India Insight

Elsewhere in India: a Hitchcock escape at Kashmere gate, and more…

(Editor’s note: please bear with us as we find a digest that you can digest. Anything that causes indigestion is the result of something that the author said, and is in all likelihood incorrect, specious and wrong)

Here are some stories from the Indian press that caught our attention in recent days. We hope that you find them as interesting as we did.

    If you’re a police officer and transporting a robbery and murder suspect from one city to another, don’t do it via public transportation. Two cops from Gurgaon lost their suspect at the Kashmere Gate metro station in Delhi when he jumped on a train and slipped away Hitchcock-style. The suspect apparently was tied to one of the cops, who had to untie the rope quickly to avoid being dragged away by the train. The cops took a bus from Chandigarh to Delhi, along with the criminal, and were planning to take the Delhi metro back to Gurgaon, where the suspect was to be jailed. (Times News Now) Avoid insulting the protagonists in major Indian epics. Lawyer and BJP politician Ram Jethmalani is taking some heat after saying that Lord Ram of the Ramayan was a bad husband. The BJP, which relies on the support of often conservative Hindus, says it does not approve of Jethmalani’s statement. Without getting into the whole story — it is an epic, after all — I would say only this: according to his Wikipedia entry, Jethmalani married twice, back when polygamy was legal. Maybe he knows from good husbands? (The Asian Age) The same rule applies to insulting Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning author of “Home and the World,” the “Kabuliwallah” and India’s national anthem and what feels like millions of other works large and small. “After his public criticism of V S Naipaul, writer-actor Girish Karnad has kicked up a fresh storm by calling Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore a “second-rate playwright”. Talking to reporters near Nelamangala in (Bangalore’s) outskirts, he said, “Tagore was a great poet but a mediocre and second-rate playwright. He produced his plays but those were never produced by his contemporaries. The contemporary Bengali theatre never accepted them. I think they did one or two plays. His comedy succeeded but not his other plays.” Not only that, poor people in his plays are “cardboard characters.” Karnad said. (PTI) One boy, two moms! “His genes will decide whether he is Ravish Kumar of Ranchi’s Sukhdeonagar or Sunil Oraon of Ganeshpur village in Chanho block.” (The Telegraph) Life is hard when you’re Malaysian national oil company Petronas. First, Canada blocks a huge buyout that you were about to pull off. Second, you start posting funeral music for major Indian holidays: “Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas was left red faced after angry viewers pointed out that a music video it posted on its official YouTube page to mark Diwali depicted a funeral dance. The three minute clip was pulled out after the Company reviewed the mixed feedback on the video, which had drawn more than 130,000 views. The video featured young Malaysian ethnic Indians performing the ‘Dappan Koothu’, an energetic form of Tamil folk dance performed to loud music on any occasion not necessarily funeral.” Hindu groups in Malaysia also took offense because they said the dance had nothing to do with Diwali and portrayed Indians as a bunch of dance-happy people. As one NGO chief said, “Dancing on the street is not Malaysian Indian culture.” (The Hindu Business Line) Honor killing? A man and his son were arrested for killing the man’s 24-year-old daughter. Police said that she was pregnant, and that the father and brother tried to procure an abortion for her before resorting to murder. (PTI) “A normal root canal treatment procedure at the Government Dental College Hospital here turned into a nightmare for a youth with a needle used in the surgery ending up in his stomach. ” Don’t ask yourself how this happened. The story never says. (TNN) A stray cobra has shown up at the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh. It reportedly was warming itself in the underground parking lot. Attendants found snake catcher Salim Khan, who was suffering from a “raging fever,” and hauled him off to work. The story features a sentence that I suspect my journalism career will never allow me to write on my own: “Reptiles often slither into the area from the wooded area nearby.” (TNN) A man was killed after confronting neighbors who told him that his children were watching TV cartoons with the volume turned up too high. They beat him with iron rods and bamboo. (TNN) Five hundred pigeons dropped dead in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district over four days. The incidents caused people “to fear that something was amiss.” (IANS) Being Naomi Campbell means having people around who can get arrested for you. Indian police arrested an event manager for excessive use of fireworks at an extravagant party hosted by supermodel Naomi Campbell in the desert city of Jodhpur, officials said on Friday. Mumbai-based P.K. Pareek was held on charges of “noise pollution” at Campbell’s star-studded party held to mark the 50th birthday of her billionaire Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin at a 15th-century fort.” Neighbors objected to the fireworks, among other noise. Among the guests: the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. The night’s entertainment was Diana Ross. (NDTV) The nose doesn’t lie: The Yamuna river really is an open sewer. That’s what you get when you dump the sewage of 17 million people into it every day. Here is a masterpiece of understatement: “The court noted the submission of CPCB counsel, Vijay Panjwan that the cumulative assessment of all parameters of water quality indicates that river Yamuna is not conforming to the desired levels and it more or less resembles a drain, especially after the Wazirabad area in Delhi. ” More bluntly, there is no fresh water in the river, Panjwan said. (PTI) And here, to end your day, is a collection of great Indian mustaches. (The Hindu Business Line)

 

Slayer extends its ‘reign in blood’ to Bangalore

Bangalore houses what might be an outsize share of India’s metal heads, so it’s appropriate that this was the city that thrash metal band Slayer picked for their first show in India. The band played in one of the city’s outlying suburbs, and drew a crowd from all over, including Vietnam, as they played a set list that stretched back through albums such as “Reign in Blood,” to “Show No Mercy,” their debut album from 1983.

“The special part for me is we’ve never played India. So we can pretty much play anything we’ve ever played,” guitarist Kerry King said at a press conference for the event.

Slayer began in 1981 when guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman met at an audition for another band and decided to form their own act. Bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, who had worked with King previously, was roped in and drummer Dave Lombardo was recruited when he delivered a pizza near the King household, and met the “boy with all the guitars.”

Cauvery River water fight paralyses Bangalore on Saturday

(This article was reported by Gokul Chandrasekar, Vineet Sharma and Bidya Sapam. Photos by Bidya Sapam)

The water was running in Bangalore on Saturday, but the buses were not.

“I have been waiting for a bus for over two hours now,” said Prabhat Kishan, 60, at the Majestic Bus Station in Bangalore.

India’s information technology capital shut down on Saturday over a state-wide “bandh,” or strike, that shut down shops, malls and restaurants. The bandh’s organizers paralysed the city to protest a decision by India’s Supreme Court to demand that the state of Karnataka allow the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to get precious additional reserves of water from the Cauvery River. It is the latest episode in a dispute that has endured for years in a country that is facing alarming shortages of groundwater.

Why is Bangalore such a dump (these days)?

They call it the garden city, though more lately it’s trash town, thanks to the recent shutdown of three landfills that take garbage from the city of more than 8 million people.

Bangalore’s residents in August and early September dealt with stench and garbage as tonnes of rotten food, flowers, paper and plastic bags leaking noisome muck spilled into the streets and roads.

People were forced to walk on roads clogged with cars, trucks and mopeds as filth caked the sidewalks, and wild dogs and stray cows gorged. Schools declared holidays to prevent students from falling ill, and the rain isn’t helping.

In Bangalore, Northeast life interrupted

Perched midway between Bangalore’s Kodihalli and Indiranagar neighbourhoods, the Glitz beauty parlour has been shut for the last several days. There is little surprise in finding out why. A favourite for locals, it normally buzzes with activity every evening. But the six women who run it are from Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, two states in northeast India. #gallery-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-2 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ People from India's northeastern states sit inside a train bound for Assam at the railway station in Kolkata August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files People from India's northeastern states sit inside a train bound for Assam at the railway station in Kolkata August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files People from India's northeastern states sit inside a train bound for Assam at the railway station in Kolkata August 18, 2012. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

The people who come from these states, with their proximity to Bhutan, China and Myanmar, often resemble people from east Asia rather than India. Thousands of them, drawn to better-paying jobs in other parts of India, have fled cities such as Mysore, Bangalore and Pune after threats of violence at the hands of Muslims angry about clashes in Assam between Muslim illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Indian Bodo tribespeople that have left nearly 80 people dead and 400,000 interned in squalid refugee camps.

Clearly, the women at Glitz did not believe the central government’s assurances from New Delhi that Bangalore is safe after widespread rumours delivered by text message that their lives were in danger.

Northeast Indians in Bangalore: aliens in their own land?

Irshad Hussain makes light of it. “I’m pretending to be a Jew from Bihar. They would not know what to make of that,” said the 27-year-old Assamese man, who works in Bangalore. Behind his humorous tone lies the fear of attack.

Rumours have been circulating that people from northeast India who live in Bangalore — nearly 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometres) — to the south, are about to be attacked en masse. This is because of violence that flared between Bodo tribes and Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in Assam in July.

About 75 people have been killed, and more than 400,000 people are crowded into filthy refugee camps. This fear was based largely on an August 11 protest organised by Muslim groups in Mumbai against the attacks.

Thirsty Bangalore: all tanked up and nowhere to go

(photo gallery)

If you live in one of India’s big cities, you share the road with water tankers. They thunder down the streets, delivering water to houses and apartment complexes, often spilling through some invisible leak. Tucked away on side streets, locals throng them with buckets. Tankers are part of an economic ecosystem that are inseparable from a country whose cities teem with millions of people, but whose public utility companies often don’t have enough water to go around.

Bangalore, India’s “BPO” and information technology capital, is full of them because of the city’s population growth in the past 25 years 1.5 million people in 1971, 9.5 million in 2011, according to census data.

The ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ cannot satisfy the demand for water. Nor can it always handle routine problems and maintenance. A recent decision by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to do some major work on the pumps at the Cauvery river, which delivers much of the water supply from nearly 100 kilometres away, shut down service to large parts of the city for two days.

Incendiary India: petrol strike leaves Bangalore becalmed

I did something on Thursday that I never thought I would get a chance to do: I walked in the middle of MG Road, one of Bangalore’s busiest thoroughfares, and survived. This gesture normally would be suicidal, but today’s a different kind of day in Bangalore. An eerie quiet descended on parts of India’s call centre and tech outsourcing capital as a nationwide strike to protest petrol price rises shut down businesses and public transportation.

I rolled into town from New York City early Thursday morning, and went for a walk to find out how the “Bharat Bandh,” or “India Closed” (more or less), declared by India’s top opposition party, the BJP, and some other, smaller parties, was affecting the city. The sun was out, the humidity rising; it was a delightful day in the so-called garden city of India, but it looked and felt like a exaggerated Sunday, with men hanging out by their local paanwallahs, grabbing an idle smoke and noshing on fried goodies. Security guards drooped in plastic chairs in front of stores and offices, looking even more bored than usual. There were so few cars and motorcycles on the road that you could hear yourself think, and there was so little exhaust that the air nearly felt healthy. In other words: the strike was on.

To anyone who has never visited this city, this scene doesn’t sound all that novel. But Bangalore on a normal day is a near constant grind of traffic. Endless buses, motorbikes, autorickshaws, cars, and trucks, trucks and more trucks. To cross the street without assistance, particularly for a foreigner, merits the award of some kind of medal of honor. It is normal for someone unaccustomed to the density of traffic in the heart of this city to wait 15 minutes before crossing the street — and that’s when the light is on your side.

from Abhiram Nandakumar:

A garage, a beaker and a Bunsen burner

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of India’s most influential businesswomen and among the world’s most powerful women, says she’s an accidental entrepreneur.

Mazumdar-Shaw has shown that modest garage start-ups can extend beyond software and hardware companies. She set up what is now India's largest listed biotechnology company in 1978 and she encourages others to follow suit.

“Today a lot of early stage research work can be done in a garage,” she said at the Reuters India Investment Summit.

from Summit Notebook:

Infrastructure still top-of-mind in India

INDIA/
On Monday, we kick-off the 2010 India Investment Summit. We'll have exclusive interviews in Mumbai and Bangalore. In 2006 we held the first Reuters India Investment Summit. It was my first time in India. I've had the privilege to return every year. How time flies. Here we are four years later. Some of the key players may have changed but the big, over-arching theme is still the same: Infrastructure. It's the key to realizing the country's potential but bureaucracy, tough financing and hesitant overseas investment have slowed development in the sector, calling into question the future of India as a powerhouse.

India has had only mixed success in its efforts to accelerate construction of roads, bridges and power plants. The statistics are mind-blowing...the country is growing at 8.5% and has a population of 1.2 billion that is making a mad-dash from the countryside to sprawling cities. Call them growing pains...in India's expanding cities there is an acute need to speed project approvals, implement new financing models and attract overseas investment for much needed infrastructure. But, while the business opportunity is tremendous investors looking to India as a way to play the emerging markets are wary given the history of missed deadlines and red tape that makes getting projects completed a challenge.

Is red tape getting better or worse? Which sectors are attracting most interest? How do returns compare with similar projects globally? How do sector companies attract foreign investment in large projects? Are the challenges forcing investors and developers to look overseas instead?

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