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A guide to the dynamic economics, politics, and culture of the world's most populous region.

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.


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


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.


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


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."


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.


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.


India: Industrial output up 8% in October, in sign of turnaround

Factory output for October nearly doubled expectations, but inflation also ticked higher.

India's industrial output rose 8.2 percent in October, beating expectations of just 4.5 percent forecast by a Reuters poll of analysts, the news agency reports.  

The first of several key indicators due out this week, the boost in manufacturing output provides a strong sign that India's slowing economy may be poised for a turnaround.


As terrorism victim, India ranks behind only Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Global Terrorism Index puts India fourth place among worst affected countries
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A sand sculpture commemorates the execution of terrorist Ajmal Kasab, captured following the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai. (AFP/Getty Images)

Global incidents of terrorism, which spiked after September 11, 2001, have waned considerably since peaking in 2007, according to the new Global Terrorism Index. But it may come as a surprise that the worst affected country after Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan is peace-loving India.


India slated to take No. 2 spot in manufacturing — following China

India to be world's second-most competitive country in manufacturing within five years, says Deloitte.
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A young Indian labourer carries a load of bricks as she works on a construction site in Allahabad on November 16, 2012. According to a new study, India will become the world's second-most competitive country in the brick-and-mortar manufacturing sector over the next five years. (AFP/Getty Images)

India is slated to become the world's second-most competitive destination for manufacturing operations, after China, within five years, according to a new study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the US Council on Competitiveness.

Brazil will likely occupy the third slot according to the study, reports India's Hindustan Times newspaper.

“India is rated this high mainly because of its huge talent pool, its strong domestic demand and and the incredible geographic position,” the paper quoted Deloitte global leader manufacturing Timothy P Hanley as saying.

Hanley added that the expertise India has in services can be replicated in manufacturing as well provided challenges like education and infrastructure development are addressed, the papers said.

India's manufacturing sector has made large strides over the past decade, despite continuing problems with electricity supply and transportation infrastructure, as well as strict labor laws. However, most of the growth has been driven by domestic consumption of items like automobiles, refrigerators and the like, in contrast to China.