India Insight

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.”

ARSHAD, 32, owns handicraft business

“The government should first focus on improving basic infrastructure before thinking about bullet trains. There is so much rush at train stations. We need more escalators, more fans and benches to sit on. Basic infrastructure should get priority.”

N.R. GUPTA, 64, businessman

“Although it’s a good thing they are hiking the budget for hygiene and cleanliness of the railways, people need to be made aware and responsible as well. They litter, throw wrappers, cups, etc., everywhere. Sweepers cannot clean up after everyone with a broom. Only if people are more conscientious can things change.”

Railway Budget 2014: Highlights at a glance

In his maiden budget, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said the bulk of future railway projects will be financed through public-private partnerships and his ministry would seek cabinet approval for allowing foreign direct investment in the state-owned network, excluding passenger services.

India’s railway, the world’s fourth-largest, has suffered from years of low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares. This has turned a once-mighty system into a slow and congested network that crimps economic growth.

The Narendra Modi government pushed through a steep hike in rail passenger and freight fares last month, and expectations were high there would be bold proposals to improve the railways – a lifeline for 23 million Indians every day.

Budget 2014: Biocon chief wants more R&D incentives, fewer essential drugs

India’s $15 billion healthcare industry has taken hits on several fronts in recent years, from slow approvals for drugs in clinical trials to several run-ins with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the quality of its generic drugs.

Market growth fell to less than 10 percent last year after the increase in the number of drugs that the government said should be subject to price caps so that poor and middle-class people could afford them (Only 15 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people have health insurance).

Now, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinting at a “bitter pill” to rescue India’s economy, the pharma industry wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end of tough decisions; it would be difficult for a business that’s used to making medicine instead of taking it.

Movie Review: ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’ is an insipid disaster

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

Director Arif Ali’sLekar Hum Deewana Dil” will try your patience from the word go, so here’s a game you can play to make the experience more tolerable. It’s called ‘Spot the Movie’ and its rules are simple: name the films that this particular snorefest reminds you of. I promise you, there’ll be many.

In “Lekar Hum Deewana Dil”, Karishma Shetty (Deeksha Seth) and Dinesh ‘Dino’ Nigam (Armaan Jain) are college classmates in Mumbai who get along like a house on fire. Everyone else is convinced they are in love but the lead pair says they are just good friends. Such good friends that Karishma begs Dino to marry her to avoid the arranged marriage her rich, tyrannical father has planned for her. They elope when neither family consents to the match.

With little money and an unfinished education, it doesn’t make sense. But what is an eloping Bollywood couple if not ridiculously optimistic? The two travel deep into the country’s heartland. One of their stops is Dantewada in the state of Chhattisgarh, where they spend time with and even shake a leg for – hold your breath – a bunch of friendly Maoist rebels. Egos clash, quarrels ensue and things fall apart in general before there is enlightenment and reconciliation.

Budget 2014: Wishlist from healthcare sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has its work cut out if it wants to transform the country’s health system and provide a universal health insurance programme.

India has just 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people, and 80 percent of this workforce is in urban areas serving 30 percent of the population, according to industry lobby group NATHEALTH.

Less than 25 percent of the population has access to any form of health insurance. And India’s public and private expenditure on health is around 4 percent of its GDP, the lowest among BRICS countries.

Stock market glitches in India over the past few years

India’s stock market, like its peers across the world, is no stranger to sudden trading halts due to technical glitches. On Thursday, India’s second-biggest exchange operator BSE halted trading across all its segments due to a network outage. Trading on the NSE bourse was not affected.

The three-hour outage was the longest in recent memory and follows three earlier outages in a year that has seen stocks scale fresh peaks on expectations of economic revival from a new government.

The BSE, Asia’s oldest stock exchange, has more than 5,000 listed companies. Data from the World Federation of Exchanges shows shares worth $85 trillion were traded on the BSE last year, compared to $479 trillion for the NSE, India’s leading stock exchange.

Rajiv Chowk: that’s Rajiv Gandhi, not Goswami, Wikipedia

Rajiv Gandhi was the former prime minister of India. Rajiv Goswami was a Delhi student who set himself on fire in 1990 to protest job reservations for India’s so-called backward classes. Gandhi has a place named for him in the middle of New Delhi: Rajiv Chowk.

This is true everywhere but on Wikipedia. The online, user-maintained site’s entries for Rajiv Chowk (formerly Connaught Place), which is in Delhi’s central business district, and the city’s busiest metro station, say both were named after Rajiv Goswami.

The colonial-era Connaught Place, designed to resemble two concentric circles with a manicured park in the centre, was renamed by a Congress-led government in 1995. The inner circle was named Rajiv Chowk after Rajiv Gandhi, the former Congress prime minister killed by a suicide bomber in 1991. The outer circle was called Indira Chowk to honour his mother Indira, who had been assassinated nearly a decade earlier.

Short skirts, bad stars, chow mein: Why men in India rape women

Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The 2012 Delhi bus rape case and an ever-longer list of rapes and murders in India have prompted politicians and public figures in India to cite plenty of implausible reasons why rape happens and why men brutalise women or portray women in ways that suggest they had it coming. Many people, when speaking out, tend to minimise the crime or rationalise it in ways that sound ludicrous to many. We created this list of such comments more than a year ago, but it seems like it’s time to add some new entries.

(Updated July 15, 2014) Binay Bihari, minister for art, culture and youth affairs in the state of Bihar: The minister said that mobile phones and non-vegetarian food are reasons for a surge in rape cases, NDTV reports. “Many students misuse mobile phones by watching blue films and hearing obscene songs which pollute their mind,” he said. On food, he reportedly said that non-vegetarian food “contributed to hot temper… and cited sermons of sants that pure vegetarian food kept the body and mind pure and healthy.” (NDTV)

(Updated July 2, 2014) Tapas Pal, lawmaker from Trinamool Congress: The popular Bengali actor was caught on camera threatening workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and their families. “If any opponent touches any Trinamool girl, any father, any child, I will destroy his entire family. I will unleash my boys, they will rape them, rape them,” Pal said in the video. Pal later apologised for what he termed a “gross error of judgement”. (Indian Express)

Markets this week: ITC, Infosys top Sensex losers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

Brokers trade on their computer terminals at a stock brokerage firm in Mumbai May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/FilesThe benchmark BSE Sensex fell in three of five sessions this week, as higher crude prices hurt sentiment and the cabinet’s decision to delay a hike in gas prices disappointed investors. Caution also prevailed ahead of the June derivatives’ expiry on Thursday and fears of more violence in Iraq prompted investors to pare positions.

A Reuters poll on Thursday forecast the 30-share Sensex hitting 27,750 points by the end of December, following a brief correction after the budget.

For the week, the BSE Sensex ended 0.02 percent lower. Investors are now awaiting the new government’s first budget on July 10.

Markets this week: Mahindra and Mahindra, RIL top Sensex losers

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

The BSE Sensex and Nifty, India’s main stock indexes, both fell 0.5 percent this week as worries over escalating Iraq tensions, a weak domestic monsoon and profit-taking weighed on sentiment.

On Friday, global oil prices inched towards a nine-month high on increased risks of supply disruption from Iraq. Investors fear spiraling crude prices and a weak monsoon could add to inflation woes and hurt India’s current account deficit.

The monsoon has covered half of India four days behind schedule, failing to recover from a late start that has slowed the sowing of summer crops.

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