Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diwali - The festival of pollution?

Its just one week to Diwali, and everyone is already excited about buying new clothes, sweets, greeting cards, lanterns, gifts, crackers ……. hhmmm ….. crackers …. lets get straight to the point.
Is Diwali all about shooting rockets in the air, lighting 'anars' and 'chakris' and blasting bombs? Do we even give a thought to what happens to the ecology after we blow away loads of money on crackers?

One Diwali night causes as much damage to the ecology as regular pollution does over the span of a year. The heavy smog full of sulphur nitrates, magnesium, and nitrogen dioxide can be felt even days after Diwali is over. Thousands of people, mostly kids, get injured while bursting crackers every year. Not to forget the tons of toxic garbage strewn around on the day after Diwali, which is mind numbing. Approximately 8,000 additional metric tonnes of garbage was released in Mumbai alone last year.
Also there are thousands of under privileged kids who sit late into the night manufacturing crackers which are made using harmful chemicals and acids. These kids work from morning to night, breathing these harmful fumes and coming into constant skin contact with the chemicals. They burn their hands, legs and eyes, and many get maimed for life. The conditions they work in are inhumane and the compensation, pitiful.
Does that mean we just stop bursting crackers during Diwali? No, but we can surely deal with it in a more considerate manner. Instead of every family spending thousands of rupees on crackers, we can have societies/schools hold public display of fireworks. This can be done on school grounds, playgrounds or open areas where it’s safe to burst crackers. Care should be taken to avoid noisy crackers and first aid should be always around. In this way we can enjoy crackers but avoid exploitation of the ecology.
It’s high time we remember Diwali is a festival of lights and not of pollution!!
Happy Diwali.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Indian M&A activity on the rise (April to Sept 2010)

The Indian Mergers and Acquisition scenario started with a bang in 2010 with Indian companies announcing M&A deals valued at an impressive USD 14bn in just the first 45 days. In contrast, corporate India was involved in M&A transactions worth only USD 11.9bn.in the previous year 2009, when the worldwide economic slowdown forced Indian companies to look within the boundaries of the nation for merger and acquisitions deals. Domestic deals had accounted for more than 60% of the total USD 11.9bn worth of deals last year. But now, the drift seems to be changing as more and more domestic companies are venturing out and have announced a number of multi million dollar international acquisitions like the USD 9bn Bharti-Zain deal, which happened in March this year.
As per ISI Emerging Markets data base, a total of 220 M&A deals were announced with a total deal value of over USD 28.56bn in the first six months of the financial year 2010 (April to September).
Out of these 91 were domestic deals amounting to a deal value of USD 14bn, 40 were outbound deals where Indian companies acquired a foreign target (deal value USD 5.9bn) and 85 inbound deals saw Indian companies being acquired by foreign firms (deal value USD 7.9bn).
The biggest deal in the first 2 quarters of financial year 2010 was, Vedanta Resources Plc, the UK-listed metals and mining company agreeing to acquire between 51% and 60% in Cairn India, the listed Indian oil and Gas Company. But the deal is currently stuck up in red tape, with Cairn needing at least 10 separate clearances from the petroleum ministry before it can close the deal.
Sector wise analysis:

A sector wise analysis shows that the Oil and Gas sector accounted for 31 per cent of the total M&A deal value while telecom accounted for 13 per cent.
Electric power generation was the third most-active sector, as it contributed 12 per cent in deal value for the first two quarters of financial year 2010.

Month wise analysis
The month of September saw the maximum number of M&A deals (50 deals), but as deal values for many transactions in that month were not disclosed, the total deal value for September was USD 3.47bn.

The month of August saw the highest aggregate deal value of USD 11.63bn, which was because of the USD 9bn Cairn-Vedanta deal.
The rise in the number of outbound deals provides clear proof that corporate India is consolidating and at the same time aggressively working on global expansion. As global economy continues to recover from recession blues, I believe that interest in outbound activity will continue as Indian companies target global expansion to boost both growth and resources, with a focus on medium sized deals. However, it will still take some time before corporate India can mirror the peak deal activity levels of 2007-08.
Notes: Includes deals announced in the period of April-September 2010. Includes joint ventures, acquisition of minority stakes & restructuring deals
Source: ISI Emerging Markets Database

Sunday, October 17, 2010

India to bid for Olympics 2020 – case of putting the cart before the horse?

Well finally the Commonwealth Games are over and India came a creditable second in the medals tally. What started with a sour taste, thankfully ended with a silver lining. The whole world stood up and appreciated India’s efforts, while the opening and closing ceremonies received special mention in the global press. Indians showed the world that they can organize an event of such big magnitude and make it a grand success. So should we be really proud of ourselves as Indians?

As we bask in the afterglow of the mega event, have we forgotten the rampant corruption which shook the nation a month ago? Did we achieve the main objective of the Games in terms of promoting sports, infrastructure and tourism? Did we manage to showcase India as a progressive developed world power?

Even before we try to get answers to the above questions, interestingly now dear Mr. Kalmadi and the Indian Olympic Association has announced that they want India to bid for the 2020 Olympics! What does this mean? Another chance to fill up their pockets?

Do we really need to spend so much on a mega event, where a country of a billion people cannot even win a handful of medals? Even today nearly 30% of India’s population lives under the poverty line, the overall national literacy rate is just about 65% and most people still do not have basic sanitation facilities. There isn’t even basic sports infrastructure in most Indian cities. Most of our athletes come from rural areas, get basic training facilities and have to undergo tremendous hardships to just even survive. Even today India has less then 25 astro turf grounds for hockey, (is it still really our national game?) while in a country like Holland, which is maybe as much as the size of Goa, there are more than 450 astro turf grounds!!

Interestingly, the budget allocation for sports this year (2010) in India, has gone down from last year's Rs 3,706 crore to Rs 3,565 crore, a major chunk of which, Rs. 2,069, crores was earmarked for the Commonwealth Games. More money is being spent on events than sports promotion and development. Now isn’t this a perfect example of ‘Putting the cart before the horse’.

Instead of dreaming about mega events like Olympics, we should first concentrate on improving our grass root level sports infrastructure. We need a sports academy in every state dedicated for the development of sportsmen (not cricket) and sports. Sports should be made an integral part of elementary education. Scouts should be nominated to visit every small town of India and hunt for talent which can be nurtured. We need sportsmen and athletes before sports events. But only if the Indian Olympic Association understood this!

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