Politics & the Nation
  • Cricket is after all a game; enjoy it as one
    • We all know that a cricket match between the traditional rivals -- India and Pakistan -- evokes more than enthusiasm.  Is that required at all?  The fans on both sides of the border, aside from some ill-thought comments from people on the field too, contribute a lot to the rise in temperature.  Today, it’s more important than ever to sit back and enjoy a game of cricket as a game and nothing more.  All the best to the game and the spectators.  May their wishes be fulfilled.
    • The following comments by Mukul Kesavan in today’s ET are well worth our notice in this regard.  Take them well for their ability to represent the collective feelings of the reasonable people.  But enjoy the game as a game.
    • Most of this (cricket matches between India and Pakistan being reduced to a blood sport sustained by an excitement born of desperation and fear and loathing) has to do with the insufficiently bifurcated histories of India and Pakistan. The quarrel over Kashmir, nightmares like the slaughter of 26/11, the residual Indian belief that Partition was a tragic cock-up and the furious Pakistani rejection of the idea that their nation was a mistake, means that Indians and Pakistanis watch their two countries play in a state of bilious delirium.
    • The disproportion between fact (losing a cricket match) and feeling, the absurdly inflated sense of joy and despair that characterises any India-Pakistan ODI, makes every such match an occasion to be avoided by sensible people.
    • Pakistani cricket is so oppressively freighted with nationalism at the moment that it’s unreasonable to expect the team or its captain to treat Wednesday’s encounter as just another game. To be fair to the Pakistanis, hundreds of millions of Indian spectators will also see the match as a kind of proving ground for nationalism.
  • SC comes down heavily on Government
    • While looking into the progress report submitted by the ED, the SC observed that the probe should be widened to include the other names that have popped up in ED's report.  It has also questioned whether Government had any in principle objection to the formation of a SIT (Special Investigation Team) comprising of officers from various agencies like the RAW, CBI, IB and ED to go into the wider issue of black money being stashed abroad by Indians.
    • The SC deferred its decision on the formation of SIT till the next date of hearing when the ED is expected to submit another progress report.
    • Dealing with another case, the Supreme Court has said that political parties supporting an agitation should be derecognised if public property is destroyed during the stir.
    • The court indicated that it would frame guidelines fixing responsibility on state governments for their failure to deal with agitationists destroying public property.
    • It asked the Haryana government to explain why it should not pay the loss incurred by Railways during the course of 11-day stir organised by 12 'khap' panchayats against booking of some ‘upper caste’ people in connection with the Mirchpur Dalit killings case.
    • The court also sought the responses of all parties to suggest guidelines and on fixing responsibility for damage done to public property during agitation.
    • Though the response of the SC may look too intrusive on the domain of the Executive, the citizenry of the country is expected to back such interventions in the light of the past and present experience wherein the political class (which is supposed to control the executive) has miserably failed to tackle lawlessness and corruption.
Finance & Economy
  • Why did the financial meltdown happen?
    • The recent report of the Financial Inquiry Commission set up by the US government provides an exhaustive narrative of the crisis and its proximate causes.  It found that just prior to the crisis, there was an explosion in risky subprime lending and securitisation, an unsustainable rise in housing prices, widespread reports of egregious lending practices, a dramatic increase in household mortgage debt and an exponential growth in unregulated derivatives, among many other red flags. The commission also identified widespread failures in financial regulation, corporate governance and risk management, lack of transparency, and a systematic breakdown in accountability and ethics as key causes of the crisis.
  • Nothing Global about Nelp-IX
    • Most global oil majors shunned India’s offer of oil and gas blocks as its patchy exploration record and tax worries deterred potential investors, although crude oil’s sustained rally usually encourages companies to hunt for hydrocarbons.
    • BP’s recent acquisition of a stake in 23 exploration blocks of Reliance Industries had raised hopes that more big companies would bet on the country’s oil and gas sector, but the only large foreign firm that bid for a block in the ninth round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp )was BG.
    • Domestic companies dominated the auction, with ONGC set to win five of the eight highly prospective deepwater blocks while private oil major Reliance Industries is seen as the frontrunner in two.
    • The government received total 74 bids for 33 blocks from 37 companies, including eight foreign firms.
    • Of the 74 bids, 41 were from private firms and 33 by state-run companies.  Experts criticised unstable fiscal policies and the finance ministry's approach towards taxation as a key reason for the poor response.
    • The government offered 34 blocks in this round, but one shallow-water block received no bids.  Of the 34 blocks, eight are deepwater, seven shallow-water and 19 on shore blocks.
    • India has awarded 235 blocks in the previous eight Nelp rounds, more than half of them which are held by ONGC and OIL.
  • Primer on reserves
  • Country goes gaga over Tiger population
    • The 2010 tiger census, unveiled on Monday, raised some hopes for the future of the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger. Tiger population has seen a 20% increase over four years between 2006 and 2010. The All India Tiger Estimation puts the figure of tigers at 1,706. While these numbers would suggest that the previous decline in the number of tigers has been reversed, experts are not convinced. But, even if the increase in tiger population is not contested, what is worrying is the shrinking of the tiger habitat. In 2006, India’s tigers occupied 93,600 square km; it is down to 72,800 square km in 2010.
    • The previous enumeration undertaken in 2006 estimated the total number of tigers at 1,411. The latest census reveals a 12% increase in tiger population (1,580 tigers) in the area surveyed in 2006. The current census takes into account the 70 tigers in the Sunderbans, which had not been assessed in 2006. New areas in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Assam were covered in the 2010 census. Several other areas outside tiger reserves and national parks were also reviewed for the first time.
  • Indian geeks in the US heading home?
    • Today's ET report says that Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are finding their dreams imprisoned in an immigration warp.
    • Over half-a-million highly-educated and skilled immigrants are stuck with temporary, non-immigrant work visas like the H-1B, which don’t allow them to start a company or even change jobs. Pushed to a corner, they come back to India, where the entrepreneurial climate is far from ideal.
    • These are people with new business ideas, energy and the drive to succeed in an ecosystem that fosters creativity, but their dreams are shattered by a system which believes they are taking away American jobs. But in reality, this is actually hurting job creation in recessionhit US.
    • Between 1995 and 2005, 25% of Silicon Valley’s startups — which had at least one immigrant founder — employed nearly 4,50,000 people. The companies generated $52 billion in revenue in 2006. Besides losing some of the brightest minds, US immigration is putting Silicon Valley’s innovation hub status in serious jeopardy. So what in a nutshell is the H1-B visa enabling or entailing?
    • The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant employer-sponsored visa for professionals to work in the US for a maximum of six years.
    • The US issues just 85,000 H-1B visas each year, and the demand is immense.
    • Dependent spouses on H4 visas are not allowed to work. They don't qualify for a social security number. Consequently they can't get a credit card, a phone connection, etc. and in some cases even a driver's licence. The social and psychological effects are immense.
    • H-1B visa holders are glued to their employers. They can't change jobs, leave alone open their own company. And if they lose their jobs they have to leave the US immediately with little notice.
    • Moves are afoot in US to come up with a Startup Bill to help immigrant entrepreneurs.  According to a new bill, startup visas will be available to some groups, subject to conditions:
    • Entrepreneurs living outside the US: If a US investor agrees to financially sponsor their entrepreneurial venture with a minimum in-vestment of $100,000. Two years later, the startup must have created five new American jobs and either have raised over $500,000 in financing or be generating over 500,000 in yearly revenue.
    • Workers on an H-1B visa, or graduates from US universities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or computer science: If they have an annual income of at least $30,000 or assets of at least $60,000 and have had a US investor commit investment of at least $20,000 in their venture. Two years later, the startup must have created three new American jobs and either have raised over $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
    • Foreign entrepreneurs whose business has generated at least $100,000 in sales from the US: Two years later, the startup must have created three new American jobs and either have raised over $100,000 in financing or be generating more than $100,000 in yearly revenue.
    • The investor must be a qualified government entity or a qualified venture capitalist or an angel investor who is a US citizen: He should have made at least two equity investments of at least $50,000 every year for the past three years.
Language lessons
  • oafish: Adjective
    • Ill-mannered and coarse and contemptible in behaviour or appearance
  • perfervid: Adjective
    • Characterized by intense emotion