India Insight

from The Human Impact:

How old is old enough to be jailed for gang rape and murder?

The crime was horrific, the case shocking, and the trial long. Yet when the much anticipated first verdict in the high-profile Delhi gang rape case was pronounced in India over the weekend, there was no jubilation, just outrage.

Found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in December, the teenager - one of six accused - was sentenced to three years in a juvenile home, sparking anger and debate over whether India is too soft on its young offenders. Four adult defendants are on trial in a separate fast-track court. One of the accused committed suicide in jail.

The first reaction came from the parents of the dead 23-year-old student, who was beaten, tortured with an iron rod and raped on the night of Dec. 16 before being dumped on a roadside in the capital.

"It is a crime to be born a girl in this country," the victim’s mother said after hearing the verdict. "How will I live knowing that the killers of my daughter are still alive?"

Her dissatisfaction has been echoed in many quarters.

From public protests to televised debates with lawyers, activists and politicians, and the Twittersphere, many Indians have felt a sense of injustice over the case, which put a global spotlight on violence against women in India.

Sensex loses 3.75 percent in action-packed month

The BSE Sensex lost 3.75 percent in August, its worst monthly performance since February, as worries over foreign outflows were exacerbated by the rupee that fell to record lows.

India’s current account deficit and a struggling economy still worry market participants.  Data showed on Aug. 31 that June quarter GDP grew at 4.4 percent, below analysts’ estimates.

The rupee recovered in the last few trading sessions of the month, closing around 65.75 per dollar after falling to a life low below 68. Still, the unit lost 8.1 percent in August, its biggest monthly fall since at least 1995.

Need good roles but need money too: Manoj Bajpayee

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, actor Manoj Bajpayee has oscillated between brilliant and mediocre performances, winning acting honours while also getting brickbats for his poor choice of movie roles.

Bajpayee, whose performance in “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012) and “Special 26” this year won him critical acclaim, plays the villain in Prakash Jha’s “Satyagraha”. The Bollywood film opened in cinemas on Friday.

The 44-year-old actor spoke to Reuters about how he nearly wrecked his movie career, the time when he had no work and why he is no longer content with just good roles.

Pricey dollar puts South Africa, Australia on Indian tourists’ maps

When Aparupa Ganguly visited South Africa in 2007, the country’s topography and wildlife made such an impression on the communications professional that she couldn’t wait to come back. Ganguly got her wish six years later – thanks to a stable rand.

Foreign-bound Indian travellers such as Ganguly are realizing that holidaying in countries such as South Africa and Australia offers value for money as their currencies have been largely stable in recent weeks and haven’t appreciated as much against the rupee, when compared to the dollar or the euro.

Data shows the South African rand and the Australian dollar have gained around 10 percent since May, compared to a near 30 percent surge in the U.S. dollar which hit a record high above 68 per rupee on Wednesday.

Bharti Airtel, NTPC top Sensex losers this week

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex recovered on Thursday and Friday after the index lost around 700 points in the first three trading sessions of the week. However, the index still ended down 0.4 percent as a weak rupee, concerns over foreign flows and uncertainty over the end of the U.S. Fed’s stimulus plan kept investors on the edge.

As a worsening current account deficit and inflation loomed large, the rupee hit fresh record lows below 65 per dollar in the week ending Aug. 23. However, gold prices and bonds rallied.

Fitch Ratings has warned Asia’s third-largest economy of a downgrade if the government fails to soothe tensions in the financial market. JP Morgan and HSBC downgraded Indian shares to ‘neutral’.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Despite rising India-Pakistan tensions, little planning for the next big crisis

In the very early days after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, some in India, for the briefest of moments, believed Washington might be coming around to its point of view: that the problem and source of “cross-border terrorism” lay in Pakistan. Instead, an aggrieved India was forced to look on as Washington turned to its old ally Pakistan to help it fight the war in Afghanistan.

It was in that sour mood that New Delhi reacted with increasing anger to Pakistan’s support for Islamist militants targeting India in Kashmir and beyond. In October 2001, nearly 40 people were killed in a suicide attack on the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir state in its summer capital Srinagar. When militants attacked the Indian parliament in Delhi on December 13, 2001 - an attack blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed - India mobilised for war.  Soon close to a million men were deployed on either side of the border in a tense standoff that was not resolved until the following summer, and only then after intense U.S.-led international diplomacy.

To those of us who witnessed the build-up to the 2001-2002 standoff, the rising tensions between India and Pakistan - with both sides accusing the other of escalating fighting on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir - bear a troublesome resemblance to that time. Then and now are bookended by the U.S. presence in Afghanistan which began in 2001 and is due to end in 2014.

India’s energy price reforms face hurdles

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

India has raised gas prices and also made it easier for power companies to pass on the rising costs of imported coal to customers – two policy steps aimed at boosting fuel supplies and helping to minimize the country’s chronic power shortages.

However, the reforms are unlikely to be a quick fix for India’s blackouts. It may take at least two years for the gas price rise to boost fuel supplies as investments in output and import facilities bear fruit, but even then the key to the plan may lie with distribution companies.

The state-owned distributors – known as discoms – will have to find money to buy the more expensive electricity from power stations. But passing on too much of the costs to consumers will be politically unpopular and the discoms may opt instead to simply halt supply.

India’s Telangana fight explores new frontiers in political attack ads

(Note to readers: contains slightly graphic language and an aggressively provocative image.)

Dear American political consultants: you might think you know how to produce negative political attack ads, but you have much to learn. Caravan magazine’s senior editor Jonathan Shainin on Sunday shared on Twitter what he called “Unquestionably the greatest political poster of all time.” I admit that I have made no broad study, but this ad, coming from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, seems to me to break some kind of sound barrier in the business. (Correction: I cannot confirm that this ad appeared in Hyderabad. A readers whose comment appears below tells  me that the ad appears in Tanuku in West Godavari District)

The Telugu-language ad features a local politician scolding Lok Sabha parliamentarian K Chandrasekhar Rao, a proponent of splitting Andhra Pradesh into two states. Reuters explains why creating a new state, Telangana, is controversial:

Deficit? What deficit? India makes a golden version of everything

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

Indians use gold for all sorts of things. As the world’s biggest gold consumer, its citizens use coins, bars and jewellery  as gifts, dowries and investments that are literally more solid than a share in a company. The ill effect that this has on India’s current account deficit has led the government to try to curb demand.  Here are a few examples of demand that nobody can seem to curb.

This week, gold importer RiddiSiddhi Bullion’s subsidiary Dia Jewels unveiled India’s first gold-plated motorbike. About 35 to 40 kilograms of silver went into making the miniature two-wheeler model, which is gold plated and studded with diamonds, and took six months to make, said Mukesh Kothari, director of Riddisiddhi Bullions.

“It was my dream project to make such a bike, which has never been made before in the Indian markets … Moreover it’s not for sale, so neither have we priced it nor have we marketed it,” Kothari said. The bike cost around $100,000.

Markets this week: Coal India, ITC top Sensex losers

The BSE Sensex lost 3 percent in the week ending Aug. 2, extending its losses from the previous week and marking its biggest weekly fall since mid-March.

Markets remained on the edge on uncertainty over how long the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would continue measures to defend the rupee. The rupee fell 3.4 percent over the last five trading sessions and ended at a record closing low on Friday.

The central bank left the repo rate and cash reserve ratio unchanged at its policy review on July 30, but said it will roll back recent liquidity tightening measures when stability returns to the currency market.

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