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June 1st, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns to historic second term

Prime Minister of India. Dr. Singh,

It was a full house and a standing ovation on May 22, as Dr. Manmohan Singh took the oath of office for a second consecutive term as Prime Minister of India. Dr. Singh, the first Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to get a second opportunity after a full term, was sworn in by President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil exactly five years to the date after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government assumed office in 2004. Prime Minister Singh was sworn in along with 19 Cabinet ministers.

The oath-taking ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was attended among others by Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari, UPA Chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi, and Leader of the Opposition Mr. L.K. Advani, among a host of other dignitaries from public life.

On May 28, in the second phase of ministry formation, President Patil administered the oath of office to 59 ministers. The full Council of Ministers now has 79 ministers, including the Prime Minister.

The new council of ministers includes 59 from the Congress and 19 from five allies: seven each from DMK and Trinamool Congress, three from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and one each from the Muslim League and National Conference.

Mr. S.M. Krishna is India's new Minister for External Affairs while former External Affairs Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee is the new Finance Minister.

Former UN Under Secretary- General Dr. Shashi Tharoor, and Smt. Preneet Kaur are the new Ministers of State for External Affairs.

The government formation came about at the end of what has been described as the world's biggest democratic exercise, spanning a period of one month (April 16-May 16), when more than 400 million Indians cast their votes to elect a new Parliament.

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S.M. Krishna

Mr. S. M. Krishna, a widely respected leader, and a former Chief Minister of Karnataka, on May 23 assumed charge as India's new External Affairs Minister.

Born on May 1, 1932, Mr. Krishna graduated from Maharaja's College, Mysore, and went on to obtain a law degree from the Government Law College, Bengaluru. Later, he studied at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and also at George Washington University as a Fulbright scholar.

Back in India, he worked as a Professor of International Law at Renukacharya Law College, Bengaluru. He was elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in 1962 and made his debut in Parliament in 1968, becoming a Member of the fourth Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament). Mr. Krishna was re-elected to the fifth Lok Sabha, but preferred to return to State politics in 1972, when he was elected to the Legislative


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Nehru lecture series inaugurated in Cardiff

P. Singhal, Keshav Singhal, Roy Thomas, High Commissioner and Lord Parekh

Kevin Brenen, Ashok Aggarwal and Co.

High Commissioner of India Shiv Shankar Mukherjee was the chief guest along with the First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan, at the Inaugural Nehru Lecture in Cardiff on the May 8. The lecture series was set up by the India Centre in Cardiff recently. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Keshav Singhal, chair of the India Centre, said that the lecture series was set up to honour Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India and to ensure that the second and third generation Indians know about the crucial role played by Panditji in shaping democracy in India.

Singhal hoped that the lectures would help firm the ties between India and Wales in the field of education, business and tourism.

The programme started with lighting the traditional lamp by the High Commissioner, Lord Parekh, P. K. Mishra, ex-chair India Centre, Roy Thomas, and Ashok Aggarwal, treasurer of India Cente. It was followed by saraswati vandana by Sarita Pawar and Kavita Khanna.

In his address, Mukherjee said that perhaps Pandit Nehru's greatest contribution as the founder of modern India was in giving us those fundamental institutions which define India today, and make us a beacon of hope for over a billion people and billions outside the borders of India - secularism, democracy, equality and the rule of law, respect for education as the means for development, and science and technology as the way forward for building the sinews of the nation.

The high growth rate that India has enjoyed in recent years as the second fastest growing economy in the world would perhaps not have been possible without the foundation which Nehru had laid.

In a lighter vein, he referred to the Indian genius for innovation - as an example, India was the only nation in the world with completely electronic voting, even though some of the voting machines have to be delivered in very remote areas, accessible only through very difficult terrain, on elephant back!

In contrast, the demand for English language books is booming in the third largest market - India, which has been growing at about 10 percent a year for several years.

Research by UK Trade & Investment, which used the London Book Fair in April to encourage British publishers to export more, and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about 1.25 billion in 2007, with publishers estimating that English language books contributed about half that amount, reports The Guardian.

In comparison, the Chinese market was worth about 7 billion in 2007, but its English language market is smaller than India's and British exports to the country are worth only about 10 million pounds. No wonder India - with an estimated 350 million people who know English - spells good news for publishers hit hard by the financial crisis.

Random House, for example, has said the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's sequel to The Da Vinci Code, will include over half a million for overseas territories, including India and South Africa, a record for a new fiction title. "India is an incredible growth market at the moment," Alistair Burtenshaw, the exhibition director of the London Book Fair, was quoted as saying. It provides fascinating business opportunities in almost all sectors, and that's absolutely the case in publishing."

The Guardian noted that the London Book Fair coincided with a growing push by Western publishers to ramp up their operations in India. Hachette is also joining the ranks of Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House by publishing its first book in India - My Friend Sancho by Amit Varma.

Publishers are also noticing a new mainstream culture that has transformed book-reading from the preserve of an educated elite into a cerebral leisure activity for India's emerging chattering classes.


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