Business Economy Finance

Jio competitors see washout in Q3, losses likely in Q4 too

Jio competitors see washout in Q3, losses likely in Q4 too

By Aparajita Gupta

New Delhi:

The balance-sheet of major telecom operators in India — Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications — came under major pressure in the third quarter (October-December) of the current fiscal and the trend is likely to continue in the fourth quarter, say the experts.

“Margin pressure on telcos will continue as long the free data offer from Reliance Jio continues. As and when Reliance Jio decides to withdraw its offer and start charging for its data services, then it will be a different matter,” Arpita Pal Agrawal, partner and leader, Telecom Industry Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers India, told IANS.

“Customers will then compare telco offerings on parameters such as price points, throughput speed, tariff bundles, service experience to decide about their preferred operator option,” she added.

As announced earlier, Reliance Jio plans to offer free data to its customers till March 2017.

Bharti Airtel’s net profit for the third quarter of 2016-17 dropped by 55 per cent while Idea Cellular reported a loss of Rs 478.9 crore for the same quarter. Reliance Communications too posted a net loss of Rs 531 crore in the quarter. Vodafone India, the other big telecom operator is not listed on any Indian bourse.

“The quarter has seen turbulence due to the continued predatory pricing by a new operator. The present termination costs at 14 paise which are well below cost has resulted in a tsunami of minutes terminating into our network. This has led to an unprecedented year-on-year revenue decline for the industry, pressure on margins and a serious impact on the financial health of the sector,” Gopal Vittal, Airtel’s MD and CEO, India & South Asia, had said in a statement earlier.

Idea Cellular too gave a similar reason for the sharp drop in earnings. “The Indian mobile industry witnessed an unprecedented disruption in the quarter of October to December 2016, primarily due to free voice and mobile data promotions by the new entrant in the sector,” the company statement said.

Reliance Communications attributed the loss to three factors. “The industry witnessed unprecedented competitive intensity. This was the first full quarter after company’s complete shutdown of its profitable CDMA operations. And there was an increase in amortisation and interest expense aggregating Rs 278 crore on account of capitalisation of 850 MHz spectrum liberalisation fee,” it said in a statement.

Reliance Communications is owned by industrialist Anil Ambani and Reliance Jio’s owner is his elder brother Mukesh Ambani.

Mahesh Uppal, director, Com First, a telecom consultancy firm, also said there is no doubt that the revenue drop in the third quarter was a direct consequence of Reliance Jio’s aggressive free data offers.

“Incumbent companies, like Airtel and Idea, are being forced to match the prices to remain competitive. The cut-throat pricing is likely to continue since Reliance Jio would want to use it to acquire a decent market share,” Uppal told IANS.

“India is a very price sensitive market; any such offering tends to be disruptive. Incumbent operators need to implement strategies to retain their high-value customers,” Rishi Tejpal, Principal Research Analyst for Telecom Business Strategy at Gartner, told IANS.

“Operators need to implement data-oriented pricing strategies. Jio’s free voice service with free national roaming is a compelling offering and incumbents need to match their offerings to remain competitive,” he added.

(Aparajita Gupta can be reached at aparajita.g@ians.in)

–IANS

Business/Technology

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Arts Culture Books Features, Books

The most famous Viking ever and his entertaining exploits (Column: Bookends)

The most famous Viking ever and his entertaining exploits (Column: Bookends)

By Vikas Datta

The Vikings, who were distinguished by a startling adjective after their name, may have long lost their specific identity in the modern world, with the only of these epithets surviving (and flourishing) into our times being “Bluetooth”. But not all of them have vanished, with one of their fierce warriors, and his unlikely family and associates, continuing to regale newspaper readers around the world for over four decades now.

American comics may be full of action, usually of the superhero variety, but humour has been a long-running and successful staple of their cousin — the newspaper comic strip — for over a century now, with ‘Bringing Up Father’ about accidental millionaire Jiggs and his ambitious wife Maggie starting in 1913 (and lasting till 2000), and many others spanning all genres and eras. One utilising the Dark Ages Scandinavia to great effect was Hagar the Horrible, who made his debut this month in 1973.

Like many others of his ilk, Hagar was not only a subtle depiction of contemporary (suburban) existence and its problems in a different setting, but also drew from his creator’s life. Cartoonist Richard Arthur Allan ‘Dik’ Browne (August 11, 1917 – June 4, 1989) used the “Hagar the Terrible” nickname his sons used for him, only changing it to the more alliterative, present name when he began drawing the cartoon character (which resembled him too).

Known earlier for co-creating “Hi and Lois” with Mort “Beetle Bailey” Walker, Browne used a clear, editorial-style line drawing, with minimal foreground or background detail, shading or embellishes for the strip — attributed to his experience as an illustrator in the courtroom, and subsequently during World War II in a US Army Engineer unit where he had to produce technical diagrams, maps and other documents.

A rather slovenly, unkempt, lazy, overweight, red-bearded Viking in an unnamed Norwegian coastal village, Hagar (pronounced “Hay-Gar”) regularly raids England and sometimes France, but can be also glimpsed at home and his neighbourhood pub. While he may look likely a fierce barbarian, he has a soft side, is frequently clueless and naive, and in awe of his formidable wife, Helga, who often chides him on his unprepossessing habits.

Apart from Helga,whose appearance is inspired by that of a Wagnerian Valkyrie, Hagar’s family comprises Honi, their beautiful, sweet but also frequently over-dramatic teenaged daughter, clueless about “girlish” things and confused whether she should become a warrior or a housewife, and Hamlet, their intelligent, clean, obedient and studious young son, almost always seen reading a book and with no interest in becoming a Viking (he wants to be a dentist, much to be his father’s mortification). Then there is Hagar’s dog, Snert, who wears a miniature Viking helmet like everyone else in the household, barks with a Viking accent (“voof”) and understands everything his master tells him, but usually refuses to do what he’s told, and the family’s duck, Kvack, who is is Helga’s friend and confidante, and usually spies on Hagar.

Other key characters include Hagar’s best friend and lieutenant in Viking raids, Lucky Eddie, who belies the popular depiction of brawny macho Viking warriors in being short, skinny, chinless, awkward and a weakling, Honi’s inept minstrel boyfriend Lute, the young, tomboyish Hernia who is deeply (and one-sidedly) in love with Hamlet, cowled, druid-like “physician” Dr. Zook, the King’s bureaucratic emissary, the Tax Collector, usually accompanied by the masked Executioner, Mr. Giggles, a torturer who torments captives by forcible tickling, various other raiders like Dirty Dirk and Mean Max, who are Hagar’s friends/rivals and more.

The humour is often anachronistic with Hagar running into King Arthur, Robin Hood, Attila the Hun, Richard III, and Lady Godiva and even seer Nostradamus, or fantastic with encounters with dragons, trolls and even fairy tale characters like Puss in Boots. It makes use of stereotypes and ethic differences — in one strip, Hagar, after being blown off course and shipwrecked, thinks he has landed in England and sends Lucky Eddie ashore proclaiming he loves the English — but in turns out they have actually landed in Scotland.

And it ranges from witty — Hagar and his crew once meet a panicked Frenchman shouting “Les barbariens viennent!” (The barbarians are coming!) Turning and looking back, the bewildered Hagar says that he couldn’t see any barbarians, or when Hamlet asks his mother how he came, or his sister, is told the stork brought them. Then he asks about his dad, and Helga says he was brought by four big storks — to sheer vaudeville, like the one in which Hagar carries away the entire contents of a smorgasbord.

Browne, who regularly provided a self-contained daily strip of two to four frames with a gag while the weekend installment was longer, retired in 1988 but the strip, continued by his son Chris Browne, is still going strong with Hagar’s exploits, in English and translated in over a dozen languages, featuring in nearly 2,000 newspapers in 60 countries. Proof indeed that this Viking well tickles the funny bone!

(Vikas Datta is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

–IANS

Art/Culture/Books

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DAILY GOSHO, Spirituality

From The Gosho

From The Gosho 

Nichiren Shonin

Passages from Gosho On Repaying Debts of gratitude

What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country.
But if one intends to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom. If one does not, one will be like a man who attempts to lead a company of the blind over bridges and across rivers when he himself has sightless eyes. Can a ship steered by someone who cannot even tell the direction of the wind ever carry the traveling merchants to the mountains where treasure lies?
If one hopes to learn and master Buddhism, then one cannot do so without devoting time to the
task. And if one wants to have time to spend on the undertaking, one cannot continue to wait on one’s
parents, one’s teachers, and one’s sovereign. Until one attains the road that leads to emancipation, one
should not defer to the wishes and feelings of one’s parents and teachers, no matter how reasonable
they may be.
There are times when one can be a loyal minister or a filial child only by
refusing to obey the wishes of one’s sovereign or parents. And in the sacred scriptures of Buddhism it
is said, “By renouncing one’s obligations and entering the Buddhist life one can truly repay those
obligations in full.”
For ordinary people like us, whomever we may take as our teacher, if we have faith in him, then
we will not think him inadequate in any way.
In a scripture called the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha says, “Rely on the Law and not upon
persons.” Relying on the Law here means relying on the various sutras. Not relying upon persons
means not relying on persons other than the Buddha, such as the bodhisattvas Universal
Worthy and Manjushrī or the various Buddhist teachers.
The Lotus Sutra is the only bright mirror we should have, and that through it we can understand the heart of all the sutras.

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Opinion, Sport

India have attack to beat Australia on true pitches (Column: Just Sport)

India have attack to beat Australia on true pitches (Column: Just Sport)

By Veturi Srivatsa

Now that they don’t get to play Pakistan in a bilateral series to excite the crowds in Lahore, Karachi, Kolkata or Mumbai, India have found the alternative in Australia.

An Australia-India series is a big-ticket one, more people watching them play Tests Down Under than in the sub-continent. This time around the excitement will be a little more with Virat Kohli’s team looking good to end the cricket year as the top ranked Test side.

All they need to do is win one of the four Tests. The Australians will have to win 3-0 to wrest the mace and the million dollars going with it.

The mind games have started. Former and current players have spoken up for their sides. The visiting teams can no longer complain of hotels, pitches and grounds. They can’t even talk of India’s non-compliance with the Decision Review System (DRS) doing them in. It works both ways and that makes one wonder why still teams are difficult to beat in their backyards.

The four venues the Australians will be playing are not the familiar ones, barring Bengaluru. New stadiums in Pune, Ranchi and Dharamsala have come up in recent years and can’t be asking for a better team than Australia to host their first Tests. At all these places the weather will be terrific just as the summer approaches in most parts of the country.

The last time when they were here four years ago, Australia were thrashed 4-0. Many think this time around they are up against a side rated the best in international cricket and are not given much of a chance.

India are certainly the favourites to extend their record unbeaten streak of 19 Test matches in over a year. The side has a settled look with a bench strength that makes light of injuries.

India seldom played three fast bowlers in home conditions. And now they have a problem, which three to be picked. Mohammad Shami has been in and out of the side with injuries dogging him, but whenever he is in, he is proving to be unplayable both with the new ball and the reverse-swinging old.

Umesh Yadav has come a long way from the days when an exasperated Mahendra Singh Dhoni publicly denounced him for not using his pace effectively. Ishant Sharma has better control on his pace, line and length now. When conditions are helpful, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is always there.

Five fast bowlers in an Indian squad for a home series gives the team a great feeling. Kohli talks more of his fast bowlers now than the famed spinners.

Kohli has the luxury of playing three spinners from his stock of four. Ideally, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, left-armer Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Amit Mishra look great, but Jayant Yadav is pushing himself in as an all-rounder with a hundred against England. India have aan additional left-armer who bowls chnaman in Kuldeep Yadav in place of the injured Mishra.

Interestingly, it is Ashwin, Yadav and Jadeja along with wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha who have bailed out the team more often after the top-order collapsed.

With all boxes ticked, including fielding, Kohli is happy that he forces at his command are helping him concentrate on his batting, not worrying much about captaincy. The four double hundreds he got in the last seven months, against the West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh, prove the point.

The Australians, for a change, are not their usual talkers as most of them have developed a soft corner for the country as Indian Premier League (IPL) players. Still, they talk of plans to rein in Kohli and tackle Ashwin and Jadeja.

They are confident that Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will be a handful for Indian batsmen and are hoping that Nathon Lyon will do a Graeme Swan on Indian pitches along with left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe.

The visitors are heavily depending on their captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner and the Marsh brothers Shaun and Mitchell to get them the runs.

The enigmatic Glen Maxwell can play a leading role if he fulfills his potential as a hard-hitting batsman, but he will have a tough time battling for a spot in the top-order.

At the end of it all, Australia’s record in the subcontinent has not been awful, losing to all the top three – India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Australia fear that India will play on spin-friendly pitches, but recent record shows they won on true tracks where pace men revelled as much as the spinners did on the last two days.

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at sveturi@gmail.com)

–IANS

 

Sports/Cricket

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India, Politics, UTTAR PRADESH

RaGa’s elan in UP campaign brings out his new avatar

RaGa’s elan in UP campaign brings out his new avatar

By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow:

At an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, when Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi imitated the “mitron” idiom of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the audience burst into laughter and cheered him for well over a minute.

The Uttar Pradesh polls could well be the defining moment for the Gandhi scion who is looking more confident, combative and expressive.

Sample this:

At his first joint presser with Akhilesh Yadav at a five star property in Lucknow, when a reporter introduced himself as a representative of the No. 1 channel, Rahul jokingly took him on.

“Arre aap to Modi ji ho gaye, aap hi number one, aap hi number two our aap hi number three, aur koi nahin,” he said as the crowd of hacks burst into peels of laughter. As the laughter continued, even Akhilesh joined in.

At two rallies — Fatehpur and Rae Bareli on Friday — the Gandhi scion targeted Modi with a Bollywood punch. “When Modi ji came two-and-a-half-years back he was in the (Shahrukh starrer) ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ mode, but now he has turned into a Gabbar (of Bollywood classic ‘Sholay’ fame).

With party President Sonia Gandhi unwell and not showing up to campaign, the stubble-sporting, jeans- and kurta-clad 46-year-old Rahul Gandhi seems to be on a high. He and his sister Priyanka played a key role in stitching an electoral alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party.

The young Gandhi’s mannerisms, interactions and speech delivery have considerably improved, say aides. Even cynical Congress supporters agree.

“I am quite delighted at what I am seeing and hearing,” says Ali Hasan, an old-time Congress supporter from Chowk. “It is certainly a more mature, humble Rahul.”

He pointed out how during the roadshow in Lucknow’s old city, Gandhi appeared in control despite the presence of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

“His style of connecting and communicating has certainly improved. He is more direct in his attacks, candid in his replies,” said a veteran journalist.

The state unit of the Congress, which has lived in political wilderness for more than two decades, has found a sudden spring.

An office attendant at the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee office told IANS that the changes in “Rahulji’s style” had triggered hope in the rank and file.

At the dozens of election rallies and three roadshows Gandhi held with Akhilesh Yadav in Kanpur, Agra and Lucknow, the crowd sensed the new avatar of Gandhi and his new-found confidence.

Nazneen, a physiotherapist in Lucknow’s Hussainganj area, told IANS: “He is so good looking. The only thing that made him a ‘pappu’ was his lacklustre oratory and poor confidence. He seems to have overcome that. I am certainly bowled over by his charisma.”

At Haridwar in Uttarakhand, a tense situation arose when his cavalcade was passing through a place where hundreds of BJP supporters started jeering Gandhi and shouting “Modi, Modi”.

Gandhi smiled from atop the bus he was travelling in and remarked he was happy that BJP members too had come to hear him. There were smiles on both sides and the road show continued uninterrupted.

His jibes at Narendra Modi — he peeps into others’ bathrooms, he heads a suit-boot ki sarkar — have endeared him to the crowds and forced the Prime Minister to respond, almost every day.

Till now the Modi camp was not even noticing the Congress leader. Or so it claimed.

The change in style comes as a soothing balm for the besieged Congress workers in the state where staggered assembly elections began on February 11.

Will the Gandhi aura turn into votes for the SP-Congress alliance and dent Modi’s appeal? The answer will come on March 11 when votes polled in Uttar Pradesh and four other states get counted.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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Business Economy Finance, Education Environment Health S&T

What exactly is wrong with China’s ‘Apple’ Xiaomi?

What exactly is wrong with China’s ‘Apple’ Xiaomi?

By Anuj Sharma

New Delhi:

Although it crossed $1 billion in revenue in 2016 within the first two years of its operations in India, Xiaomi — once touted as the “Apple” of China — has slipped to fourth spot back home as the demand for its smartphones declined 22 per cent annually — eventually taking it to seventh spot in the global smartphone ranking with a 16 per cent drop in sales.
The decline came even as Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s high-profile head of international operations, left the company in January and joined Facebook to lead its virtual reality (VR) project.

According to the experts, the key reason for this decline is Xiaomi’s rivals racing ahead with key features, better innovations, bigger marketing budgets and wider online and offline distribution channels.

“Until 2016, Xiaomi relied only on online channels for smartphone sales which contributes approximately 30 per cent of the total smartphones sales in China, leaving a huge chunk of the market untapped. Its competitors invested heavily in building strong offline channels, expanding their reach to tier-2 and tier-3 cities and moving ahead of Xiaomi,” Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst, Mobile Devices and Ecosystems at market research firm Counterpoint Research, told IANS.

Another reason for Xiaomi’s slipping growth is the rising average selling price (ASP) of the maturing China smartphone market, experts noted.

“Bulk of the sales in China is coming from upgrades where Huawei, OPPO and Vivo are gaining market share while Xiaomi remains in the below-$150 category. Xiaomi also lacks in research and development unlike its Chinese counterparts which are vertically integrated,” Srivastava added.

An email sent to the company for its reaction to the decline in global smartphone sales didn’t elicit any response.

Xiaomi’s main markets have been China and India which combined get more than 95 per cent shipment share. While performance in India improved in 2016, the company lost market share in China resulting in the decline of overall global smartphone ranking.

Huawei, Oppo and Vivo have emerged as clear winners with Oppo and Vivo registering significant growth in China.

Shipping 44.9 million iPhones to China, even Apple has beaten Xiaomi that shipped 41.5 million smartphones in 2016, market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed earlier this month.

According to IDC’s “Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker” report, Apple dropped from 58.4 million iPhones in 2015 and Xiaomi from 64 million Mi phones — drops of 23 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively.

Amid the global gloom, it is the Indian smartphone market that has helped Xiaomi gain profits.

“They (Xiaomi) have already established their presence in India with a revenue of more than $1 billion in 2016 in the country. They will keep going as they have a strong management team,” Jaideep Mehta, Managing Director, IDC South Asia, told IANS.

“On Barra, I would say that a senior executive has just moved on. Of  course, he will be missed, but the company is bigger than one individual,” he added.

Coincidently, Xiaomi is not going to showcase any product at the upcoming Mobile World Congress (MWC), the telecom industry’s largest event, in Barcelona, Spain, later this month. There are reports that Xiaomi doesn’t have new devices to showcase during the MWC show.

This indicates there is something wrong somewhere and the company needs to plug the problem fast before its global presence plunges further.

“To recover and sustain growth, Xiaomi will have to focus on building strong offline channels as it will open up a significant market for the company. It needs to concentrate more on its R&D and come up with a device in the higher-mid end segment for the increasing Chinese middle-class population with higher disposable incomes,” Srivastava emphasised.

(Anuj Sharma can be contacted at anuj.s@ians.in)

–IANS

Business/Technology

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Politics, TAMIL NADU

Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami comfortably wins confidence vote

AIADMK leader E. Palaniswami
AIADMK leader E. Palaniswami
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader E. Palaniswami (Photo: IANS)

Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami comfortably wins confidence vote 

Chennai:

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Saturday comfortably won the vote of confidence in the state assembly, with the proceedings marred by pandemonium that saw the opposition DMK evicted by the Speaker, and the Congress too walked out.
Palaniswami, who was sworn in on Thursday as Chief Minister, won with 122 votes in favour and 11 votes against. The 11 opposing votes were cast by the rival AIADMK camp led by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.

Palaniswami belongs to the AIADMK faction led by party General Secretary V.K. Sasikala.

The end came tamely after DMK’s 88 members, who were present were ordered to be evicted by Speaker P. Dhanapal after they indulged in a ruckus.

After that Congress legislators walked out in protest, dashing Panneerselvam’s hopes.

The AIADMK camp led by Sasikala was obviously happy and distributed sweets.

“The traitors were defeated,” A. Navaneethakrishnan, part of Sasikala camp told reporters here.

After winning the confidence vote, a happy Palaniswami went to the memorial of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Marina beach and paid homage to her.

Speaking to reporters he said: “The people of Tamil Nadu are happy.”

He said party General Secretary V.K. Sasikala’s vow here couple of days back has come true.

Panneerselvam alleged that the floor test was conducted after the eviction of Opposition members and went against democratic norms.

“Dharma has been momentarily eclipsed but it shall win finally,” he said.

The chaos of the assembly proceedings spilt over to Marina beach where DMK party chief M.K. Stalin had moved along with his party legislators to protest against the manner in which the DMK legislators were evicted from the state assembly.

Stalin, along with party MLAs, sat on protest near the Mahatma Gandhi statue on the Marina beach.

Police later took the DMK MLAs into custody. DMK supporters blocked the police vehicles at the venue.

Earlier, Stalin met Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and lodged a complaint against the happenings in the assembly.

Speaking to reporters after he and his party legislators were evicted from the assembly, Stalin said the party had demanded secret ballot to decide on the motion of confidence moved by Chief Minister Palaniswami.

The DMK leader said he sat in protest inside the assembly to press his demand.

Stalin alleged he was forcibly evicted by the marshals and suffered injuries while his shirt was damaged.

He also alleged that the party legislators were assaulted by the marshals while ev

In the morning, soon after the assembly began, Palaniswami moved the confidence motion, which was followed by heated arguments started by DMK supremo Stalin urging Speaker Dhanapal to allow secret ballot.

The Speaker, who belongs to the Sasikala camp, stood his ground and said that legislators could not interfere with his powers.

He also questioned the need for urgency in seeking a confidence vote when Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao had given 15 days time to Palaniswami.

As the AIADMK lawmakers supporting Chief Minister Palaniswami remained silent, the DMK legislators surrounded Dhanapal shouting slogans.

They tore the assembly agenda papers and some flung the mikes and chairs.

When the marshals tried to escort Dhanapal out, DMK members pulled him back to his chair. One DMK MLA sat on the Speaker’s chair in protest.

Dhanapal first adjourned the House till 1 p.m. and later till 3 p.m.

Former Chief Minister Panneerselvam also demanded secret ballot.

Ahead of the vote, Palaniswami’s AIADMK faction suffered two jolts when Arun Kumar, a legislator from Coimbatore North, jumped ship, and AIADMK legislator representing Mylapore constituency and former Director General of Police (DGP) R. Nataraj said he would vote against Palaniswami.

On DMK’s strategy in the assembly former MP R. Thamarai Selvan of the party told IANS: “We tried for secret ballot or at least an adjournment of the session. Without a secret ballot there is no possibility of any cross voting by the members of Palaniswami camp.”

–IANS

 

Politics/National/India/States/Tamil Nadu

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India

Tata aerospace firm to make missile components

Tata aerospace firm to make missile components

Bengaluru:

Tata Son’s security and defence arm Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) will make components for Stinger air defence missile with the US-based Raytheon Company, said the aerospace firm on Friday.
“TASL will produce components of the Stinger missile used for surface-to-air and air-to-air applications against airborne targets,” said TASL after entering into a deal on the margins of the biennial Aero India 2017 expo here.

As a man-portable air-defence system, Stinger operates as an infrared homing surface-to-air (SAM) missile. It can be adapted to fire from ground vehicles and helicopters.

The collaboration with the $24-billion aerospace major (Rayatheon) is another partnership for TASL in the defence and aerospace sector.

“We hope to become a key contributor to the Stinger for India,” said TASL Chief Executive Officer Sukaran Singh in the statement.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will equip its AH-64 Apache helicopters with the Stinger when inducted into the service.

The combination of supersonic speed, agility, accurate guidance and control system and lethal warhead gives Stinger the operational edge against helicopters, UAVs, cruise missiles, and fixed-wing aircraft.

“Stinger also has an air-to-air capability for integrating into most fixed-or rotary-wing platforms.

–IANS

 

Defence/Security/National/India

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Politics, TAMIL NADU

Palaniswami set to seek vote of confidence amid uncertainty

Palaniswami set to seek vote of confidence amid uncertainty 

Chennai:

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami is all set to seek a vote of confidence on Saturday in the state assembly — that is likely to see some tight-rope walk, with the rival AIADMK faction led by O. Panneerselvam joined by opposition parties to vote against the government.
The southern state, that has not seen a day without hectic political developments since the past 10 days, is poised for another day of intense political activity with the scene shifting to the state assembly.

Palaniswami, 63, a senior leader in the ruling AIADMK of the V.K. Sasikala camp, was sworn in on Thursday. He needs the support of 117 legislators to continue in the post.

The AIADMK party commands the support of 124 legislators, including the Speaker, while the breakaway group led by former Chief Minister Panneerselvam has 11 legislators.

The other opposition includes DMK with 89 members, Congress – eight, Indian Union Muslim League with one, and one seat is vacant. The DMK has said it will vote against the government, while the Congress has said it will wait for the party high command’s directive. However, the Congress has indicated it will vote against the Palaniswami government.

The DMK (minus its President M. Karunanidhi who is unwell has 88 legislators to vote), Along with the Congress and Indian Union of Muslim League, the opposition group comes to 97.

The Panneerselvam camp has the support of 11, taking the tally against Palaniswami to 108. If there is some cross-voting to the tune of 10 legislators from Sasikala’s camp then it could be the end for Palaniswami.

The assembly has a total strength of 234 of which one seat is vacant.

On Friday, the Chief Minister’s support base suffered erosion by one legislator.

AIADMK legislator representing Mylapore constituency and former Director General of Police (DGP) R. Nataraj said he would vote against Palaniswami.

Following Nataraj’s about-turn at the last minute, Palaniswami’s support base is down to 124 legislators.

Meanwhile, a week after he was sacked from the AIADMK, former party Presidium Chairman E. Madhusudanan on Friday in turn “dismissed” General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, Chief Minister Palaniswami Deputy General Secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran, Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha M.Thambidurai, A. Navaneethakrishnan, Thangamani, N.Dalavai Sundaram, Valarmathi, R.B. Udhayakumar, C.Ve. Shanmugam and S. Venkatesh — from the party’s primary membership.

The vote of confidence is being held following a split in the AIADMK party after Panneerselvam revolted against General Secretary V.K. Sasikala charging her of forcing him to quit.

Sasikala is now in a jail in Bengaluru after being convicted in a corruption case.

On Thursday, Palaniswami was sworn in as Chief Minister and 30 ministers also took oath.

Majority of legislators belonging to Sasikala camp are housed in a beach resort around 90 km from here and Panneerselvam hopes to get some votes from those legislators.

After holding hectic discussions at Panneerselvam’s residence on Friday morning, a small group of AIADMK leaders met the Speaker in the Secretariat and demanded secret ballot.

Speaking to reporters, S. Semmalai, part of the Panneerselvam camp, said they have urged the Speaker for a secret ballot to decide on the motion of confidence.

“Panneerselvam and the legislators supporting him should openly vote against the motion of confidence and to build on the credibility in the people’s mind space,” K.C. Palaniswamy, a former MP of AIADMK, told IANS on Friday.

On the other hand if secret ballot on the confidence motion is allowed and a whip is issued the issue before the Panneerselavam camp is whether to abide by the whip or disobey.

“In case if they disobey, whether they could be disqualified as legislators under the anti-defection law is a point to ponder,” an AIADMK leader said.

“The party whip has to take orders from the leader before issuing any whip on the way in which legislators are to vote. In AIADMK’s case the appointment of Sasikala as General Secretary is under dispute and also the appointments made by her. So that question would have to be decided before any legislator can be disqualified,” Palaniswamy said.

Sasikala had recently dismissed Panneerselvam and former Minister K. Pandiarajan from the primary membership of the party and both are outside the purview of the anti-defection law.

DMK General Secretary K. Anbazhagan has predicted the government will not survive.

On Thursday, MPs belonging to the Panneerselvam camp had met Election Commission officials and petitioned to disqualify Sasikala’s appointment as General Secretary.

–IANS

 

Politics/National/States/Tamil Nadu

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Politics, TAMIL NADU

EC notice to Sasikala on petition by Panneerselvam faction

EC notice to Sasikala on petition by Panneerselvam faction

New Delhi:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday sent a notice to AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala and sought her reply on the petitions filed by a delegation of MPs from the O. Panneerselvam camp challenging her appointment as party General Secretary.
Sasikala, currently lodged in Parappana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru, has been asked by EC to respond by February 28.

“The Commission has directed that your reply on the aforesaid petitions may be furnished latest by 28.02.2017, failing which it will be presumed that you have no comments to offer and the Commission will take appropriate action in the matter,” the EC letter read.

On Thursday, a delegation of AIADMK MPs led by Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan petitioned the EC over Sasikala’s appointment as the party’s General Secretary, which they said was illegal.

The delegation comprising of 11 AIADMK parliamentarians told the EC in their petition that as per the party constitution, to become the party General Secretary, one has to be a member for five consecutive years, and pointed out that Sasikala did not fulfil this basic criterion.

The petition also mentioned Rule 20 (2) of the party by-law which says that the General Secretary shall be elected by the primary members of the party units of Tamil Nadu and members of other states.

–IANS

 

Politics/National/States/Tamil Nadu

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Sport

Paddler Harmeet advances, Manika bows out of India Open

Paddler Harmeet advances, Manika bows out of India Open

New Delhi:

Promising Indian paddler Harmeet Desai started his 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open table tennis tournament campaign on a positive note, registering a hard-fought 4-3 victory over 16th seeded Tristan Flore of France at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex here on Thursday.
Ranked 112 in the world, Harmeet started off confidently against World No.77 Tristan. He attacked with his backhand and forehand and wrapped up the first three games (11-4, 11-6, 11-9) in under 20 minutes.

The match was firmly in his grasp at 8-7 in the fourth when he let it slip away from him.

A lapse of concentration by Harmeet allowed the Frenchman to flex his muscles as a result of which he won the next three games (11-9, 11-9, 11-7) to restore parity.

Harmeet looked a little anxious as the deciding game unfolded. They kept pace with each other but Harmeet slipped to 5-6 to face the prospect of a bitter defeat. But then, then he reeled off the next 6 points to seal his place in the next round.

In the women’s singles category, India’s Mousumi Paul pulled off a sensational victory, upsetting the country’s top seeded player Manika Batra.

the 10th seeded player began as a firm favourite but she quickly ran into trouble, losing the opening game 7-11.

She pulled one back 11-8 but she couldn’t dictate the pace or flow of the match as Mousumi attacked confidently.

Manika’s backhand blocks were not effective enough, allowing Mousumi to kill the points almost at will. She lost the next three games without as much of a fight, going down 7-11, 4-11, 8-11.

With India’s best hope out of the race, a lot rested on the shoulders of the newly crowned national champion Madhurima Patkar. But after showing initial promise by winning the opening game against Wai Yam Soo of Hong Kong, she faded away.

She lost the next four games to suffer an embarrassing defeat against the Under-21 singles silver medallist.

In the other match, Krittwika Roy was beaten by fifth seeded Huajun Jiang of Hong Kong.

She displayed great skill and grit to stretch her all the way to decider. In the deciding game, she was on the cusp of victory five times, but couldn’t convert any of them. Huajun managed to steak it, taking the game 19-17.

–IANS

 

Sports

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Business Economy Finance, World

Seoul court declares Hanjin Shipping bankrupt

Seoul court declares Hanjin Shipping bankrupt

Seoul:

South Korea’s largest shipping company, Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd, was officially declared bankrupt by a local court on Friday, a media report said.
This ended its 40 years of operations after its financial woes shook the international freight markets in September 2016, Efe news reported.

Hanjin, the world’s seventh largest shipping company, declared the suspension of payments on August 31, 2016, and was subsequently put under judicial administration after a court rejected its restructuring plan.

The Seoul Central District Court in February announced the liquidation of most of the company’s assets, including all of its transportation routes, 141 container ships and freighters, and ended the debt repayment process.

The bankruptcy of the company caused almost all international ports to deny its ships access, since it could not pay the fees, which seriously disrupted the traffic of goods by sea for several weeks.

The South Korean shipping company used to deliver shipments to more than 90 major ports and from there to some 6,000 destinations worldwide.

–IANS

 

Business/World

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Health

‘Dimpi’ to the rescue of diabetics (Health Feature)

Health/Medicine/Science/National

‘Dimpi’ to the rescue of diabetics (Health Feature)

By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata:

In a breakthrough that could transform the despair of diabetics into dimples of relief, Indian scientists have designed an insulin-like oral substance, nicknamed “Dimpi”, which they claim can be used to tackle both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Over 400 million people across the world grapple with the disease and India figures among the top countries with a high diabetic population. It doesn’t discriminate between the rich and poor and even celebrities like Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry — not to forget prominent Pakistani ex-cricketer Wasim Akram — are not spared.

Efforts to develop non-toxic oral replacement for insulin have been on for the last several years but none of the molecules designed so far have reached the stage of clinical application due to efficacy, safety and stability issues.

But a team of researchers attempted to turn the problem on its head. The result: DMP (dimethyl proxy vanadate), referred to as Dimpi.

“The small molecule ‘dmp’ developed by our group is orally active, cost-effective, stable at room temperature and free from significant toxicity as seen in animal models,” endocrinologist Satinath Mukhopadhyay at the Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research, Kolkata, told IANS.

Almost 25 years in the making, Dimpi was whipped up at Mihir K. Chaudhuri’s lab in Tezpur University in a collaborative effort involving Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Haryana, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, and the Defence Research Laboratory, Tezpur.

Dimpi trumps the hurdles presented by conventional insulin replacement therapy (including injections and pills), Mukhopadhyay said.

Destruction and dysfunction of pancreatic beta cells (insulin producers) are of common occurrence in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and insulin injection becomes a compulsion.

They can be expensive and like some oral anti-diabetic drugs (such as thiozolidinediones or TZDs), can cause undesirable effects, such as edema, weight gain, heart failure and hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose).

A fall in blood glucose may lead to headache, weakness, sweating, tremors and the like, and, if severe, may result in death. No adverse effects were seen with the use of Dimpi in animal models, the researchers noted.

“The new molecule also does not meddle with growth metabolism as insulin sometimes does if administered for a long time,” said Samir Bhattacharya, Emeritus Professor, School of Life Science, Visva-Bharati and a corresponding author of the study, published in PLOS ONE in January.

The molecule takes off from vanadium, deployed as anti-diabetic agents in research due to their insulin-like activity.

But the dose at which these compounds bring in to play their anti-diabetic effects could be too toxic for clinical use in humans, Bhattacharya said.

So to troubleshoot, the researchers crafted Dimpi, which not only displays powerful insulin-like action at a lower dose but also slashes insulin-resistance and makes the body more responsive to the insulin available.

The dual properties take care of the two forms of the disease, they said.

In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, resulting in no, or a critically low amount of, insulin. So it becomes necessary to take insulin, without which the body can’t properly get the energy and fuel it needs from glucose.

Type 2 diabetes is often a result of the body’s inability to make enough of, or to properly use, the insulin that is produced. This requires diet, exercise and medication to bring the blood sugar under control.

Lauding the development, Partha Chakrabarti, an expert in metabolic diseases, said the work revitalises the possibility of orally-administrable drugs that have insulin like action.

“If the follow-up studies are fruitful, usage of this compound could reduce or even eliminate the use of insulin in some patients. Although development of small compounds at the laboratory and its appearance in the market is marred with lengthy, tortuous and complex processes, this work gives us new hope for a new generation anti-diabetic therapy,” Chakrabarti, Senior Scientist, Cell Biology & Physiology Division, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, told IANS.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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World

Zuckerberg expresses concerns on anti-globalisation trend

World/Technology

Zuckerberg expresses concerns on anti-globalisation trend

London:

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed deep-seated concerns that the tide is turning against globalisation.
In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, the Facebook founder said that fake news, polarised views and “filter bubbles” were damaging “common understanding”.

He said people had been left behind by global growth, sparking demands to “withdraw” from the “connected world”.

In a call to action, he said people must not “sit around and be upset”, but act to build “social infrastructures”.

“When I started Facebook, the mission of connecting the world was not controversial,” he said.

“It was as if it was a default assumption that people had; every year the world got more connected and that seems like the direction things were heading in.

“Now that vision is becoming more controversial.”

He told the BBC: “There are people around the world that feel left behind by globalisation and the rapid changes that have happened, and there are movements as a result to withdraw from some of that global connection.”

Zuckerberg’s interview comes alongside the publication of a 5,500-word letter he has written about the future of Facebook and the global economy.

In it, Zuckerberg quotes Abraham Lincoln who spoke of acting “in concert”, and talks about “spiritual needs”, civic engagement and says that many people have “lost hope for the future”.

“For a couple of decades, may be longer, people have really sold this idea that as the world comes together everything is going to get better,” he said.

“I think the reality is that over the long term that will be true, and there are pieces of infrastructure that we can build to make sure that a global community works for everyone.

“But I do think there are some ways in which this idea of globalisation didn’t take into account some of the challenges it was going to create for people, and now I think some of what you see is a reaction to that.

“If people are asking the question, is the direction for humanity to come together more or not? I think that answer is clearly yes.

“But we have to make sure the global community works for everyone. It is not just automatically going to happen,” he said.

–IANS

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DELHI, Politics

Kejriwal a dream merchant, still in opposition mode: Ajay Maken

Ajay Maken,Kejriwal
Ajay Maken,Kejriwal
Congress leader Ajay Maken. (File Photo: IANS)

Politics/North India/Delhi

Kejriwal a dream merchant, still in opposition mode: Ajay Maken

By Anand Singh

New Delhi:

Congress leader Ajay Maken has said that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is a “dream merchant” who is still in “opposition mode” and that the AAP government has failed to meet expectations of the people in several areas, including infrastructure, health and education.

In an interview to IANS, Ajay Maken, 53, who is Delhi Congress chief, said that the Congress was on a revival path in the city and would perform well in the municipal polls later this year.

Maken said Kejriwal shoots questions at others but rarely answers queries posed to him.

“Kejriwal must understand that he is no more in the opposition. Gone are the days when he can run away after asking questions. He should answer questions of the opposition and of the people,” Maken said.

He said Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had won a huge mandate in the 2015 assembly elections by making tall promises and by negating the work of the Congress government in Delhi in 15 years.

“Kejriwal came to power by weaving dreams. I call him a dream merchant. He made false criticism of the work of Congress governments led by Sheila Dikshit,” Maken said.

“Whether it is infrastructure, roads, health or education, the AAP government has failed. You won’t find a single new flyover project initiated in the last two years. No new hospital has been started,” Maken added.

He said the number of buses run by the city’s bus service DTC has come down in the last two years.

The AAP government has blamed the central government for delaying clearances for many of its projects, including allotment of land for hospitals by the Delhi Development Authority.

Maken also alleged that the Kejriwal government had not responded adequately when the city faced problems related to dengue and chikungunya.

Referring to the third phase of the Metro Rail project, Maken said it was the first time that the corporation had missed its completion deadline.

The Congress leader alleged that the Jan Lokpal Bill brought by the AAP government was “weak”.

“They said that they would end corruption, but has the promise been met? Many of their own MLAs and ministers have been booked by police (on various charges),” Maken said.

Maken, who has been a minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, alleged that the tussle witnessed between the central government and the Delhi government was “stage managed”.

“Much of the face-off is stage managed. It suits Kejriwal and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, because both of them have come to power by making tall promises. They have not been able to deliver on them,” Maken said.

He said the Congress was being strengthened “in a way that suits modern-day politics”.

The AAP had won 67 of 70 seats in the 2015 assembly elections while the Congress could not open its account.

Maken said the Congress had suffered electoral defeats earlier too and will bounce back to power.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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Haryana, Opinion

Jat agitation in Haryana a major challenge for Khattar (News Analysis)

Politics/National/North India/Haryana

Jat agitation in Haryana a major challenge for Khattar (News Analysis)

By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh:

Continuing protests by the Jat community in Haryana and their growing ranks are proving a major challenge for the BJP government in the state that had earlier shown political and administrative ineptness in dealing with the anarchic violence a year ago.

Bitter memories of the large-scale violence in 10 districts of the state last February during the Jat agitation for reservations, which left 30 people dead and over 200 injured and caused damage worth hundreds of crores of rupees to government and private property, are still fresh in the minds of people.

The inept handling by the government of the protests, which eventually led to the violence after the agitation was virtually hijacked by unscrupulous elements, had come in for criticism from all quarters.

This time too, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has hardly done much — since the Jats resumed their agitation on January 29 — to instil confidence among the people that the situation will not get out of hand.

Initially, the government of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tried to project that only a faction led by All India Jat Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) president Yash Pal Malik, was resorting to protests. The government opted to talk to other factions of Jat leaders to defuse the situation, but the move backfired.

In the last fortnight, the Jat protests have grown bigger and have spread to nearly 20 of Haryana’s 22 districts. BJP leaders in Haryana have even labelled Malik an “outsider” and tried to project that the Jat protests were politically influenced by the assembly elections in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

Ministers, legislators and leaders of the ruling BJP, including those from the Jat community, are blaming the Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leadership for fishing in troubled waters by supporting the Jat protests.

Last year too, the BJP government and leadership had squarely blamed the Congress, particularly the camp led by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, himself a prominent Jat leader, for the protests and the violence.

Having come to power for the first time on its own since the creation of Haryana in 1966, the BJP, which is seen as a party supported by traders and non-Jat communities, has not been able to deal with the Jat community.

The Jats in Haryana have played a dominant role in Haryana’s politics. They constitute 28 per cent of the state’s nearly 28 million population and 25 per cent of its electorate.

The other main political parties, the Congress and the INLD, are led by Jat leaders and have a considerable hold over the community. The INLD, particularly, is dominated by Jat leaders from the clan of former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal and his son Om Prakash Chautala.

During last year’s Jat agitation, two senior Jat ministers in the Khattar government, O.P. Dhankar and Abhimanyu, intervened but the move failed.

The BJP had also roped into its fold senior Jat leader Birender Singh, who was with the Congress for over four decades, before the 2014 parliamentary elections.

But the bottom line is that the BJP has not been able to make inroads into the Jat leadership and the community in the nearly 30 months it has been governing the state.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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