MODI’S Rafale “Deal” has raised a number of questions. How is it that the need for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force, suddenly dropped to only 26 in three years? How is it that the price per aircraft rose from $81 million in 2012, to $243 million in 2015? Or by three times per aircraft, even taking inflation into account. What changed in the intervening three years between the two deals – the UPA’s in 2012 and Modi’s in 2015? And even more curious, who took these decisions and how?
MANY questions are swirling around the Rafale fighter aircraft deal especially in these politically charged times with various state elections already held or around the corner. There are even dark hints about skeletons in the cupboards. It is not the purpose of this column, and indeed beyond its capability with the information presently available in the public domain, to comment on possible skullduggery.
A RECENT report has brought out the diversity within India, as regards challenges to health. The report titled “India: Health of the nation’s states” is based on a study on disease patterns in India and compares the situation in 1990 and 2016. The study was conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The study provides estimates of the impact of 333 disease conditions and injuries and 84 risk factors for every state of India from 1990 to 2016.
AS the French saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this certainly applies to the challenges that India faces in the climate negotiations currently under way at Bonn. It is clear that the broad trend in the negotiations is in the direction of sharply increasing the burden of climate action on developing countries, while there is a deafening silence from the ranks of the developed nations on the implications of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
MOST of those who led the charge against science explaining nature, are now surprised that climate-change deniers have stolen their theme song. Immersed in the assault on science, this group of thinkers simply “overlooked” the long term damage that they were doing to any issue on which scientific evidence would matter to society. If all that scientists say is based on merely groupthink, why should climate scientists “groupthink” be privileged over those of oil and coal companies?
A GROUP of experts assembled by the Chilean judge investigating Pablo Neruda’s possible assassination gave its verdict. The cause of death given in the death certificate is certainly wrong; he definitely did not die of prostate cancer. The international forensic team found an unexplained and a virulent strain of golden staph bacteria in his exhumed body as a probable cause. Neruda was certainly murdered by the Pinochet regime in the Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago, though more forensic work is required to determine the actual cause of death.
THE appointment of Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), as a deputy director general (DDG) of the World Health Organisation is a welcome development. She joins Jane Ellison of the UK as one of the two newly appointed DDGs and will be in overall charge of programmes, while Jane Ellison will be in charge of ‘corporate affairs’. The WHO elected Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia as the new director general (DG) at the World Health Assembly in May 2017, to replace the outgoing incumbent, Dr Margaret Chan.
THE Las Vegas mass shooting by a lone gunman, with a death toll of 59 and 527 injured, raises many questions. Why is the person involved – a 64-year Stephen Paddock – not being considered a terrorist by the police and the US administration? Why is gun violence so much higher in the US than any other country? And for the rest of the world, does the US invasion of other countries have any correlation with its gun violence? Or does reaching for the gun to shoot so easily, also encourage violence as a mode of “solving” international problems?
THE Bakhshali Manuscripts, a collection of 70 odd leaves of birch bark, containing a wealth of mathematical methods, have finally been dated. The oldest of the three samples tested was written as early as the 3rd-4th century, placing it almost five centuries earlier than where most scholars had placed the manuscripts. This makes the Bakhshali Manuscripts the oldest recorded use of a large dot, the precursor of our current form of zero. The other two fragments were dated as late 8th, and 10th century compositions, a gap of five to six centuries between the earliest one.