Friday, August 5, 2016

Indian Drought Over

"Northeast India rains kill 7, force 1.2 million from homes" AP  July 26, 2016

GAUHATI, India — Heavy rains and floods have killed at least seven people and forced around 1.2 million to leave their waterlogged homes in India’s northeastern state of Assam.

Army soldiers on Tuesday used boats to rescue thousands of people stranded on the roofs of their homes and moved them to safer areas after incessant rain over the past few days caused widespread flooding in Assam. 

India's Katrina?

The state’s disaster management officials said the downpours had snapped road and telephone communications in Morigaon, Jorhat, and Dibrugarh districts.

Vast tracts of Kaziranga National Park, home to the rare one-horned rhino, and another wildlife reserve were under water. Forest officials said they have found the remains of at least one rhino that had drowned in the flooding in the park.

The Brahmaputra River and its tributaries were overflowing their banks in 18 of the state’s districts, washing away roads and highways and toppling power pylons. Floodwaters had entered homes in at least five districts, leading to house collapses.

In some areas, people were marooned on the roofs of buildings and soldiers were moving them to makeshift camps set up in schools and government buildings on higher ground.

Floods are an annual occurrence in Assam and many parts of India during the June-September monsoon season.


Related:  "Hundreds of army, navy, police, and fire department rescuers helped evacuate people trapped in their homes. At least 269 people have been killed in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu since heavy rains began in early November, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, although no deaths have been reported in the latest deluge. Low-lying neighborhoods and the airport were almost completely submerged."


They needed the rain:

"Deadly north India protests lead to New Delhi water shortage" Associated Press  February 22, 2016

NEW DELHI — Authorities in India’s capital have closed schools and taken other measures to combat water supply problems caused by violent protests in a neighboring state that killed at least 12 people.

Thousands of people who are protesting to demand government benefits have damaged equipment that brings water from the Munak canal in Haryana state to New Delhi, a city of more than 16 million people that gets 60 percent of its water from Haryana.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, said schools in the capital would be closed Monday. He also ordered the rationing of water to homes.

At least 12 people have been killed by security forces since the weeklong protests turned violent on Friday, state Home Secretary P. K. Das said Sunday. Another 150 have been injured.

However, a breakthrough appeared to be in sight as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government set up a committee to examine protesters’ demands.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the protesters started lifting highway blockades in some areas after the announcement.

Sporadic violence was reported in Haryana Sunday, with protesters setting fire to a bank ATM, a car showroom, a gas station, and a railroad station.

The state government said paramilitary forces and irrigation engineers were trying to restore the water flow.

The protesters, members of the lower-caste Jat agricultural community, are demanding guaranteed government jobs or university spots. Talks Friday failed to lead to an agreement.

India’s constitution includes a system of affirmative action for people in the lowest castes to help them overcome discrimination.

The government has expanded the number of groups, including the Jat, qualifying for quotas.


So the protests are about more than water?

"Indian officials offer job, school quotas to quell protests" by Geeta Anand New York Times  February 23, 2016

NEW DELHI — A state government in India promised to introduce a bill to grant coveted “backward” status to a relatively prosperous caste group, officials said Monday, in an effort to quell protests that have raged for four days and cut water supplies in the capital.

Members of the Jats consider themselves underprivileged and have been demanding that the government set job and education quotas for them.

Protesters blocked roads around the capital and set fire to railway stations, banks, businesses, and cars. They also shut down a crucial canal that is a major source of the city’s water.

Nineteen people were killed and about 150 injured in the violence in Haryana state, and water shortages led New Delhi to close schools to conserve its supply. Some factories also closed, including Maruti Suzuki India, the country’s biggest car manufacturer.

On Monday, crews were repairing parts of a reservoir damaged by protesters and service was expected to be fully restored by the end of the week.

Curfews ended Monday in the towns of Hissar and Hansi as law and order was being restored but thousands of stranded vehicles clogged highways in the state and train service was disrupted by protesters sitting on tracks, the Associated Press reported. The main thoroughfare in the area, Grand Trunk Road, which had been reopened Sunday, was blocked again by fighting Monday morning, the police said.

Roshan Shankar, an adviser to the Delhi government, said the authorities had regained control of a canal that supplies water to New Delhi, but it was badly damaged. For now, he said, the government was using reserves and other water sources to meet the need. Nevertheless, he said, officials were “trying to get people to ration.”

India’s constitution includes a system of affirmative action for people in the lowest castes to help them overcome discrimination.

It's the underground $tream of wealth inequality.

A Jat leader, Satpal Singh Sangwan, a retired government official, said officials had assured him the Jat group would be added to a list of more than 2,000 groups considered “backward,” making their members eligible for quotas in government jobs and university admissions. “We’re not 100 percent satisfied, but it’s a beginning,” he said.

A year ago, another relatively prosperous caste group, in the state of Gujarat, demanded unsuccessfully to be part of the “backward classes.” Yet the latest caste protests are only the most violent and visible in what has been a stream of requests from caste groups claiming to be “backward.”

It is one of the country’s paradoxes that a population that has been trying for decades to rid itself of the caste system finds so many groups demanding to be ranked lower on the socioeconomic ladder to advance themselves economically.

Experts say the trend is being driven by increasing numbers of Indians who fear being left behind in the rapidly modernizing economy and who see government quotas as the only tangible way they can gain influence to help better themselves economically.

Vast numbers of Indians “feel totally helpless with regard to the economy and private capital,” said Satish Deshpande, a sociology professor at Delhi University.

“There’s a disillusionment,” said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College in London, because “the private sector is now passing them by.”

Despite the economic liberalization that began here in the 1990s, many people lack jobs and educational opportunities, intensifying competition for the age-old staple of government jobs. Almost half of government jobs and university seats in the country are reserved for members of special groups.

While guaranteeing equality to all, the constitution also enshrines caste-based affirmative action for the lowest social group, the Dalits, and for indigenous tribes. In time, the government created a third group, the Other Backward Classes.

In many cases, groups flex their electoral muscles to induce the government to add them to the list of groups considered backward.

The Jats started on that path. In 2014, as national elections approached, the incumbent Congress party agreed to their demand for backward status. But the Supreme Court struck down the decision last year, noting that a commission set up to review the program had refused to recommend such a step for the group.

Even as the Haryana state government on Monday was announcing its intention to allow the Jats to be considered among the “backward classes,” P.K. Das, the additional chief secretary of Haryana, which adjoins New Delhi, said in an interview that the path was complicated by the legal issues already raised by the Supreme Court.

But he said the government would have to try to draw up a plan that passed legal muster this time around so the Jats could be included.

Das said the decision was made in a meeting Sunday between the state and central government, both of which are run by the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sporadic violence continued Monday in parts of Haryana. Protesters set fire to the car of a magistrate in one area and burned several cars of a freight train, police said.

The Jat protests got so out of hand over the weekend that the Indian army had to be called in. Das said several protesters were killed in clashes with another caste group whose property was being burned. Other people were killed when law enforcement officials fired at protesters who had turned violent.


More fireworks in India:

Fireworks accident at temple in India kills more than 100
Police file attempted murder charges against Indian temple authorities
Fire damages natural history museum in New Delhi
Wildfires sweep through mountain forests in north India

They really did need the rain:

"Brutal heat wave in India puts 330 million people at risk" Washington Post   April 22, 2016

India is in the grip of a monstrous pre-monsoon heat wave that has killed more than 160 people in recent weeks.

The majority of the deaths have been in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but soaring temperatures have compounded ongoing drought and water shortages across the country and threaten to affect as many as 330 million people, according to figures the Indian government reported to the Supreme Court.

The hottest summer months in India tend to be May and June, so the current spell in April has officials concerned about a spike in heat-related deaths.

Last year, a heat wave claimed 2,422 lives in India, the highest heat-related death toll in more than two decades. In neighboring Pakistan, which suffered its worst heat spell in 2015, authorities have moved to open 500 response centers that would provide shelter and cold water, according to Reuters.

Authorities in some Indian states have issued warnings for people to stay indoors, banned construction during the hottest times, and ordered schools to extend their holidays so children aren’t exposed to the weather.

Heat waves have cause some 22,562 deaths in India since 1992, with numbers by and large rising in recent years. Senior government officials pointed to the effect of climate change last year; the 2015 heat wave is considered the fifth worst in recorded history.

‘‘Let us not fool ourselves that there is no connection between the unusual number of deaths from the ongoing heat wave and the certainty of another failed monsoon,’’ said the Indian minister for science, technology, and earth sciences, Harsh Vardhan, last June.


"More than 300 million Indians suffer from a crippling drought" by Rama Lakshmi Washington Post   May 07, 2016

SHIVOOR, India — Four years of drought and crop loss have forced his family to take two loans and sell a third of his land, and driven him to do menial labor. In January, his mother gave up. She drank a bottle of pesticide and fell dead.

Remember when they served it to kids?

Relentless drought coupled with a record-breaking heat wave and bad farming practices in the western state of Maharashtra have slashed farm output and driven farmers to desperation.

Like suicide, but that coverage has withered.

This year is the worst in decades, officials say, because most farmers are also burdened by years of accumulated debt as they continue to deplete the precious groundwater.

About 330 million Indians are struggling under grueling heat and drought conditions across 10 states this year, the government said, severely harming the economy of a nation where nearly half the people rely on farming.

Reservoirs and rivers here in Maharashtra’s drought districts are almost dry, and a 50-car train now delivers water to Latur city, near Suryavanshi’s village. Thirsty Indians place long lines of plastic pots and drums at the municipal water tank and village wells, and fights have broken out at water pumps.

In many places, children have turned into porters for their families, carrying water pots all day. A 12-year-old girl collapsed and died last month here in the searing 111-degree heat after she made five trips to fetch water.

‘‘My whole family is in a constant state of panic over water,’’ said Kasi Mali, as she placed her pots in a long line. ‘‘I have missed many hours of my work as a laborer because I stand here.’’

Nearly 30 percent of Indians in cities and 70 percent in villages rely on water pumped from deep underground, because the tap water supply is either insufficient or nonexistent. Most farmers rely on the elusive annual rain or pump water from underground. The practice has depleted the country’s groundwater supply precipitously, alarming environmentalists and raising concerns about India’s future agricultural output.

Environmental experts have repeatedly warned that the water table will disappear soon if India’s water usage is not regulated. Analysts also say that the drought is not a natural disaster but a consequence of decades of bad farming practices.

Been $ucked dry!

In recent years, the state government allowed the proliferation of sugar factories owned by local politicians, which led to a sort of gold rush among farmers here to cultivate water-guzzling sugar cane, said Pradeep Purandare, former professor of water studies at the Water and Land Management Institute.

Seventy percent of the water from the state’s dams goes to cane farms. But cane growers have drawn on groundwater, further sapping the aquifers.

This year, somewhat belatedly, the administration in Latur district launched a drive to encourage farmers to shift away from cane to oil seeds, lentils, and soybeans.

Repeated droughts have pushed tens of thousands of farmers to leave their villages to look for work in India’s overburdened cities and towns.

Thus accomplishing one of the goals of new world order globali$m.

In Matola village, about 500 people, mostly men, have left in just the past six months. Many of the women and children left behind are selling their cattle in distress.

‘‘There is no water in the sky or under the earth; there is nothing left here,’’ said Bai Gidappa Pawar, as she poured freshly ground chili powder into a jar in her kitchen. In December, her husband left for Pune city with their 16-year-old son to work in a quarry. ‘‘There is not a single family here that does not have a loan hanging over its head.’’

Severe droughts are also affecting other countries....

That's when I brought it on home.



Much of Mass. placed under a drought watch
More than a third of Mass. in severe drought
Drought expands in Massachusetts, US officials say

It's the worst drought in memory but we are almost past it. 

That means summer camp ends soon and the memories will be behind us.  

At least the fair will be coming to town. I like the animal exhibits, although I don't know if they will have farm animals this year. Just a bird show is the latest squawk, although there are always the fish tanks.

Also see: And on the Eighth Day....

Historic Maryland town faces long recovery after flooding
Central California homes threatened by 2 major wildfires
Trucker arrested in Neb. crash that killed 5

All the air finally came out of the balloon.

Penalties possible for campers in massive Big Sur blaze

I smell a scapegoat through all the smoke!

"When a bridge collapsed in the city of Kolkata, killing dozens two months ago, the usual outrage followed, but a wealthy businessman created a stir much like the ‘‘Black Twitter’’ movement in the United States."

Can no longer get to the Island then:

Floods and Landslides in Sri Lanka Leave Dozens Dead
Rain hinders search for missing in Sri Lankan landslides

Must be why Globe coverage got stuck in the mud.


Video sets off a storm in India, prompting calls for its removal

And other places:

U.S. senators attack India’s human rights record before Modi’s Capitol Hill address

24 convicted in massacre of Muslims during Gujarat riots in India 

That make Congre$$ happy?

"US and India, with eye on China, agree to strengthen military ties" New York Times  April 13, 2016

NEW DELHI — The United States and India agreed in principle Tuesday to a series of initiatives between their militaries that the Obama administration hopes will strengthen American ties in the region as it seeks to counter China’s influence.

Continuing recent steps to build closer collaboration between their militaries, the United States and India said they would allow their armed forces to share logistics abilities and enhance the exchange of defense technologies and other information.

The initiatives, announced at a news conference by Ashton Carter, the defense secretary, and his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, were a further demonstration of India’s increased willingness to work with the United States on military and security issues.

For decades as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, India shied away from entering into strong alliances with other countries, particularly large world powers. But under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and wary of the growing power of its regional rival China, the Indian government has moved closer to the United States.

I thought they signed a pact with China, but more on that later.

The measures revealed are largely symbolic, however. They do not provide India with any new military abilities and do not call for any concrete actions such as joint patrols in the South China Sea.

In a statement, Carter and Parrikar said they had “reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, including in the South China Sea.”

I planted that tree in Pakistan. Beyond that Sea is the more important Indian Ocean and China's access to it.


They have Donald Trump to thank for it!

"India’s leader ready to bolster ties with US, thanks partly to Trump" by Gardiner Harris and Coral Davenport New York Times  June 07, 2016

WASHINGTON — After decades of mistrust and fitful reconciliation efforts, India and the United States turned toward cooperation Tuesday, and Donald Trump can claim at least some of the credit.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, making his second visit to the White House in two years, announced a crucial step toward ratification of the Paris agreement to limit greenhouse gases, bringing the accord close to full implementation. The two sides also announced that they intended to finalize a deal in which India will buy six nuclear reactors from Westinghouse by June 2017, fulfilling an agreement struck in 2005 by President George W. Bush. The two sides are still discussing price, but more difficult issues like liability have been resolved. 

If you care about climate that is the wrong direction.

A defense deal, technology agreement, and US investments in India are also expected to be announced Tuesday. Modi has made clear that he intends to set aside decades of standoffishness — rooted in India’s colonial experience — to cement closer ties with Washington, in part because the next American leader may not share President Obama’s enthusiasm for India.

The news media in India have extensively chronicled comments by Trump that critics have said were racist, his “America First” views, and his unorthodox campaign. While Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has said little about India, his vows to tighten immigration policies worry Indian officials.

It's all tied up with contractors and work visas that then underpay and mistreat the cheap foreign labor they tricked coming here, but that's how the entire $y$tem operates.

“Modi wants to get as much as he can out of Obama’s last months in office,” said Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

For the Americans, the most important part of Modi’s visit was his announced intention to formally join the Paris climate change agreement by the end of this year. So far, countries representing about 50 percent of global emissions have announced that they will submit legal paperwork to the United Nations documenting their compliance with the deal.

The pact will become binding when at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions formally join. The inclusion of India, the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the United States, would guarantee that the deal will go into effect before the next American president takes office.

Trump has vowed to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement if elected, something Obama is eager to prevent. Once the accord enters into legal force, no nation can legally withdraw for four years.

“If the Paris agreement achieves ratification before Inauguration Day, it would be impossible for the Trump administration to renegotiate or even drop out during the first presidential term,” said Robert N. Stavins, the director of the environmental economics program at Harvard.

Unless he is the neo-fascist dictator the pre$4 claims, right?

Obama and Modi also announced a separate agreement to cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent planet-warming chemicals produced by coolants in refrigerators and air-conditioners. India and the United States have been at odds on the details of such a deal, but the agreement announced Tuesday means both governments now expect to sign on to an international accord to phase out the chemicals in October. Phasing out the chemicals could reduce the amount of planet warming expected to occur by the end of the century by 25 percent.

So it's as bad as the methane released by fracking?

And what about the hole in the ozone?

On Wednesday, Modi will address both houses of Congress, becoming the fifth Indian prime minister to do so.

The two countries are expected to announce a military logistics deal that would allow their forces to help each other with crucial supplies, and the United States is expected to agree to allow India to receive military technology usually reserved only for its closest allies.

Yes, the weapons and war sales are an afterthought.


Also seeAMSC stock surges on deals in India

I'm sure there is an art to that deal, too.

"India leader urges stronger ties with United States" by Matthew Pennington Associated Press  June 09, 2016

WASHINGTON — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the US Congress on Wednesday that the world’s two largest democracies can anchor stability and prosperity from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific in an aspirational speech that glossed over continuing divisions in the relationship. 

Nice to know the Ca$te $y$tem can exist alongside "democracy."

Speaking in English, Modi used dashes of humor and also praised Congress for ‘‘refusing to reward’’ those who preach and practice terrorism. Although Modi avoided direct mention of Pakistan, he was alluding to lawmakers recently blocking a proposed US-subsidized sale of F-16 fighter jets to India’s archrival.

‘‘A strong India-US partnership can anchor peace, prosperity, and stability from Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific,’’ he said.

Nice of him to turn the other cheek after they rapped him before the visit.

Modi’s 46-minute speech followed years of being shunned in the United States because of religious violence in his home state. It came a day after a White House meeting with President Obama and was followed by a lunch with congressional leaders and a reception hosted by the House and Senate Foreign Affairs committees.

US-India relations have been transformed since Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 became the first of five Indian prime ministers to have addressed a joint meeting of Congress. During the Cold War, the United States was more focused on ties with Pakistan, and many in Washington believed India, with its ‘‘nonaligned’’ foreign policy, was far too friendly with the Soviet Union.

Aren't they Russia now?

Today, the United States and Indian militaries conduct more drills with each other than with any other nation. While India resists the notion of becoming a US ally, both nations share concern over China’s rise and over freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region. 

It's the WWIII chessboard right in front of your face, front lines and everything.

Although Modi lauded both nations’ common democratic principles and hailed two heroes of nonviolence, India’s Mahatma Gandhi and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., he did not address congressional concerns about his government’s record on religious tolerance and other rights issues.

Please don't usurp their legends for political purposes.

The overall response from lawmakers of both parties was positive.

‘‘We’re now standing shoulder-to-shoulder in ways that no one would have imagined a generation ago,’’ Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the relationship.... 

Isn't that going to piss off Pakistan?


As long as it is all about bu$ine$$ and nothing else:

"India makes it easier for foreign firms to invest in many industries" by Rama Lakshmi Washington Post  June 21, 2016

NEW DELHI — India announced far-reaching measures on Monday to ease foreign investment in defense, civil aviation, pharmaceuticals, retail, food trade, and broadcasting, a move that officials say will strengthen the country’s efforts to be a global manufacturing hub.

The sweeping reforms are aimed at shoring up confidence in the Indian economy among foreign investors at a time of global uncertainty arising out of fears ahead of Britain’s vote on whether to remain in the European Union, said analysts.

Of what is there to be afraid?

The new measures also come two days after India’s globally known central banker Raghuram Rajan announced that he would quit after his term ends in September, a step that disappointed many economists and dampened the stock markets here early Monday.

The government’s action opens up more than half a dozen sectors to easy, 100 percent foreign investment. It said in a written statement that ‘‘with these changes, India is now the most open economy in the world.’’

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected to power in 2014, his government has worked to increase the ease of doing business in India. Over $55 billion worth of foreign investment came into the country between 2015 and 2016, up 15 percent from the previous year, according to the government.

Then what is with all the poverty?

India’s commerce and industry minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters that ‘‘manufacturing hub and creation of jobs are the twin-fold objectives’’ of the reform measures announced Monday.

India will now allow 100 percent foreign investment in the defense industry, up from the current 49 percent equity limit, in proposals that bring in ‘‘modern technology.’’ The earlier additional condition of bringing ‘‘access to state-of-the-art technology’’ was jettisoned Monday.

Meaning India will become a military satellite of whoever buys in, 'eh?

Some critics dismissed it as mere wordplay and not a radical reform. The definitions of such terms continue to be ambiguous, and will generate more frustrating conversations between officials and defense contractors in the coming months, they said.

‘‘State of the art is subjective and could have led to a political witch hunt later and hence most foreign companies were wary of using this provision,’’ said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defense at the business consulting firm KPMG. He said that ‘‘easy terms like ‘modern technology’ will allow most leading defense companies to come in unhindered.’’

Modi’s government raised the foreign investment limit in defense from 26 to 49 percent in 2014. But many companies remained reluctant to transfer critical defense technology without real ownership.

The government also relaxed local sourcing norms up to three years for single-brand retail trading of products that have ‘‘cutting edge’’ technology, a move that is likely to benefit Apple in its effort to open a chain of branded stores here.

‘‘We will inform Apple to indicate whether they would like to avail the new provisions,’’ Ramesh Abhishek, secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, told reporters. Apple had applied for exemption from the government’s rule of 30 percent local sourcing norm.

Another beneficiary is likely to be the home products and furniture company IKEA.

Perhaps the biggest step, some said, was to permit 100 percent foreign investment for trading in food products that are produced locally.

‘‘The opening up of the food trading holds the most promise and is likely to generate real investment,’’ said Richard M. Rossow, an expert in US-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. ‘‘If a foreign company comes in and sets up national grocery chain in India, it could be pretty significant in creating a huge number of low-skilled jobs.’’

Will they be putting local farmers out of business?

Foreign pharmaceutical companies can now invest up to 74 percent automatically in existing brownfield projects, without government approval.

India also allowed 100 percent foreign investment in the civil aviation sector, up from 49 percent.

‘‘The days of micromanagement in aviation are gradually getting over,’’ said Dubey. The change ‘‘will help bring in much needed cash, aircraft fleet’ and best practices.’’

The Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.6 percent in the current financial year, said the World Bank in a report released on Monday. But agriculture, rural consumption, private investments, and exports have not performed well, the report said....

Oh, they lie to Indians about their economy the way they lie here?


It was a real earthquake of an announcement, and it's time to take to the air:

"Boeing, Airbus duel for $12b order from SpiceJet" by Anurag Kotoky, Julie Johnsson and Andrea Rothman Bloomberg News  July 11, 2016

NEW DELHI — Two years ago, SpiceJet Ltd. was fighting for survival as creditors retreated and oil companies refused to refuel its airliners. Today, the world’s biggest planemakers are wooing the recovering Indian budget carrier for a potential blockbuster order worth about $12 billion.

Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE are locked in a battle to supply SpiceJet with as many as 100 planes, and both are offering aggressive discounts in negotiations that have intensified in the past few months, according to people with direct knowledge of the talks, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

A win would be key for Boeing, with the US manufacturer lagging behind its European rival in India’s burgeoning budget-airline market, one of the key sources of industry growth globally. Segment leader IndiGo and the local units of Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Bhd., which fly only Airbus jets, have squeezed Boeing’s prospects in a market where air travel is growing at a pace faster than in China or the United States.

“Losing SpiceJet would be a big blow to Boeing,” said Amber Dubey, a New Delhi consultant at KPMG. SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh “knows this and hence is perhaps having interesting conversations with both.”

The Indian discount airline needs to ramp up its 43-plane fleet quickly to pose a meaningful threat to IndiGo, which controls 38.5 percent of the market.

Singh is attending this week’s Farnborough Air Show in England, and will also be competing against Canada and Brazil.

At least eight budget carriers dot the skies of India, where air travel grew more than 20 percent last year, according to the International Air Transport Association. In comparison, passenger traffic in China rose about 10 percent and less than 5 percent in the United States, the IATA said in December.

India also poses risks, with some carriers failing due to fuel taxes, tariffs, and low fares. As many as 17 airlines in India have shut down in the past two decades, while accumulated losses of operating airlines have reached 600 billion rupees ($8.9 billion), according to a research paper published in June by the consulting company KPMG and the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India.

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. was the most recent carrier to stop flying, in 2012, after defaulting on payments to banks, vendors, airports, and staff.

SpiceJet was almost about to go down that path in December 2014, when it grounded the fleet for a day after oil companies refused to fuel its planes on credit, before retrenching and bouncing back.

A boom in Asian air travel may provide the bright spot that the planemakers are looking for as last month’s so-called Brexit referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union adds to uncertainty clouding the global economy while low fuel prices sap demand for new, more efficient jets. On Monday, the first day of the Farnborough expo, Asian airlines were set to give the biggest boost to both Boeing and Airbus.


What's next, a moon shot?

"India test-launches space shuttle mode" Bloomberg News  May 23, 2016

NEW DELHI — India successfully launched a scale model of a reusable spacecraft on Monday, a project that in time could pit the nation against billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in the race to make access to space cheaper and easier.

India put a probe into the Mars orbit in 2014 for just $74 million, demonstrating a combination of technological capability and low costs that meshes with the goal of more frequent space travel being championed by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Bezos’s Blue Origin. 

Is chasing the dream worth it when so many in India are thirsty and hungry?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the space research unit for successfully launching the nation’s ‘‘first indigenous space shuttle.’’

Asia’s No. 3 economy plans to spend about $1.1 billion on its entire space program in the year through March 2017, a fraction of the yearly $19 billion budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States....


Time to get your feet back on the ground:

"Busy New Delhi road is car-free for a day" Associated Press  October 23, 2015

NEW DELHI — One of the world’s most polluted capitals, New Delhi, closed a stretch of a major road to private cars for a few hours Thursday, hoping to give its citizens a brief breath of fresh air by observing a car-free day.

The city’s top elected official, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and other officials led hundreds of other cyclists as they pedaled to encourage use of bicycles or public transport.

‘‘All of us have to do our bit to decongest the roads and to reduce pollution. People should leave their cars and start using public transport and bicycles,’’ Kejriwal said.

Although the event covered only a 4-mile stretch, many people hailed the government’s effort as a first step in cleaning the city’s heavily polluted air.

Others said closing just one road for five hours would not make a dent in the capital’s particulate-ridden air.

The World Health Organization says air pollution kills 627,000 in India each year.... 

Turn off that engine and bring back the rickshaws!



Uber to offer motorcycle and scooter services in India

Indian firms among most transparent, Chinese ones far less so

Uber to sell to rival Didi Chuxing and create new business in China

They would be better off in buses

"India Enacts Sweeping Tax Overhaul" New York Times News Service  August 03, 2016

BANGALORE, India — Lawmakers cleared the way Wednesday for India to forge a single common market out of its tangle of overlapping federal and state taxes, a step analysts describe as the most important economic change in more than two decades.

The vote by the upper house of India’s Parliament was cheered by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking to build a legacy as an economic modernizer. Though he won a landslide victory in the 2014 elections, he has struggled to marshal parliamentary support to push through his major economic initiatives.

The protracted battle over the tax measure — a constitutional amendment to introduce a single national goods and services tax — came to embody the zero-sum political atmosphere in New Delhi. As the logjam gave way this week, analysts said they hoped the goods and services tax would both yield more revenue and be less burdensome.


Where are the advocates for India’s poor?

"India’s ruling party concedes stat" Associated Press  November 08, 2015

PATNA, India — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party conceded defeat Sunday in a crucial election in one of India’s most populous states.

By midday, India’s election commission website showed that a self-proclaimed “grand alliance” of parties opposed to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had won 78 seats and was leading in more than 101 others, comfortably in sight of the 122 needed to control the state’s 243-seat legislature.

The election for control of Bihar was seen as a referendum on Modi’s popularity, and he had crisscrossed the state addressing dozens of high-profile rallies. No other BJP leaders were as visible through the election as Modi. By late Sunday, the BJP was leading in 34 seats and had 18.

Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for the BJP, congratulated Nitish Kumar, the leader of the winning alliance. “The people of Bihar have given a decisive verdict,” Kohli told NDTV news channel.

Kumar, who has led Bihar for 10 years, tweeted that “the spirit & power of democracy has won.”

Modi and his party swept to a stunning victory in national elections in May last year and went on to win a string of state elections soon after.

Earlier this year, the BJP was trounced in Delhi state elections. The dramatic loss in Bihar, where several exit polls had predicted either a tight race or a victory for the BJP, is the second major defeat for the party.


Time to shut down debate:

"Politics remixed: ‘Seditious’ speeches turned into musical hit" Washington Post  February 25, 2016

NEW DELHI — The speeches of the two Indian university students arrested on charges of sedition have become so popular online that they have now been composed into foot-tapping musical numbers.

And they are a surprise online hit with the Indian youth this week.

Three university students were arrested for participating in a campus event where some people shouted slogans about breaking up India into pieces.

National authorities hate that kind of talk.

Their speeches, however, were made by the students before their arrest on the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in the Indian capital.

One speech, by student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, is a passionate call to the students to fight for freedom from poverty, capitalism, caste and feudalism. The other, by doctoral student Umar Khalid, is a call to fight the authorities that is muzzling free speech.... 

They meet it with the old AmeriKan response: "Shut up!"



Another drought that has ended, and just in time:

"Kashmir seethes as 25 killed in clashes with Indian forces" Associated Press  July 11, 2016

SRINAGAR, India — Indian authorities struggled to contain street protests Monday by Kashmiris defying patrols and a stringent curfew after at least 25 people died in clashes that followed the killing of a top rebel leader.

Paramilitary troops and police in riot gear patrolled villages and towns in the Himalayan region. Most shops were shuttered, businesses were closed, and cellphone and mobile Internet services were suspended in parts of the region. But crowds ignored the clampdown and clashed with government troops in parts of the main city of Srinagar and several other places in the region.

At least two teenagers injured in the clashes died in a hospital Monday, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The protests erupted Saturday, a day after Indian troops killed Burhan Wani, the young leader of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, which has been fighting since the 1990s against Indian rule.


The problem up there is Kashmiris either want to be independent or part of Pakistan, and thus Indian troops are essentially occupiers. 

Won't read about it in the papers, though:

"India shuts newspapers in strife-torn Kashmir" Washington Post   July 18, 2016

NEW DELHI — For the third day in a row, people in Indian-controlled, conflict-torn Kashmir did not get their newspapers Monday because they have been banned.

Might have been one or two days I didn't, but no big loss.

The ban came on top of the shutdown of cable TV operators and private cellphone service, actions imposed by the government as it struggles to control angry street protests against the killing of a popular leader of a terrorist group 10 days ago.

Yeah, I can see why.

Newspaper editors are calling it an information war.

Interesting choice of words.

‘‘This is information blockade. Newspapers are not a threat to peace. We are not parasites,’’ said Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the Rising Kashmir newspaper in Srinagar. “In its absence, what are people relying on? This ban is not helping the situation at all here.’’

Some may really disagree there.

Young Kashmiris attacked police to protest the killing of Burhan Wani, a gun-wielding, social-media-savvy insurgent.

They must look like U.S. streets.

More than 33 people died and hundreds have been wounded in the clashes, the worst outbreak of bloody violence in six years in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed by both India and neighboring Pakistan.

On Saturday, security forces raided printing presses and seized copies of newspapers.

The ban may last at least until Wednesday, a government official said. ‘‘It is a temporary measure to address an extraordinary situation,’’ Education Minister Naeem Akhtar told the Indian Express newspaper.

On Sunday, the Indian Journalists Union said this was ‘‘unacceptable in a democracy.’’


Only one word out since, but help is on the way.