Politics & the Nation
  • Is it time for a spectrum exchange?
    • Yes, argues today's ET editorial.  Look at this excerpt:
    • The Devas incident should be an eye-opener: the company was asking for radio frequency reserved for satellite communication to beam WiFi applications for smart phones. As communications, wireless and data transfer technologies converge, the government should take off its blinkers and devise a policy that allows any user to dynamically bid for chunks of spectrum that are available at any time. A spectrum exchange is an idea whose time has come.
  • On equality for women in our society
    • Today's ET op-ed by TK Arun is very timely on a topic that is as old as India.  We have all been noting, with disgust, about the crime perpetrated against women all across the country.  If you want a recap of some of the recent incidents, do take a look at the first half of his article; the details are too numerous to be repeated here.  These incidents have led to public outrage and media outcry. These tend to be evanescent, lasting till the next outrage or scam hogs the headlines, leaving the basic issues unattended.
    • What are the basic issues? Gender inequality, layered by social inequality, is the basic issue. This gets compounded by poor laws, worse enforcement of the law and lax policing.
    • Take a look at his article in full to see how he explains about tackling these.
  • The Sonia Gandhi headed NAC losing direction?
    • Take a look at the following excerpt; that's what is likely to be your conclusion:
    • The government has recently rejected a number of proposals by the Sonia Gandhi-headed NAC, including its recommendations on the landmark Food Security Act. NAC is an advisory body to the government and the PM on policy issues. The first NAC, formed in June 2004, and ran the course of the first term of the UPA government, is credited as the fountainhead of three key social legislation — the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Forest Rights Act.
    • The second NAC, formed after the UPA government came to power in 2009, has been meeting with persistent roadblocks. So far, various arms of the government and NAC, which has been called the ‘planning commission for the social agenda,’ have disagreed on several issues and many NAC members have gone public with their frustration.
    • The government had refused to link NREGS wages to a national minimum wage as proposed by NAC. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs rejected all proposals made by a NAC working group and the Ministry of Personnel rejected NAC’s objections to the proposed amendments to the RTI Act. The Rangarajan panel appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office to study the recommendations made by NAC on the food security bill, rejected them and made highly diluted recommendations on the grounds of grain unavailability and fiscal prudence.
  • Aarushi’s parents to face trial
    • You might remember the death of Aarushi under mysterious circumstances and the public attention that the case garnered from time to time over the last so many months.  A special CBI court has ordered the trial of Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for her murder after rejecting the closure report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Aarushi’s parents have been asked to appear in the court on February 28. The order of CBI Special Magistrate Preeti Singh in Ghaziabad on Wednesday finally paves the way for a trial in the sensational case.
    • The trial of the Talwars will be held under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 201 (disappearance of evidence of offence) and 34 (criminal acts by several people) of the Indian Penal Code. Aarushi, 14, was found murdered under mysterious circumstances in her Jalvayu Vihar Apartment in Noida on May 16, 2008. Their domestic help Hemraj was initially suspected for the killing, but his body was found on the flat's terrace a day later.
    • Is the CBI stretching its case too far?  It's highly inconceivable that any parent would kill his/her own child -- whatever may be the reaons.  Let's wait and see how the story unfolds.
Finance & Economy
  • On deepening the corporate bond market
    • Some excerpts from an article by Roopa Kudva, the MD and CEO of CRISIL:
    • India Inc has been increasingly tapping the country’s reasonably-well-developed equity market for raising resources. But equity markets, however efficient, cannot compensate for a well-functioning debt market for capital mobilisation. Both have to complement each other and, today, the corporate bond market is lagging by a big margin. Going ahead, the development of a thriving corporate bond market would play a greater role in mobilising funds for longgestation infrastructure projects than it did in the past.
    • Regulatory support is needed to improve the corporate sector’s access to capital, especially from the domestic debt market.
    • The initiatives taken so far for deepening the bond market:
    • The government has introduced tax-free infrastructure bonds to direct retail household savings into long-term infrastructure. To encourage retail participation, Sebi has doubled the investment limit for retail investors in IPOs and FPOs to 2 lakh.
    • In another critical measure, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised the limit for FII investment in government and corporate bonds.
    • What more needs to be done:
    • The increased prevalence of innovative financial products such as securitisation and credit derivatives will also play a catalytic role in improving the resource mobilisation process. Together with this, we should also see superior risk management practices to mitigate the risks arising out of securitisation transactions.  Prudent securitisation will play an important role in efficient utilisation of bank credit, enabling easier access to finance for critical sectors.
  • One more arrest in the ongoing 2G probe
    • Mr. Shahid Balwa, the vice-chairman of telecom firm Etisalat DB, was arrested by the CBI in connection with the 2G spectrum probe.  Balwa is the first businessman to be detained as the investigation gathers pace.
    • Mr. Balwa is the youngest billionaire in India.  Etisalat DB is the telecom arm of DB Realty.
    • CBI's claim is that he had entered into a conspiracy with some private companies to cause a loss of over Rs. 22,000 crore to the exchequer.  Despite being summoned twice for questioning, he did not appear before the investigation agency. As a result, a Delhi court issued an arrest warrant and it was necessary to produce him before the same.
    • The conspiracy part relates to the alleged leakage of information by Raja so that the telcos could submit applications in time. In January 2008, the DoT said only applications submitted before September 25, 2007, would be considered rather than October 1, 2007, which was the earlier date. That decision, driven by Raja, is at the heart of the CBI investigation.
    • Shortly after the licences were awarded, the company then known as Swan sold a 45% stake for Rs. 4,500 crore to Etisalat—a telecom company based in the Middle-East.
    • Take a look at this graphic that gives details of the ongoing probe in a nutshell.
  • An excellent primer on base rate
  • Should China fear the type of crisis that is seen in Egypt and Tunisia?
    • Yes, feels Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.  Look at his reasoning:
    • First, there is the growing problem of unemployment and underemployment among university graduates. Since 1999, when the Chinese government began a push to ramp up university education, the number of graduates has risen seven-fold, but the number of high-skilled, high-paying jobs has not kept pace.  China needs to provide its university students with more flexible skills, more general training, and more encouragement to think critically and creatively.
    • Secondly, there is the problem of less-skilled and less-educated migrants from the countryside, who are consigned to second-class jobs in the cities. Not possessing urban residency permits, they lack even the limited job protections and benefits of workers who do. And, because they may be here today but gone tomorrow, they receive little in the way of meaningful on-the-job training.
    • Finally, China needs to get serious about its corruption problem. Personal connections, or guanxi, remain critical for getting ahead. Recent migrants from the countryside and graduates with degrees from second-tier universities sorely lack such connections. If they continue to see the children of high government officials doing better, their disaffection will grow.
    • If Chinese officials don’t move faster to channel popular grievances and head off potential sources of disaffection, they could eventually be confronted with an uprising of their own – an uprising far broader and more determined than the student protest that they crushed in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
  • On Tibetan Buddhism
    • The seizure of a substantial cash horde by the Indian authorities from the Karmapa Lama has brought before us the need to know a little more about the Lamas.  Tibetan Buddhism has four traditions: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug.  Besides these major schools, there is a minor one, the Jonang. The Jonangpa were suppressed by the rival Gelugpa in the 17th century and were once thought extinct, but are now known to survive in Eastern Tibet.  There is also an ecumenical movement known as RimĂ©.
    • The Gelug tradition has a spiritual head and a temporal head.  The spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and the temporal head is the Dalai Lama.  The Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid 17th to mid 20th centuries.
    • When Tibet was occupied by China in 1950, the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet in 1959.  The government of India accepted the Tibetan refugees. India designated land for the refugees in the mountainous region of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile are now based.
    • It is because of this that we have heard more about Dalai Lama than about any of the heads of the other three traditions.  The idea of reincarnation is prevalent in all the four traditions.  That is why when the head of any tradition dies, China does its best to anoint somedbody of its picking as the head of the tradition.  It was in one such attempts that the present Karmapa Lama was actually anointed by the Chinese when he was a child.  But he escaped into India in 1999.  India believes that this escape is staged by China; because it wants to see that its own anointee remains the head of the Kagyu tradition.
Language Lessons
  • credulity: Noun
    • Tendency to believe readily
  • doppelgänger: Noun
    • A ghostly double of a living person that haunts its living counterpart
  • ecumenical: Noun
    • A movement aimed to promote understanding and cooperation among Christian churches; aimed ultimately at universal Christian unity
  • inured: Adjective
    • Made tough by habitual exposure
    • Verb: Cause to accept or become hardened to; habituate
    • eg:  In India, it is easy to get inured to the raw deal that women get …