Politics & the Nation
  • Are IIM’s about to be privatized?
    • If you read this op-ed today, that is the impression one gets.  The op-ed rails the attempts by the HRD minister to ‘privatize’ the IIMs.  Some cogent arguments are put forth.  Worth a read; though we may not necessarily agree with all of the criticism.  The point is, IIMs being the higher institutions of learning that they have become in India, need to constantly be in the forefront of innovation, research and new ideas.  Any attempt -- howsoever misconceived it may look -- at trying to better them, should not be lampooned only for the sake of preserving the status-quo.  Let’s study what is really bad in the proposals and then give up the bad ideas.  Not all ideas need be or can be bad.  
    • New ideas that are sought to be tried, need not necessarily be seen as attempts at thwarting the academic freedom that prevails in IIMs.  Any impression that an institute is good and happy and at equilibrium with itself and the world with the way things stand, is a sure recipe for disaster and decline.  By their very nature, academic institutions -- especially of the IIM kind -- should be constantly innovating and experimenting.  They should ideally be unhappy with the way things are.  It is only then that innovation and research are promoted.
    • Look at ISB, Hyderabad.  Has more interaction with non-academics at the board level brought it any encumbrances in excelling as an institution of higher learning?  Why should we fear that such a thing will happen with IIMs?  
Finance & Economy
  • Sunlight and water to planet’s energy rescue?
    • Look at this interesting interaction.  Will we see it in our lifetimes?  Grids should be passe.  Governments and people will be far better off without grids.
  • Pension bill tabled in Parliament
    • The government moved a step closer to initiating the financial sector reforms it promised in the budget with the introduction of the much-awaited pension and factoring bills in Parliament on Thursday.
    • The much-awaited Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011, will give a greater legal authority to the pension regulator that has been set up through an executive order, and lacks the legislative sanction it needs to develop the pension sector through greater private participation.
    • The interim regulator currently overseas the New Pension Scheme, or the NPS, which the government hopes will become the flagship scheme for building a retirement corpus.
    • So far, the scheme has failed to make a dent in the non-government sector. It manages the retirement savings of central government and many state employees who are on a defined contribution scheme.
    • The bill had failed to get parliamentary approval in the previous term of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government due to strong opposition from its then Left allies.
    • This time the government has decided to play safe and keep the foreign investment issue outside the bill.
    • The bill has greater chance of getting through this time as it has the tacit support of the key opposition party, the BJP. On Thursday, the bill could be introduced only with the support of the BJP after the Left opposed its introduction in the Lok Sabha.
    • The Bill was introduced after a division of votes with 115 of the 159 present supporting it, including 30 from the BJP. Earlier, FM Pranab Mukherjee had urged the opposition to support the Pension Bill.
    • The government also introduced the Factoring and Assignment of Receivables Bill 2011 that will provide for a consolidated legal framework with specific provisions covering all aspects of the factoring business in the country.
    • The government is also set to notify the expert body, the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC), which has been set up to rewrite the country’s financial laws.  The 11-member FSLRC will be headed by retired Supreme Court Justice BN Srikrishna and will hold its first meeting on April 5.
    • Among other things, the commission will examine the architecture of the legislative and regulatory system governing the financial sector in India and look at the most appropriate means of oversight over regulators and their autonomy from the government.
    • The commission will submit its report to the FM within 24 months.
  • How is the NPS superior to EPFO?
    • The NPS’ organisational structure with electronic accounts portable across jobs and geography, maintained by a single record keeper at a low cost, asset management flexibility as to both assets and managers, ultra-low asset management costs and regulatory oversight make the NPS far superior to the EPFO.
  • Centre moves to restore fiscal order
    • The finance ministry has moved to impose fiscal discipline on states by asking them to limit their net borrowings in the new financial year.
    • It has also asked the Central Statistics Office, or CSO, to provide an estimate of the gross state domestic product, or GSDP, of each state for 2011-12, a reflection of the Centre’s lack of confidence in the numbers put out by the states.
    • The ministry has asked the states to cap their net borrowings between 3% and 3.5% of GSDP in 2011-12, in line with the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission.
    • The Centre had relaxed the fiscal deficit target for states to 3.5 % of GSDP in 2008-09 and further to 4% in 2009-10 in view of the economic slowdown.
    • But now that the economy is back on track, it wants states to stick to the fiscal consolidation roadmap and achieve the targets set by the Finance Commission.
Language lessons
  • burnish: Noun
    • The property of being smooth and shiny
    • Verb: Polish and make shiny
  • prole: Noun
    • A member of the working class (not necessarily employed)