India Insight

Taxing times for reporters on the Chidambaram beat

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s drive to shore up government coffers is not just giving businessmen sleepless nights.

Just when reporters were taking a breather after filing stories based on inflation data on Thursday, the finance ministry sent them text messages about a press briefing. The recipients were supposed to rush to Chidambaram’s office in 15 minutes to cover what appeared to be a major policy announcement. After all, the finance minister doesn’t call on such short notice for chitchat.

As they raced through Delhi traffic and crossed the security cordon, many journalists were already thinking of the headlines they would write after the press briefing. With barely two weeks to go before the financial year ends, Chidambaram is racing to meet fiscal targets that will affect the country’s deficit, debt rating and more. Any slip would dent his credibility – and he is determined to collect every penny.

Thousands of tax notices are dispatched every week to scores of defaulters in a country of 1.2 billion people in which less than 3 percent of the population pays tax. Chidambaram estimates 73,388 taxpayers have defaulted on such payments, costing the government nearly 39 billion rupees ($719 million) in the current financial year.

Indian IT finds promise in Europe as continent looks at offshoring

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Europe’s reluctance to send information technology and other business processing work to India might be changing, based on recent financial results from companies that specialize in handling “IT and business process outsourcing” work. It looks like this is a trend that will last more than a quarter.

Many European companies have shied away from sending work overseas, unlike American firms that jumped in feet first, seeking to cut IT costs by as much as 70 percent despite the barrier between two kinds of English. Add to that countries such as Germany and France, where the divide is between two languages altogether, and outsourcing faces a larger challenge.

Fashion Week: When in doubt, wear a sari

Just when you think that there is nothing more that you can do with a sari, someone will prove you wrong. On the first day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi, we saw saris with lipstick prints and telephone booth imprints, a sari wrapped around a bikini top and hot pants, and Peter Pan collars on sari blouses.

“It’s sexy, it’s a sari, it’s comfortable, but it is hot.” said designer Anupama Dayal, who brought her collection “Ishq-e-Dilli” (“Delhi Passion”) to the show.

The sari, said to be 5,000 years old and wearable in more than 80 ways, has found favour with Indian designers for a long time, and now young designers are taking a fancy to it.

Connaught Place: As ugly as it gets in Delhi’s expensive heart

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

New Delhi’s Connaught Place is home to the fourth-most expensive office space in the world, ahead of such usual suspects as New York and Tokyo. If you’re one of the people who has to walk through it every day, the one question you’d ask yourself is: why?

The occupancy cost in Connaught Place is $162 per square foot, compared to $156 per square foot for Tokyo’s central business district in fifth place, according to an annual survey released by global real estate service firm Cushman & Wakefield. In New York city’s Midtown, the equivalent cost is $128.85. (London is most expensive, $262 per square foot, which includes taxes and charges for cleaning and other services)

from Photographers' Blog:

A widow’s refuge offers solace to the sorrowful

Vrindavan, India

By Adnan Abidi

The sound of applause echoing in the dingy shelter forced a smile on the face of Tulshi Dasi. An expression she had almost forgotten since her world turned white. The reason: she could now write and had just finished writing the English alphabet on a blackboard. And all this at the age of 70! She had never felt this empowered and never knew that learning was so much fun. As Dasi wrote a new chapter in her life in the grimy shelter in Vrindavan, that she shares with many women like her, her companions, around 50 odd widows applauded her progress.

GALLERY: WIDOW REFUGE

Widows, either abandoned by their family members or shunned by society, find their life's last refuge in various government run shelters such as this one. They come here from all across the country, but mostly from Bengal, where they survive by begging and chanting hymns in temples.

Hindu widows are branded as inauspicious by society and are forbidden to wear any form of color or be a part of any kind of celebrations like marriage and childbirth, hence most find respite amid their own kind, and seek solace in sorrow. As I spent my day with them I realized that learning was the best part of their day. Each of them would get up early, bathe and offer prayers together in the hall before resuming their daily chores of making prayer beads and flower garlands.

The comma that let a Malaysian airline sneak in

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has big plans for his budget airline. This week, the government approved the Malaysian carrier’s proposal to set up a new airline in India with the Tata group – and it happened thanks to a comma.

The Economic Times reported on Thursday, that the punctuation mark saved the joint venture, with India’s foreign investment regulator interpreting a 2012 ministry press note to mean foreign investments were also allowed for newly created airlines.

Happily single in India? Don’t count on it

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

“Are you a student or are you working?” asked a middle-aged woman who squeezed herself into the space between me and another in the women-only coach on a Delhi Metro train.

“I work,” I said, tugging a bit at my dupatta, which she was sitting on.

Fear, too busy, too ugly: why India’s famous bachelors stay single

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

This verse on marriage from the Book of Genesis in the Bible is meant for men in general.

Chidambaram’s ‘Hangout’ debut: learning from Modi, a lesson for others

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

P. Chidambaram’s budget announcements might not have pleased everyone, but the finance minister has done reasonable work in the recent months to improve market sentiment and shed the ruling coalition’s “business as usual” image.

On Monday, he became the first cabinet minister in India to appear on Google Hangout, taking questions from young students, analysts and industry experts on topics from the budget, rising prices and the economy in general.

from Photographers' Blog:

Riding India’s railways

Across India

By Navesh Chitrakar

My journey on the great railways of India began on October 23, 2012. The trip not only marked my first visit to India, it was also the first time that I had ever travelled on real trains because my home country, Nepal, does not have a proper rail network.

Everything about the trains was new to me, which made it really exciting. I started out from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi and headed towards Agra with the help of a railway atlas, a train map and a fixer. I had been provided with the fixer’s assistance for a couple of days thanks to my chief photographer Ahmad Masood, one of the generous people who gave me a lot of help to complete this story. It didn’t take me long to get used to train travel; I understand and speak Hindi, and most of the people on the trains were very friendly and helpful. Most of the time I was doing what I was there to do: observing and trying to capture the most significant and fascinating aspects of India’s railways.

In a country that is the seventh largest in the world by area and the second largest in the world by population, the Indian railway network reaches almost everywhere and carries commuters from one end of the country to the other. The network is a lifeline for India and for the Indians who use it. And why not take advantage of it? People prefer trains because they are a cheaper and faster way to travel. When you travel India by rail, everything is going on around you; it seems like the railway has created its own world and the running of that world depends on the running train.

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