India Insight

In search of the lost telegram

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

I sent my first and last telegram over the weekend, thanks to the flood of newspaper reports that warned of India’s telegraph service winding up after more than 160 years.

My curiosity was fuelled by memories of Bollywood movies from the 1960s and 70s. On receiving a telegram, the hero’s mother either fainted or treated the family to sweetmeats – depending on whether the news was good or bad.

The best known telegram in Indian fiction is probably the one in R.K. Narayan’s “Malgudi Days” collection. In a popular short story, the fictional messenger doesn’t deliver a telegram with news of a relative’s death because it could have ruined someone’s wedding day.

But my news wasn’t as momentous. My telegram was to be a souvenir, one of the few thousand dispatched on July 14, the day India shut its state-run telegraph service for good.

I sent a telegram to my mother in Dwarka, an outlying neighbourhood of New Delhi. It’s been 48 hours and she still hasn’t received it.

from Photographers' Blog:

A farewell message to the telegram

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

At 10 p.m. on July 14, India will send its final telegram before the service shuts the following day, signaling the end of a service that has been going for over 160 years. It is the latest means of communication to be killed off by the mobile Internet age.

From families waiting to hear from their children who migrated to India’s cities for work, to soldiers in remote areas for whom the telegram was the only way to stay in touch with relatives, the telegraph service has been used to connect millions of people across this vast country since the mid-19th Century.

Charged per word, some messages went on and on, while others chose to write single words like “love” – a simple message to express how they felt.

Rupee spoils holidays abroad for Indians, but not for all

With the rupee hovering near a record low, Indian tourists would be tempted to give foreign shores a miss this year. But staying home is not an option for Harsh Chadha, a multinational executive just back from a three-week family vacation in the UK.

Chadha, 35, is part of India’s growing elite, whose trips abroad are not affected by the vagaries of the currency market.

“[If I’m planning] a trip to a place like London [and] already spending enough money … a 10-15 percent increase in the dollar will not be pinching me a lot,” says Chadha, an IT director who bought pounds for 92 rupees ($1.5) each before going on vacation.

Tracking Sensex: Top gainers, losers this week

By Aditya Kalra and Ankush Arora

Indian shares started the month of July on a flattish note, with the BSE Sensex rising 0.5 percent in the week ending July 5 after climbing more than 3 percent the previous week.

However, a weak rupee continued to dampen sentiment as the unit ended the week below 60 to the dollar, adding to concerns about India’s current account deficit.

Here are the top five Sensex gainers and losers of the week:

GAINERS

ITC: India’s largest cigarette maker rose 5.5 percent this week, making it the best Sensex performer, boosted by a hike in cigarette prices and value buying after its recent underperformance in June.

Tracking Sensex: top gainers, losers in June quarter

By Aditya Kalra and Ankush Arora

Indian shares ended the June quarter on a positive note as the Sensex and Nifty registered gains of around 3 percent during the period, data showed.

The markets managed to post gains in the quarter despite falling around 2 percent in June after the U.S. Fed said it plans to begin winding down its stimulus later this year if economic conditions are favourable.

In positive developments, monsoon rains arrived on time and covered the whole country two weeks ahead of schedule while inflation slipped below 5 percent. Sentiment was also boosted when rating agency Fitch revised its outlook on India back to “stable” from “negative”.

More pilgrims mean more trouble for shrines in north India

Nestled in the Himalayas, Uttarakhand attracts increasing numbers of visitors every year. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of visitors to the state rose nearly 200 percent to 30.3 million. With major Hindu shrines located in the state, about 70 percent of the tourists who visit the state visit religious sites. That is a worrying sign for ecologically fragile areas such as Kedarnath – a small temple town located 3,583 metres (11,755 feet) above sea level and almost entirely washed out in recent flash floods.

The rush to the Himalayas has been accompanied by a haphazard pattern of growth that might not be sustainable. A study by infrastructure group IL&FS IDC Ltd showed that the carrying capacities – maximum number of persons an environment can support — of various tourist centres in Uttarakhand reached saturation levels in 2010.

It is in this context that some environmentalists have been calling the devastating floods a man-made catastrophe. “Ecological fragility sets limits. Today these limits are being violated … and the pilgrimage to the Char Dhams is being turned into crass consumerist mass tourism,” said activist Vandana Shiva in an email conversation with me. (To see pictures from the flood crisis, click here)

India’s love for gold and the government’s efforts to curb it – a timeline

Google Trends shows that the term “current account deficit” is among top searches from India in 2013. Add “gold” as a comparative keyword and the searches for the commodity Indians love are far higher.

Indians buy gold for everything – investment, gifts, wedding ceremonies and auspicious days. But of late, this has become a pain for policymakers.

As the Indian economy struggles, policymakers say that high gold imports and the rising current account deficit are big concerns. India’s number one import, crude oil, and gold, it’s number two, hurt the current account deficit. While crude oil is necessary, gold is not, especially if we believe our finance minister.

Metal stocks top underperformers in 2013; outlook mixed

Shares of Indian metal companies are going through a rough patch in 2013 as a slowing economy at home coupled with rising input costs and weakness in Europe hurts demand.

Indian shares have had a mixed year so far, but the BSE metals index, which is a barometer of metal companies’ performance in India, has been the worst performer among sectors, data shows.

The 13-share metals index is down more than 33 percent this year, widely underperforming the benchmark BSE Sensex that has lost nearly 3 percent.

Tracking Sensex: Top losers, gainers of the week

Indian shares ended in the green in three of five trading sessions but jittery market reaction to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s announcement of a gradual end to its $85 billion bond-buying stimulus took the BSE Sensex down 2.1 percent for the week. The broader 50-share Nifty lost 2.4 percent.

The U.S. central bank’s monetary programme has been a source of easy money for emerging markets such as India that used FII inflows to finance its current account deficit. The possibility of a liquidity drought and a consequent selloff by foreign investors spooked the markets with the rupee plummeting to a record low of 59.98 against the dollar on Thursday.

China factory activity, which shrunk to a nine-month low, also alarmed Asian markets this week.

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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