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Friday, February 26, 2010

Pak must change her 'mindset' towards India:RSS chief

Thiruvananthapuram : Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 'Sarsanghchalak' Mohan Bhagwat today said Pakistan's 'mind-set' towards India was the most important factor for an effective result for a dialogue between the two countries.

Participating in a ''meet the press'' programme of the Press Club here, he said, ''The situation for a dialogue does not matter, but
the mind-set of Pakistan is most important''.

Suspended from C.P.M, Kollam mayor resigns

Kollam: N Padmalochanan, CPI(M) leader and Kollam mayor, who was suspended from the party for inaugurating the reception committee office of RSS Pranth Sanghik, submitted his resignation from mayors office. But the corporation secretary has declined to accept the letter as the mayor had not given the it in person.
The district committee of the party which met in the morning had listened to the explanation
Padmalochanan tended for attending a RSS function. But the committee did not accept his argument that he went to the RSS function merely in the capacity of the mayor. There was severe criticism against Padmalochanan who was a state committee member of the party and secretary of CITU attending a function of RSS. When his action became a sensational news he had apologized for it in the media. This too was criticised for not being in tune with the party line.
Padmalochanan was in the V.S. faction of the party but he later came to the official side.

Gold, silver prices set to move up

26 Feb 2010

MUMBAI: Get ready to pay more for gold and silver as the union budget has propsed a 50% hike in custom duty on precious metals. The budget speech
has proposed a hike in custom duty of Rs 300 per one gram on gold from the current Rs 200. It has also proposed to hike the customs duty on silver from the current Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 per kg.

"Increase in custom duty will be definitely passed on to customers and so they have to be ready to pay more for the precious metals. However, reduction in raw material tax will push up refinery production, leading to greater circulation of used gold and decline in gold imports," said Prithviraj Kothari, Director, Mumbai-based bullion company Riddhi Sidhi Bullions.

Though the prices are likely to go up, it is unlikelly to crimp demand as consumers have witnessed peak prices in the recent quarters. Gold prices zoomed to as high Rs 18,700 per 10 gm during the November-December quarter. Its now hovering aoround in the range of Rs 16,500-16700 per 10 gm.

"Import prices on gold and silver will go up. However, this will not affect the demand, since people have seen much higher level for precious metals," said Praveen Singh, senior bullion analyst.ET

Some of the highlights of Union Budget 2010-2011

India weathered the economic crisis well and emerged from the global slowdown faster than any other country.

Fiscal deficit at 5.5%.
Fiscal deficit seen at 4.8% and 4.1% in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively.

Gross tax receipts pegged at Rs7,46,656 crore for 2010-11, non-tax revenues at Rs1,48,118 crore.
Total expenditure pegged at Rs11.8 lakh crore, an increase of 8.6%.

Personal income-ax rates pruned:
Income up to Rs1.6 lakh — nil
Income above Rs1.6 lakh and up to Rs5 lakh — 10%
Income above Rs5 lakh and up to Rs8 lakh — 20%
Income above Rs8 lakh — 30%
Additional deduction of Rs20,000 allowed on long-term

Businesses with a turnover of up to Rs60 lakh and professionals earning up to Rs15 lakh to be exempted from the obligation to audit their accounts.

One-time interim relief to housing and real-estate sector.

Customs and central excise proposals to result in a net revenue gain of Rs43,500 crore.

More services to be brought under the service tax net.
Certain accredited news agencies exempted from payment of service tax
Net revenue gain from tax proposals pegged at Rs20,500 crore.

Housing projects allowed to be completed in five years instead of four to avail of tax breaks.
Revenue loss of Rs26,000 crore on direct tax proposals.
Central excise duty on all non-petroleum products raised to 10% from 8%.
FM increases customs duty on crude oil to 5%, on diesel and petrol to 7.5%, and on other petroleum products to 10%.
Structural changes in excise duties on cigarettes, cigars, and cigarillos.
Clean energy cess of Rs50 per ton to be levied on coal produced in India.
Concessional excise duty of 4% on solar cycle-rickshaws.

More in the speech

At home there was added uncertainty because of subnormal southwest monsoon.

Yet, the economy now in a far better position than it was
eight years ago.

First challenge before the government is to quickly revert to high GDP growth path of 9%.

Expects 10% economic growth in the near future.

Second challenge is to harness economic growth to make it more inclusive and consolidate gains.
Third challenge is to overcome weakness in government's public delivery mechanism; a long way to go in this.
Impressive recovery in the past few months. Can witness
faster recovery in the coming months.
Food security has been strengthened.
But bottleneck of the public delivery mechanism can hold us back.
Fiscal year 2009-10 was challenging for the economy.
Focus shifted to non-governmental actors and an enabling government. Government now concentrates on supporting and delivering services to the poorer sections.
Economy stabilised in the first quarter of 2009 itself.
18.5% manufacturing growth in December was the highest in two decades.
Figures for merchandise exports for January encouraging
after turnaround in November and December last year.
Double digit food inflation last year due to bad monsoon
and drought-like conditions.
Government conscious of the price rise and taking steps to tackle it.
Erratic monsoon and drought-like conditions forced supply-side bottleneck that fuelled inflation.
Need to review stimulus imparted to economy last year to overcome the recession.
Need to ensure that the demand-supply imbalance is managed.
Need to make growth more broad-based.
Need to review public spending and mobilise resources.
Status paper on public debt within six months.
Government hopes to implement direct tax code from April 2011.
Earnest endeavour to implement general sales tax in April 2011.
Government will raise Rs25,000 crore from divestment of its stake in state-owned firms.
Kirit Parekh report on fuel price deregulation will be taken up by petroleum minister Murli Deora in due course.
Nutrient-based fertiliser subsidy scheme to come into force from April 1 this year.
Nutrient-based fertiliser subsidy will reduce volatility of subsidy and also reduce it.
Market capitalisation of five public-sector undertakings listed since October increased by 3.5 times.
FDI inflows steady during the year. Government has taken
series of steps to simplify FDI regime. Intends to make FDI policy user friendly by compling all guidelines into one document.
Government has decided to set up apex-level Financial
Stability and Development Council.
RBI considering issuing banking licences to private companies. Non-banking finance companies will also be considered if they meet the criteria.
Government to provide Rs16,500 crore to public-sector
banks to maintain tier-I capital.
Government to continue interest subvention of 2% for one more year for exports covering handicrafts, carpets,
handlooms and small and medium enterprises.
Government to provide Rs300 crore to organise 60,000 pulse and oilseed villages and provide integrated intervention of watershed and related programmes.
Rs200 crore provided for climate-resilient agriculture
Government committed to ensuring continued growth of
special economic zones.
Need to take firm view on opening up of the retail sector.
Deficit in foodgrains storage capacity to be met with private-sector participation.
Period for repayment of loans by farmers extended by six months to June 30, 2010, in view of the drought and floods in some parts of the country.
Interest subvention for timely repayment of crop loans raised from 1% to 2%, bringing the effective rate of interest to 5%.
Road transport allocation raised by 13% to Rs19,894 crore.
Proposal to maintain thrust of upgrading infrastructure in rural and urban areas. IIFCL authorised to refinance infrastructure projects.
Rs1,73,552 crore provided for infrastructure development.
Allocation for railways fixed at Rs16,752 crore, an increase of Rs950 crore over the last financial year.
Government proposes to set up Coal Development Regulatory Authority.
Mega power plant policy modified to lower cost of generation; allocation to power sector more than doubled to Rs5,130 crore in 2010-11.
Government favours competitive bidding for coal blocks for captive power plants.
Rs500 crore allocated for solar and hydro projects for the Ladakh region in Jammu & Kashmir.
Clean Energy Fund to be created for research in new energy sources.
Allocation for new and renewable energy ministry increased by 61% to Rs1,000 crore.
One-time grant of Rs200 crore provided to Tirupur textile cluster in Tamil Nadu.
Allocation for National Ganga River Basin Authority doubled to Rs500 crore.
Alternative port to be developed at Sagar Island in West Bengal.
Draft of Food Security Bill ready, to be placed in the public domain soon.
Outlay for social sectors pegged at Rs1,37,674 crore, accounting for 37% of the total plan allocation.
Plan allocation for school education raised from Rs26,800 crore to Rs31,036 crore in 2010-11.
25% of plan outlay earmarked for rural infrastructure development.
Plan allocation for health and family welfare increased to Rs22,300 crore from Rs19,534 crore.
For rural development, Rs66,100 crore have been allocated.
Allocation for National Rural Employment Guarantee Authority stepped up to Rs40,100 crore in 2010-11.
Indira Awas Yojana's unit cost raised to Rs45,000 in the plains and Rs48,500 in hilly areas.
Allocation for urban development increased by 75% to Rs5,400 crore in 2010-11.
1% interest subvention loan for houses costing up to Rs20 lakh extended to March 31, 2011; Rs700 crore provided.
Allocation for development of micro and small-scale sector raised from Rs1,794 crore to Rs2,400 crore.
Rs1,270 crore provided for slum development programme, marking an increase of 700%.
Government to set up National Social Security Fund with initial allocation of Rs1,000 crore to provide social security to workers in the unorganised sector.
Government to contribute Rs1,000 per annum to each
account holder under the new pension scheme.
Exclusive skill development programme to be launched for textile and garment-sector employees.
Allocation for woman and child development increased by 80%
Plan outlay for the social justice ministry raised by 80% to Rs4,500 crore.
Plan allocation for minority affairs ministry raised from Rs1,740 crore to Rs2,600 crore.
Financial-Sector Legislative Reforms Committee to be set
Rs1,900 crore allocated for Unique Identification Authority of India.
A unique identity symbol will be provided to the rupee in line with the US dollar, British pound sterling, euro and Japanese yen.
Defence allocation pegged at Rs1,47,344 crore in 2010-11
against Rs1,41,703 crore in the previous year. Of this, capital expenditure would account for Rs60,000 crore.
Planning Commission to prepare integrated action plan for
Naxal-affected areas to encourage "misguided elements" to eschew violence and join the mainstream.
Gross tax receipts pegged at Rs7,46,656 crore for 2010-11, non-tax revenues at Rs1,48,118 crore.
Total expenditure pegged at Rs11.8 lakh crore, an increase of 8.6%.
Fiscal deficit at 5.5%.
Fiscal deficit seen at 4.8% and 4.1% in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively.
Non-plan expenditure pegged at Rs37,392 crore and plan expenditure at Rs7,35,657 crore in budget estimates. Proposed increase of 15% in plan expenditure and 6% in non-plan expenditure.
Cash subsidy for fuel and fertiliser instead of previous practice of bonds to continue.
Fiscal deficit pegged at 6.9% in 2009-10 as against 7.8% in the previous fiscal.
Government's net borrowing to be Rs3,45,010 crore for 2010-11.
Income-tax department ready with two-page Saral-2 returns
form for individual salaried assesses.
Personal income-ax rates pruned:
Income up to Rs1.6 lakh — nil
Income above Rs1.6 lakh and up to Rs5 lakh — 10%
Income above Rs5 lakh and up to Rs8 lakh — 20%
Income above Rs8 lakh — 30%
Additional deduction of Rs20,000 allowed on long-term
infrastructure bonds for income-tax payers; this is above Rs1 lakh on savings instruments allowed already.
Investment-linked tax deductions to be allowed to two-star hotels anywhere in the country.
Weighted deduction of 125% for payments to approved associations doing social and statistical research.
One-time interim relief to housing and real-estate sector.
Businesses with a turnover of up to Rs60 lakh and professionals earning up to Rs15 lakh to be exempted from the obligation to audit their accounts.
Housing projects allowed to be completed in five years instead of four to avail of tax breaks.
Revenue loss of Rs26,000 crore on direct tax proposals.
Central excise duty on all non-petroleum products raised to 10% from 8%.
FM increases customs duty on crude oil to 5%, on diesel and petrol to 7.5%, and on other petroleum products to 10%.
Structural changes in excise duties on cigarettes, cigars, and cigarillos.
Clean energy cess of Rs50 per ton to be levied on coal produced in India.
Concessional excise duty of 4% on solar cycle-rickshaws.
Balloons exempted from central excise duty.
Customs and central excise proposals to result in a net revenue gain of Rs43,500 crore.
More services to be brought under the service tax net.
Certain accredited news agencies exempted from payment of service tax.
Net revenue gain from tax proposals pegged at Rs20,500 crore.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

11.3 million homeowners underwater on mortgage in U.S - What is in store for India

WASHINGTON -- More than 11.3 million homeowners -- nearly one-fourth of all Americans with a mortgage -- owe more on their loan than their home is now worth, according to a report released Tuesday by FirstAmerican CoreLogic.

More than 10% of people with mortgages owe 25% more than their home is worth.

The number of underwater mortgages increased by about 620,000 from the third quarter, the firm said. Another 2.3 million mortgages had less than 5% equity in their home, which could be wiped out if home prices fall further.

U.S. banks in transitionJayan Dhru, Standard & Poor's global head of Financial Services Ratings, says U.S. banks are still in recovery mode as they manage the credit cycle while reducing leverage and risk. Reforming the banking sector will have unintended consequences on the broader economy.
In the fourth quarter, national home prices fell 1.1% compared with the third quarter, Standard & Poor's reported in a separate report on Tuesday. See full story on Case-Shiller home price index.

Once the mortgage is underwater, owners cannot easily sell their home or refinance their loan.

Underwater mortgages are concentrated in few states: California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan and Georgia. In Nevada, 70% of mortgages were underwater. In California, more than a third of mortgages were underwater.

"The rise in negative equity is closely tied to increases in pre-foreclosure activity," CoreLogic said. Once a homeowner owes 25% more than the house is worth, foreclosure rates rise sharply.

Negative equity exceeded 25% in six states and topped 20% in six others.

News Courtesy -MarketWatch

India asks Pakistan to arrest 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed

New Delhi: The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan concluded their talks here Thursday, with New Delhi making a strong pitch for the arrest of the suspected Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed and airing its concerns over a recent spike in infiltration.

India also sought information from Pakistan on the role of the Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, who are currently in FBI custody, in the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai mayhem, sources said.

At the first formal bilateral engagement since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held one-on-one talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir at the Hyderabad House for nearly one and a half hours that focused primarily on addressing concerns relating to cross-border terror.

This was followed by delegation-level talks that stretched for over an hour.

India cited renewed anti-India activities of Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Jamaat-ud Dawa and the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai carnage who has stepped up his anti-India rhetoric since the announcement of talks early this month.

The Pakistani side promised action against him. A Lahore court had set Saeed free last year, citing lack of sufficient evidence against the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder who is known for spewing anti-India venom.

Pakistan took note of India's
concerns and has promised action against Saeed, adding that they are equally concerned, the sources added.

The Indian side also raised its concerns over the recent spike in cross-border infiltration and strident rhetoric about a jihad against India among some sections in Pakistan, the sources added.

The Pakistani side, on the other hand, raised issues relating to resolution to the Kashmir dispute and reiterated its allegations about the the alleged complicity of India in the insurgency in Balochistan.

The outcome of the talks is expected to determine the future trajectory of engagement between the two neighbours.

This is the first meeting between Rao and Bashir since the two last met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September last year.

Despite the post-Mumbai freeze, the foreign secretaries and foreign ministers of the two estranged neighbours have met earlier on the sidelines of multilateral summits. The interactions focused primarily on actions taken by Islamabad against the 26/11 terrorists.

This time around, the two foreign secretaries have met for the first time in the Indian capital for an open-ended dialogue.

The two prime ministers also met at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt last year, leading to a controversial joint statement delinking composite dialogue from actions by Pakistan against terror.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Railways to start spl 'Bharat Tirth' tourist trains

New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) In a bid to promote tourism, Railways will be launching 16 special 'Bharat Tirth' trains connecting popular tourist sites as also pilgrimage centres in different parts of the country.

"The running of Bharat Tirth is to emphasise our unity in diversity and bring to reality Kabiguru's (Rabindranath Tagore) words in our national anthem Punjab Sindhu Gujarat Maratha, Dravida Utkala Banga, Vindhya Himachal Yamuna Ganga," Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Presenting the 2010-11 budget in Lok Sabha, she said the trains are proposed to run on the following routes:

1. Howrah-Gaya-Agra-Mathura-Vrindavan-New Delhi-Haridwar-Varanasi-Howrah;

2. Howrah-Chennai-Puducherry-Madurai-Rameswaram- Kanyakumari-Bangalore-Mysore-Chennai-Howrah;

3. Howrah-Vizag-Hyderabad-Araku-Howrah;

4. Howrah-Varanasi-Jammu Tawi-Amritsar-Haridwar- Mathura-Vrindavan-Allahabad-Howrah;

5. Howrah-Ajmer-Udaipur-Jodhpur-Bikaner-Jaipur-Howrah;

6. Mumbai-Pune-Tirupati-Kancheepuram-Rameswaram- Madurai-Kanyakumari-Pune-Mumbai;

7. Pune-Jaipur-Nathdwara-Ranakpur-Jaipur-Mathura- Agra-Haridwar-Amritsar-Jammu Tawi-Pune

8. Pune-Ratnagiri-Goa-Bangalore-Mysore-Tirupati-Pune;

9. Ahmedabad-Puri-Kolkata-Gangasagar-Varanasi- Allahabad-Indore-Omkareshwar-Ujjain-Ahmedabad;

10. Bhopal-Dwaraka-Somnath-Udaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur- Jaipur-Mathura-Vrindavan-Amritsar-Jammu Tawi-Bhopal.

India Inc pleased with rail budget

Press Trust of India, February 24, 2010 (New Delhi)

India Inc on Wednesday welcomed the Railway Budget for sparing freight and passenger fares from any hike and said that it also provided opportunities for private sector to participate in the world's fifth largest transport network.

"I think it provides for much bigger involvement of the private is welcome," FICCI President Harsh Pati Singhania said.
Assocham described it as "people and industry friendly" since there is no increase in passenger and freight rates.

Presenting the Railway Budget for 2010-11, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee asked business houses to build partnerships with Railways that employs about 14 lakh people.

A special task force will be set up for early clearance of projects, Banerjee said, adding that Railways will start six water bottling plants in places like Ambala, Farakka, Nasik, Thiruvananthapuram and Amethi to provide clean and cheap drinking water to passengers.
Railways would also develop 10 automobile hubs, she said.

CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said: "It is our belief that this would give the right signals to investors in India and abroad to look at Indian Railways in a new light."

However, Assocham President Swati Piramal said: "A clear roadmap for seeking private partnership in railways for its modernisation and expansion should have been rolled out."

Federation of Indian Mineral Industry Secretary General R K Sharma too termed the Budget as "positive".

India Rail Budget :Highlights in the budget speech.

Service Levies for Travel in Air-Conditioned Coaches to be Cut
Indian Railways Not to Increase Passenger Fares
To Run 101 More Suburban Trains in Mumbai
52 Long Distance Express Trains and 28 Passenger Trains to be Introduced
Indian Railways to Buy 80,000 New Wagons
Concession in Freight Charges for Food-Grains and Domestic Use Kerosene
To Start 54 New Trains in 2010-11
To Buy 3,210 Passenger Coaches in 2010-11
To Buy 480 Locomotives in 2010-11
National High Speed Rail Authority Proposed to Plan High Speed Rail Corridor
Aim to Carry 944 Million Tons Of Goods in 2010-11
Houses for All Rail Employees in Next 10 Years
Degree Colleges, Technical and Management Institutes for Railway Employees
To Set Up 10 Automobile Ancillary Hubs
Plan Outlay of 414 Billion Rupees in 2010-11
Net Revenue Likely 64.9 Billion Rupees in 2009-10
Gross Plan Outlay for 2010-11 414.3 Billion Rupees
To Start Train Service to Bangladesh
Special Task Force to Clear Investment Proposals Within 100 Days
Kisan Vision Project for Manufacturing Refrigerated Containers
Allotment of Iron Ore Rakes Would be Accessible Through the Web
RFID Technology to be Introduced for Tracking of Wagons
Multi-Level Parking Complexes Through PPP Route
93 New Multi-Functional Complexes to be Developed
522 Hospitals, 50 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 10 Residential Schools, Model
117 New Train Projects to be Flagged Off by the End of March 2010
Frequency of 12 Trains Will be Increased and 21 Trains Will be Extended
Special Trains to Mark Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary, for Ladies, for Uniformed Persons and for Tourists
Double-Decker Coaches to be Introduced in Two Trains Each from Delhi and Kolkata
94 Stations to be Upgraded as Adarsh Stations, 10 More Stations to be Upgraded as World Class Stations
Automatic Fire and Smoke Detection System to be Introduced in 20 Trains
E-ticket Vans to be Extended to Government Medical College Hospitals, Courts, Universities, IT hubs, IITs and IIMs
SMS Updates of Reservation Status and Movement of Wagons
Ticket Centres to be Opened at District Headquarters and Village Panchayats
100% Concession for Cancer Patients Alongwith an Escort

India forces change in Pakistan delegation for talks/ Reports Dawn

uesday, 23 Feb, 2010

ISLAMABAD: One day before the India-Pakistan secretary level talks take place, India has forced Pakistan to alter its delegation for the meeting virtually defeating Islamabad’s desire for meaningful and purposeful negotiations on critical issues straining bilateral ties.
Diplomatic sources told Dawn that representatives from the ministries of water and power as well as the interior would no longer be accompanying the delegation led by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir for the Feb 25 meeting.

However, the numerical strength of the delegation remains the same as the technical officials have been replaced by the Foreign Office diplomats.

The implications of the changes are nevertheless evident. The two sides would no longer be having in depth discussions on pressing issues such as the water dispute.

According to a diplomat, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, while extending invitation for talks to her counterpart Salman Bashir, had clearly hinted at India’s willingness to discuss all issues including water. But once Pakistan conveyed the composition of its delegation, Delhi back-tracked and refused to accept specialist officials asking Islamabad to restrict its team to officials of the Foreign Ministry.

The delegation that includes the Foreign Secretary and seven other members will depart for Delhi on Wednesday.

The changes in the delegation was the second setback for Islamabad ahead of the talks. Earlier, India had refused to resume composite dialogue, which Pakistan insists was the only way forward.

Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit accepted that the delegation for Delhi had been changed. He, however, denied that the changes had been forced by India.

Pakistan has all along been stressing that it wanted all bilateral issues, including Kashmir and water sharing disputes to be discussed at the Feb 25 talks and felt that the purpose of the renewed engagement would be lost if India restricted the dialogue to terrorism.

Cargo plane lands with AK-47 rifles from Dubai

Chennai: A mysterious consignment of 10 AK-47 rifles along with telescopes landed here in a cargo plane three days ago and now security agencies are hot on trail of a man from Uttar Pradesh.

Yusuf, a resident of Varanasi and a Customs Clearing agent here, is on the run and the police are looking for him after a person to whom the cargo was addressed claimed he had nothing to do withit.

The cargo plane from Dubai landed at Anna International Airport on February 20 and the consignment including 10 rifle scope (AK-47 rifles and telescopes) was marked for a person identified as Vijayan, official sources said here today.

They said the Customs department registered a case and carried out a thorough check of the cargo after which it summoned Vijayan and his customs clearing agent Yusuf.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Police zero in on four Pune blast suspects

Pune: In what is being considered a significant breakthrough, Pune police have zeroed in on four suspects who could be responsible for the Feb 13 terror blast at the German Bakery here, a top police official said here Wednesday.
According to Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, these four could have carried out the terror blasts with local support.

'However, investigations are in progress and there are no arrest made so far,'Singh said.

He added: 'Police have recovered the CCTV footage of a camera installed inside the German Bakery premises and have secured vital leads from it.'

The Pune terror blast has claimed 11 lives so far and another 37 injured victims are under treatment in various city hospitals.

Meanwhile, a team of National Security Guards (NSG) arrived here Wednesday to assist the local investigators probing the case.

Harbhajan takes 5 Wickets and puts India on top

Harbhajan Singh celebrates the last wicket of Morne Morkel as India retain the top spot
India retained their number one Test ranking after off-spinner Harbhajan Singh took five wickets to force a series-levelling victory over South Africa in the second and final Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

India claimed the dramatic win in the last minutes of the game, winning by an innings and 57 runs.

That big margin disguised the nerve-racking ending to the Test as the visitors got within touching distance of a draw, losing the last wicket with only 13 minutes of play remaining.

South Africa's Hashim Amla was named man of the match and man of the series, finishing not out for 123 in the last innings and ending the series with an astonishing average of 494, after making 253 not out in the first Test and 114 in the opening innings of this match.

The 26-year-old from Durban battled for 394 deliveries and struck 16 boundaries in his ninth Test century, but failed to prevent his team from snatching a thrilling draw.

He lost his more accomplished batting partners at regular intervals on the final day, but shared some lucrative stands with the tail enders to push his team toward a draw that would have delivered a series victory and that No1 spot in the rankings.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Indians, who lost the first Test in Nagpur by an innings and six runs, retained their No1 ranking with 124 rating points.

Second-ranked South Africa were left on 120 points.

Harbhajan Singh (5-59) claimed the final wicket, trapping Morne Morkel lbw, prompting the Eden Gardens crowd to erupt in celebrations.

Last man Morkel had hung on valiantly, facing 60 balls as he and Amla batted for 76 minutes in their brave but ultimately fruitless 10th-wicket stand.

The Proteas scored 290 in their second innings after 296 in their first, compared to India's 643-6 declared in their sole innings.

After the Indian celebrations, many players congratulated the disappointed Amla.

South Africa, aided by regular rain intervals on day four as they sought to grind out a draw, resumed the final day at 115-3.

As the South Africans fought hard, India sorely missed pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who was confined to the dressing room the entire day with a knee injury

With time at the crease more crucial than runs, South Africa's very patient innings received two setbacks in the opening session, as Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers both fell.

Prince (23) was beaten in the flight by a Singh delivery that dipped, and he ballooned a catch to Ishant Sharma at mid-off.

That was soon followed by the removal of de Villiers, who did not pick Amit Mishra's googly, played down the wrong line and was out for a clear lbw.

India's victory push gained further momentum in the middle session when Singh's slider pushed Jean-Paul Duminy (6) back on his crease, and he played for the nonexistent spin and was out lbw.

Dale Steyn (1) went in similar fashion, playing and missing at a Singh delivery that rapped him on the pad and was plumb lbw.

At 180-7, South Africa looked like folding, but Wayne Parnell (22) was resolute in his defence, sticking with Amla for 101 minutes.

He finally went soon after tea, delivering a catch to Singh at short mid-on off the bowling of Sharma.

Paul Harris (4) took up the role of support act, and held out for 36 minutes before edging a Sharma delivery to substitute fielder Dinesh Karthik at third slip.

That brought to the crease Morkel (12), who batted with such unusual assurance for a No.11 that Amla made little attempt to farm the strike, and the paceman responded well before playing outside the line on the final delivery.

The Indian cricket board said in a statement that paceman Zaheer Khan will not feature in the one-day series against the Proteas which starts on Sunday.

South African captain Graeme Smith will also miss the one-dayers due to a fractured finger and all-rounder Jacques Kallis will lead the tourists in his absence, the team management said.

The internationals will be played in Jaipur (February 21), Gwalior (February 24) and Ahmedabad (February 27).

Hinting at Rahul Gandhi, Gadkari slams dynasty politics

INDORE: In an obvious attack on Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday that his party did not believe in dynastic politics.

In his first presidential address at the BJP leadership meet here, he thundered that neither his father nor grandparents were prime ministers.

'I was a simple worker of a party and today I am its president. This can happen only in the BJP. The BJP is not like other political parties where dynasty rules,' Gadkarisaid.

'My father was not the prime minister of the country, neither were my maternal great grandfather nor grandmother. We are a party with a difference.'

Gadkari's remarks were clearly aimed at Rahul Gandhi, whose father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi and great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru were all prime ministers.

Before his speech, the national council ratified the presidentship of Gadkari. Senior leaders hailed his ascendance and garlanded him. Gadkari was named the BJP president in December. He took charge this month. PTI

Obama rings Manmohan Singh, condemns Pune attack

New Delhi: US President Barack Obama called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday morning to condemn last Saturday's bomb blast in Pune and to condole the loss of lives in the terror attack that killed 11 people.

In a brief conversation, the two leaders took the opportunity to reviewdevelopments in India-US relations, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

The toll from the Pune blast has risen to 11 after a bomb concealed in a backpack went off Saturday evening in a popular bakery.

Police have detained two persons for questioning about the attack.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Slowdown brings Kerala's houseboats within reach of many

PTI, February 14, 2010
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India's not-to-miss tourist experiences like a ride on the Palace on Wheels or stay at the Lake Palace are often beyond the means of most Indians, but the economic slowdown has brought at least one experience within the reach of the middle-class -- Kerala's houseboats.

For long patronised by rich foreign tourists, the backwater cruise industry in Kerala has woken up to the benefits of winning domestic tourists who virtually kept it afloat when the waves of the global economic slowdown hit the Indian shores in 2008-end.

An overnight cruise through the coconut lagoon - an experience that the National Geographic Traveler has ranked ahead of viewing the Taj Mahal - is now cheaper by at least 20 per cent, if not more, than the period preceding the slowdown.

"A single bedroom houseboat can be hired for as low as Rs 6,000 a day and the rates include all meals for a couple... there were days when the same ride would have cost Rs 10,000-15,000," says Kochumon alias Sanish, who captains 'Sandra', a well-appointed two bed-room houseboat that in its earlier avatar as 'kettuvallam' (rope-tied country boat) ferried rice and spices in the Kuttanad region, the state's rice bowl.

Compared to this, a ride on the Palace on Wheels costs anywhere around Rs 2,00,000 per person per week.

"We are seeing a lot of interest from tourists from the north, especially Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Haryana and rates are no longer prohibitive," said Anil James, a houseboat operator.

A typical backwater cruise takes tourists on a 40-km journey through the Vembanad lake, India's longest spread over 1,512, with a stopover at night by idyllic fishing villages whose people and tourists alike shop from a floating market 'Triveni' operated by Kerala Consumerfed.

At one point after September 2008, business hit its nadir and stayed that way for about six months before domestic tourists started coming in, said Sanish, but Kerala Tourism officials feel the reason for poor business was not a fall in foreign tourist arrivals, but rather oversupply.

"We have 600 houseboats in Alappuzha and Kollam region and the slowdown in business was because of oversupply here," Kerala Tourism Director M Shivshankar said.

The Tourism Department has written to the Irrigation Department, which is the licensing authority for houseboats, asking them to cap the number of boats. The officials are looking at evenly spreading out the houseboat population so that the experience remains premium.

"We are creating new landing points between Ernakulam and Alappuzha and they would be ready by 2010-11 and ensure that crowding is avoided," Shivshankar said, adding that the state was also developing new backwater cruise circuits in Kayankulam and Ashtamudi, so that people from Thiruvananthapuram in the south need not travel all the way up to Alappuzha for backwater cruise.

He said there are 50 more houseboats in the making now, but the aim was to leverage the backwater asset optimally. Kerala's houseboats have been listed among the world's ten Enchanting Escapes by AsiaSpa, the spa and resort magazine.

There are all kinds of houseboats to choose from - one, two and three-bedroom - to suit different budgets. And then there are the motherships - houseboats with ten bedrooms, he said.

Inflation rises to 8.56 per cent in January this year

New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) Wholesale price-based inflation rose to 8.56 per cent in January, shooting past the RBI's forecast of 8.5 per cent for this fiscal end, as food items such as sugar, potatoes and pulses turned costlier.

Overall inflation in December was 7.31 per cent.

Sugar prices rose by 58.96 per cent in January year-on-year while potatoes turned costlier by 53.39 per cent and pulses by 45.64 per cent.

On monthly basis, prices of masur increased by 9 per cent, arhar by 6 per cent and wheat by 4 per cent.

Fuel index rose by 1.8 per cent due to higher prices of naphtha that rose 21 per cent. Furnace oil rose 6 per cent while bitumen, non-coking coal and light diesel oil rose 3 per cent each.

To tame inflation, the RBI, in its quarterly monetary review, had asked banks to keep aside more cash with them.

CCTV footage reveals vital clues in Pune blast case: report

In what seems to be a big breakthrough in Saturday's Pune blast investigation, sources have told a news channel that CCTV footage obtained of the front area of the German bakery at the time of the blast, have provided important clues.

The CCTV footage of a five star hotel, which is on the opposite direction of the German bakery, reportedly shows two suspects and has captured their images. The footage shows one of them talking on a cell phone and the other one holding a bag.

Thesecurity agencies hope that the CCTV camera installed in front of the hotel would give them clues about those who planted the bomb opposite the bakery.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has taken the possession of the footage and NIA team from Delhi is also monitoring the images.

In the first major terror strike in India after 26/11, nine people were killed and 45 injured when a high-intensity bomb exploded at the German Bakery at Koregaon Park, Pune, on Saturday evening.

Violence breaks out on Osmania varsity campus again

Violence again broke out on Osmania University campus on Monday, the second time since Sunday evening, with pro-Telangana students taking to the streets.

Protesting the police firing and the baton charge on them Sunday night, the students took out a rally and threw stones at policemen and paramilitary personnel deployed on the campus.

The police hit back with batons once more. Eyewitnesses said some policemen were injured in stone pelting while a few students and media persons sustained injuries when police used force.

The fresh violence broke out a few hours after large-scale violence on the campus Sunday evening. More than 30 students and six media persons were injured when police fired rubber bullets and used batons and teargas shells.

The trouble had started when students tried to take out a procession hailing15 Telangana legislators who resigned to protest terms of reference of Srikrishna panel looking into the statehood issue.

State government and human rights commission have ordered separate probes into the incidents. Home Minister P Sabita Indra Reddy told reporters on Monday that action would be taken against policemen if they were found guilty of using excessive force.

Meanwhile, tension prevailed at Moazzam Jahi market, a busy commercial area, when students tried to march towards the assembly building to protest the violence at Osmania University. Police used force to disperse the students.

Police also locked the gates of Nizam College in Basheerbagh area to prevent students from marching towards the assembly, where unprecedented security arrangements have been made for the budget session which began Monday with the address of Governor ESL Narasimhan.

BJP demands talks with Pakistan be called off

New Delhi: A day after the terror bombing in Pune that killed nine people, the Bharatiya Janata Party Sunday demanded that India's proposed foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan be called off.
'Terror and talks cannot co-exist. When terror threatens India, then not talking is also a legitimate diplomatic option,' BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley told reporters here.

Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi Feb 25. This follows India's decision to go back on its earlier insistence that no talks with Pakistan would take place till the masterminds of the Mumbai terror attack were punished.

Jaitley accused the Indian government of taking an unexplained 'U-turn' on its negotiating stand in the peace dialogue with Pakistan.

'So (long) as Pakistan continues building an infrastructure for terror against India, and till such time that there is no cooperation in the context of 26/11, we cannot talk to Pakistan,' he said, referring to the attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists that left 166 people dead.

'The composite dialogue cannot proceed,' Jaitley added.

Jaitely's views were also echoed by his party colleague and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who said her 'party is of firm view that the Indo-Pak talks must not be resumed'.

'Time and again, inside parliament and outside it, even the government has been maintaining that the talks must not be resumed unless Pakistan takes some solid steps to bring 26/11 culprits to book.'

'And both the home minister and the foreign minister have been maintaining that Pakistan has taken no solid step to bring the 26/11 culprits to book,' she told reporters later in the day.

Rejecting the government's contention that 'calling off talks on the ground of terror attack in Pune will amount to falling into terrorists'trap', Swaraj said she was 'not able to comprehend the 180-degree U-turn taken by the government' on India-Pakistan talks.

Jaitley also found fault with the government's announcement to allow Kashmiris who crossed over to Pakistan for arms training in the early 1990s to return to India, saying it would 'legitimise infiltration' of terrorists.

He called it, along with the decision to talk to Pakistan, as 'misconceived and adventurous'.

'It is possible the central government is thinking of softening borders. Today's situation does not permit this. The BJP urges the government to reconsider both these steps - allowing persons from PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) to return and resuming the dialogue with Pakistan,' he added.

The BJP condemned Saturday's bomb blast in Pune which killed nine people and injured 57. The blast took place in German Bakery, a popular eatery.

'The German Bakery is in the neighborhood of a Jewish settlement. The bakery is also visited by foreigners from the Osho Ashram. The targeting of foreign nationals is also intended to create an international impact. This blast establishes that those inimical to India are continuing their war against India,' Jaitley said.

'....Indians will not accept India as a soft state. The government of India must seriously introspect whether our Intelligence collection and security responses are still inadequate. How then was a place visited by David Hadley still unprotected?' he added.

The BJP leader said: 'The recommencement of the dialogue with Pakistan, irrespective of whether Pakistan stops allowing its soil to be used for terror against India, has made utterances of Pakistani leaders and Jehadi groups more belligerent. What has happened in Pune is a grim reminder to all of us about the fragility of our security and the adventurist traps we are walking into'.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Headley surveyed ashram close to Pune blast site”

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Saturday night said the scene of Pune’s bomb blast was very close to Osho Ashram which had been surveyed by Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley; the Maharashtra government had been alerted about this last October.

Making a statement to the media here, Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said it was worth noting that the German Bakery, the site of the blast, was about 200 yards away from the ashram, which was one of the sites surveyed by Headley. The Lashkar operative visited Mumbai and other parts of the country ahead of the November 26, 2008 terror attack. Headley, an American citizen of Pakistan origin, is now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago and has been charged for planning terror attacks in Mumbai.

Mr. Pillai said the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) had alerted the Maharashtra police about the survey done by Headley. The Home Ministry has issued an advisory to all State governments to be on “high alert” and warned citizens to refrain from opening unattended packages and report all such instances to the nearest police station or control room.

He said Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram was closely monitoring the situation from Tamil Nadu and the position was being reviewed continuously.

Police and rescue workers inspect the blast site.

Giving details about the Pune blast, Mr. Pillai said that it “appears that an unattended package was noted by one of the waiters, and the blast occurred when he apparently attempted to open it.” He said that according to latest reports received from the State police and the Intelligence Bureau, eight people were killed in the blast and 32 injured.

The Home Secretary said a forensic team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was being airlifted from the capital to Pune. The Anti-Terrorism Squad and forensic teams of the State police had reached the site and were conducting investigations.

Replying to queries, Mr. Pillai said the investigation had just begun and added that he would comment only after completion of the forensic probe.

He refused to get drawn to another question if the blast was aimed at derailing India-Pakistan talks slated for February 25.

Sources in the security establishment said the modus operandi and the intensity of the blast indicated that the site was chosen by suspected terrorists as it was frequented mostly by foreigners and any terror incident in Pune, the fast emerging IT hub and home to a number of prestigious educational institutions, would cause substantial loss of lives and create panic among citizens. It was also the first major terror attack since the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes.

Did IM cell carry out Pune terror strike?

14 Feb 2010,
Highly places sources say that the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, the group blamed for a string of bomb blasts in major cities in 2008, is their another suspect in Saturday's (February 13) Pune blast, which killed nine and injured 45 others.

Sources said that the evidence that was gathered from the blast site showed traits of a Indian Mujahideen attack. This terrorist outfit has over the years developed a strong network across the state and is reportedly believed to have a cell in Pune as well.

The IM has been blamed for serial blasts in Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow on November on November 23, 2007 that killed 13 people.

The Indian Mujahidden is also reportedly responsible for the explosions in Jaipur in May 2008, which killed 63 people and also the serial attacks in Ahmedabad in July 26 the same year, which lead to 46 deaths.

Terror struck Pune as a powerful bomb ripped apart a popular bakery near a Jewish prayer house, killing nine people and injuring 45 in the first major attack since 26/11 carnage. The improvised explosive device, kept in an unattended packet outside the kitchen of the German bakery, exploded at around 7.30 pm when a waiter attempted to open it.

The German bakery is a favourite food joint for foreigners, located close to Osho Ashram which had been surveyed by Pakistani-origin American David Coleman Headley, a Lashkar-e Taiba operative. Times

BJP flays Maharashtra government over Pune blast

Sat, Feb 13, 2010 ,Press Trust Of India

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday attacked the Maharashtra government over the Pune blast, alleging it was engaged in protecting the makers of the film My Name is Khan leaving the terrorists scot free to attack.

"The whole Congress led government and police in Maharashtra were engaged in protecting the interests of the actor, director, producer and distributor of My Name is Khan on the orders of Rahul Gandhi," BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in New Delhi.

He said "this left the terrorists scot-free to attack innocent people in Pune".

BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar, who visited the blast site, demanded that Government reconsider the proposed dialogue with Pakistan in the wake of the blast in Pune.

"Terror and talks cannot go together" he said at the blast site.

Jawadekar said the blast in the city was "a terrorist attack" and asked "what is the logic in holding talks".

Congress, however, condemned the statement of the BJP saying it was unfortunate that political parties were trying to take mileage from an unfortunate incident.

"The incident is very unfortunate. Nobody should play politics with with the security system of the country," party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.

He said no political party should make a statement which jeopardises the country's fight against terror.

"This is a time for all of us to stay united. Unfortunately some political parties are trying to take a mileage out of it. This is pathetic," Ahmed said.

8 dead in Pune blast, cops suspect terror angle

Feb 13, 2010

THE DEVASTATION: The bakery has been completely destroyed in the cylinder blast.

Pune: At least eight people including four foreigners have been killed and over 40 others injured in a bomb blast at the German Bakery in Pune on Saturday.

Union Home Ministry said that the bomb blast could be the handiwork of a terror group as the area is frequented by tourists specially foreign nationals.

Union Home Secretary GK Pillai said that it was most probably a terror attack adding that a team of National Investigative Agency (NIA) officials is being sent to Pune along with a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) forensic team.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Victoria top cop's advice to Indians to 'act poor' slammed

8 February 2010

Melbourne : Victoria's top cop's advice to Indian students to "act poor" and avoid living in high-risk suburbs to minimise the chances of being assaulted has been termed wrong and unhelpful by business and community groups, a newspaper reported.

The comments, made by Chief Commissioner Simon Overland to a gathering of Indian students at the weekend, echo advice by the Indian government in a travel advisory last month after the murder of accounting graduate Nitin Garg in Melbourne's western suburbs, The Australian reported on its website.

Both federal and state governments gave a cool response to the Indian advisory at the time, with then acting prime minister Julia Gillard saying Australia was a safe place for Indian students.

Overland's comments - which both police and Victoria's government say have been "taken out of context" - have also renewed calls for more police on the streets instead of authorities shifting the responsibility for crime to the victims.

Overland told Indian students at a safety forum Saturday that although police were doing all they could to stop violence against them, students should adopt self-protection strategies like avoiding public transport late at night, not living where crimes rates were higher and avoid working as taxi drivers or at late-night convenience stores.

"Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch...try to look as poor as you can," he said. "If you can live somewhere safer, live somewhere safer...if you can avoid public transport in high-risk areas at night, avoid it."

Both the Victoria government and the police say the comments, especially those relating to "acting poor", were a "light-hearted summation of the advice" that would be given to any member of the community to be aware of their valuables. "It was absolutely taken out of context," a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

But Brimbank Mayor Sam David, whose council lies in the western suburbs, said Overland's advice to Indians not to live in areas with higher crime rates was not helpful.

"It's wrong because the Indian community have to live somewhere and we are very proud to have them in our city," he said.

David said the western suburbs needed more police at railway stations and shopping centres.

Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman Chris James said he was concerned Melbourne was being painted as an "epicentre of violence", and about the consequent economic impacts it would have on the city.

"In some respects it is sensible advice," he said.

Look poor to avoid attacks: Victoria top cop's advice to Indians students

Melbourne 7, 2010, , Press Trust of India,

Victorian police chief Simon Overland has advised Indian students in Australia to keep a low profile and "try to look as poor as you can" to avoid attacks, drawing strong condemnation from the community which called his statement "ridiculous".

Indian students could make themselves less of a target if they do not display their expensive gadgets, Oliver told an international students' safety forum on Saturday.

"Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch, don't display your valuable jewellery. Try to look as poor as you can," Overland was quoted as saying by 'The Age'.

The Victorian Police Chief Commissioner said students could take some steps to protect themselves.

"If you can live somewhere safer, live somewhere safer," he said. "If you can avoid public transport into high-risk areas late at night, avoid it."

Victorian Premier John Brumby defended his top cop, saying the advice to the overseas students to avoid crime, as per Overland, was a comment about high crime areas.

"He may have been making the point that in some areas, there are higher crime rates than in others," the Premier was quoted as saying by 'AAP'.

Brumby said he and the police chief condemned in the strongest possible terms "acts of violence, and particularly any violence which is racially motivated".

But, the Federation of Indian Student Association (FISA) rejected Overland's remarks with its spokesperson Gautam Gupta calling the police chief's advice "ridiculous."

Gupta said Indians need not look "poor" to feel safe. "What is he (Overland) saying? Indians don't have the right to be rich? And if they look rich, do they may be have to get bashed? On one hand, everyone should look poor. On the other, don't live in poor areas (where crime rate is high). I don't understand."

On Overland's remarks that taxi drivers, including Indians, had a right to feel safe no matter what their nationality was, Gupta said "it's a work place. Every work place should be safe. I think it's a ridiculous idea. It is blaming the worker. It is blaming the victim."

However, Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition Executive Director Melba Marginson, who was the organiser of Saturday's forum, said Overland was just trying to describe few strategies to the students on how to avoid criminals' attention.

"It was in context to safety issues. Media has twisted Overland's statement. What he meant was to take some precautionary measures while travelling to a high risk area," said Marginson, who also chaired the forum.

Overland told the forum on Saturday that there was a disparity between perceptions and the facts about crimes against Indian people, saying Melbourne's permanent Indian population was not over-represented in crime statistics.

He pointed out the crimes of robberies were happening against those students who were working as cabbies and convenient store attendants.

Overland said police were doing everything they could to stop assaults on overseas students, some of which were racially-based but most of which were robbery-related.

He said crimes against Indian students were not reflected in crimes against the Indian community in general.

"However the key function of a state government is law and order which needs a massive overhaul in this state. This includes a greater police and security presence on the streets and on our public transport system."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sensex ends 120 pts down

Feb 10, 2010

The benchmark Nifty lost all of its Tuesday's gains in late trade sell-off while the Sensex shut shop below the 16000 mark. The markets were volatile throughout the day. Downtrend in banking, oil & gas exploration, capital goods, technology, power, select auto, metal and pharma stocks dragged the Sensex 120 points down.

The Indian markets shrugged off positive global cues. European markets were trading 1% higher, and Dow Jones & Nasdaq future was trading 1% & 0.5% higher, respectively, at the time of closing of Indian equities. Asian markets also closed positive; Shanghai and Taiwan gained 1.1% each. Hang Seng was up 0.67% and Nikkei up 0.3%. However, Straits Times fell 0.39% and Kospi was flat. The US markets also ended 1-1.5% higher on Tuesday.

Buying in HDFC Bank, Bharti Airtel, Sterlite, BPCL, Hindalo, Unitech, Hero Honda, Grasim and Jaiprakash Associates capped the losses to some extent.

The 30-share BSE Sensex closed at 15,922.17, down 120.01 points or 0.75% and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 0.74% or 35.45 points to settle at 4,757.20. The broader indices also erased all the early gains and ended flat, about 1337 shares advanced while 1527 shares declined on the BSE. Nearly 289 shares remained unchanged.

Sajiv Dhawan of JV Capital Services said, "Since there are shorts on the Nifty we are being quite circumspect and sitting on the sidelines. That’s probably the safest way to play the market over the next couple of weeks as we seem to be lacking a lot of conviction even when we get good positive global cues."

Heavyweights Reliance Industries and ONGC declined 0.8% and 1.7%, respectively. Cairn India was down 0.33% while BPCL gained 2.18%.

Capital goods stocks like L&T and BHEL fell 1.2-1.75% while Siemens and ABB gained 0.3-0.7%. In the power space, NTPC fell 1.7% to 200.5, below its recently closed FPO's floor price of Rs 201. Tata Power, Reliance Power, Suzlon Energy, Power Grid and Reliance Infrastructure were down 0.44-2%.

In the metal pack, SAIL fell 2.5%. The company has turned down the government's advice regarding issue of bonus shares before its upcoming follow-on public offer (FPO), reports CNBC-TV18 quoting sources. Among the other metal stocks, Tata Steel lost 2% and Jindal Steel was down 0.3% while Sterlite and Hindalco gained 1.5-2%.

Banking also witnessed selling pressure. Stocks like SBI, PNB, Axis Bank and ICICI Bank slipped 1.3-2% while HDFC Bank rose 1.4%.

Coca-Cola Q4 net up 55% on robust India, China sales

February 09, 2010 Press Trust of India

Driven by the robust sales in India and China, beverage giant Coca-Cola today reported 55 per cent growth in consolidated net profit at $1.5 billion for the fourth quarter (Q4) ended December 31, 2009.

The company had earned a consolidated net profit of $995 million in the same quarter ended on December 31, 2008, the company said in a statement.

Coca-Cola said, in the quarter, its unit case volume increased strongly in key emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico.

Sales in India grew by over 20 per cent, whereas in China it grew by over 29 per cent in Q4, the company said.

In terms of the net operating revenue, Coca-Cola reported 5.4 per cent growth at $7.5 billion during Q4, compared to $7.1 billion in the corresponding period last year.

For the financial year ended on December 31, 2009, Coca-Cola reported a consolidated net profit of $6.8 billion, an 18 per cent growth compared to $5.8 billion in 2008.

Its operating revenue during 2009 declined by three per cent to $30.9 billion from $31.9 billion in 2008, the statement said.

"We ended this year on a high note, delivering global volume and value share gains, comparable currency neutral growth, improved productivity and increased cash flows," the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent said.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Law Min releases Gopalaswami's letter seeking Chawla's ouster

Posted on: 07 Feb 2010

New Delhi: In a curious case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, the Law Ministry has
released the letter written by then Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami to the President seeking removal of
fellow Election Commissioner Navin Chawla while the Rashtrapati Bhawan had declined to make the document public.

The appellate authority under the Right to Information Act in the Law Ministry allowed the request of one S S
Ranawat, a resident of Bhilwara in Rajasthan, for the unprecedented recommendation made by Gopalaswami in January
last year. The Rashtrapati Bhawan had cited Chawla's opposition to the disclosure as a reason for not making it

In his 93-page report, Gopalaswami had cited several instances of 'partisan behaviour' on the part of Chawla who
had shown 'lack of political neutrality'.

Acting on a petition filed by BJP leader L K Advani and 179 other Members of Parliament who had levelled accusations
of 'political partisanship', the then CEC had contended that he had powers under the Constitution to recommend Chawla's
removal. The Government, however, rejected it and appointed Chawla as CEC.

In this regard, Gopalaswami cited Chawla's own notings on another occasion that the CEC had the power to make such a
recommendation.In the recommendation to the President, the then CEC had said he had concluded that 'significant facts' and
'irresistible conclusions' from the report submitted by him were crucial in adjudging the suitability of Chawla as
Election Commissioner.

He said in his considered opinion, Chawla's continuance as Election Commissioner was 'not justified'. 'My recommendation is, therefore, under the powers vested in me under the second proviso to Article 324(5) of the Constitution, is to remove Shri Navin B Chawla from the post of Election Commissioner,' Gopalaswami had said in his January 16, 2009 letter, months before the general elections during which he demitted office.

Referring to 12 instances cited by him, he said, 'Taken individually (they) appear to indicate Shri Chawla's political
partisanship. Collectively, they point to a continuity of consistent thought and action in furthering the interest of one party with which he appeared to be in constant touch raising serious doubts about his political detachment.

'Further, it was not only that he appeared to be lacking in political neutrality but more pernicious were his attempts
to influence Election Commissioner Dr Quraishi, not by dint of valid arguments, but by spreading stories that Dr Quraishi was
supporting the opposite views.' On many occasions, Gopalaswami said Quraishi had confided that he was under pressure as for instance when he was in favour of elections being held in Karnataka on time and wanted the electoral rollsto be prepared for the new constituencies using the 'cut and paste' method but he did not want his name to be taken because he was under pressure.

Quraishi had once shared a comment made by Chawla to him 'they are angry with you not so much because you were
instrumental in Sonia Gandhi getting a notice from ECI on her birthday (reference to the notice on the maut ka saudagar
remarks) but for the fact that you sided with the CEC in advancing the elections in Himachal Pradesh'.

Such pressure tactics, Gopalaswami said did not augur well with the EC because the independence and neutrality of
the members can be jeopardised by subjecting them to mental pressure and pressure from other vested interests.

'Such an approach would strike at the very foundation of the Election Commission as a neutral body,' he said.

The then CEC said the fact that merited mention here was that from time to time he had taken care to apprise some
select people of these happenings lest they may be labelled as an afterthought.

In regard to the incident of UP elections announcement in 2007 when Chawla wanted deferring the announcement
anticipating imposition of President's rule, which was being demanded by Congress, the matter was then brought to the
notice of then President Abdul Kalam. Gopalaswami said these instances had been mentioned to his immediate predecessors J M Lyngdoh and B B Tandon and a retired Gujarat IAS official.

'It is also necessary to record here that prior to May 2005 in the one year and three months of my experience as Election Commissioner, there was not even one single incident in which there was any remotely partisan view expressed by any
Commissioner on any occasion when the general election to the Parliament 2004 and election to the Legislative assemblies of
Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar (2005) were conducted.

'In the light of the above it would be appropriate to say that the impression of political neutrality of Shri Navin Chawla, Election Commissioner, appear to be well founded as evidenced by his conduct on the occasions cited in Part IV A and Part IV B which the undersigned experienced in the past three and a half years.

'His present conduct seems a part of a continuum of the conduct he had exhibited, of closeness to a certain political formation, during the emergency a little over 30 years ago and more recently, prior to his appointment as EC, when he
received donations for the trusts which he and his family members ran, to the period of the last three and a half years
in the Election Commission'.

Gopalaswami said these would certainly be significant factors in deciding his continuance in the post of an Election
Commissioner. These would equally be significant in determining his suitability to the office of the CEC too. PTI

United efforts needed to face security threats: PM

New Delhi: United efforts are needed to fight terrorists, Maoists and communal forces that pose 'major threats' to our internal security, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday as he asked the state and central governments to face the challenge with firm determination.

'Utmost vigil, sustained and coordinated efforts of the central and state governments are needed. We must periodically review the systems that are in place and ensure the safety and security of our country and our citizens,' Manmohan Singh said while inaugurating the internal security conclave for state chief ministers held here.

The prime minister listed terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast, Maoist insurgency in tribal-dominated central India and communal forces as 'major threats'to the country.

'All of you are aware of the major threats to our security. Hostile groups and elements operate from across the border to perpetrate terrorist acts in our country. The state of Jammu and Kashmir bears the brunt of the acts of these groups.

'There is insurgency and violence in the northeast. Many states are affected by the Leftwing extremism, which I have in the past referred to as the greatest threat to our security.

The prime minister noted that there are also people 'who try to divide our society on communal and regional lines'.

'Each one of these threats require a firm determination and continuous vigil to tackle them. These threats to our society and people constitute a challenge that we shall and must meet at all costs,' he said.

Toyota India chief says global recalls not to hit India sales

6 Feb 2010, PTI

MUMBAI: A day after the Japanese automaker's chief apologised for global recalls, Toyota India's Head said the situation in the US would not affect the Indian market.

"The situation in the US does not affect the models being sold in the Indian market. The recent recall had absolutely no link to India," Toyota Kirloskar Motor's Managing Director, Hiroshi Nakagawa, told PTI on the sidelines of an event here today.

Toyota has recently recalled more than 7.5-million cars worldwide. The company also announed that it will suspend US sales of eight models including the Camry and the Corolla.

"The company's recall of more than 7.5-million cars had absolutely no link to India. We think this is a good chance for us to review quality-related activities here," Nakagawa said, adding the company is undertaking a review of its quality processes.

While the Camry is imported to India from Japan, the company assembles the Corolla at its Bangalore-based facility.

Toyota Camry is one of the largest selling cars in the American market and Corolla is another popular car.

"There has been absolutely no impact of the global recall on our Indian product line-up. We import the Camry from Japan and sell it here as a completely built unit, while the Corolla is manufactured in India with 40 per cent localisation," Nakagawa said.

"There is no defect in either of these models and so no recall in India," he said.

Rush on for luxury cars in India

6 Feb 2010

NEW DELHI: It’s the other extreme of the car market. Away from the mad rush of mass volumes and discounts, this segment thrives on the statements Mercedes E-Class pomp, power, style, speed and the hefty price tags that often range from close to a crore to a whopping Rs 6 crore. And car connoisseurs do not hesitate to write out that fat cheque which many may dismiss as splurging. So, the fight here is more for the finest style statement and the brand than the price.

Welcome to the world of luxury wheels. This is the world of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Mercedes AMG, Maybach, BMW and Porsche — fancied by almost everybody but affordable only for a few, many of whom are discussed as much for their high-profile personality as for the cars they own. And while recession may have dampened spirits, the pockets are still deep enough to indulge, as is evident from the way many of these models are sold out even before they are launched.

Sample the rush. Porsche fears that it will not have enough Panamera sedans to meet the “unanticipated rush’’ in the Indian market despite the model carrying a hefty Rs 1.4-2 crore price tag. It’s the same with Mercedes that has managed as many as five confirmed bookings for the Rs 2 crore SLS-AMG within days of of its launch. Audi also says its R8 sports car beat expectations with bookings even before launch.

And it’s not just about the rush to be the early birds — they also want their cars to be customised. “It’s not a car that these people look for, it’s more of a lifestyle,’’ says Satya Bagla, whose company is the official importer of the Lamborghinis and the Bentleys to India. Bagla says that the brands he deals in cost between Rs 1.6 crore and Rs 3.5 crore. He adds that to their owners, these mean more than just cars.

“This set of customers are demand-ing, and so we offer them the option of having a high-level of customisation. The cars can have special leather, distinct wood finishes, and exclusive emblem of the owners who may spend as much as Rs 30-40 lakh to tune the cars to their needs. At most times, they end up as architects of the car,’’ he says.

Porsche, for example, has a special customisation programme under ‘Porsche Exclusive’. The German sports carmaker spoils customers for choice as one can have over 100 customisations to choose from. So, you can invent your own new colour for the car’s exteriors, or decide to have a burmester music system (that can cost up to Rs 5.5 lakh) on board, or have your initials inscribed on door sills, or even have seat belts in the same colour as the exterior.

Thackeray calls Shah Rukh 'traitor', no apologies says actor

Mumbai: On a day when Bal Thackeray labelled him a 'traitor', Shah Rukh Khan today stuck to his comments on Pakistani players in IPL saying there was nothing 'anti- national' and ruled out meeting the Shiv Sena supremo on his own to sort out the controversy.

'I have not said anything that is anti-national or anti-Indian. I stand by what I said and I would like to say that may be the group has misunderstood me. There is no other reason because I have not said anything I should feel sorry about,' Khan, who arrived here after a whirlwind promotional tour of New York, London and Berlin, told reporters.

'I think what I said has been misconstrued. I am pro good relationship with countries. I think we all are...,' he said. Asked if he would go to Thackeray's home 'Matoshree' to explain his position, Khan said he had gone to the 'senior' leader's residence whenever he was called.

'I have been there so often. Yes, I would like to go and have drink with him. But on this matter, I don't see...there is no reason for going and asking...but if my stand needs to be explained to someone, I have already done it. I don't think there is an issue on that front,' Khan said.

In an editorial in the Sena mouthpiece, Thackeray wrote, 'A Khan named Shah Rukh tells us to love Pakistan but nobody
feels suffocated due to his treachery. Traitors, do whatever you want to do with the blessings of Congress. Sena won't stop

Theactor, however, made it clear that he did not want to join issue with Sena, describing Thackeray as an 'elderly gentleman' whose company he enjoyed. 'He (Bal Thackeray) is an elderly gentleman. He will feel bad if I react on his comments. I have met him several times. He is an artist and I enjoy his company. We had good discussions together. Uddhav is also a photographer. But we never had ideological discussions.' Khan said.

The actor, however, said he did not want to make it an issue.

'Sometimes when we get radical and we get angry we get so aggressive that we don't hear the other point of view. So in
this case may be the group has understood my point of view. I am just talking about being a simple Indian and you can't take
that away from me or any of us,' he said.

On Sena's decision not to stop the release of his upcoming film 'My Name Is Khan', the actor said he felt relieved.

'This (controversy) is not against my film. It is related to me. So I wanted that my film should be seen as a product, which is happening and I respect that and I am very happy. I am very thankful if it is true.'

Asked if the ongoing controversy was helping the film's publicity, he said, 'the film is benefiting from my acting. I don't need anything else for publicity.'

'I pray to god that the film should be released, because that is what I do. I want that everyone should go and see the film,' he added. PTI

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sensex closes below 15800 mark on global cues

Feb 5, 2010
Indian stock markets sank on the worldwide fall after an unexpected increase in the US jobless claims and adding to the woes from the European nations struggling with shooting up budget deficits.

India’s key benchmark index, Sensex witnessed sharp fall in the opening session today beaching the psychological 16,000 mark. The index remained range-bound between 15,935 to 15,811 points down by over 2% from its Thursday’s close.

Metal stocks were the worst hit on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) as metal prices fell on the London Metal Exchange (LME) on 4 February 2010. Index heavyweight Reliance Industries slipped below the Rs.1000 mark, however it regained shortly.

Asian shares plunged following an unexpected increase in US jobless claims and slide in commodities. The key benchmark indices in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan were down by between 1.48% to 3.47%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average index briefly fell below the crucial 10,000 mark, as stocks suffered their worst losses in more than nine months. Escalating sovereign debt problems in Europe and an unexpected rise in jobless claims put investors on the defensive just ahead of Friday's crucial payrolls report.

Thursday, 04 February 2010 proved hampering for the global indices including Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 268.37 points, or 2.61%, to 10,002.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 34.17 points, or 3.11%, to 1,063.11. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 65.48 points, or 2.99%, to 2,125.43.

US economic data on Thursday showed initial jobless claims rose by 8,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 480,000. This is against economists' expectation of a drop of 10,000.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England (BOE) kept interest rates at record lows on Thursday as financial markets looked for guidance on growing eurozone debt problems.

Investors withdrew $516 million from Asian equities outside of Japan in the week ended 3 February 2010, the research company said in a statement. Within Asia, China equity funds reported net outflows for the fifth time in six weeks while Indian funds lost $180 million, the most in 68 weeks, according to the statement.

Following rising prices of potato and pulses, food inflation rose to 17.56% in the week ended 23 January 2010 from 17.40% in the previous week, government data released on Thursday showed. The inflation for primary articles, which include food and non-food items, marginally eased to 14.56% in the reporting week from 14.66% in the previous week. The fuel price index rose 5.88%.

India's largest private sector steel maker by capacity Tata Steel slumped 3.51% to Rs 556.90 and was the top loser from the Sensex pack. Hindalco Industries (down 2.5%), Sterlite Industries (down 1.43%), National Aluminium Company (down 3.98%), Sesa Goa (down 3.08%), and Hindustan Zinc (down 4.49%), edged lower.

Index heavyweight Reliance Industries (RIL) fell 1.31% to Rs.1006.50, after sliding to day's low of Rs.995.05. The company's net profit rose 15.77% to Rs.4008 crore on 89.77% surge in total income to Rs.57364 crore in Q3 December 2009 over Q3 December 2008. RIL said the results had been reworked and restated to include figures from Reliance Petroleum, which it absorbed last year. The company announced the Q3 result during market hours on 22 January 2010.

India, China have major role in revival of global economy: IMF


The International Monetary Fund has said India and China are playing a significant role in the revival of the global economy.

“When you have two relatively large economies growing at 7 and 10 per cent, respectively, India and China, they are contributing quite a lot to global growth,” IMF Deputy Director, Asia and Pacific Department, Kalpana Kochhar said during a teleconference here.

“Our forecast for global growth for next year is close to 4 per cent. I think it’s 3.9 per cent, of which advanced countries are only contributing less than two per cent. So the rest of it is in fact coming from emerging markets, and from within emerging markets, a large part from China and India,” Ms. Kochhar said.

“So it’s a significant contribution that’s coming from these two countries,” the IMF official said in response to a question.

In response to a question, Ms. Kochhar said the Indian rupee is broadly in line with fundamentals.

“We have a number of ways in which we look at whether the value of any currency, including the rupee, is in line with what we call fundamentals. Our assessment in the case of the Indian rupee is that it is broadly in line with fundamentals,” she said.

“Our assessment actually hasn’t changed in a couple of years that this is the case, and we believe this is because of the policy of the RBI to allow the exchange rate to float and to move in both directions in line with market forces,” Ms. Kochhar said.

IMF Division Chief, Asia and Pacific Department, Laura Papi said India is not the only country facing large capital inflows. “A lot of emerging markets are facing that situation.

Actually India itself has faced that situation a couple of years ago, and the authorities have handled it well.”

Of course, with the floating currency, it would mean that the currency could appreciate in response to inflows. If the inflows were to be seen as contributing to asset price bubbles, the RBI in the past also employed some prudential measures. That could be also employed, Ms. Papi said.

“There is also quite a healthy outflow out of India for, mainly for FDI purposes, which would reduce the pressure on the currency.

“In the past, the central bank has also used its policy on external commercial borrowing in response to capital inflows. So we feel that the authorities have a good mix of tools that could be employed if capital inflows surge very significantly,” the IMF official said.

PVR, Inox among 550 screens roped in for IPL

5 Feb 2010, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Get ready to watch live matches of the third edition of Indian Premier League(IPL) on the big screen. Digital distribution company UFO Moviez has stuck strategic alliances with multiplex operators such as PVR, Inox, Fame and Cinemax, besides several single screen theatres, to showcase the T20 tournament across 550 screens.

"Before the IPL’s third season begins we hope to expand these alliances to about 1,000 screens. We will also create a stadium like experience at these cinemas with cheerleaders, music and IPL merchandise stalls," said Kapil Agarwal, joint managing director UFO Moviez India.

He added that for consumers the ticket prices for these matches will be comparable to the weekend movie tickets, which typically has a premium of upto 50% to the weekday price of around Rs 100-150 . The ticket for the semi-final and final matches will be sold at a higher price.

UFO Moviez is offering matches on revenue share arrangements per match as well as in packages of 10-30 matches to theater and multiplex owners.

The company is in talks with brands to advertise on-air at the beginning and the end of a match and during strategy breaks. In addition, UFO Moviez would tap local sponsors to advertise at the cinemas screening IPL matches and expects to rake in Rs 40-50 crore through ticket sales and advertising in the first year.

Box office collections were hit during the first two seasons of IPL with no big movies being released at that time. UFO Moviez believes IPL matches screening offers an alternate revenue stream for cinema owners.

Late last year, Entertainment and Sports Direct , an arm of private equity group Dar Capital had bagged the global theatrical rights of IPL till 2019 for Rs 330 crore.

It had then assigned the Indian theatrical rights to Crown Infotainment which is owned by a group of Indian businessmen. UFO Moviez is a sister company of Crown Infotainment.

Diamond-studded flat in Chennai for Rs 8 cr

Jan 2010

CHENNAI: A city-based builder is all set to promote Chennai’s costliest apartment project, where each flat will be priced at Rs 8 crore and have a foyer studded with diamonds, precious stones and pearls.

Christened The Art, the project derives its theme from the cubist paintings of the legendary Pablo Picasso. A limited-edition super luxury residential complex, it is being promoted by Vijay Shanthi Builders on Kothari Road in the heart of Nungambakkam.

The previous record for the most expensive residential apartment in the city was one promoted by Kgeyes developers in the posh Poes Garden at Rs 7.46 crore per unit in 2007. PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi had bought one of the four flats in the project, which is located in the area where AIADMK leader Jayalalitha and actor Rajnikanth have their residences.

The latest project has an opulent style, which is unusual even by the standards of high-end apartments. The marble floor of the foyer in every flat will be engraved with a peacock, studded with precious stones.

Suresh Kumar, MD of the Vijay Shanthi group, told TOI: ‘‘Our aim is to create homes that are unique, luxurious and provide value for money. It is meant only for those who want to make a statement of luxury in impeccable style.’’ Mumbai-based BNK Associates is the architect of the complex, which has only 21 apartments in three blocks, with each flat measuring roughly 5,300 sq ft.

The builder had bought the 22-ground (each ground is 2,400 sq ft) plot at the peak of the real estate boom two years ago for Rs 71.5 crore.