Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday , September 8 , 2008

Times Of India

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yes, no, yes: High drama before Singur solution

Panel Of 4 To Report In A Week, Mamata Flip-Flop Delays Truce


Kolkata: Hope flickered, seemed to have been extinguished and then resurfaced — all within a few hours — as a solution to the Singur impasse was finally announced by Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi at Raj Bhavan on Sunday. The compromise: land will be given as compensation to all those farmers who were not financially compensated for the land taken from them for the Nano plant and vendors’ park. Most of the land will be returned within Tata Motors’ small car factory project area.
    A committee, comprising two government nominees and two nominees of the agitators, will work out the modalities within a week. No construction will take place at the 290-acre vendor park during this time.
In return, opposition leader Mamata Banerjee agreed to suspend her 15-day agitation.
    But the compromise was achieved only after hours of drama, after fresh demands by Mamata threatened to derail the hard-earned resolution.
    Both sides had agreed to a solution early in the evening. Then, even as CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee proceeded to brief Left Front members about the terms of the agreement, he was told about Mamata’s about-turn and had to make one himself — driving back to Raj Bhavan to resume talks.
    Finally, some hours later — to huge relief all around — the governor announced the settlement.


11am | CM Buddhadeb drives into Raj Bhavan
12.10pm | Leaves after talks with Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi
1.10pm | Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee arrives amid talks that Mamata Banerjee will also join in 3pm | Mamata’s convoy arrives 4.30pm | CM makes a surprise return to Raj Bhavan
6.35pm | CM leaves for Left Front meet, is told Mamata is making fresh demands
9.05pm | CM returns, his third visit to the Raj Bhavan in the day 10.45pm | Governor announces Singur stalemate over

HARD DAY’S NIGHT: Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi with Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee & Partha Chatterjee, & CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

NSG in bag, India seeks uranium from Australia

Hopes To Build On Aussie Help At Vienna Talks

Sachin Parashar | TNN

New Delhi: Having successfully wrested a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India is preparing to press Australia to supply uranium to its reactors, hoping to build on Canberra’s support during negotiations in Vienna.
    The Manmohan Singh government is looking to engage Australia in all earnestness as despite the initial ambivalence, Kevin Rudd’s government backed the waiver. India

is now hoping that Canberra will similarly revisit its position on uranium supply.
    Sources said the issue would be taken up with Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith who arrives in India on Tuesday. The Rudd administration had, after being voted to office last year, overturned the decision of the previous Conservative government to sell uranium to India.
    Rudd, a fluent Mandarin speaker, has taken the traditional Labour line on uranium supplies but India is expected to argue that the waiver should address Australian concerns over dealing with a state which has not signed NPT. Besides, earlier this year, the Labour government reaffirmed the Howard regime’s commitment to supply about 20,000 tonnes of uranium a year to China, beginning 2010. This should cater to most of China’s power needs.
India, Australia have common security interests
New Delhi: As Australia accounts for 40% of the world’s uranium, India is eyeing a commercial deal for its civilian reactors. It is felt that it would not be easy for the Australian government to turn down India, without being seen as biased in favour of China, all the more so in the wake of the NSG waiver which it has helped facilitate. Despite the large geographical separation, there are strong shared interests that bind India and Australia in terms of security and trade in the Indian Ocean. Australia has, in recent years, revisited its security doctrine, keeping a close watch on extremism in Indonesia while its alliance with the US in the “war on terror” has placed it on the jihadi map.
    A senior official said, ‘‘Australia’s stand does not make sense now as the waiver which (Australia) helped us acquire doesn’t deny us the right to buy uranium from other countries. In any case, now that we have the waiver, we are not desperate. It would be as big a loss for them because we can import from countries like Canada and South Africa.’’
    Australia has backed India at both IAEA and NSG but has been adamant that India can’t have its uranium by remaining outside NPT, even if this meant watching other countries step into the breach. While the waiver has led to speculation on this front in Australia, the Rudd government is yet to make a statement. In case Australia doesn’t relent, India will look at Canada, which also backed India at the NSG by not remaining hostage to its strong anti-proliferation stand. Canada is second only to Australia in uranium supply. Both countries have high-grade ores with 12% to 15% uranium. India has a reserve of about 80,000 tonnes of uraniusm but needs almost a lakh tonnes more to run its reactors.
    The brazen manner in which the Ruddled Labour government had summarily rejected Howard’s preparedness to supply uranium evoked considerable anger in New Delhi. The Rudd government took the ‘‘puritanical’’ position that Australia cannot sell uranium to a country which has refused to sign NPT. The manner in which Australia went on to dump the quadrilateral process (US, Japan, India and Australia) initiated by Tokyo only added to the notion that Rudd could be influenced by China.

51% of businesses owned by SC/ST/OBCs


New Delhi: Political empowerment is finally translating into economic muscle for the country’s most disadvantaged sections. Over half of all business establishments in the country — 51% to be precise — are today owned by the socially disadvantaged sections, mostly OBCs, with a slim contribution coming from SCs and STs.
    This is the good news coming from an analysis of social ownership patterns of business establishments as presented by the latest Economic Census for 2005. But before you start cheering this empowerment story, here’s a caveat.
    A closer look at the data shows that the majority of businesses owned by OBCs/SCs/STs are establishments without any hired workers — that is, these are pa-andma ops, run by members of the household. They are possibly main
ly efforts at self-employment.
    The data shows that while people from these sections owned 45% of business establishments at the time of the last Economic Census in 1998, their share has registered
a 6 percentage point increase since then. OBCs account for the largest chunk of this growth.
    The OBC share in ownership of businesses has increased in all major states, barring Tamil Nadu,
where they already owned a high 74% of all businesses, and Punjab, where a small decline in OBC ownership has been offset by a rise in SC-owned businesses.
    In states like UP, the increase in OBC ownership has been significant, going up from 38% in the last census to nearly half of all businesses in the state by 2005. In Gujarat, the proportion of OBC-owned establishments has gone up by 13 percentage points to comprise almost a third of the state’s businesses.
    However, the status of the weakest among the reserved categories, the scheduled tribes (STs), seems to have remained virtually unchanged.
    There has been a steady increase in ST-owned establishments in northeastern states but that has been offset by a decline in many other states including Orissa, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The top 5 states in terms of business establishments owned by OBCs
OBC share in ownership of businesses up in most major states
DOWNER: Majority of businesses owned by bckward castes are own account establishments (OAE), or businesses without any hired workers
UPSIDE: Within every category, the proportion of hired worker establishments is growing
However, status of STs virtually unchanged. Rise in ST-owned establishments in north-east offset by decline in states like Orissa, Rajasthan & MP
71% of businesses of OBCs are family run
New Delhi: As many as 51% in India are today owned by the socially disadvantaged sections. Over three quarters of the establishments owned by SCs and STs are own account establishments (OAE) or establishments owned and run by the family members. The proportion of such establishments owned by OBCs is 71%. However, just over half (56%) of businesses owned by the general category are OAE establishments.
    The positive sign is that within every category, the proportion of hired worker establishments is growing while OAEs are coming down. For instance, in Maharashtra, and Rajasthan the proportion of OBCowned establishments with hired workers grew from 18% to over a third of total OBCowned establishments.
    For the reserved categories, especially STs and to some extent SCs too, their share in the total number of businesses with hired workers has remained small, although the situation has shown definite improvement between the last census and the latest one. For instance, in Bihar, the proportion of SCowned businesses with hired workers constitutes 31% of all businesses owned by SCs.
    This is a significant jump from a mere 10% in 1998. Yet when you look at all the establishments that use hired workers in the state, the SC share is just 4% of this, although SCs constitute 16% of the state population. In most states, the bulk of businesses that hire workers continues to be owned by persons from the general category, except Tamil Nadu, where a much larger proportion of OBCs own establishments that hire workers (65%) than the general category (28%).
    But within all categories in the state, especially among STs, there is decline in the proportion of establishments with hired workers. This seems to indicate that most of the growth in establishments in the state has happened due to persons seeking self employment.
    In states where there has been political empowerment of the reserved categories especially OBCs and SCs, they seem to own much larger proportions of the hired worker establishments than in others.
    In Bihar, UP and Kerala, 51%, 48% and 47% of establishments that use hired workers are owned by the reserved categories, with the bulk in the hands of the OBCs.

US Congress set to give final stamp to deal

Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN

Washington: An American lawmaker opposed to the nuclear deal has indicated he is open to changing his mind, strengthening the chances of the US Congress giving final approval to the agreement in its short (September 8 to September 26) session.
    Howard Berman, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Saturday he would not consider any expedited timetable for considering the deal ‘‘until the Bush administration provides him with more information about the Vienna negotiations’’.
    Under current rules, the agreement needs to ‘‘rest’’ in Congress for a 30-day period before it can be taken up for a simple yes-no vote with no debate.
VOICES OF DISSENT Congressman slams US’s ‘strong-arm’ tactics
Washington: US lawmaker Howard Berman, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said the burden was on the White House to convince Congress that the nuclear pact needed to be authorized in a ‘‘rushed’’ fashion. He just wanted to make sure the Bush administration did not cut any side deals with NSG member countries to get their votes.
    Other lawmakers are clearly more inflexible. Hours after the Vienna waiver, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, whose opposition to the deal goes back to 1974 and his perceived betrayal by India, railed about the Bush administration’s ‘‘strong arm’’ tactics that he said forced NSG into skirting normal rules governing international nuclear trade.
    ‘‘This agreement effectively blows a hole in the global non-proliferation regime, setting a dangerous precedent. What kind of lesson does it send to countries like Pak
istan, Iran and North Korea, when we skirt the rules for our friends, but insist on strict compliance for them?’’ Markey asked. ‘‘The nuclear supplier nations cannot preach nuclear temperance from a barstool, and the India nuclear deal is going to undermine the credibility of international efforts to prevent the further spread of the bomb.’’
    But the administration appears confident that things will

work out domestically. ‘‘The congressional calendar is short,’’ secretary of state Condoleezz Rice admitted, adding: ‘‘But the main thing is the international work is now done.’’
    The nuclear deal still enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. When the Hyde Act authorizing the deal first came up before Congress in 2006, it was cleared 359-68 in the House of Representatives and 85-12 in the US Senate.
    Ahead of the agreement’s return to Congress for the fi
nal vote, India’s ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, has met presidential candidates from both parties, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, both of whom support the deal and voted for it, albeit with less passion than some of its ardent supporters.
    But Washington’s hardline non-proliferation community is not going down without a fight. Following the Vienna waiver, the Arms Control Association — a think-tank that has gone to extraordinary lengths to torpedo the internationally approved deal (including calling it ‘‘the 9/11 of proliferation,’’) — called the NSG decision ‘’a non-proliferation disaster of historic proportions that will produce harm for decades to come’’.
    ‘‘Contrary to the Orwellian claims of the George W Bush administration, the India-specific exemption from NSG rules and safeguards standards does not bring India into the nuclear non-proliferation mainstream,’’ ACA insisted in its analysis of the progress in Vienna.

UPA mulls fuel price cut ahead of Nov polls


New Delhi: With international crude oil prices continuing to slide for the past eight weeks, UPA strategists are deliberating whether they can time a politically tempting cut in motor fuel prices to gain populist points ahead of the assembly elections in five states due in November.
    Even though the numbers are still stacked against any reduction, a marginal cut of up to Rs 2 a litre in pump prices will help repair the ruling UPA’s inflationbattered image, coalition sources said.
    International oil has dropped to around $105 a barrel from a high of $147 on July 11. The slide began on July 16 when crude oil posted its biggest slump in 17 years, dipping over $10 a barrel. TOI had then said pump prices wouldn’t change immediately but if the slide continued for over a month or so, public sentiment — and easing of economic pressure — could give the government leeway to affect a token reduction.

    Coalition strategists feel that the time for making an announcement is in sight. An indication of this came on Friday when petroleum minister Murli Deora said pump prices could be reduced if ‘‘international oil price falls further’’. The same day, BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javdekar, fanned public sentiment arguing that the government should cut prices now that oil has cooled off.

UPA strategists keen on slashing fuel prices by up to Rs 2/litre. Debate on when cut should be announced
Global oil price has dropped from $147 a barrel in July to $105 at present
Numbers still don’t support a cut. Indian oil cos will stop losing money only if crude drops to $68-70/barrel
Inflation may spoil govt’s nuke party
New Delhi: With polls round the corner, government is contemplating a cut in fuel prices. Technically, it is scheduled to review fuel prices in October. If oil settles around $100/barrel by then, chances are that coalition leaders may force Deora to decrease pump prices marginally around the time the festival season which kicks in along with elections.
    Even as the Manmohan Singh government celebrates its nuclear waiver, Congress managers are all too aware that inflation remains a sore point. They are concerned that price rise may help BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan stave off anti-incumbency by blaming the Centre for the sharp increase in food and transport budgets of most families.
    As far as the arithmetic goes, the political planners say if retail prices are reduced in tandem with lower crude prices, the losses of state-run oil marketing firms will also come down to last year’s levels — or be marginally more — which the government will easily make up through bonds.
    This argument, however, may not stand up to scrutiny for two reasons. One, the winter demand in the West will start building up around the same time and again put pressure on international oil prices. Second, if oil comes down to $100 and shows a further southward tilt, Opec will surely cut production to stem any slide. During several major oil meetings last year and earlier this year, key Opec policymakers have consistently told TOI they think the world is comfortable with oil at $100/barrel level.
    Admittedly, even at $100/barrel or so, it won’t be easy for Deora to tow his party’s line. With present pump prices corresponding to about $68-70/barrel crude, state oil retailers are losing Rs 6.31 per litre on petrol, Rs 13.69 on diesel, Rs 31.39 on kerosene and Rs 312.58 per 14.2-kg cooking gas cylinder. The mix of crude India buys, which is $2-3 lower than the US market, averaged $111.09 a barrel in the second fortnight of August against $117.37 per barrel in the first fortnight of the month.

WHO pushes prohibitively costly vaccine

Rema Nagarajan | TIG

    If a disease can be treated for Rs 10, why would you spend Rs 12,000 for it? That is the question being raised by some doctors on a move to make a vaccine against pneumonia part of the immunisation programme.
    According to WHO protocol, pneumonia in children is to be treated with co-trimoxozole (commonly known as Septran), an antibiotic that costs just Rs 10 to treat a child. The pneumococcal vaccine costs Rs 12,000 for a course of three injections for a child. Besides, it is not fail-safe — according to studies, it creates immunization against pneumonia in just four out of 1,000 cases.
Pneumonia kills 1 in 5 kids in under-5 group
    Arow has erupted over a move to make a vaccine against pneumonia part of the immunisation programme.
    Pneumonia is said to be the cause of death of almost one in every five children in the under-five age group. That, say proponents of the penumococcal vaccine, mainly the WHO, is good enough reason for the vaccine to be made a part of the programme.
    But on September 1, the WHO Bulletin published a letter casting serious doubts regarding the use of the new pneumococcal vaccine. The letter points out that an analysis of all studies on the vaccine shows that the vaccine does not reduce the incidence of clinical pneumonia. The letter further pointed out that analysis had also shown that the vaccine only reduced the chance of ‘radiological pneumonia’ and not of ‘clinical pneumonia’.
    Those arguing against the vaccine being made part of the immunization pro
gramme have a simple argument. Where the cause of the infection is bacterial, Septran will do the trick in most cases. Where it is not, the vaccine will not work either. In fact, they argue that even getting an Xray done is a luxury for most. Treatment with antibiotics on the basis of clinical symptoms is a far less expensive option. It would mean that in some cases antibiotics will be prescribed where they serve no purpose – the viral infections – but no harm would be done and considerable expense saved, an important consideration in countries where most patients are poor.
    In its reply, the WHO defends the vaccine, but admits it does not reduce clinical pneumonia. The reply admits that only 3.6 cases of pneumonia (radiological pneumonia) are prevented for every 1000 children immunized.
    “If the four (3.6) children could be saved by treating them with Septran, which would cost Rs 40, why would a cash strapped country like India opt to vaccinate the 1000 children, which would cost
Rs 1.2 crore?” asks Dr Jacob Puliyel, one of the authors of the letter published in the WHO Bulletin and senior paediatrician in St Stephens Hospital, Delhi.
    “Of course, the WHO has an 'introductory offer' for the vaccine by which countries can get 3 doses of the vaccine for about Rs 50 per child. The cost will then be Rs 50,000 to vaccinate 1000 children,” points out Dr Puliyel. Yet, that would mean Rs 50,000 to be spent to save Rs 40.
    Radiological pneumonia, against which the vaccine is effective, is relatively rare. Even the effect on radiological pneumonia, the letter pointed out, was seen only in children less than 2 years of age, after which vaccination had no benefit.
    What is the difference between clinical pneumonia and radiological pneumonia? In general, a child with cough and difficulty in breathing is suffering from pneumonia according to the WHO definition. The cause may include infection by bacteria and virus as well as other reasons of difficult breathing.

Fat wallets? Credit it to plastic

Avijit Ghosh | TNN

New Delhi: About three years back, Madhur Mehrotra began to feel the bulge in his wallet. Ten credit cards, 12 loyalty cards and three ATM cards had created a serious weight and space problem in his pocket. The wallet was so thick that no pickpocket would have managed to pull it out. That’s when he decided to get innovative. ‘‘Now,’’ says the 43-year-old executive, fishing out a cardholder from his pocket, ‘‘I keep most of my cards here.’’ But despite having 25 cards to shop with, Mehrotra is not stopping yet.
    Mehrotra’s predicament isn’t singular. With a bevy of plastic cards sleekly tucked in, well-heeled India’s wallet is protruding like never before. As India Shining enjoys the good life, there’s a plastic for every occasion and reason. There’s regular credit card, co-branded credit card and debit card. Many of these cards land up for free without re
quest. Then there are loyalty cards in different avatars at petrol pumps, airlines, hotels, restaurants, golf clubs, movieplexes and retail stores. And who would believe, even DVD rental shops offer special ATM cards!
There are about 20 million credit and debit card users in India, according to recent industry estimates. The number of credit and debit cards in active use in 2008 is between 25 and 40 million. And the number is still growing. Within two years of its launch in July 2006, Deutsche Bank has over 450,000 credit card users in India. Says Shameek Bhargava, managing director and
head of cards, Asia Pacific, Deutsche Bank, ‘‘Increased competition in the Indian industry and aggressive marketing by various financial institutions is leading to customers opting for multiple credit cards.’’ IT PAYS TO BE LOYAL Loyalty cards, new hit with cos
    Loyalty cards too have become an integral part of corporate strategies to ensure fidelity to the brand. For example, Air India has a frequent flyer base of nearly 5,50,000 members. Every member has been issued a frequent flyer card. Similarly, Indian Oil sells Rs 12,000 crore worth of oil every year through plastic cards. This includes 11 lakh co-branded cards with Citibank and another 12 lakh pre-loaded debit cards.
    ‘‘In 1951, the first bank credit card appeared in New York’s Franklin National Bank for loan customers,’’ write Emily Starbuck Gerson and Ben Woolsey on The idea, though, had already been experimented with in various forms much before. In India, Andhra Bank was the first to introduce credit cards in 1981. But the idea of keeping multiple cards is a relatively new trend whose whispers, industry watchers say, could be first heard around the beginning of the new millennium.
    At the ‘mass’ level, the credit card as well as the loyalty card boom started early this decade. ‘‘That’s the time when the telemarketers swamped just about everyone with offers for new credit cards,’’ recalls Arvind K Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors, a management consulting firm. He has four credit cards and another 20 plastics, including club membership, airline and hotel membership and dining discount cards. Barely a decade ago, it was common in India to harbour fears about losing money through misuse of credit card. There was also a mental block against owing money to someone. That psyche has altered.
    ut there’s a method behind the card madness. Mehrotra, who works for a firm that produces energy-efficient products, says that having more credit cards increases the customer’s overall credit limit. Senior journalist Nilesh Roy (name changed) feels a sense of security in carrying more than one card, ‘‘in case one of them doesn’t work’’. He has four cards. ‘‘I got talked into buying one of them that was peddled as a special card for
Stephenians’’, and three frequent flyer cards for Jet, Singapore and Air France.
    Samita Bhowmick, a senior officer with the Lok Sabha secretariat, says there’s a clear division of labour between her five credit cards. ‘‘I use the Standard Chartered card to shop, the ABN card to pay for petrol, the SBI card for balance transfer and the ICCI card for net shopping. And I plan to use the Barclays card to pay my insurance EMI,’’ she says. She has two debit cards as well but doesn’t use them much. Sometimes she admits to overspending but uses balance transfer to steer clear of a debt trap.
    Of course, with so many cards to juggle around, timely payment is a critical issue. Mehrotra, in fact, has turned it into high art. He maintains a handwritten diary where he puts down the transactions. He also has the payment

schedule worked out on an Excel sheet. He makes payments online.
    Co-branded cards have added to the complexity of the market. Such cards, where a bank ties up with another organization such as an airline, gives an opportunity to the customer to earn bonus points that may accrue some additional monetary benefit. Similarly, loyalty cards, as Shameek, says look to enhance “stickiness for the store”.
    Bookstores offer discounts to loyalty cardholders. So do petrol pumps. And airlines compete with each other to woo customers. Through frequent flyer cards, mileage points can be exchanged for free flights. That apart, in-flight privileges include increased check-in baggage allowance and priority for confirmation on waitlist. Jitendra Bhargava, executive director, corporate communications, Air India, points out that offering frequent flyer membership has helped the airlines in ‘‘customer retention, acquisition of new customers and improving communications with them’’.
    But do loyalty cards really ensure loyalty? They do, at least for Roy. He generally books domestic flights with Jet Airways because he holds their frequent flyer card. ‘‘It gets you seat upgrades and,
lounge facilities. What more do you need while waiting for your flight?’’
    Vijay Pratap Singh of Oxford Bookstore offers the view from the other side. ‘‘The loyalty card scheme has boosted sales. Almost all of our customers are repeat customers,’’ he says. Singhal says that loyalty cards also give middle-class consumers a sense of status and a belongingness to a perceived ‘exclusive club’. Hence, the burgeoning issuance of loyalty cards by a wide range of retailers. But he adds that some top performers abroad also defy the trend. “Many Indian retailers such as Shoppers Stop still swear by the concept of loyalty cards and the size of their loyalty cardholder base. However, some of the biggest global retailers such as Wal-Mart continue to shun such cards and instead, focus on delivering on their core-promise to their customers.’’ There’s a flip side to the card rush as well. Shameek points out that multiple cards lead to some problems for customers like losing track of the different bills each month and hence falling behind on payments; sometimes the temptation of high credit limits entice customers to overspend.
    Nearly 7-9% of the credit card industry turnover is becoming bad debt, says Vijay Mehta, chief consultant, Credit Card and Management Consultancy. ‘‘Banks are indiscriminately issuing cards without looking into the affordability of the customer. They are also indiscriminately increasing the credit limit of customers. The credit card has become a snake in the pocket,’’ he says.
    Crime too has kept up with the plastic rush. Cops admit to an unprecedented rise in credit card frauds with international gangs of cheats being active in even Delhi and Mumbai. Says ACP Rajan Bhagat, ‘‘recently we have busted several credit card frauds. Users are advised to protect their classified information while using the card at public places.’’ In the end, it is all about being careful and wise. ‘‘Prudent management of multiple cards can give customers advantage over the pitfalls of overspending,’’ says Shameek. Bhowmick affirms. “Cards need to be used wisely.”
    (With inputs from Prabhakar Sinha and Rahul Tripathi)

Saree jahan se achha

The whole world’s draped in sarees, literally, including the Pussycat Dolls. Designers tell us what the USP of the six-yard wonder is


    There was a definite Indian flavour to the red carpet at the annual Fashion Rocks concert in New York, with designer Rocky S walking the ramp along with Jessica, Ashley, Nicole, Kimberly and Melody – the Pussycat Dolls – dressed in sarees. Among names like Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Charlize Theron, Fergie and Rihanna, it indicated yet again that Indian fashion, and the saree, has made quite a name for itself internationally.
    Rocky says that he was approached by an Indian portal based in New York, and asked if he’d like to dress up the sexy pop group. “Why would I have said no?” says Rocky. “It sounded very challenging because I had no time – just two days. I thought, I’m an Indian designer and my designs have to reflect that. So I made sarees for them. They asked me to come along and so I went with them to the concert. This concert is basically a celebration of the relationship between fashion and music. It was fabulous,” says a very excited Rocky.
‘RITU KUMAR: I was looking at this picture of the Pussycat Dolls and thinking that the saree has now become a substitute for the Little Black Dress – a lovely, flowing, clingy garment. The fascination of the saree has always been there in the West.The image of India is now that of Shilpa Shetty and Bollywood. I try to modify the drape to suit the young wearers. The saree I designed for the Miss India winner, I made the pallunarrow, so it sat delicately on the shoulders. Since the younger generation is not used to draping the whole six yards, I sometimes stitch the pleats and the first drape of the saree onto the petticoat, which can be zipped up at the waist. That leaves the pallu to be draped as one wishes it to.
SUNEET VARMA: The saree is the most versatile garment in the world. It can, with a sweep of the head, be conservative or with a flash of the navel, trendy. If you are going for a prayer meeting, all you need to do is to place the pallu over the shoulders or cover your head with it. The same saree, worn a little low to show off the navel,and teamed up with a backless choli, and show a bit of cleavage, can make you the most elegant woman at a cocktail party.There are a lot of forces working in the way of popularising the garment in the west.The saree got its first push towards stardom when Valentino designed a saree dress for Jackie O way back in the 50s. And many international designers – John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani,
and others have shown the saree as a part of their collection on the inter
    ’national runway.

DOLLED UP: The Pussycat Dolls in sarees. For more pics of the band, visit http://photogallery. 

Reality with a twist in the tale

The Bollywood Club, a show in which contenders use their skills to try to entertain and impress Bollywood directors, gets the behind-the-scenes dope right into your living room

SASHWATI SANYAL Times News Network

    It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that is exactly what is happening with the first set of contestants proving their mettle in Bollywood Club, Konnection Kismat Ka

at D Ultimate, the venue for all the action. The maiden show, starting today on Zoom TV, promises to bring you everything – from a struggler’s trials and tribulations to the joy of victory.
    The first of its kind, it brings together an assortment of the country’s talent as ‘seekers’ in a face-toface encounter with Bollywood’s leading talents, the ‘givers’. The journey from here would catapult some to instant stardom, while for the rest, it would be a lesson well learnt. Reveals a self-confessed fighter, Avantika, who has been shortlisted for ‘seekers’ and is desperate to make it big as an actress in Bollywood, “My parents have never supported me. It is just a dream that I have and I want to see it fulfilled in this lifetime. My parents can’t digest the fact that I want to act but I think I have the talent in me to make my presence felt. So I believe this is the right platform which can get me noticed.”
    Directors of the calibre of Nikhil Advani, National Award winner Madhur Bhandarkar, Farah Khan, Subhash Ghai and Apoorva Lakhia would be judging the aspirants on the basis of their acting, singing, dancing, mimicry and other talents. This is what filmmaker Advani had to say
about the show, “Zoom television is starting Bollywood Club where ‘YOU’ guys will be given an opportunity to show your talent. You don’t necessarily need to be a great dancer or actor and who knows, who will be the superstar tonight? So my advice to you guys is – use the platform and who knows, one day soon, we might just be making films together.”
    The first episode of the show will bring you the highlights of the party where the big shots mingle with the contenders. This will be followed by livewire action, as each tries to outwit the other. Noted filmmaker Subhash Ghai and TV actor/director Rohit Roy will decide the rest.
    So gear up for some major rollercoaster feats on the sets of D Ultimate as the audiences get to see the next set of shooting stars of the country. 

Rohit Roy with the contenders

Priyanka Chopra’s smoky affair!

    Not many people know that Priyanka Chopra is allergic to smoke and has trouble breathing whenever there’s smoke around or near her.
    Now, for the shooting of a grungy number Oopcha for Drona, a lot of fire and smoke was supposed to be created on the sets. But, when the film’s director Goldie Behl, got to know about this problem of Priyanka’s, he together with the entire unit wondered how to handle the situation. And after a lot of deliberation, Goldie thought of shooting all the fire sequences right at the end of the day and keep the shooting hang
er open with lots of fans to blow out the smoke for the next morning. Explains Goldie, “When we conceptualised the song, we didn’t realise that Priyanka would have such a problem. So we thought of shooting the fire sequences right at the end of the day and quickly whisk her away. And we did just that. We used fans to blow out the smoke and shoot the other parts of the song next morning. This way, we managed to shoot the sequences without compromising on Priyanka’s health, and must say the song’s looking sensational.” Quite a smoky affair, hai na?

Priyanka Chopra

Aamir in a sequel game

    There’s a buzz in the industry that Aamir Khan is keen to make a sequel to his successful comic caper Andaz Apna Apna with Salman Khan. And if reports are to be believed, both the Khans are having serious talks about the project. Now, the big question is, will the director of the first installment of Andaz..., Raj Kumar Santoshi, direct the sequel as well? Well, we’ll have to wait and watch until the project is officially ready to roll out from the Khan factory.
(Snippets contributed By Gautam Buragohain
    and Urvashi Ashar

Aamir Khan

‘Now begins the real fight’

Newly-elected DUSU president, Nupur Sharma, reveals her future plans and talks about what’s on her to-do list

NIKHILA PANT Times News Network

    Ihave finally got some time to rest,” says DUSU president Nupur Sharma. An Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad candidate and a student of Law Centre-I, Nupur defeated her rival, NSUI’s Sonia Sapra, by a margin of 1,739 votes. Calling this triumph of experience over amateur aspirations, Nupur says, “There were talks about how students vote going by the looks of the candidates and not their qualities. But my victory has proven all this wrong. I have experience on my side and DUSU elections are certainly not a beauty pageant. Now is the time to begin the real battle.” The 23-year-old is also clear on what tops her to-do list right now. “I have to make sure that the faith that DU students have lost in DUSU is restored. Low voter turnout during the elections vouches for the fact that students are either not aware of what DUSU stands for or are simply not interested in being a part of it.” And like all things political, Nupur does not forego the opportunity of taking a dig at the out-going office bearers. “For the past five years, no concrete work was being done in DU.
A ban on smoking was announced but not properly enforced. Students would sit in the DUSU office and smoke and drink openly – then how were the office bearers expecting the DU students to follow the rules? A lot was also said about the upgradation of college campuses, but some colleges still function out of almost ruin-like buildings.”
    Nupur has her plan of action ready. She reveals, “There should be proper checking at the college gates to make sure that no objectionable substance is carried inside the college.
The students also need to be sensitised to h e l p in following the ban on smoking and drinking on the DU campuses.”
    The issue of sexual harassment is something that Nupur plans to take up seriously. “Almost every single girl in DU has been eve-teased or sexually harassed at least once. The only solution to this is to make DU into a compact campus where outsiders are not allowed. DU students rarely indulge in teasing a fellow students. It’s always the outsiders who are the culprits.”
    The petite president also vocalises her fearlessness in going to the college authorities and asking them to be accountable. “Every college gets UGC grants to uplift the college infrastructure. Where does all the money go? Why are the walls of some colleges crumbling? DU is not only about hanging out with friends and bunking classes. It is primarily about being in an environment conducive to studying. And that’s what we want to achieve. Hostels also need to be upgraded. While we are talking of hostels, I must clarify that the discussion about co-ed hostels was much ado about nothing. I think it’s no big deal if we have co-ed hostels. Students studying in DU are mature adults and know right from wrong. If we have separate dormitories and floors for the guys and girls, there should be no problem.” Quite frank, what say!

NSUI candidates celebrate their victory

ABVP candidates campaigning on the last day

V FOR VICTORY: Nupur Sharma

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