Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Outlook for the Indian Economy

The Central Statistical Office released the quick estimates of national income, consumption expenditure, saving and capital formation for 2010-11 today. Savings and investment data for 2010-11 are new and all other data are revisions to earlier releases. GDP at factor cost at constant (2004-05) prices (real GDP) grew by 8.4 per cent in 2010-11. This growth was at the same level of 8.4 per cent in 2009-10. (As per earlier data real GDP growth was 8.5 per cent and 8.0 per cent in 2010-11 and 2009-10). Demand side GDP at constant market prices grew by 9.6 per cent in 2010-11 over a level of growth of 8.2 per cent in 2009-10.

Agriculture and Allied sector registered a growth of 7.0 per cent in 2010-11 as against 1.0 per cent in 2009-10. The rate of growth of industry and services sector was 7.2 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively for 2010-11. The growth rate for these sectors was 8.4 per cent and 10.5 per cent respectively in the year 2009-10.

• Savings rate is placed at 32.3 per cent in 2010-11 and 33.8 per cent in 2009-10 (33.7 per cent earlier reported). The decrease mainly owes to decrease in financial savings of household sector.

• Gross Domestic Capital formation (rate of investment) is placed at 35.1 per cent in 2010-11 as against a level of 36.6 per cent in 2009-10.

Outlook The Ministry of Finance will have a reasonably fair idea about the way the economy is going to perform in the current year, when the CSO is going to release the Advance Estimates for 2011-12. The growth achieved during the first half of the current year was 7.3 per cent and in the Mid-Year Analysis, we had stated that the economy is going to grow at 7.5 +/- 0.25 per cent in the full year.

Regarding the outlook for 2012-13, the Ministry expects the economy to grow faster than the current year but not substantially so. There are reasons to believe that we are on a path of cyclical upswing. Some of these are detailed below.

There was a sharp improvement in industrial performance in November, 2011 and overall growth bounced back to 5.9% compared to a contraction of 4.7% growth in October, 2011. The reversal of the growth from negative to positive was largely on account of the rebound in the growth of manufacturing sector which increased to 6.6% in November, 2011 compared to a contraction of 5.7 in October, 2011.

While overall, growth may continue to remain lower than the growth achieved in the previous year, there are certain positive signs which indicate a continuing momentum in the industrial sector particularly the manufacturing sector.

The sectoral deployment of bank credit indicates that credit growth to manufacturing at 21.8% year on year in November, 2011 is higher than the rate of growth of credit in November, 2010. In the financial year (April-November), so far the credit growth to manufacturing sector has been 9.1% compared to a credit growth of 5.9% in 2010, 4.8% in 2009. Credit growth has been fairly robust in sectors like mining & quarrying, paper and paper products, petroleum products, glass and glassware, basic metals, transport equipments & parts and Gems and jewellery.

HSBC seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers’ Index also had an upward movement in manufacturing sector during December 2011 and indicated the strongest business conditions in December, 2011 since June 2011. HSBC PMI also indicates higher demand from domestic and foreign clients in December, 2011 and suggests that the momentum, in manufacturing sector is not quite weak as suggested by other indicators.

UBS Lead Economic Index (LEI), a proxy lead indicator of Industrial Production (IP) bounced in December 2011 after moving downhill for well over a year, driven by rise in real M1.

Eight core industries, the earliest indicator of industrial performance, have recorded a growth of 3.8% in December, 2011 with a growth during the current financial year so far at 4.4%. There has been a rebound in the coal production. Production of coal in December, 2011 at 52.8 million tons is close to 80% higher compared to production of 29.7 million tons in September, 2011. There has also been upsurge in cement production with a growth 16.6% in November 2011 and 13.3% in December, 2011. Electricity sector has also continued to do very well in the current year with a growth of 9.2% in April-December 2011 compared to a growth of 4.7% in April-December, 2010.

Another factor that could lead to resurgence is the outlook for inflation. With the recent moderation in the WPI and expected decline in the months to come with attendant implications for monetary policy, the investment could pick up momentum.

The Fifth Edition of the World Future Energy Summit held in Abu Dhabi

The fifth edition of the World Future Energy Summit was held in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi from 16 to 19 January 2012. The four-day long summit brought together more than 60 top leaders from 50 countries to discuss global issues related to energy policies and the challenges. The theme of this year’s World Future Energy Summit was - Sustainable Energy for All. The summit underlined the need to harness the alternative sources like solar, wind , small hydro energy, tidal energy etc.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vivekananda and Tagore Celebrations in Chicago and Paris

Consequent to the decision taken for commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, a National Committee under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister was constituted on 5th February, 2010 to consider and approve policies/plans, programmes and to guide and supervise the commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda including preparatory activities leading up to the Anniversary Year 2013-14.  The first meeting of the National Committee was held on 20th May, 2010.

        Considering that Chicago has a special place in Swami Vivekananda’s life where he had delivered his memorable address to the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 it was inter-alia decided in that meeting that some programmes be held in Chicago, specially at the place where the famous Address was delivered by Swami Vivekananda.  The Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh recalled that “Swami Vivekananda’s famous lecture at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on 11th September, 1893 was a shining moment in India’s cultural history.  As the State of Chicago did not allow memorials of people who were not American citizens, we have to ponder on some other way of commemorating this moment at the place where it happened....”

        Keeping above vision as the guiding light following actions were taken:

The Chicago University’s Vivekananda Chair:

An Agreement for creation of “The Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Chair” was signed during the visit of the Finance Minster Shri Pranab Mukherjee to Chicago on 28th January 2012.  The salient features of this Agreement are:-
·        In consideration of a grant of US$ 1.5 million for creation of an endowment, the University of Chicago will establish “The Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Chair” to honour the life & legacy of Swami Vivekananda by promoting fields of study most relevant to his teachings.
·        The University of Chicago will identify and send to Government of India dossiers of two or three candidates who possess a demonstrated record of scholarly excellence and whose work epitomizes the legacy of Swami Vivekananda.
·        The University of Chicago will take into an account the feedback from the Government of India before making its final selection from the pool of selected candidates.
·        The Swami Vivekananda Chair will be held by each scholar ideally for a period of 2 years.
·        The Chair who will be filled a senior scholar of significant academic distinction in a field of study promoted by Swami Vivekananda. He/she will remain in residence for one or more quarters of the academic year to teach, conduct research, and engage with the intellectual community of the University.
·        Each year, the holder of the Swami Vivekananda Chair will also make a public Presentation on a topic that exemplifies, honours, and promotes the legacy of Swami Vivekananda. 
The said Presentation will be scheduled and organized in coordination with the office of Consul General of India at Chicago.  Each such event will be a public celebration of the partnership between the University of Chicago and the Government of India and an enduring commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s indelible mark on the City of Chicago.
·        University of Chicago will give wide publicity to the establishment of the said “The Indian Ministry of Culture Vivekananda Chair” as part of commemoration of 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and such publicity will also be displayed prominently in the University.    The University will display the title of the Chair in all appropriate materials, print and electronic media wherever such Chairs are promoted and publicized. 
·        All the expenses connected with the creation and operation of the Chair like salary, cost of travel, accommodation, annual presentation etc. will be met from the interest income generated from the endowment grant of US$ 1.5 million.  The University of Chicago will be responsible for maintaining separate accounts for the principal account, expenditure and income. 
·        The University of Chicago will also facilitate exchange of research scholars from/ to India between both the parties i.e. University of Chicago and Government of India.

1.        Vivekananda Memorial Plaque:

The Ministry of Culture had tried for more than two years to explore the possibility of erecting a commemorative bust or a plaque to commemorate the site where Swami Vivekanand gave his famous lecture,(the Chicago Address on 11th Sept. 1893),  which is now within the Art Institute of Chicago.  The Consulate General of India, Chicago had reported that local laws that do not permit such memorials or installations.

When the National Committee on Vivekananda Celebrations met under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister in May 2010, this proposal of the Culture Ministry to have a Vivekananda memorial in Chicago was given full support.  Thereafter, the National Committee under Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister has also lent its weight and encouraged the Ministry of Culture to carry on with its negotiations.

Efforts were, therefore, kept up by the Culture Ministry which led to a breakthrough during the visit of Shri Jawhar Sircar, Secretary, Culture to the Art Institute of Chicago in September, 2011.  Follow up discussions were initiated through the Consul General of India, Chicago for installation of a plaque and for a suitable endowment for Vivekananda related research project, in the Art Institute of Chicago.

The installation of an enhanced (engraved bas relief)  Vivekananda Memorial Plaque,  with Swami Vivekananda’s embossed image on it was installed in the Art Institute of Chicago’s museum to commemorate   Swamiji’s historic Chicago Address before the World Parliament of Religions on 11th September 1893. The plaque was unveiled by Shri Pranab Mukherjee on 28th January. 

2.        Vivekananda Memorial Programme for Museum Excellence:

An agreement was signed for Vivekananda Memorial Programme for Museum Excellence.  Under this programme Art Institute of Chicago will work with Government India to impart a broad range of knowledge on modern operations of Museums like conservation, planning of exhibitions etc. for a four year period.  Government of India will provide an amount of US$500,000 for conduct of this programme by the Art Institute of Chicago.

The purpose of the ‘Vivekananda Memorial Programme’ for Museum Excellence is two-fold:-

a)     Art Institute of Chicago will function as a Resource Centre for documentation and dissemination of material on best international practices in various museum-related fields such as display technologies, collection management, conservation techniques, acquisition and building of collections, engagement with communities and educational programmes etc. and

b) There will be exchange programme of professionals between the two sides with the Indian professionals being attached to the Art Institute of Chicago for varying periods up to four weeks to obtain hands-on experience regarding specific museum-related aspects, and the professionals from the Art Institute of Chicagowill visit India for purposes of lectures/ seminars/ workshops etc.

3.        Exhibition of Tagore Paintings
          Under the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, apart from several other activities, for the first time ever, several exhibitions of Tagore’s paintings are being organised in USA, France, Germany, UK, Singapore, Japan and South Korea by the National Gallery of Modern Art under Ministry of Culture in association with Visva Bharati University.  The exhibition was inaugurated in Chicago on 28th January, 2012 at the Art Institute of Chicago, is part of this series of exhibitions. It will put on display 61 of Tagore’s paintings.

The first public and international exhibition of Tagore’s paintings was held in Paris in May 1930, at the "Gallerie Pigalle". The exhibition was later held in different countries in Europe in the same year. His works startled both western and Indian critics of the time with their freshness and directness of feeling, as they reflected a cosmopolitan approach, and bore little relationship to the rest of Indian or Western Art. His work stemmed not from tradition, but was truly original and unique.
For Tagore, art and aesthetics were an integral part of the self, facilitating the recognition of beauty in all aspects of life and, therefore, key to the final vision of human harmony. The key to Tagore’s artistic vision was the idea of personality and harmony where beauty could exist in individual human perception. For Tagore, art was the bridge that connected the individual with the world.
The three separate sets of Tagore’s original paintings have come out of India on such a massive scale after 80 years for the world to view.  These exhibitions have already held at Berlin, Seoul and New York, while another exhibition is already on in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  The Finance Minister inaugurated the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago on the 28th January, and the Culture Minister Kumari Selja inaugurated an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris on the 26th January.  Thereafter, the plans are under way for holding more such exhibitions in Rome, Toronto and Kuala Lumpur.
The Culture Ministry has been working under the guidance of the Prime Minister of India, in his capacity as the Chairman of the National Committee on the Celebration of 150th Birth Anniversaries of Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda. It has also received the direct encouragement of Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister, who is the Chairman of the Implementation Committees, for both the Celebrations. The Ministry of Culture is glad that its untiring efforts have borne results through this unprecedented exposure of Tagore’s paintings and other international programmes concerning two great sons of India.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Djokovic beats Nadal to win Australian Open

Novak Djokovic wore down Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam singles final in the history of professional tennis Sunday, winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 after 5 hours, 53 minutes to claim his third Australian Open title.
Djokovic sealed victory  and became the fifth man since the Open Era began in 1968 to win three straight Grand Slam finals.
The 24-year-old Djokovic tore off his shirt in celebration after one of the most dramatic finals in the history of the game. He went to his support camp and repeatedly thumped the side of the arena in delight and relief.
Djokovic’s win mantained his mastery of Nadal, who has lost seven straight finals against the Serb since March last year.
In the most devastating of circumstances, Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to lose three straight major finals. He lost in four sets to Djokovic at last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
After coming from 5-3 down to win the fourth-set tiebreaker, Nadal was up a break at 4-2 in the fifth set against Djokovic, who seemed to be tiring.
But the No. 1-ranked Djokovic, who needed almost five hours to win his semifinal against Andy Murray, somehow responded. He broke for a 6-5 lead and saved a break point before finally claiming the win.
The previous longest major singles final was Mats Wilander’s win over Ivan Lendl at the U.S. Open in 1988, which lasted 4 hours, 54 minutes.
The longest Australian Open final also involved Wilander in 1988, when the Swede beat Pat Cash.

Australian Open final winners

Men: Novak Djokovic bt Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5
Women: Victoria Azarenka bt Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0.
Men’s doubles: Leander Paes & Radek Stepanek bt 1-Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan 7-6(1), 6-2. 
Mixed doubles: Vesnina & Paes bt  Mattek-Sands & Tecau.  6-3, 5-7

Boys: 1-Luke Saville bt Filip Peliwo 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
Girls: 14-Taylor Townsend bt 4-Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Azarenka-Australian Open women Singles Winner

Newly-crowned Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has no plans to change a thing in her preparation after securing the biggest victory in her career by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 to clinch the top spot in the game.
The 22-year-old from Belarus will stand in the top spot on the WTA list, with Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova second, Sharapova third and former number one Caroline Wozniacki down to fourth.
Azarenka said that she and her team hope to keep up the momentum, which has propelled her to 12 straight wins and two titles in 2012.
Azarenka, who beat Sharapova for the third time in a final, credits her family back home in Minsk for her success. Always in her thoughts is her grandmother, “the woman who inspires me the most.” But her post-match attempts to get through on her mobile seemed to go all wrong. “I got messages, but calls don’t go through.


Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek denied the Bryan brothers a record 12th Grand Slam title as they beat the American top seeds in straight sets in the Australian Open final.
The 7-6(1), 6-2 victory was the first for India's Paes over American twins Bob and Mike Bryan in a final after five defeats in title clashes, and helped him complete a career Grand Slam of doubles crowns.
Coming into the Australian Open, the Indian doubles specialist had won 47 career titles with 11 different partners, including one with Stepanek, who claimed his first Grand Slam doubles crown.


American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Romanian Horia Tecau won the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open  beating Elena Vesnina and Leander Paes 6-3, 5-7, 10-3.
It was the first Grand Slam victory for the 26-year-old Mattek-Sands, who is known as much for her eccentric on-court attire as her tennis. For the final, she wore a lime, one-sleeve top, black skirt, black knee-high socks, purple streaks in her hair and her regular eye black on her cheeks.
Tecau also captured his first Grand Slam title. He has lost twice before in the men’s doubles final at Wimbledon. Paes was playing in his second championship match in as many days. He won the men’s doubles trophy with Radek Stepanek

India and Pakistan agreed to Transit Fee Formula for Tapi Gas Pipeline Project

In New Delhi, India and Pakistan on 25 January 2012 agreed in New Delhi to transit fee formula for Tapi(Tajikistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline project. On the Transit Fee, India and Pakistan agreed that the negotiations would be conducted in a transparent manner keeping in mind the overall economics of the Project, keeping in mind the landed cost of gas, and in accordance with the relevant international practices. Since there is a need to expedite the signing of the Gas Sale Purchase Agreement (GSPA), both sides agreed to settle the Transit Fee issue at the earliest. Pakistan agreed in-principle that whatever fee formula is eventually settled between India and Afghanistan would also be acceptable to Pakistan subject to approval of their competent authority. The two Ministers also discussed other issues of bilateral interest such as trade in petroleum products. Jaipal Reddy offered export of Petrol, Diesel, Aviation Turbine Fuel and Fuel Oil besides Sulphur, Polyethylene and Polypropylene since Pakistan is importing these products currently. It was pointed out that the main advantage for Pakistan will be the savings in freight cost since several refineries in India are located close to the India-Pak border.

The Indian side offered to export refined petroleum and petrochemical products by road, rail and by sea. It was also mentioned that Indian refineries would be willing to look at the feasibility of constructing product pipelines to Pakistan provided long-term guarantees for product offtake can be given by Pakistan.

Both sides noted that India-Pakistan Joint Working Group (JWG) on Petroleum & Petrochemical Products has been constituted recently to go into the specific details of facilitating trade in this sector, including infrastructure upgradation and augmentation in respect of railways, customs facilitation, setting up of banking channels, etc. Both Ministers agreed to advise their respective officials to hold the 1st meeting of the JWG at the earliest.

Apart from G2G efforts, both sides agreed on the need to activate industry and business associations in the petroleum sector for confidence building. Jaipal Reddy informed Hussain that India’s oil companies would be participating in the India Show at Lahore on 11-13 February, 2012 being organized by the Govt of India and FICCI to showcase the strength of India’s petroleum refining sector and what India’s oil companies can offer to Pakistan.

Rajasthan Government decided to Constitute Jaisalmer Fort Development Authority

Rajasthan government decided to form Jaisalmer Fort Development Authority to resolve the vexed and inter-connected problems relating to constructions and encroachments within the Jaisalmer Fort. The authority will be entrusted the responsibility of ensuring proper coordination among various agencies of Central and State Governments working in the Fort. Similar in concept as the Amer Fort Development Authority, the Authority will be chaired by Collector, Jaisalmer and will be fully empowered to take suitable action against any violations of prevailing rules and regulations. P.V. Deb, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development and Municipal Administration was entrusted the task of ensuring the constitution of the Authority in the next 2-3 weeks. It was decided that the Authority will also be notified as the competent authority for grant of permissions for repair and renovations etc., under the Central Act.

Located on a hill-top, the Jaisalmer Fort not only attracts a large number of visitors from India and abroad but is also a living Fort extensively inhabited by the local people. Recently, a part of pitching wall had collapsed owing to fragile nature of the rock on which the Fort stands and adverse impact caused by seepage of water.

India emerges as a strong investment destination at WEF meet

As the annual World Economic Forum summit heads for close January 29, the India story has emerged even stronger with the business world appreciating the country’s fine balance between democratic processes and economic growth.
A few even foresee the possibility of the country hosting a Davos-level congregation of the world’s rich and powerful at some point in the future.
The votaries of the Indian growth story include the likes of global rating agency S&P, which not long ago faced the ire of the US administration for downgrade of America’s top-notch sovereign creditworthiness rating.
S&P President Douglas Peterson said that the agency has an investment grade rating on India, with a stable outlook and the country is more likely to improve further on this.
Brushing aside the concerns of slow reforms and the perceived notion of ‘policy-paralysis’, he said, “In a democracy, the policies are made after a prolonged dialogue and that is indeed a healthy practise.”
Apparently, impressed with the positive discussions about India, Peterson went on to say that it was quite a refreshing change that the talks have moved away from the European crisis to India at Davos.
Still, India on its part reaffirmed its commitment to the economic reform agenda.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said reforms would certainly take place and even the much-talked about FDI decision for retail was only on a pause and not a reversal.
“And, remember that a pause cannot be for a long time,” he said.
Senior industrialist and Bharat Forge group chief Baba Kalyani said that India can certainly grow by 8 per cent.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Social Security Schemes for Landless Agricultural Labourers

With a view to providing social security to unorganised workers, including landless agricultural labourers, the Government has enacted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. The Act provides for constitution of National Social Security Board to recommend social security schemes viz. life and disability cover, health maternity benefits, old age protection and any other benefit as may be determined by the Government for unorganized workers.

The Government has taken the following initiatives for unorganised workers, including landless agricultural workers.

The “Aam Admi Bima Yojana” providing for death and disability cover to rural landless households between the age group of the 18 to 59 years, with effect from 02.10.2007.

The Rashtriya Bima Yojana for BPL families (a unit of five) in unorganized sector on 01.10.2007. The scheme providing for smart card based cashless health insurance cover of Rs. 30,000/- per family per annum on a family floater basis became operational from 01.04.2008.

Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme provides for old age pension of Rs. 200/- per month to persons above the age of 60 years and for the persons above the age of 80 years the amount of pension has been raised to Rs. 500/- per month.

Philippines underground river named new wonder of nature

An underground river in the western Philippines was confirmed to be among the world’s new seven wonders of nature, the head of a global competition said on January 28.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan province is the second of the new seven wonders of nature to be confirmed after provisional results were announced last November.
Bernard Weber, founder and president of the New7Wonders, announced the confirmation in Manila and hailed the support for the nomination in the global competition.
“Today’s confirmation is the well-earned reward for (the Filipino people’s) extraordinary display of enthusiasm,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the campaign has raised awareness about the river, where visitor arrivals have “increased tremendously.” “This is proof positive of how effective a national effort of this sort can be, to build awareness, express pride, and achieve results,” he added.
The 8.2-kilometre navigable underground river is the world’s longest. The Geneva-based New7Wonders earlier confirmed Jeju Island as one of the winners of the competition. The other five provisional winners — the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Komodo and Table Mountain — are now undergoing the final verification process for their confirmation.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lab mimics Jupiter's Trojan asteroids in a single atom

Physicists have for the first time built an accurate model of part of the solar system inside a single atom of potassium.

An international team, led by Rice University, has showed in a laboratory experiment that it could cause an electron in an atom to orbit the nucleus in precisely the same way that Jupiter's Trojan asteroids orbit the sun.
The findings uphold a prediction made in 1920 by famed Danish physicist Niels Bohr about the relationship between the then-new science of quantum mechanics and Isaac Newton's tried -and-true laws of motion.
"Bohr predicted that quantum mechanical descriptions of the physical world would, for systems of sufficient size, match the classical descriptions provided by Newtonian mechanics," said team leader Barry Dunning.
He added: "Bohr also described the conditions under which this correspondence could be observed.
In particular, he said it should be seen in atoms with very high principal quantum numbers, which are exactly what we study in our laboratory."
In the experiment, the physicists began by using an ultraviolet laser to create a Rydberg atom.
Rydberg atoms contain a highly excited electron with a very large quantum number.
In the Rice experiments, potassium atoms with quantum numbers between 300 and 600 were studied.
"In such excited states, the potassium atoms become hundreds of thousands of times larger than normal and approach the size of a period at the end of a sentence.
Thus, they are good candidates to test Bohr's prediction," Dunning said.
The team said that it wanted to see if it could develop a way to use radio frequency waves to capture this localised electron and make it orbit the nucleus indefinitely without spreading out.
They succeeded by applying a radio frequency field that rotated around the nucleus itself.
This field ensnared the localised electron and forced it to rotate in lockstep around the nucleus.
Jupiter's 4,000-plus Trojan asteroids have the same orbit as Jupiter and are contained in comma-shaped clouds that look remarkably similar to the localised wave packets created in the Rice experiments.