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Monday, November 28, 2011

Mullaperiyar water overflows in Kerala

The Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar river started overflowing on Sunday after the water level touched the maximum 136-foot limit following heavy rain in its catchment area for the last two days. The excess water is flowing into the Idukki dam.

To avert any untoward situation, the Tamil Nadu Government has requested Kerala to draw more water from the Mullaperiyar dam.

Following the development, Idukki Collector E Devadasan has issued warnings to those residing along the Periyar river. Control rooms have been opened in the Idukki Collectorate and main towns. According to Devadasan, the district administration is geared up to face any eventuality.

Meanwhile, different parts of Kerala witnessed people taking to the streets on Sunday to protest against the deadlock over the construction of a new dam to replace the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam. They burnt the effigy of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha and blocked the Kerala-Tamil Nadu highway.

In addition, the ruling United Democratic Front and the opposition Left Democratic Front have called a dawn-to-dusk strike in Idukki district in Kerala on Monday, demanding the intervention of the Union Government into the issue.

While the people of Kerala fear that the Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar river is on the verge of collapsing, endangering around 3.5 million people, the Tamil Nadu Government which controls the dam is against dismantling the present structure. The dam provides water to four districts in Tamil Nadu.

Hundreds of protesters, including women and children, gathered at Vandiperiyar town near the dam raising slogans against Jayalalitha and Kerala ministers for taking a soft stance on the issue. Vehicular traffic was disrupted.

Meanwhile, E J Bijimol, MLA of the Peermede constituency, has threatened to launch an indefinite hunger strike demanding the construction of a new dam.

In Kollam district, protesters burnt the effigy of Jayalalitha and staged a roadblock, disrupting traffic from Kerala to Tamil Nadu through the Theni road. Meanwhile, the Kerala Congress (Mani), a constituent of ruling United Democratic Front, is planning to stage agitations in Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts, demanding the immediate construction of a new dam.

Kerala Irrigation Minister P J Joseph said he wants to organise awareness campaigns in those affected districts of Tamil Nadu.

Mullaperiyar dam: High alert in Idduki

A high alert has been issued in Idduki as the water level in Mullaperiyar dam on Monday crossed 136 ft, the maximum permissible storage limit. All the shutters of the dam have been opened and water is flowing to the Idukki dam and to other dams of the district like Cheruthni and Kulamavu.

On Monday morning, the water level reached 136.6 ft causing serious concern over the safety of the 116-year-old dam. It is also spilling over five out of the 13 spillways and rising every hour as heavy rain continues in most parts of the district. Thousands of residents in the downstream of the dam like Chappath, Upputhara, Kumili, Kattappana and Vandanmedu are a worried lot.

The district authorities had set up disaster management units. District collector E Devadasan said all arrangements had been made to meet any emergency situation.

Meanwhile, the hartal called by both the United Democratic Front and Left Democratic Front was total in the district and there is now a strong agitation to de-commission the dam immediately and construct a new one. The BJP has called for a 12-hour hartal in Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Alappuzha districts tomorrow (November 29).

Thousands of people including women and children blocked the Kollam-Theni national highway and other roads. Effigies of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa were burnt at several places. Hundreds of vehicles, including those carrying pilgrims to Sabarimala, were held up in the blockade for several hours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sensex, Nifty crash - hit lowest level in two years

Indian markets have closed with deep cuts Wednesday as foreign funds liquidated funds on the back of weakening rupee and economy. The Sensex and Nifty closed with over 2 per cent cuts after falling to near two-year lows in intraday trade.

The Sensex ended 365 points lower at 15,699.99 while the broader Nifty index closed at 4,706.45, falling 105.90 points. Earlier, the Sensex had fallen nearly 600 points (intraday low of 15,478.69) while the Nifty had slipped below the 4,700 mark (4,640) for the first time since February, 2010.

Indian markets have now fallen over 20 per cent year to date.

Global cues were not supportive. Economic growth slowed down in the US and Chinese manufacturing data raised further concerns of another recession. Asian markets witnessed sharp decline too. Markets in Taiwan and South Korea fell more than Indian indices. Most European markets were trading with 0.5-1 per cent losses when Indian markets closed.

Analysts said the selloff was driven by foreign institutional investors (FII), who fear a slowdown in the country's economy and a possible downgrade by major rating agencies soon.

"The underlying retail investors in the western world are pulling out money from the risk assets, whether in the emerging markets or developed markets... FII fund managers have to find cash for which they have to sell," Saurav Mukherjea of Ambit Capital said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that withdrawals by foreign institutional investors and weakness in the rupee led to the market crash.

"The currency factor is clearly not helping. It has really hurt investor returns. What is causing the sellout is that they (FIIs) don't see any reason for the rupee to pullback to 45," he added. The rupee has fallen nearly 14 per cent in the last quarter alone. However, the currency was trading higher today, possibly on the back of intervention by the central bank.

Banking, energy, capital goods and IT stocks ended with 2-3 per cent cuts. Consumer durables were the only group of stocks to close with gains. These stocks had fallen sharply yesterday. Most other sectoral indices ended with over 1 per cent cut.

Public sector power major NTPC was the only stock to end with gains on the Sensex. Infrastructure firm Jaiprakash Associates was the top loser on the Sensex, falling over 5 per cent. HDFC Bank, Bharti Airtel, BHEL and Wipro ended 3-4 per cent lower.

On the Nifty, Reliance Communications gained 0.5 per cent after the Supreme Court granted bail to three executives of ADAG group in the 2G case.

DB Realty and Unitech also gained after the court granted bail to their promoters. SKS Microfinance ended with 5 per cent gains ahead of the board meeting. The company's founder Vikram Akula is likely to resign.

The market breadth was extremely weak with an overwhelming 85 per cent stocks declining on the broader BSE 500 index.

Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia's JaxtrSMS to allow free SMSes

lMUMBAI: Jaxtr Inc, founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Yogesh Patel, on Wednesday launched JaxtrSMS, a cross-platform open texting application to send SMSes to anyone in the world for free.

"We have developed this application that runs on all mobile applications in the world, including iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys, J2MEs, where one can send unlimited free text messages from his phone to any mobile phone in the world," Jaxtr Inc CEO and co-founder and co-founder of Hotmail Sabeer Bhatia told reporters here.

At present it is very expensive for sending international SMSes costing Rs 5 per message, he said.

JaxtrSMS, which was developed in the country, is expecting at least 100 million subscriber base globally, he added.

"We witnessed tremendous response to this application during the soft launch where users across 197 countries downloaded it in a few weeks and expect 100 million subscribers by end of next year," Bhatia said.

The company will generate revenue through advertisements and premium services like archiving texts, multimedia, video etc, which will be available by mid next year, he said.

The premium services will be available for the subscribers at a very nominal cost, Bhatt said.

"We are talking with advertisers," he said. The US-based company is looking at USD 10-15 million investment in JaxtrSMS in another couple of months. "We are in talks with a few investors and are looking at investing USD 10-15 million in a couple of months time," he added.

Bhatia said this application would be in accordance with the regulatory provisions of the country. Globally, there are 4.2 billion texters worldwide and it is expected to reach 12 trillion by 2015.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Swamy will get copy of file in 2 days: CBI to court

Subramanian Swamy close to nailing Chidambaram in 2G scam?

Are P. Chidambaram's days under the sun numbered? At least Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy believes so.

Swamy, who has kept the heat on the home minister with his allegation that Chidambaram was complicit in the 2G scam, on Tuesday approached the special court with a complaint that the CBI, despite a court order, is yet to give him a file of letters that he believes will implicate the home minister in the case.

The CBI, in turn, told special judge O.P. Saini that it would provide the file - containing correspondence between former telecom minister A. Raja (currently in jail in the 2G scam) and Chidambaram - to Swamy by Thursday. "The court heard my complaint. It (the CBI) has now promised to give me the file by 5 pm on Thursday," Swamy said after the court proceedings. "I will look over the document and then bring it to the court on the next day of hearing (December 3)."

The special court had on November 8 ordered the CBI to give Swamy the file, saying it was satisfied that he needed them to pursue his complaint in the 2G scam.

"Complainant (Swamy) has filed an application that the file relating to UASL policy regarding the sale of equity (lock-in period) was seized by the CBI," the court had said, in its order. "After hearing the complainant, I am satisfied that a copy of the aforesaid file would facilitate the prosecution of this case. Accordingly, the CBI is directed to supply a photocopy of the file to the complainant at the earliest."

A week later, Swamy told the court that the agency was dillydallying and was yet to provide him the file. "This file contains crucial information about share dilution, which is central to the Prevention of Corruption Act levelled against these accused. How can they claim that it is not traceable? One newspaper says that it has been moved around, another says something else. I'm worried that it might be tampered with," Swamy said.

CBI counsel A.K. Singh, however, told Swamy that the agency would provide him with the file once it has been found among tens of thousands of documents it had seized in connection with the 2G case. Swamy claims the file includes sufficient evidence to prove Chidambaram's involvement, including signing on spectrum guidelines regarding the dilution of shares and the sale of equity. He claims that it was Chidambaram who told Raja that he can permit Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless to offload shares to foreign firms Etisalat and Telenor, respectively, who had been blacklisted by the home ministry on separate occasions.

The CBI's chargesheet claims Shahid Balwa's Swan Telecom, which paid `1,537 crore for licences in 13 circles, was allowed to offload 45 per cent of its shares to UAEbased Etisalat for Rs.4,200 crore. The agency also claims Unitech Wireless offloaded 60 per cent of its shares to Norway-based Telenor for Rs.6,200 crore.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dr.Abdul Kalam suggests 10-pt programme for Kudankulam

Chennai: Four-lane highways, a mega desalination plant, construction of houses, schools, hospitals as well as cold storages are amongst the suggestions to the central government made by former president A.P.J. Kalam for the development of Kudankulam and surrounding areas in Tamil Nadu.

In a report, Kalam, who Sunday visited the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district and believes the plant is totally safe, said the 10-point Kudankulam PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) programme should be implemented by 2015. It involves an outlay of around Rs.200 crore and is aimed at benefiting Kudankulam and its 60 odd neighbouring villages.

The 39-page report has been authored by Kalam and his advisor V. Ponraj. It will be submitted to the state and central governments, Ponraj told IANS.

The report asks New Delhi to link Kudankulam and other villages in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, with Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Madurai.

Industries that can provide direct employment to around 10,000 people should be located within a 30-60 km radius of Kudankulam and youth should be extended subsidised loans for starting their own business ventures, suggest Kalam and Ponraj.

They also suggest the building of 'green houses', apartments for people living along the shores of Kudankulam and neighbouring areas.

For the benefit of fishing community small jetties, fish processing units, cold storages should be built.

On providing drinking water to the populace, Kalam, a former nuclear and missile scientist, has suggested setting up a one million litres per day desalination plant and also bringing water from Pechiparai dam for drinking as well as agricultural use.

The report has also recommended building a 500-bed hospital in Kudankulam area, setting up tele-medicine hospitals in all villages and two mobile hospitals with facilities to carry out diagnostic tests.

The setting up of five state board and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) stream schools with hostel facilities, provision of broadband connections and disaster management centre and provision of higher education with proper training to selected youth and placing them in a permanent job are the other suggestions.

According to the report, the government should also start other schemes in consultation with the local populace.

It should allay fears of the people about the Kudankulam nuclear power plant by providing them proper information.

The report went on to say that the central government should join hands with the state government to start generation of power at Kudankulam that houses the safest reactors in the world.

India's nuclear power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam.

The first unit is expected to go on stream in December. The project is estimated to cost around Rs.13,160 crore (over $2.5 billion).

However, villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident and the long-term impact it would have on the population.

Their agitation has put a stop to the project work, thereby delaying the commissioning of the first unit by several months.

According to the report, Tirunelveli district is expected to attract an investment of around Rs.20,000 crore with the setting up of the 4,000 MW (2,000 MW existing and 2,000 MW in the future) nuclear power plant which would feed the state nearly 50 percent of the power produced.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kingfisher in trouble with Wooping 6000 crore debt

Last fiscal its losses stood at 1027 crores, and its total debts stands at a whooping 6000 crores. The flamboyant owner of the company Vijay Mallaya has asked for government help to stay afloat.

Bad times has hit the king of good times. Kingfisher Airlines has hit turbulence and it needs government help to keep flying, that is the message coming from the Mallaya camp.

The carrier has cut a number of flights to cut costs, and has amassed huge debts that it becoming increasingly hard to pay off. An exodus of pilots has not helped matters.

The airline which was launched by Kingfisher, the beer bigwig, in the go-go years for Indian Airlines has yet to post any profits, five years from its launch.

It has amassed huge debts to oil companies, airport authority of India and to private airport operators like GVK and GMR.

Last fiscal its losses stood at 1027 crores, and its total debts stands at a whooping 6000 crores. The flamboyant owner of the company Vijay Mallaya has asked for government help to stay afloat.

The airline owes huge amounts to oil companies, the Airports Authority of India and private airport operators GVK and GMR Group. The airline has not posted any profit since its launch five years ago, and reported a net loss of Rs.1,027 crore last fiscal and Rs.263 crore in the last quarter.

Mallaya has asked the government to give it time to pay off oil companies, and facilitate lending from banks.

However, BJP is against any government help for the troubled company. Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, opposed the move saying the government can’t bail out a private company. If Mallaya was unable to pay his debts, it was upto him to find ways to get out of the mess, Sinha said.
The bailout, which has become popular in recent years, perhaps due to the major bailouts engineered by US and Europe for their troubled companies at the height of the financial crisis, is an unfair use of public money for private sector entities.

When profits go to the companies themselves, it stands to reason that they should be the one bearing the losses, and the risks.

The question is, does facilitating loans from private banks fall in the same category as a bailout. And will banks be willing to lend to Kingfisher without some sort of government guarantee that it will pick up the tab if Kingfisher fails?
The recent turmoil in the airline started after it reduced 32 flights from its daily schedule, a move which the company said was taken to rationalise route plans and improve yields.

However, this was seen only as another sign of distress by the stock markets.

The company’s stock at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), declined over 19 percent in early trade to a new low of Rs.17.55. It however pared some of the losses and closed the day at 19.65, down 9.45 percent.

Also, the airline saw about 100 pilots quitting recently, but the company’s chief executive said such attrition levels were normal for the aviation business.

“Some 100 pilots have quit over the several months. There is a natural attrition which happens in any airline. UB group has continued to support us, so there is no question about the future or the viability of the airline,” Sanjay Aggarwal, chief executive Kingfisher Airlines, told a news channel.

In the backdrop of a 30 percent increase in jet fuel prices since December 2010, the domestic airlines’ are expected to lose Rs.3,500 crore in the first six months of this fiscal.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Massive Solar Flare - Giant Sunspot Unleashes

.A powerful solar flare that erupted Thursday (Nov. 3) from a huge blemish on the sun's surface has been classified as an X1.9 flare, ranking it in among the most powerful types of storms from our star can unleash.

The flare originated in a humongous sunspot that was sighted earlier this week, which ranks as one of the largest sunspots seen in years. The event began at 4:27 p.m. ET (2027 GMT).

The flare "triggered some disruption to radio communications on Earth beginning about 45 minutes later," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "Scientists are continuing to watch this active region as it could well produce additional solar activity as it passes across the front of the sun."

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin Stereo sun-watching spacecraft snapped photos and video of the huge solar flare during solar storm.

A flare is a powerful release of energy that brightens the sun, and is often associated with an area of increased magnetic activity on the solar surface. This magnetic activity can also inhibit the flow of heat to the surface in a process called convection, creating darkened areas on the face of the sun called sunspots.

The huge active region on the sun right now, called AR11339, is about 50,000 miles (80,000 km) long, several times wider than the Earth.

"This large and complex active region just rotated onto the disk and we will watch it for the next 10 days," astronomers with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite wrote in an update.

Later on the same day as the flare, in another area of the sun, a burst of charged particles called a coronal mass ejection released from the surface. This eruption came from the back side of the sun and is headed toward the planet Venus, so should not pose any risk to Earth.

Because NASA has a suite of spacecraft observing the sun at all times from many directions, the agency was able to observe the coronal mass ejection as well as the solar flare.

Scientists say we probably haven't seen the last of activity from this dynamic region of the sun.

"The large, bright active region remains potent," officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Odds are good there's more to come."

And recent events are just part of a larger ramping up of action on the sun lately, as our star moves toward the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle around 2013.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Narendra Modi plans world's biggest stupa near new Maruti plant site

AHMEDABAD: In a bid to turn Gujarat into a pilgrim place for countries which follow Buddhism, chief minister Narendra Modi is pulling out all stops to build the world's biggest stupa, over 100 km from the place Suzuki has chosen for the biggest Maruti plant in North Gujarat.

The project will cost Rs 1,000 crore, centred around a 351-ft high stupa towering over a 151-ft statue of Lord Buddha. The site - Dev-ni-Mori in Sabarkantha district - is two km away from Shamlaji temple located on the Ahmedabad-Delhi National Highway. An active archeological site, this is the 5th place in the world where Buddha's body relics have been found.

The relics are at present kept wrapped in a silk cloth in a gold-plated casket at the archaeology department of MS University in Vadodara. A team from the department then headed by well-known archaeologist and professor B Subbarao had unearthed the ashes belonging to third or fourth century in Dev-ni-Mori in 1957. It was shifted to Vadodara as the site was getting submerged under the Meshwo dam. Prominent archaeologist and former MSU professor V H Sonawane says the casket's inscription refers to it as bodily remains of Buddha.

Modi is not only eyeing foreign tourists from the Buddhist world but also big business from South-East Asia economies like Japan and South Korea which have lined up bigticket investments here. Of 22 companies which evinced interest in the project, Gujarat has shortlisted two from China, a country Modi is visiting next week.

Lord Buddha himself visited several places in Gujarat. Excavations of stupas and viharas suggest that Buddhism came to Gujarat during his lifetime itself. Chinese traveller Huen Tsang has mentioned about the several monasteries in the Vadnagar-Vijaynagar region and that almost 1,300 monks lived here.

Modi may also steal the thunder of his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, who has been actively promoting Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and other sites. This may enhance his appeal among dalits - a large number of them being Buddhists - besides tribals who also have belief in the Buddha sites in North Gujarat.

Bihar would, of course, not be able to match the money power of Gujarat which plans to spruce up the stupa site with resorts, retreats, ecotourism and a riverfront on the Meshwo. About 100 acres of land have been notified for it and more may be acquired.

China visit: Narendra Modi says no to 'state hospitality'

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has refused “state hospitality” during his visit to China next week, The Indian Express learnt on Thursday.

Modi, who will be in Shanghai and Beijing from November 8-12, has reportedly told the Congress-led UPA government that he will not avail of “state hospitality” in China.

“He was offered state hospitality, as is customary for any visiting chief minister, but he has refused it,” a source said.

According to government rules, “state hospitality” means the Indian embassy in the country takes care of the accommodation, food and transport of a visiting Indian leader.

The visiting leader also gets a dearness allowance, which varies from country to country. For instance, for China, it comes to about US $100 per day.

The Gujarat CM, however, has not cited any reason for bearing his own expenses.

South Korean envoy meets Narendra Modi

South Korean, envoy, meets, Narendra Modi Ahmedabad: South Korean Ambassador Kim Joong Keun on Thursday met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and expressed his country's interest in collaborating with the state in infrastructure and other areas.

Showing interest in sectors like auto, shipping, electronics and knowledge industries, Keun urged the Chief Minister to establish trade relations between Kyunggi province of South Korea and Gujarat, official sources said.

Modi appraised the visiting envoy of how Gujarat was developing as a car manufacturing hub, with Tata, Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Maruti having decided to set up plants.

Gujarat's doors were open to Korean auto major Hyundai, Modi told Keun, sources said.

The Chief Minister also invited Korean ship-building companies to set up units in Gujarat, assuring land off the sea coast.

Modi told the Ambassador that his government was keen to develop ship-building industries along the 1,600 km-long state coastline and also construct the world's largest man-made fresh water reservoir, sources added.

Modi also invited Korean companies to set up facilities in electronic zone in Gandhinagar and in Dholera SIR.