Politics & the Nation
  • Madras HC rules in favour of caste-based 2011 census
    • In a development that could provide legitimacy to the demand for caste-based census, the Madras High Court has issued a fresh direction to the Centre to conduct caste-wise enumeration in the country.
    • While giving this direction it said that it had already ruled earlier in the affirmative in an earlier verdict on a writ petition.
    • In its October 2009 judgement, the court had noted that after 1931 there had never been any caste-wise enumeration or tabulation and held that the percentage of reservation fixed on the basis of population in 1931 has to be proportionately increased by conducting caste-wise census.
  • How the OBCs came to be counted...
    • The first OBC Commission of 1953, led by Kaka Kalelkar, set the trend of using regionally-specific caste groupings to define ‘depressed classes’. This was further refined by the Mandal Commission to come up with a set of criteria of social, educational and economic backwardness that were used to classify various castes as being backward or not.
  • Medical Council temporarily taken over by Government
    • Consequent to the arrest of the President of the Council on corruption charges, the Government appeared to be serious in setting the house in order.
    • The Cabinet on Thursday approved an Ordinance allowing the health ministry to take over the charges of the Medical Council of India (MCI). The Ordinance will lead to the setting up of a seven-member board of governors for the MCI to run the council on a day-to-day basis.
    • It will be valid for one year. During this time, the government is expected to decide whether the MCI would be brought within the ambit of the National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) under the health ministry, or the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) under the human resource development ministry.
Finance & Economy
  • Government gives a $11 bn push to infrastructure
    • The government plans to create a Rs 50,000-crore ($11 billion) dedicated fund to set right the country’s creaking infrastructure and could raise 40% of the corpus from overseas investors, launching yet another assault on a problem that has defied solution for long and cramped India’s growth potential.
    • The government plans to raise Rs 20,000 crore, or $4.4 billion, from foreign pension, insurance and sovereign wealth funds, and the remainder from domestic institutions.
    • The government plans to constitute a committee to chalk out modalities in the next two weeks for the fund-raising exercise to start at the Indo-US CEO forum next month.
    • Deepak Parekh, the chairman of Housing Development Finance Corp, and often a top troubleshooter for the government, will head the committee.
    • Construction of physical infrastructure has been lagging in India, unlike China. The absence of a strong bond market and worries about project delays and returns have been holding back private investment. Power generation, road building, port construction and airport modernisation have fallen behind targets for years.
  • How is black money converted into white?
    • Take a look at this excerpt from today's ET article "Cashing In"
    • A man who has to generate, say, Rs 50 lakh of cash will have to find someone who has it, and is looking for a way to convert the black money into white. And this is what they will do:
    • Step 1. The man who needs the cash will buy 10 gold bars of Rs 5 lakh each. A perfectly official transaction. Here, he will pay in cheque to the jeweller and collect the bullion.
    • Step 2. He then ‘gifts’ the gold to the other man, who gives him the cash equivalent. Thus, the person who was looking for cash gets it.
    • Step 3. The person who receives the gold sells it in the market to recover his money. Again, an official transaction and the cheque he receives from the jeweller is deposited in his bank.
    • The three-step transaction helps one man to convert his undisclosed money into white while the other generates Rs 50 lakh without withdrawing it from his bank account and arousing the teller’s suspicion. What makes it happen is gold.
    • But this method is reportedly not now possible from June 1; because any gift of bullion will be treated as an income in the hands of the receiver and attract the usual tax.
  • Govt. sets up new body to enforce FDI ban strictly
    • The government is likely to subject all investments in sectors closed to foreign investments to greater scrutiny through a new oversight body to ensure that foreign capital does not slip into these sectors undetected.
    • There have been allegations that under the new foreign direct investment policy overseas investments could be routed into the sectors closed to such investments.
    • The prohibited sectors include multibrand retail, gambling, betting, lottery, atomic energy and plantation.
    • The new FDI policy says that any company that has more than 50% local holding and has the right to appoint a majority of its board members will be considered an Indian company.
    • All the investment such an Indian company makes into a subsidiary or a joint venture will be considered as Indian investment even if the company has foreign investments.
    • This means that an Indian company as per the new definition but having foreign investment could invest in sectors closed to foreign investment through a subsidiary structure. The government has tightened the rule to say that such a company will not be allowed to invest in sectors in which FDI is prohibited. Only an Indian company that has nil foreign direct investment can invest in these sectors.
    • The proposed oversight body will determine the foreign investment component in a company or essentially specify if an entity is completely Indian owned to invest in these sectors.
  • Know anything abotu Craig Mundie?
    • He is the Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft. The job that was held by Bill Gates as Chief Software Architect reportedly devolved on two M$ insiders. One of them is Craig Mundie and the other is Ray Ozzie. It would be very educative to keep listening to such people as Craig Mundie who are far ahead of us in terms of technology. Take a look at this interesting interview.
  • Status of the Doha round
    • The Doha round of talks, launched in November 2001, is expected to result in gains worth $282 billion (as per WTO estimates) if members agree to bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers on goods and services as mandated. The talks broke down in July 2007 at an informal mini-ministerial meeting in Geneva over a number of issues including disagreement between groups of countries led by the US and India over the level of protection to be given to poor farmers against import surges.
    • India managed to bring trade ministers of key countries together by hosting an informal meeting in New Delhi in September last year, but not much progress was made subsequently. Now that the US has finally appointed an ambassador to the WTO, the stage is set for more talks.
Language Lessons
  • quagmire: Noun
    • A soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot
  • subpoena: Noun
    • A writ issued by court authority to compel the attendance of a witness at a judicial proceeding; disobedience may be punishable as a contempt of court