Politics & the Nation

  • Mumbai under seize by terrorists
    • As at the time of writing this is still a developing situation.
    • An attack on the city with bombs and indiscriminate gunfire by terrorists that saw the ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) Chief of Mumbai killed along with another IPS officer of the 1989 batch sent shock waves throughout the country. So far, more than 100 people are reported killed and about 200 or so injured.
    • A little known outfit called Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility.
    • The militants struck in about a dozen areas including Mumbai's landmarks like the CST railway station and Oberoi and Taj hotels. Several people (about 40) appear to have been taken hostage by the terrorists. The Army has been called out. The NSG is sent to Mumbai.
    • This attack comes as a shock, even as political parties keep arguing whether tough laws are needed to tackle terrorism.
    • Unless India's political class develops a sense of bipartisanship to tackle issues like terrorism, there appears to be little hope. Now we will go through the charade of opposition leaders calling on the PM, the PM calling on all concerned in the nation to exercise restraint & calm amid the same and boring utterances that nothing will be left unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice. Only to wait for another attack somewhere, sometime. Why do our investigative processes and the judicial system take so long to bring law breakers to justice? Why can't our political parties agree to speed up investigations and judiciary act with speed to decide criminal cases? Why is that we, as a nation, are failing even after 60 years of independence to bring this about? How many more of us have to die before we can set things right? Pardon me, if I look/read like an average citizen writing with angst. I am after all one.
    • We need to learn from Barack Obama. He seems to have learnt a lot about bipartisanship and appears implementing it with lot of gusto. Will our political class rise up to the occassion?
  • One more call on our politicians to decisively act
    • In a very good article TT Ram Mohan argues that the present financial crisis is an opportunity for the country to spruce up its act on infrastructure creation. Not by giving soft loans to the private sector to make infrastructure investments. But by the government itself taking up the initiative; as this will create all the jobs that are needed to see us through the ill-effects of the present financial crisis.
    • I second this opinion. Targets contemplated under the FRBM Act can wait. If the government imporves the infrastructure spending on its own that will result in job creation, improve the infrastructure and generate demand. This will enable the country ward off a recession and perk up growth. As we have very less scope on improving our export performance (as demand contraction in our importing countries is biting us), this appears a welcome idea.
Finance & Economy
  • American nuke business people to come calling on India for business
    • The United States is dispatching its largest ever trade mission of commercial nuclear businessmen to India early next week to make a pitch for multi-billion dollar sales of reactors to New Delhi.
    • Following the signing of the 123 Agreement between the two countries the US businessmen are exploring the possibility of winning at least two contracts for establishing nuclear power plants in India. India plans to import eight 1000 MW nuclear power plants by 2012.
    • At the moment it looks as though the US needs to bag the contracts much more than India needs the US supplies. With the US economy in recession, these contracts are very badly needed by it for creating jobs and perking up the business outlook.
  • Global trade is slowing
    • Latest trade figures from Japan and Germany show that their exports shrank.
    • The World Bank expects global trade to decline by 2.5% in 2009, the first drop since 1982.
    • The World Trade Organisation estimates that there is currently excess demand in the trade finance (loans directly given to cross-border transactions) market of up to $25 billion. What this shows is that bankers are refusing to lend money to trade finance.
  • What are PIPE deals?
    • It stands for Private Investments in Public Equity. What this means is that usually large investors are approached by the managment of a publicly listed company for capital infusion. This happens only after the investor is given an opportunity of carrying out due diligence.
    • It is possible that PIPE deals can be equated with insider trading. India lacks proper regulations concerning PIPE deals.
  • Global meet on conservation agriculture
    • Aimed at addressing innovations in agriculture for realising improved efficiency, equity and environment, the 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture would be held in New Delhi from 4th to 7th February.
    • The Congress will share the knowledge to conserve and judiciously use precious natural resources for overcoming the global food crisis and alleviating poverty.
  • Trouble in Thailand
    • PAD - People's Alliance for Democracy, had been campaigning for the last six months for the ouster of Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. PAD accuses him of being a pawn of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in exile.
    • Fresh elections at the end of 2007 installed a party made up of former allies of Mr Thaksin come to power.
    • The seize of the Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport by the protestors, the shootings by the PAD supporters at random during the last two days, the failure of the law and order machinery -- police preferred to avoid a showdown with the protestors -- and the unwillingness of the military to step in to restore order, have all contributed to the chaos that rules there currently.
    • Gen Anupong, the Army Chief had advised the PM to call for polls. But the PM refused saying that his government is legitimately elected. Even as rumours are rife that the military may stage yet another coup, the army chief denied that was his plan, saying the government still had "full authority".
  • Greenland votes for autonomy
    • Greenland, the world's largest island and former province of Denmark, gained the status of an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government as well as its own parliament in 1979.
    • Denmark is in charge of foreign affairs and defence policy and contributes two thirds of its budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing. It has a population of just 57,000 people - mostly Inuits (Eskimos).
    • In a just concluded referendum, over 75% of voters had supported the plan, which would see Greenland take a greater share of its annual oil revenues. It will also take control of police, courts and coast guard, and have some say in foreign policy.
    • It is widely expected that this referendum will ultimately pave way for its total independence from Denmark.