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EDITORIAL

Paradise lost, yet
to be regained

Not everybody is possibly as lucky as English poet John Milton has been more than three centuries ago. In his life-time he was able to follow up his epic poem Paradise Lost to write Paradise Regained. He had thus succeeded in a way in reversing --- figuratively speaking --- his earlier sense of loss; it needs to be made clear that his second exercise was in terms of giving new dimensions to his intellectual prowess without compromising with his genius which was unconcealed. There is no end to a composer's flight of imagination. What has happened in our case in this State is something to the contrary. We have suffered a setback from which no immediate recovery is in sight. No less creative and definitely equipped with better tools our film producers from the tinsel world of Bollywood continue to be hesitant to wholeheartedly resume their date with the paradise on the earth --- the Kashmir Valley. The link snapped by the vicious tussle of the gun is flimsy at this point in time. It is high time that they pondered over their missing enthusiasm in this regard. It is true that as the inhabitants of the State we have to take the major blame. What is this if not our failure that we have not succeeded in prevailing over a handful of misguided persons among us that they should not set their own house on fire? They have picked up the latest guns, gone on a shooting spree and committed a sort of hara-kiri. By now, they themselves have gone through tremendous amount of self-inflicted torture: killing of some of the finest sons of the soil, fratricidal wars and bestowing a sort of legitimacy on violence in the land which has otherwise been nurtured by the likes of Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani. Habba Khatoon and Lal Ded. Some of them ........more

‘Tejas’ to meet Defence requirements

By Subhashis Mittra

The maiden test flight of the most advanced ‘Tejas’ aircraft has brought the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme ''very close’’ to the Initial Operations Clearance. It is the ninth test vehicle to join the flight line to undertake development flight trials of the LCA Tejas towards operational clearance for induction in the IAF by the end of the year. . ...more

RBI measure is inadequate
Price spiral to continue

By Nantoo Banerjee

Soft options are not particularly effective to take hard issues head on. But, that is exactly the way it has been with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II Government, a captive of various vested interests, whose please-all policy seems to have forgotten the poor and the common man in the process. For instance, the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) latest 0.25 per cent bank (repo) rate increase provides a clear signal that the country's central bank has given up on fighting inflation. It suggests, . ... ...more

Fewer Indian students going to Australia

By Ashok B Sharma

The Indian Government may draw some satisfaction that the incidences of attack on Indian migrants have declined and also bank on Australian Government's assurances, but the recent figures tell a different story of a sharp decline in Indian migration, particularly due to the fear factor.
At present there are around 400,000 persons of Indian descent in Australia which is over two .
...more

 

EDITORIAL

Paradise lost, yet
to be regained

Not everybody is possibly as lucky as English poet John Milton has been more than three centuries ago. In his life-time he was able to follow up his epic poem Paradise Lost to write Paradise Regained. He had thus succeeded in a way in reversing --- figuratively speaking --- his earlier sense of loss; it needs to be made clear that his second exercise was in terms of giving new dimensions to his intellectual prowess without compromising with his genius which was unconcealed. There is no end to a composer's flight of imagination. What has happened in our case in this State is something to the contrary. We have suffered a setback from which no immediate recovery is in sight. No less creative and definitely equipped with better tools our film producers from the tinsel world of Bollywood continue to be hesitant to wholeheartedly resume their date with the paradise on the earth --- the Kashmir Valley. The link snapped by the vicious tussle of the gun is flimsy at this point in time. It is high time that they pondered over their missing enthusiasm in this regard. It is true that as the inhabitants of the State we have to take the major blame. What is this if not our failure that we have not succeeded in prevailing over a handful of misguided persons among us that they should not set their own house on fire? They have picked up the latest guns, gone on a shooting spree and committed a sort of hara-kiri. By now, they themselves have gone through tremendous amount of self-inflicted torture: killing of some of the finest sons of the soil, fratricidal wars and bestowing a sort of legitimacy on violence in the land which has otherwise been nurtured by the likes of Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani. Habba Khatoon and Lal Ded. Some of them have retraced their steps but not before inflicting severe damage. There are others who have realised, even though belatedly, that they have been caught in a maze of their own making. They want to retrieve the bliss but are clueless about how to do so.

A grim fall-out is that on the current reckoning the gun appears to have come to stay for long in our midst. Its mere mention is enough to scare away the people who spend billions of rupees to make a movie and their stars whose faces are not only worth billions but they also move billions of their fans. Arguably, they are face to face with the gun even on their home turf: Mumbai has been the target of big terrorist strikes more than once. Nevertheless they have not lost the advantage totally in the country's film capital. They can shoot the movies there according to their will. And, if they require something like the Valley as a backdrop they can always recreate it given the technical skills at their disposal. They are moreover encouraged by naturally gifted other states as well as foreign countries to use them as locations for their ventures. There are countries that are well aware of the tremendous appeal of Hindi films and the growing penchant in India for travel to explore unexplored venues. Their leaders know that if their picturesque spots get highlighted the cost of their hospitality to Bollywood's dream merchants would be more than compensated. It is talent, glamour, tourism, entertainment and business all combined under one roof. In sharp contrast, the film producers don't find it still possible to click their cameras openly, for instance, in the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar. They do require more than just an ordinary security bandobast. Restrictions on their natural flavour dampen their interest for translating their script into a celluloid beauty. It is galling for those among them who have captured the Valley's beauty with gay abandon in the past only to find that they have to bear with certain serious curbs on their freedom from invisible quarters. Just to cite an example, the manner of the shooting of Priyanka Chopra-starrer Sat Khoon Maaf recently is not the same thing as was Shammi Kapoor's Kashmir Ki Kali in the bygone era. Very rightly it is said that our movie-makers, like the other sections of society, should contribute towards the restoration of normalcy.

To say that they are not at all doing so will not be fair. After all, they have made a number of films keeping in view the Valley's trauma. It is true that they may have worked in their studios or in other states. Who can ever forget Roja in this genre? Off and on they have tried to come in a big way to the Valley---- Mission Kashmir certainly being a notable venture with a relevant appeal. At a different level 3 Idiots has strengthened the perception about Leh being an idyllic land beyond the Himalayas. One hopes that Leh gets its due at the hands of film makers. The challenge for us at the moment is to restore the Valley's status as a bewitching stage of love and fun. In fairness, all chief ministers regardless of their political affiliations have made efforts to lure back Bollywood to its one-time favourite haunt. This shows that there is a deeply entrenched feeling that we should not go on losing on this count. Together we need to put our heads together in order to find a solution. Those who hold the purse strings know that their hard-earned cash is not a bottomless pit. They have the urge but they need the correct environment to express it. It is for us to provide that not only through the uniformed men (which successive governments have been prepared to do) but also by our orderly behaviour. Our State has quite a few veterans who have done proud to us in the highly competitive Mumbai. Several youngsters have been striving to emulate them. Mukesh Rishi of this city (a familiar face on the big screen as a character actor and villain), Sanjay Suri (of Jhankar Beats fame) and Aamir Bashir (his brilliant performance in A Wednesday overshadowed by a superb Jimmy Shergill) have proved that we have rich talent in our midst. Undeniably it will get better recognition if the Bollywood-State connection is not only restored but also placed on a firm footing.

‘Tejas’ to meet Defence requirements

By Subhashis Mittra

The maiden test flight of the most advanced ‘Tejas’ aircraft has brought the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme ''very close’’ to the Initial Operations Clearance. It is the ninth test vehicle to join the flight line to undertake development flight trials of the LCA Tejas towards operational clearance for induction in the IAF by the end of the year.
The IOC paves the way for the IAF to get the fighter aircraft, the first in June. It will have four LCAs with it by the end of the year to put them under several flying missions for attaining the Final Operational Clearance (FOC), which will be the last hurdle before the LCA joins operational squadron service.
"Successful, copy book maiden test flight of Limited Series Production-3 (LSP-3) is significant on many counts,'' the DRDO said in a statement.
Tejas is a lightweight multi-role jet fighter. It is a tailless, compound delta wing design powered by a single engine. Originally known as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)- a designation which continues in popular usage- the aircraft was officially named "Tejas'' by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 4 May 2003.
As India joined a select group of nations manufacturing warplanes with the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft moving a step closer to its induction into the Indian Air Force 27 years after the project was initiated, Defence Minister A K Antony said, ''This is only the semi-finals. The LCA will enhance national security and build the country's own fighter aircraft capabilities.’’
The LSP-3 is the quantum jump in terms of the equipment fit on the aircraft and is almost the final configuration including the new air-data computers, multi-mode radar, new communication and navigation equipment and radar warning receiver.
Tejas is expected to fill a crucial gap in India's defence requirements and future variants. Hopefully, it will be of export quality, providing cost-effective air power to the smaller, cash strapped nations of the world.
The flight took off from HAL airport in Bangalore and all the flight's objectives were met within the duration of 52 minutes. ‘‘With this flight the total number of test flights accumulated across nine test vehicles of Tejas programme has reached 1,350 and has logged about 800 hrs of flight,'' the DRDO said.
The aircraft, with an investment of over Rs 14,500 crore, has been developed by DRDO's Aeronautical Development Agency after battling technology denial regimes and sanctions for nearly three decades.
''After crossing a number of challenges and accomplishing a significant series of milestones including weapon delivery, in over 1500 sorties, the country is poised for a major turning point with the declaration of the IOC,'' Antony said.
The IAF has plans to induct a total of around 200 planes of which orders for the initial 40 have already been placed by the IAF.
The aircraft, which costs between Rs 180 crore to Rs 200 crore per piece, is presently powered by American GE-F-404 engine and the advanced GE-414 engines have been chosen for powering the LCA Mk II aircraft, which are likely to be developed by 2014.
The development of the aircraft, primarily to replace the ageing Russian MiG-21 and MiG-27s, was affected by the US sanctions in 1998 after the Pokharan nuclear test. The technology denial had led to delay in importing some items and developing alternative equipment, since vendor identification and development to production cycle took time.
On increasing the indigenous content of the LCA, DRDO chief V K Saraswat said, ''At present, the aircraft has 60 per cent indigenous content but by the time it gets its FOC, it will have 75 per cent indigenous equipment on board.''
Asked if the DRDO would go for achieving a 100 per cent indigenous aircraft, he said, ''There is nothing like 100 per cent indigenous one. Even the shirt worn by you is not indigenous.
''It will not be correct and cost effective on our part to attempt 100 per cent indigenisation. Because then you will make an aircraft which will be costliest aircraft with largest infrastructure,'' he said.
But, at the same time, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik has said that the indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft would be an advanced version of the MiG 21 fighters, which have been the mainstay of the force and are on their way to be phased out in the near future.
''Considering the technologies involved, it (LCA Mk II) will be a MiG 21 ++ aircraft and it will render yeoman service to the IAF,'' was his assessment of the aircraft.
''This means first in endurance, second in performance, third in load carrying, fourth is the number of weapons it can deliver. Fifth is the weight with which it can navigate with and the vintage of the aircraft or avionics and sixth is radar.'' It would be just short of Swedish Gripen NG single engine aircraft.
The Russian - origin MiG 21s started being inducted into the IAF in the 1960s and despite their old technology, continue to be in operation till date and are expected to be phased out by the IAF in the near future.
On the role to be played by the LCAs in the IAF, experts said an air force requires high, medium and low end aircraft to perform its tasks and the indigenous fighter would be used to fill in the gaps at the ''medium and low'' level.
IAF has placed orders for 40 LCAs in IOC mode and is expected to procure another 160 LCA Mk II later in the decade.
Though the induction of Tejas marks a watershed moment for the country's military hardware capability, the larger objective ought to be proactive policy so that heightened defence research and procurement positively impact and genuinely benefit the Indian economy. (PTI)

RBI measure is inadequate
Price spiral to continue

By Nantoo Banerjee

Soft options are not particularly effective to take hard issues head on. But, that is exactly the way it has been with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II Government, a captive of various vested interests, whose please-all policy seems to have forgotten the poor and the common man in the process. For instance, the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) latest 0.25 per cent bank (repo) rate increase provides a clear signal that the country's central bank has given up on fighting inflation. It suggests, if anything, the RBI's near capitulation to the wishes of the government, big business, foreign financial institutions (FIIs) and stock market on the inflation management issue.
For the Government, maintaining a high economic growth holds a bigger priority than controlling inflation. The big business is always against interest rate hikes. FIIs thrive under low interest, low corporate tax regime. Stock markets all over the world are against high interest rate regimen which drives away public funds from speculative stocks to more secured bank fixed deposits. The common man's plight in a situation of high inflation as it is being witnessed in India for more than a year has rarely been a cause of concern of these vested interests. These groups have been exerting a vice like grip on the country's central bank to prevent it from taking any hard measure that would flush out surplus liquidity from the system and cause their discomfort.
This explains why all the official and media hypes over a possible one per cent bank rate hike to rein in the continuing runaway food and general price inflation situation ended in a whimper as the central bank left the cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) untouched at six per cent and 24 per cent, respectively, until the next financial year. The CRR calls for the proportion of deposits that banks are required to set aside. The SLR signifies that banks liquidity position will not be under any extra pressure following higher bank deposits which are expected to be generated by a higher savings rate. The reverse repo rate, the interest the RBI pays banks for deposits, goes up also by 0.25 per cent to 5.5 per cent.
These measures may push up the interest rates now being offered by banks on fixed deposits for short durations - say, between 400 days and 600 days -- by 0.25 per cent to 0.50 per cent to 8.75 per cent to 9.50 per cent. Fixed deposits from senior citizens attract an extra interest rate of 0.50-0.75 per cent. Different banks offer different interest rates on fixed deposits and term loans. The present deposit rates are certainly not attractive enough to suck up a good chunk of extra liquidity with the middle class and upper middle class, the biggest consumer segment in the market, from the shopping arcades to bank lockers. The general and food price inflation rates at retail markets are ruling at much higher levels than commercial banks' savings rates on fixed deposits. Thus, the RBI's half hearted inflation control measure is unlikely to yield the intended reduction in the money supply with the public or contraction of general demand of goods and services for middle-class consumption.
A 0.50 to one per cent increase in car loans or housing loans under the current market situation will have little on-ground impact on the demand for either luxury goods and services or things like housing, passenger cars and motor bikes, blended scotch whiskey, beer and wine, air travel, computers and laptops, fizzy drinks and, of course, processed foods. Without any hike in the bank rate, the prices of construction materials, white goods and brown goods, capital goods, airfares, oil and lubricants, readymade garments, electricity charges and wood and metal products have appreciated by 10 to 20 per cent in the last three months alone. The higher prices have not adversely impacted their sales. Prices are soaring. And, so are the demands. It's a peculiar situation. The middle-class is loaded with such large amounts of surplus money that the sudden hike in domestic airfares by 100 to 150 per cent in most sectors, less than two months ago, has shown no adverse impact on the air travel by this large fund-flush section of consumers.
The increasing demand for processed foods is driving away a lot of common consumption items such as wheat, rice, pulses, vegetable fats, spices and fresh vegetables like potato, onion, bananas, copra, garlic and ginger, from the common man's daily meal menu to malls, supermarkets, big stores, restaurants and fast-food shops for the consumption of the cash surplus middle-class and their high spending children. In the last three years, the prices of some of the food articles, vegetables and fruits have gone up by almost 200 per cent.
Thus, the fear is that the inflation rates are likely to continue to the disadvantage of the majority of the country's population who are cash-starved, under-employed and under-paid in the absence of a strong monetary control measure by the RBI. In a similar inflationary situation in the early part of the 1980s, the RBI had opted for a double digit bank rate. The term lending rates of commercial banks varied between 15 and 18 per cent. The overdraft rates were as high as 20 to 22 per cent. Large companies, in both the public and private sector, were forced to raise short-term public deposits at 12 to 14 per cent. There were others which issued equity and preference shares, bonds and debentures to minimize their credit exposure with banks.
The RBI's tight money policy coupled with some pragmatic fiscal measures by the Government kept the price inflation of wage goods under control. While, the industrial growth in 1986-87 was still around 10 per cent and agricultural growth was in the negative due to two successive years of drought, the common man managed to survive. India's middle-class was much smaller in number then. Industry was less free to pursue with profit motives before social expectations. The stock market was controlled by local investors and the Unit Trust of India (UTI) and not highly opportunistic FIIs. The Government was still willing to see some virtue in socialistic principles. The rich were extra-taxed, both for income and for luxury consumption. The poor were encouraged to save more. India did not boast billionaires, then. Paradoxically, some the country's economy managers in the 1980s are also at the helm of the present Government.
Thanks to the western-style economic reform embraced by the country since 1992, India's economic management is no longer under the exclusive control of the Government and statutory institutions such as the RBI. The hard truth is that a large part of India's economy is now being controlled - indirectly, but emphatically -- by foreign entities and institutions such as FIIs, multinational corporations, foreign banks, international credit rating agencies, bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements, regional trade blocks like Saarc and Asean, the World Trade Organisation and the Group of 20. It may sound odd, if not quite harsh, India will have to live with the current economic reality and high inflation, even if it means making a sacrifice of the interest of the poor and common man for the prosperity of the rich and the middle class. (IPA )

Fewer Indian students going to Australia

By Ashok B Sharma

The Indian Government may draw some satisfaction that the incidences of attack on Indian migrants have declined and also bank on Australian Government's assurances, but the recent figures tell a different story of a sharp decline in Indian migration, particularly due to the fear factor.
At present there are around 400,000 persons of Indian descent in Australia which is over two per cent of the Australian population. Indian community is Australia's fourth biggest migrant community, and students are a significant proportion of that. But in the year 2010 there was a sharp decline of about 30 per cent in the Indian students' migration to Australia. Indian students generally head for higher education to Australia.
In the year 2009 approximately 120,000 Indian students had enrolled in Australian educational institutions. But enrolment is one and actual commencement is another, as the Australian government calls it. According to the figures of the Australian Ministry of Education the actual commencements in 2009 were 67,974. In 2010, between January and November 2010 the enrolments were 100,236 and the actual commencements were 42,447. So, approximately there has been a dip of 30 per cent.
Migration of Indian students to Australia was on the increase till the series of recent violent attacks. Much of this increase took place in the vocational education sector. The incidences of violent attacks are no doubt the main reason for the decline in migration of Indian students to Australia. Some, however, attribute it to the education becoming costly in Australia due to the Australian dollar firming up to the level of almost one to one with the US dollar.
India and Australia have worked in close concert to tackle this issue. A series of steps are being taken by Australia on whether it is more policing, whether it is more patrolling, whether it is audit of educational institutions, whether it is review of visa procedures, establishment of helpline, counseling. But much of the responsibility of maintaining law and order rests with the provincial Governments in Australia.
The Indian Government has also taken quite a few measures to address the concern. It has introduced Bills in Parliament seeking to punish those who have provided false or misleading information to student and make it mandatory for all education agents to register themselves. It has proposed that all Indian students proceeding abroad for studies enter their details with the government. The Government has recently introduced the Indian Community Welfare Fund to provide financial assistance to Indian citizens in need and this has been used to assist several needy citizens and students in Australia.
The issue of violent attacks of Indian students was raised by the Indian Minister of External Affairs, SM Krishna with the Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd during recent visit to Australia, this month.
Both Krishna and Rudd in their joint statement of January 20, 2011 welcomed the Council of Australian Governments' International Students Strategy for Australia, launched in October 2010, and progress with implementation of recommendations from the Baird Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act to improve further the experience of international students in Australia. This includes strengthening students' consumer protection rights and cooperation between the two countries to support the regulation of education agents.
The next meeting of India-Australia Joint Working Group on Education and Training is expected to be held in Australia in April 2011 and the annual dialogue of the minister of the both the countries on education will be hosted in India in September 2011. These two meetings will take stock of the situation. This will also pave the way for setting up of the Australia-India Education Council.
The changes in the skilled migration programme had significantly impacted on Indian students already studying in Australia, many of whom had taken heavy loans to pursue their studies. Krishna raised this issue with Rudd and requested consideration of Indian students who had come to Australia under the old rules being placed in a special category that allowed them to fulfill the demand that existed in Australia for their skills.
Rudd noted the components of the February 8, 2010 changes to skilled migration in Australia and highlighted the generous transition arrangements for most holders of international student visas at the time of the changes. Rudd also noted Australia's review of its student visa program, announced in December 2010 and expected to be completed in mid-2011.
Issues of concern for Indian students are security, availability of accommodation and other support services, transport concession, greater financial assistance, regulation of rogue agents and dodgy institutions and introduction of effective orientation and assimilation processes both in India and Australia.
Krishna also discussed the issue of safety and security of Indian stidents in Australia with the new Premier of Victoria Province, Ted Baillieu who had made the law and order situation in Melbourne as one of the major issues of his election campaign. Baillieu had reportedly assured him that the safety and security of the Indian community will continue to be addressed pro-actively and that he had already initiated moves to increase the number of police and guards on the transport system, introduce tougher sentencing, improve the system of compensating victims of crime.
The India- Australia relationship is underpinned by diverse and growing people-to-people links. The Indian community in Australia, particularly those in higher jobs, are making a most valuable contribution to building Australian society. Cultural and artistic links continue apace. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has been increasingly supporting these links. In November 2010, it sponsored a Rajasthani folk music and dance troupe to visit 9 cities in Australia including towns hitherto not covered such as Townsville and Ballarat. 2012 has been designated as the Year of Australia in India. But despite all these efforts and gestures, unfortunately, the misery of Indian students in Australia still continue. (IPA)



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