Politics & the Nation
  • Satyam gets a new board
    • It is very heartening to note that l'affaire Satyam is one issue where the governments both at the centre and state level have acted with alacrity and very satisfactorily.
    • In a record time the Centre had put in place a three member board with Deepak Parekh, Kiran Karnik and Achyutan as initial members.  It was given the mandate to select 10 other members on to it.
    • All the three, coming as they do with impeccable credentials, have made the right noises.  They said business continuity, client retention and re-statement of accounts are top priorities.
    • Let us wish the board God speed and hope that it will be able to manage the issue very effectively and protect the interest of all stakeholders.
  • What is the transporters' strike about?  What are their demands?  What measures did the government take so far?
    • It started on January 5.  The main demands of the transporters are:
      • A reduction in diesel prices by Rs 10
      • Eexemption from collecting service tax
      • Free movement of trucks without any state permit and 
      • Waiver of interest on truck finance.
    • It looks as though the government has been able to thwart the malefic effects of the strike by:
      • Roping in the rival union - All-India Confederation of Goods Vehicle Owner’s Association - for neutralizing the impact of the strike.
      • Promptly arresting the AIMTC - All India Motor Transport Congress - President Mr. Charan Singh along with 30 others under the ESMA - Essential Services Maintenance Act.
      • Asking all the state governments to invoke the ESMA to ensure free movement of goods.
      • Ensuring that adequate food stocks are kept in PDS system to counter the price rise of essential commodities.
      • Expressing its willingness to remain open for talks.
Finance & Economics
  • Remember the issue about data exclusivity?
    • It is about letting companies which did the original research to have exclusive control over their clinical research data and not allow the data to be used by other companies or competitors to introduce similar or competing products.  
    • A parliamentary standing committee that has gone into the issue has effectively negated the data exclusivity enjoyed by the MNC firms by telling the government not to stop the current practice of approving cheaper Indian versions of MNC drugs without insisting on the Indian company to repeat the same costly and time consuming research once done by the MNC.
    • Multinational drug makers have been pressuring the government not to approve me-too versions (generics) of their medicines by Indian companies without repeating the research, by citing data exclusivity rights.
    • This article that appeared in today's ET is a good read to understand the issue. 
  • What sets the base / foundation for corporate governance in India?
    • In the context of the Satyam implosion, the issue of corporate governance will remain on public mind for some time to come.  A very good article is written by Satvik Varma in today's ET on the subject.  A few excerpts worth our noting:
    • Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement, which every company that seeks to have its shares traded in the stock exchanges of the country, lays the foundation for corporate governance in India.  The company is required to fulfill the requirements laid out in this clause before it files the draft Red Herring Prospectus with the SEBI.
    • Clause 49 stipulates that the board of directors of a listed company is required to have a combination of executive and non-executive directors with not less than 50% of the board comprising of non-executive directors. It further stipulates that if the chairman of the board is a non-executive director, then at least one-third of the board should consist of independent directors and where the chairman is an executive director, at least half of the board should consist of independent directors. Furthermore, where a non-executive chairman is also the promoter or is related to any promoter or a person occupying a management position, it is stipulated that at least one half of the board of directors should be independent. 
    • Aside from the requirements under the Listing Agreement, the Companies Act, also sets out principles for corporate governance which amongst various others includes a duty on the board of directors to adopt the accounting standards as stipulated by the ICAI, a duty to maintain proper books of accounts and prepare financial statements which are in accordance with applicable standards, to exercise due care in the maintenance of records to prevent irregularities and to sign the directors report presented with the annual report. 
    • Sudeshna Sen, another ET columnist that I respect, while writing on corporate governance, likens it to crime control, and opines that it has always been about constant vigilance between the rule-keepers and rule-breakers. It’s not like some magic technology that companies in any country suddenly acquire on achieving a level of mythical maturity. 
  • Oldest impact structure found in India
    • One of the oldest impact structures in the world, created by an asteroid about one km in diametre about 2,500 million years ago, has been discovered in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district. 
    • The Dhala structure, second in India after Lonar, is the eroded remnant of an impact structure with an estimated present-day diametre of 11 km, the largest in Asia. 
    • It is the only confirmed structure discovered by an Indian in the subcontinent and Far East Asia. Till date, not one confirmed impact structure has been reported from Japan and China.
    • Lonar crater, BTW, is an impact crater situated in the Buldhana district of Maharashtra. The crater is 1.83 km (6,000 ft) in diameter and 170 metres in depth, and its age is estimated to be 52,000 ± 6,000 years (Pleistocene period).  It is the second largest impact crater in basaltic rock and is partially filled by a salt water lake.