Government nudges auto industry to move from fuel to electric cars

Jul 7, 2016 0

New Delhi– Emphasising that electric cars were the future, the Union government here on Thursday said it is time for the auto industry to manufacture more such vehicles.

“It is time for the auto industry to manufacture more electric vehicles. I am confident electric vehicles will be a success story,” Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said at the CNBC-TV18 Auto CEO Summit.

Nitin Gadkari

Nitin Gadkari

The minister said the success of the electric car depends on whether its prices can be brought down, which requires the automobile companies to focus more on research.

“The industry needs to focus on research for electric vehicles. I think if the prices come down, electric cars will do well,” Gadkari said.

Mahindra and Mahindra Executive Director Pawan Kumar Goenka stressed that the country needs to attract global automobile majors to conduct research and development for electric cars in India.

Meanwhile, Tata Motors is trying to put out electric buses by the end of this year, its Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles Ravindra Pisharody said.

 

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Congress alleges ‘mal-intent’ in Modi government ordering new audit of telecom firms

Jul 7, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Congress on Thursday alleged that the Narendra Modi government overstepped its limits to order an alternate audit by the Telecom Ministry of six telecom companies rejecting the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) scrutiny. The audit by the CAG found under-reporting of income by six telecom companies to the tune of Rs 46,045.75 crore from 2006-07 to 2009-10.

The six telecom companies that were audited by the CAG were Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, Idea, Tata and Aircel.

Randeep Singh Surjewala

Randeep Singh Surjewala

The Congress alleged that the Modi government opted for an alternate re-evaluation of these figures by the Telecom Ministry through chartered accountants who are empanelled with them.

“This reflects the apparent mal-intent of the government to dilute or diminish the figures put forth by CAG,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

According to Surjewala, CAG had initiated an audit of the six telecom companies for four years from 2006-07 to 2009-10 at the instructions of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. CAG submitted its report in March 2016.

“It specifically looked at under-reporting of income and non-uniform method of accounting adopted by various telecom companies and consequent lack of obligation to pay outstanding licence fee and Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC),” said Surjewala.

He alleged that CAG found an understating of income by these six companies of Rs 46,045.75 crore in the four years.

“CAG found that there was an amount of Rs 12,488.93 crore, which remains un-recovered by the government. This does not include penalty and other relevant taxes. Final loss for these four years would be even greater than the stated amount,” he said.

“Although there has been considerable increase in business, consumer base and income, even if loss of exchequer is calculated on the same formula for the years 2010-11 to 2015-16, this figure would be more than Rs 45,000 crore,” he added.

Congress also alleged that the audit by CAG was delayed due to a challenge before the courts regarding jurisdiction of CAG to audit accounts of private telecom companies.

“The Supreme Court transferred all the matters before it and rejected the claims of telecom companies according to the judgement dated April 17, 2014 and permitted CAG to audit the accounts,” said Surjewala.

The Congress said that instead of immediately acting on these revelations reflecting serious loss to public exchequer, the Modi government opted for an alternate re-evaluation of these figures.

“This is a clear methodology of the Modi government to inordinately delay the process of recovery for years together, if not writing it off entirely,” alleged Surjewala.

“We demand recovery of all the money and further audit of the telecom companies before and after the stated audit period (2006-07 to 2009-10). The companies that got licences after 2010 are also amenable to audit,” he added.

Surjewala further pointed out that under the Telecom Licensing Policy implemented in 1999 (NTP 1999), the BJP government then gave a bail out package to help telecom companies.(IANS)

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Unhappy at move to Textiles, Smriti Irani fails to hand charge to Javadekar

Jul 7, 2016 0

By Anand Singh

New Delhi– Smriti Irani may have scoffed at speculation over her ouster with a “Kuch toh log kahengey”, but the former HRD Minister was missing from a ceremony on Thursday to formally hand over charge of the ministry — despite two phone calls to her by her successor Prakash Javadekar.

Irani, who was shunted to the low-profile Ministry of Textiles in Tuesday’s cabinet reshuffle, seems to be “unhappy” over being displaced from the HRD Ministry, said sources.

Smriti Irani replaced by Prakash Javadekar in the Human Resource Development Ministry

Smriti Irani replaced by Prakash Javadekar in the Human Resource Development Ministry

On Thursday, Irani failed to attend the charge-taking ceremony of the newly-appointed HRD Minister Javadekar at Shastri Bhavan despite being present in Delhi and being formally invited.

Traditionally the outgoing minister hands over charge to the new minister at a formal ceremony.

On Wednesday, but for Javadekar, all the other newly-appointed ministers as well as those who were shifted from their ministries went to their new offices in the presence of the outgoing minister.

Following the tradition, Javadekar himself handed over the charge of Environment Ministry to newcomer Anil Madhav Dave on Wednesday, while Irani took charge of her new Textiles Ministry.

But Javadekar’s assumption of charge of the HRD Ministry was set for Thursday.

Javadekar was hopeful that Irani will turn up on Thursday to hand over the charge, but she didn’t.

Javadekar waited till the last for Irani to show up before taking the charge.

“Javadekar ji called Irani twice in the morning. But she finally didn’t turn up,” a source told IANS.

Irani’s absence was apparent of her unhappiness at being shunted out, but Javadekar downplayed the issue, saying “She was supposed to come today, but she was stuck in some personal work.”

“I had a word with her in the morning on phone,” the Minister said.

After the reshuffle, Javadekar had gone to meet Irani at her residence on Wednesday morning.

Sources said that Javadekar had tried to soothe Irani’s dejection but his efforts were in vain.

Javadekar, who was supposed to take charge on Wednesday deferred it till Thursday and even held a meeting with HRD officials in the ministry on Wednesday itself.

On Wednesday, Irani, after taking charge of the Textiles Ministry had denied rumours that her move to the new office was a demotion.

She thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for placing her in charge of a sector that has immense potential to generate employment.

On persistent questioning about her being moved out of the HRD Ministry, Irani said, “There have been so many questions and so many things being said. I would only say that ‘Kuchh to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna’ (People will talk, it is their business).”

Javadekar was the only Minister of State to be elevated to cabinet rank in Tuesday’s reshuffle.

Sources close to Irani told IANS that she had had an inkling she might be shifted out from the HRD ministry.

When she met an Education Minister of one of the BJP ruled states few days ago, Irani indicated that she might not be in the HRD Ministry when he visits her next.

Sources told IANS that Irani was shifted to Textiles because of the many controversies during her tenure as HRD Minister and the way she dealt with them.

“She should not have dealt with these controversies in such aggressive manner. As an HRD Minister she was not supposed to behave like this. You are dealing with students. Even a teacher doesn’t behave the way she did. The ministry was given to Javadekar, who is known to be a cool and clam person,” a source told IANS.

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Africa visit aimed at enhancing ties: Modi

Jul 6, 2016 0

New Delhi– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, in a series of posts on Twitter and Facebook, said that his five-day four-nation African tour starting from Thursday is aimed at enhancing ties between India and Africa.

“My Africa tour, aimed at enhancing ties between India & Africa will begin from Mozambique in a brief but key visit,” Modi tweeted ahead of his first official visit to continental Africa.

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Apart from Mozambique, he will also visit South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

Elaborating on Facebook, he said his visit to Mozambique was aimed at increasing bilateral cooperation and boosting cultural linkages.

“I will meet (Mozambican) President Filipe Nyusi and hold extensive talks with him,” Modi stated.

“My other programmes include a meeting with Ms. Veronica Macamo, the President of the National Assembly and a visit to the S&T Park, Maluana where I will interact with students,” he said, adding that he would interact with members of the Indian community as well.

The Prime Minister said his programmes in South Africa, where he would be reaching on July 7 evening, would span across Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

“South Africa is an important strategic partner, with whom our ties are historical and deep-rooted,” he stated.

“History is witness to how Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in South Africa impacted him and the history of the world. He went to South Africa as a lawyer seeking work and returned to India as a strong voice for humanitarian values, who would go on to shape the history of humankind.”

Modi said he would be visiting Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement and Pietermaritzburg railway station, two places very closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in South Africa.

“A visit to South Africa is incomplete without remembering the beloved Madiba (Nelson Mandela). I will also be honoured to visit the Constitutional Hill and Nelson Mandela Foundation where I would pay my tributes to an icon of human history, who made his country and the world a much better place,” he stated.

Apart from South African President Jacob Zuma, the Prime Minister said he would also be meeting Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He said to boost economic ties, he would speak at an India-South Africa business meet.

Other programmes, he said, include a meeting with the Alumni Network in Durban and a reception hosted by the Mayor of Durban at Durban City Hall.

“South Africa is home to a vibrant Indian community, that has made South Africa their home for years. I will interact with the Indian community at a programme in Johannesburg on 8th July,” he stated.

After completing his engagements in the twin cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria on July 8, Modi will travel to Durban on July 9.

Durban is home to 800,000 of the 1.2 million Indian-origin people in South Africa.

The Prime Minister, who would reach Tanzania on July 10, described that east African country as “a valued friend”.

“There will be extensive talks with President Dr. John Magufuli where we will chalk out the road ahead for bettering India-Tanzania relations in a wide range of areas,” he said.

“I will also be meeting ‘Solar Mamas’, a group of rural women solar engineers from Africa who have been trained under GOI (Government of India)-supported programmes to fabricate, install, use, repair and maintain solar lanterns and household solar lighting systems in their villages.”

Modi will also interact with members of the Indian community in Tanzania, which numbers around 50,000.

The Prime Minister, who will reach Nairobi on July 10 evening on the fourth and final leg of his visit, said that “India-Kenya ties have stood the test of time”.

“Both our nations have had very strong people-to-people ties and both nations have successfully fought colonialism in the previous century,” he stated.

He said his talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta would revolve around how India and Kenya could grow their bilateral cooperation.

“I envision better trade, commercial and cultural exchanges between India and Kenya. The potential is immense and together we seek to harness it,” Modi said.

He said he would offer floral tributes to a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, who is widely revered in Kenya.

“I shall also pay tributes to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya and a towering political figure of Africa,” he said

There would also be a meeting of the India-Kenya business forum which, the Prime Minister said, would “be an important forum to elaborate more on the economic aspect of our relationship with Kenya”.

“A programme that I am keenly looking forward to join is an interaction with students at the Nairobi University,” he said, adding that he would address a community programme on July 10.

“There is also a meeting with Bharatwallah Alumni Association during the visit. Another programme is the handing over of ambulances and a model of Bhabhatro”,” Modi stated.

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We`re committed to Make in India, nurturing start-ups: Cisco honcho

Jul 6, 2016 0

By Nishant Arora

Amit Phadnis-IANS-Large

Amit Phadnis, President, Engineering and India Site Leader, Cisco

Bengaluru– US-based global technology company Cisco, that arrived in India in 1995 and has created thousands of jobs since then, says it is committed to the Make-in-India programme and will continue to be generous in nurturing start-ups.

Reiterating Cisco’s commitment to align with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives in a free-wheeling interview to IANS, Amit Phadnis, President, Engineering and India Site Leader, said the time is ripe to begin a manufacturing unit in the country.

“We are very committed to make the manufacturing happen here. The commitment is very firm. Our teams are working towards realising this goal. We have also identified the place but there is still some time to go public on this,” a cheerful Phadnis told IANS at Cisco’s sprawling campus located at Cessna Business Park here.

With 11,000 people working in India, the $143 billion company is reported to set up a manufacturing base in Pune — a city where it recently opened its second Global Delivery Center, the other being operational in Bengaluru. However, the specific details are yet to emerge.

Phadnis, who last week initiated ‘LaunchPad’, an open innovation initiative to help startups, authorised channel partners and developers scale their solutions, address new markets and build digital businesses in India, is confident that the initiative will first digitally empower the few millions in our country before digitising the next three billion globally.

“Till date, we have committed nearly $280 million towards the start-up community in India. If more funding is required, our CEO John Chambers and the top management will be more than open to look into it, but in reality, $280 million is a good beginning to nurture start-ups,” he added.

Via Launchpad, Cisco teams will mentor startups and developers on how to help create digital solutions to enable enterprise customers, service providers and other enablers in the public and private sphere.

“We will create an ecosystem where companies can actually succeed to a point where they actually tap into the funds. The challenge that however remains for a start-up is how to succeed with that kind of money,” Phadnis explained.

Here is how Launchpad will work.

“First of all, We will run a selection process. The parameters are going to be simple like what are the qualities of the founding team, the technologies the team is working on, is it really a rejuvenating start-up?, etc,” Phadnis said.

He believed that great ideas falter because they are not able to scale and solve the larger problems and take to the market. “We are trying to recreate larger construct and we want to solve larger digital solutions. At the end of the day, we want the startup to succeed and we want Cisco and a partner to succeed too, creating a solution which will be useful for society,” Phadnis explained.

“From a start-up’s perspective, if I get into Launchpad, it gets me Cisco technology, mentorship and connects to the partner’s community. Most importantly, it gives me visibility of what are the real solution that can be taken to the market and it gives me the power of the Cisco market engine globally to literally use the wings to fly the globe,” he said.

The initiative will initially focus on manufacturing, retail, transportation, education and the healthcare sector.

To succeed in education, defence or health sectors, multiple technologies from across the domain are required. “We need portfolio of technologies that are going to be important from the innovation point of view. You need to map multiple technologies to one solution and create a go-to-market engine around it,” Phadnis emphasised.

Launchpad is not just limited to Bengaluru or Pune. “We are ready to bring the capabilities that we have bulit in engineering and services pan-India. We are not restricted to any specific city,” Phadnis noted.

Security is the next big thing and for Phadnis, Cisco is ready with a decated security line-up for its customers. “Security is one of the biggest focus in the company at the moment and for us, it is about networks, computer infrastructure, internet of things (IoT), governance, e-governance, cyber security — you name it,” he said.

Last month, Cisco acquired cloud security company CloudLock Inc. for nearly $300 million to provide companies a secured, hacker-free cloud experience. Cisco and French electronics group Thales have also announced a new cybersecurity partnership to develop cyber detection and counter-attack solutions.

“We are taking a holistic view of what does it take to secure an entire infrastructure, whether networking or non-networking, at Cisco,” Phadnis said. (IANS)

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North Indians want bigger diamonds, South Indians want it better

Jul 6, 2016 0

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Panaji–The North India versus South India divide doesn’t just end with roti or idli. Even when it comes to buying diamonds, there is a marked difference between the tastes of buyers from North India and South India, according to Tehmasp Printer, managing director of the International Gemological Institute.

While North Indian buyers prefer size above anything else while purchasing diamonds, South Indian buyers are more conscious about the quality of the stone, Printer told IANS, adding that the artificial diamond, though cheap, can never replace the value and worth of a natural diamond, both as an ornament and as an investment.

Diamond“Generally, buyers in the northern region of the country prefer larger diamonds and opt for diamonds which will add to their status. Southern buyers opt for quality over size. They’d buy a smaller diamond without compromising on the quality of the stone,” said Printer.

“The eastern region is a mix of the above. The western region is completely a diverse market,” added Printer who was in Goa to participate in a buyer-seller meet organised by the IGI in South Goa.

Printer also said that gems and jewellery trade accounts for around 6-7 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and India accounts for 95 per cent of the world’s diamond export, according to statistics released by the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.

“India is one of the largest exporters of gems and jewellery and the industry is considered to play a vital role in the Indian economy as it contributes a major chunk to the total foreign reserves of the country,” Printer said.

“The UAE, the USA, Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Latin America and China are the biggest importers of Indian jewellery,” he added.

According to Printer, the gems and jewellery market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.95 per cent over the period 2014-2019.

During the period from April to December 2015, India imported US$17.33 billion worth of raw material for gems and jewellery and with an eight per cent share in polished diamonds, India has become the world’s third largest diamond consumer, Printer said.

When asked if the central government’s crackdown on black money would be a deterrent to the growth of the gems and jewellery market, Printer said: “I don’t think so. We Indians have survived and persevered through many challenges we have faced. The diamond trade will survive and flourish nevertheless.”

The IGI official also dismissed the challenge posed by cheaper synthetic diamonds to its natural counterpart, claiming while the artificially created diamond was “a diamond in every sense of the gemology,” in terms of value and investment the natural diamond could not be compared with.

“A synthetic diamond is a diamond produced in an artificial process, as opposed to natural diamonds, which are created by geological processes. Today synthetic diamonds are much cheaper. However, the value that a natural diamond has in the consciousness of the customer cannot be denied. Natural will always be preferred over synthetic,” Printer said.

“Due to advancement of technology, a synthetic diamond is available at half the price of a natural diamond. Technology will continue to progress. In the future, the same synthetic diamond which a customer purchased today, say, for Rs two lakh, may be available at Rs.one lakh. So where is your investment?” he said.

Printer also said there was a basic difference in which a domestic consumer viewed diamonds, as compared to one in a foreign market where the aesthetic value of the stone comes at a premium.

“Often in India, when it comes to purchase of gold jewellery, consumers enquire about the gold content, making charges and the like. The contents are stripped down. Aesthetics of the jewellery are not valued. But one can’t do that at a Cartier or Gucci store,” he said.

“But that’s how the domestic market works where consumers often purchase gold as an investment. The export market works differently. A client abroad may order a large consignment from a manufacturer and will accept it if it is IGI certified. This offers the manufacturer an ease in business transactions leading to increased profits,” Printer said.

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List of portfolios of Narendra Modi government after reshuffle

Jul 5, 2016 0

Following is the list of Council of Ministers and their portfolios as announced by President Pranab Mukherjee on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister
Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy Department of Space
All important policy issues,
and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister

CABINET MINISTERS

Rajnath Singh Home Affairs

Sushma Swaraj External Affairs

Arun Jaitley Finance, Corporate Affairs

M. Venkaiah Naidu Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Information & Broadcasting

Nitin Jairam Gadkari Road Transport and Highways, Shipping

Manohar Parrikar Defence

Suresh Prabhu Railways

D.V. Sadananda Gowda Statistics & Programme Implementation

Uma Bharati Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

Najma A. Heptulla Minority Affairs

Ramvilas Paswan Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

Kalraj Mishra Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi Women and Child Development

Ananth Kumar Chemicals and Fertilisers, Parliamentary Affairs

Ravi Shankar Prasad Law & Justice, Electronics & Information Technology

Jagat Prakash Nadda Health & Family Welfare

Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati Civil Aviation

Anant Geete Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises

Harsimrat Kaur Badal Food Processing Industries

Narendra Singh Tomar Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation

Chaudhary Birender Singh Steel

Jual Oram Tribal Affairs

Radha Mohan Singh Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

Thaawar Chand Gehlot Social Justice and Empowerment

Smriti Zubin Irani Textiles

Harsh Vardhan Science and Technology, Earth Sciences

Prakash Javadekar Human Resource Development

MINISTERS OF STATE

Rao Inderjit Singh Planning (Independent Charge), Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation

Bandaru Dattatreya Labour and Employment (Independent Charge)

Rajiv Pratap Rudy Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (Independent Charge)

Vijay Goel Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge), Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation

Shripad Yesso Naik AAYUSH (Independent Charge)

Dharmendra Pradhan Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)

Piyush Goyal Power (Independent Charge), Coal (Independent Charge), New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge), Mines (Independent Charge)

Jitendra Singh Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space

Nirmala Sitharaman Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)

Mahesh Sharma Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge)

Manoj Sinha Communications (Independent Charge), Railways

Anil Madhav Dave Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge)

General V.K. Singh External Affairs

Santosh Kumar Gangwar Finance

Faggan Singh Kulaste Health & Family Welfare

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi Minority Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs

S.S. Ahluwalia Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Parliamentary Affairs

Ramdas Athawale Social Justice & Empowerment

Ram Kripal Yadav Rural Development

Haribhai Parthbhai Chaudhary Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Giriraj Singh Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Hansraj Gangaram Ahir Home Affairs

G.M. Siddeshwara Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises

Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi Drinking Water & Sanitation

Rajen Gohain Railways

Parshottam Rupala Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Panchayati Raj

M.J. Akbar External Affairs

Upendra Kushwaha Human Resources Development

Radhakrishnan P. Road Transport & Highways, Shipping

Kiren Rijiju Home Affairs

Krishan Pal Social Justice & Empowerment

Jasvantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor Tribal Affairs

Sanjeev Kumar Balyan Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation

Vishnu Deo Sai Steel

Sudarshan Bhagat Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

Y.S. Chowdary Science and Technology, Earth Science

Jayant Sinha Civil Aviation

Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Information & Broadcasting

Babul Supriyo Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Food Processing Industries

Vijay Sampla Social Justice & Empowerment

Arjun Ram Meghwal Corporate Affairs

Mahendra Nath Pandey Human Resource Development

Ajay Tamta Textiles

Krishna Raj Women & Child Development

Mansukh L. Mandaviya Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Chemicals & Fertilizers

Anupriya Patel Health & Family Welfare

C.R. Chaudhary Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

P.P. Chaudhary Law & Justice, Electronics & Information Technology

Subhash Ramrao Bhamre Defence

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In major reshuffle, Modi replaces Irani with Javadekar, gives Prasad law

Jul 5, 2016 0

New Delhi– In a major ministerial shake up two years since he took over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday inducted 19 new faces, elevated Minister of State Prakash Javadekar to cabinet rank and sent him to replace Smriti Irani in the Human Resource Development Ministry, while also making changes in key portfolios like law, communications and parliamentary affairs.

He also dropped five junior ministers.

Smriti Irani replaced by Prakash Javadekar in the Human Resource Development Ministry

Smriti Irani replaced by Prakash Javadekar in the Human Resource Development Ministry

Hours after the ceremonial swearing-in of new ministers including Javadekar and allies Apna Dal’s leader Anupriya Patel and Republican Party of India-A’s Ramdas Athawale by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister allotted the portfolios.

In the exercise, Modi sprang a major surprise and replaced high-profile and vocal Irani, who has been at the eye of storm with former Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is credited for being industry friendly.

In another key move he removed lacklustre D.V. Sadananda Gowda of Karnataka as Law Minister and gave the responsibility to Ravi Shankar Prasad. Gowda has been moved to the ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

As expected, Modi left four major portfolios of Home (Rajnath Singh), Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs), Arun Jaitley (Finance) and Manohar Parrikar (Defence) untouched while senior ministers Nitin Gadkari (Road Transport, Highways and Shipping) and Suresh Prabhu (Railways) have retained their earlier assignments.

Prasad was divested of Communications and allotted Law while Parliamentary Affairs has been taken away from M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Naidu, however, has been given additional charge of the I&B Ministry (held currently by Jaitley) apart from his existing Urban Development and Housing portfolio, said an official source.

Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar will be the new Parliamentary Affairs Minister also.

Irani has been made Textiles Minister, replacing Santosh Gangwar who will be now be Minister of State for Finance. Former bureaucrat Arjun Meghwal, who was inducted in Tuesday’s expansion, has also been made Minister of State in this crucial ministry.

Among other cabinet changes, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh from Haryana now would swap portfolios with Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar of Madhya Pradesh, who will also hold charge of Panchayati Raj.

According to sources, newly-inducted Anil Madhav Dave will be the new Minister of State for Environment replacing Javadekar.

Vijay Goel, also inducted on Tuesday, will be the new Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Sports and Youth Affairs.

M.J. Akbar has been appointed Minister of State for External Affairs.

Jayant Sinha, who was junior minister in the finance ministry, now becomes Minister of State for Civil Aviation.

Manoj Sinha will now hold the Communications portfolio too as Minister of State (Independent Charge) besides being MoS Railways.

The five Ministers of State who were dropped were Sanwar Lal Jat (Water Resources), Nihalchand (Panchayati Raj), Ram Shankar Katheria (HRD), Mansukh Bhai Vasava (Tribal Affairs) and Mohanbhai Kundaria (Agriculture).

Katheria has been lately vocal in favour of hardline Hindutva politics.

At the swearing-in at Rashtraptai Bhjavan on Tuesday morning, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and several union ministers including Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Gadkari were also present.

BJP veteran L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj missed the event but for different reasons.

Among other changes, Mahesh Sharma, who was earlier Minister of State for Civil Aviation under Ashok Gajapati Raju, has been left with his independent charge of Culture & Tourism. S.S. Ahluwalia will be the new Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs, sources said adding MoS Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan has been moved as junior minister for Water Resources.

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India disappoints optimists, and pessimists: Economic analyst Ruchir Sharma

Jul 3, 2016 0

By Anjali Ojha

New Delhi– The Indian economy lets down both optimists and pessimists, with several positives like a drop in crony capitalism and reforms push but also some concerns like increasing protectionism, says Morgan Stanley’s principal tactician, economist Ruchir Sharma.

In an interview to IANS, the chief global strategist for one of the largest financial services firms that manages around $1.5 trillion in assets, also says while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was voted to power due to resentment, it could have done more given the mandate it got.

Book-The Rise And Fall Of NationsSharma, who has authored a new bok — “The Rise And Fall Of Nations: 10 Rules Of Change In The Post-Crisis World” — says if there is one factor that stands out in India’s favour it is the inflow of foreign direct investment, which touched a record level of $51 billion last fiscal.

“My favourite line in the book is that India disappoints both optimists and pessimists,” Sharma says during the interview, and adds when hopes run high, there is disappointment, but when the country manages to avoid a crisis, like it did in in 2013, there is optimism.

Sharma also speaks about the perils of globalisation losing charm and localisation taking over.

“In India today, one of the big problems is that globally, the number of protectionist measures has gone up significantly in the post crisis world — I call it ‘BC’ and ‘AC’ or ‘Before Crisis’ and ‘After Crisis’ world,” he says.

“The number of protectionist measures India has taken is very significant. But what has happened in India currently is the fact that India is at the forefront of it. No country has taken more protectionist measures than India,” he said.

“I think its not a positive sign because at the end it is the consumer who gets hurt.”

Asked about the Modi government’s performance, Sharma seeks to put his opinion in context, and says economic reasons played a key role in the mandate for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2014 elections.

“Back then there was resentment at things like crony capitalism, corruption and high inflation. One thing we really underestimate is how much a killer high inflation can be for a government. Because that really hurts the poor the most,” Sharma says.

“Now, compared to what we expected, it is a little disappointing. But the incremental reforms are better (in India) than many parts of the world where there are no reforms,” he says. “But there has been a huge increase in FDI. Among the major economies India is at the top.”

Sharma also feels India has come a long way from the time when the success of businesses was dependent upon the relationship of its top brass with ministers and government opfficials.

“The good thing in India is crony capitalism seems not to be doing well now — compared to last decade when you saw a massive increase. The value of crony capitalists has significantly gone down over the last 5-6 years. That is something I find positive.”

On Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” programme, Sharma says it sounds good, but was also too early to gauge its success. Nonetheless, he feels, despite the shrinking value of global exports, there is space for countries ike India to become manufacturing hubs.

“All I know it is a very tough environment for manufacturing and exports globally. The world is in doldrums. Exports are doing very poorly, global export growth has virtually come to a halt,” he says.

“But China is vacating the manufacturing space, particularly the low-end space. And that share is going to countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and even Cambodia. I wish more of that came to India. Huge domestic market advantage is also there (in India).”

Speaking further on the global scenario, Sharma says the next crisis may start from China.

“It is because of the debt that China has taken. Last 6-7 years, the amount of debt China has taken — no developing country has taken so much over such short span of time. Today, it takes $6 debt to create a dollar of GDP growth in China.”

Yet, he feels, India is better placed.

“I rank India to be relatively good. India’s debt level hasn’t gone up much in the last five years. Even India’s public debt, which is high, has stopped going up. It has stabilised. So I would say it is positive as far as India is concerned.”

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Made-in-India Tejas: Historic landmark for aerospace industry

Jul 3, 2016 0

By Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd)

On July 1, 2016, No.45 Squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) became the proud recipient of India’s first indigenous 4th generation fighter; the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) dubbed Tejas. This marks, not just an historic landmark for our aerospace industry, but a significant step forward in India’s quest for self-reliance in weapon systems and fits neatly into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Not more than a handful of countries can claim the competence to bring a project of such complexity to fruition. It would therefore be appropriate to acknowledge the achievement of our aircraft designers, scientists, production engineers and the flight-test team for having delivered a state-of-the art combat aircraft to the IAF – although belatedly.

TejasIt will be a few years before Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) can deliver the squadron’s full outfit of aircraft, but the time would be gainfully employed to acquire flying experience and achieve the mandatory Final Operational Clearance for this sophisticated machine. The DRDO, India’s powerful defence research monolith, usually in the news for its shortcomings, deserves the nation’s compliments on this occasion. However, this is also a good juncture to draw lessons for the future, without yielding, either to euphoria or to negative skepticism.

The area in which the LCA project has attracted most criticism is the successive time and cost overruns that it experienced. The obvious cause of these was over-estimation, of its own competence, by the DRDO. This led to the ambitious claim that they had the capability to develop, not just the airframe and engine, but also the radar as well as a complex fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system required for an ‘agile’ fighter.

This miscalculation was, perhaps, based on the premise that since India had earlier designed and built the HF-24 Marut, we possessed the design skills and manufacturing expertise. The Marut, putatively, India’s first indigenous fighter aircraft, had in actual fact been designed by a contracted German team led by Kurt Tank, designer of World War II fighters. Inducted into IAF in 1965, the Marut was only a qualified success; its advanced airframe being mismatched with a pair of under-powered Orpheus engines. The assumption that the LCA would benefit from the expertise acquired from Marut project was fallacious because technology had moved far ahead in the three decades that elapsed.

The second contributory cause was the decision of the DRDO to pursue this strategic project without ensuring total involvement of the end-user. The IAF, understandably, more concerned with existing problems of meeting its operational roles and missions took a rather detached view of the LCA and remained focused on looking abroad for its needs. This lack of active interest and involvement by the intended end-user of the LCA, which persisted for many years, arguably, deprived the project of impetus, moral support and of funding.

The most crippling impediment for the project was, however, posed by denial of crucial technologies by the West. Starting in 1974, after Pokhran I, America started shutting the technology tap for India. However, post-liberalization, finding a window of opportunity, advice and consultancy in certain key areas of the LCA design, notably the FBW system, was obtained from US and UK, but the post-Pokhran II sanctions brought this to an abrupt halt. This is where our scientists showed their true mettle and went on to develop and qualify the complex flight control algorithms, almost entirely on their own.

The sophisticated software for flight control, weapon-aiming, air-data and other computers carried by the Tejas as well as the carbon-fibre composite technology for its fuselage are the pride of our scientists. Apart from this, a large percentage of the fighter’s major systems have been developed by scientists working in dozens of DRDO laboratories, and produced by industrial units, right across the country. The government must realize that the seeds of an aerospace ancillary industry have been planted, and will, hopefully, be nurtured by a long production run of the Tejas.

However, for all its good work and achievements, there remain two critical areas in which the DRDO has disappointed. One is, of course, its failure to deliver the fighter’s primary sensor; a multi-mode radar, which, eventually, had to be imported. The other is the long-awaited Kaveri aero-engine, which has remained, for 40 years, in limbo. It consistently failed to attain its promised performance parameters, and seems to have been kept alive to justify the existence of its parent Gas Turbine Research Establishment. Consequently, the US origin General Electric F-404-IN-20 turbo-jet has been contracted to power the Tejas.

Six decades after independence, 80-90 percent of our military hardware remains of foreign origin, and India has the dubious distinction of being amongst the top arms importers in the world. The comprehensive capability to design and undertake serial-production of major weapon systems is an imperative that has, so far, eluded us. Not only is this a serious flaw in our national security, but our claims to major-power status will ring hollow as long as we remain dependent on imports for major weapon systems.

With globalization, the quest for attaining autarchy in every aspect of technology has become a redundant activity. A conscious and early decision must be taken in every R&D project regarding the technologies we need to develop in-country and those that we can acquire from abroad. The recent approval of 100 percent foreign direct investment in defence production could well transform our military-industrial scene; making India not just self-sufficient, but also a major exporter of weaponry.

With the best of intentions, this process could take decades to fructify, and the government must be quite clear that foreign investment will only materialize if it can do away with the bureaucratic impediments and corruption that frighten away reputed companies.

For all the criticism that is often, justly, heaped on DRDO and defence PSUs (like HAL), the fact remains that, properly restructured and synergized with India’s innovative private sector, both these national institutions have the capability to rescue India from the unending arms-dependency trap. For a beleaguered, under-strength IAF, the Tejas should not only come as a ray of hope, but must also receive full backing of the service – now and for its future versions.

(Admiral Arun Prakash is a former Indian Navy chief. A decorated fighter pilot, he oversaw the successful induction of the Sea Harrier into the navy. The views experssed are personal.)

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