Emphasis on security, passenger amenities, expansion of rail network, slew of concessions... freight and passenger rates left untouched, are some highlights of Union Minister Mamata Banerjee's Railway Budget for 2010-11.
113 new trains; no hike in fares
Service charge cut to Rs 10 for sleeper & Rs 20 for AC
Rs 100/wagon cut in freight rates for foodgrain and kerosene to help moderate prices
No forcible acquisition of land
No increase in freight charges
Pay more and get a rake through tatkal scheme
Special task force to clear investment proposals in 100 days
1,000 km of new lines against average of 219 km in last 5 yrs
Rly Budget is a survey budget: Lalu
For a complete list of the budget highlights take a look here.
The operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of revenue) is expected to improve marginally to 92.3% in 2010-11 from the current year’s 94.7%. That depends on gross traffic receipts rising 7.3% — with passenger earnings growing 8.6% and freight by a conservative 6.4% during the year — and limiting the expenditure increase to 4.4%. The ideal operating ratio for railways is believed to be 80% or lower. A higher operating ratio means that ordinary working expenses claim practically all the revenues, leaving little with which to fund new projects in this capital-intensive sector.
The budget should be commended for seeking to partner the private sector for new lines, railway stations, manufacturing units of rolling stock, multi–modal logistic parks, high speed train corridors, port connectivity and multi-level parking.
You can download the full text of the Railway Minister's budget speech here.
Following is an explanation offered by Arvind Panagariya in his op-ed piece today.
Due to myriad labour regulations, protection to workers and therefore labour costs in the organised sector rise exponentially as the firm size increases. The result is manufacturers do their best to avoid operating in the organised sector. And when they do, they either remain small as in textiles and apparel or go for capital- or skilled labour-intensive products such as automobiles, auto parts, petroleum refining, software and pharmaceuticals in which unskilled-labour costs are a small proportion of the total cost. Additionally, for any given product, they opt for the most capital- or skilled labour intensive technologies.
As a result of these choices, employment in the organised sector has been extremely low and stagnant. The only place left for workers then is the unorganised sector. But when 93% of the workers in a highly labour-abundant country seek employment in the unorganised sector, which is characterised by very low productivity, low wage is the natural outcome.
eg: A tad neater perhaps, with a smidgen more of savoir faire in delivery, yet they remain reassuringly desi in essence; not too much of post-reform gobbledegook, no fancy gloss calculated to pull in the punters, and most of all, no sudden makeovers to stun the unsuspecting.
A tiny or scarcely detectable amount
Incomprehensible or pompous jargon of specialists
A flowery and highly rhetorical oration; (rhetoric) the concluding section of an oration
eg: In her 110 minute peroration, Banerjee slowly built up speed, ...
In a slap on the I-T department, the Ranchi high court on Tuesday stayed the transfer of senior I-T official Ujwal Chaudhary who was recently shifted from the investigation of the multi-crore Madhu Koda money laundering scam.
You might have remembered our noting about this high profile case yesterday.
Air India is facing the worst financial crisis in its history and has sought financial help from the government to tide over the crisis. While it has tried to implement a slew of measures to bring down its overall cost structure the airline has largely failed to get desired result.
The airline has accumulated loss of over Rs 8,000 crore as of December 2009 mainly due to high fuel price and excess capacity in the market.
It is well known that Air India is seeking an equity infusion of about Rs. 5,000 crore from the Government to enable it to raise more debt and tide over its financial difficulties. Government has reportedly released an amount of Rs. 800 crores and has asked it to prune its salary expenditure which is way high when compared with private secotr rivals.
The airline’s wage bill of over Rs 3,000 crore annually for about 31,000 employees is 17% of the airline’s total operating expenses. Accoridng to Air India’s management the average salary of Air India staff is 15-20% higher compared with their counterparts in rival carriers Jet Airways and Kingfisher.
Air India is reportedly negotiating wage decrease with its employee unions.
Air India has 230 employees per aircraft, compared with 105-120 in the case of private airlines.
Maruti said it is recalling one lakh AStar small cars to fix a problem with a faulty fuel tank part.
A Maruti representative said the problem — which has the potential to lead to fuel leakage — was discovered in November last year and the company started contacting customers from December. Maruti will share the cost of the recall, estimated at Rs 40-50 crore, with its vendor Banco Products. Customers will get replacement gaskets and O-rings at no extra cost.
In a previous major recall in 2001, Maruti called in over 75,000 of its Omnis to rectify defective routing of a fuel hose. In 1997, the company recalled 50,000 Maruti 800s to fix a problem with a faulty pinion in the steering systems.
Worth a read. But let's understand some basics about the recent policy measure and take note of a few snippets from the debate:
The government’s move to shift to a nutrient-based subsidy scheme for non-urea fertilisers is the first step towards comprehensive reforms in the sector. The fixed subsidy on the nutrients is expected to ensure that the fertiliser use remains within the prescribed limit.
The prescribed ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is 4:2:1 but, over years, we have seen this change to 6:2:1 or even higher, primarily driven by policies favouring nitrogen prices.
At present, we import seven million tonnes of urea, which is a fourth of our annual requirement. Also, we are import-dependent on phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilisers to the extent of almost 100% in the form of raw material or finished fertiliser products.
India, as the second-largest consumer of fertilisers.
Estimates suggest that the current power deficit adds up to a gap of at least 67 billion units (read 10% energy shortage), and during peak hours of demand, the shortage is put at over 16,000 mw or a peaking power shortfall of 15%. Worse, while the ambitious target is to add almost 80,000 mw of generation capacity by 2012 — up from 1,40,000 mw utility capacity in 2007-08 — the actual addition on the ground has been just about 3,450 mw in 2008-09. Further, the annual revenue loss in distribution is of the order of Rs 20,000 crore, and counting.
Aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses amount to almost 35%.
The Indian compact car market, which overtook Japan last year to emerge the world’s largest with sales of more than 8.9 lakh vehicles, has been reporting double digit growth for the past several months, making it a hot destination for global carmakers.
Volkswagen on Tuesday pulled the trigger for a major price war in the hatchback segment in the country by rolling out the Polo, one of its most popular models in the world, at a starting price of Rs 4.34 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
Toyota, currently the world’s largest carmaker, will get a chance to respond to the Volkswagen move when it rolls out Etios hatchback, a brand new car developed primarily for emerging markets, later this year.
What is meant by this phrase? If you look at what the UK (and in fact most of the countries that were battling recession) did you would understand it very well...
It has cut interest rates, pumped up government spending, printed money like crazy, and nationalised almost half the banking industry. Short of digging Karl Marx out of his London grave, and putting him in charge, it is hard to see how the state could get more involved in the economy.
This is what is meant by Kenesian economics in layman's terms.
A company called Placecast has come out with this innovative concept. Based on the location of the individual, SMS based ads will be sent to her, if she opts to receive such ads.
Imagine that you are near a restaurant at around lunch time. The restaurant can send you an SMS saying that seats are available or that it is offering a discount on lunch etc.
Placecast is a location-based mobile ad company in San Francisco. It uses a practice called geo-fencing, which draws a virtual perimeter around a particular location. When someone steps into the geo-fenced area, a text message is sent, but only if consumers have opted in to receive messages.
To determine a cell phone's location, Placecast uses techniques including a phone's GPS signal, location data provided by carriers to companies that sell it to Placecast and information gleaned from triangulating the phone's distance to cell towers.
You would surely have seen the masked interview that this officer has given on some TV channels.
The interview was given in the context of the EFR losing 24 of its men in a Maoist attack in Silda.
The officer had expressed his anguish over “ill treatment” meted out to his force. He was particularly critical of West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma for not providing proper infrastructure and said the decision to locate the Silda camp in a crowded area was “unprofessional”.
According to the Centre’s assessment, the West Bengal police had totally disregarded the standard operating procedures prescribed by the Centre for minimising casualty in counter-Naxal operations.
As per these norms, the camps of security forces must be protected by a barbed fire fencing and armed guards should be posted outside, either on a watchtower or behind a cover of sandbags. Also, the SOPs require all camps to set up communication lines not only between the guards posted outside and the inmates but also between the camp and the force headquarters to help seek reinforcements. Other norms stipulate easy access to arms and posting of a senior officer to command the forces within the camp. None of these norms were followed in the EFR’s Silda camp.
The man who unmasked the Madhu Koda scam has been unceremoniously transferred to another section, but the final word on the reason behind the controversial move may not see the light of the day anytime soon. Maybe, never.
The telling ambiguity has forced a section within the Income-Tax department to conclude that the abrupt transfer of the director of investigation (Income-Tax) Ujjwal Choudhary was effected to slow down the pace of the probe into the multi-core Koda laundering scam. If probed deeply, the scam would have gone beyond the Jharkhand leader to unearth a long list of prominent names, ranging from politicians, underworld dons and hawala traders.
On why the AP government's bid to provide reservation for Muslims failed:
The AP court has struck down the state’s attempt second time. In 2004, YSR has provided for 5% reservation for Muslims. It was struck down as it crossed the limit of 50% reservation. This time, it has been struck down, as the state government has not followed the constitutional provisions for identifying the SEBCs within the Muslim community.
But what is fiscal consolidation? Why is it good? What should India do? These are the kind of questions for which you will find answers in this ET in the Classroom column. A must read for everyone who wants to understand this macroeconomic concept. Take a look.
In the derivatives market, where companies with large foreign exchange exposures used the tools to cover their currency risks, the favourite was the zero-cost structure — an inexpensive, attractive, but often complex derivative that sold like hot cakes. RBI thinks that zero-cost structures, with their leveraged nature have been the root cause of the problem plaguing the market.
But some of the biggest users of currency derivatives like Infosys, Wipro and Essar have told RBI that a blanket ban on zero-cost derivatives would take away the flexibility in managing the risks arising out of fluctuations in exchange rates.
How do these zero cost structures operate?
Take an exporter who expects to receive a payment of $10 million from its overseas buyer six months later. It can go for a plain vanilla forward contract with a bank which gives the exporter the choice to sell the dollar — it would receive — at 45 a dollar when the present market rate could be, say 43.50. But if the exporter does a zero-cost deal, the bank may offer a rate as high as 48, which allows him to earn Rs 3 more on every dollar he would earn.
Under a typical zero-cost deal, the exporter buys one put option, which gives it the ‘right’ to sell dollar at 48 to the bank; at the same time, it sells one call option — here, the exporter is ‘obliged’ to sell the dollar at 48 to the bank. Suppose, six months later, when the exporter receives the payment, the dollar is traded at 46. At this point, the exporter exercises the put option to sell dollar at 48, thus earning Rs 2 (per every dollar) more than the market rate.
What if the dollar touches 50 in the open market? Here, the market rate is more attractive than the pre-agreed rate the exporter has entered with the bank. But the exporter has no choice. The bank to whom it’s obliged to pay — as per the call option — will not miss the opportunity. It will make the exporter sell the dollar at 48 — a transaction where the exporter gets Rs 2 less than the open market rate for every dollar earned.
Reportedly RIL is producing about 60 MMSCMD of natural gas from this oil field. This is 20 MMSCMD shorter from the eventual capacity at which it is expected to produce natural gas. Look at this story for some of the benefits that accrued to the country because of this production.
Rural Electrification Corporation's public offering has reportedly received tepid response from investors -- especially retail investors. By yesterday evening only 60% of the issue has reportedly been subscribed. Majority of the bids have reportedly come in at Rs. 204 against the floor price of Rs. 203.
In spite of the government making some amends following the poor response received for the NTPC's FPO sometime earlier, REC's issue appears headed for faring no better.
The disinvestment department's hopes of raising about Rs. 24,000 crore from PSU stake sales this fiscal, therefore, also appear headed for a dash. Even if the REC issue scrapes through, it would have raised only around Rs. 14,500 core so far.
Banks with poor customer service standards may have to set aside more capital, according to a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report. The regulator has also reportedly asked banks not to discriminate in lending rates between old and new customers, if they fall in the same risk category.
The move to charge higher capital would be in line with the ultimate aim of regulation, to move towards an outcome-based approach where customer outcomes can be quantitatively measured and regulatory response be formulated accordingly.
One interesting statistic while on the issue banking is the credit card user base. Reportedly the user base of credit cards rose during 2008-09 — from 137.2 million to 170 million, up 24%.
You would have been perturbed by the recent news reports about how the IPCC was coming out with false alarms over 'disappearing' Himalayan glaciers. For many of us, the lesser mortals, the issues involved are too technical to be comprehended easily, let alone give a judgment on them. But now one of the most influential of the thinkers on the planet -- Jeffrey D Sachs -- has come out in strong defense of the climate scientists. Worth a read. Take a look.
Take a look at this story. Studies are confirming that IPL brand value is increasing by leaps and bounds. For the next few years it is expected to behave in the same way. A phenomenon that can't be ignored for the present.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s pointsman for climate change negotiations, Shyam Saran, has quit. The exit of the PM’s special envoy, who was not on the same page with the environment minister Jairam Ramesh on several issues related to climate change talks, indicates that powerful sections in the prime ministerial establishment were arrayed against him.
That Mr Saran has fallen from grace was evident two weeks ago when Shiv Shankar Menon, his junior in the foreign service by three batches, was selected for the National Security Advisor’s job.
Although there was talk that Mr Saran would be given a minister of state status to bring parity with Menon in the PMO, the file did not get moving.
MiG 29Ks to add more punch to the Navy
Defence capability is all set to get a shot in the arm as 29 more Russiamade MiG-29Ks, the state-of-the-art fighter jets, are coming India’s way.
These jets can carry eight types of air-to-air missiles, including extended range BVR (beyond visual range) missiles as well as 25 air-to-surface weapons for land-attack missions. They are also equipped with air-to-air refuelling mechanism.
Finance & Economy
Our telecom story
The country’s telecom sector has witnessed a phenomenal growth during the last decade. India’s tele-density has increased to 43.5 per hundred in 2009 from a minuscule 2.2 in 1998. Technology, conducive government policies and political will have been the major drivers of this growth.
The number of mobile subscribers grew from six million in 2001 to about 500 million in 2009 whereas landlines increased from 33 million to 38 million only during the period.
Why is an indigenous telecom equipment manufacturing effort worthy of the trouble?
Sustenance of growth in telecom services depends on our capabilities in maintaining telecom networks. At present, GSM and CDMA networks, whether in public or private domain, get third level of support from foreign technology providers that have free access to our networks. In the event of a hostility or an act of war, the consequences can be serious: silencing of all mobiles. Thus, for national security, it is imperative that we get products along with technology that go into making of the networks.
The telecom equipment market in India in the next five years is slated to be of the order of Rs 3,00,000 crore.
Why do banks charge prepayment penalties?
This is apparently to mitigate the asset liability mismatch that happens whenever long term loans are foreclosed. The charges from prepayment will theoretically cover the costs for banks of fixing the asset liability mismatch.
Reportedly banks will have to increase lending rates by at least 0.25 basis points to cover the cost of risk of prepayment.
Banks and NBFCs charge prepayment penalties of up to 3% when a customer prepays retail loans to cover losses that may arise from asset-liability mismatches.
The Competition Commission of India -- CCI, which had investigated the matter, had commented that the practice is anticompetitive and leads to the abuse of their dominant position by the financial institutions.
CCI’s investigation into the matter has revealed that the practice of banks and finance companies to charge prepayment penalties suppress competition in the home loan market by limiting the ability of borrowers to switch their loans to another lender.
A final decision on the issue is awaited, as CCI has preferred to enquire from the RBI whether the latter is planning to give any directions on the issue to the banks.
Markets tank worldwide on Fed's action
The Fed raised its discount rate — the rate at which it lends to banks — by a quarter percentage point to 0.75% late Thursday, hitting bond and stock prices and boosting the dollar, amid concerns the change represented the start of a retreat from the easy money policy the US has pursued to battle the economic recession.
Brokers also felt the dollar-carry trade, wherein cheaper dollar borrowings at record low rates were deployed in high-yielding assets such as emergingmarket equities, could also take a hit in the near term from a strengthening dollar. The dollar-carry trade has been linked to a lot of the inflows into Indian markets, and the Fed’s decision has triggered concerns such flows could slow to a trickle.
The following Q&A session gives you a more clear picture:
Why is the market rattled?
Traders feel that it's the start of a tightening cycle and soon there won't be enough cheap money to play around with. It will halt the carry trade - where investors borrowed cheap dollars to trade in emerging markets.
Isn't Fed worried about growth?
It is, and that's why it has picked the 'discount rate' and not the more powerful 'funds rate' - the rate at which banks in the US borrow from each other. It's a way of telling banks that things are beginning to look normal and they should rather borrow from each other at the 0.25% 'funds rate'.
But why now?
Fed wanted to catch markets by surprise. Indeed, it hiked rates a month before the open market committee meeting. Fed is worried about the spiralling commodity prices that can not only reverse growth, but also stoke inflation. And higher inflation will call for desperate rate hikes.
Will it help the US?
The dollar will rise, and it will lend some support to prices of US treasury bills. The real gain will be in the form of reining in 'inflationary expectations'. Also, it will give confidence to US banks that have been reluctant to lend.
Woods apologises for ‘selfish’ behaviour, looks to make amends
An emotional Tiger Woods apologised for his “irresponsible and selfish behaviour” on Friday as the golf superstar broke his silence on the sex scandal that engulfed him last year. In a brutally honest self-assessment which was broadcast live across every major network in the United States, the 34-year-old confirmed he had been in rehab for 45 days where he was reportedly seeking treatment for sex addiction.
Woods squeaky clean image was left in tatters last year after a mysterious late-night car crash outside his home in Florida was followed by a string of lurid revelations about his personal life. More than a dozen women were linked to the billionaire sports star in the weeks following the car crash. Woods later admitted ‘transgressions’ in his private life and had not been in public until this week.
Nonchalantly unconcerned; Very sophisticated especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world; Uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence
Not challenging; dull and lacking excitement; Tediously repetitious or lacking in variety
eg: Under normal circumstances, Budget 2010 would be as humdrum as those in the past few years.
Any of several psychotic disorders characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances of thought and language and withdrawal from social contact
Supreme Court constitutes high level committee for Mullaperiyar dam row
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court decided to constitute a high-level empowered committee to examine the safety aspects of the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala.
It will be a five member committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. The other members will be: one member each to be nominated by TN and Kerala respectively and two technical experts to be nominated by the Centre.
Both Tamil Nadu and Kerala are locked in a bitter tussle over more than the century old Mullaperiyar dam located in Idduki district. Though located in Kerala, the dam caters to the irrigation and drinking water needs of Tamil Nadu.
Kerala, citing safety of the dam, wants to demolish the existing structure and construct a new one at an alternative location to which Tamil Nadu is opposed to.
In 2006, the Supreme Court by a judgement upheld Tamil Nadu’s right to maintain water level at the dam at 142 feet. However, the neighbouring state brought in the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 which restricted the water level at 136 feet.
Aggrieved by the move, Tamil Nadu filed a petition challenging the impugned Act as a deliberate attempt to override the apex court’s judgement permitting it to sustain the water level up to 142 feet.
In view of the magnitude of the problem which involved the Constitutional validity of state government’s power to make an enactment with a perceived intention to override the judgement of the apex court, a Constitution Bench was set up to examine the matter.
A welcome change in BJP's stand?
In an effort to reach out to the Muslims, the party is reported to have said that it will allow the construction of a Mosque at an adjacent site in Ayodhya in return for the Muslim's support to construct the Ram temple at the disputed site.
This looks like a clear departure from its stand thus far that it will construct the temple at the disputed site come what may.
Will this yield results? Let's wait and see.
Should India keep engaging Pakistan in talks?
Is there a case for restoration of dialogue with Pakistan? Today's ET editorial argues the case very vehemently. Interesting. But will this sanity prevail even under the shadow of a Mumbai type of terror attack?
Will not talking be a solution? Hardly looks so. In spite of the resumption looking like a loser's game, India appears to be having no alternative at the moment than to talk to Pakistan. The only heartening thing about the resumption at this juncture is this -- it appears to be doing it on its own volition; not at the nudging by somebody else.
Adair Turner is the Chairman of UK's Financial Services Authority, the umbrella financial services regulator for that country. Take a look at some of the thoughts on various aspects of financial regulation; specially in the context of the mauling that the financial world took in recent times. Very engrossing.
The Planning Commission had estimated that there are around 6.52 crore poor families, but states have issued over 10.58 crore ration cards.
On our deficiencies in healthcare
We need to add more than 75,000 beds each year just to close our bed-to-population ratio gap. India has 94 beds per lakh compared to the WHO norm of 333. The density of doctors is also dismally low: there are only 43 doctors for per 10,000 compared to 249 doctors for every 10,000 people in Australia, 209 in Canada, 166 in UK and 548 in US. Estimates of doctor shortages range around 6,00,000.
India is home to world's largest tractor maker
Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) has become the world's number one tractor company by selling 1.59 lakh tractors in 2009. It is reportedly planning to sell about 1.70 lakh tractors this financial year.
Some basics about UHT milk
Know what is UHT milk? UHT milk is milk that is briefly heated to 135 to 140 degrees celcius and then quickly cooled to destroy airborne microbes. It has a shelf life of six months without refrigeration.
Look at this graphic to get some gyan about its market in India.
Tutankhamun (Tut for short) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (ruled 1333 BC – 1324 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom.
In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter, discovered this pharaoh's tomb and the trove of fabulous gold and precious stones inside, propelling the once-forgotten pharaoh into global stardom. Hundreds of tourists come daily to the tomb to see Tut’s mummy, which has been on display there since 2007.
King Tut is in news again now because latest research shows that, based on DNA tests and CT scans, Tut had a genetic bone disease and malaria, which combined with a severe broken leg could have been what killed him about 3,300 years ago at age 19.
The new research led by Egypt’s top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, bolsters previous theories that Tut’s father was likely the Pharaoh Akhenaten, and that Tut’s mother was Akhenaten’s sister.
That incestuous lineage would explain some of his ailments, including the bone disease that runs in families and is more likely to be passed down if two first-degree relatives marry and have children. But it also only bolsters the intrigue.
Know what's the world's best airport?
It is Incheon of Seoul, South Korea.
This gateway to South Korean capital Seoul, has been chosen as the world's best airport for the fifth straight year in the latest customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Airports Council International.
India and China reduce exposure to US treasury bills
India and China have reduced their exposure in US government papers while countries like Japan and the UK have increased their exposure to US government securities.
India has reduced its exposure to US government bonds by about $2 billion in December to $39.6 billion. Over the last six months, India has reduced its holding of US treasuries by about $9 billion. China too sold US treasury bonds worth about $35 billion in December to $755.4 billion, losing its top position (held for about an year ) to Japan.
Central banks and other official bodies taken together have reduced their investment in US government papers by $30 billion to $2,374 billion in December from $2404.6 billion in the previous month. However, total investments by foreigners (including private investors and funds) have gone up to $3,614 billion from $2,404.6 billion during the period.
After spinning magic with his latest magnum opus (every work of his looks like a magnum opus for us), he has reportedly set himself on writing a prequel to this movie.
The idea being that it should fill in a lot of things that could not be accommodated in the narration of the movie.
Although Cameron has written screenplays earlier, from the first two ‘Terminator’ films to ‘Titanic’, the ‘Avatar’ prequel would mark his debut as a novelist.
On cricket's follow-ons
So far, only on three occasions have teams following on turned the tables and become victors: England twice and India once, all against Australia.
In the early Test era, an 80-run lead was sufficient for a follow-on and it was compulsory. However, seeing teams play for a draw, the rules were changed and it was made an option and the lead also increased to 120 — and finally to 200.
The height of incredulity was reached when in a pre-war Test, England, with a lead of about 560 over the Windies, did not enforce a follow-on and set a target of over 840 runs, the match ending in a draw!
At Melbourne in the 1936-37 Ashes series, Australia declared at 200 for 9 and England at 76(!) for 9, the first time in Test history that both teams declared their first innings. Caught unawares and put in to bat by a tactical declaration on a glue-pot pitch — they were not covered in those days — The Don reversed the batting order and came in at No. 7 when the score was 95/5. The pitch had begun to dry and with Jack Fingleton who always opened but sent at No. 6, he scored 270, Fingleton 136, and Australia won the match by about 360 runs.
A terrain of thick scrubby trees and bush in dense thickets, with grassy groundcover between
Something unspecified whose name is either forgotten or not known
A painful swelling of the bursa of the first joint of the big toe
Efforts are underway to hold a single national-level entrance test for students to get admission into engineering, medical and commerce courses from 2013.
This will smoothen the admission process into engineering, medical, economics and commerce courses and will reduce the burden on students who are appearing in multiple-tests for admission.
The Council of School Board of Education (COBSE) has reportedly prepared a core-curriculum for senior secondary classes in science and mathematics subjects. A similar core curriculum will be prepared in commerce in three months.
It is a thought provoking essay that deals with this issue. Worth a read. Some excerpts:
Such unconstitutional acts -- staging bandhs and not allowing movies to be screened for partisan reasons -- are usually perpetrated by parties that cannot win elections but have enough clout to disrupt normal life for the law-abiding majority.
Parties that behave in unconstitutional ways should, therefore, be banned from participating in elections at all levels — national, state or local — for a period of time whose length should be determined by the nature of the offence and by past behaviour. If it is a first offence, the ban could be for less than a year. However, if the party is repeatedly indulging in serious offences, the ban could extend to 10 years to ensure that the leaders of these outfits realise that there is a price to be paid for being incorrigible.
The law banning political parties should be drafted in a way to ensure that irresponsible leaders cannot contest elections merely by changing the name of the outfit. One way of doing this is by banning not just the party that behaves unconstitutionally but also all those who have been elected from that party at the national, state or local level.
An excerpt from a very good news story that appeared in today's ET:
Wineries in Maharashtra no longer sparkle. More than half of the state’s 58 wineries have either closed down or stopped producing wine due to the glut in the market. Nearly 20 lakh litres of wine, which amounts to 25% of India’s total production, are lying unsold.
Of the state’s 58 wineries, 32 are in dire straits. From a promised rate of Rs 60 per kg, grapes are now being offered at Rs 25-30 a kg.
In the past few years, seduced by the promise of an industry that seemed to be both agricultural and glamorous — and also conveniently benefited Union agriculture minister and state political leader Sharad Pawar’s personal fiefdom of Baramati — it poured out the incentives a little too lavishly.
This started with a slew of concessions to the wine sector, including zero excise, no stamp duty and registration and land at concessional rates. The state appointed the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) as the nodal agency to develop winery parks in the two major grape-producing districts, Sangli and Nashik. Wine retailing was made easier through a special wine and beer licence that was available both to individual retailers and supermarkets. And last October, just ahead of the state Assembly elections, the Congress-NCP government topped up its largesse by reducing VAT to 4% from 25% last October.
Not surprisingly, grape cultivation in the state has been increasing by 10% every year, with currently over 3,000 acres under grape cultivation. Maharashtra has been the single-largest contributor to the Rs 300-crore winery industry in the country.
France and Italy have an average wine consumption of around 60-70 litres per person a year while it’s 25 litres in the USA, 20 litres in Australia and 4 litres in China, whereas in India it's just about 4-5 ml per person per year.
Wine producing is as much a craft as it is a business, and this is where many of the winemakers lost their way. The problem starts in the vineyards where most farmers cultivated wine grapes like table grapes, maximising output. Yet, wine requires the opposite approach, with relentless pruning and discarding of grapes so as to focus only on the best. Most of the vineyards ended up producing poor wine, which would have no chance in the export market, and even falls short in the developing domestic market.
Scientists claim to have created the world's most precise clock based on the oscillation of a trapped aluminium-27 atom. Built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado, it could tick off the 13.7-billion-year age of universe to within 4 seconds.
The second is currently defined by caesium atomic clocks, but optical clocks promise higher precision because their atoms oscillate at the frequencies of light rather than in the microwave band, so they can slice time into smaller intervals. Such clocks could reportedly help spot tiny changes in physical constants over time.
Pandit Jasraj, Kishori Amonkar, Yamini Krishnamurti and Shreeram Lagoo are among six eminent personalities in the field of performing arts who have been chosen for the rare and prestigious honour of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships announced on Monday.
The General Council of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, also chose Lalgudi Jayaraman and Kamlesh Dutt Tripathi for the fellowships.
There are only 32 Fellows of the Sangeet Natak Akademi at present.
eg: Yet, this incident could well be momentous, or at least its significance must be grasped, and more pressingly, enshrined as praxis.
A characteristic language of a particular group
eg: The country is, in the argot of banking, too big to be allowed to fail.
Noun: Noisy confusion and turbulence; A swaggering show of courage; A violent gusty wind; Vain and empty boasting
Verb: Blow hard; be gusty, as of wind; Show off; Act in an arrogant, overly self-assured, or conceited manner
eg: Amid the bluster, Pakistan expressed willingness to go ahead with foreign secretary-level engagement and said that February 25 was “not a bad date” for talks.
Attempting to win favour from influential people by flattery; Attempting to win favour by flattery
eg: Considering security authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport insist that the see-through images taken on their recently-installed scanners are deleted the moment the person exits the area, the prints of Shahrukh Khan’s images, which he graciously autographed for the fawning personnel (wo)manning the area, are therefore quite inexplicable.
A Letter Rogatory or Letter of Request is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance. The most common remedies sought by Letters Rogatory are service of process and taking of evidence.
Today's ET editorialargues that it does. The arguments it advances to support its viewpoint run like this...
Owning productive assets would enhance women’s standing in such families. What happens in society’s upper strata tends to influence conduct in other sections of society as well, and gradually, the standing of women across India could change for the better. Some state governments, such as Delhi’s, already offer a lower rate of stamp duty on property registered in a woman’s name.
Our point is, has the lot of women in Delhi improved because of this measure? We doubt it. Besides, the trickledown that the editorial talks about is hardly likely to happen. If the tax sops are to be given only to bring about a positive change for women, then we think they may not work. They will only make for more wilier men.
You are not remedying any gender injustice there; you are only going to add another dimension to women's torture. Let men and women sort financial things for themselves. It should not be for government to do such micromanagement. If the woman starts working and earning by going out of the household, lot of power automatically flows her way. This is what can be and should be encouraged. Not such skewed and harebrained policies. Hope the budget stays away from such imprudence.
State Bank of India (SBI) will provide interest-free seed capital of up to Rs 10 lakh to aspiring entreprenuers under a new scheme, SBI SMILE, which is specially targeted to encourage small and medium enterprises in the country.
The scheme will be in place initially for one year, after which the bank could extend it, if the situation warrants.
There will be no interest on the seed capital. The bank will offer a five year moratorium on paying the seed capital amount.
Is it a case of the bank being flush with liquidity? Looks like so.
The Steering Group of Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purpose, a body representing 91 countries including members of G20 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has proclaimed that the era of banking secrecy is coming to an end.
Interestingly, the Forum, which met in India last week, echoed the same sentiments expressed by G20 countries that met in London in April 2009. Originally an OECD offshoot, the Forum was restructured in 2009 to include non-OECD members in its pursuit for complete transparency in international taxation and banking issues.
The Government of India also is reportedly having a re-look at the many DTAAs (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements) it had signed with many countries. The government, reportedly, would be seeking amendments in the existing treaties to ensure better intergovernment flow of information on tax and banking matters.
Globalization and the quantum jump in cyber communication has multiplied the opportunities for generation of wealth and cross- border transfer of income but the tax regimes of countries remain constrained by their jurisdiction limited to national boundaries. As a result, it became increasingly difficult for tax administrations to lay hands on the wealth shifted out of their jurisdiction.
These offshore financial centers do affect the millions of people living in underdeveloped, undeveloped countries as it reduce revenues available to their governments to carry out developmental projects, such as infrastructure developments, investment in technology and education etc. Interestingly, many experts believe, such shifting of wealth to tax havens are mostly made possible by the clever manoeuvres of well established tax professionals practising in developed countries.
Since tax evasion erodes the tax base of a country, finding effective measures for tackling this scourge has been high on the agenda of developed countries for some time.
A study carried out by Oxfam International, a non-government organisation, has estimated that developing countries lose $124 billion annually to low tax offshore havens.
Paul Krugman explains very convincingly that it is the adoption of single currency i.e., Euro in the EU area that lead to the present mess in which countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are finding themselves.
Digital TV, the standard that went into effect last year, was developed for stationary televisions.
Mobile TV, which enables mobile devices to watch TV is somewhat different. The mobile devices must catch a special signal, a slice of the broadcast frequency, and software processes it to display a clear picture on the go.
The technology will be used on new portable televisions with up to 10-inch screens, and smartphones and laptops with special adapters will also receive the signals. The devices must be within about 60 miles of a broadcast tower for a picture as clear as the television at home.
Nokia, the global leader in the mobile handset industry, on Monday announced the launch of the world’s first money transfer platform through mobiles in India as it enjoys the market leader’s hip and a wide distribution network in the world’s one of the fasting growing handset market.
Christened as Mobile Money, the service will enable a customer to transfer money to other individuals, pay utility bills as well as recharge pre-paid SIM cards by using their mobile devices. The service will also be available on non-Nokia handsets.
Consumers will also be able to pay merchants for goods and services through their mobile devices. This is a first-of-its-kind service providing customers the ability to initiate mobile payments through multiple channels such as SMS, IVR, WAP, JAVA and FIRE.
The potential of the service is enormous as mobile phone users outnumber the bank account holders. India has nearly 500 million mobile phone users and 200 million bank account holders. There are nearly 80,000 branches of banks across the country.
We were a bit surprised about the phrase at first. But as we read on this story, the issue became clear.
It is about the Congress-wallahs who are making a beeline to Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh district.
It was visited by Digvijay Singh and he came up with a report in which he portrayed the Muslim youth as taking to the jihadi route because they were victims first. Victims because they were all coming from rural lower middle class families who have sold their assets and borrowed money to educate themselves and yet find no gainful employment.
The jihadi-as-victim theory has been finding traction in a section of this area after Maulana Aamir Rashadi Madani, founder of the All India Ulema Council, began an agitation over “framing of Muslims in terror cases and fake encounters.”
The Congress brass in UP appear to have been taken in by this theory. But Rahul Gandhi, increasingly the poster boy of Congress, appears to have remained unimpressed by the articulation.
Its bid for acquiring Kuwait based Zain Telecom's assets in all of Africa (except those in Sudan and Morocco) for 49,700 crore was reportedly accepted by Zain's board.
The acceptance of the offer clears the way for Bharti to carry out a due diligence of the business before a final deal.
If the deal fructifies, the acquisition will give Bharti a firm foothold in a relatively untapped market and pit it in direct competition with MTN, with which it has tried and failed twice to merge. The African operations in the 15 countries that Bharti is seeking to buy are grouped under an entity called Zain International.
If it buys Zain’s African operations, Bharti will be catapulted past China Unicom, Sweden’s TeliaSonera, and Germany’s T-Mobile to become the world’s seventh-largest mobile phone company by subscribers.
The government has decided that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) would need to vet and approve only proposals involving total foreign equity inflow of over Rs 1,200 crore, rather than proposals with a total project cost of Rs 600 crore, as per the rule in force since 1996. Assuming reasonable debt-equity ratios, the new rule means that FDI proposals with project cost adding up to Rs 4,800 crore, or just over $1 billion, no longer need Cabinet-level vetting.
Another significant reform effectuated has been to dispense with the obligation on a foreign entity to obtain a no-objection certificate from its Indian partner for going it alone or tying up with other partners in the same area of business.
The government has also brought in some procedural easing. Further approval will not be required if, after initial vetting, the activity is placed under the automatic route or where sectoral caps have been removed or increased.
First, there is a risk of potential upside in domestic demand.
Second, recent exports data have been much better than expected.
Third, slowdown in investments over the last 18 months at the time when domestic demand has recovered sharply will imply quick rise in capacity utilization.
Fourth, crude oil and other commodities related inflation pressures (direct and indirect impact) could be much higher during the current cycle.
Lastly, surplus liquidity in the region remains high.
Looked at this way, this question-answer method makes no sense at first. But if you read this article in full, the above excerpt will be meaninful for remembering your answer, if and when you are asked to offer an explanation to the question.
But to put it simply, it was a case of window-dressing government accounts. With the help of consultants / advisers like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, the government of Greece indulged in camouflaging its loans as receipts and sold its future revenue earnings to creditors. This went on for substantially long periods of time and there came a point in time when it could no longer resort to such window-dressing. Hence the bubble burst.
Now Greece reportedly owes more than $300 bn as debts. For a country whose GDP was $357 bn in 2008, this kind of debt is unimaginable.
Read the story in full to understand how different players played their part in bringing Greece to its heels.
For some of you, agriculture may not hold that much interest. But some of the realities surrounding this sector will surely make you sit up and take notice.
A very good essay on the whole. Strongly recommend a read. But some excerpts:
With only 100 million hectares of agricultural land, China produces 400 million tonnes of grain while India averages only 108 million tonnes of food from 146 million hectares of agricultural land.
The fact is that most farmers and cultivators cannot make the sort of investments needed. Yet, small farms produce 41% of the country’s total grain and over 50% of total fruit and vegetables.
India produces over 600 million tonnes of food products annually, is the second largest rice and wheat producer, and the largest producer of pulses and milk. However, only about 2% of India’s fruit and vegetable output is processed. Compare this with 70% in Brazil and 60-70% in developed countries. In the foods segment, processed foods account for a mere 2% of the total production. About 30% of farm produce is wasted every year for want of storage, transportation, cold chain and other infrastructure facilities.
What is the solution being offered by the essay?
For the next Green Revolution to succeed, three things are critical: favourable legislation, investments in modern post-harvesting infrastructure, and post-harvest management.
On what's wrong with the APMC Act:
No person or agency is allowed to freely carry on wholesale marketing activities in a declared market area that falls under the jurisdiction of a market committee. This has prevented the development of a competitive marketing system.
Consequently, while farmers get a pittance, the mafia makes a handsome profit because the state governments have not yet promulgated the model APMC Act. Till this is done, farmers will continue to be left behind even as the middleman prospers.
Total certainty or greater certainty than circumstances warrant
Synonyms: cocksureness, overconfidence
eg: Now, this might be heresy for billions of spiritual types the world over, and cause derisory certitude from our own deeply-religious millions, but those perfidious science-wallahs have come up with another explanation for belief in the ineffable.
Leave or strike out
eg: ...Or, as the people on the other side of the fence would aver, the fear of things retributory is yet to be elided.
(Greek mythology) goddess of the earth and mother of Cronus and the Titans in ancient mythology
Noun: Residence that is a place of religious seclusion (such as a monastery); A courtyard with covered walks (as in religious institutions)
Verb: Surround with a cloister, as of a garden; Surround with a cloister; Seclude from the world in or as if in a cloister
eg: Responsible for translating, editing, proof-reading and printing the documents, these people are cloistered in the basement of the ministry for a whole week.