The Monsoon rains, mercifully, have been sufficiently adequate so far, raising hopes that its continuation will spur agricultural growth and strengthen the Indian economy. The forthcoming Monsoon session of Parliament, alas, held out few such hopes. The Opposition parties girded up for turmoil and disturbance, such as we witnessed under the previous UPA regime when the BJP spearheaded the Opposition agitation. The cause for uproar and disruption were scams, then, as now. Lalitgate, and the far more damaging Vyapam, have led to calls for the resignations of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vijay Raje Sindhia, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
It is not unreasonable for such demands to be made, given the seriousness of the charges leveled against them, what is giving rise to growing public concern is the threat by the President of the Congress Party, that unless the resignations are submitted with immediate effect, Parliamentary proceeding would be disrupted and its business, such as legislation on matters of urgent national interest on the Goods and Services Tax and the Land Acquisition bills would be blocked. All these things came to pass in the first days of the present session. Such irresponsible behavior has been, and is, deplorable. MPs are elected at great public expense to debate issues in the interests of democratic governance; unruly conduct brings politics and politicians into disrepute. (Hindu July 22)
Call to reason
Senior Congress MP, the articulate Shashi Tharoor, made a reasoned appeal for the business of the House to be to proceed as unhindered, with speakers from every side heard courteously and attentively as the occasion demanded (July 22). Scenes of Congress-inspired anarchy in Parliament have done the party’s fading image no favours. If the brutal truth be told, the public speeches and posturing of Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who projects himself as a future prime minister of India, have shown only too well how utterly unfit he is to hold that office or other public offices. With Rahul and his mother Sonia, the party President, at the helm, the future looks bleak for Congress. Bazaar slogans on helping the poor at the expense of the rich are no-brainers. Congress is set for the wilderness.
Govt to counter Islamic State threat
On 19 March, Home Minister Rajnath Singh issued a statement in the Lok Sabha that the global terror group Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (ISIL) had negligible support among Indian youth. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs, having received intelligence reports from 10 States and, presumably, consulted the Centre’s Intelligence Branch (IB) is less sanguine now. Hence the Home Ministry is taking urgent steps to draw up “a coherent national strategy” to counter the threat. Hopefully, it won’t be too little, too late (Hindu July 21)
Master plan for Andhra Pradesh capital
The Singapore government has submitted a master plan for the future capital of Andhra Pradesh, named Amravati, to Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. Presenting the master plan, Singapore’s Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said six key factors weighted with planners designing the heart of the new capital: providing jobs and homes, world-class infrastructure, quality living, protecting heritage sites and resource and management. The seed capital will cover an area of 16.9 square kilometers and is to include the development of the three villages of Lingayapalam, Tallaygayapalam and Uddaandarayapalam and the entire farmland between them. The first stage of the capital will cater for 3000,000 inhabitants and will include a vibrant commercial hub, besides a state-of-the art administrative centre. (Hindu July 21)
Israel help for Ganga cleanup
The waters of the River Ganga may be considered sacred to millions of Indians, but there is little that is pristine in the sheer volume of mephitic filth that has made it and its myriad tributaries the country’s Augean Stables. Salvation may be on the way from Israel, long and justifiably perceived as the world’s foremost expert in water management techniques. Israel has a template for reusing waste water and domestic for irrigation and agriculture respectively. An Israeli delegation is to shortly visit India to assess the contribution Israel can make in particular areas of the Ganga cleanup programme. (Hindu July 20)
Sikka scorcher lifts
Infosys India’s IT giant Infosys announced a 5 per cent growth in net profit in the first quarter (April-June 2015) of the current financial year, with shares surging 11 per cent at the breaking news. Its recent stagnation appears to have been surmounted with the appointment of Vishal Sikka as CEO a year ago to bring in fresh ideas to a company that was losing ground to its leading software rivals such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Sikka’s strategic vision focused on automation and other high margin services like artificial intelligence and digital technology.
“Efforts in redesigning our clients’ experience and our widespread adoption of of innovation, both in grassroots and breakthroughs, are starting to bear fruit in large deal wins and in the growth of large clients,” Sikka explained. Infosys acquired 79 clients in the first quarter of this year and is on course to realize its goal of a total revenue haul of $20 billion by 2020. Market expectation have been exceeded, but Sikka warned against excessive optimism on the basis of single quarter figures (Telegraph, usiness Line, Hindu July 22 )
Helicopter deal, India-Russia ties
Speaking in Moscow to the Press Trust of India, India’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, P.S. Raghavan, said apropos of the recent signing of a defence deal with Russia under which 200 Russian helicopters would be manufactured in India as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” project, that his country’s collaboration with Russia was part of an “intensification and diversification of its strategic ties with Russia. “This huge, broad-based [India-Russia] relationship, is getting broader every day,” he said. “If the two countries decide to jointly manufacture helicopters in India, it is a big bang development, with transfers of technology and licensed production.”
Ambassador Raghavan dismissed certain media speculations about diluted defence ties between India and Russia, which he said were based on “inaccurate and ill-informed information.” He said “people tend to notice a few things which are non-Russian…..there are newer and newer projects with Russia which don’t get noticed”. He said full disclosure would be made at the appropriate time (Times of India July 19)
Pipavav venture with Russian firm
An ambitious joint venture between Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company Ltd and the Russian ship repair company, JSC Ship Repairing Centre Zvyozdochka, in which the Indian firm will hold a 51 per cent stake, was signed last week. The joint venture has been created for medium refits and life certification for 877 EKM (Indian) Submarines. “The skills and experience developed by the joint venture will position Pipavav Defence favourably for undertaking similar work for large submarine forces of similar class deployed by countries like Algeria, Vietnam and Iran, with potential additional revenues of Rs20,000 crore,” said a statement. A site in India, furthermore, would save transportation costs to Russia. (Business Line July 22
Simplifying investment regime
Foreign direct investments have been be strung together with those by non-resident Indians to simplify the country’s investment regime, which gives companies greater leeway to choose how they raise capital. Companies are to be allowed to raise foreign portfolio investments up to 49 per cent without government approval. The move simplifies procedures for further investment by foreign companies.(Mint July 17)
With the Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) operational, funding small and medium units will be easier going forward, said Minister of State in the Finance Ministry, Jayant Sinha. The government’s goal was to promote entrepreneurial activity in this critical area for sustained economic growth. If the US is the foremost innovation hub for world’s top billion richest segment, but India has the potential to occupy the role of innovation hub and driver of economic growth for the next 6 billion layer of the global population. Small cars, solar energy, medical devices in smart phones constitute the segment where demand for such products is likeliest, hence be the principal target for India’s exports.(Business Line July 13)
IIT, B-school graduates, new ‘smart’ cops
Top quality candidates are joining the officer cadre of the police services. Their numbers boast IIT degree holdrs in science or technology or a top notch business school MBA. The police services have rarely been a magnet for candidates with high qualifications or notable talent. But times are a-changing. Since 2011, 2012, 2013, 70 per cent of the entrants into the police officer cadre come from this skilled background. The Modi government is doing everything in its power to encourage this trend. The Bureau of Police Research and Development spots and recruits talent. (Times of India July 20).