Since the current crisis in Russia has arisen out of western sanctions, a bi-lateral currency agreement would benefit both countries in the long run.
In 2013-14, the Indo-Russian trade amounted to S6.01 billion with the balance of trade in favour of Russia, as Indian exports during the same period stood at $2.121 billion only.
Apart from major exports like pharmaceuticals ($535 million), other items such as electric machinery ($ 170 million) Iron and steel ($128 million) and agri-produce ($117 million) comprised our exports. Our bilateral trade with Russia is settled in US Dollars. It is projected that this may actually increase to over $30 billion by 2025, if our trade relations grow at current rates.
The recent happenings in Ukraine have been a damper. Because of Russia's annexation of Crimea and the resultant crisis in Ukraine, the Russian relationship with the West has deteriorated to the extent of attracting sanctions from the West, which is USA and Europe. Although Europe is heavily dependent upon Russian gas supplies, this intervention has not been taken kindly by them.
Russia has announced its plans to scrap the South Stream pipeline project to supply gas to Southern Europe without crossing Ukraine and has proposed an alternative gas pipeline via Turkey to whom it has offered gas at a discount. Gazprom is reported to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Turkey's Botas for the pipeline, proposed to run under the Black Sea. A lot of technical and commercial details will still have to be worked out on this project.
In the meantime, it is reported in the press that, Ajai Sahai, Director General and CEO of Federation of Indian Exporters Organisation has plans to meet the Commerce Ministry to seek their assistance if the Government can work out some sort of Rupee payment agreement with Russia, because of the fall in the Rouble-Dollar parity since the Rouble's free fall in the recent past.
It may be recalled that when the sanctions were imposed on Iran by Western Powers, led by USA, as both Iran and India were inter-dependent on oil supplies, to circumvent the impasse, a rupee account was set up in the UCO Bank, Kolkata, which was used as a conduit for settlement of trade between both the countries. Since the current crisis in Russia is similar, arising out of western sanctions, Ajai Sahai feels a similar proposal can be brought into use, by both Russia and India, as this will benefit both nations.
Also, during the recent visit of Russian President Putin, projects and other details worth much more than $20 billion were concluded as reported in the press, which includes, Essar's 10-year multibillion dollar oil deal; Alrosa's pact for direct sale of rough diamonds; NMDC-Acron of Russia's deal to acquire a potash mine in Russia among others. Recently, Russia also relaxed the rules to permit the importation buffalo meat from India.
An indepth study and initial limitation of Rupee-Rouble agreement stipulating the total value that can be made in this manner would be a good start. Because of the steep fall in Rouble realisation, Russia is bound to control or reduce its export of wheat and India may find it worthwhile to have an "understanding" of wheat export price, wihch would also help to stabilise the market.
However, all these may also depend upon how the proposed first visit of an American President, as Chief Guest on Indian Republic Day goes and the result of discussions during the visit that he may have with the Indian Government.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
GVK says long queues for women is the Central Government’s Central Industrial Security Force's (CISF) responsibility and that stinking toilets are 'regularly monitored' for cleanliness
Last week when Dolly Thakore, noted TV anchor, dramatist and social crusader reached Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, she stood in a serpentine queue along with many other women as there was just one channel for security checks while for men there were six or seven of them.
Thakore faced a similar problem at the Jaipur Airport, and found this discrimination unfair. She shot off a letter to GVK, the private agency that is in a Private-Public Partnership with the government to run Mumbai Airport, requesting it to address this issue promptly. Thakore wrote to the Airport Terminal Manager, “While GVK has brought about transformation in comfort, convenience and sophistication of air travel, it seems to have ignored the New Woman on the move...at every airport there is only one Security Check for women and the queues are endless, while there are 6 or 7 such for men. It is time the Airport authorities recognised the woman on the move. Would appreciate a response and prompt action please. Her letter also raised the issue of inefficiently maintained women's toilets. “Could washroom staff be more alert and available at all times to maintain standards,” her letter added.
In response, an unnamed person by the name of “Team - Customer Service & Quality” replied that it is the job of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and that they have shared her feedback with them. The letter of this anonymous officer states, “As you are aware that processes like Security at all Indian Airports are handled by the CISF, We have shared your feedback with the CISF, alternatively you may directly write to them at [email protected]. All passenger feedback pertaining to them are shared with them for improvement in their services. Our management regularly conveys meetings with these agencies to ensure all processes are streamlined and minimize passenger inconvenience.’’
The moot point is, if “passenger inconvenience” is their priority, are they blind to the fact that women stand in endless queues? Also, if the management is holding regular meetings, did they need a citizen to bring this inconvenience to their notice? Like most Public-Private-Partnerships, GVK too seems to be shrugging off the responsibility of passenger inconvenience by pointing to the government authority, in this case, the CISF.
As for the women’s toilets and their appalling state, the anonymous officer of Team- Customer Service & Quality casually replied, “We would also like to inform you that our housekeeping team regularly monitors cleanliness of washrooms as well as the entire terminal building at all given points. However they have been briefed to be more vigilant while on duty and to increase the frequency of the washroom checks to ensure cleanliness is maintained round the clock.’’ Anyone who has visited CSIA Airport is aware of the dirty toilets ever since the Airport has had a grand makeover. Is it enough for GVK to merely “brief” the attendants to be more vigilant?
Finally, as if rubbing salt in the wounds, the anonymous officer signs off “Our Vision for CSIA: To be one of the World's best airports that consistently delight customers and be the pride of Mumbai.’’
Letter by CSIA to Dolly Thakore
Dear Ms. Thakore,
Greetings from CSIA, Mumbai!
This is with reference to your feedback with us received through email dated 24/12/2014 regarding your experience at CSIA.
At the outset, please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused to you during your journey through Mumbai Airport. We understand your concerns and appreciate that you have brought them to our notice. As you are aware that processes like Security at all Indian Airports is handled by CISF, We have shared your feedback with CISF alternatively you may directly write to them on [email protected].
All passenger feedback pertaining them are shared with them for improvement in their services. Our management regularly conveys meetings with these agencies to ensure all processes are streamlined and minimize passenger inconvenience.
We would also like to inform you that our housekeeping team regularly monitors cleanliness of washrooms as well as entire terminal building at all given points. However they have been briefed to be more vigilant while on duty and to increase the frequency of the washroom checks to ensure cleanliness is maintained round the clock.
Our Vision for CSIA: To be one of the World's best airports that consistently delights customers and be the pride of Mumbai
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)