Politics & the Nation
  • Advani and the BJP in deeper trouble
    • It is not just the salvos being fired by Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh. Now it is Brajesh Mishra too who is seen firing at the BJP leader LK Advani and on the latter's claims that he is not fully in the know of certain decisions relating to the Kandahar episode.
    • Take a look at this news report. The troubles for BJP appear to be nowhere near end. It urgently requires a messiah to save it from itself!
  • 3G and WiMax spectrum floor prices fixed
    • A MINISTERIAL panel has fixed Rs 3,500 crore as the minimum bid price for the auction of third-generation (3G) wireless spectrum, evoking dismay from telecom companies that see it as exorbitant.
    • The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also fixed the base price for WiMAX spectrum for wireless broadband services at Rs 1,750 crore.
    • The government expects to garner around Rs. 25,000 crore from the auctions.
  • Debate on nuclear tests' success
    • Mr. K. Santhanam, a scientist who was working directly under Dr. Abdul Kalam in 1998 when Pokhran II tests were carried out set the cat among the pigeons by saying that the yield from the tests was far below the expectations and that because of that India should not rush into signing the CTBT for which there is increasing pressure from the US and other countries.
    • However, Mr Santhanam’s assertion that the yield of the hydrogen bomb was much lower than what was claimed clearly challenges the government account of the time about the bombs yielding 45 kilotons (45,000 tonnes) of conventional explosive. At the time, western experts had also questioned the success of the tests saying it could not be more than 20 KT.
    • But Dr. Abdul Kalam said the tests were successful. Let's wait and see whether the controversy dies a natural death.
  • Women get 50% seats in Panchayats
    • In what is touted as a major step towards gender equality the government has approved 50% reservation for women in panchayats.
    • Taking a leaf out of Bihar’s book where CM Nitish Kumar pioneered the empowerment of women at the grassroots in 2005 by being the first to give them equal representation in village panchayats — a move that paid his party rich dividends in the 2009 Lok Sabha poll — the Centre will now replicate the Bihar model for local bodies across the country.
    • The proposal cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday entails amendment to Article 243D of the Constitution to raise the one-third reservation provided to women in panchayats to 50%.
    • Apart from Bihar, the other three states that are already implementing gender equality at the panchayat level are Uttarakhand (where the quota of seats for women is a whopping 55%), Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Rajasthan has also announced 50% reservation that will be implemented in the next panchayat election in early 2010. On Wednesday, Kerala announced 50% reservation for women in panchayats and other local bodies.
Finance & Economy
  • New foreign trade policy announced
    • The foreign trade policy (FTP), announced by commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, extended the focus market scheme to 26 countries and introduced a new market-linked focus product scheme for another 13 markets to encourage exporters to explore new areas to make up for a fall in demand from traditional markets such as the US and Europe, which contribute about 40% of the country’s export receipts.
    • THE new market-linked focus product scheme offers incentives for export of select items to 13 identified markets like Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Australia and New Zealand.
    • It also promised dollar credit to exporters and allowed dutyfree imports of capital goods for select industries such as engineering, chemicals, electronic products, pharmaceuticals, textiles, handicrafts, plastics and leather products, subject to an obligation to carry out specified amount of exports.
    • The Duty Exemption Pass Book scheme has been extended up to December 2010. Income-tax benefits under section 10 A for the IT industry and under section 10(B) for 100% EOUs have also been continued for another year, until March 2011.
    • WTO estimates that world trade will decline by 9% this year.
  • Some stats on our irrigation area
    • The net irrigated area, as a percentage of the total sown area, is the highest in three states --Punjab around 92%, Haryana about 82% and Uttar Pradesh 80%.
    • But, there are only eight states — apart from the three mentioned above, the other states are Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttarakhand — that beat the national average of 42% of net irrigated area.
  • Formula One racing in the country hits roadblock
    • The 2011 Indian Grand Prix has hit a roadblock with the promoters of the event failing to get the government nod for remitting the money they owe to the UK-based Formula One Administration.
    • The high ranking officials in the Sports ministry are reportedly not convinced that payments to the tune of Rs. 200 crore need to be paid by the Indian organizers to the UK based Formula One Administration.
    • JPSK Sports is organizing the Indian Grand Prix. It was slated to debut originally in 2010; but later it was postponed to 2011 as it faced some teething problems about land and organizers.
    • Indian motor racing lovers may have to wait a little longer to savour their favourite sport.
Language lessons
  • railroaded: Verb
    • Compel by coercion, threats, or crude means
    • synonyms: dragooned, sandbagged
    • eg: He further warned the government against being ‘railroaded’ into signing CTBT, as India should conduct more nuclear tests for security.
  • set/put the cat among the pigeons
    • to do or say something that causes trouble and makes a lot of people angry or worried
  • plonk: Noun
    • A cheap wine of inferior quality
  • skimp: Verb
    • Work hastily or carelessly; deal with inadequately and superficially; Limit in quality or quantity; Subsist on a meagre allowance; Supply sparingly and with restricted quantities
  • savoir-faire: Noun
    • Social skill
  • niggling: Verb
    • Worry unnecessarily or excessively; Argue over petty things
  • mortarboard
    • An academic cap with a flat square with a tassel on top; A square board with a handle underneath; used by masons to hold or carry mortar
    • eg: With every academic worth his mortarboard revisiting Keynes today, primarily to figure out ways of improvising on the original recession-busting formula, the need for rapid addition of irrigation and other water-related infrastructure takes on a special urgency.