Politics & the Nation
  • PAC does not endorse MM Joshi's draft report on 2G scam
    • The United Progressive Alliance on Thursday prevented the adoption of the draft report on 2G spectrum allocation scandal by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee by managing the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in the committee. The PAC meeting which witnessed unprecedented scenes — heated arguments, adjournments and even ‘expulsion’ of Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi by members belonging to the UPA and supporting parties — pointed to the worsening of relations between the ruling side and the Opposition.
    • Although the meeting did not adopt the report, there is room and precedence for Joshi to present the report to the Lok Sabha Speaker. The rules of PAC allow the chairman to present the report after conclusion of discussions and circulation of the report among panel members. What could also strengthen the hands of Joshi is a precedent set by former PAC chief Buta Singh. In 2004, Buta Singh tabled a report on the coffin scam without even perfunctory discussions with panel members. It would be interesting to watch how Speaker Meira Kumar responds if Joshi decides to present the report on Friday.
Finance & Economy
  • Percentage of people filing IT returns in India
    • It is just 3%.
  • On the status of women and undernourishment in children in India
    • India is home to about a third of the world’s underweight and stunted children under the age of 5.
    • What explains undernourishment in children of this age group (even in children from well to do families) in India?
    • Surveys suggest that this has got to do with our traditional social and cultural values and practices that hurt the health and welfare of our children.
    • In India, a third of the children have low birth weight. A child’s birth weight is an indicator of the health and nourishment of the mother when she is pregnant as well as her overall health and nourishment as a child and while growing up.
    • Only a third of the breast-fed children aged 6 to 9 months receive complementary foods in India.  This results in retarded growth.  Most of the retardation in the growth of the child in India occurs either during the pregnancy or during the first two years after birth.
    • A sustained long-term dent in child undernourishment can only be achieved by improving the health, opportunities and rights of the mother, the primary caregiver of children. Not just legislative rights but rights to participate in decision-making both at home and outside it, opportunities for social interactions, rights to improve their lives through education and employment.
    • The historical pattern of the state and status of women in India reveals that it is largely unrelated to economic growth.  Let’s look at sex ratio — a number that has been much discussed since the release of the provisional 2011 census results. At 914 women per 1,000 men, the sex ratio at birth is the lowest since Independence.
  • Debate on banning endosulphan
    • We have noted about this raging controversy a few days earlier too.  Today’s face-off has a good debate and presents two contrasting views on the subject.  Well worth our attention.  Take a look and draw your own conclusions.  
    • In this context it is interesting to note what POP stands for.  Persistent Organic Pollutant.  If a pesticide / insecticide is declared as POP under the Stockholm Convention, then the signatory countries to the Convention ban the item.
    • The Stockholm Convention was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. It requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.  The Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.  
    • Meanwhile it is reported that India has agreed to phase out endosulphan at the ongoing meet in Geneva of the Stockholm Convention.  This means endosulphan will be listed in Annexe A of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants but exemptions will be allowed for crop-pest combinations. It will allow India to continue to use this broad spectrum pesticide.
    • Chemicals listed in the Annex A of the Convention are banned for production and use due to the threat they pose to living beings, particularly the environment.
    • This will not come as good news for the Left parties or the Kerala government, both of which have been actively seeking an immediate nation-wide ban on endosulphan.
    • All exemptions sought by India have been accepted. The listing in the Annexe will take one year to be effective, and the exemptions are valid for five years, with the provision for renewal for another five years. Thus, making the time-frame for the global phase 11 years.
  • Some of the quirky commemorative days that the US follows
    • National Pretzel Day (April 26)
    • National Potato Chip Day (March 14)
    • Pizza Day (February 9)
    • Hamburger Day (December 21)
  • Pak favouring MFN status to India?
    • India and Pakistan announced a path-breaking blueprint to spur trade between the two nations at the end of a two-day meeting of the commerce secretaries of the two countries on Thursday in Islamabad.
    • Pakistan said it would take immediate steps to ensure that non-discriminatory trade regime is operationalised at the earliest.
    • India has been seeking MFN status from Pakistan for a long time, which would lead to the country getting the same treatment as other countries in terms of allowing exports. Pakistan so far has been allowing exports from India on the basis of a small positive list of items instead of trading the normal way using a negative list of excluded items.  Pakistan said it will move to a system of trade-based on negative list as opposed to the current positive list.
    • India has already given the MFN status to Pakistan, allowing trade to be done on the basis of a negative list. Pakistan said consultations with business chambers have already begun on replacing the positive list with a negative list and the process would be concluded by October 2011.
    • The two countries will also set up groups of experts for expanding trade in petroleum products and to enable trade in electricity.