REPORT ON PAGE 5
Family members with cow named Mahalakshmi at the house
warming ceremony on June 28.
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
FREE BUS RIDES
MCI (P) 079/10/2022
FANS SLAM REMIX
OF PAKISTANI HIT
Opposition vows to fight elections
India’s opposition parties have
resolved to fight unitedly to defeat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in
general elections less than a year away.
“We may have some differences,
but have decided to work together
with flexibility,” leader of the main
opposition Congress party Rahul
Gandhi said at a press conference on
Friday. “This is a fight for ideologies.”
Congress along with regional
political groups and the communists
met in Patna, Bihar, to decide on how
to take on Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata
Party ahead of national elections.
Finance Minister scoffs at Obama
comment on protecting Muslims
India’s finance minister has derided
comments by former United States
President Barack Obama that Prime
Minister Narendra Modi’s government
should protect the rights of minority
Muslims, accusing Mr Obama of being
During Mr Modi’s state visit to the
US last week, Mr Obama told CNN
that without the “protection of the
Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu
India” there is “a strong possibility
that India at some point starts pulling
Indian Finance Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman said she was shocked that
Mr Obama has made such remarks.
“He was commenting on Indian
Muslims... having bombed
Muslim-majority countries from Syria
to Yemen... during his presidency,” she
said. “Why would anyone listen to any
allegations from such people?”
Indian man charged with
immigration fraud in Canada
Canadian authorities on Friday
charged an Indian man with issuing
fraudulent university letters of
acceptance to Indian students and
other immigration-related criminal
Indian citizen Brijesh Mishra is
facing five charges under the
Immigration and Refugee Protection
Act, the Canada Border Services
Earlier this year, the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation reported
that several Indian students had been
served deportation papers for using
forged documents to enter Canada in
an alleged immigration scheme.
Central govt orders Manpipur CM
to work harder for peace
The Central government on Sunday
ordered the chief minister of Manipur
to “work harder” to restore peace as
violence between ethnic groups in the
state has not subsided for over 50 days
despite a heavy security presence.
“I have been advised by the home
minister to work harder towards
restoring lasting peace in Manipur,”
said Chief Minister N. Biren Singh
after he was summoned to New Delhi
for talks with Home Minister Amit
Shah. At least 80 people have been
killed and more than 40,000 forced to
flee their homes after clashes broke
out in Manipur on May 3 between
rival ethnic groups.
Firm used toxic industrial-grade
ingredient in syrup
The Indian manufacturer of cough
syrups that Uzbekistan said last year
had poisoned 19 children used a toxic
industrial-grade ingredient rather than
the legitimate pharmaceutical version,
two sources with knowledge of the
matter told Reuters.
The company, Marion Biotech,
bought the ingredient – propylene
glycol (PG) – from trader Maya
Chemtech India, as reported by
But Maya did not have a licence to
sell pharmaceutical-grade materials
and “dealt in industrial-grade only,” a
source told Reuters. “We did not know
Marion was going to use it to make
cough syrups. We are not told where
our material is used.”
The sources said the syrup was
made with industrial-grade PG, a toxic
material widely used in liquid
detergents, antifreeze, paints and
coatings, and to enhance the
effectiveness of pesticides.
Antitrust concerns over Air India,
India’s antitrust body is scrutinising Air
India’s planned merger with Vistara
and has asked the company why it
should not be investigated further over
competition concerns, potentially
delaying the process, reported Reuters.
It is a new challenge for formerly
government-owned Air India, which
the Tata Group took over last year.
The Competition Commission of
India has flagged that on some routes
and categories – such as business class
travel – the merged entity could have a
It has issued a so-called “show
cause” notice to Air India to explain
its position, and the airline has 30 days
More people from India travelling
People from India have been travelling
abroad more, and the United States is
trying to accommodate the new
tourism boom by opening two new
consulates in the country.
In 2022, India for the first time
became Asia’s highest source of
international travellers, according to
tourism consultancy IPK International,
exceeding China, South Korea and
The US has taken note, and will
open new consulates in Bengaluru and
Byju’s tells investors it will file
2022 earnings by September
Indian education technology giant
Byju’s, which lost its auditor after
delaying financial statements, has told
investors it will file 2022 audited
earnings by September and 2023
results by December, reported Reuters.
Deloitte last week severed ties with
Byju’s over its “long-delayed”financial
statements for the year ended March
Board members representing Peak
XV Partners, earlier known as Sequoia
Capital India, Prosus and Chan
Zuckerberg Initiative also stepped
down, without publicly expressing
Woman dies of electrocution amid
incessant rains in Delhi
A young woman in Delhi died of
electrocution on Sunday when she
accidentally touched an electric pole
while attempting to avoid a
waterlogged spot during heavy rains.
The incident occurred at the New
Delhi Railway Station, where Ms
Sakshi Ahuja, a resident of Preet
Vihar, had gone with her family to
catch a train.
More overseas funds forced to
India’s securities market regulator has
tightened disclosure norms for large
foreign portfolio investors and those
with a majority of their investments in
a single Indian business group.
The new regulation demands
disclosure of all beneficial owners of
foreign investors with more than
Rs250 billion invested in Indian
equities or have more than 50 per cent
of equity assets under management
invested in a single corporate group,
Securities and Exchange Board of
India said on Wednesday.
The need for enhanced disclosures
comes after allegations against the
Adani Group, of routing founder’s
funds via foreign investors to purchase
shares to meet minimum public
shareholding norms. The conglomerate
has denied any wrongdoing.
Former Indian opening
batsman Virender Sehwag
(left) playfully fighting for the
World Cup trophy with former
Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah
Muralitharan during an event
to announce the tournament’s
schedule, in Mumbai on
Ten teams will take part in
the tournament, which will be
hosted by India from
Oct 5 to Nov 19.
The tournament will begin
with holders England taking
on New Zealand at the world’s
biggest cricket stadium, in
Ahmedabad, which will also
host the final.
Modi Stadium is also
scheduled to stage two other
high-profile matches: India v
Pakistan on Oct 15 and
England v Australia on Nov 4.
World Cup to begin on Oct 5 in Ahmedabad
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Karnataka’s women are rejoicing over
the new government’s scheme of free
rides for them in state-owned buses.
But experts have questioned its
sustainability – if the pre-poll guaran-
tee is fully executed, it will stretch the
state’s finances to breaking point.
Free bus travel for women was one
of five poll promises the Congress
government fulfilled on June 11, with
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his
deputy D.K. Shivakumar flagging off
the Shakti scheme at Bengaluru’s Ma-
jestic bus terminus.
They issued free tickets to women
travelling from the state capital to
Dharmasthala, a temple town in the
coastal district of Dakshina Kannada,
reported the Deccan Herald.
More than 571,000 women trav-
elled for free that day, according to the
state’s transport department. The num-
bers swelled to 4.13 million the next
day and 36.3 million by June 18, with
the value of avoided fares touching Rs
84.2 crore ($14 million).
The purpose of the scheme, accord-
ing to the government, is to increase
female participation in the workforce.
It will enable most of the state’s 45
million women to use public transport
without the need to ask for funds to
cover the cost of a ticket.
The response has been a tidal wave
of smiling women laying siege to
buses, reported the BBC.
Within minutes of the scheme’s
launch, the photo of Ms Ningavva
Shiggadi bowing and touching the
steps of a bus with her forehead went
Ms Ningavva, who took a bus from
Dharwad to Savadatti in Belagavi dis-
trict, told reporters: “Before, I had to
ask for permission and money from
my family to travel. Now I don’t have
to depend on them.”
The state government hopes that
with free transport, more women can
look for jobs further away from home.
“I can spend the money I save on
getting more milk for my children,”
said a woman who works as a cleaner
Another woman in the state capital
said: “I’ll be able to afford better
meals for my family if I get a job.”
Though the state government’s inten-
tions may be noble, according to BQ
Prime, most women’s initial visits were
mostly to temple towns and places of
A security guard in Mangaluru said
his sister-in-law travelled to a temple
town 400km away with her two daugh-
ters. It would have cost Rs620 one way
per person without the free rides.
Free bus travel for women is also
provided by the Delhi government but
it is confined to the city.
Tamil Nadu has a similar policy but
travel is limited to short distances. In
Punjab, women can travel free in
government buses across the state.
Delhi’s expenditure on free bus
travel is not high. The subsidy was
Rs250 crore in 2022-23.
Tamil Nadu spent Rs1,217 crore on
free bus passes for women in 2021-22.
The revised outlay for last year was
Rs2,547 crore, which is two-thirds
more than the budget estimate. For
2023-24, an amount of Rs 2,800 crore
has been set aside.
In Punjab, the benefit was made
available from April 2021 after the
Aam Aadmi Party formed the govern-
But Punjab is not known for finan-
cial rectitude. Its revenue deficit in
2022-23 at Rs23,891 crore was 3.7 per
cent of its gross state domestic product
and way higher than the budget esti-
mate of 2 per cent.
The Karnataka transport depart-
ment has estimated that 4.2 million
women will travel free every day and
the cost will be Rs4,051 crore a year.
The fear is that a financially
stretched state will delay reimburse-
ments to the bus utilities, which will
affect their ability to provide efficient
transport services. Currently all the
four state bus corporations are making
For the policy to work, the state
government needs to bump up the bus
numbers. For instance, no new bus has
been added to the fleet of 6,500 buses
in Bengaluru. Given its population of
12 million, the city needs about
But no woman is complaining of
overcrowding yet. They are too busy
Indo-Asian News Service
India’s first population counter, display-
ing 10 numbered cards on a green
metal board, attracts curious passersby
who watch it record the story of the
world’s most populous nation.
The counter – manually updated
each day according to projected esti-
mates and akin to a cricket scoreboard
in appearance – was first erected in
1982, when India was home to more
than 684 million people, according to
the 1981 government census.
India grew rapidly to overtake
China and topped the population
ranks with more than 1.42 billion
people, according to a United Nations
projection in April.
“There was already an extra slot in
the counter for when we crossed the
one-billion mark,” said Professor Chan-
der Shekhar of the International Insti-
tute for Population Sciences in Mum-
bai, where the clock is located.
Overpopulation has long been a
concern, with the government establish-
ing a nationwide family planning pro-
gramme in 1952.
But it was a controversial enforced-
sterilisation push in the 1970s that
sparked public debates and spurred the
institute to create the counter, accord-
ing to Prof Shekhar.
Every day, security guards change
the numbers based on the projections
of the natural growth rate – the
difference between the number of
births and the number of deaths per
1,000 a year – derived from govern-
ment and United Nations estimates.
“We feel good when we update the
board, as passersby can also see the
growing population numbers,” said
56-year-old security supervisor
The current projections estimate
that India’s population increases by
just under 41,000 people a day – one
every two seconds – or about 15
million a year.
India’s current fertility rate is two
births per woman.
The fertility rate varies across the
country, with poorer states like Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar – boasting a com-
bined population of more than 325
million – having the highest rates,
according to a 2019 government sur-
vey. In contrast, the two wealthiest
states of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu
have fertility rates of 1.56 and 1.54,
Family planning has largely been
left to women, with less than one in
10 men using condoms, while female
sterilisation was at nearly 38 per cent,
according to the 2019-2021 National
Family Health Survey.
Prof Shekhar, 49, was drawn into
studying population from a young age,
fascinated and “agitated” by large
crowds of people everywhere he went.
“I used to hate these numbers but
after I got my master’s in statistics, I
thought, ‘Let us understand this, is it a
problem? Or can it really be solved?’”
The fertility and social demography
expert believes the large numbers
don’t have to be a ticking time bomb if
authorities focus on raising people’s
quality of life.
Education and health outcomes –
such as falling infant and maternal
mortality rates – have improved since
1982, and India’s economy has grown
to become the fifth-largest in the
world. But in many cities residents
battle for resources while facing water
shortages and air and water pollution.
Unemployment for the ages 15 to
24 stood at 23.2 per cent last year,
according to the World Bank. The
overall jobless rate was 7.7 per cent in
May, data from the Centre for Monitor-
ing Indian Economy showed.
Prof Shekhar said a key concern
was that “India will become older
before it becomes richer”.
“We need people to be skilled, and
have employment opportunities for a
huge, young population,” he said.
steps of a
on the day
Free rides great – but day of reckoning looms
Number of Indians doubled since counter started counting
June 30, 2023
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