1. Mayawati’s memorials a waste of money?

    As chief minister of India’s most populous state and the country’s most influential dalit leader, Mayawati is used to getting her way. The memorials she has built around Uttar Pradesh are a testament to that. The latest one is the “Rashtriya Dalit Smarak” (literally translated as National Dalit Memorial) in Noida, just across the river from the capital New Delhi. Inaugurated last week, it is certainly an expensive project. Adorning the park are 24 pink sandstone elephants, the electoral symbol of Mayawati’s party, each reportedly costing 7 million rupees and about 12 life-size statues of B.R. Ambedkar (one of the authors of the Indian constitution and a hero among the dalits or “untouchable” caste), Mayawati herself and her mentor Kanshi Ram, each costing about 70 million of the taxpayer’s money, according to news reports. Elsewhere in her state, a deadly mosquito-borne disease, Japanese Encephalitis, has taken the lives of more than 400 people this year, including more than 370 children, television reports say. A CNN-IBN report said only about 18 million rupees was granted to build a new ward for encephalitis patients in Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. This may be comparing apples with oranges but then we would be missing the point completely. Which is how an elected representative should spend the taxpayer’s money? While a lot may have been done for India’s lower castes, including by Mayawati herself, and a lot more needs to be done in terms of health, education and employment, one fails to see how erecting giant statues of oneself and the party symbol helps any cause. That the memorial in Noida ran into environmental hurdles shows that if anything, such endeavours cause more damage than good. Although the chief minister later claimed most of the money came from party funds and not taxpayers, building statues of oneself just seems wrong, for lack of a better word, in a working democracy. Shouldn’t erecting expensive monuments be left to monarchs and dictators? Uttar Pradesh remains one of the poorest states in the country, with high illiteracy and child mortality rates. The state “has struggled with one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in India and polio is still endemic here,” a UNICEF report said. Given this situation, one wonders if 6.8 billion rupees, the reported cost of the latest memorial, could have been put to better use. Even if the state is more industrialised than before and on its way to development, there is still no excuse for building such edifices.

  2. M & A wrap: Bidders emerge for HSBC unit

    European insurers Allianz and AXA are among the potential bidders for HSBC’s sale of its general insurance business, which could fetch more than $1 billion, sources said. Spain’s ruling Socialists abruptly shelved plans to boost public coffers by selling part of the lucrative state lottery, in the face of tough market conditions, political opposition and banks’ funding concerns. Interest in the London Metal Exchange as a takeover target has snowballed and the number of suitors has risen to double digits because business is booming with volumes at record levels, its chief executive Martin Abbott said. “In the age of globalization, with a slowdown in developed economies, emerging markets — once considered the final frontier — are beginning to bear fruit for those patient investors and firms,” reports the NYT in a series of articles. “Companies canceled or postponed $8.9 billion in initial public offerings in the third quarter as stocks plunged, putting the market on pace to set a record for pulled deals,” reports Bloomberg. For your morning distraction, read Oracle’s press release about whether or not Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch “shopped” his company to Oracle.

  3. PRESS DIGEST - New York Times - Oct 13

    * Research in Motion said Wednesday that after three days it was still trying to restore service for BlackBerry customers spanning five continents.* The president of the European Commission said on Wednesday that banks should temporarily increase their capital buffers to better withstand the crisis.* California is the latest state to adopt a statute permitting what is called flexible-purpose corporations, new companies that are part social benefit and part low-profit entities. The companies are now allowed under laws in more than a dozen states and two Indian tribes.* The publisher of The Wall Street Journal Europe, a unit of News Corp resigned Tuesday after an internal investigation revealed an agreement between the paper’s circulation department and a Netherlands-based company that was featured positively in two articles.* Chrysler will add 2,100 jobs in the United States, while paying smaller bonuses to hourly workers than its cross-town competitors, under a tentative labor agreement aimed at helping Chrysler pay off its debt and keep labor costs flat, the United Automobile Workers union said on Wednesday.* PepsiCo Inc is planning to raise prices on some Gatorade sports drinks and Frito-Lay snacks in coming weeks to help offset higher commodity costs.* Sony said Wednesday that it had locked almost 100,000 user accounts on its PlayStation Network and other online services after detecting a spike in unauthorized log-in attempts. It was the latest in a series of online attacks on the company that have threatened to undermine user confidence in its Web-based offerings.

  4. UPDATE 1-Salvage of stricken ship off NZ resumes, owners apologise

    * Ship owners apologise “without hesitation”By Gyles BeckfordWELLINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Oil tanks on a stricken container ship threatening to break in half off the New Zealand coast have survived a pounding by heavy seas, salvage experts said on Thursday as the ship’s owners apologised for the large clumps of oil washed up on beaches.A second ship’s officer appeared in court in connection with the running aground of the Liberian-flagged Rena 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.Large splits have opened up down the middle of the hull of the 236-metre (775-foot) vessel, which has been stuck for eight days on the reef and has lost up to 300 tonnes of heavy, thick, toxic fuel.A salvage team was winched back on board the 47,230-tonne Rena and after an inspection reported the ship’s rear tanks, holding around 1,000 tonnes of fuel, were intact. The ship was carrying 1,700 tonnes of fuel.”The vessel again seems to have settled on the reef which is a good situation, so it’s not getting that working that would be opening those cracks,” salvage advisor Bruce Anderson told reporters.Swells had eased to around one metre from five metres the day before, raising hopes that pumping will resume.”This is not a simple process, there’s been a considerable amount of damage on the vessel and they need to assess that first of all it’s safe to operate and secondly that they can be operated,” Anderson said.Three tugs have been steadying the ship to keep it on the reef and stop the aft section breaking away and possibly sinking in water up to 90 metres deep.The ship’s owners, Greece-based Costamare Shipping Inc, said they were deeply sorry for the grounding and oil spill.”For us, one drop of oil in the water is one drop too much. It is therefore a matter of great regret that a ship associated with us should be the cause of so much anguish,” managing director Diamantis Manos said in a video statement.He said the company was working with authorities to find the cause and liability for the clean up. Property damage would be settled in accordance with international conventions.IN COURTThe ship’s second officer, responsible for navigation at the time the Rena struck the reef, appeared in court on Thursday on a charge of “operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk”.The 37-year-old Philippine national was remanded without plea on bail. The ship’s captain appeared on the same charge and was also bailed on Wednesday. The charge carries a maximum fine of NZ$10,000 ($7,800) or 12 months in prison.More containers had fallen into heaving seas from the ship, which is listing at about 20 degrees. Eighty-eight of the 1,368 containers have been lost and authorities said one was carrying a hazardous substance which can explode on contact with water.Police patrolled to stop any looting of containers, but beaches were covered with deerskins, foam insulation, timber and hamburger meat patties.Tauranga, the country’s biggest export port, said it would suspend operations between 0800 and 1700 GMT to remove debris from inside the harbour and check shipping channels.Maritime NZ closed around 40 km (25 miles) of coast to cope with overwhelming numbers of people wanting to help in the clean-up.Crews numbering about 500 people, including soldiers, have been gathering clumps of oil, some as large as dinner trays. But hundreds of residents, some angry at the time taken to start a clean up, have joined in, ignoring warnings to stay away.”This is our place, these are our beaches, it’s natural we want to save them, never mind bureaucrats,” Jim Kohu told Reuters.More than 50 tonnes of oil have been recovered from long, golden beaches, a magnet for surfers. However, each high tide is washing more on the beaches, which experts have said could continue for weeks.