Economy
UN raises projections for India's growth, making it the fastest-growing economy
he UN has now raised its projections for the Indian economy's growth this year by 1.7 percent to 7.6 percent and by 1.4 percent to 7.7 percent next year from the estimates it made in January.
 
The Mid-Year Update to the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 released Tuesday puts India on the trajectory to be the world's fastest-growing large economy, outpacing China, the previous champion in the development stakes.
 
The original report by the UN Development Policy and Analysis Division (UNDESA) released in January had estimated India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for this year at 5.9 percent and 6.3 next year. They were behind China's growth rate projection at 7 percent for this year and 6.8 next year in the January report, which remain unchanged.
 
The UN update matches the projections of other international institutions that have put India's growth rate as the fastest, and all of whom have also revised estimates for India upward.
 
Last week, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released a report that said Indian economy would grow by 8.1 percent this year and 8.2 next year, which are the highest projections made by international institutions.
 
Ingo Pitterle, a UNDESA Economic Affairs Officer and India expert, told IANS in an interview Tuesday, that with "a return to a high degree of macro-economic stability," India is winning the confidence of investors and the international community.
 
"Overall, I think the authorities in India have done a very good job over the past two years and this is actually reflected in some indicators," Pitterle said. "In 2013 India was group grouped together with Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil, and considered a fragile economy.
 
"And now you look at the same variables, today they look very different. When you look at the currencies the story is India's is the only currency that has held up well here, which is a sign of confidence by investors, by the international community, in the Indian economy."
 
While the rupee has come down by about 9 percent over the past year, it has done better than the currencies of most other countries.
 
Referring to India's economic policies, Pitterle said: "The changes that are being made are all going in the right direction, both by the government and by the central bank."
 
"I have been following the Indian economy now for seven years or so,(and) I see a return to a high degree of macro-economic stability," he said. "We have seen that inflation came down, and this not only all related to the oil prices but also to a very prudent monetary policy, and we are seeing that the external imbalances have declined, current account balance is much better."
 
Asked about the differences in the UNDESA projections for India's growth and ESCAP's Pitterle said, "I believe that for India's economy whether it grows by 8.1 percent or 7.6 percent, that doesn't matter, not in the medium term or the long run. What is important is that it is balanced growth, that it is the same (level of) growth, that it can really have five-ten years of this high growth period without major disruption without causing excessive inflation or other imbalances."
 
He attributed variations to the time periods and the models that were used to make the forecasts. "We use the calendar year. ESCAP may actually use the fiscal year, which starts on the first of April for India."
 
In the forecasting model DESA used, a significant part of the growth in India over the past year came from net exports mainly because, not because export grew strongly but because of imports declined, he said. The assumption was that net export decline - - that is the difference between the value of imports and exports - - would not continue with the same force, and eventually imports would pick up. "This is a good thing actually for the economy," he said. But "from a GDP perspective, higher import would lead to lower net export and that would probably translate into slightly lower growth."

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Girl robbed at ATM in Hyderabad

An unidentified person opened fire and robbed a girl of money and jewellery at an ATM here on Wednesday, police said.
 
The incident occurred at State Bank ATM in Yousufguda area around 7.30 a.m. when she was withdrawing money.
 
The armed man threatened the girl by opening two rounds of fire and escaped with the money and jewellery. 
 
She lodged a complaint with police.
 
Senior police officials rushed to the scene.
 
The incident caused a flutter in the busy area.
 
Police said they were scanning the images from CCTV cameras in and around the ATM to identify and apprehend the robber.

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Once a land of ponds, Sri Krishna Bhoomi crying out for water today
Many mohallas and colonies in Mathura, Goverdhan, Vrindavan and Chaumuhan are still short of water. The piped water supply does not touch colonies on the periphery of the towns, which remain totally dependent on ground water
 
When cine veteran Hema Malini won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Mathura-Vrindavan, the first commitment she made was to provide safe and adequate quantity of water for every home and a Yamuna fully rejuvenated and filled with water. As she completes one year as MP from the land of Sri Krishna's legend, voters are asking what happened to the commitment.
 
Many mohallas and colonies in Mathura, Goverdhan, Vrindavan and Chaumuhan are still short of water. The piped water supply does not touch colonies on the periphery of the towns, which remain totally dependent on ground water.
 
With the water table falling sharply, the problem gets aggravated.
 
"Earlier hand pumps were sufficient but now submersible pumps, tube wells and borings are coughing more air than water. No water is available till a depth of 150 feet or more, says river activist Madhu Mangal Shukla.
 
With the Yamuna being called a "sewage canal" by the residents, the water crisis just gets worse. Even the Gokul Barrage, set up to clean up the water, has not helped either.
 
Each day, people in some locality or the other have been protesting on the road, demanding uninterrupted supplies.
 
Despite hundreds of crores of rupees invested in infrastructural development in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapeizium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km, the districts of Agra, Mathura and Firozabad continue to face acute shortage of power and water.
 
People in Firozabad are up in arms against the administration, demanding more water. Work on a canal to bring water from the river Ganga is progressing at a snail's pace.
 
"The problem is not only of quantity but also quality of water in the river. Unless they desilt and dredge the river on a massive scale from Delhi to Agra, the underground aquafiers would not be charged and the water table will not rise," activist Dr Ashok Bansal told IANS.
 
During summer the drinking water problem in the district becomes even more acute, forcing villagers to walk miles to fetch a pail of water.
 
Village panchayat member Ram Bharosey in Chaumuhan block says the villagers have been demanding extension of water pipeline network to cover more areas, but to no avail.
 
Perhaps recognising the gravity of the problem, the district administration is supporting installation of reverse-osmosis (RO) plants where villagers can pay for water. The one inaugurated by the UP chief minister in Goverdhan on March 11 became operational on April 1.
 
Mathura district magistrate Rajesh Kumar told IANS that the chief minister had sanctioned five more such plants for the Braj area. Each plant will provide 5,000 litres of water daily, which can be raised to 10,000 litres.
 
"The users will have to pay 50 paise per litre initially. Later it will be reduced to 25 paise per litre," he said.
 
But such efforts are like a drop in the ocean. Gopal Das, a farmer, says the ground water is hard and undrinkable. "Young people are turning old, suffering the consequences of hard water. Fluorosis is common from the excessive fluoride in the water."
 
Ram Beti, another farmer from Chaumuhan, wonders: "What kind of development is this where you do not even have drinking water for the common man?"
 
Dr M.K Mathur of the public health centre at Chaumuhan says that due to the fluoride, magnesium, arsenic, calcium and other trace elements in the water people are falling sick.
 
Village leader Ajit Singh says that a large number of people were suffering from chronic hepatitis and typhoid cases had multiplied.
 
Last week, out of 222 patients examined in a village near Kosi, 92 were found to be hepatitis B and C positive, indicating the poor quality of water. The alarm has put the health authorities in the district on high alert.
 
Mathura's chief development officer (CDO) Andra Vamsi has asked village level functionaries to hold awareness activities to educate people about water-borne diseases, He has also asked Jal Nigam officials to ensure supply of drinking water through tanks or pipelines to all such villages which have been identified as fluorosis-affected. But such efforts may take a while to bear fruit.
 
The water woes trail you wherever you go. In the Chata area, a resident, K.K Pathak, says state agencies have hardly helped to solve the problem. Kosi resident B.S Sharma says unless urgent measures are taken, the problem will become too big to tackle. In Nandgaon and Barsana, pilgrims are being fleeced with water bottles selling at a premium.
 
Shri Gopal of Chaumuhan says "we had big hopes from the Samajwadi Party government, but so far nothing has been done."
 
In Baldev, Vishnu Dixit had a simple plea: "Fancy development can wait, just give us water."
 
It's only the villagers of Pasauli who have got together and done something, not waiting for the administration to act. They pooled in money to dig a bore well where water could be reached.
 
Through a pipeline they brought the water to the village. To run the pump for the borewell, they arranged a tractor. The villagers realised that self-help was the only mantra for progress in the village. Politicians are not going to help.
 
Pankaj Goswami of Gokul says the Braj Bhoomi was once famous for its dense forests and water bodies. "In the name of development, nature has been the loser and we humans the sufferers," lamentd Goswami. It's high time politicians did something concrete and lasting.

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