Sources : The Hindu, Indian Express
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With Astrosat launch, ISRO scales new heights
Few days after it celebrated the successful completion of a year around the red planet by its first inter-planetary mission -- the Mars Orbiter, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday launched its first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory Astrosat into space, besides six satellites for Canada, Indonesia and the United States.Though the national space agency has launched satellites for Indonesia and Canada earlier, this is the first time ISRO is launching satellites for the United States.Though there have been scientific missions by ISRO in the past, this is the first time a space observatory is being launched into space. Though Astrosat may be similar to the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the former is about 10 times smaller and cannot be compared to the Hubble, which is versatile.Besides US’ NASA, space agencies of the European Union, Japan and Russia have launched similar facilities into the space.Within 22 minutes of its liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at 10 am, ISRO’s PSLV C-30 rocket successfully placed in orbit ASTROSAT. A few minutes later, Canada’s NLS-14 nano satellite, Indonesia’s LAPAN-A2 microsatellite and four identical LEMUR nano satellites for the U.S. were also put in orbit.With the Monday’s launch, ISRO has successfully crossed the half century-mark as for foreign satellites. ISRO has launched 51 satellites for foreign satellites so far.“Today is one of the eventful days for us. Our PSLV has once again proved to be a workhorse,” ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said from the Mission Control Room, soon after the rocket injected the satellites into the intended orbits.The 1,513-kg cuboid-shaped satellite would be eventually fine-tuned into 650 km above the Earth’s surface. The satellite can perform simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects. The sun and star sensors, besides the gyroscopes, would provide orientation reference to the satellite, which has a mission life of five years.
Unravelling mysteries of the universe
Astrosat aims at understanding the high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.The mission also intends to detect new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky, to perform a limited deep field survey of the universe in the ultraviolet region.While Canada’s NLS-14 is a maritime monitoring nano satellite using the Automatic Identification System, Indonesia’s LAPAN-A2 is aimed at benefiting Indonesian radio amateur communities for disaster mitigation and carrying out Earth surveillance. All the four identical LEMUR satellites for the United States -- non-visual remote sensing satellites aims to focus on global maritime intelligence through vessel tracking.The other institutions that participated in the gigantic task of Astrosat launch are Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and Raman Research Institute.Today is one of the eventful days for us. Our PSLV has once again proved to be a workhorse.
India seeks funds, technology to combat climate change
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly here on Monday, sought U.S. support to complete United Nations reforms within a fixed time-frame and cooperation for India’s early membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Community, but climate change dominated their hour-long conversation.“Much of our discussion today focused on the upcoming climate conference in Paris,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “We agree that this is a critical issue for the world, and all of us have responsibilities. We are encouraged by the aggressive nature of Mr. Modi’s commitment to clean energy.”“President and I share an uncompromising commitment on climate change, without affecting our ability to meet the development aspirations of humanity. We have set ambitious national agendas,” Mr. Modi said, adding that both leaders looked forward to a “comprehensive and concrete outcome in Paris with a positive agenda,” which will ensure “access to finance and technology for the developing world.” The progress on meeting these objectives will be the crucial test for bilateral relations in the coming months. “What I said is, that I really believe that India’s leadership at this conference will set the tone not just for today, but for decades to come,” Mr Obama said.Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Mr Modi brought up the “climate of negativism” that surrounds climate change negotiations and sought to turn the debate into a positive format that will nudge developing countries to adapt cleaner development models by providing them access to technology and capital.While Mr. Modi said the India-U.S. partnership was driven by economic ties, Mr. Obama said: “We also had a chance to talk about trade and investment,” adding that Mr. Modi was hoping that Indian Americans would contribute to India’s growth.Mr. Obama had, during his India visit in January, declared his support for India’s admission into APEC, and that will be a key, tangible milestone for bilateral ties. Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama reviewed progress on the issue and Mr. Modi said: “To further increase our strategic engagement in the region, I look forward to working with the U.S. for India’s early membership of the Asian Pacific Economic Community.”Both countries were keen on emphasising India’s APEC membership as part of the Joint Strategic Vision on Asia, Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions. Mr.Modi also underscored the importance of joint engagement with regional partners like Japan. “This will also strengthen our maritime security cooperation,” he said. After the Obama-Modi bilateral meet in September 2014, both countries had decided to promote joint consultations with Japan to the ministerial level, and the first one will take place in New York next week.Mr. Swarup termed the back-to-back meeting that Mr. Modi had with his British counterpart David Cameron and French President François Hollande as “power Monday,” and said climate change was on the agenda of all three meetings.Cooperation in combating terrorism, particularly, in concluding the pending Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and India’s long-pending demand for membership of four global export control regimes also figured in Mr Modi’s conversation with Mr. Obama. Mr. Swarup said the “take-away from the meeting was the continuing and increasing personal chemistry between the leaders who address each other by first name.” “So, we very much appreciate his friendship and his partnership,” Mr. Obama said. Meanwhile, the U.S., Britain and France reaffirmed their support to India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council as text-based negotiations to expand the most powerful wing of the world body begins in November.I really believe that India’s leadership at this conference will set the tone not just for today, but for decades to come".
Supermoon may cause tidal flooding
The swells originating from the Southern Indian Ocean, having a period of over 15 seconds and wave height of 1 metre to 2 metres, will be compounding the tidal flooding in the coastal areas of southern India from September 28 to October 2.A tidal flooding alert during Supermoon or King Tide, which is likely to occur during September 26 to October 2, issued by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, was released by P. Rama Rao, Director of Center for Studies on Bay of Bengal, Andhra University, here.The plausible regions vulnerable for inundation are the Kerala coast, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and some parts of Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam) and West Bengal (Sunderbans).“Storm surge was already reported from Sagar Nagar area in the city. Our Centre has a Memorandum of Understanding with the INCOIS and they have sent us the data,” Prof. Rama Rao said on Monday. Heavy local river discharge would also compound the effects of tidal flooding and this was more likely from September 28 to 30.This would be the maximum height (tide + swell) induced phenomena during the super moon period for the present year.
As the tidal range would be higher than normal spring tides, there could be flooding during high tide as well as retreat of water level during low tide (ebbing).Supermoon is a perigean spring tide that occurs when the moon is either new or full and closest to the earth (perigee) causing increased tidal ranges or increased current speeds than those experienced during the normal spring tides. Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services issues alert.
Boost R&D to drive manufacturing growth: Study
India needs to invest more in research & development (R & D) and promote entrepreneurship to achieve transformative gains and boost job creation in the country, according to a joint study “Make in India – The next leap” by Assocham and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute.“Technology drove manufacturing growth globally and will continue to do so. India’s performance in developing new and improved technologies has been dismal. While technological handicap can be addressed through FDI in the short run, India needs to find resources to invest in R & D and new technologies for long term growth,” it said.The study stated that India’s innovation suffered due to poor investments in R & D. The country spends less than one-fifth of what China or some of the leading multinational companies do. “India spends 0.8 per cent of GDP on R & D, which is the lowest among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other countries,” it added.Stating that private sector investments in R & D is also inadequate to achieve any business gains, the report pointed out that only a handful of big corporates in India take R & D investments seriously. Global firms such as Samsung spend more than India’s entire R & D investments.Indian business has preferred to buy technology from the global markets rather than invested in creating home-grown technology. While this approach has the advantage of quick uptake of production, the downside is that the purchased technology is usually not the latest cutting edge, but on the verge of becoming obsolete,. the study said.
“Promoting entrepreneurship and competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises will also be a major differentiator in Make in India as it would help absorb both educated and uneducated workforce in a productive way,” said Ravindra Sannareddy, chairman – southern region council, Assocham.The study also draws attention to the complaints over poor infrastructure, tax issues and skill gaps, among others and has asserted that Make in India is not just a policy choice any more, but an absolute necessity that can’t be postponed. Promoting entrepreneurship will go a long way in addressing the challenge of providing jobs to millions every year.
Wages for the parliamentarians
The idea of creating an Emoluments Commission to recommend salaries and allowances for Members of Parliament has not come a day too soon. The pay and reimbursements drawn by lawmakers may not be unusually high in India by global standards, but two points have been agitating the people in recent times: the power enjoyed by legislators to fix their own salaries and the loss suffered by the exchequer as day after day is lost to parliamentary logjam, resulting in MPs drawing daily allowances through whole sessions during which no business is transacted. In this backdrop, the proposal of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to establish an independent, three-member commission to fix the pay and allowances of parliamentarians is a sign that the government and the elected members themselves are sensitive to growing concern about the public expenditure incurred in their name. The proposal is on the agenda of the All-India Whips’ Conference to be held in Visakhapatnam, and may form the basis for future legislation to de-link members of the legislature from the process of fixing their emoluments. Members of Parliament currently draw a monthly salary of Rs. 50,000, a constituency allowance of Rs. 45,000 and a sumptuary allowance of Rs. 15,000. They may also hire secretarial assistance for Rs. 30,000. They are entitled to daily allowances and travel concessions besides other perquisites. The present levels of pay and allowances, however, have not been revised since 2010.If an independent body is created for the purpose, India will be following the example of the United Kingdom, where an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been created by law to oversee and regulate ‘business costs’ or the expenditure incurred by lawmakers in their parliamentary functions, and fix their pay and pension. Such a mechanism may help put an end to criticism, and sometimes public outcry, over legislators rewarding themselves with pay hikes and additional allowances from time to time. In a country where public life is associated in the popular imagination with unbridled greed, and parliamentary representation is seen as a means to amass wealth, it will be tempting to wonder why lawmakers need a salary at all, or, looking at legislative work often coming to a standstill, to question the present pay structure or the need for regular revision. However, payment for legislative work is an important element in attracting public-spirited citizens to participative democracy. As a general principle, pay ought not to be the primary attraction for elective office, nor the privileges and perquisites that come with it. At the same time, it cannot be so low as to be a disincentive to the public for entering the legislature. An independent pay panel for parliamentarians is surely a welcome proposal.
Raja-Mandala: Picking up the tab for peace
A little noticed agreement unveiled last week by India and the United States marks a long overdue revision of New Delhi’s approach to international peacekeeping operations. At the second round of the India-US strategic and commercial dialogue in Washington, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that India and the US will jointly train troops of six African nations for peacekeeping duties.It has indeed taken a long while for India and the US, two big champions of international peacekeeping, to start working together. Better late than never. The United Nations peace operations, which have expanded so rapidly since the end of the Cold War, now face immense challenges.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is joining a host of other world leaders to discuss ways and means of making UN peace operations more effective at a meeting convened by President Barack Obama this week in New York. America has long picked up much of the tab for UN peaceoperations. This year, out of the $8.2 billion budgeted for these operations, Washington will pay nearly 30 per cent. Cumulatively, India is the biggest troop contributor for these operations. Over the decades, India has sent nearly 1,80,000 peacekeepers to 44 missions.Delhi and Washington have often talked of working together on peacekeeping. While India’s armed forces and the foreign office recognised the utility of working with America and others on international peace operations, there was little enthusiasm in the defence ministry. As a result, India’s expansive contribution to international peacekeeping seemed to have only one objective — to reinforce India’s campaign for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.But over the last few years, many developing countries, especially India’s neighbours, began to contribute in a big way to UN operations. Bangladesh now has the top spot with 9,432 troops deployed in UN peace operations. India stands third with a contribution of 7,794 men and women. Pakistan is close behind India, with about 7,533 soldiers. Nepal, with 5,346 peacekeepers, is among the top 10 contributors.Meanwhile, China has begun to steal a political march over India in the international discourse on peace operations. Ending its traditional wariness about international peacekeeping, China has moved quickly into the list of top 10 troop contributing countries in recent years. Although the number of Chinese troops currently deployed is modest at 3,079, China has put peacekeeping at the centre of its defence diplomacy and made it a priority military mission for the People’s Liberation Army. These precisely have been the missing elements of India’s approach.As peacekeeping became a routine activity for India, Delhi was increasingly preoccupied with process-related issues at the UN — the construction and implementation of the mandates for peacekeeping. India’s recent focus has been on gaining a say in the UN decision-making on peace operations that have become increasingly complex.India is unlikely to advance by organising a trade union of troop contributing countries at the UN General Assembly. Instead, it should expand its strategic cooperation with the US, France, Japan, Australia and other partners to reshape the norms and mechanics of international peace operations. At the same time, India should also seek partnerships with its South Asian neighbours. While the Pakistan army might be reluctant, the security forces of Bangladesh and Nepal may be more open to collaboration with India on peacekeeping, disaster management and humanitarian relief operations.The first step is to start sharing their expansive experiences in peace operations. Second, South Asian military and civilian policymakers on peacekeeping should be meeting in Delhi, Dhaka and Kathmandu and not just in New York.At the UN last week, India reaffirmed its commitment to international peace operations. But Delhi must look beyond mere troop contribution to other critical activities, such as training, logistics and operational support. The latest agreement between India and the US on training African troops provides a good basis for this. Military cooperation with the major powers and neighbours is also important for another reason — not all peace operations today are run from the UN. India needs to develop military coalitions that can respond to crisis situations in the Indian Ocean and beyond on short order.In the end, reforming UN peace operations is only a small part of the answer to the larger questions that India must ask itself about the use of military force. Way back in the 1950s, our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, recognised that our armed forces had duties beyond borders in discharging India’s responsibilities as a good global citizen.As the world today looks up to India as a net security provider, Delhi needs to recast its peacekeeping strategy by modernising its decision-making structures, expanding domestic defence capabilities, and strengthening its military diplomacy.