Politics & the Nation
  • NREGA named after Mahatma Gandhi
    • COMMEMORATING Mahatma Gandhi’s 140th birth anniversary, the government on Friday announced its decision to rename its flagship rural employment programme as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the announcement at a programme marking the 50th anniversary of the launching of Panchayati Raj. Even as the government stressed on the importance of the panchayati raj institutions, there was a keen realisation that there was a need for reform.
  • Indian Air Force refused to retaliate against Naxals
    • The Centre has rejected a proposal for allowing Indian Air Force personnel to fire at Left-wing extremists. The government was clear on its policy to restrict the role of IAF in anti-Naxal operations to evacuation, rescue and airlifting of the civilian security forces.
    • Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik had on Thursday said that the Air Force has sought permission to open fire in self-defence after one of the air warriors was killed by Maoists. He expressed worries about collateral damage.
  • Karan Johar forced to make amends for using 'Bombay' instead of 'Mumbai'
    • Noted film director Karan Johar had to hurriedly call on the MNS chief Raj Thackeray and apologize for using "Bombay" to refer to "Mumbai" in his latest film "Wake up Sid." The film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Konkana Sen Sharma. The film had a simultaneous release in 700 locations worldwide.
    • As soon as the film was released there were protests from MNS activists for referring to "Mumbai" as 'Bombay.'
    • The film director was reportedly 'directed' to rectify the error and he appears to have decided to put in an apology before the beginning of the film in every print.
    • We leave the floor for your comments.
Finance & Economy
  • SBI plans to raise upto $1 bn from international markets
    • India's largest bank, State Bank of India, is foraying into the international market to raise close to $1 billion, riding on the back of improved sentiment for Indian paper.
    • The bond issuance will be part of the bank’s medium-term note (MTN) programme that envisaged the bank raising up to $1billion in 2004. The amount was scaled up to $5 billion in February 2007. Last week, SBI filed an update to the offering circular under the MTN programme with the Singapore Stock Exchange.
    • An MTN programme allows an issuer to raise funds on an ongoing basis through various products such as floating-rate notes or on a fixed rate after obtaining prior approvals. Companies opt for MTN programmes as they offer a lot of flexibility.
    • SBI is likely to use the foreign currency funds raised from the issue to lend to Indian corporates for their international operations. The bank also plans to extend its global footprint.
    • Banks have a two-tier capital structure marked by capital and free reserves in tier-1 and long term bonds being classified under tier-2.
  • Why is the health of the employees important for India Inc?
    • India is expected to lose $237 billion between 2005 and 2015 due to productivity loss arising from cardiovascular problems of a young workforce, according to a World Health Organisation report.
    • Experts say this can be reduced by controlling main risk factors such as use of tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. India Inc is striving for it.
  • Banks to be rewarded for opening more rural branches
    • At present, there are close to 120 revenue blocks in the country which are unbanked—with not even a single bank branch—of which more than 90 are in north east part of the country, according to the data available with the finance ministry.
    • Absence of a formal banking system forces people living in these areas to opt for informal financial system and mostly private money lenders for their financial requirements. It also prevents flow of funds from such areas in form of deposits into the formal banking system.
    • Therefore, government has decided to reward banks by offering financial incentives to commercial banks that open branches in the unbanked areas of the country.
    • The move aimed at reaching out to all 1.07 lakh unbanked villages having population over 2,000 by 2011.
  • The case in favour of putting an end to fossil fuel subsidies
    • Oil subsidies amount to $310 billion a year for non-OECD countries, the most munificent being Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and India. For these countries, phased reduction of such doles is indeed a way to contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These subsidies distort energy consumption patterns, retard economic growth and strain state finances. They also significantly incapacitate governments when it comes to finding resources for social security, public infrastructure and general welfare. The bulk of petroleum subsidies in India goes to transportation and household cooking and lighting. The beneficiaries include even the super rich. Coal, the predominant fuel for electricity, is sold to power stations at below global market prices, although this has little to do with monopolistic producer Coal India’s efficiency. Also, the nascent gas market is riddled with price support and rationing, which need to go as the market matures. Output subsidies on electricity can be limited to small farmers and the poor, provided distribution infrastructure and metering technologies are improved to thwart theft.
    • Therefore, the G20’s call to phase out fossil fuel subsidies gives countries like India an added reason to take long-overdue action on this front.
    • But will India bite?
  • Circus tycoon is the 7th space tourist
    • CANADIAN circus billionaire Guy Laliberte, dubbed the first clown in space, arrived at the International Space Station in a Russian space craft on Friday for a 10-day stay that cost over $35 million.
    • The 50-year-old is worth an estimated $2.5 billion, having turned a passion for acrobatics and circus acts into a global entertainment empire.
    • Before blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Laliberte, who will leave the ISS on Oct. 10, was accompanied on his outbound journey by a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut.
Language lessons
  • sally: Noun
    • A venture off the beaten path
    • eg: "a sally into the wide world beyond his home"
  • sartorial: Adjective
    • Of or relating to a tailor or to tailoring
    • eg: ...Or perhaps, what the Congress and allies found revolutionary was Rahul’s altered sartorial sense: he eschewed the kurta (favoured in JNU), and chose a more ‘western’ attire.