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December, 2013

  • India_FarmingThe Bali agreement which gave weight to the existence of the World Trade Organisation was finally passed and sanctioned by 159 member states last week. Although India adamantly held fort over her stance on food subsidies opposing a majority of nations, the Bali agreement which unanimously agrees to lower trade barriers and augment cross border trade and commerce was passed – by one estimate, cutting customs red tape could raise annual global output by US$400 billion, with much of the gain flowing to developing economies.. The Doha round of talks has lasted a decade, and had been left for dead on at least two occasions This being the first agreement since its formation in 1995, leads credence to the fact that decisions in a democracy do take time.

    While China held sway with more developed nations on its opinion on food subsidies, India coerced lesser-developed nations to fight for food rations for her poor. As the nation with the worlds largest population under the poverty line, India wasn’t going to concede easily. Industry and Commerce minister Anand Sharma and his band of advisors, held negotiations late into the night, fortifying India’s strength amongst world leaders. – In effect, India’s WTO triumph speaks to its improved bargaining power. The WTO victory is by no means a panacea to India’s food provision problems — something the current UPA coalition government has tried to combat with a slew of populist measures, Ankit Panda of the Diplomat wrote.

    In contrast, China which joined the WTO a tad later than India in 2001, has abolished, revised and adopted more than 3,000 laws, regulations and department rules to fulfill its commitment to the WTO, and further opened its economy to the outside world.

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  • bitcoinsThe storm with which Bitcoins have taken over the world is proof enough that the world demands an alternative global currency. The fact that nations are now skeptically looking at the large transactions in bitcoins however now points to its unreliability as a global currency. Chinese banks having recently banned the growing transactions of bitcoins is proof in the pudding that Bitcoins are yet not a trustworthy international currency, backed by neither institution nor nation.

    Nonetheless, bitcoin transactions in China and India have sky rocketed over the past year with rates hitting an all time high. On 28 November, the value of one bitcoin surpassed US$1,000 for the first time. Used mostly to hedge against other more real currencies, and avoid controls on trade in their own currencies, individuals are heavily investing in this four year old currency which is created through a complicated computing process called mining.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, BTC China, the country’s biggest bitcoin exchange, in the last 30 days averaged 64,000 bitcoin in daily trading volume, said BTC China Chief Executive Bobby Lee. Over that period, the exchange accounted for more than one-third of volume world-wide, up from about 20 percent over the past six months, according to industry tracker Bitcoinity

    Similarly, according to the Hindu, an Indian online portal for buying and selling bitcoins, buysell.co.in, has reported a leap in the number of transactions for bitcoins in Indian rupees. “We used to do about 20 transactions a day. Now, we are doing more than 50. On Monday, about 70 transactions were recorded”, said Mahin Gupta, who operates the portal out of Ahmedabad, but has a regional office in Bangalore to cater to ‘bitcoiners’ from South India.

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  • Bike-blog---Schoolgirls-r-005As nations battle the future of food security at the World Trade Organisation in Bali, China and India are going though dynamic social changes of their own – while one grapples with rethinking the education system, the other is realizing the strength of her women.

    In India a spate of women are rising up against harassment meted out to them in the workplace, home or on the streets. The slew of rape, molestation and sexual harassment cases being filed in India,  is on the rise and feminists attribute it to the growing voice of women who are slowly yet surely making themselves heard.

    “Indian society and Indian men have regarded women as subservient homemakers and not as equal partners in the economic mainstream,” Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of India’s most prominent female entrepreneurs, wrote last week. “This deep-rooted cultural and societal mindset manifests itself in the way men behave with their female colleagues.”

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  • India’s first mission to Mars – Mangalyaan was given a skeptical send off by the Chinese, yet by successfully leaving the earth’s orbit on December 1st 2013, it joined an elite ring of nations – the United States, Europe, and Russia, whose probes have orbited or landed on the red planet.

    China, a keen competitor in the space race, launched the Jade Rabbit a day after India’s maiden Mars mission left Earth’s orbit on its journey to the Red Planet, in what some observers characterize as Asia’s new space race. The  probe gives China the possibility of putting a man on the moon sometime after 2020 and aims to become the third country to achieve a soft landing on the moon, after the United States and Russia.

    For India, “Getting to Mars is a big achievement,” said Mayank Vahia, a professor in the astronomy and astrophysics department of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai. The Mars probe will study the planet’s surface and mineral composition, besides sniffing the atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth.

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