Dec 13, 2008

Business - India;Good news is Oil

T N Ninan / New Delhi December 13, 2008, 0:46 IST

The World Bank’s chief economist has certified that we are going through the “worst recession since the Great Depression”. Global trade is forecast to shrink for the first time in a quarter century. World oil demand, it is said, will “collapse” next year. The only thing one reads or hears about, now that the financial crisis has morphed into a broad and possibly extended recession, are job cuts, falling sales, and companies in desperate straits. You have to look hard for some corner where there is good news.

Actually, it’s staring us in the face. Every macro-economic crisis that has hit India in the last 35 years has been provoked by an oil shock, starting 1973. And, guess what? Oil prices have dropped to less than $40/barrel—the level of four years ago. That saves India next year the extra 3 per cent of GDP that we have paid to the Arabs this year for their oil. In turn, it means our trade deficit will shrink next year. And because the oil companies don’t have to be subsidised any more, it saves the government a pile of cash and cuts the fiscal deficit. As commodity prices recede, inflation too will drop to the Reserve Bank’s comfort zone of 5 per cent in the next few months. In short, the big macro-economic imbalances of this year (a stretched fisc, record trade deficits and the highest inflation in a decade) will belong to the past.

As for this being the worst recession in 70 years, that may be true of the west, not India—at least, not so far. Even if growth this year and the next average no more than 6 per cent (lower than any forecast till date), that compares with four years in the 1997-2002 phase when growth was significantly lower (down to 3.8 per cent in one year) and another stretch of low growth in 1991-94. So India’s problem is not a macro-level crisis of the kind no one has seen in 70 years; however, the news is getting rapidly worse on industrial production and exports, and doubtless this will be reflected in the corporate numbers for the third quarter.

The underpinning that the Indian economy has going for it are high savings and investment levels. The rapid growth of the past five years was the result of a spurt in the rate of capital formation—from 25 per cent of GDP in 2002-03 to an estimated 37.6 per cent so far this year. That will now take a hit—because people who are nervous about their jobs will not invest cash in long-term assets like housing; and companies with wobbly sales graphs will not invest in new capacity. With the “wealth effect” having been killed by the stock market crash and the fall in real estate prices, the watchword will be cautious financial behaviour. The trick is to engineer a return of that ephemeral quality: confidence in the future.

The tools for doing this are the standard stuff for dealing with a downturn: the government should spend more money (which is easier when fiscal pressures on account of oil have eased), and private spending should be encouraged with lower interest rates, which will also push money into equities and facilitate a stock market revival. Troubled sectors need special attention. The important point is that the better macro-economic situation today allows these tools to be deployed more freely. We need to make sure they are; the sharp drops now being reported in tax collections, auto sales and exports (all strong danger signals) and the decline in industrial production and power consumption mean that there is no time to lose.

Business - India;IndiGo flies past KF to claim 3rd spot

Low-cost carrier IndiGo has landed a double whammy to Kingfisher Airlines. Not only has the airline wrested the third largest position from Kingfisher, it has also replaced Kingfisher Red as the largest LCC.

IndiGo gained a market share of 14.7 per cent, closely followed by Kingfisher Red at 13.3 per cent whereas Kingfisher slipped two notches to the fifth position at 11.6 per cent. Kingfisher stood at No.3 in October, followed by Kingfisher Red and IndiGo at fourth and fifth, respectively.

"We do not comment on market share," said a spokesperson from Kingfisher Airlines. IndiGo's increased market share is a result of a jump in load factors to 73 per cent from 66 per cent in October-November period. Since capacity deployed by both carriers remained constant during the period, IndiGo's increased market share was a result of a shift in load factors, according to industry sources.

Barring Paramount and MDLR — both of which operate only smaller aircraft — IndiGo earned the highest load factor of 73 per cent, while the industry averaged loads of 63.55 per cent this month. This happened at a time when the LCC segment snared a greater part of the market share from the Big Three — Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher.

Domestic traffic declined by a whopping 21 per cent in November compared to the year-ago period. For the 11 months ended November this year, domestic traffic has declined by 3.9 per cent from 39.1 million to 37.6 million. Experts said that if December followed the same trend, domestic traffic for the entire year could see a decline of 4-5 per cent compared to last year. In terms of load factors and market share, LCCs performed better as a result of lower prices. SpiceJet's share increased from 9.5 per cent in October to 10.8 per cent in November, while its load factors jumped from 61 per cent to around 65 per cent.

Among others, JetLite saw a minor decline in market share from 8.1 per cent in October to 7.7 per cent in November.

Business - India;Many car makers plan January price rise

Swaraj Baggonkar

Potential car buyers celebrating price cuts after the government slashed central value added tax four percentage points last week may be in for a jolt.

Car makers said they are planning to raise prices 2 to 3 per cent in January, almost neutralising the December cuts. The move is being considered primarily to improve margins and, in for cars with high import content, to cover the cost of a weakening rupee against the dollar.

Some analysts, however, suggest that car-makers threaten price rises every January in a bid to clear calendar year-end inventory. “There is always a threat from auto companies, usually in January, on a price increase in an attempt by them to clear the inventory. Sometimes, the ploy is never exercised,” said Mahatesh Sabarad, a Mumbai-based analyst with Centrum Broking.

The bid to clear December inventory may have grown urgent given the significant slowdown in sales.
Company Price fall (Rs)
Sales in Nov (%)

Maruti Suzuki 6,500-23,000 -26.90

Hyundai Motors 8,834-44,792 -23.30
Tata Motors 12,000-36000 -12.00
Honda Siel 19,000-31,000 -15.00
Toyota Kirloskar 23,980-121,330 -48.00
SkodaAuto 12,500-51,000 -46.21

Nevertheless, industry estimates that prices of at least 31 models — from compact cars to premium sedans and sports utility vehicles from Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar, Honda Siel Cars, General Motors India (GM) and Ford India — will rise. Hyundai Motor India and Czech car maker Skoda Auto did not cite specifics but said they also reconsider their pricing strategy.

“With increasing input costs, it will be difficult to hold current price levels,” said Mayank Pareek, executive officer (marketing and sales), Maruti Suzuki. The company has already raised prices twice this year

Chevrolet, the brand through which troubled US auto giant General Motors operates in India, said it will raise prices Rs 7,000 to Rs 57,000 across models. Most car makers say their decisions are driven by the weaker rupee.

For instance, Honda Siel Cars India (HSCI) plans to raise prices of models like City, Civic, CR-V and Accord significantly. Up to 75 per cent of components for the Accord premium sedan and about 50 per cent for other models are imported.

“There has been an unprecedented fluctuation in the value of the rupee which has forced us to raise prices. We will consider a price hike for car models later on, but at the moment the price of the CRV sports utility vehicle will be raised by Rs 1 lakh in January, said Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president (marketing) of Honda Siel.

The weaker rupee is also likely to see prices of Toyota models like the Corolla Altis, Innova, Camry and Prado go up between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000.

“Since we are importing our engines and transmission, we have been facing cost pressure. The new Corolla Altis has an import content of about 60 per cent and the Innova about 50 per cent,” said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director (sales and marketing), Toyota Kirloskar Motors.

Business - India;25 winters ago,M-800 was born

Adil Jal Darukhanawala

tiny car, but a towering national presence. Indian motoring history reached its fabled inflexion point on a wintry December morning in 1983 when a Best cars to own and drive |
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tiny car was rolled out of a factory in Gurgaon. Indian roads have never been the same ever since. With virtually 90% of the world's biggest automobile brands already plying their trade on Indian roads today, Sunday (December 14) marks an important milestone in India's automotive history.

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of Maruti 800, a car that literally put Indians on an automotive diet, which continues unabated as the first, true-blue , Indian people's car. Call it a cultural icon, a social symbol, or even a national emblem of sorts, the Maruti 800 has remained a mainstay of personal mobility for the masses. Its ownership transcended class and economic barriers, and its story goes way beyond mere numbers.

Speaking of which, time for some quantitative perspective. In its 25-year life, Maruti Udyog has produced 27,36,046 units of the 800, of which exports accounted for 1,92,914 units. What it means is that Maruti rolled out an impressive number of 800s every year - over 100,000 units per year on an average - for which any car maker would be willing donate an arm and a leg.

What is truly impressive about these figures is that the 800 came in at a time when the Indian automotive output stood at close to 40,000 units per annum. Within a year of its launch, the industry nearly doubled and, thereafter, kept at it for a few more years. In certain cases, the market also happened to favour the competition solely because MUL was unable to keep production to match with pent up demand! Rarely has the automotive world seen such a scenario play out, on such a large scale.

In the 25 years that the Maruti 800 has been in production, it has had just two model changes. The very first ran from inception in 1983 till 1997, when the present day car was introduced. The engine capacity has remained the same at 796cc. But, what's amazing is the fact that Maruti and Suzuki offered a single overhead camshaft engine when everybody else had push-rod actuated overhead valves; even newer rivals like Ford, who came in the early 1990s, had archaic technology. Constant technological upgradation of components not only helped masses of car buyers freak out with fuel-efficient, zippy and very reliable Suzukis, the Indian component industry got a massive shot in the arms as MUL's localisation juggernaut rolled along.

While the Hindustan Motors's Ambassador may be older and have the longest production run of any Indian automobile to date, the tiny 800 not only set Best cars to own and drive |
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Indians on the move, it also spawned a whole new culture. At the time of its advent, the 800 commanded a premium twice that of its list price. It came with a top-end luxury model with full leather interiors and it was not out of place to see chauffeur-manned 800s driving "sahibs to work".

From a human psychological perspective, it suddenly made 800 buyers as owners of their own destinies - an option which they could never exercise with the three-pointed star, given its unobtanium pricing then. For Maruti and Suzuki, it laid the foundation of a giant in the Indian automotive sphere, the tiny 800 spurring on no less than 12 distinctly different models in the last quarter century.

So, today if you revel in the joys of a SX4 with tyre-shredding performance or indulge in the cut-and-dash of city traffic in a Swift, or you want to experience small car motoring updated to 2009 norms with an A-Star , you know that it all began with a small tiny hatchback in 1983. Should you like to revisit it, the 800 is yet on sale to this day, technically updated as per legislation and as relevant today as it was in a December 25 winters ago.

The writer is editor-in-chief – Times Zigwheels

Business - Maruti turns 25, sets eyes on becoming top global player

W DELHI: At a time when the Indian automobile industry is passing through one of its worst phases, the country's largest car-maker, Maruti Suzuki
India, will celebrate its 25th anniversary and is aiming to be a global player.

"Twenty-five years ago, when we set out on our journey, the objective was to modernise the Indian automotive industry and bring about a change in personal transportation. I can say proudly we have achieved that," Maruti Suzuki India Chairman R C Bhargava told PTI.

He said in the 25 years to come, the company's objective would to be to take its mission forward and become a global player.

"Now we want to be a global player in every sense ... from research and development and designing cars to manufacturing; we want to be among the best in the world," he said.

Bhargava said although the current market conditions are tough, they would not deter the company in striving to achieve its goals.

"The future will be even more challenging, but we are up for it," he added.

Since the rollout of the first Maruti 800 (M800) from its Gurgaon plant on December 14, 1983, the company has so far sold over 70 lakh cars of 12 models with over 100 variants, with the M800 alone accounting for 27,36,046 units, of which 25,43,132 units were in the domestic market and the rest abroad.

Lifestyle - Facebook under fire for racial slur

SYDNEY: Social networking site Facebook has come under fire from Australian users for ignoring racial vilification on the site and allowing in
racist groups which have been marked as offensive.

Alex Gollan, a Sydney-based Facebook user, who campaigned against the racist groups, has been threatened with violence, and he now fears that the site will be used to rally people for violence.

This week the site permanently banned one offender, but only after the racism issue came under the spotlight after revelations that Scots College and Kambala students had created anti-Semitic groups on the site.

Some of the racist Facebook groups are, "F--- Islam", "I hate Israel", "You're in Australia ... Speak English!", "Aussie Pride! Love it or Get The F--- Out", "Learn the Aussie Language, Respect Our Way Of Life, It's Not Hard!", "Respect Australia or F--- Off!", "Asian drivers should be forced to display A-Plates" and "I cannot tolerate South African Accent".

Some of the postings that were posted were full of racial epithets, derogatory remarks and threats and taunts for Muslim users to blow themselves up or leave the country.

"I have personally had groups which have been set up for the appreciation of where I live ... which have had rude and racial pictures uploaded by members in a hope to spark some sort of 'online fight' where people become all hard and tough behind their computer screens and say things they would never say if they were put in person," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Sydney Facebook user David Cohen as saying.

Aboriginal Facebook user Chris Bonney and several of his friends tried for months to convince Facebook to shut down the group "I'm not apologising for shit u f-- abo's - this is our country now!", however, he received no response from the site.

Bonney said he eventually resorted to contacting people who appeared on the friends list of the group's moderator, informing them of the racism.

"He eventually closed down the site because of our work ... but the main issue is Facebook didn't do one thing to stop this sort of behaviour," Bonney said.

Asked to respond to the claims that it was not doing enough to stamp out racism on the site, Facebook said it took all complaints by users seriously and there was a "dedicated team" investigating such complaints, which can be made through the "report" function on any page of the site.

"Facebook is a platform, and as such we sometimes see users posting about, debating and discussing controversial issues," the company said.

"However, this alone is not a reason to disable a group. Facebook will investigate, and will remove any content that violates our Terms of Use," the company added.

India - Your car may become costlier

Chanchal Pal Chauhan

NEW DELHI: Customers in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan may end up paying more for buying cars despite the 4% cut in excise duty by Best cars to own and drive |
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the Central government. These states are likely to levy new local-level taxes, which would offset the benefit of the excise cut.

These states are expected to follow Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who had recently increased local levies in the range of up to 3% on all motorised vehicles. As a result, prices of cars in these states had gone up by Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 on different models.

Tamil Nadu has increased road tax from 6% to 8%. Similarly, octroi, a local tax, has been increased to 3% for all cars above Rs 10 lakh and doubled to 2% for car up to Rs 10 lakh in Pune in Maharashtra. Customers in Gujarat will have to shell out an extra 20% surcharge on VAT on all cars.

Potential customers of all car segments have been impacted by these recent changes in state levies. But consumers looking to buy small cars such as Hyundai i10, Maruti A-Star and Chevrolet UV-A were hit harder as the price cut on account of excise relief was lower than the price hike due to higher state taxes.

For instance, the price of Maruti Alto in some states like Karnataka was increased by around Rs 7,000 in October but excise cut resulted into a price drop of Rs 6,593. So net net a customer buying Alto in a city like Bangalore has to pay more today compared to September despite the cut in excise duty.

The incremental burden of state taxes is higher as they are levied on the ex-showroom price of cars, which is much higher than the ex-factory price on which excise duty is imposed. For instance the ex-factory price of Maruti Alto (standard model) the largest selling car in India is around Rs 2 lakh, while its ex-showroom prices in Delhi is around Rs 2.5 lakh.

Car makers are wary of increase in taxes in other states too. Honda Siel Cars India vice-president (sales & marketing) Jnaneshwar Sen said, “The relief in excise duty from the Central government will offset some of the burden of the states levies. If more states increase taxes, the industry may lose the benefit of recent price cut.”

Sales of automobiles are already under pressure with rising cost of ownership and new buyers facing credit crunch as banks have enforced tighter lending norms. Passenger car sales dropped 19.38% to 83,059 cars in November from 1.03 lakh cars in the same month last year.

India - TRAI to intervene if SMS tariff not slashed

NEW DELHI: TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra has warned telecom operators that the regulator would be forced to intervene if they did not slash SMS
charges and address issues related to call drops.

“The request for SMS tariff reduction has been pending with the operators since almost a year. This is the time when we feel the need to intervene. If telcos do not act, we will float a consultation paper soon in this regard,” Mr Misra told reporters on the sidelines of an industry meet.

TRAI had earlier made several appeals to the telecom operators to reduce SMS tariffs in a phased manner, but operators have so far failed to reduce SMS tariffs. Along with the SMS tariff issue, TRAI will also look into the current billing system, which is done on a per minute basis.

This implies if a call is disconnected in 15 seconds, the user will pay on a per second basis only. At present, billing is done on a per minute basis — that is, even a 15 second call is treated as a 1-minute call and billed for the same. “Caller must pay for the time used for the service and not for the whole minute,” Mr Misra said.

TRAI sources say that the regulator has been forced to take up this issue on account of the increasing number of call drops experienced by customers.

Call drops, which happens when the call is disconnected due to network related issues such as congestion and spectrum crunch, is amongst the major problems experienced by consumers. Lashing out at the operators over call drops, Mr Mishra said,

“The issue is a matter of concern and has to be addressed soon. The consumer cannot be allowed to suffer due to this.” The regulator also plans to come out with another consultation paper this month on call termination charges. The government last month had asked the regulator to review the five-year-old termination charges for fixed and mobile telephony.

An operator on whose network a call originates pays termination charge to the operator on whose network the call terminates. Currently, a 30 paise charge is levied on operators as termination charges.

The present termination charge of 30 paise a minute per call for mobile telephony is considered high, especially by the new players.

This is because, was fixed five years ago and since then cost parameters have changed considerably.

Business - Nokia plans to design handsets for disabled

Writankar Mukherjee

KOLKATA: In an effort to take the mobile phone to the next billion worldwide, Nokia has started research to roll out handsets, specifically
designed for the disabled. The world’s largest handset vendor plans to undertake extensive research in India to understand the consumer behaviour of people with visual or hearing problems, towards the mobile phone.

Nokia is exploring ways to make the mobile phone friendly for such consumers. This could be done through using a different user interface, using icons and pictures in the menu and the phonebook instead of text, using large fonts, louder ringing tones and voice commands.

These phones might have a different design aspect where India will also play a vital role. Talking to ET during his recent visit to India, Nokia global director, product group (entry business unit, mobile phones) Heikki Koivu said the challenge to sustain growth will be to reach out to consumers who do not use a mobile phone.

“We then have to address issues like physical disabilities, low vision, poor hearing and illiteracy. We also need to design phones that can support hearing aids,” he said. Mr Koivu said India is a focus market for Nokia to understand consumer behaviour of mobile phones among the disabled.

“It is due to the sheer size of the population in this country. We have started adapting such features in some entry-level handsets like Nokia 1650 shipped to emerging countries like India. But, this will now attain more bigger scale,” said Mr Koivu.

India and China are two of Nokia’s largest markets for entrylevel phones. The entry-level portfolio includes handsets, which are priced between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000. Nokia is also planning to bundle its internet services ‘Ovi’ in the entrylevel phones sold in India.

“We are planning to bundle most of the Ovi applications in handsets shipped to India, including the music services Nokia Music Store. All such integration will take place over the next three years for the entry-level handsets. We need to simplify these applications to suit the consumer preferences in emerging markets,” said Mr Koivu.

Tech - Google 'hero' Nishar to join LinkedIn

CHICAGO: Dipchand Nishar, an Indian American engineer who helped Google start its mobile business, is joining the social networking group LinkedIn
to help it develop new products and strategies.

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur and the University of Illinois, Nishar was instrumental in developing Google's backend infrastructure and was also overseeing the Asia Pacific market.

“The kinds of things LinkedIn is doing are truly shaping the way professionals work,” said 40-year-old Nishar, whose colleagues at Google have often described him as an “unsung hero” of the company.

He said he wanted to leave Google because he wanted to move on from the role of building “impactful products” to an “impactful company”. He will be vice president of products at LinkedIn.

The Wall Street Journal also prominently covered his new appointment.

“We wanted to find someone who knows how to build a large organisation, but also has an entrepreneurial background,” said Kay Luo, a spokesperson for the company, adding: “Deep fills that role.”

Prior to Google, Nishar worked for Siebel System, which he joined after he sold Pataki Networks, a web-based software integration services company, which he had founded. He was also associated with the Boston Consulting Group.

“We are grateful for Deep's contributions over the last five and a half years, and wish him well in his new job,” said Jane Penner, a spokeswoman at Google.

Backed by companies like Goldman Sachs, LinkedIn, which recently raised over $75 million in fresh funding, is adding some 500,000 new members to its social networking site every week.

It has some 30 million users who use it to connect with friends, classmates, business associates and colleagues.

Tech - Google releases finished version of Chrome browser

SAN FRANCISCO: Google on Thursday yanked the "beta" test label off Chrome, quickly putting a stamp of approval on its Web browser released in a
direct challenge to Microsoft's ubiquitous Internet Explorer.

The California online search titan - known for leaving new software offerings in beta, or test, modes for what seems like ages - says Chrome proved its merits, and in a relatively brief 100 days.

Google's free web-based Gmail service still bears a "beta" label even though it was launched nearly five years ago.

Chrome has gone through 15 iterations since its launch with fixes and modifications engineered based on feedback from some of the more than 10 million people worldwide that have started using the browser.

"We're excited to announce that with today's 50th release we are taking off the 'beta' label," Google engineering director Linus Upson and product management vice president Sundar Pichai wrote in an online posting.

"We have removed the beta label as our goals for stability and performance have been met but our work is far from done."

Improvements which users called for, and reportedly got, include better video viewing, faster data loading, and strict privacy and security controls.

Google and Microsoft have been in an escalating war, with the Redmond, Washington-based software goliath striving to unseat Google as king of Internet search and advertising.

Google, meanwhile, is striking at the heart of Microsoft's empire by offering software free online as services supported by advertising.

Lifestyle - India;Most googled

Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif is the most searched person online in India, while social networking site Orkut is the most searched keyword in the country, according to Google’s India Zeitgeist – a survey of online search terms.

“Different people find different things to do on the Web, so these lists are a good representation of the unique ways in which users mine the Internet,” said Vinay Goel, Head of Products, Google India.

Following Orkut in the ‘Most Popular Searches’ category were ‘Gmail’ and ‘Yahoo’. The seventh most popular term in the list was ‘Indian railways’ – whose official site was also the most popular government portal in the year.

"Given the popularity of mobiles, we also looked at what was searched for while on the move," Goel said. The country can’t seem to get enough of social networking, it seems, as Orkut was the most searched term in this category too.

In addition, the report also looked at the top 10 fastest rising keywords in India, by comparing 2008’s searches with their popularity in the previous year. Video-sharing site ‘Youtube’ won this title, followed by Orkut and Katrina Kaif.

In the list of most popular Bollywood celebrities, Kaif was followed by Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan. And Jodhaa Akbar edged out Dasavatharam and Singh Is King as the most searched movie.

In other categories, tennis star Sania Mirza outplayed cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo; while Mahatma Gandhi was the most searched politician, ahead of Raj Thackrey and US Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The country also seems to be focusing on keeping fit, as ‘how to lose weight’ was the most searched term in the ‘how-to’ category.

‘Goa’ was listed as the most popular holiday destination, and ‘Independence Day’ as the most popular day of the year.

India - Chidambaram prefers budget airline this time to travel

NEW DELHI: P Chidambaram preferred to take a commercial flight for the third time while on an official tour to Chennai after becoming the Home
minister unlike his predecessor Shivraj Patil who flew only in special aircraft.

Chidambaram took a budget airline rather than flying first class, for which he is entitled, to inaugurate Bharat Kalachar Mahotsav in the Tamil Nadu capital. And, the Home Minister travelled without any of his personal assistant.

After taking over the charge of the Home Ministry, Chidambaram flew out of Delhi for the first time to Mumbai on December 5 for an assessment of the situation following the terrors trikes on November 26.

On December 8, the Home Minister went to Kolkata to review the law and order scenario in West Bengal. On both the occasions, he took commercial flights, sources said.

Shivraj Patil, during his four and half years tenure as Home Minister rarely travelled in a commercial plane for official work, sources said.

Patil used BSF aircraft -- mostly an Embraer -- which is at the disposal of the Home Ministry.

"Taking a special plane involves a reasonable cost which Chidambaram is avoiding. Besides, the tradition of a big team of senior officials and staff accompanying the Home Minister was also dispensed with by the new Minister," a Home Ministry official said.

India - Taj hotel to reopen Dec 21

MUMBAI: The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel announced on Saturday that it will reopen Dec 21, exactly 25 days after it was targeted by terrorists
who India says came from Pakistan.

Indian Hotels Co Ltd managing director and CEO Raymond Bickson said in a statement here: "We dedicate our reopening to the city of Mumbai as affirmation of the values of courage, resilience and dignity."

Bickson said that reopening the Taj with such speed displayed the management's resolve to commemorate "all the innocent and brave people who lost their lives" in the terrorist attacks.

The Tower section of the hotel, close to the landmark Gateway of India, will resume normal operations from 7 pm Dec 21, he said.

Ten staffers of the Taj, which was under siege for nearly 60 hours Nov 26-29, were killed and another 11 injured.

Taj was one of the 13 locations in south Mumbai attacked by terrorists which left 179 people dead including 26 foreign nationals and another 294 people injured.

Mktg - Lee Cooper promotes discrimination by design

Kapil Ohri

Lee Cooper, the denim wear brand, has created a special microsite called targeted at the Indian youth.

The microsite, which is an extension of Lee Cooper’s current print and outdoor campaign, was created to provide a platform for the youth to come together and create a community of consumers who believe in the Lee Cooper philosophy of discrimination by design.

What's the Lee Cooper philosophy, which has been extended from the ad campaign to its microsite? Ameet Panchal, chief executive officer, Lee Cooper India, tells afaqs!, “Lee Cooper believes in the ideology of discrimination based on design, style and fashion, and not by sex, caste or creed. The campaign is aimed at the identification, segregation and exposure of cool youth from those who are not cool. We believe that stylish and fashionable people will prevail in society.”

Panchal adds, “The idea behind discrimination by design is based on consumer insights which indicated that discrimination still exists in society as people are often judged by what they wear and the brands they use.” In just 10 days of its launch, around 1,100 consumers have already joined the website or online community.

Is there any point in creating a community of users who just believe in wearing stylish clothes? The brand is not running the microsite just to inform its target audience about its brand philosophy or brand history. Instead, it is trying to build an engagement with its TG and acquaint users with its brand philosophy of discrimination by running a month long contest.

Users who join the Lee Cooper website can upload and share their photos and videos in stylish clothes. Once uploaded, other users can judge the images or videos and vote for the ones they think are the most stylish.

Interestingly, the contest will not end with the voting process on the microsite. The apparel brand has plans to take the contest offline. It will select the users who get the most votes and ask them to provide inputs to Lee Cooper designers. A special range of denim wear, including jeans and jackets, will be manufactured based on their inputs. The range will be displayed and be available for sale in major stores across India.

The contest is not aimed at fashion designers per se and the company is targeting the microsite and the contest at youth in the age group of 16-35 years who wear denim.

The microsite will be promoted through online banner ads on social networking sites such as and and on horizontal portals such as Yahoo!, and Email marketing will also be used. The URL of the microsite will be promoted at various display points at Lee Cooper retail stores and on print and outdoor campaigns.

The microsite has been hosted on and developed by a team from along with McCann Erickson Mumbai, Lee Cooper's creative agency.

Mktg - Sony Bravia creates a 'domino' effect

Savia Jane Pinto

In September last year, Bates 141 Singapore won the highly coveted Sony Bravia account for the Southeast Asia region, following a multi-agency pitch. The business was earlier handled by DY&R Singapore.

During the pitch process, four teams from Bates 141 offices in the region – Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and India – were called to work on the pitch.

"We were very keen to win the account as Sony is a very prestigious account to work on," says Sonal Dabral, regional executive creative director, Asia, Bates 141. Sony Bravia has a legacy of some great creative work done by Fallon London and DY&R Singapore. Fallon has worked on campaigns such as Paint, Balls, Rabbits, while DY&R Singapore worked on the Pyramid campaign.

The latest campaign, Domino City, is based on the same philosophy – ‘Colour Like No Other’. The ad has been shot in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

The brief given to Bates 141 was simple and single-minded – that it must speak of the colour capabilities of the new Bravia (Full HD 1080) range and must also have an iconic feel to it.

That's when Jaisalmer came into the picture. Dabral is fascinated with the city because of its richness and history. In fact, this is the third film that he has shot there. The first one was for National Handlooms, while he was at Lintas (Lowe Lintas now), and the second was for Asian Paints, while he was at O&M.

The minute-long film starts early in the morning in a city in Rajasthan and follows the city’s people through little lanes, temples, forts and palaces. People are busy with their everyday chores, while dominoes of varying colours are falling one after another in a cascade. The dominoes are falling right next to the people, who don’t seem to notice them. In the final scene, the falling dominoes open up as a rosette with the colours of a rainbow.

Why Jaisalmer, we ask? "It provided the much needed backdrop to highlight the spectacular colour and movement," explains Dabral. Since Rajasthan is a very monochromatic environment, with lots of shades of beige, the colours in the city come from the attire the people wear, the colourful turbans and skirts. And when the coloured dominoes fall beside the city folk, it offers a greater visual appeal.

The film has been shot by Nic Finlayson, who treated it in a very observational manner. "That is why the ad looks more like a documentary than an ad film. There aren't too many sudden moves by the camera or zooming in and out of scenes," says Dabral.

Though it is shot in an Indian locale, the background score is very international. "This was purposefully done because, while watching the ad, people shouldn't feel that it's an ad made just for India. The ad must hold universal appeal," specifies Dabral.

Rob Barbato, who belongs to a band called Darker My Love, has done the sound, while Song Zu, Singapore, has provided the soundtrack.

Close to 160 dominoes, 8 feet by 4 feet, each weighing about 30 kg, were used. These were made of plywood in Delhi and carted in five trucks to Jaisalmer. A number of carpenters, too, were transported to the location so that damaged dominoes could be repaired quickly.

The ad includes three locations in Rajasthan: Jodhpur, Pushkar and Jaisalmer. There is also a shot of the Taj Mahal, but the dominoes around the area are computer-generated images, as are the final rosette dominoes. The post-production work and animation was done by Oktobor in New Zealand.

Two teams worked continuously during the five-day shoot. One team set up the dominoes and worked with the carpenters through the night for the next day’s shoot, while the second team worked on the shoot itself. Dominoes, in colourful order, had to be arranged equidistantly and had to be held by people, so that they didn't fall off before the count and fell only in a chain effect.

China was one of the locations initially selected, where the Great Wall of China would have been the natural choice. However, the idea was scrapped because the Olympics were being held at around the same time. India was then chosen. The commercial is being aired in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, some parts of Africa and the Gulf countries.

Dabral shares some of the difficult moments they had while shooting this ad. He says, "While in the Thar Desert, the winds were blowing very strongly and the dominoes just would not stay. The teams would prop them up and wait until the director said ‘action’ and then just pray that the dominoes wouldn't give way beforehand."

Close to 70 per cent of the film has been shot real world and computer graphics have been used for the rest.

R. Balakrishnan, chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, is of the opinion that the ad is okay. "I didn't find this very spectacular. The earlier ads, especially the Paint one, were great, probably because it was one of the first in the series of Sony Bravia ads."

He thinks that the premise of colour needs something more hard hitting to stand out really well.

Columnists - Vir Sanghvi;Why the Joker is the terrorist of our times (G.Read)

It came to me when I was watching the navy’s commandos hold their famous, televised press conference about their role in the operation to clear out the Taj Mahal hotel. Why does all this sound so familiar, I wondered. Where have I heard it before? Then, I knew: at the movies. In some way, the siege of the Taj Mahal hotel was straight out of the first Die Hard film in which terrorists take over a skyscraper. Die Hard has been imitated many times over the last decade (not least by the other Die Hard movies in the franchise!). And so, the idea of terrorists taking over a building and holding hostages has become familiar to us.
Of course, there are important differences. The most obvious one is that in real life, Bruce Willis does not come along to save us. But the other one is that in nearly all movies, the terrorists are after something. In the Die Hard films, it is usually money. Alan Rickman, playing the villain, laughs at Willis for mistaking him for a political activist. In other films of this genre (Air Force One, for instance) the terrorists want political prisoners released or territorial changes to international borders.

In that sense, the 1999 hijacking of IC814 to Kandahar followed the movie plots—till the last reel began. The terrorists seized control of the aircraft, they killed passengers, they demanded the release of their comrades who were in jail and they threatened to blow up the aircraft with all its passengers if their demands were not met.
Of course, in the final reel, real life did not follow the movies. There should have been a last-minute rescue and a shoot-out that resulted in the death of the terrorists and the release of the hostages. Instead, we meekly gave in, released the prisoners the terrorists wanted and secured the freedom of the passengers.
For a while, during the siege of Mumbai, I waited for the terrorists to issue their demands from inside the Taj and the Oberoi (I didn’t think the ones who held the rabbi and his family would bother: The Israelis do not negotiate with terrorists). Were they going to threaten to kill hostages unless their friends were released from jail? Was there an agenda linked to Kashmir?
By the second day, when it became clear that the terrorists had no demands and no financial greed, I wondered if the Hollywood parallels still held.
That’s when I thought of Batman and the Joker. When The Dark Knight was released in the US earlier this year, many critics explained its phenomenal box-office success by saying that it was actually an allegory for America’s political predicament.
I’m usually intensely suspicious of people who try and read deep meaning into comic books and into movies featuring comic book characters so I paid no attention to the claims of topical relevance.

But now, after Mumbai’s three days of terror, I am beginning to wonder if perhaps there was something to that interpretation of The Dark Knight.
Consider the plot of that film. Gotham City is gripped by a wave of terror. The motive of the criminal does not appear to be money—in one memorable scene, the Joker sets fire to a mountain of cash—and there are no demands made of the authorities. The villain causes mayhem and murder simply because he can.
Nor do the usual methods work. When the Joker is arrested, the police leave him alone in a room with Batman who beats him up to find out what his plans are. But no amount of violence—even from as powerful a figure as Batman—makes any difference. The Joker is past the stage where he cares about pain.
In that sense, the Joker is the crime fighter’s ultimate nightmare: a villain with no wants or desires, with no agendas and no obvious weaknesses. He kills because he likes it. He keeps Batman alive because he enjoys the battle.
Now, consider the situation we found ourselves in during the siege of Mumbai. We had nothing to negotiate with the terrorists. They did not care about money and they had no political demands. We could not engage them in conversation, listen to their demands and then slowly whittle them down as hostage negotiators usually do.
Nor did they take hostages in the traditional sense. Judging by eyewitness accounts, they entered the hotels and shot as many people as they could. The civilians the commandos referred to as hostages were actually human shields. The terrorists wanted to surround themselves with innocents to make it more difficult for the commandos to get at them. They had no intention of taking hostages and then releasing them when their demands were met.
They were also oblivious to the traditional pressure tactics used by the police. In such operations, you try and make terrorists fear for their lives. But how can you scare a man who has embarked on his mission fully intending to give up his life? He doesn’t care if he dies and so, is not scared of you.
And wasn’t India in some sense like Batman? Strong, powerful, admired, with many resources and yet, frustratingly unable to get to the terrorists. What could we have done? We couldn’t have threatened to bomb Pakistan in retaliation (as many Page 3 types went on TV to suggest) because that would have served no purpose. Thousands of innocent Pakistanis would have died and thousands of new terrorists would have emerged from the rubble.
So, perhaps The Dark Knight is the terrorist movie for our times. It doesn’t focus on the relatively easy stuff—heroics, commando operations, hostage negotiations, etc.—but captures the essential frustration of dealing with terrorists who have no national loyalties, no weaknesses, no greed, no desire to live and no political ambition.
They simply want to kill as many people as they can and cause as much destruction as possible. That is an end in itself.
What strange times we must live in when a Batman movie more accurately reflects the real world than any action thriller.

Business - India;KF to pay 3% commission to travel agents

Mumbai: Kingfisher Airlines said it would pay a 3% commission on the total ticket price to travel agents following a similar move by Jet Airways.
“The commission would come into effect from Friday,” a Kingfisher spokesman said.
Kingfisher has also withdrawn its transaction fee on tickets, which was introduced following the abolition of a 5% commission to travel agents.

Lifestyle - Carnatic music now in new media formats

Samanth Subramanian

Chennai: Once or twice a month, depending upon his schedule, Sanjay Subrahmanyan leaves his apartment and walks over to a recording studio just across the street. But Subrahmanyan, an eminent Carnatic music vocalist, is not there to sing—is not there, in other words, to do what one would expect him to do in a studio.
Instead, he sits at his microphone to talk and to interview guests, creating podcasts for The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show (, which is also hosted on his blog (

The podcast and blog are part of a paroxysm of Internet activity that Subrahmanyan has been engaged in since May—and also part of a larger flurry of nifty new media innovations that have marked the Carnatic music community over the last couple of years.
These projects, many of them firsts for the classical arts in India, have emerged in various guises: Subrahmanyan’s podcasts, blogs by musicians as well as listeners, Wiki-enabled databases of lyrics, tutorials on Skype, Facebook communities, online transliteration tools and notation typesetters, and Twitter feeds.
Subrahmanyan himself was one of the vanguards of Carnatic music in the age of Web 1.0. With a partner, he set up, a hugely popular website, with always-buzzing forums, that nevertheless imploded when it became a victim of the dotcom bust.
“We weren’t running it as a profit centre at all, which was the real problem,” Subrahmanyan says. “After Sangeetham closed, I was inactive online for four years or so, but the recent Web 2.0 concepts really started to intrigue me.” He wasn’t the only one; at least four other musicians have recently started blogs, although they are updated with varying degrees of ardour.
Also Read MP3s are the new menace in Chennai’s music season
“When Carnatic musicians began to tour overseas regularly, they started to see how Western musicians were getting out of their shell and reaching out to the world through these mediums,” says Sikkil Gurucharan, a vocalist whose blog is dormant but on the cusp of being relaunched. “Also, in a sense, musicians earlier were separate from their audiences, but that gap has now narrowed.”
Subrahmanyan was drawn in particular to the format of the podcast after he downloaded and listened to numerous episodes of other shows. “I’d listen to podcasts on board games, and the technology podcasts of Leo Laporte,” he says. Every episode of Subrahmanyan’s own chatty, freewheeling show, on average, is now downloaded 800-1,000 times, by listeners in India but also in the US and other countries. Indeed, the constituents of the south Indian diaspora, many of them cut off from the classical music that they grew up with and love, are the primary progenitors of these innovations; unsurprisingly, a large number of them are computer programmers in the US.
A sterling case in point is Ramadorai Arun Kumar, a Chicago-based computer engineer who is now in Chennai for the music season.
Last year, over a couple of months, Arun Kumar put together a piece of Unicode software to transliterate lyrics in one language into any of six other languages.
Perhaps looking for a keener challenge, he then spent many weekends and late nights developing an automated system to notate music.
“I think a lot of us take pride in the fact that Carnatic music is very ordered and very scientific, so maybe that culture itself acts as a catalyst for people to do something along these lines,” says Arun Kumar. “In a Hindustani music forum, I once asked about similar systems, but there was a very weak level of interest.”
Inevitably, these projects turn out to be collaborative. Arun Kumar enlisted the help of other members of a Carnatic music forum to work on the languages he did not know. Sunil Mudambi and Sai Prasad Viswanathan, young professionals living in Singapore and the US, built an extensive audio database of 725 songs of the 19th century composer Tyagaraja, without ever having met each other.
“Tyagaraja composed thousands of songs, but we have an existing list of 800, and we hear only 200-odd sung in concerts today,” says Mudambi. “If that trend continues, we may just lose the remaining songs. The idea of the website is to propagate the entirety of his compositions.”
Simultaneously, Viswanathan worked with a dozen people across the world on a Wiki that compiled the lyrics and explanations to more than 400 songs of another composer, Muthuswami Dikshitar. “When we started, we’d have over 100 edits daily, but now it’s slowed down to once a week or so,” he says. “We’ve begun to get a lot of emails from people who say they’re using the lyrics to teach or learn the music.”
In a pleasant twist, these endeavours can sometimes become the listener’s way of giving back to the musician. “Every time I search for lyrics with Google, I get results from these databases that are accurate eight times out of 10,” says Gurucharan. “And it’s always great to go online and see all these forums where people are actively discussing Carnatic music, wanting to learn more about it.”
This is the second of a series on Chennai’s music season. The first part was on bootleg audience-recorded versions of concerts, courtesy small MP3 recorders.
Next: The little company that could.

Science - Hydrogen 'balls': Safe fuel of future?

Narayani Ganesh

UPPSALA: The car of the future could be powered by small "ping-pong balls" filled with hydrogen gas. If the project takes off commercially, this
could be a signal contribution from Sweden towards reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuel for transport. This is what astronautics professor and inventor Lars Stenmark of the department of materials science, Angstrom Laboratory, at Uppsala University envisions for a green future.

By storing hydrogen gas in small balls, Stenmark hopes to overcome the risk of fires and explosions. "By storing the gas in round, spherical form, it can withstand twice the pressure that a cylindrical form can. If the car crashes and the tank breaks, the hydrogen-filled balls would just spread out and roll away, and the gas from any broken balls would simply seep out and disappear into the atmosphere without causing harm," he says.

This is just one among many cutting edge research undertaken by faculty at Uppsala, focusing on energy research and new materials.

Maria Stromme, professor of nanotechnology, an engineering physicist, has found a way to extract cellulose from green algae bloom — a poison that is polluting coastlines and killing fish — and convert it into lithium-free batteries. Each fibre is covered with conducting polymer. The sheets so created have a large surface area that is coated with salt water for ion exchange. The sheets are flexible; they can be rolled up or cut into smaller sheets and stacked. Used in textiles, the fibre can make it possible for clothes to change colour! "We need to now extend it from the lab scale to industrial scale," says Maria: "You can even use the cellulose sheets to filter dangerous molecules from polluted water, since you need to treat large surface areas."

How to create inexpensive, "green" batteries with high storage capacity? A 15-member team led by Kristina Edstrom and Josh Thomas, of the department of materials chemistry, is experimenting with new materials to make this possible. Doctoral student Anton Nyten left the battery experiment he was conducting and rushed off to take his wife to the maternity hospital where she gave birth to their daughter, Nelly. He returned five weeks later to find the battery still alive: The "Nelly Effect" refers to the new cathode material discovered for lithium ion batteries using iron and silicon, considerably cheaper than cobalt-based materials.

This amounts to a major step towards enabling manufacture of cheap, environmentally friendly hybrid cars as well as the possibility of cleaner, more efficient heating, creating the potential for larger format batteries that can power vehicles.

Lifestyle - Decode your lover's body language

Divya Kapoor

No matter where you bump into your eye candy - at a friend's house, at a bar, a restaurant or even in the midst of a crowded market, the questions Understand your partner's body language clues (Getty Images)

remain the same: "What on Earth is he/she thinking? Does he/she really like me? Do I stand a chance?"

But do you know that men and women both are pre-programmed to send out physical clues when they're interested in the opposite sex? A huge advantage of becoming aware of your love interest's body language is that you can now read her mind and predict their next move. Here's how you can understand body language clues...

Her Body
Eye Contact : It all starts with an eye lock, doesn't it? Eyes telegraph unspoken messages and the female species definitely knows how to use this part of their body to their advantage. "I use this trick when I want to attract a guy's attention and no matter how clich├ęd it sounds, this trick always works!" says Sunaina Sharma, a student. "My first interaction with my wife started through eye contact. She was sitting with her friends on a staircase in college and I was a newcomer. It won't be wrong to say that she literally used her eyes as weapons to trap the prey (me)!" shares Prabhu a corporate executive.

Hot tip : "An eye contact can vary from curiosity, cool assessment to a coy interest in someone. When a girl makes eye contact that lasts longer than a furtive glance, it is a positive move on her part. If a girl looks deeply into a guy's eyes, she's telling him that he's the most charming person in the room. However, a full frontal stare is risky. It may come across as too bold to those men who get freaked out by direct behavior by a woman," says Dr. Upadhyaya.

Exposing : Yes, we know that most women love indulging in skin show, but here we're talking about a particular area: their long and smooth neck. "There was a girl in my office who was infamous for indulging in sex talks with male colleagues. She would always sit with her hair on one side of her shoulder, revealing her slender and perfumed neck. In fact, some of her friends told me once that she purposely did this as she felt it made her look sexy and was a nice way of luring someone for dirty talks," reveals Shailja Thakur, a business analyst.

Hot tip : "When you're reading a woman's body gestures, observe if she tosses her hair over one shoulder frequently. If your answer is in the affirmative, then be assured that the lady has fallen hard for you," says Dr. Akhouri. "It's an indirect act of submission and it not only exposes your neck, but also screams for attention," he adds.

Leg Crossing : The next time you get the chance to sit with your eye candy, observe her leg movements very carefully. While crossing her legs, if her top leg always points in your direction, treat it as a win-win situation. "I personally feel that a woman's whole personality changes as soon as she crosses her legs... it creates a goddess-like aura around her. On my last date, the girl sat with her legs crossed sexily all through the date and occasionally rubbed her thighs. Not only did I got broad hints, but it also was a big turn on for me," says Manu Vohra, a marketing manager.

Hot tip : According to Dr. Upadhyaya., "Leg crossing is suggestive of a nervous or provocative gesture. Often, woman can't help crossing their legs in front of the guy they have the hots for. It is a subconscious gesture that clearly says a man is getting on to her."

Arm Crossing : Crossing of arms by a woman has numerous meanings. "The receptionist in my old office used to sit with her hands and legs Understand your partner's body language clues (Getty Images)

crossed every time I was around. Initially, I thought her to be an arrogant lass, but it was only when she asked me out one day that I realised what that meant," says Sagarmani Dhakal, a corporate executive. "The best way to highlight your assets in front of a man is to cross your hands right below your chest and the guy is bound to notice you!," suggests Puja Khanna, a marketing executive. "Whenever I want something more from a guy than just talking and shopping, this is the trick that I apply," she quips.

Hot tip : "Crossed arms signal a woman's vulnerability and it can also be a way of telling a guy that she doesn't like him and doesn't want him around at all. Crossing of arms over her chest is also a clever way of drawing attention towards her assets," explains Dr. Upadhyaya.

Leaning : If you catch your ladylove practically leaning towards your shoulders most of the times she's around you, there is very little chance that she is not madly in love with you! "I went with my colleague for a movie and throughout the film, I could feel her hair on my neck and shoulders. The hint was enough for me to understand that I wasn't a mere colleague for her anymore," says Sunny Kudav, a programmer.

So the next time you want your guy to know he means a lot to you, just put your head on his shoulder, close your eyes and relax! "When my husband and I were just friends, and wanted to graduate to the level of lovers, I kept dropping hints like these. I would quietly lean over his body and say nothing. I wanted him to know that I was dependent on him and that his company was soothing and that life without him would now be difficult," says Shailja Sharma, a housewife.

Hot tip : "There is nothing more pleasurable than to make your love confession indirectly to your man. If a woman leans on a man, it's a sign of acceptance. It means she thinks the guy is dependable and trustworthy. She has found in you her dream man," tells Dr. Akhouri.

Eyebrow flash : Pay attention to your crush's eyebrows the next time you meet him, for this gesture can convey his likeability for you. "Whether you walk the corridor of a corporate office or go shopping in a crowded street, you will find at least a dozen men staring at you with their raised eyebrows. This gesture is too obvious to go unnoticed," says Drishika Chowdhry, a model.

Hot tip : "When the person we're attracted to comes before us, our first reaction is that of raising our eyebrows", says Dr. Pramod Upadhyaya. "It lasts about a fifth of a second and it happens to everyone," he adds.

He's checking out your body : His eyes take a tour of your body, stopping for a moment to scan the sexiest parts. "

time. I remember a guy from final year whom I dated for a couple of months. He would make it a point to scan my body as soon as I entered the class. And the strangest part was that he would want to me see his act," holds Ritu Rauthan, an MCA student. "If one wants to end up in bed with a girl, he needs to throw strong signals and the best way to do it is to let her see you when you are exploring every part of her body with your eyes," says Vishal Khandelwal, a web designer.

Hot tip : "When a guy lets you see him checking out your body, it's a way of indirectly telling the opposite sex: 'I'm considering you as a sexual partner'," says Dr.Tapas K Akhouri, a body language trainer.

His hands are on your body : This means the guy is subconsciously drawing your attention to his assets. Whichever part a man aims at is the most meaningful part to him. "My boyfriend used to position his chest towards me while talking and sometimes he would put his hands in his back pockets and walk. When we grew close he told me that these were the areas where he loves my touch the most," says Anu, a hotel receptionist.

Hot tip : "Guys generally do this to highlight their physical size and body confidence," mentions Dr. Upadhyaya. "Men point at their best sexual assets and at the parts of the body where they would most like to be touched. For example, if during a conversation, he stands with his hands on his hips, he wants you to touch and admire his bottom," he adds.

He'll start playing with circular objects : Ever wondered why? They remind him of a woman's assets. "My best friend had a habit of fiddling with rolled magazines, newspapers, paper weights and any round object he could lay his hands upon, whenever we were together. Once he caught me in private and tried to get physical. I was bewildered. Later I read about this body language cue in a magazine and realized what his gestures meant. He always had sexual thoughts on his mind," says Priya, (name changed on request), a BPO worker.

Hot tip : "Men sometimes start playing with round objects while talking to the girl they have a liking for. They may squeeze a glass or start rolling it. The reason being their sexual inclination towards that particular girl," explains Dr. Upadhyaya.

He touches his face a lot : One of the ways in which a man's body speaks of his ardent feelings is the way he touches his ears, rubs his chin and pats his cheeks with the back of his fingers in front of his lady love. "I touch my face and neck quite a lot in front of the girls I have the hots for. It is something that happens involuntarily with me...mostly when I am nervous," says Jitender Bharadwaj, a BPO employee.

Hot tip : "It's a mix of nervousness and excitement. Attraction is a dangerous matter and our body can knowingly or unknowingly reveal it in ways that are quite unfamiliar to most of us. Out lips and mouth become sensitive to touch and other stimulations," says Dr. Akhouri.

Lifestyle - US unemployment grows,beard too

NEW YORK: The stress of financial turmoil is literally showing on the faces of Americans, with many unemployed individuals growing beard in the

"Call it the face of freedom," said The Wall Street Journal and added that the facial hair is showing up on more former corporate types.

"It's one of those tiny luxuries unleashed by unemployment, a time when people are briefly released from workaday habits and may wish to take stock of their lives before setting out anew," the daily reported in an article published online yesterday.

Quoting Jorge Hendrickson who lost his job at a Manhattan hedge fund a few weeks ago, it said, he stopped shaving.

"I have shaved for so long, and it is nice to be able to look at the positive side (of losing a job)... I am changing my lifestyle while I can," he was quoted as saying.

Pointing out that Nobel laureate Al Gore grew a beard after losing the presidential election of 2000, the daily said that neatly trimmed "it looked cozy and anti-establishment as he pursued creative projects on his way to Nobel Peace Prize".

The WSJ said that 35-year-old investment analyst Scott Berger, stopped shaving in October after being laid off from hedge fund Laurus Capital Management.

For most office workers, the look remained too daring -- until they had nothing left to lose, as per the report.

"For many men, growing that unemployment beard is akin to a tame dance at a bachelor party -- a momentary freedom enjoyed while the rules are suspended. Many of today's beards may be as short-lived as the holidays," the daily said.

Berger shaves for job interviews, then re-grows his beard, which takes about two weeks, the WSJ noted and quoted him as saying, "I can't go on an interview with a beard."

World - 1st energy mkt in India

Nitin Sethi

NEW DELHI: India will have the world's first market for trading in energy savings. Under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, the power
ministry has prepared the blueprint for trading in energy by industrial plants that save energy beyond the targets set for them.

Under the plan, formulated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) under the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency and earlier announced in principle by the PM's climate change council, the government will set mandatory targets to be achieved by each large industrial unit and plant in energy intensive sectors, which include cement, aluminium, steel, power, textiles, fertilizers, railway, paper and pulp industries. The plan, which is to be brought soon before the PM's climate council for the final approval, will set in place the first such open market in the world for energy savings.

Under the global compact on climate change under UN aegis, there exists an international trade in greenhouse gas emission reductions.

But India, which has extremely low emissions as compared to the industrialized countries, has taken the stand that the only steps it needs to take, that too domestically, is to further strengthen its energy security which will automatically bring co-benefits of reduction in the global warming causing emissions.

Named the 'Perform, Achieve and Trade' or PAT scheme, energy reduction targets would be set in terms of the 'specific energy consumption' for each plant individually to ensure that there are no blanket benchmarks that create an uneven turf for different sizes and type of players.

While the methodology for ascertaining the energy consumption in each identified sector has been finalized, it will take a year to ascertain the target for each large unit.

Once the targets are set by end of 2009, the industry will be given three years to achieve them. Those units that surpass their targets will be provided 'energy certificates'. These certificates will be tradable on the existing power exchanges in the country. Companies that fail to meet the targets set for them will have to buy these certificates under an open market mechanism.

If the failed units do not meet their target either by achieving energy savings or by buying the energy certificates, they would be penalized by the government under the Energy Conservation Act.

Under the plan, BEE will accredit private agencies to audit the actual energy consumed by the industrial units and retain the powers to carry out random checks.

Lifestyle - Coming Soon - Tasteful Sex Toys

A ‘tasteful’ range of new generation sex toys is being designed for middle-aged couples. Coming soon, 'tasteful' sex toys!

And the brain behind ‘Relationship Care’ is Dutch multinational Koninklijke Philips Electronics (Royal Philips Electronics).

The company said it would launch the range in Selfridges and Boots stores.

Jayson Otke, a Philips spokesman, said the products are designed to enhance couples'' sexual well-being, and are specifically target the hitherto "neglected" group of sex toy users aged between 35 and 55.

Otke said the three new products will be called collectively the Intimate Massage Range, consisting of the Warm Intimate Massage, the Warm Massage and the Intimate Dual Massage.

"They are attractive to look at, targeted at the over-35 market, designed like beautiful stones with contours that vibrate and in a tasteful purple case," Telegraph quoted him, as saying.

"You would not be embarrassed to leave the product in full view of the family. The products are marketed for couples, are none-penetrative, not phallic shaped and are not meant to replace the partner but to enhance the sex life of both partners,” he added.

The company is so confident about its new venture that it is predicting a 70 million euro profit in its first 12 months of trading.

World - At Headquarters of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba

Harinder Baweja

"You are in an educational complex, but you are from India and you work for Tehelka, so it will take you time to change your mind."

That's what Abdullah Muntazir, (my guide and the spokesperson for the foreign media), told me within minutes of reaching Muridke, commonly believed to be the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba (LeT).

It was for the first time that due permission had been granted to any Indian journalist to visit the sprawling campus that lies forty km out of Lahore. The barricade that leads to the complex is heavily guarded and no one can enter without prior consent.

The guided tour took me through a neatly laid out 60-bed hospital, schools for boys and girls, a madarsa, a mosque, an exorbitantly large swimming pool and a guest house.

Nestled between tall trees and a meshed wire boundary, the 75-acre complex has manicured lawns, turnip farms and a fish-breeding centre. The students who enroll in the school pay a fee while those who study in the madarsa and pass out as masters in Islamic studies can come for free. Learning English and Arabic from class one on is elementary and so is a course in computers.

Trimmed lawns and microscopes
The administrators of the complex, drawn from the LeT's political wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, are clearly at pains to disassociate themselves from the group widely believed to be behind the terror attack in Mumbai on 27/11. Other foreign journalists were guided through the complex a few days before my visit and during their orchestrated tour, saw students working in chemistry and physics laboratories, peering into microscopes and connecting electric circuits.

None of us went there thinking we would see firing ranges or target shooting in progress, but the tour itself is surreal. As you walk through the neatly trimmed lawns and veer left or right to see the hostel or the mosque or the hospital, the conversation itself is dotted entirely with words like terrorism, Lashkar and in my case, Kashmir.

Even though the gates have been opened - after clearance from Pakistan's security agencies (read ISI) - to dispel the impression of Muridke being the training camp that "India has made it out to be," the conversation is not about the school syllabus but wholly about how India is an enemy.

A day after I visited Muridke, I met a family whose sister-in-law lives right next to the complex. "But of course it's a training ground. You can hear slogans for jehad blaring out of loud speakers in full volume and you can also sometimes hear the sound of gunfire,'' members of this family confided. But during the two hours that I spent within the complex, there was enough conversation about jehad even if there were no signs of it being a sanctuary not just for the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba but also believed to have been used as a hideout by al-Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, one of the conspirators of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

'Without doubt, you are the enemy'
Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist who was captured alive in Mumbai, is supposed to have studied here, according to his interrogators, and it's time to ask some straight questions.

So did Kasab study here, in Muridke?
"Even if he did, we are not responsible for what any one of our students do after passing out."

Do you support the Lashkar-e-Taiyyebba?
"We used to."

You used to?
"Yes, we were like-minded but the group was banned after Indian propaganda following the attack on its Parliament which was done by the Jaish-e-Mohammad and not the LeT. We use to provide logistical help to the Lashkar, collect funds for them and look after their publicity."

Did you also provide them with arms?
"They must have bought weapons with the money we gave them. They were obviously not using the money to buy flowers for the Indian army."

The Lashkar has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Red Fort in Delhi and the airport in Srinagar.

"We do not consider Kashmir to be a part of India. It is a part of Pakistan. Those who attack the security forces are not terrorists, they are freedom fighters."

President Musharraf moved away from the position that Kashmir either secede or be given independence. He proposed joint control.

"Musharraf did not have any legitimacy. He had no business making such proposals."
Do you consider India an enemy?
"Without doubt. India is responsible for the attack on Islamabad's Marriot hotel, for the bomb blasts in Peshawar. Sarabjit Singh has been convicted for being a RAW agent."
Your Amir, Hafiz Sayeed has given calls for jehad.

"He supports the freedom movement in Kashmir. We think it is right. It is ridiculous to call him a terrorist. Even when a thorn pricks India, the whole world stands up. Why did Condoleeza Rice not put pressure on India for handing over Narendra Modi after the Gujarat carnage?"

Kashmir is no longer entirely indigenous. Foreign fighters like Maulana Masood Azhar were arrested in Anantnag.

"He was a journalist and still is an inspirational writer. Anyone from here can go to Kashmir. We don't see it as part of India."

Did you sanitise this place before bringing me in?
"This is an educational complex and the Jamaat ud Dawah is a charitable organisation. There are very few people here because of the Eid break."

Does the ISI support you?
He just laughs.

A Pakistani Hamas
Jamaat ud Dawah, banned by the US in 2005 for being a Lashkar alias, draws patronage from the ISI and though proscribed abroad, has a free run in Pakistan. It has branches all across the country and is as famous for its social work as for its terror activities. It sees itself as a movement and not an organisation and has appeal to many in rural and urban areas.

When a correspondent from London's The Observer newspaper went to Kasab's village in Faridkot, close to the border with India, to establish if he indeed was a Pakistani, he was told that "religious clerics were brainwashing youth in the area and that LeT's founder Hafiz Sayeed had visited nearby Depalpur. There was a LeT office in Depalpur but that had hurriedly been closed down in the past few days. The LeT paper is distributed in Depalpur and Faridkot."

The Jamaat ud Dawah has a wide base and operates 140 schools and 29 seminaries in different towns and cities of Pakistan. According to the Jamaat's website: "Islam does not mean following a few rituals like performing prayers, keeping fasts, performing the pilgrimage to the Ka'ba (Hajj), giving alms (Zakat), or donating to charitable works, but in fact, it is a complete "Code of Life".

That is why Jamaat-ud-Dawah's struggle is not limited to any particular aspect of life only; rather, Jamaat-ud-Da'wah addresses each and every field of life according to the teachings of Islam. Jamaat-ud-Dawah is a movement that aims to spread the true teachings of Islam, and to establish a pure and peaceful society by building the character of individuals according to those teachings."

Its appeal extends to urban professionals like doctors who were out in large numbers in Muzaffarabad (the capital of Azad Kashmir or POK, depending on which side of the line of control you are on) in 2005, after a devastating earthquake. Unlike the Taliban, the Jamaat is modelled after Hamas and is not merely an army with gun-toting members but a complex and intricate organization with a social and political agenda. It has a huge following and reports have often indicated that in its annual congregations, where Hafiz Sayeed gives a call for jehad, , as many as 100,000 people are present in the sprawling Muridke compound.

It is groups like the Jamaat and the Jaish-e-Mohammad -- started by Maulana Masood Azhar soon after he was set free in Kandahar - which both India and Pakistan are up against.

Not the time to pick a fight
The complete U-turn, post 9/11 when General Musharraf lent complete support to George Bush, saw Pakistan take a slow but sure journey that has today placed it in a dangerous crosshairs.

While Musharraf joined the war against terror - forced to by Bush who had infamously said you are either with us or against us - he also got isolated from the his own people. They took to the streets, openly protesting his support of America that was bombing and strafing civilians, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.

The last straw came when his own Army stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in mid-2007. Reports of machine guns being used against innocents who got trapped in the Masjid, converted many within the Army and the ISI and those who had retired from these outfits.

It was the tipping point, said former ISI chief, Lt Gen Assad Durrani: "It was the most blatant homage paid to the Americans. The mosque is located under the nose of the ISI headquarters, and you can't first allow it to become a fortress and then fire on people who were willing to surrender. "

The storming of the Lal Masjid was a tipping point in more ways than one. If the release of Masood Azhar and the subsequent formation of the Jaish saw the advent of fidayeen attacks in Kashmir, the Lal Masjid operation led equally to the birth of intense attacks by suicide bombers.

The suicide attacks were not just targeting civilians, they were seeking men in uniform and the figures, in fact, tell the story. The first half of 2007 saw 12 such attacks all over Pakistan between January and July 3, and an estimated 75 people were killed. But after the Lal Masjid operation which reduced large parts of it to rubble, 44 suicide attacks took place between July and December, killing 567 people, mostly the members of the military and para-military forces, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the police. December also saw the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a grim reminder of the fact that the militants had declared a war against their ex-masters. The attack on Islamabad's Marriot Hotel, the city's most high-profile landmark, only confirmed the fact that terror can strike at will, any time and anywhere. It confirmed also that terror was not restricted to Pakistan's tribal belt alone. President Musharraf himself had in fact also survived three assassination attempts and now lives under extremely tight security. The terror threat in Pakistan, can in fact, be gauged from the fact that both President Asif Zardari and the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a complete first, offered Eid prayers at their respective residences on December 9.

The wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan does not just testify to the revival of al Qaeda and the Taliban networks but as Ahmed Rashid, strategic writer and author of several books on the jehadi networks, said: "The army is embroiled in fighting these forces in the Frontier and one third of the country is not even in the state's control. This is hardly the time to pick a fight with India."

More Lashkar than Lashkar: Retired soldiers
The ratcheting up of tension and animosity between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attack on 27/11, points to another dangerous faultline - while the Pakistani Army joined the global war against terror, it never completely gave up its support to the jehadi network that is active on its border with India.

Even after the Lashkar and Jaish were banned, neither was their back accounts frozen, nor was they're any attempt at forcing them to shut shop. The Army and the ISI continued to support fronts like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which does more than just equip men with arms.

It motivates and indoctrinates minds and as Rashid pointed out, "Musharraf used to place Hafiz Sayed and Masood Azhar under house arrest for Western consumption. He may have stopped infiltrating them into Kashmir too under international pressure but there was no attempt to stop their activities in Pakistan after they were banned. They were just allowed to hang loose." Former interior secretary, Tasneem Noorani, said: "There was no effort to mainstream the radicals."

Kasab's journey from a remote village in Faridkot to Mumbai is a testimony to this. So is his revelation to his interrogators that a 'Major' trained him.

Zardari may have been right when he attributed the Mumbai attack to 'non-state actors' because the Major does not necessarily have to be a serving officer employed with the ISI.

"Retired ISI officers are helping the Pakistani Taliban and they have become more Lashkar than the Lashkar,'' said Rashid. Any number of strategic and security analysts will testify to this dangerous trend - to how ex-ISI officers are still in business because they have now attached themselves as advisors to militant organizations like the Lashkar and the Jaish.

"You don't need large training camps," admitted one such analyst who prefers not to be named. "Ex servicemen are imparting arms training within the compounds of their homes. Different officials are attached with different groups."

The switch from one alias to another - Lashkar-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Toiba, Markaz-e-Dawah-Irshad, Jamaat ud Dawah - speaks of the Establishment's (the Army and ISI combine are referred to as the Establishment in Pakistan) more than subtle support of groups that are used against India. The long-standing relationship between the Establishment and the India-bound militants is now under pressure. The overriding message from America after the Mumbai attack is for these groups to be reigned in and this is testing not just the Army's carefully crafted support for the militants but has also focused attention on yet another faultline - the equation between the Establishment and the civilian government.

The effect of Indian television
Committed to better relations with India, Pakistan's top-most civilian representatives responded instinctively to the horror in Mumbai, in keeping with what Zardari had told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, held a few days before the gun and grenade battle at Nariman House and the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

In what took the Indian government by surprise, Zardari committed Pakistan to a no-first-use of nuclear weapons. It was the first major security-related statement to come from Pakistan's government after the February 18 election and more than just surprise the Indian government; it caused unrest amongst its own Establishment.

The next statement, made by Prime Minister Gilani - and confirmed through a press release issued by his office - pertained to the civilian government agreeing to sending its top most ISI officer, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to India on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's request.

The sequence of events following Gilani's offer and Zardari's quick retraction, saying they had agreed to send a director and not director general Pasha, in fact speaks of the internal battle of supremacy between the Establishment and the civilian authorities, especially on the crucial issue of national security which the Army believes to be its exclusive domain. As Imtiaz Alam, a peacenick and head of the South Asian Free Media Association, who had dinner with Zardari a day after the Mumbai attack explained: "Zardari is very firm on terrorism. He thinks democracy is a better weapon but the terrorists have succeeded in creating a psychological gulf between India and Pakistan. Instead of Pakistan fighting the jehadis, it has become a fight between India and Pakistan."

Senior journalists in Pakistan admitted that briefings from the ISI changed the post-Mumbai discourse. Reacting perhaps to the loud, jingoistic demands on Indian television channels, for action against Pakistan, the ISI told a select group of journalists that India had in fact 'summoned' their Chief. Jamaat ud Dawah Amir, Hafiz Sayeed - with a clear nod from his handlers - appeared on one news channel after another, making the same points: that the list of 20 most wanted which also includes him, was old hat, that India was playing the blame game without evidence, that India had its own band of 'Hindu terrorists' and India should give freedom to Kashmir and end the matter once in for all.

The leak soon after, of the hoax call, purportedly made by Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherji to President Zardari, sealed the debate - India bashing was back in business. The jingoism overtook the more important debate of the threat Pakistan itself faced from terror networks flourishing on its soil.

Who's in Charge? Not Zardari
Pakistan's news channels went on overdrive and as some even blared war songs, the question that gained importance through the entire din, was - who really runs Pakistan? Who is in control?

The answers to the questions are both easy and complex. Mushahid Hussain, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee in the Senate was clear about the answer: "War on terror, national security and relations with India, Afghanistan and China are the domain of the army. Thanks to India, the army has been rehabilitated and the war bugles are all over. No one person, no one institution is running Pakistan. Musharraf ran a one-window operation and the Army and the ISI used to report to him but now decision-making is murky and that is causing confusion. The hoax call and the DG ISI controversy are symptomatic of that."

There are other examples. Only a few months ago, Zardari quickly retracted his effort to bring the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry. And even as the Pakistan government's response to Indian pressure to rein in the terror networks, plays itself out on a day to day basis, it is evident that the civilian authorities have had to embrace the Establishment's point of view vis a vis India. Therefore, the talk that India should provide concrete evidence. Therefore, Zardari's statement that the guilty - if found guilty - will be tried on Pakistani soil. That the 20 most wanted will not be handed over. Even on sourced reports, put out in the local media, that Masood Azhar had been put under house arrest, Prime Minister Gilani went on record to say that no such report had come to him yet.

If India believes that Pakistan's response has been poor - two Lashkar men, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah have been arrested in Muzaffarbad - it is because the Establishment and pressure from its own people tie down the government here. It cannot be seen to be buckling under pressure either from India or America.

Some moves seem to be on the cards, including the banning of the Jamaat ud Dawah. But Lashkar was banned in the past as was the Jaish. Prime Minister Gilani has committed to not allowing Pakistani soil to be used for terror attacks, but then Musharraf had made the same exact promise on January 12, 2002 soon after the Parliament was attacked in Delhi.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone as far as to say that "Pakistan needs to set its own house in order'' (see interview) but he is in the Opposition and he can afford to make such statements. If Pakistan has begun to resemble a house of terror, it is because the Army and the ISI are yet to change their stance, not just vis a vis India but vis a vis the terrorists it creates and supports. Until then, the sprawling compound in Muridke will continue to remain in business. If the Jamaat ud Dawah does get banned, all it will need is another alias.

World - Vatican calls morning-after pill sin

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican on Friday said life was sacred at every stage of its existence and condemned artificial fertilisation, embryonic stem-cell
research, human cloning and drugs which block pregnancy from taking hold.

A long-awaited document on bioethics by the Vatican's doctrinal body also said the so-called "morning after pill" and the drug RU-486, which blocks the action of hormones needed to keep a fertilised egg implanted in the uterus, fall "within the sin of abortion" and are gravely immoral.

"Dignitas Personae" (dignity of a person), an Instruction of Certain Bioethical Questions," said that human life deserved respect "from the very first stages of its existence (and) can never be reduced merely to a group of cells."

It condemned in-vitro fertilisation, saying the techniques "proceed as if the human embryo were simply a mass of cells to be used, selected and discarded."

The document said that only adult stem cell research could be considered as moral because embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of embryos. In the document, the Vatican also defended its right to intervene on such matters.

Sport - Cricket;Inaugural Twenty20 Champions League called off

Shrinivas Rao

MUMBAI: The Twenty20 Champions League has been cancelled and all those who were gearing up to be a part - the eight teams, four cricket boards, br
oadcasters, telecasters, sponsors, advertisers and of course the organizers - will now have to wait for another year for the tournament to see the light of day.

Officials from Cricket South Africa, Cricket Australia and CL chairman Lalit Modi had a teleconference on Friday where the decision was reached. "We are very disappointed but the reality is that the ICC’s Future Tours Program (FTP) just doesn’t have a gap (to accommodate the event)," Modi told TOI.

The founding boards discussed each possible window available.

The idea of tweaking the ODI series between SA and Australia was considered but that clashed with Australia’s domestic tournament, something the CA wasn’t willing to compromise on. The T20 Cup in Australia, involving six state teams, is scheduled to be played between Dec 26 and Jan 24, something that CA cannot avoid keeping the interests of domestic sponsors in mind.

In February, if India doesn’t travel to Pakistan as scheduled, that space could have been utilized. However, as tournament director Dheeraj Malhotra explained, "A formal decision on the India-Pak series hasn’t been made as yet and we had a deadline to decide. We couldn’t have waited to see if India’s tour to Pak is going ahead or not."

The participating teams will change next year, with the eight teams scheduled to take part in this year’s event having lost their chance. The finalists of next year’s respective domestic T20 events will now qualify.

Western Australia and Victoria from Australia (finalists of the KFC Cup), Dolphins and Titans (top teams from South Africa’s ABN-Amro T20 tournament), Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings (IPL finalists) along with two visiting teams Middlesex and Sialkot Stallions (winners of England and Pakistan’s domestic T20 tournaments) were scheduled to take part this year.

"Whichever teams qualify next year will now be a part of the tournament," Malhotra said.

It was mutually decided between all parties concerned, broadcasters ESPN (who have a $975m contract going for ten years) included, to schedule it for next year.

Sport -F1;Hamilton receives winner's trophy

Lewis Hamilton received his trophy as Formula One's youngest champion on Friday and the 23-year-old Briton said he had fulfilled a childhood dream.

"This year has been a very special one in my life, the fulfillment of a dream I've had since childhood and an ambition that has taken my family and me on an amazing journey," Hamilton said at the International Automobile Federation gala awards dinner.

"The fact that I won the drivers' world championship on the very last lap of the very last race is something that makes me so proud of our efforts in 2008," added the sport's first black champion.

"We pushed to the limit on every lap, from Melbourne to Brazil, and it's that determination and spirit that ultimately won us the world title."

Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa, beaten by a single point after winning his home race last month, celebrated his team's constructors' crown and saw his own achievements in a positive light.

"We are already looking to a new season and I will do my utmost to come back here to Monaco next year to claim the prize which today has gone to Lewis," he said.

Singapore, host of Formula One's first night grand prix this year, was awarded the race promoters' trophy.

Sport - India;Passport office shatters Saina's dream

HYDERABAD: A day after she considered herself lucky to qualify for the world’s top badminton tournament, teen sensation Saina Nehwal was in for a rud
e shock when she was told by the regional passport office here that her passport could not be renewed before next Monday. ( Watch )

Saina was jumping with joy on Thursday after hearing that she had been included in the main draw of the Yonex-Sunrise BWF World Super Series Masters Final to be held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, from December 18 to 21.

Little did she know that people of her own city would be so insensitive as to deny her the chance to play in the prestigious event.

Saina had applied for the renewal of her passport on December 2 and was given a December 10 date for delivery. However, the RPO failed to keep its promise and ever since, Saina has been making rounds of the RPO.

When she got the news of her qualification, she sought an appointment with the passport officer on Friday but her request was brushed aside, with the officer’s secretary telling her to come on Monday.

Deeply shocked, Saina told TOI that she had lost all hope of participating in the Masters Final. "I am terribly shocked. I will be missing a chance to participate in the best event in the world. Even if I manage to get the passport on Monday, I don’t think I can make it as I have to obtain a visa from Chennai," said Saina.

Wondering how she could have persuaded the RPO staff, Saina said, "I told her I am the country’s top shuttler and this is a rare opportunity, but she would not listen. I was treated very badly. This is not the way to treat sportspersons. I am deeply hurt."

The 18-year-old is shaken because this opportunity comes at a time when she is in great form. "I am in great shape now. I thought I can do something great in this particular tournament," said Saina.

Only the eight best players in the world make the cut for this $5 lakh prize money tournament, the highest ever, and Saina qualified after China pulled out all its players from the event.

India - Crorepatis more likely to become MLAs: Study

Nandita Sengupta

NEW DELHI: Crorepati banega MLA. The more money you have, greater the chances of winning a seat. That's the mantra emerging from the recent
assembly elections in five states in a study of candidates' affidavits filed with their nomination papers.

Crorepati candidates have won 40% seats in the elections from a total of 629 seats across the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Delhi. Fewer than 3% candidates, with assets less than Rs 5 lakh, have triumphed, shows the report prepared by Association for Democratic Reforms as part of the New Election Watch campaign. ADR is a collective of more than 1,200 NGOs and citizens groups working for electoral reforms.

The average Delhi assembly MLA of 2008 is worth Rs 2.86 crore. There isn't much to choose financially between the average BJP (Rs 2.8 cr) and the Congress (Rs 2.7 cr) MLA. Interestingly, the average asset of the six BSP MLAs in Rajasthan works out to a whopping Rs 3.45 crore.

In Delhi, 31% of crorepatis with assets above Rs 5 crore emerged successful whereas no candidate with less than Rs 5 lakh won. The contrast is sharper in Chhattisgarh where 50%, or every second contesting crorepati with assets more than Rs 3 crore, prevailed. In comparison, among candidates with kitties of less than Rs 5 lakh, only 2% were victorious.

There is a clear link between high finance and the chance of bagging a seat, say experts. "We found that the more money you have, better the chances of winning,'' says Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of ADR. Well-known activist Nikhil Dey illustrates the point. "The trend shows polls are almost a game of kaun banega crorepati. If you compare the figures with last time's elections, you will find assets have increased by an average of Rs 1 cr in five years of holding office,'' he says.

A party-wise analysis shows the Congress fielded 121 crorepati winners and the BJP 110 in these polls. The candidates' declarations can be taken with a pinch of salt. In Rajasthan, for instance, an MLA with less than Rs 1 lakh assets owns a high-end car. "The study is based on their declarations and they may be lower than the actual assets,'' says Bairwal, whose study also concludes that the number of MLAs with criminal records has gone up since the 2003 polls.

In Delhi, for instance, compared to 2003, the number of MLAs with criminal records has gone up from 24 to 27. That means now, 40% of newly-elected MLAs in the 69-seat Delhi assembly have criminal records.

As per the affidavits, a total 549 candidates with criminal records contested in these elections. Of them, 124 won. That's about 23%. While MP has a maximum of 54 such MLAs, Rajasthan is second with 30, Chhattisgarh 11 and Mizoram 3.

That deep pockets and crime go hand-in-hand is shown by Rajasthan, where the nine MLAs with serious criminal charges against them are all crorepatis.

An assembly of crorepatis

In Delhi all MLAs in current assembly are either lakhpatis or crorepatis. There are a total of 46 crorepatis. Congress has 24, BJP 19 and the BSP 2. One is an Independent.

In MP, 12 crorepati MLAs do not have PAN numbers.

12 Delhi MLAs with asset declaration of more than Rs 1 crore said they own no vehicle.