Politics & the Nation
  • Bt Brinjal on hold
    • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to go along with the view that the introduction of Bt Brinjal should wait till safety tests are completed and consensus developed on the crop.
    • The government would be setting up a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority to inspire confidence and stimulate public and private investment in biotechnology.
Finance & Economy
  • Railway Budget
    • 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.
    • Budget highlights:
      • 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.
  • Why is that wages in unorganized sector lag behind those in the organized sector?
    • 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.
  • How much do you know about the functions and powers of the Finance Commission?
  • Sachin creates history
    • Sachin created history in cricket by scoring a double century against South Africa in the 2nd ODI at Gwalior. This is the first ever time that somebody scored a double century in ODIs.
    • The previous best mark was shared by Zimbabwean Charles Coventry (194 not out) and Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar (194).
    • One Day International cricket, since its 1971 inception, had to wait nearly four decades to see a batsman score 200.
    • Tendulkar's double century steered India to a massive 401 for three against South Africa in the second cricket ODI. India ofcourse went on to win the match by 153 runs.
    • His sublime unbeaten 200 came off just 147 balls and was bejewelled with 25 fours and three sixes.
    • Tendulkar’s previous best was an unbeaten 186 against New Zealand made at Hyderabad in 1999.
  • savoir-faire: Noun
    • Social skill
    • 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.
  • smidgen: Noun
    • A tiny or scarcely detectable amount
  • gobbledegook: Noun
    • Incomprehensible or pompous jargon of specialists
  • peroration: Noun
    • A flowery and highly rhetorical oration; (rhetoric) the concluding section of an oration
    • eg: In her 110 minute peroration, Banerjee slowly built up speed, ...