Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been spreading his wings in B ritain and Germany, addressing Indian students and the diaspora in general in London and Berlin. He also spoke at the Institute of Strategic Studies in the British capital on his vision of what Indian foreign policy should be. If the purpose of this excursion was to present himself as the next Indian prime minister in waiting, the end scarcely justified the means. He is as unlikely to occupy this seat as unicorns are to fly.
His description of the RSS as a copy of the Muslim Brotherhood was silly and childish. Again, the Congress leadership may not have participated in the infamous anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Delhi, but four local Congressmen most certainly did. Mr Gandhi remains the Mickey Mouse of Indian politics.
Breaking the mould
Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the mould by attacking the Congress Party, past and present, at gatherings of the mainly Gujarati diaspora in the United States and elsewhere, thereby setting a distasteful precedent, which Rahul Gandhi has chosen to emulate to his apparent disadvantage.
First quarter growth beats expectations
Beating all bets, India’s first quarter economic growth April-June) registered an impressive 8.2 per cent growth, the best performance in two years and a clear sign that the hiccups in the aftermath of demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) ‘I am reasonably confident that we may exceed the 7.5 per cent growth as projected earlier,’ said Economic Affairs Secretary in the Finance Ministry Subhash Chandra Garg. Manufacturing was in robust growth and investments were picking up.
India, without doubt, is now the world’s fastest growing large economy, exceeding China’s 6.7 growth, although India’s base benchmark is considerably lower.
A good monsoon and increased government spending have given households more money to buy consumer durables, which in turn helped the manufacturing sector post 13.5 per cent growth in contrast to the 1.8 per cent growth for the same period last year. The farm sector has recorded 5.3 per cent growth to compare with last year’s 3 per cent growth.
Summing up, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that the overall 8.2 per cent growth indicates that several structural reforms, such as the GST, have started yielding dividends. Growth in the manufacturing sector indicated broad-based recovery of demand, he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: ‘Reforms and fiscal prudence are serving us as well. India is witnessing an expansion of the neo middle class.’ (Business Line, Mint, Times of India, Indian Express September 1).
Buffett’s move to Paytem
Warren Buffett is one of the principal movers and shakers in his native America. A megastar in the country’s business firmament, his company Berkshire Hathaway is set to take a 3.4 per cent stake in One9 Communications Ltd, the parent of Paytem. This is the billionaire’s first stake in an Indian company, possibly the beginning of something more ambitious in keeping with the size of Buffet’s emterprises.. Buffet’s reflects confidence in India’s economic prospects (Mint August 28).
Canadian investors upbeat on India
The Canadian Pensions Plan Investment Board, which manages one of the largest pension fund globally, India is emerging as an important destination. ‘The growth that India has seen, it is the engine for growth of global economy, and that’s why we are here,’ said Suyi Kim, Senior Managing Director & Head of Asia Pacific of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (Mint August 28).
Kerala grateful for Services relief effort
The Kerala State government held a large farewell meeting to honour the men and and women of the armed forces for the tremendous relief and rescue operations during the recent monsoon floods that devastated the region, the worst natural disaster for a century. Kerala’s poor dam management bears some responsibility for the flooding. (Indian Express (August 27).
Sushma Swaraj in Vietnam camp
India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, inaugurated the ‘Jaipur Foot’ camp in Hanoi, where she met 300 Vietnamese beneficiaries of the free India-made prosthetic limb. The Minister was in Vietnam on the first leg of a two-nation tour that includes Cambodia. India has a deepening strategic relationship with Vietnam and Cambodia – both key members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Hindu 28)
Vietnam and Cambodia were devastated by US bombing and chemical defoliation in the 1960s and early 70s. Millions died and thousands suffered serious injuries. The obituary notices in the Indian press, including that of the Hindu newspaper, of US Senator John McCane were fulsome in their praise his wartime ‘heroism’ in Vietnam as a fighter pilot and prisoner of war. What about the lives of the Vietnamese and Cambodian people, who perished in the US-engineered conflict, many of whom were killed or were permanently deformed by the covert US use of chemical defoliants, such as Agent Orange,?
Reddy new DRDO chief
Dr G. Satheesh Reddy has been appointed the new chief of India’s Defence Research & Development Organization, in succession to Dr S. Christopher, who recently retired following an extension. At 55, Dr Reddy is the youngest DRDO chief, with formidable record as a rocket scientist and engineer. He became Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, aged 49, and held a number of critally important posts at an earlier age.
DRDO is at the crossroads, having created the Agni series of missiles, from short, medium intercontinental range, it has been a force behind the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the Tejas warplane. However, there are fresh challenges. At present, DRDO has a core workforce of 7600 scientists working in 50 labs across the country. Inducting fresh talent and creating more advanced state-of-the-art systems for the three services will require vision, ingenuity and administrative skills. Cometh the hour, cometh the man (Hindu August 27).
Manned space flight readied
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has announced its plan to send three astronauts into space in around the first half of 2022. They will spend 5-7 days space before re-entry to earth, said ISRO chairman K.Sivan. Most of the required technologies for the venture were already in place, he said (Indian Express, Hindu, et al August 29).
Bangladeshis in spate of armed robberies
A spate of armed robberies around Kolkata infrastructure projects has involved gangs of Bangladeshi nations, said the police following the arrests of eight men and their interrogation. The projects were the New Town Metro station site, the New Garia Airport terminal, and the East-West Metro at Phoolbagan (Times of India August 28).
Indian food firms outdo peers
According to a study by Nielsen, a global information, data and measurement company, as many as nine out of ten fastest moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies with a turnover of more than Rs 1000 crore are of Indian origin. The Nielsen report, just published, covers the April-June quarter. The report did not include the names of the companies. The study showed that segment had overcome demonetization and GST uncertainties, and retail stock levels had bounced back standing 10 per cent higher than the pre-demonetization period. ‘Retail offtake continued to be buoyant with double digit growth on the back of tail winds viz GST rate cuts, strengthening macroeconomics and robust monsoon projections,’ said Sameer Shukla, Executive Director, Nielsen India (Hindu August 29).
Food grain output to hit record high
Riding high on a good monsoon, the output of most food crops is projected to rise to record levels during the current financial year ending March 31, 2019, at 5.3 per cent over the 3.5 per cent of the previous year. Rice production is expected to reach a peak of 112.91 metric tons, while wheat will hover around 100 million metric tons. The combined food grain production including pulses et is expected to 285 million metric tons (Business Line August 29).
India in fast lane of digital highways
The National Highways Authority of India had rolled out the FASTag programme in 2013 across its toll plazas. What was once a closed loop has been made inter-operable across the country with different Banks and Toll Plazas with National Electronic Toll Collection. From a modest start of one lakh (100,000) issuance in December 2016, the programme has grown to an overall tag issuance 2.6 million tags and a daily average of transactional volume at 600,000. Long queues and unnecessary travel delays are thus avoided (Hindu August 27).
Andhra Pradesh strikes gold
Andhra Pradesh has struck gold in the Chitoor district. The State government discovered gold in Chigargunta and Bisanatham gold block in the Chitoor district, which is likely to yield Rs 947 crore of the precious metal (Hindu August 25).
Stalin new DMK leader
M.K.Stalin has been elected leader of the Tamil Nadu Dravia Munetra Kazagham (DMK) following the death of his father K. Karunanidhi, who held the position for 50 years. Stalin told the party faithful to work for the removal of the Modi government (Hindu August 29).
Kolkata Metro takes leap forward
Delays and cost over-runs in infrastructure projects are what the Indian public have become accustomed, so news that the first part of a major East-West extension of the Kolkata’s Metro is set for completion around five months before the scheduled date is indeed a welcome surprise. Two critical technologies for driverless trains, one Japanese, the other German, are to be installed in a week, facilitating trial runs that should be completed in December (Times of India August 30).