Politics & the Nation
  • Civil society groups to do NREGA audit again
    • The Manmohan Singh government has moved in to restore the role of civil society groups in conducting the social audit of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in an attempt to weed out corruption from various levels.
    • Till 2009, civil society groups, such as Rajasthan’s MKSS, played a crucial role in carrying out social audit of the programme within the state. They highlighted irregularities committed in its execution at various levels, triggering a wave of resentment among sarpanches, who opposed the scrutiny.
    • A group of sarpanches subsequently obtained a stay from the high court on activities of these civil society organisations, and the exercise of social audit was jettisoned.
    • The government, in the meantime, incorporated Section 13 in Schedule I of the MGNREGA, by which the gram sabhas were assigned a pivotal role in the carrying out social audit within their domain. The move, however, resulted in reducing the process to a farce. The sarpanches and the mukhiyas are the most powerful people in a village. Very few people would have the guts to raise their voice against them to highlight any irregularity.
    • To remove the anomaly, the Rural Development Ministry is now working to club Section 24 of the MGNREGA with Section 17. Section 24 (1) says the central government may, in consultation with the CAG, prescribe appropriate arrangements for audits of the accounts of the schemes at all levels, while Section 24 (2) provides that the accounts of the scheme shall be maintained in such a form and in such manner as may be prescribed by the state government.  The Rural Development Ministry, therefore, is in consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General to remove the lacuna that had cropped up after social audit rules were amended in 2009 to eliminate the role of civil society groups.
    • Section 17 makes out a case for social audit of work done in the panchayat by its gram sabha.
    • That social audit has been a great success is proved by the AP experience.  Andhra Pradesh is the only state which has drafted social audit rules and had even set up a separate organisation for framing them. They have gone to the extent of inducting a civil society activist for heading the organisation, something which has paid rich dividends and is borne out by the fact that while in Andhra Pradesh misappropriation to the tune of Rs 88 crore has been detected so far, it is not even Rs 8 crore in the rest of the country.
Finance & Economy
  • Do you know who issued the first ever gold coin in the world?
    • It was King Croesus of Lydia.  He was the king of Lydia from 560 to 547 BC.  Croesus was renowned for his wealth.  In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Croesus' wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as "rich as Croesus" or "richer than Croesus" are used to indicate great wealth.
    • Croesus is credited with the issuing the first true gold coins with a standardised purity for general circulation.  But they were quite crude, and were made of electrum, a naturally occurring pale yellow alloy of gold and silver. King Croesus' gold coins follow the first silver coins that had been minted by King Pheidon of Argos around 700 BC. In 546 BC, Croesus was defeated and captured by the Persians, who then adopted gold as the main metal for their coins.
  • GDP grew faster at 8% last fiscal
    • India's economy grew at a faster pace in fiscal 2009-10 than estimated earlier.  The gross domestic product (GDP) grew at the rate of 8% as against 7.4% estimated in May last year. The upward revision is based on the quick estimates of national income for the year, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said.
    • The high GDP growth saw per capita net national income rise 6.1% to Rs. 33,731 crore. The gross domestic savings constituted 33.7% of GDP in 2009-10 as against 32.7% in the year before, while gross capital formation, or investments, constituted 36.5% of GDP, up from 34.5% in 2008-09.
    • Household savings, however, declined marginally to 23.5% from 23.8% in the year before. This was attributed to a drop in savings in physical assets to 11.7% from 13.1% of GDP. But financial savings increased to 11.8% from 10.8% of GDP.
    • Look at this graphic too in this context.
  • RIL under CAG’s scanner for poor performance
    • Take a look at this graphic which gives in a nutshell the issue.
    • One might wonder why should the country’s auditor be concerned about a private firm’s performance.  The issue at stake is government’ profit petroleum which depends on the performance of the company.  Therefore, it would be pertinent to know whether the company’s performance was deliberately kept below par to avoid/postpone paying profit petroleum.
  • Posco gets green signal with 28 riders
    • The environment ministry on Monday gave a conditional clearance to South Korean steel maker Posco’s much-delayed $12-billion project in Orissa, signalling a softening in the government’s stance and an acceptance that environmental concerns need not be a hurdle for large industrial projects.
    • The clearance for Posco, which was unable to progress for over five years, is likely to boost foreign investment and also encourage other domestic industrial houses that were worried about the fate of their investments in India.
    • The riders include restrictions on air emission, water sustainability and on providing a green cover at the site. Posco will also have to spend 2% of its annual net profit on social welfare, which would be in addition to resettlement and rehabilitation and the corporate social responsibility obligations.
  • Why should we be concerned about macro economic data?
    • This article in today’s ET discusses this topic and provides an excellent aswer.  A must read for every economics student.
    • The graphic at the end sums it up very neatly.  
  • ET in the Classroom on asset classes
    • Look at this interesting column here.
  • Anti-Mubarak rage unites Egypt
    • The people of Egypt have risen against the over three decade rule of President Hosni Mubarak.  The cosmetic changes made by Mubarak in recasting his Cabinet have not doused the fires of protests launched against him.  The protesters now clearly demand that it is he who should go.
    • Mr. Mubarak began his rule in 1981.
    • Tunisia’s jasmine revolution, which unseated the dictatorial Ben Ali after 23 years on January 14, is perceived to be the trigger for the Egyptian protests that began last Monday; and the role played by communication technology has been critical.
    • The protesters, mostly from the young urban section of the society, are exposed to both technology and the prevailing antiestablishment ideologies and movements in the region and the larger global dynamic. Television has been able to catalyse latent anger and anguish over long years of repression that the Mubarak’s internal security apparatus had ruthlessly perfected. And deteriorating socio-economic conditions and lack of tangible employment opportunity aggravated the prevailing but suppressed mood of anger and rage in Egypt.
    • Former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, El Baradei, has been nominated as a consensus leader to represent the anti-Mubarak spectrum and negotiate a transition to a national government in Cairo. The manner in which this will be effected will depend to a large extent on how the million man march unfolds on Tuesday and the posture of the Egyptian military.
    • Given its historical pedigree, geographical location and the vibrancy of its varied ideological and religious discourses, Egypt has long been the critical state in the Arab and Islamic world. The control of the Suez Canal gives Cairo an abiding strategic halo. Thus the socio-political contours of the post-Mubarak upsurge and the ideological colour it acquires will have repercussions beyond the Nile.
Language Lessons
  • ganache: Noun
    • A glaze, icing, or filling for pastries made from chocolate and cream.
  • nougat: Noun
    • Nuts or fruit pieces in a sugar paste
  • couverture: Noun
    • Chocolate that contains at least 32 percent cocoa butter
  • voila: interjection
    • There you are
    • eg: “voila, the cake is a masterpiece”