Foreign saviours on job to rescue Sahara

A syndicate of five UK and US investors who have come to the rescue of embattled Sahara group chief Subrata Roy with a $2 billion loan offer hope to clinch the deal by February 20.

The investment by Mirach Capital Group, which has been specially formed for the execution of this deal, “is not into the Sahara Group, but a loan against the hospitality properties,” its CEO Saransh Sharma told IANS in an email interview.

“The loan may also represent the opportunity for acquisition, in the event Sahara is not able to repay the debt,” said US based Sharma, who is currently in India.

“The properties represent marquee assets valued far beyond the 2 billion dollar loan. The negative attention around Subrata Roy’s trials has distressed these assets, and Mirach sees a valued opportunity to potentially acquire them at a discount,” he said.

Roy, who has been locked up in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail since March on the Supreme Court’s orders for Sahara’s failure to refund investors needs to raise about $1.6 billion to secure his release on bail. With special permission of the apex court, Roy has been trying to raise the money by negotiating from jail the sale of properties.

These include the Plaza Hotel in New York, the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, Sahara Star in Mumbai and Aamby Valley resorts in Maharashtra.

The total loan package is $882 million to Bank of China, $650 million to Sebi–Sahara fund and $450 million which is divided into two of $180 million to Sahara Star and $270 million to the resorts silo of the Aamby Valley project, Sharma told IANS.

Mirach Capital Group is a special purpose entity representing a syndicate of five investors from the UK and the US, Sharma said.

It was specially formed for the execution of this deal, and represents this consortium of investors.

Mirach was formed only a few weeks ago as a Delaware limited liability company (Llc) with a couple of other Llcs in Nevada and Miami because one of the investors is a Vegas–based group and the other is in Miami.

There’s another Mirach which has been incorporated in the UK to take in the capital from investors there.

Sharma said at this juncture, he cannot disclose the names of the company’s investors as it could potentially damage deal negotiations.

Mirach was currently in the process of completing definitive documents, he said. Upon completion and execution of required paperwork, the deal will be closed.

Given the multi–jurisdictional complexities of making a loan and investment in three countries across five properties, the transaction and its respective paperwork is quite complex, he said.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

OBAMA VISIT

Three–layered food checking

The food and drinking water to be served to US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle during their stay at the ITC Maurya will pass through three layers of stingent checking. While the super–luxury Maurya has its own team of food–testing experts, the food to be served to the US president and his wife will be checked by a Delhi Police team and finally by a team of US Secret Service agents before it is served. The process of testing the food will be completed 15 minutes before it is to be served to Obama.

Handpicked staff

ITC Maurya has hand–picked a team of 50 expert staff who will look after US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle during their three–day stay at the super luxury hotel.

Mobile phones

All phone lines at ITC Maurya will be monitored by the Delhi Police and US Secret Service from January 24 evening, a day before US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive for their three–day stay in India.

“All the telephone lines, including the internal phone lines of the hotel, will be monitored by the Delhi Police staff, and no staff member will be allowed to carry or use mobile phones during the time the US president is staying at the hotel,” a security source told IANS. On January 25, the hotel staffers and helpers who come to the hotel will have to deposit their mobile phones, other electronic items and belts with the hotel security.

They will have to undergo a thorough screening and their shoes will also be checked by the Delhi Police and US Secret Service.

Hotel chefs told to stay put

ITC Maurya has cancelled the leave of its top chefs and asked them to stay put in the hotel during the time. The chefs who specialize in cooking continental cuisine have been told to remain within the hotel during the VVIP visit. Around 50 chefs specialize in continental cuisine in the hotel, according to inside sources. The hotel, which has over 430 rooms, has been fully booked by the US team till January 27.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Unhygienic food trade thrives in Assam

Lack of a regular monitoring system has ensured that unhygienic food business thrives in the State, particularly in the capital city.

Six teams were formed by the Guwahati metropolitan administration in September to clamp down on the city’s food fraud. Drives were conducted during the first few days. Though the exercise was supposed to continue till November, the teams seem to have vanished since September end. In its initial raids, the teams had seized bananas worth rupees several lakhs that were being ripened with carbide in godowns of the city.

Although illegal in many countries, calcium carbide (CaC2) is commonly used by traders here to accelerate the ripening process. Industrial grade calcium carbide may contain arsenic and phosphorus, which can be fatal to humans and animals and may even cause cancer.

Traders say unless the fruits are ripened overnight, “it is difficult to meet the demand in the city”. “If we don’t ripe them that way, there will be a massive shortfall in the market. If the government gives us an alternative way, we can go for it,” they said, citing the lack of facilities and alternative means to narrow the demand–supply gap.

Government officials admit that there is no “mechanism for continuous monitoring of the markets. Sometimes, we do conduct raids and we have taken action against unscrupulous traders. But it is not sufficient. Mainly, the wholesale market need monitoring on daily basis,” admits the administration official.

In the process, customers are left at the receiving end. They allege adulterated food, particularly dairy products, fish, meat etc have caused serious hygiene concerns. “The officials concerned conduct raids at times. But those are merely eye–wash. They just want to show that they are doing something. There is no mission and long–term objective as such,” says a local citizen. Around 45 per cent of the fish in the city market comes from outside the State. Nobody knows how they are preserved.  “If we keep only local fish, the demand–supply gap will widen drastically. This will lead to high pricing,” a fish wholesaler said.

Complaints have been received from consumers in various areas regarding adulterated milk and contaminations of food. The menace is more in Guwahati where locally produced items are scanty.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Young achiever awards to Akanshya, Violina and Shweta

Three taekwondo players of Assam – Akanshya P Gogoi, Violina Thakuria and Shweta Sharma – were honoured with the Young Achievers’ Award for their consecutive gold medal–winning performance in the National Taekwondo Championship in 2013 and 2014, and based on these performances they were also selected to represent India in the WTF World Taekwondo Championships in Maxico and the sixth Commonwealth Taekwondo Championships in Scotland. They were honoured at a function organized on January 12 in the city by Dalmia Bharat Group, a press release said.
The awards were presented to them by the Indian women boxing ace MC Mary Kom, who encouraged the players with her much spirited words.
Akanshya, Violina and Shweta are presently undergoing their taekwondo training at SAl, STC, Guwahati under Coach Tamas Sethi. They are also taking special taekwondo training under Master Wan Yong Lee of South Korea, in CTTC, Nehru Stadium. They are all students of St. Mary’s HS School, Chenikuthi, Guwahati.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Cancer patients get a healing touch!

The Bhogali Bihu spirit touches all and sundry in the state. But how come those battling for their live miss this? Driven by such a feeling, the authorities of the Dr. B Barooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati celebrated Bhogali Bihu in the institute premises.

There are many patients whose days are numbered, and as such their chances of enjoying such festivities. When viewed from that angle, such patients should be given all possible facilities to enjoy, and today’s is an effort towards that end by the cancer institute.

On January 13, all employees and patients of the cancer institute made an elaborate arrangement for the celebration of Bihu. They erected belaghors and mejis and lighted them in accordance with tradition. All employees of the hospital prayed for early recovery of the patients.

An egg fight was organized and participated by the employees and patients in the premises. The patients were found to have forgot their illness when they were busy in dancing and singing along with the doctors, nurses and other employees.

Dharmeswar Deka, a 50–year–old throat cancer patient from Sarthebari, expressed gratitude to the management of the institute for holding such a programme. “This celebration has given us an opportunity to feel at home,” Deka, who is undergoing treatment with radiography, said.

“Attending the Bihu function, I do feel that I’m cured of,” said Md. Mofij Uddin from Lakhimpur. He has been suffering from cancer of the rectum for the past one year and a half. He is undergoing treatment with chemotherapy and radiography in the institute.

Rekha Moni Das, the attendant of a patient from Morigaon, said: “I’m very happy with the pre–Bihu celebration here, and getting a chance to perform Bihu dance.”

Recreational programmes like music, sight–seeing etc., have profound impact on the immunity of the patients to fight all kind of diseases.

Matri Mandir, an NGO dedicated for support to orphans, distributed ladu und pithas among the patients and hospital staff.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

Fight anti–India groups, Kerry tells Pak

Pakistan must fight militant groups that threaten Indian, US and Afghan interests, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, and offered $250 million aid for militancy affected people on Tuesday.

Visiting Pakistan after going to India over the weekend, Kerry said all terrorist groups should be targeted for the security of the region.

Terror groups like the Tehreek–e–Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar–e–Taiba (Let), and other terrorist groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, its neighbours and to the US,” Kerry said during a joint press conference here with Pakistan foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz.

While listing some of the most feared terrorist groups, he said “all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these terrorist groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory.”

Most US–led forces in neighbouring Afghanistan officially completed their combat mission last month, prompting concerns about the stability of the region where insurgents have been increasingly aggressive in the past months.

Following the December 16 Taliban attack on the Peshawar Army School in which over 140 students and teachers were killed, Pakistan promised to stop differentiating between “good” and “bad” militants and to step up operations against their hideouts on the Afghan border.

Kerry expressed appreciation for the sacrifices of Pakistan’s military personnel and civilians in the fight against terrorism and extremism and commended Pakistan’s resolve and the steps being taken to tackle terrorism in a comprehensive and robust manner.

Kerry said Washington, which has spent billions of dollars on military aid to Pakistan will help it to fight insurgents and would provide an additional $250 million aid in food, shelter and other assistance to help people displaced by the conflict in the tribal areas.

Speaking alongside Kerry, Sartaj Aziz made a plea to the US to keep giving Pakistan money to help rebuild the regions where the Pakistani military has been fighting militant groups. “We expect our defence forces to remain engaged in counter–terrorism operations for some time in the foreseeable future,” Aziz said.

“Continuation of coalition support fund reimbursements is therefore a valuable support that must continue in the interests of both countries”.

Meanwhile, during the joint press conference, key advisor Aziz said the US being an influential member of the international community could prevail upon India to work with Pakistan for regional peace and economic prosperity.

“The cancellation of foreign secretary–level talks by India, followed by the recent incidents of unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (International Border) are a source of serious concern to Pakistan,” he said.

“We hope, therefore, that US as an influential member of the international community can prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity.”

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/

State farmers selling produces to middlemen at throwaway prices

No procurement of paddy in state by FCI, State Agriculture Marketing Board

The situation is even worst for vegetable growers who have to sell their produces at throwaway prices. In  Barpeta vegetable wholesale market, while cauliflower is sold at 50 paise a kg, cabbage at 50 paise a kg, ol kobi at Re 1 a kg, brinjal at Rs 2/3 a kg, fresh bean at Rs 5 a kg, tomato at Rs 1 a kg, cucumber at 50 paise a kg, etc… Had there been adequate number of cold storage such perishable vegetables could have been kept and that would have enabled the farmers getting reasonable prices.

The Bhogali spirit has touched all in the state, barring the farmers. And the blame for this goes to the state government that always neglect the necessities of the farmers, as though, to enable middlemen to mint money.

This year, the farmers of the state have been able to ensure bumper production of paddy by the sweat of their brews, but their efforts have gone in vein due to lack of responsibility on the part of the government at Dispur.

This year, the farmers have to bear the brunt as neither FCI nor the State Agricultural Marketing Board procured paddy produced by the state farmers who had to sell their produce to middlemen at throwaway prices. In most of the cases, the farmers are not even able to recover the cost of production. Some farmers even go for bumper production of paddy by taking bank loans, but their efforts are negated by the lack of responsibility on the part of Dispur.

According to official sources, the minimum support price of paddy was fixed at Rs 1,300 per quintal (fine paddy at Rs 1,350 per quintal) for FCI to procure from the farmers of the state. However, the corporation has not procured paddy. So much so that, the farmers have not been made known where are the paddy procurement centres are in their respective districts.

The State Agriculture Marketing Board has also not procured paddy from the state farmers, as though to leave them at the mercy of middlemen who have been buying bulk of the produces at much lower rates. The farmers have no way out but to sell their paddy at Rs 900 per quintal against Rs 1,300 MSP. According to sources, the farmers who took bank loans for cultivation are apprehensive of incurring huge loss.

The situation is even worst for vegetable growers who have to sell their produces at throwaway prices. In  Barpeta vegetable wholesale market, while cauliflower is sold at 50 paise a kg, cabbage at 50 paise a kg, ol kobi at Re 1 a kg, brinjal at Rs 2/3 a kg, fresh bean at Rs 5 a kg, tomato at Rs 1 a kg, cucumber at 50 paise a kg, etc. The same commodities are sold in Guwahati at much higher prices.

Why have to farmers faced such a plight? Blame goes to the government. Had there been adequate number of cold storage such perishable vegetables could have been kept and that would have enabled the farmers getting reasonable prices.

This apart, the state Agriculture Marketing Board has not procured vegetables from the state farmers. Such uncertainty kills the work culture among the farmers of the state.

(Source) The Sentinel Assam – The Largest Media group of North-East India — focused on news publishing. Combined circulation of the group is over 120,000 newspapers per day, making it the largest newspaper group in the region. The Sentinel is the only English daily in the Northeast India with five editions published simultaneously from Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Shillong, Silchar and Itanagar. For all local, news from Assam, national and international news please visit  http://www.sentinelassam.com/