India defends Internet blocking.
India on Friday defended itself against accusations of heavy-handed online censorship, saying it had been successful in blocking content blamed for fuelling ethnic tensions. The government over the past week has ordered Internet service providers to block 309 webpages, images and links on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, news channel ABC of Australia and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.
The orders were an effort to halt the spread of “hateful” material and rumours that Muslims planned to attack students and workers who have migrated from the north-east region to live in Bangalore and other southern cities. “We have met with success. These pages were a threat to India’s national security and we demanded their immediate deletion,” Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesman for India’s home ministry, told AFP.
“Spreading rumours to encourage violence or cause tension will not be tolerated. The idea is not to restrict communication.” The government has blamed Internet activity for fanning fears that resulted in tens of thousands of migrants fleeing back to the north-east last week from Bangalore and elsewhere.
But Twitter users, legal experts and analysts criticised the government’s approach, which appeared to have resulted in only partial blocking of material, much of which was still accessible. “The officials who are trusted with this don’t know the law or modern technology well enough,” Pranesh Prakash, programme manager at the Centre for Internet and Society research group, told AFP.
“I hope that this fiasco shows the folly of excessive censorship and encourages the government to make better use of social networks and technology to reach out to people.” Among the blocked content were photographs by AFP and other news agencies from Myanmar in the British Daily Telegraph, a parody Twitter account pretending to be from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and dozens of YouTube videos.
More Sri Lankan investments in India – IKEA to invest.
The Union minister of Commerce has decided to redefine small and medium enterprises (SME) to make it possible for investment by the Swedish furniture giant IKEA . Union minister Sharma announced this at the India road show here.
IKEA furniture manufacturer has sought some changes in policy to come in with an investment of over Rs 10,500 crore into India. As per current definition, SME is a unit with $1 million investment that can go in for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). IKEA pointed out that once it started sourcing from SME in India, the growth would be fast and SMEs would have to exceed the investment limit.
Sharma said that the moment SME started selling its products to companies abroad its investment would need to go up and under the present law it would cross the limit given and make it not eligible for FDI. Sharma said that the present law was penalizing SME for doing well.
The government to attract FDI had relaxed the foreign direct investment rules last year to allow 100% FDI in single-brand retail . Earlier it was 51% but imposed numerous conditions such as mandatory local sourcing kept off foreign players.
A few investors such as Skechers, Pavers England, Promod and Tommy Hilfiger did express interest but were deterred by stringent norms in upcoming national manufacturing investment zones (NMIZ).
Sharma announced three additional national manufacturing investment zones (NMIZ) will be
coming up in Andhra Pradesh and two in Karnataka. Work on 12 more zones will start by the end of August. Talking about Sri Lankan companies’ investment , Sharma said Sri Lankan companies especially the textile firm Brandex, MAS textiles and Toray are coming to invest heavily in India.
He said Brandex apparels aims for fourfold increase in its exports from Vizag unit in the coming years. Not only Brandex is very upbeat on increasing its investment in India, every Monday about 50 million lingerie pieces are exported by them to Victoria Secret.
French Business Confidence Stalls, Factory Output Drops: Economy.
French business confidence stagnated and factory output dropped, underlining the challenge the victor in the country’s presidential election will face in reviving economic growth.
A gauge of sentiment among factory executives was unchanged at 95 in March after dropping in February, the Bank of France said today. Manufacturing production fell 1.2 percent in February, a third month of declines, the national statistics office, Insee, said in Paris.
The data show how Europe’s second-largest economy is struggling to grow in the face of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, reducing the room for maneuver of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, as they seek to woo voters in the final weeks of the election campaign. The Bank of France said its surveys suggest that gross domestic product didn’t expand in the first quarter.
“The general message is this: the French economy is practically stalled,” said Michel Martinez, an economist at Societe Generale SA in Paris. “France doesn’t have the problems of its southern neighbors, but its industry remains in recession and we remain very far from a classic recovery scenario.”
The lack of growth at least partly reflects the impact on demand of budget cuts in neighboring Italy and Spain, as well as deficit-reduction efforts in France.