India Insight

Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian – U.N. report

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the U.N. AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million.

Here are some facts and figures on India from the report:People walk near a red ribbon sand sculpture created by Indian sand artist Patnaik on the eve of World AIDS Day in Odisha

India accounted for 51 percent of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8 percent of deaths worldwide.

At the end of 2013, more than 700,000 people in India were on antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number of people on the treatment in any country. However, 64 percent of those affected do not have access to antiretroviral treatment.

In India, the number of new HIV infections declined by 19 percent between 2005 and 2013, yet it accounted for 38 percent of all new HIV infections in Asia. The country recorded a 38 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the same period.

A victory of defiance, not a dead pitch

(The views expressed here are solely those of the author, and not necessarily those of Reuters)

Cricket is a contest of attrition. The game is a lot more about skills and strategies than just the “condition of the pitch.” It’s certainly more cerebral than what a few contemporary commentators would have us believe.

If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami put on a magnificent 111-run partnership for the last wicket, credit should be given to their extraordinary defiance, and the lack of it to England bowlers’ inability to out-think the two tailenders and partly to Cook’s captaincy.

Hope floats for Delhi’s e-rickshaws after minister’s backing

The office of the New Arcana India e-rickshaw company is not easy to find. It is in a nondescript building nestled among other nondescript buildings in West Subhash Nagar, a middle-class neighbourhood of New Delhi.

If enthusiasm showed up on a map, it would be hard to miss the place. Inside on a recent Thursday, a meeting of Delhi’s Battery Rickshaw Welfare Association was in session. Steaming cups of tea were being handed out to members, mostly manufacturers of battery-operated rickshaws.

There are an estimated 100,000 such “e-rickshaws” working Delhi’s streets. Introduced in 2010 and operated by unlicensed drivers, they are a less environmentally harmful and cheap way to get around the city compared to traditional gas-powered autorickshaws and cars that are too expensive for many people to buy. They’re also easier on the operators than pulling a traditional rickshaw or riding a bicycle taxi. But transportation officials nearly made driving e-rickshaws illegal earlier this year in a bid to curb nightmarish traffic congestion and reckless driving.

Software products bring hot career choices as India looks beyond IT services

When Zomato was setting up shop six years ago, the online restaurant search service had to woo engineers, but many weren’t interested in working for an unknown company. Instead, they wanted to work for larger and prestigious names. Slowly, that is changing.

Indian companies such as Zomato and Flipkart, which make their own technology products rather than provide services are becoming more attractive to the country’s engineering school graduates, and are hiring more people as they alter technology industry hiring patterns.

“We had to convince parents to let their kids work with us. Most people had no idea of what a products startup can offer,” said Gunjan Patidar, Zomato’s chief technology officer, talking about the company’s early days. “They know about Infosys and TCS because that’s where their cousins and friends have worked.”

Budget 2014: Reactions from the common man

Security personnel stand guard near sacks containing the papers of the federal budget for the 2014/15 fiscal year, at the parliament in New Delhi July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiPrime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government on Thursday unveiled a first budget of structural reforms that seek to revive growth, while spurning the temptation to resort to higher borrowing.

(Click here for Budget 2014 highlights)

India Insight spoke to people in New Delhi’s central business district for their thoughts on the budget:

ASHISH SHARMA, 36, regional manager, Bharti AXA

“Decision to increase FDI in insurance is welcome. This means that more expertise will come into the sector, which is good for general insurance.”

Bollywood seeks tax breaks from Budget 2014

By Shashank Chouhan and Sankalp Phartiyal

Bollywood is hoping that the newly elected government’s first budget will contain tax breaks that will let it write a happy ending, at least for this year and next.

The Indian movie business, led by the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, hopes Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget will reduce the tax burden on movie studios as well as theatre owners and operators, and will provide incentives that would let them open more theatres around the country to boost ticket sales.

While the entertainment tax on movie tickets varies from one state to another, filmmakers pay numerous other fees, such as a 12.36 percent service tax to the central government that is charged on payments to actors and film crews, as well as customs on any imports such as movie equipment. This, industry insiders say, makes it tough to make more money. In Maharashtra, Bollywood’s home state, the taxes on a movie can comprise up to 61 percent of a film’s budget.

Budget 2014: Give Indians tax breaks, more ways to invest – experts

Arun Jaitley’s first budget as India’s finance minister should allow individual taxpayers to invest more money in vehicles such as government savings bonds, mutual funds and employee savings plans, and provide them with tax credits that would bolster their savings and boost economic growth, tax experts say.

Income tax rules allow for an annual exemption of 100,000 rupees ($1,700) in investments and expenditures such as life insurance and home loan repayments, a rule that has remained unchanged for about a decade. Such investments, along with public provident funds, employee provident funds, five-year term deposits in banks and equity-linked mutual fund savings plans are good for individuals and also help keep the economy on a strong footing, said Suresh Surana, founder, RSM Astute Consulting.

“Savings need to be channelized into economically productive avenues which are what Section 80C essentially provides for, investment either in government securities or bank deposits or life insurance,” said Surana.

VIDEO: India’s auto sector and budget expectations

India’s automobile sector may have been dented by negative sales for two straight years, but the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is hoping to see an uptick in sales this fiscal year.

Spiralling inflation and expensive bank loans, which most Indians depend on to buy vehicles, weighed on customer sentiment as the country’s economic growth languished at 4.7 percent in the December-quarter — about half the rate of India’s boom years.

However, a stable and business-friendly BJP government is expected to revive economic growth and kick-start the investment cycle, factors that may help the market for vehicles grow.

When the Right To Information becomes a fight for information in India

The Congress party-led government that drafted the Right To Information (RTI) Act in 2005 touted the law as one of its success stories for the average Indian in the last election. Whether it played any role in the election’s outcome is difficult to say, but activists who specialize in RTI requests throughout India say that government workers have found many ways to frustrate their attempts to get responses to their questions.

Filing an RTI is easier than it used to be, but extracting information is getting harder each year, said Neeraj Goenka, an RTI activist in Sitamarhi, a town in the state of Bihar.

“Bihar government brought a number of amendments to the RTI act to discourage people from asking questions. Bureaucracy is totally dominant here also like in any other state,” he said. “From top to bottom, everyone knows how the information can either be denied or delayed, and the application keeps moving from one authority to the other for months.”

Railway Budget 2014: Reactions from the common man

In his maiden budget, Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda said the bulk of India’s future railway projects will be financed through public-private partnerships and that his ministry would seek cabinet approval for allowing foreign direct investment in the state-owned network. (Click here for Rail Budget highlights)

India Insight spoke to people at the New Delhi railway station for their thoughts on the railway budget:

GOPINATH AGARWAL, 72, from Kanpur

“The idea of bullet trains is a nice thing. I have seen a lot of governments over the years, and I think Narendra Modi’s government will be the best, but we need to be patient with him. I think Modi will be able to introduce bullet trains during his tenure. And it is good that they want to increase infrastructure at railway stations.”

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