Prime Minister Narendra Modi chided the Supreme Court of India for the huge backlog of cases awaiting settlement before the courts across the country. Chief Justice Thakur of the Supreme Court in a terse reply told him that the judiciary, nationwide, had 18,000 judges, while the Law Commission had recommended the appointment of at least 40,000 judges across the board to meet the national requirement. The Prime Minister retired from the fray with the mumbled excuse that he would look into the matter.
This brings to the fore the issue of the delivery of proper justice. India needs more judges than it currently has. One possible reason could be that in terms of demand and supply, people more adept at breaking the law greatly exceed those upholding it. The recent scenes in Parliament are a telling reminder of the depths to which politics in the country have sunk.
Time was when a materially weak India boasted leaders who well understood the concept of public service; today, an immeasurably stronger India parades politicians addicted to personal and sectarian goals above the national interest. Political discourse has descended to rabble rousing and targeted vituperation, no holds barred. Subramaniam Swamy had his remarks expuinged twice by the Deputy Speaker of the Rajya Sabha. India is more polarized than it has been in living memory.
West Bengal elections
The Assembly elections in West Bengal are a case in point. The violence, largely engineered by the ruling Trinamool Congress, has been unprecedented. The electoral embrace between the Congress party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) amounts to little more than death pact. Two moribund entities struggle to stay alive with the aid of their respective zombies, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for Congress, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose for the Communists. It is a dismal tale, made worse by a near hysterical media vendetta against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The fourth estate is fourth-rate. Such is the visible public perception. O tempora! O mores! [Oh, the times! Oh, the habits!]
Move to evict Mallya
The Rajya Sabha’s Ethics Committee moves to expel Vijay Mallya from the House, where he sits as an Independent member. The government has abrogated his passport and may commence proceedings for his extradition from the UK. Mallya’s debts to Indian banks are astronomical. His business ventures, most notably, the Kingfisher airline, have collapsed. India has asked Britain to deport him (Mint, Times of India, Hindu April 26, 29)
Israeli aid for Latur
The plains of India have been sweltering in a heat wave and drought greater than any in living memory, even as Assam and the neighboring hill states of North East India have been subjected to fierce downpours and floods.
Parts of Maharashtra, notably the district and town of Latur, are reeling under severe water shortages, with tankers arriving with water to alleviate the peoples’ desperate needs. Salvation, however, is near at hand. At Kfar Vitkin, in central Israel, thrives a cooperative agricultural community, like many others in the country. Soon drought-hit Latur will learn lessons in organic farming and efficient irrigation techniques from a pair of Israeli farmers from Kfar Vitkin.
Rafael Dayan and and Abner Chin, who will head the India project, will help set up greenhouses, buying and operating the relevant farm equipment, procuring hybrid seeds and organic fertilizers and pest control and setting up the irrigation system. Dayan and Chin are in talks with local MLAs and local enterprises to get things moving in Latur (Business Line April 27)
RIL’s biggest 8-year quarterly profit
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd posted 16 per cent profit - its largest quarterly ( 31 March 2016) profit in eight years. The figure, at Rs 7, 398 crore. ($1.1 billion), is based on strong margins in its refining and petrochemical business. The companies refineries earned $10.8 on each barrel of crude processed, $10 earlier in the year.(Times of India, Hindu, APRIL 23)
HDFC fourth quarter rise of 20.2 per cent
The Housing Development Finance Corporation, India’s largest private lender bank reported a 20.2 per cent in the fourth quarter fiscal ending 31 March 2016.The Mumbai-headquartered bank, which registered around 30 per cent growth in profit for over a decade until 2014, registered a post tax profit of Rs 12,296 crore in the recent quarter (Times of India April 23)
Singapore Airlines wings across India
Singapore Airlines low cost subsidiary Scoot is spreading its wings across India. Starting with the Singapore-Chennai route, Scoot is opening new routes in May to Amritsar and Jaipur. Singapore Airlines and Scoot have wide bodied aircraft capable of long haul flights, but its other low cost budget subsidiaries Silk Air and Tiger operate the narrow Airbus 320 that can fly non-stop for five hours. Furthermore Singapore Airlines holds a 49 per cent stake in Vistara with partner Tata Group holding 51 per cent (Times of India April 23)
Maruti profit falls
Maruti Suzuki reported its first quarterly decline in profit in two years. The company, with the largest market share in passenger cars, has transformed the automobile scene in India., where every one of the world’s major companies and their Indian compeers is represented in towns and cities across the country.
R C Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki described the Supreme Court’s ban on diesel engines for their pollution of the environment was ’arbitrary.’ The industry was being made a scapegoat, he said. ‘Two wheelers cause two to three times more pollution than cars and trucks four to five times…Unfortunately we are a dusty country, and Delhi sits next to a desert.’ (Times of India April 27)’
However, despite the fall in profit, Maruri Suzuki’s net sales of its latest Vitara, Brezza and Balero hatchback models have risen 12 per cent. The profit fall, said a broker was a one-time phenomenon that would be reversed in the current fiscal (Mint April 27).
When Maruti Suzuki launched the Nexa line of dealerships last year to sell a range of premium cars, there were skeptics who doubted the strategy would work. But it has. Opening Nexa outlets is to increase sales, with non-customers becoming customers (Business Line April 29)
Scooters in pole position
India is the world’s largest two-wheeler market with over 16 million units sold annually. Of these numbers, scooters have taken the lion’s share. Sales of scooters are growing at an astonishing 25 per cent annually. Scooters have been associated with people of an older generation and women. Motorcycles, on the other hand, have a macho appeal and are better suited to cope with Indian roads. Yet scooters are top of the tree, the dominating force by far of the Indian two-wheeler market. Why? Comfort and style are the primary factors, plus the fact that women with saris are better able to adapt to them. Finally, fuel economy is the clincher. (Business Line April 29)
Chennai bounces back from December floods
Chennai airport has achieved 12 per cent growth in passenger traffic and a 9 per cent increasing in cargo handling in 2015-16 despite the devastating rain and floods last December that brought life in the capital city of Tamil Nadu to a standstill. Deepak Shastri, Chennai Airport Director, said that a second runway operationally open 24 hours a day would increase aircraft movement to 35 per hour from the present 29 per hour. He also stated that the airport needed a further 14-16 acres for more space to handle wide-body aircraft. At present the runway can only handle the narrower A 320 aircraft (Business Line April 29)
Hindu teachers jailed in Bangladesh
Two Hindu teachers at Hijla High School in southern Bangladesh have been given 6 month prison sentences by a Bangladesh court for allegedly insulting Islam. Hindu and Muslim writers have been subjected to attacks by Islamic extremists for expressing anti-Islamic sentiments (Times of India April 28)
Afghanistan seeks Indian helicopters
In a conversation with India’s foreign sectary S.Jaishankar, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai requested that India supply offensive attack helicopters against the Taliban. Karzai said he would be appealing to the United Nations to rein in Pakistan support for terror groups operating in Afghanistan (Times of India April 28)
The Bard’s enduring appeal in India
Why does Shakespearean voice resonate so well in India? A Times of India editorial (April 23) gives an answer of which the iconic poet of all humankind would have nodded approval.
‘Knock, knock, who’s there? Shakespeare. Shake what? Shakespeare whose verses and curses do boil and bubble in cauldron of India….Modern Brits are handicapped with the bard because they no longer rock that Elizabethan vibe. But we in India – thanks to enduring feudal habits, the caste walls, honour killings, overbearing parents, warring families, khap panchayats and the like – know how a lyrical love story can end in melodramatic puddles of blood for real. Cleopatra, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, they all blend in because forsooth here that whole dying for love or killing for love is verily a sweet sorrow.’