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from India Insight:

Dharavi’s once-booming leather industry losing its edge

A busy street in Asia’s largest slum Dharavi leads to a quiet lane where Anita Leathers operates its colouring unit. As children play near shops that sell everything from mobile phones and garments to raw meat and sweets, the mood at the leather unit is sombre.

The leather business is one of the biggest contributors to the Mumbai slum’s informal economy, estimated to have an annual turnover of more than $500 million. About 15,000 small-scale industries, spread over an area of 500 acres, deal in businesses such as pottery, plastic recycling and garment manufacturing.

But the leather trade has been hit hard by increasing competition, an influx of cheap Chinese goods, rising raw material costs and labour shortages in recent years, leading to a decline in demand and dimming prospects of the once-flourishing business.

At Anita Leathers, which has been colouring and supplying leather sheets to merchants in Mumbai for more than three decades, annual sales fell from 5 million rupees ($83,000) in 2007 to 500,000 rupees ($8,300) last year. This has forced its owner Babu Rao to put some workers on paid leave.

from India Insight:

Markets this quarter: Sensex gains 5.7 percent, L&T surges 19 percent

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

Indian shares posted record highs in March as strong foreign buying sent blue-chip stocks such as Larsen & Toubro higher and boosted overall investor sentiment ahead of a general election.

Provisional data showed foreign investors bought shares worth more than $3 billion in March, pushing the BSE Sensex to a life high of 22,467.21 points on the last trading day of the quarter. While the index rose 6 percent during the month, it rose 5.7 percent in the Jan-March period.

from India Insight:

Photo gallery: Best of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week

Traditional Indian wear with the latest trends dominated the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) in New Delhi.

The Autumn/Winter 2014 edition showcased designers such as Tarun Tahiliani and Namrata Joshipira, with Rahul Mishra presenting a collection that won the Woolmark Prize in Milan in February.

from India Insight:

No anti-Muslim ideology in party – BJP’s Anurag Thakur

Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.

In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.

from Compass:

Putin’s action is no surprise

Surprise is the least forgivable sin of statecraft. Yet nothing has so characterized the Ukraine crisis as the West's continuing surprise at Russia's behavior.

The past 30 days have provided almost daily reminders of the deep disconnect between Western expectations of what statecraft would -- and ought to -- look like in the 21st century, and the reality of how the Kremlin seeks to assert its interests in the world.

from India Insight:

Accomplished women in India face higher risk of domestic violence: study

Women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or are the sole earners in their families face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who are more dependent on their partners, according to a new study.

Much of India is still deeply patriarchal and there are wide gaps in the status of men and women. And this form of violence could be a way for men to reassert their power or maintain social control over their wives to preserve the “status quo” in the relationship, said the study’s author Abigail Weitzman.

from The Great Debate:

Combatting TB 2.0

Earlier this month, health officials in Los Angeles confirmed they are treating a patient for extensively drug resistant tuberculosis -- a deadly form that does not respond to most of the antibiotics. The United States is one of 100 countries that have reported cases of “XDR-TB” since it was discovered in South Africa less than a decade ago.

Congress is holding public briefings Tuesday and Wednesday to look into the threat posed by tuberculosis, seeking expert recommendations to help develop a U.S. response. To be effective, public health efforts must adapt to the ways TB is evolving.

from India Insight:

Markets this week: M&M, GAIL top Sensex losers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

India’s benchmark indexes ended lower this week after scaling fresh peaks on Tuesday. The Sensex ended the week down 0.26 percent in its second consecutive week of falls. Indian markets were shut on Monday for a public holiday.

While strong buying by foreign investors bolstered blue chips, profit-booking and worries U.S. interest rates would rise sooner than expected kept shares under pressure.

from Expert Zone:

India’s democratic pageant

(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author's own)

Last week, India's independent Election Commission announced the dates for the next general election. The world's largest single exercise of the democratic franchise will take place over a staggering 37 days in nine "phases," some a week apart, from April 7 to May 12. Some 814 million eligible voters will elect, for the 16th time, a new parliament and government, casting their ballots at more than 930,000 polling stations -- after choosing from an estimated 15,000 candidates belonging to more than 500 political parties.

from Global Investing:

Indian shares: disappointment may lurk

Should Indian shares really be at record highs?

The index is up 3.6 percent this year. Foreign funds have been pouring money into Mumbai shares, betting that the opposition BJP, seen as more reform-friendly than the incumbent Congress, will form the next government. They purchased $420 million worth of Indian stocks last Friday, having bought $1.4 billion over the past 15 trading sessions.

There is also the fact that the rolling crisis in emerging markets, having smacked India during its first round last May, has now moved on and is ravaging places such as Russia and Nigeria instead. The rupee has firmed almost 2 percent this year to the dollar, as last year's 6.5 percent/GDP current account deficit has contracted to just 0.9 percent of GDP.  Many international funds such as Blackrock and JPMorgan Asset Management have Indian stocks on overweight and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's monthly survey showed investors'  underweight on India was one of the smallest for emerging markets.

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