Politics & the Nation
  • NAUI not to issue ID cards?
    • The National Authority for Unique Identity, headed by Nandan Nilekani, will aim at providing a unique number to all Indians, but not smart cards.
    • It’s another matter that various ministries may, for their various purposes, choose to issue biometric cards using this unique number. But the Nilekani team itself will focus simply on ways to give all citizens a unique number, and let others issue cards for purposes they think fit.
    • The unique ID number will not substitute other existing numbers a person may have (PAN, passport number, ration card number). Rather, it will be an additional, unique number to be cited along with existing numbers for different purposes. This will help weed out duplicate and ghost cards that are widespread today (notably in BPL ration cards), and, may be, benami bank accounts and property deeds.
    • Citizens will not be obliged to get a number. But those that don’t will find it very inconvenient: they will not have access to facilities that require you to cite your ID number.
  • On creating broadbased economic growth (an excerpt from today's op-ed article by TK Arun)
    • More than one-fourth of India’s 600 districts are officially counted as Naxalite afflicted and Maoist violence is rated as India’s number one internal security threat. Policing alone cannot stop the trend. We need a new kind of politics that creates broadbased economic growth. Inclusive growth does not mean hand-outs from the state but converting people into active participants in the process of globalised growth. Hand-outs such as by the employment guarantee programme do serve a purpose, and are relatively easy to produce. However, making marginalised people stakeholders in the growth process is far more difficult.
  • Why is the Left finding itself at crossroads today? (an excerpt from today's op-ed article by TK Arun)
    • The Left believes that Capitalism has become moribund, devoid of any progressive, emancipatory potential and is, therefore, a system whose overthrow is the sole goal to be pursued in the interest of the people. This world view, fashioned in the 1950s, leaves the Left without any constructive agenda to deal with the world as it is.
    • This constitutes a strategic deprivation for the Left and leaves them in a peculiar bind. The Left was on a strong wicket while it mobilised the people against pre-capitalist land relations and brought about land reforms, wherever they were in a position to. However, after having established the pre-requisites of capitalist growth, they could not take things forward. After all, their job is to topple capitalism, not build it. At the same time, to win elections, you have to be seen to be trying, at least, to create jobs. Now, jobs can be created in the government sector, but only to a limited extent. So, for job creation at large, the Left has to dirty its hands by building capitalism, in some form or the other. It is this reduction of engaging with the real world to a vague compromise with its basic strategic programme which lies at the root of the Left’s problems, including underdevelopment of its areas of influence, Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, and alienation of the people of Lalgarh.
  • In this excellent piece (two excerpts from which are given above) TK Arun gives some same advice to the Left parties.
    • Will the Left listen? Lalgarh and Singur should ideally be the turning points for Left to take a revisionist approach. China did it and transform itself. In Russia the Left fell by the wayside. Only in Cuba is still holding forte in the same old form in which it was heralded. Can the Indian Left see the writing on the wall?
  • On crop insurance
    • Only around 4% of the country’s farmers have availed a crop insurance scheme. More shockingly, a National Sample Survey Organisation study in ‘03 revealed that 57% of India’s farmers were unaware of crops being insured.
    • With monsoons playing truant, it is time the government spruces up its act and comes up with a workable risk protection scheme for farmers.
  • Government gives go-ahead for swine flu vaccine production
    • India's drug regulator has given approval to three domestic biotech firms to start tests and analyses to develop a vaccine for swine flu, or the H1N1 virus.
    • Bharat Biotech, Panacea Biotech and Serum Institute will now be able to procure seed strains from labs in the US and UK to manufacture the vaccine.
    • The domestic companies are expected to take at least six months before they apply for an approval for the next stage of trials. Once the companies submit their preliminary test and analysis data, they will have to apply for potency test, pre-clinical trials and finally clinical trials before launching the medicine in the market.
    • But it is believed that by September, global companies might be able to roll out a vaccine in the country.
Finance & Economy
  • In defense of monetization
    • We have been noting for quite sometime about how the government's planned borrowing to an extant of close to Rs. 4 lakh crore is going to stoke inflationary pressures.
    • Read today's ET editorial to understand the reasons why monetization of the deficit is better at the current juncture. Solid case made out -- yes; but we will escape being mauled by inflation only when there is timely action by government on rolling back of the stimuli at an appropriate time.
  • Anil Ambani funds DreamWorks of Steven Spielberg
    • It is the biggest and the most high-profile deal in Indian entertainment. Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) has finally sealed the funding for its much-hyped 50:50 joint venture with Hollywood’s iconic director Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks.
    • DreamWorks Studios will get an initial funding of $825 million, which includes equity from Reliance ADAG to make films for a global audience. The company would make five to six films per year, and the first production would start this year for release in 2010. Of the $825 million, $325 million will be equity infused by Anil Ambani as his personal investment, $150 million will come from The Walt Disney Company as a distribution advance, and the rest will be funded by JPMorgan via debt.
    • This is not Mr Ambani’s only venture in Hollywood. BIG Pictures, owned by RBE, has plans to produce films with Nicolas Cage’s Saturn Productions, Jim Carrey’s JC 23 Entertainment, George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions, Chris Columbus’ 1492 Pictures, Tom Hank’s Playtone Productions, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, Jay Roach’s Everyman Pictures, Brett Ratner’s Rat Entertainment and Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films.
    • Mesmerizing plans; aren't they? The initial rash of investments made by Anil Ambani soon after he parted ways with his brother now appear to be having a big plan behind them.
  • Government targets Rs. 15K crore disinvestment?
    • The Economic Survey had recommended an annual disinvestment target of Rs 25,000 crore.
    • The budget did not have much to say about this.
    • But the Finance Secretary is reported to have disclosed that the disinvestment plans are on; refraining however to mention any target for raising funds from disinvestment. But going by the corridor rumours the figure that the government might be looking at may be of the order of Rs. 15,000 crore.
    • The public sector firms that figure in the road map include NHPC, Oil India and Tyre Corporation. Disinvestment in NHPC and OIL India alone is expected to fetch around Rs 3,500 crore.
  • Small savings accounts get a boost with NREGS
    • Some 31.2 million postal savings accounts were opened in 2008-09 to facilitate wage disbursal under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), helping the country’s postal system regain at least some of its lost sheen. The number is expected to cross the 50-million mark by the end of 2009-10 when disbursals under the scheme will cross Rs 10,000 crore, said a senior official at India Post.
  • PM calls for an international convention on terrorism
    • Addressing the NAM summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt the PM called upon NAM countries to agree upon a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.
    • At the meeting that is taking place in the backdrop of economic recession, the economist prime minister used the opportunity to drive home India’s point about the need for a new international financial architecture that relies on the participation of all countries. He said the developed world cannot shirk off its responsibility as the ongoing crisis emanated from the advanced economies.
  • G8 restrictions not to hinder nuclear trade with France
    • The G-8 recommendation to raise the bar on transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries that do not have it seems to be unravelling. In his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has told the Indian side that it will have no bearing on his country’s nuclear trade with New Delhi.
    • Sources in the government said Mr Sarkozy conveyed to the prime minister that France will not allow G-8 stand on the matter to come in the way of nuclear negotiations with New Delhi. This assurance came during their luncheon meeting in Paris on Tuesday.
    • The agreement between India and France allows India to reprocess French-origin nuclear fuel on its own. France has exhibited flexibility on the reprocessing issue and has indicated that it is also willing to reprocess fuel on its own territory if India wants.
    • This development augurs well for India as it comes on the back of Russsia’s nod to reprocess fuel that it supplies to India. The support from the two countries is expected to strengthen India’s case.
  • Iranian airplane crash kills 168
    • A Tupolev aircraft crashed in Iran on Wednesday on its way to Armenia after catching fire in mid-air and ploughing into farmland, killing all 168 people on board just 16 minutes after take-off.
    • In the worst crash in Iran for six years, the Russian-built Caspian Airlines plane left only scattered bits of incinerated metal and fragments of the bodies of 153 passengers and 15 crew across a wide area around a deep smoking crater in the ground. The Tu-154 plane, flying to Armenia’s capital Yerevan from Tehran, crashed near the northwestern city of Qazvin shortly before noon .
Language lessons
  • titter: Noun
    • A nervous restrained laugh
  • chitter: Verb
    • Make high-pitched sounds, as of birds
  • long-winded: Adjective
    • Using or containing too many words