India Insight

Sunanda Tharoor found dead in Delhi hotel room

Sunanda Tharoor, wife of Congress party minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead in her room at a luxury hotel in New Delhi on Friday, police said.

“Her dead body was found in her room,” Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told Reuters by phone. He declined to give details.

Abhinav Kumar, Tharoor’s personal assistant, said the junior minister for human resource development was at a Congress party session the entire day on Friday. Sunanda was found lying in bed in her room, Kumar said.

“There was no sign of foul play or any struggle. She had no sign of poisoning or anything,” he told reporters outside the Leela hotel.

Sunanda Tharoor’s death was reported two days after she accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of stalking her husband. On Wednesday, misspelled posts apparently referring to the minister’s alleged affair with Tarar appeared on his Twitter account. Tharoor tweeted that his account had been hacked, although media reports quoted Sunanda as saying she had posted the messages.

Markets this week: Sensex up 1.5 percent; BHEL, Infosys jump 5 percent

By Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra

The BSE Sensex gained 1.5 percent this week, its first weekly gain in 2014, as easing headline inflation data raised hopes the Reserve Bank of India would keep interest rates unchanged at its Jan. 28 meet.

Headline inflation eased to a five-month low of 6.16 percent in December on lower prices of vegetables. This was the slowest pace of growth since July 2013 and below economists’ expectations of 7 percent.

Sentiment was also boosted for the rupee, which rose 0.6 percent during the week to touch a five-week high. However, share losses on Friday weighed on the currency.

Actress Suchitra Sen dead at 82

By Sujoy Dhar and Shilpa Jamkhandikar

Actress Suchitra Sen, known for several landmark roles in Bengali and Hindi cinema, died in Kolkata on Friday after prolonged illness. She was 82.

Sen, known as much for her graceful looks and demeanour as her acting prowess, starred in several hits with fellow Bengali actor Uttam Kumar, including “Agni Pariksha” (1954) and “Saptapadi” (1961).

“Suchitra Sen – beauty, talent, enigmatic – she adorned film world of Bengal with exquisite performances … graced Hindi films too,” Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan said in a tweet.

RBI puts the brakes on the bitcoin train in India

By Abhiram Nandakumar and Ratnika Maruvada

Enthusiasm over bitcoins has dampened in India after the country’s central bank cautioned investors to be wary of using virtual currency because of the associated security, financial and legal risks.

Bitcoin, which was introduced in 2009 by a developer known as Satoshi Nakamoto (the developer’s real name or names is unknown), is an online currency created by users, also called miners, by solving complicated math problems on the Internet. The currency is designed in a way that will produce 21 million coins that can be traded or, increasingly, used to buy things. (For a detailed explanation, visit bitcoin.org)

The Reserve Bank of India’s advisory on Dec. 24 prompted some Indian bitcoin traders to suspend their operations, even as regulators seek clarity on digital currencies and ways to regulate them. The RBI’s worries include taxation, security risks, losses due to the volatility and money laundering.

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.

Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party’s strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

What is the Congress party doing wrong?
We have within ourselves perhaps far superior elements to take on conventional challenges today. But what we are not doing tremendously well is in the perception battle. Somehow, we have not been able to position ourselves as an alternative to most political forces operating today. What the Congress party needs to do now, I think what Rahul Gandhi wants to do, is to create an institutionalized mechanism for the party because this ad-hocism is not bearing fruit.

In pursuit of the perfect lehenga in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Each evening, after pulling their shutters down, sari salesmen in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market sit down for three hours to fold their wares: embroidered, embellished saris and lehengas that customers browsed all day.

Lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts, are serious business in Chandni Chowk, a busy Mughal-era market whose name means “moonlit square”. Despite numerous boutiques and malls opening across New Delhi, the old wedding market has kept its charm, its customers and its business.

“If I have a design in my mind I can get it tailor-made, custom-make any designer, whatever it is, I can get that replica made. It might not be an original of Sabyasachi or one of the fancy designers, but it’s very close, you can easily pull it off as one of those designer pieces,” said Reena Bhardwaj, a 29-year-old journalist who recently bought a lehenga priced at 50,000 rupees (about $800) to attend a wedding.

India equity funds add Wipro, TCS in 2013; dump HUL, SBI

An increased number of India’s equity diversified funds favoured technology companies such as Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) among Sensex stocks in 2013, raising their bets on a sector that benefited from a depreciating rupee and improving demand from developed economies.

Nearly 160 of 322 such funds had investments in India’s No. 3 IT services provider Wipro in December as compared to 91 funds a year ago, more than doubling the collective stake held in the company, data from Morningstar India showed. India’s top IT services exporter TCS was part of 190 portfolios, up from 155.

A weak rupee and improving business from clients in the United States and Europe propelled technology stocks to new highs in 2013 — TCS registered a rise of 73 percent while Wipro gained 61 percent, outperforming the BSE IT index that touched a life high and ended 59.7 percent higher. In comparison, the BSE Sensex had risen 9 percent.

Old Delhi food steps into the digital age with start-up

With thousands of shops, hundreds of carts, horses, cows, vehicles and an ever-rising number of visitors and shoppers, Delhi’s Chandni Chowk can be a menacing place if you just want to savour a jalebi. But the syrup-drenched, pretzel-like traditional sweet from one of the oldest shopping hubs in India is a mere click away.

A new start-up promises to come to the rescue of many Delhiwallas who want to eat good food from the Mughal-era Walled City, but can’t stand the chaos of what a government portal calls the food capital of India.

“Whenever we want to eat the food on weekdays, it becomes impossible for us,” said 24-year-old Rahul Garg. This and a desire to have their own business led Rahul and his IIT graduate brother Anshul to launch an online food delivery platform that focuses Chandni Chowk’s delicacies.

India won’t have misfortune of having Rahul Gandhi as PM: AAP’s Kumar Vishwas

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

The Aam Aadmi Party’s Kumar Vishwas, who plans to challenge the Congress party from the Gandhi family’s bastion in Uttar Pradesh, said it would be unfortunate if Rahul Gandhi became India’s prime minister.

Vishwas’s remarks came as Gandhi suggested in a rare interview published on Tuesday in the Dainik Bhaskar that he was ready to be prime minister if the Congress returns to power in the 2014 general election due by May.

“I don’t think that India has the misfortune of him (Rahul Gandhi) ever becoming prime minister,” Vishwas said in a telephone interview from Amethi district. “The direction in which the country is headed right now … things will only get worse (if Gandhi becomes PM).”

Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya

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

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the sight of Vijay Raaz and Arshad Warsi in “Joe B Carvalho” was enough to drive someone up the wall. A week later, they are a sheer delight in film-maker Abhishek Chaubey’s “Dedh Ishqiya”.

A rollicking, irreverent and well-executed film, Chaubey’s sequel to his 2010 debut has more of the sparkling dialogue and wit, but better etched characters, and a story that will keep the viewer engaged till the end.

In “Dedh Ishqiya”, the adventures of Khalu and Babban continue with the two finding themselves in a crumbling mansion, owned by the aging, but beautiful Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit), who follows up on a promise made to her late husband. She organizes a poetry competition, and declares she will marry the one whose poems impress her the most.

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