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India, explained

India plans to introduce universal health coverage in 2012-2017

As government prepares to roll out universal health coverage, McKinsey argues partnering with private firms is the only way forward.
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As India's health ministry prepares to roll out universal health coverage, McKinsey argues the government can only make up for shortcomings in the public health system by partnering with private companies. (AFP/Getty Images)

India aims to introduce universal health coverage during the 12th five year plan (2012-2017), but the public health system faces massive problems with inadequate infrastructure, poor funding and inefficiency. The only way forward is to partner with private firms, argues McKinsey & Co. in a new report.

"While public health experts have recommended that the government move from 'insuring' to 'assuring' health by investing in primary care, the McKinsey report envisions the expansion of healthcare primarily through extensive insurance coverage," Mint reports.

The idea is to increase insurance coverage to 75 percent of the population from 25 percent, the paper said.

In a system that appears to have much in common with America's (failed) one, only the uninsured poor would be covered by government-run insurance programs.

On the plus side, the report recommends boosting total spending on health to 5.5 percent of GDP.

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India: Did I say 7%? I meant 5.7%. My bad.

Indian government lowers 2013 growth forecast yet again, to 5.7%-5.9% from 7.6%
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Did I say 7 percent? I meant 5.7 percent. India lowers its 2013 growth forecast yet again. (AFP/Getty Images)

India lowered its economic growth forecast for fiscal 2013 to 5.7-5.9 percent from an earlier estimate of 7.6 percent, in an apparent pitch for the central bank to slash interest rates.

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India-Pakistan: How to lose friends and alienate people

A friendly visit from Pakistan's Rehman Malik leaves India angrier than ever.
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Interior Minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik (R) shakes hands with Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde during the launch of new visa agreement in New Delhi on December 14, 2012. Days later, Malik scuttled any goodwill built on his visit. (AFP/Getty Images)

A friendly visit from Pakistan's Minister of the Interior has left India angrier than ever, prompting the Times of India and others to report that the official trip "backfired" to erode trust between the age-old enemies.

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India: Cabinet clears Land Acquisition Bill, boosting protections for farmers

Requiring consent from as many as 80 percent of landowners before an acquisition can be made through eminent domain, the bill promises to make industrial projects more expensive and harder to get off the ground.
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An Indian farmer with vegetables and produce demonstrates during a protest against land acquisition in New Delhi on August 3, 2011. Dozens of farmers assembled at Jantar Mantar during the protest led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Kisan Morcha. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet cleared a land acquisition bill that revises India's centuries-old laws of eminent domain to provide additional protections for landowners.

Fixing India's land acquisition problems is considered one of the most crucial reforms needed to unleash economic growth.

But critics say requiring developers to get widescale agreement from local landowners before they can compel holdouts to sell will make industrial projects more costly and harder to get off the ground.

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India: Bollywood's Hrithik Roshan crowned Asia's sexiest man

For second year in a row, Hrithik Roshan beats Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham for the top spot.
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For the second year in a row, Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan was crowned Asia's sexiest man in an online survey by the UK-based Eastern Eye newspaper. (Andy Kropa/AFP/Getty Images)

Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan was crowned Asia's sexiest man for the second year running in an online survey conducted by the UK-based Eastern Eye newspaper.

The 38-year-old actor beat out Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham and Ranbir Kapoor to clinch the top spot, according to FirstPost.in.

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India: Polling begins in Gujarat elections

Chief Minister Narendra Modi looks to cement claim as BJP's next candidate for prime minister
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Left-leaning social activists call him a fascist. But Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be the only Indian politician popular enough to warrant his own bobblehead doll. (AFP/Getty Images)

Voting began in Gujarat state elections on Thursday in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister Narendra Modi seeks to gain a third consecutive term. More importantly, perhaps, the polls promise to deliver a referendum of sorts on Modi's chances to become the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in national elections slated for 2014.

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India: Daylight murders reflect decay in rule of law

Forget riots and insurgency, ordinary gangsters and thugs are running rampant in India.
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Daylight murders, committed in plain sight of witnesses, reflect a disturbing failure of the rule of law in India. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Recent daylight murders -- committed in the plain view of witnesses, with no concern about prosecution or guilt about the killing -- reflect a dangerous erosion of the rule of law in India, Lakshmi Chaudhry argues convincingly forFirstPost.in.

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India: Don't read too much into uptick in factory output

An 8.2% rise in factory output in October looks like a sign India's economy is bouncing back, but the devil is in the details, says the Wall Street Journal
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An 8.2 percent uptick in India's industrial output for October wasn't all it's cracked up to be, the Wall Street Journal argues. (AFP/Getty Images)

A whopping 8.2 percent uptick in industrial production in October may seem like a sign India's economy is poised for a turnaround, but the devil is in the details, says the Wall Street Journal.

As GlobalPost reported, India's industrial output rose 8.2 percent in October, beating expectations of just 4.5 percent forecast by a Reuters poll of analysts. 

But according to the WSJ, the real reason for the boost has to do with how the Diwali holiday fell on the calendar in 2011 and 2012.

"India’s festival period started in November while it took place in October last year," the paper notes. "Since production for the festival period tends to ramp up a month ahead of the festivities, festival-related production took place in September 2011 and in October this year. So the index in October 2011 was 158.3, down by nearly 4% from the month before."

But that's not the only reason for skepticism about a pending comeback.

According to the Journal, "this one month masks the anaemic growth in previous months. In fact, in five of the seven months between March and September, the index contracted – a clear indication of manufacturers’ reacting to falling demand by curtailing production and using up inventory. This is reflected in gross domestic product data."

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India: Gujarat election heats up, in thermometer reading for Modi's chances at PM

Controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi faces new threats in his home state, and his chances for a run at prime minister in 2014 may hang in the balance.
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Indian chief Minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi speaks in Ahmedabad on Dec. 3, 2012. (Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)

Controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi risks losing his shot at the prime minister's chair if he fails to increase his majority in his home state in ongoing elections, argue Mint's Sahil Makkar and Maulik Pathak.

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India: Condoms coming to a hut near you

India plans to distribute condoms to villages, hut by hut.
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Indian youth wear cutout placards of condoms during a promotional event in New Delhi on March 5, 2009. (Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images)

India will begin door-to-door distribution of condoms and birth control pills to villagers nationwide this year, following the success of a limited launch in select districts.

TheTimes of India reports:

The programme was initially launched in 233 districts of 17 states and became a roaring success in a year, helping women get access to emergency contraceptives and oral pills right at their doorstep.

Under the programme, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) were supplied contraceptives for free.

ASHAs then went from door to door selling them for Re 1 for a pack of three condoms, Re 1 for a cycle of oral contraceptive pills and Rs 2 for one tablet of an emergency contraceptive - the earning being their commission. India has 870,000 ASHAs.

 "There is a need for contraceptives yet it is difficult for couples to get them, thanks to social and financial barriers," the paper quoted National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) director Anuradha Gupta as saying.

"We conducted three independent reviews of the pilot project in 233 districts and found it to be successful, specially for women. Our intention is to make contraceptives available at the doorstep of the most backward villager. Contraceptives lie in health centres but sometimes they are so far that women have to walk miles to get there. This affects uptake."

Sounds like a good program, but I wonder how many of these condoms get diverted to markets before an ASHA can ever lay eyes on them.

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