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www. bbc. co. uk/blogs/thereporters
Can Britain charm India? wonders Spectator magazine with a cover illustration inspired by the oldest oriental clichê - a snake charmer (David Cameron, in this case, who has made his first visit as prime minister to India) trying to rouse a drowsy and a rather contended looking snake (India). Jo Johnson, a Conservative MP, writes in the magazine that Britain's relationship with India is outdated. A friend in Delhi says the cover cartoon is a good example: the inability to get over a colonial vision of a land of snake charmers, lumbering elephants, sleepy hill stations and stubborn natives! So has India outgrown Britain? Some of the colonial tradition endures - India's civil service, its army, the English language and maybe even cricket.

www. thelede. blogs. nytimes. com

Tennessee's lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, has been asked to explain recent comments in which he suggested that Muslim Americans might not have a constitutionally protected right to worship in the US. Ramsey, who hopes to win the Republican nomination for governor in a primary next month, was asked to explain his position on the "threat that's invading our country from the Muslims. " As Jeff Woods of The Nashville Scene reported, a tape of the exchange posted online shows the lieutenant governor responding, "I'm all about freedom of religion, " before casting doubt on Islam's credentials as a religion by saying: You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it.


THEIR VIEW

India in the foreign press

TAPPING RURAL INDIA
Wall Street Journal's special report, 'MNCs in rural India: At a turning point' tracks the shift of MNCs from urban to rural India. While most like to dub it as 'corporate social responsibility' experts believe that "with growth drying up in developed markets and their center of gravity shifting to emerging markets, MNC businesses in India are under pressure to prove that their rural strategies aren't just about doing well from a CSR perspective. " Yet, it is impossible to discuss multinational strategies in rural India without mentioning CSR. Multinational giants have filled in the gaps left by government by building roads, providing education and healthcare in villages and implementing environmental programmes that aim at sustainable development. However, these companies also need to show their head offices that these strategies are delivering top- and bottom-line results. "Two-thirds of the country's one billion consumers live in rural India, where almost half of the national income is generated. A report by Technopak Consultants and the Confederation of Indian Industries, a trade body, estimates that the country's rural consumer market generated US $425 billion of revenue, up from US$266 billion the previous year. " The number of rural households with an income of US$1, 525 have more than doubles since 1993. Combine these factors with improved roads and other infrastructure in rural India to help products reach their markets, and it's easy to see rural India's attraction.

THE GHOST OF ARTICLE 377

Balaji Ravichandran in The Guardian writes that even though homosexuality was decriminalised in India over a year ago, gay men and women continue to face harassment and alienation. The problem lies in the failure to acknowledge sexual plurality in the Indian society. True, there are a few clubs in the capital, which hosts gay nights twice a week and police interference in terms of anecdotal reference, has also come down. But what still remain crucial are the hate crimes against homosexuals. One recent example is the consequences that a professor of a leading Islamic university had to face. After an MMS scandal of the professor having gay sex with his partner all hell broke loose and both of them had to face death. Coming to Indian media he writes, "in a country composed of dozens of states divided by language and individual cultures, most local media have sealed their lips when it comes to sexual plurality. " Even the raid of English movie channels through cable lines and now DTH has not helped the cause a lot. In fact, in HBO the word 'gay' is censored every time it is uttered in a film. The even more funny part is that when it transcribes the dialogue in the film into 'accessible' subtitles " I am gay" becomes a more mysterious " I am. . . " Ravichandran says that lack of political initiative is one of the main reasons why homosexuality is still viewed as unnatural and even criminal. For example, it was only when in 1997 the Labour party came to power in Britain that political landscape with respect to homosexuality has a positive change. The English media, bold yet hesitant came out more freely in the new environment. India also could do with such a phenomenon. Only then hopefully channels like HBO will not brand the word 'gay' along with swear words like 'fuck' or 'slut' that are censored, amongst other social changes. "

Compiled by Shobita Dhar and Kastoori Rai Dewan

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