NEW DELHI: A prominent right-wing Hindu group in India warned Muslims and Christians on Thursday not to join in a lively Hindu religious festival this month, in the latest bid by activists to step up segregation in the multi-faith country.
Emboldened by the May election victory of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hard-liners in his party and affiliated Hindu groups have been stirring up sentiment against India’s religious minorities in recent months.
“We are warning Muslims and Christians that they should stay away from all our festivals. The Navratri festival is for Hindus only,” Surendra Jain, spokesman for a Hindu group called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), told Reuters. The annual, nine-night Navratri Hindu festival began on Thursday. In many parts of the country it is marked by celebrations involving prayer, music and dance among men and women.
It is famous for being high-spirited and Christians and Muslims are known to take part. They also take part in the Holi Hindu spring festival.
But this year, Hindu activists plan for the first time to demand identity cards to keep non-Hindus out of festival venues. Usually in India, one can tell a person’s religion by their name.
“Muslims and Christians do not pray to the Hindu mother goddess so why should they dance and enjoy nightly feasts with us?” Jain said, accusing young Muslim men of taking part in the festival to tempt Hindu girls into converting to Islam.
Members of the VHP have in the past been accused of instigating communal violence, including riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was its chief minister.
At least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.
The VHP is a radical member of a cluster of right-wing Hindu groups that includes Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi has distanced himself from the anti-Muslim views of some of his supporters.
In an interview with the CNN news channel last week, Modi praised the patriotism of India’s Muslims and said they would not be tempted by Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
(Agence France-Presse photo)- By Deepshikha Ghosh
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make a sales pitch to the world’s top 3,000 companies when he launches his “Make in India” campaign on Thursday, picking up from the slogan he introduced in his August 15 Independence Day speech.
The campaign seeks to present India as a global manufacturing hub; 25 of its priority sectors include “Make in India-Pharma”, “Make in India-Auto Component” and “Make in India-Bio-tech”.
Sources say all stakeholders including leading businessmen and CEOs have been invited for the event in Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan.
At the same time, programmes will be held in state capitals and also Indian missions abroad, where officials are expected to engage with investors and consultants just as PM Modi addresses CEOs back home.
Sources say the government has broadly chosen top 10 companies across 10 sectors in 30 countries.
To attract investors to India, the Modi government plans to speed up decision-making by bringing in a new mechanism for approving proposals from foreign companies.
As part of that plan, the “Invest India” unit in the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has been revamped; an eight-member experts’ body will examine proposals from companies, which will be processed by a nodal officer from each ministry involved.
Currently, a company planning to start a business in India finds itself wading through a dozen procedures, which take at least a month to complete. Contracts take far more time to process, which has led to India placing a poor 134 among 189 economies in the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2014″ report.
Mr Modi’s party, the BJP, won the biggest mandate in 30 years in May’s national election, but is accused by critics of not delivering on major reforms to overhaul an economy suffering through the worst slowdown in two decades.
In his first Independence Day speech at Delhi’s Red Fort, PM Modi invited the global business community to set up manufacturing facilities in India, saying, “Come, make in India. Sell anywhere, but manufacture here.”
Vijay MallyaMUMBAI — They were famed for their jet-set lifestyles and the names of their companies were emblazoned on airplanes, Formula One cars and the shirtfronts of cricket teams.
But now the debt-laden empires of three of India’s best-known tycoons — Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy and T. Venkattram Reddy — are crumbling before their eyes, downfalls that observers say stem from a climate of weak regulation and deference to conspicuous wealth.
“All too often, the banks are dazzled by the halo of personal fortunes,” said Vishwas Utagi, a veteran campaigner for banking regulation.
Some of India’s most successful businesses, such as the family-run Tata and Reliance conglomerates, have been led for years by men with little appetite for publicity and who prefer to operate in the shadows.
But Kingfisher boss Mallya and Sahara supremo Roy came to epitomize a new breed of tycoon, unafraid of trumpeting their achievements when they started making a name for themselves in the early 2000s.
Mallya — the self-styled “King of Good Times” — became something of an icon as he turned the United Breweries Group which he inherited from his father into one of the world’s largest spirit makers.
As his core business flourished, Mallya branched out by launching the Kingfisher airline, named after his company’s best-known beer. His profile rose further when he acquired a stake in the Force India F1 team and ownership of the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team.
But as the Indian economy began to slow sharply at the turn of the decade, with the aviation industry becoming one of the sectors to be worst hit, Mallya’s fortunes nosedived too.
After selling the liquor business to Diageo in a bid to shore up his airline, Mallya looked on helplessly as Kingfisher continued to hemorrhage cash. The airline never took to the skies again after a pilots’ strike over unpaid wages in 2012.
Having run out of patience over Mallya’s failure to clear debts said to be in excess of $60 million, the United Bank of India this month declared him a “wilful defaulter,” making it nigh impossible to access fresh loans.
While Mallya is fighting to keep his properties from creditors, Roy is trying to sell his portfolio of luxury hotels — including New York’s Plaza Hotel and the Grosvenor House in London — to raise the $1.6 billion he needs to secure bail from Delhi’s Tihar Prison.
While he has several media interests, including a Hindi TV channel and newspaper, Roy’s profile was heightened by his co-ownership with Mallya of Force India and involvement in cricket.
As well as sponsoring the national side, Sahara set up a Pune-based franchise to enter the glitzy Indian Premier League (IPL).
The team’s expulsion from the IPL at the end of last year’s tournament in a dispute over finances hinted that all was not well.
Things dramatically worsened in March when Roy was detained after failing to meet a demand by regulators to pay back millions of small savers the $3.2 billion that Sahara raised via an illegal bond scheme.
While Roy owns homes modeled on the White House and Buckingham Palace, Reddy’s penchant is for luxury cars with a fleet which reportedly included a Rolls Royce Phantom.
He also couldn’t resist the glamour of the IPL, buying the Deccan Chargers franchise before it went bust in 2012.
While Roy’s fortune was self-made, Reddy and his brother T. Vinayak Ravi Reddy inherited the ownership of the Deccan Chronicle from their father.
The Hyderabad newspaper’s prestige enabled them to draw loans for riskier ventures including a chain of bookstores and a chartered jet company.
Even if the cricket team is no longer sucking money, the Reddys are struggling to keep the wolf from the door and lenders have already seized several of their properties.
Tamal Bandyopadhyay, author of a book on Sahara, said a weak regulatory framework enabled tycoons to build up debts that should never have been allowed.
“Mallya is a case of over-stretching and over-leveraging, while Roy is the case of exploiting regulatory arbitrage or the loopholes in regulation,” Bandyopadhyay said.
Utagi, a retired bank worker who is vice president of the All India Bank Employees’ Association, said there were too many “pliable people” in the industry who face little comeback if money they lend is not repaid.
“When it comes to credit appraisals for corporates, the rules are more often honored in the breach than the observance,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay said the ambitions of Indian tycoons were rarely held in check as they were “surrounded by sycophants.”
“That makes it very difficult for them to stay in touch with reality,” he added. — AFP