Politics & the Nation
  • The civil nuclear liability bill
    • What are the objections of the leading opposition party to the bill?
    • These included limiting liability, transferring the liability from the supplier to the operator (in this case, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, and the government, and, eventually, to the tax-payer), keeping the suppliers (the American companies) outside the jurisdiction of the Indian courts), and 10-year time-limit on the cases to be adjudicated by the claims commissions.
Finance & Economy
  • PepsiCo to stop sugared drink sales in schools globally
    • Pepsi has started planning how to pull its sugared soft drinks out of all schools in India, in line with its commitment to stop sales of the products from primary and secondary schools globally by 2012.
    • Pepsi’s ‘Get Active’ programme includes expanding physical education and promoting nutrition education, along with portfolio transformation towards more nutritious products.
    • Pepsi and rival Coca-Cola adopted guidelines to stop selling sugared beverages in US schools in 2006. Coca-Cola has said it won’t sell sugared drinks in primary schools worldwide unless asked.
    • Coca-Cola does not sell sugary drinks in primary schools in India and it also does not directly market carbonated drinks in schools, a company official said.
    • Sales of aerated soft drinks at schools in India account for less than 2% of the sales of the cola-makers.
  • Inflation worries
    • There is a sharp pickup in the annual rate of inflation based on the wholesale price index from 8.56% in January to a 16-month high of 9.99% in February 2010.
    • There is growing evidence that inflation is no longer confined to primary articles and has spread to the two other main groups — fuel, power, light and lubricants and manufactured products.
    • While the index for food articles declined by 0.1% over the previous month, that for manufactured articles rose by 0.6% and the fuel group index rose by 1.5%.
  • What would be the impact of changes in capital grains taxation that would be brought in by the Direct Taxes Code?
  • What explains the growth in worker remittances?
    • India has been consistently the top recipient of worker remittances for almost a decade now. According to the World Bank figures, India received remittances worth $51.6 billion in 2008. But 2009 is expected to record a dip to $47 billion on account of a lagged response to a weak global economy.
    • This superlative performance is attributed to some structural factors. To know them, take a look at this piece.
  • What is bonus stripping?
    • In bonus stripping, investors buy shares of companies which have announced bonus issues, and subsequently, sell the original holding at a loss once the stock becomes ex-bonus. This loss can be adjusted against their capital gains on other holdings. The bonus shares are held for a period of twelve months to claim exemption from long-term capital gains tax.
    • Take a look at this graphic for more info.
  • Reading about Lincoln Cathedral in today's ET, we were confronted with the following question.
    • What is the difference between a chapel, a church, a cathedral, and a basilica?
    • And we found the following answer appealing:
    • A cathedral is the chief church of a diocese in which the bishop has his throne.
    • Basilica has both an architectural sense and a canonical sense. In the canonical sense, the term usually refers to major buildings. Major basilicas include St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul-without-the-Walls... one of the features of major basilicas is that they have a "holy door". The pope can declare a particular church as a basilica.
    • "Chapel" is a very broad term, and can apply to anything from a section of a much larger church or cathedral, to small buildings. The word itself is associated with the idea of relics, since it is drawn from the idea that St. Martin divided his cape (chapelle) in half and left half with a beggar.
    • "Church" is a word that covers pretty much everything given above... generally any building set aside "in perpetuity for the public exercise of Divine worship."
  • On our defence spending and procurement processes
    • National defence accounts for 13% of the central government expenditure and if military- and security-related components of other ministries or departments like the ministry of home affairs, department of atomic energy and department of space are taken into consideration, the larger national security considerations actually consume more than 20% of the total expenditure.
    • Is India spending too much on national defence? If global data are to be believed, the answer is ‘no’. Consider this: Indian defence expenditure accounts for less than 2% of the global military expenditure which stood at $1.46 trillion in 2009; its resources allocations are way behind its counterparts in the West while it is less than half of what China is spending (although Chinese military budget witnessed a mere 7.8% growth in 2010, pegged at $78 billion).
    • Indian defence expenditure accounts for less than 2% of its GDP but 13% of its total expenditure.
    • We all know (in fact have been witnessing) the tardy military procurement processes of our country. What will you suggest to improve the situation?
      • Many of us know that it is the institutional mechanisms that are largely responsible for delays in equipment procurement. First, institutional mechanisms on matters related to national defence are rigidly structured and operate in secrecy. This needs to change — incremental changes from within through reforms can address this problem.
      • Second, long-term military planning must be carefully crafted in order to make a fine balance between aspirations and reality. A look at the last five years acquisition scenario suggests that most of the weapons procured or in the pipeline are for replenishment purposes rather than force multiplication.
      • Third, while right sizing the armed forces in tune with modern times is desirable, the need to prune further the ‘revenue’ component, which still hovers around 60-62% of the defence expenditure, must be carefully worked out in order to achieve the objectives of nurturing a modern flexible fighting force. In every component, there is scope for pruning, whereby more funding could be allocated toward capital purchases. Even capital expenditure can bring in better value for money if import dependency is reduced through indigenisation processes.
Food & Wine
  • India made single malts
    • For those of you who taste for liquor, this story will be interesting. Finally Indian single malts have arrived on the scene. It is about a brand called Amrut.
Language Lessons
  • frond: Noun
    • Compound leaf of a fern or palm or cycad
  • filigree: Noun
    • Delicate and intricate ornamentation (usually in gold or silver or other fine twisted wire)
  • bunkum: Noun
    • (informal) nonsense; ludicrously false statements
    • Synonym: balderdash
    • eg: It's a load of bunkum.


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