Politics & the Nation
  • Terms of reference for the Shunglu panel
    • You might be aware that the government has appointed the VK Shunglu Committee to probe allegations of corruption charges in the conduct of the CWG.  The other member of the committee is Shantanu Consul, Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (after his retirement on October 31).
    • The committee has been asked to give its report within three months.
    • It would not look into specific cases of graft as investigative agencies like CBI, Central Vigilance Commission, Enforcement Directorate and incometax department are already handling various corruption-related cases.
    • While the committee might not try and establish the money trail, it would be given powers to investigate larger decision-making process. There are allegations about how decisions on award of contracts were delayed so much that there was manifold cost escalation. The probe panel would try and fix responsibility for delayed decision-making process that led to embarrassment for India.
  • I-T search in 60 places of Reddy pals
    • Income tax officials searched about 60 places of persons close to mining magnates and ministers Reddy brothers, amid allegations of horsetrading levelled by Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) against the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in Karnataka.
    • The legislators who faced I-T searches are B Nagendra, representing Kudligi, and T H Suresh Babu, elected from Kampli, both in the iron ore rich district of Bellary, the political stronghold of the Reddy brothers.
    • The I-T searches saw Congress rebel MLAs showing public display of unity. Congress MLA from Afzalpur, Mr Mallikayya Guttedar, who had on Sunday had threatened to quit the party did a turnaround on Monday.
Finance & Economy
  • Sebi issues ‘warrants’ to rein in promoters
    • The Sebi tightened the rules governing warrant issues, which in the past allowed promoters to enrich themselves when the markets soared, but get away lightly when they crashed.
    • If the promoters don’t exercise warrants by the stipulated date, they won’t be eligible for any share or warrant purchases for the next 12 months. Convertible warrants give promoters the option to convert warrants into equity shares at a pre-determined price.
    • There were complaints that promoters allotted warrants to themselves and select investors at a pre-determined price, but didn’t buy them when the due date came if the prevailing stock prices were lower than the decided price. If the prices were higher, they would convert those warrants and at least make a paper profit, and in some cases encash the gains. If promoters or promoter groups sold shares in the previous six months, they would not be eligible for allotment on preferential basis either.  Warrants are seen as an instrument that gives an advantage to promoters above retail investors, who have all other rights equal to company founders.
    • But others believe they give the company an assured capital at a future date, when it may be required for a planned investment but may not be available from other sources. When the markets melted during 2008 and early 2009, promoters of many companies such as Hindalco Industries, Tata Power, GE Shipping and Pantaloon Retail did not convert those warrants, regulatory filings show.
  • Status of multibrand retail FDI
    • Foreign investment in multi-brand retail is not allowed at present, but multinationals can invest up to 51% in single-brand retail. Foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart and Germany’s Metro that operate in the wholesale segment have been lobbying hard to open up multi-brand retail.
    • Despite the advent of players such as Reliance, Aditya Birla Group and Bharti, organised retail accounts for just 6% of the Indian market and the presence of these players is restricted to large cities and suburbs.
  • Sebi may rule financial sector in rejig
    • Market watchdog Sebi could be the sole regulator for all financial transactions when the financial laws are rewritten by a body proposed in the budget, taking over the jurisdiction of the other regulators over some products.
    • The February 2010 budget has announced a new body, the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, or FSLRC, to rewrite the financial sector laws.
    • The prime objective of the FSLRC will be to clean up the financial sector regulator and create a unified legislative framework.
    • A retired Supreme Court judge will head the body that will examine the inconsistencies and overlaps in the financial sector laws and work out a standard principle-based financial regulation.  
    • Most of the legislation governing the country’s financial sector are very old and a number of amendments to them over time have further increased their ambiguity and complexity.
    • This has lead to turf war between the regulators, the recent public tiff between Sebi and the insurance watchdog, IRDA, over regulation of unit-linked insurance products, or ULIPs.
    • The FSLRC will look at the objectives of each financial regulator so that there is no overlap amongst the regulators or different financial bodies over regulation of different products.
    • Most of the expert committees, including Raghuram Rajan panel, Percy Mistry committee and UK Sinha panel, set up to look into the development financial sector have emphasised on the need to rewrite financial sector regulations.
  • Indo US relations
    • This is a very good essay on Indo US relations and what guides them in the present and in the near future.
    • Tarun Das gives 7 solid reasons why the importance of India to the US has not diminished.  Take a look; makes an interesting reading.
    • But the fact remains that historically, Democrat Presidents have not been well disposed towards India.  Even when they mouthed encouraging words about strengthening relations, their actions at least showed quite the opposite.
Language Lessons
  • au courant: Adjective
    • Being up to particular standard or level especially in being up to date in knowledge
    • eg: The learned judges’ choice of outmoded words for companions usually described in more on-trend, gender-neutral terms as ‘significant other’ or ‘partner’ could be understood, if not condoned, as they may not be au courant with popular parlance; but consider the consequences of their succumbing to political correctness.
  • peremptory: Adjective
    • Offensively self-assured or given to exercising usually unwarranted power; Not allowing contradiction or refusal; Putting an end to all debate or action
    • eg: A swaggering peremptory manner; spoke in peremptory tones; peremptory commands; peremptory decree.
  • chutzpah: Noun
    • (Yiddish) unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity
    • eg: The new nomenclature has all the chutzpah of a Soviet-style administrative department.
  • hors d’oeuvre: Noun
    • A dish served as an appetizer before the main meal