Politics & the Nation
  • Did you ever hear of Pavan Sukhdev?
    • It is well worth knowing about his work.  Take a look at this Special Report in today’s ET.  An eye-opener for many of us.
    • He is championing the cause of giving an economic value to nature!  A radically different way of looking at environment.  Mind boggling work.  Read the full report here.  Those of you that can’t read it for want of time or any other reason can get a brief intro about his work here.
  • Jagan quits Cong, to float new party
    • Kadapa MP Jaganmohan Reddy and his mother Vijayalakshmi, MLA from Pulinvendula, the seat represented by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, expectedly parted ways with Congress on Monday — a move which has the potential of sending the state’s political landscape into convulsions.
    • The Congress party leadership is apprehensive about the manner in which Jaganmohan Reddy’s resignation is likely to play out in Andhra Pradesh politics. The late YSR is still a revered figure in the state, and with his wife and son out of the party, there are likely to be repercussions.
    • As soon as the news about his resignation spread across the state, the Congress high command became the target of angry reactions from Jagan supporters of Kadapa.
    • His supporters in Kadapa and Anantapur districts went on a rampage attacking party offices, ransacking furniture, burning effigies of the Congress president. Scores of his followers thronged his residence at Sagar Society at Banjara Hills in Hyderabad and raised slogans against Sonia Gandhi and Congress.
Finance & Economy
  • On the urbanization challenge
    • Some facts and prognosis: About 17% of the world population lives in urban India.  The present number of our 35 million-plus population cities will go up to 68, 13 of these will have population more than four million each and six will be mega cities with population crossing 10 million. Mumbai and Delhi from this category will be among the five largest cities of the world by the year 2030. The states of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab will have more than 50% of their population living in cities with Tamil Nadu topping urbanisation rate at 67%.
    • How well is India prepared to face this kind of urbanization?  How effective will its JNNURM be in facing this?
    • There cannot be two opinions on the point that the urban flagship programme, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched in December 2005 with focus on 65 mission cities was a bold beginning as far as squarely addressing the need for reforms in urban India and drastically improving basic infrastructure services like water supply is concerned. But when we take stock of the status of implementation of the 23 reforms after four-and-a-half years of action out of the total seven-year duration of the mission, the picture is not very encouraging. As the mid-term appraisal of the current plan points out, many of the tougher reforms are still pending, the real impact of even the completed reforms on the ground is sometimes unclear and there is a clear need to improve the capacity of state governments and urban local bodies to undertake these reforms.
  • Plan panel told to set up body for working out uniform gas price
    • India's apex planning body will set up an inter-ministerial committee to suggest a mechanism to have a uniform price for all consumers of natural gas after it rejected an independent recommendation to have different rates for power and fertiliser sectors. Currently, gas prices vary sharply depending on the source of the fuel and location of the buyer, severely distorting the market in the country.
    • Power and fertiliser sector account for more than 60% of country’s total natural gas demand. While power tariffs are either fixed or move within a price band, the government provides subsidies to fertiliser plants to control its price.
    • Natural gas consumers pay different prices for the fuel varying between $4.20 mBtu (million standard British thermal unit) for domestic gas and $8-10 per unit for imported LNG. At times spot price of LNG goes as high as $12 a unit.
  • Hi-tech plan to streamline NREGA payment
    • India Post has charted out an ambitious rural information technology (IT) plan that will make the wage disbursement under the scheme paperless.
    • Although NREGA is administered by the ministry of rural development, payments under the UPA government’s flagship job safety programme are routed through the postal network and bank branches. The postal department services more than half of the wage earners under the scheme in most states of the country.
    • The government has allocated Rs. 40,100 crore for NREGA in 2010-11. It is estimated that the rural development ministry will be able to utilise only about Rs. 35,000 crore in the current year. A total of 179,43,189 families have been provided employment under the scheme till June 30 this year.
  • WikiLeaks makes America blush
    • The latest wave of WikiLeaks threatens to affect Indo-US ties, with the startling disclosure that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called India a ‘self appointed’ UNSC front-runner and ordered spying of the country’s bid to become a permanent member of the body.
    • The US had forewarned India about the latest rash of leaks, observing that they may harm American interests and create tension in its ties with its ‘friends.’
    • And now that the leaks are out, there are fears in the foreign policy establishment here that the disclosures, which cover 2006-2010, may have damaging information on the Indo-US nuclear deal too.
  • Paul Krugman explains how Spain is a prisoner of the Euro
    • His piece in today's ET deserves a read at least once.  Do so here.  Some excerpts:
    • Through the good years the Spanish government appeared to be a model of both fiscal and financial responsibility: unlike Greece, it ran budget surpluses, and unlike Ireland, it tried hard (though with only partial success) to regulate its banks. At the end of 2007, Spain’s public debt, as a share of the economy, was only about half as high as Germany’s, and even now its banks are in nowhere near as bad shape as Ireland’s.
    • So, why is Spain being branded alongside Portugal, Ireland and Greece?
    • Problems were developing under the surface. During the boom, prices and wages rose more rapidly in Spain than in the rest of Europe, helping to feed a large trade deficit. And when the bubble burst, Spanish industry was left with costs that made it uncompetitive with other nations.
    • Now what? If Spain still had its own currency, like the United States — or like Britain, which shares some of the same characteristics — it could have let that currency fall, making its industry competitive again. But with Spain on the euro, that option isn’t available. Instead, Spain must achieve “internal devaluation”: it must cut wages and prices until its costs are back in line with its neighbours.
    • And internal devaluation is an ugly affair. For one thing, it’s slow: It normally take years of high unemployment to push wages down. Beyond that, falling wages mean falling incomes, while debt stays the same. So internal devaluation worsens the private sector’s debt problems.
    • What all this means for Spain is very poor economic prospects over the next few years.
Language Lessons
  • perfidy: Noun
    • Betrayal of a trust; An act of deliberate betrayal
  • to cut one's teeth
    • (idiomatic) To begin; to gain early experience.
    • eg: He cut his teeth flying model airplanes as a child, so aeronautical engineering came naturally.
  • mien: Noun
    • Dignified manner or conduct
    • eg: ...a hefty six-footer with a rather severe mien.
  • moulting: Noun
    • Periodic shedding of the cuticle in arthropods or the outer skin in reptiles
    • Verb: Cast off hair, skin, horn, or feathers
  • high-falutin’
    • Highly pompous, bombastic (speech).
    • Showing off, ostentatious, pretending to be above one's station in life, putting on airs.
    • eg: One of the reasons he plunged headlong into the study of ecosystems was an innocuous question asked by a friend, who subtly mocked his high falutin work as a global banking expert...