Politics & the Nation
  • New CBI Director
    • IPS officer Amar Pratap Singh was on Tuesday appointed the new Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation for two years succeeding Ashwani Kumar.
    • Mr. Singh is a 1974 batch IPS officer from Jharkhand cadre.  He was serving as Special Director of the agency. He has also held post of Additional Director General in BSF and is a recipient of Indian Police Medal and President’s Police Medal.
    • Ashwani Kumar, whose term came to an end yesterday, took over as the Director on August 2, 2008. He held the position for a period of two years and four months.
  • Thomas to step down as CVC
    • Central Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas will send in his resignation to the President today. With the Supreme Court and the Opposition piling up pressure on the Centre for the removal of the ‘tainted’ CVC, the government leadership has reportedly advised Thomas to vacate the post.
    • Thomas continuance became untenable on Tuesday after the Supreme Court questioned his suitability to supervise CBI’s investigations into the 2G spectrum scandal.
    • The other reason that could have prompted the government to advise the CVC to put in his papers is that there was no consensus in his appointment in the first place.  The selection panel chaired by the PM consists of the Home Minister and the Opposition leader.  At the time of selection, Sushma Swaraj has reportedly objected to the selection of Thomas, as the committee was virtually presented with a one-man panel.  She is believed to have insisted on picking up either Bijoy Chatterjee or S. Krishnan for the job.  As there was no consensus on the selection, she had to write a dissent note.
    • There is fear in government that the apex court could object to the lack of consensus on Thomas’ appointment. The government will face serious embarrassment were the court to pass strictures against it. This will have direct bearing on the prime minister as he heads the selection panel.
  • On phone tapping power of the government
    • Lawful interception of phones is permitted under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act in the interest of public safety and national security.
    • As per the law, only the home secretary at the national level and home secretary at the state level could order the interception of messages in the interest of public safety, sovereignty and integrity of India, security of states, public order or for preventing incitement to commission of an offence.
    • These decisions are subject to review by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
Finance & Economy
  • India's Q2 GDP growth above estimates at 8.9% vs 8.8% QoQ
    • India's economy grew a forecast-beating 8.9 percent year-on-year in the July-September quarter, data showed on Tuesday, as the South Asian nation returned to pre-financial crisis expansion levels.
    • Asia's third-largest economy also got a boost from stronger farm production, which expanded 4.4 percent, thanks to a bountiful monsoon, data from the Central Statistical Organisation showed.
    • The growth estimates got a leg up as the industrial sectors, which account for approximately 20% of the overall GDP, got a boost in the second quarter due to the lower inflation numbers under the new series.
    • The economy, which had grown more than an annual 8 per cent in the last two quarters, has been riding on robust manufacturing activity and the outlook for farm output has brightened following good monsoon rains.
    • Look at this graphic too to get a bird’s eye view of the economy’s performance.
  • Core growth hits 7 month high at 7% in Oct
    • The index of six key infrastructure industries rose 7% in October from a year ago, a seven month high, indicating that the industry could revert to high growth rates soon after two disappointing months.
    • The six core industries — crude oil, petroleum refining, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel — have a combined weight of 26.7% in the index of industrial production (IIP) and are considered an advance indicator of industrial activity.
  • Fiscal deficit dips 33.76% to 1.62 lakh cr in Apr-Oct
    • The Centre’s fiscal deficit narrowed by 33.76% year-on-year to Rs. 1.62 lakh crore in April-October, 2010, on the back of better-than-expected revenue from the sale of spectrum and robust tax collections.
    • In comparison, the Centre’s fiscal deficit stood at Rs. 2.45 lakh crore in the corresponding period of the previous financial year.
  • How should the telecom sector be cleansed?
    • If you are asked this question, today’s ET editorial provides a reasonably good answer.  Some off-tangent thinking and ideas presented there.
  • Some new acronyms that are making their appearance
    • Eagles: Spanish bank BBVA refers to the emerging and growth leading economies as Eagles.  They are: China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and Taiwan.
    • CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa
    • You should already be thorough by now with BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China
  • STD calls go local on BSNL landlines
    • BSNL will treat all long-distance calls from its fixed-line network to landline numbers across the country as local calls as the erstwhile state monopoly looks to breathe life into its non-mobile business, which continues to be its largest revenue earner.
    • From Wednesday, all 27 million landline customers of the loss-making telco can access this facility and not pay STD charges when calling any landline in the country, a move that is seen by many industry watchers as the first step towards doing away with a separate slab for long distance tariffs.
    • Put simply, a long distance call will carry a 180-second pulse, unlike the earlier format when STD calls were billed on a per minute basis.
    • Currently, BSNL’s local calls cost between 80 paise and 1.20 for three minutes, based on the tariff plan the customer has chosen, and this same pricing will be extended to all landline-to-landline calls, irrespective of distances. This also works out cheaper to long distance tariffs on mobiles, which currently range from 60 paise to 1.50/minute.
  • World leaders react to WikiLeaks
  • EU seeks India waiver for duty-free imports from Pak
    • The European Union has sought India’s support for its proposal to give Pakistan duty-free access to a number of goods into the European market as part of its flood relief package, a demand that has not gone down with the trade and textiles ministries.
    • If implemented, the package could give a big blow to India’s textile exports, as more than 64 items of the identified 75 products, belong to the textile category.
    • Since the sops would go against the most favoured nation treatment clause of the World Trade Organization, which lays down that all countries have to be treated the same, the EU has to obtain a waiver.
    • According to EU’s proposal on Pakistan, it would allow duty free import of 75 items for three years starting January 2011 amounting to almost €900 million in import value.
    • India has the power to spike the proposal, which will be discussed at the WTO this week, by not giving its consent. India had in 2005 opposed a proposal by the 27-country group to give duty free access for textiles to 12 countries including Pakistan as a reward for controlling drug trafficking. The EU was, consequently, forced to withdraw the sop.
    • India exported textiles and clothing worth $5.9 billion to the EU in 2009 while Pakistan’s exports totalled $2.2 billion.

  • Indophile Stephen Solarz is dead
    • Former US lawmaker, who spoke in favour of India at a Congressional hearing within days of the Pokharan-II and was instrumental in setting up of the South Asia Bureau in the department of state, has died. One of the leading foreign policy experts in the House of Representatives during nine terms starting in 1975 and known as the best friend of India in the Congress, Stephen J Solarz was 70 when he died at the George Washington University on Monday. He had esophageal cancer.
Language Lessons
  • soiree: Noun
    • A party of people assembled in the evening (usually at a private house)
  • poignance: Noun
    • A state of deeply felt distress or sorrow
  • poignant: Adjective
    • Arousing effect; Keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
  • stump up
    • to pay (a sum of money), often unwillingly
    • eg: At Bainbridges auction house, an anonymous bidder with a Beijing accent stumped up $85 million for a 16-inch Qing dynasty vase — the highest ever for a Chinese work of art.