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Narendra Modi’s show in Antwerp to take place despite Brussels Attack

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image: www.kalbhi.com

New Delhi, March 25: Antwerp’s diamond traders will ensure that the dazzle doesn’t go out of Narendra Modi’s March 30 show in Brussels for the Indian diaspora.

After Tuesday’s serial explosions, Modi’s event managers were doubtful whether they would be able to go ahead with the civic reception to be hosted at the Expo Centre with an estimated gathering of nearly 5,000 Indians, including PIOs and NRIs.

But Manoj Ladwa, the director of the 2014 Modi for PM campaign who landed in Brussels before the bombs detonated and camped there, asserted that the Prime Minister’s show would go on as scheduled.

“The theme is ‘Stronger India’. Our team is working tirelessly and fearlessly for the PM’s visit. It will be a display of solidarity by the Indian diaspora,” claimed Ladwa, a London-based lawyer who had put together a reception for Modi at London’s Wembley Stadium last year.

Modi will stop over at Brussels for a couple of days en route to the US.

Antwerp, Belgium’s commercial capital, is 50km away from Brussels and is central to Modi’s interaction with the country’s Indians, most of them from Gujarat.

Antwerp’s diamond business, long controlled by its orthodox, largely Hasidic Jewish community, has been taken over by the Shahs, Kotharis and Mehtas who, recent estimates say, control almost three-quarters of the trade.

Modi should have many reasons to be comfortable in the company of the Gujarati-speaking Indian Belgians who have made kosher Jain cuisine an integral part of the country’s menus, even in posh restaurants.

A member of the BJP’s overseas cell, in Belgium recently to assemble and put together the nuts and bolts for the civic reception at the Brussels Expo Centre with Ladwa’s team, recalled that at a pizza place his local hosts had surprised him by ordering something called “Jeetu’s pizza”.

It turned out that this version was named after a Gujarati who trained the eatery’s chefs to dish out a lean, mean pizza sans meat, onion and garlic but spiced appropriately to gratify an Indian palate.

Modi is unlikely to dine out. But if he does, he would discover that most Antwerp eating-houses serving cosmopolitan cuisines list separate “Jain” fare.

Apart from propagating their dietary preferences, Belgium’s Gujarati diamond businessmen have sponsored their “Antwerp IPL teams” of 11 players each that are auctioned to a bidder, mostly diamond traders, as teams and not as individual players.

Although Belgium ought to have been ideal for the diaspora to organise itself under the RSS or the BJP’s banner, as Indians in many western countries have, it remained out of bounds for the Sangh “parivar”.

“Maybe, the migrants who are just three decades old, were busy setting up their businesses and making profits to bother about social and political activities,” a BJP source said.

Therefore, the BJP’s overseas cell also roped in Surat MLA and diamond merchant Harsh Sanghvi to network with the Belgian communities.

The BJP’s Antwerp leadoff person is Mehul Kothari, who heads the city’s Indian association.

Aside from the sparkle, the BJP’s overseas cell is trying hard to mobilise other Indian communities from IT and academia.

Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

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The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

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Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

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Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)