SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

Ethanol Again… Flogging A Dead Horse

WITHIN days of the BJP-led government coming to power, announcement was made of an enhanced policy thrust on ethanol-blending of petrol. While the earlier biofuels policy of the government, initiated by the Vajpayee-led NDA government and followed through by the UPA, mandated 5% blending of ethanol in petrol, the Modi-led government announced its intention to ratchet up the mandatory blending to 10%. There are still some procedural steps to be taken before the policy declaration comes into force but indications are that the government is serious about this new policy push.

Indian Intelligence Agencies Helping NSA to Spy on its own Citizens

THE Indian media has missed the major implications of the latest Snowden disclosures. It is not simply that India is one of the countries, or that the BJP is one of the political organisations under NSA surveillance. The real question is how is the NSA carrying out this surveillance? The answer to that lies in another piece of the puzzle that is now public – India is one the 33 countries that has “3rd party” agreement that allows NSA access its telecom and internet network subject to this intelligence being shared.

Better Days Ahead For Insurance Companies & Corporate Hospitals

SINCE being installed in government, the BJP’s ministers have announced a slew of measures to usher in “better days”. True to this pattern, the new government’s health minister – Dr Harsh Vardhan – has articulated a number of priorities in the health sector. None of them come as a surprise as they are true to the BJP’s core ideology of further promoting the neo-liberal agenda of the previous UPA government.

100% FDI in Indian Defence Industries: “Nationalists” Ditch Self-Reliance?

THE only reason there is a question mark at the end of the title is that, although a policy note is pending consideration by the cabinet, the BJP-led government has not yet announced its decision. But the drumbeats in support of a policy to further liberalise the defence manufacturing sector to FDI are growing louder, led by Indian corporates with clear vested interests, as well as some strategic experts advancing a spurious logic and some economists and miscellaneous commentators who perennially clamour for FDI in any and all spheres, as if it were the panacea for all difficulties.

Antarctic Ice Sheet Melting Much Faster than Predicted

IT is as certain as we can be in science that we will lose the Antarctic ice sheet within the next 200-500 years, leading to a devastating rise of about four metres in sea level. Worse, the process is now irreversible. Two separate studies --- one by the NASA used satellite and airborne radar data for the past 40 years, and the other by European Space Agency's CryoSat2 satellite that measured the height of the glaciers --- have both come to very similar conclusions. The Antarctic is losing ice from the glaciers at approximately 160 billion tonnes a year.

NETmundial or the Internet Governance World Cup

NETmundial – a global conference on Internet governance – was held last week in Sao Paulo (April 23-24) and ended with a non-binding outcome statement that was weak on surveillance and with some gains for big business. Big business managed to smuggle in some measures to help them on intellectual property and managed to bury net neutrality, considered a major issue for Internet users, into a future action section.

The NSA and Its Corporate Partners

THE third most important set of revelations from Snowden's treasure trove of NSA documents took place last week. Der Spiegel, a leading German newspaper, published a set of reports that show how networks and computers have been compromised by the NSA. This was complemented by Jacob Appelbaum's address in the 30th Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg, which brought out the range of methods that NSA uses to take over and eavesdrop on networks and systems. What also stands out is the number of American companies that have such “backdoors” in their systems and equipment.

Indian Bureaucrats Vote with Their Feet Against India’s Health System

A RECENT notification, dated September 25, 2013, by the ministry of personnel of the government of India is virtually a vote of no-confidence on India’s health system. The notification amends existing laws regarding entitlements available to senior government officials to receive treatment abroad for what are identified as ‘complex’ medical conditions. The amended rules make it easier for such treatment and the government also takes upon itself the responsibility to pay all the medical costs as well as the travel and related costs of the patient and an attendant.

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