Politics & the Nation
  • Dera Sachh Khand followers resort to violence
    • TWO persons were killed after violence broke out in several places of Punjab as followers of Dera Sachh Khand burnt trains and blocked highways in protest against murder of a sect leader in far away Vienna. Dera followers armed with swords, sticks and stones were on the streets in Jalandhar, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr towns. 
    • The prime minister appealed for calm.
  • Cycle Aila wreaks havoc
    • WEST Bengal and Bangladesh were in the eye of the storm on Monday as Cyclone Aila, whipping up speeds of 70-110 km, lashed the coastal regions, leaving 21 dead and leaving thousands homeless. Orissa also faced the fury of the cyclone. 
    • Basic infrastructure, including power, railways and aviation collapsed. Kolkata almost came to a standstill as commercial establishments and educational institutions remained closed and public transport went off the roads. 
  • Government turns a blind eye to NREGS' downside?
    • It is very well known that there is a sudden and sharp rise in the wages of workers signing up for the NREGS.  It is also well known that these high wages were keeping rural inflation high, threatening to keep workers away from normal economic activity in rural areas. This had prompted it to consider limiting states’ freedom in fixing the pay out. That may change now with the new dispensation expected to take a humanitarian view rather than one based on economic wisdom.   
Finance & Economy
  • The finance minister has a tough job on hand
    • Look at some of these figures and we know why:
    • For the first time since 2003-04 the Centre’s direct tax receipts (Rs 3, 38,212 crore) are short of not only the original target but also the revised target. Corporate tax collections have fared particularly badly, up barely 11% as against the previous year’s growth of close to 30%. 
    • Revenue deficit, which at 4.4% of the GDP (according to revised estimates for 2008-09) was already 340% higher than the budget estimate. 
  • Winds of economic hope sweep across the globe
    • Take a look at this news report and you will surely conclude so.
    • BTW do you know what is the Central Bank of Germany?
      • It is Deutsche Bundesbank.  Its President (counterpart of our RBI Governor) is Axel Weber. 
  • Water scarcity and development
    • Here is an excellent piece written by one of our favourite authors - Jeffrey D Sachs.  A must read.  An excerpt worth our attention:
    • Many conflicts are caused or inflamed by water scarcity. The conflicts from Chad to Darfur, Sudan, to the Ogaden Desert in Ethiopia, to Somalia and its pirates, and across to Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, lie in a great arc of arid lands where water scarcity is leading to failed crops, dying livestock, extreme poverty, and desperation. 
    • Extremist groups like the Taliban find ample recruitment possibilities in such impoverished communities. Governments lose their legitimacy when they cannot guarantee their populations’ most basic needs: safe drinking water, staple food crops, and fodder and water for the animal herds on which communities depend for their meagre livelihoods. 
    • Politicians, diplomats, and generals in conflict-ridden countries typically treat these crises as they would any other political or military challenge. They mobilise armies, organise political factions, combat warlords, or try to grapple with religious extremism. But these responses overlook the underlying challenge of helping communities meet their urgent needs for water, food, and livelihoods. As a result, the US and Europe often spend tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars to send troops or bombers to quell uprisings or target “failed states,” but do not send onetenth or even one-hundredth of that amount to address the underlying crises of water scarcity and under-development. 
  • N Korea conducts nuclear test in defiance of the world
    • NORTH Korea on Monday said it ‘successfully’ conducted a nuclear test and also appeared to have fired a short-range missile, following up on earlier threats issued after the UN Security Council criticised a rocket launch by the Stalinist state. 
    • India joined the international chorus of condemnation of North Korea as the test. External affairs minister S M Krishna, who formally took over his new assignment on Monday, criticised North Korea saying that such a test was a violation of international commitments and warned that this development would have a negative impact in the region. 
    • The tests are seen as a muscle flexing exercise in the backdrop of the US announcing a new effort to restart stalled talks with North Korea to end its nuclear programme. The tests, which come after the scare in Pakistan of nuclear sites falling into the hands of the Taliban, also signal a failure of disarmament talks that were aimed at preventing North Korea from carrying out a nuclear test. This is the second test by North Korea, which last tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and has continued to develop its nuclear programme maintaining that it was working towards building up its "nuclear deterrent for self-defence.’’
  • Who is Dr. Binayak Sen and why is his Supreme Court ordered release making it to national headlines?
    • Dr. Sen was lodged in Raipur central Jail for more than two years since May 14, 2007. for his alleged links with the Left wing extremists in Chhattisgarh -- without any concrete evidence against him.  He is also outspoken against the state-sponsored Salwa Judum, a controversial counternaxalite movement in Chhattisgarh.
    • The Chhattisgarh government has charged Dr Sen under the stringent anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. He was booked for acting as a courier for an alleged naxalite. It was alleged that Dr Sen had passed on certain letters to a naxalite leader lodged in a Chhattisgarh jail while visiting the prison as a doctor. 
    • He is also the winner of the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor and tribal communities and his unwavering commitment to civil liberties and human rights. 
    • Look at this chronology of events, if you are interested.
Language lessons
  • harrowing: Adjective
    • Extremely painful
    • eg: The consequences are harrowing: drought and famine, loss of livelihood, the spread of water-borne diseases, forced migrations, and even open conflict.