Politics & the Nation
  • Is TRAI right in demanding more money from the telecom operators for the spectrum they are allotted?
    • It looks like the country has slipped into a kind of understanding that more money should be made out of the spectrum allocations.  This kind of thinking is very shortsighted and sees spectrum as a scarce resource from which maximum amount of money needs to be made.  This is plain wrong and absurd.  The emphasis should be on optimum utilisation of spectrum.  There is no point in having some bands which are not at all used or less used while having some other bands which are overused / congested.  Electromagnetic waves are just waves.  Period.  Whether you want to send voice through them or some others things like images, video, or plain text is up to you.  The kind of compartmentalisation that has gone into the spectrum allocations appears unnecessary.  Your data should find necessary carrier on the fly.  That's it.  There is no point in anybody being given a dedicated band in which they can send their data.  It is time for a dedicated national spectrum exchange.  
    • Do we need another scam -- a much larger one than the current 2G scam -- to propel us into thinking on these lines?
  • An excellent topic in face-off column
    • It is about the recent SC judgement about members of banned outfits.  Worth a read.  Do so here.
  • Some interesting stats about our judicial system
    • The total number of judicial officials, including the 31 judges of the Supreme Court, is a little more than 17,600, which means that India has less than 18 judges per million people. This compares badly with 51 judges per million Britons or Canada’s 75 judges per million citizens. Unsurprisingly, all courts have a long queue waiting for judgement: over 30 million cases await a verdict, with 52,000 lawsuits pending in the Supreme Court and over 4 million in the high courts.
    • Over 3,000 judicial posts are vacant, mainly in the lower courts.
    • The goal of having 50 judges per million Indians, stated nearly nine years ago, still looks distant.
Finance & Economy
  • States to get Rs. 7,029 cr to offset CST losses
    • The Centre will pay Rs. 7,029 crore as compensation to states for the losses they suffered in 2010-11 due to a reduction in the central sales tax rate, a move seen as an attempt to break the impasse over the proposed goods and services tax.
    • CST, a tax on sale of goods from one state to another, was reduced from 4 % to 3% in 2007-08 and further to 2% in 2008-09.
    • The goods and services tax, which will replace central excise duty and services tax and state taxes, including value-added tax, entry tax and purchase tax, has fallen prey to political differences between BJP-ruled states and the Centre. The government had planned to roll out GST from this fiscal year, but postponed its implementation by a year. The Constitution has to be amended to allow Centre and states to levy GST simultaneously. At present, the Centre can tax goods at the factory gate and services while states can only tax goods at the retail level. States can't levy tax on services.
  • Tax havens not sharing info to face sanctions
    • India is considering sanctions against countries that refuse to share information on suspected tax evaders as pressure mounts on the government from the Supreme Court and the opposition over the issue of black money stashed overseas.
    • The sanctions will be in the form of indirect punishment, making the cost of doing business in these countries expensive and removing their attractiveness for potential tax evaders. They will include a higher tax burden and stringent documentation rules for Indian taxpayers who have business links with offending countries, known as ‘non-cooperative jurisdictions’.
  • Microsoft India chairman R Venkatesan calls it a day
    • In yet another high-profile exit in the Indian IT sector, Microsoft India’s chairman and corporate vice-president Ravi Venkatesan has stepped down to pursue opportunities outside the company.
    • This is the third senior executive leaving Microsoft India in less than a year. In August last year, Rajan Anandan, MD, Microsoft India, left the company, followed by Srinivas Koppolu who stepped down in September as head of Microsoft India Development Centre.
    • Microsoft India, which has the largest employee base outside the US, has a headcount of 5,300.
  • Two lessons from the Egypitian revolution
    • Dani Rodrik, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government says about them in one of his recent articles:
    • One lesson of the Arab annus mirabilis, then, is that good economics need not always mean good politics; the two can part ways for quite some time. It is true that the world’s wealthy countries are almost all democracies. But democratic politics is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for economic development over a period of several decades.
    • A second lesson is that rapid economic growth does not buy political stability on its own, unless political institutions are allowed to develop and mature rapidly as well. In fact, economic growth itself generates social and economic mobilization, a fundamental source of political instability.
Language Lessons
  • apostasy: Noun
    • The state of having rejected your religious beliefs for your political party or a cause (often in favour of opposing beliefs or causes); The act of abandoning a party for cause
  • pox: Noun
    • A common venereal disease; A contagious disease characterized by purulent skin eruptions that may leave pock marks
    • eg: Unlike Venezuela and Nicaragua, where corruption scandals are a pox on political life, …
  • tour de force: Noun
    • A masterly or brilliant feat
  • portmanteau: Noun
    • A new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings; A large travelling bag made of stiff leather