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August - September 2009
News and Views
India’ National Budget 2009-2010
The main objectives of the budget, as outlined by the Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee are:
1. to lead economy to high GDP growth rate of 9% at the earliest:
2. to deepen and broaden the agenda for inclusive development : and
3. to improve delivery mechanisms of government.
The budget is a mixture of good and bad. The positve aspects are the proposals to abolish Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT), Commodities Transaction Tax (CTT) and to phase out surcharge on income tax starting with its elimination in this Budget from personal income tax. Another significant benefit is the clarification on taxation of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). Sensex went down 780 points after the budget was introduced. The Budget is “Populist but seen to be fiscally profligate” Says Deepak Lalwani, director Astaire and Partners. A fiscal deficit of $93bn, almost 6.8% of GDP for 2009/10 is far too much; and will hamper growth.
Bandra Worli Sea Link
Mumbai: Opened by Sonia Gandhi on June 30, the Bridge is an important project for the upgrading of Mumbai as the business centre of India.
Here are a few interesting details about BANDRA WORLI SEA LINK :
1) The length of the bridge is 63 times the height of the Qutub Minar in Delhi .
2) Its weight is equivalent to 50,000 African elephants.
3) The length of the steel wires used is equivalent to the circumference of the earth.
4) HCC has used fly ash, a waste product extracted from thermal power plants, mixed with concrete, to make the construction durable as well as eco-friendly.
5) The unique distinguishing feature of this project was the deployment of Asian Hercules - one of the biggest floating cranes in the world (there are only 8 such cranes available in the world) for shifting the 1200 MT launching girders in the sea and specially manufactured equipment for erection of cable stay bridge segments. The pre-cast segments for the bridge are cast at the centralized pre-casting yard and then transported to the site to be fixed with great precision. Achieving this task successfully in the open sea under unfavourable conditions was a huge challenge.
Interim Report on Kandhamal
Bhubaneswar: Conversion and re-conversion were among the major factors which led to the riots in Orissa's Kandhamal district last year, a judicial commission probing the violence has said.
"Sources of the violence were deeply rooted in land disputes, conversion and re-conversion and fake certificate issues," Justice S C Mohapatra, heading the one-man panel, said in his interim report on the violence in Kandhamal which claimed 43 lives besides damaging many houses and churches.
"Suspicion among the scheduled tribe and scheduled caste inhabitants of Kandhamal is the main cause of riots with the tribals suspecting that 'Pano' dalits were capturing their land through fraudulent means," Justice Mohapatra said.
Besides the issues of land and conversion and re-conversion, Justice Mohapatra said fake certificates were another major factor that created discontent among Kandha tribals who constitute 52% of Kandhamal's population.
Justice Mohapatra emphasised that the government should take steps immediately to remove differences between the communities.
"I know it will take at least two years to complete inquiry, but interim report will help the government to make immediate intervention," he said.
Justice Mohapatra said in his 28-page report that most Kandha tribals were uneducated and were under the impression that quotas meant for them were being availed of by 'Pana' dalits, who were Christians.
This was another factor behind tribal anger, he said suggesting the state government expedite freeing of tribal land in possession of non-tribals, take up fake certificate cases and remain vigilant to conversion and re-conversion.
"Once the basic issues are addressed, the Kandhamal problem could be solved," he said.
Replying to a question, Justice Mohapatra said he had not blamed anybody for the violence in the interim report.
Sources, however, said the commission which was set up on September 3 last year could fix responsibility for the violence on any organisation or government body.
In the interim report, Justice Mohapatra had not blamed any religious body or the CPI (Maoist) which claimed responsibility for killing of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati on August 23 last year.
Killing of Saraswati and four of his associates had triggered large-scale violence in Kandhamal which evoked condemnation from many quarters in the country and abroad.
Amartya, Nooyi in PM's panel
New Delhi: Economist Amartya Sen, business tycoon L N Mittal and Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi are among the members of a high-level panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted to advise the Government to draw upon experience of the best Indian minds abroad for a two-way engagement.
Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi informed the Lok Sabha that the Global Advisory Council will develop an "inclusive agenda" for engagement between the country and the best Indian brains living abroad.
Other panelists of the 23-member council includes External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, City group CEO Vikram Pandit, NRI entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria, economist Jagdish Bhagwati and educationist Sam Pitroda.
The Minister said the council will also consider ways and means for accessing the skills and knowledge of Indian diaspora for meeting the country's development goals and facilitating investments by overseas Indians into the country.
India’s Appeal to G8 on climate change
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was urged by Indians to play a leadership role on climate change at the G8+5 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy. Activists across India signed a petition for the Prime Minister to agree with world leaders that global warming should not exceed 2 degrees C to avoid catastrophic climate change.
For the first time, India’s citizens issued a call on their government to exert leadership on climate change and say yes to a demand that scientists and civil society have long been calling for across the world. In less than 24 hours, more than 2021 Indians signed on to an Avaaz.org petition calling on the Indian Prime Minister to show leadership in Italy.
The G8+5 Summit in L’Aquila brought together leaders of industrialised nations and major emerging economies to consider an historic pledge to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees - the level scientists warn will be "catastrophic". The meeting marked an important step before 190 governments meet in December in Copenhagen to hammer out a global climate treaty.
The Indian government has been blocking agreement on the 2 degree figure citing impacts on its economy. India is currently the fourth largest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases and projected to be amongst the top three by 2015.
The country is on the frontlines of climate change and climate impacts are already costing the economy 2.6% of GDP. The real figure could be much more. The cost in terms of human suffering is already visible across the country. India has the largest number of poor people in the world and they are the most vulnerable to the floods, droughts, heat waves, storms, cyclones and other disasters that are expected to increase in frequency as climate change takes hold.
Scientists warn that if global warming rises past two degree C, the world's climate systems are very likely to spin out of control. With the clock ticking the time for action is now.
Ricken Patel, Co-Founder & Executive Director (Canada) of Avaaz.org, said: "Indians want Prime Minister Singh to support a 2 degrees limit. This is a simple choice between a prosperous and energy-efficient future and a climate disaster with massive economic and human consequences."
Malini Mehra, CEO of Centre for Social Markets, the Indian NGO partner for the initiative and a leading force on climate advocacy, said: “India is at a cross-roads. We either take the high road to a successful conclusion at Copenhagen. Or we take the low road to nowhere. Today Indians are saying the choice is clear. We want our government to show leadership on climate change. It begins with 2 degrees and it’s in our interest. We will be watching what our Prime Minister comes back with.”
INDIA: HISTORIC RULING AGAINST “SODOMY” LAWS, THE FIRST STEP TO EQUALITY
Amnesty International has welcomed the historical decision by the high court in Delhi to decriminalise homosexuality. The decision is a significant step toward ensuring that people in India can express their sexual orientation or gender identity without fear or discrimination, said Amnesty.
Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Deputy Director, said: “The decision is a significant step toward ensuring that people in India can express their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear or discrimination. This British colonial legacy has done untold harm to generations of individuals in India and across the Commonwealth.”
The ruling overturns a 19th century British colonial law which bans engagement in consensual sex with an individual of the same sex as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The law had been used to stifle the work of organisations working on HIV/AIDS prevention in India. The court rejected the law as discriminatory and “against constitutional morality.”
Madhu Malhotra said: “Amnesty International urges the Indian government to address abuse and discrimination by police and other officials and take measures to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in access to economic, social and cultural rights, including housing, employment and health services.”
The court’s ruling rejected every argument put forward by the government in defence of the law. It found that Section 377, the law criminalsing homosexuality, reflected an understanding of sexual orientation that is “at odds with the current scientific and professional understanding.” in particular, the government’s contention that the measure helped stop the spread of HIV/AIDS is “completely unfounded” and “based on incorrect and wrong notions,” the court said.
The court acknowledged that Section 377 has been used to ‘brutalise’ members of the gay community and other men who have sex with men, abuses that have long been documented by local human rights defenders and Amnesty International. The judges ruled that popular morality or public disapproval of certain acts is not a valid justification for restriction of the fundamental rights set forth in the Indian Constitution.
India has no laws specifically criminalising child sexual abuse and has used Section 377 to address this gap. The court’s ruling now restricts Section 377 to cases of rape and child abuse. Amnesty International urged lawmakers to rewrite the law to deal explicitly with those crimes.
The Naz Foundation, an Indian sexual rights organisation which brought the case against Section 377, told Amnesty International: “It's an incredible day, it's been a long battle. Today homosexuality has been decriminalised but not legalised. It is a baby step but finally India has entered the 21st century.”
With this decision, India becomes the latest country to join the global trend towards decriminalisation. Amnesty International calls on those countries that continue to criminalise homosexuality to follow India’s example and repeal those laws. The majority of these laws are retained within Commonwealth countries.
Indian Diaspora Contributes to India’s Growth
The World Bank said that India, China and Mexico are the top recipients of remittances from their diaspora world-wide. India, it is officially estimated, has over 25 million Indians living in 136 countries.
According to the Reserve Bank of India, private transfer receipts, consisting mainly remittances from Indians working overseas increased to $46.4 billion during 2008-09 from $43.5 billion in the previous year (2007-08). It is almost 4% of India’s GDP.
Pranab Mukherjee Optimistic about India’s Economic Recovery
The Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee admitted that the government had to increase borrowings to invest more in the absence of private investments. However, he said that the economy was showing early signs of recovery. There are signs of revival in the domestic industry like cement and automobile, including two and three wheelers, he told the Lok Sabha, replying to the debate on Union Budget 2009-10. He emphasised that investment is very much needed to bring the economy back on the path of 9% GDP growth.
British Opportunity in India and Indian Investments
Lord Dholakia, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, spoke during a debate on Indian Investment in the United Kingdom on the 23rd June 2009.
Lord Dholakia began by nothing the recent general election in India and the monumental organisational feat of getting hundreds of millions to the polls. He was disappointed by the relative low turnout at the European elections.
He moved on to speak about the general weakness of the UK when it comes to interacting with Indian businesses. “The UK's reception of Indian business teams is the weakest in Europe. France, for example, hosted bilateral trade talks with Indian and French businesses, with over 200 French corporations represented. The UK is also under-utilising its small and medium enterprises in its trade relations with India”. He went on to describe what joint partnerships there were as “disjointed and…piecemeal”.
He noted that this was a longstanding problem but drew attention to the work of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce International (FICCI) with other European countries. “FICCI has been doing this with all other European communities, such as France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Why not the United Kingdom?”
“It will generate enormous growth in entrepreneurial activity, which is one of the most important forms of economic growth in the recession. With ordinary avenues of employment shut down, many highly skilled individuals are unemployed. Their skills need to be harnessed and the self-starters encouraged in engaging in creative, innovative work.” Further to that he added, “Organized dialogue in all sectors and also across urban and rural areas between India and the UK is the key to achieving millennium development goal number one: the eradication of poverty”.
Lord Dholakia finished by saying, “In the 17th century, Britain entered into trade with India in the name of the British East India Company. That was 250 years ago and provided us with 250 years of British rule. I promise one thing: Indians are not here to establish Indian rule or an Indian Raj, but they can surely show a way out of the dire economic predicament in which we find ourselves.”
Gordon Brown hopes of coming bak into Ten Downing Strength
Ed Balls, one of the ministers, closest to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejected suggestions from Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, that immediate action was required to check the levels of public borrowing.
Instead, he indicated theat there would be increased spending on services like eduation and health. In his interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr. Balls admitted that government departments would need to be defter and smarter in their spending decisions in future years. But, he added, “We must also sustain our increases in investment in public services...we are doing the right thing to get us through a downturn, so that the growth will be strong, we will have fewer people unemployed, and we will be able to continue our investments in front line public services. That is the right thing to do.”
David Cameron, the Tory Opposition leader has accused Mr Brown of misleading the public over spending cuts, saying that Treasury figures showed capital expenditure would fall after 2010.
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Euthanasia Law and the Clerics
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbai, are appealing to the House of Lords to reject proposals that would let families help their loved ones die abroad withour their facing the threat of prosecution. According to a letter, written to The Daily Telegraph, they say that sucha legal change “would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on other”.
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War on the Cheap
A YouGlov poll for the Sunday Times on 19 July revealed that 60% of voters believe Brown is trying to fight the war in Afghanistan “on the cheap” and only 20% believe he is doing his best to provide the necessary equipment.
The Tory lead over labour has widened further to 17 points its highest since last September. The Conservatives are on 42%, Labour on 25% and the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 18%.
John Hutton, the former defence secretary also accused the government of not listening to the generals in the frontline. He pleaded that the army should be given the extra troops and equipment it needed to beat the Taliban.
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Parents of misbehaving child to face £1000 fines
A White Paper published by the governement stipulates giving schools more power to apply to courts for the parenting orders, which are backed by fines of up to £1000 for those failing to cooperate.
The proposals are at the centre of reforms designed to redefine the relationship between schools and parents.
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Ps pay from Second Jobs
Following the ‘Expenses of MPs’ eposure, The Sunday Telegraphs has now revealed the scandals of MPs holding second jobs adding thousands of pounds to their parliamentary pay. The names include the speaker John Bercow, Nick Raysford and John Hemming.
According to the Sunday Telegraph Survey, the outside interests of dozens of MPs who hold down paid positions, ranging from legal and media work to crofting, and even grave digging
One MP earns £750 an hour for helping to organise an awards cerremony for the drinks industry. The details are bound to embarrass some of the highest earners. There are some who argue that to hold outside jobs help attract high-calibre individuals into politics and keeps MPs in touch with industry.
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