Politics & the Nation
  • EC seeks powers to de-register political parties
    • At present the Election Commission can only register political parties. But it can not de-register them. As there are more than 1200 registered political parties and half of them don't contest elections, the EC is seeking the power to de-register political parties so that non-serious candidates can be removed from the election process.
Finance & Economics
  • Net telephony to become more affordable and official
    • The government is reportedly proposing Rs 43 crore as entry fee for allowing internet service providers (ISPs) the right to offer domestic phone services using computers, a sharp climbdown from its earlier insistence on a Rs 1,651 crore fee.
    • Full-fledged internet telephony will allow consumers to make cheaper calls from PCs or laptops to fixedline and mobile phones in India. They can also make a call to personal computers from their mobile handsets.
    • At present, a call from a computer can legally be made only to another computer within the country, and not to a phone. But the existing regime allows domestic users to make international calls to a phone from their computer. ISPs claim that net telephony will allow users to make STD calls for as low as 10-40 paise per minute while local calls will be free.
    • At present, ISPs that offer internet telephony are subject to a 6% revenue share. This share is likely to be hiked to 9% in the proposed regime.
  • Bankers vie with each other to finance Bharti-MTN merger deal
    • JP MORGAN, BNP Paribas, HSBC and Barclays are in talks with Bharti Airtel to fund part of the $4 billion needed by the Indian telco to complete its $23-billion merger with MTN, Africa’s largest mobile phone operator.
    • The merger deal will see both Bharti and MTN offering equity stakes and cash to each other. Bharti will have to make a net cash payment of around $4 billion to complete the deal, which will see it acquiring a 49% stake in MTN, which, in turn, will get a 36% economic interest in the Indian firm.
    • The proposed merger, if it goes through, will create a telecom powerhouse with over 200 million customers and over $20 billion in revenue. Both companies are in exclusive talks till July 31.
  • What are the issues involved in extending trading hours for stock markets? Why is there a need for extending them at all?
    • At present, the cash & derivatives segments are open from 9:55 am to 3:30 pm, currency derivatives market operates from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, while the commodity futures market operates from 10:00 am till 11:30 pm.
    • SEBI is reportedly thinking of increasing stock exchange trading hours so that market participants in India are better placed to react to developments in global markets. If the proposal is approved, the equity market will be open for trading from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
    • Look at this graphic which answers the queries we raised above.
  • The bourses see a decline in PN investments in India
    • The Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (Sebi) efforts to get foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to directly invest in the Indian stock market by signing up with the regulator, rather than through the participatory notes (PNs) route, appear to be paying off. This is evident from the decline in portfolio investments through PNs, which now stands at 15% of the total FII investments in the country, down from 29% in October 2008, when Sebi eased various restrictions on PNs. The share of PNs was 52% in October 2007.
    • Participatory notes are derivative instruments issued by Sebi-registered FIIs to other overseas investors, seeking to invest in Indian securities, who are not registered with the regulator. The securities are held by the PN-issuing FII on behalf of its clients.
    • According to information on Sebi website, as of June 26, 2009, there were 1,668 registered FIIs and 5,162 registered sub-accounts against 1,524 and 4,638, respectively, on October 6, 2008, when Sebi removed the restrictions.
    • PN investments have been a headache for a section of policymakers in India, as it is suspected that this route is used for money laundering and round-tripping (bringing back unaccounted money stashed away in foreign banks). RBI, in particular, has long advocated a ban on PNs. Sebi has not favoured such a drastic course of action.
    • The notional value of PNs outstanding stood at Rs 31,875 crore in March 2004. By August 2007, the value of PNs was Rs 3.53 lakh crore, around 51.6% of assets under custody of all FIIs in India.
  • What is the change in index computation that has been brought about recently?
    • We are all aware that stock market indices are computed in a complicated way. Till the other day this computation for NSE Nifty (top 50 stocks on NSE) was based on the total number of shares issued by the company. Reportedly this made little sense from the market perspective.
    • So now the index is being computed in what is called the 'free-float' methodology. Meaning, in place of the total number of shares issued by a company, the figure of available floating stock of the company would be taken to determine its market cap.
  • Have you ever been rejected a loan by a bank?
  • Pakistan's place among failed states
    • The top 10 failed states in the latest list are: Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Guinea and Pakistan.
    • This is a list which is prepared by Foreign Policy journal.
    • The ranking is done on the basis of the following factors: demographic pressure, refugees/internally displaced persons (IDPs), group grievance, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimisation of the state, public service, human rights, factionalised elites and external intervention.
  • Michael Jackson
    • So much is already written about, talked about and aired about Michael Jackson ever since the news of his death of cardiac arrest broke out. Any amount of our notings may just be a repetition of what is already known to you. But for those who did not have the time to catch up with this sad news, we recommend reading this story.
Language lessons
  • allegory: Noun
    • A short moral story (often with animal characters); A visible symbol representing an abstract idea; An expressive style that uses fictional characters and events to describe some subject by suggestive resemblances; an extended metaphor.
    • eg: Fawcett’s red bathing suit became as much an allegory of that land of opportunity (USA) as Jackson’s silver glove and Moonwalk.
  • laodicean: Adjective
    • Lukewarm for religion or politics