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Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry

May 15, 2007

Nation celebrates 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence

As the first rays of the sun touched the magnificent Red Fort on the morning of May 11, thousands of youths who had marched all the way from Meerut to Delhi to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising, cheered and proudly waved miniature replicas of the national flag.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram were present at the ceremony. In his address, President Kalam told the marchers to pledge that as citizens of the country, they will work with full dedication, hard work and honesty to take the nation forward. With intense patriotism burning bright in every eye and dressed in white overalls and red-green caps, the marchers held their banners high to express national pride. With a host of fairs being put up in the vicinity, including a food and crafts fair, besides an exhibition that revisits the struggle for independence triggered 150 years ago, the scene at the Red Fort was that of celebration and joyous revelry. Human Resource and Development Minister Arjun Singh told the marchers: "The Lal Qila (Red Fort) is not made up of stones but of stories and the history of the freedom struggle that started at this place 150 years back.

"The yatra (journey) that you undertook over the past four days isn't just a march but a united voice against caste, creed and various other forms of distinction. Just like our brave patriots who had stood together to fight for freedom, your march is significant of the same emotion."

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In speech at Oxford, Kamal Nath reiterates commitment to reforms

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has said India is committed to a strategy of calibrated economic reforms that did not lose sight of the complexities of its society.

Delivering a lecture at the University College in Oxford as part of its Global Trade Governance Project, Kamal Nath said that India's economic achievements had prompted many to declare that India could no longer be seen as a developing country.

"In the past, India has been called a caged tiger, a lumbering elephant, and various other exotic animals in the zoo. I think would not be boastful to say that today we have moved out of the zoo - and on to the racecourse," he said in the lecture titled 'India and the Future of World Trade Talks'.

Addressing an audience comprising students, many of them from India, faculty members and experts, Kamal Nath said not only was the world's perception of India changing, but India's perception of itself was also changing.

"How an ancient culture engages with the New Economy is one of the most fascinating and exciting developments of the past decade," he said and tempered the enthusiasm of India's rising economic strengths with the need to address serious challenges.

Recalling that some of Congress leaders were "aghast" when as the Finance Minister in 1991, Manmohan Singh, introduced a package of economic reforms that re-wrote the rules, he said that the calibrated reforms had stood the test of time because they were India-specific and had since become irreversible, despite changes in governments.

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British Minister Kim Howells visits India

Dr. Kim Howells MP, British Foreign Office Minister of State with responsibility for South Asia, is visiting India from May 15 to 19.

He is travelling to Kolkata in West Bengal and Guwahati in Assam, where he will meet government officials, representatives of local communities and visit projects funded by the British government.

In New Delhi, Dr. Howells will call on senior officials and Ministers from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Before his arrival Dr. Howells said: "I very much look forward to visiting India and visiting some of its various regions."

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Oberoi group in global Top 10

India's leading hotel chain, Oberoi Hotels, figures among the world's top 10 hotels, according to a new survey. Oberoi Hotels, which manages luxury hotels and cruises in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Mauritius and Saudi Arabia, has been ranked 9th overall in the study by Zagat Survey, a leading provider of consumer survey - based leisure content.

In the small hotels, resorts and inns segment with less than 100 rooms, Oberoi Udaivilas was ranked sixth and in terms of rooms and service it was ranked fifth in a tie with Inn/Little Washington, D.C. In dining and facilities, Oberoi Udaivilas was ranked third - again in a tie with Inn/Little.

U.K. award for Ruchira Gupta

Ruchira Gupta, founder-director of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a Kolkata-based organisation working against sex trafficking, has won a British award for her efforts. The maiden 'Abolitionist Award' was presented to Gupta at the House of Lords to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the British Empire.

"Trafficking of women and children for prostitution is a modern form of slavery. It is a shame that in this day and age we, as a society, allow the enslavement of women and children for the purpose of exploitation," said Gupta, who has also won an Emmy for her documentary, 'The Selling of Innocents'. Gupta sits on the Planning Commission's steering committee and is part of a working group of the Women and Child Welfare Ministry. She has been honoured at the White House for her work to combat human trafficking.

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Kalam for energy independence

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has stressed the need for power reforms and energy independence as the country has a small portion of oil and natural gas resources compared to its huge population.

"India has 17 percent of the world's population, but only about 0.8 percent of the world's known oil and natural gas resources. The power generating capacity has to be increased from current 1,30,000 MW. This would take into consideration energy economy plans and the design and production of energy efficient equipments and systems," Kalam said addressing the Business world - FICCI - SEDF Corporate Social Responsibility Award function in New Delhi. He said that fossil fuels were depleting and there was non-stop environment degradation due to unrestricted use of fossil material used for generating energy. The only answer to these problems was energy independence.

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