Telecom: From License-Permit Raj to License-to-Loot Raj

THE major private operators, along with the State run operators in the telecom sector, are currently reeling under a three year price war with Reliance Jio. This has hit their profitability, with Jio buying its entry into the market with very low call and data charges. This has been compounded – in the case of the private operators – by not honouring the obligations of paying their license fees as a percentage of their revenue. After the Supreme Court order to pay Rs 92,000 crore as license fees, it has created a crisis for these companies.

Electricity Sector’s Continuing Crisis and Crony Capitalism

THE problems of the electricity sector have grown with the neoliberal reforms of the sector that started from the 90’s. The Enron style reforms introduced high cost private power into the grid in the 90’s, followed by the Electricity Act 2003, which virtually de-licensed generation and abolished planning of the power sector. We now have the new proposal of separating what is called “carriage from the content”, which shorn of this new English, means that electricity flowing though wires will be owned by separate entities than the one owning the wires.

Air Pollution Time… Yet Again!

IT would be humorous if it was not so tragic, but it is another winter in Delhi and North India as a whole, and has brought with it, yet again, another prolonged spell of terrible air pollution. The usual media commentaries have been appearing, providing partial explanations for the pollution, its many causes and the possible impacts of the measures being taken to tackle it.

Tipu Sultan and BJP’s War on History

WE now see a new Anglo-Mysore War being waged: the RSS has aligned with the British to deny Tipu Sultan his role in Indian history. Yediyurappa says Tipu was “not a freedom fighter”, a strange argument to give for dropping all reference to Tipu from history books. It must be difficult for a mind schooled – or more correctly lobotomised – in the RSS School of History to understand that the Anglo Mysore Wars were not wars for Indian independence, but a part of colonial wars that the British waged.

Google and IBM Fight on Quantum Supremacy

GOOGLE’S quantum supremacy claim has now been disputed by its close competitor IBM. Not because Google’s Sycamore quantum computer’s calculations are wrong, but because Google had underestimated what IBM’s Summit, the most powerful super computer in the world, could do. Meanwhile Google’s paper, which had accidentally been leaked by a NASA researcher has now been published in the prestigious science journal Nature.

India Receives First Rafale, Questions Unanswered

ON October 8, 2019, in Dassault’s plant in Merignac in the south of France, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh personally took delivery of the first of the 36 Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft India had acquired from France in 2015-16, the latter year being when the deal was signed. The handover was, of course, mostly symbolic since the first 4 Rafale fighters would arrive in India only in May 2020, while the first full squadron of 18 fighters would hopefully be available in India only in mid-2021 and the remaining 18 more than a year later in April 2022.

Quantum Computers Brings Uncertainty Knocking at Our Doors

NO, quantum computing did not come of age with Google’s Sycamore, a 54-qubit computer solving a problem in 200 seconds, which would take even a super computer 10,000 years. Instead, it is the first step in showing that there is a functional computation that can be done with a quantum computer, and it does indeed solve a special class of problems much faster than a conventional computer. This is quantum supremacy, the day one quantum computer beats all classical computers in one specially constructed task.

Rakhigarhi Skeleton DNA: Indus Valley People were not Rig-Vedic Aryans

TWO recent studies on ancient DNA and migrations into South Asia appeared at the same time in two of the most prestigious journals of their disciplines, one in Science, and one in Cell. Both share a number of common authors and have used Harvard’s genetics laboratory resources. Each of the papers are important in their own right. The Science paper reports ancient DNA from 523 samples from a number of sites in Iran, Central Asia and Anatolia, and comparing it to the current population in the region and in south Asia.