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August - September 2006


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Massacre in mumbai

Serial bomb blasts on mumbai trains kill over 200 people and injure over 700.

With frightening accuracy and dehumanised clockwork barbarism, the so-called Islamic terrrorists blasted eight bombs in the evening rush-hour trains in Mumbi. The Government of Maharashtra and the central government were taken aback and almost lost control of the situation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Mumbai to take stock of the situation on Friday. The blast was on Tuesday. In his press conference he accused Pakistan for not doing enough to stop exporting terrorism, appealed for communal harmony in the country and assured the country that the culprits would be caught and punished.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, the minister of state for external affairs Mr Anand Sharma announced that foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for later this month have been postponed. He said, “The confidence-building mechanism and the peace process have to be reciprocal. While India has delivered, Pakistan has not done so on its assurance that its territory will not be used for violence and terror against India.” Sharma’s statement is significant as the peace lobbies in both countries keep on harping that not all terrorists are under the control of Pakistan government. If even now the UPA government takes strong measures on home front and in its relations with Pakistan, there could be some semblance of law and order in India and Jammu and Kashmir. As it is, people of India find themselves powerless in the face of non-action by central and some state governments against the rising tide of barbaric acts by a group of Islamic terrorist groups covertly supported by Pakistan’s army and even Iran.


Should there be more emphasis on home turf!

Few will deny that L. N. Mittal has done India proud by becoming the top industrialist in the arena of steel with Arcelor finally giving in to pressure and agreeing to merge with his global behemoth. The message is loud and clear. India is leading the emerging markets in the foray into developed economies, threatening to tilt the balance of corporate power. Arcelor -Mittal will be No. 1 in steel the world over. L. N. Mittal will be board president with 45.5% of the new entity. The combined entity will have a revenue of $72 billion, accounting for 10% of world steel, three times India’s production. L. N. Mittal is looked upon with great admiration in the West. A lot of French entrepreneurs for instance welcome his entry into the entertainment world like Rupert Murdoch’s.

But a big question mark hangs over such spectacular success. Why are Indian industrialists and entrepreneurs going global? Swraj Paul, another steel magnate, has struck root in the UK. The answer is simple. They seek pastures abroad because they get better opportunities there. Tatas are also forging ahead to be multinationals with the merger with Tetley in the UK. It is true that the giant corporations in the developed countries are always spreading out to countries where there are vast untapped markets. But should India, a developing economy, go the same way?

It should be in the national interest if big companies in India put the focus on development on the home turf to create emploment and alleviate poverty. Is it a fact that Indian companies still feel the pinch of stepmotherly treatment? Since the advent of reform-liberalisation of the inspector raj- the hurdles in the way of expansion in their own country are not so steep. But yet, globalisation has created problems. Doors have been opened to MNCs to capture a sizeable part of the Indian market.


Foodgrains price rise in India

Policy makers in India have always preened themselves during the last decade or more over the fact that “inflation has been kept under check here”, unlike what has been happening in the neighbourhood or in the advanced countries. Both the outgoing NDA and now the UPA-led government have claimed credit for this.

Well, the self-congratulatory mode has ended sharply these last few weeks, following a massive nationwide increase in the prices of pulses, tomatoes, onions and other common vegetables, edible oil, and medicines. Even earlier, experts had issued warnings that the price line was rising steadily and the government had better take note.

Of course, there was no official initiative of any kind. The Union Finance Minister stoutly kept defending the performance of the government, appearing on English TV channels catering to rising middle class tastes. First the Hindi channels and then others too, brought home the horrors of the situation as harassed not-so-rich consumers vented their anger over the new prices.

Undoubtedly here is stagnation in the production of wheat, pulses and sugar. This stagnation is because the government has never accorded priority to the interests of the farmers, who find themselves squeezed increasingly by the new economic policies.

Why have so many farmers committed suicide all over India since liberalisation came into force? Because India inc does not bother about them.

We are informed that total production of wheat in the country is 72 million tonnes, which is enough for the entire population. But where the government had a target of procuring 16 million tonnes, it procured only 9 million tons, the lowest in recent years? Result? Private players took advantage of the shortage in some areas and played havoc.

Whereas the minimum support price for wheat is officially Rs 7000 per tonne, the price of each tonne imported wheat is Rs 10,000, apart from eased quality norms No wonder the people below the poverty line, (85% of the population according to some estimates) are suffering. (BE Kol)


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