One of the disturbing aspects of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is its spill-over into India. The egregious Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, a habitual India-baiter, has attacked India for initiating movers to deport illegal Rohingya refugees in the country.. The Indian government has defended its decision on the grounds that their presence posed national security threat based, presumably, on intelligence reports. One must ask Mr Al Hussain whether as a Muslim and an Arab he is using, or abusing, his position in pursuing a private agenda, seeing that he is obviously blind to the awful Saudi Arabian depredations in Yemen, where millions of innocent citizens are homeless. thousands killed, and a raging cholera epidemic decimating what is already a broken society.
Mr Hussain had the cheek to censure India for human rights violations in general. What would he know about these things, when the Yemeni dead are Muslims killed by other Muslims – the story, alas, of the Middle East as a whole.
But to return to the Rohingya issue and its impact on India: a truly disturbing feature was recent monster pro-Rohingya demonstration in Kolkata which brought life on its streets to a standstill, resulting in chaos and traffic jams with an overwhelmed police helpless bystanders.
Dealing in facts
Let us be clear about the facts. In August, Rohingya militants initiated a campaign of violence against the Myanmar police and army. The response has been clearly disproportionate, leading to an exodus of biblical proportions into neighbouring Bangladesh, from where an anguished Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has appealed to the Myanmar authorities to facilitate their return home. The international community, for their part, should step in with help to alleviate a desperate situation and, having done so, suggest measures for a long-term solution to this ongoing tragedy. India has pressed Myanmar to take remedial steps to staunch this outflow of traumatized humanity (Times of India, Hindu, Telegraph September 13-15).
The 7,000 Rohingya community in Jammu and Kashmir has petitioned the Supreme Court of India against any possible deportation order, saying that no one among them who had any association with terrorism, and that police visits every month monitored the community’s activities. The petitioner stated that they paid their monthly rent to landowners, who have made no complaints against them. The Supreme Court bench, under Chief Justice Dipak Misra, has asked the government for clarification of policy (Hindu September 14)
Minister of State in the Home Ministry, Kiren Riijiju, said that as per Supreme Court direction, the government would grant Indian citizenship to more than 100,000 Chakma, Hajong Buddhists and Hindus from the Chittagong Hill tracts of East Bengal, who fled the country because of religious persecution in the 1960s, when the territory was part of East Pakistan (Hindu September 14).
It was a roadshow like no other in living memory for the citizens of Ahmedabad, now a UNESCO heritage city. It did them proud, as Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, following a warm embrace at the airport, set out on a colorful 8-mile drive into the walled city and Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram. The motorcade was preceded by a motorcycle escort before a crowd of many thousands. It was a spectacular setting to a truly historic occasion, marking a landmark in relations between Asia’s two foremost regional powers.
The two prime ministers laid the foundation stone of the high speed ‘bullet train,’ designed to run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Apart from Japanese technology, there will also be training for the 4,000 Indian staff. The entire project has the potential to revolutionize Indian rail travel, with spin-offs on domestic communications. Fifteen agreements were signed covering a wide spectrum of science, technology and critical areas of industry (Hindu, Times of India September 15) See page 3 for comment.
Apple’s dazzling launch
Apple’s next generation iPhone, launched on the 10th anniversary of iPhone, was worthy of the occasion. It is what it was cracked up to be – a wonderful display of technological innovation and skill associated with the Apple name. It has a new iPhone All Bionic processor that is 75 per cent faster than its predecessor, and is designed with algorithms for the facial recognition system, which can be used to unlock the device to access apps messages or make calls.
Using the True Depth Camera system, the iPhone X detects user looks at the phone with a specific purpose, and not simply for a casual browse. There are other novel features which make this machine a new and dazzling experience for the customer (Mint September 14).
on solar power
About 300 homes in four Telangana hamlets in Nalgonda district have been getting uninterrupted 24-hour solar power for domestic needs. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, Verizon Data Services India, Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Ltd and Rural Electrification Corporation have joined together to install a 125 watt solar panel in the hamlets concerned.(Business Line September 14).
Manual plucking of raw cotton will soon be a thing of the past. Cotton farmers will have the option to switch to a battery driven machine that is designed to do the job with a 20 per cent saving in labour costs and the bonus of improved productivity. The Tamil Nadu government is promoting the venture (Business Line September 12).
Indian startup ecosystem
better than Japan’s
Sounds fictional, but the statement emanates from a tried and tested Japanese entrepreneur with considerable experience in India. Taizo Son, a mobile games businessman and brother of Masayashi Son, one of the world’s leading technology investors, is a powerful and hugely respected figure in his own right. He has set up ‘Gastrotope,’ an accelerator, through his incubator ‘Mistletoe’ with Indian collaborators GSF and Infobridge.
Interest in India
Asked by a reporter about what triggered his interest in India, Taizo Son replied that he became interested in food technology, hence his tie-up with GSF. ‘India is the greatest farming country in the world,’ therefore its potential in agriculture with new startups is huge and exciting. Failure is inevitable, but it is the road to eventual success, he said (Hindu September 15)
Paul Polman CEO of Unilever is happy that Unilever’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Unilever has doubled its profit margins. While a lot had changed for Unilever, he says ‘Unilever’s value and values is to benefit the billions, and not simply the billionaires. He hoped Unilever would double its India business in the next seven years.
GST Council cut
rate of 40 items
The GST Council has cut the tax rate of 40 items of daily use and softened the blow on the auto industry by introducing only a part of the 10 per cent cess on automobiles, and imposing it in graded form. Technical hitches faced by taxpayers using the GST network were part of the teething problems, which would be overcome in due course, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (Times of India September 10).
Hugo Erken, Senior Economist, Rabobank’s Research Global Economics & Markets, who had correctly predicted India’s economic slowdown in the first two quarters, says that recovery will start from the third quarter beginning October (Business Line September 10).
Russia’s slow response
Russian defence suppliers find state-owned Indian entities more attuned to their comfort zone than private companies. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, Russia accounts for 68 per cent of India’s arms imports, followed by the US with 14 per cent and Israel with 7 per cent. A Russian industry expert confirmed that Russian companies were more comfortable partnering Indian public sector units. This makes sense, since the PSUs have proven expertise in handling Russian technoly systems, whereas private companies are still are something of an unknown quantity.
Victor Kladov, Director, Rostech Corporation, which comprises 700 companies in defence and other strategic sectors, said ‘Russia is deepening cooperation with India amid strong global competition. Only Russia has been transferring 100 per cent technology, allowing firms to set up full-fledged manufacturing weapon systems.’
Russia has licensed the manufacture of SU-30MKI fighter aircraft, T 90 tanks, RD-33 jet engine, while the lethal supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles are part of a joint Indo-Russian venture.
Russia’s most recent ‘Made in India’ initiative, the Kamov-226KT helicopters are being manufactured by India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Russia is currently eyeing $10 billion worth deals with India. All’s well that ends well (Business Line September 11).
India-Russia war games
India and Russia are preparing to undertake a joint military exercise, named Indra, in the Russian Federation from October 19-29, will involve all three services, army, navy and air force – the first of its kind undertaken by India (Hindu September 14).
Indian artillery sets
The new advanced towed artillery gun system being jointly developed by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and a private sector consortium, set a world record in range, hitting a target 48.074 kms distance. The specially made ammunition was essemtial to the success of this 155mm artillery piece, part of the Army’s modernization programme currently under way. Following the preent Pokhran tests in Rajasthan, the next round will be conducted in Sikkim in December (Hindu September 16).
The Lashkar-e-Toiba mastermind behind the attack on the Amarnath pilgrims on 10 July Abu Ismail and his associate Chota Qasim, both from Pakistan, were tracked and killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir (Hindu, Times of India September 15).
Exports, foreign exchange
India’s exports have climbed 10.3 per cent, to reverse a 5-month slowdown. This represents a year-on-year rise to $23.8 billion, according to data released by the Commerce Ministry in New Delhi. The recovery was led by engineering goods, petroleum products and chemicals, and by rising demand in foreign markets. However, industry sources have warned that the improvement will have to be sustained over a sufficiently lengthy period for confidence to return.
Meanwhile India’s foreign exchange reserves have crossed $400 billion for the first time, reaching $400.726 billion at the weekend (Hindu, Business Line September 16).
ISRO’s satellite launch arm’s international services, Antrix, will be treated as exports, and hence attract zero GST. However, 18 per cent domestic tax will be unchanged.
Amazon has tied up with the Bank of Baroda to offer micro-loans to sellers.
Indian relief supplies are being air-lifted to Bangladesh refugee camps for fleeing Rohingyas. Sikhs have set up free food kitchens along the Indo-Bangladesh border for the refugees.
11-year old chess whizz kid
Nagpur-born Divya Deshmukh, became a chess enthusiast at the tender age of four. His parents, Jitendra and Namrata Deshmukh, encouraged his passion. Now 11, he has become the World Cadet Chess Champion in the under-12 category, played recently at Pocos de Caldas, Brazil (Hindu September 4).