Nation
Maharashtra's Chavan ministry likely to be expanded on Thursday
NCP's Suryakanta Patil and Jitendra Awhad or Sharad Gavit from SP and Amit Deshmukh, Kalyan Kale and Rohidas Patil from Congress are likely to get ministerial berths in the last expansion before assembly elections
 
The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministry in Maharashtra will be expanded on Thursday, say media reports. The swearing-in is scheduled at 10am at Raj Bhavan.
 
The expansion comes after a meeting between Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, in the wake of the drubbing the ruling alliance suffered in the Lok Sabha polls.
 
The poll results saw Congress getting its lowest tally of just two of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
 
With the sacking of state Medical Education Minister Vijaykumar Gavit, one Cabinet rank of NCP is vacant. Besides, the term of Minister of State for Education, Health and Culture Fouzia Khan as MLC has ended. There had been complaints against her for non-cooperation with official NCP candidate in Parbhani during the recent Lok Sabha polls.
 
The reports said senior NCP leader Suryakanta Patil is in race to fill in the Cabinet post while state NCP working president Jitendra Awhad and Sharad Gavit, Samajwadi Party MLA and brother of Vijaykumar Gavit, are in race to replace Fouzia Khan.
 
Meanwhile, legislators Amit Deshmukh, son of former Chief Minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Kalyan Kale and senior leader Rohidas Patil are among the probables from the Congress, which has three ministerial berths vacant, including one Cabinet.
 
The Assembly elections in Maharashtra are due later this year. 

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Row over Smriti Irani’s educational qualification intensifies
Congress leaders, who joined the controversy raising questions about HRD minister Smriti Irani's educational qualifications went on a back foot as soon as BJP asked questions about Sonia Gandhi's education
 
The controversy over the educational qualification of Smriti Irani, the new minister for human resources development (HRD) snowballed on Wednesday with some leaders and minsters from ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hitting back with carping comments on Sonia Gandhi even as Congress appeared to be divided.
 
Women rights activist Madhu Kishwar, who started it all with her tweets critical of Narendra Modi making Irani the HRD Minister, was unsparing saying education and research in India was in a shambles and something urgent was needed to be done to lift standards in the system. 
 
Somebody with a vision was needed for the job, said Kishwar, a self-confessed admirer of Modi.
 
Kishwar said that as someone in the academia she felt that the HRD ministry was a very “vital” ministry and that India’s education sector was in a mess and somebody with a vision was needed.
 
The HRD ministry requires handling chief ministers, because education is a state subject and also requires handling vice chancellors, she said.
 
“HRD needs a head who can steer dexterously between Left and Right extremists in academia to define sensible course unfettered by partisan agendas,” she had said on Twitter.
 
Slamming the Congress, union minister Uma Bharti questioned the educational qualification of its party president Sonia Gandhi.
 
“I want to ask them (Congress) what are the educational qualifications of Sonia Gandhi, because she has headed the UPA and gave directions to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The entire UPA government would stand with folded hands outside her door. So Sonia Gandhi, who ran the UPA government, what are her qualifications,” Bharti asked.
 
Another minister Santosh Gangwar said he wants to ask Congress how educated was its president Sonia Gandhi.
 
Joining issues, BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress leaders should shed their “arrogance” after the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls and do introspection.
 
He said the party was defeated in elections due to the “arrogance” of Congress leaders but they are still not ready to leave their arrogance.
 
“Congress leaders should now stop using abusive words against BJP leaders. Congress should respect the mandate of the people,” he said.
 
Congress leader Ajay Maken Tuesday took a jibe at Irani’s educational qualification.
 
“What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11,” he had tweeted.
 
Irani also got support from JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav who attacked Congress for raking up the issue while the minister herself refused to comment on the row.
 
Bharti also said Congress had raised questions about her candidature from Jhansi in the past by saying that she belonged to Madhya Pradesh and was making a similar mistake in this case.
 
“First the Congress should show certificates of Sonia Gandhi to show how educated she is and from where. Only then they can ask such questions (about Irani),” Bharati said.
 
She said that it was not necessary that a health minister should be a doctor but what matters is how a person works.
 
“Sonia Gandhi should tell about her certificates or else stop Congress from making such comments,” she demanded.
 
However, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari had a different take on the issue when he said any attack on the Government should be on substance and not superficials.
 
He said that these kinds of remarks used to emanate from the BJP in the early 2000s but had got decisively buried after UPA’s two successive victories under her leadership.
 
“If anybody is attempting to question the political sagacity of Sonia Gandhi, I think possibly they are blowing a trumpet which nobody is interested in,” Tewari said.
 
However, to a question on the Irani controversy, Tewari felt that criticism of the Government should be policy based rather than personality centric. 

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COMMENTS

Abhijit Gosavi

3 years ago

Great account! Finally got to understand what is going on! Trying to follow this on twitter got me nowhere :) Just people threatening to block each other and taking sides!

And Madhuji, tons of respect for you! But let Ms. Irani do her job! What if someone asks questions about your own Ph.D. or the lack of it? Institutions where research occurs typically require a doctoral degree. Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw tweets at others!

MOHAN

3 years ago

Smriti Irani's rise was the envy of many Modi supporters including MADHU KISWAR

MOHAN

3 years ago

Madhu Kiswar says :

"As a HRD minister, she will be expected to deal with IIT and IIM graduates. She won't get any respect. Is this a joke? She doesn't deserve to be the HRD minister,"

HRD minister deals only with IIT and IIM graduates?

HRD functions only for IIT and IIM ?

Food retailers' losses set to grow to Rs17,000 crore by 2017
According to CRISIL while food retailers' losses will mount by about 30%, peaking in 2017 when at least half of the 10 players would break even 
 
Large-scale expansions have caused Indian food retailers an accumulated loss of Rs13,000 crore in last fiscal, says ratings agency CRISIL in a report. Among the main food retailers are Aditya Birla Retail Ltd (more), Bharti Retail Ltd (easyday), Heritage Foods  (India) Ltd (Heritage), HyperCITY Retail (India) Ltd (HyperCITY), Max Hypermarket India Pvt Ltd (Auchan), METRO Cash & Carry India Pvt Ltd (Metro), Reliance Fresh Ltd (RelianceFresh, RelianceSuper, RelianceMart, RelianceMarket), Spencer's Retail Ltd (Spencer's), Trent Hypermarket Ltd (Star Bazaar) and Wal-Mart India Pvt Ltd (Best Price).
 
"To reduce the bleeding, retailers have undertaken several initiatives, but these will yield results only gradually. Consequently, while losses will mount by about 30% over the medium term, they are likely to peak in 2017 as we foresee at least half of the 10 players breaking even by then. What keeps them going is the backing of intrepid promoters who foresee immense potential in India," it said in a report.
 
Food retailing is appealing because, despite constituting more than two-thirds of a total Rs25.3 trillion of sales in India, its penetration is a minuscule 2.3% -- the lowest among all formats. Also, it is difficult to be a leading player in organised retail in India without being present in food. Globally, food & grocery contribute to over 50% of top line for the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Tesco Plc.
 
With losses higher and time to break-even well beyond initial estimates, retailers are under pressure to streamline operating models. Anuj Sethi, director of CRISIL Ratings, “Retailers are now moving away from large-scale expansions and streamlining models to achieve faster break-evens. Exits from unprofitable categories, right sizing of stores, closure of unviable and non-performing stores, focused and calibrated expansion and a renewed focus on private labels are some of the initiatives which the analysed retailers are undertaking to achieve faster break-even.”
 
CRISIL said it believes that while these initiatives will take time and investment to yield results, players will continue to expand, thereby adding to the losses. Losses for the analysed retailers are likely to peak at Rs17,000 crore by 2017 and are expected decline thereafter as the twin benefits of size and optimised models will kick in. 
 
Ramraj Pai, president of CRISIL Ratings, said, “These losses reflect the challenges in the food and grocery retailing vertical. Compared with other formats, food retailing is a very local business where optimal supply chains are critical to lower costs. The business also has the lowest gross margins in retailing, which leads to longer gestation periods. Players, therefore, need a lot of time and investment to perfect the model and positioning (such as the location, store size, choice of products and development of private labels), and to scale up to achieve critical mass.”
 
CRISIL feels that these retailers will continue to expand backed by promoters with the wherewithal for a long ride. "We estimate as of 31 March 2014, the 10 retailers have invested about Rs19,000 crore for store additions and loss funding – through direct equity infusions, loans from banks and promoters. These are likely to continue and will help multiply the topline," it added.
 
Losses reflect difficult challenges
CRISIL said the biggest challenge for food retailers is weaning customers away from well-established local kirana stores – or mom & pops. This can be overcome only by getting a grip on local tastes and preferences. Consequently, food retailing in India is a more nuanced business than say durables or even apparel – what works in one region/locality may not work in another. 
 
According to the rating agency, the second challenge is economics: 
1. Customers are more price-sensitive. Therefore, developing an optimal supply chain that translates to lower cost of procurement is crucial 
2. Also, food & grocery has inherently low gross margins. In fact, this is among the lowest in the retailing sector. Consequently, players need to scale up by increasing stores to achieve profitability. High real estate costs add to the expansion risks Players therefore need a lot of time and investment to perfect the model and positioning (such as the location, store size, choice of products and development of private labels), and to scale up to the required critical mass.
 
Not surprisingly, gestation period in this vertical is among the highest in retailing, the ratings agency added. 

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