Saturday, December 19, 2015

Economy: Guillotine

Each year, after the Budget is presented in the floor of the Lok Sabha by the Finance Minister, the House has the opportunity to discuss the financial proposals contained in it.

The process of deliberations on the Budget sets off with a general discussion followed by:
the Vote on Account
debating and voting on the Demands for Grants
consideration and passing of the Appropriation and Finance Bills.

Guillotine refers to the exercise vide which the Speaker of the House, on the very last day of the period allotted for discussions on the Demands for Grants, puts to vote all outstanding Demands for Grants at a time specified in advance.

The aim of the exercise is to conclude discussions on financial proposals within the time specified.

All outstanding Demands for Grants must be voted by the House without discussions once the guillotine is invoked.

Once the pre-specified time for invoking the guillotine is reached, the member who is in possession of the house at that point in time, is requested by the Speaker to resume his or her seat following which Demands for Grants under discussion are immediately put to vote.

Thereafter, all outstanding Demands are guillotined.

Invoking the guillotine ensures timely passage of the Finance Bill and the conclusion of debates and discussions on the year’s Budget.

Economy: Demographic Dividend

One of India’s competitive advantages is its demographic dividend. 
Demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working people in the total population is high.
This indicates that more people have the potential to be productive and contribute to growth of the economy.
According to the United National population research, during the last four decades the countries of Asia and Latin America have been the main beneficiaries of the demographic dividend.
Advanced countries of Europe, Japan and USA have an ageing population because of low birth rates and low mortality rates.
Falling birth rates reduce the overall expenditure required to provide basic necessities for the under 14 age group (which is yet to be productive)
Increased longevity ensures that a large proportion of the population are within the 15-59 age group (working population).
Dependency ratio refers to the proportion of non -working poplation on the working population.
In India this ratio is around 0.6 according to the World Bank.

Economy: Consumer Food Price Index

Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI):

It is a measure of change in retail prices of food products consumed by a defined population group in a given area with reference to a base year. 

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) started releasing Consumer Food Price Indices (CFPI) for three categories:
rural, urban and combined
separately on an all India basis with effect from May, 2014.

Like Consumer Price Index (CPI), the CFPI is also calculated on a monthly basis and methodology remains the same as CPI. The base year presently used is 2012

Economy: GST

Goods and Services Tax (GST): 

It refers to the single unified tax created by amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes presently applicable in India.

The latest constitution Amendment Bill of December 2014 made in this regard, proposes to insert a definition of GST in Article 366 of the constitution by inserting a sub-clause 12A. 

As per that, GST means:
Any tax on supply of goods
or services
or both
except taxes on supply of the alcoholic liquor for human consumption.

Note: And here, services are defined to mean anything other than goods.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Current Affairs - Awards

Itzhak Perlman:
Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman has been awarded 2016 Genesis Prize. This is also known as the Jewish Nobel prize.

Salman Rushdie:
Salman Rushdie has been awarded the 2015 Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
He has been bestowed with this award for fully exercising his freedom of creativity and thrived on dialogue and debate.

Naseeruddin Shah:
Naseeruddin Shah has been awarded the lifetime achievement award at the 12th edition of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). 
Others who have also been awarded are:
French actress Catherine Deneuve
Egyptian actor Ezzat Al Alayli
French-Tunisian actor Sami Bouajila

Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet (NDQ):
Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet (NDQ) has been awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony held in Oslo, Norway.
The award was collected by:
Trade unionist Hassine Abassi
Human rights activists Abdessatar Ben Moussa, Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh and Ouided Bouchamaoui.

Carolina Marin:
Carolina Marin from Spain has won the 2015 Female Badminton Player of the Year award.
It was presented by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) President Poul-Erik Hoyer in Dubai.

Current Affairs- Business

India International Trade Fair (IITF):
Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the 35th edition of the IITF at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.
Partner country - Afghanistan
Focus country - Bangladesh
Partner states - Goa and Jharkhand
Focus state - Madhya Pradesh
Theme of IITF 2015: Make in India

Shri Venkateswara Mobile and Electronics Manufacturing Hub:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone of Shri Venkateswara Mobile and Electronics Manufacturing Hub in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. It is country’s first dedicated mobile manufacturing electronics cluster.

Noah Consulting:
Infosys said it would buy Noah Consulting for $70 million in cash. It provides information management consulting services in the oil and gas sector.
In February, Infosys said it would buy automation startup Panaya for $200 million.
In April, it announced it would buy Kallidus Inc, a digital and mobile commerce solutions provider, for $120 million.

Martin Winterkorn:
Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn has resigned following the revelation that the world’s largest carmaker (in terms of sales) had manipulated US diesel car emissions tests. Volkswagen admitted that it had deceived US regulator Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in exhaust emissions tests by installing a device to give more positive results.

Kattupalli Port:
Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) has inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) to oversee operations of Kattupalli Port in Tamil Nadu.

Current Affairs - General

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Friendship Motor Car:
The rally was flagged off from Silchar in Assam. This rally aims at highlighting connectivity in this region through implementation of BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA).

Raif Badawi:
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights for year 2015.

China’s first lunar rover, Yutu, has set the new record for the longest stay by a rover on the lunar surface. It has been at work on the Lunar surface for almost two years. The old record was held by Lunokhod 1, which had spent 11 months on the Moon. Lunokhod I was launched by the USSR in 1970.

Indo-France MOU:
India and France have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to conserve, develop and publicize written heritage at the National Library in Kolkata, West Bengal.

Sylvie Lucas:
Luxembourg envoy to the United Nations (UN) Sylvie Lucas has been appointed as the chair of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) of UN Security Council Reforms.

Current Affairs - Sports

Davis Cup: 
Great Britain has won the 2015 Davis Cup. The last time they won it was in 1936. This is their 10th victory in the competition’s 115-year history.

Macau Open Grand Prix: 
PV Sindhu has won the 2015 Macau Open Grand Prix Gold Badminton tournament. She defeated Minatsu Mitani (World No. 6) of Japan in three sets 21-9, 21-23, 21-14.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
Nico Rosberg (Germany) of Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) of Mercedes
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) of Ferrari

IBSF World Snooker Championship: 
Pankaj Advani won the 2015 IBSF World Snooker Championship. He defeated Zhua Xintong of China in the final.

Asian Shooting Championships:
Heena Sidhu has won Gold medal in 10 metre Air Pistol event in women’s category at 13th Asian Shooting Championships held in Kuwait.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Portfolios - Prime Minister

As on December 14th 2015

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, also holds a few porfolios in his charge:
Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy
Department of Space
All important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister

Dr Jitendra Singh is the Minister of State:
Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge)
Prime Minister's Office
Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy
Department of Space

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Union Territories and Capitals

Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Capital: Port Blair
Principal Languages: Hindi, Nicobarese, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu

Daman and Diu
Capital: Daman
Principal Languages: Gujarati

Capital: Chandigarh
Principal Languages: Hindi, Punjabi, English

Capital: Kavaratti
Principal Languages: Malayalam, Jeseri (Dweep Bhasha) and Mahal

Government of NCT of Delhi
Capital: Delhi
Principal Languages: Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu & English

Capital: Puducherry
Principal Languages: Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and French

Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Capital: Silvassa
Principal Languages: Gujarati, Hindi

State Governors - II

This is the list of the governors of various states as on December 13, 2015

Shri Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao

Shri V. Shanmuganathan (Add. Charge)

Shri V. Shanmuganthan

Lt. General (Retd.) Nirbhay Sharma

Shri Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya

Dr. S. C. Jamir

Shri Kaptan Singh Solanki

Shri Kalyan Singh

Shri Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil

Tamil Nadu
Dr. K. Rosaiah

Shri E.S Lakshmi Narasimhan (Add. Charge)

Shri Tathagata Roy

Uttar Pradesh
Shri Ram Naik

Dr. Krishan Kant Paul

West Bengal

Shri Keshari Nath Tripathi

State Governors - I

This is the list of the governors of various states as on December 13, 2015

Andhra Pradesh
Shri E.S Lakshmi Narasimhan

Arunachal Pradesh
Shri J.P. Rajkhowa

Shri Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya (Add. Charge)

Shri Ram Nath Kovind

Shri Balramji Dass Tandon

Smt. Mridula Sinha

Shri Om Prakash Kohli

Prof. Kaptan Singh Solanki

Himachal Pradesh
Shri Acharya Dev Vrat

Jammu and Kashmir
Shri N. N. Vohra

Shrimati Droupadi Murmu

Shri Vajubhai Vala

Shri Justice (Retd.) Palaniswamy Sathasivam

Madhya Pradesh
Shri Ram Naresh Yadav

Indian Parliament - Basic Facts

Parliament is the supreme legislative body of India. 

The Indian Parliament comprises of the President and the two Houses - Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha (House of the People). 

The President of India is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union Territories

The President has the power to summon and prorogue either House of Parliament or to dissolve Lok Sabha.

The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. 

The first general elections under the new Constitution were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Parliament came into existence in April, 1952.

The Constitution provides that the maximum strength of the House (of the People) be 552 members.
530 members to represent the States, 
20 members to represent the Union Territories, 
and 2 members to be nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian Community. 

At present, the strength of the House is 545 members.

The origin of Rajya Sabha can be traced back to 1919, when in pursuance to the Government of India Act, 1919, a second chamber known as the Council of States was created.

The Rajya Sabha is to consist of not more than 250 members - 238 members representing the States and Union Territories, and 12 members nominated by the President.

Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. However, one third of the members retire every second year, and are replaced by newly elected members. Each member is elected for a term of six years.

The Vice President of India is the ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha. 

Union Cabinet - III

List of Union Cabinet Ministers as on December 13, 2015

Food Processing Industries
Harsimrat Kaur Badal

Narendra Singh Tomar

Tribal Affairs
Jual Oram

Radha Mohan Singh

Social Justice & Empowerment
Thaawar Chand Gehlot

Smriti Irani

Union Cabinet - II

List of Union Cabinet Ministers as on December 13, 2015

Science and Technology
Earth Sciences
Dr Harsh Vardhan

Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Ramvilas Paswan

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
Kalraj Mishra

Women and Child Development
Maneka Gandhi

Chemicals & Fertilizers
Ananth Kumar

Communications & Information Technology
Ravi Shankar Prasad

Health & Family Welfare
Jagat Prakash Nadda

Rural Development
Panchayati Raj
Drinking Water and Sanitation
Chaudhary Birender Singh

Civil Aviation 
Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati

Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Anant Geete

Union Cabinet - I

List of Union Cabinet Ministers as on December 13, 2015

Home Affairs
Raj Nath Singh

External Affairs
Overseas Indian Affairs
Sushma Swaraj

Manohar Parrikar

Suresh Prabhu

Corporate Affairs
Information & Broadcasting
Arun Jaitley

Urban Development
Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation
Parliamentary Affairs
Venkaiah Naidu

Road Transport & Highways
Nitin Gadkari

Law & Justice
DV Sadananda Gowda

Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation
Uma Bharati

Minority Affairs
Najma Heptulla

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Bihar Debacle - The Best Thing to Have Happened to the BJP

Now that Nitish Kumar has been sworn in for another term of office and two of the Lalu brood are in the cabinet it is possibly the right time to tally up the gains and losses of the various parties.

Nitish Kumar – Victor (For Now)
Lalu Prasad Yadav – Victor (Along with highly educated sons)
Rahul Gandhi – Confused Victor (Lost his way to Gandhi maidan)
BJP – Loser (But the Best thing to have happened to it)

While it may be counterintuitive to believe that losing Bihar is the best thing to have happened to the BJP, I honestly believe that in the long run it will be beneficial to them.
Whatever your views on the Modi-Shah duo might be you would have to admit that they are among the canniest politicians in the game. Two adverse results in a row will give them more than enough food for thought. I am sure that they would have analysed till the cows came home and . . . oops . . . I meant would have figured out what went wrong and will definitely course correct from now on.

So what did go wrong and what can the BJP do to strengthen itself. 

In my opinion the biggest issue was Leadership.
Check hubris. You may not actually know it all. At the very least take the entire BJP fraternity with you.
Respect Opposition.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

General Knowledge - 5

Zaheer Abbas: A former Pakistan cricket captain, has been appointed as the new president of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Steffi Graf: Has been appointed as Kerala’s brand ambassador for Ayurveda.

Blue Mormon: Maharashtra became the first state in India to declare the “Blue Mormon” as the State butterfly.

Yoga Express: Indian Railways has named “Haridwar Mail” (Ahemdabad to Haridwar) as “Yoga Express”.

CR7: The brightest galaxy in the early universe that contains the first generation of stars. It has been nicknamed CR7 after Cristiano Ronaldo.

General Knowledge - 4

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB):
HQ: Beijing
Jin Liqun: First president of AIIB.
Sponsor country:  China
Largest shareholder: China
Second largest shareholder: India

World Economic Forum's (WEF) list of world's biggest employers in 2015:
1st  United States Department of Defence
2nd People's Liberation Army, China.
3rd  Walmart
8th Indian Railways
9th Indian Armed Forces

World Bank's State of Safety Nets 2015 report:
Janani Suraksha Yojana is the largest in Conditional Cash Transfers category.
Mid Day Meal programme is the largest in the School feeding category.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is the largest in the Public Works Programme category.

Tamil Nadu: Attracted the maximum number of domestic and foreign tourists in 2014.

India and USA MoU: MoU for setting up the PACESetter Fund to accelerate the commercialisation of off-grid clean energy.
PACE: Partnership to Advance Clean Energy.

General Knowledge - 3

Ashwini Nachappa Committee: The committee was constituted to study the status of Sports Authority of India training centers.
She is a former athlete and film star.

Arvind Panagariya: Appointed Chairman of the expert group appointed to classify the Socio Economic and Caste Census, 2011 (SECC) data.

Goa will host the Delphic Games in February 2016.
The Delphic Games are the Olympic Games of art and culture. The youth edition of the Delphic Games will be hosted in India for the first time.
The motto of the 2016 Games is ‘Celebrating Arts and Cultures.’
It will include competitions in six categories — musical arts & sounds, performing arts, language arts, visual arts, social arts and ecological arts & architecture.

Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan: Launched by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
It is a scheme by the HRD ministry which seeks to develop scientific temper among school children.

Cuba: The first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis. 

General Knowledge - 2

Amitabh Bachchan: New ambassador for the Tiger Conservation Project in Maharashtra.

Cochin International Airport Ltd: The first airport in the world to fully operate on solar power.

Taj Mahal: The first historical monument in the world to have its own Twitter account.

Chengalikodan Banana: Accorded the Geographical Indication (GI) status by the Chennai based Central GI registry.  Cultivated in the Thrissur district of Kerala.

Bandhan Bank: The first micro-finance company in India to start operations as a full-fledged scheduled commercial bank.

General Knowledge - 1

Hero Cycles: The World’s largest bicycle manufacturer.
Acquired majority stake in Avocet Sports (UK based)

Alphabet Inc: The new holding company formed by Google.
Its subsidiary companies include Google X, Google Ventures, Google Capital, Calico etc.
CEO is Larry Page.
Alphabet's website is the rather interestingly named:

Dr Ambedkar’s house in London has been bought by the Maharashtra Govt. It has decided to transform the house where Ambedkar lived in London into an international memorial cum research centre.

UNICEF Ambassador: Novak Djokovic

Chairman of India’s Oscar jury: Amol Palekar
Appointed by Film Federation of India 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aurangzeb - The Other Side

Yet another Twitter storm! Me thinks the twitterati outrages a bit too much and this time the outrage has arisen due to the renaming of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam road. Worthies on Twitter, including Assadudin Owaisi, have jumped in to debate Aurangzeb and his policies. I sincerely believe the funniest and most ill informed debates in India happen about history and historical characters. Our ignorance of history is profound and our belief in our great knowledge of history is “profounder

Be that as it may, I have no intention of either assailing Aurangzeb as an anti-Hindu mass murderer or eulogizing him as a pious Pir. Enough ink has been spilt on his temple demolitions, his imposition of the Jiziya, his unjust imposition of an ad valorem duty only on Hindu traders and his extremely cruel torture and killing of Guru Tegh Bahadur and some of his followers. 

I want to speak about the man himself. He lived a full life – he died at 90. What kind of person was he?

Well he was . . . He was a small statured, large nosed, teetotaler chappie who slept very little and worked very hard almost all through his life. And I suspect made his minions work as hard. He held court daily, sometimes twice a day and set aside Wednesdays as Trail Days. 

He was a stickler for detail and had a phenomenal memory. The Italian physician Gemelli Careri who saw him in 1695, when Aurangzeb was almost 80, “admired to see him endorse the petitions with his own hand, without spectacles, and by his cheerful smiling countenance seem to be pleased with the employment.” Of course, Gemelli had no clue why he was smiling but clearly our man was quite the bright-eyed workaholic. 

Aurangzeb was a master calligraphist and had a passion for reading, which he did right through his life, in spite of his . . . er … um . . . rather busy schedule of killing brothers, imprisoning Daddy, conquering territories, running after Shivaji (exhaustingly unsuccessful running at that) and terrorizing thousands of others. 

He was almost a linguist, being the master of Arabic, Persian, Turki and wait for it . . .  Hindi. According to Jadunath Sarkar, “… his extensive correspondence proves his mastery over Persian poetry and Arabic sacred literature.” Arabic sacred literature – I would have been shocked if he did not have a command over it. But Poetry? Our Alamgir? Who knew?

The Fatwa-i-Alamgiri, an exhaustive digest of Muslim Law, was put together under his patronage. Even after his death the Fatwa-i-Alamgiri defined Islamic justice in India. I haven’t been able to figure out till when it was used as a standard for Islamic justice in India, but the fact that it continued to be used gives us an indication of the thoroughness with which it was compiled.  

The surprise about him is also that he was supposedly a very personable man. Even as a prince, his tact, wisdom and humility made the nobles of Shah Jahan’s court his friends. Of course the immediate conclusion that one can come to is that he was doing this as he was already planning to take the help of all these people when kicking his brothers Shuja and Dara in the ass, but that would be wrong and unjust. Why is that? That is so because these were the very same qualities that he displayed even as an emperor. 

Incidentally there are no scandalous stories about his philandering ways. No deflowering of a 1000 virgins like his great-grandfather Akbar.  He had only four wives as limited by Quranic injunction. Of them Dilras Banu (1657) and Aurangabadi Mahal (1685) pre-deceased him. His third wife, Nawab Bai, led a retired life in Delhi after 1660. His only companion was his 4th one till his death. She was also very young. Just saying!

Like most rulers in medieval India he was noted for his bravery and uncommon physical strength. Supposedly at about 15 years of age he faced a furious elephant and subdued it. Declaring later that death comes to all and it did not behove his brothers to act the way they did. 

Cool as a cucumber in battle and a cunning tactician he gave quite a few examples of these in the innumerable battles that he fought through his life. 

On the eve of the Battle of Khajuha, which was fought between Aurangzeb and his brother Shuja for the throne of Delhi, Jaswant Singh who commanded Aurangzeb’s right-wing attacked the camp in the dead of the night and left for Rajputana. Aurangzeb was unfazed, took the information on board recalibrated his battle strategy and turned the tide in battle the next day. 

When his son, Prince Akbar revolted against him and allied with the Rathor-Sisodia alliance, Smart Boy Aurangzeb sent a false letter to his son “thanking him for carrying out their plan”. He ensured that that letter fell in the hands of his enemies. Durga Das Rathor took one look at this letter and off he went to check with Prince Akbar. Akbar was fast asleep and DD Rathor was not allowed to meet him. This hardened his suspicion and after kicking some butt in the camp Durga Das and the Rajputs went away to Mewar. When Prince Akbar woke up in the morning, he had a camp but no soldiers. Well almost. And the battle was over before it began. Aurangzeb 1 – 0 Prince Akbar.  

Alamgir bhai never felt satisfied without personally accomplishing the duties of the state. He clearly had the capabilities but over time that made him over confident and also suspicious of others, even his own sons. Efficiency deteriorated in the administration along with his growing age. Remember he hit a 90?   

Aurangzeb believed in orthodox Sunni Islam. And having claimed the throne of Delhi against the liberal minded Dara, whom he considered to be a heretic, he believed it to be his duty to enforce Quranic law. He believed it was his destiny to convert his realm from Dar-ul-harb to Dar-ul-islam. So he attacked . . . the Hindus, right? Er . . .  only the Hindus? No, not at all. The Shias and the Sufis faced the brunt of his orthodoxy too. The Bohra community from Gujarat also suffered at his hands – for heresy!  

According to the historian Mohammed Yasin, “Aurangzeb’s recipe might be excellent from the point of view of a Mujaddid (one who brings renewal to religion) . . .  but he reduced the Muslim empire to a shadow. . . “. That is absolutely true. He presided over the largest Moghul Empire but also lay the foundation for the ultimate decline of the empire by bleeding it due to his frequent campaigns.

He was a brilliant tactician but he was neither a great strategist nor a statesman. He, in fact, understood the futility of his life work when he wrote to his son Azam with poignant regret, ”The days that have been spent except in austerities have left only regret behind them. I have not at all done any (true) government of the realm or cherishing of the peasantry. Life so valuable has gone away for nothing.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reservations - A Solution

The Hardik Patel led agitation in Gujarat has once again brought the Reservation issue onto the centre-stage. However the problem with discussing Reservations is that it rarely goes beyond the Social Empowerment versus Merit debate. 

However even these two issues do not make complete sense to me.

When we say Merit should be the only criteria for admission into colleges or for getting a job, what we are saying is that someone has to have the ability to score high marks in school/college and/or have the ability to clear entrance exams like the IIT-JEE or the CAT (for the IIMs) or UPSC. Essentially we are equating Merit with the ability to manage exams in school and college and entrance exams. This clearly has nothing to do with competence later on in life. I am sure all of us know of people who have performed well academically but are fairly incompetent. 

It is obvious that competence could exist in a person who is illiterate too. It is just that he is not fortunate enough to have the luxury of a formal education or a family background that values it. Are we saying that such a person has no merit? That is a ridiculous contention and needs to be debunked immediately.

The argument that Reservations help in Social Empowerment is problematic because while we can use Reservations to bring about the betterment of the oppressed classes, there are sections of society who are economically marginalized but since they belong to the upper castes they do not get the benefit of reservations. This is clearly unfair and the claim of Social Empowerment rings hollow if it allows certain marginalized sections of society to wallow in poverty just because of their caste.  

Is there some way in which one can continue the process of reservations in such a manner that it both helps the truly marginalized and also restricts its over use? 

There is a simple solution to that. I believe the best way is to first extend reservations and then restrict them. Reservations should be extended to the poor among the upper castes along with the existing caste based reservations. And then restrict reservations in education and employment to just two generations of a family. 

How will that help? I do not think that it is anyone’s case that there is no individual among the list of schedule tribes or castes who deserves reservations to better his lot. Of course there are plenty of people who deserve it. So let them have it. And let’s exclude the ones who have already had the benefit of these provisions for a couple of generations. 

Why two generations and not just one? Very simple, for someone who has bootstrapped himself from ground level up, it would probably take him his entire career to be accepted in the society that he aspires to be in. Let’s give him some time to assimilate in that society and then let’s also give him some more time to pass on this legacy to his progeny. It is only fair that whatever gains he has got does not get frittered away because the he was not able to mentor the next generation properly. When the next generation also has the benefit of reservations in education and jobs there would be some stability in their financial and social status. Once they have achieved this state that family should be left to improve their status further through the dint of sheer merit without the intervention of the state.
This should be the exact same way in which reservations for the economically marginalized play out. Identify a certain income criteria and then allow that family to have the benefit of reservations for a couple of generations. 

There also has to be a support system in educational institutions for all students who come in through the reservations – caste based or class based. This will enable them to be on par with their batch mates when classes start. 

So will reservations be phased out totally? Not at all. They will continue to exist because there will be, for a long time to come, some or the other family who has been totally by-passed in this affirmative action. So the concept of reservation stays but the beneficiary families will keep changing from one generation to the other. Thus helping those who truly deserve support by the state and keeping away those who have already gained from the policy. I also feel that such an approach will blunt, to an extent, the animosity that exists among sections of society to the concept of reservations. 

This I feel is the most even-handed solution to the reservations imbroglio.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quiz: Visual

Identify the first three gentlemen (from Left to Rigth) in the photo. The two gentlemen sitting in the middle should be quite easy. It is the one sitting to the extreme left that might prove to be difficult.

Scroll down for the answers. . .

From left: The late Dr YSR or Dr. Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy former CM of AP. Mr. Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the current CM of Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mr. K.E. Krishnamurthy. This was taken when Chandrababu Naidu was part of the Congress.

Reading Comprehension - Canaries in the Coal Mine

Here is a slightly off-beat topic from Proceedings B (a publication of the Royal Society) I have just discovered this website and at first glance it seems the perfect place to read scientific articles for CAT. 

No. of words:421
Reading time:
Time to beat: 1.35
2.00 minutes – Very Good
2.00-3.30 minutes – Good
3.30-4.30 minutes – Fair
Difficulty Level (5 point scale)

A dramatic rise in obesity has occurred among humans within the last several decades. Little is known about whether similar increases in obesity have occurred in animals inhabiting human-influenced environments. We examined samples collectively consisting of over 20,000 animals from 24 populations (12 divided separately into males and females) of animals representing eight species living with or around humans in industrialized societies. In all populations, the estimated coefficient for the trend of body weight over time was positive (i.e. increasing). The probability of all trends being in the same direction by chance is 1.2 × 10−7. Surprisingly, we find that over the past several decades, average mid-life body weights have risen among primates and rodents living in research colonies, as well as among feral rodents and domestic dogs and cats. The consistency of these findings among animals living in varying environments, suggests the intriguing possibility that the aetiology of increasing body weight may involve several as-of-yet unidentified and/or poorly understood factors (e.g. viral pathogens, epigenetic factors). This finding may eventually enhance the discovery and fuller elucidation of other factors that have contributed to the recent rise in obesity rates.

Although the increase in obesity rates started over 100 years ago, there has been an acceleration in the last half-century, with reasons incompletely understood. Although there is a focus on a lack of physical activity and a poor diet as the principal contributors to this recent acceleration, there are apparently many causes beyond the conventional wisdom that contribute to body weight increase either by influencing physical activity or dietary intake, or through other means such as influencing nutrient partitioning or energy metabolism.

Model organisms have potential value as ‘canaries in the coalmines’ or ‘sentinels’ informing us about environmental factors potentially impacting humans. In this light, we compiled data to assess time trends in body weight in mammalian species that live with or around humans in industrialized societies. Such observations might help identify environmental influences that might otherwise go undetected.

From 24 distinct populations (12 subdivided into separate male and female populations), representing eight species, over 20,000 animals were studied. Time trends for mean per cent weight change and the odds of obesity were tested for the samples from each population at an age period that corresponded roughly to early-middle adulthood (35 years) in human development because on a per cent basis, in United States adults, 30–39 years is the decade of human life in which obesity has increased at least as much as any age interval during the last several decades.

1. What does this reference to canaries imply? 
2. What is the flow of the article? Is the flow appropriate? 

Quiz: Brands & Co-ops

How many of these brands have you heard of? And more importantly can you link these brands to their parent co-operatives. 

The Brands are:
1. Vijaya
2. Amul
3. Verka
4. Saras
5. Nandini
6. Milma
7. Gokul
8. Vita
9. Bhagirathi
10. Aavin

Scroll down for the answers . . .


Brand: Vijaya
Co-op: Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Cooperative Federation Ltd (APDDCF)

Brand: Amul
Co-op: Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF)

Brand: Verka
Co-op: Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers' Federation Ltd (MILKFED)

Brand: Saras
Co-op: Rajasthan Cooperative Dairy Federation Ltd (RCDF)

Brand: Nandini
Co-op: Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producers' Federation Ltd (KMF)

Brand: Milma
Co-op: Kerala State Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (KCMMF)

Brand: Gokul
Co-op: Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Maryadit Dugdh Mahasangh (Mahasangh)

Brand: Vita
Co-op: Haryana Dairy Development Cooperative Federation Ltd. (HDDCF)

Brand: Bhagirathi
Co-op: West Bengal Cooperative Milk Producers' Federation Ltd. (WBCMPF)

Brand: Aavin
Co-op: Tamilnadu Cooperative Milk Producers' Federation Ltd (TCMPF)

Monuments - I

Agra Fort
Red Fort of Agra is situated near the gardens of Taj Mahal. Some of the buildings inside it are:  
Moti Masjid - a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl 
Musamman Burj - where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died in 1666 A.D. 
Khaas Mahal & Sheesh Mahal
It also houses Jahangir's Palace, the Diwan-E-Am and the Diwan-E-Khaas,
The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565, by Akbar, and subsequently taken over by his grandson Shah Jahan, who added most of the marble creations to the fort.

Bahai Temple, Delhi
The Bahai Temple - the Bahá'í Mashriqu'l-Adhkar - is better known as the "Lotus Temple".
Bahá'ís have endeavoured to their utmost to build houses of worship as beautiful and distinctive as possible. They have been inspired by writings of Baha'u'llah and His son Abdu'l-Bahá.

The Bara Imambara, Lucknow
The Imambara was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 as a famine relief programme. Its designer was Kifayat-ullah. Some claim that he was a relative of the architect of the Taj Mahal. The building, which consists of three huge halls, has a maze of corridors hidden in between its walls that are about 20 feet thick. This dense, dark maze called the 'Bhul Bhulaiya'

Brhadisvara Temple, Thanjavur
The Brhadisvara Temple, a splendid example of Chola architecture was built by Emperor Rajaraja (985-1012 A.D.).The Brhadisvara temple is a monument dedicated to Siva.

Charminar, Hyderabad
The Charminar is sometimes called the "Arc De Triumph of the East". It is a massive arch built by Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah, in 1591 to commemorate the end of the plague in the city. The Charminar gets its name from the four minarets that rise from each corner of the square structure.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Mahabharata - In 100 Tweets

I have always been fascinated by the Mahabharata and decided to tweet it in its entirety in exactly 100 tweets. Reducing the 100,000 shlokas into 100 Tweets was a task, but a very interesting one.

I hope you folks like reading this version of The Mahabharata as much as I loved putting it together.