Politics & the Nation
  • India signs fusion energy research pact with European Union
    • India and the 27-nation European Union (EU) have signed an agreement for cooperation in the field of Fusion Energy Research and agreed over the free trade treaty by next year to boost trade and investment.
  • SC stays HC order on job reservation for disabled
    • The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court order directing the Centre to provide three per cent job reservation for persons with disabilities mandated under a special legislation which includes one per cent for visually-impaired candidates.
    • However, the Bench clarified it was not staying the Disabilities Act under which three per cent jobs should be reserved for disabled persons, including one per cent for visually-impaired candidates.
    • The apex court had directed the Centre to file a detailed status report regarding the extent to which the posts had been identified and filled up and also what steps had been taken to fill up the vacancies that had arisen since the Act has gone into force in 1996.
Finance & Economy
  • FBT burden on employees to be spread out in the next four months
    • The July 2009 Budget dropped FBT and returned the earlier system of taxing perks in the hands of the employee. But the CBDT has not yet given the guidelines for computation of perks. In the absence of the guidelines, employers were not deducting any tax from employees. Once the guidelines are made available the entire tax will have to be recovered in one go.
    • Employees of those companies that had already started deducting tax on these benefits as per the old rules, which were in effect before the controversial FBT was introduced in 2005, would not be hit so hard as they would have paid some tax. However, as the overall liability is likely to be more due to the government’s plan of bringing more benefits under the tax net, they too will have to shell out additional amounts.
    • In the perks taxation regime before FBT, perquisites that were taxed included rent-free accommodation, car, chauffeur, services of personal attendants, concessional education, concessional journeys, credit card, interest-free loans, gift vouchers, hotel stay exceeding 15 days and medical facilities. The value of these services was the actual cost to the employer.
    • The Finance Act 2009-10 also made employee stock options and employers’ contribution to the superannuation fund taxable, if the amount exceeded Rs 1 lakh per annum. Total FBT collections in 2008-09 stood at Rs 7,997 crore.
  • Indian tea bushes in for rejuvenation
    • Many of India's tea bushes are reportedly very old; some even as old as a hundred years. This is what makes the tea less tasty. Therefore, the tea gardens are on a replanting spree.
    • Replantation cost in North Indian gardens is Rs 3.03 lakh per hectare, compared to Rs 5 lakh per hectare in South India. The productive life of a tea bush is 50 years. Assam has 3,00,000 hectares under tea plantation. The Dooars, Terai and Darjeeling tea estates together cover an area of 1,14,000 hectares. South Indian gardens are spread over some 1,22,000 hectares.
    • Of the total 5,36,000 hectares that is under tea, nearly 2,12,000 hectares are planted with bushes well over 50 years of age. In comparison, Sri Lankan tea bushes are a little over 30 years old, while Kenyan tea bushes are much younger.
    • Some big names in Indian tea business: McLeod Russel, Goodricke, Warren Tea, Dhunseri Tea, Rossell Tea, Gillanders Arbuthnot, Amalgamated Plantations.
    • Indian tea, sells some 210 million kgs in the export market, besides some 740 million kg locally.
  • Why is divestment in PSUs good?
    • This is good for the stock market (increases depth, absorbs more capital with less asset price inflation); good for public enterprises (make their accounts more transparent and available to the public at large rather than only to Parliament as at present); and for the spread of shareholding culture among Indians.
  • It is often said that the government should not own non-strategic enterprises. What does 'strategic' mean in the context of government's investments in commercial enterprises?
    • Strategic, here, should be understood as providing long-term competitive advantage to the economy, apart from being vital for national security, but not coming forth except for investment by the government, which can take risks that purely commercial calculations cannot. Which sector is strategic would change over time, depending on circumstance and the economy’s degree of maturity. Steel was strategic once, but no longer. Satellites, however, continue to be.
  • Scientists map body bacteria
    • American scientists have identified over 4,200 species of bacteria that live in various parts of a human body and mapped them into an atlas.
    • The researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, also found unexpectedly wide variations in bacterial communities from person to person.
    • "The goal is to find out what is normal for a healthy person, which will provide a baseline for further studies to look at people with diseased states," the research team said.
    • The study was based on an intensive analysis of the bacteria found at 27 separate sites on the bodies of nine healthy volunteers.
    • There are an estimated 100 trillion microbes living on or inside the human body and they are thought to play a key role in many physiological functions, including development of the immune system.
  • India to meet China in the final of Asia Cup women hockey
    • India will lock horns with China, who beat Japan by a solitary goal.
    • It was a double delight for the Indian women's hockey team as they edged out Korea 3-2 to sail into the Asia Cup final, which also assured them a berth in the 2010 World Cup in Argentina.
  • Ganguly back as KKR captain, Whatmore appointed coach
    • Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Friday returned as the Kolkata Knight Riders' skipper for next year's Indian Premier League, replacing New Zealand's Brendon McCullum.
    • The controversy-ridden IPL outfit, which finished at the bottom of the table this year, also named Dav Whatmore as its new coach with Delhi Ranji coach Vijay Dahiya as his deputy.
    • Pakistani pace legend Wasim Akram was appointed the mentor of the side.
Language lessons
  • gainsay: Verb
    • Take exception to
    • eg: ...Yet, it cannot be gainsaid that it makes no sense to stall and put on the back-burner vital infrastructure projects simply due to unrealistic conditions.
  • pussyfoot: Verb
    • To go stealthily or furtively
    • eg: ...It would surely be transformative pan-India, after much policy pussy-footing.
  • bawl: Verb
    • Shout loudly and without restraint; Make a raucous noise; cry loudly