The Indian Coast Guard intercepted the vessel, which had been tracked by Indian Intelligence agencies from the start of its journey in Pakistani waters and the information passed on to the naval authorities. The Coast Guard said four men on the boat, finding themselves cornered fired the vessel, which sank with those on board. “This route is not the normal fishing route and the area is not a fishing area. Even smugglers of gold and contraband take a busy route to pass off as a fishing boat,” said India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Furthermore, smugglers do not maintain communications with Pakistani maritime security agencies or their army officers, he said.
“Intelligence inputs were clear and left no room for speculation by the Coast Guard. They reacted immediately. The boat was under our surveillance for almost 12-14 hours and the Coast Guard intercepted it as soon as possible,” explained the minister.” Communication intercepts by Indian Intelligence agencies indicated the conversations were about passing on cargo. Asked about the repeated ceasefire violations on the Kashmir border, Minister Parrikar replied: “It only proves what we have been saying: that there is an attempt to push unwanted elements across the border and covering fire happens to facilitate that.” (Hindu, Times of India, Telegraph January 6)
Economist and author Arvind Panagariya is to head the new institution, Niti Aayog, which replaces the Planning Commission. He will be its Vice Chairman, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Chairman, keeping faith the administrative structure of the Planning Commission. The government believes that the Planning Commission had outlived its relevance and the new body replacing would be more in tune with the goal of transforming the Indian economy in line with the new ground realities.
New thinking and fresh approaches on economic issues is the need of the hour. Dr Panagariya currently teaches at Columbia University in the US and was Chief Economist at the Asian Development Bank. He is the author of a number of books, among them the acclaimed “ Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries,” which Panagariya co-authored with Professor Jagdish Bhagwati ,also from Columbia University. Other notable appointments to Niti Aayog include economist Bibek Debroy and scientist and former Adviser to the Defence Minister , Dr V.K.Saraswat. (Mint, Business Line January 6)
2G auction cleared
The Union Cabinet has approved the largest ever telecom spectrum auction that is targeted to earn the exchequer Rs 64,840 crore. The government will sell 380.75 megaertz of second generation (2G) spectrum in three bands – the premium 800 MHz and 1800 MHz. Spectrum in 2100 MHz may also be put up for auction simultaneously after the Defence Ministry vacates it. The Cabinet approved a reserve price of Rs3,646 crore pan-India per MHz in 800 MHz, Rs 3,900 crore for 900 MHz band pan-India excluding Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Jammu and Kashmir Proceeds from this year’s auction will help government reach its fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent of GDP (Business Line,Hindu January 6)
Ashok Leyland revival on track
A crisis is calculated to concentrate minds. When the Indian economy was in slowdown in 2013, leading carmakers, including Ashok Leyland felt the chill with steeply declining sales. Desperate situations often result in desperate remedies . Vinod Datari, Managing Director of Ashok Leyland trvalled to London to meet the Hinduja brothers, the owners of the company. He presented them with his tough rescue plan and got their nod – a hard decision, with no other realistic option in sight. The plan worked and sales began to pick up. The company reported a profit of Rs 120 crore following losses spanning six consecutive quarters. “It’s just the beginning of the story,” said an analyst of a global consulting firm. “With the market recovering, the real challenge for the company would be to sustain the lead. The impact of newer entrants is likely to be more pronounced now than ever before.” (Mint December 15)
Australia trade deal
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb is to meet his Indian counterpart Rudi Prasad and senior Indian officials to clinch the pending free trade agreement (FTA) between the countries. India and Australia have recently restarted on the subject. FTA talks were initiated by the Congress-led UPA government in 2011 has been re-energized by both sides and has gained considerable traction. This will entail a reduction in tariffs for most goods traded the countries as well as liberalized rules for the flow of investments and services.
A 400-member Australian business delegation is to arrive in India shortly to sign commercial pacts in the areas of water management, manufacturing , sports education tourism, skills development, road safety, rail transport, life sciences and tropical medicine. “The mission, which aims at promoting interaction between the two business communities, will feature a multi-city week-long programme spread across 13 industry sectors,” Nicola Watkinson< Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for South and South East Asia, Australia Trade Commission (Business Line January 8)
Kerry, Ban Ki Moon at
Vibrant Gujarat summit
US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arrived at the weekend to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Global and Investors’ summit in Ahmedabad, where they shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, once a chief minister of Gujarat. About Fortune 500 companies CEOs and 200 other global company heads were also present at the meet. Security agencies and police have thrown a tight cordon around the VIPs (Business Line January 12). More next week.
Bengal business meet
Barely a week ago, Dr Bikash Chandra Sinha, an eminent Cambridge-educated physicist pronounced that West Bengal was a “bhaarta rashtra” [ failed state in English]. He deplored the rising student hooliganism in schools and colleges across the state caused by the politicization of education. There may be a sliver of hope that things may improve. The state’s volatile and unpredictable Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has convened an ambitious business conference in Kolkata for Indian and global company executives to meet and interact with ministers and officials with a view to investing in the state. She has promised them land and other facilities. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his Cabinet colleague Nitin Gadkari, both invited guests as Ms Banerjee sets about her charm offensive with Centre, with whom she has promised to cooperate.
Adi Godrej MD & CEO of the Godrej Group, among others, struck a note of optimism: “I would like to congratulate the Chief Minister on the steps taken for doing business in W Bengal. In the last few months, the demand for FMCG in the country has increased and West Bengal is topping the chart. It is quite remarkable.” Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) MD & CEO N Chandrasekaran: “ We have been on a growth trajectory. Now we are planning to recruit13,000 people in the next 24 months, taking our headcount here [West Bengal] to 40,000.”(Times of India January 8).
In the latest twist to the mysterious death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of the high profile Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, has been a statement by the Delhi Police registering a case of murder after a receiving a medical report submitted by AIIMS on December 29. The Delhi Police Commissioner B.S.Bari, told the media that the report had concluded that the poison found in Ms Pushkar’s body was either injected or fed orally. The post-mortem examination and autopsy were conducted by an AIIMS team along with teams from the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory. The evidence collected by the teams was included in the AIIMS report (Hindu January 7).
An ordinance has been issued to amend the Citizenship Act and confer similar rights to Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India(OCI)will free the visiting diaspora of procedural irritants such as frequent calls to police stations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in Gandhinagar, at which Guyana’s Present Donald Ramotar was present, appealed the diaspora communities to involve themselves with India’s development, for instance, to help fund the Ganga clean-up project now under way (Business Line January 9)