November 30, 2011

FIR against actor Salman Khan for assaulting anti-corruption activist in UP

KANPUR: The police have registered a named FIR against Bollywood actor Salman Khan, his bodyguard Shera and five others at the Kakadeo police station for allegedly assaulting anti-corruption activist Omendra Bharat, an ex-IIT-ian and chief general secretary of Jan Rajya Party, here on August 24.

The anti-corruption supporters had gathered around Salman's vehicle to offer him Gandhi topi and request him to join their agitation when they were allegedly beaten up by Salman's personal security staff.

The agitated activists of Jan Rajya Party later lodged a complaint with the Kakadeo police seeking action against Salman and his bodyguards but no FIR was lodged. "A case was lodged against Salman and his bodyguard Shera besides five others," investigating officer Anup Yadav told TOI.

Times of India

'Sexually perverted beast' attacks girl with meat chopper, gets life term

NEW DELHI: A trial court has sentenced a Blueline bus driver to life imprisonment for brutally assaulting a girl with a meat chopper after she refused to marry him.

Calling him a "psychopath and sexually perverted beast", additional session's judge, Rakesh Tiwari, held Mahman Singh guilty for abducting the victim, Monica, and then attacking her with a meat chopper after she refused to marry him. After inflicting more than 80 injuries on Monica's body, Singh set the room (in which he had kept her) on fire.

"From the ghastly acts of violence which he has committed with the victim, (it's clear) the convict is a sadist of third degree, a psychopath and sexually perverted beast and can go to any extent with this state of affairs of his mind to do any wrong either to himself or to the members of the society," the court said.

The court convicted Singh after taking note of Monica's deposition that he would write letters to her even from jail and terrorized her during his trial. "The convict did not stop here as he has no remorse or repentance and even after committing the crime, he continued to write letters from judicial custody in jail to the house of the victim so as to create a terror in the victim's mind," it said.

Monica, a Kashmiri migrant who worked as a computer operator at Karol Bagh, used to travel from her residence in Hari Nagar to the workplace in a Blueline bus that was driven by Singh, the prosecution said. As Singh would constantly stare at her, Monica grew suspicious of his intentions and stopped travelling in his bus. According to the prosecution, on January 20, 2007, Monica went to a neighbourhood market in Hari Nagar where Singh accosted her and forced her to accompany him to an unknown place near Uttam Nagar. Singh asked Monica if she would marry him but she rejected his proposal. Singh could not handle the rejection and attacked Monica with a meat chopper and then set her room on fire. Some people reported about the fire and Monica was rescued by the police.

The ASJ noted that Monica had received 80 stitches on her body, arm head, face

her left thumb had been chopped off, she had undergone multiple surgeries and her speech was also lost for over three years. Monica also suffered from depression and started shivering at the sight of a meat chopper in the court.

The court denied Singh's plea for leniency, in which he had said that he was married and has a nine-month-old baby. "Admittedly the convict was driving a bus, a public utility service, and by showing any leniency to him, a wrong message will go into society that any girl or female can use the public utility services only if they are ready for their sexual exploitation by the persons who are concerned with providing the said public utility service," the court said.

Anna Hazare loses head, starts talking nonsense on FDI in retail sector

RALEGAN SIDDHI: Opposing FDI in the retail sector, activist Anna Hazare on Wednesday said the move would lead to enslavement of the countrymen and will not benefit the farmers as claimed by the government.

"If people are saying it (FDI) should not happen, why are you insisting? The British came to India to trade and for 150 years, ruled us, enslaved us. Do you want to have a repeat?" he told a press conference here on Wednesday evening.

"They (the foreign investors) will spoil the water and the environment. The government should consider this," he said.

On the claim that farmers will be benefited by FDI in retail, Hazare said, "If it were so, in the 65 years after independence, farmers would not have committed suicides."

He said he favoured unanimity among political parties on the issue. "All parties should rise above narrow considerations. There should be no inter-party differences," he said.

Amitabh first met Rajiv Gandhi when he was 4 years old

Author and journalist Rasheed Kidwai has chronicled the recent history of the Congress in 24 Akbar Road. Here is an excerpt on the highs and lows between the Bachchans and Gandhis

The Bofors scandal took a heavy toll on Rajiv in more than one way. He lost his friendship with his childhood friend, Amitabh Bachchan.

The Gandhis and the Bachchans have never spoken about the actual reason why their friendship soured, but common acquaintances blame it on personality clashes, ego tussles and one-upmanship amid failures and tragedies.

The 'split' has been painful for both sides. For Sonia, it is the loss of the first friend she made in India. Amit, as she affectionately addressed him, was the one who received her off the aeroplane at Palam Airport on the chilly winter morning of 13 January 1968.

Her civil marriage to Rajiv Gandhi took place forty-three days later on 25 February. During this period, Sonia stayed at Amitabh's house with his mother, Teji Bachchan and father, Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

Family friend Mohammad Yunus and Indira Gandhi's confidant, T.N. Kaul, had zeroed in on the Bachchans after Indira said she was not keen on Sonia staying in a hotel or at her residence before the marriage. At that time, Amitabh was yet to become a superstar and Rajiv was a carefree soul.

Along with Ajitabh 'Bunty' Bachchan and Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv and Sonia were frequently spotted on the India Gate lawns, eating ice cream. Rajiv Gandhi had an old Lambretta scooter, which often had ignition problems. Invariably, either Sanjay or Amitabh had the 'honour' of pushing it for a few metres till it started.

The families were so close that when Rahul and Priyanka grew up, they addressed Amitabh as 'mamun', which is Avadhi for maternal uncle. When Rajiv was assassinated at Sriperumbudur, Amitabh was in London and Rahul in Boston.

They landed in Delhi together from London. Amitabh then took charge of the funeral arrangements with Priyanka, while Rahul stayed at home, trying to console Sonia and accepting condolences.

In several interviews, (Mishra, Sumant, Main Amitabh Bol Raha Hoon: In Candid Conversation, Egmont, Mumbai, 2003) Amitabh has fondly recalled that his first meeting with Rajiv was when he was four years old and Rajiv, two: 'There was this fancy dress party on Bank Road (the Bachchans' residence in Allahabad).

Rajiv Gandhi was two years old and had been dressed up as a freedom fighter. Ma says he messed up his pants. We were all such tiny kids then, absorbed in our little games, that it didn't seem such a big deal that Pandit Nehru's grandson was in our midst.

'He often visited me on the sets, like the time I was shooting for Ganga Ki Saugandh in Jaipur. He was extremely unobtrusive and would wait patiently till I completed my shots. His nature was such that he would never misuse his name or family connections.

On the contrary, more often than not, he would not disclose his surname, fearing the distance it would create between him and the common man,' remembered Amitabh.

He said, 'The last time I met him before leaving for London was in Delhi on 8 May 1991. On the 20th, which was a Monday, the hearing of the Bofors case against a Swedish newspaper began in London.

On the 21st, the judge summarized the case and, on the following Wednesday, the verdict was to be announced. At five o'clock UK time, we returned home after lunch. That's when we received the news of the horrific incident...

'My first reaction was of complete disbelief. The fact that something like this could actually happen was unthinkable. As humans, we find ourselves hoping that we will never be victims of such unspeakable tragedies... I was shocked for quite a while and remained numb and speechless. I am afraid I cannot describe it in words.'

Asked if he considered joining politics to assist Sonia, Amitabh said, 'By force of habit, I find myself totally involved in any work I take up and want to complete it at any cost. Now that I'm deciding to cut down on my films (this was in October 1992), people surmise that it is because I intend to join politics.

Yes, Rajiv was a very dear friend. It is also true that I am one of Soniaji's genuine well-wishers and I'm close to her family. But how will my entering politics ease her concerns and her pains? And why should she need me or require my help? She is an extremely strong, sensible, competent person, fully capable of taking her own decisions. She is aware of what she should and should not do.'

In Mohammed, Khalid's To Be Or Not To Be, (Saraswati Creations, Mumbai, 2002) Amitabh talked about the Gandhi-Bachchan family ties, and said: 'Rajiv and Sanjay studied in Doon School, Ajitabh and I were in Nainital... But our holidays fell around the same months. We'd hang out and swim every day at the pool of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The friendship continued. After school Rajiv went off to Cambridge. Whenever he would be back home, we'd get together and exchange notes... When he started flying, I'd go with him to provide ballast at the Flying Club of Delhi. I'd glide there for hours... Panditji died. Mrs Gandhi became PM and the family moved to 1 Safdarjung Road, which was close to our home at 13 Willingdon Crescent. Rajiv, Sanjay, Ajitabh and I formed a closely knit group of friends.' (Mohammed, Khalid, To Be or Not To Be, Saraswati Creations, Mumbai, 2002.)

By Amitabh's own admission, it was Rajiv and Sanjay who exposed him to avant-garde cinema at a young age through the European films that were specially screened for the Gandhi family at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 'Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi and I would attend screenings of The Cranes Are Flying and Czech, Polish and Russian films, which often packed an anti-war message,' Amitabh recalled.

Actor Mehmood's biographer, Hanif Zaveri, has many interesting and anecdotal accounts of young Amitabh and Rajiv. When Amitabh was a struggling actor, Mehmood, the comedy king of that era, became his patron. Both Mehmood's brother, Anwar Ali, and sister, Zubaida, became close pals of Amitabh.

In Mehmood: A Man of Many Moods, author Hanif Zaveri reminisces: 'Just before the release of Bombay to Goa, Amitabh had brought a very fair young friend to Mumbai. The friend had accompanied him from Delhi. Mehmood was on a high after taking Calmpose tablets, a drug to which he was addicted.

Anwar introduced the young man to Mehmood, but in his state, he was unable to understand what was said. Mehmood took out five thousand rupees and handed them to Anwar to give to Amitabh's friend.

A puzzled Anwar asked what the money was for. Mehmood said the young fellow was fairer and smarter than Amitabh. He could become an international star. The money was the signing amount for taking the young man in Mehmood's next project.'

Mumbai Mirror

November 29, 2011

In euro zone crisis, companies plan for the unthinkable to survive the slowdown

LONDON/BOSTON (Reuters) - When Novo Nordisk's chief financial officer met marketing colleagues last Friday the conversation moved far beyond the usual discussion of sales and performance. Jesper Brandgaard asked a simple, far-reaching question: how would the firm set prices for two pivotal new insulin products if the euro collapsed?

The Danish firm, the world's biggest maker of insulin for the treatment of diabetes, sits outside the euro zone but sells into it. It's a question that is being echoed - in various forms - in the boardrooms of banks, brokerages, trading houses, law firms and the world's leading manufacturers.

"It's hard to make detailed plans but we need to think through how our pricing strategy would fare if there were suddenly a dismantling of the euro," Brandgaard told Reuters. "How do we avoid falling into a trap? This is the first time I've asked such a question. It's a topic that is increasingly on the radar."

In the case of the products in question - Degludec and DegludecPlus, two ultra-long-acting insulins - Novo Nordisk has time on its side. The new drugs are still working their way through the regulatory approval process and probably will not reach the market until late 2012.

Planning for a breakdown of Europe's 17-nation single currency is not easy. Like many business leaders, Brandgaard views a break-up of the euro as possible though not yet probable -- but the odds are increasing. In a Nov 23 Reuters poll 14 out of 20 economists said the single currency would not survive in its current form - and companies are starting to plan for a worst case scenario.

Their trepidation is best summed up by Martin Sorrell, the head of the world's biggest advertising agency WPP. "The complexity fills everybody with such appalling fear and is so complicated that the last thing in the world you want to happen is that," Sorrell told Reuters on Monday. "But the honest answer is that, like everybody else, you try and contingency plan for any break-up of the euro zone."

Drawing on interviews with company officials, bankers and lawyers in Europe, the United States and Asia and companies' regulatory filings, Reuters has pieced together a picture of patchy preparedness for the possible demise of the 12-year-old euro currency, an event that would be unparalleled in recent history.

"These days, it's a part of almost every risk management conversation that comes up," said a senior player in London's insurance market, speaking like many in this story on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity to their business.

Some of the most active contingency planning is happening in European countries outside the euro zone that have strong trading links with the currency bloc - Denmark and Britain being leading examples. Of the 33 companies with the biggest exposures to the euro zone in sales terms, five are British, according to Thomson Reuters data. Health care, energy and consumer goods are among the most exposed industries.

A number of British firms, including the world's biggest caterer Compass Group, have said they have discussed or put in place contingency plans to deal with a euro collapse but most are reluctant to give details.

"Most business people have given up waiting for the political Godots. You just can't run your business on the basis that something will turn up, so you have to plan on the basis that it doesn't turn up. So you think about what legally and contractually it is going to mean. You also say 'I'm going to run my balance sheet as conservatively as possible'," WPP's Sorrell said.

Testing the system

Banks, brokers and exchanges are in the front line.

ICAP, the world's top broker for foreign exchange and government bonds, said on Monday it has tested its trading system to handle the collapse of the euro zone and re-emergence of national currencies.

It is not alone in carrying out 'war games'. A senior banker at a large investment bank said he had a team of 20 people globally running all kinds of scenarios all the time. That team was now spending a lot of its time on the possible break-up of the euro. They had simulated a weekend crisis by running through the different stages of Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in one full working day. In addition, they had looked whether they would have enough people (and the right ones) available and made sure they knew where to reach them.

"It's my job to assume the worst. You can test all kinds of benign scenarios, but if something really bad - let's say a sudden overnight default of Italy - were to happen and we hadn't tested that, I wouldn't be doing my job properly. If that latter scenario were to occur, things would look very ugly indeed. There simply wouldn't be enough time to sort out all the various trading positions and look at all the paperwork," the banker said.

In his estimation, a return to the drachma in euro zone minnow Greece was the least of his concerns. He likened Greece to bankrupt US broker-dealer MF Global - annoying but not a real issue - and Italy to Lehman, whose collapse marked the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

Britain's regulator, the Financial Services Authority, has told Britain's banks to draw up contingency plans in case there is a disorderly break-up of the euro zone or exit of some countries. "We cannot be, and are not, complacent on this front," Andrew Bailey, deputy head of the FSA's Prudential Business Unit, said on Nov. 24.

US firms are testing their systems too. A.M. Best Co, the main ratings agency for the insurance industry, said on Nov. 22 it is doing additional stress testing on insurers given deteriorating conditions in Europe. The agency, which just conducted a similar review two months ago, said it is looking at underwriters' exposures on a case-by-case basis to see if any have additional risk from the weakening euro zone.

Safeguarding the cash

For non-financial firms, a key focus of efforts for firms worried about a euro collapse is in trying to safeguard their cash. Corporate balance sheets currently are very strong with upwards of $1 trillion net sitting on them, a reflection of companies' reluctance to invest in adding capacity or in buying other firms.

The chief executive of a European company with annual revenues of more than $10 billion a year told Reuters during a recent visit to London that his board had discussed how to handle a euro zone collapse but that it had proved a very short meeting. Other than ensuring their cash deposits were in the safest possible banks and relying on the broad international nature of their business, executives quickly concluded there was little more they could do.

Treasury department teams are shifting money to safe havens and rehearsing rapid-action scenarios. Budgets for 2012 are being looked at again. And outside consultants are being brought in to advise on exposure to peripheral Europe - Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Central bank data shows a decline in deposits from banks in weaker euro zone countries. Separating data on corporate deposits from personal bank accounts data is nigh on impossible, but anecdotal evidence points to corporations moving euro accounts to safe havens. Some big firms such as engineering group Siemens and carmakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen , are licensed to deposit funds with the European Central Bank, the safest of all safe havens in the euro zone.

Siemens finance chief Joe Kaeser said in a Nov. 10 media call on the group's quarterly results that a considerable proportion but less than half of its 12 billion euros in liquidity had been parked with the ECB. About a year ago, Siemens -- a maker of fast trains and gas turbines -- acquired a banking licence to be able to deal directly with the ECB.

BMW said on Monday its approach to handling excess liquidity had not changed and that it continued to use a number of international commercial banks as well as the ECB's deposit facility. Daimler said it used surplus cash mainly internally. Volkswagen did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Similar caution emanated from companies in other industry sectors.

Simon Henry, chief financial officer of oil company Royal Dutch Shell, said as a consequence of Europe's debt crisis it was taking extra care in investing its $20 billion cash pile. "It's with secure counterparties and its short term," Henry said.

Drugs firm AstraZeneca told Reuters it was carefully monitoring its exposure to the banking sector in light of the debt crisis and had increased its holdings of US government Treasury bills.

The chairman of another company in Britain's FTSE 100 index of leading firms said the shortage of AAA rated banks was complicating life. British firms don't have access to the ECB because Britain is outside the euro zone.

Different industries also have differing abilities to reduce exposure to risky markets.

Pharmaceuticals is one sector where firms have limited wiggle room, since companies have an ethical obligation to supply life-saving medicines, even when payments are uncertain. In fact, drug makers have already been through something of a "dry run" in Greece, after being forced to accept government bonds instead of cash for some outstanding debts. Those bonds were either sold immediately at a discount to face value or are still sitting on their books at even lower value today. Greece accounts for only around 1 percent of the global pharmaceuticals market, so the impact on major international companies has been minimal. Italy and Spain, however, are much bigger markets.

Company filings

A significant number of US companies in a wide range of industries, including one in three members of the widely watched Dow Jones industrial average, warned investors of their rising concerns about Europe in quarterly regulatory filings.

"Western Europe appears to be experiencing increasing challenges given the uncertainty around fiscal and monetary policy direction, which likely impacts consumer confidence," diversified manufacturer 3M Co said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bank of America Corp added the European debt crisis into its regular list of risk factors it advises investors to be aware of: "There remains considerable uncertainty as to future developments in the European debt crisis and the impact on financial markets."

And drugmaker Merck warned shareholders that cutbacks in spending by cash-strapped European governments could take a toll on how much it can charge for its medicines.

Other companies that called attention to the crisis in their filings included American Express Co, Boeing Co and Cisco Systems Inc.

US companies that do business in Europe are expecting exchange rates on European currencies to be more volatile in the coming months, and have stepped up their efforts to hedge against these risks, experts said. Beyond financial hedges, though, which become pricier at times of vulnerability, manufacturers should think about "natural hedging" -- localising supply chains within the euro region, suggested Stefano Aversa, co-president of Alix Partners LP, a global consulting company.

"One of the things that companies have to think about is natural hedging, which is the only real protection, having production as much as possible balanced with where you sell and where you buy. This is the No. 1, because you might see swings literally of two or three points on the bottom line due to this here," Aversa said in a phone interview.

Other companies are rewriting sales contracts to allow them to adjust prices if currencies experience large swings, Aversa said.

US companies may be more prepared for a European meltdown simply because the credit crunch of late 2008 was felt more sharply in the United States, Aversa said. The downside to the resulting conservatism, though, is that companies are already having a harder time getting access to credit as banks tighten lending standards.

"All of the banks are doing the stress tests and frankly are becoming much more prudent," Aversa said. "One of the consequences of it for the industrial companies, particularly the not-big ones, is a restriction on refinancing and credit in general, which is now pretty apparent."

Work for insurers, lawyers

The prospect of a euro break-up raises a mountain of legal and financial questions. Lawyers and bankers have begun combing through loan agreements, leases and other financial contracts to see how they would survive any serious euro disruption.

Most contracts failed to foresee a collapse or partial disintegration of the euro and the stroke of a lawyer's pen a decade ago could have heavy repercussions today, stemming from the choice of jurisdiction or the laws governing individual contracts. Some banks have already started thinking about how to revise the standard documentation used in future loan agreements to anticipate a break-up of the single currency.

"From the late 1990s onwards, commercial contracts were written to include express provisions to deal with the transition to the euro but I am not aware of any being written so far that contemplate any country exiting the euro," said Jamie Wiseman-Clarke, a senior associate at London law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, specialising in aviation, rail and shipping. "The euro was assumed to be stable," he added.

It is a high-risk process.

Ill-judged wording might result in a creditor having to recover its money in the currency prevailing on the day in a country departing the euro area rather than the euro. There are also concerns that a euro exit would tip some companies into default on their loans. The redenomination of their local currency could trigger a drop in revenues that would in turn prevent them meeting their obligations on euro-denominated debt or force them to break loan covenants.

A rash of technical payment defaults on all the loan borrowers from a departing country is a Doomsday scenario that would keep the lawyers busy as they fix documentation that failed to envisage such an outcome, bankers said.

More likely than a mass technical default is that some companies would simply be unable to pay or meet loan conditions because of the dire economic conditions and drop in demand that some economists are predicting from a break-up of the euro.

Worse still, UK law firm Clifford Chance has warned there might be practical difficulties in recovering payments since any decision to quit the euro would probably go hand in hand with exchange controls. Depending on how courts read the background to the decision that could lead to a stand-off between the laws of different states.

Planning is not made any easier by the fact that many continental European companies tend to be more politicised than their counterparts in the United States, so the question of a break-up is virtually taboo. Franco-German-led aerospace giant EADS, for example, is often described as the industrial counterpart to the euro. Its stakeholders include the French government and, soon, the German state. During much of its 11-year history it was a conduit for Franco-German tensions.

"If people learned that a big CAC40 (French blue-chip) company was preparing a worst-case scenario it would spread anxiety and would be interpreted as a very damaging blow to the euro," said a communications adviser to a number of top French companies, asking not to be identified.

As for a complete collapse of the currency, the consequences are so unpredictable - and unthinkable to a post-war generation immersed in European integration -- that many say there is little point in running models. What counts more, they say, is a nose for survival.

"We are not running contingency plans like that. We want the euro to survive but we make tangible things. We would not die without the euro," said the chief executive of one of Europe's largest manufacturing companies.

NDA leaders, stop spreading lies; poor will have to pay more if FDI in retail not allowed

Hundreds of millions of the poorest people in India will have to pay more for staple foods like rice and vegetables if foreign supermarkets are refused permission to open in India, the country's chief economist told a newspaper on Tuesday.

Kaushik Basu, one of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's close advisers, said allowing supermarket chains like Tesco and Wal-Mart to open their first stores in India would be one of the most effective ways of helping the country deal with food inflation, which stands close to 10%.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding about these changes," he said. "Without them, Indians will just have to get used to paying higher prices for food."

He said lacking infrastructure, poor quality roads and a lack of refrigeration meant that around 40% of Indian fruit and vegetable supplies rotted before reaching consumers and added that more investment in the country's food industry would keep prices down and help the overall economy.

India threw open its $450 billion retail market to global supermarket giants last week, with Food Minister KV Thomas saying the government would allow foreign direct investment of up to 51% in multi-brand retail, as supermarkets are known in India. He also said the government would raise the cap on foreign investment in single-brand retailing to 100% from 51%.

But the government appeared to be backtracking on Monday over the move to allow foreign supermarket giants to enter the country, as political opposition grew over one of the most far-reaching economic reforms in years.

November 28, 2011

I am not signing up Sunny Leone for her body: Mahesh Bhatt (Really?)

Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt enters the "Bigg Boss 5" house Monday and says he has decided to offer por.n star Sunny Leone, who is also participating in the reality show, the lead role in his movie " Jism 2".

"I am not casting her for her body, but I see that loneliness and heartbroken soul that is behind that smile. The entertainment business itself is not a cakewalk, so the por.n business would have been a really tough ride for her," Bhatt told IANS on phone from Mumbai.

"I love casting people who are real. People who have gone through highs and lows to reach a stature where people look up to them for their hard work. Sunny is being shown in a bright light with an exotic image on television, but I sensed that she must have gone through a lot to earn a name in an industry which people don't appreciate," added the 61-year-old.

"Jism" released in 2003 was an unexpected box office success and made debutants John Abraham and Bipasha Basu known names in the film industry.

Born to a Punjabi family in Ontario, Sunny has appeared in various reality shows in the US, and was named among the world's top 12 por.n stars by fashion magazine Maxim in 2010.

Bhatt feels Sunny has an emotional 'edge' which could work wonders for "Jism 2".

"'Jism 2' narrates the story of a woman who transcends from the 'body' to the 'soul'. I wanted to approach an actress who not only has the physical attributes but also the emotional 'edge' to carry off the complexity of the role.

"I see Sunny as a perfect fit for the film and the script. Had approached Bipasha Basu and Mallika Sherawat for the role earlier, but things didn't work out," he added.

What made Bhatt choose Colors reality show "Bigg Boss 5" as a platform to announce the film.

"Announcing a film is as important as any other aspect of filmmaking, whether it be releasing it or promoting it. 'Bigg Boss' is a great platform to reach a wide audience. And we thought it was the right time to approach her," he said.

Mahesh Bhatt will visit Bigg Boss house to offer his Jism-2 to Sunnny Leone

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt is all set to enter the Bigg Boss house for a few hours to offer a lead role to adult movie star, Sunny Leone, in Jism 2.

The 63-year-old director-producer says he chose to announce the film on the reality show because of its popularity among the masses.

"Announcing a film is as important as releasing it. Bigg Boss is a great platform and announcing a film on the show will have an astounding impact. We are in show business which is all about doing things publicly rather than in a quiet setting," Bhatt told PTI.

The National Award winning director also said that Sunny is the perfect girl to play the lead role in the sequel of the 2003 movie, which was directed by his daughter, Pooja Bhatt.

"Sunny comes from a world where she had to struggle a lot. It took her lot of effort and courage to do what she does. Her loneliness, her pain, her wounds- all of it suits the narrative of the film. She embodies the fact that nobody is ideal. The film is a journey of a girl in search of her soul," he said.

The Saaransh director also said that the decision to cast Sunny was taken by Pooja, who had her eyes on the actress since 2003.

"It is Pooja's decision. She wanted to cast her in Jism but things didn't materialise. She wanted someone real. Someone who has not yet been touched by Bollywood. Hence, Sunny has been finalised," he added.

November 27, 2011

My parents said whatever you do, do it properly: Sunny Leone

Adult movie star Sunny Leone, the newest and perhaps, um, 'sexiest' entrant to the " Bigg Boss" house, says that 'star' doesn't automatically mean 'prostitute'. The curvy babe, originally Karen Malhotra, born to Indian parents, took the US adult entertainment industry by storm, but never planned to become a porn star. But the money was just too good, she says.

"My parents, who are originally from Punjab, were completely shocked when they found out I was in the adult entertainment industry. Their reaction was what I expected, and I was prepared for it. When my father realized what I did, he said, 'You didn't even ask us before you did this! But whatever you do, make sure you do it well.' My mother was also stunned when she found about my lesbian lovemaking videos, but she accepted it. And the fact that my work didn't change me as a person worked in my favour. My parents soon realized it and respected me for who I am and my decisions. So there was never any question of being disowned by my family," she says.

Have her parents seen any of her hardcore adult videos? "Of course not! Whose parents would do that?" she asks.

Sunny says it's ignorance that makes people equate adult stars with prostitutes. "I think India doesn't have an adult entertainment industry - that's why people have no idea what it is. I ran a company that took care of the deals I sealed with firms to sell and share my content online and to other media. Running a company was hard work. I'd work for about 60-70 hours a week. It wasn't a party. I have only one partner. So that way, I'm very restrained in the real world," she says.
Isn't it true that she lost her virginity when she was 16? "Yes. The guy played basketball in high school. He was as old as me. We just liked each other. Losing my virginity at 16 was just about making a choice that I wanted to make at that age. Since my parents have lived away from India for many years, their thought process is different. They've always let me take my own decisions. I don't regret anything that I've done so far. I have no regrets about who I am. I have a nice life, great family, great friends and make a good living," she says.

Sunny says participating in "Bigg Boss" will make people realize she isn't the cliched 'adult star'. "I grew up in a regular Indian household; I've been taught to be a good person. I want Indian people to know that. And I've always been interested in Bollywood, so with this show, I might get good roles in Hindi films," she says.

Now that she's in India, will she also visit relatives in Delhi? "I last came to Delhi this year in February. I'd like to come back soon. But I wasn't born here, like it says online - I was born in Canada," she says.

Pooja Misrra has suicidal tendencies, says Pooja Bedi

After her eviction from the celebrity house, Pooja Bedi gets chatty with us about romance, backstabbers and Pooja Misrra's suicidal tendencies.

Pooja Bedi is out of Bigg Boss-5, but she has no regrets! Reason? "No show or contest is bigger for me than my children," says Pooja after coming out of the celebrity house, adding: "It's my daughter's birthday on Monday, and earlier, the production people had agreed to allow me to meet my daughter for ten minutes. But later, due to some technical problems, it was not possible. Hence, I asked my fans not to vote for me, so that I could be with my little darlings. As a single mother, I take my responsibilities very seriously!"

'Sid created all the romantic vibes!'
Pooja, who is known to be a chirpy, vivacious girl, got along well with many inmates, including Sky (Akashadeep Sahgal). But, her friendship was given a romantic angle by inmates like Siddharth and Amar Upadhyay. Ask her if she is upset by their jibes and sarcastic comments, and pat comes the reply: "I confronted Sid about it and told him that he was the one who created this so-called love angle by going on his knees and claiming that he had a crush on me and dancing on pehla nasha for me. For me - Juhi, Sky and Sunny were my best friends in the house and I don't discriminate between a boy and girl when it comes to friendship. That bonding would have irked others in the house. But, Sid finally told me that he admired my loyalty for Sky."

'Pooja Misrra has suicidal tendencies'
And what does she have to say about Pooja Misrra, who was thrown out of Bigg Boss' house for getting violent? Known to be a fair, judicious and righteous person, Pooja says, getting emotional: "Pooja Misrra has a mental imbalance! It was evident in the first week itself! She also has suicidal tendencies! She feels somebody has done black magic on her. Her extreme mood swings, her sudden temper bursts -all indicate to the fact that she's not well mentally. Initially, I used to get angry seeing her behave like that. But later on, I started being very protective towards her. I'm amazed that she was allowed to enter the show despite the psychological mapping, which is mandatory for all the contestants! I really feel that her mental imbalance was exploited commercially, which saddens me. I am glad that she is out of the show and now she will be getting experts' help, which she should have got a long while ago!"

The Times of India

Rahul Gandhi is scared of me and my elephant: Mayawati

Lucknow: Continuing her attack on Rahul Gandhi, UP Chief Minister Mayawati today said he was so afraid of BSP that he was missing Parliament to campaign in UP and indulging in 'theatrics'.

“Congress is so worried over its weak and pitiful position in the state that its 'prince' has to do different types of theatrics in the state everyday leaving Parliament in Delhi,” she said while addressing a rally.

Mayawati said it seemed that Congress was getting 'nightmares' about BSP's election symbol 'elephant' driving them away.

Gandhi, while addressing a public meeting in Siddharthnagar on Friday, had made a veiled attack on the Mayawati government, saying that an 'elephant' in Lucknow was eating away all the money sent by the Centre for the poor in Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati told the rally here, “Our party's policies and growing influence across the country have made life difficult for Congress. In today's scenario, it seems that they have nightmares about our election symbol 'elephant' driving them away.”

She claimed BSP's growing influence has resulted in all opposition parties losing their sleep over the forthcoming Assembly elections.

November 26, 2011

Digvijay vomits again, says Anna is provoking violence

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Saturday accused Anna Hazare of provoking violence, in an apparent reference to his reaction over the attack on Union minister Sharad Pawar.

In two of his posts on the microblogging site Twitter, Singh said, "Anna "Gandhian" - Provokes  Violence.

Bedi"X Cop"-Urges People to break Law Kejriwal"X IRS"- Returns Donations to Anonymous.

"Shanti Bhushan "X Law Minister"- Promises to fix Judges. Pranab Da How right you are! Where is our Country going?"

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had condemned the incident immediately, wondering "I don’t know where the country is going".

In another tweet on Friday, Singh had wondered whether there was a connect between the statement of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha that rising prices could lead to violence and Hazare's remark of "only one slap" over the assault on Pawar.

"Strongly condemn cowardly attack on Sharad Pawarji. Yashwant Sinha's statement, this incident, Anna's reaction. Is there a connect?

"Never expected Anna to react the way he did to Sharad Pawar incident. It certainly was not a Gandhian Reaction," Singh had said

In two more tweets, the AICC general secretary had continued the argument.

"Tie up people and beat them up if they drink liquor, send people to mental asylum whom you don't agree, hang people without trial.

"Are we moving into a Fascist Mode? Throw rose petals on Police Officers accused in false encounter, beat up people whom you don't agree with," he had said.

Court orders FIR against Kiran Bedi

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court on Saturday ordered registration of FIR against former IPS officer Kiran Bedi for allegedly cheating and misappropriating funds in collusion with foreign companies and other foundations.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Amit Bansal directed the crime branch of Delhi Police to register the case against the key Team Anna member on a complaint by Delhi-based lawyer Devinder Singh Chauhan, who has alleged that she has "looted" various paramilitary forces and state police organisations in the name of imparting free computer training through 'Meri Police' under the banner of her trust 'India Vision Foundation'.

Chauhan in his complaint alleged that Bedi got a donation of more than Rs 50 lakh from Microsoft in the name of free computer training to the kids and families of the personnel of BSF, CISF, ITBP, CRPF and other state police organisations.

The complainant alleged that Bedi's trust was to impart free computer training to the kids and families of the cops.

"Instead of imparting free training or distributing free computers, Kiran Bedi in collusion with some unknown persons cheated Vedanta Foundation and made a plan to cheat the kids of cops and various paramilitary forces and civil polices and for the purpose Kiran Bedi planned to collect Rs 20,000 per month per training centre.

"For the purpose of siphoning money for herself, Kiran Bedi entered into a donation agreement with Vedanta according to which Rs 6,000 out of the total money of Rs 20,000 was to be paid by Vedanta to her two trusts (India Vision Foundation and Navjyoti Foundation) on the false ground that Kiran Bedi had arranged for the land and electricity for the said centre (training centre) for running their activities," the complainant said.

He alleged that the facility of land and electricity were arranged by the police organisation and Bedi had nothing to do with these arrangements.

Chauhan claimed that Bedi is getting huge money from abroad as donation to her two trusts and it needs to be probed by the Enforcement Directorate.

He alleged that Bedi is liable to be prosecuted for various offences including sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 477A (falsification of accounts) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC.

Reacting to the court order, Bedi said it did not take her by susprise.

"I am informed an FIR is registered against me. For me now nothing is a surprise! It only strengthens my resolve to do more," she said.

Times of India

India-China border talks cancelled over Dalai Lama row: Report

NEW DELHI: The reported Chinese demand for cancellation of the Dalai Lama's speech at a Buddhist congregation here next week is believed to have led to the postponement of India-China border talks scheduled for Monday.

The Chinese side is said to have called off the 15th round of the talks between Special Representatives (SR) of both the sides after India refused to accept their demand that the congregation which was to be addressed by the Tibetan spiritual leader be called off.

The Dalai Lama was to address the valedictory function of the four-day Global Buddhist Congregation, co-organised by the Public Diplomacy division of the external affairs ministry, on Wednesday.

The Indian side is believed to have conveyed to China that the xongregation was of a religious nature and not a political event and it cannot cancel it.

There was no official word on the reasons for the cancellation of the SR talks from both side.

The Chinese embassy here also declined to comment.

Chinese Special Representative Dai Bingguo was to travel to Delhi for talks with his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon to follow up on their talks in the 14th round in Beijing in November last year.

The external affairs ministry issued a terse statement "We are looking forward to the 15th round of SRs talks in the near future and the two sides remain in touch to find convenient dates for the meeting."

Dai and Menon were expected to discuss putting in place a mechanism for border management mooted by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during his visit to India last year. A decision to set up the mechanism was taken at a meeting Wen had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Sanya in April.

Times of India

Bigg Boss 5: Pooja Misrra thrown out of house for assaulting Siddharth Bhardwaj

Living true to its imagery of a tale of twists and turns, one more unexpected spin took place in the reality show, Big Boss at last night. This time, the wild cat of the house, Pooja Misrra has been thrown out of Bigg Boss house for assaulting a fellow contestant, Siddharth Bhardwaj. The event took place at 2 a.m, when Misrra once again failed to control her temper and entered an heated arguemnet with Bhardwaj.

This all began, with Pooja Misrra’s tenure as the captain of the house. Unlike many, who were equally dissatisfied with this, Siddharth on the other hand chose to be vocal about his desire of denying the orders of the new captain – Pooja Misrra. He told her how he would not want to do the dishes and would instead take up the responsibility of making lunch with the help of another person. Pooja Misrra sorted this out with Amar and Pooja Bedi and asked Sidharth to cook lunch and not do the dishes instead.

But the spat between both of them continued on various occasions which possibly turned violent at the end. According to the sources, Misrra lost her patience to assault Siddharth and Bigg Boss had to ask her to leave the house yesterday at 2 am for breaking the rules.

The development comes close to the eve of  eigth week of eviction in the Big Boss house.

Pooja Misrra has been a VJ, talk show anchor and Page 3 socialite. She has previously participated in the reality show, The Big Switch on UTV Bindass, where her fiery devil-may-care attitude led to quite a few fights with other participants.

Bigg Boss 5: 'Smiling' Pooja Bedi evicted from house

When the Season 2 host turned out to be a Season 5 guest celebrity, everyone expected her to win since she was the only contestant who had known the show in and out and had mastered the tricks of the trade. But alas, the tall lady proved everyone wrong and has been evicted out of the Bigg Boss house this week.

She has been the most dignified and well mannered lady who always stood up for what is right and never let anyone point a finger at her or any of her close ones in the show. From performing in tasks to sorting out the fights inside the house, Pooja has always been just.  Her age that brings along maturity, worked well for her inside the house, especially while dealing with someone like Sidharth, who is the kid on the show. She has always acted as per the circumstances and has never been too judgmental in any of her decisions.

It had been long since the mother of two had been complaining about missing her kids and wanting to go back before her kid’s birthday, who knew that her stars would shine bright at the right time and all her wishes will be granted. She made a lot of new friends on the show, but those who would always stay close to her heart would be Sky and Juhi.

Surviving inside the house for 54 days, Pooja Bedi is not only taking back a lot of wonderful memories but in turn is also leaving a lot more behind. We hope Pooja takes back wonderful memories of the house and goes back to living a life outside the house with a lot more balance and sternness.

Bigg Boss 5: Pooja Misrra kicked out

Well the whole country is now talking about the initially not so famous Pooja Misrra. The model has won several hearts in the country and abroad. She has acclaimed this fame via her obnoxiously violent and erratic behavior every now & then.

When Pooja Misrra came into the Bigg Boss house, very few would’ve guessed her sudden shift in character with time. Pooja Misrra spent eight long weeks in the Bigg Boss house. She has been seen in various Avatars in the past, not to forget the infamous joker look which she did carry off quite commendably.

“With captaincy comes maturity, but with Pooja Misrra, it was just the other way round. Her captaincy seemed to be irritating Sidharth, This was when Pooja Misrra decided she would talk to Sidharth about it. But instead of talking, it turns out that the two ended up having an argument and that was when Pooja Misrra lost her cool and turned violent towards Sidharth,” said officials at Bigg Boss in a statement.

According to the statement, “It had just been a couple of days since Sky declared to Sidharth about Pooja Misrra having a soft corner for him, but it seems like Pooja Misrra’s ego overpowered her soft corner and she could not help hating Sidharth more than ever. Her violence towards Sidharth resulted in her being asked to leave the Bigg Boss house.”

“We wish that the other contestants inside the house take this by an example and will now have a total control over their avid reactions,” concluded the official statement.

November 25, 2011

Poonam Pandey turns red hot for fans

None can beat wannabe model Poonam Pandey, when it comes to taking the Twitter world by storm. After posting some sizzling trailers and some hot pictures on her website and Twitter, the model has gone one step ahead and posted yet another picture. Interestingly, this time round Poonam seems to have really worked hard on her look.

Poonam tweeted the picture this morning and her last tweet read, "#NewPic Good morning!! TweetHearts!!! Check this out.. Lot more to come for the day!!! Luv u all Muwaaaaaah!!! xox(sic)"

Seen in a red dress, the model is looking smoldering hot even though she's almost covered up.

It's rather surprising to see Poonam covering herself up to this extent, guess she seems to have finally realised the fact that she can't give porn star and Bigg Boss 5 contestant Sunny Leone (she apparently replaced Poonam in the reality show) a run for her money and it's time to accept her defeat.

We'd like to end by saying- this is certainly a welcome change Poonam, at least you look tolerable now!

Source: Daily Bhaskar

Apple's iPhone 4S is now in India to burn a hole in your pocket

Apple Inc's iPhone 4S hit store shelves in India on Friday, but with a price tag of Rs 44,500 for the 16 GB model, the iconic smartphone may find it hard to repeat the success of previous devices.

At about four times the US retail price where customers buy mandatory data-service plans, the phone may still find buyers among affluent young professionals in India who are snapping up iconic brands and luxury items.

Mobile operators are selling the 16 GB model for Rs 44,500, with the 32 GB version priced at Rs 50,900 and the 64 GB model available for Rs 57,500.

Media reports last week said Indian fans were unhappy that the smartphone will be more expensive in India than anywhere else in the world.

Both Airtel and Aircel, which started selling the iPhone 4S, are offering discounted plans which help customers recover part of the phone’s cost.

The final gadget unveiled during Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' lifetime is more expensive that the iPad 2 in India, with the base model of the tablet selling for Rs 27,900. Even its top-end model, with 64 GB of memory and WiFi & 3G, costs Rs 46,900.

The new iPhone comes with a faster processor, a better light-sensitive camera, and voice-activated software "Siri".

On Friday, the Aircel website showed that the 64 GB version, both black and white, was sold out.

Man who slapped Pawar attacked in court

New Delhi:Angry over slapping of NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday, an NCP youth wing worker on Friday slapped Pawar's attacker on court premises.

"I will slap Harvind Singh whenever I meet him," said the NCP worker Dinesh Kumar.

Meanwhile, NCP workers protested outside Patiala House Court in Delhi in protest against the Pawar attack

The Delhi court on Friday sends Harvinder Singh, the man who slapped Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday, to 14 days judicial custody. 

Angry with corruption and price rise, Harvinder had slapped Pawar at the NDMC centre in Delhi.

A transporter in his thirties, Harvinder had reportedly assaulted former Telecom Minister Sukhram outside Rohini Court on Saturday after he was sentenced in a corruption case.

"I came planned to the event to slap the minister," Singh told reporters who had gone to cover the literary function.

"All of them are corrupt," he shouted when he was removed from security and policemen.

Wielding a small kirpan, the youth said things could have been worse but for the observance of martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur on Thursday.

While the attack on Pawar was slammed by the politicians and NCP workers, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena on Thursday announced a cash reward for Singh for his move.

Bigg Boss 5: What we should learn from Sunny Leone!

The makers of Bigg Boss 5 seem to have hit the bull’s eye after they roped in Indo-Candian porn star Sunny Leone to feature on the show. The show that was slammed for being lackluster is back with and that’s all thanks to Sunny Leone!

Men folk all across are busy googling this bombshell once the show gets over. With some eighty thousand followers on Twitter in a week already, Sunny’s surely stirring passions. If that’s not all, the internet is abuzz with jokes as well as quotes that indicate that people have developed quite a liking for this sexy lass. And, in a rather interesting feature, has enlisted a few lessons that can be learnt from Sunny.

According to the report, the biggest lesson the porn star gives out to women is the fact that they shouldn’t let their past define their present. “We’re seeing her in an alternate universe where she’s just a regular girl. She’s clearly having fun with it, and all girls can learn from that,” reports the website.

The site also suggests that Sunny’s pretty much giving out a lesson to all women out there that there’s nothing wrong in learning new things even if one ends up being looking a little silly during the course of learning. “Sunny’s making an effort to improve her Hindi, and throughout the show she’s seen going out on a limb by trying to make herself understood and never insisting on falling back on English,” suggests the website.

Also, here’s relationship gyan coming our way from our very own porn star Sunny- “When Sid of fered to teach Sunny how to make rotis, she happily agreed and made an earnest effort to follow his instructions in the kitchen. Rather than play up the role reversal of teacher and student in the kitchen, she rolled with it.” Well that’s sort of lending all you women a lesson at not being afraid of learning a thing or two from the men folk in your lives.

Here’s hoping that Sunny continues to enlighten the women all across and men can surely derive pleasure from the lessons as and when they’re implemented.

Source: Daily Bhaskar

J Dey murder: Mumbai journalist Jigna Vora arrested

A Mumbai journalist, Jigna Vora, has been arrested in connection with the murder of MidDay reporter J Dey.

Ms Vora, who works for a Mumbai paper, has been charged with aiding and abetting the crime.

J Dey was shot dead by in broad daylight by four motorcycle-borne assailants in a crowded street in suburban Powai on June 11.

Jigna Vora has been arrested for allegedly giving details like Mr Dey's motorcycle registration number and his address to fugitive underworld don Chotta Rajan, who is accused of masterminding the murder.

She has been arrested under provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and will be tried for murder and conspiracy like the other accused in the case, the police said.

She will be produced before the special MCOCA court later today.

The Crime Branch has in its possession records of a telephone conversation purportedly between Chotta Rajan and some others claiming that the journalist had provided the information which helped them track down Mr Dey, police sources said.

The Crime Branch claims that they have incriminating call records which go against the journalist who has been arrested.

Police had recorded Jigna Vora's statement twice in the past.

Who was J Dey?

Mr Dey, who was the Investigations Editor with the MidDay, spent most of his reporting career bringing out accounts of the goings-on in the Mumbai underworld for several newspapers including the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times.

He wrote 'Zero Dial: The Dangerous World of Informers' and 'Khallas'. The books are considered to be among the most authoritative writings on the Mumbai underworld.

Police over a period had made 10 arrests in the case before today, including builder Vinod Asrani and sharp shooters.

A close associate of Chhota Rajan, Paulson Joseph, is in the custody of Mumbai Police for his alleged involvement in the killing of the senior journalist.

Mr Dey was known for his investigative reports and had reported extensively on the Mumbai underworld, including fugitive dons Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan.

One of the angles the police probed after Mr Dey was gunned down was the involvement of the oil mafia since the journalist had been writing about their operations.

Source: NDTV

Hungary is junk, says Moody's

Budapest: (Reuters): Moody's slashed Hungary's government bond rating to "junk" late on Thursday, citing high debt levels, weak growth prospects and uncertainty about its ability to meet fiscal goals, in what the government called part of "financial attacks" against the country.

Moody's cut Hungary's government bond rating by one notch to Ba1, below investment-grade, with a negative outlook hours after rival Standard & Poor's held fire on a flagged downgrade on news of Budapest's planned talks on getting international aid.

Hungary returned to the International Monetary Fund and the European Union last week after the forint currency fell to record lows against the euro in the wake of a warning by S&P that Hungary could lose its investment-grade credit score.

The forint fell 1% from its Thursday close in the domestic market to 315.80 versus the euro in early trade on Friday. It hit a record low at 317.90 versus the euro on November 14 according to Reuters data.

Moody's cited rising uncertainty about Hungary's ability to meet fiscal goals, high debt levels and what it called increasingly constrained medium-term growth prospects as the main reasons behind the downgrade from Baa3.

"Moody's believes that the combined impact of these factors will adversely impact the government's financial strength and erode its shock-absorption capacity," it said in a statement.

"The rating agency's decision to maintain a negative outlook on Hungary's ratings is driven by the uncertainty surrounding the country's ability to withstand potential event risks emanating from the European sovereign debt crisis."

The Economy Ministy said in a statement on Friday that the downgrade was professionally unfounded and considered it to be what it called "financial attacks against Hungary".

The government cited its commitment to keep the budget deficit below 3% of economic output next year, 1% of GDP worth of reserves in the 2012 budget and an expected decline in debt levels as arguments against the cut.

"Obviously, the forint's weakening is not justified by either the performance of the Hungarian economy, or the shape of the budget," the ministry said in a statement.

"Therefore, it can be driven only by a speculative attack against Hungary, which can be fuelled by exactly these kinds of professionally unfounded assessments by rating agencies."

Even with IMF/EU deal, Hungary vulnerable

Moody's said the request by Hungary, which was saved from collapse with a 20 billion euro IMF/EU loan in 2008, for renewed assistance illustrate the funding challenges facing the country, adding that a deal could alleviate immediate funding challenges.

Hungary will have to roll over 4.7 billion euros of external debt next year as it begins to repay parts of its 2008 loan to the IMF. Budapest has said it wants to use a new IMF/EU deal as a "safety net" against turmoil in the euro zone.

"However, Moody's believes that, even with such an arrangement, the government's debt structure will remain vulnerable to shocks in the medium term, which are inconsistent with a Baa3 rating," it said.

The weak forint pushed Hungary's government debt to 82% of economic output by the end of the third quarter, undoing the impact of a $14 billion pension asset grab by the government, which cut debt by several percentage points.

Moody's said it would further lower Hungary's rating if there is a significant decline in government financial strength due to a lack of progress on structural reforms and implementation of a medium-term plan.

It said the government's 2.5% of GDP budget deficit target for next year may be difficult to meet due to high funding costs and low economic growth.

Moody's said it would consider stabilising the outlook on the ratings if the country were to embark on a sustainable consolidation path, involving a more consistent implementation of the medium-term plan and its euro convergence programme.

The ratings cut came just hours after S&P deferred decision on a possible downgrade of Hungary to non-investment grade until the end of February pending talks with the IMF/EU about a new aid package.

Fitch, another rating agency which has Hungary in the lowest investment-grade category, said on November 18 that an agreement on a new IMF programme would be a positive step and could reduce downward pressure on Hungary's sovereign rating.

Why a beggar does not want to lose his BPL status

November 24, 2011

RBI approves loan extension to Air India; Kingfisher sucks on its thumb

Mumbai: (Reuters) The RBI has approved extension of the tenure of loans to troubled state-run carrier Air India by five years with the loans now being due for repayment after 15 years, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

A consortium of 26 lenders to the debt-laden carrier that include State Bank of India , ICICI Bank , Bank of Baroda among others will meet on Monday to discuss the loan recast, one of the sources said, adding the process would be completed within 120 days of the approval.

"I think banks will approve it on Monday. It is in the best interest of banks to do it soon," the source said.

Air India's lenders had submitted a restructuring proposal to the Reserve Bank of India seeking its permission to extend the loan tenure, among other things, the sources said.

Air India, with total loans of $9.5 billion, is in talks with banks to restructure its working capital debt and is in the midst of implementing a turnaround plan to generate cashflows.

The carrier is expected to post a pre-tax loss of 70 billion rupees for the year-ended March, as per government estimates, hit by a bloated cost structure and stiff competition.

The CAG had in September criticised Air India's decision to buy 111 Boeing and Airbus planes in 2005/06, saying it imposed an "undue long term financial burden on the carrier".

The airline has not posted a profit since merging with former state-owned partner Indian Airlines in 2007 and relies on handouts from New Delhi to survive.

The cabinet has approved an equity infusion of $112 million into the ailing carrier.

The aviation minister Vayalar Ravi told Reuters that the government was still in talks with the RBI on Air India's balance sheet, financial position and future projects.

No govt help to Kingfisher

Ravi on Thursday ruled out government intervention for the beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines and said the carrier would have to talk to its lenders and find a way out of its financial deadlock.

"They have to talk to the banks and put their own money. It is for them to decide," Ravi said.

The Airports Authority of India, or AAI, has recently put Kingfisher on cash and carry, meaning the airline would have to pay outstanding dues to the operator to avail its services, an official said.

Airlines generally pay on credit against bank guarantees.

Kingfisher declined to comment on the AAI move.

Earlier in the day, Kingfisher said lessor AerCap Holdings NV would take back two of its aircraft in coming months as both the companies could not agree on extension terms.

Talk heated up recently on state intervention to help Kingfisher on the lines of Air India. Earlier this month, the prime minister Manmohan Singh told local media the government would try to find ways to get the carrier out of its financial trouble.

But Kingfisher's chairman and liquor baron Vijay Mallya said he had not approached the government for a "bail-out".

India's airlines are struggling with surging oil prices, high sales tax on jet fuel and below the belt pricing due to increased competition, leading to massive losses.

They are on course to post record losses of more than $2.5 billion for the year ending March 2012, and investors have become wary of an industry that, just a few years back, ordered hundreds of aircraft in an ambitious bet on the future.

Kingfisher Airlines saw its September quarter net loss double as its net worth eroded, prompting it to approach lenders for a cushion to ease its debt burden.

Sharad Pawar gets slap; Anna asks 'just once?'

'That bugger hit me really hard'
Breaking into a group of officials and journalists, a youth today attacked Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar after a public event here shouting slogans against corruption and price rise, an action that was roundly condemned by political parties.

71-year-old Pawar, who went to a literary function at a public auditorium on Parliament Street, was caught unaware when he was slapped by Harvinder Singh, a local transporter in his thirties who had assaulted former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram outside a court on Saturday after he was sentenced in a corruption case.

The NCP veteran, who has very little security, lost his balance for a moment but regained composure after the assault, moved towards the exit of the auditorium and got into his waiting car.

Private security guards immediately overpowered the youth who was shouting "he is corrupt" and an official landed some blows on Singh.

"I came planned to the event to slap the minister," Singh told reporters who had gone to cover the literary function.

"All of them are corrupt," he shouted when he was removed from security and policemen.

Wielding a small kirpan, the youth said things could have been worse but for the observance of martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur today.

Pawar himself sought to play down the incident saying he was not sure of what the intentions of the attacker could be and left it to police to handle the issue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Pawar after the incident and condemned the attack. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said that the attack on Pawar was "totally condemnable".

Attacker was surely crazy.
Why did he slap just once?
Noted social activist and the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare was taken by surprise when he was told that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was attacked by a youth at the NDMC centre in the heart of the national capital on Thursday.

“What, was he slapped only once,” was Anna’s initial reaction when he was told about the incident.

However, the septuagenarian leader soon gained composure and said, “The attack on Pawar is highly undemocratic. This is wrong to express anger over price rise in this manner.”

Big B prefers small to big in in share market

Mega star Amitabh Bachchan, known as the Big B of the Bollywood, invests in small and mid-sized companies as well when it comes to stock market purchases, and is sitting on losses on some of his recent investments.

As per the data available with the Bombay Stock Exchange, Bachchan holds stakes between 1-3% in at least three listed companies -- Neuland Laboratories, Birla Pacific Medspa and Fineotex Chemical.

The total market value of Neuland Labs stands at about Rs 40 crore, while that of Birla Pacific Medspa and Fineotex are Rs 122 crore and Rs 100 crore respectively.

Of these, he has been holding Neuland shares since the last quarter of 2010, while he has purchased shares of the other two companies in the past four months.

His name appears as 'Amitabh Harivansh Rai Bachchan' on the shareholder lists of these companies. Queries sent to him regarding these stock purchases remained unanswered.

A broker said that the filmstar might have invested in shares of large companies as well, but those holdings could be below one%, and therefore, have not been disclosed by stock exchanges.

The listed companies are required to disclose their shareholders having one% or above stake at the end of every quarter.

Bachchan had earlier dabbled into the corporate world by setting up his much talked-about ABCL (Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd) to produce films and other entertainment related activities. The venture was later renamed AB Corp.

Also, the asset and liabilities affidavit filed by his wife Jaya Bachchan as a Rajya Sabha member in 2009 reportedly disclosed investments worth about Rs 122 crore in companies by Amitabh and about Rs three crore by Jaya herself.

The latest purchase, as per data available with the BSE, was of 80,000 Fineotex shares for about Rs 1.2 crore on November 17. Prior to that, he also purchased 90,000 and 1,10,000 shares of the same company on November 14 and November 15, respectively.

Bachchan purchased a total of 2.8 lakh shares of Fineotex on these three days for about Rs 4.6 crore.

At the current market price, these Fineotex shares are worth about Rs 2.5 crore and account for a 2.5% stake in the company.

Fineotex shares today fell by 10% to Rs 87.70. They had scaled a 52-week high of Rs 353 on June 28, 2011.

In another recent investment, Bachchan also holds 16 lakh shares, or a 1.43% stake, in the newly-listed Birla Pacific Medspa. The BSE data shows that Bachchan purchased 10 lakh shares of this company on August 9, 2010 for Rs 1.85 crore.

November 23, 2011

Cyrus P Mistry will be next chairman of Tata Sons, will succeed Rata Tata

The board of directors of Tata Sons today appointed Cyrus P Mistry as Deputy Chairman. He will work with Ratan N Tata over the next year and take over from him when Ratan Tata retires in December 2012. This is as per the unanimous recommendation of the selection committee.

Endorsing the appointment, Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Sons, said: “The appointment of Mr Cyrus P Mistry as Deputy Chairman of Tata Sons is a good and far-sighted choice. He has been on the board of Tata Sons since August 2006 and I have been impressed with the quality and calibre of his participation, his astute observations and his humility.

"He is intelligent and qualified to take on the responsibility being offered and I will be committed to working with him over the next year to give him the exposure, the involvement and the operating experience to equip him to undertake the full responsibility of the group on my retirement.”

Mistry, currently managing director, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, has been a director of Tata Sons since August 2006. He is a graduate of civil engineering from Imperial College, London, and has a master of science in management from the London Business School.

Know why rupee is falling against dollar

The rupee slid to an all-time low of 52.73 against the US dollar on Tuesday but bounced back more than 1% on Wednesday after suspected RBI intervention.

The rupee is under pressure as foreign investors are paring their exposure to Asia's third-largest economy amid global uncertainty and mounting worries over the domestic economy.

Foreign funds sold more than $500 million worth of Indian-listed shares over the five trading sessions to Monday, reducing net inflows for 2011 to under $300 million, a tiny sum compared with the record investments of more than $29 billion in 2010.

The rupee has lost more than 14% of its value this year, making it the worst performing currency in Asia. The second-worst is the Thai baht, which has dropped only 3.5%.

Views of investors on the rupee are now at their most pessimistic in more than three years, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seen reluctant to intervene in the market to check the rupee's slide, some analysts are forecasting that the partially convertible currency will slip to as low as 55 against the dollar.

The following are some of the domestic macro-economic factors that are pushing the Indian unit down:

Slowing economic growth

India's economy emerged largely unscathed from the 2008 financial crisis and looked set to achieve its pre-crisis growth rate of 9%, attracting investments from foreign players chasing higher returns.

However, a policy paralysis in the wake of a slew of graft scandals, combined with high inflation and rising interest rates, soon began to undermine the domestic demand-driven growth story.

The annual growth rate for the current fiscal year was originally budgeted at 9% but private economists have said that growth could be well below the 8% mark.

The RBI has already downgraded its growth projection for the fiscal year ending March 2012, from an original 8% to 7.6% now. Some policymakers have begun to concede that growth in the current fiscal year could slip as low as 7%.

Worsening government finances

In February, New Delhi had budgeted a fiscal deficit, for the year ending March 2012, of 4.6% of gross domestic product on assumptions of high economic growth and low expenditure. However, a slowing economy and high subsidy spending are expected to upset those calculations, and many private economists are now predicting a full-year deficit of more than 5%.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy head of the Planning Commission, last week conceded that meeting the budgeted fiscal deficit target would be a challenge and it was "not impossible" that the full-year deficit could swell to 5.5%.

In a global environment where investors are quick to punish fiscal slippages, the prospect of New Delhi missing its budgeted target by a full percentage point has heightened the investment risks for India.

Widening trade deficit

The external balance of any economy is seen as the biggest driver of its currency. Historically, India has been a current account deficit economy as it has been running a trade deficit.

However, it has been managing to fund its current account gap with foreign capital inflows, swamping equity markets betting on rosy prospects for economic growth. With that growth story now taking a beating, India now appears to be a relatively less attractive market for foreign investors.

In October, India had a trade deficit of $19.6 billion, its biggest in four years. the current account gap in the current fiscal year is expected to widen to 3% of GDP from 2.6% a year earlier.

November 20, 2011

Kingfisher Airlines is worth saving, but auction it

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar

Kingfisher Airlines is deep in the red. Should the government organize its rescue ? Critics say that it has already been rescued in the past thanks to Vijay Mallya's political clout, yet it has never made a profit since inception. When millions of small businesses are allowed to go bust when banks cut off credit to thousands of smaller defaulters, rescuing Kingfisher will smack of crony capitalism.

The airline has defenders too. Kingfisher has justly earned a reputation for excellent service standards. Quality is always worth preserving. We need to save Kingfisher without saving Mallya.

Its main competitor in quality, Jet Airlines, has frequently made good profits, while Kingfisher never has. So Kingfisher cannot claim that its problems are common to those of other airlines, many of which are also in the red today. There is a case for reducing burdens on the whole airline industry, but such general relief will not suffice to pay Kingfisher's enormous overdues.

India's airlines suffer from high taxes on fuel, rising world prices and an obligation to service some uneconomic routes to destinations like the Northeast. Yet this did not prevent them from making profits in the past. Even today, Indigo is profitable.

So are many global airlines. Top US carriers like United , Delta and US Air reported good profits in the last two quarters. Indeed, in the quarter ending June, United Airlines turned profitable after losing money for six years, Delta reported the highest quarterly profit in history and Lufthansa doubled its profits. The quarter ending September has been only somewhat less profitable for them. So, Kingfisher and other Indian carriers cannot claim that global conditions are terrible.

Many global airlines have been rescued time and again. Political considerations have often dictated government rescues of national carriers (as has also been the case with Air India). Yet the three biggest US giants of yesteryear-Pan American Airways, TWA and Eastern Airlines-have ceased to exist. That should be the norm in any market economy.

Kingfisher has already been rescued. Banks converted unpaid loans to Kingfisher into equity at a very favourable premium of 62% to the ruling market price, a tribute to Mallya's political clout rather than company's future prospects . Even after that the company has sunk deeper into the red. Even after being restructured and slashed, its debts exceed Rs 7,000 crore. Government concessions to the industry may save other airlines, but not Kingfisher.

Afailed management must be changed. That's normal in a market economy. Giving managements a second chance is often a good idea, but Kingfisher has already been given fresh chances through concessions and rescues , but in vain.

One way forward is for banks to convert a big chunk of their outstanding loans to Kingfisher into equity at the current market price, giving them a 51% stake in the company . This can then be auctioned to the highest bidder. This will be clean and quick, free of the crony capitalism that afflicts government handouts to business.

The Times of India

November 18, 2011

RBI to issue Rs 1,000 and Rs 10 notes with rupee symbol

Mumbai, Nov 18 (PTI) The Reserve Bank today said it will shortly issue Rs 1,000 and Rs 10 notes incorporating the rupee symbol, which was approved last year.

The Indian rupee got an unique symbol -- a blend of the Devanagri 'Ra' and Roman 'R' -- last year joining elite currencies like the US dollar, euro, British pound and Japanese yen in having a distinct identity.

The Rs 1,000 notes will be of the Mahatma Gandhi-2005 Series bearing the signature of RBI Governor D Subbarao and with the year of printing mentioned on the back of the banknote, the apex bank said in a statement .

The design of these notes to be issued is similar in all respects to the existing Rs 1,000 in Mahatma Gandhi Series -2005 issued earlier, except for the rupee symbol.

However, all the bank notes in the denomination of Rs 1,000 issued by the RBI in the past will continue to be legal tender.

In another release, the central bank said the new Rs 10 bank notes with the rupee symbol, with the inset letter 'R', will also be released shortly.

The Rs 10 notes will also bear the signature of Subbarao and the year of printing on the back side.

All the bank notes in the denomination of Rs 10 issued by the RBI in the past will continue to be legal tender.

The new symbol, designed by Bombay IIT post-graduate D Udaya Kumar, was approved in July 2010.

November 15, 2011

Bad time for king of Good Times

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - With one of the world's most expensive yachts and a cricket and Formula One team, Kingfisher Airlines' billionaire Chairman Vijay Mallya is known as "King of the Good Times" for a jet set lifestyle that shadowed India's own rise as an economic power.

Now India's "Richard Branson", a symbol of the hands-on, publicity-hungry and ambitious Indian entrepreneur, faces the possible collapse of his debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines -- and some soul searching about his extravagance.

His troubles have coincided this year with India's own slow growth, high inflation and corruption scandals that threaten the entrepreneurial self-confidence of an Asian economic juggernaut that likes to see itself taking on the world.

Like other billionaires including Mukesh Ambani and his $1 billion Mumbai home, Mallya both fascinates Indians aspiring for wealth after generations of forced frugality and jars with others in a country where around half live in poverty.

"While he was doing well, he was signifying the resurgence of India. To a very large part of the middle class, he was what everyone wanted to be," said Prahlad Kakkar, a well-known advertising executive. "He was the symbol of new India - flamboyant, high-risk, wealthy and not ashamed of it.

"Now when everyone is tightening their belts .. there is an eerie feeling that he's irresponsible."

Kingfisher has become one of the main casualties of high fuel costs and a fierce price war between a handful of airlines which, between them, have ordered hundreds of aircraft for delivery over the next decade in an ambitious bet on the future.

Rising crude prices, a depreciating rupee and cut-throat competition have eroded the finances of his airline - named after his famous brand of Indian beer - despite industry passenger growth of nearly 20% this year.

The 55-year-old Mallya, with his Branson-style flowing silver hair, is chairman of United Breweries (Holdings), a conglomerate with interests as diverse as aviation, breweries, biotechnology and real estate. The group has annual sales of more than $4 billion

But it is his ownership of Kingfisher Airlines, which accounts for nearly one in five flights in India, that perhaps made Mallya most famous.

He helped transform India's airline business by focusing on services like good food, personal screens on domestic flights and airline ushers who attend to customers as they arrive at the airport.

"He altogether brought a different level of service into the domestic skies," said Kapil Kaul, chief executive for the Indian subcontinent and Middle East at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), an aviation consulting firm.

The man, the brand

On each flight, Mallya appears on a recorded message on the inflight entertainment system, boasting of hand-picking each of the airline's hostesses who "have been instructed to treat you in the same way as if you were a guest in my own home".

Worth $1.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, his lifestyle fascinated many Indians, including the nearly 700,000 that follow him on Twitter.

Mallya flies around the world, dining with football stars and Formula One drivers and appearing with models on photo shoots in locales like Mauritius, continuously name-dropping the rich and famous on his Twitter feed. His 312-foot yacht, the Indian Empress cost almost $89 million.

Highlighting his global ambition, Mallya also owns a Scottish whisky company. He once personally flew in his private jet from New Zealand to Scotland with three bottle of whisky found left from British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1907 Antarctic expedition.

He built a luxury Kingfisher villa in Goa famed for its lavish parties, has befriended Bollywood stars and has a collection of dozens of vintage cars worth millions.

He publishes a Kingfisher calendar of beautiful Indian models - often appearing flanked by them in photoshoots.

"In Mauritius. The 2011 Kingfisher Calendar is going to rock. Great locations, stunning models .... A lethal brew!" he tweeted.

Born into breweries

Mallya was the son of Vittal Mallya, a liquor baron whose United Breweries was once a major supplier of British colonial troops in India. He soon made a fortune buying up breweries in the pre-economic reform decades of post-independence India.

Vittal's U.S.-educated son Vijay took over the UB Group as chairman in 1983 at the age of 28 and quickly expanded the group. Its core breweries and liquor business has around half the market share in India.

Mallaya's lifestyle is not without critics, with some saying it is directly linked to the airline's problems.

"Mallya's flamboyant lifestyle is responsible for the debts that Kingfisher Airlines has incurred," Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray was quoted as saying by local media.

"He has many businesses -- liquor, IPL and F1 teams. He has many bungalows and a cruise boat. He himself does not know how much he spends on cheer girls during IPL (cricket) matches."

The BJP said it would oppose a state bailout for Kingfisher, which means pressure will remain on Mallya's United Breweries to keep the airline in business.

"Those who die must die," auto industrialist Rahul Bajaj told local media, referring to Kingfisher Airlines.

Mallya himself says he will bounce back, and often criticises what he sees as a sensationalist press out to get him.

"To write the epitaph of Kingfisher airlines constantly is not fair," he told reporters on Tuesday.