Politics & the Nation
  • India and the demographic dividend
    • In 2020, an average Indian is expected to be only 29 years old against 37 years in China and the US, 45 years in West Europe and 48 years in Japan. This is the “demographic dividend” that research analysts keep harping about — by 2020, the working age population in India is expected to grow by more than 47 million people. 
    • In 1985, after the UN declared it as the International Year of the Youth, Indian policymakers set about preparing a National Youth Policy, which was adopted in 1988, which was then revised in 2003. Despite this, few initiatives were taken to translate these policies into action on the ground. 
    • Some facts from Indian Census 2001 in this context:
    • The total youth (13-34 years) population is 390 million (38% of total population) and is expected to rise to 440 million by 2020. 
    • 70% (271 million) youth reside in over 600,000 villages. 
    • 72% (282 million) youth are literate. 
    • 41% of literate youth are 13-19 years old, 23% are 20-24 years old and 36% are in the 25-34 years old. There is no significant difference among males and females. 
    • 59% of literate youth are male. Little over 7% (21 million) of literate youth are graduates and above, 53% have passed higher secondary (12th class). 
    • 62% of graduate youth are male. 
  • Arogyasri scheme of AP
    • This scheme which is launched two years ago on Andhra Pradesh and is considered the brainchild of the Chief Minister Mr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy is getting accolades from far and wide.  It is also believed to be one of the main reasons for the YSR government being voted back to power.
    • Arogyasri is a medical insurance scheme of sorts.  The premium for Aargoyasri is borne fully by the state. Every family below the poverty line gets an annual health cover of Rs 2 lakh. The state government has a tie-up with private insurer. It has empanelled 367 private and public hospitals as service providers.  Protocols are stringent, be it in the selection of medical procedures or the empanelment of hospitals. The database of beneficiaries and software system to track each and every case are in place.  Over 940 medical and surgical packages are listed and the costs are fixed by a panel of doctors from the trust.
    • A year ago, the centre rolled out the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to provide health insurance for families below the poverty line. The beneficiaries are entitled to hospitalisation coverage of up to Rs 30,000. Only 30 lakh smart cards have been issued so far. But Arogyasri has achieved greater depth and has been found to be working satisfactorily.
  • Know the difference between a category and a group
    • A category has diverse or heterogeneous elements unlike a group which is sociologically similar in its composition.
Finance & Economy
  • Oil producers to have their profits capped
    • THE government reportedly is planning to cap profits of crude oil producers such as Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Oil India (OIL), Reliance Industries (RIL) and Cairn India as part of a transparent and sustainable subsidy-sharing system for the sector.
    • The proposal to levy a special oil tax was part of the recommendations of the BK Chaturvedi Committee, appointed to look into oil pricing as a replacement for the current subsidy-sharing plan that has been criticised for its lack of transparency.  The committee had recommended that public sector oil companies — ONGC and OIL — should contribute their revenues beyond $75 a barrel to the central exchequer, while private producers need to chip in with 50% of their incremental earnings.  
    • The government spent a staggering Rs 1,03,182 crore on oil subsidies in 2008-09 to keep the pump prices of motor fuel and cooking gas under control. The enormity of the burden, which is almost 2% of the country’s GDP, is prodding the Manmohan Singh government to take a hard look at its hydrocarbons policy.  
  • Inclusive growth
    • If you are ever asked to write on the challenge of inclusive growth, you can't get a better a piece than this one.   Some excerpts:
    • India’s growth story has sometimes masked the challenge underneath — as many as 600 million people continue to depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood, yet agriculture has been growing at only 3% annually. At the same time, India’s workforce is growing. We currently have around 500 million people in the workforce and this is expected to grow by about 20 million each year for the next ten years. By 2020 India will account for a fourth of the world’s total workforce. And it will be a young workforce. By then, the average working age is projected to be 60+ in both US and Europe, 45 in China, and merely 29 in India!
    • But this workforce has a serious problem: unemployability due to lack of the necessary skills and competence that is essential for today’s environment. 
    • For India to prosper, it must integrate its diverse population, especially its youth. They are the future. But this can only be done if the 4Es are in place — education, employability, employment and excellence. With the 4Es will come the 5th E — economic growth. 
  • Indian cities to get a 25K cr bonanza
    • The World Bank is reportedly favourable to extending a loan of Rs. 25,000 crore to develop urban infrastructure over the next five years.
    • The government is expecting to receive a major portion of this as an IDA (International Development Association) loan under the World Bank, as the interest charges from loans extended by IDA attract a rate of about 1% only.
    • BTW the World Bank had lent a total of $1.7 bn to Indian FY 09 as against $2.1 bn in FY08.
  • GM borrows $4 bn more from the US Treasury 
    • With this borrowing, the total it has borrowed from the US Treasury touches $27 bn by June 1.
    • This year so far, it had borrowed $19.4 bn.
    • It is well on its way to filing for bankruptcy protection but has been fighting shy of it because of its continuing efforts to negotiate with its bondholders and employee unions.
    • But bankcruptcy appears to way forward.
  • New flu virus has mysterious origins
    • Researchers are now saying that the virus responsible for the recent outbreak of swine flu pandemic might have been circulating undetected among swine herds somewhere in the world.  The odd mixture of humna, pig and bird genes in teh new virus, has puzzled the researchers.
    • The recent outbreak of swine flu pandemic has seen more than 11,000 people infected in 42 countries and has claimed 42 lives.
  • Obama's move against the credit card issuing banks
    • The US President has signed a bill clipping the credit card industry's wings.  The bill largely codifies a set of rules issued by the Federal Reserve last year and puts them into effect in February 2010.  
    • It sharply restricts credit card issuers' ability to raise interest rates on existing balances, to charge certain fees and to slap cardholders with penalties.
  • Sir Ranulph Fiennes
    • On May 21, 2009, at the age of 65, he became the first person ever to cross both ice caps via both poles and to also climb the world’s highest mountain. He is the first British pensioner and the third oldest man in the world to climb Everest.
    • The oldest to climb Everest at the age of 76 is Nepal’s Min Bahadur Sherchan, a former army officer.
    • Sherchan broke the record of retired 71-year-old Japanese school-teacher Katsusuke Yanagisawa who climbed Everest in May 2007
Language lessons
  • skittish: Adjective
    • Unpredictably excitable (especially of horses)
    • eg: With investors skittish over the indebtedness of the United States, stocks could be subjected to more volatility if the allure of US assets dims further.