Saturday, September 7, 2013

31 infants die in four days at govt-run Kolkata hospital

At least 31 infants are reported to have died at a government-run children's hospital in Kolkata in the last four days.

While angry parents blame hospital authorities for mismanagement and negligence, doctors at the BC Roy Post-Graduate Institute of Paediatric Sciences, premier children's hospitals in the state, say most of the infants who died were admitted here in extremely critical condition.

"They are giving wrong treatment. Nurses are not listening to us. That is why the children are being affected," a worried parent said.

But Dr Trideb Banerjee, chairman of the Health Department's Special Task Force that probes infant deaths and other such issues at hospitals across the state, has rejected the allegations of medical negligence. "BC Roy is a referral hospital; many patients are admitted here in critical state. Doctors always try their best but sometimes patients cannot be saved as their condition is very bad. There is not a single case of negligence," he said.

The Special Task Force for Health was formed in 2011, after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who doubles up as the Health Minister of the state, faced criticism over increasing number of infant deaths at several government-run hospitals across the state.

In October 2011, 18 infant deaths in 48 hours at the BC Roy hospital had provoked angry demonstrations by parents and had led to a visit by the Chief Minister.

An inquiry conducted on the orders of the government had then absolved the hospital of medical negligence, and had asked for new facilities to be added immediately. Crores were spent on setting up a 30 bed neo-natal care unit after the report.

Blaming the state government for the deaths, D Raja of the CPI said today, "It is a fact that children our dying and it is shameful that we are not being able to save our children. Somebody should take the responsibility."

Zubin Mehta's concert: heavy security in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah slams separatists' call for bandh

With just hours left for India-born conductor Zubin Mehta's highly anticipated concert in Srinagar's Shalimar Bagh, there is heavy security in the city. Called Ehsaas-e-Kashmir, the event, a first of its kind in Kashmir, is being organised by German ambassador to India Michael Steiner.

Hundreds of police and military personnel are patrolling the streets of Srinagar, with sharp shooters being deployed at strategic locations in the city. Only those carrying special passes will be allowed entry into the concert, expected to be attended by a 1,500-strong exclusive audience, including government ministers and diplomats.

The concert has already hit a controversial note with Kashmiri separatists calling it an attempt to digress from the human rights violations in the state. The separatists have called for a total shutdown of Srinagar in protest.

77-year-old Mr Mehta reached out to the separatists yesterday, saying, "I didn't choose Kashmir, Kashmir chose me. Music is the message of peace, and music only brings peace."

Accusing the separatists of hypocrisy, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said, "These (separatists) people are selective... If music is against the issue of Kashmir, how come Junoon came and performed here," said Mr Abdullah. 'Junoon', a Pakistani band had performed in the city in May 2008.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said the youngsters must decide upon the nature and purpose of the event after hearing Mr Mehta's music. "I pray and urge and appeal to all young people that they should pause and listen to his music, listen to what his music has to say and then make up their minds," said Mr Khurshid.

Meanwhile, a counter concert, called Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir to highlight, what its organisers say, the turmoil of the people over the last two decades, has also been granted permission by the state administration.

Uttarakhand tragedy: Over 160 bodies found in four days

 The death toll in the Uttarkhand tragedy continues to mount with 68 more bodies believed to be of pilgrims who died of cold and starvation while trying to escape the devastating June floods being found on way to the Kedarnath shrine.

The 68 bodies, found over the ridges between Garurchatti and Gaurikund, were cremated yesterday just a couple of days after 64 bodies were consigned to flames close to the Himalayan shrine, Inspector General of Police R S Meena said.

"They are being cremated after necessary rituals and other formalities like DNA sampling, Panchnama and preservation of the ornaments worn by them like bangles, rings etc for identification," he said.

Since the start of the third round of search operations in the worst affected Kedar valley on Tuesday, a total of 166 bodies have been found and cremated, officials said.

Over 200 bodies were extricated in the previous two rounds with sources saying that the official toll has now crossed the 1000 mark. However, NGOs and others have expressed fears that thousands have perished in the tragedy with many not yet found due to inhospitable hilly terrain.

The operation which is likely to continue till tomorrow is being carried out by mountaineers and commandos of Uttarakhand police at a height of 12500-13000 ft.

"These bodies seem to be of pilgrims who climbed up the ridges out of fear after the calamity struck in mid-June to save themselves and perished due to extreme cold conditions there, hunger and thirst," Meena told PTI.

"We resumed our search on Tuesday for bodies trapped in the higher reaches and ridges of the valley which we could not access earlier due to bad weather.

"If the weather permits, the process will go on till tomorrow in Junglechatti, Rambada, Gaurigaon and Bheembali areas of the valley where we expect to find bodies," he said.

Clear weather has given fresh impetus to the search for bodies, the IG said.

"As of now we are concentrating on areas where bodies are lying visibly on the surface and not on places where they may be lying underneath the debris," Meena said.

The operation to retrieve bodies are on even as Kedranath Shrine is all set resume prayers on September 11.

In Chhattisgarh, a Red Fort replica for Narendra Modi speech today

 Narendra Modi is in election-bound Chhattisgarh today and the stage that he will share with his host Chief Minister Raman Singh is a model of Delhi's Red Fort.
 The symbolism is hard to miss. It is from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi that Prime Ministers address the nation on Independence Day.
 The Gujarat Chief Minister said this week that he does not dream of being Prime Minister, but many in the BJP hope that it will be Mr Modi who will deliver next year's address from the Red Fort in the national capital.  Last month, Mr Modi had challenged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15 - first saying that his address in Gujarat would draw as much attention as the PM's Red Fort speech, and then making a surprisingly political speech tearing into Dr Singh.

"They have created a fake Red Fort in Chhattisgarh. They might also create a fake RCR (PM's residence in Delhi) to fulfill their aspirations," senior Congress leader Kamal Nath said today in the ongoing war of words between the two rival parties.
 But as his party delays naming Mr Modi as its face for 2014 elections, he seemed to send out a reminder when he said on Thursday, "We shouldn't dream about becoming something but doing something. I have been given a mandate till 2017 by people of Gujarat and will continue to serve you."Party president Rajnath Singh and the BJP's ideological mentor, the RSS, are trying to convince Mr Modi's powerful rivals like LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj that it would benefit the party to make a Modi announcement soon.
But these leaders have argued that this is best done after assembly elections in five states including Chhattisgarh, where Mr Modi will campaign today in Ambikapur, about 250 km from state capital Raipur, for Raman Singh, who is seeking a third term.
On Monday, the RSS, BJP and other affiliated outfits will meet to discuss by when Narendra Modi should be projected as the prime ministerial candidate.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hyundai Grand i10 launched at Rs. 4.29 lakh

Even as car sales have fallen for the ninth straight month as buyers are refraining from taking on debt to fund their purchases, car companies are going all out to woo consumers ahead of the festive season.

The latest to join this bandwagon was Korean car maker Hyundai, which today launched the Grand i10, which will be positioned between the i10 and the i20, at a starting price of Rs. 4.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

The Grand i10 is available in two engine variants --  1.1-litre diesel and 1.2-litre petrol.

While the petrol variant is priced from Rs. 4.29 lakh to Rs. 5.47 lakh, the diesel version is priced between Rs. 5.23 lakh and Rs. 6.41 lakh.

The petrol engine is the same Kappa engine that does duty on the i10, while the diesel engine has been derived from Hyundai's 1.4-litre CRDi motor. This 1.1-litre diesel will also make the Grand i10 the cheapest diesel offering.

"The Grand is a world class product developed for the Indian market... We expect Grand with its excellent value proposition and its unique features, will serve wide range of customers in India," Hyundai India managing director and chief executive B.S. Seo said.

The Grand i10 is Hyundai's fifth hatchback in the country, after the Eon, the Santro, the i10 and the i20, and Hyundai will hope to consolidate its hold in the small car market with this new launch.

Hyundai yesterday reported an 11.58 per cent increase in its total sales in August at 52,319 units as against 46,886 in the same month last year.

Domestic sales of the company stood at 28,311 units during the month, marginally up from 28,257 units in August 2012.

The launch of the Grand comes barely weeks after the Maruti Stingray, the Nissan Terrano and the Volkswagen Cross Polo were rolled out into the market.

School girl shot in classroom by jilted lover who then killed himself

young school girl is in hospital in Lucknow after a man who was allegedly in love with her shot her in the stomach in her classroom, before killing himself.

The 15-year-old was at her school in Amethi when her cousin opened fire. He then shot himself in the head and died immediately.

She was rushed to hospital and is reported to be recovering. She has allegedly told the police that her attacker had two guns and was carrying bullets in a plastic bag.

RBI's new home loan norms will push property prices higher: DLF

The Reserve Bank's circular asking lenders to link the disbursal of home loans to the stages of construction of property may lead to liquidity crisis and rise in property prices, India's biggest real estate developer DLF told NDTV.

The central bank on Tuesday said upfront disbursal of lump sum loans should not be made in case of incomplete or housing projects under construction. It also asked lenders to stop "innovative housing loan schemes," popularly known as 80:20 and 75:25 schemes.

Such schemes involve a tripartite arrangement among the bank, the buyer and the builder and involve upfront disbursal of home loans to developers. The interest/EMI on the housing loan is serviced by the builder during the construction period.

The RBI said such home loan products are likely to expose banks and their borrowers to additional risks. These loans are on the books of buyers, and not developers, making them risky.

Rajeev Talwar, group executive director of DLF told NDTV that it's a very funny idea that the discontinuation of such schemes would lead to price cuts.

"By making money shorter, you are making a case of opposite," he added.

Mr Talwar also said that it's a misplaced notion that these loans delay construction, lead to speculation and may be diverted to other projects.

"These loans are construction linked and not time linked. This is not a case of diversion of money, but it is actually a case to help on with the construction of project on time," he said.

The latest circular coincides with governor D Subbarao's exit from the central bank. Many critics, including top honchos from India Inc., have often held RBI's tight policy under Dr Subbarao responsible for the slowdown in the economy. Under his leadership, the RBI raised policy rates 13 times between March, 2010 and October, 2011.

"It was perhaps a parting gift... I don't think the RBI has been spectacularly successful in doing so in very many other sectors," Mr Talwar said.

Public sector banks have limited exposure to such schemes. HDFC, India's biggest mortgage lender, could be the largest listed player to offer such schemes. ICICI Bank and Axis Bank offer more 20:80 schemes than others, analysts said.

Lalitkumar Jain, chairman of real estate lobby CREDAI said in past RBI circulars have resulted into reversal of good market sentiments affecting economy and concerning housing sector

However, Pradeep Jain of Parsvnath Developers said RBI has taken a good step.

"I am in favour of RBI because if a financial institution gives 80 per cent of loans and tomorrow the developer diverts the money to other projects, it will become a major concern," he added.

Shares in real estate companies fell with DLF leading the losses. Indiabulls Real Estate and Housing Development & Infrastructure traded with over 3 per cent cuts.

Raghuram Rajan: 10 things to know about the new RBI governor

Raghuram Rajan today took over as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India at a time when the Indian economy is facing its worst crisis in over two decades.
What you should know about the new governor:
  1. Raghuram Rajan is the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He has been appointed for a period of three years, and will take charge from D. Subbarao, who is exiting after an extended five-year term.
  2. This will be Mr. Rajan's second assignment in the country. He was appointed the Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry in August last year.
  3. He was the Economic Counselor and Director of Research (simply put, the chief economist) at the International Monetary Fund from September 2003 till January 2007.
  4. Mr. Rajan's claim to fame is his prediction of the 2008 global financial crisis. In his paper titled "Has Financial Development Made The World Riskier?", which he submitted in November 2005, Mr. Rajan wrote: "But perhaps the most important concern is whether banks will be able to provide liquidity to financial markets so that if the tail risk does materialize." The response to this paper was negative.
  5. Mr. Rajan has worked as the Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
  6. Mr. Rajan has also served as the Bertil Daniellson Visiting Professor of Banking and Finance, Stockholm School of Economics, 1996-97; Visiting Professor of Finance, Northwestern University, 1996-97, and the Fischer Black Visiting Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000-01.
  7. In January 2003, the American Finance Association awarded Mr. Rajan the inaugural Fischer Black Prize, given every two years to the financial economist under age 40 who has made the most significant contribution to the theory and practice of finance.
  8. He is the author of the popular book "Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy", where he has argued that serious flaws in the economy are to blame for the current crisis, and warns that a potentially more devastating crisis awaits us if they aren't fixed.
  9. He earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from IIT-Delhi, before pursuing his MBA in 1987 from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, followed by a PhD in 1991 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a gold medalist at both IIT and IIM.
  10. Rajan, 50, was born in Bhopal on February 3, 1963. He comes from a Tamil family and is married to Radhika, a class fellow from IIM. They have two children

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rupee posts sharp recovery, pulls back below 67/dollar

The Indian rupee recovered below 67 per dollar after falling to as low as 67.43 against the greenback in early trades. The partially convertible rupee traded at 66.65 as of 10.33 a.m. as against Thursday's close of 66.55.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stepped up dollar sales to prevent the currency from falling towards recent record lows, three traders told Reuters on Friday. The RBI likely sold dollars via state-run banks starting at around 67.20 rupee levels. Two traders said the central bank was also intervening in the forwards market.

Friday's intervention comes a day after the rupee jumped 3.3 per cent, its biggest one-day gain since mid-January 1998.

Stock markets also traded higher after a weak start. The BSE Sensex traded 160 points higher, while the Nifty hit 5,450 levels today.

The market will keenly watch Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's likely statement on the economy later today. On Thursday, he said "I cannot deny that the country is faced with a difficult situation... There are some domestic factors. There are also some international factors arising out of change in U.S. monetary stance," he said, noting that rising tensions in Syria could drive up oil prices.
The currency will also be influenced by GDP data set to be released later in the day. According to a Reuters poll, April-June GDP likely grew at 4.7 per cent, lower than decade-low growth of 5 per cent seen in the last fiscal year.
Despite a sharp rebound, market analysts were not sure that the recovery would last. Technical analyst Rajat Bose told NDTV said unless the rupee starts trading above 65.25, there's little hope of sustained recovery.

Ambareesh Baliga said investors should "hold on to cash" because the panic is here to stay. There will be lots of opportunities to buy large cap stocks at lower levels, he added.

Land Acquisition Bill passed in Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi says he is 'quite happy'

  1. The Bill was passed through a division of votes - out of the 235 members who voted on the bill, 216 backed it while 19 voted against it. "I am quite happy," said Congress Number 2 Rahul Gandhi, who has championed the legislation, which replaces a more-than-century-old law.
  2. The BJP, which supported the Bill with certain amendments, in an unusual move, praised Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh while the bill was being debated earlier in the day. "Like the way he has pursued this Bill," senior leader Sushma Swaraj said to thumping of desks by BJP members.
  3. Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party lends crucial external support to the central government, had earlier stridently opposed the legislation, and said during the debate that the consent of the farmer was key to any land acquisition move. His party, though, voted with the government.
  4. The proposal establishes new rules for compensation for land acquired for infrastructure projects and industry, a move seen as raising costs but potentially reducing protests that have plagued India's industrialisation drive.
  5. The most important feature of the bill is that it requires developers to get the consent of up to 80 per cent of people whose land is acquired for private projects. For public-private partnerships, the approval of 70 per cent of landowners is mandatory.
  6. Land acquisition in states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for factories, roads and housing projects has sparked bitter clashes between farmers and state authorities, resulting in huge project delays.
  7. The proposal asks for compensation of up to four times the market value of land in rural areas and two times the value in urban parts.
  8. Business lobbies say they welcome land acquisition reform but fear the measure could push up property purchase costs by at least 40 to 60 per cent, making industrial projects financially unviable and sharply escalating housing costs.
  9. A broad consensus was reached at a meeting between the government and the opposition on the main features of the bill in April. The government agreed to the BJP's demand that land could be leased to developers so its ownership could remain with the landowners and give them a regular income.
  10. Activists say the bill does not go far enough, and offers no safeguards about the protection of vast areas of common land.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Economy in shambles, jobless engineers turn salesmen, clerks in Andhra Pradesh

A television set plays the debate on India's economy in Parliament as Vikram attends to customers at a provisions store in Shankarpalli mandal of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh. Scornful of the deliberation far away in India's capital, he sees no hope of things changing for the better.

Vikram has a reason. The 24-year-old has an engineering degree in Information Technology, and yet is forced to work in the shop after a desperate two-year-long search for a job.

With the economy in shambles, jobs are hard to come by in Andhra Pradesh. Just 15-20 per cent of the aspirants are landing up jobs in a state with the highest number of engineering colleges in the country.

For the remaining engineers, job means working as salesmen selling grocery and electronic goods, or working as government clerks or nursery school teachers; anything that comes by as long as you can earn a living.

"Out of 130 students in our college, just 20 got into IT; that too call centre technical support. They're working for 6000-7000 rupees," says Vikram's former classmate Srinivas.

Srinivas, relieved at being selected for a government job as stores in-charge, gives a revealing example, "The Medak ordnance factory got more than 80,000 applications - mostly from engineers - for 90 labour posts it advertised recently. The qualification was tenth pass."

"What a mismatch. Can these people sweep and clean machines?" he asks.

Diesel prices may go up by Rs. 5/litre next week: Sources

Diesel prices are likely to go up sharply after the monsoon session of Parliament ends on September 6. Oil companies have asked the oil ministry for a one-time hike of diesel prices by at least Rs. 5-6 per litre, ministry sources told NDTV.

Oil ministry sources say that they are going to propose a Rs. 5-per-litre hike in diesel prices.  The proposal is likely to be put before the Cabinet after the Parliament session ends.

The sharp fall in the value of the rupee against the dollar and the recent strengthening global oil prices due to the Syrian and Egyptian crisis have shot up India's crude oil import bill.

The government had in January allowed oil companies to raise diesel rates by up to 50 paise per month. Any hike beyond 50 paise has to be cleared by the Cabinet. Oil companies have also asked for the cap of 50 paise per month to be raised for diesel prices due to the sharp volatility in global oil prices, sources said.

The Indian rupee slipped past 68 levels on Wednesday, down nearly 25 per cent from May, as concerns about the current account deficit and outflows from Indian assets have continued to put downward pressure on the currency. This has led to import cost of oil companies to jump from Rs. 5600/barrel in May to Rs. 7000/barrel in May.

Fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum Corp sell diesel, kerosene and cooking gas at subsidised rates. These oil companies are suffering a loss of over Rs. 10/litre on diesel.
Rating agency Moody's has recently warned that the falling rupee would inflate the fuel subsidy bill, and put pressure on the fiscal deficit.

Under-recoveries for oil companies on account of selling fuel below their cost were earlier estimated at Rs. 80,000 crore for FY14. But now it has ballooned to Rs. 1.4 lakh crore.

Gold futures hit record high of Rs. 34,500 per 10 gram

Continuing its rising streak, gold prices climbed to Rs. 34,500 per 10 gram level for the first time ever in futures trade today as the rupee tumbled to hit an all-time low of Rs. 68.75 amid a firming trend overseas.

At the Multi Commodity Exchange, gold for delivery in October went up by Rs. 780 to trade at an all-time high of Rs. 34,500 per 10 gram.

Similarly, the yellow metal for delivery in the far-month December surged by Rs. 511, or 1.52 per cent, to Rs. 34,161 per 10 gm in 505 lots.

Market analysts attributed the rise in gold prices at futures trade to the sliding rupee, which tumbled to a historic low of Rs. 68.75, making dollar-quoted precious metal expensive, and a pick-up in demand at the spot market for the festive and upcoming marriage season.

Besides, a firming trend in global markets as speculation that the US may lead military strikes against Syria spurred investors' demand for a safe haven, too, influenced gold prices at futures trade here, they said.

In the domestic market, gold prices closed at an all-time high of Rs. 32,585 per 10 gram in Mumbai in yesterday's trade. Meanwhile, gold advanced 0.3 per cent to $1,419.55 an ounce in Singapore.

Rupee crashes to 68.75 per dollar as foreign investors flee

The rupee slumped to a record low of 68.75 per dollar and shares tumbled on Wednesday on growing worries that foreign investors will continue to sell out of a country facing stiff economic challenges and volatile global markets.

Foreign investors sold nearly $1 billion (over Rs. 6,500 crore) of Indian shares in the eight sessions through Tuesday - a worrisome prospect given stocks had been the country's one sturdy source of capital inflows, although net purchases so far this year still total $12 billion.

The partially convertible rupee hit a record low of 68.75, down 3.7 per cent on the day, after posting its biggest daily percentage fall in 18 years on Tuesday.

"It is just impossible to put any realistic value to the rupee any more," said Uday Bhatt, a forex dealer with UCO Bank.

The need to attract foreign capital is critical for a country whose record high current account deficit is a key reason behind the rupee's slump. Yet policymakers have consistently struggled to come up with measures that can convince markets they can stabilise the currency and attract funds into the country.

That failure is becoming an increasing source of tension for India at a time when fears of a possible U.S.-led military strike against Syria are knocking down Asian markets, with prospect that the Federal Reserve will end its period of cheap money as early as next month further raising concerns.

In its latest initiative, the government late on Tuesday proposed setting up a task force to look into currency swap agreements, a measure analysts said could bring some relief if carried out in time by reducing market demand for dollars or other major currencies.

"Lets see what the authorities do, but if the government can come out with some really big currency swap arrangement with some countries, that can be a strong positive," Bhatt said.

The rupee has now fallen around 19 per cent so far this year, by far the biggest decliner among the Asian currencies tracked by Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Nifty fell more than 2 per cent while 10-year bonds yields rose to as high as 9.04 per cent.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rising players like Micromax, Karbonn beat Apple, Samsung in India: IDC

The rising demand for affordable smartphones in the major emerging markets of India and China has helped local mobile manufacturers surpass shipments by the established global brands like Samsung and Apple in April-June quarter this year, research firm IDC says.
According to IDC data in the Asia/Pacific excluding Japan region, homegrown vendors shipped 46 million units, while Samsung and Apple combined shipped 35 million units in second quarter this year.
Other global brands like HTC, BlackBerry, Nokia, Sony, LG and Motorala shipped a combined 10 million units, whereas, the internal vendors from China like Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo shipped a total of 27 million units in April-June 2013.
IDC identified Micromax, Karbonn, Lava, Maxx and Intex as the rising players in the emerging smartphone market in India and brands like Coolpad, K-Touch, Xiaomi, Gionee and OPPO in China.
The research firm said local brands in the world's two most populous country, part of Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) region (APEJ), have aggressively scaled up their operations and are competitive on both price and hardware specifications.
"Aside from the top-tier international brands or Chinese brands that also ship globally like Huawei and ZTE, there is also a rising segment of homegrown brands, which as a group have been steadily rising in shipments and prominence," IDC said in its latest report on mobile shipments.
These homegrown players comprised 38 percent of second quarter 2013 volumes, up from 20 percent in the same quarter of 2012 and seven percent 2011 second quarter, it added.
Asia/Pacific region saw mobile shipments of 119 million units in April-June 2013, up 10 percent quarter-on-quarter and a huge jump of 75 percent from Q2 2012, IDC said.
"In emerging markets like China and India, IDC has seen many local competitors spring up, but only in the last few quarters have we seen them aggressively scale up, competitive on both price and hardware specs like bigger screens.
"We are now hitting a place where there are smartphones for every price point, where the masses will benefit from the slew of players bringing in more options," the firm said.
This is the first quarter that IDC saw both the under USD 50 segment of smartphones gain some traction in China. While, the 4 inch plus screen size segment drove most shipments, the 5-6 inch segment saw its first gain in both China and India, it added.

What Virat Kohli's doing with Bollywood star Anushka Sharma

Indian cricket's batting sensation Virat Kohli, who has been driving cars, wooing girls with snazzy mobile phones and posing with teammates in a cola ad, has now put on his dancing shoes for a TV commercial.

Kohli has now teamed up with Bollywood hottie Anushka Sharma and the duo will be seen doing the salsa for a shampoo commercial.

The pin-up boy of Indian cricket may be on a break from international cricket but the in-demand Kohli has now found time to keep his commercial commitments. To shoot for the shampoo advertisement, Kohli had to undergo a crash course in the Latin American dancing style along with the leggy 25-year-old Anushka.

To perfect their dance moves, the duo underwent intense dancing rehearsals. Displaying amazing chemistry during the shoot, the pair looks stunning in their black outfits. They display salsa moves like the 'change of hand holds' and 'comb' with grace and ease.

Several international cricketers like Sanath Jayasuriya and Harbhajan Singh have hit the dance floor for reality shows. Kohli now makes his 'debut' and in great style. The choice is clear!

Coca-Cola keeps its 127-year-old recipe locked in a vault

Coca-Cola keeps the recipe for its 127-year-old soda inside a steel vault that is bathed in red security lights. Several cameras monitor the area to make sure the formula stays a secret.

But in one of the many signs that the surveillance is as much about theatre as reality, the images that pop up on video screens are of smiling tourists waving at themselves.

"It's a little bit for show," concedes a guard at the World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta, where the vault is revealed at the end of an exhibit in a puff of smoke.

The ability to push a quaint narrative about a product's origins and fuel a sense of nostalgia can help drive billions of dollars in sales. That's invaluable at a time when food makers face greater competition from smaller players and cheaper supermarket store brands that appeal to cash-strapped Americans.

It's why companies such as Coca-Cola and Twinkies' owner Hostess play up the notion that their recipes are sacred, unchanging documents that need to be closely guarded. As it turns out, some recipes have changed over time, while others may not have. Either way, they all stick to the same script that their formulas have remained the same.

John Ruff, who formerly headed research and development at Kraft Foods, said companies often recalibrate ingredients for various reasons, including new regulations, fluctuations in commodity costs and other issues that impact mass food production.

"It's almost this mythological thing, the secret formula," said the president of the Institute of Food Technologists, which studies the science of food. "I would be amazed if formulas (for big brands) haven't changed."

This summer, the Twinkies cream-filled cakes many Americans grew up snacking on, made a comeback after being off shelves for about nine months following the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands. At the time, the new owners promised the spongy yellow cakes would taste just like people remember.

A representative for Hostess, Hannah Arnold, said in an email that Twinkies today are "remarkably close to the original recipe," noting that the first three ingredients are still enriched flour, water and sugar.

Yet a box of Twinkies now lists more than 25 ingredients and has a shelf-life of 45 days, almost three weeks longer than the 26 days from just a year ago. That suggests the ingredients have been tinkered with, to say the least, since they were created in 1930.

"When Twinkies first came out they were largely made from fresh ingredients," notes Steve Ettlinger, author of "Twinkie, Deconstructed," which traced the roots of the cake's many modern-day industrial ingredients.

Rajya Sabha approves bill to make divorce women-friendly

 Rajya Sabha on Monday approved a proposal to make divorce friendly for women as it provides for the wife getting a share in the husband's immovable property after "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage.

The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill seeks to empower the courts to decide the compensation amount from the husband's inherited and inheritable property for the wife and children once the marriage legally ends.

The Bill allows both parties to file for divorce on the ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage. Both parties have to live apart for at least three years before filing for such a petition.

Provisions have been made to restrict grant of a decree of divorce on ground of "irretrievable breakdown" of marriage if the court is satisfied that adequate provision for maintenance of children has not been made consistently with financial capacity of the parties to the marriage.

Also, the wife has the right to oppose the grant of a divorce on the ground that the dissolution could result in grave financial hardship.

Replying to a debate on the bill, Law Minister Kapil Sibal said it is a "a historic piece of legislation" in a patriarchal society like India where women, who constitute 50 per cent of the population, own only two per cent of the assets.

He said the divorce is "gender neutral" as either the wife or the husband can seek divorce. However, the right over property will not be gender neutral as wife can lay claim on husband's immovable property.

The Bill also provides that a court can take an ex parte decision on granting divorce if one of the two parties refuse to move a joint application.

As per the existing laws, the parties have to move a motion jointly between 6 and 18 months in case of divorce on grounds of mutual consent.

However, it has been observed that in several cases one of the parties do not turn up for filing of motion jointly with the other party leading the party desirous of divorce hapless and remediless.

The amendment has been done to mitigate such hardships, said the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill.

During discussions, several MPs across party lines suggested the Bill be made gender neutral and should not be confined to Hindu marriages only.

The Bill seeks to amend Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

Mr Sibal, however, noted that the legislation is in context of Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act, a couple has a choice to get registered under the Special Marriage Act.

He said it would be the courts that would decide on the division of property post divorce.

"We have to trust our judges...Judges...will decide what (amount of) property will be given to women," he said.

The Minister, however, said there was no amendment which works against women and works in favour of men.

He said the Members of Parliament should show that they are on side of women in a patriarchal society.

Earlier, Najma A Heptulla (BJP) said divorce is considered a taboo in India and efforts should be made to ensure that family structure remains intact.

She accused the government of not doing anything for the 10 crore women belonging to Muslim community. She promised BJP's support to any legislation for betterment of Muslim women.

She also said there should be only one law for all women in the country.

As per the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act have proved to be inadequate to deal with the issue where there has been irretrievable breakdown of marriage and therefore the need was felt for the amendments.

Supreme Court too had pointed out the necessity to introduce irretrievable breakdown of marriage and mutual consent as grounds for grant of divorce in all cases.

"Having regards to the recommendations of the Law Commission of India and the observation of the Hon'ble Supreme is proposed to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Special Marriage Act, 1954, so as to provide for irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground of divorce thereunder subject to certain safeguards to the wife and affected children," the statement said.

The Law Minister said husbands too can move courts for irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

Ram Prakash (Cong), Narendra Kumar Kashyap (BSP), Jharna Das Baidya (CPI-M), Derek O' Brien (TMC), Arvind Kumar Singh (SP), Renubala Pradhan (BJD), Vandana Chavan (NCP), Bharatkumar Raut (SS) and Gyan Prakash Pilania (BJP) also participated in the discussion.

Supreme Court warns lower courts 'Don't be soft on rapists'

The Supreme Court today said that a compromise between a rapist and the survivor cannot be used to reduce the sentence for the convict.

"Rape is an offence against the society and there is no scope for comprise," the judges said at a time when the country is shaken and outraged by last week's gang-rape of a young photographer in Mumbai, often considered one of India's safest cities for women.

The judges today were hearing the case of a man who was sentenced to 10 years for a gang-rape in Haryana. The woman who was assaulted said that she is now married and has children and is leading a normal life and the convict should therefore be released early from jail.

The convict has so far completed three years in jail.

"The compromise can't be believed because there is every chance that the victim may have been pressured by the convict," the judges said.

The Supreme Court also had a clear message for lower courts. It warned that despite strict laws, judges often give light sentences to rapists. "Don't be soft," the Supreme Court said.

Yesterday, while hearing another rape case, Supreme Court judges said, "Things are going from bad to worse." They have ordered state governments to urgently frame a policy for the rehabilitation of rape survivors.

Rupee crash sends gold futures to record high near Rs. 33,000

Indian gold futures, which hit a record high on Tuesday, are likely to touch the keenly watched Rs. 33,000 per 10 grams mark this week, as a weakening rupee could continue to make the dollar-quoted yellow metal expensive.

Higher gold prices could dent demand in the world's biggest buyer of the yellow metal, even as traders scramble for supplies after the federal government put a quota system on imports by linking exports with domestic consumption.

The most-active gold for October delivery on the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) was 2.11 per cent higher at Rs. 32,549, after hitting a record of Rs. 32,677, breaching its previous record hit in November last year.

"The main reason would be rupee depreciation and high crude prices," said Gnanasekar Thiagarajan, director with Commtrendz Research.

The rupee breached the 65.56 per dollar mark to hit a record low, as a steep decline in the domestic share market following the approval of the food security bill in the lower house of parliament hurt sentiment.

The rupee plays an important role in determining the landed cost of the dollar-quoted yellow metal.

Buying is advised on dips to Rs. 32,400, with a stop loss at 32,200, targeting Rs. 33,000, said Thiagarajan.

Silver for September delivery on the MCX was 2.54 per cent higher at Rs. 55,155 rupees per kg.

Buying is advised in silver at Rs. 55,800 rupees, with a target at Rs. 57,000 rupees, and a stop loss at Rs. 55,100, said Thiagarajan.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Maruti Stingray launched at Rs. 4.10 lakh

 Looking to beat the slowdown blues, India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India today launched compact car Stingray, priced at Rs. 4,10,000 (ex-showroom Delhi).

"With Stingray, we carry forward our focus to make our best sellers even more attractive," managing director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said.

The Stingray, which is powered by a 998 cc petrol engine, is available in three variants, with price ranging between Rs. 4,10,000 and Rs. 4,67,000.

In July, the company posted 10.88 per cent increase in its passenger car sales at 63,040 units.

Car sales in India had fallen for a record ninth month in a row in July, posting a 7.4 per cent decline.

According to the latest data released by the SIAM, domestic passenger car sales declined to 1,31,163 units in July this year from 1,41,646 units in the same month of 2012.

Nike sues Virat Kohli for breaching contract

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday ordered issuance of emergent notice to cricketer Virat Kohli on a suit filed by sports giant Nike accusing him of breach of an endorsement contract with it.

Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh directed Kohli to maintain status quo for the next four weeks regarding endorsement deal signed with Nike and adjourned the case.

In its suit filed on Tuesday, Nike claimed Kohli had breached the contract by disagreeing to continue as its brand ambassador till 2014. The five-year contract from 2008 was extendable by one year.

An Indian Express report says that Nike had entered into a contract with Virat Kohli from 1 January 1, 2007 to 31 December 31, 2007. The deal was renewed for the period between 1 August 2008 and 31 July, 2013 for exclusive endorsement rights.

According to The Hindu, Kohli was paid Rs.1.42 crore for the contract that carried a clause for extension for another year i.e. till 31 July, 2014 with certain conditions.

Nike, in its suit, has pleaded with the court to restrain Kohli from entering into or negotiating any endorsement deal with any third party until the expiry of the deal, company counsel Aditya Sondhi said

Four students who ragged Aman Kachroo to death freed on 'good conduct'

Four medical students, who were convicted of ragging their junior Aman Kachroo to death in a Himachal Pradesh college four years ago, have been freed before completing their four-year rigorous jail term.

The students were freed after the Himachal Pradesh government decided to write off their remaining sentence on account of their 'good conduct' and allow them to complete their medical course at a medical college in Kangra. But they will be barred from government jobs.

In 2009, Aman Kachroo, a first-year student at a medical college in Himachal Pradesh was severely and persistently ragged by seniors who were allegedly drunk.  On March 7, 2009, his four seniors attacked him so brutally in the boys' hostel that he was rushed to hospital the next day.

The post-mortem showed that the 19-year-old had died of a brain hemorrhage.
A probe panel appointed by the Supreme Court after national outrage found that the teenager had repeatedly complained to the college and asked for help, but was ignored.

Ajay Verma, Naveen Verma, Abhinav Verma and Mukul Sharma were convicted and sentenced in 2010.

Kachroo's death led to the introduction of new guidelines at colleges across the country to protect students from ragging.

Rupee breaches 65 per dollar to record low, Nifty sinks below 5300

The Indian rupee breached the 65 mark against the dollar on Thursday surpassing the previous all-time low of 64.55 hit just yesterday. The partially convertible rupee fell over 1.5 per cent to a low of 65.12 against Wednesday's close of 64.11.

Markets tracked the rupee, opening lower for the 5th consecutive session. The 50-share Nifty slipped below the key 5,300 levels in early trades, but recovered as the rupee pulled back from the day's low.

The BSE Sensex traded around 50 points higher, while the rupee traded at 64.90 to the dollar as of 10.10 a.m.
The rupee weakened tracking the strength in the dollar index, which measures the greenback versus a basket of six currencies. The dollar index rose to 81.422, from a low of 80.896.

Fresh weakness in the rupee comes after minutes from the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting showed the U.S. central bank was on track to start tapering stimulus as early as next month.

Top officials of the Fed were mostly in agreement that the central bank should end its massive bond-buying program, which has been in place in one form or another since late 2008 to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth.

A Deutsche Bank report on Wednesday had predicted the rupee's slide all the way to 70 in a month or so. (Read: Rupee staring at 70?)

The Reserve Bank of India has proven unable to stem the rupee's selloff, despite intervention and curbs on outflows from companies and individuals, which have dented India's stock and bond markets. The government continues with incremental steps, banning duty-free import of flat-screen televisions.

The RBI's announcement on Tuesday to reverse its tightening strategy and start buying bonds has further confused traders.

"In our view, the problem is that the RBI is trying to juggle too many balls, which sends confusing signals and damages its credibility," Nomura said in a report on Wednesday.

However, Arvind Narayanan of DBS bank told NDTV that it is unfair to blame the Reserve Bank.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Centuries by Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma put India A in command against South Africa A

Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina joined the run feast with superb centuries as India A posted a mammoth 582 for nine against South Africa A to take command of the first unofficial Test, in Rustenberg on Sunday.

Sharma scored 119 while Raina blasted 135 as the two overnight batsmen ripped apart the home bowling attack on the second day of the match.

India skipper Cheteshwar Pujara had struck 137 on Saturday to put his side in a strong position.

Sharma and Raina shared a 106-run partnership for the fourth wicket, which was broken when the former was caught by Temba Bavuma off JP Duminy at the fag end of the morning session.

India had resumed the innings at 281 for three and declared after rattling up a huge 582 for nine as Proteas failed to break the last-wicket stand between Shahbaz Nadeem (46) and Jaydev Unadkat (31).

The two batsmen added 82 runs for the last wicket.

South Africa were 20 for one in reply as Unadkat had opener Reeza Hendricks (10) caught behind.

Dean Elgar and Simon Harmer were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day.

Rohit added another 49 runs to his overnight score before being dismissed, but not before tormenting Protea bowlers with 14 boundaries and two sixes.

It was Duminy who got the first breakthrough of the day when he had Rohit caught at the short leg by Temba Bavuma.
Joined by Ajinkya Rahane (10) in the middle, Raina continued to play his strokes, even as the the former got out cheaply when Duminy added another wicket to his kitty.
Duminy struck once again to get rid of Wriddhiman Shah (1) as India were reduced to 418 for six from 376 for four.

But that did not deter Raina from scoring at brisk pace. He brought up his ton in the 141st over.

And despite Duminy's successive strikes, Raina in the able company of Ishwar Pandey continued to torment home bowlers.

The duo added 79-runs for the seventh wicket. The partnership was broken in the third session of the day when Wayne Parnell castled Raina.

The left-hander's 135-run knock came off 177 balls with 14 fours and three sixes.

Pranell then got rid of Pandey and while Elgar removed Mohammed Shami (2).

However, Shahbaz and Unadkat frustrated the hosts bowlers with their rearguard action. They batted about 15 overs to add 82 runs to India's total.

With eye on polls, BJP sells onions at Rs. 25 per kg in Delhi

Trying to use the rocketing onion prices to its advantage ahead of Delhi assembly elections, state BJP on Sunday sold the onions for Rs. 25 per kg against the market rate of around Rs. 80, and lambasted the city government for its "total failure" in stabilising the rates.

Accusing the Delhi government of "inaction" in controlling the price of the vegetable, Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel demanded immediate removal of Food and Civil Supplies Minister Harun Yusuf for his "complete failure to regulate the wholesale vegetable markets and take action against hoarders.

"It is appalling the way Delhi government first mismanaged the onion crisis and is now expressing its helplessness to control prices," he said.
"This is typical of this government which has been expressing helplessness on every front -- be it price rise, hike in power tariffs, collapse of water supply, lack of development in unauthorised colonies and JJ clusters and growing crime against women," Mr Goel said.

The Delhi government is selling onions between Rs. 50-55 a kg at over 1,000 points across the city.

"This government is so insensitive that it has tried to garner publicity and brush this issue under the carpet by selling onions which are rotten and not fit for consumption," Mr Goel alleged.

Delhi BJP has been attacking the city government on the issue of high onion prices. It held demonstration outside Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's official residence at 3, Motilal Nehru Marg in Central Delhi on Wednesday.

Incidentally, BJP was voted out of power in 1998 in Delhi following spiraling onion prices. The assembly polls in Delhi are slated for November.

LK Advani praises Narendra Modi at BJP conclave

BJP Parliamentary Party Chief L K Advani today surprised many at a party conclave when he praised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, against whom he had taken jibes on Independence Day for criticising the Prime Minister.

Delivering the valedictory address at a meeting of the BJP Election Campaign Committee, state unit presidents and general secretaries in New Delhi today, the party patriarch praised the Gujarat Chief Minister for underscoring the need to strengthen the party at the booth level.

Mr Advani also praised Mr Modi for an earlier campaign he had launched asking young and first time voters, among others, to register themselves as voters with the Election Commission.
The senior leader said these aspects are very important as the main aim is to bring the voters to the booth and ensure that they cast vote.

Though Mr Advani also praised Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley and BJP President Rajnath Singh, many were pleasantly surprised at his kind words for Mr Modi.

Mr Advani, who had resigned earlier this year in protest against Mr Modi's elevation as Election Campaign Committee Chief, had taken jibes at him for his attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Independence Day just three days ago.

While Mr Modi had made a scathing attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Advani had said Independence Day is not an occasion to criticise anybody.

In his address today, Mr Advani said BJP will achieve "record-breaking victory" in the Lok Sabha elections. He maintained that corruption of the Congress government and BJP's promise of good governance would be the theme of the polls.