicides and load-shedding.

“The Sena has lost its bite. Earlier, Balasaheb Thackeray used to lead popular agitations and Shiv Sainiks used to pour out on the streets and suffer laathi blows himself from policemen. Now, a Sena agitation is more like a marriage procession,’’ lamented a Sena corporator.

Stories of how Sena MLAs, vibhag-pramukhs and corporators have close ties with builders and fly-by-night civic contractors also keep doing the rounds in ‘shakhas’.

Also, the grassroots Sainiks are baffled by the shift in the Sena’s stance under Uddhav Thackeray’s captaincy—from agitational politics to peaceful satyagraha-type demonstrations. “The party has been turned into a sarva seva sangh,’’ the coroprator added wryly.

Uddhav’s moderate style of functioning may have gone down well with the Sainiks in the course of time had the Sena scion been accessible to party workers.

“But unfortunately, Uddhav-ji has failed to erase the popular impression that he is surrounded by a powerful clique which uses him as a pliant tool,’’ said a former Sena minister.

MNS defeats Sena in battle for supremacy in Mumbai

Mumbai, Oct 22 (PTI) Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) prevailed over Shiv Sena in the battle between the Thackerays over the country's financial capital posting impressive wins in six constituencies here.

The Sena suffered a shock defeat in Mahim, the heart of Mumbai. To add to the humiliation, its candidate popular TV host Aadesh Bandekar finished third behind eventual winner Nitin Sardesai, a close aid of Raj and Sada Sarvankar, the sitting Sena MLA who switched over to Congress at the last minute after being denied a ticket.

The saving grace for the Sena were senior leader Subhash Desai who held fort in Goregaon, long time party office bearer Vinod Ghosalkar who won from Dahisar, and corporators Ravindra Waikar (Jogeshwari east) and Prakash Sawant (Vandre east).

The party has no representation in the Mumbai city district. In the outgoing assembly, the Sena's strongholds were Opera House, Worli, Parel, Naigaon, Dadar and Mazgaon.

MNS plays spoiler for Sena-BJP alliance

Mumbai, Oct 23 (PTI) By securing 13 seats in its maiden outing in the Assembly polls, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has dealt a blow to Opposition Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance, making victory easier for the ruling Congress-NCP combine.

The party contested 143 of the 288 seats in the state.

Reacting to the victory of the party, MNS chief and estranged nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, Raj told voters that his MLAs would show how to be a good Opposition and will "raise hell" in the Assembly.

The three-year-old party succeeded in attracting youth and women votes, ruining Sena's hope of emerging as the single largest party in the state.

MNS won seats in the areas dominated by middle-class Maharashtrians, like Mahim, Sewaree, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Ghatkopar (West), Magathane and Kalyan (rural) by striking a chord among Marathi people on issue of "sons of soil".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

YSR's son no longer frontrunner in race to be Andhra CM

Mon, Oct 19

The Congress high command is not inclined to install YS Jagan Mohan Reddy either as chief minister or even as deputy CM of Andhra Pradesh, although he could be considered for a place in the state cabinet or in the Union council of ministers if he so desires, it is reliably learnt.

Although Congress president Sonia Gandhi is yet to take a call on whether or not to continue with chief minister K Rosaiah in the saddle, the search is also on for a 'Reddy face' if he has to be replaced, say party sources.

Union minister Jaipal Reddy, who was once being considered for the coveted post, is out of contention now. Among other Reddy leaders in the race are Vivekanand Reddy, late YS Rajasekhar Reddy's brother who took oath as a member of the state Legislative Council on Friday, former home minister K Jana Reddy, and former chief minister M Chenna Reddy's son Shashidhar Reddy.

Congress sources, however, say no other Reddy leader was acceptable as chief minister to Jagan. Although Rosaiah belongs to the Vaishya community, he does not have an anti-Reddy image and would be acceptable, say sources close to Jagan. Rosaiah was also close to the late YSR and Jagan would prefer him to any other candidate.

Sources also say that Jagan was not interested in ministership either in the state or at the Centre. They, however, add that there is no possibility of the Kadapa MP defying the party high command.

"Whatever the Congress president decides will be acceptable to him. His second best option is an important role in the organisation in the state. As state Congress chief, he can galvanise the youth and also ensure good coordination between the party and the government," says a source close to him.

Meanwhile, the Congress high command is said to be in favour of putting an end to political uncertainty in the state as soon as possible and is likely to take a final call on this issue by the end of October.

Soon, a camera that can capture your entire life

Sun, Oct 18

London: A UK-based firm will soon launch a camera that a person can wear as a pendant to record every moment of his or her life.

Originally developed as the SenseCam by Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK, for researchers studying Alzheimer's and other dementias, the ViconRevue can soon be used by consumers to create "lifelogs" that archive their entire lives, researchers claim.

Worn on a cord around the neck, the camera takes pictures automatically as often as once every 30 seconds. It also uses an accelerometer and light sensors to snap an image when a person enters a new environment, and an infrared sensor to take one when it detects the body heat of a person in front of the wearer.

The revolutionary device can fit 30,000 images onto its 1-gigabyte memory, reports New Scientist.

Vicon, which specialises in motion-capture technology for the movie industry, has licensed the technology for the camera from Microsoft and intends to put it into large-scale production.

The gadget will be launched at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago this weekend, in conjunction with a conference on research using SenseCam so far.

"What's great about these kinds of memory technologies is that they can be very usable for ordinary people," says Henry Kautz, a computer scientist at the University of Rochester, New York, who works on technology to assist cognition. (ANI)

US plane with marines grounded in Mumbai

19 October 2009

MUMBAI: An American aircraft carrying 205 US Marines was forced to land at Mumbai airport on Sunday morning for allegedly violating Indian airspace. The chartered North American Airlines Boeing 767 was on its way to Bangkok from Fujairah in the UAE.

The plane was allowed to head for its destination late on Sunday night after defence-related clearance issues were sorted out, TV reports said. The flight is likely to resume its journey on Monday, airport officials said.
M G Jhungare, GM of Mumbai Air Traffic Control, told TOI, ``The aircraft, with military personnel on board, was passing over Mumbai. While civilian aircraft take permission from the Director General of Civil Aviation for using Indian airspace, military planes or those carrying ammunition must take permission from the defence ministry. This one didn't have the permission. We asked the pilot to land in Mumbai on the instructions of defence ministry officials.''

IAF spokesperson Wing Commander T K Singha told news agencies in Delhi that the transport aircraft had civilian clearance from the DGCA but it was required to obtain Air Operation Routing clearance (AOR), needed for a military aircraft as it was carrying military personnel.

The aircraft landed in Mumbai at 7.52am and was parked at the end of runway 322. A Mumbai International Airport Ltd spokesperson said, ``The pilot was asked to pay the navigation charges by ATC. He furnished his credit card, but officials refused to accept it. Finally, the US embassy agreed to pay the charges.''

Airport officials said the visa and immigration of the crew and passengers was cleared and they were sent to a five-star hotel near the airport.

A spokesperson of the US Consulate in Mumbai said, ``We are pleased that we have resolved the procedural matter expeditiously and appreciate the cooperation of Indian authorities. The crew and the passengers will stay in Mumbai because they need rest.''

This is the fourth case of a foreign aircraft violating Indian airspace since June this year. On June 20, a Ukrainian-made military cargo aircraft AN-124, operated by a Russian private airline and chartered by US defence forces for flying out military equipment from its base in Diego Garcia to Kandahar, had entered Indian airspace illegally. The IAF had ordered it to land in Mumbai as the aircraft didn't have AOR clearance. It was detained for 24 hours and asked to fly out only after it obtained the necessary clearance.

On August 27, the IAF radar in Punjab picked up an Air France aircraft (A-343) flying from Paris to Bangkok, as it didn't flash a proper identity. IAF scrambled MIG-29 figher jets from Punjab to intercept the aircraft.

In the first week of September, a China-bound cargo plane of the UAE Air Force was detained and its crew were questioned after customs officials found arms and ammunition on board the aircraft. The plane had made a scheduled transit landing at Kolkata airport. The C-130 plane was on its way to Hanyang in China from Abu Dhabi and had landed at the airport to refuel.

The crew members hadn't informed in the routine declaration submitted to authorities that arms and ammunition were in the plane. After diplomatic interference, UAE requested the government to release the aircraft and it was allowed to leave after a detention of five days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Six arrested for credit card fraud

Thursday,15 October 2009

Kannur (Kerala) Oct 15: Six people were arrested here for their alleged involvement in credit card frauds, the police said Thursday.

Five of the arrested men are from Mumbai and the other from Kerala. They made fake credit cards with the details of original card holders and duped many, Inspector General Tomin J. Thachenkery said.

According to the police, the arrested men are part of an international racket, which is controlled by a 30-year-old Nigerian national, Ali.

Thachenkery said the police have cast the net for Ali, who operates from Mumbai.

In August this year, Thachenkeri, who heads the cyber wing of the Kerala police, had arrested a Nigerian gang which was involved in internet frauds.

"The credit card fraud gang has close links with the earlier arrested Nigerian team," Thachenkeri said.

The team purchased jewellery worth Rs.2.75 lakh from a shop here Oct 3 using fake credit card. But the original card holder, who is staying abroad, filed a complaint with the Kerala police after coming to know that he was duped.

"He filed a complaint and we could soon track the culprits," said Thachenkeri.

FIR against Amar Singh for 'financial fraud'

Friday,16 October 2009

Lucknow: Senior Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and his wife Pankaja Kumari Singh have been booked for alleged financial fraud amounting to about Rs 500 crore, a senior police officer said here Friday. An FIR was lodged Thursday at Babupurwa police station in Kanpur, accusing the SP general secretary and his wife of amalgamating companies for converting black money into white, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Brij Lal said.

The name of actor Amitabh Bachchan has also figured in the 14-page complaint as director of one of the companies, the ADG said.

The complaint alleged that between 2003-2008, Singh and his wife had allegedly amalgamated their companies with other holdings and had amassed nearly Rs 500 crore in the process, DIG (Kanpur) Neera Rawat said.

The complainant has been identified as one Shiv Kant Tiwari.

The companies named in the FIR included Energy Development Company Limited, EDCL Power Limited, Pankaja Art and Credit Limited, Sarvottam Cap Limited, EDCL Infrastructure Limited and Eastern India Company, all owned or run by the couple.

"The complainant alleged that small utilities were amalgamated in these companies. For instance, he claimed that 25 companies were amalgamated in Sarvottam Cap Limited," the ADG said. "The FIR has been lodged under various sections of IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Laundering Act," he said.

India's richest man caps his salary at $3.3M

MUMBAI, India — India's richest man announced he will voluntarily cap his compensation at 150 million rupees ($3.3 million) this year, saying he will get by on about a third of his take-home pay from the previous year.

Mukesh Ambani's flagship company, Reliance Industries, said Thursday his decision reflects his "desire to set a personal example of moderation."

In 2008, he made 66 percent more, or 440.2 million rupees ($9.6 million), a drop in the bucket of his overall wealth, which Forbes magazine puts at $19.5 billion.

In March, Mukesh's younger brother, Anil, decided to forego all compensation this year, Tony Jesudasan, a spokesman for his group of companies, said Thursday.

Last fiscal year, Anil received 520.8 million rupees ($11.3 million).

The two brothers are locked in a bitter dispute over the spoils of their father Dhirubhai's empire which is scheduled to go before India's Supreme Court next week.

The global debate over executive compensation has largely bypassed India, where compensation is already regulated and economic growth has remained relatively strong.

The instabilities India suffered after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in late 2008 were seen largely as imported problems, rather than domestic issues that required structural reform.

Also, Indian executives make far less than their Western counterparts — on average 1/100th as much, according to one business lobby group.

But as India — where over 450 million people live on less than $1.25 a day — struggles to make sense of its robust but inequitable economic growth, the government has repeatedly asked executives to exercise restraint.

By early 2008, the ratio of the net worth of India's 50 billionaires to total gross domestic product was over 20 percent — higher than in Brazil, Mexico and Russia, according the Centennial Group, an emerging markets consultancy based in Washington, D.C.

The country, it seems, is caught between two heroes: Mohandas Gandhi, the ascetic father of Indian independence, and the Ambani brothers' father, Dhirubhai — one of India's most successful and controversial early capitalists, accused by critics of unscrupulous business practices.

As the government battles a rising fiscal deficit, a few public officials have taken pay cuts and trimmed perquisites, part of the ruling Congress Party's "austerity drive."

Corporate leaders have been slower to follow.

This month, Minister of Corporate Affairs Salman Khurshid warned against excessive executive pay, prompting a flurry of complaints among business leaders.

"I don't think anyone in India today, in politics or outside politics ... has reached the level of liberalism where vulgarity is also a fundamental right," Khurshid told reporters.

His comments echoed a 2007 speech given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a business group in which he urged executives "to eschew conspicuous consumption" and "resist excessive remuneration," which he warned could deepen inequalities and fuel social unrest.

For the moment, however, there are no concrete plans to place additional regulations on executive pay.

India's Companies Act of 1956 places caps on executive compensation that are linked to a public company's net revenue. Executives who want to be paid more must apply to the government for special approval, which is hard to obtain. Bankers face additional scrutiny: Their salaries must be vetted by the central bank.

Vikram Shroff, head of employment law at Mumbai's Nishith Desai Associates, said some other Indian executives whose companies have seen revenues fall as a result of the global downturn may soon follow the Ambani brothers' example.

"If the company hasn't reached its targeted revenues, senior executives may be willing to take a temporary pay cut," he said. "It's just to give a strong message that they remain responsible. If the company is not doing well, why should they take a bonus?"

China and India in border dispute - Article from: The Australian

New Delhi | October 16, 2009
Article from: The Australian

TENSIONS are rising on the 3500km border between China and India as New Delhi's military chiefs prepare for a summit on reported Chinese incursions and the Asian powers face off in a range of spheres.

Since July, India has boosted troop numbers by up to 60,000 and upgraded infrastructure, including new airports, in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in response to Chinese facilities and garrisons. The move has raised fears of a return to border skirmishes between the two countries - which date back to the Sino-Indian border war in October-November 1962.

The two areas of dispute are Arunachal Pradesh, in the far east of India, and Aksai Chin, near India's northwest corner.

The rising border heat comes as Canberra walked a fine diplomatic line - asking to rejoin annual military exercises between India and the US in Malabar while hosting Chinese military chief General Chen Bingde, who arrived yesterday for talks.

India raised the stakes in the neighbourhood dispute yesterday, calling on China to stop working on infrastructure projects on the Pakistani side of the disputed region of Kashmir.

The Pakistan government has awarded Chinese companies the contracts for several infrastructure projects there, including a river diversion, a hydroelectric power scheme and a major upgrade of the Karakoram Highway, which India considers part of its northern territory.

"We hope Beijing will take a long-term view of India-China relations and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan," said Ministry of External Afairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash.

India has cracked down on Chinese work visas in recent weeks - a move linked to apparent incursions on both sides of the border in Arunachal Pradesh.

China and India tend to see themselves as competitors militarily and economically, for development in the Asian region, such as in Burma.

In August, China blocked a loan from Asian Development Bank to India for the development of Arunachal Pradesh, which was $2.9 million of a $60billion ADB loan to India.

Next Tuesday's Indian generals conference will be attended by the three services chiefs along with all the commanders of the army, navy and the air force. They are expected to discuss the incursions by Chinese troops and the steps taken to increase military preparedness in the region during the two-day meeting.

China has also expressed its displeasure at the Indian government's decision to approve a visit to Tawang in Arunachal next month by the Dalai Lama.

China's state-owned Global Times newspaper said India's infrastructure push was "based on a false anticipation that China will cave in".

"India is frustrated that China's rise has captured much of the world's attention," the paper said. "Proud of its 'advanced political system', India feels superior to China.

"However, it faces a disappointing domestic situation which is unstable compared with China's. India likes to brag about its sustainable development, but worries that it is being left behind by China."

Chinese daily claims Agni-5 can reach Harbin

Beijing, Oct 15 (PTI) Agni-5, India's latest long-range nuclear-capable missile under development, can target China's northernmost city of Harbin, a leading Chinese newspaper has claimed amid a slew of strident anti-India articles over the status of Arunachal Pradesh.

"India's Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) has made its forthcoming Agni-5 missile highly road-mobile, or easily transportable by road, which would bring Harbin, China's northernmost city within striking range if the Agni-5 is moved to northeast India," the People's Daily reported.

Harbin is the capital of China's Heilongjiang Province.

The paper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, noted that the Agni-5 which has a range of 5,000 km is similar to the Dongfeng-31A showcased during China's National Day Military Parade on October 1 in Beijing.

India is going to test-fire the missile in early 2011, the report claimed

Chinese daily claims Agni-5 can reach Harbin

Beijing, Oct 15 (PTI) Agni-5, India's latest long-range nuclear-capable missile under development, can target China's northernmost city of Harbin, a leading Chinese newspaper has claimed amid a slew of strident anti-India articles over the status of Arunachal Pradesh.

"India's Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) has made its forthcoming Agni-5 missile highly road-mobile, or easily transportable by road, which would bring Harbin, China's northernmost city within striking range if the Agni-5 is moved to northeast India," the People's Daily reported.

Harbin is the capital of China's Heilongjiang Province.

The paper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, noted that the Agni-5 which has a range of 5,000 km is similar to the Dongfeng-31A showcased during China's National Day Military Parade on October 1 in Beijing.

India is going to test-fire the missile in early 2011, the report claimed

BJP demands all-party meeting on China

Thursday , Oct 15, 2009

Slamming External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s response to China’s comment on the Prime Minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, and terming it as “apologetic, which raised serious doubts in the minds of the people of the country over the government’s will and capability to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country,” the BJP has demanded an all-party meeting on China “at the earliest”.

“The BJP is dismayed at the almost apologetic tone and tenor of the response of External Affairs Minister to China’s protest on the Prime Minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh... the response was timid. The PM should convene an all-party meeting to discuss the entire gamut of India’s relationship with China. A wider consultation, and thus a consensus is required on the designs of China, and also the response that needs to be given to them,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, here on Wednesday

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Deepavali - Spiritual significance

While Divali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (inner joy or peace).

The gunas are the underlying forces or tendencies which one needs to have unaffected, direct relation with in order to find effectiveness and righteousness in life: they are lines of potential and illuminate thought and action, thus the inner meaning of Diwali being the festival of lights.

Deepavali celebrates this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship. While the story behind Dipavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same - to rejoice in the inner light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).

Hindus have several significant events associated with it:

Return of Rama to Ayodhya:

Deepavali also celebrates the return of Rama, King of Ayodhya, with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya after a 14 year exile, and a war in which he killed Ravana. It is believed that the people of Ayodhya lit ghee lamps along the way to light their path in the darkness. Since Ram traveled from South India to his kingdom in North India, he passed through the south earlier. This is the reason why the festival is celebrated a day earlier in South India. Deepavali usually comes 19 or 20 days after Dasara.

The Killing of Narakasura:

Celebrated as Narak Chaturdashi, one day before Deepavali day, it commemorates the killing of Narakasura, an evil demon who created havoc, by Krishna's wife Satyabhama. This happened in the Dwapara Yuga during this time of Krishna's avatar. In another version, the demon was killed by Krishna ( Krishna provokes his wife Satyabhama to kill Narshna defeating Indra: Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Deepavali. It is the day Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Lord Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'karma', to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme.

Little India abuzz with Deepavali festivities

Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Little India is abuzz with the grand light-up and heavy human traffic ahead of Deepavali on Saturday.

A street parade called "Utsav" was held on October 10 along Race Course Road, and it clearly captured the essence of the celebrations.

The event, which was introduced in 2004, is part of the festivities to preserve and showcase the rich cultural traditions of Indians. This year, thousands gathered to catch the songs, dances and martial arts performed by local artistes, as well as artistes from India and Sri Lanka.

As part of the festivities, many people are buying gold despite prices hitting new highs recently. However, some people are holding back, preferring costume jewellery instead.

The Deepavali fair at Campbell Lane is packed with traditional and modern delicacies and decorative items for the home. It is congested in the evenings with the after-office crowd and others looking for bargains.

The needy have not been forgotten amidst all the festivities. Visitors to the area are urged to donate to the Singapore Indian Development Association's (SINDA) "Project Give" – in order to help needy families cope with the economic downturn.

The donation booth will be open till the eve of Deepavali, and SINDA said it is encouraged by the response.

Moreover, some 500 members of Rider's Aid did their bit for "Project Give" by taking part in a charity ride - from Hougang Stadium to SINDA's headquarters in Little India - on Sunday.

The ride was organised in conjunction with Deepavali and marked Singapore's racial harmony, as most of the bikers were Malays.

Diamond sales keep interest in gold alive

15 Oct 2009,

KOLKATA: The fact that people are opting for diamonds as gold prices are skyrocketing has actually kept interest in the yellow metal alive -- to an extent.

"Gradually, diamond sales in India are increasing due to volatile gold prices," said Pankaj Parekh, regional chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Exports Promotion Council.

"Around 25 percent of people who purchase gold for social gifting have drifted to diamond," Parekh said.

Ironically, this is exactly why gold -- though of lesser purity -- is also getting sold.

"Diamonds are set on 18-carat gold instead of 22-carat gold with which gold ornaments are usually made. On a diamond-studded ornament, the gold used is of lesser purity and of lower price."

Concurred Anarghya Choudhury, director of city-based Anjali Jewellers.

"We expect strong sales (of gold ornaments) because it is the festival season and the marriage season will soon follow, and in India we buy gold on these occasions," Choudhury said.

The spectacular rise in diamond sales, especially after certified diamonds came into the market, would also help push sales of gold jewellery.

"Diamond is helping in selling gold as it is studded on jewellery."

Echoed Sandeep Khulhali, vice-president of branded gold jewellery seller Tanishq: "Diamond sales are very healthy, about 30-35 percent more than last year."

But, overall, according to professionals in the trade, though sellers of gold would likely earn more than last Diwali -- given the higher price of the metal -- volumes sold were likely to dip.

Gold price has more than doubled in the past four years and is now hovering around Rs.16,000 per 10 grams. It was between Rs.12,000 and Rs.14,000 around this time last year.

Parekh said companies would earn higher revenues this year from gold sales. "After all, the metal has a different charm and flaunting factor. But volume-wise sales are going to suffer."

Khulhali of Tanishq, the jewellery business arm of the Tata group-promoted Titan Industries, felt the same. "Though gold sales have picked up compared to last year, volumes may dip."

World Gold Council data seems to bolster this view. According to it, total demand in the country plunged 83 percent to about 18 tonnes in the first quarter, as compared to 107 tonnes registered in the corresponding period last year. India is the world's largest gold market.

The Bombay Bullion Association says sales fell 54 percent between January and June this year after demand from both buyers and jewellers cooled with the decline in the rupee pushing up gold prices.

According to Parekh, people who earlier bought gold as investment were now moving on to buying gold exchange traded funds.

"Erratic price movement is also preventing jewellery sellers from buying gold in bulk," he added.

Gold at record high, so is Dhanteras sale

15 October 2009

NEW DELHI: Mithai may have been replaced by fine chocolate and oil lamps have made way for coloured bulbs, but there are some things about Diwali that don't change. The glitter of gold has dimmed shadows of a global slowdown injecting a new bouyancy to the market as "goldaholics" step out to splurge.

Gold price is pitched steeply at over Rs 16,000 for 10 grams and silver is ruling at an all-time high of around Rs 28,000 a kg. But rather than curbing the Indian buyer, this may have spurred the trade. If the market is showing signs of overheating, the sales are not flagging.

The overall consumer mood may still be tinged with caution but if the past few days are anything to go by, gold and silver sales are likely to increase. MMTC official sources pegged the increase in gold sales at about 45%-50%. "We did business of around Rs 23 crore last year while this year we have already done Rs 36 crore of business on all products including gold jewellery, medallions and silver,'' a source said.

India Post has already sold 215 kgs worth of gold coins in the last one year. With the festival of Dhanteras on Thursday, jewellery shop owners have gold dust in their eyes and are rubbing their hands in anticipation of big purchases in the offing. Both private and public sector banks are busy peddling gold coins hoping to cash in on the festive fever. Actor Salman Khan has used the oppurtunity to launch `Being Human' coins in association with a jewellery brand.

Wholesale dealer in Chandni Chowk Vimal Goel says sales are three times higher in October than August. "Despite the high price, we have seen an increase in demand after a year's slump. Last year there was unprecedented increase in buying gold jewellery and medallions during Diwali but a sharp dip after that. People's faith in gold has been restored and demand is higher than diamond and silver this year,'' Goel said.

Speaking on the rush of buyers for the festival of Dhanteras, Tarun Kanwar of Navrattan Jewellers in GK-I said, "For most people in North India, the festival is very important and so they do come out and buy gold and silver. But these are token purchases, normally not too expensive and are restricted to coins and small tokens like a chain or earings. But on the whole gold buyers increase during the festival season."

Vikram Khanna of Khanna Jewellers in Karol Bagh said that the signs of recovery in the economy were showing in the gold market. "The number of buyers is picking up though it is not yet boom time. Sales are above average," Khanna said.

He explained that the return of buyers to the market can also be attributed to an acceptance that the price of gold is unlikely to fall and the steep rate prevailing currently could prevail for some time to come.

Meanwhile, buyers say they don't really have a choice and have to buy at whatever rate since weddings in the family cannot be postponed for gold prices. Ranjana Verma, who bought gold for her daughter-in-law on `karva chauth', said that things have changed over the last one year tremedously on the gold price front. "When I bought gold for my son's wedding last year the price was much less. But the price has increased dramatically when I bought gold last Sunday for my daughter-in-law," Ranjana said

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

India rejects China's protest against PM's Arunachal visit

New Delhi/Beijing: India Tuesday rejected China's protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, whose ownership is disputed by Beijing, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee describing it as 'nothing new' and the government expressing 'disappointment'.

'It is nothing new. China had objected earlier to my visit to Tawang when I was the foreign minister,' Mukherjee told reporters on the sidelines of an India-Bangladesh dialogue in New Delhi.

Earlier in the day, external affairs ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said: 'We express our disappointment and concern over the statement made by the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs since this does not help the process of ongoing negotiations on the boundary question.'

He said Arunachal Pradesh, which borders Tibet, was an 'integral and inalienable part of India' and its people are 'proud participants in the mainstream of India's vibrant democracy'.

He said China was 'well aware of this position' of the Indian government.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna added: 'I have said it in parliament that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. We rest it at that.'

Their comments followed a Chinese foreign ministry statement that Beijing 'is strongly dissatisfied with the visit to the disputed region by the Indian leader disregarding China's serious concerns'.

'We demand the Indian side address China's serious concerns and not trigger disturbance in the disputed region so as to facilitate the healthy development of China-India relations,' spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in Beijing.

Ma said China and India had never officially settled the demarcation of their border, and China's stance on the eastern section of the China-India border was consistent and clear-cut.

Beijing in 2003 gave up its territorial claim over India's Sikkim state but maintains that nearly all of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it. The mountainous state of Arunachal shares a 1,030 km unfenced border with China.

Also Tuesday, China's ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, called on the Indian foreign ministry to convey his government's stand on the prime minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chinese statement, however, made no reference by name to Manmohan Singh, who visited Arunachal Pradesh Oct 3 to campaign for the Congress in assembly elections that took place in the state Tuesday.

At the same time, Prakash said that India was 'committed to resolving outstanding differences with China in a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable manner, while ensuring that such differences are not allowed to affect the positive development of bilateral relations'.

'We hope that the Chinese side will similarly abide by this understanding.'

An Indian lawmaker also slammed Beijing for criticizing Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

'It is simply blasphemous on the part of China to oppose or express dissatisfaction over the visit of our prime minister to Arunachal Pradesh,' Takam Sanjay, a ruling Congress MP in the Lok Sabha from Arunachal Pradesh, told IANS.

Three people in a car tried to kill me: Mamata

KOLKATA: Railway minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged a conspiracy to kill her, claiming that a car with a press sticker on it tried to hit her vehicle in Kolkata's satellite township of Salt Lake in the early hours of Wednesday.

The Trinamool Congress chief said the car with three people, including two with a camera inside, sneaked into her convoy and tried to get very close to her vehicle when she started for home after a get-together.

'It was then very late and there was no street light. This white car managed to get right behind my car in the convoy. It tried to hit my vehicle. We tried to avoid it and took a detour. Again the car came back.

'This happened four or five times. The policemen in our convoy asked them to stop, but the car did not. I asked the policemen not to fire,' Banerjee said.

When contacted, state police inspector general (law and order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha said: 'We have received a complaint about this. It prima facie appears that it was a press car. Nobody has been arrested.'

Banerjee, who was accompanied by union minister of state
for shipping Mukul Roy and state party president Subrata Bakshi, alleged that those inside the car could be contract killers sent to eliminate her.

'When the car was finally stopped, it was found that the driver was not carrying any driving licence. The two people carrying the camera also could not produce any press identity card,' said an angry Trinamool chief.

'Why should somebody chase my car at 1am? And if the police now say that it was an intelligence bureau car, I will ask them what is the need for it? Already there are police escorts in our convoy. Are we insurgents or criminals?' she asked.

Later, Trinamool Congress trade union chief Purnendu Bose, who was travelling in another car in the convoy, filed a complaint at the Bidhannagar East police station.

Roy accused the West Bengal home department and the state Communist Party of India (Marxist) headquarters of masterminding an attack to kill Banerjee.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee holds the home portfolio. 'Already Buddhadeb and his government are trying to influence the probe,' Roy alleged.

Antony arrives in Russia; cementing defence ties on agenda

Moscow: Defence Minister A K Antony arrived here today for a crucial meeting of a key joint defence commission as the two countries are poised to finalise new co-ventures in strategic weapons, including investment and technical parameters of 5th generation fighters.

During the three-day visit, Antony would hold one-to-one meetings with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and take part in talks at the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), the apex body for co-ordination of ongoing defence projects.

The visit comes as several key Indo-Russia defence projects including the delivery of aircraft carrier Gorshkov
and nuclear Akula-II class submarine are delayed.

The Russians are playing down the delays and hiccups, saying that the situation has drastically changed over last
two years and the projects have been put on fast track.

However, no new defence agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, except the classified protocol of the 9th session. But the two sides are expected to explore possibilities of new joint ventures in advances weapon

Defence sources said that despite India's drive for diversification of military acquisitions, Russia has remained
the source of its most sensitive defence technologies. The recent launching of indigenous
nuclear submarine INS Arihant under one of India's most secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) Project, lease of Akula-II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine, BrahMos cruise missile technology and joint development of fifth generation fighter aircraft are examples handed out by Russians as the most lucrative projects.

'Unlike in the case of other partners, Russia has not denied India any technology it wanted,' defence sources here

Antony, who under the austerity drive of the government arrived on a regular flight, is to co-chair the ninth annual session of the IRIGC-MTC.

After laying wreaths at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier under the Kremlin wall tomorrow, Antony will begin the
official part of his visit, followed by a one to one meeting with Serdyukov, with whom he would co-chair the IRIGC.

According to Ruslan Pukhov and Konstantin Makiyenko of the independent think-tank CAST, unlike in case of serially
produced arms sale to other countries, Russia develops tailor-made weapons platforms for the Indian armed forces to
meet their stringent requirements.

'This gives a fillip for the innovative development of Russian defence industry, it is a win-win situation for both
the countries,' Makiyenko said citing the example of Su-30MKI multirole fighter developed for and with the IAF, which has become Russia's hottest export item. PTI

Nifty soars higher; Cairn, M&M surge

14 Oct 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian benchmarks climbed to new 52-week highs Wednesday as buying activities intensified across the board. Robust IIP data and positive Asian markets were driving the market higher, said dealers.

“On Monday robust growth numbers for IIP and reconciliation possibilities between Ambani bros, pulled the market up. But it is still in the same trading range, though risk of it falling below critical support of 4900 has reduced now. The robust IIP numbers are though good, but added flavor may be due to base effect and early onset of festival season this year. So one need to discount these factors before going gung ho.

We continue to maintain cautious stance and watch for critical resistance level of 5100 to breach decisively, for taking a short term positive view.

Meanwhile sharply falling dollar is enabling faster flows towards emerging markets, in August month FDI is up at $ 3.27 bn against 2.33 bn for the same month last year. Cumulative FDI for current FY is at $ 14.14 bn against 14.65 bn. FIIs flows have also crossed $13 bn this calendar against outflows of 10bn last year. So till stronger flow continues, correction in market may allude market men.

The markets may face some sentimental setback today due to increased tension between China & India, due to Chinese objection to Indian PM's visit to Arunanchal. India responded aggressively to Chinese objections, as state being integral part of India and China has no right to object to Indian PM visit,” said Anand Rathi report.

At 12:27 pm, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 5122.85, up 68.60 points or 1.35 per cent. The 50-share hit a 52-week high of 5124.70 today’s trade.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 17244.34, up 217.67 points or 1.28 per cent. The 30-share index hit a high of 17252.58 and low of 17117.90.

“Nifty has strong support at 4,965-4,920 level, if this level gets broken then only witness huge selling pressure merging and Nifty might again test 4,820-4,730 very shortly. On the higher side 5,110 is the stiff resistance area,” said Nirmal Bang report.

BSE Midcap Index was up 1.63 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index gained 1.58 per cent.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Metal Index was up 4 per cent, BSE Auto Index gained 2.30 per cent and BSE Capital Goods Index moved 2.17 per cent higher.

Cairn India (7.61%), Jindal Steel (6.66%), M&M (5.35%), Sterlite Industries (5.06%) and Tata Motors (4.10%) were amongst the top Nifty gainers.

Reliance Communications (-3.47%), Bharti Airtel (-3.20%), Ambuja Cement (-3.03%), IDEA (-2.83%) and BPCL (-2.08%) were from the index losers.

Market breadth was positive on the BSE with 1732 advances and 851 declines.

NELP drills a dry well

The Government, through its actions, has made the oil and gas sector unattractive for prospective investors. It may be a good idea to put future auctions on hold, reassess policies and make them friendlier for investors.

It is delicious irony indeed. The government’s auction of oil and gas exploration blocks has flopped in the same year when it had its best advertisement — the commencement of gas production from a block awarded in a similar auction early this decade in the KG-Basin deepwaters.

Recall that the bidding for the latest, the eighth round of NELP (New Exploration Licensing Policy), closed barely a month after first oil flowed out of India’s largest on-land oil discovery in the last two decades in Rajasthan and the irony is complete.

NELP VIII had 70 blocks on offer but there were only 76 bids for 36 blocks. This is by far the worst performance for any NELP round and is in stark contrast to the last two in 2008 and 2006,

The 2006 round was the most successful one so far, with 165 bids for 52 blocks. The seventh round last year was good too, with 181 bids for 45 blocks; as many as 96 companies bid for the blocks. Indeed, the latest round would have been a washout but for the support of state-run ONGC which, along with its partners, bagged 25 of the 36 blocks that were eventually picked up.

Why this sorry spectacle when the auction should have, given the success stories above, attracted a tremendous response?

Brave face

The Government is putting up a brave face, saying that the response is “encouraging” in the backdrop of the global financial crisis and the response to similar auctions held by other countries in recent months.

Yet, the Director-General of Hydrocarbons, Mr V. K. Sibal, has said that legal issues flowing from the dispute between the Ambani brothers over KG Basin gas and “misinformation among investors” have combined with the economic downturn to put off prospective bidders.

To a certain extent, Mr Sibal’s contention is true. The feud between the Ambani siblings has proved to be bad advertisement, not just for the NELP bids but also for India Inc and for the government’s ability to handle high-profile business disputes.

The controversies that the dispute has set off on gas pricing, marketing and regulation are perfect examples of how to put off prospective investors, especially from abroad.

Which respectable investor would want to throw his money, given the current difficult environment, into a country whose oil and gas sector is beset with legal issues, with the government itself neck-deep in the quagmire?

That said, it needs to be pointed out that it is not so much the fraternal face-off between the Ambani brothers as the issues it brings to the fore that might have turned away prospective foreign bidders. Some of these issues are:

Should the government set the price at which gas from the NELP blocks is sold?

Should the government decide who the customers will be for the gas and how much each should get?

Is there a regulator who is active in setting ground rules and mediating in disputes in a fair manner?

Is there stability in government policy?

The government’s actions in the last couple of years have been anything but encouraging for those seeking a free market for gas in the country.

Throwback to APM

It constituted ministerial groups at the drop of a hat and these groups sat in judgement over pricing of gas from NELP blocks, over allocation of gas to customers, and so on. Simply put, it was a throwback to the control era. While some of the government’s actions were in reaction to the dispute between the Ambanis, the fact is that it should not have acted the way it did, sending out all the wrong signals to prospective investors watching from the sidelines.

Any multinational oil and gas company seeking to invest in the country would look for freedom to set the price for its gas — subject to regulatory purview, of course — freedom to decide who it will sell to and in what quantity, and a clear regulatory environment. Would the government ever dictate the price at which Maruti Suzuki should sell its Swift model and who it should sell to? The fact is that the government, through its actions, has made the oil and gas sector unattractive for prospective investors.

Ideally, the market should have been left to its means with a regulator mandated to keep an eye out for unfair practices. Sadly, the sector regulator, Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), has yet to make its presence felt in any serious manner. It has largely confined itself to the city gas distribution business, where its work has left a lot to be desired. The PNGRB’s approval of transportation tariff for Reliance’s cross-country pipeline is now awaited and will be the first real test of the regulator’s fair and unbiased approach.

Unstable policy

The recent controversy over whether gas qualifies for a tax holiday (as oil does) shows how unstable government policy is.

The seventh round of NELP, due in 2007, was delayed till well into 2008 because of issues surrounding tax holidays. The latest Budget clarified the picture but a lot of avoidable confusion had been caused by then.

Investors sinking millions of dollars in the risky exploration business deserve clarity and stability in policy. Tinkering with important elements such as tax breaks is not exactly a good advertisement for a country eagerly seeking foreign capital in its oil and gas sector.

Give NELP a break

Given the experience with the last two rounds (NELP VII was delayed by a year), the government should probably review its policy and put future auctions on hold temporarily. It may be a good idea to focus on execution of work on the blocks already awarded and get them into production.

Multinational oil companies are anyway not going to return to investment mode till the global downturn fully reverses and oil prices climb back to higher levels. When they do, they are bound to first look at other promising acreages that are opening up before they come to India.

Large corporations such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron have anyway not actively participated in NELP rounds in the past and it is unlikely they will look at India seriously in future.

The domestic players are already sitting on a large number of blocks where they have to invest in exploration; their appetite for newer blocks may, therefore, be limited. Their tight finances, thanks to the government’s pricing policy, could also prevent them from bidding for new blocks.

As it takes a breather on NELP, the government should reassess its policies for the gas sector and make them friendlier for investors. It should act in unbiased fashion and frame policies that remain stable over the long term.

Meanwhile, the impression that the oil sector is fast falling into the hands of oligarchs, much like in Russia, is gaining ground, especially among international observers. How the government handles the Ambani dispute could well decide whether this impression will strengthen or vanish.
Hindu Business Line

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ambani truce bid, upbeat Aug IIP nos push Sensex above 17K

Mon, Oct 12, 2009
Source :

The Nifty rallied over 100 points on the first day of the week and managed to recover 2/3rd of previous week's losses; it closed above the 5,050 level. Buying across all the sectors helped the Sensex to stay above the 17,000 mark at close; technology, banking and oil & gas exploration were the leading stocks in today's trade.
August double digit IIP (Index of Industrial Production) and Anil Ambani's attempt to end the tussle between both the brothers helped the markets throughout the session.

The August IIP number came in at 10.4% as against 7.2% last month. This high number could be a result of the low base effect set in August last year. M Govinda Rao, Director, NIPFP, expected industrial growth to now pick up. He saw the IIP figure clocking in above 10% through the rest of this year. He didn't see any room for hardening of interest rates at this stage.

April to August industrial growth also improved to 5.8% versus 4.8% (YOY). In IIP internals, manufacturing output was up to 10.2% versus 1.7%, Mining at 12.9% versus 2.8%, Electricity at 10.6% versus 0.8%, basic goods at 10% versus 3.9% and Capital goods at 8.3% versus 0.9% (YOY).

In what could be an end to Ambani gas tussle, younger brother Anil Ambani had made public announcement on Sunday to reconcile and resolve issues with brother Mukesh Ambani. He believed that disagreements could be sorted in a cordial manner. Reliance Industries surged 3.2% and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure up 3.5%.

In ADAG (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group) pack, Reliance Capital was up 4.7%, Reliance Infrastructure was up 5%, Reliance Natural Resources was up 5.3% and Reliance Power was up 2.6%. However, only Reliance Communication ended off day's low and was down just 0.62% post audited report.

The 30-share BSE Sensex shot up 384.01 points or 2.31%, to close at 17,026.67 and the 50-share NSE Nifty rose 2.21% or 109.05 points, to settle at 5,054.25. The broader indices did not move up in line with benchmark indices, up 1% each.

Over Rs 3000 cr fraud in Reliance Comm

Mon-Oct 12, 2009

New Delhi / NewsX Bureau/Press Trust of India

A whopping fraud of over Rs 3000 crore has come into light in Anil Ambani's Reliance Communication. This is believed to be the biggest corporate fraud in recent times.

Headed by Anil Ambani, the Company has come under the scanner after Parikh & Co, the DoT appointed auditors discovered that R Com had fudged revenues and over-reported revenues by Rs 2915 crore.

The government appointed auditor is understood to have found inflation of revenues by Rs 2,915 crores by Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Communications in 2007-08, besides evasion of Rs 315 crore in licence fee - findings termed as "biased" by the company.

When contacted DoT sources confirmed receipt of the report by auditors Parekh and Co and said that it is yet to examine the findings. DoT would ask for RCom's response later.

"RCom is in full compliance of licence terms and conditions," a company spokesperson said, adding that "Auditors' alleged comments are biased and appear instigated by corporate rivals... Premature leakage of confidential report to media reflects the Special Auditors' prejudice/bias.

"All revenues for FY'07 and '08 are correctly reported in RCom's audited account. Alleged comments of special auditor do not reflect any under-reporting of revenue... licence fees."

The special audit committee report that has been submitted to the DoT found that for FY'08 actual wireless revenue earned by the company was only Rs 12,298 crore as against Rs 15,213 crore reported to the shareholders, which is an over reporting of Rs 2,915 crore.

It also found that RCom evaded licence fee and spectrum fee to the tune of Rs 315 crore.

DoT is awaiting the report of four other companies namely Tata Teleservices, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea from the respective auditors appointed by it and the government, if warranted, will take necessary action after examining the reports.

Sources, quoting the report, said that the telecom firm may have also violated TRAI and DoT rules.

Alleging overstatement and fudging of revenues, the auditors have said that the company accounted twice, a revenue of Rs 617 crore in two different accounting years.

Elsewhere, Rs 379 crore allegedly fudged by way of selling expired pre-paid cards to two companies namely Macronet Pvt Ltd and Inference Systems ltd, an ADAG company.

The report on RCom would now be examined by a four-member committee of Department of Telecom, headed by Member (Finance), sources said.

The special audit was initiated to check if revenues by the company were diverted to segments which attracted lower licence fee.

In case of wrongdoings detected during the audit, sources said the operators could be subjected to penalties under the provisions of licences.

RIL, ADAG surge on hopes of end to Ambani dispute

Mumbai, Oct 12 (PTI) On hopes of truce between warring Ambani brothers, companies promoted by Anil and Mukesh notched up handsome gains on the Bombay Stock Exchange helping the benchmark index, Sensex, regain the 17,000-level.

However, Anil Ambani Group company RCOM closed down by 0.62 per cent at Rs 247.80.

Market heavyweight RIL, promoted by Mukesh Ambani, rose 3.19 per cent at Rs 2,167.10, while Anil's Reliance Infra gained a hefty 5 per cent at Rs 1,357, the second biggest gain among Sensex scrips today.

Marketmen said the latest development comes as a pleasant surprise for stocks of the group companies of both brothers as it comes days ahead of the Supreme Court hearing to be held on October 20.

"The entire Reliance pack got boost after one side called for a possible truce," SMC Global Vice President Rajesh Jain said.

Reliance Natural Resources went up 5.30 per cent to close at Rs 87.

RIL questions sincerity of Anil's peace offer

Oct 11, 2009
New Delhi:
In a surprise move, Anil Ambani reached out to Mukesh for sorting out all disagreements.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industry questioned the sincerity of Anil Ambani's peace offer saying conduct of his group makes it difficult to believe if he had a real change of heart.

Welcoming Anil's statement to reach out his estranged elder brother Mukesh, RIL said in a statement that it hopes, "it is a positive change in the negative, calumnious and malafide campaign launched by Anil Ambani group against RIL.

"Sadly, the conduct of R-ADAG so far makes it difficult for RIL to believe that Anil Ambani had a real change of heart. For last many years Anil Ambani had indulged in a malicious campaign against RIL and its chairman (Mukesh).

"The campaign reached its nadir in recent months through a vicious series of advertisements unprecedented in India's corporate history," RIL said in a statement.
It, however, expressed regret on the manner of truce offer saying "what is more saddening and perplexing is that Anil Ambani has yet against though to communicate to RIL and its chairman through the public domain, whereas he could have easily contacted his elder brother directly."

Anil appeals to Mukeshbhai

Anil Ambani, head of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, reached out to his estranged elder brother Mukesh Ambani, of Reliance Industries, on Sunday suggesting the two of them can still sort their differences amicably.

“I sincerely believe Mukeshbhai and I can, even at this late stage, sort out all our disagreements, in a constructive, cordial and conciliatory manner,” Anil Ambani said on return from a pilgrimage to Badrinath with wife Tina Ambani.

Mukesh Ambani got back, some hours later, saying it was not about two brothers or two corporates. It was about national interest and the interest of the shareholder’s, said a statement issued by Reliance Industries.

“Sadly, the conduct of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group so far makes it difficult for RIL to believe Anil has had a real change of heart.” In short, the elder brother was neither impressed nor moved by his younger brother’s appeal.

The brothers split in 2005 and divided up the Reliance empire of their late father Dhurbhai Ambani in a deal blessed by their mother Kokilaben. They have since fought over some or the other part of the deal.

But it’s mainly now about natural gas pumped out by Mukesh’s company in the Krishna-Godavari basin but needed by Anil to run his gas-based power stations in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.

Supreme Court will begin hearings from October 20.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

British Airways offers $40 round-trip US-India fare by mistake, cancels tickets

10 October 2009,

WASHINGTON: It was a deal -- a steal! -- too good to be true. It really was.

Regulars on the US-India flight route erupted in joy last week when British Airways offered, erroneously as it turned out, a $40 round-trip fare (plus taxes, fees and surcharge) from any city in the US to any destination in India.

Scores of eager beaver flyers snagged the tickets in the two-hour window on October 2, before BA realized its error and shut down the offer, even as word about the Gandhi Jayanti gift sped through the desi bush telegraph.

Now BA says it cannot honor the tickets because it was a systems' glitch. The airline claims it was actually filing for a $40 increase in fares between US and India and somewhere down the line the plus sign got knocked off.

"As these fares were so clearly below the normal fare levels, British Airways is unable to honor these bookings," the airline said in an e-mail to travel agents. "We have cancelled all affected bookings made during this two-hour window, and will make a full refund for any paid for and issued ticket."

Not so fast, say furious customers. Many of them say they have made other onward bookings and plans. Some dumped other airlines and tickets, incurring a cancellation fee, to pile on the BA bonanza.

Besides, say some customers, the $40 fare tag is misleading. "What they're leaving out is that taxes and fees amount to $530+. So sure it is a good deal, but not a give-away by any means," one buyer wrote to the LA Times travel blog, which first broke the story. Others said they paid between $600 to $700 including taxes, fees, and surcharge, and insist BA should honor the deal.

On Friday, BA budged just a bit, offering a $ 300 discount on a future BA fare to India in addition to the full refund. In its e-mail to travel agents, the airline apologized for the error and said refunded customers could get an additional $300 off "any published retail World Traveller fare from the US to India when booked between now and Nov. 12, 2009." It said the offer was valid for travel through Sept. 30, 2010.

It remains to be seen if buyers are pacified.

The public relations fiasco underlines the steady decline of European airlines and against emerging Gulf and eastern carriers for the US-India market, even as state-owned Air India is flailing around.

For the longest time, European carriers such as BA, KLM, Air France and Lufthansa have had a run of the US-India route, especially from the East Coast, with transit through European hubs. But now gulf carriers such as Qatar Airways and Emirates are muscling into the market, enticing Indian flyers to fly through the Doha and Dubai, instead of through London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt etc.

Commencing Sunday, Qatar Airways will begin a direct service four times a week from its Doha base to Amritsar, allowing a wide base of Sikhs/Punjabi diaspora in North America (where it flies direct to Washington DC, Houston/Dallas among other cities), Europe, Africa and the Gulf/West Asia region to make their Golden Temple pilgrimage expeditiously.

The airline, which already flies from Doha to eight other cities in India, will also begin a Doha-Goa service on October 25, making it one of the "best spread" foreign airlines in India. Qatar flies directly non-stops from Doha to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode. A Doha-Bangalore flight is next in line.

Likewise, its Gulf rival Emirates (over which Qatar brags a five-star rating) offers a several connections into Indian cities for Indian expats flying in from U.S. Many flyers from the US prefer a 13-hour first leg to Gulf hubs (allowing eight hours of sleep) which brings them within 3-4 hours to India, rather than the approximately 7 hour-9 hour split while flying from US to India via Europe.

Not surprisingly, all six airlines which have a Skytrax five-star rating (Qatar, Kingfisher, Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Singapore and Malaysia) are Asian, with no European or American airline making the grade.

Crisis ridden Air India meanwhile is trying to retrieve the situation in a U.S market where it has poor ratings. Starting December 1, India's sarkari airline is going to meet a long standing demand from passengers in the Washington DC region to connect directly to New Delhi.

"Direct" but not non-stop, since the flight will be a Washington DC--New York--New Delhi-Kolkata shuttle. The current New York-Delhi non-stop is just getting an extension at both ends. Still, it's the first step in directly linking the two capitals with the same aircraft. There are already Washington DC-Tokyo and Washington DC-Beijing direct non-stops.

Friday, October 9, 2009

India-born scientist wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

8 October 2009

WASHINGTON: An India-born structural biologist whose quest for scientific excellence took him from undergraduate schools in India to graduate and More Pictures
post-doc studies in US and research in UK was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for work on proteins that control life.

Dr Venkatraman ''Venky'' Ramakrishnan, 58, who had his early education in the temple town of Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, and Vadodra, Gujarat, before he made tracks to the United States, joined the long list of peripatetic Indians who had early education in India but thrived in the western academic eco-system, to have won the Nobel. Also with a chemistry Nobel, Indians or those with an India-connect figure in all prize categories.

The Swedish Nobel Committee awarded the Prize to Dr Ramakrishnan, who is currently affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, for his work on protein-producing ribosomes, and its translation of DNA information into life. He will share the Prize with Dr Thomas Steitz of Yale University, Connecticut, and Dr Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

In a statement following the announcement of the award, Dr Ramakrishnan expressed gratitude to ``all of the brilliant associates, students and post docs who worked in my lab as science is a highly collaborative enterprise.'' He credited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the University of Utah for supporting his work and the collegiate atmosphere there that made it all possible. ( Watch Video )

``The idea of supporting long term basic research like that at LMB does lead to breakthroughs, the ribosome is already starting to show its medical importance,'' he said.

The practical importance of Dr Ramakrishnan's work arises from ribosomes being present in all living cells, including those of bacteria. Human and bacterial ribosomes are slightly different, making the ribosome a good target for antibiotic therapy that works by blocking the bacteriums ability to make the proteins it needs to function.

Ramakrishnan, Steitz and Yonath demonstrated what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at an atomic level using a visualisation method called X-ray crystallography to map the position of each of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome, according to the MRC.

``This year's three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering,'' the Nobel citation explained.

Scientists say growing knowledge of the ribosome has created targets for a new generation of antibiotics. The instruction manual for the creation of proteins is DNA, but the ribosome is the machine which takes information transcribed onto messenger RNA and turns it into proteins.

Elaborating, the MRC said Dr Ramakrishnan's basic research on the arrangement of atoms in the ribosome has allowed his team not only to gain detailed knowledge of how it contributes to protein production but also to see directly how antibiotics bind to specific pockets in the ribosome structure. Dr Ramakrishnan will share the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.4 million) Nobel Prize money (1/3rd each), in a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.

Nobel laureates of India

1.Venkatraman Ramakrishnan*, Chemistry, 2009
2.Amartya Sen, Economics, 1998
3.Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar*, Physics, 1983
4.Mother Teresa, Ottoman Empire, Peace, 1979
5.Har Gobind Khorana*, Medicine, 1968
6.C. V. Raman, Physics, 1930
7.Rabindranath Tagore, Literature, 1913
8.Rudyard Kipling*, Literature, 1907
9.Ronald Ross*, Physiology or Medicine, 1902

Thursday, October 8, 2009

17 policemen killed in shootout with naxals

Thursday,8 October 2009

Nagpur, Oct 8: 17 policemen were killed in a gunfight with Naxalites in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district Thursday, barely hours after Maoists set ablaze a gram panchyat office in the area.

The shootout, which lasted for over three hours, took place in a forest in Lehari in Bhamragarh taluka, police said.

A group of 200 Naxalites opened fire on a police party which was promptly returned, sources said, adding the exact condition of the injured policemen was not immediately known.

Earlier, Maoists had set ablaze a gram panchyat office in Gadchiroli district. The incident comes two days after the beheading of Jharkhand police officer Francis Induwar.

Home Minister P Chidambaram had Wednesday said the security forces will engage the Maoists till they abjure violence and the air force will take steps to protect itself from any Naxal attacks.

"As long as the CPI-Maoists believe in an armed liberation struggle, we have no option but to ask our security forces to engage them, we will arrest them, we will apprehend them," Chidambaram had said in Mumbai.