26.03.2010

Politics & the Nation
  • Supreme Court heralds 4% reservation for Muslim backwards
    • The demand for religious quota in jobs and admissions gained legitimacy on Thursday when the Supreme Court leaned in favour of an Andhra Pradesh (AP) law providing 4% quota to 14 “backward groups” within the Muslim community. The court, which passed an interim order, referred the adjudication of constitutional validity of the AP law to a Constitution Bench.
    • The SC interim order, passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and justices JM Panchal and BS Chauhan, may now open the floodgates to extending the benefits of reservation to Muslims and Dalit Christians in other states. The lack of judicial sanction has so far been cited by the Centre to stonewall demands for religion-based quota, which was recommended by the Ranganath Mishra panel.
    • The AP move was earlier turned down by the state’s high court for violating the Constitution. In a majority judgment of 5:2, the high court had struck down the law arguing that it was “unsustainable” and violative of articles 14, 15(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution. While Article 14 pertains to the right to equality, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion and caste while Article 16 is about equality of opportunity in matters of employment.
    • The only categories now kept outside the quota ambit are Syeds, Pathans, Arabs and Iranis, but they account for less than 10% of Muslim population in the state. Muslims constitute 9.2% of AP’s 77 million population.
    • The apex court bench was in agreement with the argument put forth by Attorney General (AG) GE Vahanvati and former AG K Parasaran that quota benefits are extended to socially and educationally backward communities on the basis of their profession and not religion.
    • It would be social discrimination of the worst kind if on the one hand reservation was given to similarly situated groups within the Hindu community, but denied to those in the Muslim community, they argued. The Bench was in agreement with their position that it was not fair to exclude Muslim barber or washerman community from the quota list when the similarly placed Hindu groups were being provided with benefits of reservation.
  • An excellent editorial comment on fire safety
    • In the context of the Park Street fire that recently killed many, this editorial comment assumes significance:
    • It (fire safety measures) must start with a cultural shift, from the primordial fatalism of a population whose fortunes depended, in the main, on the whims of the rain gods, to the mental make-up of the modern man who takes much larger responsibility for shaping his own destiny. Planning is the next step, and enforcement. Town planning, to prevent fires spreading or starting, traffic (including parking) management and discipline to ensure ready access to the site of a fire accident, building codes which have passive safety built into their DNA and are meant to be enforced rather than serve as a means of extortion from builders who flout the codes, standards for fire-proofing, resisting or delaying materials, mandatory and systematic dispersal of such material inside new construction, training of the occupants of large building blocks to behave responsibly in times of fire emergency — the list of things that can and need to be done goes on. Fire safety is a fairly well developed discipline, what is lacking is the will to import its insights into how we build modern India.
  • Supreme Court to have a woman judge shortly
    • The Supreme Court will very soon have a woman judge, after more than three years.
    • The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, has recommended the elevation of Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court Gyan Sudha Misra as a Supreme Court judge.
    • Justice Misra will be the fourth woman judge of the Supreme Court, after Fatima Beevi, Sujata Manohar, and Ruma Paul, who retired in June 2006.
    • The collegium has also recommended the elevation of Madras High Court Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale as a Supreme Court judge.
Finance & Economy
  • ATMs to offer more services
    • Many banks are now working to make the dumb ATMs smarter and banking simpler. The smart terminals, they expect, will combine the convenience of ATMs with the versatility of bank branches.
    • In their improved avatar, the machines will allow customers to pay taxes and bills, buy or sell products such as mutual funds, book air tickets and swiftly get cheques cleared, bankers say.
    • Around villages near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, HDFC Bank is piloting a ‘bank on wheels’, taking the ATM to people. PNB is doing trials on a micro-deposit module to help people access banking services with amounts as low as Rs 10. And YES Bank is starting pilot programmes on video phone banking starting April.
    • From about 20,000 two years ago, the number of ATMs increased to 45,000 in 2009 and is poised to cross 100,000 by 2013, according to RBR, a London-based retail banking research group.
  • Tier-I capital may exclude hybrid instruments
    • Quasi-equity instruments, such as perpetual bonds, may be ineligible to meet Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines on capital requirement in future. RBI’s future regulation will be in line with its peers globally to focus more on shareholders capital and retained profits.
    • In India, commercial banks are required to maintain a capital adequacy ratio of 9%. In other words, for every Rs 100 that they lend out of deposits, banks need to have Rs 9 of capital. Of this, Rs 6 has to be in the form of core capital while Rs 3 can be subordinated debt, such as preference shares. Core capital is largely equity and retained profits, but some time back RBI had allowed hybrid instruments, such as perpetual bonds, to comprise 15% of a bank’s core capital.
    • Bankers say that hybrid capital accounts for less than 10% of the total Tier-I capital of banks in India.
  • Want to know what is meant by currency controls?
    • Take a look at this Slice of History column and you will understand in very well.
    • In place of getting a meagre $250 to $500, Indians can today draw as much as $200,000 in foreign currency to go abroad.
Astronomy
  • Universe expansion is 'speeding up'
    • Astronomers have claimed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, after studying thousands of galaxies using the Hubble Space Telescope.
    • In its research, an international team has analysed nearly 446,000 galaxies to map the matter distribution and the expansion history of the universe, proving again that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is indeed correct.
    • And the astronomers clearly found that the universe was indeed growing faster and faster with time, as predicted by Einstein.
    • Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that space and time is a soft geometrical structure of which the shape and evolution are entirely determined by the matter within it.
    • According to the astronomers, the universe is composed of dark matter and normal matter with third constituent called “dark energy”, which over the past two billion years has been the force behind the accelerated expansion of the universe.
    • In a method similar to taking an X-ray of the body to reveal the underlying skeleton, the technique, known as weak gravitational lensing, allowed the astronomers to see how the light from distant galaxies is bent and distorted by the dark matter as it travels towards earth.
    • They then mapped the dark matter structures, which make up 80 per cent of the universe.
Language Lessons
  • bulimia: Noun
    • A disorder of eating seen among young women who go on eating binges and then feel guilt and depression and self-condemnation; Pathologically insatiable hunger (especially when caused by brain lesions)
  • orthorexia: Noun
    • A condition in which eating healthy becomes an unhealthy obsession.

5 comments:

Mohan said...

Fire safety is a fairly well developed discipline, what is lacking is the will to import its insights into how we build modern India.

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