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October - November 2006


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Bismillah Khan dead
“Music was his religion”

Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan passed away due to a heart attack in Varanasi early morning on Monday. He was 90.

Khan was admitted to the Heritage Hospital on August 17 for treatment of electrolyte imbalance, family sources said.

The hospital authorities had even talked of discharging him in three to four days as he was improving day by day. However, his health deteriorated after midnight and he died around 2:30 am, they added.

Born on March 21, 1916, Khan was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2001. He was also honoured with the Sangeet Natak Academi Award, the Tansen Award and the prestigious Padma Vibhushan.


Indian Astrology & the downgrading of Pluto

Indian astrologers said the announcement about dropping Pluto as a planet had endorsed the mathematical and astrological treatises written by Aryabhatta and Varahamihira centuries ago.

"Indian astrology did not include Pluto as a planet and the latest announcement by leading global astronomers after a marathon week-long meeting at Prague only endorsed the Indian mathematical astrology of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira in the sixth century," eminent mathematical astrologer Mangal Prasad said.

"Western astrology uses Pluto as a planet while Pluto was always out of Indian astrology and we do not use it in our calculations. This is the practice from the days of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira," Prasad said.

"Indian astrology is mathematically concerned with the nine planets, two of which are Raghu and Ketu that are nothing but derivatives from the diameter of earth, which is a circle having a value pi (22/7) embedded in the equator of earth," he said.

"This was discovered and mathematically shown by Aryabhatta and Varahamihira in the sixth century during the golden period of the Guptas," said Prasad, the author of books based on the work of the two great sixth-century scientists.

Indian astrology is concerned more with astronomy and the derivations are from the equator of the earth, diameter of the moon, the solar year and how the planets are viewed in the northern latitudinal region during January and February, soon after the sun has crossed the Tropic of Capricon and moved towards the northern part of the hemisphere,” he said.


Bollywood Films more successful in UK than in India

Bollywood films are more successful in the UK than home-grown productions, with nine Indian productions making it into top ten and three scooping more than one million pounds at box office last year.

A record 74 Indian films were released in the United Kingdom in 2005, compared to just 61 British productions.

"During the last 12 months, nine Bollywood films have entered the top 10 list of films compared with just seven British ones," reported The Sunday Telegraph of London.

Bollywood films, which have achieved significant success in UK include Garam Masala, Krrish and Dosti: Friends Forever.

Garam Masala, a romantic comedy, collected £292,033 in its opening weekend, where as science fiction epic, Krrish made £210,499 during the same period. The drama, Dosti: Friends Forever, which entered the UK box office chart at number five after grossing £146,069 in its opening weekend also made good business. Each of the three films have now grossed around one million pounds.

Almost one in six of all films released in Britain last year (16 per cent) were in Hindi while Bollywood produced 11 of the 20 most successful foreign-language films released in the UK in 2005.

Successful Bollywood films can now expect to make more than two million pounds at the British box office and, despite expensive publicity drives and all star casts, a number of high-profile British productions have been eclipsed by Indian films, the report said.

For example, Fanaa, a romantic drama, collected more than £300,000 in its opening weekend while The Libertine starring Johnny Depp, took £278,000 over the same period. So far Fanaa has taken a total of £1,176,000, almost double that earned by The Libertine.

In addition to the seven British films, which made it to the top 10 over the course of the last 12 months, another 14 films classed as British co-production entered the charts.

These included George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, and Woody Allen's Match Point. When Anglo-American productions are added, the number of British films released in the UK in 2005 rises to 89.

The unprecedented level of commercial success has been fuelled by a new generation of young British Asians whose appetite for Indian films means that three of Britain's largest cinema chains, Cineworld, Vue and UCI, now routinely screen Hindi language films.

Bobby Bedi, the Bollywood producer behind cinema successes including The Rising and Bandit Queen, said: "Young British Asians have more money than they have ever had and they are going out more than they used to."

"These films are now showing at multiplexes as opposed to sub-standard venues which used to be the case." Bedi said the Bollywood films, all of which were subtitled, had developed a far broader appeal than just the Indian community.

"Television programmes like ‘The Kumars At No 42’ mean non-Asian audiences are more familiar with India. They are much more willing to engage with Indian movies," he said attributing the box office success to the distinctive character of Bollywood.

"Although Indian films have become more successful, they have not changed in character. No one is looking to Bollywood to make The Full Monty. Indian cinema is celebratory in nature and watching it is like going to India itself. You go to India to see the Taj Mahal, you go there to ride an elephant," Bedi said.

The success of Indian films has encouraged some British-based Indian directors to experiment with the traditional genre of Bollywood films.

Last year, Gurinder Chadha, who directed Bend It Like Beckham, topped the UK charts with Bride and Prejudice, her Bollywood take on the Jane Austen novel. Michael Gubbins, the editor of Screen International, predicted further success for Bollywood films if producers and directors continued to adapt their work to local tastes.

"A lot of British-based directors of Indian origin are beginning to look at how the genre could develop in the future," Gubbins said.

NRIs set up trusts in India

Non-resident Indians are setting up trusts in India to manage their money and ring-fence a part of their wealth. Since January, more than 10 NRI families from the Middle East, Hong Kong, Thailand and countries with unfriendly political regimes like Fiji have hired professional trustees in India. The money put into such trusts is being invested in Indian stocks and other local assets.

Besides the India success story, which is driving several NRIs to allocate a bigger slice of their investment here, they think buying stocks through a trust is easier than the portfolio investment scheme (PIS). Some of the portfolio managers in brokerages and wealth management divisions of large banks are also marketing the trust route to their NRI clients. Corporate trustees and other providers of trust services have been selling the concept of trust as a succession planning tool to local high net worth individuals for a few years now. The interest from NRIs, however, is fairly recent.

"There could be different reasons why this is happening. A trust is a bankruptcy remote structure... if an NRI runs into financial difficulties, his personal wealth can be preserved through a trust, where the beneficiaries are clearly identified. But the real reason could be a greater interest in India as an investment destination," says Adrish Ghosh of IL&FS Trust Company, which has set up about seven trusts for NRIs in India in the past few months.

Just like the PMS, a trust can be either discretionary or non-discretionary, depending on whether the NRI would like to take the investment decision personally or leave it to the trust. In the latter case, the trust would have to appoint a fund manager. The regulatory glare on investment through participatory notes (PNs), and new disclosure formats which require naming the beneficiaries of PNs, may also have led some NRIs (who are not allowed to invest through PNs) to prefer trusts. According to market sources, an FII registered in the UK has recently been directed by regulators to unwind its subaccounts through which NRIs were investing.

Significantly, the money from different kinds of NRI bank accounts can also be transferred to a trust for investment in assets in India. Since money can be repatriated from NRI bank accounts, subject to certain norms by the Reserve Bank of India, the trust can also repatriate the money.


India’s Leather Industry - a world leader

With the changing global trade environment, India now has an opportunity to overtake China as the leader in the world leather industry.

Already ranking second in leather exports throughout the world, with exports worth $2.5 billion, the country’s leather industry has set a target of $7 billion by 2010.

To discuss the possibilities of achieving this target CNBC-TV18 and DHL held an International Leather Summit in Agra last month which was attended by the industry experts who debated and reflected on critical issues facing this sector ranging from the strategy of global benchmarking to the need for an FDI policy for the industry.

Strategies to enhance government support and appropriate strategies to remain globally competitive were also discussed.

Dawar Footwear Managing Director Puran Dawar said the need of the day was to change the complete mentality of the industry which had stagnated in terms of design, labour issues and technological advancements. He said if the Indian footwear industry was to compete with China the footwear components industry too needed to be strengthened as the units manufacturing soles and other footwear components were still in formative stages.

According to Park Exports Managing Director Nazir Ahmed the footwear industry of the country was facing an acute shortage of trained labour after the ban on child labour, which had resulted in children growing up without the hereditary talent of shoe manufacturing as their parents could not afford to train them and they were no longer allowed to work in the shoe factories.

In view of this, it had become imperative for the Indian footwear industry to hire some trainees or develop some footwear training schools like the Central Footwear Training Institute.

He said footwear exports comprised the major part of global leather business and slowly India had come close to displacing China due to the increasing share of business being diverted towards India by both Europe and the United States as the Indian companies excelled in both technologically and in terms of design.

The summit was also addressed by HSBC Division Head(SME) Bhuvnesh Khanna and Federation of Indian Export Organisations Chairman RK Dhawan.


'India has capacity to produce 243 GW power by 2050'

India has the capacity to produce 243 Giga Watts of power by 2050 by utilising the Uranium and Thorium resources available in the country, renowned materials scientist and Indian Nuclear Society President Dr Placid Rodriguez said today.

''With the available Uranium and Thorium resources, the country can produce 243 GW of power as against the target of 250 GW by 2050 and there is no need to import Uranium. However, there is an urgent need to explore Uranium and Thorium resources, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya,'' he said.

Dr Rodriguez was speaking to newspersons after the Prof Brahm Prakash Memorial Lecture on 'Indian Experience on Fuel and Structural Materials in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors' at the Indian Institute of Metals given by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Director Dr S Banerjee. To a question, he said a huge investment and political will was needed for the purpose. However, he did not divulge the quantum of resources needed, stating that the amount was yet to be worked out.

Referring to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and the US Congress passing the Nuclear Policy recently, Dr Rodriguez said the benefits from the policy might be short term as the country might get supply of Uranium, but in the long run the policy would be of no use.

“Unless the US agrees to the conditions laid down in the deal, signed on July 18, 2005, we may not benefit much in the long run and we don't want to surrender the country's sovereignty.''


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