Prior to the West Bengal Assembly elections, India’s Election Commission (which monitors these events) insisted that Kolkata Police Commissioner Kumar be removed and replaced by Soumen Mitra. It was a magic wand. The rampant hooliganism - mostly the work of ruling Trinamool Congress activists – came to a stop. The polls in Kolkata and its suburbs were conducted in exemplary conditions, good order and civic behavior not seen the city within living memory. This was not how it was supposed to be, according to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who, in a rampaging performance at a TMC election rally in east Midnappur threatened the present police dispensation with dire consequences when she and her party returned to power.
Her language was of the gutter, her histrionics that of a demented virago. The Election Commission ordered transcripts of her speech and video recordings of her performance. The lady – the description is courtesy rather than fact – may have gone a step too far. The fat is in the fire and the day of reckoning not too distant. Mamata Banerjee and her TMC are likely to return to power, because, firstly, the opposition Communist-Congress alliance is woefully short of credibility; secondly, the TMC has achieved some positive results in rural uplift.
Hope springs eternal
One saving grace in the mayhem was residents in a former Bangladesh enclave in Cooch Behar, which has been transferred to India as part of a general exchange of territory along the West Bengal border, have voted as Indian citizens for the first time in their lives. Democratic choice is the sweeter for its long denial (Business Line May 5)
The last words on the present situation belong surely to three officers of the Kolkata police force. Apropos of the Chief Minister,the first said: ‘How can a politician threaten us for doing our job? Politicians will come and go but we will stay. These politicians will have to suffer in the coming days.’
The second officer remarked: ‘Instead of being proud of her force and complimenting us for doing an exemplary job, she is issuing threats. What sort of message is the Chief Minister trying to send? This has created a permanent chasm between the police and the boss.’
A sub-inspector chimed in: ‘For the first time I am able to move about with my head held high. Suddenly everybody has started respecting me and my uniform.’(Quoted in Times of India, May 4)
Tyagi’s can of worms
Former Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, under interrogation by the CBI admitted his association with three companies, one involving his cousins who dealt in real estate, the others linked to European middlemen, Guido Haschikke and Carlo Gerosa. Investigators have discovered Tyagi’s ownership for a range of companies worth crores of rupees. (Times of India May 4)
It is worth reminding readers that the IAF arms purchases of warplanes, missiles and advanced radars involve cutting edge technologies and are highly expensive. Western arms agencie’s well placed, retired Air Force officers peddling their wares for substantial commissions. The French Rafel and the US F16 had strong advocates among them writing in India’s English-language broadsheets. There is something rotten in this business.
Robust car sales
Car sales in the new fiscal starting April 2016 have started on a robust note, as fresh models (including SUVs) fuelled demand. Total vehicle sales in April rose 11 per cent. While sales in cars grew by 5 per cent year-on-year, sales of SUVs shot up by 33 per cent. Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, recorded a year-on-year increase of 16 per cent. New models boosting sales growth include Hyundai’s Creta SUV, Maruti’s Baleno hatchback and Brezza SUV, Renault’s Kwid mini and Mahindra’s TUV300, KUV100 and Nuvo Sport SUVs (Times of India May 3)
Core sector output in 16 month high
India’s infrastructure sectors registered their highest overall growth of 6.4 per cent in 16 months at the end of the last fiscal in March 2016. There has been a sharp increase in the output of cement, electricity, fertilizers and oil refinery products. ‘One should wait for a couple of months to see if this is sustained trend,’ said D.K. Srivastava, Chief Policy Adviser at EY (Hindu March 3)
HDFC net profit 40 per cent
Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), the largest private sector lender, according to its latest figures released last week, has registered a net profit of 40 per cent at Rs 2,607 crore for the quarter ending March 2016. (Hindu May 3)
IndiGo posts record 76 per cent profit
IndiGo, private biggest airline has reported a record 76 per cent profit of Rs 1,900 crore ending March 2016, much of the numbers attributable to the sharp decline in oil prices, but also due to its increased market share. IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh said. ‘We are seeing strong growth to passenger numbers.’ South Asia Chief Executive Kapil Kaur expected IndiGo to increase its market share, saying, ‘We see their market share close to 45 per cent…They will become a very dominant player in the domestic market with strategic implications for industry structure, consumers and competition.’ (Mint April 30)
Reliance Defence in Ukraine accord
Anil Ambani company Reliance Defence has signed a significant agreement with three state-owned Ukraine companies for collaboration on range of military weapon systems including transport aircraft, such as the giant Antonov, armoured vehicles, maritime gas turbines and unmanned aerial vehicles. The outcome was sealed in a meeting between Anil Ambani and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in which issues of strategic interest between Indian and Ukranin defence and aerospace industries were discussed. Under the agreement with Anotonov, manufacturer of the world’s largest transport aircraft, Reliance and Antonov will jointly bid for the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (Hindu April 30)
HAL to produce Russian helicopters
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd ((HAL) is to manufacture 200 Russian Kamov military helicopters for which it plans to rope in its 4000 plus Indian vendors. Russia and India had already agreed to produce these machines as replacements for the Cheetak choppers under the ‘Make in India’ programme. Sixty Kamovsare to be supplied directly from Russia for assembly in India, while the remainder will be manufactured in India (Business Line May 3)
Groundwork for PM’s Israeli visit
Bilateral ties between India and Israel are set move to a higher gear with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming summer visit (dates to be finalized) to Israel. The groundwork will be laid by the prior visit in June to Israel by India’s Minister for Water Resources, Uma Bharti. She will firm up agricultural ties between the two countries.
Israel to reciprocate
Israel will reciprocate with a visit to India by Ofir Akunis, Minister of Science, Space and Technology, who has been invited by his Indian counterpart Harsh Vardhan. Minister Akunis will bring with him as team of leading Israeli scientists, something sanctioned personally by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. India’s President Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visted Israel a few months ago (Hindu May 4).
Chinese investors India-bound
India’s thriving ‘mobile first’ internet economy, fuelled by 250 million mobile internet users, in youthful demographics and its fastest growing global economy overall (among major countries), has attracted serious interest among Chinese investors in search of quick financial returns. A group of 15 Chinese investors were recently in Bangaluru to meet and listen to presentations of 125 Indian start-ups in the mobile internet space. Interacting with local media, the Chinese visitors said they planned to collect $ 1 billion to invest in Indian start-ups in the next three years (Business Line May 4)
Delhi Metro to join world’s top ten
The Delhi Metro is poised to join the world’s top ten by the end of 2016. It is truly an astonishing story of a vast urban enterprise that truly took off a mere decade and a half ago. The network already covers over 300 kms, joining an elite that includes Beijing, Shanghai and London. ‘We will cross the 1,000 kms target in the next five years,’ says D.P Mishra, Additional Secretary, Urban Development Ministry. He pointed the consultation the Delhi Metro administration provides other Indian cities construct their own metros (Hindu May 4)
Jihadi terror suspects In Delhi arrested
The Delhi police have arrested three jihadi suspects belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed network. The arrested men were planning a terrorist strike at a shopping mall. More arrests are expected with the busting of the terror ring. The arrested men have been identified as Sajid Ahmed, Sameer Ahmed and Shakir Ansari. Their movements were closely tracked by the Delhi police ant-terror cell, and by national intelligence agencies.
Concert with Pakistan
The arrest of the three suspects and the detention of 10 others have revealed Jaish-e-Mohammed’s expanding footprint in India. Their interrogation plus other key evidence point to Project Karachi which entails the funding and training by Pakistan’s Inter Services directorate of Jaish operatives in India. The plot thickens. (Hindu, Times of India May 5).