Politics & the Nation
  • Was Kapil Sibal right in airing his views on the 2G losses computed by the CAG?
    • Today's ET editorial discusses this issue very well and concludes that he was right.  Look at the reasons:
    • The CAG itself has not sought to pronounce the final word on the subject, concluding, as it does, “the amount of loss could be debated,” after having presented four estimates of presumptive loss to the exchequer ranging from Rs. 57,666 crore to Rs. 1,76,645 crore.  Considering that Parliament has not been allowed to function and the Opposition has been going hammer and tongs at the government on the subject, to say that ministers should keep mum hurts the people’s right to know all sides of the question.
    • Recommend a read of the editorial in full here.
Finance & Economy
  • The status of the law on mineral exploitation in India
    • The first major exercise on policy and law on mines and minerals in independent India started with the mineral policy conference held in early 1947, which led to the setting up of the Indian Bureau of Mines as sector regulator and enactment of the Mines and Mineral (Regulation & Development) Act, 1948. Later, the legislative powers of the central government and the state governments were defined in the Constitution.  Under the Constitution, law on minerals is enacted by Parliament and its implementation is undertaken by the states. Para 54 in List 1 and para 23 in List 2 in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution elaborate the legislative power of Parliament and the state legislatures, respectively. Under the Constitution, onshore minerals are owned by states, and the Union of India has exclusive rights over offshore minerals. Following the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956, the Mines and Minerals (Regulation & Development) Act, 1957, was enacted by Parliament for prospecting and exploitation of minerals. The Act has seen four amendments in 1972, 1988, 1994 and 1999 respectively.
  • Board for Restructuring of Public Sector Enterprise
    • The board was set up in 2004 to advise the government on the strategies and measures for strengthening, modernizing, reviving and restructuring of public sector enterprises.
  • Clean-up of financial laws coming
    • The union cabinet will soon take up for discussion a proposal to create the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, or FSLRC, to rewrite and clean up the financial sector laws of the country.
    • Several expert panels appointed by the government in the past on financial sector regulation, including the Raghuram Rajan Committee, the Percy Mistry Committee and the UK Sinha Committee, had emphasised on the need to rewrite India’s financial sector laws to bring them in line with the current needs.
    • Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had in his 2010 Budget announced the government’s intention to establish FSLRC to simplify and streamline the legal framework and possibly suggest a completely new regulatory structure for the sector.
    • FSLRC will be headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice BN Srikrishna.
    • The commission's mandate will be to examine inconsistencies and overlaps in financial sector laws and to work out a standard principle-based financial regulation.
    • It will also review the structured objectives of each of the financial sector regulators so there is no overlap among supervisors when it comes to regulation of different products.
    • The financial sector laws in the country came into existence at different points in time. This has resulted in certain degree of overlap and a lack of clarity in the functions of various regulators.
Science & Technology
  • Warming due to low cosmic ray activity: Isro
    • In a paper published by the environment ministry, physicist and former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, UR Rao, has argued that decreasing cosmic ray activity, a natural phenomenon, was contributing to global warming, much higher than adjudged by the Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC). The paper is part of Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment discussion that takes on the conventional position that it is human activity which primarily causes global warming.
    • Rao argues that cosmic rays enter the solar system and contribute to the formation of low-level clouds over the earth. Using data between 1960 and 2005, Rao found that a lesser quantity of cosmic rays were entering the solar system due to an increase in the solar magnetic field, adversely affecting cloud formation and leading to global warming.
  • Status of the stalled Doha round of WTO talks
    • The talks on opening up world markets for goods and services got derailed in July 2008 over differences on issues such as special safeguard measures for poor farmers against import surges, reduction of cotton subsidies and elimination of tariffs in some manufacturing sectors.
    • India pushed for higher protection against sharp increases in imports and to keep sectoral negotiations out of the discussion.
    • The US took a diametrically opposite stance, favouring sectorals and limit on import protection.  The US has also not come up with commitments on reducing cotton subsidies which have been hurting cotton growing developing countries, especially in Africa. It had, recently, asked for sharper reduction in tariffs for certain sectors beyond the reduction formula that has been agreed upon by members.
    • As per WTO estimates, the on-going Doha round of the WTO is expected to result in gains worth $282 billion.
Language Lessons
  • bedlam: Noun
    • A state of extreme confusion and disorder; Pejorative term for an insane asylum
  • zany: Adjective
    • Ludicrous, foolish; Like a clown
    • Noun: A buffoon in one of the old comedies; imitates others for ludicrous effect; A man who is a stupid incompetent fool
  • recapitulate: Verb
    • Summarize briefly; Repeat stages of evolutionary development during the embryonic phase of life; (music) repeat an earlier theme of a composition
  • backcloth: Noun
    • Scenery hung at the back of a stage
  • beanpole: Noun
    • (informal) a tall thin person