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Cities prepare for possible terror attacks

Two men are arrested for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata are on alert. Pakistan-based jihadists insist India is diverting water from Pakistani rivers, shoring up support for their cause. Ford announces India will be its small car hub, along with Toyota, Hyundai and Honda. Disney also expands into the Indian market with films and TV shows. Forbes lists forty-nine Indians on their list of the world's richest people. The last batch of Bajaj scooters will roll out this week. Plus, Indians speak English more than any other language, except Hindi.

Top News: Terrorism dominated the headlines and airwaves in India yet again. Mumbai Police said they had arrested two men preparing to attack several targets in India’s financial hub and that the men were being directed from across the border in Pakistan. India has held that militant groups based in Pakistan were responsible for the ghastly terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, which killed 166 people, and in Pune in February, where 16 died.

The two men arrested in early March were said to be targeting four or five different locations in Mumbai, including the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, a government-owned oil firm.

Meanwhile, the government sounded a fresh terror alert across three major Indian cities – Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. The local governments in those cities have been asked to step up defenses. Based on information received from arrested suspects, terror groups were preparing to launch a series of bombings in major cities, especially targeting foreigners. American Congressman Gary Ackerman said the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba has identified 320 global targets on its hit list, 20 in India.

In what India describes as "water subversion," officials say Pakistan-based Jihadi leaders are whipping up anger and recruiting radicals by accusing India of diverting Pakistani river waters. Security officials say the water-sharing issue has become sensationalized and emotional and is being exploited to recruit more Pakistanis to infiltrate Indian territory and join jihadist attacks. India says Pakistan has never brought up the issue of water in any official forum or talks of the past several decades. It is a case of water terrorism, says India.

Money: India will be Ford Motor’s global small car hub, says its CEO Alan Mulally. This is consistent with the strategies of several leading global car makers such as Toyota, Hyundai and Honda. Unlike its previous tactic, Ford says it will aim to catch up with its rivals in the fiercely-competitive market by bringing all its models into India. Ford has just launched its small car, Figo, in the market as its entry-level model and priced it competitively. Mulally said India’s frugal engineering skills would lend themselves well to Ford’s automobile business expansion in the country, including design.

Walt Disney has big expansion plans in India, though it has only released one movie, a co-production with an Indian company, in the six years of its existence in the country. India has been identified as a key market for Walt Disney and local teams are working to deliver a mix of international and local content. Television has so far driven the brand in India, and retailing follows. In a big push towards films, Disney has five movies in advanced stages of production and another 14 in the incubator. The films are both Bollywood films in the Hindi language, as well as Indian regional language films.

India’s super-rich club doubled in size last year, even as the economy rebounded quickly from the global downturn. India is also home to some of the world’s poorest people. Forbes magazine’s latest list says the world’s richest list for 2009 includes 49 Indian billionaires, up from 24 in the previous year. These have a combined net worth of $222 billion. Two Indians are amongst the five richest men in the world: Mukesh Ambani,who runs the petrochemical giant Reliance, and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.

The last batch of India’s trusted old Bajaj, a sputtering scooter with a two-stroke engine and three gears, which was once the pride of every Indian middle class family some decades ago, will roll out of the factory, heralding India’s transition from a socialist, cloistered economy into a consumptionist global economy. The scooters, which brought mobility to a generation of Indians, were ubiquitous on India’s roads, sometimes with a family of five or six hanging on to the scooter meant for two.

Elsewhere:  More Indians speak English than any other language except Hindi. India, which got English as a legacy of colonial rule, has twice as many English-speakers as the population of UK. Speakers of Indian regional languages such as Bengali, Telugu and Kannada were far fewer than English. Meanwhile, the English language will fragment into global dialects and the Indian English dialect will be prominent amongst those, says British language expert Professor David Crystal. The majority of future English speakers in the world might well say, in good old Indian English, “I am thinking it is going to rain,” or “I am feeling Avatar will win the Oscar.” Crystal says Indian English might soon be seen as sexy.