Sunday, March 31, 2013

Train tickets, freight tariff to be costlier from tomor

Train tickets, freight tariff to be costlier from tomorrow

           Travelling in trains is set to
become costlier from tomorrow as the hike in reservation fee
and superfast charges announced in the Rail Budget come into
effect from April 1
          Besides hike in passenger fares, freight rate for all
commodities will also go up by about 5.7 per cent on Monday.
          The Railways expect to earn Rs 42,210 crore from
passengers traffic and Rs 93,554 crore from goods
transportation in 2013-14

            Though the Railways have not increased basic passenger
fare, it had proposed increase of the reservation fee,
superfast and Tatkal charges. Cancellation and clerkage
charges will also be hiked from April.
            While the cash-strapped Railways were expected to mop up
about Rs 880 crore annually from the latest hike in service
charges on train tickets, the freight rate revision will fetch
Rs 4200 crores for the national transporter in the fiscal
            As per a Railway notification, while reservation fee
for second and sleeper class has not been revised, AC classes
will be dearer by Rs 15 to Rs 25 per ticket.
          Superfast charges have been increased by Rs 10 for
sleeper and second class fare. For AC classes, the hike is
between Rs 15 and Rs 25.
          There are more than two crore passengers travelling daily
on about 11,000 trains in the country.
            Tatkal fee has been increased by 10 per cent of the basic
fare for second class and 30 per cent for all other AC
classes. While cancellation charges have been increased by Rs
10 to Rs 50 per ticket for confirmed tickets, clerkage charge
for cancellation of waiting list and RAC tickets will be
hiked by Rs 5 for sleeper class and Rs 10 for AC class.
            Cancellation and clerkage charges have been hiked to
deter touts from booking bulk tickets in advance, a senior
Railway Ministry official said.
            Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had effected the hike
in the basic passenger fare by 21 per cent before the Rail
Budget in January 22, this year.
            The hike in passenger fare was announced after 10 years
as successive Railway Ministers during that period were not in
favour of increasing fares.
            The cost of fuel and energy went up many times during
that period and it was essential to hike the fares, said the

Towards major economic transformation



Towards major economic transformation

Something has happened which is definitely going to balance the Bretton woods system  which emerged after second world war.New BRICS development bank can rival the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank if it can reconcile its competing agendas.

The BRICS nations make up 40 per cent of the world’s population and 17 per cent of world trade and though where it will be based and how much capital it will have is yet to be decided Professor Wood, of Warwick Business School, can see it becoming a big attraction for emerging markets.
“The track record of the IMF and World Bank austerity policies are very mixed, and there is little doubt that many nations would welcome an alternative to these bodies,” said the Warwick Business School Professor. “This is likely to make the BRICS development bank hugely influential if, indeed. But, in the short term, this is contingent on the extent to which it reconciles the competing agendas of the BRICS countries.

“Most people assume that the current economic crisis has led to a great strengthening of the power of the World Bank and the IMF, and that this power is largely uncontested. What is interesting however, are the limits of the power of these bodies.
“The aftermath of the Asian financial crisis saw a number of countries in Asia - and Russia as well - stockpiling foreign exchange reserves precisely so they did not have to make recourse to the IMF or World Bank again.
“The proposed BRICS development bank represents an important new development, that, potentially further circumscribes the influence of these bodies.

“The BRICS development bank will be extremely attractive to many developing countries who have had their fingers burned through engaging with the World Bank and the IMF.
“In theory, the BRICS bank could erode the role and status of the IMF and the World Bank. However, the details of how the BRICS bank is governed and how it will operate remain unclear. What is even unclear is the amount of initial capitalization; very different sums of money are being bandied about. It will certainly be some years before the bank is operational, but in the long term it could have a significant impact.”
The bank would have access to a huge and growing market, though the power struggle between the nations involved could lead to difficulties says Professor Wood.
“China holds vast foreign exchange reserves and is likely to be, in some manner or other, the dominant player in the BRICS bank,” said Professor Wood.
“As the weakest BRICS member, South Africa has perhaps most to gain from establishing the bank, although all may gain from the international clout the new body may confer.
“South Africa is the smallest BRICS member and has become increasingly reliant on minerals exports, which provide volatile revenue streams and, ultimately are a depleting resource.
“South Africa could be faced by a balance of payments crisis in the future, and the BRICS bank could potentially be a lifeline for it.”

'Chinese military publicly assertive under new leadership'

'Chinese military publicly assertive under new leadership'

Chinese defence forces, shedding
reticent style of functioning, are highlighting their military
activities since the change of leadership, a move analysts say
is intended to send a strong message to China's neighbours.
    Besides state-run CCTV, official organs of the People's
Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, PLA Daily and state-run news
agency Xinhua have been highlighting the navy's activities in
the South China Sea and East China Sea, where China is locked
in disputes with neighbouring nations.
    The official media specially highlighted the open-ocean
training mission led by the amphibious landing ship
Jinggangshan in the South China Sea, close to the coast of
Malaysia and Brunei, who along with Vietnam and the
Philippines contests China's claims over the South China Sea.
    The fully equipped PLA amphibious naval task force
created flutter conducting exercises near James Shoal or
Zengmu Reef some 80-km from Malaysia, less than 200 kilometres
from Brunei and 1,800 kilometres from the mainland coast.
    The PLA navy website posted high-profile oath-taking
ceremony performed by the crews of a fully equipped four-ship
fleet, near the outer limits of the country's controversial
"nine-dash line".
    The line, the basis for China's claim to virtually all of
the South China Sea, encompasses territory also claimed by the
Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
    The pictures showed marines and sailors pledging to
"defend the South China Sea, maintain national sovereignty and
strive towards the dream of a strong China".
    "The intended message by the PLA Daily and other official
reports was to tell the world that, no matter what speculation
was made by neighbouring counties involved in territorial
disputes with us in the South China Sea, our navy will still
conduct patrol and training missions there. It's a move to
show our determination to defend our ocean territory," Li Jie,
a Chinese naval expert told Hong Kong-based South China
Morning Post.
    Shanghai-based naval expert Professor Ni Lexiong said the
navy had also sent more ships to the disputed Diaoyu Islands,
also claimed by Japan, which calls them the Senkakus, since Xi
Jinping became chairman of the Central Military Commission in
    New Chinese President Xi's "call to make China a maritime
power, and the dream of a strong China, told us that he wants
to make some difference from his predecessors Hu Jintao and
premier Wen Jiabao, who were criticised by the public as being
too soft and weak when dealing with territorial disputes," Ni
    "As someone from a princeling background, Xi is more
assertive than Hu and will certainly take a tougher stance on
the issues over the East and South China seas."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Photo surfaces of China first lady serenading Tiananmen troops

Photo surfaces of China first lady serenading Tiananmen troops

A photo of China's new first lady
Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops
following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy
protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.
    Although it was swiftly scrubbed from China's Internet
before it could generate discussion, the image revived a
memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the
challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer
side of China.
    The country has no recent precedent for the role of first
lady, and also faces a tricky balance at home. The leadership
wants Peng to show the human side of the new No.1 leader, Xi
Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And
it must balance popular support for the first couple with an
acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the
consensus rule among Chinese Communist Party's top leaders.
    The image of Peng in a green military uniform, her
windswept hair tied back in a ponytail as she sings to
helmeted and rifle-bearing troops seated in rows on Beijing's
Tiananmen Square, contrasts with her appearances this week in
trendy suits and coiffed hair while touring Russia and Africa
with Xi, waving to her enthusiastic hosts.
    But the lifespan of Peng's Tiananmen image on Chinese
Internet has so far been short, and she remains a beloved
household name with huge domestic popularity.
    The photo has circulated mainly on Twitter, which is
blocked in China. The few posts on popular domestic microblogs
did not evade censors for long.
    Many young Chinese are unaware that on June 3 and 4, 1989,
military troops crushed weeks-long pro-democracy protests in
Beijing, killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of people.
    Those who do know about the crackdown tend to be
understanding of Peng's obligations as a member of a
performance troupe in the People's Liberation Army.
    In an indication of Peng's appeal in China despite her
past, a man whose 19-year-old son was killed in the Tiananmen
crackdown said he bears no grudges against her.
    "Looking at it objectively, it's all in the past," said
Wang Fandi, whose son Wang Nan died from a bullet wound to his
head. "If the military wanted her to perform, she had to go.
What else could she do?"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

UN to launch Syria chemical weapons inquiry

UN to launch Syria chemical weapons inquiry

The United Nations will
launch an independent investigation into whether chemical
weapons have been used in the Syria conflict, UN leader Ban
Ki-Moon said Thursday.
 Ban said the "difficult mission" would focus on a Syrian
government allegation that opposition rebels fired chemical
weapons missiles in an attack this week.
 But France, Britain and the United States called on Ban to
widen the inquiry to include allegations made against
President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
 The Syrian government has accused opposition rebels of
using chemical weapons in an attack at Khan al-Assal near
Aleppo on Tuesday. The opposition said the government staged
the attack and also used banned chemical weapons in another
incident near Damascus.
 "I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation
into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria," Ban told
reporters in his office.
 "I intend for this investigation to start as soon as
practically possible," he added.
 The UN leadership is working with the Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees the Chemical
Weapons Convention, and the World Health Organisation to set
up the inquiry.
 "The investigation mission is to look into the specific
incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government," he
 "I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations
of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical
weapons." Ban would not take questions on whether the inquiry
could be extended.
 "In discharging its mandate of an investigation mission,
full cooperation from all parties will be essential. I stress
that this includes unfettered access," Ban insisted.
 "My announcement should serve as an unequivocal reminder
that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity,"
said Ban. "The international community needs full assurance
that chemical weapons stockpiles are verifiably safeguarded."
 Diplomats and UN officials have stressed that still no
formal proof has been given that chemical weapons were used by
either side.
 Britain and France sent a letter to Ban calling for a
wider inquiry that includes accusations that chemical weapons
were also used at Ataybah near Damascus and another incident
at Homs on December 23.
 "Given the gravity of these allegations, we judge it
essential that all the pertinent facts concerning these
allegations are swiftly investigated."
 The letter sent by the French and British missions to the
UN called for "an urgent investigation into all allegations".
 US ambassador Susan Rice said the United States also
"supports an investigation that pursues any and all credible
allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria."
 "We demand the full cooperation of the Assad regime in
particular, as well as Syrian authorities throughout the
country, including by providing full and unfettered access to
all relevant individuals and locations," Rice said in a

Defence Ministry gets contract between Agusta and 'middleman'

Defence Ministry gets contract between Agusta and 'middleman'

The Defence Ministry has got the

'contract' between AgustaWestland and alleged middleman

Christian Michel regarding the controversial VVIP helicopter

Rs 3600 crore deal with India.

The 'contract' has been provided by the Anglo-Italian firm

to suggest that there was no wrongdoing in the deal, sources

told PTI.

The company has told the Ministry that there was nothing

to indicate that he and other people were hired by it for

committing any wrong, the sources said.

Michel, a British national, along with Italian Guido

Hashcke is alleged to have been hired by Finmeccanica, the

parent company of AgustaWestland, to swing the deal in favour

of the Anglo-Italian firm.

According to Italian prosecutors, kickbacks to the tune of

Rs 362 crore were paid to swing the deal in favour of


Michel has been named in the FIR registered by the CBI in

the chopper scam along with former IAF chief S P Tyagi and his

three cousins.

The firm has again told the Ministry that there was no

wrongdoing in the deal and there was no reason for the Indian

Defence Ministry to cancel the deal, they said.

The Defence Minister had ordered CBI probe into the deal

on February 18 after the arrest of CEO of Finmeccanica

Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini by

Italian investigators in connection with the case.

Big news in aviation--Acquisition of Aircraft by Airlines Liberalized: Minister Ajit Singh Abolishes Aircraft Acquisition Committee

Big news in aviation--Acquisition of Aircraft by Airlines Liberalized:   Minister Ajit Singh Abolishes Aircraft Acquisition Committee
In a major decision taken by Minister of Civil Aviation, ShriAjit Singh, the Government has done away with the control over acquisition of aircraft by scheduled and non-scheduled operators, private operators and flying training institutes. The permission for actual induction of aircraft will no longer be required from Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). Henceforth, only initial No Objection Certificate for operating scheduled air transport services and non-scheduled air transport services including regional air transport services, and in-principle approval for acquisition of aircraft by scheduled operators will be required from the MoCA, as this is a requirement under Rules 134 and 134A of the Aircraft Rules and the RBI guidelines to facilitate acquisition of aircraft.
The Minister has also abolished the Aircraft Acquisition Committee (AAC) as it is no more relevant. The matter relating to initial No Objection Certificate and in-principle approval for acquisition of aircraft by scheduled operators will now be processed by concerned Division of the Ministry.
At present, MoCA’sapproval is required for issuing initial No Objection Certificate in cases of scheduled airlines, non-scheduled airlines, flying institutes and private category. Besides this, MoCA’s approval is also required for acquisition of aircraft by scheduled and non-scheduled operators, flying training institutes and for private use and also for replacement of aircraft. After implementation of this decision, no approval from MoCA will be required by anybody for actual import / replacement of aircraft and all such cases will be dealt by the DGCA for completion of necessary formalities.
This decision is another major step towards liberalization in the civil aviation sector after allowing 49% FDI in airlines. This will remove duplication and also reduce delays in seeking approval and will do away with the cumbersome procedure which airlines have to follow before acquisition of aircraft. The decision will help airlines to plan better for future induction of aircraft and also maintain timeliness of acquisition.
Permissions accorded for acquisition of aircraft w.e.f. December,2011to March,2013
Total Approvals viz-a-vizapplication by scheduled airlines/private airlines are as under:
Proposals (no of aircraft)
Approvals (no. of aircraft)
Blue Dart
Lepl Projects Limited
Jet Airways
Go Airlines
Quikjet Cargo
Non Scheduled airline: 37 36
(One proposal for acquisition of aircraft has been differed at the AAC level, to meet with the existing procedure)
Flying training Institute: 08 08
Private Use: 05 05

UNHRC adopts US-sponsored resolution against Lanka--India voting in favour and Pakistan against

UNHRC adopts US-sponsored resolution against Lanka
  The UN Human Rights Council today
adopted a US-sponsored resolution on human rights violation in
Sri Lanka with 25 countries, including India, voting in favour
of the document in the 47-nation strong body.
 While 13 countries, including Pakistan, voted against,
eight member-states abstained from voting on the contentious
resolution that saw political tremors in India with DMK
pulling out of the UPA alliance and the government. Gabon, a
member-country had voting rights issue.
 The watered down resolution also saw India pushing for
new elements through written amendments calling for an
independent and credible investigation into allegations of
human rights violation and other accountability measures to be
accepted by Sri Lanka, according to sources.
 During 'Intervention in the United Nations Human Rights
Council on the Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation and
Accountability in Sri Lanka', India's permanent Representative
Dilip Sinha said, "We reiterate our call for an independent
and credible investigation into allegations of human rights
violations and loss of civilian lives".
 "We note with concern the inadequate progress by Sri
Lanka in fulfilling its commitment to this Council in 2009.
Further, we call on Sri Lanka to move forward on its public
commitments, including on the devolution of political
authority through full implementation of the 13th Amendment
and building upon it," Sinha said.
 However, sources said when India pushed for the written
amendments, the sponsors of the resolution said the attempt
was to make it "broadest-possible" and with tougher
amendments, the purpose will be defeated.

Chinese navy conducts drills in disputed South China Sea

Chinese navy conducts drills in disputed South China Sea

Beijing---Chinese navy flexed its muscle in
the disputed South China Sea today as a fleet of four warships
conducted drills in waters near South China�s Hainan Province.
  "The training exercises will be conducted according to
requirements of actual combat, with the aim of improving the
navy's defence capabilities based on the information system
and enhancing its ability to safeguard maritime sovereignty,"
said Jiang Weilie, commander of the South China Sea fleet
before the drills started.
 China, which claims sovereignty over the entire South
China Sea, have stepped up aggressive patrols in the area to
assert its stand in recent months to counter claims by
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
 However, this drill is a regular arrangement in line with
the navy's annual training plan. The PLA Navy conducted seven
similar training exercises in 2012.
 Four Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy warships
-- the Jinggangshan, Lanzhou, Yulin and Hengshui, four
ship-borne helicopters and a hovercraft participated in the
drills after departing from Sanya yesterday.
 The PLA warships staged simulated air and submarine
attacks as part of the drill along with command post
establishment, operational manoeuvring from the sea and
high-sea convoy exercises.
 "Air defence and anti-submarine defences are two
challenges for warships. Running the drills is a test for both
fleet command and emergency management," Chen Yueqi, a navy
commander was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news
 Open sea training tests soldiers' ability to operate
modern information equipment and adapt to complicated
meteorological and hydrological environments, Zhang Hanchuan,
a training officer said.
 The Jinggangshan is China's most advanced amphibious
transport vessel. The Lanzhou and Hengshui have carried out
several convoy missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters,
and the Hengshui is a new type of frigate recently put into

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SIPRI report---China replaces United Kingdom as world's fifth-largest arms exporter

SIPRI report---China replaces United Kingdom as world's fifth-largest arms exporter

The five largest suppliers of major conventional weapons during the five-year period 2008–12 were the United States (30 per cent of global arms exports), Russia (26 per cent), Germany (7 per cent), France (6 per cent) and China (5 per cent). This is the first five-year period in which the UK has not been in the top five since at least 1950, the earliest year covered by SIPRI data. China’s displacement of the UK is the first change in the composition of the top five exporters in 20 years.

The volume of Chinese exports of major conventional weapons rose by 162 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–2012, and its share of the volume of international arms exports increased from 2 to 5 per cent.

'China's rise has been driven primarily by large-scale arms acquisitions by Pakistan,' said Dr Paul Holtom, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. 'However, a number of recent deals indicate that China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states.'

Asian imports strengthen naval capabilities

In the period 2008–12 Asia and Oceania accounted for almost half (47 per cent) of global imports of major conventional weapons. The top five importers of major conventional weapons worldwide—India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent)—were all in Asia.

Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders. Last year notably saw the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia to India and the commissioning of China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.

Other regional players are seeking to establish or strengthen submarine fleets, including several South East Asian countries and Australia, which is also acquiring large surface warships and combat aircraft. These developments come at a time of heightening tensions over territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.

Austerity bites in the European arms market

Deliveries to European countries fell by 20 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12. European states seem eager to abandon or reduce a range of arms import plans. During 2012 Italy and the Netherlands reduced their orders for F-35 combat aircraft from the USA, while Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania dropped plans for newly produced combat aircraft in favour of second-hand options.

Many European states are also seeking to export newly acquired combat aircraft that they can no longer afford to maintain. For example, Portugal is seeking buyers for its new fleet of F-16s and Spain is seeking to sell newly purchased Eurofighter Typhoons.

'With the financial crisis in Europe, the withdrawal from Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, we can expect to see Europe trying to export a considerable volume of surplus military equipment,' said Mark Bromley, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.

Other notable developments

• Russia accounted for 71 per cent of exports of major weapons to Syria in 2008–12 and continued to deliver arms and ammunition in 2012.

• The Arab states of the Gulf accounted for 7 per cent of world arms imports in 2008–2012. Missile defence systems were an important element in their latest arms acquisitions, with orders placed in 2011–12 for Patriot PAC-3 and THAAD systems from the USA.

• Deliveries of weapons system to Venezuela as part of its ongoing rearmament programme continued in 2012. Russia accounted for 66 per cent of transfers to Venezuela, followed by Spain (12 per cent) and China (12 per cent).

• Imports by North African states increased by 350 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12, which was almost entirely responsible for a doubling (by 104 per cent) in imports by Africa as a whole.

• Sub-Saharan imports increased by just 5 per cent. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa imported only small numbers of major weapons, but many of these have been used in internal conflicts or in interventions in conflicts in neighbouring states, most recently in Mali.

• Greece's arms imports fell by 61 per cent between 2003–2007 and 2008–12, pushing it from the number 4 importer to number 15. In 2006–10 Greece was the top recipient of German arms exports and the third largest recipient of French arms exports.