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Today's Hot Stories - March 10, 2011

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Court raps ED for failing to build concrete case against Hasan Ali
(2) Congress' tough talking with DMK yields results
(3) Oil installations ablaze in Libya as battles rage
(4) FDI plunges 48 per cent in January
(5) RCom signs final agreement for Rs. 8700 crore loan from CDB
(6) Oil rises to near $93 as Libya chaos deepens
(7) India makes heavy weather of the Netherlands' modest total
(8) Sania advances to second round of all England championships
(9) Barcelona beats ten-man Arsenal
(10) Carlos Slim remains world's richest person: Forbes

5 Stories for Today

(1) “Budget failed to address inflation, black money”
(2) Hand over power to Quattarra in Cote d'Ivoire: Obama
(3) Frequent power cuts hurt industrial units
(4) Ford to ship more 'Figo' to Mexico, other countries
(5) Goa's per capita highest, Bihar's lowest in FY '10

(1) “Budget failed to address inflation, black money”

Charging the government with failure to address the issues of inflation and black money in the general budget, the Opposition on Wednesday described the budget as lacklustre with no initiatives to propel growth.

Initiating the debate on Union Budget 2011-12 in the Rajya Sabha, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee has not laid down any roadmap to check rising prices.

“We regret to say in this entire budget, there is no roadmap for tackling inflation and people are left in the lurch. I do not see that this budget will propel growth,” he said.

Mr. Prasad said that while food grains were rotting, inflation touched a meteoric rise against a backdrop, where 80 per cent children and 70 per cent women were suffering from malnutrition.

“It is a classic case of gross mismanagement as a huge quantity of food grains is rotting outside godowns at a time when people are suffering due to hunger. Opposition-ruled States were being discriminated in allocation from the Central pool,” he charged.

The BJP leader said that the government failed to bring down inflation and was only making a pious wish that it would come down next year. No concrete measures were announced in the budget to fuel growth in the agriculture sector and attract educated youth to farming, he said. “There is uncertainty as far as the poor are concerned. A few millionaires have amassed majority of the nation's wealth,” he said.

Criticising the government for not coming up with details on black money, he said that the country wanted to know at least the amount stashed away abroad, number of individuals involved and action taken against them.

(2) Hand over power to Quattarra in Cote d'Ivoire: Obama

Appalled by indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians during peaceful rallies, U.S. President Barack Obama has asked former Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo to peacefully hand over power to the president-elect Alassane Quattara.

“The people of Cote d’Ivoire have extraordinary talent and potential, and they deserve leadership that is responsive to their hopes and aspirations. It’s time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Ouattara,” he said.

People of Cote d’Ivoire elected Alassane Ouattara as their President and Laurent Gbagbo lost the election.

“Former President Gbagbo’s efforts to hold on to power at the expense of his own country are an assault on the universal rights of his people, and the democracy that the Cote d’Ivoire deserves,” the U.S. President said.

The people of Cote d’Ivoire have extraordinary talent and potential, and they deserve leadership that is responsive to their hopes and aspirations, Mr. Obama said.

Strongly condemning the abhorrent violence against unarmed civilians in that country, Mr. Obama said that he was particularly appalled by the indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians during peaceful rallies, many of them women, including those who were gunned down as they marched in support of the legitimately elected President Alassane Ouattara.

“Reports indicate that the women were shot to death by security forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo. On March 8 -- the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day -- we saw pictures of women peacefully rallying with signs that said ‘Don’t shoot us’ -- a strong testament to the bravery of women exercising their right of peaceful assembly,” he said.

The US, he said, remains deeply concerned about escalating violence, including the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis and its impact in Cote d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries.

“All armed parties in Cote d’Ivoire must make every effort to protect civilians from being targeted, harmed, or killed,” he said, adding that U.S. reiterates its commitment to work with the international community to ensure that perpetrators of such atrocities be identified and held individually accountable for their actions.

(3) Frequent power cuts hurt industrial units

Residents in the city and industries here have started facing longer hours of load shedding every day, which has even forced the industries to contemplate on a private power project.

Though the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation announced two-hour load shedding every day, the city has started facing frequent power disruptions and longer hours of load shedding.

“We resorted to three hours load shedding on Wednesday as there is a shortage in power availability. There are difficulties in procuring more power from the market,” according to a senior official of the corporation here. Prices of power have gone up during the last two days in the market. Further, wind energy generation has also dropped. The corporation may have to continue with longer hours of load shedding if power procurement continues to be a problem, the official added.

According to Mahendra Ramdas, President of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Consumers’ Association, industries here will be forced to look at moving to other places if the power problem continued. “There seems to be no short-term solution in sight for the power problem.” While the scheduled power cut is only for two hours a day, there is no time limit for unscheduled power cuts. High Tension consumers do not get prior information of the power disruptions. Further, the quality of power is also poor, he says.

The demand for power from the market also increases during summer. Hence, some of the industries are looking at jointly setting up a private power plant to meet their needs. The Government should restrict use of power for lavish purposes, he adds.

(4) Ford to ship more 'Figo' to Mexico, other countries

After the success of Figo in the Indian market, U.S. carmaker Ford on Wednesday said that it would increase exports of the compact car to Mexico and other nations in North Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, besides making India as its export hub for the small car.

“Success of Figo, which celebrates the first anniversary, has prompted us to make India as our small car hub. India will be the sole producer of Figo in the world and there is no plan to assemble the car anywhere else,” Ford India President and Managing Director Michael Boneham said.

Ford India, which plans to launch eight models by 2015, would also consider adopting a similar strategy of producing only in India for some of the new products. “It will depend on the demand for those models from other markets and the economies of scale but there is always an option,” Mr. Boneham explained. This year, Ford India is planning to launch the new Fiesta

He, however, said the focus of Ford India would be the domestic market and priority would be to meet the demand here. “In January, we sold 10,000 units for the first time, making us the fourth largest in India after Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors,” he said.

Mr. Boneham also said that the company would consider increasing production at its Chennai plant to meet the growing demand in the domestic and export markets. Ford has invested $500 million at its Chennai facility, doubling car production to two lakh units annually and to build a new engine unit, with a capacity of 2.5-lakh units a year.

“At present, we are producing 2,800 units a week in double shift. If need be, we can do a third shift that will make the plant reach its full capacity of two lakh units annually. But as of now, we have not taken any decision on starting a third shift,” Mr. Boneham added.

By this month-end, Ford will ship 1,500 units of Figo to Mexico to tap the potential of the fast growing market. “We will also be exporting to markets in North Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean,” he added. At present, Figo is exported to South Africa and Nepal. In 2010, Ford had exported a total of 12,000 cars, mainly Figo and Fiesta.

(5) Goa's per capita highest, Bihar's lowest in FY '10

Tourist hotspot Goa recorded the highest per capita income among all States and Union Territories during 2009-10, while Bihar bagged the last spot, the Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs Ashwini Kumar said that Goa topped the list with an annual per capita income (PCI) of Rs. 1,32,719 in the last fiscal.

It was followed by the Union Territory of Chandigarh at Rs. 1,20,912 and Delhi at Rs. 1,16,886.

In contrast, Bihar recorded the lowest PCI of Rs. 16,119 in the same period.

States such as Uttar Pradesh registered PCI of Rs. 23,132, Assam (Rs. 27,197) and Madhya Pradesh (Rs. 27,250).

Among other major States, Maharashtra recorded a PCI of Rs. 74,027, Tamil Nadu of Rs. 62,499 and Gujarat of Rs. 63,961.

The PCI data is based on the Advance Estimates of National Income released last month by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Meanwhile, national PCI, often used to measure a country’s standard of living, increased by 14.5 per cent during 2009-10 to Rs. 46,492.

“The per capita income at factor cost during 2008-09 and 2009-10 are estimated as Rs. 40,605 and Rs. 46,492, respectively, at current prices,” Statistics and Programme Implementation Minister M.S. Gill said yesterday.

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