Politics & the Nation
  • The disgraced former Telecom minister Mr. Raja will continue to hog headlines for a few days more to come
    • Take a look at this lead story in ET which reports in detail about the CAG report that indicted him in the telecom scam.
  • SC questions delay in replying to Swamy plea
    • The Supreme Court has questioned the delay by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in disposing of an application by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy seeking his sanction to prosecute A Raja over the 2G spectrum allocation.
    • The court expressed dissatisfaction over the prime minister’s reply to the complaint and sought records from the government on the issue.
    • Mr. Swamy had written a letter to the Prime Minister on November, 28, 2008 seeking permission for prosecuting Raja as he was the telecom minister then in UPA-I government.  But there appears to have been a CBI probe going on in the matter from October 21, 2009.  Perhaps this appears to be the reason why the PM preferred not to act on the letter of Mr. Swamy.  His reply to Mr. Swamy on March 19, 2010 (in UPA II; after 16 months) saying that the complaint is premature in view of the ongoing CBI investigation has irked the Supreme Court.
    • The Supreme Court appears to have prescribed (in Vineet Narain case) a time limit of 3 months for such cases to be disposed of.  
    • The SC is scheduled to hear the case again on Thursday.
Finance & Economy
  • Update on Doha round of trade negotiations
  • What drives stock market indices?
    • This is an excellent write up that concludes after lot of research, that it is very hard to explain the movements in stock indices.  Though we all know the end result, the process by which the conclusion is made sounds interesting.  Hence a must read.
  • On financial inclusion
    • We all know that it is highly fashionable to talk about financial inclusion nowadays.  The PM the the RBI have been constantly harping on increasing the reach of the banking system to include the unserved.
    • But how exactly is 'financial inclusion' defined?
    • The financial inclusion in 2005 was defined as the provision of affordable financial services — access to payments and remittance facilities, savings, loans and insurance services by the formal financial system with no pre-condition or lowminimum balance maintenance.
    • Though we have been noting about the subject with some regularity, we have never been able to note the existence of banking correspondents, who are supposed to reach out to the unserved.  While the ultimate onus on the safety of the funds is with the bank, the BC is responsible till he deposits the cash at the nearest local bank branch. About 130 business correspondents were appointed till last year who opened 90 lakh accounts, according to latest available data. Most of them were by state-run banks. ICICI Bank, Federal Bank and Axis Bank were active among the private sector.
    • Popular BCs, who have tied up with major banks, include Fino, Seed Enterprises and A Little World among others. Another technology provider Oxigen has tied up with State Bank of India for kiosk banking.
    • The experience of the BCs on financial inclusision is best summarized by the following statement:
    • "Those who have the money don’t trust many of these (BCs) and those who trust them do not have the money. When both these things happen, there are a different set of problems."
    • In 2009, deposits mobilised in rural bank branches was a mere 9% of the total deposit mobilised by banks and the share of rural credit in total credit of banks was even lower at 7%. The percentage of people having any kind of insurance cover is just 10%, while the percentage of non-life insurance is a measly 0.6%.
  • First Principle on CRR
    • This column explains the cash reserve ratio.  Good recap.
  • A once in a lifetime flu jab
    • American scientists are working on developing a once-in-a-lifetime flu jab that fights off all strains of the disease. A team at National Institute of Health in Maryland is developing the new vaccine which it claims would fight off all strains of the disease — from the winter flu to deadly pandemic viruses. Described as the ‘holy grail’ of flu research, the scientists say the jab would be available within five years. The new drug uses DNA to trick the body’s immune system into producing antibodies against the protein’s base instead — the ‘lollipop stick’. And, just one or two shots could provide lifelong protection.
Language Lessons
  • zilch: Noun
    • Nothing
  • to batten down the hatches
    • (idiomatic) Prepare for trouble.
    • (nautical, historical) To cover the hatches on a sailing ship with tarpaulins and nail the edges down with battens, to prevent water getting below-decks in a storm.
  • cesspool: Noun
    • A place where sewage is held; a cesspit.
    • A filthy place
  • dramatis personae: Noun
    • A list of characters in a play, usually arranged in order of first appearance.
    • eg: What makes politics truly fascinating is not just its numerous plots, sub-plots and dramatis personae but also those comical twists that come uninvited to steal the thunder from the main act.