India Travel News

Window on India
March 7th, 2007

News Bullets


India Tops
India has done exceedingly well, according to a poll conducted by the BBC. It is the only one of major 12 countries to have significantly improved its global stature in the past year. This comes at a time when the US, Israel, Iran and North Korea are overwhelmingly negatively identified as the world's new rogue states. The survey was conducted among disparate groups in 27 countries.

Steel Empire
After Lakshmi N Mittal and Tatas, it is now the turn of Jindals to get aggressive in the global steel sector. Jindal Steel and Power, a part of the Rs 20,000 cr Jindal organization, managed by Navin Jindal, will invest $ 2.1 billion to put up a big steel plant after linking a deal with the Bolivian government.

Buddha wants SEZs
Underterred by the protests over land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has said industrialization in the state cannot wait. The government has plans to acquire a total of 100,000 acres for projects in the pipeline. In all 23,000 acres will be used to set up small IT parks, food parks and biotech parks. But for big SEZs the government will require farmland. I am not insisting on Nandigram because there we were at fault. But that doesn't mean I have shelved the chemical hub proposal, the chief minister said.

Civic Hospital on Top
The municipal Cooper hospital in Mumbai has come out with flying colours in an environment when there is a concerted campaign to discredit public sector health care and glorify five-star hospitals known for exploiting patients. Using the technique employed by French surgeon Jean Destandau the hospital used a minimum invasive technique to cure the slipped disc of an employee of the municipal transport undertaking BEST, Mr Ramakant Mestry.

Male Bonding
The municipal Cooper hospital in Mumbai has come out with flying colours in an environment when there is a concerted campaign to discredit public sector health care and glorify five-star hospitals known for exploiting patients. Using the technique employed by French surgeon Jean Destandau the hospital used a minimum invasive technique to cure the slipped disc of an employee of the municipal transport undertaking BEST, Mr Ramakant Mestry.
The bill seeks to provide 33 per cent seats in Parliament to women which is seen as a threat by male members to their dominance.


Assets Under Probe


''The supreme court has ordered a probe by the central bureau of investigation CBI into the charge that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family had amassed assets disproportionate to their legal sources of income.
His closest aide Amar Singh was in the news recently for presenting a luxury car to film superstar Amitabh Bachhan. Amar Singh later claimed that the car was for his own personal use during visits to Mumbai. He gave his address as the residence of the film star at Juhu in Mumbai.

His closest aide Amar Singh was in the news recently for presenting a luxury car to film superstar Amitabh Bachhan. Amar Singh later claimed that the car was for his own personal use during visits to Mumbai. He gave his address as the residence of the film star at Juhu in Mumbai.



Opinion: Rich Having a Good Time in India


By - Vidyadhar Date


The rich in India never had it so good. They are becoming richer and more people are joining the high income club. That a far higher number of people are becoming poorer need not bother us. Where is our conscience ? asked the politically conscious playwright Harold Pinter in his Nobel prize acceptance speech in 2005. But that is a different issue.

The media is full of images that will boost the morale of the well-to-do. Only Money, No Chinta (You get only money, no worry) goes the repeated slogan of ICICI, a leading bank . In a television commercial of the same bank a young, handsome,smiling tie-wearing executive assures an investor not to worry, Hum Hai Naa (I am there to help you).

There is a slide in the stock market for which words like blood bath are being used but in general there is a spirit of buoyancy.

There is a construction boom. Entire new cities are being built and some developers are assuming powers normally vested in municipal bodies. The rich have solved the problem of land scarcity. Decent residential buildings of the middle class are being pulled down and high rise buildings for the rich are coming up.

But the physical force behind the building boom, the construction workers, live in appalling conditions as in Dubai. The central government has enacted a law providing for work place safety but the Maharashtra government has not even framed rulers under it and so there is no question of its implementation. This became clear in one of the rare public-interest television programmes, Ghatanachakra on the official Doordarshan channel, on March 4.. The programme is compered by Chandrashekhar Prabhu, a socially conscious architect and a former member of the Maharashtra legislature.

And while the rich spent millions on housing, they do not like to spend on car parking so tens of thousands of cars are parked illegally in different cities. The problem is more acute in Mumbai.

Mumbai's additional municipal commissioner R.A. Rajeev has attracted the wrath of the motorist lobby . It is as if he has committed a crime. All that he has asked motorists is to move their cars parked on the road so that the municipal workers can clean the space beneath the vehicles.

First of all it is totally unfair and illegal to occupy public space and that too free and then claim privilege when the charge for buying a parking space in a building is at least Rs 500,000. This also means that cars are occupying public space that at market rates would be worth thousands of crores of rupees ..

The well-organised car lobby does not like any restrictions on lawlessness in other countries as well.. In England 1,160,000 motorists have menacingly opposed a government move to levy congestion charging in other cities after the success of the charge in London initiated by the socialist Mayor Ken Livingstone. It is a big issue in the U.K. currently.

Earlier, they had smashed cameras installed to detect overspeeding . The capacity of the affluent to indulge in vandalism should not be underestimated and cleanliness.

And what prevents the civic body in Mumbai, if not blatant corruption, from taking action against car dealers who are occupying several public streets for brazen sale and purchase of cars, repairs and free parking ?

The brazen claim of shopping malls that their prices are lower than in traditional shops is thoroughly exposed by recent revelations of how they are charging well above the prescribed maximum retail price Yet, television commercials show as if customers are saving money by buying in the supermarkets. Wal Mart, the big market chain coming to India has come in for heavy criticism in the West.

A reputed American economist Michel Chossudovsky, who was in Mumbai last month referred to the Wal Mart phenomenon during his lecture before economics teachers and students. He said Wal Mart bought goods cheap from China where workers were heavily exploited. The same goods were sold at 20 times the price in America. Not surprisingly the owner, the Walton family, was the richest in the world.

His trenchant criticism, based on solid facts, of America's economic exploitation of other countries naturally is not palatable to conservative economists. So we saw Prof Avdhoot Nadkarni of the Mumbai university's economics department interrupting the eminent economist, entering into an argument with him and then charging him with belonging to the workers' lobby.

This led Admiral Bhagwat, the former chief of Indian Navy, to point out that due to the new economic policies there was one suicide by a farmer every four hours in Vidarbha. That was the harsh reality. Do some people want farmers to commit suicide every second so that the gravity can be driven home, he asked. He also suggested that economists should have a heart and not look at issues in isolation.

An extremely lively film Khayal Darpan on classical music in Pakistan made by Delhi-based director Yousuf Saeed after living for months in Pakistan is of great value. One of the most colourful characters in the film is a veteran Pakistan lawyer of international renown Raza Kazim who is also a great music lover , researcher, innovator and collector and has some very irreverent, stimulating ideas on music, especially Indian classical music, which he thinks, has sadly drained itself of emotional content.

After the film this writer did a bit of search and found that Mr Kazim is really someone who needs to be widely heard and known. He is a former Communist, was abducted by Pakistani military intelligence in 1984 and an appeal for his release was issued by such intellectual stalwarts as Edward Said and Eqbal Ahmed and published in the New York Review of Books. He is also a staunch critic of Pakistani society and has lamented the pursuit of personal economic growth and moral corruption.

In the initial years after partition several classical singers migrated from India to Pakistan but soon found that the music was discouraged, partly because of its association with Hindu names and gods. The names of some ragas were changed. (In India Hindu nationalist V.D. Savarkar had tried to purify Marathi by replacing Persian and Urdu words with Sanskrit ones.

Till 1965 Pakistani radio broadcast a lot of classical music but then the decline started. Some musicians later switched over to gazal and thumri which were accepted as they seen to be more close to the Pakistani ethos.

There is a very endearing interview in the film with Alia Rashid, a blind girl, who got a record four-year visa to study classical music with the Gundecha brothers in Bhopal. An excellent point made in the film is that instead of focusing exclusively on classical music, which can become boring, it should be used as a base to create a new form of music which is more appealing to the masses.

At the recent Kala Ghoda cultural festival in Mumbai it was encouraging to hear the applause from the audience at the end of the performance on a play on textile workers, written by Ramu Ramanathan, translated by Chetan Datar and directed by Sunil Shanbag. Only the first Act of the play Cotton 56 Polyster 84 was staged due to the time constraint but it was enough to win hearts. It showed among other things the friendship between a dalit and Muslim textile worker amidst the decline of the textile industry. The progressive dalit worker gives up eating salt permanently to mourn the death of the Muslim friend's daughter. Looks rather sentitmental but one can say that ordinary workers are capable of great sacrifices, far beyond the imagination of the complacent middle and upper classes. The performance also does well to draw on the rich musical tradition of working class .

The applause was encouraging because it showed that if issues affecting ordinary people are projected with proper insight they can get support from other sections of society.


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