India is truly a paradox. The behavior of some of the country’s legislators in Parliament is what the public normally associates with hooligans on the march. Much the same can be said of quite a number of its politicians. Those who witnessed the election campaign in West Bengal saw or read Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s more incendiary speeches were put in mid of an untamed shrew. Contrast these images with that of President Pranab Mukherjee bowing in obeisance to the widow and mother of a humble jawan, Constable Gautam Koch, who made the supreme sacrifice in answer to the call of duty: he died protecting his country from those who would destroy it, and the values and freedoms which have been its lodestars.
The posthumous Kirti Chakras went to Constable Koch from the Assam armed services, and to Naik Subedar Rajesh Kumar from the Mahar Regiment, Rashtriya Rifles. Constable Koch died of the injuries received in an encounter with United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) insurgents. Naik Subedar Kumar was killed in a search and destroy mission in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. His award was received by his widow and father (Hindu May 8)
Jihadis killed in Kashmir
Three jihadis were killed in an encounter recently with Indian security forces in the Pulwama district of south Kashmir. Security forces cordoned off a village some 30 miles from the State capital, Srinagar, following intelligence reports that jihadis had taken up positions there. The slain jihadis were identified as Ishfaq Ahmad Dar, Ishfaq Ahmad Baba of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and Habib Ahmad Pasha of Laskar-e-Taiba. Locals protestors participated in their funeral and a shut down in the commercial life of the area followed (Hindu May 8)
Nehru expunged from Rajasthan history texts
It is a sad pointer to the state of divisive politics in India that the name of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first and longest serving prime minister of almost 17 years, has been expunged from the Rajasthan government’s school history textbooks. The State has a relatively low rate of literacy, but apparently not low enough for the powers that be (Hindu, Times of India May 4)
Modi’s Kerala gaffe
India is the sum of its parts. What may be acceptable in, say, Rajasthan, is unlikely to go down well in Kerala, as the Indian Prime Minister discovered. Addressing an election campaign meeting in the State, he likened the infant mortality among its Scheduled Tribes to that of Islamist Somalia. A swell of public outrage in Kerala followed, spreading quickly to the Gulf states where Kerala supplies a considerable section of the skilled workforce. Kerala is justifiably proud of its literacy levels, which, at 95 per cent plus is the highest in India and Asia and compares well with the best in the world. Its social programmes have, exceeded the UN’s millennium goals well before the set timeline. Modi’s ill-advised remarks have set off a Twitter storm that may cost his BJP dear in the upcoming polls (Hindu, Telegraph, Times of India May 12)
Rawat’s olive branch to Centre
The BJP-led government in Delhi has suffered a blow when the Indian Supreme Court revoked President’s Rule in Uttarkhand, imposed by the BJP-appointed Governor. Harish Rawat, the Congress Chief Minister, in rare gesture of conciliation asked the Centre put the past behind and start afresh in its relations with the State government. (Hindu, Telegraph, Times of India May 12)
Sea water turns potable
Scientists in Chennai, having produced the technology to turn sea water potable, are witnessing the fruits of their technical ingenuity and labour as 6.3 million litres of water every day is being pumped in storage tanks. The pilot plant in Tamil Nadu’s Kalpakkam reactor, built by scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, uses waste steam from a nuclear reactor to purify sea water. They have also developed filtration techniques that eliminate arsenic and uranium in groundwater, and are thus safe to drink. Several such plants have been installed in Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan, said K.N. Vyas, Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai (Pallava Bagla, NDTV May 6)
India-Russia upcoming military exercises
India and Russia are to hold three joint military exercises. ‘This year troops from the Eastern Military District plan to participate in three large exercises with the Indian Armed Forces,’ said Roman Martov, spokesman of Russia’s Defence Ministry. India and Russia have been close partners in military and Technical cooperation over many decades. Both countries are also bonded in science and medicine, as well as infrastructure development and nuclear energy. Such military exercises on land, sea and haven held since 2013, alternating between India and Russia (April 28, Sputnik)
MIG-29Ks replace Sea Harriers
The Indian Navy’s Air Squadron, the ‘White Tigers,’ has started replacing its British-made subsonic Sea Harrier aircraft, bought in 1983, with 45 Russian MIG 29Ks for its two aircraft carriers, the Russian-built INS Vikramaditya and the indigenous INS Vikrant, now nearing completion at the Cochin Shipyard. The MIG-29KIs will give the Indian Navy a four-fold increased capability over the decommissioned Sea Harriers, which gave yeoman service for over three decades. (Sputnik, May 5, Hindu May 9)
Scorpene sub’s first sea trial
The first of six French Scorpene class submarines being built at the Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders (Mumbai) was launched for its opening sea trials a fortnight ago. Over the next few months, a series of complex trials will be undertaken to test the full range of the Scorpene’s capabilities. Its state-of-the-art features include superior stealth, with precision guided weaponry, cutting edge torpedoes, tube-launched anti-ship missiles, both under water and surface. The Scorpenes have been built from special steel capable of withstanding high-yield stress with high tensile strength that allows them to bear high hydrostatic force and ensure deep diving for enhanced stealth. The array of weapons and complex sensors on board the submarine are managed by a high technology management system.
Army to embark on major reforms
Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh has set in motion critical reforms designed to make the force – the third largest in the world – to improve its tooth-to-tail ratio. This comprehensive review should be a model for peace and war, said a senior commander (Hindu May 9)
India’s digital revolution
In a newspaper interview, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that rural growth in ‘tele-density has increased 6.62 per cent between February 2014 to February 2016. Therefore the telecom sector is rising and with ‘Digital India,’ it is going to rise further,’ he said. Postal services have become the biggest deliverer of e-commerce. In the two years since he took over the ministry in May 2014, the winds of change blown through its corridors, pending decisions had been cleared and fresh energy injected into the administration, he explained (Business Line May 9)
Tata model has innovation at core
The $109 billion Tata Group is making technology innovation its core driving asset even as its expenditure on research and development rose to 2.7 per cent of revenue in 2014-15 and the number of published patents doubled in two years. The Group has drawn up a new consortium model to focus on delivering technologies and create breakthrough innovations by harnessing the synergies between Group companies. This has been the key vision of Cyrus Mistry, who took over as Group Chairman from Ratan Tata.
To bring this vision to fruition, Tata Sons the holding company in 2014, appointed Gopichand Katragadda as the chief technology officer, with extensive experience in the field as Managing Director of US giant General Electric’s India Technological Centre (Telegraph May 5, Business Line May 11)
India, Mauritius treaty loopholes plugged
India and Mauritius have signed a protocol to amend their Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement under which capital gains earned through a Mauritian entry will be taxable in India at the full domestic tax from the financial year 2019-20 onwards. The protocol allows India taxation rights on capital gains arising from the sale of shares acquired on or after April 1, 2017-18 in a company resident in India. Mauritius currently has a nil tax rate on capital gains, hence is likely to lose its edge as a conduit for investments to India (Business Line, Mint May 11)
Son’s thumbs up
Masayoshi Son, Founder Chairman and CEO of Japan’s investment and internet giant, Softbank, having cast his discerning eye across the Indian economy, warts and all, says, ‘India is going to make dramatic growth in e-commerce. People have questioned my investment decisions in the Indian market but they will get the answers soon.’
‘Softbank has invested $2 billion in the Indian internet space over the past two years. Early this year, at the startup India event, the company said it had plans to invest #10 billion over the next decade. (Business Line May 11) That’s some confidence.
Digitization to power
Brand India Digitization and smart manufacturing will help build Brand India, according to industry executives and entrepreneurs at the National Business Excellence Conclave 2016 organized recently by the Confederation of Indian Industry in Chennai.
Shift in power
‘Five mega trends will shape the future – digitization, economic power shift from West to East, widening economic disparity, changing relationship between us and our planet and urbanization…These mega trends have brought into focus digitization and smart manufacturing…This will build Brand India, said Kamal Bali, Managing Director Volvo India (Business Line May 11).