Politics & the Nation
  • Parliament Stalemate
    • The stand-off has stalled parliament proceedings ever since the winter session of parliament began on November 9. The government last week ruled out the possibility of cutting short the session, which is scheduled to end on December 13. The government, which has held two all-party meetings in an attempt to end the logjam, has proposed alternatives like discussing the issue on the floor of the House and attaching investigating agencies to the Public Accounts Committee headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.  Opposition is not in any mood to settle for anything less than a JPC. The govt’s determination to fend off the JPC demand stems from its anxiety over fears that the parliamentary panel would summon the prime minister and go into any aspect relating to the issue.
Finance & Economy
  • Even Tata’s are under scanner now
    • Investigating agencies probing the allotment of mobile permits by former telecom minister A Raja are examining a transaction between Tata Realty and Infrastructure Ltd (TRIL), a Tata Group company, and real estate firm Unitech in 2007.
    • A loan of around Rs. 1,600 crore was reportedly advanced by TRIL to Unitech in a deal that investigators believe was facilitated by Niira Radia, a lobbyist and owner of a firm that handles the public relations work of all Tata companies.
    • The end-use of the money is of interest to the government, because it is pursuing leads that it may have been used by Unitech to pay for a 2G GSM licence awarded in early 2008.  Investigators are reportedly trying to unearth if there was any understanding that Tata Group would pick a stake in the telecom arm of Unitech.
    • TRIL says no loan was given to Unitech, but says it did provide the realty company with a commercial advance. According to TRIL, it had identified a large tract of non-agricultural land in Gurgaon for commercial and residential development, against which a commercial advance was paid to Unitech in 2007. Subsequently, in 2008, the commercial transaction was renegotiated for a smaller size of land which is currently under development.
    • It would be interesting to see whether the veracity of the statements made by TRIL hold water after the investigations.  If they don't, then we can conclude that the last bastion of excellence in corporate governance has fallen.
  • Montek Ahluwalia in race for IMF top post
    • It is a matter of pride for India that Montek Singh Ahluwalia figures among the probables to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the next chief of International Monetary Fund.  The clout and role of the international lender has increased substantially in the emerging markets.
    • Mr Kahn is reportedly planning to run for French presidency in 2012.  Other frequently mentioned names include Mohamed A El-Erian, the American born son of an Egyptian diplomat and an economist who leads the giant bond investor Pimco and Arminio Fraga and Guillermo Ortiz, former heads of the central banks of Brazil and Mexico respectively.
  • I-T dept floats new number, DIN, for taxpayers
    • Taxpayers will now have to procure a 'new number' for filing returns and making any communication with the Income Tax department. The unique document identification number (DIN), on the lines of numbers like PAN and TAN, will be quoted on "every" income tax-related communication, including returns to be filed next year for the financial year 2010-11. According to the new guidelines brought out by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the DIN will be mandatory "in respect of every notice, order, letter or any correspondence" with the department, by the taxpayers.
  • House panel recommends single regulator for ports
    • The Committee of Estimates has asked the government to establish a single quasi-judicial regulator for settling disputes for all ports in the country. At present, the ports are divided into two categories: major ports, and minor and intermediary ports. While the central government manages and regulates the major ports, the minor and intermediate ports are administered by state governments. There are 13 major ports in the country, including Nhava-Sheva, Mumbai, Kandla, that are regulated by the Tariff Authority of Major Ports.
  • Economix
    • This is one column that we are liking so much.  It gives dashboards of various important items that paint a concise picture of the economy.
    • Look at it here.
  • India & US protest farm subsidy breach
    • India, the US and some other countries have protested growing instances of countries doling out higher levels of farm subsidies than agreed upon under the World Trade Organization brokered multilateral trading agreement, putting pressure on errant countries to lower these trade distorting sops.
    • Four countries have reported doling out higher food subsidies in 2008 than what they had committed.  These four countries are Costa Rica, Poland, Israel and Norway, which have a good export market in some niche farm products.
    • Though the breaches may have been triggered by genuine stress arising out of the global financial crisis, India and the US have argued they undermine the credibility of the WTO's trading system and need to be flagged.
    • All the four countries have reportedly said that they would bring down their subsidies to committed levels. The WTO member countries had taken on commitments to keep their total farm subsidies within specific levels at the Uruguay round in 1995.
  • Ireland to get $115 b with EU set to ink bailout deal
    • The European Union was poised to approve an € 85 billion ($115 billion) rescue for Ireland on Sunday and announce outlines of a permanent system to resolve Europe’s spreading debt crisis.
    • Finance ministers from the 16-nation euro zone, anxious to prevent financial market contagion from engulfing Portugal and Spain, met to endorse an emergency loan package to help Dublin cover bad bank debts and bridge a massive budget deficit. A German government source said the ministers were also discussing Portugal and its possible need of an EU bailout.
    • With anxiety rattling bond markets, the Irish government has been under intense pressure to accept a bailout despite repeatedly saying in recent weeks that it did not need one.
    • European leaders are hoping that the package for Ireland, drawn from a € 750 billion rescue fund agreed by the EU in May this year, will convince markets that the crisis can be contained and spare Portugal and Spain — the next two countries identified as potentially at risk.
Language Lessons
  • rapier: Noun
    • A straight sword with a narrow blade and two edges
  • correctitude: Noun
    • Correct or appropriate behaviour
  • contumelious: Adjective
    • Arrogantly insolent
    • eg: ...Happily for the contumelious MP, this interlocution took place in Britain, not India.
  • insolent: Adjective
    • Marked by casual disrespect