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‘Brand Hyderabad’ takes a Hit in Indian Unrest | Bangladesh Economy Turns Around after Slowdown | Terror Plans Denied | New Family Car | Promotion Blocked | Supporters Injured | Boat Capsizes | Fatal Cold Wave

Brand Hyderabad’ takes a Hit in Indian Unrest

(Above): A bank security officer stands close to a poster listing the demands of striking finance workers during a protest in Hyderabad. The city, once a symbol of the new emerging India and home to IT giants such as Google and Microsoft, is mired in protests, threatening its future as an investment-friendly hub.

The city of Hyderabad, once a symbol of the new emerging India and home to IT giants such as Google and Microsoft, is mired in protests, threatening its future as an investment-friendly hub.

Andhra Pradesh, of which Hyderabad is the capital, has been rocked for weeks by violent demonstrations for and against the division of the state into two entities.

The national government first backed the idea under pressure from a hunger strike, then appeared to backpedal, and since then almost daily disruptions by protestors have dented the city’s image as a fertile ground for business.

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah told reporters that firms, including metals group Bharat Forge and French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, had relocated projects or deferred planned investment on account of the turmoil.

"The image of Hyderabad as an investment destination and a hub of information technology, pharmaceuticals and other industries has taken a beating because of the unrest," said Rosaiah.

Hyderabad’s star rose during the 1990s and the last decade as India established itself as a global IT hub, offering low-cost services to multinational companies for a fraction of the cost in their domestic markets.

A proposed new state called Telangana would be carved out of Andhra Pradesh’s poor tribal belt, a drought-prone region which supporters say has been neglected by the state government for too long.

Hyderabad is located in what would become Telangana, but neither Telangana supporters nor those in the rump of Andhra Pradesh are willing to give up the capital and its spoils.

The 400-year-old city boasts a mix of tall glass buildings amid its many minarets and historic temples, a sign of the software boom which began when U.S. software giants Oracle and Microsoft first planted themselves on Indian soil.

Hyderabad has since attracted several Fortune 500 and Indian companies, including the disgraced outsourcing giant Satyam, once the city’s pride.


Bangladesh Economy Turns Around after Slowdown

Bangladesh’s economy has made a turn around after the global recession and it is now in a strong position, said Bangladesh central bank chief Atiur Rahman.

Quoting the Bangladesh Bank governor, leading private news agency UNB reported Monday that the country’s economy has fought back well.

Speaking at a program in Bangladesh’s southeastern port city Chittagong, some 242 km away of capital Dhaka, Rahman said the year 2009 was a bad year for the whole world, but the Bangladesh economy did not bog down due to the right steps taken by the government and it has become vibrant gradually.

A couple of months back, he said, the amount of idle money in banks was 100 billion taka and now it has come down to 30 billion taka.

He said the call money rate had gone up from 1 percent to 14 percent.

The central bank boss said local investment in October last year was 15 percent higher than in the month of January 2009.

Foreign direct investment, he said, has increased by 17 million in the first three months of the current fiscal year 2009-2010 (July 2009-June 2010), which was $111 million higher than the last three months of the last fiscal.

Revenue collection has increased by 14 percent in October than that of the previous year, Rahman said, adding that the remittance inflow has marked a rise by 24.4 percent in the first five months of the current fiscal.

He mentioned that the current foreign exchange reserve is now at the record level of $10.34 billion.

The central bank governor said the monetary policy would be announced after consultation with all stakeholders for a pro-growth economy shortly.


Terror Plans Denied

(Right): Detained American Muslims, center, talk to police officer Pakistani police officers as they leave after appear in an anti terrorist court in Sargodha, Pakistan Jan. 4.

Five Americans detained in Pakistan denied Jan. 4 they planned to carry out terrorist attacks, as a court granted police two weeks to prepare terrorism charges against them, their defense lawyer said.

The young Muslim men from the Washington, D.C., area were arrested in early December in the eastern Pakistani city of Sargodha in a case that has spurred fears that Westerners are traveling to Pakistan to join militant groups. Pakistani police have said they plan to seek life sentences for the men under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

The men, aged 19 to 25, denied they had ties with al-Qaida or other militant groups during a court appearance in Sargodha, said their attorney, Ameer Abdullah Rokri.

"They told the court that they did not have any plan to carry out any terrorist act inside or outside Pakistan," said Rokri. "They said that they only intended to travel to Afghanistan to help their Muslim brothers who are in trouble, who are bleeding and who are being victimized by Western forces."

Rokri did not say whether the men planned to fight coalition troops in Afghanistan or simply provide humanitarian assistance. But one of the men indicated they had planned to wage holy war.

"We are not terrorists," Ramy Zamzam told The Associated Press as he entered the courtroom. "We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism."

The Americans arrived amid tight security. About a dozen police cars escorted the prison van inside the court premises as officers manned the rooftops of surrounding buildings. The men wore handcuffs as they walked into the courthouse for their hearing.

The court remanded the men to prison for 14 days to give police time to prepare their case, said Rokri.

The U.S. is also looking at charging the men — Umar Farooq, Waqar Khan, Ahmed Minni, Aman Hassan Yemer and Ramy Zamzam.


New Family Car

(Right): A motorcycle drives past new Maruti cars outside a New Delhi showroom April 30. Maruti Suzuki will create a new segment with the launch of its new family car.

Maruti Suzuki will create a new segment with the launch of its new family car and hopes to maintain sales growth in calendar 2010, managing director and chief executive officer Shinzo Nakanishi said Jan. 5.

The company showcased its new seven-seater family car at the auto show in Delhi earlier in the day.

Nakanishi said despite the pressure of raw material costs, inflation and the rise of the yen against the rupee, the company hopes to maintain its growth in calendar 2010.

"This is not an easy job this year with so many new cars being launched," he said, when asked if Maruti will be able to maintain its 50 percent market share over the next three years.

"We have to make preparations for this," he added.


Promotion Blocked

(Right): Nepalese Army soldiers fire shots during a parade in Kathmandu in September, 2009. Nepal’s highest court has blocked the promotion of a senior army officer implicated in rights abuses against Maoist rebels.

Nepal’s highest court has blocked the promotion of a senior army officer implicated in rights abuses against Maoist rebels during the country’s civil war, an official said Jan. 4.

The government announced last month it was appointing Toran Jung Bahadur Singh to the rank of lieutenant general, the second-highest post in the army, despite strong opposition from rights groups and the opposition Maoist party.

But the Supreme Court Jan. 3 ordered Singh’s promotion to be halted after a group of Maoist supporters filed a writ saying the move went against the spirit of the 2006 peace agreement ending the decade-long conflict.

"The court . . . ordered the government not to implement its decision," court official Hemanta Rawal told AFP.

"The court has asked the government to be present at the court on January 10 for the hearing of the case."

Singh was in charge of a military camp where 49 Maoists disappeared in 2003 and 2004, during the civil war.

In 2006, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal released a report accusing his battalion of arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance of the former rebels.

Although Singh was not directly involved in the disappearances, the OHCHR held him accountable as he was in charge of the camp. The army has made no comment on the accusations.

At least 16,000 people died in Nepal’s decade-long bloody civil war between Maoist rebels and the state, which ended in 2006.

There are allegations of killings and torture on both sides, and rights groups say little has been done to bring justice to victims and their families.


Supporters Injured

At least eight political activists were injured while a police vehicle suffered damages in election violence Jan, 4 in Sri Lanka, police said.

They said that five people were injured in the Colombo suburb of Kiribathgoda in the morning when opposition party activists went house-to-house campaigning in Kiribathgoda.

"We were set upon by a group of government supporters," Varuna Deeptha Rajapakse, an opposition activist, said.

Police said they used tear gas to quell violence when the opposition group hit back at government supporters.

In the central district town of Nawalapitiya another clash occurred between government and opposition groups with three people being hospitalized.

In this case, the government supporters accused opposition groups of storming into an electoral office.

Election monitoring groups said incidents of violence are on the increase leading to the Jan. 26 presidential poll.


Boat Capsizes

At least 19 people are feared drowned after a boat capsized in a river in West Bengal.

Police said that the boat carrying 29 people sank in the Rupnarayan river near the town of Kolaghat Jan. 4.

The passengers were said to be picnickers who hired two fishing boats for a ride on the river.

At least 10 of the picnickers were rescued after local residents reached them in motorized and traditional fishing boats.

Boats in India are often overloaded, which frequently leads to such incidents.

Divers and rescue workers have failed to recover any bodies since the incident.

"We expect all those who fell off the boat to be dead but despite our best efforts since last evening, we have failed to recover anybody from the fast-flowing river," diver Falguni Mondal said.

One of the boats, which could only hold 12 people, capsized when it was caught in a whirlpool on the river, officials say.

Local politician Asit Das blamed the authorities for "inadequate safety measures" at Kolaghat which has become a popular picnic site during the winter months.

"Rupnarayan is a dangerous river, known for very high tides. We cannot allow picnickers pile onto boats unless they are safe enough," he said.


Fatal Cold Wave

Dozens of people have died in a cold wave sweeping through northern India, the country’s state broadcaster Doordarshan says.

The majority of deaths have happened in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to media reports.

Most deaths so far have taken place among the homeless and elderly, and local authorities have been asked to arrange shelter for the vulnerable.

Scores die in India every year, being ill-equipped to deal with extreme cold.

Estimates of the number of dead vary from 25 to 100 but these figures cannot be confirmed at present.

Fog in central Punjab region in neighboring Pakistan has also shut down highways and affected railway and flight schedules.

A number of people have been injured in some minor accidents due to fog Jan. 4 morning.

Heavy fog and a cold wave have disrupted life across northern India with temperatures dropping to zero degree Celsius in several places, including the city of Amritsar in Punjab.

Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are among the northern states which have been hit by intensely cold weather.

In Uttar Pradesh, scores of homeless people have died after being exposed to the intense cold.

The victims were mostly poor people who were sleeping on the streets or out in the open.

There are few homeless shelters in Indian cities and towns and although the authorities have distributed blankets and firewood, their efforts have been inadequate in the face of the extreme cold.



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