SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

Defence Budget Allocations: Crunch Time

FOR a hyper-nationalistic government that boasts of a muscular military posture, the defence budget of 2020 strikes a discordant note. The finance minister, while presenting the union budget for the year in a dreary two-hour long speech, began by proclaiming that “national security is the top priority of this government.” Yet there was no mention of the allocations for defence in her budget.

The Novel Coronavirus and the Virus of New Cold War

FOR the first time, on two successive days, the number of new cases of the novel coronavirus (2019nCov) have dropped below 4,000 as against the earlier daily figures. The comprehensive measures the Chinese authorities have taken to slow down the transmission, along with larger availability of diagnostic kits, has now started to bite. Wuhan in Hubei province still continues to be the epicentre of the new coronavirus epidemic, with about two-thirds of the total infected in China from Hubei alone.

2019-nCoV, a New Threat and Exemplary Action by the Chinese Authorities

IN two months, the novel coronavirus—or 2019-nCoV—has affected more people than the SARS virus had done in 2002-2003. While it is spreading faster, it is more infectious than SARS, the infections are less severe: the numbers of people becoming seriously ill or dying are less than with SARS. The Chinese authorities have reported 7,711 confirmed cases as of  January 30th, of which 170 people have died of the disease. The bulk of the infections are from the Hubei province, with Wuhan as the epicentre of the outbreak.

After Trump’s Stupid Acts, Can the US and Iran Avoid a Disastrous Collision?

WITH the US walking out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—more commonly known as the Iran accord—we all enter into a heightened zone of danger. Trump is threatening a war on Iran through his statements and tweets, and by his actions, assassinating a serving Iranian General. A war in the region threatens the entire oil and shipping infrastructure of West Asia.

Airbus 320neo Problems: DGCA Playing With Fire

INDIAN passenger carriers flying the highly troubled Airbus 320/321 neo (new engine option) family of aircraft with US major Pratt & Whitney 1100G engines have been given a reprieve by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the aviation regulator and safety monitors. This is a high-risk move by DGCA which has put the airlines’ interest before that of the safety of air passengers who will now have to fly on problem-prone Airbus 320/321neo aircraft for several months more.

Pax Americana and the Threat of Nuclear Armageddon

THE decade ends with two major threats to humanity: global warming and the threat of a nuclear war extinguishing our civilisation. We have dealt earlier with global warming and the refusal of advanced countries, particularly the US, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The US is also leading the charge for a nuclear armageddon, dismantling all nuclear arms control treaties. Expectedly, there has been a Russian response, but not by matching the US efforts but by asymmetric measures designed to defeat the US attempts for gaining nuclear dominance.

Modi Claims His Government is Digital; Why is He Shutting Down the Internet?

MODI has been claiming that his government has become transparent with all its data and services now being on the internet. If this is true, why is his government shutting down the internet? In 2018, and in 2019, India is responsible for almost 70 per cent of all estimated 196 such globally documented internet shutdowns. As we shall see, Pakistan is next, but is way behind – it has only 12 shutdowns compared to our 134! So not only are we world leaders in internet shutdowns, but also way ahead of the competition.

New Data Protection Bill: From Protecting our Data to Creating a Surveillance State

THE government has come out with a Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 which differs significantly from its earlier version drafted by Justice BN Sri Krishna in 2018. Justice Sri Krishna has called these changes as dangerous and with potential for creating a surveillance state. In another major change from the original Sri Krishna draft, the Data Protection Authority of India has been made entirely subservient to the government. The data localisation provisions for sensitive personal data have also been considerably weakened.

Another COP-Out: This Time Madrid

COP 25 or the 25th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been underway in the Spanish capital, Madrid, for the past week and is currently mid-way through its final week. The COP venue was originally scheduled to be held in late November in Brazil but the newly elected right-wing and climate sceptic President Jair Bolsonaro withdrew from the hosting. Chile then volunteered to host the annual Summit but, after violent street protests erupted there, President, Sebastien Pinera withdrew.

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.

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