Politics & the Nation
  • Disturbing position on Arunachal
    • A World Bank document says external affairs minister SM Krishna has stated that “India will not pose any Arunachal Pradesh-specific project” to the Bank, and that the Chinese executive director at the Bank is pressing for the operationalisation of this statement.
    • This amounts to conceding China’s persistent claims of Arunachal Pradesh being a “disputed territory” and runs contrary to the stated opinion that the state is “an integral part of India”. It may be recalled that it was only eight months ago that the Indian government had sharply attacked Beijing for criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and his reference to the state as “our land of the rising sun”. During the verbal skirmishes with Beijing at that time, India had said China has no business to interfere in the affairs of a territory that is an integral part of India.
  • Office of CJI to be exempted from RTI Act?
    • Looks like the Government is considering such a move. But the move is not likely to succeed quickly. Take a look at this news story. Interesting.
Finance & Economy
  • Elders are the new kids on the social networking block
    • More than ever before, seniors are finding themselves drawn online for the same reasons as young adults: to stay in touch with family and friends, meet new people from the comfort of home, bridge the generation gap, and even find jobs.
    • Contrary to popular perception, senior netizens now make up a significant proportion of the social networking universe. Some 6-7% of the around 30 million Indian users of social networking sites are over 60 years.
    • A recent Nielsen study suggests that Facebook is the third most visited site for those over 65 years in the US in November 2009 and that the number of unique visitors who signed on to such sites grew 53% in the past two years. In India, data for January from online ad network firm Komli media suggests that those over 60 years account for 6% of Facebook’s India users and 4% of Orkut’s India user base.
    • India’s fourth largest social network Ibibo, for instance, has 3, 50, 000 males (almost 6% of the user base) over 60 years as registered users. Around 45% of these users are from smaller cities.
    • Social media enables many physically dependent seniors to increase their relevance in the virtual world without taxing others. Sites such as Verdurez.com are not only dedicated to seniors but also offer post-retirement career opportunities.
  • SBI going big into POS terminals
    • SBI is reportedly planning to install about 5 lakh POS terminals, in a move that will make it the largest POS terminal holder in India. Currently it is ICICI with 1.5 lk terminals and Axis Bank and HDFC bank with 1 lk and 0.75 lk terminals that are leaders in the segment.
    • What makes POS terminals big business are two recent developments. First, RBI has said it will allow small cash withdrawals through such POS terminals. Secondly, it has said it would encourage banking correspondents to increase financial inclusions. In the banking industry, retailers with a swipe terminal are seen as ideal banking correspondents as they can facilitate payments and withdrawals in unbanked areas as long as there is telephone connectivity.
    • Why is the business lucrative for banks?
      • Each time a card is swiped, the merchant pays a small per cent of the transaction in the form of a merchant discount rate. The money is shared between the card issuing bank and the bank that owns the POS terminal and small portion goes to the payments provider — either Visa or Mastercard.
  • Two concepts that we should know about cyber warfare
    • Acupuncture warfare: The Chinese call their pursuit of information warfare (IW) and other hi-tech means to counter the overwhelmingly superior conventional military capabilities of the western alliance ‘acupuncture warfare’. Acupuncture — or paralysis — warfare is described as “paralysing the enemy by attacking the weak link of his command, control, communications and information as if hitting his acupuncture point in kung fu combat”.
    • Informationisation: Soon after the Gulf War in 1991, China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) had called for a detailed study of the concept of people’s war under conditions of informationisation, implying increasing attention to the application of IT to the conduct of conventional conflict.
  • MCI's attempt at putting its house in order
    • It is a very well known fact that there is an element of corruption in practising doctors. MCI (Meidcal Council of India), the body that is responsible for ensuring that practising doctors practise ethically is reportedly attempting to bring in some tough regulations that prohibit doctors from accepting gifts and freebies from the pharma companies. The autonomous body’s code asking doctors to refrain from taking gifts from drug manufacturers would make sense only to those who practice with ethics and those who do so may not need such a code at all. In the absence of strict punishment, the code may just be worth the paper it is written on.
    • The Indian drug industry, estimated to be Rs 40,000 crore, spends as much as 25% of its revenues on marketing its products. That includes maintaining of an army of tie-clad salesmen ubiquitous with a heavy leather bag carrying free samples spotted outside the doors of almost all the 7-lakh doctors practising in the nation.
  • Banks can lend below base rate too
    • Loans against fixed deposits, loans given by a bank to its own employees, as well as restructured loans, where borrowers get more time and pay lower rates to avert defaults, can be given at interest rates that are below the base rate — the new benchmark rate for pricing loans.
    • While allowing these exemptions, RBI has also deferred the date for implementation of the base rate by banks to July 1. Earlier, RBI had said the base rate system would come into effect from April 1 — a deadline, which most banks found difficult to meet.
    • The regulator has, however, ruled out any lending to corporates below the base rate.
    • For a bank, the base rate will be its minimum cost at which it can lend and the risk premium on a loan would be the mark up over the base rate. The base rate, which will replace the prime lending rate (PLR), is aimed at bringing more transparency in loan pricing. At present, around 70% of the loans are below PLR which ranges between 11.75% and 12.25%.
    • The base rate should be calculated by banks taking into account the cost of deposits, profit margin and establishment cost among other things.
  • Jaipur to have country's first low-cost airport
    • India's first low-cost airport is all set to come up near Jaipur in Rajasthan. The civil aviation ministry has cleared a proposal to set up the airport 60 km off Jaipur. The no-frills facility is expected to cost just Rs 500 crore and have a 7000 ft runway in the first phase.
    • The proposed airport is only 12 km from National Highway 8, which connects Jaipur to Delhi. The promoter of the airport, Rajasthan Aviation Infrastructure (India), has tied up with Fraport AG of Germany for technical consultancy and is planning to get the airport up and running by 2014.
    • The project location is only 160 km from Delhi and just 60 km from Rewari, which is a key point in the Delhi-Mumbai dedicated railway freight corridor. Apart from low-cost airlines, the proposed airport could attract private jets since parking fees would be lower than Delhi and Jaipur. Moreover, sales tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF) in Rajasthan is only 4%, among the lowest in the country.
  • squish: Verb
    • Walk through mud or mire; Put (a liquid) into a container or another place by means of a squirting action
  • 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
  • tart: Adjective
    • Tasting sour like a lemon; Harsh
    • Noun: A woman who engages in sexual intercourse for money; A small open pie with a fruit filling; [Brit] A pastry cup with a filling of fruit or custard and no top crust; [offensive] (informal) a promiscuous woman
    • eg: Thanks to a chill in Florida, the supply of fresh tomatoes in the US has got so squished that fast-food chains and restaurants alike have started skimping on the tart vegetable and providing it only on order as prices have trebled.
  • ditty: Noun
    • A short simple song (or the words of a poem intended to be sung)