Geneticist Brahmachari is new CSIR director general

Geneticist Brahmachari is new CSIR director general

New Delhi: Samir K. Brahmachari has assumed charge as director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the government’s premier research body.

The apex post has been vacant since 31 December, which is when previous head R.A. Mashelkar retired, leaving department of science and technology (DST) secretary, T. Ramasami, holding additional charge since 6 March.

Technocrats welcomed the move. “The absence of a full-time director had become a headache," said a senior adviser requesting anonymity, “because the secretary (DST) was overburdened, and some projects got delayed. Never has the top post been empty for such a long time and I hope the new director has a long, profitable tenure." V. Prakash, who was earlier to take charge on 1 January, declined the post citing poor health. He however, continues to be director of the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, also a CSIR body.

A former professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, 57-year- old Brahmachari was the first to conceptualize and implement Genomed, a first-of-its-kind alliance in India between a government laboratory and a private company to study genomics, pharmacogenomics and bioinformatics.

The alliance, struck in 2000 was between Centre for Biochemical Technology, now IGIB, and Nicholas Piramal India Ltd.

The collaboration succeeded in developing the first predictive diagnostic kit for identifying known drugs that would not be useful in treating asthma. This is because some of the broad spectrum drugs may have a harmful reaction if administered to asthma patients.

“CSIR will certainly benefit from his leadership, and given that he is a well-known geneticist, I hope this would further encourage genomic research in the country," said K. Narayanasamy, vice-president and head, The Centre for Genomic Application (TCGA), a collaboration between IGIB and the Chatterjee Group, a US-based private-equity firm.

RBI in talks to release forex for infra projects

New Delhi:The government is in talks with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to release part of its foreign exchange reserves to a proposed financing entity for infrastructure projects, a government report said on Monday.

India has $266.52 billion (Rs10.4 trillion) in foreign exchange reserves and has been debating for a few years whether it can put them to use in its drive to upgrade its infrastructure.

A government-appointed panel has said proposed overseas subsidiaries of India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd (IIFCL), which was set up by the government last year, could borrow the reserves. These could then be lent to Indian firms involved in domestic infrastructure projects for capital spending abroad, or used to invest in securities and provide insurance for overseas fund raising for home projects.

The report, prepared by the finance ministry, said RBI had given in-principle approval for setting up a special purpose vehicle to borrow funds from the reserves and lend to Indian companies implementing infrastructure projects in India. The central bank had said the overall framework needed to be consistent with legal requirements and must show fiscal prudence, the report said. Reuters

Allianz fund arm keen to enter Indian market

Hong Kong: The fund management arm of German insurer Allianz is keen to establish operations in India, either through an acquisition or start-up venture, the unit’s global head said on Monday. Such a move, which would expand its footprint in the fast growing Asian market, makes sense given that the parent firm has already established an insurance operation there, added Joachim Faber, chief executive of Allianz Global Investors.

“This is kind of crying out for an asset management presence in this country and we are... looking out for the right opportunity to enter the Indian market," he said. Allianz Global Investors had €971 billion (Rs56 trillion) of assets under management at the end of last year. REUTERS

Govt may limit bids for mega power projects

Rome: India could consider limiting the number of its so-called ultra mega power projects to two per bidder to prevent risks to their execution being concentrated with a single party, a top government official said.

“There are some views being expressed on that side. I have personally not taken any decision," power secretary Anil Razdan said on Sunday.

He said one view being expressed inside and outside the government was that to have one party build more than two projects was to put “all your eggs in the same basket." “The other (view) is if that can enhance competition, why not let it happen. We’ll take a call on that," he said.Reuters

SC to hear petitions against Sethu project

Mumbai:The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday at least four cases filed against the Sethusamudram project, which seeks to dredge a coral bridge between India and Sri Lanka to cut passage time for ships circumnavigating India. Since its inception in 2004, politicians, religious leaders and non- governmental bodies have filed a series of petitions against the project on religious, economic and environmental grounds.

The court would hear two cases filed by Ossie Fernandes, director of the Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, and one each filed by Janata Party leader Subramaniam Swamy and Rama Gopalan, founder president of the Hindu Munnani, a Hindu group.

In September, during the hearing of the case filed by Swamy, the government had sought three months to review the project. In October, it appointed a 10-member panel to conduct “personal hearings for the public". The hearings were held in Chennai and were closed to the public.

The committee, which was supposed to submit its report on 11 November, has since asked for an extension. It is due to meet in Chennai on 14 November to set a new deadline for its report.

Meanwhile, the Rameshwaram Ram Sethu Protection Movement on Monday said it would hold a nationwide agitation if the Centre failed to declare by 30 November that the Ram Sethu would not be destroyed for implementing the Sethusamudram Project.Priyanka P. Narain with PTI

BSE ties up with US Futures Exchange

Mumbai: The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has tied up with US Futures Exchange to list a dollar-denominated benchmark index futures contract on the Chicago-based electronic exchange, the firms said on Monday.

The futures contract based on India’s Sensex, as the benchmark is called, would help investors in the US to participate directly in India’s equity markets without requiring American Depositary Receipt authorization.

“The launch of a futures contract based on the Sensex will facilitate overseas investors in taking exposure to Indian equities," Rajnikant Patel, BSE managing director and chief executive, said. Trading on USFE, the former Eurex US market, begins on 22 February, the exchanges said. Reuters

IVRCL to acquire oil, gas company Alkor Petroo

Hyderabad: Infrastructure major IVRCL Infrastructures & Projects Ltd has agreed to buy Alkor Petroo Ltd, a closely-held oil and gas exploration and production company that has interests in five exploration blocks in Yemen and Egypt, for an undisclosed amount.

Alkor owns a 25% stake in three blocks in Yemen and 20% in two blocks in Egypt. Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd and others own the balance stake in these blocks.

In a statement, IVRCL said it expects revenue earnings of over $1 billion (Rs3,930 crore) from one of the blocks in Yemen and one block in Egypt during their life, based on best estimates of an internationally reputed agency. C.R. Sukumar

Karat hints at solution to nuclear logjam

New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said on Monday that his party would like to “make an effort to sort out the problem" with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over the India-US nuclear agreement. “We have a stand. So has the government. (But) we have covered a lot of ground in our meetings (of the 15-member UPA-Left panel formed to study the nuclear deal). We hope something will come out of the next meeting," he said. ASHISH SHARMA

Tata Power, L&T in race for Tilaiya power project

New Delhi: The 13 companies in the race for setting up the 4,000MW Tilaiya ultra mega power project in Jharkhand include Tata Power Co. Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Reliance Energy Ltd. The nodal agency conducting the bidding, Power Finance Corp., has received a request for qualifications or preliminary bids from the firms, persons familiar with the matter said. PTI

New anti-graft helpline in education sector

New Delhi: The government has launched a helpline to deal with corruption in the education sector. People can call in at 011-23382298 or 23386317, or fax on 23070036, their corruption-related complaints against Central universities, Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Information Technology or school examination boards. Aparna Kalra