Happy X-mas to you all

Politics & the Nation
  • Binayak Sen gets life term
    • In a judgement that brought the activist sections face to face with the judicial system, an Additional District and Sessions Court in Raipur on Friday held Dr Binayak Sen and two others guilty of treason, and sentenced them to life imprisonment for trying to help Naxals establish a network to fight the state.
    • The court of Additional District and Sessions Court of BP Verma pronounced the verdict convicting Dr Sen, Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha guilty of treason and waging war against the state. Dr Sen was arrested soon after the verdict was pronounced.
    • He was arrested for violating Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on May 14, 2007, at Bilaspur. He was detained without trial for 11 months and his trial commenced in Raipur Sessions Court on April 30, 2008. He was granted bail on May 25, 2009, by the Supreme Court.
    • A qualified paediatrician, Dr Sen worked in Chhattisgarh amongst tribals and is a known human rights activist. He also worked for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was honoured with Jonathan Mann award in 2008 while he was still in prison. Activists worldwide, including Nobel laureates, have been pressuring the government for his release. Dr Sen has maintained that he is innocent and that he has been targeted for highlighting human rights abuse.
Finance & Economy
  • How best to beat inflation?
    • Today's ET editorial moots organizing farmers as a new solution that goes beyond the traditional responses of credit squeeze, export bans and import liberalization.  This has proved to be terribly ineffective.  
    • It suggests that farmers should be organized into cooperatives and companies on the lines of Amul and an organized retail created through these agencies.
    • It says that increasing incomes (a result of fast economic growth) and the emphasis on inclusion are pushing purchasing power into the hands of the poor.  This is what is raising the aggregate demand for food and non-food agricultural products.  As the supplies are not enhanced, it is but natural that inflation would result.  So the correct response to fight inflation should target increasing the farm and non-farm supplies.  
    • We need another green revolution and white revolution to combat the shortages.
  • Mobile user base rises to 706.7 mn
    • Mobile subscriber base increased to 706.69 million at the end of October this year from 687.71 million in September, an increase of 2.76%. The wireless tele-density rose to more than 59.52%.
    • However, countrywide landline subscribers dropped to 35.43 million in October from 35.57 million a month before.
    • BSNL and MTNL still hold a bulk of the market with a combined share of 83.3%.
  • Commexes to restart sugar futures from Monday
    • Domestic commodity exchanges NCDEX and MCX will relaunch sugar futures trading contracts from Monday after a gap of 19 months.
    • India had banned trade in sugar futures in May 2009 for six months when prices were rising as it faced shortages. The government extended the ban until the end of September, but then allowed it to lapse.  Although the Forward Markets Commission had lifted the ban on sugar futures from October 1 this year, it had not allowed exchanges to resume trading.
    • The decision to relaunch sugar futures comes against the backdrop of the current gung-ho outlook on production for 2010-11, pegged at 25.5 million tonne by the industry and 24.5mt by the government.
  • Wheat acreage may bring back smiles
    • In a welcome relief for the Centre battling high and rising food inflation, wheat acreage has gone up by 11.08 lakh hectare this year.  Total wheat acreage is pegged at 264.13 lakh hectare compared to 253.05 lakh hectare same period last year.
    • Acreage for pulses, oil seeds is higher, too, which should ensure a good crop.
    • But winter rice acreage is worryingly low, an indication that rice prices across varieties will have to monitored in the open market keenly by the government.
    • Rice acreage is down to only 2.74 lakh hectare this year compared to 4.22 lakh hectare the same period last year.
    • Coarse cereal (jowar, maize) acreage has also dropped by three lakh hectares, which could translate to higher prices for multi grain food items unless area coverage catches up.
  • Service indices to roll out by March
    • India will soon have indices measuring price changes in services that account for above 60% of the national income, helping in more accurate measures of inflation.
    • The government has shortlisted 10 sectors for which indices will be created. At least two of them could be rolled out by the end of March 2011 while another four will be ready by the end of the next fiscal.
    • These indices would give a more comprehensive picture of the price trends in the economy.
    • The services that would have price indices include transport, banking, insurance, communication, ports and storage. Defence services, health and education are three other sectors that will have a price index. All the indices will add up to a single index for services.
    • Over the years, services have become the most dynamic sector of the economy. They contributed above 60% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009-10, up from 29% in 1950.
    • The department of industrial policy and promotion, which is coordinating the indices, is also looking into the issue of the periodicity of the release, as data would not be available at the same frequency in every service. Data has to be collected from private and public enterprises and that would also create difficulties.
  • Economists expect a strong US recovery on new measures
    • Eighteen months after the recession officially ended, the government’s latest measures to bolster the economy have led many forecasters and policymakers to express new optimism that the recovery will gain substantial momentum in 2011.
    • Economists in universities and on Wall Street have raised their growth projections for next year. Retail sales, industrial production and factory orders are on the upswing, and new claims for unemployment benefits are trending downward. Despite persistently high unemployment, consumer confidence is improving. Large corporations are reporting healthy profits, and the Dow Jones industrial average reached a two-year high this week.
    • The Federal Reserve, which has kept short-term interest rates near zero since 2008 end, has made clear it is sticking by its controversial decision to try to hold down mortgage and other long-term interest rates by buying government securities.
    • The recession officially ended in June 2009, when the economy started to grow again. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the country’s output, grew at an annualised rate of 3.7% in the first quarter of this year. But then it stalled, with the rate falling to a mere 1.7% in the second quarter and 2.6% in the third quarter.
  • Fitch downgrades Portugal, warns of recession in ’11
    • Portugal's debt rating was downgraded one level by Fitch Ratings, which said the economy faces a ‘deteriorating’ outlook as the government struggles to curb the euro region’s fourth largest budget deficit.
    • The long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating was lowered to A+, the fifth-highest level, from AA-, Fitch said in a statement Thursday. The outlook is negative. Fitch on March 24 cut the rating by one step to AA-. The company said in a separate report that there is a risk the European Union will need to rescue other euro member states after bailouts of Ireland and Greece.
    • Fitch said in a separate report Thursday that the crisis is ‘systemic’ and shows concerns on the viability of the single currency as a whole.
    • Portugal is counting on exports such as paper and wood products to support economic expansion as it cuts spending. The budget forecasts GDP growth of 0.2% in 2011, slower than this year’s estimated 1.3% pace.
Language Lessons
  • explication: Noun
    • The act of making clear or removing obscurity from the meaning of a word or symbol or expression etc.; A detailed explanation of the meaning of something
  • festoon: Verb
    • Decorate with strings of flowers
  • gallinacean: Noun
    • Heavy-bodied largely ground-feeding domestic or game birds
  • quail: Verb
    • Draw back, as with fear or pain
    • eg: She quailed when they showed the slaughtering of the calf.