India Insight

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.

While Rahul was a software analyst at the Royal Bank of Scotland in the suburb of Gurgaon for two years, 22-year-old Anshul worked as an assistant grade manager at a Bangalore-based firm. Both had the option of taking over their family business — their father is a cloth merchant in Chandni Chowk — but it wasn’t exciting. After a train journey across India with budding entrepreneurs and a boot camp at Startup Malaysia, Rahul decided to combine what interests him and what he is trained to do.

Chandnichowkfood.com has enlisted 10 famous food joints, some of them more than 100 years old, and offers everything from samosas to kulfis to halwas to customers in a limited area. Targeting office-goers and shopkeepers in the corporate centre and tourist spot of Connaught Place, the service will have traditionally dressed delivery boys supply food in an Indian bag called a “potli”.

India state elections: Exit polls give BJP the upper hand

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win in four of the five states that went to polls over the past month, exit poll surveys conducted by Cvoter and the India Today-ORG group showed. Such a victory will be a boost for the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The results for all the states, except Mizoram, will be announced on Sunday. Here’s what the exit polls forecast:

MADHYA PRADESH: The BJP has been ruling the state for 10 years, and exit polls indicate the party will retain power in the 230-member assembly. The Congress party’s campaign, led by Jyotiraditya Scindia, helped it improve its tally as compared to 2008, but the BJP still has the upper hand, polls showed.

India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

State Elections in India: Opinion polls and 2008 results

India will hold state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi, starting November 11. The polls are seen as a warm-up for next year’s national elections.

Three of these five states – Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi — are governed by the Congress party, while the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These state elections will serve as a popularity test for Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national elections.

(Also read: Schedule of assembly elections in five states)

RAJASTHAN: In 2008, Congress swept the Rajasthan elections with 96 seats, adding 40 seats to its 2003 tally of 56. Ashok Gehlot took charge as chief minister, replacing Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. However, a recent opinion poll by India Today Group-ORG said Raje will make a comeback this year, with her party expected to win 105 seats. A Times Now-CVoter poll predicted BJP will win 118 seats in the 200-member house.

Delhi’s ‘Procession of the Florists’ marches toward obscurity

Every fall, people gather in Delhi’s Mehrauli area for the “Procession of the Florists,” a festival to commemorate the return from exile of a 19th-century prince who crossed India’s British colonial rulers.

The “Phool Walon ki Sair,” as it is called in Hindi and Urdu, features the offering of a “chaadar” or a “sheet” of flowers at a Muslim shrine and floral “pankhas” or fans at a nearby Hindu temple but after nearly 200 years, its popularity is fading.

The annual procession began in the early 19th century when Queen Mumtaz Mahal and her subjects walked to the shrine of Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaaki to fulfil a vow that she made. During the reign of her husband, Mughal ruler Akbar Shah II, their son Mirza Jahangir taunted the British Resident Archibald Seton. The young prince also took a shot at Seton at the Red Fort, but missed his target and killed his orderly instead.

Pricey onions mean more tears for businesses, public

By Anupriya Kumar and Arnika Thakur

Onion prices recently reached 100 rupees per kilogram ($1.62) in some parts of New Delhi. It is hard to emphasize enough how prices like that are hurting businesses and the public. Onions are one of India’s staples, and people consume 15 million tonnes of them a year. Now, many people can’t afford to buy as many as they need – or any at all.

The government’s efforts to ease the price, which has quadrupled in some cities in the past three months, are unlikely to succeed. Heavy rains have reduced crop yields and delayed harvesting. Now, the average price of onions in India is 83 rupees per kilo, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said in an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday.

Here’s how the people are reacting to the “onion crisis”. (We have edited responses for clarity)

Delhi shaped South Asia’s Muslim identity, Pakistani author says

Raza Rumi is based in Lahore, but the public policy specialist and Friday Times editor’s new book is based in another milieu entirely. “Delhi by heart” is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years.

By his own admission, it is a “heartfelt account” of how a Pakistani comes to India, an “enemy country”, and discovers that its capital has, in fact, so many things common with Lahore.

“I wanted to write the biography of Darah Shikoh, the great Indian Mughal prince,” Rumi said. “While researching for that, and while visiting Delhi all the time, I felt really it merits a Pakistani version as well because for these five years we have been so much cut off and we have misunderstood each other so much that it is time to sort of build bridges. Hence the book.”

Reactions on Twitter to the Delhi gang rape sentencing

All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were sentenced to death on Friday. Here is a compilation of politicians and other celebrities reacting on Twitter:

Sushma Swaraj, BJP MP
I welcome the judgement in Delhi gang rape case. This will serve as a deterrent for such offences.

Naveen Jindal, Congress MP
Justice has been served. Nirbhaya, we all hope you rest in peace. You have changed India, you are everyones daughter.

Delhi gang rape verdict: Reactions from people on the street

By Aditya Kalra and Arnika Thakur

Four men were found guilty on Tuesday of the gang rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi and her murder, closing a chapter on a crime that triggered protests and soul-searching about the treatment of women in India. Arguments on sentencing are due to begin on Wednesday.

(Live coverage of the trial at http://reut.rs/15eIlsb)

Here are some reactions from people on the street:

POOJA SINGH, 21, student, at the Munirka bus stop.
“The girl lost her life, the accused should get a similar punishment.”

JYOTI SHARMA, 21, student
“Even the juvenile should be given life imprisonment. The four adult accused should be hanged. I don’t feel safe anywhere even on a bus stand … I try to reach home before dark”

Death toll in Uttarakhand monsoon floods crosses 150

Thousands stranded in parts of northern India awaited rescuers on Wednesday as floods caused by heavier-than-usual monsoon rains killed at least 150 people in worst-hit Uttarakhand.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a 10-billion-rupee aid package for the state after he and Congress president Sonia Gandhi did an aerial survey of the flood-hit region.

“The government will not spare any effort in rescue and relief operations,” Singh said on his official Twitter account, adding the large-scale devastation they witnessed was “most distressing”.

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