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We talked with Palash Biswas, an editor for Indian Express in Kolkata today also. He urged that there must a transnational disaster management mechanism to avert such scale disaster in the Himalayas.




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Monday, May 31, 2010

Universities to be Replaced by Companies Profit Oriented as Higher Education and Research Eligibility have to Be Purchased. Boards would NOT Exist!

Universities to be Replaced by Companies Profit Oriented as Higher Education and Research Eligibility have to Be Purchased. Boards would NOT Exist!

Indian Holocaust My Father`s Life and Time- Three Hundred Eighty TWO

Palash Biswas

No more Rustic Faces Topping Board Exams and Universities would ever overlap the Hegemony Faces in Kapil Sibal`s Knowledge Economy as he is in a HURRY Unprecedented to ensure Purchasing Power Generated Exclusive Higher Education abolishing Existing University Grants Commission and Importing the MNC Foreign Universities. I had been wondered all these decades where do Vanish all those BRILLIANT Students from Rural India who make the Merit Lists so Inclusive! IIM and IITs are meant for Elite Class, for Elite Jobs. But there had been the Central Universities which sustained the Generation Next Intact.

My son is annoyed and complains that we may NOT afford Proper Education. Way Back in Basantipur,in Sixties,Childhood in the ISLAND of Poverty had the Dreams in Heart and Mind. We had no Road, No Infrastructure, No Money, but my small Peasant Father could ensure Higher Education for me as I had to Contribute  as a Helping hand in Cultivation even during my Post Graduation. During Summer and winter vacations , I had to be engaged with harvesting at Home. We had no Faculty in Dinesh Pur High school. No Tuition was Available. We had no Information about Grooming or No Vision for Career. We Never had the Purchasing Power. We Complain so many things. But traditional Education System for last Six Decades had been INCLUSIVE Enough to accommodate us, the Excluded Communities to have Knowledge, if not equal Opportunities for Status! Knowledge Economy Exclusive means TOTAL Exclusion of those Majority Masses NOT having Enough Purchasing Power to enter into the sovereign Knowledge Market!

HRD task force favours medical education under NCHER

Times of India - ‎May 29, 2010‎
But task force member NR Madhava Menon said during the nationwide consultation there was a widespread view that medical education be made part of NCHER. ...

Task force for agri education under NCHER

Business Standard - ‎May 29, 2010‎
The task force for creation and functioning of the National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), said it would recommend that the government ...

Final decision on NCHER rests with Centre, says Kapil Sibal

The Hindu - Aarti Dhar - ‎May 29, 2010‎
Speaking to journalists at the end of a daylong consultation organised by the task force on the draft NCHER bill with academics from across the country, ...

Azad: no shifting medical education to NCHER

The Hindu - Aarti Dhar - ‎May 29, 2010‎
Rejecting any suggestion of bringing medical education under the purview of the proposed National Commission for Higher education and Research (NCHER), ...

NCHER may have health and agriculture education as well

Press Trust of India - ‎May 29, 2010‎
The government-appointed task force for suggesting modalities for creation and functioning of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) ...

New education draft has states smiling

Chandigarh Tribune - Aditi Tandon - ‎May 29, 2010‎
It doesn't infringe upon powers of states to appoint Vice-Chancellors unlike the old NCHER draft law which made it mandatory for states to choose VCs from ...

How can HRD Ministry run medical education, asks AICC doctors' cell

The Hindu - Aarti Dhar - ‎May 29, 2010‎
... his "proposal of transferring medical education" from the Health Ministry to the proposed National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER). ...

Medical education under NCHER draws flak

TheMedGuru - Jyoti Pal - ‎May 30, 2010‎
It is proposed that that a new national body by the name of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) be created as an overarching body ...

HRD Ministry's proposal is baseless

World News (blog) - ‎May 30, 2010‎
By Agencies New Delhi: HRD Ministry's proposal is baseless: The Human Resource Development Ministry's proposal of running medical education is a baseless ...

  1. UGC employees tussle against setting up of NCHER, Today News - By ...

    13 Feb 2010 ... The employees, in their letter to the UGC chief expressed that the proposed NCHER would hardly make any difference from the existing bodies. ... - Cached - Similar
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    7 Sep 2009 ... A multi-member task force, to be appointed by the Planning Commission soon, will finalise the structure and scope of the proposed NCHER. - Cached - Similar
  3. Mixed reactions to NCHER proposal - India - The Times of India

    14 Feb 2010 ... HRD ministry's task force faced a mixed reaction on the formation of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research that ... - Cached - Similar
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  6. Task force for agri education under NCHER

    30 May 2010 ... Agricultural education, a state subject, may soon come under a proposed regulatory body for higher education, if the Centre accepts the ... - Cached
  7. The Hindu : Front Page : Final decision on NCHER rests with Centre ...

    30 May 2010 ... Speaking to journalists at the end of a daylong consultation organised by the task force on the draft NCHER bill with academics from across ... - Cached
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Governance of higher education

1 Jun 2010, 0459 hrs IST,Kiran Karnik,
The last few months have witnessed intense activity in the education sector, with a flurry of new legislation. Apart from the Right to Education Act, guaranteeing primary education to all children, there is a great deal happening at the tertiary or university level. After over half a century, radical changes are being brought about in the governance of higher education. The University Grants Commission — created in 1952, and given statutory form in 1956 — is to be abolished; so also the corruptiontainted All India Council for Technical Education , and a few other regulatory bodies . Few will bemoan their demise: the UGC had, over time, got increasingly ossified, bureaucratic and inefficient; the AICTE had not only achieved this in double quick time, but was also perceived as hugely corrupt. Sadly, in both cases, it is academicians and academic administrators who are as much to blame as structural and systemic factors. In addition, proposed and new laws will permit the entry — with certain conditions — of foreign educational institutions, and will create educational tribunals (at national and state levels) and an accreditation body. Clearly, higher education is in for radical change.

Almost as significant as the bill creating the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER, which will replace UGC and AICTE) is the process through which it has evolved. Building on the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission and the Yash Pal committee, a draft was prepared by a task force — comprising mainly of eminent academicians — constituted by the government. This was put in the public domain for wider consultations. The task force also visited various locations to interact with academicians, educational administrators and state governments. Based on their concerns and suggestions, a revised version was prepared. This was then discussed at a roundtable, presided over by HRD minister. This open and consultative process, involving the widest spectrum of stakeholders, is a model for other legislation.

NCHER seeks to operationalise a major recommendation of both, NKC and Yash Pal committee: the integration of various streams under a single overall umbrella. Many decades ago — as far back as 1966 — the Kothari Commission had recommended just this, noting that "all higher education should be regarded as an integrated whole" . The importance of cross fertilisation between disciplines and the increasing integration of different streams (bio-engineering , computational biology, behavioural economics, etc,) is widely recognised, as is the fact that innovation thrives on trans-disciplinary interaction.

While the academic argument is irrefutable, a combination of genuine concerns and vested interests had threatened to forestall such an integrated view of education. Fortunately, there is hope that medicine and health education, as also the legal area will agree to be part of NCHER, while retaining certain professional and accreditation functions with their own professional bodies. Issues of 'ownership' and vested interest may yet result in turf wars, but one hopes that if not good sense, then political leadership will prevail.

Agricultural education is yet an issue, primarily because it is legally a state subject. Constitutional amendments have been recommended and will, hopefully, go forward. To separate agriculture from its related sciences — as also from economics and sociology — would be an academic travesty and an inhibitor of research and good education. If agricultural education too is included, then NCHER will have brought together the presently fragmented pieces of higher education.

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Objectives of the Commission for Higher Education and Research

The Commission shall:

  • Be responsible for comprehensive, holistic evolution of HE sector;


  • Strategize and Steer the expansion of higher education;


  • Ensure autonomy of the universities and shield them from interference by external agencies;


  • Acts as a catalyst and also as a conduit to encourage joint/crossdisciplinary programs between and amongst Universities and Institutes;


  • Spearhead continuous reforms and renovation in the area of higher education;


  • Establish robust global connectivity and make it globally competitive while creating our own world class standards;


  • Promote greater engagement and enhancing resources to State universities with an aim to bridge the divide between the State and Central universities;


  • Ensure good governance, transparency and quality in higher education;


  • Connect with industry and other economic sectors to promote innovations;


  • Devise mechanisms for social audit processes and public feedback on its performance and its achievements; and


  • Devise mechanisms for social audit processes and public feedback on its performance and achievements.

Taking into account the concern expressed by some States that the proposed National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) — the overarching regulatory body — would centralise higher education, the revised draft of the NCHER Bill proposes to constitute a general council for giving wider representation to the States and educational and research institutions across different areas.

Every decision of the proposed commission will have to be placed before the general council for approval.

Veto powers

With veto powers, the general council can, by two-thirds majority of its members present and voting, bring amendments to the measure or regulation proposed.

The new draft also re-defines 'Central government' to incorporate the "Ministry concerned with the subject matter," suggesting that the Health and Family Welfare Ministry deal with matters relating to medical education, while the Human Resource Development Ministry would be concerned with higher and technical education — but under the purview of the NCHER.

While there is no clarity over which Ministry deals with legal education, agricultural education has been left out of the ambit, it being a State subject. However, the task force is likely to suggest amending the Constitution to bring agriculture in the Concurrent List such as education and health.

Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal had strongly opposed the proposed panel, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi even writing to Union Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal describing the Commission as a body of "seven wise men" who would take decisions for the States at the Centre.

In an attempt to make the panel more "federal" in nature, the general council, as proposed in the new draft, will make recommendations and advise the commission on the measures to be taken to enhance access, inclusion and equity in higher education.

  1. Kapil Sibal's brand of Education Reforms

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    20 Feb 2010 ... The Union HRD minister - Kapil Sibal, who is at the vortex of the educational reforms currently sweeping the country was in Ahmedabad last ... - Cached - Similar
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    25 Jun 2009 ... New Delhi, Jun 25: The HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal who has been put on introducing reforms in the higher education system has welcomed that ... - Cached - Similar
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    25 Jun 2009 ... NEW DELHI: HRD minister Kapil Sibal wants to bring in sweeping reforms in the education sector, focus on areas that have till now received ... - Cached
  9. FDI in education top priority: Kapil Sibal (Interview)

    25 Jun 2009 ... New Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is strongly in favour ... Outlining education reforms, Sibal says no need for Class 10 ... - United States - Cached - Similar
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    17 Jan 2010 ... Kapil Sibal recently iterated the need to reform the examination system.Sibal suggests educational reforms to lessen the burden. - Cached - Similar
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Uncle Kapil's gifts

Hindustan Times - ‎May 29, 2010‎
Young students all across the country have warmly welcomed the revolutionary education reforms being ushered in by Union Education Minister Kapil Sibal. ...

20 lakh teachers needed to implement RTE Act: Sibal

The Hindu - ‎May 18, 2010‎
The government needs to recruit 20 lakh teachers to successfully implement the Right to Education Act, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal ...
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Karunanidhi against Sibal's plan

Economic Times - ‎May 21, 2010‎
CHENNAI: HRD minister Kapil Sibal's piece de resistance in the higher education reforms programme — a proposed super-regulator National Commission for ...

Putting education on fast-track

Hindustan Times - ‎May 24, 2010‎
After taking over, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal brought out a 100-day agenda for school and higher education sector. One year on, he has implemented the Right ...

CBSE Class X results today, sans the toppers - ‎May 27, 2010‎
... compartment/fail has also been discontinued from this year as part of the examination reforms introduced by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal last year. ...

Shri Kapil Sibal Lays foundation stone for New Aicte building

Press Information Bureau (press release) - ‎May 20, 2010‎
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Sibal stated that the future of the country depends on the quality of the education our youth get. In this regard., the AICTE ...
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Sibal doing fine, Azad seen as laggard: Poll - ‎May 19, 2010‎
Kapil Sibal was chosen one by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself to usher in radical reforms in the education sector and 12 months down the line he seems ...

The Indian Expressions Event presented by the Rajen A. Kilachand Foundation ...

Zawya - ‎May 25, 2010‎
Minister Kapil Sibal, at the Forum yesterday indicated that he is strongly in favor of allowing foreign direct investment in the education sector. ...

For India Inc, UPA-II scores 6/10

Business Standard - ‎May 21, 2010‎
A few also picked up P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal as the best ministers, but when it came to choosing the worst, there was very little confusion: Over ...
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Dire straits

Express Buzz - ‎May 22, 2010‎
... human resource development minister Kapil Sibal has set in motion potentially dramatic reforms in education - even if skeptics predict trouble ahead. ...

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NCHER to tighten new institutes; streamline VC appointments

Monday, February 1, 2010 18:39 IST
New Delhi: A draft legislation for creation of an overarching body in higher education prescribes that every new university or institution should have accreditation before it can start functioning and sets out tough rules for selection of vice chancellors.

The HRD Ministry today made public the draft bill on creation of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) which will replace existing statutory bodies like University Grants commission (UGC), All India Council of
Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council of Teachers
Education (NCTE).

The draft NCHER bill says that the proposed body will specify norms and standards for grant of authorisation to a university or a higher educational institution to commence its academic operations.

No university or institution empowered by or under law to award any degree or diploma established after the coming into force of this Act shall commence academic operations unless it is so recognised, it said. The new institution will furnish documents on accreditation when applying for authorisation.

However, a university or institution deemed to be university existing before the commencement of the Act shall be deemed to have been authorised under it, unless revoked.

The NCHER will maintain a national registry with names of eligible persons for the post of vice chancellors. In case of vacancy, the NCHER will suggest five names from the registry for the post.

The NCHER will have seven members, including the chairperson. The chairperson and other members will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a selection committee headed by prime minister.

Other members of the selection committee shall be the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, minister in charge of higher education and minister in charge of medical education.

The chairperson and three other members shall work whole-time and get salaries. They should be scholars with standing in the field of academics and research. The salaries and allowances of the whole-time members other than the chairperson shall be the same as of an election commissioner.

Besides, there will be a collegium which will aid, advise and make recommendations to the Commission for coordination,
maintenance of standards in and promotion of higher education
and research.

The collegium shall recommend names of eligible persons for inclusion in the national registry of prospective vice chancellors to be maintained by the NCHER.

The NCHER shall recommend five names form the registry for appointment to the post of vice chancellor of Central universities or head of such institutions.

When called upon by the states, it will recommend five names for the vice chancellor for the state university. No person shall be eligible for and qualified for the post of VC unless his name is included in the registry.

The draft bill says that an institute or university will apply to the commission for grant of authorisation for starting operations.

It will furnish all documents and an assessment report from a registered accreditation agency. The commission shall examine the application and the assessment report to ensure that it complies with the norms of the academic quality specified under regulation for grant of authorisation.

Within 30 days of the application, the commission shall decide to declare its intent to grant authorisation if the application complies with the norms of academic quality. Or else, the Commission will reject the application.

After it gives its intent, the commission will issue a public notice on its website, inviting comments and objections. Within four months of receipt of application, the commission will issue authorisation to such institution or university. When it will reject the applications, it will give reasons for that in writing.

The commission shall validate periodically the standards and academic quality of such institutions. The commission may
revoke the authorisation in case of wilful or continuous default of provisions by the institute. But it will give a notice to the institute before taking such an action.

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Here's how our Bollywood damsels turn up the heat by adding just one accessory-- a stylish belt-- to their outfit...
The rise and fall of ASE
For the past 116 years, the Ahmedabad Stock Exchange (ASE) has seen many ups and downs.

NCHER new draft to address States' concerns

The Hindu - ‎May 30, 2010‎
Taking into account the concern expressed by some States that the proposed National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) — the overarching ...

Governance of higher education

Economic Times - ‎4 hours ago‎
Almost as significant as the bill creating the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER, which will replace UGC and AICTE) is the ...
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HRD, Health Ministries to sort out turf war

The Hindu - Aarti Dhar - ‎May 25, 2010‎
While the task force of the NCHER – promoted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development – has been in existence, the NCHRH – set up by the Ministry of ...
Health firm on education Calcutta Telegraph

NCHER will not be super regulator

Economic Times - ‎May 21, 2010‎
Despite best efforts by HRD minister Kapil Sibal, medical education and law will be kept out of the purview of NCHER. In the aftermath of the Ketan ...

Is Bar Council Of India Prepared To Conduct Bar Exams?

Techno Legal News And Views Journalists (blog) - Ram K Kaushik - ‎3 minutes ago‎
Meanwhile great efforts are being made by the HRD Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal to establish National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) of ...

NCHER will be an independent body: Sibal

Livemint - Prashant K. Nanda - ‎May 23, 2010‎
"(The) HRD ministry will not be able to give direction to NCHER," he added, although it "may be the service ministry". Universities currently operate under ...
National Commission For Higher Education and Research Of India Techno Legal News And Views Journalists (blog)
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HRD ministry organising meetings to finalise draft NCHER bill

Economic Times - ‎May 12, 2010‎
The proposed overarching body, NCHER, is likely to focus only on regulating institutions and framing policies. This would require setting up of a separate ...
NCHER Draft legislation ready Education News Hyderabad
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NCHER may include medicine, law

Indian Express - ‎May 19, 2010‎
Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that both Medicine and Law related education are likely to be placed under the purview of the NCHER which is ...
NCHE R Might Take in Medicine, Law TopNews United Kingdom (blog)
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Medical studies out of health ministry?

Hindustan Times - ‎May 16, 2010‎
The government is likely to bring medical education under the ambit of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), ...

Separate higher council for medical education: Azad

Sify - ‎May 25, 2010‎
Das, meanwhile, said that her ministry is yet to take a final call on the NCHER bill. 'There were apprehensions about health education and NCHER. ...

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Defence, counter-terrorism key focus of India-US strategic dialogue

India and the United States begin their first strategic dialogue Wednesday with both sides keen to move beyond symbolism to concretise cooperation in areas ranging from energy, agriculture, science and technology and education to defence and counter-terrorism.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who would lead the inaugural ministerial level dialogue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would outline his vision of India-US relationship transformed by the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal in an address at the India Business Council (USIBC) Wednesday.

Krishna's address at the 35th anniversary meeting of the USIBC, representing some 300 US companies investing in India, will focus on the theme of emerging opportunities in India-US cooperation in the field of innovation and knowledge industries, which is one of the sunrise areas of engagement between the two countries.

Keen to counter a public perception that President Barack Obama is not as warm towards India as his predecessor George Bush was, he plans to attend a reception for Krishna hosted by Clinton after chairing their strategic dialogue Thursday.

The rare gesture of attending a reception for a visiting minister is clearly intended to counter suggestions that India-US relations have slipped from their glory days under Bush who had pushed hard to make the nuclear deal a reality.

'The Obama administration attaches great importance to our relations with India,' US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake asserted ahead of the dialogue refuting a suggestion that US ties with New Delhi have taken a backseat with Obama focusing his attention on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

'As President Obama himself has said, this will be one of our signature partnerships in the 21st century,' Blake said pointing to the fact that Obama had invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the first state visit of his administration last November 'to reaffirm the importance that we attach to our relations with India'.

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary and her US counterpart Undersecretary for Political affairs Bill Burns will meet at the State Department Wednesday for the foreign policy dialogue ahead of the ministerial level session led by Krishna and Clinton Thursday.

Rao will also meet Tuesday with Eric Hirschhorn, Under Secretary for Industry and Security at the US Department of Commerce to discuss issues relating to liberalisation of exports of dual use high technology items.

The India US High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) that Rao and Hirschhorn chair, had at their last meeting here in March identified specific barriers to such exports.

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal would meet his counterpart US Education Secretary Arne Duncan Wednesday and will also address USIBC summit the same day focusing on the opportunities that bilateral engagement in the field of Education offers for both countries.

Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission Montek Singh, who is the co-chair of the Energy Dialogue, Agriculture Dialogue, CEO Forum and the Economic Dialogue would separately meet Steven Chu, Secretary, US Department of Energy; Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Relations; and Lawrence Summers, Director, National Economic Council.

At the June 3 strategic dialogue, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan will speak on the role of scientific research and innovation in building up knowledge societies and opportunities for India-US cooperation.

He will also meet with John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Assistant to the US President for Science and Technology and interact with senior scientists and technologists of Indian origin.

China forcing internet cafe shutdown for national exam

Many provinces in China are forcing internet cafes to shut down in order to allow students to prepare for their upcoming National College Entrance Examination.

The local governments of Linxian county in Shanxi province and Linchuan district in Jiangxi province have asked internet cafes to 'temporarily cease trading' till June 9 and warned that fines would be levied if they refuse to comply, China Daily reported citing a statement in

This is the first time the regions are seeking to enforce the ban.

'What we're doing is reasonable, although it's not legally allowed, as it does override the internet manager's administrative power,' Xiong Guanghui, an official with the Linchuan Culture Bureau, was quoted as saying.

'But we're doing this for the sake of Linchuan's education,' he said.

Bihar's illiterate youth inspires story in NCERT book

The rollercoaster ride to success of an illiterate Bihar youth, who launched a radio station and promoted social messages on polio, AIDS and other issues but was arrested for illegally running it, has found place in school textbooks.

The story of Raghav, in his mid-20s, and his 'Raghav Radio' has been published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in its book 'Bharat Mein Samajik Parivartan Evam Vikas' (Social change and development in India) for Class 12.

The book describes Raghav as a role model for development in society. It highlights his struggle and the difficulties he faced after starting 'Raghav Radio' in Mansoorpur village in Vaishali district.

Raghav, who currently works as the project head of a community radio station in Rajasthan's Ajmer district, told IANS over the phone that his 'story in the NCERT book will inspire people, particularly the youths, to make a difference in society'.

The book mentions Raghav as being born in a family of agricultural labourers who were too poor to provide him with education.

It was in 2004 that Raghav, who had an electronics repair shop at Gudri Bazar near Mansoorpur and loved to tinker with old equipment, stumbled upon the innovative idea of launching a radio station.

With the old tools and gadgets that he had stored over the years, he launched his radio station that very soon became a hit with the villagers.

The station operated like a community radio service in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Saran districts, providing local news and views in the local dialect.

Apart from Hindi songs and news, it provided information about crime in the area, programmes on AIDS awareness, polio eradication, literacy initiatives and news about missing people as well as on local functions and festivals. And all that free of cost.

The media highlighted his story and he became very popular. The union communications ministry took notice too -- but that was to be his undoing.

In 2006, the ministry sought a report on the legality of the private radio station. Raghav did not possess an operating licence as he was too poor to pay the licence fee and too naive to understand that it was illegal.

'Raghav Radio' closed down. The district authorities said it was closed for violating the Indian Telegraphs Act.

The government held him an offender and arrested him for a brief period but for people residing in and around Mansoorpur village, he was a hero.

Later, many NGOs came forward to help him and gave him vocational training.

Impressed by his talent and struggle, the Barefoot College at Tilonia in Rajasthan, run by Bunker Roy, appointed him the head of Barefoot Community Radio Station, the first of its kind in Rajasthan.

The radio service caters to the educational, development and socio-cultural needs of the local community in a radius of six to 10 kilometres through indigenously created broadcast programming.

From an ordinary illiterate youth to becoming someone who has the ability to inspire people through his simple deeds, Raghav has indeed come a long way. And the mission to inform and educate continues.

Use of anti-depressants ups risk of miscarriage

The use of anti-depressants ups the overall risk of miscarriage by 68 percent. Anti-depressants are widely used in pregnancy and up to 3.7 percent of women use them at some point during the first trimester, says a study.

Discontinuing treatment can result in a depressive relapse which can put mother and baby at risk. Most previous studies on the use of anti-depressants in pregnancy did not look at miscarriages as a main outcome, had small samples and several showed contradictory results.

University of Montreal (UM) researchers looked at data on 5,124 women in Quebec who had clinically verified miscarriages up to 20 weeks of gestation and a large sample of women from the same registry who did not have a miscarriage.

Of those who miscarried, 284 (5.5 percent) had taken anti-depressants during pregnancy.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), especially paroxetine and also venlafaxine, were associated with increased risk of miscarriage as were higher daily doses of either anti-depressant.

Besides, a combination of different anti-depressants doubled the risk of miscarriages.

SSRIs are a class of compounds typically used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders. They are also used in treating premature ejaculation problems as well as some cases of insomnia.

'These results, which suggest an overall class effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are highly robust given the large number of users studied,' writes senior study author Anick Berard, from University of Montreal, said its release.

The researchers urge that physicians who have patients of child-bearing age taking anti-depressants or have pregnant patients who require anti-depressant therapy early in pregnancy discuss the risks and benefits with them.

Fashion by astrology: cracking the zodiac code for everyday wear

Multi-hued cottons for Leo, linen for Virgo and bling for Aries! Each sun sign has its own fashion code. Fashion and astrology are tied by a strange zodiac code that emits good vibrations for the wearer, says an expert.

As the industry booms and knowledge widens its access, couture-conscious buyers stalking the high street are becoming increasingly wary about the 'metaphysical, spiritual and environmental quotient' of the clothes they are carrying off the racks.

The heightened awareness has led to a entire new range of fashion that is arty, meaningful, spiritual and healthy.

'It is not a question of what you are wearing is looking good, but what we are wearing is emitting good vibrations. All zodiac signs are based on natural elements - fire, air, earth, water and sky. These elements produce negative and positive energy, but we choose our clothes without considering our zodiac signs that clash with our inner vibrations,' fortune designer Kappil Kishor, a fashion astrology expert, said.

A National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) alumnus, Kappil Kishor, guides people through their choice of apparel to foster harmony and prosperity. He has researched the impact of astrology on fashion for more than a decade.

'My predictions are based on colour, fabric or textures and balancing clothes with the five elements of nature,' said Kishor, who owns Rudraksh, a firm that promotes young fashion talent.

For example, 'real leather is not advised for those born under the zodiac sign of Leo because the animal hide nullifies the positive Leonine energy while gold does not match the aura of every zodiac sign', Kishor said.

The designer has devised a astro-fashion code for the 12 signs of the zodiac.

As Aries, a fire sign ruled by planet Mars, is endowed with a royal nature, people born under the sign can wear 'both pure and synthetic fabrics'.

'Leather, silver and iron do not suit Arien personality while outfits with multiple cuts in vibrant red, blue and orange flatter them,' Kishor said.

The designer advises bright silks for Taureans in light shades like green, white and brown. 'The cuts can either be plain or multi-layered.'

Pure cotton and linen are best suited for the double-face Gemini twins. 'Green and white are their favourite colours while platinum, gold and silver are suited to their sun signs,' he said.

Ruled by moon, Cancerians are 'unstable and naughty'.

'Silk, cotton and linen should be their fabrics of choice in white and simple cuts,' he said.

The sunny Leo, on the other hand, should not deviate from simple symmetrical cotton clothes in hues of red, yellow and orange.

'The lions must avoid leather, feather, silver and iron,' Kishor said.

While earthy Virgo is recommended cotton and linen fabrics, persons born under the influence of Virgo must avoid 'elaborate cuts and sunny shades'. Emerald jewellery in silver, platinum and gold match their energy.

Libra, ruled by planet Venus, should 'dress in synthetic silk fabrics. They must avoid red, orange, silver and platinum', Kishor said.

Watery Scorpions should wear fabrics laced with cotton in 'red, yellow and orange colours'.

'Their attires can range from plain to multiple cuts - but they should avoid silver and platinum,' he said.

Synthetic and bright silks are advisable for Sagittarius ruled by Jupiter.

'They should wear yellow, saffron or light orange outfits matched by gold jewellery,' Kihsor told IANS.

While the rooted mountain goats - the Capricorn - are advised 'cotton, silk and linen in simple black, blue or brown colour, they should desist from wearing gold and copper,' the designer said.

Aquarians, ruled by Saturn and Uranus, should wear 'dark clothes to highlight the positive masculine aspects of their sign'.

Pisceans ruled by Jupiter benefit from its planets natural palette of yellow, saffron and orange.

TV ads promote junk food

Making food choices based on TV ads results in a very imbalanced diet, says a new study.

Investigators found that a 2,000-calorie diet comprising advertised foods would contain 25 times the recommended servings of sugars, 20 times the recommended servings of fat, but less than half of recommended servings of vegetables, dairy and fruits.

In fact, the excess sugar and fat is so much that, on average, eating just one of the observed food items would provide more than three times the recommended daily servings (RDS) for sugars and two-and-half times the RDS for fat for the entire day.

'The results of this study suggest the foods advertised on television tend to oversupply nutrients associated with chronic illness (eg. saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium) and undersupply nutrients that help protect against illness (eg. fibre, vitamins A, E, and D, calcium, and potassium),' according to lead investigator Michael Mink, assistant professor, Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU).

Researchers analysed 84 hours of primetime and 12 hours of Saturday morning broadcast TV over a 28-day period in 2004.

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC were sampled on a rotating basis to develop a complete profile of each network.

The Saturday-morning cartoon segment (from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) was included to capture food advertisements marketed primarily to children.

All 96 hours of observations were videotaped and reviewed later to identify food advertisements and specific food items being promoted.

Only food items that were clearly promoted for sale during an ad were recorded. Each food item was then analysed for nutritional content. Observed portion sizes were converted to the number of servings.

The average observed food item contained excessive servings of sugars, fat, and meat and inadequate servings of dairy, fruit and vegetables.

The situation was similar for essential nutrients, with the observed foods oversupplying eight nutrients: protein, selenium, sodium, niacin, total fat, saturated fat, thiamin and cholesterol.

These same foods undersupplied 12 nutrients: iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, fiber, and vitamin D, said an AASU release.

These findings were published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

"NCHER Bill undermines autonomy"

G. Krishnakumar
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The vice-chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council, K. N. Panikkar. Photo: S. Gopakumar
The vice-chairman of the Kerala State Higher Education Council, K. N. Panikkar. Photo: S. Gopakumar

As the Centre's proposal for the constitution of a National Commission for Higher Education and Research is being discussed nationally, Kerala State Higher Education Council Vice-Chairman K.N. Panikkar outlines his perspective on the move in an interview.

K.N. Panikkar, renowned academic and historian, says that the main features of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill ' tend towards centralisation of powers and control over academic initiatives'. He shared his thoughts on various aspects of the Bill recently with The Hindu-EducationPlus.

Is the constitution of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research a sufficiently effective step to solve the problems in higher education?

The NCHER is a long overdue response from the Central government to meet the demand for effecting changes in higher education. Both the Knowledge Commission and Yash Pal Committee have placed their trust in an all powerful commission to 'rejuvenate' a system which had been stagnant for long.

The result is the proposed NCHER. The Bill for materialising it is currently being discussed nationally by the Task Force entrusted with the responsibility to draft it. The preamble of the Bill lays down two objectives.

First, 'to provide for the determination, co-ordination, maintenance of standards in and promotion of higher education and research', and secondly to 'promote the autonomy of higher educational institutions for the free pursuit of knowledge and innovation and for facilitating access, inclusion and opportunities to all'.

The terms of the proposed Bill are such that they may not improve the quality of education or make much needed autonomy a reality. For, the main features of the Bill tend towards centralisation of powers and control over academic initiatives. This is because of a mismatch between what is proposed in the preamble and incorporated in the body of the Bill. In fact, the main provisions of the Bill tend to contradict the objectives it has set out to achieve.

Logically, the ideas expressed in the preamble should lead to a decentralised structure, which would permit ample space for innovative academic practices. The draft, on the other hand, tends more towards centralisation and concentration of powers. Solving this contradiction would necessitate a much closer and self-critical review of the draft. Perhaps discarding the present draft and reworking it to realise autonomy and decentralisation could be an option worth considering.

NCHER is mainly a management remedy, and not sufficiently rooted in academic imperatives. The problems that higher education is facing are not essentially because of inefficient management, but because of the inability of the system to ensure quality. Whether a new apex body which would exercise ' national' control is the ideal solution for it deserves very serious consideration, in a politically federal and culturally diverse country like India. The Bill assumes, though not clearly stated, the failure of the existing controlling agencies like University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education.

Their inability to cope with the increasing demands of higher education should have been an object lesson while creating an institution to replace them.

The UGC was set up with great enthusiasm and expectation. It performed two main functions—allocation of funds and academic direction.

Over the years, it became very unwieldy and unable to do anything but the distribution of funds. The allocation of grant for purposes of higher education is not merely a financial transaction of apportioning the grant, but has to be based on careful academic planning. Perhaps the weakness of the UGC was its inability to establish this connection and therefore it failed to be academically innovative and creative.

Could you elaborate on the organisational inadequacy of NCHER?

The commission is a highly centralised body manned by a chairman and six members, supported by a collegium, consisting of core and co-opted fellows who 'aid, advice and make recommendation to the commission'. The commission is a pretty isolated organisation without any window to the society.

The only opening is the collegium which is required to meet only annually. The collegium is at best a deliberative body and would not exercise any control over the commission. Surprisingly core members of the collegium are to be appointed for life. They, however, have the authority to appoint co-opted fellows of the collegium from the State and Central lists.

Would the collegium turn out to be another CABE, at best lending legitimacy to the decisions of the commission? It would not fulfill the role of a democratic body, capable of providing a check to the possible exercise of authoritarian powers.

The management of higher education in the country would thus be left in the hands of a committee of seven who have no prescribed channels of feedback. Therefore, even if well intentioned, the commission would be starved of necessary democratic connection.

The collegium is vested with the authority to prepare a national registry of people eligible for appointment to the position of vice chancellors. Isn't it a welcome method?

There is nothing wrong in preparing a registry of eminent academics eligible for appointment to the position of vice chancellors, although the criteria for deciding eminence may be a matter of dispute.

But the draft Bill goes one step further. It insists that all vice chancellors should be appointed from this list. The Commission will also have the prerogative to suggest a list of five to the State governments from which the States would be required to make the appointment. There is no doubt about the need to pick the best available person for the job. But the new procedure need not necessarily ensure that as the shortlisted candidates may not meet the local requirements. Imposing a vice-chancellor in this fashion is in itself highly objectionable, as it amounts to serious assault on the autonomy of the universities and infringement of the federal rights of the States.

Instead a procedure could be adopted which would ensure greater autonomy of the universities. The academic community of the universities could be given the freedom to prepare a list which could in turn be vetted by a committee of experts, from whom the chancellor could make the appointment.

The Bill speaks of compulsory accreditation…

I understand that for accreditation there is going to be another bill. There are considerable reservations about the manner in which the accreditation system is working now.

Whether a national system can function effectively is doubtful. After many years of the system being in operation, only a small percent of colleges have so far been graded. The National Knowledge Commission has proposed the idea of licensing accrediting agencies, probably involving private agencies. It is not clear as to if the provision in the bill which refers to accrediting agencies registered under the commission would involve the implementation of NKC proposal. In principle, the authority to regulate and accredit should rest with public authorities. The process of accreditation should be participative and the purpose ameliorative rather than punitive. It is perhaps time to review the system. One possibility is an internal assessment with external participation at the State level.

Will the provision in the Bill help in empowering universities to achieve autonomy?

The statement in the preamble in favour of autonomy is welcome. Both academic and administrative autonomy are necessary if the universities are to become real centres of learning. But autonomy without democratisation is likely to lead to an authoritarian system. The Bill is silent about democratisation. Even the colleges should become autonomous, as the affiliating system is under severe strain. But the character of the Bill, despite the claims to the contrary, undermines autonomy rather than advancing it. The commission's powers to make regulations are likely to impinge upon autonomy rather than promote it. It has assumed powers far greater than what was exercised by the UGC. Moreover, UGC was essentially an advisory body in academic matters.

Does the Bill tantamount to an assault on the federal structure of the country?

One discernible tendency in the Bill is to centralise the powers to shape the nature of education. Education was a State subject; it was changed into the concurrent list. The present Bill raises the apprehension whether it would finally become a Central subject.

The powers of the State governments to administer education are being severely curbed. The BJP had tried to control and shape the education system. It was part of their authoritarian agenda.

The federal system is the bulwark against communal fascism in India. It would be disastrous to impair it.

Keywords: K.N. PanikkarNational Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) BillUniversity Grants CommissionAll India Council for Technical Educationaccreditation

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New US law may make outsourcing tough for MNCs

1 Jun 2010, 0600 hrs IST,Pankaj Mishra,ET Bureau
BANGALORE: American lawmakers plan to make it less attractive for the country's multinational giants IBM and GE to expand their workforce in cheaper locations such as India by taxing their income from international markets, and encourage job creation by renewing several expired tax breaks for local R&D.

Last week, the House of Representatives approved the 'American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act' on a 215-204 vote, clearing the way for the US Senate to hold final discussions in June. At a time when the unemployment rates in the US are hovering around 9.9%, lawmakers are under tremendous pressure to act against the companies seen as creating jobs overseas even as they lay off workers in the country.

"In this legislation, which is job creating, it closes the loophole which has allowed businesses to ship jobs overseas. Can you believe that we have a tax policy that enables outsourcing? So, if you have one thing to say about this bill to your constituents, you can say that today, you voted to close the loophole to ship US jobs overseas and giving businesses a tax break to do so," House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi told the lawmakers before the voting process started on Friday last week. "It is not right. It will be corrected today."

The proposal, expected to cost nearly $112 billion, will be discussed by the Senate during week of June 7 after Congress' Memorial Day recess.

However, India's $60-billion outsourcing sector, which counts GE and Citigroup among its top customers, does not see any direct impact.

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"It's more a US issue than about the business of outsourcing. Depending upon the tax rates, US companies' competitiveness can get impacted," said Som Mittal, president of Nasscom. For instance, if an American company such as GE is going to be taxed on the income generated in a European country where the tax rates are around 15%, the impact could act as a 'double whammy'.

Experts argue that such protectionist measures are short-sighted because many US companies derive significant revenues from outside the country, and any such stance could lead to a backlash in other markets. Some of the top outsourcing customers, include Citigroup, GE and JP Morgan.

Indeed, many US companies derive significant revenues from outside the country and any protectionist stance could lead to a backlash in other markets. For instance, Citigroup in 2007 generated 52% of its revenues outside the United States, and over 60% of its workforce operated from abroad, as its banking business spanned 100 countries. Citigroup's international revenue streams kept pace through 2008, despite the financial crisis, and amounted to a whopping 74% of the total revenues.

Senators Max Baucus, the Senate finance committee chairman and Sander Levin, chairman of the House ways and means committee, are lobbying hard to ensure that this bill becomes legislation.

The proposed 'jobs bill', which is aimed at creating more local employment in the US, is focused at reviving manufacturing, retail and construction jobs. Last year, president Barack Obama had suggested that his government would end tax incentives for American companies creating jobs overseas by removing 'deferred tax' on foreign income for these companies.

"It can't be affecting the outsourcing industry, and even if it does, it will be more about offshoring of manufacturing than what we do from here," said Mr Mittal.

On their part, India's top outsourcing companies Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro and HCL have already started setting up development centres in locations such as Atlanta and Michigan. While TCS aims to double its foreign workforce from 10,000 currently to 20,000 over next five years, Infosys and Wipro could see non-Indians account for 10-15% of their total employee base in next 3-5 years, from around 5% currently.
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Economy and Politics | 'Medical education not to be under NCHER'

Livemint - ‎May 25, 2010‎
... ruled out the possibility of medical education going under the purview of the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) New Delhi: ...

HRD, Health Ministries to sort out turf war

The Hindu - Aarti Dhar - ‎May 25, 2010‎
While the task force of the NCHER – promoted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development – has been in existence, the NCHRH – set up by the Ministry of ...

Medical education to remain with health ministry

Business Standard - ‎May 25, 2010‎
Das, on the other hand, told Business Standard: "They had clarifications on NCHER and how it will talk to other bodies. We had a good meeting. ...

Health education to remain in the domain of Health Ministry

The Hindu - ‎May 25, 2010‎
The HRD Ministry wants to set up a National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as an overarching body in higher education. ...

Medical education's regulation by HRD ministry opposed

Sify - ‎May 25, 2010‎
The meeting was held after the HRD ministry pitched for bringing health education under the purview of the proposed NCHER (National Council for Higher ...

Bill on medical education regulator likely in monsoon session

Sify - ‎May 26, 2010‎
Coming out against the inclusion of medical education under NCHER, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Health Secretary Sujatha Rao Tuesday said the ...

Medical education to stay with Health

Indian Express - ‎May 25, 2010‎
... has been pushing for including medical education under the purview of its proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). ...

Health firm on education

Calcutta Telegraph - ‎May 25, 2010‎
The President had last year announced two new higher education regulators — the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) and the ...

PM supports creation of National Council for Human Resource in Health (NCHRH)

TopNews - Piyush Diwan - ‎May 25, 2010‎
Sources also said that National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) comes under the human resource development ministry. ...

Medical education remain under Health Ministry

Express Buzz - ‎May 26, 2010‎
The meeting was held after the HRD Minister Kapil Sibal pitched in for bringing medical education under the purview of the proposed NCHER as the Medical ...

NCHRH Bill To Be Tabled In Monsoon Session - ‎May 26, 2010‎
Earlier the health ministry had opposed to include medical education in the National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), which would be an ...

Health Ministry Gets PM's Support for Maintaining Medical Education

TopNews United Kingdom (blog) - Rasik Sharma - ‎May 25, 2010‎
The Prime Minister's office has informed that medical education might not come under NCHER. The National Council for Higher education and Research comes ...

Health Ministry may keep medical education under it

Press Trust of India - ‎May 25, 2010‎
A task force, set up by the HRD Ministry to prepare the draft NCHER Bill, has favoured bringing health education under the ambit of the proposed regulatory ...

HRD and Health Family Welfare to Study Drafts Submitted by 2 Regulatory Bodies

TopNews United Kingdom (blog) - Rasik Sharma - ‎May 26, 2010‎
Whilst the duty force of the NCHER, which is promoted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has been in operation, the NCHRH, which is set up by ...

Health Ministry vs. HRD and the fate of medical education in India

healthnews18 - Veronica Martin - ‎May 25, 2010‎
In an official word from Health Ministry, the officials of it ruled out the chances of shifting medical education to NCHER (National Commission for Higher ...

Health ministry may retain control over medical education

Financial Express - ‎May 25, 2010‎
The HRD ministry is keen on setting up an overarching body in higher education—National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) and bring all ...

China supercomputer named world's second-fastest, AS

BEIJING (AP) A Chinese supercomputer has been ranked the world's second-fastest machine in a list issued by U.S. and European researchers, highlighting China's ambitions to become a global technology center. The Nebulae system at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen in southern China came in behind the U.S. Department of Energy's Jaguar in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, according to the list released Monday.

Supercomputers are used for complex work such as modeling weather systems, simulating nuclear explosions and designing jetliners. The semiannual TOP500 list highlighted Beijing's efforts to join the United States, Europe and Japan in the global technology elite and its sharp increases in research spending, driven by booming economic growth.

It also reflected China's continued reliance on Western know-how: Nebulae was built by China's Dawning Information Industry Ltd. but uses processors from Intel Corp.

and Nvidia Corp., both American companies.

The Nebulae is capable of sustained computing of 1.271 petaflops or 1,271 trillion calculations per second, according to TOP500. It said the Jaguar was capable of sustained computing of 1.75 petaflops.

The Chinese computer ranked first in theoretical computing speed at 2.98 petaflops, the group said. The list was compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The communist Beijing government wants China to evolve from a low-cost factory into an prosperous "innovation society." A 15-year government plan issued in 2006 promises support for areas ranging from computers to lasers to genetics.

Boosted by Nebulae's performance, China rose to No. 2 overall on the TOP500 list with 24 of the 500 systems on the list and 9.2 percent of global supercomputing capacity, up from 21 systems six months ago.

The United States held onto its overall lead with 282 of the 500 systems and 55.4 percent of installed performance. Europe had 144 systems on the list, including 38 in Britain, 29 in France and 24 in Germany.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan had 18 supercomputers on the list, up from 16 six months ago, and India had five. A second Chinese computer also made the Top 10.

The Tianhe-1 at the National Super Computer Center in the eastern city of Tianjin, at No. 7, uses processors made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

, another American company. The list also reflected breakneck advances in supercomputing speeds.

No. 1 on the June 2008 list was the Roadrunner system at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, capable of 1.04 petaflops, or about two-thirds of Jaguar's level.

In the latest list, Roadrunner dropped to No. 3.

___ On the 'Net: TOP500: www.top500.


Govt to keep borrowing target intact

India will keep its record borrowing target for the current fiscal year unchanged despite the windfall gains from sale of 3G airwaves and broadband wireless spectrum. The non-tax revenue from 3G spectrum auction will be diverted to under-funded Plan programmes and for funding subsidies, a senior finance ministry official said. With government keeping its gross borrowing targets intact, any relief for private sector borrowers in availability or terms of credit is unlikely.

"Under-funded Plan programmes will need close to Rs 25,000 crore in addition to the budgeted amount in the fiscal year 20010-11 and one cannot rule out the risk of subsidies (especially fuel subsidies) over-shooting the allocations," the official told FE.

A snap poll among dealers in bond markets by FE had showed that markets were expecting a cut in gross borrowing in the second half of the fiscal. While the budget provisioned for Rs 35,000-crore inflow from 3G auction, the government managed to raise close to Rs 68,000 crore, triggering speculations about a cut in the gross borrowing figures. Jittery markets that can make the ambitious disinvestment target of Rs 40,000 crore elusive is another reason for the ministry's cautious approach.

Finance secretary Ashok Chawla had earlier said that the higher-than-expected income from spectrum auction had the potential to reduce government borrowings but a final decision would depend on expenditure requirements.

The government plans to narrow the fiscal gap to 5.5% of gross domestic product this year from 6.8% of GDP in the previous year, the sharpest cut in 19 years. Finance minister announced in budget a record borrowing of Rs 4.57 lakh crore in the current fiscal year that started in April.

Plan panel member Saumitra Chaudhuri confirmed that several Plan programmes will need more funding in the fiscal year. "Any higher than expected tax mop-up in the second half of the fiscal may help in cutting the deficit figures," Chaudhuri added. Another roll back in the stimulus measures and higher than expected growth can push the revenue collection higher.

Some economists expect the government to continue the remainder fiscal stimulus measures through the year as the eurozone crisis poses a risk to India's growth projections. Spreading of Greece crisis to larger countries in the zone will accelerate outflow of foreign institutional investors money from India . Foreign institutional investor were net sellers by Rs 11,000 crore in current month. Exports to euro zone accounting for more than 20% of India's trade will also suffer from the crisis .

Manoj Vohra, director at the economist intelligence unit, said that the investors and rating agencies will not raise a red flag if India doesn't cut the deficit further in the year." With most of the countries in the world living with high deficits, as long as we have a serious plan in place to narrow our fiscal gap there is no need for alarm," said Vohra and added, "the windfall gains should be used to step up expenditure.

Country's chief statistician Pronab Sen also maintained that "the gains from sale of airwaves may be used to fund government's policy priorities that is already chalked out." He pointed out that in administered fuel price scenario if the crude oil prices sustain above $75 per barrel the subsidy allocations will have to increased. The sharp depreciation of rupee against US dollar will also increase the subsidy burden on fuels.

Yields on benchmark ten year bonds closed at 7.55% last week. Hardening of US treasury yields and concerns over domestic liquidity situations are likely to push up the yields on Monday morning.

India-U.S. talks to focus on Afghanistan, economic ties

Tue, Jun 1 10:48 AM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna in New... Enlarge Photo U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna in New...

India and the United States open high-level talks this week, hoping to cement gains in a partnership still bedevilled by doubts despite vows of deeper political and economic cooperation.

Indian concerns focus on growing U.S. ties with its arch-rival Pakistan -- a key player in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan -- while U.S. officials will likely press for more progress in opening India's huge market to U.S. companies in the energy, retail and education sectors.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will each lead large government teams to the Washington meetings, which begin in earnest on Wednesday and move into high gear on Thursday.

U.S. officials have repeatedly sought to reassure India that the bilateral relationship -- which blossomed under former President George W. Bush -- remains on the fast track under his successor, President Barack Obama.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was Obama's first official state visitor in November, and Obama plans his own return visit to New Delhi later this year.

"India matters to the United States because it's the world's largest democracy," Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, the Obama administration's lead diplomat for India, told a news briefing.

"It has the world's second fastest growing economy and an economy that is a very important source of exports for United States companies, and also because it is an increasingly important partner for the United States in addressing common global concerns."

U.S. officials cite progress on climate change, Iran and intelligence-sharing as hallmarks of the new cooperation.

But the partnership has come under strain in Afghanistan, where India is jostling with Pakistan for influence ahead of Washington's planned troop withdrawal to start in mid-2011.

The Obama administration has sent mixed signals over the role India should play in Afghanistan, leaving diplomats to beat back Indian fears that Pakistan's strategic interests could have more weight.

Analysts say these doubts point to a broader uncertainty over how the two giant democracies will move forward.

"Be it Iran, Pakistan, terrorism or nuclear issues, Washington had still not been able to figure out if India was part of the problem or solution," Uday Bhaskar of New Delhi-based think tank National Maritime Foundation.

"There is a sense of drift on both sides."


From the U.S. perspective, there is frustration over the slow pace of major economic initiatives, including full implementation of a 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal that ended India's nuclear isolation since its 1974 atomic test.

U.S. officials estimate the agreement could represent a $10 billion jackpot for U.S. reactor builders such as General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba Corp.

But while Singh said in November he saw no hurdles to full implementation of the deal, moves to set in place the legal framework have been slow and look likely to encounter further delay in the parliament.

Also moving slowly are Indian proposals to open up its $450 billion retail sector -- of huge interest to companies such as Wal-Mart Stores -- and to allow foreign universities to set up Indian campuses, a focus for top-tier U.S. schools.

U.S. defence giants Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co are watching hints that India may liberalize foreign direct investment in its defence equipment market, which could be worth $100 billion over the next 10 years.

Both companies are already bidding in India's $11 billion tender for 126 new fighter jets, which itself would be one of the largest arms deals in the world.

Political analysts say the economic payoffs may come eventually, but that the United States is learning it must be patient as India works at its own pace.

"There is considerable frustration," said Ashley Tellis, an India expert at the Carnegie Endowment think-tank. "We don't understand the dynamics of domestic Indian politics. My sense is that we will get what we want eventually, but it will never be in the first iteration."

(Additional reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee in New Delhi; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

May involve Army in Naxal ops: Antony

Two days after the attack on Jnaneswari Express, Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said that India's security threat has only increased and the government is examining the issue of involving the Army in the anti-Naxal operations.

Replying to queries of mediapersons on the sidelines of the National Defence Academy (NDA) passing out parade here, he said, "We are examining all pros and cons of the involvement of Army in anti-Naxal operations and once a decision is taken, it will be binding on the Army. The armed forces will accept the decision and implement it with vigour."

Antony said earlier there was a notion that war is confined to land alone, but post-26/11 there has been stepping up of the coastal security too. "The government is taking utmost care to strengthen the Army, Navy and the Air Force. We have carried out many modernisation plans."

Asked if there was a split within the government on the use of Army against Naxals, particularly when Union Railway Minister Mamata Banarjee has sought a CBI probe into the attack and Trinamool MP from Serampore Kalyan Banerjee called West Bengal police chief foolish for blaming the Naxals for the train attack, Antony said there was no split within the government on how to combat the Naxal menace.

He said there was neglect on the part of earlier governments to raise the infrastructure in the border areas of the Northeastern states. "We have realised this and are in the process of developing more divisions and landing space," he said.

Replying to whether the government has any plans to increase the troop strength in Jammu and Kashmir, he said there were no such plans at the moment. "The government has a policy of zero tolerance on human rights violation in the state and there would be no cover-ups to shield the guilty," Antony said. "The wars in future will be unpredictably dispersed and largely undefined, and the distinction between conventional and unconventional military operations will be blurred."

CCS likely to review govt Naxal strategy

New Delhi:,/b> The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is likely to review the government's anti-Naxal strategy. "I am told the meeting of the CCS is scheduled shortly," Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday in response to whether the government was planning to review the current strategy.

Chidambaram declined to comment on whether the Centre was contemplating using air power against Naxals. On whether MHA's stand on Naxals will get diluted with inclusion of rights activists in the newly constituted National Advisory Council, he said, "There is no stand of the Home Ministry. There is a policy of the GoI."ENS

Apple's iPad goes global

Fans mobbed Apple Inc stores in Europe and Asia as the iPad went on sale outside the United States on Friday, with some shoppers having queued all night to buy one of the coveted tablet computers.

The device, a little smaller than a regular notebook computer and with an open, color touchscreen, is designed for surfing the Web, watching movies and reading, and has been hailed by the publishing industry as a potential life-saver.

Shares of Apple, which also makes the iPod and iPhone, jumped as much as 2.3 per cent before settling back to end the session up 1.4 per cent, outpacing a sliding market. Analysts said Wall Street had already priced in a big launch.

The iPad's debut sets the stage for Apple to possibly unveil the latest version of its iPhone. Chief Executive Steve Jobs -- keeping up a hectic public schedule after undergoing a liver transplant last year - is expected to reveal a new iPhone with multi-tasking features on June 7 during an annual developers' conference.

Apple sold a million iPads in the United States in the first month after its April 3 debut, exceeding the most bullish pre-launch estimates. Demand was so heavy that the company delayed the international launch.

RBC Capital Markets estimated iPad's total shipments will reach 8.13 million units worldwide by the end of the year -- which would translate into at least $4 billion of revenue.

"I wanted to touch it as soon as possible. I felt real excitement when it was finally in my hands," said Takechiyo Yamanaka, 19, who had camped out in front of Tokyo's flagship Apple store from Wednesday evening to be the first in line.

"It's a bit of a gut decision, an emotional decision, because it's not really rationally justifiable," said Anna Kistner as she emerged from the Apple store in Munich, Germany with two iPads. "It's a lot of money."

The iPad is now on sale in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Britain, Japan, Australia and Canada.

Prices for the cheapest, Wi-Fi-only version range from $499 in the United States to the equivalent of $617 in Britain.

The buzz around the iPad helped propel Apple past Microsoft this week to become the world's most valuable technology stock, marking a remarkable turnaround of a company that nearly went out of business in the 1990s.


Apple now gets almost three-fifths of its revenue outside the United States, and it is counting on its base of fans who already own an iPod, iPhone or Mac to add the iPad to their collection as rivals line up with their own tablets.

Analysts said Friday's muted stock reaction came after a build-up of anticipation ahead of the international roll-out, which will be followed in July with launches in about another nine countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore.

On Friday, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch raised its price target on Apple to $325 on hopes of better-than-expected sales of the iPhone and the iPad, plus better margins on the tablet than Wall Street is expecting.

Some analysts highlight concerns that Apple, which contracts out the production of the device and depends on numerous parts suppliers, may have trouble satisfying the surge in demand, driving buyers elsewhere. Dell's Streak tablet computer will go on sale next month in Britain. Sony Corp and Hewlett-Packard also have tablets in the works.

The iPad -- like other tablets -- may rely on a greater proportion of novel components that are not commoditized, potentially making a ramp-up of production more difficult, analysts say.

But "Apple has traditionally been pretty good about overcoming these constraints in time," said Oppenheimer's Yair Reiner. "The question is, will there be a point where it will lose sales? For that to happen, companies with have to come up with products that are comparable."

Just ask Pascal Lordon, among the first in line at the flagship Apple store beneath the Louvre in Paris. He already has all Apple's products and described himself as a big fan.

"The iPhone created a new need, but the screen is small. The iPad is more comfortable -- it has a real screen," said the 51-year-old, who works in video editing.

Others were less manic about the Apple brand.

"I'm not going to buy the iPad now as it's expensive. And I'm a Sony fan," said Kengo Nakajima, a 19-year-old college student who waited in line with his friend Yamanaka at the Apple store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district.

Amazon, whose Kindle e-book reader is seen as a rival to the iPad, said it would be offering its Kindle iPad application in all countries where the iPad was now on sale.

Analysts at research firm Informa Telecoms & Media believe most iPad sales would be of Wi-Fi only models, citing the limited case for outdoor usage, higher prices for 3G models and the ability to tether the iPad to a mobile phone as reasons.

At London's Apple store, a circus-like atmosphere prevailed.

"Jake! Jake! Jake!" store staff chanted as Jake Lee, a 17 year-old student who had waited 20 hours, entered.

British actor and technophile Stephen Fry said Apple had proved the skeptics wrong. "Whenever Apple comes up with a new product, the initial response ... is always negative, because no one can quite believe it can happen again," he said.

Apple has yet to announce a launch date for mainland China, which could prove a much more difficult market to crack. Bootleg versions of the gadget are being snapped up online and in retail malls in the piracy-prone country.

Retailer Best Buy said it was restricting sales at its two British outlets to one iPad per household.

Michito Kimura, a senior analyst at IDC Japan, said the test would come after the honeymoon period.

"The real game will start after 'core users' have the devices. I imagine a price cut may be necessary before the Christmas holiday season to stimulate demand."

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Striking at Maharajah's roots

1 Jun 2010, 0308 hrs IST,G Ganapathy Subramaniam,ET Bureau
Holiday plans of several families were thrown in complete disarray as employees of Air India suddenly struck work on May 24, disrupting the national carrier's operations across the country. And, so were scheduled business meetings and appointments of many individuals. Some of them had booked seats on Air India, attracted by the lowest fares available online. All of them paid a heavy price for the decision. Alternate seats were difficult to come by on private airlines. Some had no option but to travel business class, paying as much as four times more what they had paid for Air India ticket. Many of them now swear they will never fly the national carrier.

In many ways, this strike will prove disastrous for Air India. A company that is struggling to stay in the air cannot afford to turn away customers. Whether the Air India management's stand on the Mangalore engineering certification controversy is correct is immaterial when a holistic view of the running of the airline is considered. There can be many views on trade unions talking to the media, but that should not result in a strike — definitely not at Air India. There has to be something terribly wrong with Air India at various levels — employees, management and the government that owns the airline — for a messy strike.

A strike is the last thing Air India needed, especially when it has accumulated losses of more than Rs 10,000 crore. The loss arising from the recent agitation is estimated at around Rs 12 crore, as more than 100 flights were disrupted.

However, the real damage is far wider: its brand value has taken a further beating. This damage cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Bankers may not feel comfortable lending to a company that has more than Rs 16,000-crore debt, if they see danger of a strike.

And this is not the first time employees have struck work. Last September, pilots cleverly resorted to mass sick leave to ground over 200 flights over four days and caused losses of Rs 400 crore. No wonder there was a lot of buzz suggesting that foreign pilots are not good for India.

While the pilots got away, this time the Air India management has sacked 58 employees and suspended 26 more. The All India Aircraft Engineers Association and the Air Corporation Employees Union have been derecognised.

However, this may not serve the purpose. The management needs full support of the employees to revive the Maharajah. There are compelling reasons to avoid a strike.

India's May factory PMI hits 27-month high

1 Jun 2010, 1045 hrs IST,REUTERS
BANGALORE: India's manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest rate in more than two years in May, bolstered by steady growth in output, new orders and employment, a survey showed on Tuesday. The HSBC Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), based on a survey of 500 firms, surged to a 27-month high of 59.0 from 57.2 in April.

It was the 14th consecutive month that the indicator has been above the 50 mark that divides growth from contraction. The rate of growth had slowed in March and April. The latest figure underlines considerable strength in the economy, which grew 8.6 percent in the March quarter, the strongest in six months, according to data released on Monday.

"The Indian economy is hardly pausing for breath," said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian Economics Research at HSBC. "Output growth remains at a robust pace and new orders continue to pour in. This is benefiting the job market as more and more firms are hiring," he added.

The new orders index climbed to 63.7 in May from 61.9 in April, primarily driven by strong domestic demand, according to the PMI report. It was the 14th consecutive month when new orders expanded. The robust growth seen by Indian manufacturers helped push the employment index to its highest reading since August 2005, signalling modest job creation across the economy.

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The latest survey also showed five-year series highs in the backlogs of work index and stocks of raw materials, boosted by strong demand from both public and private sectors. While all the figures point to a sharp improvement in business conditions, resulting price pressures might be a cause for concern as Asia's third-largest economy continues to battle stubbornly high inflation.

Wholesale prices, the Reserve Bank of India's most closely watched gauge of inflation, eased slightly in April to 9.6 percent, but are not far from 10.1 percent seen in February, which was the highest since October 2008. Latest food and fuel inflation, however, has remained in the double digits.

"Price pressures remain elevated and are of concern. However, the recent readings point to a stabilization of price pressures, with both the input and the output price indices easing back a little in May," Neumann said. India's central bank has raised interest rates by 50 basis points since mid-March to curb mounting price pressures and is expected to deliver another 25 bps hike at its policy review in late July, though some market watchers believe worries about Europe's sovereign debt problems could slow the pace of further increases in the near term.
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Posted: 31 May, 2010, 1846 hrs IST
Sahara outbids Airtel to bag Team India sponsorship rights
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Posted: 31 May, 2010, 1827 hrs IST
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