India was on red alert for an expected terror attack by Pakistani jihadi groups such as Laskar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi were believed to be the prime targets, but the metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Kolkata , Chennai and Bangalore, were also in a high state of readiness. National Security Guard commandos were dispatched to Gujarat to the scour border areas and keep close watch also on the seas off the west coast for jihadi assault groups attempting to snea in by sea as happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Significantly the tip off came from the Pakistan National Security Advisor Nasir Khan Janjua to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. The Times of India’s Indrani Bagchi (March 7) was quickly off the blocks with a piece suggesting a new chapter in Indo-Pakistani ties was on its way, having commenced with Prime Minister Modi’s unexpected arrival for a birthday bash at Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif’s home in Lahore.
No other scribe has been so bold, recalling that the visit was followed by a terror attack from across the border on the Indian Air Force at Pathancot, but Bagchi has long been given to sightings of such springtime swallows, presumably from some vantage point on the rooftop of US State Department in Washington. It is for the India’s intelligence community to give their professional take on the veracity of the Pakistani information. Was the Pakistani warning given with genuine good intent, or was it a false smoke signal for sceptics around the world doubting that Islamabad had forsaken its old ways for new.; that the leopard had truly changed its spots?
EPF tax roll back
Bowing wisely to the concerns of the salaried middle class, trade unions and legislators, the government has decided to roll back its controversial budget tax on withdrawals from the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made the following statement in Parliament: ‘In view of the representations received from various quarters, the government would like to do a comprehensive study of this proposal and therefore, I withdraw proposals made in para 138 and para 139 of my budget speech.’ (Mint, Business Line, Times of India March 9).
One can only commend a government that listens, is sensitive to the grievances of others, and courageous enough to revisit a policy that needs a second look. This is democracy at its best. Well done.
Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu top investment places
According to the Delhi-based think tank National Council for Applied Economic Research, Gujarat, Delhi and Tamil Nadu rank as the country’s top investment destinations. The ranking is based on the success rate of states implementing 98 per cent of regulatory reforms set out by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. Jharkhand is last, with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar preceding it on the NCAER list. No surprises here. Corruption and bureaucratic sloth are listed as primary investors’ concerns. No surprise either (Mint March 9)
The Haryana government’s two-day ‘Happening Haryana: Global Investors’ Summit,’ in Gurgaon, has brought in Memorandums of Understanding worth Rs 5.84 lakh crore, five times more than the expected Rs 1 lakh crore. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said it was a matter of great satisfaction that 39 of the of the MoUs worth Rs 1,28,000 crore were for the districts not falling under the National Capital Region (environs of Delhi). Gurgaon emerged as the major contributor to the State exchequer (Hindu March 9)
Electricity generation clocked up an impressive 12 per cent growth in February, the highest rate of growth in the past ten years. The growth has come on the back of 11 per cent of additional capacities in thermal power generation in the past year. Private sector power utilities and independent power producers commercialized more capacities, giving a fillip to generation (Mint March 8)
Women fighter pilots
Induction June 18 is the day scheduled for the induction of first batch of women pilots into the Indian Air Force. Bhavna Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh are set to make history, as they complete their advanced stage training. The announcement was made by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on International Women’s Day (March 8). ‘I must thank the Defence Ministry for having approved the IAF’s proposal to induct women as fighter pilots,’ he said (Hindu March 9). An Indian TV channel reported that an Air India 14 hour non-stop flight from Delhi to the United States was manned by an all women crew from pilot, co-pilot to cabin staff. Jai Ho!
No lessons, please, on religious freedom
US State Department spokesman John Kirby expressed regret, at a press conference in Washington, that the Indian authorities had denied visas to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (Hindu March 9). An answer was provided in last week’s issue of Asian Voice (March 12) on comment page 3, but further elucidation is called for. Such posturing from a country whose human rights record since its inception is among the poorest in the world is indeed ironical.. The genocide of the indigenous communities of the north American plain plus the commerce in African slavery, continuing discrimination after the abolition of that abominable institution in 1865 remains a blot on American society, the ritual litany of pious platitudes, notwithstanding. US policies in the Middle East have led to the decimation of the region’s Christians. Its blatant inference in Ukraine has led to bloodshed and conflict. Imagine if a US delegation arrived in Delhi and joined a demonstration calling for the overthrow of the elected government, as happened in Kiev two years ago.
India’s myriads blemishes have been emphasized from Rammohun Roy to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to Vivekenanda and Rabindranath Tagore, from Mahadev Govind Ranade to Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar, covering in all a 150- year period. Despite their calls, serious deficits and delinquencies still remain (see page3) ; they need to be addressed. But sermons from the likes of Barack Obama and his wretched crew are not what the patient requires. Corrective measures must come from within India and not from vacuous pronouncements from a regime culpable for so many of the world’s current miseries.
Larsen Toubro IPO gearing up for listing
Larsen & Toubro Technology Services, a subsidiary of parent engineering giant, Larsen & Toubro, should be ready with its Initial Public Offering by the end of the year, said newly appointed Director and CEO Keshab Panda. ‘The differentiation for L &T Technology Services is the strong core engineering culture and their investments in lab infrastructure for both embedded and mechanical capabilities. This has helped them build expertise in the verticals they operate in and up with innovative solutions,’ wrote Sidharth Rastogi, Partner and Practice Head, Zinnov, a while ago (Business Line March 9)
FM deserves award: Harsh Goenka
RPG Chairman Harsh Goenka, among the big hitters of Indian industry, didn’t stint praise for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget.. He said the minister deserved a Grammy Award. On its rural thrust Goenka said: ‘Revival of rural demand will benefit industry: Plus the focus on roads, railways, ports, irrigation, infrastructure.’ On the negatives, Goenka replied: ‘No boost for industry, no cut in corporate tax rate, no GST [Goods &Services Tax] (Business Line March 5)
Tata Motors, Bharat Forge, General Dynamics tie-up
Tata Motors, Bharat Forge and US major General Dynamics have joined forces to manufacture a combat vehicle for the Indian Army. The three companies then plan to bid for contracts with India’s Ministry of Defence to win contracts for their supply to the Army. Through this partnership we will be better positioned to help the country’s realize ‘Make in India’ vision, for the first completely indigenized combat vehicle, at the same time cater to the opportunities available right here in India,’ said Ravi Pisharody, Excutive Director (Commercial Vehicles) Tata Motors.
These combat vehicles will be compact and with weight between 18-20 tonne to enhance smooth and easy movement to combat zones; and they should be designed to carry guided missiles with a 4 kilometre range, three crew and eight combat-kitted infantry men.(Business Line March 8)
Airbus procurements cross $500 million
The Airbus Group manufactured over $500 million of aero-structures, components, materials and services in India in 2015. The European defence and aerospace company said that it had set its sights to raising the figure to $2 billion by 2020 in the defence and civilian sectors. The company has 45 suppliers in India, highlighting its ‘Make in India’ initiative. (Business Line March 8)
P A Sangma: Much loved Speaker dies
Purna Sangma, the Former Speaker of the Lok Sabha has died, aged 68, in Delhi, following a heart attack. He came from a humble tribal background in India’s North East region and rose to eminence, first as Chief Minister of Meghalaya, then as a Union Minister, where he displayed an enviable mastery of his brief, whatever his ministry. He studied political science at university, hence was well equipped to enter public life as a politician. It was Indira Gandhi, he said, who gave him his first break; and his two-year period as Speaker is remembered with affection across the political spectrum. Humorous, genial, gregarious, he had no enemies but a multitude of friends in all walks of life. He walked tall in everything he did.