· Core infrastructure sectors record 9.6% growth

o Despite sluggish growth in the index of industrial production (IIP) in March 2008, the six core infrastructure sectors recorded a robust increase of 9.6% during the month — thanks mainly to accelerated production in the steel and coal sectors, and to some extent in the cement sector.

o The core sector growth rate during March 2008, however, was slightly lower than the 10.5% growth recorded in the same month of the previous fiscal.

o For the entire fiscal 2007-08, the growth in the six core sectors — crude oil, cement, electricity, coal, petroleum refinery products and finished steel — was relatively low at 5.6% compared with 9.2% in 2006-07.

· Look at the oil losses!

o IOC, which is the country’s largest oil retailer, and its state-owned rivals such as Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, could together lose Rs 2 lakh crore in 2008-09, up from Rs 77,000 crore in 2007-08.

· What is meant by aggregation services in insurance industry?

o It means offering quotes across a range of insurance companies to retail buyers of property, auto or health insurance. This is done by brokers.

o But wait a minute. Is there any difference between a broker and an agent?

o The key difference between a broker and an insurance agent is that unlike an agent, who pushes products for an insurance company, the brokers represent the customer and are expected to get their clients the best deals from across companies.

o So far, insurance brokers had been constrained by regulations that required that any person selling insurance be a fully-qualified insurance person. Also, brokers were not allowed to have sub-brokers selling insurance. As a result of these restrictions, brokers focused only on high-networth corporate customers. Corporates made the best of de-tariffing by playing up one insurance company against the other.

o For the consumer, what this means is that they can purchase the cheapest health or auto insurance online in the same way they compare and buy air tickets online.

· Mobile phones offer the best chance to face the financial inclusion challenge

o There are now about 260 million wireless-phone subscribers in the country, more than in the US.

o A typical banking transaction automated via mobile phones costs 50 US cents to a bank in the Philippines; routing the same through a branch would be five times as expensive.

o Globally, mobile phones will handle $587 billion in financial services by 2011, UK consulting firm Juniper Research says.

· On changing subsidy structure in fertilisers

o From almost nothing in 2003-04, urea import has gone up to nearly 70 lakh tonnes (including from Oman) in 2007-08. Over 25% of our urea requirement is now being met through imports, largely because production has remained stagnant at about 200 lakh tonnes for the last 4-5 years.

o Time and again we have been discussing the fertilizer subsidy issue in our blog. Look at a new suggestion that has come from ET editorial today on targeting the subsidy:

o We need to move to a nutrient-based subsidy (from a product-based one) and give it directly to the farmer instead of keeping market prices low and compensating the producers.

· The Bhopal gas tragedy and the cleaning up mess issue:

o The tragedy continues to unfold with toxins contaminating soil and water up to five kilometres from the plant site. There is a lot of waste – about 10,000 tonnes – that is lying buried in and around the factory site. Rains are spreading contamination from this waste to other nearby areas.

o We all know that UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) has been bought over by Dow Chemicals. So the cleaning up of the soil and the water has to be done by Dow Chemicals. Whether or not there is any responsibility on Dow Chemicals because of the conditions in the agreement of purchase is a moot point at this juncture. While the Indian government can keep pursuing the company on this score, It should expeditiously clean up the plant site, even as it seeks through political and/or judicial means to settle the liability issue. To not do that on the pretext that liability needs to be fixed first would perpetuate the tragedy and erode the shaky consensus for reform with which the UPA is so closely identified.

o The Bhopal gas tragedy prompted the world chemical industry to adopt Responsible Care. In India by now we have about 100 chemical factories as signatories to Responsible Care being driven by Indian Chemical Council (ICC).

o The relevant question is whether the clean-up can be done thoroughly by the Indian government or Indian companies, and whether it can be ensured that thoroughness is not sacrificed on the pretext of urgency. Fact is Indian agencies lack the experience and the technical wherewithal to deal with the highly toxic wastes abandoned by Carbide.

· What is the Blackberry security that is making government so nervous?

o The BlackBerry issue came into the open earlier this year when DoT refused permission to Tata Teleservices to launch this service on the grounds that Indian security agencies did not have a system in place to monitor data and email sent between BlackBerry users. BlackBerry services provided by other operators too came under the scanner after IB and other security agencies informed DoT that e-mails and data sent between BlackBerry users in India bypass the networks of telcos providing these services here and directly hit RIM’s servers in Canada.

o Now don’t ask me what is BlackBerry; will you? For those of that persist with this question here is the answer:

o The BlackBerry is a wireless handheld device introduced in 1997 which supports push e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing and other wireless information services. It is a prime example of convergent device. Developed by the Canadian company Research In Motion (RIM), it delivers information over the wireless data networks of mobile phone service companies.

· Mom and pop stores to give organized retail a run for its money?

o Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM)—the biggest national-level association of mom-and-pop stores (kiranas) that comprises 17,000 state and district level associations across 27 states—is planning to form co-operatives throughout India helping its members benefit from a common sourcing and shared infrastructure (logistics, storage and billing) platform. The association will negotiate directly with manufacturers such as Unilever or P&G and do away with any middlemen who eat into their margins.

· What is bariatric surgery?

o It is the technical name for weight loss surgery.

o People considered fit for the surgery need to have body mass index (BMI) of 32 and two or more complications or BMI of 37 without any complications.

o BMI is defined as the individual’s body weight (in kg) divided by the square of their height (in metres).

· Want to fly?

o This is how we should do it. That is pure thrill and energy…

o A Swiss pilot strapped on a jet-powered wing and leaped from a plane on Wednesday for the first public demonstration of the homemade device, turning figure eights and soaring high above the Alps.

o Read the full story with the picture here.