The festive season in Bengal, marked by the arrival and departure of the Goddess Durga has come and gone, leaving memories to savour. The presence of foreign dignitaries, British, American, Russian and Chinese, from their respective missions in Kolkata, emphasized the cultural inclusiveness of the celebrations. The following piece by Craig Hall, the American Consul General in Kolkata, best sums up the spirit that animates this unique event.
‘Durga Puja has arrived. The celebration has begun. And what fun! Is there another festival anywhere in the world like Durga Puja?...As a newcomer to India, Durga Puja has become for me a season of creation.
A time to transform the ordinary – or even dirty – into something clean and beautiful. A time to make something new. Polluting clay becomes a beautiful idol. A vacant lot littered with garbage becomes a temple site. Bamboo poles become a sacred shrine….hope is rekindled that our lives, families and communities can be transformed too. Also, there is a spiritual element that makes Durga Puja miraculous. Communities work together to prepare for Durga Puja, crafting the idols and building the pandals. And not even the most talented artist or well-versed priest can impart the spirit into the idol. It is something we wait for. It is something beyond us.
‘It may be the transcendent nature of the festival that makes for the harmonious community spirit of Durga Puja. All participate in the festival, in one way or another. Rich and poor. Young and old. Professionals and labourers. All ethnicities and creeds. (I saw a Buddhist Durga Puja today!).
‘We are all brothers and sisters. With the same spiritual needs and hopes. And Durga Puja is a reminder that in the end God will conquer evil, transform chaos into peace, and make something beautiful out of us.’ (Telegraph October 8)
Terror attack foiled
A 60-hour standoff between two armed jihadis holed up in a government institute in Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital ended with the deaths of both men, killed by a special squad of Indian Army commandos. The building was a wreck at the end of the encounter, but no Indian lives were lost.(Hindu October 13)
Exponential rise in car sales
Car sales, led by utility vehicles segment, rose 19.92 per cent in September, touching the highest volumes in nearly five years. According to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, September sales stood at 2,78,428 units ass against 2,32, 170 units in the same month last year.
‘The passenger vehicle numbers represent a build-up of investments for the festive season . Besides, various car makers have been able to sort out capacity issues leading to the supply of certain models which are in high demand,’ said Society Deputy Director General Sugata Sengupta in New Delhi (Hindu October 8)
Forex reserves at record high
India’s foreign exchange reserves scaled a new high of $371.99 billion to the week September 30, according to data released by the Reserve Bank of India. The increase was propelled by a $1.468 billion surge in foreign currency assets, which constitute the major component of the overall reserves (Hindu October 8)
BRICS Reserve operational
BRICS’ contingent reserve arrangement is now operational to deal with any short-term balance of payments pressures member states, which consist Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, may face. This was announced in Washington to the Finance Ministers of the group, by India’s Arun Jaitley, who said the mechanism was operational, as it was properly equipped to carry out the tasks for which it was formed (Business Line October 8)
Military space centre proceeds apace
India is preparing the ground for the formation of a space command to cope with the challenges of regional security. Signalling a shift from civilian to military priorities in space facilities, India has been expanding its satellite programme in the last three years to include long-distance communications for troops in in the field, cross-border surveillance and a more accurate application of fire power. The establishment of a space command centre is seen as a necessary force structure to fulfill these goals. Such a command centre, stretching across all military requirements, ‘needs to be expedited,’ said Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.
Eyes in the sky
‘India requires eyes-in-the-sky for anti-terror operations,’ said retired Air Force Group Captain Ajay Lele, now Sernior Fellow at the Institute of Defence Analyses in New Delhi. He continued: ‘Space technologies are useful in any tactical and strategic operations, for intelligence gathering, communications, navigation. Space is the fourth dimension of warfare.’ According to Manmohan Bahadur, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Air Power in New Delhi, and a retired Air Vice Marshal, India needs ‘many more’ military satellites. A space command is a necessity, so the journey should start now.’ (NDTV report)
GSLV engine fit for purpose
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has got its cryogenic engine going for the launch of heavier satellites into higher geosynchronous orbit. The recent successful launch of GSLV-FO5 has installed confidence in India’s cryogenic technology, which had earlier been beset with teething problems. GSLV-FO5 belongs to the GSLV Mark II generation of rockets that use indigenous cryogenic engines.
The mission’s success confirmed that GSLV Mark II is ‘more than qualified’ to put Chandraayan 2 to the moon into orbit, said M. Annadorai, Director ISRO Satellite Centre, Bangalore. It is all set to complement ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) which, with its string of 35 straight successes has proved itself as a rocket capable of launching lighter satellites into lower orbit. GSLV takes this achievement farther into space. Teams at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre are busy building the orbiter, lander and the rover(Frontline magazine October 14)
Gripen offer to IAF
Sweden’s frontline fighter aircraft, the single seat Gripen, manufactured by Saab, is on offer to the Indian Air Force which seeks to replenish its dwindling battle-worthy squadrons to the required numbers to meet twin threats from Pakistan and China. The Gripin is equipped with cutting edge technology including weapon systems of world class quality. The plane comes with offer of a full transfer of technology on Indian platforms, thereby fulfilling the Made in India goal set by the Indian government (Hindu October 13)
ABB technology to power Indian buses
Swiss power and automation and automation technology group ABB has drawn up plans to transform India into a fully electric vehicle nation by 2030. This includes an offer to convert around 150,000 state transport diesel buses into electric buses that can be charged in 15 seconds. With no overhead lines, the ABB electric buses connect to a high-power charging contact at bus stations through a controlled moving arm. The bus is equipped with on-board batteries that get charged at ‘flash charging ’bus stations in 15 seconds. The saving in diesel oil imports is huge (Hindu October 13)
Market size aids Indian firms
The World Economic Forum (WEF) stated that Indian firms have profited significantly by the size of its domestic market. Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, WEF Head of Business Engagement Olivier Schwab, said the scale of the Indian market, and the innovation necessary made by Indian companies make them highly competitive globally.
‘What’s interesting in India with some of the start-ups is the sheer scale of the potential market. They have the opportunity to scale beyond what can be done in Europe, for example. So what gives birth to interesting business models that can be replicated around the world. There are about 30 Indian companies now from the 17 in 2014,’ he added. (Hindu October 13)
Cisco expectation in India justified by results
Over the past decade and more, ever since its arrival in India in 1995, the US technology giant, Cisco, has had its expectations fulfilled, said CEO Chuck Robbins to a reporter in Mumbai. “We’ve been here for 21 years…and then we made the big bet to make it our second headquarters almost a decade ago that was a very big move and it has paid off very well for us. ..it’s a source of tremendous innovation on the development side…it is a source of talented employees across our business functions . It is a country that has a leader who believes in the power of what technology can do for the future. And now we are going to start manufacturing here.’ (Business Line October 13)
Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and State Assembly Speaker T.N. Thongduk have invited the Dalai Lama to visit the State, which he promised to do early next year. They told him ,’We are eagerly waiting your holy presence in Arunachal Pradesh.’
The Dalai Lama advised them to adopt a compassionate with people, ‘You are public servants. You should transcend party lines and live up to people’s aspirations. He told them that no religion advocated ill treatment of others and that the path of peace should be adopted by all. (Times of India October 13) ay for the new. Development is now the State mantra but the hope is that tradition and modernity can be woven into a seamless reality.