Astronomy observatory all set for take off
Astrosat, the country’s first astronomy observatory to study distant celestial objects, will be launched on Monday morning.A 50-hour countdown began at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the launch port in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.The Indian Space Research Organisation said the launch vehicle, PSLV-C30, was being readied with propellants ahead of the launch, slated for 10 a.m. at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.Six tiny satellites of three foreign customers, weighing 118 kg, are being put in space on the same flight. Significantly, for the first time, the PSLV launcher has a U.S. customer using it to put four small satellites in space. The other customers are from Canada and Indonesia.The vehicle has, to date, lifted 45 small and mid-sized foreign satellites for a fee.The 1,513-kg Astrosat, estimated to have cost around Rs. 180 crore, carries five instruments and is among the few Indian scientific satellites. Most of ISRO’s spacecraft are planned for specific applications such as communication, Earth observation and more recently, navigation.Moving in a near Equatorial orbit 650 km above Earth, Astrosat will study black holes, scan the distant universe, star birth regions beyond our galaxy, binary and neutron starts over at least five years.It will simultaneously observe the sky in multiple light bands or wavelengths of ultraviolet, optical, low and high energy X-ray.For the light-lift workhorse PSLV vehicle, this will be the 31st flight with 30 successes in its belt.The C-30 will be flown in the extended XL version. Astrosat will study black holes, scan the distant universe, star birth regions beyond our galaxy.
DU Sanskrit meet pushes back period of Vedas to 6000 BC
The Vedas date back to 6000 BC, Sanskrit scholars brainstorming on the dates of the ancient texts at a conclave organised by Delhi University’s Sanskrit department said on Saturday. This amounts to the Vedas getting older by 4500 years compared to what we thought.“The time of the Vedas cannot be asserted before 6000 BC and thus Vedic civilisation is proved more ancient than the Indus Valley civilisation,” department head Ramesh Bhardwaj said in his keynote address, claiming that a correlation of archaeological, literary and astronomical evidence suggested so.The innocuous sounding claim has deep political implications.Influential Indian and European historians have for over a century seen the Vedas as dating back to 1500 BC, while the date of the Harappan civilisation is located around 2500 to 1800 BC. This had made the view that Vedic Aryans were early migrants to India commonplace.Add to it a 19th century view of Indologists that Vedic Sanskrit had similarities with ancient European languages and early Persian — and that Tamil was distinct from Sanskrit.These theories had spawned movements as varied as Jyotirao Phule’s anti-Brahmin movement in western India and the Dravidian movement in south India, which believed that there was an Aryan invasion in ancient times. Many saw the Vedic culture as superimposed over pre-Aryan cultures, while others talked of a migration sans invasion.The present claim of these Sanskrit scholars makes the Vedas coincide with and even pre-date the Harappan civilisation, thus making the ancestors of today’s Hindus indigenous to India.Many scholars have seen such assertions as crucial to the Sangh Parivar, which, they argue, sees Hindus as original inhabitants of India, and Islam and Christianity as later entrants. Significantly, the Sangh Parivar uses the term Vanavasi (forest dwellers) rather than Adivasi (original inhabitants) for India’s tribes.“The Sanskrit department people aren’t experts in comparative linguistics. They are also not environmental historians to study the flora and fauna of the Vedas,” historian D.N. Jha told The Hindu . “Astronomical evidence is dubious. And I would like to ask why the department waited till 2015 for this finding? The most plausible date of the Vedas till now is 1500 BC.”Scholars from Delhi, Varanasi and Gorakhpur apart, archaeologists K.N. Dikshit and B.R. Mani attended the meet.
G4 leaders seek time-bound U.N. reforms
In a show of solidarity and as a message to the world community, leaders of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan on Saturday called for urgent reforms of the United Nations “in a fixed time frame”, expressing disappointment that no substantial progress had been made in the past decade on the issue.The Group of Four, or G4, Summit, taking place after a decade, was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the morning, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where Mr. Modi is staying. Japan, Germany, India and Brazil are the third, fourth, seventh and eighth biggest economies, respectively. In terms of population, India is the second biggest, Brazil fifth, Japan 10th and Germany 16th biggest in the world.“The leaders emphasised that the G4 countries are legitimate candidates for permanent membership in an expanded and reformed [Security] Council and supported one another’s candidature. They pledged to work together with all member-states and to accelerate outreach towards achieving an early and meaningful reform of the Security Council,” said a joint statement issued by the leaders after the meeting.“… the leaders noted with concern that no substantial progress had been made since the 2005 World Summit where all the Heads of State and Government had unanimously supported the ‘early reform’ of the Security Council as an essential element of the overall effort to reform the United Nations.”The G4 leaders appreciated the fact that the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on UN reforms has come out with a text that will form the basis for further negotiations. The U.S. also reiterated last week its support for India’s claim for a permanent UNSC seat, but it has been calling for consensus before reforms can move ahead. Pakistan is opposed to India, while China has been ambiguous in its approach though not openly opposed to reforms.
Indian urbanisation ‘messy’, reforms needed: World Bank
Terming India’s urbanisation as “messy and hidden”, a World Bank report called for initiatives at the policy and institutional level to tap the economic potential it offers.“Although they have made progress, India and other South Asian countries can make better utilisation of opportunities that urbanisation provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations,” it said in a report titled ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia’.The World Bank said there has been difficulty in dealing with pressures that increased urban populations put on basic services, infrastructure, land, housing and environment, fostering “messy and hidden” urbanisation.This, in turn, has helped constrain the region’s full realisation of the prosperity and livability benefits of urbanisation, it said, adding that at the institutional level, there would be benefits from improvements in ways in which towns and cities are governed and financed.
Reforms in spotlight
The report put reforms in the spotlight, saying these are required to address three fundamental deficits in empowerment of local governing bodies, resources and accountability.“Inter-governmental fiscal relations must be improved to address empowerment; practical ways must be identified to increase the resources available to local governments to allow them to perform their mandated functions and mechanisms must be strengthened to hold local governments accountable for their actions,” the report highlighted.To tackle messy urbanisation and bring about lasting improvements in both prosperity and livability, policies are also required to improve the ways in which cities are connected and planned, working of land and housing markets, and cities’ resilience to natural disasters and the effect of climate change.
“If managed well, urbanisation can lead to sustainable growth by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge,” said World Bank MD and COO Mulyani Indrawati, who is on a three-day visit to India.The report said urbanisation has been relatively slow in India.
What is deflation and is it bad?
With Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian first cautioning about impending deflation, and then in an interview to The Hindu clarifying that he meant deflation in a limited price-related context, it is a good time to explain the various contours of the rise and fall of prices.
What is inflation?
Inflation is simply a measure of the extent of increase in prices. If potatoes cost Rs.100 per kg in August 2014, and if they cost Rs.110 per kg in August 2015, then inflation in the price of potatoes was 10 per cent.When this happens across prices of all commodities for a relatively sustained period of time, then one can say the economy is experiencing inflation. Looking at consumer prices, India is still undergoing inflation. That is, prices are still increasing. For example, in August 2015, overall consumer prices were 3.7 per cent higher than they were in August 2014.
So, then what does it mean when the government says inflation is coming down?
All that means is that the rate of increase of prices is slowing. Going back to the example of potatoes, if they were Rs.110 per kg in August, then went to Rs.120 per kg in September, Rs.125 in October and Rs.127 in November, one can see that although the price is still going up, the rate of increase is decelerating.
Is there a technical term for such a phenomenon?
The U.S. Federal Reserve often uses the term ‘disinflation’ to refer to a period where the rate of inflation has been slowing on a sustained basis.So, looking at the Consumer Price Index, India is currently technically going through a phase of disinflation. The rate of inflation as measured by the CPI was 10.7 per cent in August 2013, which came down to 3.7 per cent over the course of two years.
So, then, what is deflation and why is there so much controversy and confusion around the term?
Deflation is simply the opposite of inflation. That is, prices fall from one period to the next. The confusion comes from the fact that deflation has historically generally been accompanied by significant economic contraction. But that is not the case in India.Real GDP growth, the final figure that the government presents to you, is calculated by looking at how the value of the total production of the economy has changed compared to the previous year, and then reducing the effect of inflation/deflation from this. If the rate of growth of the economy and prices are both falling, then that is not a good place to be in — as it is usually accompanied by rising unemployment, lower demand, falling corporate earnings, reduced investments, etc.This gets exacerbated when people begin to expect prolonged deflation. If they expect that prices will be lower in the future, then people and companies both defer their investments and expenditure waiting for those lower prices. This postponement of expenditure hurts the economy. But slowing inflation coupled with about 7 per cent GDP growth and a pickup in domestic demand — as India is experiencing now — is not a bad thing in itself. Following an extended period of double-digit inflation, this cooling off of prices may just be a correction.
There is such a thing as hyperinflation, when the rate of increase of prices is beyond anything seen in normal circumstances. As one website succinctly defines it, “Hyperinflation is a situation where the price increases are so out of control that the concept of inflation is meaningless.”One famous example of hyperinflation was when French and Belgian troops invaded the industrial regions of the Weimar Republic (of World War I fame) to ensure the payment of war reparations.The Weimar Republic’s currency, the Mark, was at 320 Marks per dollar in the first half of 1922. By November 1923, the exchange rate was at 4,210,500,000,000 Marks per dollar.
India to announce climate commitments on Gandhi Jayanti
ndia will announce on October 2 its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in the lead up to the Paris climate summit in December, the government indicated on Friday, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the U.N. General Assembly that the country’s development goals and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) were the same.“October 2 is the birth anniversary of a great Indian and a great world leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who passionately believed in sustainable development. That would be an appropriate day to announce India’s INDCs,” Vikas Swarup, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said. October 1 is the deadline for declaring the INDCs, and India will miss it by a day. The INDCs of countries will form the basis for climate negotiations at the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December.The U.S. administration has said that climate change would be on the agenda of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Mr. Modi on Monday. After a two-day tour of the Silicon Valley in the west coast of the U.S., the Prime Minister will travel back to New York for the meeting.Mr. Modi said in his U.N. speech that the negotiations would have to be based on the idea of “climate justice” rather than climate action. He elaborated on the climate-friendly initiatives planned for the next seven years, in which 175 GW of renewable energy would be produced and rivers and cities cleaned.
Explaining the concept of climate justice, Mr. Swarup said: “It is a question of equity. When you talk about emissions, then you need to talk about per capita emissions. India’s per capita emission is still 1.7 and America’s is 16 or 17.”“Historic responsibility of climate change has to be understood. It is very clear which are the countries that are responsible for the state that we are in today,” Mr. Swarup said, adding that the Indian position was not new or different from that of other developing countries.In fact, what Mr. Swarup has articulated is only the reiteration of a long-held official stand of the Indian government. Most recently, during a meeting of 13 Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) in New Delhi, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had asserted that demanding climate action from developing countries should not involve any blame game and all LMDCs unanimously demanded that developed nations ought to take the lead and provide climate finance to developing countries to enable them to make the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy.
Sources : The Hindu
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