Hemp grows illegally in vast stretches of Odisha’s inaccessible forested regions, making it one of the top marijuana-producing States in the country. The plant is luxuriant in highly-suited climatic conditions, and its growth is aided by low police movement in Maoist-affected hilly regions as well as pervasive rural poverty.Out of over 8,500 acres of cannabis crop destroyed across the country during 2016-17, Odisha accounted for 47% with 4,028 acres.‘More of it hidden’Despite the acreage of cannabis destroyed by enforcers going up three-fold in the State in the past five years, officials say the detected cultivation is just the tip of the iceberg.The crop season commences around September and it is harvested around February or March. In 2012-13, hemp grown on 1,305 acres was burnt. In later years, enforcement agencies destroyed 3,200 acres of the banned crop annually.Kandhamal, dubbed the nucleus of the ganja crop nationally, recorded destruction on 2,400 acres this year.One estimate says the value of ganja crop set on fire could be over Rs. 600 crore this year. Despite the measure, smugglers transport tonnes of it.The State Police, Excise Department and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have made at least 15 major seizures during April and May. A truckload worth Rs. 1 crore was intercepted at Bhawanipatna on April 29 while 28 persons carrying 56 gunny bags stuffed with the weed were arrested in a forest under Mathili police limits in Malkangiri district on May 18. A dozen quintals was seized from a car in Khurda on May 2 and four girls with 19 kg were arrested in Balangir district in March.NCB sources said huge quantities of marijuana from Odisha were seized in neighbouring Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh during past two months.
A police constable in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district was on Sunday placed under suspension and arrested for allegedly harassing two sisters, one of them a minor, after they had gone to the police outpost to lodge a complaint of sexual harassment.The police action came on a complaint by the victims. The police also took cognisance of a video of the alleged molestation that was circulated on social media.Ishwari Prasad, the constable stationed at the Karhal Gate Chowki, was booked under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and Section 9/10 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO).Superintendent of Police Rajesh S. ordered a probe, stating that such cases would not be tolerated. The incident took place on Saturday evening. An online footage reportedly shows the constable touching one of the girls inappropriately. The accused dismissed the charges. He claimed he touched her hand “as a father would his daughter’s, and asked her to go back home”.
The UNESCO has cautioned that the damage caused to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) due to the Gorkhaland agitation may put in peril the World Heritage tag it earned in 1999.Two prime stations Gayabari and Sonada were torched while an arson attempt was made on Elysia Building — the headquarters of the DHR during the pro-Gorkhaland bandh that entered its 54th day today.“The DHR heritage toy train is already very vulnerable given the natural environmental surrounding and landslide and other disaster threats it faces. And, now this social turmoil has added another layer of vulnerability to it,” said Section Chief and Programme Specialist for Culture at UNESCO New Delhi Office Moe Chiba.“We are very worried about the DHR as after the UNESCO tag, it is a heritage symbol of outstanding universal value.And with all the damage caused to it during the strike, the World Heritage status enjoyed by it, may come up for review in the next World Heritage Committee meeting in 2018,” she told PTI.Indian Railways and UNESCO are currently working on preparing a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the DHR, work on which had begun in mid-2016.An office for the CCMP, with a team of experts, was set up in June last year in a room of the 1896-built Kurseong Station that falls midway on the 88-km-long narrow-gauge railway network between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.The ongoing agitation for a separate Gorkhaland has halted the project operation in the hill town and UNESCO has opened a temporary office for it in its headquarters premises in Delhi.“Around June 8, the stir began in Darjeeling and we continued for a few days but finally, the situation became difficult and on June 12, we closed our CCMP project office in Kurseong.“We evacuated our staff and asked them to go back to their hometowns and work from there and later set up a CCMP office at the UNESCO Office in Chanakyapuri,” Chiba said, adding, “as soon as the area is made accessible, our team will visit Darjeeling to assess the extent of damage caused to this World Heritage“.Delhi-based conservation architect Aishwarya Tipnis, part of the CCMP project team, said DHR was inscribed in the UNESCO list nearly 20 years ago, and it is “Asia’s first industrial heritage site to earn the coveted tag“.“DHR is a complex cultural landscape, which impacts the everyday life of a large population. And, the unfortunate events of deliberate damage caused by arson attacks on Sonada, Gayabari stations and ‘Elysia’ brings to light an important question regarding the protection of world heritage sites in conflict situations in our country,” Tipnis told PTI.“We are very hopeful that the situation normalises soon enough,” she said.After DHR, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) and the Kalka-Shimla Railway (KSR) were successively accorded the UNESCO tag, and the three have been collectively designated as the Mountain Railways of India.The only other railway property which enjoys the World Heritage status in India is colonial-era Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) station in Mumbai.“The objective of the CCMP is to provide a framework for management of the world heritage site with the various stakeholders — the railways, local administration, civic bodies, NGOs, tour operators — and people in general and an idea to collaboratively work towards its preservation and development by defining roles and responsibilities,” Tipnis said.According to the architect, if the DHR model of preservation goes as it is being planned, it will become a “yardstick of conservation” for various other projects in the field.Chiba said proper guidelines will be prepared for maintenance of DHR, its vintage steam locomotives, machinery and historic stations and other buildings, and other conservation-related aspects.Tipnis, who is a heritage consultation expert in the multi-disciplinary team said the CCMP is also preparing a conservation strategy for restoration of Ghoom Station, which house a museum.“The work includes documentation, mapping, condition assessment and conservation strategy. The DHR is country’s pride, and a proper conservation plan will go a long away in preserving it for posterity,” she said.Set up in 1881, the DHR is administered by the Guwahati- based Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR). The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co. remained effective until it was taken over by the Government of India on October 20, 1948.Throughout that period Gillanders Artbuthnot & Co., one of the oldest managing houses in Calcutta, handled its financial, legal and purchasing interests, according to official website of the DHR.Asked if the damaged stations and buildings of the DHR can be restored, Tipnis said, “Yes we have all the drawings and data and we should be able to restore them. However we need to make an assessment of the damage as soon as we can.” The indefinite strike has paralysed normal life in Darjeeling and cries for separate Gorkhaland have replaced the whistling sound of the chugging steam engines that otherwise echo through the picturesque hills and tea gardens.
In a shocking incident in Madhya Pradesh, a group of farmers was allegedly stripped and beaten up by policemen at Tikamgarh Dehat Thana for participating in a protest march on Tuesday. The State government ordered an inquiry into the incident after a video and photographs of the farmers sitting in their underwear inside the police station were circulated on social media.On Tuesday, a large number of farmers took part in Khet Bachao, Kisan Bachao agitation called by the Congress near the Tikamgarh District Collectorate.During the protest, a group of Congress workers and farmers tried to enter the Collectorate to present a memorandum to Collector, Abhijit Agarwal.Verbal duelHowever, they were stopped at the entrance by the policemen and asked to wait, said Congress leader Yadvendra Singh, one of the organisers of the protest.Some of the protesters got into a verbal duel with the policemen as a result of which the latter had to use lathis, teargas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, said a Collectorate official. Later, in the evening, when a group of protesters were returning to their village in two tractor trolleys, they were allegedly stopped and detained at the Tikamgarh Dehat police station.The policemen allegedly forced the farmers to take off their clothes and sit in their underwear. “They were also beaten up,” alleged Mr. Singh.State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said that an inquiry had been ordered into the incident. “The Director General of Police has been asked to institute an inquiry and submit a report within three days,” he said.
The Congress on Sunday registered a resounding victory in elections to the municipal corporations of Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala even as the Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) accused the State Election Commission (SEC) of playing into the hands of the ruling party.The Congress, which came to power in the State less than a year ago, won a majority of the seats in the three local bodies, wresting control from the SAD-BJP combine. The Congress swept the Patiala Corporation by winning 58 wards while the Opposition parties failed to open account. In Jalandhar, the party won 66 wards while eight went to the BJP and four to the SAD. In Amritsar, the Congress won 69 and the SAD-BJP 12.According to an official spokesperson, polling was held amid tight security arrangements in 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats across the State.SEC biasedSAD president Sukhbir Badal alleged that the SEC had acted in a biased manner. “Akali delegations met the SEC five times to register complaints pertaining to irregularities in poll processes but didn’t get any justice. The SEC had become a party to encouraging “goondaism’” by refusing to act on any complaint by the Opposition,” said Mr. Badal.“We will approach the High Court with a petition that such a State Election Commission, which is dancing to the tunes of the Congress government, is wound up in public interest,” he added.‘Cong. vindicated’Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh termed the victory in the civic bodies poll a clear vindication of the Congress policies and a resounding defeat of the Opposition’s propaganda.“People of Punjab have once again shown their political maturity and defeated the SAD-BJP combine and AAP, both of which had been completely wiped into oblivion from the electoral landscape of the State,” he said. Capt. Amarinder said the people had not forgotten the misrule of Akalis and hence have now handed them a crushing defeat in the local bodies’ elections.“As far as the AAP was concerned, it had come to Punjab like a summer storm but had been completely decimated, with no apparent hope of revival,” the Chief Minister said. “The victory for the Congress in the local bodies’ elections, which many political pundits and even the media had described as a litmus test for the party, clearly showed that the government was on the right track and the people were more than satisfied with its achievements of the past nine months,” he said.Former chief minister Parkash Singh said, “It (poll) was a ‘votes minus democracy’ in which the innocent and helpless Punjabis were pitted against government’s muscle power State machinery.”He alleged that Opposition parties were not allowed to contest at most place through non-issuance of NOCs and wilful rejection of nomination papers.
The Sukma administration in Chattisgarh has flagged to the Home Ministry that half the village panchayats are “no-go areas” due to security concerns.The Centre has been informed that there is no government presence in 73 of the 145 gram panchayats.NITI Aayog projectSukma, one of the 115 “aspirational districts” selected by the NITI Aayog for transforming the health and social indicators, is among the worst of the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected areas.Ten districts of Chattisgarh are being covered under the programme, of which nine face LWE.Last week, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh presided over a meeting in Raipur to discuss the project.Sukma Collector Jai Prakash Maurya told The Hindu that security was the only issue in his district. “My district is the worst-affected and without security, we cannot do any construction or development work. There are around 15,000 security personnel deployed here,” he said.No roads, electrificationThe Home Ministry was also informed that there were at least 220 roads in Sukma, sanctioned by the State, where no construction could take place.“The same is the case with rural electrification. There are around 28,000 households that are yet to be connected to the electricity grid,” the Ministry was informed.Mr. Maurya said he had sent a proposal to the State government to reopen around 120 schools that have remained shut for more than a decade.“During the interaction [with the Home Minister], the success achieved in aggressive operations in the core area of the CPI (Maoist) was highlighted. The security grid has been stabilised and deployments have been extended to no-go areas. Significant inter-State cooperation has resulted in numerous successful operations, particularly with Telangana, and there has been a perceptible improvement in the coordination between the State police and Central forces,” said a note prepared by the Home Ministry after Mr. Singh’s meeting.
Fresh snowfall in the higher reaches of Kashmir has forced closure of the Srinagar-Leh highway, officials said. Light rain was witnessed in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley, ending the dry spell in Kashmir. Video by Nissar Ahmad
Former Haryana chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala’s elder son Ajay Chautala on Tuesday said his new party will contest next year’s Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha polls from all 10 seats in the State. Ajay Chautala’s new party is being launched next month following a split on Saturday in the Indian National Lok Dal.
Three Maoists and a CRPF jawan were killed in an encounter in Jharkhand’s Giridih district on Monday, officials said. They said the encounter between the two sides took place around 6 a.m. in the forests of Belbha Ghat area of the district when jawans of the 7th battalion of the CRPF were carrying out anti-Maoist operations. The district is about 185 kms from State capital Ranchi. Gun, bombs recoveredThree bodies of Maoists along with an AK-47 rifle, three magazines and four pipe bombs have been recovered from the encounter site till now, the officials said. A CRPF jawan was also killed in the encounter, they added. The force is looking for more recoveries and a search is being conducted in the encounter area, they said. Jharkhand will go to polls in the final four phases of the seven-phase Lok Sabha election.
At least 300 yaks starved to death in a remote Himalayan valley after a bout of unusually harsh winter weather.Officials in the Sikkim said they received the first distress call from around 50 people cut off in the remote Mukuthang Valley in December.Following very heavy snowfall, the residents asked for help to provid feed for their herd of around 1,500 yaks, a source of local milk, milk products, transportation and wool. Transportation hit“We made several attempts to reach them but couldn’t. No roads or air transport could reach there because of the weather conditions. We reached there now and have already confirmed at least 300 yak deaths,” the North Sikkim District Magistrate Raj Kumar Yadav said.“The local families say that 500 yaks have died because of starvation. We are trying to confirm that. Around 50 yaks are also receiving urgent medical attention,” Mr. Yadav added. “It appears that these dead yaks had got nothing to eat during the prolonged period of snowfall since December last year,” he said.The animal husbandry department’s medical team has reached Mukuthang, he said.The team carried feed and fodder for the yaks which are still alive, he said.Yaks are one of the mainstays of the region’s tourism-dependent economy.A few yaks die because of extreme conditions in the region each year, but the authorities say that this year’s toll is unprecedented.The authorities are making arrangements to bury the dead yaks. (With PTI inputs)
Few things in this world are as elusive as a hippopotamus testicle—especially when you’re trying to cut it off. Zoo veterinarians have been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to castrate the 2-ton animals for more than 90 years, in hopes of controlling the size of captive populations and reducing the number of fights between the males of this aggressive species. But the hippos don’t make it easy: Hippopotamus amphibius hides its testes inside its body, where they can shift around and even retract away from a vet’s grasping forceps during surgery. Now, a team of vets working in Europe and Israel has described, in detail, a nearly foolproof method for hippo castration. After drugging the animal with a precise anesthetic cocktail, the researchers rolled the sleeping hippo on its side and hoisted up one of its hind legs with a rope. Once the animal was in exactly the right position, as shown in the illustration above, they used an ultrasound device to find its testes and then sort of … massaged them toward the point on its abdomen where they planned to make the incision. If the testes retracted during the operation, the scientists simply whipped out the ultrasound again and repeated the technique, they report in a paper in press at the veterinary reproductive medicine journal Theriogenology. The vets successfully castrated 10 out of 10 hippos with their method, losing only one of the animals to postsurgery complications. Thanks to hippos’ stunning wound-healing abilities—perhaps related to the antibacterial properties of the creepy “red sweat” that coats their skin—all the surviving animals were able to return to their feces-infested communal pools within hours of the surgery with no negative consequences, just a little bit nicer than when they left.See more ScienceShots.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)
The Indo-Canadian community is in turmoil over a recent surge in foreign students from India, whose presence is feeding community tensions amid allegations of financial exploitation, an Indian brain drain, exam cheating, mistreatment of young women, employer abuse, drug dealing and the “stealing” of South Asians’ jobs.Read it at Vancouver Sun Related Items
London-based accelerator Entrepreneur First has earmarked $20 million to build deep technology ventures in India over the next three years, a top company executive said.Founded in 2011 by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck, Entrepreneur First helps pre-idea or pre-founder startups find the right teams and co-founders, refine ideas and raise funds from local and global investors.Read it at Live Mint Related Items
I agree completely with your editorial endorsement of Barack Obama for our next president (February 2008).Indeed, the more I hear his speeches and about his background, the more I feel that there is no one, including Hillary Clinton, who is better equipped.George Bush has done enormous damage to us as a nation and the work that needs to be done to repair our economy, race relations, religious outlook, immigration problems, prestige abroad and the environment, is Herculean. Obama can do it better than anyone else.I say this because he has a fresh perspective on these issues and he is connected to the people far more than the seasoned politicians arraigned against him.I fervently pray he will have the advice and guidance of those who care for our country and want real change. I am glad he has the support of Ted Kennedy, which should be a bulwark against bigotry and prejudice. How wonderful to live again by the lofty ideals of Robert Kennedy and George McGovern.Byravan Viswanathan, Via eMailI congratulate Little India for breaking from tradition and endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination for president. Obama has the charisma, an open mind and sincerity. I personally feel that the Clintons have a lot of baggage, even though Bill Clinton was one of the best presidents of his era. However, his personal life was a disaster with so many scandals, such as the Monica Lewinsky affair, which resulted in impeachment proceedings. You can assume that if Hillary Clinton won the election, Bill Clinton will yield enormous influence in the White House.The recent primaries show that Obama can be an excellent president, willing to reach out to Republicans. He voted against the Iraq war and Hillary Clinton has never apologized for her mistake in voting for it. Indians really need to take a hard look at the Clintons before they support them. Kenneth Menen, Houston, TexasI am disappointed by your endorsement of Barack Obama for president. Obama is all air. He delivers inspirational and emotional speeches, but has no proven track record. He would be too experimental and potentially disastrous. We have had our own experience with a novice in Rajiv Gandhi. Obama has also not adequately explained his involvement with a slumlord in Chicago; his health plan will not cover everyone and he is not fully committed to ending the Iraq war. There is little evidence of his commitment and policies. Om Sethi, Via eMailI believe that Barack Obama is different and offers a potential for change. His foreign policy ideas of mending relations with countries like Cuba come at a great time, particularly in the area of geopolitics when we have made more enemies than friends in the last two decades. It is absurd that we allow Americans to travel or trade with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but have a ban on Cuba. Hello, the Cuban missile crisis occurred over four decades ago, while Sept. 11, in which 15 out of the 19 terrorists belonged to Saudi Arabia, is so much more recent. Raghvendra Singh, Warrensburg, Mo.As a first generation Indian American woman, I reluctantly voted for Bush in 2000. Now profoundly disappointed, I searched for another presidential candidate. Barack Obama possesses a rare confluence of characteristics that compel me to be a first-time advocate and share my journey through a difficult choice.Living in both states when the candidates launched their first U.S Senate bids, I critically evaluated both nominees. Recently I have struggled with, “Who is effective?” As community organizer, professor, civil rights lawyer and state senator, Obama consistently and authentically affected change. Clinton’s experience in public office began by re-locating to New York months before announcing her candidacy for a seat being vacated by a retiring senator.Obama earned a reputation as a unifier, a necessary prerequisite to effectively bridge the deep differences in the country. By contrast, on her watch, prominent Clinton supporters continue to make racial remarks without condemnation.Obama has reversed the consistent wave of apathy that has blanketed the country. I’ve met throngs of diverse citizens who are first-time participants. After 34 years, my Indian American mother now actively supports a candidate. This underscores Obama’s desire to enable people to become the change they want to see. Swatee Surve Bellevue, Wash. Related Items
A new immigration bill co-sponsored by 51 Congressmen would grant green-card holders the same rights as citizens to bring their spouses and children to the U.S.The bill also increases the numerical caps on visas for India, China, Mexico and Philippines. Presently spouses and children of green card holders from these four countries experience delays of five to seven years, because of a backlog.Visa Cut-off dates VISA Category CHINAINDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES ALL OTHERS 1. Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens01/08/0301/08/03 01/01/9109/15/9301/08/03 2A Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents01/15/0501/15/0509/22/0201/15/0501/15/05 2B Unmarried Adult Sons & Daughters of Permanent Residents05/01/0105/01/0105/08/9205/01/98 05/01/01 3 Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens 11/01/00 11/01/00 07/01/9108/08/9111/01/00 4 Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizen12/22/9812/22/9808/01/95 09/08/86 12/22/98 Related Items
A University of Maryland study reports that contrary to widespread belief foreign workers earned more than U.S. tech professionals. The study “Are Foreign IT Workers Cheaper? U.S. Visa Policies and Compensation of Information Technology Professionals,” by Sunil Mithas and Henry Lucas, found: “IT professionals without U.S. citizenship earn approximately 8.1% more than those with U.S. citizenship; IT professionals on an H-1B or other work visa earn approximately 7.9% more than those with U.S. citizenship; and IT professionals with a green card earn approximately 13.6% more than those with U.S. citizenship or work visa holders.” The report says foreign workers earn more than U.S. IT professionals “because of their intangible human capital, rigorous screening and selection processes, and willingness to work across borders.” Related Items
Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, a leading visual marketing and content monetization platform, recalls that some years ago he launched a pharmacy chain in India on the premise that with growing disposal income and increasing mobility, “the need for a branded chain in India was finally taking hold.”Gupta’s team built what became the second-largest pharmacy chain in India, known as MedPlus. Within just three years they put up 650 physical stores and raised about $32 million. Although the business did well, Gupta left India in 2009 and returned to the U.S. In 2011, he started a business-to-business (B2B) company for parking and storage services. Today, at the helm of Curalate, Gupta is working with about 830 of the world’s largest retailers to “help them drive traffic and revenue from the content that they already own.”However, not everything has gone according to plan, even at MedPlus, where Gupta learned about the challenges of localizing a foreign business model to the needs of the Indian market. “When we were building MedPlus, we quickly realized that you can’t import business models, but you can import best practices. We were seeing that folks who were trying to come into India and build pharmacy chains — who were trying to mimic (popular U.S. pharmaceutical chains such as) Walgreens or Duane Reade or CVS — fell on their face.”He went on to explain the reason for this: Given the enormous congestion that characterizes Indian cities, not many people would trade the convenience of shopping around the corner for visiting a modern drug store that provides a much wider range of products. “In India, you have 800,000 pharmacies; one on every corner in every single neighborhood. You never have to go far to buy your medicine. So if you told a consumer that you now have to go a kilometer to get your medicines, who would be willing to do that?”A Change in Focus“I’ve seen the focus of the India team morph from technical services that targeted the old economy to what we’re doing now — much more early stage IT and IT-enabled services in a broad range of business-to-business areas,” said Krishna “Kittu” Kolluri.A partner at the venture capital firm NEA, focusing on investments in information technology and energy technology, Kolluri told the panel that over the past seven years, NEA has invested close to $300 million in India. Pointing out that there is “currently a lot of hype around the consumer internet” in India, Kolluri added: “What is interesting is that you can have a phenomenal business model, great technology, a great team and all of that but probably the number-one factor that contributes to the success of a startup is (the existence of) a trend.” According to Kolluri, in order to succeed “you have to have some kind of a macro-trend that helps you achieve that escape velocity. If you catch the consumer in ‘that space’ there is a much greater chance of success.”Fortunately for entrepreneurs, technology makes it easier to take advantage of new trends by identifying and targeting people who are most likely to buy into the latest craze. Kolluri added that in India, as elsewhere around the world, the explosion in mobile internet has enabled and democratized access; it has helped not only small businesses, but also consumers to reach one another. “What we are seeing (in India) in the consumer space is more vertical solutions — whether it be in food or furniture or various other verticals.” Kolluri also noted that some of the latest trends in India mirror developments in the early days of the emergence of dot coms in the U.S. “We were investors in diapers.com and are (now) investors in a company that makes diapers for the Indian market.”Eager to keep abreast of latest developments in India, Kolluri has been visiting the country about two to three times a year. “I don’t lead projects there, but I help our team do (due) diligence. I have seen the (movie) play out,” he said. For a long period of time, he noted, the “me-too thing” was not bad, especially as entrepreneurs tried to take an idea that had worked in the U.S. and localized it to a particular geography. However, “there are certain things about India that are very unique. For example, it is (primarily) a cash economy; and there are (few) credit cards. Those kinds of things call for a differentiated solution. But what I am encouraged by is that over the past couple of years, the quality of projects that I’ve seen has been very encouraging. The kinds of technology solutions (that have emerged) have been very good; they are applying data science to all sorts of fields.”Probably as a result of strong data analysis, many venture funds are changing their approach to investing in India, Kolluri said. “Most of the big venture funds, when they first moved into India, were afraid to go in very early. And when they did go in early, they got burned. And so they were gun shy (about making subsequent investments in early-stage venture projects.) But now, early stage investment is back in fashion again. More and more capital is going into early stage, which is fantastic.”Funding ChallengesSuresh Shanmugham, co-founder and managing partner of Saama Capital India Advisors, noted that the volume of activity and the capital that has been raised for Series A (a company’s first significant round of venture capital financing) have made the Series B funding process much tougher. “The challenges that people hear about the funding market are mostly focused on later-stage high-value consumer internet mobile companies. There is a trickle-down effect that has softened the market, at least from an entrepreneur’s perspective for raising capital. The Series B rounds are certainly more at risk.”Shanmugham added that there has now been a period of rationalization where the entrepreneurs’ expectations have come closer to where the investors are. A lot of this, he said, stems from the slowdown that happened in China, starting last August. “You can identify that as the period when the equation between the entrepreneurs and the investors started to change. There was a time when the investors said that the market had changed and their expectations were reset whereas the optimistic entrepreneur said: ‘No, no, it’s a minor blip.’ We went (through) a period of three to four months, during which we couldn’t get bids and asks to match because of the expectation among entrepreneurs that things were going to come back to pretty much where they were.”This year, Shanmugham’s firm has made several B2B investments in India that benefited from the fact that his firm had invested in the U.S. during the dot com boom. He noted: “We had kind of seen the same playbook before, 15 years ago, and it didn’t end well.” More optimistically, he added: “I don’t think it will end the same way in India. But the same dynamics about the funding environment clearly are at play.”According to Shanmugham, investors last year had little interest in the B2B space. But now perceptions have changed and investors appreciate the fact that B2B customers are sticky customers and that they actually have money to pay with. “It’s a shift in mindset.” He adds that venture fund investors in India are concerned about the fact that B2C (business to consumer) investments involve branding, which involves huge spends and subsidizing purchases. “Investors are saying that B2C is not exactly a great business model.” Related Items
Price Waterhouse (PW) is set to challenge the two-year auditing ban imposed on it by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Jan. 10, Reuters reported. The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) will examine SEBI’s order, Union Minister PP Chaudhary said on Jan. 11.As per SEBI’s 108-page order, Price Waterhouse was complicit with the main accused in the nine-year-old Rs 7,136 crore Satyam Computer Service Ltd. scam and did not comply with auditing standards. The firm told the news agency that it was “disappointed” with the order.“We are disappointed with the findings of the SEBI investigations and the adjudication order. The SEBI order relates to a fraud that took place nearly a decade ago in which we played no part and had no knowledge of,” a spokesperson at the accounting firm said, Reuters reported.The ban stipulates that PW and the firms in its network (PWC India) cannot audit listed companies and intermediaries for two years. However, the audits undertaken for financial year 2017-18 would not be affected.The Price Waterhouse network is made up of 11 chartered accountancy firms with about 3,000 employees, and has around 75 listed companies as clients.There was no “intentional wrongdoing by PW firms in the unprecedented management perpetrated fraud,” Price Waterhouse said in a statement. The firm added that it had “learnt the lessons of Satyam” and brought in high-quality audit practice.“As we have said since 2009, there has been no intentional wrong doing by PW firms in the unprecedented management perpetrated fraud at Satyam, nor have we seen any material evidence to the contrary. We believe that the order is also not in line with the directions of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court order of 2010 and so we are confident of getting a stay before this order becomes effective,” the spokesperson added, referring to the August 2010 High Court order that ruled that no direction can be issued against PW if there is only some omission without proof of connivance and intent to fraud.The order was passed under the Prevention of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices (PFUTP) regulations and Section 11 of SEBI Act, which empowers the market regulator to pass directives in the interest of investors.SEBI ordered Price Waterhouse, Bengaluru, and two of its former partners to jointly forfeit “wrongful gains” of about Rs 131 million plus interest within 45 days.The fraud surfaced in January 2009 when B. Ramalinga Raju, the then chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd., admitted in a letter to the company’s board and stock exchanges to have inflated revenue and profit over several years. The Rs 7,136 crore fraud remains one of India’s biggest scams.PW was the auditor of the company between 2000 and 2008. As per SEBI, it showed total disregard for stipulated auditing practice, which showed its complicity in the manipulation. Related ItemsPrice WaterhouseSEBI
Pres. Barack Obama’s state visit to India in November 2010 bookends a 50-year historical chapter in the six U.S. presidential visits to India that began with Pres. Dwight Eisenhower in 1959. Signaling a transformation in the relationship from that of benefactor-beneficiary to one of peers, Pres. Obama said in a rousing speech to the joint session of the Indian Parliament: “It is my firm belief that the relationship between the United States and India — bound by our shared interests and our shared values — will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. This is the partnership I’ve come here to build. This is the vision that our nations can realize together.” U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama being received by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Smt. Gursharan Kaur, on their arrival ,at Palam Air Force Station in New Delhi.He exhorted Indians to recognize what even after a decade of super-charged economic growth eludes them: “India is not simply emerging; India has emerged.” In symbolic recognition of that reality — and it was symbolic — Obama sprung a dramatic surprise, one that Indians most craved, but which was so tightly hidden until his speech to the Indian Parliament that it uncorked wild jubilation — U.S. support for Indian aspirations for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat, “I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.”First Lady Michelle Obama’s dance moves with Indian children may have tantalized and endeared, but Obama’s endorsement of India’s demand for a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council had virtually every Indian whooping, no matter that it was a mostly empty commitment — a good applause line. Not only do the other five current permanent members have to agree on expanding the Council (and support from China for India’s bid is a long shot by any measure), so must a majority of the U.N. General Assembly, where any reform of its aging international architecture is bound to run up against competing regional demands. At the very least, any prospect of India securing a permanent Security Council seat is years, even decades, away — if it is ever realized.Indeed, it is unclear just how far the United States itself is prepared to go. At a briefing for U.S. journalists in New Delhi, hours before Pres. Obama’s speech to the Indian Parliament, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes were noticeably vague on how many other countries the U.S. would support for permanent membership and whether it envisages giving them veto powers, which the current five permanent members enjoy. Said Rhodes: “We’re not getting into the — right now, what we’re doing today, is, again, expressing our support for a permanent membership within a reformed Security Council. But the details of that, again, has to take place and has to be hashed out through the process in New York.”The elusiveness of the permanent Security Council seat notwithstanding, the elevation of the U.S.-Indian partnership during the Obama visit jumpstarts a new chapter for India on the global stage. Undersecretary Burns exulted, “I think in many respects this visit is about cementing one of the most important bilateral partnerships that the United States has in the world today.” U.S.President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama playing floral tributes, at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, at Rajghat, Delhi on Nov. 8, 2010.USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah captured the immediate practical implications of the dramatic shift in the relationship: “Our development relationship has already evolved and will continue to evolve tremendously from a traditional partnership where a donor provides resources and technical expertise to really a peer-to-peer partnership where we explore real technical cooperations and look for those opportunities where Indian innovators and scientists and entrepreneurs can create solutions that apply all around the world….. So the first thing is this shift to real technical cooperation and instead of thinking of it as a traditional development partnership, looking at how we can work together to solve global problems.”On the security side, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said: “One of the criticisms in the past of this has been that the United States sometimes regarded India more as a target than a partner in nonproliferation, and I think that the steps the President announced in the course of this visit show definitively that we now see India as a partner in the global nonproliferation space.” U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama interacting with the school children of traditional artisans who carried out renovation works at Humayun Tomb during their visit at Humayun Tomb, in New Delhi on Nov. 7, 2010.Among the benefits for India during the visit was a loosening in restrictions on dual-use technologies and support for India’s membership in multilateral nuclear regimes.The evolving U.S.-Indian partnership is driven by converging global realities. The economic ascendancy of India and China is occurring just as the United States is entering what is likely to be a prolonged period of economic decline. The global economic crisis has accelerated the diffusion of global power away from the U.S.-European axis to the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia, etc. In the immediate term, China has emerged as the most powerful economic driver and because it, unlike India, harbors global and regional power ambitions, it poses the greatest challenge to the existing order dominated by the United States.Pres. Obama’s embrace of an “indispensable” and “truly global partnership” with India, for all his platitudes about Mahatma Gandhi, Indian democracy and its free market economy, is driven by the crass political imperative of checking China’s global ascendancy, especially diluting its growing clout in Asia. That impetus drives what Burns identified as “Our deep strategic interest in India’s rise” and Pres. Obama’s Indian calculus. As he told the U.S.-India Business Council: “We don’t simply welcome your rise as a nation and people, we ardently support it. We want to invest in it.” President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance with children at the Diwali candle lighting and performance at Holy Name High School in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010.U.S. investment in India’s rising global stature comes at a price, of course, and Pres. Obama candidly outlined the United States expectations in return, couched again in the lofty rhetoric that “with increased power comes increased responsibility.” The United States wants a more activist and supportive Indian role in international affairs, something the country has traditionally eschewed. Specifically, the United States wants Indian support in implementing U.N. sanctions against Iran, promoting nuclear non-proliferation and condemning human rights abuses in Mynamar, for example.As a rising power, India may have no option but to become a more active and decisive player in world affairs. But it is not likely to want to walk quite in lockstep with the United States, however tightly Prime Minister Singh wrapped his arms around Obama’s waist at their joint press conference. Unafraid of the K-WordAt the joint press conference by Pres. Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi at which just four questions were permitted, Indian journalists protested after a Washington Post reporter fired off two questions. But when Obama avoided responding to the second question directed to Prime Minister Singh on whether the United States should refer to Pakistan as a terrorist state, a subject Pres. Obama had studiously avoided during his visit (prompting one Indian cartoonist to quip — “Hear No K, See No K, Speak No K), the Indian journalists heckled Obama to answer the question.Obama joked: “Oh, well, I was instructed to only take one question. It looks like the Indian and the American press are collaborating. That’s not the kind of partnership we were looking for.” He promised to address the issue in his speech in Parliament later in the day. And he did, to rousing applause: “We’ll continue to insist to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable, and that terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice.”Surprisingly, the normally staid Singh played on the Indian media’s criticism of Pres. Obama’s failure to take on Pakistan publicly during the India visit, “including the word ‘K’ — we’re not afraid of that.” The $2 Billion Right-Wing Lie U.S. President Barack Obama and The First Lady Michelle Obama arrive, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, in MumbaiThe right wing attack machine went into high gear in denouncing Pres. Barack Obama’s “Asian junket,” peddling a wild rumor that it was costing taxpayers $200 million a day or $2 billion for the 10-day trip. The rumor was fanned by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News host Glenn Beck, who added “We have 34 warships — have you seen this?” The notion that 10 percent of the U.S. Navy had been deployed for the trip was dismissed as “absurd” and “comical” by a Pentagon spokesman. Factcheck.org noted that the $200 million figure was higher than the daily costs of the Afghan war, which are estimated at $190 million a day. The White House dismissed the rumor as “a long trip from reality,” which is “not even close to being true.”The costs of presidential visits are not publicly disclosed and a major component of the costs covering security are classified. However, a General Accounting Office report on former Pres. Bill Clinton’s 12-day trip to Africa in 1998 calculated the costs for aircrafts, hotels, travel expenses, etc — but excluding security — at $42.8 million or $3.8 million daily. The costs for Obama’s trip are believed to be in line with other recent presidential overseas trips.But the right wing never lets facts cloud its aim at a good target. Dancing Queen RocksUntil Pres. Barack Obama’s dramatic announcement PHOTO:PETE SOUZA/WHITE HOUSEendorsing India’s aspirations for a United Nations Security Council permanent seat swept Indians off their feet, it was Michelle Obama who won over Indian hearts. In an article titled “Dancing Queen Rocks India,” The Times of India gushed, “Twice in two days the First Lady demonstrated in Mumbai that she could swing to desi beats with the best of them, pulling off matkas and jhatkas like a seasoned performer.” U.S. Presidential Visits to India Just six U.S. Presidents have visited India in the past half-century, half of them in the last decade. Non-aligned India was viewed through the prism of the Cold War by the United States and perceived as closer to the Soviet Union until its collapse. Pres. Bill Clinton’s was the first post-Cold War era visit and he charmed his hosts. Pres. George W Bush endeared himself by striking a nuclear deal with India and he remains hugely popular in the country.Time magazine was wary of the prospects for Pres. Obama’s visit, noting: “With two diverging agendas, it is unlikely that this visit will end with a dramatic announcement, as President George W. Bush’s did in 2006 with the civilian nuclear-energy deal. Without something to show for this trip, the U.S. may lose ground with India, its largest ally in dealing with Pakistan and China. Still, the White House has the advantage of low expectations. There is a widespread perception within the Indian foreign policy establishment that Obama is not as friendly toward India as Bush was.”The surprise endorsement of India’s Security Council ambitions, however, has many analysts rating Obama’s visit as the most substantive and successful of U.S. presidential visits. But then the last visit always is.1959 Pres Dwight Eisenhower1969 Richard Nixon1978 Jimmy Carter2000 Bill Clinton2006 George Bush2010 Barack Obama Fastest Growing MarketU.S. companies are salivating at the opportunities awaiting them in India’s dynamic markets. The Economic Times editorialized: “For five decades after Independence, Indians looked up to the rest of the world for aid, technology and capital. Now, the world looks upon India as a dynamic creator of jobs and income opportunities.” In a speech to the U.S.-India Business Council, Pres. Obama said: “As we look to India today, the United States sees the opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest growing markets in the world. For America, this is a jobs strategy. There is no reason this nation can’t be one of our top trading partners.”Trade between the two countries stood at $60 billion in 2009, one-seventh of the $434 billion annual trade between the United States and China. But it is growing rapidly, rising nearly fives times during this decade. India is also a growing investor in the U.S., with $26 billion in foreign direct investment during the past five years.During Pres. Obama’s visit, Indian corporations signed $14.9 billion in deals with U.S. companies, leading to the creation of 53,000 U.S. jobs, according to the White House. Related Items
A court in Kolhapur on Monday remanded Sanatan Sanstha sympathiser Sharad Kalaskar, named by the investigating agencies to be one of the shooters of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, in judicial custody till July 8 in connection with the 2015 murder of senior Communist leader and writer Govind Pansare.Earlier in the day, Kalaskar was produced by the Maharashtra police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the crime in the court of Judge S.S. Raul on expiry of his police custody.The judge immediately directed that he be remanded in magisterial custody, following which the accused was shifted to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail.Sources in the SIT said that Kalaskar, during interrogation, confessed to the involvement of two other persons in the case, both of whom are believed to be Kolhapur men. The SIT has hinted that it would soon arrest them.The investigation team first secured Kalaskar’s custody on June 11 from the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in order to probe his precise role in the conspiracy hatched in Belagavi in Karnataka and Kolhapur to murder Pansare.On June 18, the police secured a further seven-day extension of his custody from the court on the grounds that the SIT had uncovered “vital information regarding Kalaskar’s involvement in the crime”.During this 14-day period, the SIT conducted searches at Kalaskar’s home in Kesapuri village in Aurangabad district and retrieved a mobile phone and a diary.The SIT has alleged that he was tasked with destroying the weapon used to kill Pansare and that he, along with other suspects, obtained instructions in firearms in Belagavi.The ATS first arrested Kalaskar along with fringe right-wing activist Vaibhav Raut from Nallasopara in Mumbai, and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Pune on August 10 last for allegedly planning disruptive activities in several parts of the State.The probe agencies have alleged that Kalaskar was an expert in arms manufacturing and he was a part of the wider conspiracy that links the murders of Pansare, and journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru.Pansare, along with his wife Uma, was repeatedly shot at close range by motorcycle-borne assailants while he was returning from a morning stroll in Kolhapur’s Sagar Mal locality in February 2015. While his wife survived the attack with serious injuries, Pansare died of his wounds in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital on February 20 that year.