India Insight

Market-friendly Chidambaram toes socialist line with fiscal plan

The usually crisp and precise P. Chidambaram was uncharacteristically vague on Monday while announcing the government’s fiscal consolidation plan. While pledging to bring the fiscal deficit down to 3 percent in 2016-17 from around 5.3 this fiscal, the Harvard-educated minister gave no details on how the government would achieve this feat.

Perhaps the finance minister should remember that uncertainty and lack of clarity can spook markets and investors. We saw that when the government took months to clarify the controversial GAAR norms which made foreign investors jittery.

Chidambaram’s announcement is unlikely to impress investors, rating agencies and lenders like the IMF, who want the government to slash subsidies and cut spending.

Trying to shore up market confidence, the minister relied on adjectives like “imperative” and “no alternative” to sell his fiscal plan. But he couldn’t escape the socialist slant of his Congress party, mentioning how “the poor must be protected and the others must bear their fair share of the burden”.

As the Sensex pared gains after Chidambaram’s comments and briefly turned red later in the day, it shows the announcement of mere intent did not excite markets.

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

Here is the background, as explained by Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters:

Women shouldn’t have mobile phones, politicians should: politician

Witness the latest public relations trap for a loose-lipped Indian politician, courtesy of the Deccan Chronicle:

BSP MP Rajpal Saini has now launched a tirade against mobile phones and has publicly declared that women and children do not need mobile phones… “Why do housewives and school going girls need mobiles? It encourages them to make futile small talk and get connected with people outside their homes.”

Mobile phones distract women, Saini said, and offer nothing useful for them, the Chronicle reported.

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.”

Starbucks arrives in India, gains spice, loses flavour

(Warning: there’s barely a lick of reporting in this blog post. Opinions are the author’s only, and almost certainly are wrong.)

Take a look at the items on the menu at the new Starbucks coffee shops in Mumbai, which opened this week in a joint venture with India’s Tata Global Beverages Ltd. As Megha Bahree and Margherita Stancati show you at The Wall Street Journal’s India blog, they include a series of curious “fusion” items:

    murg tikka sandwich tandoori chicken sandwich tamarind peanut chicken calzone the Konkani twist (it’s a long puff, Bahree and Stancati report)

I know that there are no other coffee shops or restaurants started by western companies that sell quite the same things as these, but as I discovered earlier this year while looking for lunch in Delhi’s Connaught Place, this is a representative sample of the style of food that you’ll find. That goes for Dunkin’ Donuts, Cafe Coffee Day, Barista and so on.

Photo gallery: from Dussehra melas to Durga Puja pandals

I don’t know if the smartphone-toting Indian of the shopping malls still frequents festival melas. As for me, I can’t help but feel drawn to these vibrant mass gatherings during festivals.

Here, a spinning wheel juts out of a busy crossing in west Delhi. I spent a lot of time shooting it and finally settled on this image:

I am an ardent fan of jalebis and there’s hardly a month in my office that goes by without us feasting on them. I was tempted to grab these freshly cooked jalebis, but then I was in no mood to nurse a case of Delhi belly.

Selling your spouse: when is it legal?

Don’t ever think that I ask only smart questions.

Here’s a story that I found in the Times of India today: a man sold his wife to a broker for Rs. 6,000 (about US$114). This was the money that he needed to keep himself in liquor, the Times reported.

The accused, Medula Rajender, 42, of Malyala village in Chandurthi mandal sold his wife Medula Ammayi, 36, to the broker on October 13 to meet his liquor expenses. Daily wager Rajender found it hard to buy liquor and struck a deal with the broker to sell his wife.

Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, Rajender took his wife to the bus station, bought her a ticket, and told her to wait for the broker, according to the report. Ammayi took the bus, but to a relative’s place instead. There, she reportedly told them everything. Then her son turned in the father to police.

From AlertNet: Water scarcity compounds India’s food insecurity

These are the personal views of Siddharth Chatterjee  and do not reflect those of his employer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Follow him on Twitter: @sidchat1

 

Since India’s independence, the mammoth task of feeding its hundreds of millions, most of whom are extremely poor, has been a major challenge to policymakers. In the coming decades, the issue of food insecurity is likely to affect almost all Indians. However, for the poorest amongst us, it could be catastrophic. India ranks 65 of 79 countries in the Global Hunger Index. This is extremely alarming.

In the past few years, uneven weather patterns combined with over exploited and depleting water resources in various parts of India have wreaked havoc on food security, particularly for small and marginal farmers, as well as the rural poor.

from Photographers' Blog:

Farewell old lady of Mumbai

By Vivek Prakash

Many things are uncertain in Mumbai - the weather, the possibility of an appointment actually happening on time, the chance of getting through the city without hitting some obstacle or other…

But one thing is perfectly certain: you’re wanted at the traffic jam, they're saving you a seat.

If, like me, you think owning a car in Mumbai is a pointless waste of time, you will take a taxi several times a week. So your place in Mumbai’s permanent gridlock is likely to be inside a Premier Padmini taxi, a vehicle I have come to think of as the grand old dame of Mumbai's streets.

Photo gallery: Preparing for Durga Puja in Noida

There is a workshop near my home in Noida, east of Delhi, where sculptors mould clay into idols of Hindu gods and goddess all through the year for festivals. These occasions mean brisk business for the craftsmen, who work in a makeshift hut covered by tin sheets. The idols sell for 500 to 700 rupees, depending on the size.

The idols of the goddess Durga and other characters in her story are being built because the Durga Puja is only a week away. I asked the people in the workshop if I could shoot, and they gave in after a bit of persuasion. The pictures that follow are of these craftsmen painting the idols of Durga.

The annual Durga Puja is a five-day festival commemorating the death of the buffalo demon Mahishasura at the hands of Hindu goddess Durga. Traditionally a festival celebrated in eastern India — it is the biggest festival in the state of West Bengal — Durga Puja is now celebrated in north India with much gusto and fanfare.

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