Politics & the Nation
  • A very good editorial comment in the context of the ongoing communal strife in Hyderabad
    • There is a wider problem of a brand of politics that sustains on religious strife and competitive identity management. Communal strife will continue to plague India until that politics is challenged and delegitimised. But at a local level, heightened community policing and participation in dispute resolution can prove effective in averting such conflagrations.
  • The economics of higher education militates against the entry of the best foreign universities in India. Comment.
    • If you are ever asked such a question, nothing can be a better answer than today's op-ed by TT Ram Mohan. Take a look. An interesting read.
  • Khurshid roots for more districts in minority list
    • In a move that is certain to generate a lot of controversy, the minority affairs ministry on Wednesday said it wanted the government to change the eligibility criteria for classification of “minority concentrated districts (MCDs)” by reducing the criterion for such grouping from the existing 25% to 15%.
    • Union minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid reportedly said that the government also favoured a “fresh look” at the Supreme Court-sponsored restriction on the government for notifying any community as “national minority”.
    • An interesting news report. Take a look at it in full here.
  • On Ranganath Mishra Commission report
    • Here is an explosive article on the report. Penned by no less a person than the Member Secretary of that Commission who gave a dissenting report, this is quite forceful. Take a look.
Finance & Economy
  • Surprise surge in bond yields helps banks cut treasury losses
    • Banks, which are struggling to meet loan-growth targets for FY10, have managed to stave off huge treasury losses as a surprising year-end surge in bond prices helped them set aside less money to provide for possible losses on investments. Banks have to set aside funds to make up for notional losses as bond prices fall whenever yields rise.
    • Yields on the benchmark 10-year government bond, which crossed 8.02% on March 22, retreated to 7.85% at the end of the last day of the fiscal, although analysts and research reports had earlier forecast that yields would close at over 8% in end-March. Had yields closed on Wednesday at over 8% as forecast earlier, banks would have had to set aside at least over Rs 1,000 crore to provide for a fall in the value of the securities in their investment portfolio.
    • The rally in bond prices over the last few days, however, has ensured that banks will be able to cut their treasury losses.
    • One reason for the unexpected rally is that banks stand to gain hugely if bond prices rise. And this time, banks are more exposed to treasury losses as they have been forced to invest 31.3% of their deposits in government bonds owing to poor loan growth compared to previous years.
    • Government bonds form the largest component of a bank’s investment portfolio, since the banking regulator mandates that a fourth of a bank’s liabilities should be in liquid government securities, known as the statutory liquidity ratio.
    • Banks have to arrive at the market value of their bond portfolio based on the yield on the last day of the quarter.
    • Banks hold government bonds under three categories. Available for sale (AFS), held to maturity (HTM) and held for trading (HFT). AFS and HFT are the two categories where banks have to provide for profits and losses, according to market prices of the securities. Treasury officials usually hold their medium-term securities (3-5 year segment) in the AFS category. These need to be marked to market (MTM), inviting provisions. The third category, held to-maturity, or HTM, which need not be marked to market and hence is not vulnerable to depreciation.
    • All of the above excerpt is fine; but why do bond prices fall when yields rise? This is the question that should be bothering you; right? You will find an excellent explanation in this beautiful article. Read it if you care.
  • Farmers milking tech for big yield
    • RFID tags help improve production at dairies. How are they doing it? By right sizing the food given to cattle everyday.
    • Overeating among cattle can lead to fatal diseases such as enterotoxemia, and insufficient diet can cause weight loss among other complexities.
    • A tiny microchip, or radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, punched on the cattle's ear sends information about her daily dietary needs and feeding details, among many other information, to a radio sensor located inside the farm premises. This, in turn, communicates with computer systems maintained in the farm.
    • The data collected by this system is then accessed real time by dairy managers and other supervisors for carrying out specific activities, such as monitoring the health and changing the nutritional mix.
    • Thousands of milk farmers in Maharashtra and Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu are becoming part of a technology revolution that can have a far-reaching impact on milk productivity of the Indian dairy industry.
    • Though India is one of the world’s largest milk-producing nations, the yields here are very low when compared with others. The American dairy industry, for instance, has an average yield of 10,000-11,000 litres per lactation cycle, compared with around 1,000-1,200 litres for buffaloes in India.
    • Brazil took our Gir breed 20 years ago and has made it ten times more productive using technology. It’s an irony that in India our per animal productivity has not improved since 1950.
    • Unlike a plastic plate with a unique 15-digit number—the farmers’ traditional way to identify cattle, an RFID tag is a more intelligent device. The tag consists of a microchip with 4kb memory for storing information and a radio antenna which transmits information via Bluetooth and other wireless protocols to a computer or a mobile handset.
  • Food prices cool on rich reap
    • Grain, cooking oil and sugar prices have dropped by up to a third in March due to better-than-expected harvests across the world, forcing popular Indian food brands to slash shelf prices and bring relief to consumers.
    • The price crash in India mirrors declines in the global market. Global wheat prices are at a two-year low because of ample supply while sugar prices are heading for the biggest quarterly drop since 1985 on hopes of higher output in India and Brazil. Palm oil is at a seven-week low.
    • Prices could decline further in the next couple of weeks as wheat, chana, maize and sugar pile up within India, and cooking oil in the main exporting countries such as Argentina, Malaysia and Indonesia.
    • The slump could bring relief from sticker shock to consumers hurt by soaring food prices after a weak monsoon last year hit farm output.
  • Net services earnings may fall in 9 years!
    • India's net earnings from trade in services such as software and consultancy are headed for the first fall in a decade, leaving the rupee’s value at the mercy of overseas investment flows.
    • Exports of services other than software may not be accelerating as fast as merchandise exports since they are not so essential for crisis-hit Western economies.
    • Net invisibles -— the difference between income and expenditure on items such as travel, insurance and software -— fell 7.7% in the nine months ended December, preliminary data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show. It last fell in the fiscal year ended 2001.
    • The fall in net earnings from invisibles could make the rupee unstable against the dollar as the rupee rally last quarter—the second straight one—was more due to portfolio investments than improvement in trade.
  • gyp: Verb
    • Deprive of by deceit
    • eg: We all are an agglomeration of atoms and by crashing atom against atom we are only trying to prove that all religious tomes gypped us with Genesis.