The deepening concern over the parlous state of Kolkata’s bridges shows no sign of abating. Poor maintenance and neglect, studied deafness to dire warnings from experts, have been pinpointed as the principal causes of the recent disaster in which a key bridge collapsed, leading to the loss of life and destruction of property, not to speak of the severe disruption of traffic in goods and services all the way to the Hooghly estuary port of Diamond Harbour, and the shipping thereof in the Bay of Bengal.
The wakeup call appears to have energized the PWD minister and bureaucrats and the Bengal State government generally, with festive season closing in and election vote banks to consider. The can-do spirit found its truest expression in the local gurdwara, where volunteers provided free meals to members of the larger community in keeping with the noblest tradition of the Sikh faith. Newspapers found no space for reports of such social service even as their pages bulge with junk; and press freedom reduced to rancid cliché.
Dr Raghuram Rajan, one of the world’s foremost banking experts, whose prediction of a global financial crisis proved correct with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the United States in 2008, served for a time as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Now back to his University of Chicago redoubt, Professor Rajan has issued a dire warning to the Indian authorities of a crisis in the making arising from the profligacy of ill-considered bank loans to the unorganized micro and small businesses. He pinpointed over optimism of promoters and banks, growth slowdown, delay in statutory approvals, loss of interest in delayed projects, malfeasance among bankers and frauds. In this context, he averred that the Reserve Bank of India is primarily a referee and not a player.
As such Government should refrain from setting ambitious credit targets and waiving loans; the pressing need is an empowered institution to clean up banks. The background to such concern may be the continuing decline in value (by 24 per cent) of the rupee, which is likely to affect investor confidence. Press editorials advised the government to heed Professor Rajan’s warnings (Hindu, Business Line, Times of India, Mint September 12, 13).
Nizam Museum theft solved
Hyderabad police, acting on a tipp-off arrested two history students, Mohammed Ghouse Pasha, 23, and his relative Mohammed Muheen, 24, and recovered the stolen antiques, including a gold tiffen box inlaid with diamonds and rubies weighing 950 grams. Numerous other priceless artefacts, part of the haul, were recovered. The two thieves had hidden the collection in a well near their house. Fifteen police teams worked on the case since the theft on September 2 (Hindu September 12).
Jihadi fugitive snared
A special anti-terrorist unit of the police arrested two N.P. Noshu alias Rasheed alias Mankavu Rasheed, 44. A one-time resident in the Koshikode district of Kerala, Rasheed had absconded for 20 years as the primer suspect in the serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, on February 14, 1998, which killed 50 people and injured over 250. Rasheed was living in Qatar. Detectives arrested him on his arrival in Chennai on the flight from the Gulf kingdom (Hindu September 12).
IT bounce back
India’s top five software companies added 24,047 numbers to their workforce in the first quarter of the current fiscal [April-June], compared to the 13,772 additions during the entire previous fiscal, leading experts to conclude that the industry is on track to record its highest growth in three years.
This turnaround has been led by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Cognizant, Technology Solutions Corp, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies. One reason behind this buoyancy is Fortune1000 companies using data analytics platforms offered by IT vendors to contribute significant efficiency to their clients’ companies. ‘For all the five companies, digital is now a fourth of total revenue…the heartening thing is that quality of revenue is improving,’ said an IT executive (Mint September 12).
Missile tracking ship ready for trials
Built by the state owned Hindustan Shipyard Ltd at Visakhapatnam, India’s first missile tracking ship is shortly to undergo sea trials, following which it will be inducted into the Indian Navy - expected to be at the end of the year. Considered a ‘topmost secret project’, which cost Rs 750 crore, it contains state-of-the art technologies and weapon systems, surveillancd and communications equipment available only to a select club of countries. The ship, still to be formally named, will be manned a 300 crew of officers and ratings (Hindu September 12).
Tejas mid-air refueling tested
India’s first indigenous warplane Tejas, has successfully tested its mid-air refueling capability of 1,900 kg from an IAF IL-78 tanker. The exercise was carried out at a an altitude of 20, 000 ft. With this test, India joins the select group of powers with this capability. The entire exercise was closely monitored in every aspect of flight performance. Wing Commander Siddharth Singh piloted the plane, which thus took a significant step forward for its Full Operations Clearance certificate for combat readiness in the Indian Air Force (Business Line September 11).
Air chief supports
Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa has come out strongly in favour of the government’s decision to acquire 36 French Rafale warplanes at the stipulated prices. The quality and numbers of the aircraft were badly needed, as the IAF squadrons were down to 31 as compared with the 42 required and approved by the government in any possible two-front conflict with Pakistan and China. The Air Chief Marshal affirmed that the Rafale and Russia’s five S-400 Trumf defence shields will plug the IAF’s overall capability (Hindu, Times of India,, Mint September 13).
puts it straight
In an interview with Rajat Pandit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ruled out talks with Pakistan’s new government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, until it took steps to bring the jihadi terrorists responsible for the attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 to book. She said she had made India’s position on the export of jihadi terrorism clear in the 2+2 talks she and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had had with her US counterpart General James Mattis and his colleague Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New Delhi, who well understood India’s position. In all other aspects, with the national interests of both parties intact.
Defending Rafale deal
The Minister also defended the Rafale deal with France, was scornfully dismissive of Congress party charges of malfeasance. Rajat Pandit could have posed the issue of the IAFR’s dwindling combat squadrons, and of the Russian offer of its latest MiG-35 with full technology transfer, but tactfully avoided the subject, presumably because the planes were Russian and not American - his newspaper’s long held preference (Times of India September 13).
Tata’s solar retail push
Tata Power has taken its solar retail business to the next level with the launch of a comprehensive residential rooftop solution in Delhi and Mumbai. Tata Power Solar, the subsidiary of Tata Power, affirmed that its solar solution can help consumers save Rs 50,000 annually over 25 years. ‘There is huge potential to scale it up and being the number one player in this segment. Tata Power Solar is taking this solution to the next level,’ said Praveer Sinha, CEO and Managing Director, Tata Power. The company has executed the world’s largest rooftop at a single location and India’s largest carport at Cochin International Airport (Business Line September 12).
policy for farmers
Government has announced a Rs 15,053 crore scheme to ensure that farmers growing oilseeds, pulses and copra get the minimum support prices for the yearly production of their crops. Apart from the financial two-year guarantee, the Cabinet approved an additional government credit guarantee of Rsa16,550 crore for agencies undertaking procurements. The government stated minimum support prices for 23 crops every year. About one-third of the harvest of the two main food-grains of wheat and rice are at the minimum support price for sale in ration shops. (Hindu, Business Line, Times of India September 13).
Retail inflation in August eased to 3.69 per cent, driven by cheaper food product prices such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, pulses, sugar and confectionery items, fell below the Reserve Bank of India’s target of 4 per cent. The Rupee rallied on hints of steps to curb volatility, and by the US invitation to China for talks on their differences on economic issues, most notably tariffs (Hindu September 13)
Kofi Annan dies
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General died in a Swiss hospital last week, aged 80. Mr Annan commanded immense respect with his dignified bearing and courteous speech. He was first person from Sub-Saharan Africa to hold this prestigious post and made a distinctive contribution to the UN’s efforts at conflict resolution across continents. His natural aptitude for conciliation was a feature of his diplomacy. Mr Annan’s body was flown to his native Ghana for a state funeral. Conducted by the country’s Archbishop.