India Travel News

Window on India
December 27, 2006

News Bullets

Reach Buddhist sites by Rail
Come January 12 the Indian railways will launch an air-conditioned train taking passengers on a 15-day tour from Chennai to key sites associated with Gautam Buddha.
Special buses will take passengers from stations to sites like Ajanta and Ellora, Sanchi, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Rajgir. The train will halt at Aurangabad, Bhopal, Delhi, Gorakhpur, Varanasi , Bhubaneshwar and some other stations.
There will also be a visit to Lumbini in Nepal from Gorakhpur station, according to P.K. Goel, managing director of Indian railways catering and tourism corporation.

Foreign equity in Stock Exchanges
The government opened up the countryís stock exchanges last week to allow upto 49 per cent foreign equity in the exchanges, depositories and clearing corporations. The Reserve Bank and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said foreign direct investment would be limited at 26 per cent while foreign portfolio investment would be capped at 23 per cent.

Real Estate Boom
Real estate boom across the country has resulted in a windfall for the government. Advance tax collections in the current fiscal are up . In the national capital region Rs 240 crore has been paid by just four builders. That is an increase of 1000 percent collected from them last year. The builders are Parsvanath, DLF, Omaxe and Unitech.

IITians to Serve India
Hundreds of past-students of Indian Institute of Technology, many of them now in top positions abroad, want to pay a debt to India. This was clear from a three-day conference of IITias, the best and brightest, at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai which ended on December 25.
They want to do social engineering in the style of the films Swades and Rang De Basanti. Rajat Gupta, senior partner at McKinsey and product of Delhi IIT, said it is time to pay a debt to India. The credo of the conference was Let us make India great.
Shashi Tharoor gave a rousing Idea of India speech.

Maruti and the Rise of Corporate India
The government has decided to sell its 10 per cent stake in Maruti . The car manufacturing company was set up by Sanjay Gandhi 25 years ago mainly with government funds and Suzukiís share then was limited to 26 per cent.
Gradually the government reduced its stake.

Dalit becomes Chief Justice of Supreme Court
Mr K. G. Balakrishnan of Kerala has become the first dalit (socially discriminated low caste person) to become the chief justice of the Supreme court of India. One of his judgements so far which has given him much satisfaction was in 2001 when he and a colleague ordered state governments to provide free mid-day meals to poor children in school.


Communists Embracing the Car - By Vidyadhar Date

In terms of moral stature and discipline the Communist party of India (Marxist) is streets ahead of the Congress. But the parties seem to be coming uncomfortably close now on economic issues. The proposed car plant of the Tatas at Singur near Kolkata is a case in point.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has faced many uncomfortable moments in the past from the coalition partner on economic issues. But last Sunday the Prime Minister fully backed the CPM-led West Bengal government in its resolve to set up the car plant in the teeth of opposition from Trinamool Congress and activist groups.
Another development is the governmentís decision to sell its ten per cent stake in Maruti Udyog which was set up by Sanjay Gandhi as a mainly government-owned car manufacturing company in collaboration with Suzuki 25 years ago..
The move is seen as the rise of corporate India and a vindication of its stand that government should not be in the field of manufacturing. There is a big contradiction here. So while they do not want the government to be in manufacturing, they very much want the government to do the not so pleasant work of acquiring land for the private sector to set up a car plant as is happening in Singur .. A more reasonable approach would be to pay land price to farmers at market rates. That would be in keeping with the philosophy of the market.
So they do not want Sanjay Gandhi but very much want CPM politicians like West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and the equally friendly industries minister Nirupam Sen.
One wished the CPM government had shown as much enthusiasm for pedestrians and commuters of public transport in West Bengal. Luckily Kolkata has retained the tram network, which is enjoying a remarkable revival in several countries. It has the very expensively built Metro underground railway but the public bus system is in a sad state with old, rickety, overcrowded vehicles.
It is strange that the CPM government has made the project such a prestige issue and it is also odd that on the day of swearing-in the chief minister and Mr Ratan Tata should have announced the project at a joint news conference. Is this something which should be on top of the agenda of a Communist party ?
The Congress deserves to wrest power from the Shiv Sena-BJP in the municipal corporation in Mumbai. Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, launched the partyís campaign for the election on December 23 . But the sword she flashed at the meeting was completely at odds with her talk of making Mumbai into a global city. The sword should be a deeply embarrassing symbol for any progressive party. It is steeped in a feudal, utterly undemocratic culture. It has a more positive connotation in the hands of the Rani of Jhansi of the 1857 struggle but certainly not in present times.
Mrs Gandhiís promise of housing the poor can at best appear a pious wish in a city where the builder lobby is functioning as if it runs and owns the city. Will anyone give me a house is a piercing cry uttered by Dr Shreeram Lagoo in the magnificent role of an aged theatre hero thrown out by his daughters in the play Natasamrat as in King Lear. It was a superb presentation on ETV last Sunday. At the end the hero prefers to go and live with a shoeshine boy in a move which completely exposes the false world of property relations and social inequality and ungrateful children.
Unfortunately, even someone having a house in Mumbai is not safe from the hands of anti-social builders especially if one is old and in an upmarket area . This was clear from a report on Christmas day of the tragedy of 80-year-old Domingo Santos, living in a decrepit Bandra bungalow.. He was being hounded by builders but after the publication of a news story the police have given him security.

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