Mar 31, 2006

Outsourcing: Now Printing Moolah for the World!

The outsourcing bug has truly bitten us if the latest outsourcing idea is anything to go by. Now we want to print the currency notes of the nations of the world! Till today whatever we have done in the field of outsourcing we have done it as good as the first world would have done. But in this one field I have my doubts. Going by the quality of the postage stamps, banknotes, coins, etc printed by our government printers, I think we should steer clear of this field. As someone who collected stamps a decade back, I can vouch for the quality of our government security printers. It sucks!

India may soon be the popular choice of several nations as a printer of currency. It produces the largest volume of bank notes in the world, at a third of the cost of production of established leaders. Therefore, the government is exploring tie-ups in this lucrative market, by asking some of the large currency-printing companies in Europe and the US to outsource their currency note manufacturing functions to India.
The proposal would be based on the platform provided by the recently-set up Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India. The company has a capital base of Rs 3,700 crore and has the ability to serve this rapidly-growing international market for currency notes and coins, feel sources associated with the project.
The government has already held discussions with some big banners who have shown keen interest in sourcing some key operations from here. Apart from working on lower costs, the new public sector company also has a highly-trained work force that can churn out notes and coins with advanced security features. [ET]

War on AIDS: Beginning of the End?

The best news in the war against AIDS in India is that there is a drop of 35% in new HIV cases. This is definitely good news. This could be the beginning of the end of the war on AIDS at least in South India where it is more prevalent. The most worrying is the data from North India, which I fear could be highly misleading one now. The BIMARU states have everything to help AIDS become an epidemic there. Low literacy levels meaning less awareness and coupled with migration of men folk to big cities for livelihood, is a potent mix, which can only help the AIDS virus to proliferate.

In what experts call the “best news on AIDS for India,” an Indo-Canadian team of scientists has come up with the first definitive evidence that the AIDS epidemic is slowing down in at least southern India, considered the the cradle of the disease in the country. This essentially means that the prevention program seems to be making headway and gloom-and-doom scenarios of AIDS in India need to be put into perspective
While data from north India is still cause for worry, the Lancet study reports that prevalence of HIV-1 (the most common variant of the virus in India) prevalence fell in the southern states from 1.7% to 1.1%—a relative reduction of 35%.
According to the research group, in recent years, the Indian government, the World Bank and other agencies have aimed intervention and awareness programmes aimed at sex workers and their efforts appear to have contributed “to a drastic decline.”
“The good news is that HIV in young adults appears to be declining in the south—most likely or perhaps only due to men keeping away from red light area or using condoms more often when they do. The not-so-good news is that trends in the north remain uncertain and poorly studied.”
“among urban and rural women and among educated or illiterate women.” Kumar cautions that while the findings are good news, the battle is far from over. “HIV remains a huge problem in India and we have to remain vigilant,” he said. “We’re not saying the epidemic is under control yet—we are saying that prevention efforts with high-risk groups thus far seem to be having an effect.” [IE]

Related report in The Washington Post.

Mar 29, 2006

Outsourcing: Now Teleradiology

With a large pool of well-trained doctors and high tech infrastructure, India is fast emerging as a teleradiology hub.
India is providing offshore X-Ray reporting services to the US, Europe, Singapore and Middle East.
According to estimates, the US is facing a shortage of radiologists with 20 per cent of vacancies going unfilled in hospitals and increased imaging scan numbers related to a growing aged population.
"There is a worldwide shortage of qualified radiologists and teleradiology counters this shortage by providing services from one area to another. It can be used to cover the night shift from another geographic zone or to cover remote areas where there are CT or other scanners but no radiologists to interpret the results," says Dr Sunita Maheshwari, Director, Telerad Solutions, Bangalore, which is pioneer in teleradiology.
"India has an optimal time advantage with the US in terms of providing emergency night shift services to the American hospitals. We also possess high technology infrastructure base, a large pool of well-trained doctors, skilled manpower and a lower cost of living," Dr Maheshwari said.
Teleradiology means electronic transmission of radiological images, such as X-Rays, CTs and MRIs from one location to another for the purpose of interpretation and consultation.[HT]

More Power To Solar Power

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has plans to light up Rashtrapati Bhawan with solar power. To avoid cutting down about 15-20 trees in the compound, the project would require the construction of a new structure on which the solar panels will be mounted.
All this will cost about Rs 350 crore.
The proposed structure -- which will double up as a convention centre -- would be bigger than Vigyan Bhawan..
The president's press adviser, S.M. Khan, has confirmed that such a proposal was initiated by Kalam who recently held a meeting with experts to discuss the project. The National Thermal Power Corporation and Power Finance Corporation have formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to set up a 5-MW solar photovoltaic power project at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Kalam is said to be keen to set an example -- if Rashtrapati Bhawan can be lit up using photovoltaic solar power panels, so can rural India.
The project cost includes the setting up of power panels (estimated cost: Rs 135.70 crore) and the construction of 10 blocks with basement, ground floor and first floor for solar panels to be mounted on rooftops (Rs 206.69 crore). The project is to be located near bungalow number 1&2, Mother Teresa Cresent, Rashtrapati Bhawan. "A number of proposals have been discussed since early this month and we're awaiting directions from the president's office," said a source. "Once implemented it could act as a convention centre bigger than Vigyan Bhawan. It could also house high-profile offices, like that of various regulators."
Preliminary estimates indicate the convention centre would be able to house over 5,000 people. It can even have an underground parking.
The original proposal was to lay PV solar panels at ground level divided in 10 sub-fields in total area of 96,192 sq m. Two alternative suggestions were discussed. One was to build 10 blocks with basement and ground floor for solar panels mounted on rooftop. The available plinth area on each floor was to be about 8,537 sq m.
The second suggestion, which is understood to be most favoured, is to build it on the same pattern but on an increased floor area of 25,611 sq m for each block at an estimated cost of Rs 206.69 crore — to be constructed in 10 months.[HT]

Kashmiri Women Entrepreneurs

Peace is literally earning several Kashmiri women dividends. Just ask Nusrat Jahan Ara. The 27-year-old heads a floriculture cooperative in Kashmir, the first such initiative in the state. A computer graduate, Ara left a government job to start the Petals and Ferns Cooperative Ltd five years ago with no money in hand. Today it has 40 members and is growing.
"When I started, I did not have a penny in my pocket. I used to take flowers from farmers on credit and send them to Delhi for sale. I used to get paid the next day and give the money to the farmers," she says. Ara represents a new breed of women entrepreneurs who are scaling new heights in Kashmir. According to the J&K industries department, out of 20,528 functional industrial units in the state, 1,008 are run by women.
Shahala Sheikh, 32, owns Wood Fort, a unit dealing in exquisite walnut furniture. A commerce graduate, she revived the business after her father's death. "He passed away when I was 14. All of us three sisters were in school at that time and nobody was there to take care of our business. I completed my studies in Bangalore, came back and revived it," she says.
Ulfat Rasool Khan, 25, has invested Rs10 lakh in a food-processing unit, Sen Foods, at Khanmoh Food Park in Srinagar. "My products will hit the market next month. I plan to start exporting since Kashmiri food is in great demand," says the commerce graduate. Rifat Mushtaq, 50, is one of the oldest women entrepreneurs in the state and has battled tremendous odds. A postgraduate in Kashmiri literature, she started a matchbox factory in 1984. "But, with the advent of militancy in 1990, my license was cancelled by the government on grounds that I was dealing in explosives," she says.
Mushtaq borrowed money from her husband and friends and started a polythene unit. When production and sales peaked, the government closed the unit on environmental considerations. Undeterred, she started a printing press. "I have 22 employees, including 12 women. My press is doing well. I have invested Rs40 lakh in it," she says.
Says GM Gania, deputy director (planning), department of industries: "Kashmiri women are coming forward and setting up industries. And they excel in their fields. This is an encouraging trend and will go a long way towards the development of our state." Women are also being seen as keen on entrepreneurship. "Women are keen on starting industries on their own. Forty per cent of the people in our classes are women," says Niala Khanday, senior faculty at the Entrepreneur Development Institute, Srinagar.
Says Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, dean, faculty of social sciences, University of Kashmir: "Earlier, women preferred white-collared government jobs. But such jobs have shrunk. So women are now taking risk and going in for ventures of their own. They have come of age and joined the mainstream."[DNA]

Mar 19, 2006

Pakistan's Patriot Games

I had commented in The Acorn that every terrorist on the US want list always had a Pakistani connection. This known fact had again come to light in the investigations into 9/11. Now a Pakistani weekly has revealed how Pakistani appointed lobbyists bribed 9/11 commission members to drop anti-Pakistan references from the final report.

The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.

The Pakistani weekly said its story is based on disclosures made by foreign service officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday.

It claimed that some of the commission members were also bribed to prevent them from including damaging information about Pakistan.


“The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 inquiry commission and, above all, the authenticity of the information in their final report,” it said.

The report quoted an officer as saying that dramatic changes were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission after the lobbyists got to work. The panel was formed to probe the September 11 terror attack and make suggestions to fight terrorism.

After the commission tipped the lobbyists about the damaging revelations on Pakistan’s role in 9/11, they contacted the panel members and asked them to go soft on the country. The Friday Times claimed that a lot of money was used to silence these members.
According to the report, the lobbyists also helped Pakistan win the sympathy of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard Islamabad’s interests in Washington. “US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the foreign office,” an official was quoted as saying in the report.


An observer at the Islamabad meeting said money could play an important role in buying powerful people. The remark came in response to comments made by some US officials after 9/11 that “Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar”.

Pakistan had emerged as front-runner in the fight against terrorism unleashed by the US after the terror strikes. Washington pumped in billions of dollars to win President Pervez Musharraf’s support in launching a crackdown on al Qaida network thriving on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. [The Telegraph]

While this was happening, the two million strong Indian American community and the India government were looking the other way. If I recall correctly we don’t even have any lobbyists at present at Capitol Hill. I always wanted our govt and our NRIs in USA to play a pro-active role in the US media – buying big ad space in influential newspapers and magazines, cultivating the media barons of US, etc. If a ‘teeny-weeny’ country like Pakistan can play dirty in US with the sole intention of protecting its interests in USA and the world then why is that we are still being the paragon of virtue?
I don’t know how much exposure this revelation by the Pakistani weekly is getting in the US. IMO this needs to get wide exposure in the US media and people should know what a sham the investigations have been. I hope the NRI community in US will make sure this expose gets the exposure it deserves in the US media.

Islamic Fundamentalism & Political Correctness

The English press in India always prided in being secular (read pro-minority). Now at least the secular right among them have started to see and understand the message on the wall that was there for a long time now. Dilip Padgaonkar has captured this 'enlightenment' of the secular press in the following article.

Most editors and columnists writing in the English-language press have seldom missed a chance to assert their liberal and secular credentials. (I should know; I’m one of them.) For decades they berated Hindu belligerence but chose to remain coy when they had to contend with Muslim fanaticism. Out of a heightened sense of political correctness, they reckoned that the extremism of the majority community was far more pernicious than the extremism of the minorities. The reason? It would spell the advent of Hindu fascism.
In the past fortnight however more and more liberal voices have begun to denounce Muslim hot-heads, and their ‘secular’ friends in the political establishment, with unabashed vigour. The former are seen to pursue an ummah-driven agenda while the latter are believed to engage in a cynical exercise to build their vote banks. And both are accused of neglecting the genuine problems plaguing the Muslim community: education, acquisition of skills, job opportunities, gender equality…
This shift in the attitude of liberals began in earnest after the 9/11 outrage in the United States and continued to gather momentum after every successive terrorist attack in the world. Willy-nilly a link was established between the suffering heaped on innocents abroad and the depredations of the terrorists in India. At stake in both cases was the internationalisation of jehadism.
It therefore stood to reason that the US-led ‘war on terror’ would find favourable echoes in India. And this, over and beyond the confines of the Sangh Parivar. That the US tied itself up in knots in the war did serve to dampen India’s initial response. One evidence of this was the country’s refusal to be associated with the emergence of Islamophobia in the West.
What seems to have got the goat of the liberals were the reactions of Muslim hot-heads and of their ‘secular’ mentors on three issues: the controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, India’s stance on Iran’s nuclear designs and the Bush visit. On the first count, they argued in substance, India had nothing to do with the cartoons. Indeed, no public figure and no newspaper had endorsed the view that the controversy was all about free speech.
Against this background, the statement of a minor Muslim minister in Uttar Pradesh publicly offering a hefty reward to anyone who beheaded the Danish cartoonist came as a rude shock. Could there have been any doubt at all that this was incitement to murder? The minister received no reprimand, let alone marching orders, from Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The conjunction of ummah-driven politics and vote bank-driven politics became all the more apparent on the Iran issue. Until now our foreign policy has by and large not fallen prey to domestic political battles. But now a section of the citizenry, guided by religious considerations, thought it fit to challenge India’s policy on Tehran’s obduracy on nuclear inspections.
Matters reached a head when the same considerations were brought into play to protest against the Bush visit. Liberal opinion regarded the angry demonstrations staged during the presidential visit as a flagrant attempt to give pan-Islamic solidarity precedence over the national interest.
Against this backdrop, the terrorist attacks in Varanasi proved to be the proverbial last straw. Liberal opinion was convinced that the upsurge of Muslim radicalism, loudly claiming its affinity with the ummah, and the cachet of respectability it received from certain ‘secular’ political formations, had created an altogether novel situation for the country. It portended an eruption of communal tensions which would slow down economic growth and damage the nation’s security interests.
But here is the rub. Sensing the shift in the national mood, the BJP was quick to galvanise public opinion in favour of minorityism. Lal Krishna Advani’s sees his proposed rath yatra as the effective stratagem to precipitate his party’s return to power. This could well be his last chance to fulfil his prime ministerial ambitions.
Given the mood in the country, the stratagem might work. But at what cost? Should the rath yatra raise the communal fever, should it lead to riots and more terrorist attacks, you can as well bid good-bye to sustaining the GDP growth rate of recent years. And you can also say farewell to the fund of good will India enjoys in the international community, including in many Muslim countries.
The liberal hope now is that India will reject Hindu bigotry and Muslim fanaticism alike. Both threaten the idea of India which the world now celebrates with such gusto. But political correctness has well and truly run out of steam.[DNA]

Real Estate Boom

South-East Asia’s smitten, too

Though the exact value of the total real estate projects planned in India is not available, if you go by the number of projects lined up by companies from different parts of world, firms from southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia seem to have cast a lusty eye on India.According to the Knight Frank India Research data, eight of the 13 residential projects proposed by foreign players in India are by companies in the southeast Asian region. Players from the US, UK, Middle East, Canada and Japan have floated one project each.“Southeast Asia nations, especially Singapore, are very bullish on Indian real estate sector. The main reasons for this is the proximity of these nations to India and the similarly in their markets. Also, Singapore firms are putting in huge funds into India because their real estate market has almost saturated and India is one of the lucrative options for them,” says Trammell Crow Meghraj managing director Anuj Puri.According to A T Kearney’s Global Investor Confidence Survey 2004, India has been ranked the third most favoured destination for FDI after China and the US.A report brought by property consultant Knight Frank reveals this soaring investor confidence in India is also reflected in the real estate sector. In less than a year since the liberation of FDI norms, overseas investors are flocking to tap the latent potential in India.

Southeast Asian players also dominate investment in IT parks, SEZ and infrastructure projects. Singapore-based Ascendas India has developed the International Tech Parks in Bangalore, Gurgoan, Hyderabad and Chennai, and acquired the Vanenburg IT park in Hyderabad from its original promoters. The company now plans to develop IT parks in Pune and Kolkata. Indonesia’s Universal Success Enterprise Ltd has signed a memorandum with Delhi-based developers Unitech Ltd for developing an IT park in Kolkata. Of the two foreign firms which have evinced interest in setting up SEZs in India, one is from Singapore (SembCorp Engineers and Constructors Pte Ltd) and the other is Houston-based Hines. [DNA]

A Terror Passage To India

PoK Students May Study in J&K

A new idea floated by peaceniks of J&K that will only help in brainwashing those few sane Kashmiris yet to be influenced by Paki propaganda.

Call it a peace bonanza; the students of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) might soon get admission in Jammu University.Deliberations are on to work-out modalities for signing the memorandum of understanding for exchange of students and faculty programme between the two countries. Jammu University vice-chancellor Amitabh Matoo, who recently returned from Pakistan after attending the Pugwash conference, told media persons that he held discussions with academicians of Pakistan about the exchange of students and faculties.Matoo said the PoK University was extensively damaged in the October 8 quake and is now operating from Islamabad. Hundreds of casualties and injuries were reported in the earthquake that ravaged Pakistan, North India and Afghanistan. "The quality of education in PoK is not high. The devastating earthquake has made things worse and the AJK University is operating out of a camp office from Islamabad,” he said.Matoo said if all goes well the students from across the Line of Control can join the Jammu University for pursuing higher studies. Asked whether he has talked to the Centre, Matoo said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has himself said that bureaucratic hurdles should not come in the way of peace process. “I am hopeful that the students will be allowed,” he quipped. [DNA]

Mar 15, 2006

Happy Holi!

A Picture Says More Than A Thousand Words!

Mar 14, 2006

A Role Model Muslim Politician the making. An example no one should emulate.

Abdul Hafiz Gandhi is a 28-year-old law student of the university. Two years ago, Gandhi was just another college student, hanging out at the university dhabas (eating joints) and wearing shirts and trousers. But today, with the aspirations of a political career, Gandhi has fashioned a different identity for himself. Gandhi opposes Nescafe, sternly disapproves of drinking beer or rum, supports minority status for AMU and campaigns against women students who don't stick to a dress code. “Your dress should be proper. Not something that provokes people to sexually harass you or pass sexual comments,'' Gandhi says. He looks serious, rather, he must look a serious Muslim. His attire has undergone a transformation too, reflecting his new-found identity of a Muslim mass leader. From Western casuals to very-Muslim sherwanis and Azad topis - his wardrobe underlines his political and religious agenda. His reading habits, too, have undergone a drastic change. The last film he saw was Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Lal Badshah nearly 10 years ago. His current crop of favourites are anti-Bush documentaries. "I am a leader of the masses. I don't want to be the leader of the minority community alone. If someday the majority community also has a problem, I will spearhead a movement to help them," Gandhi says. He addresses a takreer (sermon) every Friday at the university mosque - all with an eye on the UP polls in 2007. And Gandhi has supporters. If not in the academic circles in his university, then at least among the students. Many celebrate his academic success and the way he protects the Muslim cause. He's the son of an illiterate farmer from the desperately poor Eta, the first in his family to gain an education and liberalism is a luxury he can't afford.[ CNN-IBN ]

Another Kid Story From Bihar

...and this is no kid stuff.

A four-year-old girl was charged for attacking policemen in Arrah, Bihar. It's been two years since the case was first registered and till date Rani is still labeled as a criminal.
Rani has just started going to school and is learning nursery rhymes. But in police records, she is a criminal. She is accused of attacking policemen and helping her father escaping from the police custody. But the family has a different story to tell.
"At that time they claimed she was ten. But she's not. She just started going to school. She can't even write, how could she have attacked the policemen," said Rani's father Vir Bahadur Pandey.
Rani now has to go to court whenever she is summoned. She and her mother, both have been booked under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code. But unaware of what the consequences will be, Rani is busy playing with her toys. But for the family, it's a nightmare they are learning to live with. [CNN-IBN]

Mar 13, 2006

Indian Media Rs. 837 bn by 2010: FICCI

The Indian entertainment and media (E&M) industry is poised to grow at 19 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach Rs 837.4 billion by 2010 from Rs. 353 billion (Rs 35,300 crore), according to a new study. The television segment is slated to grow from its present size of Rs 148 billion to Rs 427 billion by 2010, according to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report titled Indian Entertainment and Media Industry -- Unravelling the potential.
The radio sector is projected to grow four times to Rs.12, 000 million by 2010, while filmed entertainment is slated to reach Rs 153 billion during. The print medium, according to the study is poised to grow from the present size of Rs 109 billion to Rs 195 billion. []

Uttar Pradesh: Another J&K in the making

With a little help from friendly Maoists

A sizable Muslim population in UP which is useful to politicians of all hues, as a mere vote bank, is undoubtedly the best bet for Lashkar-e—Taiba and its master ISI of Pakistan to be used in their one point agenda of complete destruction of India. Intelligence reports suggest UP could be the next Jammu & Kashmir. A very disturbing development that was feared all this while.

Uttar Pradesh could well be on the way to becoming the next Jammu and Kashmir. The serial blasts in Varanasi show that the situation in the state is “very disturbing” and that the attacks were part of militants’ design to “export terrorism” outside the Valley.

According to intelligence inputs from both the Centre and state units, the situation is alarming. In view of rising ISI activity in the region and its hobnobbing with Maoist insurgents in Nepal, the Centre is of the view that UP is definitely in for some more trouble. Intelligence agencies have information of the “ISI using Maoists as a tool in its nefarious design against India”. The ISI, in league with renegade fundamentalists, has already established base in Bangladesh. “UP tops the ISI agenda,” said a senior intelligence officer. He said that the Union home ministry had been regularly providing the state with information in this connection.
According to sources, the present dispensation in Nepal is also soft-peddling these terror agents, who have been moving frequently between Kathmandu and Bangladesh via Assam. The Indo-Bangla border in West Bengal has become a safe route for these Islamist militants to reach UP.
Senior police officers involved in the Varanasi blasts probe didn’t rule out the possibility of similar “incidences to derail economy and cause communal clashes”.
The problem in the state initially started with the western region, where more than a dozen ISI modules have been busted so far. It has now been taking root in the eastern region. With rampant poverty, “there is no dearth” of manpower for terror acts in UP, said an intelligence officer, adding: “Funds are in abundance with terror groups.” [HT]

The Ambani Saga: Anil now richer than Mukesh

The big bang merger and consolidation of Anil Ambani's telecom companies has made him richer than brother Mukesh.
The merger, announced on Sunday, raises Anil's stake in Reliance Communication Ventures Ltd (RCoVL) to 63 per cent. This stake, at Friday's price of the share at Rs 301, comes to Rs 38,430 crore, which is more than Mukesh's net worth of Rs 37,825 crore ($8.5 billion) as per the Forbes list.
Add to that, Anil's holding in Reliance Capital, Reliance Energy and Reliance Natural Resources, and he emerges with a conservatively estimated net worth of Rs 45,000 crore ($10 billion).
In its listing released last week, Forbes pegged Anil's net worth at just over Rs 25,000 crore. However, that seems to have been before the RCoVL listing. Now, Anil is third in the list of richest Indians, behind NRI steel magnate Laxmi Mittal ($23.5 billion) and Wipro's Azim Premji ($13.3 billion).
Sunday's board meeting approved the merger of Reliance Infocomm into RCoVL. Through a share swap, Reliance Telecom and Reliance Communication Infrastructure will become 100 per cent subsidiaries of RCoVL soon. Also, Flag Telecom, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Infocomm, will now be a 100 per cent subsidiary of RCoVL.
In a statement, Anil said this move was a "milestone in our endeavour to create the most valuable India-based global communications services company." [Hindustan Times]

Catching Them Young

Everyone knows Bihar is notorious for being the badland of India. So is it a wonder if 12-year-old kids there are initiated into the 'hallowed' world of bomb-making?

In a remote village of Bihar, making a bomb has now become a child's play, quite literally so.
Incredible as it may sound, a group of 12-year-old kids in Muzzafarpur district of Bihar have mastered the technique of making remote-controlled toy bombs.
And they are not just playing with them, they are experimenting and making them at an alarmingly high rate.
"I and my friends have been making bombs for some time now. We detonate is using any television remote control. It’s fun playing with the bombs," a child bomb-maker, Mukesh (name changed), says.
Money is not a problem for these children either.
They save their pocket money to buy toys and electronic gadgets, not to play with, but to stuff them with explosives and blow it up.
What seems like a juvenile fancy today might have devastating consequences tomorrow.
"We use our pocket money to buy the raw material. And it's not difficult to find explosives either," Mukesh says.
Considering that the young children are as good as a bomb factory, the question is whether Bihar really needs a factory to make bombs or just an organised criminal gang bent on creating will do?
"We have been approached by criminals a number of time. They promised us a lot of money in return for making bombs. But I have always refused them,” Muskesh says.
Shockingly, the authorities in Muzzafarpur have not yet woken up to the potential threat and are blissfully unaware.[CNN-IBN]

Mar 11, 2006

An India Arriving Story

The new Forbes Billionaire list has been published and India has 23 billionaires on it. Gautam Chikermane wrote this in the Indian Express:

This year, there are 23 Indian billionaires — more than Brazil’s 16, China’s 8, France’s 14, Hong Kong’s 17, and one short of Japan’s and UK’s 24 (at 371, US leads by multiples). Compared to last year’s deadly dozen that’s almost a doubling of numbers. Even as Lakshmi Mittal (Rank 5; net worth $23.5 billion) continues to lead Indian billionaires by a wide margin, Azim Premji (Rank 25; net worth $13.3 billion) stays well ahead of the rest. Brothers Ambani, Sunil Mittal, Shiv Nadar, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Pallonji Mistry are the other usual suspects in the list. A mix characterised largely by inherited fortunes that the next generation has been able to multiply.
But it is the new, self-made entrants that show how much wealth can be created when hungry enterprise marries the market. IIT-D alumnus Anurak Dikshit, 34, controls 32 per cent of PartyGaming, an online gaming company. With a net worth of $3.3 billion, he is 207 on the Forbes list and the 10th richest Indian. A stock market listing, even if the stock at Rs 969 has been lying dormant and below offer price, has brought Naresh Goel, 56 (Rank 512; net worth $1.5 billion) into this list and made him the 16th wealthiest Indian. Or meet Tulsi Tanti, 48, who moved from textiles to alternative energy and whose company Suzlon is becoming the darling of investors — since listing, the stock which has jumped 2.5-fold in less than six months to Rs 1,288 has made it India’s 15th most valuable company.
It’s not that these 23 billionaires have suddenly emerged from the shadows. Way back in 2000, riding the tech boom, India had as many as nine billionaires in the Forbes list. The number fell to four the next year when the market crashed but since then it has steadily risen to five in 2002, seven in 2003, nine in 2004, 12 last year, and 23 today. Interestingly, the number of Indian Indians — that is Indians living and operating from India — has increased from 75 per cent in 2005 to 83 per cent today. Lakshmi Mittal, Anil Agarwal and Naresh Geol operate from the UK, while Dikshit works out of Gibraltar since gambling is legal there.
The combined wealth of Indian billionaires is $98.8 billion, 61 per cent higher than the previous year’s figure. Over the past decade, Indian billionaires’ wealth has grown by 36 per cent per annum. The pace has increased in the past five years, rising 47 per cent per annum, illustrating the India Arriving story. In 2000, the heyday of the tech boom, when any company with a ‘tech’, an ‘infosys’ or a ‘soft’ in a prefix, suffix or anywhere in between, was being lapped up and its prices were rising at 100 per cent per month, Indian billionaires’ wealth had jumped five-fold. In 2004, it doubled to $31.9 billion, and the next year it rose by 92 per cent to $61.3 billion. The only two years when it fell were hangovers of the tech bust, in 2001 and 2002.
If the past is any indication and the wealth of Indian billionaires continues to rise at historic rates, by 2014 India’s 114 billionaires should have a combined net worth of over a trillion dollars; and by 2016, 176 of them should be worth more than $2 trillion. If that sounds a simplistic extrapolation of an optimistic number-cruncher, I plead partially guilty. Yes, I am optimistic about India, about Indian enterprise, about India’s opportunities. And for those who point out the road blocks, physical, political or economic, which will come in the way, I can only say that you’re looking at an empty glass. For, each of those road blocks is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to create wealth.

Mar 8, 2006

Why This Blog

India is my country and I am proud to be an Indian. These are exciting times to be in an India which is on the move. In this blog I hope to record my humble views on India and its place in the world.