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Posts Tagged ‘Manmohan Singh’

Power cut hits millions, among world’s worst outages

Posted by Admin on August 1, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/power-blackout-sweeps-north-india-second-day-081130063.html

By Frank Jack Daniel | Reuters – 2 hours 10 minutes ago

              NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Hundreds of millions of people across India were left without power on Tuesday in one of the world’s worst blackouts, trapping miners, stranding train travellers and plunging hospitals into darkness when grids collapsed for the second time in two days.

Stretching from Assam to the Himalayas and the northwestern deserts of Rajasthan, the outage covered states where half of India’s 1.2 billion people live and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand.

“Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday’s failure, we had more grid failures today,” said R.N. Nayak, chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had vowed to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India’s flagging economy. But he has drawn fire for dragging his feet.

By nightfall, power was back up in the humid capital, New Delhi and much of the north, but a senior official said only a third was restored in the rural state of Uttar Pradesh, itself home to more people than Brazil.

The cuts in such a widespread area of the world’s second most populous nation appeared to be one of the biggest in history, and hurt Indians’ pride as the country seeks to emerge as a major force on the international stage.

“It’s certainly shameful. Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” said Unnayan Amitabh, 19, an intern with HSBC bank in New Delhi, before giving up on the underground train system and flagging down an auto-rickshaw to get home.

“They talk about big ticket reforms but can’t get something as essential as power supply right.”

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid, but Uttar Pradesh’s top civil servant for energy said outdated transmission lines were at fault.

Asia’s third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 percent, dragging on economic growth.

Between a quarter and 40 percent of Indians are not connected to the national grid.

Two hundred miners were stranded in three deep coal shafts in the state of West Bengal when their electric elevators stopped working. Eastern Coalfields Limited official Niladri Roy said workers at the mines, one of which is 700 metres (3,000 feet) deep, were not in danger and were being taken out.

Train stations in Kolkata were swamped and traffic jammed the streets after government offices closed early in the dilapidated coastal city of 5 million people.

The power failed in some major city hospitals and office buildings had to fire up diesel generators.

By mid-evening, services had been restored on the New Delhi metro system.

“PUSHED INTO DARKNESS”

On Monday, India was forced to buy extra power from the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Bhutan to help it recover from a blackout that hit more than 300 million people.

Indians took to social networking sites to ridicule the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in part for promoting Shinde despite the power cuts.

Narendra Modi, an opposition leader and chief minister in Gujarat, a state that enjoys a surplus of power, was scornful.

“With poor economic management UPA has emptied the pockets of common man; kept stomachs hungry with inflation & today pushed them into darkness,” he said on his Twitter account.

The country’s southern and western grids were supplying power to help restore services, officials said.

The problem has been made worse by a weak monsoon in agricultural states such as wheat-belt Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the Ganges plain, which has a larger population than Brazil.

With less rain to irrigate crops, more farmers resort to electric pumps to draw water from wells.

India’s electricity distribution and transmission is mostly state run, with private companies operating in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Less than a quarter of generation is private nationwide.

More than half the country’s electricity is generated by coal, with hydro power and nuclear also contributing.

Power shortages and a creaky road and rail network have weighed heavily on India’s efforts to industrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, the government recently scaled back a target to pump $1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years.

Major industries have their own power plants or diesel generators and are shielded from outages. But the inconsistent supply hits investment and disrupts small businesses.

High consumption of heavily subsidized diesel by farmers and businesses has fuelled a gaping fiscal deficit that the government has vowed to tackle to restore confidence in the economy.

But the poor monsoon means a subsidy cut is politically difficult.

On Tuesday, the central bank cut its economic growth outlook for the fiscal year that ends in March to 6.5 percent, from the 7.3 percent assumption made in April, putting its outlook closer to that of many private economists.

“This is going to have a substantial adverse impact on the overall economic activity. Power failure for two consecutive days hits sentiment very badly,” said N. Bhanumurthy, a senior economist at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

(Reporting by Delhi Bureau; Sujoy Dhar in Kolkata and Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Robert Birsel and Diana Abdallah)

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What is causing power grid failure in India?

Posted by Admin on August 1, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/what-is-causing-power-grid-failure-in-india-.html

Power failure hit India for a second day running, cutting power to more than 600 million people. Here are a few facts about the power crisis:

Yahoo! India News – 7 hours ago

NEW DELHI: Power failure hit India for a second day running on Tuesday due to the collapse of the Northern and Eastern grids, cutting power to more than 600 million people in the populous northern and eastern states including the capital Delhi and major cities such as Kolkata. Around over 300,000 passengers were stranded in over 300 trains across eight states after the northern and eastern grids failed, crippling operations across six railway zones in the country. Here are a few facts about the power crisis in India:

What is an electrical grid?

A power grid is an interconnected network of transmission lines for supplying electricity from power suppliers to consumers. Any disruptions in the network causes power outages. India has five regional grids that carry electricity from power plants to respective states in the country.

What leads to a grid failure?

Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the blackout may have been caused by a mix of coal shortages and other problems on the grid. The power deficit was worsened by a weak monsoon that lowered hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures high, feeding the appetite for electricity.

Farmers using energy-intensive water pumps for irrigation to save their recently sown crops may also have pushed up the demand.

If the monsoon does not pick up, the grids are expected to come under more stress. Hydro-power accounts for about 20 per cent of installed power capacity but reservoirs have only 24 per cent of the water they can hold — just about half of what they carried at this time last year.

Many state governments give farmers free or near-free electricity, triggering a vicious cycle of unviable power boards whose supply is so erratic that farmers are forced to pay a steep price to run diesel pumps and generators. Many states have not adjusted tariff for 10 years.

The industry has advocated abolishing a 1973 Act that nationalised coal mining. Changes to the law are expected to allow professional miners to scout for and mine coal.

India’s power shortage

India is slow to set up new power capacity principally because it is short of fossil fuels. Coal is mined hesitantly and natural gas, the other feedstock for power plants, is just beginning to flow in from new offshore finds. The government rations both.

The immediate response to a power sector in distress – thermal plants are idling a quarter of their capacity – is to give it a bigger slice of the pie. The sustainable response will need the pie to grow overall.

This January, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a committee to work through the issues that have been bedeviling electricity generation: a host of problems ranging from coal and gas shortages to environmental clearances to the price at which power is sold in the country.

India’s basic energy shortage is compounded by the policy of selling electricity to consumers at politically correct prices. The government-owned distribution monopolies in the states have all but lost their ability to buy power because their political bosses force them to sell it cheap, sometimes free, to voters. This opportunism is hurting the economy: the government estimates unaccounted for sale of power in India, at a third of the total, costs the country 1% of its gross domestic product.

The road ahead

The road ahead for reforms in the power sector is well lit. Introduce competition in all three areas of the business – generation, transmission and distribution – to enhance productivity and contain leakages. Create an independent watchdog that can withstand the political pressures playing on different links of the nation’s power supply chain.

Finally, free up pricing to make consumers more responsible for the electricity they use. This has been the broad course of electricity reforms the world over. India’s energy pricing, including transport and cooking fuels, is hopelessly caught in competitive populism. Serious attempt to extricate it will need more grids to trip.

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U.S. keeps India waiting on Iran sanctions waiver

Posted by Admin on May 7, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/clinton-hopes-india-even-more-cut-iran-oil-051703966–finance.html

By Andrew Quinn | Reuters – 2 hours 48 minutes ago

KOLKATA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaned harder on India on Monday to deepen cuts of Iranian oil imports, saying Washington may not make a decision on whether to exempt New Delhi from financial sanctions for another two months.

Clinton, on a three-day visit to India, said the United States was encouraged by the steps its ally had taken so far to reduce its reliance on Iranian oil but that “even more” action was needed.

The oil issue has become an irritant in ties between India and the United States. India is unwilling to be seen to be bowing to U.S. pressure and is reluctant to become too reliant on Saudi Arabia for its oil needs, which officials say privately would be strategically unwise.

The sanctions threaten to shut out Iranian oil importers from the U.S. financial system unless they make significant and continuing cuts to their crude purchases by an end-June deadline.

India is Iran‘s second-biggest crude customer, so it is crucial to the U.S. strategy of choking off the Iranian economy to force Tehran’s leaders to curb their nuclear programme.

(For slideshow: Hillary Clinton in India, click http://reut.rs/IQVrji)

“We do not believe Iran will peacefully resolve this unless the pressure continues. We need India to be part of the international effort,” Clinton told a townhall-style meeting in Kolkata.

Publicly, India has rejected Western sanctions but privately it has pushed local refiners to start cutting imports. India’s refiners signed new yearly contracts with Iran running from April 1 and Reuters calculations suggest imports could plunge about 25 percent in 2012/2013.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in April that India had already substantially cut Iranian oil imports. But Clinton’s comments on Monday suggested that Washington expected more action before it would grant the sanctions waiver.

The United States in March granted exemptions to Japan and 10 European Union nations. India and China, Iran’s biggest crude importer, remain at risk.

Clinton held up Japan as an example, saying it had cut imports despite having suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled its Fukushima nuclear reactor. Japan’s cuts of between 15 and 22 percent were enough to get a waiver.

Washington has not stated specifically what cuts it expects from each country, only that they must be substantial.

“We think India, as a country that understands the importance of trying to use diplomacy to try to resolve these difficult threats, is certainly working toward lowering their purchase of Iranian oil,” Clinton said.

“We commend the steps that they have taken thus far. We hope they will do even more,” said Clinton, who was due to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi later on Monday.

ADEQUATE MARKET SUPPLY

Clinton noted that Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other oil-producing nations were supplying more crude to the markets to offset any loss of supply from Iran.

“If there were not the ability for India to go into the market and meet its needs we would understand that. But we believe there is adequate supply and that there are ways for India to continue to meet their energy requirements,” she said.

She added that the United States would make a decision on whether to exempt India from the U.S. sanctions on Iran in “about two months from now”.

An Indian official privy to the Indian talks with Iran and the United States had earlier expressed hope that Clinton might announce a waiver during her visit. The official said the government had done enough to secure the exemption.

A senior U.S. official said on Sunday that Carlos Pascual, the U.S. special envoy who has been negotiating with Iranian oil importers to cut their imports, would visit India in mid-May to discuss the issue.

Clinton said at the town-hall event that Iran posed a grave threat to the region and that Indians should not view it as a “far-off threat”. Iran had dispatched “terrorist agents” to target Israelis and others in India, she said.

Clinton’s trip coincides with a visit by a large Iranian trade delegation, which is in Delhi to discuss how the two countries can trade via a rupee mechanism set up to skirt sanctions. U.S. officials played down the importance of the Iranian visit.

Trade disputes and frequent U.S. complaints that it is difficult for American companies to do business in India have also strained ties. Ambiguously worded Indian proposals to crack down on tax evasion and tax indirect investments have also alarmed Washington and sown confusion among foreign investors.

Finance Minister Mukherjee announced in parliament on Monday that he would delay by one year, until fiscal 2013/2014, the introduction of the tax evasion measures.

In her meeting with Singh, Clinton was expected to push for the government to open up India’s retail sector to foreign supermarkets such as Walmart – a major economic reform that has stalled and become emblematic of the policy paralysis gripping Singh’s government.

Clinton held talks earlier with Mamata Banerjee, the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal and Singh’s key ally in government, who has blocked the retail reform. Clinton said before meeting Banerjee that she planned to raise the issue but the chief minister said afterwards that it was not discussed.

(Writing by Ross Colvin, additional reporting by Matthias Williams in New Delhi; Editing by John Chalmers and Jeremy Laurence)

 

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US to invest in Bengal as ‘partner state’: Mamata

Posted by Admin on May 7, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/us-to-invest-in-bengal-as–partner-state—mamata.html

IANS India Private Limited – 49 minutes ago

Kolkata, May 7: Describing her meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “positive, constructive and creative”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday said the former assured her of American investment in the state for its business and economic development, considering Bengal as a “partner state”.

Banerjee, however, said issues like Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail were “never raised” in the talks.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting with Clinton at the state secretariat, the chief minister said: “They (the US) will invest in West Bengal as a partner state. For a long time, there has not been any US investment in the state. After the change in political scenario, they said that the US would favour investment in Bengal.”

Banerjee said Clinton has expressed the US’ desire to invest in West Bengal as the state has witnessed a change in its “political scenario” after decades. She said she also urged Clinton to consider American investments in the state’s software, IT and manufacturing, health and education sectors.

Banerjee said state Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh and US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell would coordinate between themselves and jointly monitor the projects, which would be set up under public-private-partnership (PPP) mode.

“We have formed a small group. Ghosh and Powell will coordinate between themselves and monitor the implementation of the projects,” she said.

Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief, stressed issues like Teesta water sharing dispute and FDI did not come up in the talks with Clinton as was speculated in the media.

“We only discussed developmental issues. Strategic issues we did not discuss. Teesta and FDI did not come up in the meeting. There issues were never raised,” she stated.

There was speculations in the political circles that Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and FDI in multi-brand retail would be discussed in the Clinton-Banerjee meet. The Trinamool is strictly opposing foreign investment in retail, while the chief minister had opted out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s Dhaka trip last year, leading to the agreement on water sharing being dropped.

After the meeting, the chief minister said she was “very delighted” as the talks with Clinton had been “positive, constructive, creative and concrete”.

Informing that the secretary of state appreciated her for implementation of different development programmes after coming to power in the state, the chief minister said she has assured her of US government’s support in the business and economic development of the state, which was facing a severe debt crisis.

“She hailed us for coming to power in the state with huge support and changing the political scenario. She also appreciated our implementation of programmes in mission mode,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, joining hands with the Congress, ousted the left Front, which had been in power for 34 years, last May.

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India brokers deal, Maldives parties agree for early polls

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/india-brokers-deal-maldives-parties-agree-early-polls-180412578.html

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – Thu 16 Feb, 2012

Male, Feb 16 (IANS) In a triumph of diplomacy, India Thursday succeeded in brokering a political deal in the Maldives, with allpolitical parties agreeing to hold elections “as early as possible”, paving the way for a political reconciliation in the island nation that plunged into turmoil after the resignation of president Mohamed Nasheed Feb 7.

The breakthrough came after Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, the second senior Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives after the dramatic transfer of power, held talks with key political figures, including ousted president Mohamed Nasheed and his successorMohamed Waheed Hassan.

Mathai also met Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Thasmeen Ali of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Chief Justice of the Maldivian Supreme Court and the Speaker of the People’s Majlis.

After wide-ranging discussions, the feuding Maldivian parties agreed on a formulation that holds out the hope for an early return of peace and stability to the strategically located island nation.

“Consequent to my discussions, the following formulation was agreed upon by all the parties concerned; In addition, in the interests of national reconciliation and to encourage harmony between our citizens, the government of National Unity will hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said in the capital Male.

“The government of national unity will work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place including any necessary constitutional amendments,” said Mathai.

“There was a degree of convergence on how matters should be taken forward. The parties also agree to the need for maintenance of constitutional order,” said Mathai. “The president has come out with a roadmap for an inclusive political process which provides a very good basis for the parties to resolve their differences,” stressed Mathai.

After initial missteps when India quickly recognized the regime of the new president Mohamed Waheed Hasan, India made up by brokering a broad-based political deal by conceding to the long-standing demand of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for early election.

“I reiterated our belief that there is need for a Maldivian led process for reconciliation and resolving political differences through constitutional means,” he said.

Mathai, who was expected to return Thursday afternoon to host a reception for the media at his residence, had to prolong his stay in the Maldives by a few hours as a political settlement which India had been pushing for looked imminent.

“The MDP, on its part, committed itself to encouraging an atmosphere appropriate to the holding of elections. In this context, we understand that their decision to hold a rally tomorrow is being reconsidered,” said Mathai.

With India stepping up its political outreach in the Maldives, Nasheed softened his stance saying he was now satisfied with New Delhi’s “more realistic approach” towards the crisis in the picture-pretty atoll nation.

“I now fully understand how things may be brought into a proper alignment and I am much more satisfied,” Nasheed told reporters in Male after talks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai Wednesday night.

“I am more than satisfied with India and I believe that Indians have (in mind) the best interest of Maldivian people,” said Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected president who resigned Feb 7 amid opposition protests and a police revolt.

Mathai, the second senior Indian diplomat to visit the Maldives after the dramatic transfer of power, held talks with key political figures, including Nasheed and his successor Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Only a few days ago, Nasheed had voiced disappointment with India’s stand after New Delhi quickly recognized the new president, barely 24 hours after Nasheed resigned amid controversial circumstances.

M. Ganapathi, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, went as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s special envoy last week to meet key political figures to underline the need for a broad-based coalition government.

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Indian activist to launch public fast as government relents

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/india-activist-allowed-fast-15-days-000649292.html

 By Paul de Bendern | Reuters – 18 mins ago

A supporter of Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in Hyderabad

A supporter of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad August 18, 2011. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India‘s beleaguered government caved in to popular fury over corruption on Wednesday after thousands protested across the country, granting permission for a self-styled Ghandian crusader to stage a 15-day hunger strike in public.

Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, hours ahead of a planned fast to demand tougher laws against the graft that plagues Indian society from top to bottom.

But the jailing of the 74-year-old campaigner sparked nationwide protests and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s government on a backfoot, forcing it to relent.

“Anna wishes to congratulate everyone as we have started a great momentum for this fight against corruption,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and close aid of Hazare.

“He wants all of us to continue in this peaceful and calm way of protest,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The Congress party-led government, facing one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, at first agreed to release Hazare, but he refused to leave the high-security Tihar jail until he won the right to lead an anti-corruption protest.

Crowds by the jail erupted in joy at news of the deal, reached early on Thursday, shouting “I am Anna” and “We are with you,” singing, playing guitars and waving the Indian flag.

Hazare is expected to postpone his public fast until Friday because the Ramlila Maidan grounds in central Delhi are not ready to host massive crowds, his advisers told reporters.

A medical team is on standby to monitor Hazare’s health as he has already begun his fast in jail and a sharp deterioration could further worsen the crisis for the government.

“It’s an indefinite fast, not a fast-unto-death. He will be there as long as he can sustain it,” said Kiran Bedi, a former senior police officer and a member of Anna’s protest team. Earlier the hunger strike had been billed as a fast-until-death.

The protests across cities in India, helped spread by social networks, have not only rocked the ruling Congress party, they have sent shockwaves through the political class.

Students, lawyers, teachers, business executives, IT workers and civil servants have taken to the streets in New Delhi and both cities and remote villages stretching down to the southern end of the country.

“The movement has meant politicians realize that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer,” said Vinod Mehta, editor of the weekly Outlook magazine.

“It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time.”

A weak political opposition means that the government should still survive the crisis, but it could further dim the prospect for economic reforms that have already been held back by policy paralysis and a raft of corruption scandals.

SOCIAL NETWORK REVOLUTION

One Facebook page for Hazare has almost 280,000 followers, while the India Against Corruption page on Facebook has more than 312,000 followers where links and messages of support are posted. Several Twitter accounts have been set up by supporters to send out messages of where and when protest and fast.

An online page petitioning for the freedom of Hazare and India of corruption had signed up almost 170,000 people within 24 hours.

The country’s 24-7 news networks, competing to dig up the latest corruption scandal, have also played a vital role in whipping up the Hazare story.

A NATION FED UP WITH CORRUPTION

Many have criticized Hazare for taking the government hostage over his demand for a specific bill to give more teeth to investigating and punishing graft in high office. But few take issue with his crusade against the scourge of corruption.

The urban middle class, who have prospered since the economy was opened up in the early 1990s, is fed up with the rampant corruption that they encounter, whether it be getting a driving license or buying a flat. The soaring cost of living has also exacerbated the situation.

Hazare’s arrest, followed by the brief arrests of about 2,600 followers in the capital alone on Tuesday, shocked a nation with strong memories of Gandhi’s independence battles against colonial rule with fasts and non-violent protests.

INDIA’S NEW GENERATION

Thousands of mostly young people held peaceful candle-light vigils through Wednesday night, from the capital Delhi to the IT hub of Hyderabad and the financial capital, Mumbai.

Many of the crowd were young, with rucksacks on their backs, some with their faces painted. Others were older, decked out in outfits as worn by the bespectacled Hazare, with his trademark white cap and kurta, a long-time social activist who is often compared to independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Demonstrations are part of daily life in the towns and cities of India, a country of 1.2 billion people made up of a myriad of castes, religions and classes. But spontaneous and widespread protests are rare and the scale of this week’s outpouring of public fury has taken the government by surprise.

Singh, 78, who is widely criticized as out of touch, dismissed the fast by Hazare as “totally misconceived” and undermining the parliamentary democracy.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the ruling coalition when he went on hunger strike in April. He called off that fast after the government promised to introduce a bill creating an anti-corruption ombudsman.

The so-called Lokpal legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless because the prime minister and judges were exempt from probes.

Over the past year an increasing number of company executives, opposition politicians, judges and ministers have been brought down by corruption. Still, Transparency International rates India in 87 place on the most corruption countries according to a 2010 survey.

(Additional reporting by Annie Banerji, Arup Roychoudhury and Matthias Williams; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and John Chalmers)

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Indian anti-graft activist arrested as protests spread

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/veteran-indian-activist-detained-ahead-mass-fast-054711574.html

By Paul de Bendern and Alistair Scrutton | Reuters – 58 mins ago

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare waves from a car after being detained by police in New Delhi

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare waves from a car after being detained by police in New Delhi August 16, 2011. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Police arrested India‘s leading anti-corruption campaigner on Tuesday, just hours before he was due to begin a fast to the death, as the beleaguered government cracked down on a self-styled Gandhian activist agitating for a new “freedom” struggle.

At least 1,200 followers of the 74-year-old Anna Hazare were also detained, signaling a hardline stance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against anti-government protests, a gamble that risks a wider backlash against the ruling Congress party.

Dressed in his trademark white shirt, white cap and spectacles in the style of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, Hazare was driven away in a car by plainclothes police, waving to hundreds of supporters outside his residence in New Delhi.

His followers later said he had begun his fast.

“The second freedom struggle has started … This is a fight for change,” Hazare said in a pre-recorded message broadcast on YouTube. “The protests should not stop. The time has come for no jail in the country to have a free space.”

In a country where the memory of Gandhi’s independence battles against colonial rule with fasts and non-violent protests is embedded in the national consciousness, the crackdown shocked many Indians.

It also comes as Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi is in the United States being treated for an undisclosed condition.

The question for many is whether Hazare and his movement will grow across the fast-urbanizing nation of 1.2 billion people whose middle class is fed up with constant bribes, poor services and unaccountable leaders.

In a worrying sign for a government facing crucial state elections next year, local media reported spontaneous protests against the crackdown across India. Dozens of Hazare supporters were also arrested in Mumbai, according to local media.

“If the government stops protests or not, what it can’t stop is the anger, which ultimately means bad news for Congress when people go to the polls,” said M.J. Akbar, an editor at news magazine India Today.

The country’s interior minister said Hazare and six other protest leaders had been placed under “preventative arrest” to ensure they did not carry out a threat to protest.

“Protest is welcome, but it must be carried out under reasonable conditions,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a news conference.

“A MURDER OF DEMOCRACY”

Hazare has become a serious challenge to the authority of the government in its second term as it reels from a string of corruption scandals and a perception that it is out of touch with millions of Indians hit by near-double-digit inflation.

Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day after the opposition protested at the arrests of Hazare and his key aides, further undermining the chances that reform bills — seen as crucial for Asia’s third-largest economy — will be passed.

Acting Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi called a top-level emergency meeting with senior cabinet ministers to discuss the escalating crisis.

“This is murder of democracy by the government within the House and outside the House,” said Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The scandals, including a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the government $39 billion, has smothered Singh’s reform agenda, dented investor confidence and distracted parliament just as the $1.6 trillion economy is being hit by inflation and higher interest rates.

Those arrested included Kiran Bedi, one of India’s first female police officers and a widely respected figure for her anti-graft drive. She tweeted from detention that she had refused an offer of bail.

Police denied Hazare permission on Monday to fast near a cricket stadium because he had refused to end his fast in three days and ensure no more than 5,000 people took part.

Opposition figures likened the crackdown to the 1975 “Emergency” when then-prime minister Indira Gandhi arrested thousands of opposition members to stay in power.

A HARDENING STANCE

Singh and his Congress party have hardened their stance against Hazare in recent days, fearing that these protests could spiral.

“When you have a crowd of 10,000 people, can anyone guarantee there will be no disruption? … The police is doing its duty. We should allow them to do it,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told CNN-IBN television.

The prime minister used his Independence Day speech on Monday to criticize Hazare, and Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said Hazare was surrounded by “armchair fascists, overground Maoists, closet anarchists.”

Hazare rose to fame for lifting his village in western state of Maharashtra out of grinding poverty. His social activism has forced out senior government officials and helped create the right to information act for citizens.

It is unclear whether the tactics will backfire and spark further protests. They could also help the image of a prime minister criticized as weak and indecisive. A previous crackdown this year on a fasting yoga guru successfully broke up his anti-corruption protests.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the Congress-led coalition when he first went on a hunger strike in April to successfully win concessions from the government.

Tapping into a groundswell of discontent over corruption scandals in Singh’s government, Hazare lobbied for a parliamentary bill creating a special ombudsman to bring crooked politicians, bureaucrats and judges to book.

Hazare called off that fast after the government promised to introduce the bill into parliament. The legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless, prompting Hazare to renew his campaign.

Under the current bill, the prime minister and judges would be exempt from probes.

(Additional reporting by Arup Roychoudhury, Matthias Williams and Annie Banerji; Editing by John Chalmers)

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War looms as UPA, Anna harden positions

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/blogs/boxpopuli/war-looms-upa-anna-harden-positions-073523746.html

By Ramakrishna S R | Box Populi – Wed, Jun 8, 2011

Everyone knows Anna Hazare has been demanding a stringent law against corruption, but his day-long fast at Raghat today is not for that cause. He is actually protesting the government’s violent midnight raid that scuttled Baba Ramdev‘s hunger strike last week-end.

The action at Delhi‘s Ramlila Grounds, where Ramdev was holding a fast against black money, has left 71 injured. With no place to go in the middle of the night, some found shelter in a gurudwara. The government’s high-handedness has triggered criticism from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has defended the swoop, saying it was unfortunate but unavoidable. The National Human Rights Commission isn’t impressed, and has called for reports from the central and Delhi governments.

Last night, Times Now showed a 51-year woman in hospital, paralysed after being thrashed at Ramdev’s pandal. Raj Bala is a citizen like any other, but concerned enough to take part in a movement against black money. She now lies in a hospital ICU on ventilator support. Doctors describe her condition as critical.

The government isn’t winning any hearts by terrorising peaceful demonstrators. Even the Supreme Court was shocked by the midnight raid. It has taken suo moto notice, and ordered the government to explain the forceful eviction. People across the country are asking the same question: Why did the police assault a group of women and children deep in slumber? The police, meanwhile, have seized CCTV footage of their action from Ramlila Grounds. Why, you ask? Ramdev believes they are trying to destroy evidence of their atrocities.

Two more developments add to the repression the UPA government is unleashing: (a) it is busy digging up dirt on Ramdev’s close aide Balakrishna; and (b) prominent Congress leaders are tarring Anna Hazare with the communalism brush, describing him as a mask of the RSS and Sangh Parivar. If Balakrishna were a Nepali citizen who possessed illegal arms, as the government is now letting it be known, why didn’t the police act all these years? And if Anna Hazare were a mask for hateful rightist groups, why are the government’s senior-most leaders sitting down with him and discussing a new law?

Given the predominance of the tri-colour at Anna Hazare’s meetings and saffron at Ramdev’s meetings, many had assumed they were aligned to the Congress and the BJP respectively, but the equations aren’t turning out that simple. Anna Hazare is a Gandhian and Ramdev a yoga guru and TV celebrity. Despite their dissimilar moorings, they feel they are fighting the same battle, and have affirmed faith in each other.

That makes life that much more difficult for the Congress. It will now have to take on the combined forces of Anna Hazare and Ramdev.  It looks like the Congress is already panicking. It has already let Digvijay Singh loose on Ramdev, letting him call the baba names, and tried to stop Anna Hazare from demonstrating today at Jantar Mantar. With a flip-flop Congress turning vengeful and going after anti-corruption activists, Anna Hazare and Ramdev are bound to close ranks and prepare for a bigger battle.

Ramdev is continuing his fast in Haridwar, and has asked his followers to stop their hunger strike for the time being. The Delhi police had transported him to the pilgrim town after evicting him from Ramlila Grounds. They have also barred him from entering Delhi for 15 days. All of which suggests the action will hot up in the last week of June, whe Ramdev resumes his campaign in the capital. The civil society group led by Anna Hazare is bound to come up with a more aggressive plan of action if the government continues to treat them shabbily.

Meanwhile, the US, which has spoken out against Tiananmen Square and Tahrir Square, clearly sees India as capable of handing its protests in a democratic manner. It has described the government action against Ramdev an internal Indian matter.

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Jairam Ramesh assures safety measures for Jaitapur nuclear plant

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

Nuclear power plant.

A Nuclear Reactor Facility

http://in.news.yahoo.com/jairam-ramesh-assures-safety-measures-jaitapur-nuclear-plant-20110315-034846-077.html

By ANI | ANI – Tue, Mar 15, 2011 4:18 PM IST

New Delhi, Mar 15 (ANI): In the wake of a nuclear crisis in Japan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, on Tuesday promised that additional safeguards would be put in place before giving environmental clearance to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Addressing the conclave on ‘Business and Climate Change’ here, Ramesh said the government would closely look into the safety systems and designing details of the project.

“Well, yesterday, the Prime Minister has made a detailed statement in the Parliament. I know the nuclear power corporation is re-looking on its safety systems, re-looking at design,” said Ramesh.

“This appropriately is a subject that has to be dealt with by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and based on the technical reviews that the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) does, we will certainly be in touch with them, and if additional safeguards have to be built in as part of the environmental clearance, we will certainly look at it,” he added.

Assuring the country that its atomic power generators were safe, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Monday said an immediate technical review of India’s atomic plants has been ordered to check if they can withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes.

Making a statement in Parliament on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Dr. Singh said: “The Department of Atomic Energy and its agencies, including the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have been instructed to undertake an immediate technical review of all safety systems of our nuclear power plants, particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand the impact of large natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes.”

The Prime Minister further said Indian nuclear plants have, in the past, met safety standards during major natural calamities like the Gujarat earthquake in January 26, 2002 and the December 2004 tsunami.

Dr. Singh informed that India was in constant touch with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum and the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

The Jaitapur project would be built in collaboration with French firm Areva. The project has run into rough weather, as residents of the region argue that it would harm the local environment and put people at risk.

Japan’s nuclear crisis has taken a turn for the worse with nuclear radiation being detected in Tokyo, which is 250 kilometres southwest of a Japanese quake-stricken atomic power plant.

Japan’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant had exploded on Saturday, a day after a massive earthquake damaged the facility’s cooling system. The plant’s cooling system was damaged in Friday’s quake. (ANI)

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Highlights of measures announced to control prices

Posted by Admin on January 16, 2011

Cut onion

Most widely used vegetable in the World

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/Highlights-measures-announced-ians-2445394061.html

Indo Asian News Service, On Friday 14 January 2011, 2:59 AM

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) The government Thursday announced a slew of measures to control prices of essential commodities. Following are the highlights:

— State-run National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and apex federation of consumer cooperatives, NCCF, to sell onions at Rs.35 per kg

— Stringent action against hoarders and black marketers. Cartelisation by large traders to be dealt with strictly dealt

Import and export of all essential commodities to be reviewed on a regular basis

— State units to intensify purchases of essential commodities, particularly edible oils and pulses, for distribution through their retail network

— Existing schemes for subsidised distribution of edible oils and pulses to be continued

Exports of edible oils and pulses, as well as non-basmati rice to remain banned

— Committee of Secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary to review the prices situation with individual states

— An inter-ministerial Group set up under the Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance to review the overall inflation situation

— State Governments to be urged to consider waiving mandi tax, octroi and other local levies to bring down prices further

— A scheme to support the state governments in the setting up of farmers’ mandis and mobile bazaars and to improve the functioning of civil supplies corporations and cooperatives

— Awareness campaigns to make people aware of cheaper alternatives to pulses like yellow peas with a view to influence consumption pattern in favour of such alternatives

— Involve Residents’ Welfare Associations and self-help groups in distribution of essential commodities to address local shortages and ensure that supplies reach the households with least intermediation cost

— Investments to be encouraged in supply chains including provisions for cold storages

— Storage capacities to be increased to stock last years bumper Kharif crop

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India, Russia to mull market opening pact; target $20 bn trade

Posted by Admin on December 21, 2010

http://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/article965649.ece?homepage=true

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma talks with Russian Federation's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov during the India- Russia Forum on Trade and Investments in New Delhi on Monday.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma talks with Russian Federation‘s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov during the India– Russia Forum on Trade and Investments in New Delhi on Monday.

 

Committed to strengthening economic ties at the highest level, India and Russia on Tuesday agreed to consider a comprehensive agreement in this regard and push bilateral trade to USD 20 billion by 2015.

The two key members of the fast-rising BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) economies recognised potential for mutual investment in the private sectors and viewed bilateral energy cooperation as a key component of their strategic partnership.

A joint statement issued after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev here, said the two sides “agreed to continue their efforts to achieve the strategic target of bilateral trade volume of USD 20 billion by 2015…

“Both sides agreed to consider the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) taking into account the implementation of the agreements on constituting the customs union between Russia, Kazakhastan and Belarus…,” it said.

The bilateral trade in 2009-10 stood at USD 4.54 billion and the two nations aspire to step it up more than four-fold in the next five years.

India is in the process of dismantling duty barrires through trade pacts with several countries and blocs like Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and European Union.

Such pacts are already under implmentation with ASEAN, Singapore and South Korea.

Russia, as a major energy producing country and India as a big consumer, viewed energy cooperation “as an important pillar of the strategic partnership“.

They also reviewed the ongoing efforts to establish joint cooperation ventures between Indian and Russian companies in the oil and gas sector.

It was agreed that the inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector signed during the Summit, must serve as a legal mechanism.

This is to expedite governmental clearances on both sides to facilitate the creation and operation of joint ventures.

They would promote specific projects including upstream and downstream activities in India, Russia and third countries.

The two leaders noted that the conclusion of the agreement on simplification of visa procedures would help enhance contacts between the business communities of the two countries.

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