MUMBAI // Businessmen may blame global troubles or inept governance, but a Hindu guru has an alternative theory for the historic weakness of the rupee: the newly adopted symbol for the currency is inauspicious. Rajkumar Jhanjhari, an expert in the ancient doctrine of vastu shastra, has called for a new design, arguing that a line on the symbol has "slit the throat" of the rupee and sparked the country's financial gloom. The rupee symbol, unveiled in 2010 during happier times for the Indian economy, is inspired by the letter "R" in the Roman alphabet and "Ra" from the ancient Devanagari script used in Hindi. "India managed to withstand a severe global slump in 2009, before the symbol came up. One must ask why our growth rate is taking a beating now before rubbishing pleas for changing the symbol," Mr Jhanjhari told the Hindustan Times. Mr Jhanjhari has offered tweaks to the rupee design that he believes would boost the economy. — AFP
Indian army chief retires after losing lawsuit against government
NEW DELHI // The army chief retired yesterday after a stormy tenure that included a series of public spats with the government, amid speculation he may enter political life.
General Vijay Kumar Singh took the government to the Supreme Court in an unprecedented dispute over his retirement because of confusion over his age.
Gen Singh lost the suit, in which he sought to remain in his post an extra year, after the court upheld the government's stance that his birthday in official records was May 10, 1950. Gen Singh, who at 62 has reached the mandatory retirement age for his job, maintained he was born a year later and that a transcription mistake had been made in his records. General Bikram Singh, 59, took command of the 1.13 million member army.
Gen Singh is the second Sikh to lead the army and the first to have not seen action in a war. — AFP, IANS
New telecoms policy approved in hopes of greater transparency
NEW DELHI // The federal cabinet yesterday approved the new telecommunications policy, as the government moved ahead to bring in greater transparency on policies and regulations in a sector tarnished by graft allegations. It was the first time since 1999 the government had introduced a telecoms policy.
"The policy seeks to provide a predictable and stable policy regime for a period of about 10 years," the telecoms minister, Kapil Sibal, said. The new policy is part of efforts to clean up the sector. It seeks to simplify licensing rules by prescribing a single license for the entire country and the separation of licenses from bandwidth.
Mr Sibal said this will allow users to switch providers without having to change their mobile-phone numbers and also do away with them having to pay telecoms companies roaming charges that are levied on mobile usage in other service areas. — IANS
Four killed in Jaunpur after train derailment, more feared trapped
LUCKNOW // A passenger train travelling from eastern India to the Himalayan foothills derailed yesterday, killing at least four people as several carriages were thrown off the tracks.
Emergency services rushed to the scene to rescue trapped passengers after the Doon Express crashed in the district of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh state.
"Four passengers have died and a dozen others are injured, while a few more people are feared trapped in the coaches still lying on the tracks," the chief of the railway police in Uttar Pradesh, Gurcharan Singh, said. The Doon Express connects the eastern coastal city of Kolkata with the town of Dehradun in Uttarakhand state.
The incident came 10 days after 25 people died and 45 were injured when a sleeper train slammed into a stationary goods train in southern India.— AFP
India asks for more coordination with US over Afghanistan pullout
WASHINGTON // India called for greater coordination with the US on Afghanistan, voicing fear that Islamist militants would gain strength once western forces pull out. Nato leaders this month committed to pulling combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. India is a supporter of continued engagement and has given Afghanistan more than US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) since the US-led invasion in 2001 overthrew the Taliban regime, which sheltered virulently anti-Indian militants. Ahead of talks between India and the US on June 13, Nirupama Rao, New Delhi's ambassador to Washington, said on Wednesday the two nations have been holding talks on building "a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan". "We understand that after 10 long years of war there is a manifest and genuine desire to seek an end to conflict. But equally, we must ensure that the enormous sacrifices and efforts of the past decade have not been in vain." — AFP