Monday 23rd March 2015 07:35 EDT

Media Watch (March 28)
The keenly awaited Insurance bill – one of the most important in the government’s economic reforms agenda – has been passed by the Rajya Sabha [the Upper House of Parliament] and thus becomes law. Of particular significance was the cooperation rendered by the opposition Congress party, which enabled the ruling BJP-led coalition to muster majority required after a three-hour debate. The cooperation between India’s two largest parties in the national interest was a cause for general satisfaction. The present Parliament, thus far, has proved to be the most productive in recent memory – a far cry from the previous one, when proceedings were repeatedly stalled by a fractious BJP-led opposition. The Insurance bill, drafted and placed before Parliament by the Congress-led UPA regime failing to get the required numbers, lodged in limbo. It has now been restored to life, enabling a 49 per cent cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance sector from the earlier 26 per cent.
Support from bankers,
Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO, State Bank of India, said: “This could result in an inflow of Rs 20,000 crore immediately. This is de jure an increase in FDI limits for pension too as so much of retirement products come from this sector.” This view received strong support from Chanda Kochhar MD & CEO, ICICI Bank: “The passage of the Insurance bill is long awaited development. It signals the commitment of the government to implementing reform and attracting global capital to support India’s growth.” Industry captains Sanjeev Bajaj and Sam Ghosh were equally supportive of the bill (Times of India March 13). Dipen Sheth, head, institutional research at HDFC Securities, said he found the excitement understandable. “It is like this, structurally speaking, insurance is great opportunity to be in. There are tonnes and tonnes of long-term value to be created….” (Mint March13)
Sustained GDP growth
Priority: Jaitley
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that India needed sustained GDP growth of 9-10, per cent for the next decades in order to improve infrastructure and reduce rampant poverty. “We need resources and I can’t get resources until I grow by 9-10 per cent, “ he said during an impromptu speech at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. India’s $2 trillion economy could only find these resources from foreign funding and inflows (Mint March 4)
Implementing projects
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set great store on project implementation, hence has set up a monitoring body across State ministries to monitor their progress within agreed timelines. The Prime Minister will review progress with State secretaries on implementation. These meetings will be held through video conference on the fourth Wednesday of every month. The later data on projects under review will be uploaded on line a week prior to these meetings (Mint March 11)
Baring lines up
$1bn investment
Baring Private Equity Asia, which manages $9 billion in assets, expects to invest at least $1 billion in India. “We don’t have hard allocations, but judging by our past experience, I would be surprised if we didn’t invest a billion dollars in India,” said Jean Salata, founding partner and executive of Baring. Baring has already invested $1,04 billion in the country across three deals including $389.4 million in a part buyout of software services firm Hexaware Technologies Ltd and an investment of $233.5 million in cement maker Lafarge India Ltd. (Mint March 9)
Sales of trucks, buses
in revival mode
Sales of trucks and buses in February grew at their fastest rate in three years, indicating that the economy is picking up apace. Sales of commercial vehicles grew for the fourth straight month , according to figures released by the Indian Automobile Manufacturers. They grew 10.1 per cent in February from a year ago. Sales of cars also grew for a fourth straight month, rising 6.85 from a year ago. Sugato Sen, Deputy Director General of Automobile Manufacturers, was hopeful that growth would continue, saying that “commercial vehicle sales are a reflection of economic activity in the country, the challenge will be to sustain it.” (Mint March 11)
Chinese, South Korean
firms India-bound
China’s Baoding Tanwei Group and South Korea’s Hyosung Corporation plan to set up electricity transmission equipment manufacturing facilities in India. “Due to the mandatory requirement that one needs to have a manufacturing base in India and the size of the electricity transmission equipment market here, firms such as BTW and Hyosung have firmed up plans to manufacture transformers here,” said a senior industry official. (Mint March 4)
Technical tie-ups for
rail infrastructure
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said that the Indian rail network can grow faster with a partnership model. He said that the ministry would be setting up a new body to enhance partnership with the private sector to raise efficiency and speed in the implementation of rail projects. “We need partnership which is our thrust area…..Partnership can help the Railways grow faster,” he said at an international conference in New Delhi attended by the ambassadors of China, France and the Czech Republic. He continued: “We seek partnership with many of you and I look forward to Railways becoming a growth engine, Railways becoming the wheels of social transformation.” (Business Line March 12)
Ratan Tata to head
Railway advisory body
Ratan Tata, former head of the Tata Group has been appointed by Railway Minister to head an advisory council to suggest improvements in the system and its modernization to make it for purpose in the 21 century. (Business Line March 20)
US envoy for
inclusive growth
US Ambassador Richard Verma, addressing a conference in Kolkata, said one of the purposes of pan-Asian connectivity was inclusive growth, with India as an emerging leader in crafting such enabling policies. “It is worth noting that India is emerging as a regional leader in creating policies to encourage inclusive economic growth.” In this context, he praised the work of Kolkata-based Bandhan micro-finance, which has been granted a provisional banking licence by the Reserve Bank of India. Ambassador Verma praised Bandhan’s efforts to promote inclusive growth , citing it as one of the examples of “good
governance.” (Business Line March 12)
cruising in India
The Indian unit of the US-based Harley-Davidson Inc is to start exporting the Street 750 and Street 500 models to Europe and Asia as the iconic motorbike seeks to accelerate sales across the continents. The company’s two manufacturing units are in Kansas City and Gurgaon in Haryana in the outskirts of Delhi. “That will certainly drive production planning for the plant in India,” said Anoop Prakash, Managing Director, Harley-Davidson India. Prakash, a former in the US Marine Corp who did his MBA at the Harvard Business School, returned to India to take charge of the company’s Gurgaon unit, which is set to target the ASEAN bloc including Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam (Mint March 4)
Telangana focus on
education, irrigation
The government of the new state of Telangana is to focus on education and irrigation, according to the budget presented to the State Assembly. Telagana was a part of the old Andhra Pradesh, which was bifurcated after a prolonged campaign to redress the traditional economic imbalance between the two halves of the State (Business Line March 10)
Bengal’s shame,
India’s shame
The attack on a Christian school in the West Bengal border town of Ranaghat has shocked and aroused public opinion across the State. The school was robbed; worse was the rape of a 74 year-old nun by the assailants, all caught on CCTV, although at the time of writing no arrests have been made. Bengal has had, still has, a close relationship between Hindu and Christian communities, bound by language, culture and mutual regard. The prompt response of the BJP, Communists, Congress and Trinamool Congress to the outrage was no surprise. The candle light vigil in Kolkata and the inter-faith prayers led by Cardinal Beselios Cleemis from Kerala, captured the mood of the city.
The abused nun, repeating the message of Christ from the cross, asked that her abuser be forgiven. West Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, a loose cannon at the best of times, went berserk, accusing the BJP and the Communists of exploiting the situation. The children from the school took out a procession with placards appealing to political parties not to politicize the tragedy and to consider humanity. A reluctant Chief Minister has been forced, against her inclinations, to call in the CBI to help in the investigation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has instructed that all the relevant reports on the ongoing investigation be delivered to him.
Education is (and has been )greatly prized by Bengalis; and Christian schools and colleges in the State have and do give students the best available instruction. That is why applications for admission to these institutions outnumber the places on offer. The vast majority of pupils, from all classes and ethnicities, come from a Hindu background, otherwise these institutions wouldn’t be financially viable. (Telegraph, Times of India, Ananda Bazar Patrika (in Bengali) March 17-21)

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