बीत गया जो साल, भुल जाएँ ,
इस नए साल को गले लगायें ,
करते है दुआ हम रब से सर झुकाके ...
इस साल के सारे सपने पुरे हो आपके.
In this sprawling metropolis, there are jungles...natural jungles with trees and the other, which is more predominant, the urban jungle. Masses of houses, clustered against one another with no breathing space, tangles of wires, and the new ‘species’ who’s poached the rooftops, dish antennas. Yet there is order amidst this chaos, not noticeable to the ordinary eye. Life in this jungle goes on smoothly and for the residents in the urban jungle, these elements are not eye sores, rather necessities of life. Beauty is secondary, functionality is paramount. This is a view from outside the Metro Station in Chawri Bazar, near Chandni Chowk area in the old part of Delhi. Masses of small shops, thousands of people, all in a hurry, hand carts, rickshaws, vans, two wheelers & cars vie for the little road space that exisits. Yet, this is a bustling market, with millions of Rupees worth business being transacted every day. Looking up I froze...those tangles of wires....If there is a fire,....only GOD can help!
India's performance at the Beijing Olympics should inspire all those connected with Indian sport. Shooter Abhinav Bindra, boxer Vijender Singh and wrester Sushil Kumar exemplified what self-belief can do to sport in India. They all and a few other boxers and shuttler Saina Nehwal, who even if they have not been able to win medals, made the country proud.Bindra's shooting gold and the bronze each that Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar claimed triggered celebrations across the country. If a poised Bindra became India's new youth icon, then Vijender and Sushil gave hope to millions like them who nurture the dream of making it big.Young Saina reached the quarter-final in her debut Olympics, the first Indian woman to do so. Boxers Akhil Kumar and Jitender might have missed a medal by a whisker but their gutsy performance gave the sport a big boost to bloom in rural India. Most of the Olympic boxers hail from the nondescript Haryana town of Bhiwani.The Beijing Olympics will also be remembered for some of the stars failing to live up to promise. The 2004 Athens Olympic silver medallist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, could not qualify for the finals of the men's double trap event. For tennis star Sania Mirza, it was a forgettable year. Her debut Olympics ended in heartbreak. Dogged by a chronic wrist injury, she dropped out of top-100 rankings after beginning the year among the top 30 on the WTA Tour. Much was expected of veterans Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi who kept aside their differences to play for the country for one last time. But they could not move beyond quarter-final as a resolute Roger Federer and Stanislas Warwinka stopped them.
The failures apart, Beijing Olympics was a watershed year for the Indian sports as it saw many disciplines coming out of the shadow of cricket and finding a place in the sun. And this despite the fact that the hockey team could not qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years and the lone women weightlifter from India, Monika Devi, failed the dope test.
The national sport hockey touched its nadir this year. When the nation was still reeling from the hockey team's Olympic failure, a sting operation exposed corruption in the selection procedure. As a result, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) led by K.P.S. Gill was superseded and was replaced by an ad-hoc committee.
And just when things seemed to be looking up, Ric Charlesworth, the technical director appointed by the International Hockey Federation to assist Indian hockey, quit saying he could not function in the bureaucratic jungle where planning as well as execution was tardy.
The Indian colts though gave us reason to cheer, winning the junior Asia Cup hockey and beating Argentina in their backyard in a Test series.
The year turned out to be a landmark year for golf and badminton.
Veteran Jeev Milkha Singh once again showed that he could hold his own in world golf by winning four titles and achieving the career-best ranking of 36.
It all began with Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia creating history by winning the first ever European Tour event in India, the $2.5 million Indian Masters at the Delhi Golf Club in February.
Jeev ended his 18-month drought with the Bank Austria title and then went on to triumph at the Singapore Open. He also won two tournaments on the Japan Tour. He registered his best performance in Majors after he tied ninth at the PGA Championships, the best by an Indian.
His win in Singapore took him to the top of the Asian Order of Merit. Jeev finished top-10 at the PGA Championships and registered three wins on three different Tours this season.
Young badminton star Saina challenged the Chinese and Indonesian domination in badminton. Carrying on her stellar performance in Olympics, Saina won the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix and followed it with top performances in other tournaments, which saw her break into the top-10 this month to become the second Indian woman after Ami M. Ghia to achieve the feat. She went on to make the semi-finals in the season-ending World Super Series Masters final.
Chetan Anand cracked into the top-15 in the men's rankings with four title wins, including Bitburger Open and Czech International Open.
Tennis, too, fared decently. India entered the play-offs of the Davis Cup World Group for the first time in three years and a young talent in Somdev Devvarman came to the fore. Devvarman first created history by winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for the second successive year and then with consistent play took rapid strides in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings to dislodge Prakash Amritraj as the top-ranked Indian.
But tennis had its share of controversies, too, when Davis Cup players led by Mahesh Bhupathi revolted against Leander Paes' captaincy, forcing him to step down ahead of the World Group play-off tie against Romania that India lost 3-1.
Indian football was also on a high as the country qualified for the 2011 Asia Cup for the first time in 24 years after winning the AFC Challenge Cup.
It was a sensational year for cueist Pankaj Advani, who in April became the only person to win the Asian Billiards Championship twice. He then went on to become the first Indian to win the Australian Open Billiards Championship in Melbourne before winning the coveted IBSF World Billiards Championship in Bangalore in September.
Chess, too, prided itself in the eventful calendar year when Viswanathan Anand beat Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn to become the World Champion. The Indian Grandmaster thus became the first player to win the official world title in three different formats - knockout, round-robin and matchplay.
Gagan Narang put behind the Olympic disappointment with a gold medal in the 10m air rifle event at the World Cup in November. Ronjan Sodhi won the gold in the double trap event at the World Cup in Belgrade, equaling two world records.
The petite woman boxer MC Mary Kom won her fourth consecutive World Championship title in November and Akhil, Jitender Dinesh Kumar and Anthresh Lakra continued to make the country proud, with all four bagging a bronze each in World Cup boxing last week.
If the performance this year is anything to go by, then it certainly gives a fillip to India's hopes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Though violent separatist insurgencies continued to rock most northeastern states in 2008, the region also saw mobilization of investments, the launch of the ambitious Vision 2020 and new governments in four states. After a three-year deliberation, the Vision 2020 document was released in July by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. The three-volume document promises to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in the region through a multi-pronged strategy that includes spurring private investment and industrial development, empowerment of the people by maximizing self governance, rural development, increasing agricultural productivity and augmenting infrastructure in the region.Pitching strongly for making the northeast region an economic hub, Minister for Development of the Northeastern Region Mani Shankar Aiyar said the region requires billions of dollars in investments and stressed that the development of the region will push India's growth rate to double-digit figure. With a high degree of investment interest in the industry-starved region by the corporate world, the fourth northeast business summit saw 247 expressions of interest (EOI) from 64 companies, including some foreign business houses.
Agro and food processing sector received 65 EOIs. This was followed by tourism with 50 EOIs and infrastructure sector with 70. This was besides interests shown in the IT and manufacturing sectors.
Diplomats, investors and delegates from 12 countries took part in the two-day Northeast Business Summit, held in September.
The four northeastern states -- Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram -- set up new governments with Meghalaya and Mizoram witnessing change of regimes.
In Meghalaya, after a fractured mandate, Congress leader D.D. Lapang was sworn in as chief minister March 10. But he could not prove his majority in the assembly and the Congress-led government resigned after nine days, paving the way for the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) of Donkupar Roy to form the government March 19.
In Nagaland, a 12-member ministry headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio assumed office in March as the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) came to power for the second consecutive term after defeating the Congress.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front stormed back to power in Tripura for the sixth time - including four times in a row. CPI-M politburo member Manik Sarkar was again sworn in as chief minister.
After successive setbacks in the three northeastern states, the Congress won the November polls in Mizoram after a gap of 10 years.
Voting out the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), the Congress won 32 seats in the 40-member house. Lalthanhawla, who shaped the Congress base in the state, became chief minister for the fourth time on Dec 11.
"The security situation in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland -- which together account for over 90 percent of incidents of militant violence in the region so far this year -- has become a cause of concern...," a report of the union home ministry said.
Manipur and Tripura witnessed this year's worst terrorist violence in the two states when a series of bomb explosions took place on Oct 1 and Oct 21 respectively.
In Tripura, over 100 people were injured with the capital Agartala rocked by a wave of bombings.
Eighteen people were killed and 44 more wounded in a powerful bomb blast in Manipur capital Imphal.
Amid rising tension arising out of rampant factional hostility among rival underground groups, specially two factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), overwhelming peace and reconciliation campaigns by social groups and churches dominated Nagaland's socio-political scenario during 2008.
Notwithstanding hope for peace nurtured by the people, the war of attrition between the NSCN factions refused to die down.
The outgoing year was very low key in Arunachal Pradesh except for the agitation launched by government employees over implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation, resurfacing of the boundary problem with Assam besides China's claim over Arunachal territory.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his maiden visit to Arunachal Pradesh in January announced a mega Rs.200 billion (approx $4 billion) development package. The prime minister during his visit announced the launching of several schemes, including rail, road and air connectivity, development of infrastructure, education and healthcare facilities besides the Rs.55 billion, 1.840 km Trans-Arunachal Highway project connecting Tawang to Mahadevpur.
The year 2008 can be called a year of extremes: it saw huge trauma, beginning in the shadow of the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto just days earlier and ending with a global market crisis that has brought despair to millions across the world. Yet the worst is still to come.
The final months of the year were marred by attacks, with hundreds dead in India's bustling commercial metropolis Mumbai, chaos in Thailand, pirates in the Gulf of Aden and continuing violence in the world's top conflict regions, Iraq and Afghanistan.The Middle East is still far from a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians, or indeed between Palestinians and Palestinians. Russia and Georgia erupted into a war just as the world was watching the glittery opening of the skillfully staged Olympics in China.
In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is again prime minister.
In Zimbabwe, expectations for better government were withering even faster than President Robert Mugabe's regime could print ever higher dollar bills to stem inflation.
The risks of global warming are worse than ever as concerns about the world climate were drowned out by concerns about the world economy.
The death toll in the five-year war in Congo has passed the five-million mark and continues to be largely neglected by the international community.
Yet in the midst of all the bad news of 2008, there was also reason for hope, and indeed some genuinely good news.
Worry over the world's tumbling markets brought leaders across the world racing to one table at previously unheard of speed to search for ways out of the crisis.
The European Union, usually a prime example of snail-speed diplomacy, managed to broker at least a ceasefire in Georgia and a return to - although still difficult - diplomacy between Russia and its Western neighbors.
After years of half-hearted pursuit, former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic is finally being brought to trial over war crimes.
Serious progress has been made in research on illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, which have seen millions dead especially in Africa.
Even the fiercest critics agree that Iraq has seen some genuine security improvements and is now inching towards a reduction in US troops.
Coming up to Christmas, the year ended with the appearance of what many cast as a political messiah: Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the US.
The world - desperate for a change after eight years of George W. Bush calamities - celebrated the news not just in the US, but also in Africa, European capitals and in the Arab world.
The incoming US president is inheriting a global financial crisis, two wars and a whole series of international relations in tatters.
As heavy as Obama's new presidential burden is, problems like the global market crisis have brought the focus of the world's leading players back to the need for pragmatic talk, listening and the need for multilateral conflict resolution.
There may not be stardom for anybody, but there is certainly hope in that.
Change, they say, is the only constant in life. The saying may not have been true for India's Rs.226 billion/ Rs. 22,600 Crores television industry for the past seven years but it certainly seemed apt for 2008.A nearly month-long workers' strike, the end of long-running serials from TV tycoon Ekta Kapoor like "Kasauti Zindagi Kay", "Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii" and "Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi", the success of new channels...the TV industry had a lot of surprises and shocks during the year. And all these marked a departure from set norms.The strike by the apex body of cine workers, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), was for a hike in wages. They failed to reach a settlement with the producers' association and viewers had to bear the brunt by watching re-runs of shows.
According to Keertan Adyanthaya, general manager and executive vice president of STAR Plus, the strike had a significant impact on the industry. Thanks to the strike, producers are today looking beyond Mumbai to produce their shows as they realize the futility of putting all their eggs in one basket. The broadcasters have come together for the first time and have taken a united stand against an arbitrary increase in costs," Adyanthaya told IANS.
"The strike was of no benefit whatsoever and everybody ended up losing - the federation lost wages for three weeks, producers had to incur costs on standing sets and broadcasters lost advertising revenue because of repeat telecasts of programmes," he added.
Prior to the strike, the industry witnessed a flutter when Ekta's long running saas-bahu sagas ended.
New entertainment channels like NDTV Imagine, 9x and Colors brought in a breath of fresh air for viewers by offering more variety and meaning in their content and older channels - STAR Plus, Sony and Zee TV - tried to regain their popularity by revamping their programming content.
Said Tarun Mehra, business head of Zee TV: "It has been a great year. Numerous channels were launched, the viewers were spoilt for choice and every existing channel worth its salt kept churning out content that was palatable for its viewers."
New shows like "Balika Vadhu", based on the evils of child marriage, brought about a change in subject and also introduced a child actor as a protagonist in mainstream television shows.
Also, "Saat Phere", "Kasammh Se" and "Teen Bahuraaniyan" of Zee lost out to new concepts like "Mohe Rang De", "Radhaa Ki Betiyaan Kuch Kar Dikhayengi", "Jasuben Jayantilal Ki Joint Family" and "Uttaran" being telecast on new channels.
Most of these shows have drifted away from the typical saas-bahu sagas that the older channels have sworn by. Even the established channels were forced to end their top shows to introduce fresh concepts with shows like "Sapna Baabul Ka...Bidaai", "Santaan" and "Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat".
"In terms of quality, each channel is trying to raise its standard of programming. Also, all of them want their good share of the viewership pie and so they are trying to adjust their programming strategy accordingly," Ashwini Yardi, senior vice president and content head of Colors, told IANS.
SAB TV also tried to strengthen its position with new comedy shows like "Lo Ho Gayi Pooja Iss Ghar Kii", "Main Kab Saas Banoongi", "Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah" and "Jugni Chali Jalandhar".
This year, the TV industry also witnessed an overdose of reality shows with nearly all channels hosting at least one. Most shows like "Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena" on Colors and "Zara Nachke Dikha" on STAR One tried to make their presence felt by spicing up their content.
"Every channel tried different formats of reality shows. We tried showing stunts through 'Fear Factor', then 'Bigg Boss' and even 'Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena' was different in the sense that we brought in cricketers. Even though there is an overdose of it, reality shows are here to stay," said Yardi.
Another significant alteration in primetime television was the return of mythological epics - "Mahabharata" and "Ramayan". They made a comeback on screen in a digitally enhanced avatar with Ekta Kapoor's "Kahaani Humaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki" and Sagar Arts' "Ramayan". There were also additions like "Jai Shri Krishna" and "Sai Baba".
Bollywood also marked its presence on the small screen by stars hosting quizes and talk shows. While superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan hosted "Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain" and "Dus Ka Dum" respectively, others like Shilpa Shetty and Akshay Kumar hosted "Bigg Boss" and "Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi" respectively.
Even veteran actors Jeetendra and Hema Malini have joined the bandwagon by becoming judges on the newly launched show "Dancing Queen". A string of others like Hrithik Roshan, Sushmita Sen, Karisma Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Sonali Bendre, Arjun Rampal and Farhan Akhtar also plunged into the medium.
Apart from the new shows that were launched in 2008, the year witnessed the launch of a bouquet of channels offered by production house UTV Global Broadcasting Limited (UGBL). The company began youth channels Bindass and Bindass Movies, international movie channel World Movies, mainstream Hindi movie channel UTV Movies and two news channels UTV News and UTVi.
In the entertainment category, the year also saw the launch of various regional channels, including two by Rupert Murdoch's STAR. It launched STAR Jalsha and STAR Pravah to cater to the Bengali and Marathi viewers respectively.
This apart, STAR has joined hands with parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrasekhar's company Jupiter Entertainment Ventures for a joint venture - STAR Jupiter Entertainment Television targeting south India.
INX Network launched NewsX in March and announced plans for nearly nine regional channels.
Youth channels like Bindass, MTV and Channel V also saw an upsurge in viewership thanks to adventure reality shows like "MTV Roadies", "MTV Splitsville", "Cash Cab" and "Dadagiri".
In November, "reality TV" assumed a different meaning when the terror attacks struck Mumbai.
The 60-hour bloodbath that claimed over 170 lives provided for continuous feed of grim, sensational images, survival stories and political discussions across not just national but also international news channels. People remained glued to their TV sets, leading to a spurt in viewership of Hindi news channels during that time.
All in all - 2008 proved to be an eventful year of change for the TV industry.
The over $2 billion Indian film industry finally managed to lure Hollywood biggies like Warner Bros and Walt Disney to invest in it in 2008. What's more, some homegrown production majors also managed to penetrate Western projects.Among notable deals were Yash Raj Films collaborating with Walt Disney, Ramesh Sippy with Warner Bros for the next Akshay Kumar-starrer and Reliance BIG Entertainment with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG to produce 36 films. "People across the world are looking forward to Indian films. They are keen to watch Indian cinema. Our films are appreciated by both critics and audiences worldwide and for that good collaborations with good content will definitely work wonders in the future," Girish Johar, associate vice-president of UTV Motion Pictures, In 2007, Sony Pictures Entertainment-owned Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures was the first Hollywood studio to collaborate with an Indian production house. They co-produced "Saawariya" with Sanjay Leela Bhansali Films. Based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's "White Nights", "Saawariya", which introduced Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, was a box office disaster, but it did not dissuade other Hollywood production majors from investing in the Indian film market.
Following Sony, Hollywood studio Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures tied up with Raghav Bahl's TV 18 group and created a movie investment fund in early 2008.
Joining the league was Walt Disney Co. that invested in the Rs.13 billion ($324 million) Indian animation segment by inking a joint venture with Yash Raj Films (YRF).
Their first co-production "Roadside Romeo" tanked at the box office, but Hollywood production house will still come out with at least one animated film every year with voice-overs from Bollywood actors.
Another mega Hollywood giant to enter the Hindi film industry was Warner Bros. It ventured as distributors with the dud "Saas, Bahu Aur Sensex" and is now co-producing Akshay Kumar-starrer "Chandni Chowk to China" (2009) with Ramesh and Rohan Sippy.
Warner Bros also signed a three-movie deal with People Tree Films and a one film tie-up with Tandav Films, which produced "Khosla Ka Ghosla". The production house has also brought in internationally acclaimed Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur to direct a $200-million Hollywood fantasy-epic "Larklight".
While the Hollywood studios' production ventures bombed at the Indian box office, India's UTV Motion Pictures, which collaborated with 20th Century Fox to co-produce M. Knight Shyamalan's "The Happening", raked in $31.5 million at the US box office in the opening weekend.
"We did 'The Namesake' with Fox Searchlight (2006) and then 'The Happening' with 20th Century and both have been hits. We are very positive so far as collaborations are concerned - both business and economics wise," said Girish Johar of UTV.
UTV also entered into an exclusive pact with Disney for the sale and distribution of all their movies in India from January 2009.
Reliance BIG Entertainment didn't lag behind in laying its hands on entertainment infrastructure abroad - it signed $1.2 billion deal with ace filmmaker Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG to produce 36 films for the next six years.
Reliance also acquired over 200 theatres across 28 locations in North America to screen Bollywood and other regional content from India and other Asian countries.
Filmmaker Vipul Shah, who churned out blockbuster "Singh is Kinng", was signed on by Fox Star for a multiple film deal. Shah called the deal "the future of Indian cinema".
"This is the future for Indian cinema - we have to partner with the best technical and creative talent from around the world, while keeping the Indian soul in our films intact," Shah said.
The year also saw the India-Britain film co-production treaty coming into force. The treaty will allow Indian filmmakers to collaborate with a British producer and have access to a range of benefits, including tax breaks, sources of funding and practical support there.
Percept Picture Company, another Indian production house, is set to co-finance "Racing The Monsoon", a sequel to Michael Douglas' 1984 starrer "Romancing The Stone".
Vidhu Vinod Chopra too is set to direct Hollywood project "Broken Horses".
On the other hand, Jennifer Lynch is the first Hollywood director to wield the megaphone for a Bollywood project. She is shooting a Hindi film titled "The Hiss" with Mallika Sherawat in the main lead.
Down south, Tamil superstar Kamal Haasan was also roped in to star in two Disney productions - "Marmayogi" and "19 Steps". Earlier this year, the production house had bought the Home Video rights of Aamir Khan's directorial debut "Taare Zameen Par" for release in the US.
However, the industry did experience tremors, thanks to the global meltdown, the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and the losses in huge flops like "Love Story 2050", "Drona" and "Yuvvraaj".
"Entertainment and media segments will not be able to sustain the growth rate that we've projected because of the unprecedented global downturn," said Smita Jha, associate director (Entertainment and Media Practice) at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).
"In terms of filmed entertainment, the attacks are unlikely to have a permanent impact on the market though the after-effects of the meltdown and the attacks will impact consumer spending temporarily."
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)-PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2008 report projected the Indian Filmed Entertainment to grow by about 13 percent cumulatively over the next five years and reach around Rs.176 billion by 2012.
But Jha also said the collaboration scenario would not be the same in 2009.
"So far as Hollywood collaborations are concerned, the overseas partners are bringing a studio model kind of outlook in the country with their strategic partnerships, which was earlier not present here. However, the number of projects and the budget is likely to be lower in 2009 than declared earlier," Jha said.
Indian politics can be said to have taken a giant step forward in 2008 by showing the politicians that their familiar exploitation of caste, religion and region will no longer yield dividends. It wasn't only that the high death toll in the terror attack on Mumbai was a devastating experience for the Indian public. The trauma caused by the sight of the carnage and the manner in which the city was held hostage by the killers was enhanced by a feeling of helplessness. Yet, nothing showed the maturity of the people more than the fact that in the midst of the unfolding of the horrendous events, elections to the Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir assemblies were held with high turnouts. Particularly gratifying was the rejection by the Kashmiri voters of the separatists' call for a poll boycott. The elections could have taken place on such a scale during a grievous tragedy only in India, where an inborn resilience explains this phenomenon of the routine business of democracy in the midst of an insensate criminal act.
Even more astonishing was that the massacre had virtually no impact on the electoral outcome. The terrorist plot of derailing Indian democracy and economy was negated right at the start. The electorate also turned a blind eye to all the cynical posturing of the politicians and voted according to its own assessment of a government's performance.
As a result, leaders who had focused on development had little difficulty in sailing through irrespective of the party to which they belonged. Thus, Delhi's Sheila Dikshit of the Congress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh won easily because they had eschewed divisive politics and laid emphasis on welfare and infrastructure.
If this message sinks in and the voters continue to reject the scare-mongers and false prophets, then the year will be remembered for initiating a sea change in the much-abused system.
The BJP's run of successes with its electoral victories in Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka seemed to have ended in December with its defeats in Delhi and Rajasthan. But its main worry will be the loss of its terror card, which it routinely used to pillory the Congress for being allegedly soft on terror because of its policy of "minority appeasement", the BJP's favorite phrase.
In view of the earlier devaluation of the Ram temple card, the BJP now has no emotive plank for its campaigns. Its prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, will have reasons to worry, therefore, as to whether his life's ambition can be fulfilled. Undoubtedly, this setback for its main rival gives the Congress a chance to retrieve some of the lost ground. It can look forward with more confidence to next year's general election.
In hindsight, the clinching of the India-US nuclear deal was the first major achievement of the Manmohan Singh government. The deal led to the communists withdrawing support from the government. But the subsequent global financial crisis prevented the government from pursuing economic reforms with greater vigor.
The government's survival during the vote of confidence on the deal in parliament stunned the BJP and was the first sign for it that the political wind might have turned against it.
It also poured cold water on Mayawati's ambition to become prime minister with the Left's, and perhaps also the BJP's, support. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader had been projecting herself for the top job since her rainbow coalition of Dalits and Brahmins swept to power in Uttar Pradesh.
The fallout of her success was that her main adversary in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party, mended its fences with the Congress, enabling the latter to survive the floor test in parliament. But the Congress' tie-up with the Samajwadi Party caused a rupture between the latter and the Left, persuading the comrades to court the mercurial Mayawati. Since then, the comrades have reached an understanding with another whimsical politician, former chief minister Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu.
But the communists' main concern during the year related to their problems in West Bengal. While the frequently violent agitations conducted by Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee led to the scuttling of a proposed chemical complex in Nandigram, it was the departure of the Tatas from Singur - where they intended to set up their small cars factory - which dealt a body blow to the Left Front government of Buddhadev Bhattacharjee.
Given its problems, the chances are that the Left will have a smaller presence in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, after the general election. The BJP, too, will be worried about its prospects because, apart from anything else, its reputation has taken a hit from the arson attacks on churches by saffron mobs in Orissa, which has strained its ties with its ally, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), in the state. The sectarianism of a breakaway group of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which targeted north Indians, can also affect the cohesion of the saffron brotherhood of Hindu nationalist parties in the state.
For the Congress, the year is ending on a slightly more hopeful note compared to the period when suicides by distressed farmers, for whom the government sanctioned a Rs.60,000-crore loan waiver, and runaway inflation had given it much cause for concern.
No other year in recent times saw such wild mood swings in the Indian economy than 2008, which started on a strong note but ended on a weak wicket in the wake of a general global slowdown and severe recession in some of the richest countries like the US and Japan. From economic expansion to performance of equity markets, and from export growth to industrial production, all indicators had the same story to tell: The year had started with a strong economic performance, but the momentum was lost as the months passed, as India faced the ripple effects of the gloom in the global economy. The indicator that captured the trend best was the 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), often seen as a barometer not only for investor mood but also the overall performance of the Indian economy and its corporate sector. On Jan 10 this year, the Sensex was ruling at an all-time intra-day high of 21,206.77 points. But as the year is drawing to a close, it is languishing at around the 9,000-point mark - a fall of over 50 percent in the year. Last year, the index had gained nearly 50 percent.
The Sensex apart, exports fell in October for the first time in seven years. Indirect tax mop up was down eight percent in October. Industrial production, which was among the main drivers of the economy, fell 0.4 percent. The rupee fell below 50 to a dollar in November to an all-time low. And, as per the government's own admission, some 65,000 jobs were lost between August and October.
The high cost of crude oil, which jumped from under $40 per barrel a year ago to nearly $150 per barrel in August, added to the country's woes in terms of higher import bill and accentuated the losses of state-run fuel retailers, which had to bear the burden of having to sell hydrocarbon products below cost.
As a result, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which at the beginning of the year said the Indian economy would continue to grow at over nine percent this fiscal, had to tone down its target sharply, hoping to achieve an overall increase of 7-7.5 percent in gross domestic product (GDP).
"Two key sectors, agriculture and industry, were unable to maintain the pace due to the global economic slowdown. This will have a serious effect on our overall growth," said Dalip Kumar, head of projects at the National Council of Applied Economics Research, an economic think-tank.
The only notable saving grace was on the price front, where the annual rate of inflation fell from a 16-year high of 12.63 percent for the week ended Aug 9 to 6.84 percent for the week ended Dec 6 - but not without taking a toll on industrial growth on account of the tight monetary policy of the central bank during the months before.
"Inflation is not a concern any more. If the Indian government does not think in terms of long- term measures to contain the slowdown, the medium-term growth projection of 8-9 percent will be difficult to achieve," said Biswa N. Bhattacharyay, Tokyo-based special adviser with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
As India Inc. cried hoarse, saying the credit squeeze due to the policies of the central bank was affecting its day-to-day business, policymakers appeared to be in a denial mode initially, with the prime minister maintaining that India remained largely insulated from the goings-on in the world economy.
But that was not the case. As official data on a host of areas started confirming the worst worries articulated by India Inc., Manmohan Singh had to himself intervene and unveil a Rs.30,000-crore (Rs.300-billion/$6-billion) package in December to bail out the corporate sector.
There is a fear now that the major pump priming of the economy by the government, the large-scale spending on infrastructure and the relaxation of the monetary policy by the central bank to open the purse strings for the corporate sector may threaten the country's fiscal deficit, which was kept at a moderate level during the past five-six fiscals.
The year, nevertheless, did not pass without some high points.
India Inc. came under the global media glare when the Tata group, the country's largest industrial house with annual turnover of $62.5 billion, showcased its little car 'Nano' in January, that would cost all of $2,500 at factory gates. Time magazine named it the most important car of the century since Ford's revolutionary Model T.
It was a different matter that the industrial house had to shift the production site for the small car from Communist-ruled West Bengal to Gujarat following violent protests by a section of farmers that claimed their land was acquired forcibly without adequate compensation.
The same Tata group announced a few months later the acquisition of two iconic British automobile brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, from Ford Motor Co for $2.3 billion in what was yet another high-notch buyout by a globally ambitious Indian group.
The international investor community also continued to bet on the Indian market. Norway-based Telenor, the world's seventh largest telecom operator, bought a new-generation telecom company Unitech Wireless by paying $1.29 billion for a 60 percent stake.
Similarly, another start-up, Swan Telecom, which did not have a single subscriber, sold a 45-percent stake to the UAE's Etisalat for $900 million, taking the company's book value to $2 billion.
In fact, the inflow of foreign direct investment between April and September amounted to $17.21 billion, representing a growth of 137 percent over $7.25 billion in the like period last fiscal. The services sector attracted the maximum foreign investment, followed by construction, including roads and highways, housing and real estate, and computer hardware and software.
The year also saw a record number of seven Indian firms make it to the list of Fortune 500 companies - two from the private sector, namely, Reliance Industries and Tata Steel, and the rest from the public sector.
This apart, the Indian telecom industry also witnessed unprecedented growth and started adding 8-10 million new mobile phone users each month to make the country's subscriber base of more than 300 million, the largest after China's, displacing the US. The stage is now set for the launch of 3G, or third generation services.
Looking ahead, economists and industry experts alike predict some tough times for the Indian economy, at least during the next two-three quarters. But they also maintain that India stands on a much better wicket compared with many other countries to weather the storm, particularly because of the strong push from some key drivers of growth, like savings and investment.
As Reserve Bank of India Governor D. Subbarao remarked recently: "A period of painful adjustment is inevitable. But once the crisis is behind us and calm and confidence are restored in the global markets, economic activity in India will recover sharply."
Key Business and Economic Milestones for India in 2008
Following are some key economic, business and financial milestones in India during 2008:
Jan 10: Tata Motors unveil Nano, the jelly-bean shaped small car touted as the world's cheapest, costing all of $2,500 at factory gates.
Jan 10: Sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchanges touches all-time, intra-day high of 21,206.77 points.
Jan 16: Supreme Court paves way for Reliance Power's initial public offering.
Jan 21: Investors lose $170 billion as Sensex crashes over 2,000 points to register steepest ever intra-day fall.
Feb 20: Report says Indian companies have invested $10 billion in US, creating 30,000 jobs.
Feb 20: Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications acquires Ugandan telecom firm.
Feb 23: PepsiCo's Indian-born chief executive Indra Nooyi among Forbes' list of 10 best women CEOs.
Feb 26: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad announces across-the-board cut in fares and projects record profits in his first fifth rail budget.
Feb 29: Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presents national budget with most ambitious loan-waiver scheme amounting to Rs.600 billion (Rs.60,000 crore) to benefit 40 million farmers.
March 2: Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile enters Indian telecom market.
March 11: A fresh graduate of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad offered record pay packet of Rs.14.4 million.
March 31: India's external debt rises to $201 billion.
April 1: International Monetary Fund warns of spiraling inflation and cooling of Indian economy.
April 11: Official data says India has second largest telecom subscriber base of over 300 million, ahead of the US and behind China.
April 29: India imposes export tax, bans overseas sales of some commodities like steel and cement to calm prices.
May 6: Bharti Airtel and South Africa's mobile phone giant enter consolidation talks.
May 11: Ratan Tata named by Time magazine among 73 biggest brains in business for conceiving small car Nano.
May 24: Bharti Airtel and MTN call off consolidation talks.
May 26: Reliance Communications and MTN say they have started talks for possible consolidation.
May 30: India's economic growth rate for 2007-08 revised upward to nine percent against provisional estimate of 8.9 percent.
June 2: Tata Motors formally takes over two iconic British automobile brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motors.
June 4: As crude prices spiral, India allows Rs.5 a liter increase in prices of petrol and Rs.3 on diesel.
June 11: Japan's Daiichi Sankyo says it is buying majority stake in India's largest pharmaceuticals company Ranbaxy for $4.6 billion.
June 20: India's annual rate of inflation scales the double digit level and touches 11.05 percent.
June: Heightened protests by farmers against Tatas' Nano project at Singur in West Bengal who claim their land was forcibly acquired.
July 11: International crude prices touch all-time high of $147.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
July 12: Vodafone and Airtel say they will launch Apple's 3G iPhone in India.
July 13: Anil Ambani's wife Tina Ambani and L.N. Mittal's spouse Usha Mittal named by Forbes among top 10 billionaires' wives.
July 16: Hindustan Computers Ltd acquires British outsourcing firm for undisclosed amount.
July 17: Survey says revenues of top 20 Indian IT firms fell 24 percent in 2007-08 due to global slowdown.
July 18: Air India announces 15 percent cut in airfares to Gulf.
July 19: Reliance Communications stops consolidation talks with MTN.
July 29: India's central bank tightens monetary policy to tame inflation by hiking key lending rate and cash reserve ratio.
Aug 12: India's industrial growth halves to 5.2 percent in first quarter of current fiscal.
Aug 18: India's telecom regulator permits computer-to-computer voice calls.
Aug 21: India's annual rate of inflation spirals to 16-year high of 12.63 percent.
Aug 26: Overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp says it is acquiring British firm for $1.4 billion.
Aug 29: Government approves new Companies Bill, 2008, to fine-tune legislation to reflect developments in and requirements of present-day corporate world.
Sep 1: Finance Secretary Duvvuri Subbarao named next governor of the Reserve Bank.
Sep 7: Department of Telecommunications starts auction of frequencies for 3G telephony.
Sep 11: Government eases norms for FM broadcast to push growth.
Sep 17: US Food and Drug Administration blocks import of 30 generic drugs made by Ranbaxy.
Sep 18: India's cabinet clears proposal for foreign news magazines to start Indian editions.
Sep 20: Anil Ambani group and Steven Spielberg to set up $1.5 billion Hollywood studio.
Sep 23: Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat says it will acquire 45 percent stake in India's Swan Telecom for $900 million.
Oct 1: UN report says India is sixth largest investor in Britain.
Oct 3: Tatas say they are pulling the "Nano" project out of West Bengal despite investing Rs.15 billion.
Oct 7: Gujarat is chosen as new home for launch of Nano.
Oct 8: Indian rupee crashes to six-year low of Rs.48 to a dollar.
Oct 9: International Monetary Fund predicts seven percent growth for India in 2009.
Oct 9: Report says India Inc. finalized overseas mergers and acquisition deals worth $26 billion in first half of current fiscal.
Oct 10: Reserve Bank eases monetary policy, cuts cash reserve ratio by 150 basis points.
Oct 10: India's industrial production logs just 1.3 percent growth in August, says report.
Oct 15: Government says Indian civil aviation industry is $300 billion investment opportunity.
Oct 15: Central bank takes steps to inject Rs.650 billion into system to increase liquidity.
Oct 15: Jet Airways, Kingfisher announce pact to reduce costs, synergize operations and improve services.
Oct 15: Jet Airways says it is sacking 1,900 employees (but withdraws steps a day later).
Oct 15: US president-elect Barack Obama tells IANS India will be top priority during his tenure.
Oct 27: Sensex crashes to 7,697.39 points, lowest level since November 2005.
Oct 29: Norway-based Telenor, the world's seventh largest telecom operator, says it is buying 60 percent stake in Indian telecom start-up Unitech Wireless for $1.29 billion.
Nov 10: Satyam acquires Motorola's software unit in Malaysia.
Nov 10: International Monetary Fund lowers India growth projection for 2009 to 6.3 percent.
Nov 12: Japan's DoCoMo says it will acquire 26 percent stake in Tata Teleservices.
Nov 13: Forbes rich list says Mukesh Ambani has ousted L.N. Mittal as richest Indian.
Nov 19: Rupee falls to its lowest-ever level, below 50 to a dollar.
Dec 1: Data on foreign trade says India's merchandise exports fell 12.1 percent in October.
Dec 8: Government unveils Rs.30,000-crore (Rs.300-billion/$6-billion) package to pump prime economy.
Dec 12: Fresh data on industrial production says index fell 0.3 percent in October.
Dec 16: Satyam Computer Services says it is acquiring two infrastructure firms run by founder's sons for $1.6 billion, but withdraws move a day later following investor outrage.
Dec 19: Chanda Kochhar named ICICI Bank chief executive with effect from next May 1.
Dec 23: Wipro says it is acquiring Citigroup's Indian outsourcing arm for $127
For a country that stood at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of telecom penetration a decade ago, 2008 was a watershed when India's subscriber base topped 350 million users to make its network the second largest in the world after China, displacing the US. The significant achievement was made possible by the mobile telephony segment of communications, which was once thought to be a gizmo for the rich - what with a tariff of Rs.16.80 per call when the telecom revolution began in the country in the early 1990s. But with tariff falling to 40 paise a call and incoming calls becoming free, mobile telephony began to appeal to the masses. In fact, 2008 also saw Indian telecom operators add a whopping 8-10 million new subscribers to the network each month, making a host of global companies to look at the country as their next big market for growth, especially in the hinterland. And the statistics speak for themselves.
As per the watchdog for the sector, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the total number of telephone connections in the country reached 363.95 million at the end of October 2008 against 256.55 million in the corresponding month last year.
This, despite the fact that the number of plain vanilla landlines in the country actually fell from 39.41 million in October 2007 to 38.22 million the same month this year. Tele-density shot up from a mere 12.7 percent in March 2006 to 31.5 percent as on Oct 31.
The projection by several leading global consultancies is that India's telecom network will overtake China's in the next 10 years.
"The telecom sector in India has registered a remarkable growth during the last few years propelled largely by the unprecedented growth of mobile telephony," said Nripendra Misra, chairman of the watchdog.
"Three years back, a target of 250 million telephone subscribers by 2007 was considered too ambitious. We could achieve this target a few months ahead of schedule," Misra told IANS.
"Telecommunication access to rural India is going to be the most important development since the Green Revolution. Research analysts feel that mobile voice is overwhelmingly the engine of growth followed by next generation network, broadband and data."
The sector, which will go through a major revamp with the launch of third generation (3G) mobile services, has seen a number of ups and downs in the recent past.
A key development in the history of the telecom industry was when Bharti, in collaboration with 15 telecom players, signed a deal to build the first direct, high-bandwidth optical-fibre undersea cable system from Britain to India in May.
Technology travelled distances with Apple iPhone 3G being launched in India by telecom majors Bharti and Vodafone Aug 22.
The international investor community also continued to bet on the Indian market. Norway-based Telenor, the world's seventh largest telecom operator, bought a new-generation telecom company Unitech Wireless by paying $1.29 billion for a 60 percent stake.
Similarly, another start-up, Swan Telecom, which did not have a single subscriber, sold a 45-percent stake to the UAE's Etisalat for $900 million, taking the company's book value to $2 billion.
Another major foreign inflow was announced when Japanese telecom giant NTT DoCoMo picked up 26 percent stake in Tata Teleservices for $ 2.7 billion.
However, the entry of foreign players was marred by major controversies surrounding Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless. The communications minister was charged with flouting TRAI norms and allocating second generation (2G) spectrum on preferential treatment.
The now estranged government ally, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, raised a hue and cry over the government's "first-come first-served" principle and the resultant alleged loss of Rs.60,000 crore (Rs.600 billion/$13.2 billion) to the exchequer.
The minister has claimed that the allocation of spectrum was purely based on TRAI's policies and clarified that both Swan and Unitech had only diluted their stake and that it wasn't an outright sale.
2G spectrum is nearing saturation, and with the defence yet to vacate the spectrum for both 2G and 3G that it holds, the problem persists.
December saw the much-touted third generation (3G) services being launched by the state-run telecom operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL). Under the brand 'Jaadu' (magic), MTNL ushered in the next wave of Indian telephony Dec 11.
With 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) auctions a fortnight away, the government held a pre-bid conference to clarify on bidding related issues to the telecom operators and to make them aware of the rules of the game.
Though the turnout of foreign players for the pre-bidding conference was dismal, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) hoped that it would get a good response Jan 5, the last day for filing applications.
"We are hoping that the auction will draw in bids that are a few times higher than the reserve price of Rs.2,020 crore (Rs.20.2 billion). The global financial crisis will not affect the auction for 3G services," said R. Ashok, member (Finance), Telecom Commission, the apex government body for the sector.
Consumers had more good news in store, with the government announcing that the much-awaited mobile number portability (MNP) would be implemented in the four metros by June 2009 and extended to other parts of the country.
Key Milestones in India's Telecom Industry in 2008
Following are key milestones and timeline of developments in India's telecom sector in 2008, when the country's network emerged as the second largest in the world after China's, displacing that of the US:
Jan 1: Telecom watchdog issues status paper to ensure Internet service providers adhere to minimum prescribed speeds for broadband connectivity
Jan 3: Delhi High Court issues notice to the government, regulator, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices on a petition challenging allocation of radio spectrum
Jan 9: Vodafone moves the Bombay High Court challenging an income-tax notice slapping a $1.7-billion capital gains tax on the acquisition of stake in Hutch-Essar
Jan 10: The communications ministry decides to allot scarce spectrum to all existing mobile phone service providers, irrespective of the technology they use
Jan 31: India's Internet connectivity is disrupted as two undersea cables in the Mediterranean are damaged
Feb 15: Spice Corp unveils a no-frills mobile phone that will retail at about Rs.800 ($20) from early April
Feb 21: Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications announces acquisition of Uganda's telecom service firm Anupam Global Soft and commits $500 million investment
Feb 22: Telecom watchdog says Indian operators added 8.74 million new phone subscribers to the network in January
Feb 28: The Department of Telecommunications issues licences to 22 more operators
March 2: Virgin Mobile, part of Britain's communications group Virgin Media, launches youth-oriented mobile services in India through Tata Teleservices
March 17: Watchdog announces stricter measures to rap telecom operators who fail to rein in unsolicited telemarketing calls
March 20: Reliance Communications teams up with Taiwan-based handset manufacturer High Tech Computer to tap the market for high-end CDMA mobile phones in India
March 25: The Supreme Court asks the government to amend its law in eight weeks to provide for imposing stiff penalties on service providers and telemarketers for making unsolicited calls
March 27: Regulator says it will remove a levy imposed on service providers to fund rural connectivity
April 1: The government unveils new guidelines for sharing of infrastructure, such as transmission systems and cables, by telecom operators in a bid to lower operational costs and help consumers
April 10: Indian telecom officials and the makers of BlackBerry, the Canada-based Research in Motion, meet to discuss security concerns raised over the services provided by the company
April 11: India adds 7.6 million new mobile phone users under the GSM technology in March, surpassing the US as the second largest wireless market, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India
April 16: The home ministry asks telecom operators not to offer certain types of BlackBerry services until a proper monitoring system is put in place to address security concerns
April 22: New government guidelines say mergers and acquisitions among telecom operators will not be allowed if the number of service providers falls below four after any such move
May 9: Bharti Airtel and 15 other leaders in the global telecom industry sign a deal to build the first direct, high-bandwidth optical-fibre undersea cable system from Britain to India
May 13: The Delhi High Court says it is shocked to hear that even the telecom regulator does not have the powers to regulate direct marketing agents and others in curbing unsolicited calls
May 14: Bharti enters final rounds of consolidation talks with South Africa's largest telecom operator MTN in a deal estimated to be worth nearly $45 billion
May 24: Bharti-MTN call off consolidation talks
May 26: Reliance Communications says it is entering exclusive negotiations with MTN to discuss potential combination of their businesses
May 27: Arun Sarin stuns the world of business by announcing he is stepping down as chief executive of Vodafone after leading the world's largest mobile phone company to record profits during his five years at the helm
June 18: State-run Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd received much-awaited licence for international long distance telephony, raising hopes for further cut in tariffs
June 25: India's fifth largest cellular operator Idea Cellular says it is buying 40.8 percent stake in Spice Communications
July 2: Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura says Blackberry mobile services do not pose a threat to national security, indicating a government go-ahead for its operations in the country
July 18: The globally-watched consolidation talks between Reliance Communications, India's second largest private telecom company, and South Africa's MTN called off
Aug 1: Communications Minister A. Raja announces the much-awaited guidelines for the auction of radio spectrum, or airwaves, to launch third-generation mobile phone services in the country
Aug 7: The government approves release of airwaves to two state-run companies, MTNL and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, for the launch of third generation mobile services in the country
Aug 8: Mobile telephony has grown rapidly in India, especially during the last three years, with India becoming the second-largest wireless market in the world after China and ahead of the US, says a World Bank study
Aug 18: Regulator permits Internet service providers to offer products that allow calls from computers to fixed line as well as mobile phones
Aug 22: Apple iPhone 3G (third generation) launched across India by telecom majors Bharti and Vodafone
Aug 25: Out of 594,000 villages in India, 550,000 now have telephone connections whether through satellite technology or conventional lines, while 30,500 villages even have broadband cover, says the government
Sep 1: The International Chamber of Commerce, the global arbitration tribunal, asks Tata Communications to pay a Reliance Communications $19 million plus interest from May 2006 as damages over a cable dispute
Sep 8: The Indian government kick-starts process to e-auction radio frequencies to telecommunications operators who want to offer third-generation mobile phone services
Sep 23: The UAE's Etisalat says it has bought 45-percent stake in Swan Telecom for a cash consideration of $900 million
Oct 29: Norwegian telecom giant Telenor picks up controlling 60-percent stake in Unitech Wireless, the telecom arm of real estate major Unitech, for $1.2 billion
Nov 6: Taking the stake sale by Swan Telecom and Unitech as case points, the Communist Party of India-Marxist alleges major scandal in the latest round of radio frequency allocation to mobile telecom operators but the government denies the allegation
Nov 11: The Telecom Commission recommends a licence fee of three percent of average gross revenue on those mobile operators who will offer stand-alone third generation mobile services
Nov 12: Japan's leading mobile telecom operator NTT DoCoMo says it will pick up 26-percent stake in Tata Teleservices for $2.7 billion
Nov 25: Communications Minister A. Raja says mergers and acquisitions among new telecom operators will be allowed only if they have completed three years of operations after being issued licences
Nov 26: The allocation of radio frequencies to telecom operators comes under judicial scrutiny again with the Delhi High Court seeking a response from the government on a petition that said the scarce resource should have been auctioned
Nov 28: Telecom watchdog says the government ignored its suggestion that the second-generation radio waves be auctioned, which would have generated higher revenue
Dec 5: Vodafone says it would challenge in the Supreme Court the government's decision to impose capital gains tax of $1.7 billion on it following its acquisition of majority stake in Hutchison Essar
Dec 11: Communications Minister A. Raja says the government was looking into the security concerns surrounding BlackBerry phones and would soon come up with some solution after objections that e-mails on the service cannot be intercepted by security agencies
Dec 11: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launches third generation mobile phone services of the state-run MTNL under the brand name "Jaadu" or magic.
Dec 23: The Telecom Commission says successful bidders for spectrum allocation for third generation telecom services will also be eligible to get frequencies for second generation services, as and when any space becomes available.
The Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid can be a bewildering experience for those unfamiliar with its history. On one hand there is the beautiful, curvaceous Islamic calligraphy, the arabesque designs and then there are pillars with clearly pre-Islamic Hindu motifs. The reason is of course quite simple; the pillars were taken from the 27 temples of Qila Rai Pithora, the city of the Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan. This in fact has been recorded by Qutub-ud-din in his inscriptions, who calls it the Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque) in his inscriptions.
ShankatMochan- Jai Hanuman.At Shakti-peeth temple (Chattarpur Temole) by the side of the Mandapam, stands in splendor, the statue of Shree Hanuman (around 100 feet high), silently blessing the devotees.
The zeal to succeed is always ennobling; more so in the time of terror and recession. Saluting the undying spirit of West Delhiites, West Delhi showcases some thrilling success stories scripted by them in the year 2008. To remain optimistic and happy is a congenital human attribute. This is the reason why amid the gathering gloom over recession and the threat of terrorism, everyone is looking for a reason to smile and whoop it up this New Year Eve. There is no doubt that these are, to quote, Dickens, "the best of times and the worst of times.’’ But there is no taming the resilient spirit of West Delhiites. Their greatest asset is their ability to bounce back instead of getting bogged down in the quagmire of defeatism. And, no one personifies this trait better then our very own Sushil Kumar, Olympic medallist wrestler from West Delhi. A native of Baprola village in Najafgarh, Sushil this year became India’s fourth-ever individual Olympics bronze medalist, putting India on the medal tally of Olympics. For sure he can be rightly called the next nawab of Najafgarh after Sehwag. If Olympics saw the birth of a new star, same is true for international cricket. West Delhi’s very own Virat Kohli from Shankar Garden, near Vikaspuri did India proud as it won the U/19 World Cup (2008). Gautam Gambhir from Karol Bagh is another cricketer from West Delhi who is making his mark as an opener in both the versions of the game. After topping the batting average in the recently concluded test series against England, Gambhir has now jumped to 10th spot in ICC rankings. Then there is the speedster from Ranjit Nagar, Ishant Sharma, who has become a regular bowler for the Indian squad. He shot into international limelight early this year in Australia when he knocked the living daylights out of Ricky Ponting by dismissing him many times in one-dayers and test matches. In fact, he played a crucial role in halting the Australian juggernaut. Other prominent youngsters from West Delhi, who are all set to make it big in the field of sports in the coming years include Amit Mishra (Cricket) Arantxa Andrady (Tennis), Vishal Singh (Cricket) from Tilak Nagar and Shaun Andrady (Soccer) from Delhi Cantt.
From real to reel world, West Delhiites left their indelible stamp everywhere in 2008. Several youngsters made their debut on the small screen and came out with guns blazing. Take the case of Rishita Monga from Vikaspuri, who was crowned as ’Ultimate ibibo MTV i Superstar’. In this popular reality show she portrayed herself as Priyanka Chopra. With this popular crown 20-year-old Rishita finally announced her arrival into the glam world and is planning to make it big on the silver screen. Same is true for 15-year-old Sukanya Gupta, a talented singer from Rishi Nagar (near Rani Bagh), who is on song these days. This young girl has participated in a host of singing competitions including Sa-Re-Ga-Ma-Pa Little Champs and Sansui Antakshri. Adhar Mohla (DJ) from Punjabi Bagh and Mayank Anand (fusion player) from Janakpuri will also be in the big league quite soon.
In the field of academics, art and painting also, West Delhiites did not lag behind. Shalini Arora from East Punjabi Bagh became the recipient of prestigious BOLT (Broad Outlook Learner Teacher) award for here innovative software programs. Shalini is teaching Computer Science in DLDAV School, Shalimar Bagh. Sankha Samanta from Vikaspuri is known as the man who has made maximum number of stamps for Government of India. He has designed more than 1,000 philatelic items that include more than 250 postage stamps and 150 covers.
With 2008 all set to become history, it is perfect time to bid adieu to this passing year with a winning smile.
With the New Year’s Day being observed as a ’No Honking Day’, would North Delhiites play it safe? North Delhiites are not happy at the recent decision of the Delhi Police to celebrate January 1 as ’No Honking Day.’ Now, you may call it a typical case of status deprivation to use the educational jargon. How can it be possible? They are, after all, governed by the seat of their pants. In other words, they believe in instincts rather than logic or knowledge. You may cavil at their impertinence in having their way, but do you have the right to grudge them their freedom of choice and expression? If they don’t honk, they won’t be able to avoid collateral damage on roads. In fact, foisting such facile justifications come easy to North Delhiites. Rash driving is their besetting sin. After all, when all you have is hammer, everything looks like a nail. The first day of New Year is all about whooping it up; after all it is not everyday that you get to celebrate this particular occasion!
"There is no denying the good intentions of the traffic police in declaring January 1 as a ’No Honking Day.’ No doubt, honking is a nuisance on Delhi’s roads. But while driving on the road, how can you do without honking? At times, pedestrians cross the roads dangerously without even looking properly at the speeding vehicles,’’ says Sanjay Kumar, a marketing executive from Pitampura.
For 26-year-old Mohit Chabra, working with a private firm, ’No Honking Day’ may upset his applecart. He cannot imagine life without honking. After all, in Delhi, the more expensive car you have, greater is the need to flaunt your importance and what better way to do this than by mindless honking? "I will definitely try to abide by the rule; but I don’t think it is going to make any difference to the attitude of an average North Delhiite.
There will be people who won’t be even aware of this rule. And, if caught, the violators won’t mind paying the fine.’’
This New Year’s Eve, North Delhiites would travel to Swiss beaches, African jungles and to the sets of Bollywood. Thanks to the theme parties that would give them a taste of the world, right at home. Gone are the days when New Year’s Eve was a very personal affair, restricted to either a small get-together at home or a terrace bon-fire party with friends. The concept of theme parties is now catching up amongst the party freaks in North Delhi. The bigger, the better is the tagline for North Delhiites who are going all out to get the world home in their New Year parties. From Goan Beaches to the beaches of Switzerland, you name it and it is all there, right at your home. The beachside ambience is simply perfect for the New Year’s Eve, exclaims Sumit Sethi of Shalimar Bagh. Beachside Party was the theme of his last year’s New Year bash. "We had a beach created at home and the dress code was obviously beach wear. It was quite chilly outside and we got the entire venue covered. We made sure that even the temperature was perfect for those dressed up according to the dress code. It was sheer fun. The guests enjoyed sitting in boats and chilling out on the sands with palm trees all over," narrates Sumit. Well, for this year, Sumit’s guest will witness one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Eiffel Tower. Playing up with the theme of ’An evening in Paris’, Sumit has already aroused the curiosity of his guests.
To make people have the real-life experience, these parties are given 3-D effect. "There is no point in transforming the venue to a particular theme, if it doesn’t give you the real feel. We focus on giving add-on effects like mashals are put up all over in the Arabian theme, celestial bodies are created in the Space theme and so on," explains Director Eventz Delhi, Ranju, a theme party organiser. A lot of focus is given on the light effects as well. "Neon lights, UV lights, gobo lights, city lights and even the pillar candles are lit to suit the ambience," explains Ranju.
While last year’s hits include sets of Bollywood flick Om Shanti Om, this year too the look of 60s and 70s are in demand. Ashok Vihar’s Ekta Bajaj had OSO theme of her last year’s New Year bash. "All the guests were dressed up in outfits of 60s—bell bottoms, big white glares and huge hairdos. The jazzy retro theme set was created with a splendid display of colours and guitar as the main prop. The party simply rocked," recalls Ekta. This movie freak plans to have Bollywood as the theme for her this year’s party too. All the leading stars will come live—to her home, rocking in their Bollywood ishtyle. Does that give you an idea?
It’s that time of the year when commitments comes from within to set right individual mistakes and shortcomings – towards changes that are generally interpreted as advantageous. We call it ’New Year’s Resolution’—the name comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year Day and remain until fulfilled or abandoned. However, a pragmatic look reveals that those resolutions are rarely maintained in the long run. A day or maximum of a month, not many resolutions find their place for more than this. At a time, when the serious kind of resolutions are soon lost and forgotten, there are some that can be amusing yet one don’t have to take pains to remember them. Says Apoorva Jain, BSc. (Applied Sciences) student from Hansraj College, "I have realised that resolutions cannot be strictly adhered to. So, I have resolved that I will help break the resolutions of all my friends, who have set any. This is fun, but something that needs no strictness can be achieved easily." Siddhant Jain and Shobhit Baijal, residents of Model Town-II, have brought out their fun quotients in New Year resolutions. Shobhit is all set to break rules this year, before they are even formed! And Siddhant’s resolution has already found a place in his room quite early that reads, ’I hope to be able to make people think happy thoughts when they think of me’. Likewise, first year BCom(H) student Ritika Gupta from SGTB Khalsa College says she resolved to attend all lectures at her college, which have everything to do apart from studies. No matter how successful one has been in following resolutions in previous year, one makes fresh resolutions for the next year with determination. To materialise the things thought of may be difficult, still some people manage to do so. New Year resolutions offer a sense of direction to people to lead the coming year. With crossed fingers, let’s wish to maintain our resolutions, just like these young North Delhiites.
Class conflict and religion are in equal measure fuelling the jehadi movement in Pakistan, and the sooner the government moves against this the better, editorials in three leading English dailies said Saturday."The resentment the powerless feel may be cloaked in anti-Americanism or religiosity but in actual fact it boils down to a class conflict," Dawn said in an editorial headlined "The common enemy". "Becoming part of a militant or terrorist organization empowers poor, impressionable young men. And it's not just the weapons or the monthly stipend that give them comfort - finally they have an identity when previously they were faceless, they become part of a community in which they are respected," the newspaper added. Noting that the "uniform" of militant Islam "confers instant respectability in some quarters", Dawn said that the sole terrorist captured in Mumbai, Ajmal Kasab of Faridkot, "apparently first sought refuge from poverty in crime and then gravitated towards jehadi outfits As long as nothing is done to address the growing underemployment in this country, the militants will find no shortage of fresh recruits," the editorial maintained.
Terrorists who India says came from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai Nov 26 night and attacked several targets in India's financial capital. The mayhem ended Nov 29, killing over 170 people including foreigners.
Holding that the Mumbai violence had diverted attention in Pakistan from the internal threat to an external "enemy", Dawn said: "This must not be allowed to happen.
"Soul-searching is in order, and an acceptance of the fact that Pakistan is indeed a hub of militancy and terrorism," the editorial added.
Dawn also urged President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to "inform the nation in unequivocal terms that what is past is past and that extremism, which has taken root in this country, will enjoy no sanction and will not be tolerated".
Lamenting that it was "sad, on one level", that it had taken external pressure "to stir the government into acting against those who are besmirching our name in the world", Dawn said: "We face isolation, and internal ruin, if the common enemy is not brought to book."
The Pakistani government Thursday sealed the offices of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, after the UN declared it a terrorist organization.
New Delhi has blamed the LeT for the Mumbai terror attacks and the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
According to The News, JuD and the LeT were "known to have scouted Punjab for suitable people to join their ranks. Summer schools were also organized for children, with 'religious' education imparted to them reportedly incorporating fiery 'pro-jehad' messages".
In this context, it pointed to Kasab's father telling "a sad, but familiar tale, of an angry young man walking out of the house and falling straight into the hands of a religious organization". Thus, "if there is a true commitment to doing away with forces like the JuD, and if our desire to do so stems from within ourselves rather than from the US, the UN or India, much more needs to be done. "We need to expose the true nature of these forces before people; to reveal how they have lured vulnerable young teenagers away from homes and families only to turn them into killers; how they have exploited religion to further their own interests," The News contended.
"It is only when its roots are pulled out that an organization like the JuD can be stopped. Otherwise, like a weed, it will continue to spread rapidly," the editorial added.