Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Updates

Sorry for the delay in the regular telecast...
1) Soft loan to BD Linky

Indo-Bangladesh relations have been put on a new, but potentially stronger footing, with the inking of a US$ 1 billion worth of a loan agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka occasioned by the visit of Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Dhaka. It has a 20-year repayment period on a rate of interest at 1.75 percent which in the commercial category is considered to be rather moderate. As to the opposition BNP's pointer that multilateral financing agencies could be approached, their soft-term loans with only a service charge are usually difficult to obtain, particularly in the present global financial clime, and for the types of projects specified in the loan agreement signed with India, according to experts.
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It is noteworthy that credit repayment period is 20 years with a 5-year grace period but no time-frame has been indicated for the implementation of the projects, although we assume that it will be time-bound. It involves a massive test of engineering that will have to blend the interests of both sides. Since it is a tied loan, equipment and materials will be supplied by India. We believe joint implementing agencies and oversight bodies would be needed to ensure that project implementation is manifestly beneficial to both sides. The question of maintenance ought to figure as a vital planning component.

Here are the 14 projects, a coup if one reads it carefully: Linky

1) The first project is on procurement of six high-powered dredgers at $71.69 million. Of the dredgers, one will be used for dredging at Mongla Port while three for Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and two for Bangladesh Water Development Board.
2) The second project is related to construction of an internal container river port at Ashuganj at a cost of $36.23 million. Bangladesh and India have recently signed an agreement under which Ashuganj in Bangladesh and Silghat in India have been declared ports of call.
3) The third project is to buy 10 broad gauge locomotive engines worth $31.55 million for Bangladesh Railway.
4) The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh projects are also related to Bangladesh Railway. Some 125 broad gauge passenger coaches will be bought at a cost of $53.63 million under the fourth project,
5) while 60 tank wagons for fuel oil transportation and two break vans at a cost of $8.85 million under the fifth project.
6) The sixth one is on buying 50 metre gauge flat wagons and five break vans at a cost of $4.55 million for Bangladesh Railway.
7) Under the seventh project, two railway bridges -- 2nd Bhairab Bridge and 2nd Titas Bridge -- will be constructed, which will cost $120 million.
8) The next five projects are related with road transport. The eighth one is to buy 300 double-decker buses for Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) at an estimated amount of $29.65 million.
9) Under the ninth project, 50 articulated buses would be bought for BRTC at a cost of $6.12 million.
10) The 10th one is related to development of road communications for a land port. Under the project, Sarail-Brahmanbaria-Sultanpur-Akhaura-Senarbadi road will be constructed at a cost of $33.82 million.
11) The 11th project is for construction of an overpass at Jurain rail crossing and a flyover at Malibagh rail crossing in Dhaka. These will cost $31.44 million.
12) Project number 12 is purely on connectivity between Bangladesh and India. Under this project, a road will be constructed between Ramgarh and Sabroom [Tripura's southern border town] at a cost of $14.53 million.
13) An amount of $150.86 million will be spent for the 13th project, which is for setting up power gridline between India and Bangladesh. Under the project, a 400KV grid inter-connection between Bheramara of Bangladesh and Baharamapur of India will be set up.
14) The 14th project has four sub projects related to capacity building of Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute (BSTI). Laboratories will be set up at a cost of $8.92 million to test foods, cement, brick and gold.

To snuff out the BNP whinefest, Facts in loans
2) Linky

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi often claims on the floor of the State Assembly and at public meetings that he has been able to get more Central funds than what the former AGP government could get under six heads — the State Annual Plans, Central sector schemes, Centrally sponsored schemes, Non-Lapsable Pool of Resources (NLPR), Special Plans, and Schemes under the North Eastern Council (NEC). The vocal Chief Minister, however, stops short of making public the huge amount of sanctioned Central funds that his government has forfeited due to its failure to submit utilization certificates to the Centre on time. The failure on the part of the government to submit the utilization certificates of funds meant for various schemes points to the fact that funds received by the State Government have not been properly utilized. The Gogoi government had to forfeit a whopping Rs 19214.66-crore sanctioned funds against the six Central schemes from fiscal 2006-07 to fiscal 2009-10 due to its failure to submit their utilization certificates on time.

3) Maoist menace expands in Bihar Linky

The Maoists are expanding their base in Bihar. Confined to the south till a few years ago, Naxalites have now started making their presence felt in the northern parts of the state. Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Sheohar districts are their new bastions. The Maoists have allegedly organised kangaroo courts in several hamlets in these districts.
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So far, almost 16 police stations of the Tirhut range under Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Sheohar districts are facing Maoist problems. The rebels have been sneaking into the Indian territory from Nepal and carrying out subversive activities en route to Sheohar. Pandey has directed the senior superintendent of police of Muzaffarpur and superintendents of police of other Red-hit districts to conduct searches at random to flush Maoists out of their hideouts.
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To prevent the influx of Maoists from Nepal, jawans of Sashastra Seema Bal have been deployed in the camps and outposts at Piprakothi and Sursand in Sitamarhi district.

4)

Indian Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh Monday objected to calling the native tribals of Andaman and Nicobar “primitive tribes” even as their decreasing numbers continue to be a major concern. “We must stop using the term primitive, use the term original inhabitants,” Ramesh said while replying to supplementaries in the Rajya Sabha. Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas, Sentinelese and Shompens are the identified tribes from the islands. “They are away from the mainstream. They are original Negroids who migrated from Africa, how the local administration saves them is a challenge,” Ramesh said.

The right term from the official A&N Gazetteer is "autochthonous people." More on the geopol history of the Islands chain later. [As I speak, I am re-holding Kiran Dhingra's gazetteer on an ILL. The book's summary on matters of interest requires a separate post. This would follow-up on the Coco Islands saga.]
5) Manipur blockade Linky

Leaders of the United Naga Council (UNC) and the All Naga Students’ Association (ANSAM) did not turn up for scheduled tripartite talks with the Manipur Government and Central Government representatives here on Saturday. After a meeting of the State cabinet on Wednesday, it was decided that a ministerial team would be sent to Senapati district to negotiate with the Naga leaders. The three-member team consists of TN Haokip, Minister of Tourism, N Biren Singh, Minister of Sports and DD Thaisii, Minister of Tribal Development, along with Naveen Verma, Joint Secretary (Northeast).

Verma said that all the demands raised by the Naga groups are in the domain of the State Government. The UNC had presented a four-point charter to the Central Government, which included the issues of alleged suppression of their rights by the Manipur State government, the issue of killing of Naga student during the protests, the withdrawal of Section 144 from Naga areas and revoking the Wanted tag on their leaders. Disappointed with the central government's failure to address their demands, the UNC imposed a 20-day economic blockade along the national highway leading to the landlocked Manipur, bordering Myanmar, since Wednesday. UNC activists burned tyres and blocked National Highway-39, disrupting vehicular traffic for a while. The blockade has been called on NH-39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH-53 (Imphal-Jiribam). Paramilitary personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force and the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) have been deployed on both the highways.

6) Border fencing Linky

Badaruddin Ajmal, AIUDF supremo and MP from Dhubri, put a question to Union Home Minister of State at Lok Sabha on July 27. He wanted to know if any proposal was received by his Ministry to seal Indo-Bangla border to prevent influx of Bangladeshis. Mullapalli Ramchandran, Union Minister of State for Home, said no such proposal has come from any political party. Now, it is wonder of wonders that after years of agitation on the issue by AASU, NESO and various political parties, visits of Union Home Ministry officials for on the spot study of border management, the reply from the minister of state exposes not only lack of seriousness on the part of the Centre but also its callous attitude. If after spending crores of rupees from the public exchequer on border fencing and roads and also review of the progress so far made in their implementation, the reply from the Union Home Ministry was just shocking and surprising.

Perhaps, the Ministry is also ignorant of the Assam Accord of 1985. One of the important clauses of the Accord clearly stipulates completion of the barbed wire fencing and sealing of the border all along the state’s part of the international border with Bangladesh for which deadline has been extended several times. AASU, AGP and BJP leaders reacting to the statement of Mullapalli Ramchandra described it ‘quite inexplicable.’ It is the responsibility of the Centre to ensure that fencing and sealing of the border is completed expeditiously considering the unabated influx of Bangladeshis through long stretches of porous border. Political parties fighting for the cause can only help the Centre and the State on implementation of the fencing and roads. Kiriti Bhushan Purkayastha, BJP district president, reminded more than a decade back, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister and Uma Bharati, former party leader, led human chains of thousands of people at Karimganj and Dhubri sectors, demanding sealing of border. Does any political party send proposal on it, he asked?

7) India-ASEAN FTA Linky

Trade ministers from India and the ten south-east Asian nations will meet in Vietnam later this month to speed up negotiations so that an agreement could be signed on services during the India-ASEAN summit in October. “The two sides (India and ASEAN) are keen to liberalise the trade in services and investment. Ministers will meet on August 26 and 27 to give a fillip to the talks,” a Commerce Department official told PTI. After signing a free trade pact in goods last August, India and ASEAN are engaged in talks to widen the agreement to include services and investments at the earliest. Indian officials had earlier indicated that the negotiations would be wrapped up by end of this month.

The official, however, admitted the pace of talks is slow as there are some differences. “ASEAN members are not ready to liberalise services where India has interest,” he said, adding that some of them are apprehensive that India, which is the world’s second fastest growing economy, would end up dominating their markets.

8) Who has heard the term "turf war" before?
HRD, law, health ministries in tussle over higher education control Linky

Three different versions of the same bill regarding the regulation of higher education in India have been drafted by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, health ministry and law ministry. As the law and health ministries battle to have the regulatory control over higher education under their respective fields, the HRD ministry is working to bring education in these fields under its own jurisdiction. The issue has now been taken up to the Prime Minister's office in order to help solve the tussle.

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