Politics & the Nation
  • An unseemly controversy over Vishwanathan Anand's nationality
    • The story began with the University of Hyderabad deciding to confer an honorary doctorate on chess icon Vishwanathan Anand.  When the proposal went to the HRD ministry, it appears that doubts were raised over Anand's nationality as an Indian.  Nothing can be more hurting to the person as well as his fans and fellow Indians that an Indian's nationality be questioned by its own government ministry.  Though Mr. Kapil Sibal has been quick to make amends and apologized to Mr. Anand, the rancour the issue has left in our hearts will take some time to go away.
    • Anand was conferred the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian award, by the Manmohan Singh government in 2007, becoming the first sportsperson ever to have been given the honour. The questioning of his nationality by the same government has, not surprisingly, infuriated the people.
  • Apang arrested in 1k-cr PDS scam
    • Former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister and veteran Congress leader Gegong Apang was on Tuesday sent to seven days police custody after he was arrested by Special Investigation Cell (SIC) sleuths for alleged involvement in the Rs. 1,000-crore public distribution system (PDS) scam.
    • The SIC was constituted by the state government, ruled by Congress, to probe the 1,000-crore PDS scam under the direct supervision of Gauhati high court.
    • The probe began following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by chairperson of Arunachal Citizens’ Rights (ACR) Bamang Tegu and public leader Domin Loya on June 13, 2004.
    • Mr Apang was the chief minister during the period when the scam took place. The scam was in the form of false and fraudulent transport subsidy bills which were cleared without financial concurrence, besides inflated bills for procuring items.
    • Mr Apang dominated politics in Arunachal Pradesh during the past 25 years — 22 years as chief minister — although he lost the assembly elections in 2009.
  • On Fifth Schedule areas
    • We are by now familiar with the issue of Vedanta being barred from taking up bauxite mining activity in Niyamgiri hills in Orissa.  In this context learning a bit about Fifth Scheule areas is relevant.
    • Niyamgiri is in the Fifth Schedule areas, a constitutional provision. And it is to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people living in the Fifth Schedule regions that the Centre enacted the Panchayat (Extension to the Schedule Areas) Act, 1996 — or Pesa — which came into force on December 24 of that year. And as per Pesa, gram sabhas are duly empowered to protect and preserve community resources, including the right to approve government plans, programmes and projects. Moreover, gram sabhas and panchayats are required to be actively consulted, on a priority basis.
  • Some interesting statistics about our population and pension coverage
    • According to the UN, India is going to be the most populous country of the world by 2050 with a population of 1,755.2 million. The number of elderly population will grow accordingly and the population of those aged 60 and above will be 21%, while persons aged 80 and above will be 15% of the total population.
    • The existing pension system in India covers only about 11% of our labour force, mostly in the organised sector.
    • Pension liability of the central government as a percentage of revenue expenditure has increased from 2.91% in 1990-91 to 3.81% in 2008-09, while that of state governments increased from 4.49% to 9.09% in the same period.
Finance & Economy
  • The five-day product and how it can pose a systemic risk to the Indian stock market ecosystem
  • Finance ministry urges EPFO to be street smart
    • Fed up with the lethargic attitude of the EPFO in managing its corpus, the finance ministry is asserting its supremacy in prescribing investment rules for the provident fund money.
    • What is this 'lethargic attitude'?  It is about EPFO's reluctance to take to the equity route in its investment decisions.  In 2005, finance ministry allowed PFs to invest 5% of fresh accretions into equities. It was raised to 15% in 2008, but it was made optional.
    • Labour ministry-run EPFO rejected the 2005 investment pattern. EPFO board of trustees has been debating the 2008 pattern, but there’s no decision in sight.
    • ‘Excluded PFs’ followed finance ministry's investment diktat till recently. But Finance Act of 2006 forced these PFs to register with EPFO and seek fresh exemption to retain tax sops. Finance ministry is irked that these funds are being asked to follow 2003 investment pattern to get ‘exemption.’
    • EPFO manages some 3 lakh crore of its own and also has under its watch an additional nearly 2 lakh crore from thousands of privately-run provident fund trusts. It has an all-debt portfolio and bulk of the money is invested in government securities or public sector bonds. It guaranteed a payout of 8.5% in 2009-10.
    • In contrast, the New Pension Scheme returned nearly 15% in 2008-09 for central government employees.
  • Domestic pharma innovators plan maiden auction of patented technologies
    • India's first ever Tech Transfer 2010 is being organized at Ahmedabad to enable companies to shop for patented products.  This is where patent holders (sellers) and companies (potential buyers) will come face-to-face on the same platform to discuss, negotiate and strike a deal.
    • Currently, there is no common platform where companies can go shopping for patented products, which is now a common practice in developed countries. Similarly, a large number of patent holders in India are not able to monetise their knowledge as they hardly have any place to go for selling or licensing their patented products.
    • The one-day patent technologies showcase has been organised by Foundation for MSME Cluster in alliance with Skyquest Technology Consulting, a private company engaged in facilitating buying and selling of patents in India. If things go as planned, India will soon join the club of elite countries like US, Europe, Japan and Australia, where economic growth is fuelled by technologies bought and sold through auction on a regular basis. This will be one of its kind patented technology transfer platform, showcasing 50 patented novel technologies from across India.
    • As per the latest World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) statistics, US got 4,56,321 patent applications filed, Japan 3,91,002, China 2,89,838, South Korea 1,70,632 and European Patent Organisation 1,46,150. While as per the annual report by Indian Patent Office 2008-2009, the total number of patent applications filed in India was 36,812, out of which only 6,161 patent application were by Indian applicants. In the same year, 16,061 patents were granted by the patent office in India.
    • The big names in the world of patent (IPR) commercialising are Yeda Research and Development Company, an Israel based company, and US-based Startel and Intellectual Ventures, the latter having its office in India.
  • On supply bottlenecks
  • Some lighter moments from Amul girl
Language Lessons
  • antediluvian: Adjective
    • So extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period; Of or relating to the period before the biblical flood
  • shindy: Noun (also shindig)
    • A large and noisy party of people
    • eg:  The hon’ble members of Parliament kicking up a shindy over poor pay are doing themselves a disservice...
  • potentate: Noun
    • A ruler who is unconstrained by law
    • eg: India needs a law on civil nuclear liability to advance the interests of the people of this country, not to please any visiting potentate.
  • polyglot: Noun
    • A person who speaks more than one language