Tuesday 17th March 2015 19:31 EDT

The leopard has never been known to change its spots as the Mufti showed when his first act in power was to order the release from detention of the Valley’s Muslim League leader Masarat Alam. Alam organized riots against the State administration several years ago in which hundreds died. His stated goal is to create an Islamist polity in the Kashmir Valley. Likeminded jihadis indulged in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing, expelling the Valley’s Hindu Pandits from their ancestral abode. Opposition parties in Parliament have been up in arms, and with momentum gathering pace in the House and outside it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now come out firmly against Sayid’s decision to free Masarat Alam and open the jihadi secessionist can of worms. Development is out, Islamism is in. The  SAARC yatra, which took the Indian foreign secretary Subramanyam Jaishankar to Islamabad, turned out to be an exercise in futility. It has gone the way of all such meetings these past sixty seven years. The karmic cycle of futility goes on regardless. (Times of India, Hindu March 10)
PDF gets the message
The unfolding anger across India at Masarat Alam’s release has given pause to Mufti Mohammed Sayid and his colleagues in the PDF. This isn’t a party issue, but a matter of national concern. He has thus come out with a mollifying statement that no further releases of jihadi elements in State would occur.  The question before the country is not civil rights but the eventual establishment of an Islamic state in the region which, by definition, will leave such rights for minorities beyond the pale.  Sayid would be wise not to test Indian resolve (Telegraph March 11)
Lok Sabha passes Land acquisition bill
The Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) has passed the government’s contentious Land acquisition bill, which was placed before it with  several amendments on compensation and farmers’ rights. Getting it through the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) will be more problematic as the government lacks a majority in the chamber and will need the cooperation of some opposition parties. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh told reporters after the debate, that the measure was very much in the national interest. “We are only making a correction to the law…..All the amendments are in the interest of the farmers and the country.” (Business Line March 11)
India Inc cheers
Indian industry was upbeat about the new Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, expressing optimism that it would boost manufacturing and infrastructure projects. It will now be looking at proceedings in the Rajya Sabha. What has been achieved, said the corporate sector, was an encouraging first step. Once the momentum gets going, other steps would hopefully follow (Business Line March 11)  
Budget: Step in right direction
Ed Royce, Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that the Indian Budget would encourage US investors to look at India with greater interest. “I think the commitment for infrastructure spending is important. I think the 25 per cent tax rates down from 30 per cent will bring in more foreign investment.
More governance less government
Congressman Joyce continued:  “ I generally agree with the Prime Minister’s  [Modi] thesis that of minimal government and maximum governance, in other words getting more efficiency out of government….is clearly a step by step approach….not a quantum jump, but a big step in the right direction.” The current level of bilateral trade could rise from the current$100 billion to $500 billion over the next few years. However, he issued a caveat, pointing out that it took 80 clearance forms for an approval to set up a hotel in India compared to six in Singapore. Period.(Business Line March 11)
Remarkable turnaround
“Whatever you think about India… can’t ignore it. Years of playing bridesmaid to China look like they are coming to an end. On current trends, the South Asian giant will soon be the world’s fastest-growing major economy [at a projected 8-8.5 per cent per annum] and its most populous country…..It has been a remarkable turnaround story,” wrote Tom Stevenson in the Daily Telegraph, London, March 7. Much still had to be done including boosting manufacturing and infrastructure development, subjects on which most domestic and foreign investors and economic gurus are in broad agreement. Stevenson made a special point in emphasizing India’s demographic dividend for its future rise. The IMF has upgraded the country’s current growth ending March 31 to 7.5 per cent from the earlier estimate of 6.9 per cent. According to the latest data manufacturing  is buoyant (Hindu, Mint March 12, 13)
EU to step up India funding
The European Investment Bank (EIB),the financial arm of the European Union, is planning to increase  financing projects in India. “The bank is in talks with Indian officials regarding several projects, including financing the Lucknow Metro project,” said Sunita Luckkhoo, Regional Manager, South Asia, EIB, in Luxembourg during a conversation with Indian journalists. The Lucknow Metro project, one of the flagship schemes of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. This will be part of two corridors – North South and East West. The 23 kilometre North South corridor, which will connect Lucknow airport to the city is the first phase of the project (Business Line March11)
India tea exports boom in Russia
Russia’s reponse to the quality of Indian tea has been encouraging, according to an Indian tea delegation in Moscow. Russian retail chain major “7 Continent” had submitted a proposal to the Indian Tea Board for the exclusive promotion of Indian tea in Russia through its 56 outlets across the country. India and Russia, buoyed by the success of this venture, are now preparing to base their trade in the product on a rupee-rouble mechanism.  “The [Russian] authorities informed the Indian delegation that they have not received a single complaint on the quality of Indian tea,” said Indian Tea Board sources (Business Line March 11)
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi top girls’ education
Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are India’s top ranked States in the education indices for girls. Using district-level indicators of girls’ education, health and social disadvantage, these States have performed outstandingly well, according to data released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and UNICEF. Earlier, we used to look at the gender gap in indicators, and this is narrowing.. However, this was no longer adequate,” said Vrinda Sarup, Secretary, Department of Education and Literacy. The new data from the Digital Gender Atlas for Advancing Girls’ Education will help States to improve the disbursement of their resources to areas most in need of help, she said (Hindu March 10)
Shaping future of Internet
With the Internet’s next billion users likely to be Indian, Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers CEO Fadi Chehade told reporters in Delhi that India’s role in this development could be a game changer. “India is central to what the Internet is at the global level…..India is not simply getting into the digital world. The country is already an incumbent , a driver in the digital world in every sense of the word,” he said.  
Digital economy
He noted that since his last visit to India in October 2013, India’s place at the global level “has taken a new energy that is remarkable.”  He continued: India’s “shaping how digital economy would look like, not tomorrow, but ten years from now because the next billion people who will shape the Internet will come from here…you will shape the future of the Internet.” (Business Line March 10)
Manmohan Singh for CBI questioning
The court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to appear before it to answer questions on the award of a coal block to Hindalco, privare company headed by Kumaramangalam Birla. Also summoned to appear in court is former coal secretary P.C. Parekh. Dr Singh said: “I respect the judicial process and hope….to establish my total innocence. I am sure that the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all the facts.” (Times of India, Hindu March 12).

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