The Indian Economy (Page 43)

jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 11 August 2009 at 9:34pm | IP Logged
A consortium of DLF Ltd. and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. will invest 9 billion rupees ($188 million) to build a metro rail project connecting New Delhi with Gurgaon in neighboring Haryana state. The two companies have formed a special company to build and operate the metro system for 99 years, said DLF, India's biggest property developer by sales. This will be the first metro rail project in the country that will be run by a pvt. co. Several states across India are either constructing or considering building metro rail projects as rising vehicular population chokes roads, increasing demand for fast and efficient public transportation systems. Today, Gurgaon is a burgeoning city and needs an efficient transportation system, said A.S. Minocha, chairman of DLF Commercial Developers Ltd. The metro link will ensure easy connectivity between Gurgaon and Delhi and other neighboring areas, he said. A DLF executive, who didn't wish to be named, said separately that the joint venture plans to raise as much as 7 billion rupees for the project. The time frame and ways to raise the funds will be decided at a later date. Sanjiv Rai, chief executive of ITNL Enso Rail Systems, a unit of IL&FS and DLF's partner in the project, said:We want to achieve financial closure by six months. DLF will hold 26% of the joint venture and IL&FS, an infrastructure development and finance company, will own the rest. As part of the agreement with the Haryana government, the project which extends over 6.1 kilometers is scheduled to be completed within 30 months.Rajiv Singh, DLF's vice chairman, told reporters that the metro project may be extended to more than 20 kilometers with an investment of between 20 billion rupees and 30 billion rupees.

jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 12 August 2009 at 1:50pm | IP Logged
The India Meteorological Department has a spotty record in predicting the all-important monsoon rains. It is up to H.R. Hatwar, a slight, gray-haired man who sits behind a large desk with maps and charts scattered around his computer, to try to improve the forecasts that India's 600 million farmers rely on to plan their crops. No prediction is 100% accurate anywhere in the world, he says, promising the 130-year-old institution is doing all it can to improve its overall forecast.See how the India Meteorological Department's forecasts compare to actual monsoon rainfalls. This year, the department predicted normal rainfall; it later adjusted expectations to below normal, and on Monday, more than halfway into a June-September monsoon season that has been so dry that five states have declared drought, India's official weather forecaster said it expected monsoon-season rainfall to be deficient. Peter Webster, a professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, says if India drops its focus on the monsoon's arrival date and the average national rainfall and puts its efforts into 20-day forecasts that show regional rainfall, it would give farmers the time they need to decide what crops to sow, and when. In India, it's up to the state or central governments to declare a drought, because it entails contingency planning and relief aid. Mr. Webster says India's national drought declaration in 2002 could have been prevented had the department provided timely 20-day forecasts. If they had planted in the active period their plants would have survived, he says. Mr. Hatwar says he is developing 20-day forecasts and hopes to begin issuing them in a year or two. Such extended-range forecasts require advanced computing power that the department is only beginning to put in place, he says. For now, it relies on insufficient data and outdated equipment that requires measurements be taken manually. It's hard to overstate the importance of the monsoon to India and the national obsession about exactly when it will make landfall always in the southern state of Kerala, almost always in early June. Agriculture makes up nearly 18% of national gross domestic product. Most farmers, without the benefit of irrigation, have just the annual June-to-September rains to water their fields.
[Monsoon Maps]
A weak rainfall can hurt crop output, drinking-water supply, power generation and consumer demand  and add another obstacle to government efforts to improve the rural economy as a key to sustained GDP growth. Citigroup economist Rohini Malkani estimates that an insufficient monsoon could shave close to two percentage points off annual growth. Almost 80% of the country is under the threat of drought, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said this week.
[Monsoon charts]
India's Ministry of Earth Sciences recently approved $620 million to be spent over five years to modernize weather technology. Mr. Hatwar says his department plans to set up 1,000 automatic weather stations  there are now 125. He says it will also have another 2,000 stations to measure precipitation. The new devices, which relay data by satellite, will let him make better predictions, he says. Mr. Webster of Georgia Tech says the department will have to change its statistical model, too, complaining it has used the same one more than 50 years. The basic problem of the India Meteorological Department is that they are mired in the past, he says. Mr. Hatwar defends his model, noting that it has accurately gauged the country's average rainfall for most years. In the early days, it gathered measurements of rainfall and temperature by telegram, the same way it sent flood and drought warnings. Now information is relayed via satellite. A mathematician by training, Mr. Hatwar, 59 years old, stumbled into meteorology by accident. In 1972, he gave a paper on fluid mechanics at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. His impressed mentor suggested he enroll in the institute's doctoral program, after which he joined the Meteorology Department in 1977. Back then, he used charts made by hand from data received from Russian satellites. Today, Mr. Hatwar studies computer-generated charts and satellite images."A lot of progress has been made, he says.
Aamir Khan's wife Kiran Rao has suffered a miscarriage, the Bollywood superstar disclosed Tuesday.
[Aamir Khan] Aamir Khan

I have bad news folks. Kiran and I lost our baby. Despite our best efforts we were unable to avert a miscarriage. The last two months have been a struggle for us and that is one of the reasons I was absent from the blog in more ways than one. I need time to heal. I will be away for a while, Aamir posted on his blog  The news of Kiran's pregnancy surfaced when she was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in South Mumbai for fever in June. According to reports, she was three months pregnant at the time.

Kiran's directorial debut "Dhobi Ghaat", which has Aamir in the lead role, is getting ready for release.

We can handle drought, says government

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said there was no need to press the panic button, though there would be 20 per cent decline in sowing of summer crops due to scarce rainfall. A total of 161 districts have been declared drought-prone. He stuck to the Reserve Bank of India's growth projection of 6 per cent and above for the current financial year. This country has the experience of handling the situation and I will advise not to press the panic button, Mukherjee said at the annual conference of chief commissioners and directors-general of income tax.

India to rope in China for climate change initiative

While it fights the pressure of the Western countries over the issue of climate change, India now wants to rope in China in its efforts. Minister of State (independent charge) for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh today said the two countries would set up a joint mechanism to study the Himalayan glaciers. Ramesh is set to visit China towards the end of this month to finalise this mechanism, along with related bilateral issues on environment protection.

Tata Capital to launch private equity fund

Tata Capital, the financial services arm of the Tata group, is likely to come out with a private equity fund shortly. This was announced by Tata Capital Managing Director, Praveen P Kadle. Kadle declined to say what could be the size of the private equity fund, but according to early indications, the fund-size will initially be of USD 350-400 million. Tata capital has an Rs 850 billionalliance with the Japanese Mizuho Financial Group.

Rising food prices worry SC

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to intervene effectively to contain spiralling food prices.A terrible situation has arisen due to the failure of monsoon. The prices of common man's food like dal are going up. The work should be done in the spirit of patriotic duty, a bench comprising Justice Markandeya Katju and A K Ganguly observed.

Pandemic flu spreading with Asian monsoon season: WHO

H1N1 pandemic flu is spreading in India, Thailand and Vietnam with the onset of Asia's monsoon season, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

China admits its involvement in shipping fake drugs

China has admitted that its pharmaceutical companies were involved in shipping fake drugs labelled 'Made In India' to Nigeria. The Chinese authorities have accepted this position that its firms were involved in the case.

Swine flu cases cross 1000 mark, death toll 12

Five more persons-two in Pune and one each in Vadodara, Mumbai and Kerala- died of swine flu taking the countrywide toll to 12 in nine days and the virus spread to new areas in Jammu and Meghalaya and cast its shadow on the World Badminton championship in Hyderabad. In worrying signs, swine flu cases crossed the 1,000 mark as the Centre and the states intensified their battle against the infection. Private hospitals in Mumbai stepped in to offer treatment to ease the burden on the government hospitals.

Edited by jagdu - 12 August 2009 at 2:02pm
jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 15 August 2009 at 1:31am | IP Logged
 It is too early to take action against inflationary pressures in India, even though there has been a significant rise in the prices of food articles, the central bank's governor said The agricultural situation is disturbing. There would be pressures on food prices, Duvvuri Subbarao said on the sidelines of an event in the Indian city. When inflation pressure shows, we'll take action. Beyond that I'm unable to say to what extent the current drought situation will transfer into pressures on prices, he added. Mr. Subbarao's comments reiterate concerns over growth and price pressures in an economy where farm output accounts for around 18% of gross domestic product, and where 60% of farmlands are rain-fed. Rainfall in the monsoon season -which runs from June to September has been 25% below average between June 1 and Aug. 5, according to initial estimates. This has affected the sowing of pulses, sugarcane, rice and soybean during the summer season, and the impact could also spill over to winter-sown crops such as wheat.There's still hope for agriculture and there's still the rabi winter crop season. Even if there's rainfall now, there's a possibility to recover some of the lost ground, Mr. Subbarao said. The chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, speaking at the same event, said the economy is expected to grow between 6% and 6.5% in the current financial year. There are a number of factors, some positive, some negative affecting growth. Drought in some provinces will have some impact on growth" C. Rangarajan said. The government estimated growth at 6.25% to 7.75% in the economic survey tabled in Parliament in July. Analysts say a contraction in farm output growth will shave off a significant portion of India's targeted growth in gross domestic product this fiscal year through March. And as crop output falls, the prices of most farm commodities are likely to soar, fanning inflation and choking demand just as India begins to recover from the impact of the global slowdown. The Reserve Bank of India raised its inflation forecast for the current fiscal year that ends March to 5% when it reviewed its monetary policy in July, from 4% earlier. Price rise may not be a problem at the moment but by the end of the year, probably prices will begin to rise and the RBI has to think what measures to take to keep prices under control, Mr. Rangarajan said. Mr. Subbarao also said that the central bank was watching the asset price situation. I am aware that if there's too much liquidity surging around for too long that can go on building pressure on asset prices. I want to also say we're nowhere near an asset price bubble, Mr. Subbarao said. Last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee raised similar concerns on the adverse impact of scanty rainfall. India's economy, the third largest in Asia, grew 6.7% last fiscal year.
India's federal government will take every step to restore economic growth to 9% a year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. We will make every necessary effort to meet this challenge whether by increasing capital flows into the country, or by encouraging exports or increasing public investment and expenditure, he said in his Independence Day address to the nation. India celebrates its 63rd Independence Day Saturday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivers an Independence Day speech from behind a bullet-proof shield on the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi, as India celebrated its 63rd anniversary of independence from British rule.Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivers an Independence Day speech from behind a bullet-proof shield on the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi, as India celebrated its 63rd anniversary of independence from British rule.

India's economy grew about 9% in each of the four years ended March 2008, but the pace of growth declined to 6.7% in the latest fiscal year because of the global economic crisis, the prime minister said. To deal with the impact of the global slowdown, the government increased its expenditure and cut taxes, which more than doubled the budget deficit to 6.2% of gross domestic product from a target of 3%. It is only a result of our policies that the global crisis has affected us to a lesser extent than many other countries. We expect that there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year, but until that time we will all have to bear with the fallout of the global economic slowdown, Mr. Singh said. Rainfall in India's crucial monsoon season which runs from June to September has been 25% below average between June 1 and Aug. 5, according to initial estimates. Mr. Singh said those deficient rains will have an adverse effect on crops but that the country will be able to deal with the situation. The below-average rains have affected the sowing of pulses, sugarcane, rice and soybean during the summer season, and the impact could also spill over to winter-sown crops such as wheat. The annual monsoon rains are crucial for summer-sown crops because about 60% of the country's farmland is rain-fed. We have adequate stocks of foodgrains. All effort will be made to control the rising prices of foodgrains, pulses and other goods of daily use, he said. In view of the deficiency in the monsoons, we have postponed the date for the repayment of bank loans of our farmers. We are also giving additional support to farmers for payment of interest on short-term crop loans, he added. The monsoon rains this year are likely to be 87% of the long-term average, down from an earlier forecast of 93%, the weather department said earlier this week. Of India's 625 administrative districts, 167 have declared a drought this year. Our goal is 4% annual growth in agriculture and I am confident that we will be able to achieve this target in the next five years, Mr. Singh said.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained for two hours for questioning at a U.S. airport before being released by immigration authorities. Mr. Khan, one of the Indian film industry's biggest stars, said he was detained because his name came up on a computer alert list at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. I told them I am a movie star, Mr. Khan was quoted.

bollywood vspace5

The reported detention made top news on TV stations in India.

Mr. Khan said he was able to message a lawmaker in India who asked the Indian embassy in Washington to seek his release. Mr. Khan was let go after embassy officials intervened. In New Delhi, U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, said the U.S. Embassy was trying to ascertain the facts of the case to understand what took place. Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States. Many Americans love his films, Mr. Roemer said. Mr. Khan, 44, has acted in more than 70 films, and has consistently topped popularity rankings in India for the past several years. He is in the United States to promote his new film, My Name Is Khan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won re-election in May with a mandate to keep India's economy humming, and now the question is whether he'll enact an agenda that can do it. One early sign is worrying. The Right to Education Act that passed parliament this month is the most significant piece of legislation to come up since the election, and touches on an issue that will be key to India's economic success. The state-run school system, notorious for its absentee teachers and poor results, is badly in need of reform. But Mr. Singh abandoned bold thinking in favor of a return to New Delhi's statist traditions. The law bespeaks a strong instinct to centralize and regulate. It sets national standards for things like school libraries and playgrounds, and tries to solve the absentee teacher problem by limiting the ability of even reliable teachers to tutor students after hours. The centerpiece of the law is a requirement that private primary schools set aside 25% of their places for socially or economically disadvantaged children. Similar "reservations" based on caste already are in place in higher levels of the education system. The new law at least is an improvement in some ways because in addition to caste-based set-asides the quota will include low-income students regardless of casteā€”i.e., the students who lack access to any alternatives to failing state-run schools. For that reason, optimists are calling the law a backdoor voucher program. But it's a poor substitute for real school choice. More money will flow to state-funded schools no matter what, removing the incentive for improvement that an exodus of voucher students would create. Because the government will cap its per-student payment while still requiring schools to fill 25% of their spaces via this reservation, it will squeeze some school budgets. A voucher that followed a student to any school, without setting quotas on the schools themselves, would have been simpler and more efficient. Instead, the plan Mr. Singh's government put forward is reminiscent of the tangle of interventionist policies Indian governments have woven in the past. Children stuck in bad schools will be the primary victims. It also sends a bad message about the government's inclinations to investors at home and abroad looking for reforms in other areas.

Edited by jagdu - 15 August 2009 at 6:07pm

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jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 16 August 2009 at 6:48pm | IP Logged
Indian software and outsourcing companies are starting to crack the tough Japanese market in an effort to trim their dependence on ailing financial clients. Wipro, Infosys and other Indian information-technology companies that had only tiny teams here five years ago now have thousands of employees dedicated to Japan. And with their aging populace producing few new engineers, Indian companies expect much more business in the future.  The game is changing, for Japanese companies, says Hiroshi Alley, the Yokohama-based head of Wipro's Japan and China businesses. They are becoming more open to outsourcing and taking it further and even going offshore. Wipro just had its best year to date in Japan. Its revenue there climbed 15% to $115 million in the year ended March 31. While that is 2% of Wipro's global revenue, Mr. Alley expects close to 10% of the company's sales to come from Japan over the next few years.
[Steady Gains]

India's software companies are keen to diversify. This year has been painful proof of the problems of overexposure to the world financial industry. Outsourcers have seen their profits plunge because often more than 60% of their revenues come from the from the troubled financial industry. Japanese companies have been reluctant to use foreign companies. Still, some are slowly starting to experiment with sending information-technology work to India. Wipro engineers in India, for example, are helping design car-navigation systems and medical scanners. Infosys is designing software, and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. is designing the on-board systems for some cars. Japanese investment chose India's Tata Consultancy to build its international automated trading system. Tata had more experience in building this kind of software than its Japanese competitors, and charged half of what they were asking. There were concerns about using an Indian company, but we saw what they are already doing and that gave us confidence, says Masaji Harada. To survive, we must become more international. V. Sriram, the Tokyo-based head of Infosys' Japan business, says he started to look for customers in Japan in 1997 but there was little interest then. It wasn't until the past five years when Japanese companies noticed their competitors using Indian firms that some started to consider outsourcing projects. During the last fiscal year Infosys had sales of $88 million in Japan. It is expanding its Japan team this year even as it cuts back at home. Japan's interest in outsourcing is part global trend and part local demographics. As its population ages, it isn't producing enough computer engineers to keep up with demand. More than three million Japanese are expected to retire from the service sector alone by 2020, according to India's Nasscom, a software-industry lobbying group in India. The shortage is already so acute that Japanese businesses had to deal with what they dubbed the 2007 Cobol Problem, when a large batch of older engineers who programmed in the Cobol computer language which many Japanese companies still use for their internal systems retired. They are short of engineers for technology work, says Girija Pande, executive vice president in charge of the Asia/Pacific business at Tata Consultancy. They have to look to India. In pursuit of Japanese clients, Indian companies put their engineers through Japanese-language and business-culture courses. They also send their Japanese employees to India to learn how business is done there. While the language barrier is one of the reasons the outsourcing business isn't bigger, Indian companies say the biggest barrier is corporate culture in Japan. It can be difficult to persuade companies to trust part of their business to others, especially when that company's model is to do most of the work half way around the globe. Japanese companies also expect perfection, the Indian firms say, even if that takes time. The Indian software model, meanwhile, leans more toward delivering software quickly, testing it and fixing it along the way. They want absolute completion and absolute robust reliability,says Mr. Sriram of Infosys.

jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 17 August 2009 at 8:46am | IP Logged
Actress Aishwarya Rai is down with a chest infection and flu-like symptoms and her father-in-law, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, is worried.
[Aishwarya Rai] File photo of Indian actress Aishwarya Rai arriving for the opening ceremony of the 62nd International film festival in Cannes, May 13, 2009.

Aishwarya has taken ill and is down with chest infection and flu like symptoms. She had a high fever yesterday, but is settling down today, he posted on his blog from Singapore. It's worrying to be so far away from children and not be there to look after them. Yes, they are mature and married and responsible, but children will always remain children, he added. Ms. Aishwarya is married to Mr. Bachchan's son Abhishek. The 66-year-old veteran is in Singapore to look after his friend and Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, who underwent medical treatment there. I stay back till he (Amar Singh) is sound enough to travel back, he wrote. Apparently Mr. Bachchan also is suffering from a strained back.

I don't feel like stepping on U.S. soil: Shah Rukh

After his ordeal at the hands of immigration officials at the Newark airport, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has said he does not feel like stepping on American soil any more, but ruled out seeking an apology for the incident. Driving straight to the venue of a function at the luxury Trump Taj Mahal hotel in Atlantic City in tattered jeans, a white T-shirt, a brownish coat and a muffler, since his baggage was yet to arrive, Mr. Khan told the audience that I was treated shabbily just because I happened to have Khan as my last name.

Big pharma companies join outsourcing queue

Ahmedabad-based Dishman is a specialist contract manufacturing company. So is Jubilant Organosys. Revenues of both companies from their contract research and manufacturing services Crams went up by 29 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively, in the last financial year. That hasn't escaped the attention of even formulation manufacturers such as Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Aurobindo, Lupin and Wockhardt. All of them have started giving more focus to securing outsourcing contracts from Big pharma.

India Inc ups hiring amid revival signs

In a major relief for jobseekers, India Inc's hiring activities are picking up once again as economic conditions are looking up considerably, experts say. Most Indian companies which had frozen hiring due to the economic downturn have started to look at fresh recruitments now with indications of an economic recovery becoming visible across the world. Hiring trends are picking up with companies opening up again for fresh recruitments The days of downturn seem to be over and an upswing has begun. The resume posting activity is picking up again as people are testing the waters for changing their jobs, International Management Institute (IMI) director C S Venkata Ratnam said.

Open licensing policy to be ready by 2010

India will switch to a round-the-year mechanism for accepting exploration bids in less than 18 months, graduating from the current regime of periodic auction of government-nominated blocks. Calling the switch to open acreage licensing policy, or OALP, a natural progression, V.K. Sibal, the regulator for hydrocarbon exploration and production, or E&P, activities, said the regulatory body the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, or DGH will get the information database ready by December and have the entire mechanism in place by 2010.

Over three crore cases pending in courts: CJI

Over 3.11 crore cases are pending in the country's trial courts and High Courts, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishanan said today. Addressing a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts here, the CJI noted that there were 52,592 cases pending before the Supreme Court, over 40 lakh cases in High Courts and more than 2.71 crore cases in trial courts.

Indian ADRs loss USD 1.44 billion in one week

Indian stocks trading on American bourses lost over one billion dollars last week, with IT bellwether Infosys accounting for more than half of the total loss. For the week ended August 14, Indian entities listed on two bourses shed USD 1.44 billion from their total market capitalisation.

State lines up Rs 75,000 cr to boost power generation

More than Rs 75,000 crore worth of investments have been lined up for various power projects in Maharashtra alone, underscoring the fact that both the investors and the government expect the demand for power to grow in the state in the near future. From the state's power department, these investments are spread in generation, transmission and distribution, and also include those projects that are currently at various stages of development after having obtained all approvals.

VCs, PE investors bet on education business

Amidst a volatile market, education is emerging rapidly as a safe bet for venture capitalists and PE investors. Experts believe that for the next 4-5 years, education is going to attract significant investments. The movement in the market is already visible with venture capitalist Matrix Partners India pumping in Rs 100 crore in FIITJEE and PE player Franklin Templeton putting in Rs 50 crore in Career Point. More such big-ticket investment deals are expected in coming times, according to the market sources.

Carbon sink can earn Rs 6k cr a year

India is set to renew its efforts in the global climate change negotiations to get recognition for its green efforts and earn credits. For, the carbon stocks stored in the country's forests and trees between 1995 and 2005 have increased from 6,245 million tonne to 6,662 million tonne, registering an annual increment of 38 million tonne of carbon or 138 million tonne of CO2. India's renewed push is expected to be on the back of a recent study India's Forest and Tree Cover prepared by the ministry of environment and forests which says the country is in the process of becoming a major carbon sink, having increased its forest cover in the last two decades.

Deposits continue to swell; PSBs grab major chunk

Indians poured Rs 7,28,078 crore into the banking system by way of deposits in the year ended, 27 per cent more than in the preceding year. State Bank of India alone raked in 28 per cent of this money, with the public sector banks garnering the bulk of new inflows.

From Hyderabad stands, Chidambaram makes the point: India safe for world meets

Tickets in hand, Home Minister P Chidambaram today walked into the Gachibowli Stadium here like any other spectator, sat in the stands with his grand niece for quite some time till he was spotted, and watched four matches on the final day of the World Badminton Championship. Officials here called it a strictly private visit but others said that the Home Minister, by standing in a queue and sitting in the stands, was simply making a point after England, and later two Austrians, pulled out of the tournament citing security reasons. Organising secretary Punniah Chaudhary said they had no idea about his visit: We were told that a VIP from Delhi would be visiting, we didn't know it was him.

India leads world in road deaths: WHO

In a dubious distinction for the country, the World Health Organization has revealed in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. Calling road fatalities an epidemic that will become the world's fifth biggest killer by 2030, the report said while rich nations had been able to lower their death rates, these were sharply on the rise in the third world. It said 90% of deaths on the world's roads occur in low and middle-income countries 21.5 and 19.5 per lakh of population, respectively though they have just 48% of all registered vehicles.

Edited by jagdu - 17 August 2009 at 9:02am
jagdu IF-Dazzler

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Posted: 18 August 2009 at 2:06pm | IP Logged

After shunning Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, India has become a major donor and new friend to the country's democratic government even if its growing presence here riles archrival Pakistan. From wells and toilets to power plants and satellite transmitters, India is seeding Afghanistan with a vast array of projects. The $1.2 billion in pledged assistance includes projects both vital to Afghanistan's economy, such as a completed road link to Iran's border, and symbolic of its democratic aspirations, such as the construction of a new parliament building in Kabul. The Indian government is also paying to bring scores of bureaucrats to India, as it cultivates a new generation of Afghan officialdom. India's aid has elevated it to Afghanistan's top tier of donors. In terms of pledged donations through 2013, India now ranks fifth behind the U.S., U.K., Japan and Canada, according to the Afghanistan government.

[India Afghanistan map and details box]

Afghanistan is now the second largest recipient of Indian aid after Bhutan. We are here for the same reason the U.S. and others are here  to see a stable democratic, multiethnic Afghanistan, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad said.

Yet India's largess has stirred concern in Pakistan, a country that has seen its influence in Afghanistan wane following the collapse of the Taliban regime. India is seeding Afghanistan with a vast array of projects such as a completed road link to Iran's border and the construction of a new parliament building in Kabul. A view of the city, above.India Afghanistan photo

The two countries have sparred repeatedly about each other's activities in Afghanistan. Indian officials say their Pakistan counterparts have claimed that there are more than the official four Indian consulates in Afghanistan, which support an extensive Indian spy network. For years, Pakistan refused to allow overland shipment of fortified wheat biscuits from India to feed two million Afghan schoolchildren. India instead had to ship the biscuits through Iran, driving up costs for the program. The World Food Program, which administers the shipments, said the Pakistan government gave its approval for overland shipment in 2008  six years after the first delivery from India. Mr. Basit didn't respond to a question about the Indian food assistance. India's aid has extended well beyond physical infrastructure to the training of accountants and economists. For a nation devastated by decades of war, these soft skills fill a hole, says Noorullah Delawari, Afghanistan's former central-bank governor and now head to Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, an organization that promotes private enterprise. The country shut down for 20 years, he said. We stopped producing educated people to run our businesses and government offices, he added. The aid efforts appear to be delivering diplomatic dividends far above what other countries are getting for their money in Afghanistan. A public opinion survey found that 24% believed Afghanistan had good relations with India. That compared with 19% for the U.S., 8% and 5% for Pakistan. India's warm ties with Afghanistan represent a break from the recent past. Under the Taliban regime, India cut ties to Afghanistan and backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Pakistan supported the Taliban and some Indian analysts suspect the government has been slow to abandon its old allies at India's expense. What makes Afghanistan important to India is Pakistan, says Raghav Sharma, a researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi. Elements in Pakistan still see the Taliban as useful. Indian and U.S. officials blame Pakistan intelligence agents for orchestrating last year's bombing outside its embassy in Kabul, which killed at least 41. Mr. Basit, the foreign ministry spokesman, calls the charge absurd. In spite of these tensions, some believe there is room for cooperation between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan since both countries share an abiding interest in its stability. The opportunity is there, says Gen. Karamat, if we can get out of the straitjacket of the past.

Anil-Mukesh Ambani row: Ad campaign raises a stink

The stinging ad's raised a stink. Shouting from the front page of virtually every newspaper, the multi-crore campaign accusing the petroleum ministry of favouring RIL at the cost of 'navaranta' NTPC in the now famous gas row, made the ministry defensive, prodded RIL to give out figures and estimates as explanation, and had ad professionals munching on whether this aggressive form of communication through advertising was a trend setter.

India to work for rainbow coalition at WTO

India today said it is working to a form a rainbow coalition among 153-WTO member countries in an endeavour to get a break through for reaching a Doha trade deal. New Delhi will be hosting 75-100 trade ministers on September 3 and 4 with a purpose of sending a message to the world that we guys are in a serious business, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told.

India Inc's hiring activity picks up by 1.3% in July

India Inc's hiring activity picked up by 1.3 per cent in July with improvement in recruitment in IT, real estate and retail sectors, says job portal Naukri.Com.  The Naukri's monthly 'JobSpeak index' continued to move upwards and edged up by 1.3 per cent to 727 in July compared to 718 in June.    

Reliance Comm in talks for Zain's Africa ops

Reliance Communications has started talks to buy Kuwaiti Zain's African operations, which media say are worth $10 billion. The move underscores a drive by Indian telecom companies to gain a foothold in Africa, where mobile phone penetration is low and the potential for growth high.

LeT issues diktat against watching TV in J&K

The Lashkar-e-Taiba has enforced a new diktat in parts of Jammu and Kashmir; Do not watch television. Taking a cue from the Taliban, the Lashkar terrorists operating in Banihal heights have imposed a ban on watching TV- terming it an unislamic activity.

Advani takes dig at PM Manmohan Singh

BJP leader L K Advani today had a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his warning about terror attacks from Pakistan, saying he had realised that the country's unhappiness with the Indo-Pak joint statement was "correct".

Edited by jagdu - 18 August 2009 at 2:13pm
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India's Bharatiya Janata Party expelled a top leader for flattering comments about the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in a decision that highlights the fissures within one of the country's major political parties and the enduring bitterness among Hindu conservatives over the creation of its Muslim majority neighbor more than six decades ago.

BJP's explusion of senior leader Jaswant Singh highlights the fissures within one of India's major political parties.Jaswant Singh

Jaswant Singh, a BJP parliamentarian who previously headed India's defense, foreign and finance ministries, was booted from his party on Wednesday at the start of a three-day meeting. The conference was aimed at hashing out differences within the party, but when Mr. Singh appeared in Shimla to attend the meeting he was turned away at the hotel gates. I am saddened because I was among the first lot of members of the BJP, Mr. Singh told reporters. I think I have served the party to the best of my ability for the past 30 years. Mr. Singh, a 71-year-old party veteran, will continue to serve in Parliament, but won't be allowed to hold positions on any party committees or be a BJP office bearer, according to BJP president Rajnath Singh. The inner-party fracas reflects a much broader reality in India: the debate over who should be blamed for partition is still very relevant, and the wounds of the resulting communal riots still very fresh. Mr. Singh's expulsion has also brought unwelcome attention to BJP infighting. History has continued to weigh on and divide the party, even as it attempts to reach out to a younger generation of voters. At the meeting, BJP leaders remained adamant about the expulsion. I had issued a statement yesterday that the party fully dissociates itself with the contents of the book, Rajnath Singh told reporters gathered outside the hotel where party leaders were meeting to try and understand why they suffered heavy losses to the Congress party in May's parliamentary elections. Today I put up the matter before the parliamentary board, which decided to end his primary membership. So, he has been expelled. The offending book, entitled Jinnah India, Partition, Independence, questions the demonization of Pakistan's founder, Mr. Jinnah. The Muslim leader is often blamed by Indian nationalists for the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. But in his book, Mr. Singh is critical of India's founding father and first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as the Congress party, saying that the two tragically assented to pressure from the British as well as the leadership and acumen of Mr. Jinnah. In a move to hold together its right-wing coalition, the party released a statement yesterday criticizing Mr. Jinnah's role in the partition of British India into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The partition led to a lot of dislocation and destabilization of millions of people, the BJP statement said, and was a part of history that they cannot wish away.

SRK on detention: It wasn't a drama

This is not going to end and we will have to live with that, said Shah Rukh Khan in Mumbai after returning from the US. Khan, who was detained at Newark airport for slightly over an hour, clarified that the reason given to him for detention was that his name kept popping up on the computer and not because of lost baggage issues.

Genpact in race for Warburg Pincus' 50% stake in WNS

Genpact, the country's largest pure-play BPO, is in the race for acquiring Warburg Pincus' 50% stake in WNS Global Services, pitting itself against global private equity PE investors such as Blackstone and Bain Capital, said a person privy to the development. The process is still in the early stage with Merrill Lynch believed to be advising Warburg on the sale. Merrill has started selectively approaching IT and BPO firms and PE players.

M&M looks to drive into US market

Cars-to-software conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra M&M will spend around Rs 2,000 crore to augment capacity at its Chakan plant that is expected to be operational, as the $6.3-billion company looks to crack the US car market that accounts for more than a fifth of all cars sold globally. The company is currently channelling a Rs 5,000-crore capex to build a new plant at Chakan and roll out three new vehicles.

RBI plans sweetener for banks to park funds with Govt

In order to push through the gargantuan Government borrowing programme, the Reserve Bank of India may have to throw-in a sweetener by allowing banks higher headroom for parking securities in the held-to-maturity or HTM bucket.

Hero Honda to beef up rural financing

In a bid to boost sales in rural areas, Hero Honda Motors may look to intensify its rural financing programmes for its two-wheelers loans. Senior vice-president, sales & marketing, Hero Honda Motors, Anil Dua said that poor rains in several districts was a concern and if the drought continued, then in the medium-to-long term the industry would face some hardship. We are deep inside rural markets. We are looking at our rural financing tie-ups with cooperative banks, as one of the ways to help deal with the present drought conditions, he said.

Small mergers, acquisitions may not need court nod

Soon companies entering into small mergers and acquisitions (M&As) without any competition issues such as abuse of dominant position and creation of a monopoly or shareholder dissent, may not have to go through the tedious process of approval from the High Courts.The Government is mulling establishing an independent authority that would act as a single-window clearance mechanism and replace the High Courts for such M&As.

DLF sole bidder in Haryana's recreation, leisure project

The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation HSIIDC has disqualified Unitech and Malaysia-based Country Heights Holdings on technical grounds from bidding for its 350-acre recreation and leisure project in Gurgaon, according to sources in HSIIDC. With this, only DLF remains as the bidder and is likely to be awarded the project unless HSIIDC decides to invite bids once again.

Daiichi Sankyo, Lupin in talks for marketing tie-up

Japan's third largest drug maker, Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd, is in early talks with Lupin Ltd for a product marketing partnership. Daiichi Sankyo owns India's largest drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd in which it acquired a 63.92% stake last year.

NSC wants new law to track foreign inflows

The government is considering a sweeping review of its FDI guidelines following increasing risk of terror funds being parked in the country and other investments being fraught with security implications. The National Security Council has, in a secret report, suggested enactment of an umbrella legislation  National Security Exception Act to authorize the government to suspend or prohibit any foreign acquisition, merger or takeover of Indian companies that could be considered damaging to national interest. The finance ministry is likely to be the nodal point for implementation and monitoring of the security guidelines.

Metro skipped key checks: Panel

The inquiry report into the July incident at the Metro construction site in Zamrudpur is a damning indictment of the way Delhi Metro Rail Corporation DMRC has been cutting corners to meet deadlines, or even stay ahead of them. What DMRC made public on July omits critical observations and conclusions in the report that put a huge question mark over DMRC's functioning and safety of the structures it has built.

PM: environmental crisis is alarming

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as alarming India's multiple environment crises. In a candid stock taking at a meeting of state environment ministers, Singh said environmental challenges have made water scarcity a way of life. Pollution is a growing threat to our health and to our habitats, he added. The PM's statement comes in the run-up to a series of international meetings this year, including a Copenhagen summit in December, aimed at revitalising concerted steps to tackle climate change. But Singh skirted the contentious issue of cutting carbon emissions, which developed nations have been insisting that both India and China should undertake to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases.

Source: The Financial Express

BJP dissociates itself from Jaswant's book on Jinnah

The Bharatiya Janata Party completely dissociated itself from the contents of the Jinnah book, authored by senior leader Jaswant Singh, within 24 hours of its launch. However, some leaders, including M. Venkaiah Naidu, said no action was being contemplated against Mr. Singh for, he did not hold any important position in the party now, except membership of the powerful parliamentary board.

Edited by jagdu - 19 August 2009 at 9:17am
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Posted: 20 August 2009 at 1:48pm | IP Logged

U.S. files case against 26/11 attackers: FBI

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has told a Mumbai court that a case has been registered in the US regarding the 26/11 terror attacks, in which six Americans were killed. FBI has interrogated Pakistani nationals in connection with 26/11 attacks, an FBI agent told the Mumbai court, but he declined to reveal their names.

India conscious of Chinese presence in Indian Ocean region

India is conscious of the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region and is taking adequate measures to make sure that its neighbourhood is not threatened, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said. China being a regional power will make its moves and if we sense a threat to our internal security we will do some counter measures, he told on the sidelines of homeland security seminar.

Mercedes-Benz launches special edition in India

Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz India today launched its special edition C-Class priced between Rs 28.46 lakh and Rs 31.30 lakh ex-showroom Delhi in both petrol and diesel variants in the country. The company plans to produce only 60 units of this special edition vehicle in order to maintain exclusivity.

New challenges put reforms on ice in India

Rising food prices and a possible drought. Swine flu and a damaging corporate war. Even a diplomatic setback with rivals Pakistan. Three months into office, India's ruling coalition is besieged by a slew of crises, undercutting the momentum from a resounding election victory and making it harder to carry through bold promises of policy change and economic reforms.

Now, mutual funds switching to sell-mode

With markets remaining patchy due to concerns about poor monsoon and the strength of the global recovery, mutual funds  MFs are slowly moving to the sell-mode. MFs have net sold equity worth Rs 756.7 crore in this month, data with SEBI shows. The volatility in markets has hurt performance with returns from diversified equity funds slipping in August. Only 23 out of the 280-odd equity MFs have managed to post gains in the month. The gainers too managed to deliver only single digit returns.

HAL to supply for Sukhoi fighters to Russia

The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd HAL will supply components to Russia for its Sukhoi range of combat jets for export to third countries, even as India's premier aviation giant prepares to roll out the first fully indigenous Su-30MKI multi-role fighter next year. India and Russia are expected to sign an inter- governmental agreement on supply on components by the end of this year.

BJP discusses usage of Hindutva as core issue

In a dilemma over usage of Hindutva as the core issue, Bharatiya Janata Party BJP's top leadership discussed the importance of ideology for the party on the second day of their three-day Chintan Baithak brainstorming introspective deliberations here. Against the backof the party's poor performance in the Lok Sabha Lower House of Indian Parliament polls, the BJP leaders discussed at a Chintan Baithak as to what extent its ideology, particularly with regard to Hindutva, should be practised to boost its electoral prospects.

 As the sun dips below the horizon, roll call begins at a boxing club in southeast Kolkata.

Standing tall, soldier-style in three lines, are 47 students some as young as 8 years old, a few as old as 23  who hold their positions in front of an outdoor boxing ring at the Khidderpore School of Physical Culture, a community sports center. Some girls in Kolkata, India, are casting off traditional gender roles and lacing up boxing gloves, they're punching for gold and to secure a better life.

Several are clad in identical athletic shorts and tanks; others wear faded T-shirts and knee-length shorts. As they stand in formation, they look past the yellow ropes of the ring, past the grill that fences the complex, past the open dirt field and crumbling construction at a park, where the neighborhood kids are laughing, screaming and playing cricket and catch. They look past the squalor. As a trainer eyeballs the lines, an assistant calls the students by their assigned numbers. Number 20, yells the assistant. Present, sir, responds a soft voice from the second line. The trainer, Sheikh Nasimuddin Ahmed, calls number 20, a 16-year-old girl named Sughra Fatma, to the front. Grabbing her ear firmly with a twist, the 31-year-old man berates her for snickering during roll call, and reiterates the importance of discipline. As punishment, Ms. Fatma must do a dozen squats. Everyone watches. Here, Ms. Fatma is one of the boys. She looks like them: Her hair is cropped short; she's lithe, has calves of steel and walks as if she's bouncing on springs. In the ring, she even spars with them. And if she makes a mistake, she's punished like them.[boxer photo] Sughra Fatma shadowboxes during a warm-up at the Khidderpore School of Physical Culture.

Outside the club, however, Ms. Fatma's life is different. About 13 million people live in the predominantly  city of Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta. Roughly a fifth of them are Muslim, according to the latest census in 2001. In Khidderpore, a mostly Muslim neighborhood near the Hooghly river where Ms. Fatma lives, many homes are mere shacks that each house seven to 10 family members. It isn't the poorest part of town, but it's decidedly poor. Ms. Fatma's father works as a crane operator in the port area, but his health is failing and there isn't much work these days anyway. Her mother tutors sometimes to earn a little extra pocket money. After boxing workouts that last from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day but Sunday, Ms. Fatma heads home where she freshens up, finishes leftover school work and then helps her sisters cook dinner a few pieces of beef in a curry and some bread at their family home, a tiny place that houses her parents, a brother and three sisters. After dinner she sleeps with her sisters on the floor; her parents and brother share an old wooden bed. As it is for many of the kids at the boxing club, life is hard. For girls unlike boys who have a few more options it's practically scripted: They stay home, help their mothers, and get married so they aren't a burden to their families anymore. Girls like Ms. Fatma, who dream of a better life with more options and opportunity, join the Khidderpore boxing club because it offers a potential way out.

[Boxer photo] The Khidderpore sports center's head coach Sheikh Mehradjuddin Ahmed

Boxing is one of several avenues that have opened up to poor Muslim women across a modernizing India, including careers with nonprofit organizations and in teaching. It reflects the changing role of women within their own communities, particularly in the past decade, says Sabiha Hussain, an associate professor who studies women's issues at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi. They find boxing as a way of coming out from conservativeness. They have very limited role poor Muslim women in the public sphere. So these women, these boxers, they find a way to come out and this is an outlet for them to fight poverty, Ms. Hussain says. Sports in general, she says, are a good way for Muslim girls to achieve fame and break away from gender stereotypes. In sports, they are captured by the media. If they are in a simple thing small business they are not visible. It's a question about visibility. Everybody knows Sania Mirza, the world-class Indian tennis player who is Muslim, Ms. Hussain adds. Khidderpore community center, young Muslim women are liberated by the boxing ring, though few have yet achieved national standing. In sports, boys and girls are equal. Everybody is the same, says Ms. Fatma, who trains at the boxing club with her twin, Zainab, and her younger sister Bushra, 14. Sometimes there are as many as 14 other girls who work out with the Fatma sisters. An older Fatma sister, Ainal, now 23, used to train with them but quit two years ago following her marriage. Girls who compete and do well consistently at the national level might be able to parlay their success into a college education or a spot on a sports team and a job with the Indian railway or police force. That means a subsidized canteen, boxing trainers and facilities and a pension. But to join the boxing club, the girls have to overcome many obstacles, including lack of money and a hidebound Muslim community.

We are uplifting women, says D. Chandralal, national chief coach for youth women boxers, who has been coaching females since 2001. But, he adds, for girls to get to a competitive level, they need encouragement and financial support from their communities. They have to break all the barriers.[Boxer photo] 

Ms. Fatma, left, and Shital Gurung help each other stretch during a post-practice cool-down.

Just getting dressed for afternoon practices takes a bit of derring-do. Most of the girls are modest dressers: a salwar kameez, a traditional Indian outfit of a loose-fitting tunic over pants, to school; at home, track pants and a shirt. The first time Sir the coach said I would have to wear shorts, I felt ashamed because I had never worn anything like that, says Ms. Fatma. When Ms. Fatma and her sisters picked up the sport two years ago, some of the neighbors looked down on what they were doing, and made the girls father aware of their disapproval. But Ms. Fatma says, My father would tell them, I have allowed them to box because there is a life in boxing and I want them to become somebody. I think it's very good that the girls are interested in boxing, says Mohammed Kashif Raza, a 15-year-old boy who trains at the Khidderpore boxing club. They come from Muslim families and are not rich. They're poor. Their future is in sports only. In Khidderpore, Muslims are more traditional than conservative. A handful of women wear a burqa, the head-to-toe loose outer garment that has only a small opening for the eyes. Many older women wear a hijab, a head cover. But teenagers and young girls typically wear a salwar kameez with no head scarf. They go to school; a few go on to university. And some women own small businesses, perhaps doing sewing, or work as maids or as managers of grocery stores. Even so, gender roles remain strictly defined. Young girls slog through domestic chores, cook and clean for several family members and work odd jobs, such as operating private phone booths and helping customers at grocery stores, to supplement the household income, all while studying in school. By their teens, they're usually married off considered an essential achievement because then they will have someone to take care of them to men who are sometimes much older, in unions arranged by their parents.

Members of the Khidderpore boxing club stretch during their warm-up.Boxer photo

Boys have more opportunities. They rarely do domestic work, though they often help their fathers earn money doing tailoring, mechanical work or selling items at nearby markets. When they become teenagers, they're expected to get jobs, get married and have children, or pursue a university education if their parents can afford it. Razia Shabnam knows the score. A decade or so ago, the 31-year-old Khidderpore native quietly swapped her salwar kameez for a pair of boxing shorts and gloves. Neighbors were afraid that their daughters would follow suit. When I used to go to the club, people would come to me in the road and try to stop me from boxing, she says. They made snide comments to pressure her father to keep her away from the game of punches, blows and knockouts, deemed fit only for men. But her father ignored them and gave Ms. Shabnam his blessing. After a short two-year stint as an amateur national boxer from 1997 to 1999, she became India's first woman international boxing referee and judge. The problem is people think that it's an injurious game, especially for girls, says Ms. Shabnam. If they break their noses and mar their faces, they can't get married. Ms. Shabnam, now married to a Muslim man who is supportive of her coaching career, is famous in the neighborhood as a boxing queen and has inspired many poor Muslim girls in the area who hope to get more control over their destinies and also gain respect from the community. The head coach of the Khidderpore boxing club, Sheikh Mehrajuddin Ahmed, 42, the brother of Ms. Fatma's trainer, introduced the boxing program for women at Khidderpore in 1998. He has coached 36 girls in the past 11 years, and has seen them overcome stigma and break traditional stereotypes. In the past decade, nine girls from the Khidderpore club have gone on to compete in national championships, and one has competed at an international championship. They've brought home gold, silver and bronze medals. A lot of Muslim households object to girls leaving the house to practice. But if the girl succeeds in becoming a good boxer and gets a good job, then all these problems disappear and the girls will be financially independent, says Coach Ahmed, who is also secretary of the Bengal Amateur Boxing Federation. No one at his club has succeeded in such feats so far. Even Ms. Shabnam, the amateur national boxer who became an international referee, has yet to parlay her success into a coaching job that actually pays. To cover her day-to-day expenses, Ms. Shabnam teaches physical-fitness classes at home, which earns her about 4,000 rupees, or $80, a month, roughly the same as a domestic helper or a driver makes in Kolkata.

[boxer photo] Simmi Parveen throws a punch during practice.

Then there's Mary Kom. When she was 18, Ms. Kom, who is Christian, started boxing at a local community center in her home state of Manipur in northeastern India. Two years later, in 2002, she won her first of four gold medals at the the International Boxing Association's World Women's Championships. These days, Ms. Kom, now 26, who is an inspector for the Manipur police but trains full-time for boxing tournaments, has set her sights on the Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam at the end of the year. It is very difficult (for women) to get a job in boxing, says Ms. Kom, who is set to receive the highest honor for athletes in India, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. But if you win official tournaments Olympic tournaments, world championships, gold, silver or bronze government agencies like the police or the railway will approach you for a job and to be on their sports teams. At that level of competition, there's money, too. For Ms. Kom's last medal, in 2008, she received a cash award of about $20,500 from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. If a boxer wins a gold medal at the Olympics, the ministry gives him or her about $100,000. Medals won at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, or World Cup Championships come with a cash prize from the ministry of between $6,200 and $20,500. Girls like Simmi Parveen, 12, dream of being the next Mary Kom. This is an addiction for me. I will achieve something, says Ms. Parveen, the youngest girl at the Khidderpore club. When I'm somebody I wouldn't have to go and look for a partner. Suitors will come themselves to talk to my brother and father for my hand. That's why I want to stand on my own feet and do something. Ms. Parveen is lucky. Her family is supportive of her boxing. Now that many of her older siblings have started to work, the family's quality of life has improved in recent years. Her eldest brother, Mohammad Qutubuddin Khan, 30, who takes care of the household, graduated from college. I got a lot of inspiration from Aligarh Muslim University, where I found girls pursuing their education. So I feel that there should be no discrimination between my sisters and brother. They are all equal. Let them pursue their education and what they want to be, says Mr. Khan. But not all the girls have a brother like Mr. Khan, who can afford to buy the basic supplies needed for practice: proper running shoes, workout clothes and protective mouthpieces. At the Khidderpore School of Physical Culture, apart from the five-year-old outdoor boxing ring completed after a one-time club member, Mohammed Ali Qamar, became the first Indian national to clinch a boxing gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2002, everything looks like it's falling apart. There isn't enough equipment to go around. The club has 12 boxing gloves for 150 boys and girls. It costs about 40 U.S. cents for students under 17 and about 60 cents for those 18 and over to join the boxing club. Some students come without proper shoes, and after two hours of nonstop running, bag and pad punching, and sparring, they head home. Dinner is often a few pieces of baked bread and a bowl of dal, a lentil stew. If they're lucky, they get small chunks of meat or a glass of milk. Boxing, in the end, offers no guarantee of riches. Ms. Shabnam has spent the past 12 years of her life boxing, coaching, refereeing or judging and yet, she says, I'm sad that I did so many things but still I depend on my husband. Still, the girls at the Khidderpore boxing club are hopeful it will improve their lot. In the ring, Ms. Fatma hunkers close to a young man about a head taller. He paces forward and throws a couple of punches toward her left cheek. She manages to swerve to the side, swinging her right arm to his face and left fist toward his chest. They dance on stage, throwing definitive swipes, each trying to outlast the other. It's a game of agility, strength and stamina. Time will tell how long Ms. Fatma, and girls like her, will continue to fight on without more financial support from the local community. I've dreamt of competing at the national and international levels and even at the Olympics. But for this, one needs (equipment and better facilities), which I lack, says Ms. Fatma. Sometimes I wonder whether or not my dreams will come true. The sky is almost pitch black now it's nearing 7 p.m. and home beckons. But the girls at the Khidderpore school take no notice. They're busy bouncing, sliding on the illuminated pearly white ring outside the Khidderpore sports center. They listen attentively to their coach, Mr. Ahmed. He instructs them to circle him and to forcefully pound the punching pads attached to his palms.

Edited by jagdu - 20 August 2009 at 2:18pm

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