Despite numerous state visits and pronouncements of Indo-French love, the mega Rafale deal is just not taking off. Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would buy 36 fighter aircraft. But negotiations are stuck—Indian bureaucrats have refused to sign, citing financial and liability issues. The French on the other hand are blaming the Indian negotiators for playing hard to get. According to a top Indian source, the Modi government is clear that Indian needs the Rafale—and quickly. The sale of American F-16 jets to Pakistan has tilted the balance, as the Indian Air Force needs to quickly make amends. But despite this clear political signal, the negotiators don’t want to face persecution by future governments. Is an executive fiat around the corner?
Contrary to public perception, the long battle for worker rights at Hindustan Unilever’s thermometer plant at Kodaikanal has not ended despite a settlement between the FMCG multinational and 591 workers affected by mercury poisoning. Much of the victory so far is mainly due to efforts of NGO Jhatkaa, which helped in making a rap video with Sofia Ashraf that caught global attention. A member of the NGO says, “We still have a long way to go.” You see, Unilever needs to be held responsible for the contamination of the soil in Kodaikanal. So the NGO filed a second petition on March 9 seeking that Unilever be made to clean the soil.
How cheap can you get with that shining, yellow metal? Ask jewellers in Kerala. Thrissur-based Boby Chemmanur International Group has opened its first margin-free mini jewellery shop in Kottayam, where a 10-gm gold jewellery item costs Rs 1,000 less than in other shops. Boby is obviously borrowing the idea from the Rs 10,000-crore Kalyan Group. But the group’s recent house warming for three grand houses in Thrissur showed that their “inexpensive” tag is only for the masses.
Coming up: ‘Sin tax’ for fizzy drinks
South Africa has joined the battle against sugar, becoming the first African country to plan a tax on soft-drinks loaded with the sweet stuff. The tax, aimed at improving health, comes into effect in April 2017.